Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode Two: Father – *****
Part One: Go Ahead and Repeat the Same Lazy Joke Again. Maybe It’ll Be Funny the Twentieth Time Around.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem like an unusual episode. In fact, it has just the same about of unoriginal guff I resent about the series — tired jokes, bad plot twists, sudden conveniences, and needless exposition that multiple characters repeat as though they’re on Blue’s Fucking Clues.
Most of the first half of the episode is spent with the long-awaited confrontation with Father — who, as it turns out, is not the boy’s father at all, but some sort of evil twin. Wow. Impressive plot twist, show. Didn’t see that coming from a mile away. You know, it really adds to the depth of Hoenheim to know that he’s not, as almost all of the framing has led us to believe, a morally oscillating person whose empathy for the people around his is frequently challenged by his uglier vices to the point where he’s a monster while also still being in some small way a human. Nope, making Hoenheim just some guy and hawking all of the evil deeds off on someone who by sheer fucking coincidence looks identical to him was the smarter move.
Aside from my general disappointment in Father, May serves only to be rescued and dote after boys, which isn’t a good look for her. Look, sometimes the anime style of over-selling a vaguely amusing reaction works, but not if the thought behind it extends no further than, “Boy, girls with crushes are stupid, aren’t they?” May still has little character development, and I’m not too fond of the pejorative way the series treats her fangirling over the concept of Ed. A kid realizing that their fantasy hero isn’t what they imagined can be a fruitful field. Better series have used the subsequent embarrassment to flesh out the character in question or bring a layer of bitter reality to a young character’s world. I realize that’s not quite the style of this show, but the scenario could be funny without coming across as cruel. At the moment, it seems mainly interested in painting May as a naive fool with anger management issues and unrealistic expectations. Yike.
Part Two: MA BOI!!!
But, Hat, you have this five stars. WTF?
Look, I’m just unbelievably happy to see Greed again, okay?
The first time re-watching this, I had completely forgotten that Greed comes back as a major player. I genuinely thought he just died after an episode and a half. NOPE, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, HERE WE COOOOME!
Greed is fucking excellent. About halfway through the episode, Father seeks to dispose of Ling because the Elrics are the only ones he cares about at the moment. At Ling’s persistence, Father considers using his body to create a new Homunculus, and despite the Elrics’ best efforts, he agrees without a struggle. Becoming a homunculus, as we’ve seen before, involves injecting a Philosopher’s Stone into the blood stream, and Ling, greedy little bastard that he is, sees this as an opportunity to get a stone to take back to Xing with him.
Naturally, things do not go as planned. We get an insight into what’s going on in his head during the process of becoming a homunculus, and it involves the entity of Greed — who, the attentive viewer will remember was rendered and injected back into Father, from whom all of the homunculi were created — speaking to Ling amidst a flurry of souls. Ling offers himself up willingly, surprising even the disembodied sin, and Greed consumes him immediately and entirely.
Well, almost entirely. The transformation complete, Ling is now a homunculus, or at least possessed by one. Ed recognizes Greed — who has the same voice, tattoo, and personality as before — but the latter verifies that he’s a new version of Greed, just as Bradley has apparently replaced former Wraths. A tussle later, with Ed convinced his friend is still alive in there somewhere, he notices a flub when he accuses Ling of abandoning Lan Fan. The bottom line, then: Ling’s still in there, we have a new Greed, and dual-personality hi-jinks are in our near-future!
Part Three: Silly? Yes. Awesome? Hell Yes.
I like the look of this episode. It’s not the main part of what makes it fun, but the high-contrast visuals and creative angles give it a beauty that makes the limited locations stand out. Between Father, Envy, the characters spilling out of Gluttony, and Ling’s transformation, it also gets in quite a few horrific elements. A few shots actually give me chills. The fights aren’t the most creative the series has to offer, but they’re brutal.
Between the worse jokes that just exist as a sort of annoying background buzz, this episode also actually gets in a few good turns here and there. Greed’s general commentary is part of that, as before, but even Scar and Father get an amusing line or two. Ed and Al’s attempt to participate in the fight only to realize their alchemy has still been taken away is also good. This show can handle humor, it just needs to trust its audience a bit more. Knock-knock jokes can only get you so far.
The episode is also surprisingly plot-dense, which is part of why I’m forgiving its flaws. Even without the Greed bit, a lot happens. Here’s a quick list of the major developments that take place in the span of about twenty minutes:
- Alphonse meets Father
- Ed, Ling, and Envy escape from Gluttony
- Ed also meets Father, and the two of them learn that their father is somehow connected to the main villain, and also has an evil twin
- Ed tries to kill Father, and the latter takes away everyone’s alchemy, among other miraculous feats
- Father turns Ling into a homunculus and revives Greed
- Ed reveals to Scar that Envy was the one who started the War in Ishval
- We learn that Father can’t take away Scar’s destruction ability or May’s alkehestry
- Scar and the boys form a soft alliance
- Ed discovers Ling is still alive even though his body has been taken over by Greed
- Ed and Al are captured
That’s a lot for this little show. It’s not used to bringing so many plot threads to a nexus. It makes May, Scar, and Ling’s participation in the narrative suddenly meaningful, and it establishes several important connections between them and the protagonists. The show isn’t always good at building character connections, and it’s still a bit ham-fisted in its unnecessary attempts to explain its characters’ actions, but this is a subtle episode for this show and about as solid as it can get, warts accounted for.