(SPOILER ALERT: This is a full episode breakdown of “Creation”)
What’s new, readers? Let’s dive into RWBY, the fantasy anime-style web series from Rooster Teeth Animation. Chapter 12 of Volume 8, “Creation,” was released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on March 13, directed by Dustin Matthews and written by Eddy Rivas. We open on Grimm downing a couple Atlesian ships and the third ship escaping the same fate, followed by Qrow Branwen and Robyn Hill storming the dock where Atlesian drones are putting the payload aboard a ship at the same time that James Ironwood, Harriet Bree, Elm Ederne, and Vine Zeki are awaiting Penny Polendina’s arrival at Atlas Academy. Harriet continues to be the general’s most loyal lackey, but judging from Elm and Vine’s slight hesitation, they’ll be the next ones to call it quits. Vine even says that he’s “retracing the steps that led us here,” and that leaves me going, “Yes, aren’t we all? Who knew we’d come to this point after blindly following the orders of a murderous and insane despot?” The despot himself, who is armed with a ridiculously huge blaster, orders the Ace Ops to subdue Qrow and Robyn after getting a tip-off from security, then continues to wait for Penny with Winter Schnee by his side to stop anyone who accompanies her. I’d think he would want an entire troop of drones and soldiers to back him up in that case, but okay.
Penny appears to come alone initially, but surprise, surprise, it turns out that Emerald Sustrai used her Semblance to disguise herself and sneak in Oscar Pine, Nora Valkyrie, Lie Ren, Jaune Arc, and the ship they used to fly here. I never realized how entertaining it would be to watch a bunch of kids team up to slug Ironwood before this fight sequence. It includes Winter showing she’s turned her back on the general by partnering with Nora for an attack on him, Oscar smacking him impossibly fast with The Long Memory, and Winter ending things by slashing Ironwood and breaking his Aura in a full-on anime KO. As much as I love seeing them beat up the tyrannical general, however, it’s underwhelming that the show set him up as a major baddie and then knocked him down in merely one quick brawl ahead of the climax for Volume 8. They did the same thing to Salem by having Oscar dispose of her with the deus ex machina that is The Long Memory, and it diminishes the power that Salem and Ironwood have as threats to the heroes. By the way, fans have theorized that Ironwood, by virtue of his depleted Aura preventing him from using his Mettle Semblance, will end up feeling remorseful for his atrocious misdeeds. I think my brain might scream into the void if the show attempts to redeem him.
Meanwhile, Qrow and Robyn are wiping out the rest of the drones at the dock as Marrow Amin buys them time by telling the Ace Ops to Stay. Now, in the breakdown for Chapter 4 of Volume 8, “Fault,” I included the excuses that Eddy Rivas, the writer of “Fault,” presented on a RWBY Reddit thread to justify Marrow’s Semblance and when he can or can’t use it, then went on to give my thoughts on the show’s stunning inability to intelligently explain the logistics. One of the points made by Rivas was Marrow being unable to freeze people with high levels of Aura—and that’s absolute drivel, since it contradicts with Marrow paralyzing his former colleagues despite their Auras definitely being topped off. It’s sad, because he has a neat ability and it would be fantastic to see it employed in a consistently smart fashion.
The next few scenes cover flashbacks to (a) Marrow and Winter riding the elevator and bumping into Qrow and Robyn, and (b) Ruby Rose coming up with her idea to unlock the Vault and use the Staff of Creation to save Penny and the people of Atlas and Mantle. It’s an unintentionally hilarious moment when, in the midst of Ruby and company devising their plan, Jaune suggests teleporting everyone to safety with the Staff, and Oscar answers, “You can’t just wave it like a magic wand and make your problems go away.” Actually, yes, you can, judging from what happened to make Salem and Monstra go away three chapters ago. Then Ozpin takes over and calls the spirit in the Staff “a character” who can create anything you want as long as you can supply him with blueprints. The crew is now aiming to teleport everyone out of Atlas and Mantle, with Whitley offering to grab SDC evacuation schematics, and hooboy, I’ll be picking this whole plan apart soon.
We cut to the present as the gang gets flown up to the hole made by Oscar underneath Atlas after Ironwood shot him off the bridge last season. Ruby somehow uses her Semblance to carry her teammates and Penny through the hole and up to the Vault, even though it seems like too many people for her to transport at once. Immediately after Penny unlocks the door, Ruby utilizes her Semblance again to speed through it and into a verdant space with her companions. There, they switch on the Staff, freezing time around them.
This is when we’re introduced to Ambrosius (played by Valentine Stokes), the spirit who lives inside the Staff akin to Jinn residing in the Lamp. From what I’ve read, his name is possibly a nod to Merlin, the magician and royal adviser from Arthurian legend—more specifically, a version of Merlin known as Merlinus Ambrosius. It’s appropriate that Ozpin referred to him as a character, given his rambunctious personality and his deep fascination with creation. He doesn’t bug me like I thought he would, but it’s hard to take in his blue-skinned, ripped build and his golden chains without juxtaposing it against Jinn’s excessively voluptuous appearance. On the one hand, I’m glad the animators sexualized them both for the sake of equality. On the other hand, it’s nonetheless an eye-roll of a choice to give Ambrosius a character design that plays into the show’s penchant for rendering most of its men as caricatures of bro masculinity.
Team RWBY seeks Ambrosius’s help in saving Penny from her virus, handing him her blueprints and carefully wording their request so that he’ll make a new version of Penny that uses “her exact same robot parts. An exact copy of her would include the virus. We want you to create a new version of her using her existing robot parts, taking the virus with them.” Basically, Ambrosius, who is forbidden from resurrecting the dead and destroying things, takes Penny’s robot body and builds a new mortal body off of it using her soul—the idea being that Penny is more real and sapient as a human than she ever was as an android.
I’ve had to take some time to process the direction in which Penny’s self-identity arc has headed, and the more I think about it, the more it upsets me, both narratively and morally. When she was introduced early on in the show, it was clearly established that her existing in a mechanical form didn’t diminish her humanity one bit. In fact, she was one of the characters with whom I connected the most. I acknowledge that she’s meant to be an allusion to Pinocchio, who dreamed of being “a real boy,” but we should also realize his story is incredibly antiquated and invalidates who he was at his core when he was a puppet. Penny can’t even use her jet-boots or the swords that came out of her back anymore. In addition, I can’t help but bracket this with the show’s ableist treatment of robots and cyborgs. Yang repeatedly demeans her mechanical arm, the show writers have talked about Ironwood’s prosthetic arm being a metaphorical representation of his growing ruthlessness, and now Penny is being portrayed as shedding her android form so she can express her personhood in a flesh-and-blood state.
Another rule for the Staff: Ambrosius can have only a single creation existing at any time, meaning that if he gets to work on something new, the prior invention will be erased. Consequently, Atlas, without the Staff levitating it, starts to slowly fall toward Mantle, since Gravity Dust is keeping it from collapsing instantly (a detail that we should have known beforehand). Jaune’s team launches a live broadcast to alert the citizens, but it goes out (probably because of Watts) right after he announces that Atlas is falling. Then we segue to the military prison, where Winter puts Ironwood in a cell and tells Jacques that he and Ironwood will be evacuated off Atlas with the rest of the refugees. Jacques thanks her at first, but she reveals that it was actually Weiss’s decision. In other words, Winter would leave those two douches to fall with Atlas if it were up to her.
We return to the Vault, where Penny’s erstwhile robot body conks out in a startingly disturbing sequence. Honestly, I don’t know why the animators felt it was necessary to execute the death of Penny’s original body so gratuitously. Following this is the human Penny experiencing the warmth of hugs as she embraces Ruby and then the rest of the team, because yay for being a real girl. Then the group calls on Ambrosius again and asks him to open portals all across Atlas and Mantle that will take passengers into a pocket dimension resembling the cosmic spaces comprising each Vault. There, everyone will have to head for one gateway that goes into Vacuo. Once the team lays out the space-time nitty-gritty to Ambrosius and offers him the maps of Atlas and Mantle, he completes the task. I’m assuming it doesn’t eliminate Penny’s human body because of all that soul poppycock and how she was supposedly her own individual before Ambrosius intervened.
Before Team RWBY and Penny pass through the wormhole, he leaves them with an ominous warning: “Do not fall.” Yep, someone is going to fall in this stupid pocket dimension. It would have been a bright idea to build handrails for those sinuous pathways, but oh well. The chapter concludes with Team RWBY and Penny talking about how they hope they’ve thought of everything, followed by a shot of Cinder surrounded by Atlas refugees who are about to enter a portal.
Overall, “Creation” is an entry in the RWBY saga that should have brought me to tears with its Penny-centric content and instead shoved me down a fathomless pit of heart-crushing misery. Why does the show have to be this lazy and offensive? Why? I loathe how it’s ruined Penny, and I can’t believe everybody is abandoning Atlas and Mantle after we spent the past two volumes trying to ensure the damn kingdom’s safety. Keep in mind, Atlas is the source of Remnant’s military and advanced technology, all of which will be gone once Atlas crashes onto Mantle. Furthermore, why does everyone have to evacuate to the barren deserts of Vacuo when Vale or Mistral would be much better alternatives? Is the show that desperate to drag the entirety of its bloated cast to Vacuo? Oh, and where the hell are Pietro and Maria? Why didn’t the kids take Penny to Pietro so that he could remove the virus? Why didn’t the show incorporate a crucial element into Penny’s arc—Pietro sacrificing a piece of his Aura to bring her to life?
Two more episodes left, just two more. Thank god. I’ll be back when Chapter 13, “Worthy,” (maybe a callback to Arthur Watts declaring that Cinder can’t just be deserving, she has to be worthy?) goes on public release on March 27. All my love and prayers go to you, readers. Stay healthy and stay strong.
Windup score: 30/100