*This article will contain spoilers up until the beginning of Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 2. If you’re not caught up yet, you may want to pass on this one.*
Season four of Attack on Titan had a ton of interesting character work. A good amount of which we’ve already covered. From Gabi’s controversial role to Eren’s shift in personality, season four changed a lot about how we viewed the cast of this now iconic series. They’ve caused a lot of division and discussion in the fanbase.
With one exception. One person that most fans will agree is a loathsome piece of shit. I am of course talking about Eren’s number one devotee: Floch Forster.
First, let’s have a look at how his story plays out. After his introduction, Floch was mostly a seemingly unimportant side character. A former member of the Garrison, he joined the Survey Corps along with all the others after the Royal Government arc (season three, part one). During the battle at Shiganshina, he and the other recruits all ended up stranded with Erwin, trapped beneath the hail of rocks thrown by the Beast Titan. A total coward, Floch tried to find an escape, but was driven to ride out to his death after Erwin’s final inspirational speech.
Only Floch didn’t die. Somehow, when every other member of the Survey Corps was slaughtered in an instant, he managed to survive. While the rest of the battle plays out, he wanders the battlefield until he finds a wounded Erwin. Just as Levi is about to heal Armin with the Titan serum, Floch arrives with Erwin in tow. Between saving Armin and Erwin, he believes the choice should be obvious.
Levi ends up seeing things a little differently.
From there, Floch’s character makes a much darker turn. This is where the fanbase really starts to turn against him. He becomes much more aggressive and spiteful, particularly towards Armin. The whimpering coward is gone, and in his place stands a darker and angrier man.
It only gets worse after the time skip. Because now, Floch has an object to direct his hostility. Of all the people of Paradis, he is easily the most fiercely determined to destroy Marely. When Eren brings him in on the plans for the Rumbling, he doesn’t just decide to help him. He devotes his entire being into it.
Which brings us to the Floch we know now. Eren’s right-hand man. He’s so determined to see the Rumbling happen that he’s become extremely sinister. Leading coups and brutally punishing anyone who stands in his way. All with a smile filled with just as much ego as it is with delight. In any other series, he would be the main villain. A manipulative monster leading a dangerous military force.
So, what happened? Why has Floch ended up like this? And why is it important?
A large part of it could simply boil down to trauma. Of all the characters to survive horrifying events in Attack on Titan, Floch has likely survived the worst of it all. Being the sole survivor of a surefire suicide attack cannot be good for your brain. The survivor’s guilt would be enough to drive anyone completely insane.
But Floch doesn’t seem to feel guilt over surviving. So, what is it? Perhaps he’s developed some kind of chosen one complex over it. He lived when everyone else was slaughtered, even the great Erwin. Could he believe himself to be like Eren, a special person destined to change the world?
Why, then, has he taken such a sinister turn? There are multiple possible reasons for this. Maybe he simply believes Eren really is their best chance. Or perhaps he’s just a psychopath, a soldier whose mind was broken by battle. You could name any cause.
And you can name the man responsible for every single one of them: Erwin Smith.
Erwin was, by all leaps of logic, a terrible person. He willingly turned himself into a cold, calculating machine that sent soldiers to die by the hundreds. Part of why was simply because he was a selfish person who wanted to see his ambitions fulfilled. Another part was because that’s what was necessary. In order for humanity to survive, he turned himself into a devil.
Sound familiar? Floch has taken Erwin’s philosophies and amplified them to a problematic degree. He’s the first person to claim that the people of Paradis must become devils if they are to survive. Hell, the main reason he follows Eren so devoutly is because Erwin believed in him.
It makes sense. Floch didn’t serve under Erwin for long, but he became so devoted to the man that he willingly charged into death and pushed himself in order to save him. It only makes sense that Erwin’s ideals, good or bad or anything, would strike a chord with him.
Floch is an intensely damaged man. He’s a soldier who has experienced extreme trauma and has devoted himself to an extreme and dangerous ideal in order to cope. It’s not that he’s a pure-evil bastard, like the fanbase can often make him out to be. He’s a frighteningly realistic depiction of what war can do to a man.
Does that justify what he’s doing? No. He’s still a bastard. But is he pure evil? No. I don’t think so, at least.
Granted, we still have half a season left. He still has plenty of time to make me change my mind.