(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “Worst Case Scenario”)
Welcome back, readers, for more talk about Rooster Teeth’s fantasy anime-style web series, RWBY. Released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on December 14, “Worst Case Scenario,” Chapter 7 of Volume 7, sustains the previous episode’s approach to consistently focusing on both narrative and character, while also cementing a few surprisingly profound themes for this season.
I had expected the opening to cover the Grimm attack that began at the end of the previous chapter, but instead it skips ahead to the aftermath, with a shot of a despondent Penny Polendina in her room and a robotic arm consoling her with a pat on the head. General James Ironwood gives the announcement about the prohibition of assembly and enforcement of curfew, escalating the police state of Atlas. We see a news report claiming people want Penny deactivated, accompanied by doctored footage framing her for killing attendees of Robyn Hill’s rally. In the meantime we find Robyn herself and her Happy Huntresses kicking into Robin Hood mode by hijacking a military truck. Two new Semblances are revealed, as May Marigold projects an invisibility-cloak forcefield to hide the robbery, and Fiona Thyme shrinks the truck for easy transportation.
The next scene is a meeting in Ironwood’s office, in which he reveals that Robyn is robbing trucks with supplies for Amity Tower, which is in turn hampering its construction. Winter Schnee suggests declaring martial law, and Ironwood says, “What’s more important—establishing communications to unite the world or appeasing a few city blocks?” Nora Valkyrie takes an unexpectedly passionate stand for the citizens, arguing directly with Ironwood, and summing it all up with, “You can’t force people to fall in line. If you do that, you’ll just be trading all of these problems for the Grimm.” It’s a nice moment when Ruby supports her.
They briefly talk about Tyrian Callows, the minion of Salem responsible for the rally murders—we learn he was a serial killer who disappeared after Grimm attacked his prison transport—before Nora says they should tell everyone about Amity and Salem now, a plan which Ironwood vehemently shuts down. After calling for Robyn’s arrest, there’s that very strange bit where Lie Ren gives an obedient “Yes sir” and the camera lingers on him for a couple seconds. On the one hand I’m assuming this Soldier Ren moment is meant to foreshadow upcoming events. Maybe he’ll end up siding with Ironwood in a dispute and turning against his teammates. But on the other hand his assent feels like it’s coming out of nowhere. I would have preferred for the scene to include one or two earlier shots showing him agreeing with Ironwood.
Let’s take a second to give Nora the applause she deserves. Aside from the backstory we got on her and Ren (one of the few good things that came out of Volume 4), RWBY has generally presented her as comic relief. But last week she confronted Ren about their feelings for each other and she was the first character to acknowledge Bumblebee as a real ship, and now she’s being an ardent champion for the people of Atlas. I daresay this is turning into the Season of Nora.
We cut to Volume 7’s first Bumblebee talk, with Yang Xiao Long and Blake Belladonna in the back of a military truck, where they’ve been assigned to ambush Robyn if she attempts to steal it. They talk about whether they should have told Ironwood what they learned from the Relic of Knowledge, and how he’s overreacting with the embargo and his police state policies. Blake says, “Keeping secrets, taking lives—it makes you wonder how far we’re gonna have to go to keep doing the right thing.” By the end of the scene they decide they’re not going to take Robyn into custody after all. I love this Bumblebee talk, even though it doesn’t aim the spotlight on their relationship status, like I was expecting. Everything about it is infused with gravitas, from the animation of their facial expressions and body language to the effective dialogue and the weighty emotions conveyed through Barbara Dunkelman (Yang) and Arryn Zech’s (Blake) vocal performances. As for Blake’s line, it’s reminiscent of things that characters like Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee have said in recent chapters, making me wonder if the theme of this volume is about the differences between right and wrong, the many gray shades of morality, and a person’s capacity to do bad things in order to achieve their perception of the greater good. This definitely runs along with Ironwood’s arc, which looks to be veering toward that “greater good” stuff. And I think the “taking lives” part of Blake’s statement is a reference to her and Yang killing Adam Taurus last volume. I understand why Blake still feels guilty, but that was completely justified in my opinion; Adam wasn’t going to leave them alone until they were dead.
In Pietro’s lab we find him analyzing the raw footage from the rally attack so he can try to clear Penny’s name. He talks about Atlas security and hacking, and it’s funny when Maria Calavera says in exasperation, “Why can’t people just do what they used to and fight to the death? Lot simpler, if you ask me.” Then Pietro reveals the reason Penny is able to have her own Aura in spite of being a robot—he transferred a portion of his Aura to her. Any RWBY fan knows the mythology of this world can get puzzling and bizarre. This new detail about Aura transference doesn’t challenge my ability to suspend disbelief nearly as much as other things I’ve seen on this show, but I still question the logic behind it. But whatever, almost anything Aura-related has been mystifying us for years.
When Pietro first picks up that photo, it’s so obvious that his thumb is covering Arthur Watts’s face, which they do show us eventually. I’m not sure why they had to do that—drama, I guess. But I’m interpreting this as a reminder that Watts, who has already done enough damage by fixing the Council election and helping Tyrian frame Penny, intends to hack into Amity and/or Penny.
In the subsequent scene Blake and Yang chase down Robyn after she stops their truck. There’s a short action sequence where Robin attempts to ward them off with rocket missiles and a sort of saw weapon. Then they tell her about Ironwood’s plan to restore the communications network with Amity Tower. Robyn, still suspicious of them, takes Blake’s hand, causing purple Aura to appear around their arms. When Blake repeats the message about Amity, the Aura turns green, confirming that she’s telling the truth—and that RWBY fans who foresaw Robyn’s Semblance a couple episodes ago were correct. Like her Huntresses’ Semblances, this is very specific but nonetheless handy, and I hope we see her use it again later on. As for Bumblebee revealing Amity to Robyn, this is the right call; she needs to be in the know about the circumstances so she can be more amenable to trusting the kids and lending them a helping hand in the future.
Then we cut to what appears to be a subterranean chamber where Ironwood shows to Oscar Pine a door, beyond which lies the Staff of Creation—the Relic that we keep seeing at the end of the opening titles. According to Ironwood, it’s the Staff, not Dust, that keeps Atlas levitating high in the sky, high enough so Grimm can’t reach it (but that doesn’t make sense, because there are flying Grimm like Griffons and Manticores). The Staff’s power won’t be used for Amity, though; it will have to rely on Dust to launch into space. The conversation quickly turns serious as Oscar says, “The path you’re heading down where you’re the only one with the answers, where you do the thing you think is right no matter the cost—it’s not going to take you anywhere good.” An interesting line, since Ironwood appears to be emulating Ozpin’s philosophy.
At one point Ironwood broods over Salem and the Fall of Beacon. We see through his eyes a computer with a chess queen on the monitor—the infamous symbol employed by Cinder Fall during her scheme to trigger the Fall of Beacon. “I never felt so helpless,” he says. “The way she told me she was there . . .” What the hell happened—did Salem pull Legilimency on him or something? This is a great scene character-wise. It shows us how vulnerable Ironwood is because Salem terrifies him on such a severe level, and in response he’s absolutely determined to stop her, even if it means exercising an increasing amount of autocratic power over Atlas. He even says during the scene that he won’t be like Lionheart—the Haven Academy headmaster who became an informant for Salem. The thing is, he was as scared of her as Ironwood is. But Lionheart allowed himself to be coerced into betraying Ozpin, while Ironwood would never do such a thing. Salem is probably drawing on his fears to manipulate him into doing whatever he thinks is necessary for the good of Atlas, when in actuality he’s playing the role of an unwitting pawn in her master plan.
Also, using the Staff to fuel Atlas’s levitating capability—terrible idea. I don’t know what Ozpin was thinking with that one. Now we have to worry about Salem stealing it, and if this happens, Atlas will plummet to the city below.
The final scene is Ironwood and Oscar going back up from the chamber and meeting Penny and Winter, who deliver to the general an invitation to a dinner hosted by Jacques. At this event Ironwood will have to defend his Council seat. But that’s weird—wouldn’t they normally have a hearing for that, something that takes place in a court of law? Oh well . . . (shrug, because that’s RWBY for you).
So far this volume, “Worst Case Scenario” is possibly a Top 2 chapter, and it definitely makes my Top 3. It keeps the plot moving towards the inevitable point when Amity will get sent into space (or rather, when Watts and Tyrian sabotage it). It boasts impactful character moments and some particularly well-written dialogue. And this is the point when Volume 7 feels like it’s really nailing down its themes—and I’m not talking just about the ones I mentioned earlier. No, I also believe the show is addressing communication, trust, and honesty, and how those values can be spoiled by lies, omissions, and secrets. For crying out loud, Robyn has a lie detector Semblance, which is such a RWBY thing to do. Furthermore, they’re launching a communications satellite, and its purpose is to spread the truth about Salem’s existence; Ruby chose to keep secret from Ironwood the history between Ozpin and Salem; Blake and Yang, after expressing their doubt in the general, disobeyed him by being honest with Robyn about Amity; and Ironwood is becoming more and more like Ozpin, a figure who toppled from his pedestal of wisdom and trustworthiness after his secrets were exposed in Volume 6. All of this is bound to culminate with critical consequences.
This Saturday’s episode will be “Cordially Invited.” The summary: “Jacques and Ironwood engage in a dangerous game of wits. Meanwhile, the kids must face their most dangerous threat yet: a high class dinner party.” I can tell we’ll be digging deeper into politics and learning more about the Council and how it governs the Kingdom, all which I’m excited for. Maybe they can clear up the issue of the differences between Upper Atlas, the floating city, and Lower Atlas, the city on the ground. I assume Ironwood, the military, the Council, and the blue bloods live up on Upper Atlas, while the rest of the population has to make do with Lower Atlas, but this has never been confirmed. I’m keen to see how the reunion between Weiss and her brother Whitley, whom she hasn’t seen since Volume 4, will be handled. If Bumblebee were to attend, they will probably have to tackle Faunus racism. All in all, ”Cordially Invited“ should be quite an interesting episode.
Windup score: 95/100