In the forty-first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, everything is so messed up forever and the worst part is that I know this is going to get worse. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.
This show, y’all. This show.
- I thought that Winry’s accidental discovery of dynamite would be a Chekhov’s Gun or some plot thing that they’d use to defend themselves, and then I ended up being right except it was for the wrong character.
- This show does examinations of identity and morality so fucking good, everyone! Why am I yelling at you as if you don’t already know this? I imagine that’s why many of you are such huge fans of the show and wanted me to watch this. You know I love moral conundrums and identity stories and endless emotional horror.
- So, in “The Abyss,” we’ve got an exploration of murder. One of the primary emotional conflicts here isn’t between Kimblee and Ed. No, it’s about Edward’s refusal to be like Major Miles, who is willing to kill to do “good.” As it stands, Edward and Al have managed to make it this far in the show without killing anyway, but what’s the price of that idealism? When you’re thrown into wartime, can you keep your ideals or is that foolish?
- Given that Major Miles is part Ishvalan and because he’s part of the military, violence and death is just a part of his life, and the way he normalizes and justifies it relies on this experience. His people were victims of genocide, and his role in the Amestrian State Military has put him in situations where he has had to kill. There’s a particularly disturbing line of his in this episode where he states that sometimes it’s easier to kill someone than to let them live.
- It really stands in glaring contrast to the value of human life that Edward, Al, and Winry believe in. Hell, I’d say Ed and Al’s journey is specifically based on the fact that they value human life, including their own.
- But Miles has spent so much time at Fort Briggs that his decision to kill Kimblee and the chimeras that are with him are based in military pragmatism. I didn’t really see this as a commentary on military conscription in general; it’s more about the context of the life that Miles has lived. Miles sees Edward’s idealism as naïveté, partially because Edward is so young. Which… okay, no, because do you know how many terrors Edward has seen at this point? So I don’t think this is true at all. Still, I think there are a couple moments where Ed genuinely considers whether his philosophy and standards are naïve.
- I just realized that I should have sung “Secret Tunnel” the entire time the other group was in the mines. MISSED OPPORTUNITY.
- Hahaha look at that casual reveal that it was HOHENHEIM who created alkahestry hahaha I am laughing because it holds back my tears.
- That moment where Winry says that the Gold Person sounds just like Edward and Al is too much for one human heart to handle. This show is rude.
- Let it also be known that just second before Winry and May find Al in the snow, I asked out loud, “Where is Al?” It’s like I have a magic power or something. Wow, what a terrible power. I can make shows answer my questions but only after they’re complete and it doesn’t actually change anything.
- THERE ARE SO MANY INTERESTING WAYS THAT THIS STORY CAN GO. Since Al reached the group before they made it to Briggs, they’re now following Scar to Asbec. AN ISHVALAN REFUGEE CAMP. HOLY POTENTIAL.
- I also fully admit to be 100% confused when it cut to Edward and Al was sitting next to him. Now, I am just 10% confused because where did they get a perfect replica of Al’s suit in a matter of minutes? Okay, not important because IT’S SO HILARIOUS. Oh god, that poor Briggs soldier.
- It’s at this point that this episode sets up one of the most important scenes of the series, certainly one that’s integral to understand Ed’s growth and characterization. I really do love that so much of the final sequences of “The Abyss” focus on Edward and what his character means to the narrative. This episode does address the idea that there’s a lot of moral confusion around death and murder, but in these final moments, Edward comes face to face with the ramifications of his own beliefs. Here’s the best part: Despite everything that happens to him, he doesn’t waver in his belief that he should not kill anyone.
- THIS. IS. SO. AMAZING.
- I love it. I love it so much, and I love that this also represents Edward’s maturation as a person. Because let’s be real: Edward Elric is a reckless Gryffindor if there ever was one. I swear, even Harry Potter would tell him to calm his shit if he could. But Edward’s anger is both a flaw of his and a weapon. In the context of what he does in the “abyss,” his anger is a motivating gift.
- There were a few moments early in the series where Alphonse had to remind Edward that he couldn’t change the world if he allowed himself to die, that the best thing that he could possibly do was live. (Which makes me think of what a positive force Alphonse is, and now I’m thinking about the end of season five of Buffy and “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it” and the parallel is undeniable, isn’t it.) And so, after Kimblee’s explosion buries Ed, Darius, and Heinkel in the rubble of the watchtower, Edward refuses to die.
- Not only that, but he refuses to let the same chimeras who tried to kill him die either. He deliberately values their life, even if it’s just so that they can help him.
- My god, I just… I really love the scene where Heinkel removes the girder from Ed’s body, and Edward willingly sacrifices years from his life to stay alive, and it feels like his entire story up until now has coalesced into this beautiful, evocative moment. Edward made two allies in the process. He found out how to use a form of alkahestry to heal his own body. He refuses to use the Philosopher’s Stone. And as Darius and Heinkel carry Edward to safety, their own loyalties changed after such an incredible display of empathy, I realized how incredible this episode was.
- Y’all, it’s beautiful. SO BEAUTIFUL.
Please note that my Double Feature reviews for FMA:B will take one last final break for a week while I am in Dallas, TX for FenCon 2013. They will start again on October 14th, and they’ll continue until I’m finished with the show on November 13th. I’ve scheduled a FMA:B Q&A party for Friday, November 15th. Basically, y’all can hang out and discuss the entire show, ask me questions about it, and generally have a comment party because NO MORE SPOILERS LEFT EVER AGAIN.
Mark Links Stuff
- If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
- Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
- I will be traveling for many events! Check the Tour Dates/Appearances page for up-to-date tour events. Up next: FenCon in Dallas!