Why does Yelena’s Aot face appear like a Disney forest witch who smelled something nasty in Attack on Titan season 4’s “Sneak Attack”? Despite the fact that she isn’t one of Attack on Titan’s main characters, Yelena has played an important role in the lives of Eldia and Marley. Yelena was a Marleyan army soldier who became enamoured with Zeke Jaeger. Between Attack on Titan seasons 3 and 4, Yelena leads a band of like-minded Zekealots in carrying out the Beast Titan’s will from the shadows, making contact with his younger half-brother Eren.
In the second half of Attack on Titan season 4, Yelena is assisting the Jaegerists in bringing Eren and Zeke together to accomplish the so-called “euthanization” plan, but her wish is thwarted by a surprise invasion by Marley.
Extreme circumstances force the Jaegerists and the Paradis Island military to agree to a temporary truce, prompting Armin to proclaim, “We don’t have much choice… we’ve to help the Jaegerists bring them [Zeke and Eren] together.” Yelena sneaks up behind Armin, hovering over his diminutive stature as these words are spoken. Yelena’s face is the stuff of nightmares, a strong mixture of wrath and insanity. A child’s face toward a younger sibling who has just given in to their parents’ interrogation and confessed who ate the cookies.
The face of Yelena in Attack on Titan season 4 is based on a comic panel by Hajime Isayama, although it goes much further. Animators for Attack on Titan brought out their most sinister pencils for Yelena and Armin’s big moment, which looked a tad menacing in the original artwork.
Yelena’s contorted facial gymnastics are, on one level, an external manifestation of her disturbed psyche. Despite the fact that she isn’t a Titan-shifter or a skilled warrior, Yelena’s unwavering, passionate devotion to Zeke makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Armin will never be able to unsee Yelena’s frantic gaze, which properly explains why she should be feared. The true cause of Yelena’s messed-up appearance, on the other hand, is revealed in the final episode of Attack on Titan season 4, part 1.
Yelena was revealing Zeke’s morbid plot to render all Eldians incapable of reproducing to Armin the last time she spoke with him before Marley’s invasion. Most of Eren’s comrades responded with natural scorn as they listened from behind bars, but Armin began crying, appearing to be as moved by Zeke’s “good intentions” as Yelena herself.
While the viewer of Attack on Titan was aware that Armin was putting on a show to gain the Jaegerists’ trust, Yelena seemed ecstatic to have found a kindred soul. In Attack on Titan season 4, when Armin meets Yelena on the rooftop and announces, “We don’t have much choice… we’ve to support the Jaegerists,” Yelena understands Armin is playing her.
Her gloomy expression is a mix of revulsion and wrath at Armin’s blasphemy. But when Yelena sees that things are becoming hairy on Paradis Island and that the Colossal Titan could be a beneficial ally, she instantly transforms to pleasant, courteous Yelena, relieved that Eren’s comrades are now on her side… even if they lied at first.
Yelena’s terrifying expression is the latest in a long line of terrifying expressions in Attack on Titan. Hajime Isayama has drawn multiple panels with grotesquely twisted character faces, both alive and dead, as part of Attack on Titan’s horror style.
Eren’s mentally sick grandfather from earlier in the season, Armin’s mocking of Reiner and Betholdt over Annie, Flock’s weird “shh” face from a few episodes ago, and, of course, the Titans themselves are all examples. Isayama is a master at revealing a character’s underlying darkness through terrifying face freeze-frames, and Yelena’s Attack on Titan season 4 performance may be her greatest yet.