(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “Pomp and Circumstance”)
Welcome back, readers, for “Pomp and Circumstance,” the fourth chapter of the Rooster Teeth anime-style fantasy web series, RWBY: Volume 7, released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on November 23. This chapter doesn’t do much to move the plot forward, and aside from some fun character bits, large chunks of it feel trite and unsatisfactory.
We return to the Dust mine, initially focusing on two people who are spying on the Atlas military as they set up camp around the area. Maybe they’re members of Robin Hill and her Happy Huntresses. The heroes emerge from inside the mine, with Team RWBY and Team JNR all charged up after the fight they just witnessed where Ace Ops showed off their teamwork capabilities. Nora Valkyrie wants to be Elm Ederne’s best friend (both of them have giant hammers as their signature weapons) and declares that they should be Thunder Thighs. Which is okay, but why don’t they let us RWBY fans come up with the ship names, like with White Rose and Bumblebee. Then Ruby Rose suggests they go sightseeing in Atlas, which her friends aren’t eager to do. Weiss Schnee says they already crossed a whole continent on foot, and Ruby replies, “Only the boring parts!” Is this supposed to be a Volume 4 meta-reference? Just wondering.
There’s an interesting bit where we learn through Harriet Bree about the work-friends dynamic of Ace Ops, which contrasts with the tightly knit bonds between Team RWBY. It makes me think about all the quests they went on, the Grimm they fought, the ordeals they had to face, everything they had to go through together during and after their time at Beacon Academy. They’ve become such close companions after all that, and I think that’s what makes their friendship so special and what separates them from Ace Ops, who seem to be doing okay maintaining a professional relationship. However, they must have had a drastically different experience working in Atlas. I have a hunch this will become relevant to the plot, maybe to the point where small cracks in Ace Ops’s relationship end up leading them to a dispute of some sort. It would fit with this volume’s political themes.
The next segment consists of General James Ironwood meeting everyone at the mine and informing them about the murder of Forest, the Robyn Hill supporter whom Tyrian Callows ambushed in the previous episode. He’s the third anti-Ironwood activist to have been killed recently, and it appears that someone is trying to frame the general. The embargo is still a pertinent controversy, as shown by Jaune Arc when he notes that people wouldn’t be as mad at Ironwood had he not instituted this policy.
When Jacques Schnee lands at the mine in an airship marked with the Schnee Dust Company logo, he argues with Ironwood about the military taking over private property and threatens to take away his seat on the Atlesian Council. Then he has a hostile family reunion with his daughter Weiss, who takes a defiant stance against him: “Believe me, I know exactly the kind of man you are.” Of course, he has to make himself even more hatable by guilt-tripping her about her mother, mentioning that she was devastated when Weiss left, and she didn’t leave her room for days, and “you know how she gets when she’s upset.” It makes me curious about what role the mom plays in this dysfunctional family and whether we’ll finally meet her this volume. It’s great to see Weiss and Blake Belladonna have a Monochrome moment and hold hands, followed by the White Rose-loaded look between Weiss and Ruby, and then all of Team RWBY standing together against Jacques. When he says that they’re the friends Weiss threw everything away for, she responds, “Not friends—family.”
Winter shows up literally moments after Jacques leaves, and I like how she implies that she missed him on purpose. After all, isn’t that something we’ve all done at least a few times to avoid certain people in our lives? Penny Polendina appears too, touching down with her big CONGRATULATIONS sign and accidentally blasting everyone away from the impact. During the next scene, which takes place inside the ever-befuddling Amity-Coliseum-turned-comms-satellite, we learn that the congratulations are meant for Ironwood giving Teams RWBY and JNR their Huntsman and Huntress licenses.
I’m very ambivalent about this scene. It’s good to see this after everything that’s been thrown at the kids: the Grimm, Roman Torchwick, the White Fang, the Fall of Beacon, Haven Academy, Adam Taurus, Salem, the Relics. Now they can sign up for missions, as we see in an upcoming scene. But this event isn’t nearly as impactful as it should be, maybe in part because Weiss points out that this feels trivial after everything that’s happened. Or maybe it’s because Ironwood is using his authority to call in a favor and register them, therefore making it feel like he might be doing this in order to scratch their back in the hopes that they’ll reciprocate. It’s hard, because I want to trust him and I believe he’s making decisions out of the good of his heart. But right now he’s in an increasingly vulnerable political position, and it affects how his actions, including the way he’s pulling strings for the new Huntresses and Huntsman, are perceived.
Then we get some comical material. As Ironwood leaves the stadium, Penny calls after him, “Your outro speeches are improving, sir!” Nora is in a cake-devouring mood, and she boasts, “I bet I can eat two slices before Ren can even eat one! Who says I can’t? Who says it?!” And Lie Ren chimes in, “Uh, no one’s arguing with you on that.” They go on to eat cake, which Penny divvies up with her swords. Nora grabs a plate of five slices and downs one of them whole. Penny shakes hands with Yang Xiao Long, and her prosthetic arm comes off. Our sole Bumblebee moment comes in the form of Yang taking selfies with Blake, and of course it’s as cute as they can get.
Up in the bleachers Ruby and Qrow Branwen have a chat that turns into one of the better scenes this chapter. She says, “I don’t know if what’s best is what’s right,” and he tells her that she’s different from Ozpin because he kept everything to himself, whereas she trusts other people but makes them prove themselves first. They get around to the subject of Ruby’s mom, and Qrow says, “Your mom, Summer, would be proud of you.” It’s a minor thing, but it really bugs me nonetheless how he says that as if Ruby can’t remember her own mother’s name. Ruby asks if her last mission was an Ozpin secret, and Qrow replies, “No, that was her secret,” and, “she would have pressed on if she knew about Salem.” This talk is a huge hint that Summer is alive, since it sounds like she just never returned from her last mission. She does have that cliffside grave, but I guess it doesn’t have a body. She might appear this volume, maybe in the post-credit scene.
Next, Ace Ops opens up a mission board for Team RWBY and Team JNR; it’s an app now, which draws quite an enthusiastic reaction from Ruby. She says in a funny voice, “Do we get to go undercover?” which is reminiscent of her more youthful personality in the first few volumes. It’s funny when neither Ren nor Vine Zeki get Marrow’s “smells like fresh meat” figure of speech. Marrow Amin scrolls through the available missions and selects one for escorting kids, which Jaune gets stuck with. It’s one of my top moments when Marrow says to him, “Juan—John—Jim?” and Jaune just goes along with his new name. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t do a callback to this later on or if Ace Ops doesn’t start calling him Jim from now on. Then Elm shoves Marrow out of the way and selects a mission for clearing Sabyrs out of the sewers, and Jaune gets upset when everyone else raises their hands for it.
Once again, the chapter ends with a villain scene that, like the concluding villain scenes for the past two chapters, is thoroughly enjoyable and never elicits an eye-roll. It unfolds in Jacques’s study in the Schnee mansion, and Weiss’s brother Whitley is forced to let Arthur Watts into the study (why didn’t Klein the butler accompany them?). Jacques heard Watts was dead, and Watts says that’s what he wanted everyone to believe—looks like nobody knows about his allegiance to Salem. He’s heard about how Jacques has “an Ironwood problem.” Jacques gets angry about the embargo costing him money, and he would “lay off every employee in Mantle if I weren’t trying to get their damn votes for this Council seat.” And Watts has the final line: “What if I said you could have your cake, and eat it too?” I’m assuming he means, “I can give you a way to act like a rich jerk and still succeed in manipulating your way into politics,” which makes me think the show is presenting Jacques as the Trump of Remnant. The line may also be related to the cake from earlier. But seriously—“What if I said you could have your cake, and eat it too?” Without a doubt this is one of the most ridiculous lines that anyone has ever uttered on RWBY, and I have no idea why the writers thought this could pass muster. It’s already bad enough we’re going to see Watts or Tyrian at the end of every episode. Can they spare us the pain of patently laughable dialogue? At least Watts is inching closer to the main characters and has a good chance of interacting with them soon.
While “Pomp and Circumstance” (the title is probably inspired by that line in Ironwood’s speech and the celebratory atmosphere of everyone receiving their licenses) provides a good amount of character moments, I’m generally less satisfied with it than I was for the first three chapters. Nothing too significant happened over those seventeen minutes, which were essentially spent on setting up the missions next episode. Even the majority of the character moments felt superficial (save the Team-RWBY-versus-Jacques bit and the Bumblebee selfie), and we didn’t get any Nuts and Dolts action. Hopefully Penny can join Ruby on a mission. And this is the perfect time for Bumblebee representation, where we could see Blake and Yang hold hands, talk about their feelings, all that good stuff to fuel this ship.
It was surreal to see Amity Coliseum float up in the sky, and Ironwood giving the kids their licenses inside it only makes me more baffled by its involvement in the plot. Penny died here and the Coliseum played a big part in the Fall of Beacon, so it’s very strange that the group doesn’t take time to acknowledge these terrible things, not even when Ruby and Qrow were talking. Like I said before, it just feels like such an awkward story decision to turn the Coliseum into a satellite. In any case, the climax will take place there, and I still think a fake-news plot line is possible.
This is the first time we’ve seen Whitley since Volume 4. This is also the first time he goes onscreen without exuding pomposity; in fact, he looks pretty scared while accompanying Watts. I know a lot of people in the RWBY community can’t stand him, but I think he deserves a little sympathy. He’s stuck in that mansion with his abusive father, waiting for his opportunity to get the hell out of there like his elder sisters. Not that we should condone any of his spoiled behavior, but I think there’s a good chance he’ll have a redemption arc in the future.
I don’t think this is going to happen, but let’s theorize for a moment that Summer Rose is the Summer Maiden. We already have Raven Branwen, Yang’s mother, as the Spring Maiden. And then Weiss’s mom could be the Winter Maiden, and let’s just throw in Kali Belladonna as the Fall Maiden for kicks. Again, I really don’t think this is true, but it would be a fun fanfic to write. Seriously, though, this isn’t the last time we’ll hear about Ruby’s mom this volume, and we could get a flashback for Team STRQ (Summer, Taiyang Xiao Long, Raven, and Qrow).
I still love the character redesigns for the most part, especially Ruby and Blake’s hair and Weiss and Nora’s outfits, but I can’t stop obsessing about those three overlapped belts on Weiss’s dress. And as for Jaune’s spiked-up haircut, I’m leaning more towards being okay with it, although it is starting to remind me of Cardin Winchester, that guy who used to bully him at Beacon.
Similarly to last week, we have info about next week’s episode, which is titled, “Sparks.” The description: “Between missions, training, and rising political unrest, these fledgling Huntsman and Huntresses have quite a lot on their hands.” I’m keen on the trio of plot threads—Teams RWBY and JNR completing their missions; training that will be administered by Ace Ops or Penny; and the Atlesian politics involving Ironwood, Jacques, the Council, and Robyn Hill and her Happy Huntresses. The screenshot for “Sparks” shows Robyn, and I’m very excited about her joining the story. As for the character interactions, I want time spent on Bumblebee and Nuts and Dolts. And when Watts or Tyrian come in at the end . . . well, I don’t know what to say about them anymore. Let’s just hope for a good chapter this Saturday.
Windup score: 80/100