Sometime after joining the military, Mustang had paid a visit to his sick teacher. Back then, Mustang believed that strengthening the military was needed and that alchemy in particular could help protect the people. He had also urged his teacher to become a state alchemist to get out of poverty and to continue with his research, but Mustang’s teacher felt that his research on the strongest alchemy had been completed long ago. He had conjectured that alchemists cannot help but seek the truth and that they die when they stop thinking, and he considered himself dead. Mustang’s teacher had actually died shortly thereafter, leaving his daughter – who had all of his research – in Mustang’s care, and that daughter was none other than Hawkeye. After the burial, Mustang had told Hawkeye that, as a soldier, he might one day die like garbage on the roadside, but he still wanted to protect everyone and become part of the foundation of the country. Hawkeye had thought that this was wonderful and wanted to believe in a future where everyone could live happily, and she had entrusted him with her father’s dream.
Back in the present, Ed pays a visit to Hawkeye and returns her gun. He tells her about his own inability to shoot and about what happened between Scar and Winry, and Hawkeye apologizes because she realizes that the gun became a heavy burden. This leads to the two talking about what happened during the Ishval conflict, and Hawkeye tells of how it started, how the Fuhrer had ordered the beginning of the Ishval annihilation, and all the killing that resulted. She herself had been a sniper, and she had been reunited with Mustang on the battlefield. Back then, she had questioned why soldiers who should be protecting the people were killing them instead, and the answer didn’t come from Mustang but rather from Kimblee who had overheard. Kimblee’s answer was that it’s their job, and he had suggested that even Hawkeye had felt some sense of accomplishment in her own sniping skills. He had gone on to assert that they shouldn’t turn their eyes away from death and to not forget since the enemy wouldn’t forget either.
When Mustang had asked Hughes why he was fighting, Hughes had simply said that it was because he didn’t want to die. That had left Mustang questioning what the reason for the fighting was, and unbeknownst to him, the real reason was so that Ishval people could be sacrificed to create a Philosopher’s Stone. Marcoh had presided over this, and that Philosopher’s Stone had ended up in the hands of Kimblee. Towards the end of the conflict, the leader of the Ishval people had come to King Bradley to try to give himself up so that the rest of his people would be spared. King Bradley, however, had rejected the deal because he believed that one life was worth just one life, and he had made it a point to deny the existence of the Ishval god and its ability to do anything to him. In the aftermath of the conflict, Hawkeye had reported to Mustang and had joined him believing that she and her generation would have to get themselves dirty to make things better for the next generation.
Having heard all this, Ed realizes now that even if Mustang took over the military, it wouldn’t change the fact that they live in a military nation. Hawkeye knows that he’s right and that they need to switch to a democratic system, but she also feels that it would be necessary to bring war criminals of the Ishval conflict to justice. That includes themselves, and Hawkeye realizes that even if it was the Homunculus behind it all, it was they who carried it out. This frustrates Ed, but Hawkeye points out that he should be more concerned right now about returning himself and Al to their former bodies. At that moment, Al is about to leave Knox’s place and is stopped by May Chang because she wants to thank him. It is here that she finally learns that Al is Ed’s brother, and Al paints a very rosy picture of himself to her. Meanwhile, back at Marcoh’s prison, Envy arrives with food and is surprised to find a corpse with the word Vengeance written in blood on the wall.
So I saw that many of the commenters last week were highly anticipating this Ishval flashback part of the story. That may have raised my expectations a bit, and I came out of this episode feeling that it wasn’t anything particularly special. Certainly it was nice to see Hughes again (Kimblee too), and I liked the Mustang and Hawkeye character development, but there wasn’t any particular part of the flashback that really made a big impact. The beginning parts of it even felt a tad bit like recap with Hawkeye talking over scenes we’ve already seen. Come to think of it, maybe it’s because they’ve already shown so much of this in past episodes that this one didn’t feel that special – this mainly just brought everything together.
I also thought that they were headed for a pretty meh ending to the episode with the Al and May Chang stuff, but then the epilogue came back and surprised me a bit with Marcoh’s apparent (and rather grisly) death. I did notice though that in the preview for next week, Scar is with a hooded person… On a different note, I included both eye-catches this week in the screencaps above because it’s Hawkeye fanservice and because it emphasizes even more the tattoo on her back, which I don’t remember coming up much at all in the actual episode (and thus I’m quite curious about). I’m also curious to see more of what happened with Kimblee since they didn’t really say in this episode.