In the twenty-second episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Edward and Al’s plan to trick the Homunculi to show themselves works, but not at all in the way that they expect. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.
I COME BACK FROM TWO WEEKS AWAY AND THIS IS THE NEXT THING I WATCH HELP ME.
- I spent a lot of time talking about how fucked up this show is to people in London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Now I’m able to realize just how little I know about the potential for fucked up on FMA:B. I mean, I’m just about one-third of the way through this, and the writers still find ways to ruin me.
- This episode starts off with one hell of a sequence. It’s tense not only because it’s a well-written face-off, but the characterization we’ve seen of Wrath/Bradley helps us to understand just what a terrible foe Lan Fan and Ling are up against. And for someone who personifies wrath, he’s actually rather calm and calculated. WHICH IS TERRIFYING.
- Thankfully, Lan Fan doesn’t die after using her kunai knife to stop a blow from Bradley, but she’s still incapacitated enough that Ling has to carry her over his shoulder.
- AFTER CUTTING OFF PART OF GLUTTONY’S HEAD, BY THE WAY.
- Even after Ling shows off his impressive defensive and offensive skills, this didn’t prove to be an easy fight. UGH I HAD FORGOTTEN THAT THEY COULD REGENERATE. That’s what I get for not watching the show for two weeks.
- HOW GREAT IS LING’S MONOLOGUE ABOUT BEING A KING? I mean, it also has the added layer 0f being an admission of identity. Ling and Lan Fan now know that Führer Bradly is a Homunculus. Which is why it’s entirely unfair that “Backs in the Distance” cliffhangers me by not showing me what happened to Ling and Lan Fan in that room. DID THEY GET OUT? WHAT’S GOING ON?
- Meanwhile, everything is intense and sad and awful with the Elrics and Winry. This episode not only gives us the backstory for the Rockbells and Scar, but it parallels the revenge-filled journey of Scar with Winry. IT’S SO BRILLIANT.
- Death surrounds these characters, and each of them have dealt with it in different ways. Winry’s life has largely been one without her parents, who died far away from her. She’s moved on, working on automail and getting better at it, and built a life with Pinako. But we’ve also seen how she fears the day when she’ll have to deal with the death of those around her, specifically the Elric boys. Hell, that shows up in this very episode! The specter of mortality haunts her, and it’s why she’s compelled to visit Maes Hughes’ grave with his surviving family.
- It’s the title of this episode that holds the meaning to Winry’s fright. The last time she saw her parents, she only saw their backs in the distance as they walked away. When she realizes that this very same image was duplicated in the last time Ed and Al left her, she panics. It’s a great example of a visual trigger.
- I’m not always a big fan of villains explaining themselves in monologues. I’ve actually made fun of it quite often. But somehow, it just works here. First of all, there’s a reason why Scar starts to explain his motivation to kill state alchemists: Al is trying to distract him from killing Ed. But then, in the course of this conversation, Scar and Edward spill a secret to Winry, who has just come upon them.
- Obviously, there’s a direct parallel between Scar’s need for revenge and Winry’s sudden desire for it, too. However, instead of just leaving it at this, the writers masterfully flash back to give us the real reason why Scar killed Winry’s parents and why he is so averse to state alchemy, to the point that he’ll use alchemy to murder other people.
- It’s fascinating to me that Scar immediately relies on religious imagery and language when he explains himself. Alchemists are a “sin against god,” he states, but when we see what happened to him and the Ishvalan people, this really has little to do with god at all.
- For Scar, the appearance and use of alchemy (in its many forms) was a sign of murder, hatred, and vengeance, which he’s now ironically surrounded himself with. His brother may have had good intentions about defending the Ishvalan people from the attacks on their city, but the people around him did not. They wanted to continue the same cycle in the opposite direction.
- Of course, despite that I heard how horrible the genocide of the Ishvalan people was, this episode actually shows it, and it is… I don’t even know, y’all. How do you talk about this without diminishing what we’ve seen? This is wholesale slaughter, plain and simple. Thousands of people of Ishval are wiped out in minutes. They’re shot, executed, blown up, burned alive… and nearly all of it is due to alchemy. How could anyone expect Scar to have positive feelings towards state alchemists after this?
- And yet, Scar admits that Winry has every reason to murder him. He knows that what he did has given her justification, just as he believes he is justified in getting revenge for his people. The Rockbells’ murder was the result of an immediate trigger on Scar’s part. He saw the stunning blue eyes of those doctors, and he associated them with the horrible violence and murder he’d seen, and so we see Scar’s sanity break in a very tangible, violent way. It only gets worse once he steps outside to see what the Amestrians have done to his city.
- Just… how??? How do these State Alchemists who participated in the war live with themselves? What sort of national propaganda were they fed that got them to believe they hadn’t outright murdered an entire nation? I can’t even conceive of this!
- There’s still a bit of sympathy in Scar, though it’s just enough for him to recognize that Ed protects Winry in the same way his own brother protected him from… that one guy? He isn’t named in the episode, and I don’t think I’ve seen him before. Is he important?
- Anyway, the ending to this brutal episode is kind of sweet in a way. Edward insists that Winry couldn’t ever truly kill Scar because her hands were made for creation. And that’s actually true! Everything we’ve seen of Winry has shown her to be loyal, caring, capable, talented, and creative. Look at what she’s done for Ed and Al! I mean, Ed wouldn’t have the automail he did without Winry.
- But Scar is still alive, and he’s going to keep killing state alchemists. Ugh, this can’t be good, y’all.
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