It may be a bit of a shock jumping from ‘The Lost Fable’ to ‘So That’s How It Is’, going from a twenty-six-minute episode jampacked full of story to a thirteen-minute episode. Though it feels like a teaser to the rest of the volume and perhaps could have done with a little more meat to the bare-boned plot, this short episode still fits into the advancing storyline of RWBY.
Spoilers ahead for RWBY.
After the revelation that Ozpin doesn’t have a plan to defeat Salem, he locks himself in Oscar’s mind and the group’s morale hits an all-time low. As they bicker amongst themselves, it is only Maria Calavera – the elderly woman who the group picked up at the start of the Volume – who rallies them together, reminding them that their negativity will attract the Grimm and they have to keep moving. While a turn for the worst, it also provides some interesting changes in character, providing room for development in the future: Ozpin, who once so sagely and wise, is now basically on the ropes with no idea what to do, the girls who had reason to doubt him before just about turned on him, Oscar now fears that he will just end up like one of Ozpin’s previous lives and Qrow, a pillar of support for the team and especially his nieces, finds his faith in the one man he truly believed in shaken to its very core. Much like the winter setting the volume seems to be set in, it’s looking like a cold harsh time for our heroes. Also, as Maria gets more lines, it is easy to question how she is going to fit into the story, and given her frailty and age, whether she’ll live to see the end at all.
It is with this that ‘So That’s How It Is’ turns to the villains, where Emerald, Mercury and Hazel are returning to Salem’s castle after their defeat at the end of Volume five. This also gives the audience the return of Tyrian. We haven’t seen much of him since his defeat at the hands of RWBY in Volume four, but he makes his reappearance here, and he is still so beautifully twisted. After taunting them at their return and Emerald threatening him with her weapons, he willingly cuts his cheek on one of her blades, all the while smiling, emphasising him as the giggling, raging psychopath fans know and love.
Going on with the plot, Salem interrogates the trio upon their return, asking them whose fault it is for their defeat in the previous volume. When Hazel steps up to take full responsibility, this only angers Salem, and she summons Grimm arms to hold him down. When she brings her questioning to Emerald, she answers her by saying it was Cinder’s fault. Almost mirroring the heroes, it could be argued Emerald’s faith in Cinder has been shaken: the woman who brought her from the gutter into a life of purpose is seemingly gone. With that being said, it’s more likely Emerald is just absolutely terrified of Salem.
When she releases Hazel, Salem reveals that Cinder is alive, but that she ‘must be left to toil in her isolation until she redeems herself’. One theory as to how she probably knows of Cinder’s fate is that Salem seems to control the Grimm, and since Cinder is partly possessed by a Grimm, she must have some link to her. Salem also tells her subordinates that no matter what it is that drives them, they must not put their desires before her own. With the camera lingering on Emerald, this may be a hint that there is something more towards Emerald’s feelings to Cinder. Also, it should be noted that even some of Salem’s subordinates find their faith in her briefly questioned for one reason or another, with the exception of Tyrian, who is maddeningly devoted to her. Maybe this can hint to a change of faith or fate to these characters.
When Salem goes on to discuss the Relic of Destruction hidden in Vacuo, Hazel quickly and reluctantly reveals that the group are taking the Relic of Knowledge to Atlas and they’re accompanied by Ozpin. The windows start to crack, and the subordinates leave the room in fear, when Salem releases a powerful scream that shatters all the windows of the meeting room. A quick observation that may have been missed about Salem’s design was that in the previous episode, her skin was pale but otherwise featureless. However, looking at her design in this episode, it’s hard to ignore the red cracks travelling up her arms and the sides of her face, showing that she is getting more consumed by the Grimm in her. This may be a hint from the creators: perhaps the Grimm is killing her slowly but surely, or perhaps during the inevitable climax when the heroes face Salem, there will be little redeemable about her.
‘So That’s How It Is’ concludes with Ruby’s group in the middle of a worsening snowstorm. It seems that their morale keeps dropping when they come across Brunswick Farms. Seemingly abandoned, they go in, seeking shelter.
With both the heroes and villains of the show confronted with troubling revelations, ‘So That’s How It Is’ seems to conclude the first arc of Volume Six. Though the episode doesn’t have a lot of action and is very dialogue heavy, both of the groups are shaken. With their faith tested, it sets up further conflict for the future, leaving the audience questioning how RWBY will possibly be able to regroup from this, let alone succeed in their quest.
Though it suffers from its short running time and bare bones plot development, the episode ‘So That’s How It is’ resets the board for our heroes and villains to make their next move.