(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “Out in the Open”)
Welcome back, readers, for more discussion of Rooster Teeth’s fantasy anime-style web series, RWBY. Released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on January 11, “Out in the Open,” Chapter 10 of Volume 7, isn’t a spectacular example of how to set the finale in motion, but it gets the job done.
We open with Sabyrs and Goliaths storming through Mantle and terrorizing citizens, and then cut between the heroes as they kill the beasts. Nora Valkyrie smashes around her Magnhild; Blake Belladonna, Yang Xiao Long, and Elm Ederne team up; Weiss Schnee summons her Arma Giga to defend Marrow Amin; and Qrow Branwen and Clover Ebi, of course, are paired together.
A mob surrounds Nora and pressures her about wanting to go up to Atlas, and she promises them help will come. Then Robyn Hill and General James Ironwood appear on the monitors, holding hands so that Robyn’s Semblance can prove Ironwood is being honest while he exposes Salem’s existence, Amity Tower, and Arthur Watts and Tyrian Callows. He finishes off his announcement by convincing everyone to unite and fight back together. I like how the scene cuts between different shots in Mantle while Ironwood’s voiceover plays in the background. But it’s strange that they’re playing this broadcast in the midst of a citywide battle, considering everyone is distracted by the challenge of not getting killed by Grimm.
We see Jaune Arc, Lie Ren, and Vine Zeki protecting people from Sabyrs, which end up getting pinned against the buildings by Vine’s Mr. Fantastic Aura-arms. Jaune instructing everyone to go in single file line is a humorous callback, and I also like it when Vine asks where he learned to do this and he responds, “Morning school route.”
The next couple scenes focus on the villains, first with Watts plotting a way to break into Amity and encouraging Tyrian to stir up chaos. Then we cut to Cinder Fall and Neo, who have just seen Ironwood’s announcement and realized Watts and Tyrian are in the city. Cinder says in frustration, “Vacuo was supposed to be the next target,” and, “The timeline has changed.” This seems to imply that Salem instructed her minions to travel across Remnant in a specific order, most likely in pursuit of the Relics, but for some reason Watts and Tyrian went to Atlas before Vacuo. Cinder asks what they should do next, and Neo answers by disguising herself as Ruby Rose, meaning she wants to kill Ruby. Cinder objects, “We get what I need first, then we get what we want.” She plans to murder the Winter Maiden, while Neo steals the Relic of Knowledge from Oscar Pine. I need to point out how answering Cinder by silently transforming into another person is such a Neo thing to do. But I can’t tell if this is meant purely to be a gag or if it’s a precursor to her tricking Oscar into handing over the Relic.
Ships start landing all over Mantle, and we see Blake and Yang escort people into one of them as Elm transforms her hammer into a missile launcher and shoots down incoming Goliaths. Then Ruby, Penny Polendina, and Harriet Bree come up against an Alpha Goliath, which is apparently much harder to take down than its smaller brethren, even though all it has is bigger tusks and slightly more bone-plated armor. This is the best action sequence in the chapter, with Penny firing a huge laser at the Goliath and weakening one of its tusks (I’m glad they use the split-screen shot), allowing Ruby to snap it off with Crescent Rose and then trip the elephant so it impales itself on its own tusk. It’s like how they killed the Omnidroid in The Incredibles. I like the gag/trope subversion where Ruby realizes how they can defeat the Alpha Goliath and says, “I have a plan,” and Penny waits a beat to ask, “What is it?” And Ruby has that moment where it looks like she’s about to call upon the power of her silver eyes, but then it gets interrupted. Maybe this is hinting at actual silver eyes action later?
The next scene shows Tyrian seemingly cornering Robyn in an alleyway, but then Qrow and Clover emerge to back her up. This will most certainly be an exhilarating fight, but I’m still worried about Clover sacrificing himself to save Qrow. Tyrian has to die; he escaped death once during his brawl with Qrow in Volume 4, so it would feel completely unsatisfying if he escaped again. Robyn could die, too. Ironically, I’m ninety-nine percent sure Qrow will survive despite his bad luck Semblance.
The final scene is Watts striding through Amity and entering the arena. First thing that comes to mind—why did they keep the arena during the reconstruction? It’s not supposed to be a fighting stadium, it’s a communications satellite now. Did Ironwood think it might be necessary to train Huntsmen and Huntresses in space? Then Ironwood turns on the lights and reveals he’s in the arena as well, and he leaps down from the commentator’s box and lands in a Terminator pose. I wonder if the heavy-sounding slam and the smoke puffing out around him is supposed to make him seem like a robot (he’s not, though, all he has is that metal arm). Watts throws his bag aside (I wonder what’s in it?), spouts a tiresome monologue, and uses his ridiculous techno-rings to activate the arena. Ironwood shoots at him, but Watts blocks the bullet with a holographic wrist shield, and Ironwood says, “You always were a pain in the ass.” General, I couldn’t agree with you more. Watts drops off the stage, and the camera sweeps around Ironwood as numerous platforms rise from the surrounding pits that have opened up, which is a neat shot. We spy Watts on one of the platforms, and he draws out an over-the-top revolver that looks like it belongs in the hands of a Wild West movie villain. His last line: “At the risk of sounding cliché, James, I won’t be going down without a fight.”
Overall, “Out in the Open” is a typical RWBY finale setup episode. It’s the first entry in the last four chapters, which are all essentially constituting the finale, and it spends energy on laying the groundwork for multiple simultaneous showdowns. Unfortunately this is the kind of RWBY episode that’s hard to appreciate, because it’s often not as enthralling as the kind that gives us the showdowns themselves. None of the action here, even the Alpha Goliath scene, is anywhere near extraordinary. Hopefully the show will compensate for that next chapter; we definitely know Qrow, Clover, and Robyn are going to mix it up with Tyrian, and Ironwood and Watts will have their skirmish. I think Neo will fight Oscar for the Relic, and maybe JNR or some of the Ace Ops will help him. I would love it if Team RWBY battled Cinder. We also have Penny and Winter Schnee to fit in, either of which could inherit the dying Winter Maiden’s powers—unless Cinder succeeds with her scheme, at which point she’ll basically be two-fourths of the Avatar.
Let’s go back to Watts’s final line for a moment, because he is the one who uttered the cake line—so why is he worried now about sounding clichéd? Are the RWBY writers purposely poking fun at their own silly dialogue? Because if so, it’s not working on me. If I had a chance to give the script a look-see, I would have snipped out that cake line faster than you can say “Beacon Academy.” On top of that Watts was supplied with some bad lines when he entered Amity. Then there’s his talk with Tyrian where he lets it slip that he didn’t know about the satellite. Well then, what the hell have these two dunces been doing in Mantle? I thought Amity was a significant part of their plot to mess with Ironwood. This is the thing that irritates me—they have no clear motivation and they’re not smart in spite of the show attempting to present them in a conniving light. I’m being fully serious when I say they were about to drop my score of Volume 7 by five points; fortunately the return of Cinder and Neo will prevent that.
Who is going to die, Tyrian or Watts? Again, it would be unfair for the former to escape alive, but the show might want to keep him around because it can utilize him much more easily in fights, compared to Watts, who has a very narrow combat range. What I wouldn’t mind is for both of them to meet their long-overdue demise, and then Watts gets resurrected as a robot. Even better, let them join Adam Taurus in the permanently-dead-villains category.
Other matters that are up for debate: Will anyone ask the Relic a question? Will Cinder and Neo nab the Staff of Creation, causing Atlas to fall through the sky and crush Mantle underneath? Will Bumblebee just kiss already (and if they don’t, we have a major queerbaiting problem on our hands)? I’m still cautiously optimistic about this volume giving us a generally satisfying finale, and I hope we get some wild anime action this Saturday. Until then I’m going to ponder about important things like that weird Morbius trailer and why Academy Award voters apparently believe Little Women directed itself.
Windup score: 88/100