(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full breakdown review for “The Enemy of Trust”)
Welcome back, readers, for discussion of the season finale of Rooster Teeth’s fantasy anime-style web series, RWBY. Released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on February 1, “The Enemy of Trust,” Chapter 13 of Volume 7, is a finale that starts off strong, loses some of its momentum towards the end, and leaves us with a cliffhanger that is weird and exciting and baffling all at once. In the end it’s a fair-to-middling denouement for an equally fair-to-middling volume.
We open with an ORNJ-Neo brawl that gives off a classic Neo-ness as she swings around her parasol and taunts her opponents, quickly beating Nora Valkyrie and Lie Ren. Then she tussles with Oscar Pine over the Relic of Knowledge. It’s interesting how she gets taken off guard by Jaune Arc blasting her back with his shield, since she’s the kind of combatant who rarely gets surprised in the heat of battle. Finally she evades her foes by pulling off her shattering trick, leaving ORNJ to flee the guards.
Then we have another amazing action sequence as Penny Polendina and Winter Schnee defend Fria, the Winter Maiden, from Cinder Fall. The intensity kicks up a notch when they shoot out of the building and take their clash to the skies, Penny with her rocket feet, Winter with her Manticore projection, and Cinder with her fire boots. Then Cinder blasts Winter away, forcing Penny to swoop down and catch her, which leaves Cinder free to fly back to Fria. This is also the scene that offers a hint at Cinder’s backstory: “You Atlas elites are all the same! You think hoarding power means you’ll have it forever. But it just makes the rest of us hungrier. And I refuse to starve.” We know zilch about her origin story, so I would be keen for some coverage on that next season.
Next up is a prolonged scene of ORNJ running through hallways away from the guards, which lasts half a minute too long. We could have just cut right to the part where Oscar falls behind, losing track of his friends. Then he reunites with Nora, but, surprise, she’s actually Neo, and she nabs the Relic from him. I also love how she flusters Ren by changing her heterochromiac eyes to Nora’s blue ones. Then she disguises herself as an Atlesian captain and skips away while the guards continue their pursuit of ORNJ.
We cut to Cinder tearing open Fria’s tube machine, waking her up. “I’ve been waiting here for some time, I think,” Fria says. “What was I waiting for?” Cinder responds, “Me,” and starts reaching out with her creepy Grimm arm. But Fria grabs it (one of my favorite moments this volume) and says, “No, I had a job to do.” Then she levitates out of the tube and blasts around herself an ice tornado that blows through the ceiling. Winter tries to head down there, but the tornado is too cold for her; Penny, being a robot who can’t be hurt by the storm, ends up diving in.
ORNJ is now trapped in the training room. I like how Ren laments about their not being ready to become Huntsmen. It’s rare to see any of the heroes take a moment at critical times like this to doubt themselves, and it makes Ren more relatable. Then Maria Calavera and Pietro call them up—turns out they’re on a ship with Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long, and they’re waiting to take off with everyone in tow. The scene ends with JNR warding off the guards while Oscar races off for unexplained reasons.
We return to Penny and Fria as the latter says, “I had a job to do,” and, “I was supposed to protect the power of the Maiden until I was ready.” She soon cools down (pun intended) and her tornado disperses, and she falls into Penny’s arms. We know where this is going once Fria asks her, “Are you the one?”
General James Ironwood is in the cavern outside the Staff of Creation’s Vault, waiting for Winter to arrive as the Winter Maiden so she can open the Vault and he can use the Staff to launch Atlas into the atmosphere. But it’s Oscar who comes down the elevator, and he attempts to talk Ironwood down and regain his trust, but the general meme-ably shouts, “That’s easy for you to say!” He goes on to rant about how he’s “done letting others’ inability to see the big picture get in the way of doing what’s right.” As Oscar gets backed up against the ledge, he calls Ironwood by his first name, and he replies, “James is what my friends call me. To you, it’s General.” Then he draws his gun and shoots Oscar off the ledge, which feels like it’s going too far for Ironwood, even as his arc keeps growing darker. Why did Oscar let himself get cornered like that? And what’s up with the dialogue this volume? I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again—are the writers leaning into the corniness on purpose, or do they really believe these are profound one-liners?
The following scene consists of cutting back and forth between the Winter Maiden sequence and Oscar plummeting through a long, long tube. By the way, why is this tube even here—is it a ventilation shaft, like the one Darth Vader hurled Emperor Palpatine into in Return of the Jedi? Anyway, Cinder is about to attack Penny and Fria, but Winter slices off her Grimm arm with her rapier. As Fria dies, Penny finally inherits the powers of the Winter Maiden, her green eyes flaring up in the same style as other Maidens, snowflakes emanating off her. Then Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee appear, and Ruby engulfs the room in the light from her silver eyes. As for Oscar, he activates Ozpin’s cane after the old man’s voice calls out to him, and he blasts through the bottom of the shaft.
Now Oscar is falling through the sky, and we get this Ozpin monologue spanning almost the rest of the finale about how “a similar quality that is common among every living creature on this planet is fear.” Meanwhile, Cinder beats a hasty retreat and hovers above Atlas, making this the second time she’s had to flee from Ruby’s silver eyes. Winter is all beaten up but looks boss with her hair down (always seems to happen with characters who keep their hair in a bun). She calls for medical attention and reinforcements, forcing Weiss, Ruby, and Penny to leave. Oh, and we have a brief scene with Qrow Branwen holding Clover Ebi’s bloodstained pin, and Robyn Hill comforting him. Congratulations, RWBY writers, you somehow managed to add another level of obnoxiousness to the Fair Game situation.
Neo hands over the Relic to Cinder, and then takes on a Neo pose with the nonplussed expression and the hand on her hip. Honestly I’m shocked she hasn’t betrayed Cinder yet, although I’m sure she’s planning on it sometime in the future. A message from Winter pops up on Ironwood’s scroll—It’s gone—and he screams in fury, which could also be another meme. Oscar lands in Mantle in a green forcefield orb, which makes me speculate on whether it’s made from his or Ozpin’s Semblance. “You saved me,” Oscar says. Ozpin answers, “Actually, you saved us,” and Oscar states, “All I want to know is how we save Atlas next.”
As RWBY, JNR, Penny, Maria, and Pietro take flight in their airship, we see the beautiful sunrise that showed up for Clover’s death last week, and we get a fantastic shot of Ruby, Penny, and Weiss together. I’ve been all for White Rose and Nuts and Dolts, but who says we can’t have both ships, right? But it does contrast with Blake and Yang standing on opposite sides of the cabin; this chapter barely presents any Bumblebee beats. The scene of Arthur Watts being alive, albeit in prison, doesn’t make me any happier.
Finally we conclude with a giant thundercloud looming over Mantle and Atlas. Out comes a flying whale with a bunch of little creatures inside its translucent head, and perched on top is Salem in a new outfit that looks mostly the same as the other one except for the cleavage window.
There’s no post-credits scene, but they do have a tribute to Monty Oum, the creator of RWBY, at the end; it features his sun-and-birds signature, which we also saw in the beginning of Volume 3. February 1 was the fifth anniversary of his passing away, and I loved seeing all the tweets from Rooster Teeth employees and RWBYfans in his honor. He left this earth way too soon, and it has to make you wonder what else he would have invented if he were still here.
Now, I’ll offer my general thoughts on the finale, “The Enemy of Trust,” which is supposed to be fear . . . I think? Anyhoo, this is a very okay finale. The fights are spectacular, Penny is the Winter Maiden, Salem is going to unleash her great whale against Mantle, the two excellent Casey Lee Williams tracks, “Until The End” and “Fear”, have me anticipating the release of the Volume 7 soundtrack, the animation is impeccable, and Jessica Nigri gives a solid vocal performance as Cinder. As I’ve said before, the production is spot-on. But we also have this pointless segment about Oscar falling from the bottom of Atlas and Ozpin soliloquizing on fear and its effects on humanity, which pretty much destroys all the momentum we’ve been building up. Ironwood already embodies what happens when you let yourself get engulfed by fear, and I didn’t need a heavy-handed monologue beating me over the head about it. Plus this part of the episode makes Oscar more of a front-and-center protagonist, which is not what I’m looking for. The show is called RWBY for a reason. Speaking of which, Team RWBY had little onscreen time this chapter, and they’ve been pushed aside for the rest of the cast this whole volume. I know Ruby was taking on her leadership role, and Weiss was dealing with her family, and Yang and Blake had some Bumblebee beats, but none of it truly led anywhere. We didn’t even get a post-credits scene. Kerry Shawcross tweeted that they decided to forego it “in favor of putting that effort into the show and not crunching.” Not wanting to pressure the animation crew is completely understandable, but the way he worded this makes it sound as if the post-credit scenes have never been part of the show. It’s like saying the post-credit scenes in the Marvel movies aren’t considered MCU canon.
I predicted the events this season would spill over into the next one, and that’s exactly what happened. The cliffhanger is fine, but it does make me feel like we should be getting one more episode. But now we’ll have to wait for Volume 8 to see what havoc Salem will wreak with her whale. We have Wyverns, Manticores, winged Beringels (otherwise known as flying monkeys) from the Volume 6 post-credits scene, and now a flying whale. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I’m genuinely excited to see more of it—but come on, a flying whale. This is the sort of thing the writers must have thought of after an afternoon of getting high.
Now that I can take a step back and examine the entirety of this volume, I think there are some good things we can salvage from this, and it will probably land somewhere around the middle of my Favorite RWBY Volumes List. But Volume 6 was more satisfying, if I were to compare the two seasons. What bogs down Volume 7 is that (A) Watts and Tyrian Callows are insufferable morons, and we should not have had to endure them as the primary antagonists of Volume 7, (B) the story progresses through all these threads about Amity Tower, Robyn and her Happy Huntresses, and the Council, but none of it ends up mattering because of the subversion plot twist in “Gravity”, and (C) this volume boasts so many flagrant examples of abusing the LGBTQ community.
First off, Fair Game. I’m still getting over the crap from last week. According to the Internet, so are many other people who were rooting for the show’s first gay male-male ship. In fact, this may be the most Rooster Teeth has ever been slammed for their feeble attempts at queer rep on RWBY, and I hope they start perking up their ears and paying attention to their audience. And everyone who thinks Fair Game wasn’t a romantic ship, that Qrow and Clover were merely friends, needs to remove their straight goggles, especially after seeing a grieving Qrow holding Clover’s bloody pin. It also looks like he and Robyn may get together, which definitely turns me off. It’s still so aggravating that the writers made Qrow team up with Tyrian to take down Clover. And Qrow promised to make Ironwood pay, but that went nowhere.
Then we have Bumblebee, or rather its absence. There were quite a few cute moments this volume—Yang commenting on Blake’s hair, their selfie, the time they went out to a dance club with Ace Ops. But it turns out they’ve been teasing us all this time, and there was no kiss, no verbal confirmation of love, nothing. The show queerbaited us with Fair Game and Bumblebee, and it is so disheartening. After all, Renora, a straight ship, got their kiss, so why can’t the gay ships as well? It doesn’t even make sense from a writing standpoint. Going explicit with Bumblebee is the next step we need to develop their characters, otherwise they won’t have any growth. I was so pumped up for them by the end of Volume 6, and even now I’m still shipping them, but not nearly as passionately as before. I just don’t have faith in the writing team anymore.
Oh, and as if the homophobia and queerbaiting aren’t enough, we have to add transphobia to the mix. I’ve heard a lot of thought-provoking discussion on May Marigold, Penny, and trans rep, and the show missed a big chance to dig into this topic. You may remember May is one of the Happy Huntresses, and her voice actor, Kdin Jenzin, is a trans woman who works at Rooster Teeth, and she spoke out on Twitter about May’s trans identity. However, that never gets represented in the show, which is strange, because this would have been the perfect time to talk about it and connect it with Penny, whose arc ever since Volume 1 has been all about realizing her identity. It would have been so easy to write this into the plot, even if it’s just one conversation between May and Penny, but they don’t do it. And I’m astonished that nobody else on the RWBY production team backed up Kdin on Twitter. How is that Rooster Teeth touts itself as a pro-LGBTQ company, yet no one is advocating for her?
Rooster Teeth itself needs to stop being so ignorant when it comes to queer rep. They kept plugging Fair Game and Bumblebee on Twitter, and Barbara Dunkelman, Yang’s voice actor, tweeted a few times about whether or not Bumblebee would kiss. It’s one thing to queerbait us through the show, but it’s another thing entirely to queerbait us through social media. Don’t any of them see how mean, manipulative, and hypocritical this is? A large portion of the RWBY fanbase is pissed off, so maybe this is what will jolt the company into action—but I won’t hold my breath, especially with Miles Luna and Kerry being responsible for the series. Remember, they were the ones in charge of Adam Taurus quasi-raping Blake and Yang in Volume 3.
As for my other little complaints about this finale—Tyrian and Watts are somehow not dead yet, so yay, they can keep bugging us; we spent a good deal of time on Amity Tower, but now it probably won’t ever launch; nothing came out of Ren’s superficial arc concerning his loyalty to Ironwood; and Robyn and her Happy Huntresses had no satisfying resolution. Cristina Vee tweeted that “It’s been a blast meeting the #RWBY fandom these past few months and we are just beginning!!!”, which makes it sound like Robyn will return. Her character design does have a lot of potential, and I want the show to utilize her more effectively.
It will be interesting to see how Volume 8 starts off with Salem and her whale. It’s unusual for a RWBYseason to begin in such a fashion. This means we’ll stay in Atlas for a few more episodes, and then I hope the heroes travel to Vacuo next. I’m looking forward to Penny’s new role as the Winter Maiden; when I reflect on Volume 7 in the future she’ll be one of the best parts about it. I’m also looking forward to more Salem material and what question Cinder will ask the Relic (maybe how she can gain the powers of all the Maidens?). Could Summer Rose be a plot point too? I feel as if I should be keen on the Oscar-Ozpin drama, but the chances for that decreased significantly after Ozpin’s fear spiel.
All right, I’m going to work on my overall review of Volume 7, and then no RWBY for the next nine months. I intend to keep watching it, but I’ll have to maintain my expectations at a low simmer. If Bumblebee ever happens or the show gives us other examples of proper queer rep, it will be a day of celebration. If Miles and Kerry continue acting like privileged, self-righteous straight allies, we will simply keep protesting until they listen to us.
And thank you to everyone who went along with me on this three-month journey. It was enjoyable (kind of) to break down these chapters, and I hope you had as much fun (a relative term) as I did. The second season of gen:LOCK on HBO Max should be far more fun. By the way, that show handles queer content much better, and if you haven’t seen the first season yet, put it at the top of your to-watch list.
One more thing—I predict 1917 will take home the Oscar for Best Picture, with Parasite being my second guess.
Windup score: 78/100