Episode 44, "Hohenheim of Light"
Synopsis: Lyra leads Rose through a secret passage to a place where the homunculi are. The Elric brothers reveal that Bradley is a homunculus, but keep Al becoming the Philosopher's Stone to themselves. When the group arrives back in Risembool, Edward angrily confronts his father, but Alphonse is happy to see him. Hohenheim overhears Edward talking about Dante, and is startled. Later, he discusses the homunculi with Roy, telling him they must be raised by an alchemist and that they can't use alchemy because they come from beyond the Gate. Alphonse decides to spend the night with his father in a tent by their burnt out house. Alphonse tries to keep the homunculus in the shape of his mother a secret. Hohenheim disappears in the morning. Mustang leaves to send back the military and to confirm some things on his own, but orders Ed and Al to stay put. Talking to Sheska, Ed and Al learn of the death of Maes Hughes, enraging Edward. In the place where the homunculi are, Hohenheim arrives, recognizing Lyra as Dante. He uses his alchemy against Dante, telling her to stop manipulating his sons. Meanwhile, Edward digs something up from his mother's grave.
So what's the deal with religion in Fullmetal Alchemist? Does it exist, beyond the sun god Leto cult and Ishbala? The manga doesn't go into it beyond those two faiths. The first TV series has a church in this episode, with "Lyra" indicating that it was an old religion that's no longer practiced. Then in the passage underneath the church, there's a Buddha-looking statue in the water. Talk about muddying the waters. If it's true what we later learn about the FMA world, I guess you can write it off as alternate history, but to drop all these little things in with little more than a, "Oh yeah, nobody cares about that religion anymore" when it's a huge deal over here, seems a little bit haphazard. It's not a big flaw, but it is a flaw.
The brothers finally reunite with their father in this episode. In predictable fashion, Edward immediately punches him in the face and yells at him, but Alphonse is happy to see him and wants to spend time with him. I'd say the reasonable reaction to your deadbeat dad would probably be somewhere in between those two reactions, but the Elric brothers don't do anything in halves. I thought it was cute that Alphonse wanted to spend the night in the tent with his father and even went to get him some food in the morning. Hohenheim even had a conversation with Roy about the homunculi. I don't think Roy ever had a conversation with Hohenheim in the manga.
Speaking of said conversation, I'm a little curious as to what Hohenheim means by the homunculi are unable to use alchemy because they are "from beyond the gate". Especially since I know what ends up being on the other side of that Gate. It makes little sense. The problem with this first TV series is that there tends to be a lack of internal logic from time to time, with things starting to make sense until somebody says something very unclear like this. Why not just say that the homunculi have no access to the Gate because they're not natural? There you go. I filled that hole just off the top of my head, and I'm barely a writer.
The brothers finally learn of Hughes' death in this episode, prompting Edward to rage at Mustang's secrecy, but being restrained by words from Pinako, Sheska, and Winry. It seems like Winry is really coming to grips with what Roy was saying about coming to a position where things like her parents' deaths wouldn't have to happen and why Hughes was willing to sacrifice himself for that cause. Edward, however, doesn't understand why Roy won't get revenge when he knows the people who killed his friend. Well, Ed, he's not entirely beyond revenge, but there are things he has to confirm for himself before finding his own path.
Finally, we discover that Lyra is actually Dante, who took control of Lyra's body back during the Dublith arc, and that both her and Hohenheim can use alchemy without circles. More to the point, Lyra's body is decaying. This was a lot to take in for me the first time I saw this, but I should have seen the clues. Greed's reaction to when he fell into the trap in Dante's mansion, Lyra's extreme confidence in everything going on and her smugness in questioning Edward's actions. Her very presence. The homunculi referring to "that person". Greed's animosity towards Dante. Izumi's suspicions of Dante. The ability to attach souls to things. All the pieces were there. It's a pretty interesting twist. And the way they revealed it is what earns the episode its score.
4 out of 5