Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode Eleven: Filial Affection – ****
Part One: Taking the Cake
Reviewing a series I’ve already seen fully through multiple times is a bit of an odd experience because I remember parts of it well enough to make sense of their setup ahead of time, but parts of it still surprise me. The imagery in this episode blends together with many of the other encounters with Pride in my mind, and yet it’s somehow more impressive. This is sort of the character’s magnum opus, his last big fight that I remember really well, and it’s a wholly impressive spectacle. Oh sure, there’s at least one more after this, and I suppose we’ll see how that holds up, but this is a nice climax to Pride’s character arc, if he can be said to have one.
More on that later, though. It’s important to understand where everything rests at the end of this episode because it’s final remark is to reveal the dawn for the ominous Promised Day. We are finally at the end climax, which will be action-heavy and bring all of the characters into a jumble, most of them focused on their own individual skirmishes. It gets pretty messy, so I appreciate that this episode ends with some downtime to show off the stage. The pieces are set, and there’s no going back. Everything will fall as it may, with no more setup really possible at this point.
So, to take a head count, of the characters featured in this episode, first we have Alphonse trapped with Pride in the dome Hoenheim created, both likely to wait out the fight for now. I like this little twist — the plan, while a bit slow on the execution, is plausible, and gives Al a chance to show off his personal talents of empathy and kindness. This is his plan, and it’s something no one but him would have come up with. It also gives Hoenheim a chance to jump in and flaunt his alchemy, which is awesome by every meaning of the word. The animation has a weight to it that sells the power of the character, putting him on a different level than even Ed and Alphonse. I think the sound effects and shaking camera are a big part of why it works so well.
Meanwhile, Edward is stuck traveling with his father on foot to Central, leaving his brother behind. They and the two chimeras with them finally reunite with Scar, Marcoh, and the other two chimeras in preparation for the next day’s battle. Fu has gone off to scout ahead, while Lan Fan has remained behind. As soon as Pride was confined, Greed ran off, seeing his chance to cause some mischief with all of the other Homunculi save Sloth indisposed or dead.
On Mustang’s end, he has reunited with his officers and set off to launch the first wave of attacks. There’s a fairly long end-credits sequence that details their initial strike, leading them to capture Mrs. Bradley and come under fire from some Central soldiers.
Part Two: The Arrogance
I’ve talked at length about Pride already — of the Homunculi, he has easily my favorite monster design, and the animation on the figure is always top-notch. However, the fight in this episode only lasts for the first few minutes, and offers a nice quiet moment that expands upon him as a character. Given his shaky characterization throughout the story, I think it would be prudent to give the character one last segment to gather up what he is in full.
I would also like to give a nod to the dub, because I noticed several lines that were expanded upon from the translation to give more flavor to the lines. Pride has a little bit more personality in the dub, so that might be something to consider when picking which version you want to watch.
So Pride. In essence, he’s a big bad, the sort of boss monster who you would fight at the end of a game if Father didn’t exist. Personally, I think Pride would work better as the main villain because I’m not overly impressed with the direction the show takes with Father, but whatever. Keeping in line with the Seven Deadly Sins myth, he’s the oldest of the Homunculi, and therefore looks like original. He’s also the most dangerous, showing little regard for human or Homunculus lives, and slaughtering as he pleases.
In another series, Pride might just be another mindless monster what wants to destroy the world. Here, he has character, meaning that while he’s just as destructive as the typical shadow monster, he gets a churlish delight from causing misery. He plays with his food, frightening his victims intentionally simply because he finds it fun. However, this is also his major weakness, for he overestimates himself and fails to acknowledge the tenacity of those he torments. In this episode, he is felled by his own hubris, too arrogant to see the trap he has walked into.
On the whole, Pride is an interesting villain to juxtapose with the relatively weaker but humbler main characters, allowing them to use the lessons they have learned to best him. However, the story really only uses him this way in the fourth and parts of the third season; outside of his use as a monster, he doesn’t really fit. The plot twist that Selim Bradley is a Homunculus has no lead-in whatsoever and try as I might, I don’t really see the point of this twist aside from surprising the audience. Pride does not come across as patient, clever, or restrained enough to pull off the ruse, and everything from his voice to his posture has to change so completely after the reveal that almost any alternative would be more plausible. I like the scene where he talks to Alphonse and admits having an affection for his adoptive mother, as it’s a nice quiet scene that complicates an otherwise simple character. However, it kind of exists in a realm all its own, as it doesn’t seem to connect very well to anything before or after. It presents an intriguing idea — what if Pride had been treated like a human or lived among them for longer? — but ultimately does little with it. Cool idea. I wish they explored it further.
Part Three: It Begins
This is a well-made episode. Good balance of action to dialogue, appropriate to the genre, some nice character moments, impressive visuals. I’ve enjoyed the use of fire to light the environment these past few episodes.
Of the images that stick with me in this series, the one that comes toward the end of this episode with Ed facing the dawn of the final showdown, that sticks with me. There’s a similar scene that makes up part of the opening montage, and both do something kind of cool for a fantasy action narrative: they show people. Lots of people. One of the benefits of longer series is that they can accrue very large casts over time, but it’s rare to find any series that can handle more than about ten characters at once. Even seven is pushing it; just look at how essential all of the Avengers are in the first movie compared to the last.
Just showing off a large group of characters isn’t enough — they need to feel essential, otherwise they just crowd the space. When any series — especially action series — can shift between a large group of people all in the same room while still accentuating their individual quirks, it can give you chills. I seek that out. Often.
As we move into the final season, I’ll have a lot of negative things to say about how the show handles certain conflicts, but I will grant it credit here. For all of the chaos of the previous few seasons, the characters who come together in this episode each have a purpose for it. Al is playing to his own strengths. Ed is stepping forward to finally make good on his promises. Hoenheim is trying to make up for Xerxes. Scar is trying to repair the reputation of his people. Ling’s crew are there to rescue him. May is returning out of a sense of selflessness. Mustang is here to conquer. His crew are here because they care about him. Armstrong is here to protect her men. Marcoh is trying to help as penitence. Even the chimeras are here, albeit for more metaphorical reasons; they get a little reunion scene that reiterates choice and redemption and how the real enemy they’re all fighting is the person at the top, not those doing their dirty work. Did we need four chimeras? No. Never. But credit for effort, I suppose.