(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “Alone in the Woods”)
Enthralling action, heartfelt nuggets of nuanced characterization, and a newfound Grimm species qualify “Alone in the Woods” as one of my favorite RWBY: Volume 6 episodes thus far.
The fourth episode, “So That’s How It Is,” had its good moments here and there, but it moved the plot forward in a basic fashion that felt unsatisfying after the explosion of story arc advancement in the preceding episode, “The Lost Fable.” (That’s my other favorite episode for this volume) The fifth episode, “The Coming Storm,” proved to be more intriguing as a snowstorm forces the group to settle into the ghost town atmosphere of Brunswick Farms, but it still could have benefitted from adding more meat to the story. However, the twenty-minute-long sixth episode, “Alone in the Woods,” genuinely focuses on the characters, the action, the twists, all those great things that Rooster Teeth has infused into the heart of RWBY.
Everyone is going to sleep soon in the farmhouse, waiting keenly for morning to come so they can leave the settlement. There’s a scene where Qrow Branwen tells his niece Ruby Rose that he will wake everyone up before sunrise. Ruby herself is worriedly watching him drink from a bottle of wine. Kerry Shawcross, one of the RWBY directors/writers and the voice of the water-phobic Neptune Vasilias, wrote this scene with such a solemn and gloomy touch, and I consider it to be one of the episode’s highlights. Meanwhile, Maria Calavera, the elderly woman with the peculiar goggles, is going through storybooks and tells Oscar Pine they are journals left by the original householder, a man named Bartleby, who founded the estate with his friends and was devising ways to solve problems with the Grimm.
Ruby wakes up after sunrise to find her uncle enduring a hangover. Everyone is feeling generally weary, and just as Yang Xiao Long is about to ride them out of the farm with the flatbed attached to her motorcycle, one of the flatbed’s tires blows; Qrow blames his bad-luck Semblance for this. Their sluggishness deepens as Weiss Schnee brings up her previous doubts over the significance of bringing the Relic of Knowledge to Atlas. This leads Yang and Blake Belladonna to concur with her and persuade Ruby that they should leave the Relic in the settlement, which would take years for Salem to find. This is where the eeriness of Brunswick Farms rises to another level, as it felt completely unnatural for them to surrender so easily, and there’s such a baggy look in their eyes that adds another dimension to the environment. Ruby briefly falls into agreement with her team and poises the Relic over a nearby well, but a pair of red eyes in the darkness below startles her into accidentally letting go of the Relic. She presses her team to recover it, leaving Qrow to drink some more, Oscar to repair the flatbed’s tire, and Maria to thumb through more of Bartleby’s journals.
While Team RWBY searches the underground tunnels, Maria reads about allusions to a solution for the estate’s Grimm issue. Then she finds an illustration of “The Apathy”, a humanoid, zombie-like Grimm species, right as Ruby discovers a pack of them next to the Relic. Her scream rouses her teammates from their daze, but the Apathy’s screech immediately drains their energy. Maria arrives just in time to lead them through the tunnels and into what seems to be a wine cellar, where they face more of the Apathy. Maria points out an exit, but Blake falls to the floor, unable to get up as the Apathy surround her. One of them is about to touch her with its claws, which incites Ruby into emitting the light from her silver eyes to push back the Apathy — a special power we have seen twice in the RWBY series. This gives her team enough energy to attempt to open the exit. But more Apathy appear, tiring them once again with their screeches.
The fatigue washing over the team as they collapse and take on expressions hovering between alarm and blankness is so palpable and does a great job of upping the tension. Maria is the only one standing, and having witnessed Ruby’s power, she kneels over her and asks what color her eyes are. Ruby answers that they are silver. An amazed Maria helps her to focus on the thought of her family and friends and the goal of protecting life with the classic motivational speech (the words that strike people at the heart and kick them into action in times of despair). If handled artlessly, this can come off as trite-sounding, but Maria’s words succeed in feeling genuine through and through. Ruby releases the silvery light at its fullest strength, destroying the Apathy. Yang regains enough energy to open the exit, which leads back into the farmhouse through a familiar room, the one from which Ruby and Weiss found some canned beans in “The Coming Storm.” An ornery Qrow is sleeping in the adjacent bar, where Weiss takes the bottles of alcohol and hurls them at the cellar entrance, then sets it on fire with her Myrtenaster to block the rest of the Apathy. She and Ruby hustle Qrow out of the farmhouse to rejoin the others. With Oscar having fixed the flatbed, Yang hops on Bumblebee and rides the gang away from the burning farmhouse and out of Brunswick Farms.
As they ride through the snowy forest Maria summarizes the entries in one of Bartleby’s journals. The Apathy drains people’s will to feel active, so he lured two of them to the estate to keep his residents calm in lieu of Huntsman services. However, the rest of the pack followed them and had to be trapped in the underground tunnels. There were so many of them that they drained the will to live from the residents, hence why they died in their beds. In fact, the last words, written quite large, in the journal are “I’m tired.” If you think about it, this is a frightening Grimm species despite its lack of ferocity compared to the Beowolf, the Ursa, the Lancer, et cetera. I think I’d rather face any of those monsters rather than the Apathy.
After Maria chucks it into the snow, Weiss and Yang apologize for yielding so easily to the mission’s recent trials, but Blake reassures them that the Apathy was responsible, and with a sense of renewed determination they promise to protect the Relic. Ruby asks Maria how she knew what to say to make her reveal her powers. As a great plot twist to close the episode, a good-humored Maria replies that it’s obvious; she had silver eyes.
From the emotional subtlety between Ruby and Qrow and the unraveling of the Brunswick Farms’s mystery to the Apathy pursuit and the silver eyes element, “Alone in the Woods” offered quite a bit of goods and reinvigorates the journey in a fashion not dissimilar to Ruby’s eyes. I’m eagerly anticipating the next checkpoint of their Atlas-bound trip and the reunion with Team JNR (Jaune, Nora, Ren).
Windup score: 92/100