In the sixth episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the Elric brothers travel back to their home with Armstrong, and they discover a possible path back to their bodies during a brief stop. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.
This is some damn fine storytelling.
- While I won’t deny that there are some important plot twists and updates to the continuity here, I found “Road of Hope” to be a remarkably subtle episode, one that develops the characterization of the Elric brothers, Winry, and Pinako in touching ways. This momentary break from all the violence and chaos fits well here, and for the first time in the series, I actually felt good at the end. Obviously, things are going to get worse. There are 58 episodes left, so I don’t expect the same sort of cuteness and adorable sadness that I got here. Still, I appreciate the story all the same.
- “Road of Hope” is essentially broken in two parts: Dr. Marcoh’s story and the scenes at the Rockbells’.
- It’s also essentially “lots of sadness under the guise of hope.”
- It’s also “the end of all my emotions.”
- It’s also “a sign that I will be unable to last through the entirety of this show.”
- So! Let’s get into Dr. Marcoh’s story! I suspected there was some reason behind his flight from Armstrong at the train station that was connected to state alchemy. Of course, once we learn that “Dr. Mauro” is ~mysteriously~ healing people, it seemed pretty damn obvious it was with alchemy. Yet all similarities with how “City of Heresy” was set up end right here. The explanation of the Ishvalan war in the previous episode brings up some emotionally and philosophically heavy shit, y’all, and we see that in Dr. Marcoh. I saw a direct parallel to Dr. Oppenheimer in him, especially if you consider how both doctors were complicit in creating something that brought about mass human destruction. How could Dr. Marcoh ever atone for how many lives he caused to end? I don’t think he ever thought it was possible, and his work to help the people in this small village was the only way he thought he might be able to sleep at night.
- I mean, shit, y’all, this is some complicated guilt to work through. This show is directly addressing the psychological ramifications of genocide from multiple points of view. For the time being, we’ve seen more of the state military’s side than the Ishvalan people, and I’ll be eager to see if we get more of the opposing viewpoint in the future.
- I love that the Philosopher’s Stone is brought back into focus here. That’s what Dr. Marcoh’s research was all about: creating the Stone. There’s no easy solution here, and I appreciated the way that the writers handled this. Dr. Marcoh didn’t just have the stone. No, his research was more like he was composing some sort of “recipe,” and the crimson liquid was just a major component. I enjoyed it even more when Dr. Marcoh refused to hand the stuff over. Why would he? If he was devoting his life to atoning for his past sins, why would he be complicit in a possible attempt to create the very thing that he stopped from happening all those years ago?
- Surprisingly, Armstrong and Ed accept Dr. Marcoh’s decision. It’s a brilliant move and one that reflects on the growth Ed had already made in the previous five episodes. While he’s certainly impatient to restore his body, Ed has learned that he can’t rush things too much, that he needs to respect how much others want to get involved in his quest. In this sense, he understands the weight of what he’s done in terms of alchemy, and he refuses to drag another unwilling person into this mess. Granted, he does stand up to Dr. Marcoh, insisting that he’s well aware of what it means to be a state alchemist, but he doesn’t push the issue any further.
- Still, it was Edward’s line about already “living through Hell” that inspired Dr. Marcoh to change his mind about the Elric brothers. I think he saw that Ed was trying to escape hell, not create another one.
- OH GOD, WHY IS THAT WOMAN WAITING FOR DR. MARCOH? WHO IS SHE?
- But all the best parts of “Road of Hope” are in the Rockbell house. I adore the second half of this episode, y’all. It’s nice to see a grown-up Winry, to observe her dynamic with Ed, to get a better sense for how the automail process works, and to witness Armstrong’s growing sense of respect for these two boys. I know it’s played for humor, but it’s still meaningful to me! He understands what these boys have sacrificed and why they’re so driven, and it’s just beautiful. Also, I’m just totally into the weirdness that is Armstrong, you know?
- I’m also incredibly pleased to see more of Winry and get a chance to learn about her character. She’s clearly talented and dedicated. She doesn’t sleep for three days just to make replacements for Ed’s automail. That’s amazing. I love that she doesn’t take Ed’s shit, too! Just because she adores and loves Ed as part of her family doesn’t mean that he can treat her poorly.
- I have written often in the past about my love for fiction that explores families that form out of tragedy, and this is a damn good example of that. Just because the Elric brothers are not related to Pinako and Winry does not mean they aren’t a part of the Rockbell house. They very much are! But this is also because of the deliberate journey that Ed and Al have taken. Y’all, they burned down their own house. They literally have no home to go back to, so the Rockbell residence serves as a home by proxy. And this fills me with feelings?
- Oh god, Winry’s parents were killed in the Ishval Civil War. QUIT PLAYING GAMES WITH MY HEART.
- Actually, the single most devastating scene is when Al quietly thanks Pinako and Winry for what they’ve done, since he knows his brother is too proud to ever admit as much to the Rockbells. Hi, I used to have emotions, but they were all drained by this episode.
- Pinako asking Ed and Al to come back for dinner? Emotional manipulation through fiction at its finest. I am so done with all of y’all for getting me to watch this show.
- I really hope there’s more of Winry and Pinako in the future. I love them a lot already!
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