The recap goes over the wall breach, through Eren's supposed death, to the appearance of the new titan. It covers humanity's helplessness, as the titans could have kicked the wall in at any time. It literally took two seconds. Then, the appearance of the new titan is "like hope."
SPINNING AND FLIPPING AND OVERLAYS!
And the ads tell me they're remixing Kingdom Hearts in HD. We really needed that, I tell you.
Again, Mikasa throws Armin's hope for suicide off the roof, wasting resources, and promises to not leave Armin. Armin frantically tries to think of a better solution, so that he can avoid being the reason for more of his friends to die. This is his mini version of Mikasa's "I must live" epiphany. Only, it's more "I must try something," since he's methodical, and his solution is as well. He tells Mikasa and Connie they can lure the rogue titan to other titans by killing titans around it. This might make it travel to HQ and defeat the titans there. Mikasa decides this is better than waiting to die, and Connie concludes that everyone will laugh if they fail. "But if we succeed, we can save everyone."
Pride is a luxury.
On the art style. The thicker lines surrounding the characters don't animate that well. It's picked up from the manga, but it's much better in that format, I think. It makes characters feel more rigid and less alive in an animated setting.
Meanwhile, Jean wonders if he has the right to have a position of responsibility. He has led the rest of the graduates to the area around HQ, where the titans are gathered around blood and bodies of humans. Jean decides that that is the moment, while the titans are distracted, to try to rally his forces to enter HQ. He takes off, and they all follow him.
Mikasa kills titans, and Connie carries Armin.
Jean and the others zip through the titans around HQ. One titan grabs Jean's leg, and he quickly cuts off one of its fingers to move forward. Marco meets him as they run on the rooftops, and he tells him "I told you you were cut out for leadership." "I don't know about that." Still, we don't get the full extent of Marco's meaning.
One of the company gets snatched away just before Jean breaks through one of the windows. He looks around, waiting to see if he is followed. You can tell he's wondering if he's the only one, and they all died. A handful crash through. The breaking of all the windows represents the difficulty of getting this far. Falling through glass.
Upset about all those who died under his command and having taken advantage of fallen comrades, Jean spots some of the supply team hiding under a desk. One is covered in blood. He asks if they are part of the supply team, and almost before they can answer, he grabs one and punches him hard in the face.
He's angry because the supply team did nothing when it was their job to do something. Even Jean did something, and it resulted in casualties. He's jealous. He wanted to be able to say "I didn't do anything," but couldn't. So he finds a way to find fault in this proclamation as Marco holds him back.
Two titans beat a hole in the wall. Jean stares at them while the rest of his group runs to try to get further into the HQ. They decide Mikasa must have run out of gas and gotten eaten. They decide there isn't enough room for everyone.
Jean calmly watches and concludes his hopes were vain. He should have known that this was reality. Everyone should have realized long ago that they couldn't defeat something so big.
Then a titan fist falcon punches the two titans out of nowhere. The assaults change with the placement of a hand. Hands are very significant. The two titans are bowled backward with their feet straight in the air--no hands--while the new rogue titan roars, his fist held in front of his face.
Armin, Mikasa, and Connie burst through the window. Connie celebrates that his gas just barely ran out, but that Armin's plan worked. Without skipping a beat, he explains to Jean and the others that the aberrant titan attacks other titans and ignores humans--so far. Jean says it's like a dream, and Mikasa insists upon reality. They have to stay and fight.
"What is real?" is a significant question, despite the fact that Eren so far is the only one with memory loss or hallucinations. The question they're really getting at is "Is hope an illusion?"
Commercial bookends give more information on 3D gear. The fans are propelled by direct ejection of gas onto the blades. One can modulate the pressure. The next one is a diagram of titan classes by height, next to the wall and humans. There's the 60M class, the 50M wall, the the 15M class, the 7M class, and the 5M class. Humans are, of course, about a meter and a half. This is an appropriate illustration after Jean's conclusion.
While the new titan kicks others aside as if they're nothing, Connie narrates. "Don't worry, as long is it's outside raising Hell, they won't attack the building." Reiner looks troubled. "How much do you know about that titan?" "We'll worry about that when we get out of here." Here, Reiner could either look amused or relieved. He's definitely relieved that Connie knows nothing. Spoiler.
Just then, Jean busts in with supplies left over by the MPs. They're mostly rifles, and he wonders if they'll be able to help at all. He's confronted with the near uselessness of MPs here, however indirectly. According to Armin, only seven three or four meter class titans are in the supply room. So they will lower everyone but the top seven remaining from their class on a lift. They will use the rifles to blind the titans, while the top seven each kill a titan in unison. He is sorry he has to burden them with all their lives. Annie says it's fine, since it's the same regardless of who has to kill the titans. Armin doubts this is the best plan, and Marco tells him it is. Mikasa insists Armin should have confidence, as he has saved her and Eren with his decision making. He wonders when this was as Jean beckons them all onto the lift.
The top seven descend the stairs, discussing whether they can kill titans with maneuver gear. They're hopeful again. Also, lazy animators use still drawings. Are they trying to capture a moment of hope or are they just lazy? Yeah, going with the second option.
The tension in this scene is so fucking good. The lift lowers, and it's full of students trying to get their barrels over each other's shoulders. In the dark, one of the titans spots them and starts to move toward them. There's no sound but the footsteps. Marco says they must draw them in. In the rafters, the seven wait. The titans keep heading toward the lift until Marco's gun barrel is almost touching the eye of the first one. Then, he orders them to fire.
The lighting is very nice when the shots fire. The seven zip down, and all one can really see are the shots. Mikasa lands after downing hers, and the smoke clears.
Well, Sasha and Connie fucked up. The tension returns. Sasha apologizes for attacking from behind. It falls on her as she leaps aside, and Mikasa kills it. Annie somehow jumps three meters and kills Connie's. Yeah, we'll let that one go.
Reiner confesses to Annie he's glad she's okay. She ignores him.
The group begins the resupply after Marco almost faints. Sasha is ashamed that she accepted defeat, and Connie tells her he will despise her all she wants later. Jean tells Marco he isn't cut out to be a leader, so please don't tell him he is again. Marco hopes he does not offend Jean when he tells him he is not a strong person, so he can relate to the weak people, and most people are weak. He also is good at sizing up situations, so he will be able to come up with the best solution that fits the most people. He gave the right orders, and he is the reason Marco is alive.
I love this assessment of what a good leader does. It's fantastic.
Everyone celebrates the new gas and charges out to meet up with the rest of the army over the next wall. Armin notices Mikasa standing on the rooftops. He tells her they must go, but she is watching the new titan. She thinks that they need to understand it. The other titans appear to be slowly eating it, and Armin wonders if it can't regenerate. Reiner, Bertholdt, and Annie think they need to save the new titan to learn if they can use it more. Jean thinks they're crazy, but Annie suggests the new titan could prove more powerful than any canon. Really, Team Immersion has their own agenda for Eren, but what they say sounds plausible.
Armin recognizes the aberrant who attacked his group approaching. The mysterious titan notices it too and rips free of the titans attacking it, losing its arms. He bites through the neck of the aberrant who killed Thomas. Jean deduces it doesn't need help, and starts to walk away, saying "A titan is still a titan," but the others are transfixed. He turns back to see the new titan fall and start to smoke and turn to ash. A body emerges from its neck, and Mikasa immediately recognizes Eren. She leaps from the wall and runs to him. She listens for his heartbeat and starts crying.
I like this better than in the manga. In the manga, Mikasa recognizes the titan as Eren before he's exposed, but there's no real reason for this, and it doesn't make lot of sense. This scene is also extremely powerful when animated.
On the rooftop of HQ, the lingering group has managed to get Mikasa off the ground. They continue to watch her cry as she holds Eren in the same position. Only mostly awkward. Armin is shocked, remembering that he saw Eren get eaten, he saw him lose his arm. He reaches for the arm and asks "What happened?"
Of course, Eren is unconscious, so he doesn't get an answer.
Jean wonders if that means that Eren did all this. And we are treated to a survey of broken buildings and titan bodies littering the ground as the episode ends.
Of note here is the cleverness of the title. "Hearing the heartbeat" refers to Mikasa listening to know Eren is alive and Jean being able to gauge "the heartbeat" or pulse of the group. He flashes his stripes as weak and unwilling to help the titan at his own expense at the end, confirming Marco's words.
I also touched on hands (lol pun) as having some significance. So far, we have Eren and titan!Eren losing his hands a few times, triggering his changing of forms to regenerate and regain his power. We have Jean cutting off the hand of a titan to escape one. We have the emergence of "the hand of god" at the beginning of the series. Then titan!Eren's hand saves those at HQ. Eren is briefly able to attack without hands, but he still falls. The placement of hands in scenes has some relevance to who has the power. On, and on.
Next, we have the army's reaction to titan!Eren and all sorts of goodies.