With the volume’s finale just around the corner, RWBY pulls out all the stops to up the ante before concluding the Atlas arc of the show. It’s tense, it’s wild, and there is a lot to talk about whether ‘Worthy’ lives up to the name.
‘Worthy’ opens on Jaune’s group taking the next step in their plan: with CCT communications down, they tell the people of Atlas and Mantle to step through the portals in person, then escorting them to the portal that leads to Vacuo. There’s a brief bit of comedy when the people of Atlas first investigate what the doors are, and I do enjoy how Nora basically has the same opinion as I gave in last week’s review, when the portals were randomly popping up.
“Without the CCT, there’s no way we can tell all of Atlas to just step through a bunch of freaky, magic doors.”
Also, when Jaune rallies the people of Atlas, how does he still have his Huntsman license on his scroll? Surely it would have been revoked when he and the rest of friends got labelled as criminals at the end of the previous volume.
However, with the additional help from the Happy Huntresses, everything seems to be going according to plan. That is, until Ren, Oscar and Emerald step through the Vacuo portal to find themselves in an unfortunate situation – though the portals were designed to take them just outside the city limits, in a space large enough to receive the refugees but close enough to be in range of communication, they find themselves in the middle of a sandstorm, cutting off all visibility and communications.
One minor criticism about this scene: while Ren and Oscar do sound like they are fighting to be heard in the middle of a sandstorm, Emerald just sounds like she’s maintaining a normal conversation. Surely she would be struggling against the wind to be heard.
Worse still, among the refugees, Cinder sneaks in and then strikes, throwing the refugees into a panic and throwing some of them over the edge with an explosion. In a flashback sequence, it turns out that Cinder found out about their plan because she was able to ask the Lamp of Knowledge its final question in exchange for making good on the bargain she made with Neo.
It’s interesting for ‘Worthy’ to finally try to introduce a dynamic to her character: being sorry for not making good on her deal with Neo sooner, and helping satisfy Watts’ revenge where they murder all the Atlesian personal in Atlas central command in a sharply cut sequence where none of the action is shown. This allows Watts to take control of the military systems, cutting off Jaune’s broadcast.
It’s almost as if ‘Worthy’ is named after something that Watts said to Cinder that caused her to fuel her change as a character?
“You can’t just be strong; you have to be smart. You can’t just be deserving; you have to be worthy.”
It’ll be additionally intriguing to see how Cinder’s next encounter with Emerald goes, since she saw her in Jinn’s premonition. I have two minor notes of contention for this scene though – the piece of music playing in the background. It feels a bit too jovial, and uplifting given the situation.
The fans were wondering what Jinn’s last question would be, and the potential for it was astounding, but to blow it on what is in the grand scheme of things a lacklustre question feels slightly anticlimactic. With that being said, it’s going to be interesting when Salem gets a hold of the lamp and finds out her follower used up the last question for the next one hundred years.
Meanwhile, in the hangar, the Ace Ops are still frozen from Marrow’s semblance, and Qrow and Robyn go to arrest them. However, Watts manually takes control of an Atlesian drone and causes it to self-destruct, knocking Marrow out and snapping everyone out of his control. This is done just in time for the city to start falling, with only Harriet and Vine able to escape by jumping on board one of the airships before it slides out the hangar, leaving Qrow and Robyn in shock. It’ll be an interesting plot element to see how Elm reacts to being left behind by her teammates.
In the prison area, Ironwood finally wakes up and gets taunted by Jacques. However, one of the energy walls on his cells conveniently comes down – I do wonder if Watts has some plans for the general – and he finds his weapon conveniently sitting merely a few feet away. He fires it at Jacques’ cell, resulting in a huge explosion and probably killing him.
Now, how did Ironwood get his weapon so easily? Perhaps Watts could have left it there, have a theatrical final battle with Ironwood, but I doubt he would have had the time or energy to leave it within reach for him, and even if Winter was in a rush to get her coup executed as quickly as possible, she still would have had the foresight to stash his weapon away somewhere, just in case a situation like this did happen.
Back in the portal dimension, Cinder is still battling RWBY, and in the chaos, a camouflaged Neo makes her way through the crowd and makes a lunge to strike out at Ruby, but not before Yang spots her and throws herself in the way of her attack, causing her to fall off the edge to her assumed doom, despite Blake attempting to save her, but just missing at the last moment.
Now, I have a lot to say about this. It was initially shocking, but having her ‘die’ in the second-to-last episode, I assume the writers are going to volte-face and find a way to bring her back… right?
Otherwise, ‘Worthy’ could turn out to be an example of the ‘bury your gays’ trope, focusing on “the presentation of deaths of LGBT characters where these characters are nominally able to be viewed as more expendable than their heterosexual counterparts,” and typically popping up for “characters who weren’t given much respect by the narrative.”
The state of Blake and Yang’s relationship has been debated extenseively in the fandom. Are they just really good friends, or something more? From my perspective, the past couple of volumes have been hinting towards the more romantic side. Plus, Yang debatably had her last big character arc moment in Volume 6 when she killed Adam. That, and the show does have a track record of killing gay or gay coded characters, like pilot boy in Volume 5, and Clover in Volume 7.
So, depending on if this was a final death moment or not, it could either be a cheap moment that was played up for shock value, or it could be a tired and played out trope – though probably unintentional in that perspective. However, unintentional or not, there have been academic papers on the toxicity this trope has. It also makes sense why they didn’t share a kiss in ‘Ultimatum‘ – Bumblebee ship fans would have been absolutely enraged if they had a confirmed relationship only for it to be snuffed out three episodes later.
I’m all for major character death. It can introduce a profound change to the plot, and provide a new emotional obstacle for other characters to overcome, but what makes this worse is that this more than likely will be a fake out. RWBY as a show is also well known for just straight up bringing characters back from the dead, or tricking the audience into assuming a character has been killed off e.g., Cinder and Penny, so that takes away from the impact of this moment.
I also wonder if this is what her voice actor Barbara Dunkelman meant when she called the volume “very intense.” Maybe the writers of the show are trying to make it more serious, but here’s the problem that brings up if you kill a queer coded character:
“Even when there is a perfectly valid narrative reason for the writers to choose to kill off the character, or it serves the story perfectly, it’s often the case that killing one queer character is removing the only positive representation within the narrative.”
With all that being said, I guess you could say it was also foreshadowed, as Neo was the first person who could defeat Yang in a fight. But as the fight continues on, my dislike of this scene develops. Ruby at first seems shocked, while Blake is the one who lashes out aggressively. Even Penny joins in the fight – also, how is she able to manifest her swords? I can understand Ruby being stunned at first to see her big sister go over the edge, but considering she’s in the middle of a fight, I would have loved to see her go absolutely rage mode, flinging her scythe wildly about.
Pyrhha and Penny’s first death seemed to have a bigger reaction from her. Even Weiss doesn’t have as much time to process what’s happened – she’s comforting Blake at one point! Weiss was still as much a friend to Yang as Ruby and Blake, and Ruby loves her big sister! Make them react just as profoundly as Blake!
‘Worthy’ moves to Harriet’s airship, where it turns out the one she ran for was the one carrying the bomb. She goes to arm it and drops it on Mantle, because of her sense of loyalty, only to be stopped by Vine, trying to convince her of the folly of her plan.
“I’m no longer certain this is the most logical course of action… the general is no longer in charge… Atlas is falling, but its people will be safe.”
Blood craze aside, I do like how we get to see her character break down in tears when Vine mentions Clover. I mentioned in an earlier review that she seemed very one-dimensional, so I’m glad we got to see this brief moment outside of her rage.
However, this scene of meaningful character interaction is quite literally cut off when Robyn rams into them with another airship. In a moment, Harriet arms the bomb and unlocks the cargo door, kicking Vine out the ship, and would have killed him if he hadn’t caught the edge of the doorway. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to his former teammate trying to kill him off.
Qrow shows up in a grandiose fashion – transforming from his bird form and crashing in through the front window – and starts sparring with Harriet. While all this is happening, Watts assumes control of their airship, flying it towards Mantle. The piece of music that plays as all this is occurring is pretty good, and adds to the feel of tension as all this is going on. I’ve got a feeling that Harriet is going to be able to launch the bomb in the final episode, but Robyn is going to sacrifice herself by blowing it up before it has a chance to hit the ground.
In the vault, Winter tries to contact RWBY and the others for an update on the evacuation, only to be shot by Ironwood, only just using one of her glyphs to save herself from the full impact of the blast. Ironwood confronts her, offering her one last chance to step aside and promising a hell of a fight in the next episode. Also, having Ironwood shed one single tear when Winter stands against him was a nice touch.
“I chased a lot of shadows over the years. Always expecting betrayal. But never once did I think it would ever come from you. I know what’s best for Atlas, and I’m going to whatever it takes to get that staff. So, consider this my last order, step aside.”
“I’ve never wavered in fighting the enemies of this kingdom. And I won’t start now.”
‘Worthy’ concludes in Vacuo. Ren’s Grimm cloaking ability runs out, and when Oscar tries to run back into the portal to get Penny when he realises something is wrong, he is blocked off. Turns out Ambrosius followed Weiss’ instructions to the letter, especially when she said it was a “one way ticket to Vacuo.” This occurs just in time for the refugees to be attacked by hundreds of large bat-like Grimm, prompting Ren, Emerald and Oscar into action.
So, how does ‘Worthy’ hold up as an episode? It’s pretty decent for a second-to-last installment. I liked Harriet’s brief breaking moment, some of the action was fun, and despite all my contention for Yang’s apparent death, it genuinely shocked me – albeit briefly – when I first watched it. But as previously discussed, it could either turn out to be a cheap moment of shock or a slap in the face for some fans.
It also leaves the audience with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered in the last episode. How is Salem going to manifest herself again? Is the show just going to be called RWB now? Are Maria and Pietro still stuck up in the CCT beacon? All I know is that I’m looking forward to the finale of volume 8 with eager anticipation.
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As the penultimate episode of volume 8, Worthy certainly earns its name by being one of the more interesting episodes this season, even if it’s not for the right reasons.
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