Mark Watches ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’: Episode 53

In the fifty-third episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I don’t think I was ever less prepared for a single episode of this show. HELP. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.

I can’t. I can’t believe this just happened.

  • I don’t mean that this is out of character for Mustang or that this plot doesn’t make sense. This episode – perhaps the most intense, brutal, and scary twenty-odd minutes of all of Fullmetal Alchemist – is just so jam-packed with horror and shock that I’m EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED. And I still have three more of these to do this week! I’m spent. It’s like this episode drained my own personal Philosopher’s Stone.
  • You know, I’m leaving that up just so y’all can laugh at me, but wow, that analogy has implications that are super disturbing, so maybe that’s not what this was like.
  • Regardless, I’m drained. It’s like Mustang’s entire fucking story was leading up to this moment. It’s cathartic as much as it is unsettling. Y’all, I can’t deal with this show.
  • “Flame of Vengeance” did make me reflect on how much vengeance has played a part in the larger narrative of the show, though. Obviously, there are direct parallels to Scar that are openly addressed here. Mustang’s face is shadowed in the shape of Scar’s x-shaped scar. Scar speaks with Ed about his familiarity with what Mustang is going through. And Riza knows that her commander has gone too far in his pursuit of avenging Maes Hughes’s death. Mustang is the only character here unaware of the path he’s going down.
  • Which makes perfect sense! Hughes’s death has always informed Mustang’s path on this show, and the confrontation here is the culmination of months of planning and, ostensibly, months of anticipation. I don’t necessarily think that Mustang planned to meet Envy at this place and this moment in time, but I’m guessing that he always assumed he’d find the Homunculus responsible for murdering Hughes.
  • It’s been a strange journey to this point, too, and it’s something that Envy picks up on immediately. How is it that the Flame Alchemist is working with Scar, when the former was responsible for the genocide of the latter’s people? That’s why it’s so important to reflect on how revenge narratives from this story. Scar found that his desperation turned him into a monster who openly murdered for something he could never have. He was never going to get his family, his friends, or his people back. Is Mustang operating under the same delusion, too? I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t on a similar path.
  • Of course, I don’t want to ignore the fact that this is Envy who is being tormented by Mustang. I’m not sitting here, full of sympathy for that character, but I admit that as many horrible things as Envy’s done, I don’t feel great about Envy’s torture. It’s immensely uncomfortable, and I know that’s it’s by design that I feel this way. The show doesn’t let us off the hook in terms of experiencing the true horrors of Mustang’s revenge. But that’s what FMA:B has sort of always done, you know? The show examines the cost of war, the cost of genocide, the cost of militaristic nationalism, and the cost of violence. For the most part, these characters are never divorced from the implications of their actions, so it’s fitting that Mustang’s vengeance is front and center. What’s the cost of him giving himself over to the destruction of Envy? What purpose does it serve? How will it change him, and is that change irrevocable?
  • Given her history and personal attachment to him, it’s important to acknowledge Riza’s role in this. We’ve seen, time and time again, how willing she is to hold Mustang responsible for what he chooses to do, and she’s often quick to correct him or keep him in line. (SO MUCH LOVE FOR RIZA, I SWEAR.) Here, she disobeys Mustang’s order because she knows the alternative is much worse than disobeying her superior.
  • Of course, she has no idea just how far gone Mustang is. He’d just incinerated a version of Hughes without a single hesitation. Granted, it’s not like Mustang believed that Hughes survived, but I think it’s the idea of his lack of reluctance that’s so disturbing. But it also sets up the confrontation that we see at the end of the episode. Envy expected Mustang to pause when he saw his old friend, and given how Hughes reacted when Envy appeared as Gracia (FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU), Envy assumed they’d get the same response.
  • So, Envy tries something else: appearing as a living person.
  • AS RIZA.
  • So, I was completely enamored with Mustang’s story in “Flame of Vengeance,” but I didn’t want to ignore the first five minutes of this episode. It’s SO FUCKING AMAZING. I loved the chance to see how the everyday citizens of Amestris were coping with the news of the possible coup in their city. This fight affects them, too, and it might get worse if the Mannequins get out. I mean, while Mustang was able to take care of the Mannequins IN A MATTER OF SECONDS, we know that some of them got past him and are attacking the Armstrongs.
  • Anyway, it was brilliant to put Mrs. Bradley on the radio because it gave the “invading” forces a chance to turn the people of Central to their side. And while they don’t get all of the information, the folks running the radio station are able to pass along enough of the story to get folks to question the narrative that the military is giving them. That is important for the tide to be turned. This isn’t a military coup, so much as it’s people trying to take their government back from the shadowy forces of Father and his cronies.
  • However, I still maintain the right to collapse in a puddle of grief during the scene where Mrs. Bradley finds out who her husband and son are.
  • I’m not going to make it through that scene, just a heads up.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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