Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – 63

The long run of astonishing action-themed episodes ends at 62, as the penultimate edition of “Brotherhood” wraps up the major plot points with a quiet, reflective tone.

We saw the apparent passing of two more major characters this week, one (Hoenehim) somewhat expected, albeit possibly under different circumstances. The other (Greed) was something of a surprise. His demise was handled with a lovely swirl of poetry and poetic justice, though – the poetry in his “It’s enough”, the ultimately ironic statement from the embodiment of Greed. And the poetic justice an act of sacrifice, sparing Lin’s life and setting the stage for Father’s final defeat. Allowing himself to be absorbed, he transforms Father’s body into charcoal, which Ed (using the flesh arm that Al returned to him with his own act of sacrifice) blasts a massive hole in, allowing the trapped souls inside to escape. Greed’s sacrifice sends Father – back in “dwarf” form – for a chilling meeting with God/Truth/Etc., and his own date with poetic justice.

Meanwhile, the Al conundrum remains. Lin offers his precious philosopher’s stone to exchange for Al, and Hoenheim (as expected) offers his own life in exchange for his son’s. Ed, still the youthful idealist, abides by his promise not to sacrifice another’s life to get Al’s body back. Instead, with a serene smile, he draws a human transmutation circle and, in a brilliant dramatic feint, almost convinces the audience that he’s going to exchange his own body for Al’s. But no, that too would break his promise – instead, he uses his Gate of Truth and sacrifices forever his ability to do alchemy. Al, emaciated and exhausted, wakes up in the company of the good guys.

Finally, the the most powerful and moving scenes of the episode, Hoenheim reflects on his own role in the events wrought by Father – and even now, still feels pity for the Dwarf in the Flask. He returns home to visit Tricia’s grave and, it turns out, die by her side. He’s surrendered all of the souls that sustained him and now only his own remains – old, tired and wounded in every way possible. As his body slowly decays, he says his Goodbyes to his beloved Tricia and finally, in a gorgeous burst of profundity, admits that “In the end, I don’t want to die.” Obaa-san finds him the next day, a smile on his face as he kneels at Tricia’s grave.

And so, as did the great Seirei no Moribito, Brotherhood appears to have devoted the final episode entirely to a coda – an episode-length epilogue. I think this is only fitting, given all that has happened in 63 episodes and how much emotional mileage we’ve gotten from these characters. While I expected Hoenheim’s death, it still saddened me – in the end, Ed and Al still will live as orphans. But given the overarching themes of this story Hoenheim had to go – he had too much blood on his hands, and had already cheated death for far too long. As with Greed, he could hardly have asked for a better exit – each sacrificing themselves for something they treasured. Equivalent exchange is woven through the very heart of this story – no one ever gets anything for free. Always, sacrifices must be made – this is the nature of the truth that “Truth” itself stands for. He doles out dismay to those that, in their arrogance, forget this. No one is left standing unscathed at the end – all have given something precious to them, as the price for their continued existence. Acceptance is the only path remaining to any of them – without their sight, their alchemy, their homeland, their child, their immortality… Only acceptance that their lives are now theirs to do as much or as little with as they please.

I very much look forward to the final episode. I thoroughly expect it to be bittersweet, which is only right for this dark and often tragic story.

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