Many of the episodes in this volume have had a problem with finding a balance. While the majority of them are filled to the brim with exposition and dialogue, there have only been a couple of action sequences, and it’s these that have always helped the series take off. However, as the volume goes on, the episodes seem to be finding their balance more, with the seventh episode, ‘The Grimm Reaper’ being an example.
Spoilers ahead for RWBY.
The episode opens up in the chamber where Cinder suffered her defeat at the end of Volume Five, with the antagonist explaining her mission to Neo, all the while audibly twisting a knife in her hand. While Cinder can’t kill Ruby as it comes into conflict with Salem’s wishes, Cinder observes that Neo is held by no such constraint, with the two making a deal that Cinder will hunt down Ruby for the pair of them, while leaving the rest up to Neo. Considering that Salem knew about Cinder’s previous defeat, it’s hard to imagine that this information won’t go under her radar, and though this move keeps them a threat to RWBY, this will probably come back to bite them later on, one way or another.
After this sequence, the episode goes to a lonely huntress. She is wearing a long cloak and her face is covered by a skull mask. Even before the reveal later on in the episode, it’s easy to guess that this is a younger Maria Clalavera. Travelling across a rope bridge in a mountainous area, she is suddenly set upon by a giant Nevermore. What follows is an intense battle between the two, with the huntress using dual scythes, similar to the ones Ruby and Qrow use, with the only difference being that the weapons share a magnetic function that can be turned on and off at will. It seems Maria has won the fight, but the Nevermore quickly attacks again, with the huntress defeating the beast by using the power of her silver eyes.
Her victory however is short lived, when she is again attacked, this time by a small group of what appear to be bandits. One of them threatens Maria, calling her by her title – the Grimm Reaper – before announcing that ‘these are the last sixty seconds of your life’, setting up an alarm clock hanging off her hip. Again, the audience is treated to a short but much more intense fight sequence, with Maria defending herself against the four assailants as a clock can be heard ticking in the background. At first, it appears she might come out victorious again, knocking each of her enemies out one by one, until the leader of the group viciously disarms and headbutts her, shattering her mask and knocking her back. As she is still processing what just happened, the leader lunges forwards and cuts her eyes. As Maria screams and covers her bloodied face, we see the leader turn the alarm clock off, exhaling and slumping slightly as she does. This is a new approach to semblances: even though each character has a unique one, this is the first time in the series that a character’s semblance has been attached to a specific item.
As Maria blindly tries to defend herself, the leader reveals her master wanted her dead because of her eyes, giving more of an indication that this character is actually a follower of Salem’s. She contemplates sparing her since she doesn’t have her eyes anymore, with Maria responding by throwing a scythe in her direction. As the leader goes in for the final blow, Maria cleverly uses the magnetic function of her scythes, impaling her enemy in the back and taking her by surprise, to then swiftly decapitate her.
The episode fast forwards to the present, with the old Maria finishing off her story, and the rest of the convoy looking visibly shocked. Qrow reveals in his surprise that the Grimm Reaper was a legendary huntress, who was presumably killed in action. Since she always wore a mask and never used her name, no one could track her down. He also reveals that the Grimm Reaper was everything he wanted to be, going as far as basing his weapon design off of hers. She reacts bitterly to this, going to saying that she regretfully neglected her duties as a huntress: instead of defending people ‘to the bitter end’, she only focused on saving herself after her surgery. She however goes on to comment on the strength of team RWBY, saying how ‘it’s comforting that your generation seems up to the task of inheriting this world, I’m just sorry I didn’t do more to leave it in better shape’, which comes off as not-so-subtle fourth wall breaking commentary from the creators.
As Ruby offers Maria to help her master her own powers, she’s receives a call on her scroll from Jaune Arc, who hasn’t shown up since the start of the volume. It is quickly revealed that Jaune was able to get a hold of her since they were only just outside the port city of Argus, the winter backdrop melting away into a more hopeful warm setting. The two teams briefly reunite before going to explore Argus, with a short moment for shipping fans of Ruby and Jaune. As the gang explore the city, Ren and Jaune talk more about the city, which feels too exposition heavy and takes away from the rest of the episode. A solution around this could’ve been to bring back the RWBY: World of Remnant series, which was a separate series explaining different aspects of the show’s universe alongside the actual story. Having the team spoon-feed us information about Argus makes the episode feel clunky.
As they continue into the city, it is revealed that Jaune and the rest of the group have been staying with his older sister and her wife – shout out to Rooster Teeth for queer representation. The group catch up with each other and familiarize themselves with the couple, who have offered to house them while they are in Argus. Ruby tells Jaune’s sister that since they are trying to get to Atlas, their first port of call will likely be the military base. The remainders of team JNPR tell them that they’ve already tried with little success. The episode ends with a cut to the gang outside the military base, with the gates shutting in their face as Yang says, ‘Come on, it couldn’t be that bad.’
‘The Grimm Reaper’ is an interesting episode to talk about. Now that RWBY are quite literally out of the woods, it seems like Neo and Cinder are going to be the gang’s latest threat to talk about, and the audience finally got a clear-cut answer to how Maria is going to fit into the story. Also, the addition of more queer characters, something that Rooster Teeth promised they would do as the show went on, was a nice touch. However, some of the dialogue in the last half of the episode doesn’t quite seem to fit, especially after just coming off the intense fight sequence with a young Maria. Also, in relation to Maria’s character, there seems to be more to her the audience doesn’t know. The previous volumes have made a point that huntsmen and huntresses always get trained in teams of four, so what happened to Maria’s teammates and how come no one knew who she really was? It seems like Ozpin would at least make a point of finding out about the silver eyed warrior. With that being said, it’ll be intriguing to see what the writers do with the next step in RWBY’s adventure.
‘The Grimm Reaper’ is a decent enough bridging episode for RWBY’s next step in their adventure, featuring high impact, adrenaline-fueled action, but is also weighed down by the exposition-heavy dialogue.