Zampano's betrayal bears fruit with Envy as the war rages at Briggs.
What They Say
In the snowy north, the soldiers of Fort Briggs engage an invading army and Marcoh leads an attack against monstrous Envy. In Central, an ominous and shocking secret is revealed to Olivier Armstrong.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)'
This is the episode that was desperately needed.
After so many episodes where things felt like the wheels were spinning outside on a very frigidly cold day, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood starts being proactive instead of reactive with its cast. This has been some time in coming and it needed that time to build towards it, but it is interesting to note that the pivot moment again has Ed absolutely nowhere to be seen. This reinforces the strength of the ensemble cast, especially as it starts putting more responsibility and leadership on Alphonse, which in turn makes him a better character. His growth in the series is hard to get a handle on sometimes because almost all true emotion must be done through his voice rather than facial expressions, but the growing seriousness of this young man is impressive.
While we saw the invading force from Drachma previously making its latest incursion against Briggs, it's an event that ends quickly and filled with bloodshed as Kimblee is playing a very different game here, one that sometimes seems to involve enjoying wanton destruction for the sake of it. Sadly, this part of the show gets only a moment or two of real screen time so we learn more of it from dialogue in Central towards the end than anything else. The main focus of the episode is on Al's group up in the North, where they're coping with the call that Zampano made that has Envy finding his way to the village that they're staying in.
So much of the first half of this episode is made up of action that it's almost surprising since we've had so many quiet episodes. Envy is one of the better homunculi to watch in a fight, remembering his time with Ed inside of Gluttony, because he goes all out when he fights and his emotions are raw and almost always worn on his arm. When he is brought to the group, and the trap is sprung, it's a beautiful series of moments as this very disparate group of people '" mostly enemies until just recently '" all pull together with sacrifice in mind in order to defeat him. The homunculi haven't managed to really push the idea that they're unstoppable as there have been some nasty fights, but any fight with them will be intense because of what's at stake. This scene is spot on, even if the comedy is a little too strong afterward at times. Still, seeing Envy's true form and watching him being bluffed and mocked repeatedly afterward is priceless and made the humor work overall, considering it as stress relief after the intensity of battle.
After struggling with some of the recent episodes, this one gives me a lot of hope. With only twenty more episodes to go and a lot of story to cover, Fullmetal Alchemist has a lot to do but can manage it easily if we get more episodes like this one. Some subtle moments are added in here as well with a look towards Central as Hawkeye has a revealing conversation with the Fuhrer, but it's the revelation of what's underneath the capitol that may be most striking as Olivier is reminded about the three rules of state alchemists and what the real reason may be behind the one about not creating life. Episodes like this one go a long way towards restoring my faith in the series and easing the dullness of the last several episodes.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.