After a disappointing episode 20, and a week off, I was pleased that this episode was a step in the right direction. Mostly.
Of course, we still got a little bit more of over-/unnecessarily explaining nonesense in the form of "Duhr, maybe Ed's sleeping for my body!" "Yeah, maybe so!" Who cares? Just say the body doesn't change when it's inside the Gate. The quest to get it back is urgent enough, stop adding melodrama, and wasting time in the episode. This is what I hated about volume 11 of the manga.
And they still didn't explain what they left out in the last episode, about why finding out that thing wasn't the brothers' mother was important to getting Alphonse's body back and why he brought up memories. I mean, I know, because I read the manga. But the viewer who hasn't isn't going to know why that was important. It just seems like mindless blather, otherwise. Fucking shit.
The biggest problem, I felt, other than that, was the lack of Tim Marcoh. They already cut out most of the scene where Lust visits him and threatens to wipe out the village. Then Envy visits, disguised as Breda, before Breda can get there, and he and Gluttony take custody of Marcoh, with Envy again threatening to wipe out the entire village, and laughing at Marcoh for being too weak to take any action. This is all build up for later events. Looking back at it now, after having read as much of the manga as I have, it seems like Arakawa planned well for Marcoh. It's too bad nobody at Bones saw that.
What they did do, however, was managed to iron out the wrinkle they created when they cut out Ling and Ranfan's initial encounter with the homunculi, back when Gluttony was attacking Riza Hawkeye. It just took the changing of a few lines to show that they had been overhearing all about the homunculi and already concluded immortality. It still would have been nice to have seen the scene in the manga where Envy turns into a dog animated.
Another thing I liked was the humor in the episode. Sure, sometimes the humor is a little much, but it felt a little more natural here. The scene where everything suddenly gets supoer cartoonish and Ed is fixing things with alchemy made me smile. Who doesn't love his style, creating a baby carriage with a drill on the end? Now the baby can pierce the heavens. Another bit I liked was Roy telling Ed and Al to get in the car. Smooshed by Alphonse, he promptly tells them to get out of the car. This is also a callback to episode 19 where it was Havoc being crushed in the back seat by Al.
Scenes with Roy and his crew are some of the best parts of the manga, and they do them very well in this series. The scene with Roy's talk with Dr. Knox, Havoc telling Roy to leave him behind, Roy demanding his military outfit back. It shows how dynamic they are as a team, and how important they are to each other. One could easily argue their relationship is a bit more rounded and matured than the one they had in the first series, because we actually see their emotions towards each other.
The action was decent, too, though I fail to see why Scar continues to be such a difficult opponent. Though actually, that's sort of the point. Ed and Al are just trying to keep Scar at bay without killing him, but it makes me wonder about Scar's intelligence. So far he's been pretty lucky, having not been shot to death. The Scar in the first series wisened up and stopped killing State Alchemists directly, turning his attention instead to his people and the tattoo on his arm. This one is stupidly continuing to confront military personell in person, on a regular basis.
Perhaps, though, Scar is a tad overpowered, too, here. I mean, come on, you can only deconstruct so much at once before you get stabbed in the gut with a spear made out of road. The fact that this guy can leap as high as he can and run faster than people can shoot is just ridiculous, even in the FMA world. He shouldn't be this skilled.
It's fun to watch, though.
Speaking of characters who are fun to watch fight, the Xingese, though detestable and unnecessary as characters in general, are always good to add for some action. Next episode they'll have their hands full with both Wrath and Gluttony. They're already having trouble with Wrath. I'm looking forward to him dealing out pain to characters that aren't Greed.
A good episode, despite its flaws.