WARNING: The following contains general spoilers for Attack on Titan, now streaming on Funimation, Hulu and Crunchyroll.
Bertholdt Hoover is one of Attack on Titan’s most recognizable and beloved characters. He has gone through a variety of transitions within the series, from being considered as a trusted member of the Survey Corp to a treacherous villain, and then as a tragic and sympathetic soul.
While many people are now aware of how Bertholdt was chosen to become part of Marley’s Eldian warrior unit, it still seems strange that he of all people acquired the Colossal Titan. Although Bertholdt has been shown to be both intelligent and highly skilled in combat, he has often been described as being weak-willed by his friends and colleagues. These don’t seem like the type of traits that a military group would value in a person, especially one that has been picked to hold one of the most powerful Titans in existence. However, it might be precisely these traits that made Bertholdt the ideal candidate for taking on the responsibility.
From the very beginning of the show, viewers are informed about Bertholdt’s passive nature. In Episode 4, “Night of the Graduation Ceremony – Humanity Rises Again”, Commander Shadis notes that he “has great potential, but lacks initiative.” Bertholdt is often very quiet and rarely speaks his mind, and rather than taking the lead, he instead follows popular opinion.
While Bertholdt’s withdrawn behavior might have initially convinced fans of the series that he was one of the most reliable members of the 104th Cadet Corps, his resolve has been put into question on several occasions. Shortly after he and Reiner are discovered by Eren and the Scout Regiment as being the Colossal Titan, Bertholdt reveals that he has been far more conflicted about his undercover mission than he had originally let on to either his comrades or himself.
In Episode 36, “Charge,” after being both comforted and insulted by his former teammates, Bertholdt breaks under the pressure and admits that he didn’t want to hurt anyone, either by lying to his friends or through breaking Wall Maria and leading thousands of its citizens to perish. In this moment of fragility, it becomes clear that Bertholdt, while externally composed, was in fact in a mental battle with himself due to the terrible deeds he committed.
Later on in the series, fans come to recognize that Bertholdt heavily relied on Reiner throughout his journey to Paradis Island and used his companion as a crutch for his emotional insecurity. In Episode 52, “Descent,” Reiner directly references this by stating that Bertholdt should “try thinking on your own for once […] You don’t always have to wait for my signal. You’re supposed to be the one with the greatest ability of all, yet you leave it to others when it matters.”
While Reiner later goes on to comment that his companion’s strength has improved, these remarks initially come across as being rather disparaging to Bertholdt’s character. Yet Bertholdt simply agrees with Reiner and recognizes that he has been and continues to be weak. This is immediately reinforced when we next see him, as he is hiding and waiting for Reiner to take the lead, leaving him open to a surprise attack.
Considering all these incidents and the obvious warning signs that were private to Commander Magath and the Marleyan military, it seems peculiar that Bertholdt out of all of the potential candidates within the Eldian Unit would be selected as the inheritor of the Colossal Titan. However, Bertholdt’s traits of restraint and his desire to receive confirmation for his actions are exactly why he is the perfect person for this Titan.
The abilities of the Colossal Titan are quite possibly the most powerful of any. It stands at an incredible height of over 60 meters, is able to emit huge quantities of steam (that can burn and repel its enemies) and most impressively of all, is capable of generating such an enormous amount of heat and energy that it can create an explosion big enough to destroy major constructions.
To give this sort of power to any type of person would certainly be an unwise decision for the Marleyan government. If the inheritor of the Colossal Titan was to turn rogue and go against the military it was supposed to serve, large parts of their army or the cities where citizens and officials reside could be placed at great risk.
The combination of Bertholdt’s meek nature, intellect and battle capabilities enabled him to be the right person for the job. Ultimately, he was competent enough in the field that he was able to hold his own, yet timid to the point that he could be easily controlled by his ranking officers. In Marley’s eyes, these factors reduced the likelihood that using the Colossal Titan posed and gave them the confidence to allow Bertholdt to be sent to Paradis with the knowledge that he would be too afraid to go against their cause.
Bertholdt is a fascinating character with both interesting abilities and storyline. In hindsight, with the release of Season 4, his tale has become all the more tragic. Bertholdt, like the other warrior candidates, was forced into a terrible position from an early age, coerced and suffered a rather nasty end. ace AOT‘s finale draws closer, fans of the show may uncover even more about his past and untimely end.
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