What’s new, everyone? Let’s jump into RWBY, the fantasy anime-style web series from Rooster Teeth Animation. Released on Rooster Teeth FIRST on March 20, Chapter 13 of Volume 8, “Worthy,” was directed by Connor Pickens, with additional direction by Paula Decanini, and written by Kiersi Burkhart and Miles Luna. It’s the second episode after “Ultimatum” to kick off with an epilepsy warning. We open on the evacuation of Atlas and Mantle as Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, Lie Ren, Emerald Sustrai, and Oscar Pine, after their broadcast was cut off last episode, entering a portal that takes them into Ambrosius’s bubble dimension—but not without tossing Jaune through the wormhole first to test it out. Oh, how that brought a smile to my face. And hey, he may have hated that trip, but at least he wasn’t falling through cosmic ether for nearly as long as Loki. Then the group sends Jaune and Nora to check all the portals and inform the citizens that this is a safe escape route. Yes, because that’s a practical plan—dispatching two people, merely two, through portals all over the kingdom.
We cut to a subway station where the refugees are taking cover everywhere and then popping out of their hiding spots, followed by one of them lobbing a rock at Jaune’s head right as he steps through the portal. The animation for this scene clearly takes inspiration from RWBY Chibi, and I actually like the flash of comedic relief, even though it’s dissonant with the ominous and high-stakes tone.
It’s certainly better than the next scene, which shows Ren, Emerald, and Oscar heading through the exit portal to the desert kingdom of Vacuo as a harsh sandstorm tears through it. They want to get in touch with Shade Academy in order to dodge any Grimm who might be drawn to the giant influx of refugees and their negative emotions. However, the sandstorm is obstructing both their communication and their view of Vacuo, so they’re all left to fend for themselves at the moment. Now, in my breakdown for the previous episode, I asked, “Why does everyone have to evacuate to the barren deserts of Vacuo when Vale or Mistral would be much better alternatives?” I’m continuing to ask that question, since it’s canon that Vacuo is considered to be the most dangerous kingdom in Remnant, what with the arid deserts and all the Grimm. So what made the kids think it was a brilliant idea to take thousands of Atlas and Mantle refugees—people who are accustomed to living in wintry conditions, mind you—and ship them off to the sweltering land of Vacuo? Why does this show have to hinge on its characters employing the dumbest tactics possible?
We transition back to the pocket dimension, where everyone is walking through the portals and filing along those frighteningly narrow pathways toward the Vacuo gateway. There’s a beat that involves May Marigold smiling and waving to Blake Belladonna in the distance and saying, “Hey, I knew you guys wouldn’t let us down!” Remember, May was criticizing Team RWBY earlier this volume for hemming and hawing. When she asked them which side they’re on, Blake replied, “We’ve heard that before,” which was meant to compare May to James Ironwood. So it’s preposterous for the show to expect us to find it plausible that May is all buddy-buddy with Team RWBY now. It’s almost like they’re doing this about-face to deliberately bewilder the viewers.
Cinder Fall comes in with a literal bang, exploding dozens of people off a platform. Does the show give a crap about the fact that they plummeted into a mysterious void that Ambrosius warned Team RWBY and Penny Polendina (whose robot-to-human transformation I still find problematic) to not fall into? Apparently not, because it rushes into the face-off between Team RWBY and Cinder, who says, “Your little friend Oscar was right. But the easy part ends here. How’d you know about that?” In the subsequent flashback, Cinder apologizes to Neo and promises that she’ll get the chance to kill Ruby Rose soon. It’s surprising to see Cinder make amends with Neo this way. I don’t think she genuinely feels any remorse. Instead, it’s more likely that she finally realized the importance of respecting her minions and making them feel like they’re valued. Considering that Cinder is incredibly proud, bullheaded, and unwilling to bow down to anyone whom she perceives as beneath her, it’s an intriguing character beat to see her express contrition towards Neo, even if she’s feigning it. If she really is pretending to be sorry, it shows she’s capable of swallowing her pride for the sake of manipulating her allies and advancing her schemes, making her an even bigger threat.
After accepting Cinder’s apology, Neo doffs her bowler hat and pulls the Lamp out of it (that’s just *chef’s kiss*), then gives the Lamp to Cinder, albeit reluctantly. And after all that suspense over who will ask the third and final question and what the question will be, what do we get? Cinder asks Jinn (whose animation makes her look disquieted that she has no choice but to help the villains) about what Ruby and company are plotting, allowing her, Arthur Watts, and Neo to watch them discuss their cockeyed plan, and furthermore letting Cinder realize that Emerald has officially betrayed her. I’m guessing Cinder’s “Your little friend Oscar was right” line was a reference to something she overheard during this sequence, though I’m not entirely sure. I understand that Cinder needed a peek at Ruby’s plan, but I would have thought she’d ask a bigger question, something that pertains to her larger scheme for stealing power from all the Maidens. That’s why this scene is a little underwhelming for me. Side note: I’m not certain Cinder knows she spent the Lamp’s last question forasmuch as the only reason the heroes know is because Ozpin told them. When Salem eventually regenerates, I predict she’ll be pissed at Cinder for using up the Lamp, which was supposed to be saved for Salem so she could ask Jinn how to find the other Relics.
Cinder, Neo, and Watts follow that up by besieging the Atlesian military base and murdering all the soldiers and technicians inside. Then Cinder and Neo departed, leaving Watts to make Jaune look like a chump yet again by killing the communication feed during the start of Jaune’s broadcast. I’ll give the slimy little hacker props for that. The part where he picks up an apple that gives off fairy tale vibes and uses his coat to wipe off a spot of blood before taking a bite is an unnerving and excellent moment of animation, too.
We cut to Robyn Hill and Qrow Branwen handcuffing Elm Ederne, Vine Zeki, and Harriet Bree. Watts takes over a drone and commands it to race towards them, but Marrow Amin hurls himself in the way as it blows up, breaking his Aura and freeing his erstwhile colleagues from his Semblance. Then the compound starts tipping over as the City of Atlas keeps slowly falling (it’s a good thing the show can rely on that handy Gravity Dust to drag things out a little longer), causing ships to slide out the open entrance. Harriet and Vine end up escaping on the one with the payload.
In the military prison, Ironwood wakes up from his little nap and is then able to leave his cell when the hardlight wall goes on the fritz. It isn’t clear whether this happened because the power is malfunctioning as Atlas falls or because Watts hacked into the cell to free him, but I’m leaning toward the former deduction. When Jacques Schnee asks him to open his cell too, Ironwood picks up his cannon (of course the show had Winter Schnee leave it there instead of confiscating it), slots both his guns into it, answers, “Sure thing,” and kills Jacques with a blast at his cell. Finally, Ironwood does something that makes sense for his deranged character. As for Jacques, I’m glad he got his comeuppance. He was such a toxic presence in the Schnee household, and there was no way for him to be redeemed.
We return to the bubble dimension as Team RWBY and Cinder keep up their brawl. Cinder declares, “I suppose I have all of you to thank for one last lesson. Sometimes if you want to win, you simply can’t do it alone.” That’s when a disguised Neo enters, her parasol cloaked as a briefcase. She switches her parasol to sword mode and prepares to slash at Ruby, but Yang Xiao Long shoves her sister out of the way and absorbs the damage, which knocks her out, breaks her Aura, and propels her off the platform. Blake attempts to catch her with Gambol Shroud, but to no avail, and she plunges into the nothingness. Blake lets out a scream that draws Penny into an aerial clash with Cinder. I should be annoyed that Penny’s Winter Maiden magic has somehow expanded enough to let her create green energy constructs, but I’m actually okay with hand-waving this plot hole. Weiss Schnee comforts Blake in a brief Checkmate moment before Blake partners with Ruby against Neo and Weiss joins Penny against Cinder.
While I expected one of the main characters to tumble into the space-time abyss, I thought it might be Penny, Jaune, Nora, Ren, Cinder, Oscar, Emerald, or anyone other than a member of Team RWBY. It’s possible that Yang is trapped in a spirit dimension akin to the ones in Kung Fu Panda and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Raven Branwen will have to rescue her with her teleport-to-loved-ones Semblance. I don’t think Yang is dead, but this is the show that grabbed a shovel to bury a gay-coded character right before the Volume 7 finale, so it’s not implausible that the show would be ballsy enough to bury one half of Bumblebee right before the Volume 8 finale. In addition, I’m extremely dismayed by the possibility that Yang might be separated from her teammates for a prolonged period, maybe even long enough to last the entirety of Volume 9. I didn’t care for Team RWBY being split up in Volumes 4 and 5, and I’m in no mood to put up with that hogwash again next volume.
We segue to Harriet setting her ship on an autopilot course for Mantle, then bumping into Vine in the cargo hold as she’s about to arm the payload. Vine attempts to convince her to not bomb Mantle, stating, “I’m no longer certain this is the most logical course of action.” Oh really, Vine? You couldn’t read the room back when you saw Ironwood shoot dead one of his own Councilmembers? Sure, Jan. Harriet goes on to whine about principle, loyalty, and how this is what Clover Ebi would have done, and it ends with the revelation that Clover was important to her. You know what, I get that. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We know what’s it like to grieve someone we dearly loved, what it’s like to process pain and sorrow by committing genocide. Seriously, though, the mental gymnastics that this show wants us to perform in order to sympathize with the March Hare is bonkers.
It does look like Vine is close to pacifying the situation and persuading Harriet to not annihilate Mantle, but then Robyn botches things by smashing her ship into Harriet’s ship. This pushes Harriet to revert to her Screw-This attitude by arming the bomb and kicking out Vine, who stops his fall by stretching his Aura arms to get a hold of one of the ship’s fins. Then Qrow flies into the cockpit as a crow and fights Harriet, giving Watts the opportunity to hack into the controls. Wonderful, as if we were begging for more ship-related chaos.
In the Atlas Academy Vault, Winter is in the middle of getting a status update with her Scroll when she has to block a blast from Ironwood’s cannon as he comes down in the elevator. He tells her, “I’ve chased a lot of shadows over the years, always expecting betrayal. But never once did I ever think it would come from you. I know what’s best for Atlas, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get that Staff. So consider this my last order. Step aside.” Then Winter draws her sword and splits it into half, declaring, “I’ve never wavered in fighting the enemies of this kingdom. And I won’t start now.” Okay, but she did step aside in cooperation with the Ace Ops and watch him run Atlas like a tyrant over the past couple seasons. The two launch into their duel after the ridiculous moment of Ironwood shedding one tear.
The final scene is set in Vacuo, where Ren is concealing the huge throng of refugees but ends up breaking his Aura. It’s unrealistic for him to be able to do that for even a small amount of time without Jaune boosting his Aura. Too bad the show is allergic to obeying its internal logic. Oscar hurries to the portal after realizing that Penny should be there by now. However, the portal flings him away. “Oh dear. Ambrosius,” Ozpin chimes in, which leads into a flashback of Weiss instructing the Staff’s spirit, “People enter from Atlas and Mantle on one side and leave on the other side. One-way ticket to Vacuo, one-way ticket to Vacuo, one-way ticket to Vacuo…” Ozpin must be watching the show with the rest of us on account of his not accompanying Team RWBY into the Vault. The chapter ends with Oscar, Emerald, and Ren readying themselves for a brawl against a horde of Ravagers, winged Grimm with faces that look like a cross between a bat and a rat, as they swoop out of the sandstorm and snatch up refugees left and right.
Overall, “Worthy” is a chapter that I very much want to love more than hate. I couldn’t take my eyes off the fight sequences, which is what happens when the show pits my favorite heroes (Team RWBY and Penny) against two of my favorite baddies (Cinder and Neo); the animation boasts some top-notch shots, including the apple bit and the extreme close-up on Ruby’s silver eyes with Cinder’s reflection visible in them; and it’s satisfying to see Cinder cunningly get on Neo’s good side and Jacques meet his fate at Ironwood’s hands. Be that as it may, this chapter is saddled with content that comes off as a merciless exercise in torture. How does this show have the temerity to act as if it’s astonishing for the heroes’ game plan to unravel when its lunacy was crystal-clear from the start? They could have evacuated the refugees to Vale or Mistral, but no, they just had to pick Vacuo because that’s where the show needs to head next season. Now it’s their fault that numerous people have disappeared into the void of Ambrosius’s pocket dimension and that several more victims have been seized by Ravagers à la the Pterodactyls plucking up park guests in Jurassic World. Take into account the many who were slaughtered by Cinder’s group at the military base, and “Worthy” ends up featuring an awfully high body count. Ruby never even wielded her silver eyes—not when Cinder blasted refugees off the platform, not when Yang fell off the edge, nothing, no silver eyes in spite of Ruby using them to ward off Cinder in the Volume 7 finale. As for Harriet, she isn’t a character anymore. Hear me out—the real Harriet might have been replaced by a doppelgänger who was conjured up by the show to serve its half-baked agenda. There’s no other faintly plausible explanation for the character’s ludicrous actions. And Yang‘s untimely passage into supermundane space leaves me severely uncertain as to when she’ll reunite with her companions and when we’ll get more Bumblebee material. Are we going to learn she’s okay in the finale, or will the show be audacious enough to leave us waiting until next volume?
I’ve made this point before, and I’ll reiterate it here: RWBY is a show where the characters repeatedly cause my brain to flood with swear words. What we see them do often makes absolutely no sense in regard to the plot. Either they sit around and wait for the plot to galvanize them into action, or they pursue plans that inexplicably defy all sense of intelligence. It isn’t difficult to create a narrative that follows characters who use good old common sense, but seemingly, the writers who are responsible for the show’s deeply inept construction haven’t received that memo. I don’t foresee any quality improvements in Volume 9, which they’ve already finished writing.
I’ll be back when Chapter 14, “The Final Word,” goes on public release on April 3 and calls it a day on Volume 8. All my love and prayers go to you, folks. Stay healthy and stay strong.
Windup score: 47/100