Ultimatum finished on something of a sour note. As mentioned in last week’s review, having the main villain and driving force of the show have her spotlight taken by Ironwood was a questionable choice at best and threw the path that the volume was taking up in the air. With that being said, ‘Risk’ – ironically named – does what it can to correct the rest of the volume.
‘Risk’ opens up with Atlas still being besieged by the forces of Grimm, with its civilians continuing to hide out in the subway network, while the people of Mantle are taking shelter in some underground tunnels. It’s unclear whether these are what remains of Salem’s attacking force, or if Monstra was the vanguard to something more dangerous, but it’s presumably the former.
Also, remember that horde of winged Beriengel that Salem was making at the end of volume 6? In the post credits scene that built them up as this huge threat? It’s nice to finally see them making some sort of appearance.
Back at the Atlas Command Centre, it seems that the military is shaken by Ironwood’s announcement: two soldiers are watching the broadcast, only breaking away from the scroll they’re watching it on to salute him and Winter as they walk by. Elsewhere, the Ace Ops are debating whether he’s actually going to destroy the slums or if it’s just a bluff, with Harriet adding ‘who cares?’ It’s disappointing to see someone who could have been interesting – someone who briefly mentored Ruby in the use of her semblance – turn into a grumpy, one dimensional character. Ironwood later comes in to confirm their thoughts.
“I need a squad of drones on standby to drop the payload… I believe I was clear in the broadcast. If they gave me a reason, I’ll remove Mantle from the equation. This is how we save Atlas.”
This causes Marrow to break, calling the general out for ‘doing Salem’s job for her.’ In this whole monologue, all I could think was ‘Ironwood’s going to shoot him, he’s going to shoot him,’ but just as he is about to execute Marrow, Winter punches him to the ground and says she’s taking Marrow to the brig.
This was a good decision on the part of the writers: Marrow’s doubts against the military he served made him an intriguing character, and it most likely seems like Winter did this to save Marrow’s life. Keep this in mind for later. Also, out of the remaining Ace Ops, it’s interesting to see that the steadfast Elm is the one who seems most visibly shaken by this turn of events. I wonder if she will be the next one to turn against the general.
Back at the Schnee manor, the reunited team RWBY regroup and figure out their next move, but tensions are high, and finally there’s some development for Ruby. She’s close to breaking point and freaks out – something I can imagine her voice actor Lindsay Jones enjoyed portraying:
“Then nothing has changed! We’re in the exact same place we were yesterday – arguing over what to do while the kingdom waits to die!”
Though it’s brief, it’s a great moment – RWBYs usually optimistic leader is flipping out, something they haven’t seen from her (except maybe Yang) and it introduces some dynamic to Ruby’s character. In the past, she felt one-dimensional – too much of the naïve kid who wanted to be like the heroes in the fairy tales she grew up with. Now the weight of the world is crushing her. I sincerely hope that this is a theme that stays prevalent in her character from now on – her being allowed to explore her emotions outside of simply kicking ass and wanting to save the day.
Elsewhere in the manor, Jaune and Ren are with Nora, where Jaune uses his aura to try and heal Nora’s scars to no avail. This is another brilliant scene for development, starting with Nora verbally lashing out Ren, only for him to apologise for how he has been acting – ‘I thought if I just focused on working harder, getting stronger, that we – I wouldn’t fail, but my biggest failing was as a teammate, and as a partner’ – leading to the pair exploring their relationship. This ultimately ends with Nora concluding that she has spent so long being with Ren, she has lost her individualistic identity and she wants to figure herself out before she ‘can be the partner you need’.
This is a fantastic scene – it’s a great character moment for Nora, and for the relationship between her and Ren. In the previous episode’s review, I made the comment that Bumblebee should kiss already, a sentiment shared by other fans. However, there was a tweet from the late great Monty Oum back in 2014 that said ‘All good romance is earned’, and this wonderfully written dialogue between these two characters in particular defines that sentiment perfectly. It would’ve been perfect if it weren’t for Jaune’s over-the-top exit. Granted, Jaune has always been awkward, that’s just part of his character, but it wasn’t a particularly funny moment, and it took away from the emotional impact of the rest of this scene.
Meanwhile, back at the Command Centre, Qrow and Robyn retrieve their gear and start to make a move against Ironwood. The former is still stubbornly set in his ways to kill Ironwood, with Robyn arguing with him that there has to be a better way, especially since Qrow seems to be doing this for petty revenge rather than helping people.
“I’m going straight up to the Academy, and I am ending this.”
“Or we fail, and people get killed.”
Though some of the dialogue seems a bit clunky – Robyn calling Qrow a better Huntsman than Clover because he did what’s right doesn’t make sense – I do appreciate it what it’s trying to do, as Qrow seems to temporarily be brought back to reality, and perhaps it’ll tie into the final climax with him and Ironwood, like causing Qrow to arrest him instead of killing him.
At the climax of their argument, a nearby elevator arrives, and the scene changes before it’s revealed who is inside. Now, here’s my prediction for the next episode: Qrow and Robyn just happen to bump into Winter and Marrow, who join forces and organise a coup d’etat against Ironwood. Winter has been feeling conflicting emotions since the battle of Atlas started, and as previously mentioned, what she did to Marrow was more than likely her saving his life than enacting justice on behalf of Ironwood. Additionally, considering Qrow and Robyn both agree that the general should be removed from his seat of power, even if their methods in doing so differ greatly, it seems likely that this might be a path the story takes.
Returning to the Schnee manor, Yang tries to comfort her sister with little effect, as Ruby is in the depths of her despair.
“Did she [Blake] tell you what it [The Hound] was? Underneath? That’s what happened to mom. When I saw its eyes, I knew. Salem used to kill people with silver eyes, like Maria. But she’s always wanted me alive. Why would that change unless, when she met mom, she learned she could do something new?”
Ruby continues to fall into her depression, doubting if her plan for Amity had any real impact and more importantly, doubting herself. Yang comforts her about Summer, saying that even if her final mission didn’t go as planned, ‘she’s still my hero.’ This is another fantastic moment of ‘Risk’. Continuing to explore Ruby through the lens of despair is a refreshing take for her as a character and aids her much needed development, while Yang continuing to acknowledge that Summer was more of a mother to her than Raven is another great character/ relationship defining moment.
Again, though, Jaune steals the spotlight when they all hear a bang outside, and he is the first to rush down and investigate it. Penny is struggling against the virus in her system, and the group does what they can to prevent her from leaving the manor grounds. Even Emerald helps out the group, using the chains on her weapons to prevent Penny from flying away. There’s a moment where Penny begs Ruby to kill her so that she is able to transfer the power of the Winter Maiden to her, which feels like some subtle foreshadowing. If Penny were to die at any point, would she successfully transfer her power to Ruby?
Jaune is able to temporarily save Penny from the virus, by using his semblance to amplify her aura, basically giving the human aspect of her more power. I wasn’t too sure about this scene: Jaune’s semblance still feels like a bit of a Deus Ex Machina, especially when it’s used here, and what could have been a good bit of dialogue from Emerald at the end of the scene feels grating.
“I think you’re wrong, by the way. I highly doubt you’re in the same place you started. I, I mean, yeah, y-you guys have been getting your asses kicked, some of that, my fault, but like, you’re at war. You’re gonna take hits. Look, I’m just going to be super pissed if you all finally decide to give up the moment I switch sides.”
While this could’ve been another great character moment, the way it’s written is super clunky, and the final sentence feels REALLY grating. The rest of the speech could’ve used a little bit of editing but was otherwise a solid moment for Emerald. While her being an antagonist who is seemingly now fighting for the good guys introduces some intriguing possibilities for her character, having her say it in a fashion that is so on the nose doesn’t work.
As the interaction continues, Ozpin briefly takes control of Oscar’s body. He apologizes for how he kept secrets from the rest of the group, and they forgive him. As he asks them if they’d be wiling to trust him once again, Penny starts fighting against the virus again, something which brings the group back to the task at hand. Jaune can’t keep using his semblance to protect her, and time is running out. It’s then that Ruby gets an idea, and ‘Risk’ concludes with Ruby telling Ironwood that Penny will listen to him, while Watts, Cinder and Neo eavesdrop on the conversation.
‘Risk’ does do well on its damage control given by the turn of events in the Ultimatum. The dialogue writing, something which I have previously criticised for being clunky at times, feels a lot more refined in this episode, considering the scene with Yang and Ruby, as well as with Ren and Nora – though Emerald’s speech towards the end still makes me cringe. It’s also exciting to see who Qrow and Robyn saw in that elevator, and while previously I found myself questioning where the rest of the volume was going to go, I’m once again looking forward to it.
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Risk feels like a much stronger episode to its predecessor – the showrunners have improved their writing in some respects, and it leaves the viewer with an eager sense of anticipation.
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