(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “Gravity”)
Welcome back, readers, for more discussion of Rooster Teeth’s fantasy anime-style web series, RWBY. Released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on January 18, “Gravity,” Chapter 11 of Volume 7, is an interesting episode that sends the finale in a new direction with its plethora of plot twists. Those same twists, however, somewhat diminish the strength of the plot that we’ve been following for the past two and a half months.
We open with the gunfight between General James Ironwood and Arthur Watts inside Amity Tower—leaping around gravity platforms, going upside-down, dodging geysers of water and lava, and Ironwood somehow being able to anime-propel himself with his gun, although I know Ruby Rose does this all the time with Crescent Rose. This is a very fun and well-choreographed action sequence that’s filled with great gun fu, and I like the accompanying track by singer/YouTuber Caleb Hyles. Then they crash onto the central stage, which levitates into the air, and they engage in a fistfight, during which Watts gripes about his jealousy of Pietro; he may as well have cried out, “How could you love him more than me?!” Meanwhile, he keeps counting off the number of shots he has left in his ridiculous revolver, although he mumbles it in a way that makes it hard to understand him the first few times. This builds up to the point where he holds his gun against Ironwood’s head, even though all its shots have been expended, and Ironwood says, “You’re smart, but you’re not the only one who can count.” It feels like the show is finally becoming self-aware of how Watts is far more pretentious than he is intelligent.
However, he flips Ironwood around and traps his arm with those damn techno-rings. I’ve made fun of them, so it’s a little irritating that I have to admit they’re redeemed slightly by the way Watts weaponizes them. He starts hacking into the system, but then Ironwood pulls his arm out of the techno-ring screen—skinning most of his left arm in the process, which is definitely one of the show’s darker beats—grabs Watts, and holds him over the lava below. “I will sacrifice whatever it takes to stop her,” he says, and Watts forebodingly responds, “I hope you do, James. I hope you do.”
The next scene consists of Qrow Branwen, Clover Ebi, and Robyn Hill teaming up against Tyrian Callows, who gives off way more Joker vibes than usual this chapter. It’s a much shorter fight than the previous one, but still energetic enough. I especially love it when Tyrian catches Robyn’s arrow between his teeth, and then it explodes and shatters his Aura. He didn’t die, though, which does leave me a bit unsatisfied. I still think he and/or Clover may get killed off over the next two chapters.
We cut back to Ironwood as he enters his office with his injured arm in a cast and Watts’s bag in his good hand (why didn’t they show us what happened to Watts?). He sees something there that unsettles him, although we don’t know what it is at the moment, and he contacts Winter Schnee and orders her to check Atlas Academy for intruders. At the same time, Cinder Fall, watching from a window above, says, “Still afraid, I see. Now show me where you’ve been hiding her.” Winter and Penny Polendina (who gets a call and flies off to Atlas, presumably to help Winter) continue to be my top candidates as the next Winter Maiden.
We have Team RWBY and Ace Ops sans Clover heading to Ironwood’s office, where the general reveals that he found a black queen chess piece, the symbol used in the Fall of Beacon. He also had a flashback about the queen during his recent talk with Oscar Pine. Now he goes spiraling into a paranoid rant about Salem and how she’s been one step ahead of them. Ruby points out that the queen is made out of black glass, and she deduces that Cinder made it, even though fire is her thing, not glass. I know Volume 2 briefly showed us how she can use her powers to build glass, but Ruby’s conclusion still feels like it comes out of nowhere. Ironwood asks how Robyn knew about Amity, and Yang Xiao Long and Blake Belladonna admit that they were the ones told her. As the argument escalates, a Seer flies out of Watts’s bag and projects Salem’s form. Watts has had this bag since the second chapter of this volume, which means he’s been lugging around, not his computer gear, but rather one of Salem’s creepy jellyfishes the whole time. I find this weird and funny on so many levels.
When Ruby says Tyrian and Watts have been defeated, Salem tells everyone, “Their goal was never victory. It was merely to set the stage.” Ironwood: “For what?” Salem: “For me.” She offers him the chance to surrender the Relic of Knowledge and the Staff of Creation in exchange for her leaving Mantle and Atlas alone, but he repudiates her ultimatum. Then Ruby speaks up, saying they know Salem can’t die, but she has also failed, and “we don’t have to kill you to stop you. And we will stop you.” Salem’s response: “Your mother said those words to me. She was wrong, too.” Ruby sees flashes of her mom, her silver eyes gleam for a second, and she temporarily goes into a nervous breakdown. I can’t tell if she’s recalling a suppressed memory by herself or if Salem is manipulating her.
After Salem’s projection disappears and the Seer shuts down, everyone is worried about her coming to Mantle, as they should be. And then we arrive at the point where Ironwood’s arc takes a dark turn, something I had predicted would happen for a while, but then dismissed once the past few episodes made it look like he would keep assisting the heroes in their duties. But now he gives a few revelations: one, Amity isn’t even ready to launch, and he only said it was ready during his and Robyn’s citywide broadcast in order to lure out Watts (plot hole alert—shouldn’t this have set off Robyn’s lie detector Semblance?); two, he sent Winter to claim the Winter Maiden’s powers, (meaning Winter is going to put her down, which is pretty disturbing); and three, he’s going to use the Staff to lift Atlas into the atmosphere and protect it from Salem and her Grimm (sure, he’s going to ditch everyone in Mantle, and it wouldn’t stop Wyverns, Manticores, and those flying monkeys from Volume 6’s post-credits scene, but otherwise it’s a fantastic plan, especially because Ozpin came up with it). The Council won’t even be able to stop him because he’s going to enact martial law. The Ace Ops are on his side as well, but Team RWBY makes it clear that they’re going to stand their ground against him. Side note—ominous moment for him when he crunches the queen in his fist.
When Jaune Arc calls Ruby, she zips around Ironwood in rose petal form, hides behind his desk, and warns the entire group channel (Team JNR, Penny and Winter, and Qrow, Robyn, and Clover) about Ironwood’s plans. He blocks the call before she can finish it, declares RWBY is under arrest, and then steps out of his office, setting the stage for a RWBY-Ace Ops battle. On top of all that, we learn JNR is outside the gang’s dorm room, where dead robot guards have been strewn about, and Oscar is missing. We could assume Neo abducted him, but it’s possible Ironwood sent those guards to take him in, forcing him to break out.
Here’s the deal. Volume 7 has focused on major plot elements that have suddenly become inconsequential thanks to “Gravity.” Amity Tower? That’s getting dumped. Scorpion Computer? They’ve been Salem’s patsies the whole time. The Council? Who needs them when you’ve got martial law? As for Ironwood, he initially looked like he would resort to desperate measures in order to protect Atlas, and then we thought he would stay on the good guys’ side, and now he has flipped back to the antagonist end of the spectrum. Subverting what the audience predicts will happen is an admittedly clever move for the show to do. That, on top of the chapter itself being fairly well-written, makes it enjoyable enough to be a contender for my Top 5 or Top 4 list of Volume 7 chapters. Even that Ruby-Salem exchange messed with our expectations; one moment we cheer for Ruby when she bravely stands up to Salem, the next moment we want to hug her when she cries about her mother. What I’m struggling with is this feeling that the volume has been running on a treadmill and that we wasted time on the subplots concerning Amity and Scorpion Computer. I think the double subversion with Ironwood’s arc was handled more effectively, but a part of me still feels iffy about him going down this path. I’ve always been rooting for him to stay on the good side, but now Salem has tapped into his fears and he really is sacrificing everything, like Watts predicted. I think the best way for his arc to end would be to sacrifice himself in some fashion to save his kingdom, and that way he can go out on a high note.
I’ve been hoping Salem would show up, so I am glad that happened. I’m amazed it took seven seasons for the heroes to meet the big bad; Harry Potter met Voldemort right in the first book, albeit on the back of Quirrell’s head. I’m very excited about the prospect of Salem coming to Atlas, and I’m anticipating a climactic showdown between her and Team RWBY.
Summer Rose—where is the show heading with her? It already brought her up with that talk between Ruby and Qrow in “Pomp and Circumstance,” where Ruby asked if her mom’s last mission was an Ozpin secret, and Qrow said, “No, that was her secret,” and, “She would have pressed on if she knew about Salem.” Well, apparently she did know about Salem. The details surrounding her death remain murky; we don’t know if it was confirmed that she died while on this mysterious mission or if she just went missing. One theory is that Ruby watched her get killed by Salem, and she’s been repressing this memory ever since. We can speculate about other things too, like whether Summer is actually alive, if she had silver eyes, if she’s the Summer Maiden, or if she passed on her powers to her daughter. Another theory I heard of, running along with this repression theme for Ruby, is that a piece of Ozpin’s soul is inside her. There’s pretty much nothing to support this, aside from RoseGarden, but it is a funny-not funny thing to chew on. However, I genuinely believe the show may pursue the possibility that Ruby is unconsciously smothering her Summer Maiden powers.
How will Clover take this turn of events? Will he obey Ironwood, or will Qrow be able to convince him to help? Don’t forget about Lie Ren; the show has been hinting at him sticking with Ironwood if push came to shove, and it would be odd if that never manifested in any fashion. Will we even get a satisfying resolution with the plot threads concerning Robynand her Happy Huntresses, or will the show leave them as loose ends?
Considering the episode’s lack of Bumblebee rep, I honestly don’t know if this ship will become official. The show could end up finding a moment to squeeze in a kiss. But if that doesn’t happen and Clover dies . . . well, queerbaiting and burying your gays, what an excellent combo.
In the previous episode Cinder remarked that “the timeline has changed” in regards to the Relics, implying Salem wants to steal them in a specific order. Now that Ironwood repeated this sentiment in his office, though, it sounds as if there might be something more to this timeline. Are there extra magical properties that become unlocked when certain Relics are brought together?
Seriously, what’s Watts’s status? Did Ironwood drop him into the lava, or did he just get arrested? Why didn’t they simply show us what happened? It will be annoying if both he and Tyrian are still alive when this volume concludes.
Volume 7 is going to hinge a lot on these next two chapters. Like I keep saying, let’s be cautiously optimistic about it turning out well for the most part. And hey, at least we got that long-overdue announcement that National Treasure 3 is in development at Disney. Maybe, after these many years, they’ll tell us all about Page 47.
Windup score: 90/100