Is a spoiler warning needed? I hope it’s not. But if it is, this obviously contains spoilers for the episode that non-FIRST Members can’t see yet. If you aren’t FIRST and don’t want to be spoiled, then don’t read this.
That out of the way.
Oh my god this episode was absolutely fantastic. I personally was not a fan of last episode. Cinder’s backstory came far too little too late. I could probably write an article about how it would’ve been better utilised in V4.
Onto the actual episode. This was done as running commentary while rewatching.
There are a lot of critiques here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love this episode. I’m a writer so I will nitpick things when actually watching with a critical eye.
The opening. You know stuff’s about to go down when they start with the environmental shots. It’s such a common thing to use in any visual medium. It helps create the illusion things are peaceful before breaking into the absolute chaos that is about to erupt.
And yep, things go to complete heck. We pan to the Atlassian soldiers on the frontlines, waiting for the Grimm.
I do like the little detail of the soldier’s gun rattling. Anyone in their right mind would be absolutely terrified of this absolute insanity. Considering Salem parked her whale on the ground like it’s a big ole semi truck…
And back to Ironwood completely losing it.
I can understand what he’s doing here. Trying to protect the people is good. But causing further mass panic is just…not great. I know that you need to get citizens moved as quickly as possible. And you need every man possible on the front line. But even so…that was not the smart way to do it. The efficient one, yes, but not smart. Causing even further negative emotions will just make the Grimm attracted even more and make things far, far worse than they already were. There have to be some officers that can help keep evacuations orderly…
My other point was just “okay so you’re sending them to where the centipedes are tunneling in. That’s another massacre waiting to happen.”
The next scene is just…so heartbreaking.
The bbys have been arrested. The orders have been given and just, yes Yang, Go. Go my child. CALL THEM OUT.
Of course the Ace Ops don’t believe them about Oscar. I know it’s not typical of Grimm, but come on. The lady who creates the Grimm is literally in her SUV whale. Is it so hard to believe that she could create something that was never seen before? That whale probably doesn’t exist elsewhere.
This scene is great and sets up the next section for that interaction so well.
The rotating shot around Winter’s head is just beautiful. I’m not an animation nerd, but it’s just so pretty. The sky, lighting, the shading around her head… It’s all so subtle and beautiful.
And her eyes, oh the beauty in her eyes in this scene.
The orders Ironwood gives are just nuts. “Drop a bomb in the whale. Don’t care about the people inside.” That’s understandable since they’re all on the crazy train. They’re the enemy. But Oscar. Ironwood doesn’t know that, but he wouldn’t care.
“Your team will deliver the bomb when it’s ready.”
You can just see the resignation on Winter’s face. There are just so many things you can read into that expression especially once he finishes the orders. Especially with what’s coming up.
Even with all of those thoughts, she still agrees. She still agrees even though this is quite possibly the equivalent of a nuclear bomb for Remnant. Ironwood isn’t giving a single care for the safety of her or the Ace Ops. After the scene in Ch 1, you know he doesn’t. Any sacrifice is worth it if he can save Atlas. Nothing else matters. Not even if it means losing his absolute most elite personnel.
And just her hand shaking. My sweet child, I feel for you so much.
I know I should get into this part, but I just…I don’t care. I don’t care about the villains. I do find Salem fun to watch, but that’s it. I don’t care about Emerald, Mercury, or any of them. Cinder least of all.
And Tyrian even less. I’m not a fan of the psychotic types.
It is an extremely well-done segment though.
Salem literally doing Grimm bending like she’s a waterbender or something. Paired with the classical music, it’s just such a great dissonance.
Oscar trying to get Hazel’s trust by telling him about the lamp is an angle I expected.
Emerald has never been loyal to Salem either. All she cares about is Cinder. That sort of by proxy loyalty isn’t what you want in an arrangement like this. It opens up this exact sort of opportunity for defection. The only thing that probably will keep her there will be Cinder. She’s clearly not going anywhere due to the power Salem offers her. The power to do whatever she wants in the world.
Just the looks when you can see Hazel, Emerald, and Mercury want off the freaking crazy train.
And we’re back to the complete heartbreak up in Atlas. This…is another well-done scene.
“She needs a doctor.” Let’s stick a pin in that for later.
The discussion of what to do next is just so good. The conflict and uncertainty just oozes in every line spoken. They’re doing their best, but you can tell they know it’s not good enough. They’re so small against something so large and seemingly insurmountable.
The major turning point is Weiss being forced to choose between Atlas and Mantle.
They want to stay there to help even though, originally, the plan was just to launch Amity and get back to mantle. Nora kinda threw a wrench into that.
But you can understand Weiss’ feelings so well here. They’re in her home, where she was raised. Even if she doesn’t care for her brother and her mother’s a drunk…they’re still her family. Plus Winter’s fighting in Atlas too. Even if they stand on opposite sides, they’re still sisters. Weiss probably wants to protect all of them. Plus, more people will continue to die in Atlas which isn’t what they want by any means.
May has a serious point though. Team RWBY’s idealism won’t work here. They have to choose between helping Mantle or Atlas. Mantle only has the Happy Huntresses and Weiss, Blake, and Ruby. She has to make a choice. THe same sort of choice Ironwood himself made.
The parallels are so good here.
Also, of course, May being acknowledged as transgender in this scene is A+ too. It was originally just a Word of God thing. But, now, it’s fully out in the open. It’s good to see this sort of representation.
…I wonder just how long Whitley’s been listening. It seems to be implied from the beginning but May certainly would’ve seen him.
Next segment is more villain stuff. I kinda summarised the two above, so I’ll just move onto the next bit.
This. This is the best part of the episode. I do not have enough praise for it. Ren calling the Ace Ops and Winter out on their BS was just so expertly done.
Let me just first give props to Neath for this entire thing. His delivery was what nailed this scene. You can read what’s going on through Ren’s head so well. The strong writing plus delivery just makes this possibly one of the best scenes in RWBY up to this point. My favorite is still personally the one in Alone Together (V5 Ch8) when the girls are talking about Blake.
First point. Y’all are talking to the wrong team here. People are absolutely not replaceable. They agreed to keep fighting like Pyrrha’s by their side. You are saying the exact wrong thing to them.
Second point. Oh my poor babies Marrow and Winter. You could just see it in Ch 1 those two didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. Ironwood shooting the councilman was the breaking point. But they’re probably also afraid. He shot a councilman who was just trying to talk. How much worse would they have it if they left? He definitely wouldn’t let them survive if at all possible.
Third point. Ren’s Semblance. I am of two minds about this. On one hand, it just feels awful convenient. We haven’t seen this ability before in him, then it’s just suddenly…there. But, on the other hand, it does contribute to making the scene so phenomenal.
Fourth point. I love this explanation for them losing against Team RWBY. I know a lot of people were upset about how the Ace Ops lost. It was a phenomenal fight, but it didn’t exactly make sense how such an elite squad could lose against a bunch of newbies. But, with this, it explains the team dynamics that led to the downfall. Not being able to work together and actively fighting against each other will undermine even the most elite. For a team as close as RWBY, it’s much easier to win when the opponents aren’t in sync.
Fifth point. Let’s go into the Ace Ops’ colors a little bit. Information pulled from Incredible Art Department and Empower Yourself Through Color. Also this is just a very basic layout of things. You could write an entire breakdown on all of them. I just wanna try to keep it kinda brief.
I also did read a breakdown like this from Marrow Loves You on twitter (it’s where I got th idea). We probably pulled from the same site(s). So it’ll likely pull the same information and be similar.
Harriet’s colors are red and orange with red being the most pronounced of them. On the positive side, red is associated with passion, love, desire, speed (hah), and strength. On the negative side, it’s associated with war, violence, and, of course, anger.
Orange’s positive traits are energy, warmth, enthusiasm, and balance. On the more negative side of things, it means things are superficial and insincere, overbearing, pessimism, and being overly proud. Interestingly, the orange doesn’t appear until Ren starts talking and she starts denying things.
Marrow’s color is blue which, positively, means peace, tranquility, calm, and trustworthiness. Negatively, it’s associated with despair, depression, instability, and aloofness.
Elm’s colors are the same as Harriet’s.
Vine’s color is green. Positively, it means generosity, stability, renewal, and health. Negatively, it’s associated with jealousy, envy, misfortune, and cautious.
I could do more of an analysis on this, but this article is already long. That’d probably double this already excessive wordcount…
I really do wonder how Ironwood’s going to react once he learns Winter let fugitive traitors go…
Okay, NEXT SCENE FINALLY.
Hard cut to Ruby trying to be idealistic (again) and May being the pragmatist. Though, one detail I just noticed in that scene was Blake’s ears folding down.
You can only imagine what’s running through her head right now. People are dying because of decisions they’re making. She’s being pulled and tugged in directions she doesn’t like. They’re leaving a bunch of people to die because they’re the “wrong” crowd.
May is being pragmatic and realistic, but I can imagine that at least some part of Blake things she’s lashing out at Atlas for how they treated her.
Just like she did in the White Fang.
But man, this scene makes me so happy. Whitley is finally showing some character development. Jacques wouldn’t have approved of this sort of thing most likely. So him doing it because it’s the right thing is just so good. And then Weiss showing her appreciation…
Oh my heart can’t take it.
And then Penny of course.
Not entirely sure what to make of it.
All in all, I feel like this is one of the absolute strongest episodes in the volume so far. While I do have some criticisms of it toward the beginning, the later parts make up for them far far more than I can count. It entirely washed the bad taste of last episode out of my mouth.