Mark Watches ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’: Episode 36

In the thirty-sixth episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, unfair. UNFAIR. UNFAIR. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.

I get so close to the truth, and then this show reminds me that I am not even remotely close to it at all. Unfair!

  • It’s unfair because “The Shape of This Country” ended on a deliberate cliffhanger, so I expected “Family Portrait” to pick up right where Olivier and Raven’s conversation left off. How much further would Raven take the bait? How much would he reveal?
  • And then Hohenheim is on my screen.
  • Why is he just speaking random names?
  • What is he doing? Praying?
  • did he
  • did
  • did he just dig his hands into his own chest???
  • ARE THOSE BITS OF A PHILOSOPHER’S STONE
  • OH MY GOD ARE THOSE THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PART OF THE STONE
  • WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON
  • WHY ARE WE FLASHING BACK TO 13 YEARS EARLIER
  • NO STOP IT
  • BABY ELRICS
  • BABY ELRICS
  • I WASN’T PREPARED TO DEAL WITH THIS. THIS IS UNFAIR. THIS IS RUDE.
  • RUDE.
  • In one single fucking flashback, Hohenheim is a completely different character. He is not the detached, uncaring waste of a father I thought he was. No, he’s TRAPPED IN AN IMMORTAL BODY.
  • WHAT THE FUCK, WHY ARE YOU JUST CASUALLY REVEALING THIS TO ME IN THE COLD OPEN, FMA:B? HOHENHEIM IS IMMORTAL???
  • Not like, Homunculi immortal, but literally immortal? Is he human?
  • Why does he talk about his body in the third person, as if it is not his?
  • why the fuck does he look exactly like Father?
  • I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ANSWERED AND THIS SHOW JUST GAVE ME ABOUT A THOUSAND MORE.
  • Oh my god, Hohenheim left his family because he believed himself to be a monster for what he’d done.
  • And the most striking thing about this flashback? Trisha Elric. We get to see her propensity for empathy. She loves her husband, regardless of what he’s done, and she understands why he’s leaving. It’s immense to see, y’all, because it’s such a tender characterization. She is supportive and loving and it fucking destroys me.
  • I seriously think this episode deliberately parallels the visuals from “An Alchemist’s Anguish,” particularly if you think about the scene where Nina looks upon her father the day before he ruins everything forever. Now compare that to the Elric brothers looking upon their father before he abandons the family, and I bet you will hear your own heart shattering all over again.
  • Because “Family Portrait” suggests the power that comes with being a family, not just for Hohenheim, but for Olivier Armstrong, who ultimately chooses her own family over her self-interest and ambition. So, does this episode suggest that Hohenheim chose to spare his family more misery by leaving rather than staying and harming them? I’m not quite sure, but I definitely look upon his abandonment with a different attitude than I did before. Perhaps his intention was to save his sons and his wife, but given what happened after he left, we know that’s not how life turned out. But how different would things have been had he stayed? Would Edward and Al had someone to turn to in their grief? Would the Rockbells be such a big part of the family?
  • That’s all speculation at this point because “Family Portrait” is just a glimpse. We see Hohenheim’s anguish over realization how much her cherishes his family and how frightened he is that he’ll have to outlive them. (Now I know why his face was always covered up in the family photograph, and that alone destroys me.) He wants to grow old with them, but he can’t. I don’t exactly understand the sequence where he’s drawing the giant transmutation circle? Did he figure out what Father and the Homunculi are planning? That doesn’t even make sense because… fuck, y’all, I still don’t understand how Hohenheim and Father are connected.
  • This episode just gave me so many Hohenheim feelings. Unfair.
  • Look, I realize that all this talk of “feelings” on this site and in fandom is a pervasive thing, but I enjoy the existence of it because it’s rooted in something I wish there was more of: empathy.
  • It’s about recognizing and trying to understand the complex experience that a character is going through. It’s analyzing said experience to gain comprehension about a life we may not have ever or will ever live. That’s so awesome to me because I want us as a society to do the same for real people. And developing empathy for complex, layered people is a necessary thing in real life, too!
  • Anyway, THEN THERE’S STILL EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN THE NORTH. I swear, the cold open alone was an episode in and of itself, and there’s still so much more.
  • The exploration tunnel sequence is pure horror, plain and simple. I have no idea what that thing is that attacks the entire squad of soldiers. A new Homunculus? But what? And where did it come from? And how was it dispatched to the North??? I’M SO CONFUSED.
  • I really think that this episode is about Olivier Armstrong. I know that I’ve basically proposed my love to her and that makes me biased, but hear me out. If we accept that “Family Portrait” is about the things that people do for their family, I think it’s easy to see how Olivier makes the decisions she does here because of the family she has built in Fort Briggs.
  • Her initial conflict is rooted in whether or not she should continue her ruse against Raven. She wants more information, but she knows that as she pretends to be on his side, that means she may have to risk her own people in the process.
  • That’s apparent once Raven intervenes in the rescue efforts, ordering Armstrong to return Sloth to the hole and seal it up. Without rescuing her men. What’s so fucking eerie here is that Raven is both confident and blatant about his priorities. He has already assumed that Armstrong will obey him, as will all the officers beneath her in command. It’s creepy because he relies on manipulating her sense of duty and power, and UGH NO THANK YOU STOP IT.
  • He doesn’t even try to hide what Sloth is! He refers to Sloth by name (and references Pride) and then tells the witnesses that he’s some sort of government weapon/project and that they’re not to ask questions. Granted, he doesn’t say that Sloth is a Homunculus, but sweet babies, does it matter at this point? Raven’s certainty unsettles me forever. He acts the same way with the Elrics, assuring them that Armstrong is on his side!
  • (But I wasn’t so sure. Still, that prepared me for absolutely nothing.)
  • I suppose the same thing applies to Kimblee. He is so blatant throughout this episode whenever he’s talking to Miles, constantly asserting his power and assuming that everything is going to go in his favor. UGH WHAT DID THAT SCIENTIST DO TO HIM?
  • There’s also a brief scene that moves the Scar/May plotline even further. Scar has found them! And it’s possible that since he was an Ishvalan priest at one point (isn’t that a weird thought???) that he’ll be able to translate the ancient Ishvalan in the research notes. Which implies that there’s still more I don’t understand about alkahestry. Damn it, why am I so perpetually unprepared???
  • But let’s just get to the best scene in this episode by far. Olivier is characterized in this episode by Raven and Kimblee as ambitious for power. They rely on her ambition and her default to military duty to keep her in line. But as soon as she finds out from Raven himself that what happened in Ishval will happen here in North Briggs – that those viewed as “weak” will be used as literal fodder to empower the “superior” – she decides to show Raven what’s really going to happen in her base. She deems Raven to be the inferior one, and she STABS HIM IN THE FUCKING ARM AND SHE TELLS HIM THAT HIS FEAR OF GROWING OLD HAS MADE HIM INHUMAN AND A TRAITOR TO THE COUNTRY AND SHE DOESN’T NEED A SEAT IN CENTRAL COMMAND BECAUSE SHE WILL JUST TAKE HIS AND OH MY GOD
  • SHE NEARLY CUTS HIM IN HALF VERTICALLY AND SHOVES HIM INTO THE STILL-WET CEMENT AND HE DROWNS IN CEMENT AS SHE TELLS HIM THAT HE WILL BECOME PART OF THE FOUNDATION OF BRIGGS AND THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER AND I LOVE AND RESPECT OLIVIER SO MUCH HELP ME
  • That image of her throwing the blood-covered gloves in the cement is so powerful that I’m convinced she should just rule the Iron Throne with Sansa and Daenerys and whoops wrong fictional canon.
  • Whatever, I don’t care. That scene is my everything.
  • So is everything else. I love the reveal that Miles was ordered to pretend to be on friendly terms with Kimblee because no ew gross. Ugh, Kimblee is just so horrifying! He doesn’t care, and he has so much power. Yeah, how upsetting is that scene where he reveals that Bradley gave him the authority to do as he pleases in the event that anything happens to Raven? GET HIM THAT CAR, MILES, AND GET HIM OUT OF THAT FORT. NOW. NOW.
  • EDWARD CREATED A SECRET ENTRANCE TO THE TUNNEL. AMAZING. EDWARD, YOU ARE AMAZING.
  • WAIT WHY DOES EDWARD HAVE A GUEST
  • NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
  • I mean, let me repeat what I said during the closing credits. I’m happy that there is more Winry Rockbell, but I’m terrified that this is putting her at risk. Obviously, she can handle herself, but she’s now involved in the narrative, and Scar is too close by and I’M JUST REALLY WORRIED.
  • That after credits sequence is the final straw of NOT FAIR. What the fuck, Olivier and Mustang are working together??????
  • I AM SO DONE WITH THIS. What the hell, no I’m not. I never will be. This show won’t ever let me be done with it ever again.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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