Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode Ten: Family Portrait – **
Part One: Well, Armstrong, That May Be a Bit Much
To be honest, this episode is split between a few semi-unrelated plot developments, to the point where I kind of wonder about its role. I can see why these developments were written into the series — the episode continues its enigmatic portrayal of Hoenheim, gives us a cool monster, and throws a couple of plot twists out to keep up the pace. But honestly, aside from the shadowy tooth-and-eye monster in the tunnels (which admittedly has a terrifying design), I remain unconvinced about the developments at Briggs.
Major General Armstrong continues her ruse with General Raven, feigning fragility while he offers her vague promises of immortality. When Armstrong’s exploration team returns from the tunnel as only a frightened horse and a severed limb, Raven orders Sloth unfrozen and returned to the tunnel, claiming the Homunculus to be an Amestrian experiment. She then murders him in cold blood by burying him in concrete.
Here’s the problem. While later episodes establish Armstrong as able to talk her way through this murder and even able to use it to her advantage, it feels out-of-character for her. I’m not opposed to her making mistakes, mind, and in fact, because she’s not completely aligned with Ed, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for her to choose what’s good for her men over what’s good for the protagonists. But although aggressive, Armstrong never struck me as unduly violent. It’s a bit of a subtle difference, but her actions against Sloth and Ed have remained provoked up to now. One could argue that the loss of her men and Raven’s attempts to cover it up are provocation enough, but given her lack of awareness of the political situation in Central and her very recent, very brief glimpse into what Raven knows, one might at least expect the series to wait another episode or two before offing him.
But hey, we’ve got to get Kimbley in charge somehow, I guess.
Part Two: Yay, Kimbley’s in Charge.
I guess I can’t get too angry yet, since Kimbley isn’t in this one much, but after Armstrong reports General Raven “missing,” Kimbley immediately takes this as code for “Armstrong drowned him in cement,” and declares himself the new northern Fuhrer.
On whose authority, exactly?
For some reason, Armstrong questions this not one bit, and Kimbley meets with the Elrics (still supposedly under lock-and-key, as per their story), and questions them about their loyalty. He then reveals Winry, which, I just…
How did he get her there? Wasn’t he dying? Didn’t he decide to go north as a spur-of-the-moment decision? Haven’t the Elrics been at Briggs for, like, a day or two at most?
Isn’t Rush Valley almost halfway across the country from Briggs?
Has Kimbley just had Winry with him this whole time, helping him look for Scar?
So many questions, all of them with potentially delightful answers we never learn. Pity.
Winry is here, of course, as a hostage, or more specifically, as a reminder to Ed and Al that she’s a hostage, because Bradley already threatened her earlier. I’m sure nothing will happen to her. I love it when female characters are used as unwitting hostages when they’re just trying to do their jobs.
Part Three: Bloodworms
The title of the episode refers to its opening, which features the boys’ father, Hoenheim, in the few years he was with the family.
It would seem that Hoenheim isn’t fully human, making this I think the first time we’ve had that revealed unquestionably. The Interlude episode still doesn’t make much sense where it is, nor does this episode expand upon it much, but we know this much:
Hoenheim is immortal, specifically the ageless sort.
Hoenheim has goo worms in his blood that he talks to.
He doesn’t seem to like this, or at least, he doesn’t like the first bit. You can imagine it’s probably Philosopher’s Stone related, given the imagery from the Interlude Party episode and what we’ve seen of Philosopher’s Stones inside of the Homunculi.
The focus of this section, though, is on Hoenheim’s character, and we see him here as an uncertain father afraid to get close to his sons. He calls his immortality “an affliction,” as you do, and dreads the eventual day when he has to watch his family grow old while he doesn’t. Accompanying this, he has an irrational fear of somehow cursing them with his affliction. These both eventually prompt him to fix things up as best he can around the house, then he leaves.
It’s not a bad sequence of events, and if not for the distracting music, I think the emotional weight of the scene would land quite well.
Like much of this episode, though, I can’t help but feel Hoenheim’s backstory fits uncomfortably at this juncture of the story. Surely it would have worked better in the Interlude Party episode? We’ve barely seen anything of Hoenheim’s character, and while this episode shows us he’s a person with feelings, I’m really not sure why we need to know this right now.
It’s a messy episode. Not the worst, but its lack of purpose or organization docks it for me. I don’t think there’s much else for me to say about it, really.