Once again, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched BROTHERHOOD, so the memories this episode triggers are vague at best. I can’t say for certain if an entire episode was devoted to this same plot, or if it was folded into another story, so I’ll just barrel ahead and leave it to your more attentive lunatics to correct me if need be.
Either way, this does more-or-less fit into the pattern of my overall comparison between these shows. On the one hand, this version lacks the driving focus of a meta-arc which made BROTHERHOOD such a compelling serial. This actually is a great episode (more precise praise in a moment), but while Ed Elric’s bout as a populist champion offers an effective lesson in a more practical meaning of “equivalent exchange,” the ending doesn’t offer much enticements to come back next week.
On the other hand, the show has afforded more room to develop a number of ancillary characters who were short-shifted a bit in BROTHERHOOD because Bones was in a hurry to get over redundancies. I remember being confused as to who Yoki was when he showed up again in Briggs’ staff (confusion on the same order as me wondering why Hughes’ death was so significant), so it was a nice to get a more memorable introduction to the weasel in this go-round.
Ah… academic interests aside, I oddly enough enjoyed this episode a bit more coming out of THE HOBBIT, because it bent FMA a little closer to the more classical fantasy adventures elements in its premise. The blue collars in this episode might as well be cantankerous dwarves and Ed might as well be some traveling sorcerer’s apprentice trying to earn their trust despite stubborn threats to (and repeated insults hurled upon) his integrity. It’s not some saccharine “Can’t we all just get along?” platitude here, but a more grounded illustration of how, if you want to be the best, you really have to put up with the most.