This episode had a double reunion and a lot of emotions.
RWBY V5E4: ‘Lighting the Fire’
Yang vs Bandits
So Yang (voiced by Barbara Dunkleman) is riding along on her bike with that bandit asshole from the volume opener (voiced by Clifford Chapin) . Remember the shady man she smashed across the room like a Serena Williams serve?
We haven’t seen Yang in a while, but this episode makes up for it. Once their in a fairly secluded spot, the bandit gets off the bike and says he’ll go warn his people so they don’t shoot the intruders on site.
Of course he takes this opportunity to stage an ambush. He takes a head-shot at Yang, which she casually deflects like she’s Wonder Woman.
The pacing of this scene is perfect. As this bandit shit head talks, Yang slowly activates her weapons. She doesn’t try to hide it either. She’s the most restrained in this scene than we’ve ever seen her. She activates her gauntlet, Ember Cilica first. The bandits pause. But don’t heed the non-verbal warning. She then activates the gun that is her arm. Cylon Yang confirmed! The shady leader pauses again.
Yang unnerves them, but they start the fight anyway.
It’s not a long fight, but it’s a fun one. Yang economically dispatches each of her opponents with minimal gunfire, and maximum hand-to-hand skills.
It’s a testament to her development throughout the show that we can see she wasn’t really giving it her all here. Yang doesn’t need to. These bandits are trash compared to her previous foes.
The shady man is the only one left conscious, he asks who she is, before saying that it doesn’t matter since Raven Branwen will kill her anyway. Yang replies that she doesn’t think that’ll happen since “I’m her daughter, after all”.
The bandit realized then that he’d made a multilayered huge mistake.
Ruby vs Oscar
We return to picturesque Mistral where team RNJR and Oscar/Ozpin (voice by Aaron Dismuke and Shannon McCormick, respectively) are entering their training arc of sorts. It’s sort of a pun since a lot of this arc will be focusing on Jaune Arc (voiced by Miles Luna) learning his semblance. His team mates take care to be delicate with him here since his failure to unlock his semblance thus far has made him by far the weakest fighter of all of them.
There are a great many fan theories as to what his “superpower” will be, but that’s not the aspect that troubles me. I’m worried that the writers will sacrifice the agency and development of the other characters to fuel this subplot. Of the teenagers, he’s the only white boy, and is voiced by a director/writer on the show. So far, they’ve balanced the development of the side characters like him, Nora (voiced by Samantha Ireland), and Lie Ren (voiced by Neath Oum) pretty well, so here’s to hoping they continue that.
This part of the episode was Ruby (voiced by Lindsay Jones) and Oscar punching each other in the face. And it was glorious.
We got a new Ruby expression:
And Oscar realizes this was a bad idea:
Ozpin decides to take over after Ruby decks Oscar. He wins the fight after that.
They start a conversation about semblance in which they all try to cheer up Oscar and Jaune, but mostly Oscar. Nora gives an overview of what their group can do: Ruby has superspeed, Ren essentially hit the neutral switch on his emotions, and electricity makes her stronger.
Ruby’s semblance is strange, since she can also materialize and de-materialize as rose petals regardless of if she’s using her speed or not.
Nora mention’s that the situation leading to somebody discovering their semblance can vary wildly; Ren activated his semblance when the Nucklavee Grimm murdered his parents and village.
In a typically Nora way, she describes how she learned her semblance: “struck by lightning, didn’t die. Craaazy Thursday.”
Ozpin pitches in with some curious information: semblances can change and grow over time with training. I hope this seed of knowledge grows into something beautifully unexpected, like if Cinder Fall’s semblance changed. She is the maiden of ‘Choice’ after all.
We are back with Yang, who marches into Raven Branwen’s camp, leading her very battered opponents. The walk to Raven’s tent is a slow one, in which two things happen.
Weiss notices her guards leave their post, and decides now is the time for a prison break.
Also, Vernal (voice by Amber Lee Connors) peeks her head out of her tent.
Yang arrives at her mother’s tent and gathers herself.
Raven (voiced by Anna Hullum) emerges with her mask on. The first word out of her mouth is a soft, “Yang.”
It’s also the only non-performative word out of her mouth. She immediatly launches into a persona that’s quite differnt than from our past glimpses of Raven. With Neo in Volume 2, she was calculating and deadly. With her twin brother Qrow in Volume 4, she was calculating and deadly; but with a hint of regret.
Here, she’s a politician. She pontificates of Yang’s virtue in searching for years and years.
But Raven’s exagerrated hand gestures and mannerisms speak to a person accustomed to performing the role of leader, a role that she holds apart from her normal self.
She ask Yang, “did you have to be so rough with my men?” And here is where we are reminded that while Raven may be a complicated and in some cases fan-favorite character; she’s also the leader of a group of people who kill children for fun…and profit.
Yang doesn’t appreciate her mom gaslighting her like this and sets the record straight, she beat the shit out of her mom’s “men” in self defense.
Raven’s chill with that, since she stated her life philosophy quite clearly last we saw her: “The strong live, the weak die.” Yang probably could’ve killed every one of her assailants in that clearing and I doubt Raven would’ve reacted any different.
Yang then reveals the real reason for her coming to Raven. As it turns out, the writers are still jerking us around about Yang’s intended destination in the final episode of last season.
“I’m not here for you.” Yang says to her flabbergasted mother. Raven actually has every right to be surprised here, and even a little miffed.
But nobody gets in the way of her quest to find Ruby. Yang wants Raven to use her power to create portals. Raven can appear near people she’s bonded with, Yang, Qrow, and Tai (Yang’s dad). And Yang knows that Qrow is probably with Ruby right now. So she wants Raven to allow her passage through said portal to her uncle and sister.
“And why would I do that?”
“Because we’re family.”
There’s a little back and forth, but Raven says that if Ruby’s with Qrow then she’s a lost cause. And that Yang shouldn’t get involved.
I’m still wondering if this is Raven caring about Yang or spiting Qrow and Ozpin. Probably both. Raven’s dialogue hints that she was once one of Ozpin’s inner circle. I’d guess she was one of his four leiutenants. Either way, she clearly knows something about Ozpin that caused her to take drastic life-altering measures to distance herself from his side. Hell, she’s been training/raising the rogue Spring Maiden Vernal for about a decade.
Raven “trusted him once too,” and now she doesn’t. Color me curious. I mean, from what we know, everyobody Ozpin gets close to he treats like chess pieces to use against Salem. Chess is one of this show’s most enduring motifs.
Yang isn’t having any of this ambiguity, declaring she doesn’t care what her mother thinks. Vernal visibly bristles at this. I hope we get some kind of flashback to when she joins Raven. What’s their relationship like? Is it mentor-student, more familial, or romantic?
Raven’s done with this, and Yang. She orders her people to take her daughter away.
“Send me to Qrow, dammit!”
One of Raven’s men takes exception to Yang’s foul language directed at their leader, and charges her. What. An. Idiot. Yang smashes him through a tent, which reveals Weiss Schnee (voiced by Kara Eberle) who is in mid-escape attempt.
Weiss is livid that Yang’s mom turned out to be a rival for ‘Worst Parent of Team RWBY Award’.
Yang is likewise displeased to learn that Raven has been keeping Weiss as her prisoner here.
“You kidnapped her??”
They are ready for a fight, but clearly running away is the best option here. They are mighty, but not on Raven or Vernal’s level yet.
Vernal has had enough of this farce, so she shows a little demonstration of her Maiden powers.
Raven reminds everyone that if they don’t keep it together, the Grimm will descend on them. She then asks Vernal to return Myrtenaster (the rapier) to Weiss. Vernal reluctantly agrees, tossing Weiss her beloved blade.
Raven realizes that the only way this ends is with a compromise. Sure, she and Vernal could destroy Weiss and Yang in a fight, but that would be bothersome. Also, Yang and Weiss could also mow through her bandits, so a pyrrhic victory isn’t too appealing to Raven.
She invites Weiss and Yang to her tent for a talk. Raven says that if they are dead-set on going after Ruby, they should “know the truth”. Whose truth will have to wait for next episode.
This is Happening?? Please?
Okay, so here’s the part I’ve wanted to talk about all along.
In my first review and recap for the season, I talked a little of how Yang was portrayed/coded as bisexual. And that’s in the back of my head whenever she’s on screen, cause I don’t want to miss moments like this. Weiss has just lost everything she once had. She has her nice dress, her shoes, and now she’s got her sword back. Her family situation is a dictatorship. And when I was thinking about the context of this scene in retrospect, I remembered this moment from Volume 4 earlier this year:
Weiss’ Father has disowned her. He struck her across the face. Also, her brother was toeing the Schnee party line so she couldn’t rely on him either. In this moment, Weiss realizes she has nothing to gain by following what is expected of her any longer; the trait that governed virtually every interaction we’ve seen from her since her introduction. Her Father coerced her into singing for a benefit to bolster the family name. Weiss sings ‘This Life is Mine‘.
In addition to being my favorite song from this show, ‘This Life if Mine‘ is basically a more pointed and nuanced version of ‘Let it Go‘ about another ice queen with queer subtext. And what is the first thing she does?
She makes sure none of the furniture in her room is straight anymore. Because symbolism.
One of the moments of character development that went under the radar for most was the fact that Yang and Weiss were voted by team RWBY to fight together in the doubles round of the Vytal Tournament in Volume 3. It’s a curious duo since it’s neither of the two pairs of partners (Ruby and Weiss, Yang and Blake). I wish we saw the discussion/training that led the team to think Yang and Weiss had the best teamwork of the four.
Weiss saw that Yang was about to be K.O.’ed by Flynt’s power move, so she tackles him into a geyser of fire, taking herself out of the the fight to give Yang the seconds she needed to collect herself.
Once Yang uses Weiss’ sacrifice to win the fight, she cradles her friend. Weiss weakly mentions she damaged her vocal cords a little by the smoke inhalation; and for most people, that line may have been a joke, but Weiss is actually a singer, so she actually sacrificed something long-term in that moment for her combat partner.
Songs are very important in this show. The songs inject added meaning into every appearance in a way unlike any other piece of media I’ve seen that’s not a musical of some kind. Going back to the current moment.
Weiss is demonstrating an emotional intimacy here that we’ve never seen from her before, at all, with anybody (including her own sister Winter). Weiss surprises Yang with the hug, but Goldilocks melts into it after a moment or two.
The reason I’m sure this sapphic moment isn’t in my head is the song playing during this beautiful scene. The music in the background is a tender rendition of the song ‘Home‘.
The first time we hear this song is in the final episode of Volume 4, after team RNJR gets to Mistral and things have slowed down. I initially thought the song in this scene was ‘Boop’, and there’s a good reason for that.
The first time we hear ‘Home‘ is through a seamless transition from a piano rendition of ‘Boop‘. Less than a second between piano notes ending and starting.
‘Boop‘ is the Ren and Nora theme. It’s about falling in love with a friend who you’re not quite sure how long you’ve been falling for. For ‘Home‘ to mirror it’s tender notes so perfectly isn’t an accident.
No other songs have been weaved like that on this show. ‘Home‘ is a song with many meanings. From Ruby’s perspective, she’s narrating the scene as she writes a letter to Yang. There are also implications for Ren and Nora in this song. But now that we’ve heard it in this context of Yang and Weiss, it doesn’t seem sisterly in the way the song’s dynamic would be for Ruby and Yang.
The line of the song that goes unsung during the hug is:
“I don’t know what path we will be shown.
But I know that when I’m with you I’m at home.
Yes, I know that when I’m with you I’m at home” (Jeff Williams and Casey Lee Williams)
One of the sentiments flying around my head is the mantra around Yang’s reference character, Goldilocks. “Not too cold, not too hot, just right“. Weiss has been called the ice queen on multiple occasions. Would they not make a fitting couple symbolically since Weiss’ character arc has seen her ‘warming up’? Perhaps she’s ‘just right’?
Weiss is finally home in Yang’s arms, and not anybody else’s. They could’ve saved this song for when Weiss and Ruby reunited, or Yang and Ruby, but they didn’t. They are ‘Home’ in each other’s arms.
It’s also telling that this is probably going to be the most powerful reunion by default since it’s the first. The writers chose to spend their emotional capital on this moment. And they used an extremely intimate song to anchor it. I don’t believe they’d spend such emotional capital on a meeting of just friends.
However, I know that most people, even in this fandom, have a really hard time seeing these kinds of romantic feelings sprout up between friends of the same sex/gender. Perhaps the most parallel example of this is how The Legend of Korra chose to ultimately define the relationship between Asami Sato and Avatar Korra.
I’m not saying Weiss and Yang are completely in love and this is some grand confession without words.
But what I am positing, is that if the creative team decided to take this friendship down a romantic path, this scene is an excellent foundation. I don’t know where/how these two will end up, but Rooster Teeth has just opened the door for a romantic interpretation of their interactions going forward; the context is now there to make that argument, even if it’s a fledgling one at the moment.
Ask yourself, if Yang were a man, would you even hesitate to label this as a romantic scene?
I didn’t think so.
Convinced it’s not just in my head? Tell me below in the comment section or on Twitter @BellicoseEmpath