If you really twisted my arm and made me choose an all-time favorite character, not just from FMA, but from anything, I think I would have to choose Lust.
Her development weaves beautifully with the show’s major arcs; unique, but still so connected to the most central themes of the series in spite of her limited interactions with the protagonists. Her quiet, deeply personal journey of self-discovery and internal philosophizing blows the tired trope of “What makes a human?” out of the water and breathes nuance into it. Hers is an arc of intense self-questioning usually only given to male characters, and it revolves heavily around men without ever subtracting from her own agency in the plot.
But writing is only part of the battle in a TV series, and BONES beautifully sells Lust’s shifting demeanor throughout canon through her expressions and body language alone. Pictured above is basically all of this character’s screentime. Comparatively, there isn’t a whole lot, but none of it is wasted, even though the truly head-turning segments of her arc don’t show until the series is already three-fifths over.
Lust is effectively sold to the audience as the femme-fetale and the puppetmaster. Although there are whispers of a person who is in control of the homunculi, we are never given the impression that Lust has no control over the situation. She hides in the shadows, smirks and muses to herself from a distance, plays coy with the humans. This facade cracks only once: when Edward accuses her of being hungry for nothing but power. It is perhaps the first moment of unguarded emotion we see, and it is over as quickly as it begins, leaving use questioning, leaving us wanting more.
But we aren’t going to get it for another 12 episodes.
The tumult of her character’s journey. We see Lust through her own unguarded eyes and in her own environment rather than through the eyes of other characters. She’s not just showing up to stir the pot when it’s convenient, anymore. From the viewer’s perspective, she starts to remember her human life, but from an in-universe perspective, this first started happening to her two years ago. Beginning with her ruined reunion with Lujon and concluding with her first betrayal of Dante and the subsequent death of Scar, Lust is exploring. She is answering questions about herself, (Where did she come from?) only to be met with harder ones (Who is she, really?). She confronts the only remaining fragments of her past head-on, and it ends in disaster and a fall from grace with the only party she can call an ally. Played by Dante’s intentionally provoking decisions in Lior and desperate for answers and humanity, she throws away her allegiance to the other sins only to lose the spark of hope and connection to the past she has discovered for herself.
Save for Gluttony’s love and undying trust (Gluttony, whom she left behind to pursue her goals), she is now, effectively, completely alone.
Lust breaks slowly, quietly, and with such grace that she finds meaning even in her measly death on an abandoned factory floor at the hands of a confused child. Her final weeks are like the last, no-holds-barred stand of a dwindled army. In a darkly appropriate full circle, she’s dragged from the desert back to Dante with her head hung in defeat. If there could be one added scene in the series, I would want it to be her capture between 42 and 43. There is so much potential for interaction between her and her fellow homunculi in those off screen moments, but we do get a pretty good idea of how it went down simply from body language. Pride and Sloth are quite pleased with themselves. Gluttony is terrified.
And Lust is in a state of broken silence that never completely leaves her from this point forward.
There are genuine smiles, now, but they’re sad, weighted, and tired. She has dared to lower her walls a hair, only to have them stripped away and exploited. All she has left is a shaky alliance with the Elrics, and we know how well that goes.
Can there ever be dignity in death? It is a debatable question, but Lust comes damn close to it. She has exhausted every option, explored every feeble opportunity for hope beyond her life as an enslaved homunculus, but the cards were stacked against her from the start. She faces death with her memories of humanity and a gentle smile. It may not be a traditional blaze of glory, but it is a transcendence from all that has caused her suffering in her doomed second life.