In the thirty-fifth episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, THE ANSWER WAS IN THE FIRST EPISODE ALL ALONG. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.
I can’t. I CAN’T. HOLY SHIT, THE ANSWER WAS WAITING FOR ME THE WHOLE TIME.
(Note: Thanks to the FMA:B fandom for sharing all the different versions/translations of that egregious line of Edward’s about race in yesterday’s review. It really helped me understand the context and the original intention of the line. YOU ARE A WONDERFUL FANDOM THANK YOU VERY MUCH.)
- I can’t fucking believe this show.
- This may be the most mind-bending and entertaining serialized narrative that I’ve ever written about for Mark Watches. I’m serious! I’m a big sucker for serials, and this goddamn show does story arcs so fucking well. Y’all, we just got a huge answer to the show’s mythology, and there’s still so much we don’t know.
- Before we get there, let’s talk about Major General Armstrong and Fort Briggs and the Briggs Way and how fucking phenomenal the opening scene of “The Shape of This Country” is.
- (the name of the episode is literal THE NAME OF THE EPISODE IS LITERAL so help me gandalf)
- Again, I am absolutely transfixed with how the writers have chosen to portray Olivier. I love that they are assigned traditionally masculine gender norms to her. Her aggression and penchant for ridiculous acts of violence is so entertaining, and then I think about how any other show would probably have made her character a dude, and I’m just so happy that she’s not.
- That doesn’t mean I dislike traditionally feminine characters, though. (HELLO, AHIRU, I MISS YOU FOREVER. Or how about all the ladies of Madoka Magica? Ugh, ladies.) I just appreciate that this show, in this instance, is showing us a kind of diversity in expression and personality that most forms of fiction don’t get. I’m writing these in advance, so I’m hoping that the comments aren’t all full of people hating Olivier because I would be sad. I don’t mean that people have to love her, but I’m just used to aggressive and assertive women in fiction being despised or hated. (Examples: Skyler White, Tara Thornton, Debra Morgan, Ginny Weasley, Martha Jones, Mercedes Jones. Which also brings up another point: Most of the time, fandom’s most hated women are women of color, and often they are also black women. Ugh.)
- Olivier’s ruthless style is effective, and I think that’s what I love most about it. She’s able to get Sloth out of the lower level, into an elevator, up to the top level, and then Captain Buccaneer helps Olivier shove Sloth out into the snow, where the temperature freezes his entire body. (Except his hair, which is still deeply hilarious to me.)
- Reminder that Olivier drove a tank into an elevator.
- AND THEN SHE LOCKED EDWARD AND AL IN A CELL ANYWAY. Just because they helped save Fort Briggs (which many soldiers are very thankful for) doesn’t mean she trusts them yet. It’s a step in the right direction, and I think she recognized that their intent was good. Plus, as we learn later, she correctly interpreted Edward’s refusal to obey a superior as a sign of how serious his secret was. Edward risked his and Al’s life and freedom in order to avoid speaking the truth in public, and she understands military culture enough to get why he did this.
- And it is really neat that the other Briggs soldiers thank Edward and Al for what they did! Edward remarks that it’s nice that everyone in Briggs looks out for one another, and I think that’s because Olivier has created a culture here that revolves around trust and respect.
- AND THEN I DIDN’T FIGURE OUT THAT MAJOR MILES WENT TO GO VISIT KIMBLEE. Oh my god, they used to be friends? Maybe I misunderstand that part and he just went to go see what Scar knew. Ugh, DON’T TRUST KIMBLEE. DON’T DO IT.
- Y’all, when Olivier meets Kimblee, it’s going to be a MASSACRE. She is not going to take his shit at all. Hell, Major Miles is already peeved by Kimblee’s insistence to let him go after Scar. How the hell is Olivier going to deal with this behavior?
- GO AWAY GENERAL RAVEN
- WHAT THE FUCK, IT’S THE DOCTOR WHO MADE WRATH
- GO AWAY PLEASE.
- As if this episode wasn’t already enough in the mindfuck department, we get an entire section devoted to what May and Marcoh discover in Scar’s brother’s research. It’s a neat bit of exposition and worldbuilding, since it allows May to explain the main difference in alkahestry when compared to alchemy. Alkahestry is rooted in the energy that flows through all living things (sort of like qi in Chinese culture), which is why it manifests in a different way than alchemy. May uses a term – the Dragon’s Pulse – to name this system of energy, and then surmises that Amestrian alchemy doesn’t use the Dragon’s Pulse. So while this scene does a lot to explain why Father’s weird trick didn’t affect Scar and May, it adds another mystery to the fold. Amestrian alchemy is not based in tectonic shifts in the earth. EVERY AMESTRIAN HAS BEEN WRONG ABOUT THE SOURCE OF THEIR ALCHEMICAL ENERGY.
- If that’s the case, what the fuck!!!! WHY DOES MAY SAY IT’S LIKE “PEOPLE CRAWLING BENEATH THE GROUND”?????
- This show is NOT OKAY.
- So let’s talk about how fucking amazing and ridiculous and thrilling “The Shape of This Country” becomes once Olivier takes the Elrics, Captain Buccaneer, and Falman below the fort to explore the hole that Sloth was digging. Obviously, it was going to be huge, and I wasn’t surprised that it seemed to stretch for miles. But why were there train tracks??? THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.
- As I explained before, Olivier also had an ulterior motive: She wanted to isolate the Elrics so that they could tell her the truth about everything. I’m actually kind of glad that we didn’t get an extended scene where Edward explained everything to her, not just because it would have been a tad redundant, but because we instead get her reaction to it.
- And her reaction is SO FASCINATING. She’s not heartbroken like her brother is, and she isn’t dramatic or furious. (Yet.) She is calculating. She asks the Elric what they make of the hole they’re in.
- And then the map comes out.
- And it’s probably a circle.
- Around the entirety of Amestris.
- AND THEN EDWARD IS ASKING ABOUT ALL THE MAJOR MILITARY INCIDENTS IN AMESTRIAN HISTORY, AND STOP
- YOU’RE FUCKING KIDDING ME
- IT REALLY IS A GIANT TRANSMUTATION CIRCLE UNDERNEATH THE WHOLE COUNTRY
- IT’S THE TRANSMUTATION CIRCLE FROM THE 5TH LABORATORY
- The military purposely orchestrated these uprisings, y’all. And it’s not like it’s terribly surprising, since all these clues were there all along. I knew that the uprisings were a part of this conspiracy; I knew that the military commanders were corrupt; Dr. Marcoh had already guessed that the Homunculi were building a giant transmutation circle. Having it all come together this way, however, is so much more disturbing because it reveals the scope of this conspiracy. Not only has the military been manipulating events and skirmishes for hundreds of years, but the country was literally made specifically for the purpose of a giant transmutation circle.
- HUGHES WAS KILLED BECAUSE HE FOUND OUT ABOUT THE SHAPE OF THE COUNTRY
- IT’S LITERAL
- “The Shape of This Country.”
- IT WAS IN THE FIRST FUCKING EPISODE
- ISAAC MCDOUGAL SAID HE WAS TRYING TO SAVE THE COUNTRY AND ASKED EDWARD IF HE KNEW WHAT SHAPE THE COUNTRY WAS IN
- IT WAS FUCKING LITERAL I AM SO DONE WITH THIS SHOW FOREVER
- Reminder that it was Führer Bradley who killed McDougal. Stop it, show. Stop doing this to me.
- I still don’t get the ultimate point of all of this. Create a massive Philosopher’s Stone and then… use it? For a thing?
- Because the Homunculi are technically not immortal, remember? And wouldn’t it stand to reason that eventually, you could drain the power in a massive Philosopher’s Stone anyway? So… what?
- THEN GENERAL RAVEN. Oh my fucking god, can we talk about Olivier and how she uses Raven’s misogyny against him? Can we talk about how fucking amazing this is? On one level, she finally trusts the Elrics and what they’ve told her. Fort Briggs is the last step in this plan, and she is not going to let these asshole take it from her. But on another, it shows just how dedicated she is to her duty, not just as a Major General, but to her soldiers. She is purposely going to deceive and defy a superior to protect the people of Fort Briggs.
- I LOVE MAJOR GENERAL OLIVIER ARMSTRONG.
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