Qrow Branwen’s Sad Day
This episode starts out with Qrow Branwen (voiced by Vic Mignogna) searching for Huntresses/Huntsmen to aid in the fight against Salem. In the first episode of this volume we were told by Qrow, and shown by the creative team that Mistral was a place of acceptance where people of all walks were welcome. The dour first part of this episode shows the underside of Mistral he hid from Team RNJR.
Qrow enters a desolate bar with a crotchety (not in the adorable old gramps way) bartender cleaning a dirty glass. Qrow asks if the bartender has seen one of the huntsmen he’s looking for. The bartender says that he hasn’t but if Qrow finds him, to send him there to pay his tab. The bartender nearly gets hostile, so Qrow backs out.
He spends the next montage asking people where his list of potential allies are.
Each succeeding frame he becomes more desperate.
He eventually loses his cool.
He eventually comes to a broken home, seeking one of the Huntresses: Heather Shields.
He finds her family, broken as well.
The daughter asks, “Does he know where mommy is?”
Qrow is understandably heartbroken at the revelation that Heather hasn’t been home for some time. Like Volume 4, we see that there are other hunters in this world, and the world-building is only better for it. However, we have yet to meet one, since the prevailing feel here is the absence they leave when they’re gone.
Qrow’s sequence this episode concludes with him returning to the bar he visited when he was most optimistic he’d find the people he was looking for. The bartender threatens him, but Qrow is just tired. He puts money on the counter and pays the presumedly deceased huntsman’s final tab. The bartender expresses a smidgen of grief over the loss of one of his patrons.
We only see the exterior of the bar now that we have already formed an opinion of the place, and the bartender. The show invites us to feel some sympathy, or at least some sadness at the loss of this huntsman. And then the show reveals this is a racist bar.
It’s not a hypothetical cruelty anymore. There are Faunus characters we care about. The show has been escalating the level of systematic and institutional anti-Faunus sentiment shown to the audience. Even people we are supposed to like, such as our own great and powerful Ozpin (voiced by Shannon McCormick) who allowed bullies like Cardin Winchester to repeatedly assault Velvet Scarlatina, a rabbit Faunus.
Why should any of the Faunus Blake was trying to recruit last week, sacrifice their lives to protect the likes of that violent human bartender who doesn’t believe they are worth serving drinks to in his establishment.? I know I wouldn’t be too eager to help the humans, were it me. I’d leave them to rot, at least without having the full context of the conflict. But then again, not knowing the full truth is the big theme of this episode.
Vernal Serves Tea, and Yang Makes a Huge Mistake
Raven’s (voiced by Anna Hullum) understated power in this scene is amazing writing. She has Vernal (voiced by Amber Lee Connors) pour tea for her and the girls. Vernal is objectively one of the most powerful people in the show. The act of simply being the person who Vernal owes such dedication to is an amazing power play that went right over the heads of Yang (voiced by Barbara Dunkleman) and Weiss Schnee (voiced by Weiss Schnee).
Yang bothered me this episode. Her stubbornness and willful ignorance will probably cost her dearly in the future. There will likely be a ‘eureka’ moment where she deeply regrets not listening to her mother’s tale. I’m also upset that Yang’s stupidity cost the audience a chance to learn Raven’s backstory and motives as well.
Raven makes a strong point out of the gates, truth is a matter of perspective. She points out how adorable team RWBY is, all trying to make the world a better place, motivated by different reasons. Yang disagrees, saying that “it’s what Huntsmen do.”
Raven corrects her ignorant daughter, teaching her that there are a great many huntsmen who are only such, because they are trying to become stronger. Or they’re mercenaries. Not many do it out of the goodness of their hearts, as Ozpin has mislead his students to believe.
Raven drops the bombshell that she and Qrow did not attend Beacon out of the goodness of their hearts. They attended Beacon Academy for the single purpose of learning how to kill huntsmen, because huntsmen killed their tribesmen and they “needed a counter-force”.
The girls did not see this coming. Everything Raven reveals show that Tai Yang (Yang’s father) and Qrow have kept Yang and Ruby (voiced by Lindsay Jones) very much in the dark. What’s more, it’s likely that they only did so because Ozpin ordered them to do so. Ozpin revealed he was an immortal, a god among men, there is precious little he wouldn’t control at this point. And like the archetypal figure of the ‘old wise master who pulls all the strings for the good guys, (Albus Dumbledore anyone?) the price of the secrecy these men enforce is often innocent blood (Pyrrha Nikos, and a great percentage of the dead good guys in Harry Potter are a testament to this).
For instance, would the White Fang members like Ilia follow Adam knowing that they work for an evil demigod called Salem? The truth is powerful, which is typically why those in power like General Ironwood and Ozpin may be hesitant to relinquish that power to others. Would the truth set people like Ilia?
One of the moments that felt strange to me in Volume 3 was when Qrow was quite callous when he said, “What is she even doing here?” when Winter Schnee (Weiss’ older sister) was in the room.
Raven begins to describe herself and her Beacon team, Summer Rose+Tai Yang+Raven Branwen+Qrow Branwen= Team STRQ, in such a way that it mirrors team RWBY. They were good enough that the headmaster began to take special notice.
He turned a blind eye when they misbehaved in a manner that other teams would suffer for.
“Sound familiar?” Raven asks them.
“Have you heard of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz?” Is not something Raven actually said. But she does ask them what they actually know about Ozpin’s past. The audience now knows that he’s been reincarnating into the body of young boys each time he dies. They haven’t explicitly said it yet, but it seems that they fuse souls, and I’d wager that the weaker soul (Oscar Pine in this case) essentially dies as it’s overwritten by thousands of years of predecessors. There is something deeply disturbing about Ozpin’s immortality. Surely the price of his continued existence is the host’s extinction? We only know what he was prepared to reveal to the most trusting of the cast. Even we don’t know that much about Ozpin. I can’t imagine what Raven knows.
Weiss ventures her knowledge of the past we know now was false. She says that he was a prodigy and the youngest headmaster “appointed”. Raven is quickly to correct her, that in fact it was Ozpin who founded the institutions they know as the Academies, and that he “has followers inside every Academy in Remnant who are loyal to him and no one else.” I’m just saying, Ozpin being revealed as a villain would be great, and because of this episode, it wouldn’t be out of left field. There is plenty here hinting at the darkness within. Salem and Ozpin have been playing chess against each other for millennia, using people’s lives as pawns, knights, etc. Does that not make him at the very least, morally shady, regardless of his goals? He trains young people to kill after all.
Yang decides to stop believing Raven after she reveals “Oz has a great and terrible secret”: that the creature of Grimm serve a master called Salem, who “cannot be stopped, cannot be reasoned with, and she will never stop, until humanity is crumbled at her feet.”
The audience is put in an interesting position here, since Yang and Weiss are hearing this the first time, disbelievingly, though we have seen Salem, knowing she is real. We know Raven is not telling falsehoods right now, even though our protagonists are skeptical.
Raven continues to entice us by saying that the deeper the mystery led, the more horrific the world became to her. I want to hear some of what she discovered.
Yang questions her mother. And Raven pounces on this, praising her daughter for her ability to disbelieve. Yang has been accepting everything she’s been told without question. Raven wants her to question the world around her. But especially, Raven wants her daughter to question what people tell her.
Raven then insults Qrow and Yang’s father, pushing her buttons. Yet Raven doesn’t flinch when Yang destroys the tea set. I feel that this was a test that Yang failed. After all, even Yang’s father said that her semblance was a glorified temper tantrum.
Vernal is quick to respond when Yang destroys the tea set. Vernal is not amused. Neither is Weiss, who holds Yang’s hand to calm her down.
It doesn’t calm her down…it was worth a try, Weiss. Raven says she should listen to her friend, “your team has never let you down before.”
Yang yells at her mother in an emotionally trying scene. She says Raven knows nothing of her life, her friends,…”Why did you LEAVE US?”
It’s hard, seeing Yang so despondent. Raven while make some good points, but a warm heart she has not.
She immediately fires back that she knows thing, seen things, with her own eyes.
“I know the Grimm have a leader.”
“I know people that can come back from the dead.”
” I know magic is real.”
“And I can Prove it.”
Now, hold up, these people have superpowers and use melee weapons that are also guns. How can they say magic doesn’t exist? Well, the creator Monty Oum was always very clear that the extremely volatile elemental substance that the characters use called Dust is not magic. Weiss and Yang are so stunned when raven transforms from a raven into her normal human form because of this.
As Raven walks out of the tent, she lays the foundation for another hint of Ozpin’s villainy. “Well I doubt he ever told you what Oz did to my brother and me.”
“Did to,” is a very specific and predatory way to describe the origin of her ability to transform.
Will we ever get a flashback to that moment? Did Ozpin curse them? It may seem like it considering the Ozpin=Odin theories floating around the internet. A permanent violation of personal autonomy would definitly make sense considering Raven’s former trust in the man turned sour. When Qrow was poisoned last season, and Salem and her lieutenants presumed him dead, the Grimm Queen said, “Ozpin’s last eye is blinded”. What an odd turn of phrase. Perhaps he turned Raven and Qrow into their namesakes so he can see through their eyes when they’re transformed?
At the very least, it seems like Raven isn’t happy about the ability to turn into a bird being inflicted on her, and that alone makes Ozpin cruel.
Weiss literally says, “There’s no such thing as magic.” And yet Raven proves that the girls both know far less about the world than they think they did.
Raven offers her daughter a choice. Any information she wants. All the questions answered. “A new start.”
Run back to Qrow and die in Ozpin’s eternal crusade. The way she frames the choice, saying that so many others have died before makes me really wonder about the fate of Summer Rose. The only dead member of Team STRQ and the woman Yang and Ruby both grew up calling ‘mom’.
Wouldn’t that be a calamitous secret to get out, if Ozpin is responsible for the death of Summer Rose? After all, we know Salem and her lieutenants have dealt with somebody with Ruby’s genetically inherited super-powerful abilities.
I understand why Yang chooses to immediately go back to Qrow. I do, she wants to see Ruby. And she hates her mother. But Weiss also expresses some doubts, a lot of Raven’s words struck home for Weiss. I’m sure a parental figure telling their daughter to “question everything” struck home for the disowned heiress. Her physically and emotionally abusive father was all about never questioning anything he said.
I think Yang chose wrong. I think that learning what she knows and then comparing it against what she could eventually find out from Qrow would’ve been the smarter option. But the smart play has never been Yang. It’s the same kind of thinking that Adam took advantage of when he took her right arm.
Raven is clearly disappointed.
Raven gives Yang one final warning. They may not be allies next they meet. Yang says she wasn’t that nice this time anyway. And she and Weiss ride off into the portal together.
Raven morosely agrees with her daughter. Cinder and Watts will show up at her camp soon. Raven and Vernal have a hard path in front of them.
Teams That Cry Together Stay Together
Lie Ren (voiced by Neath Oum), Nora Valkyrie (voiced by Samantha Ireland), and Ruby are cooking dinner. Ren offers Ruby some unwanted notes on her cooking and she does not appreciate it. Salty Ruby is best Ruby.
Qrow calls from the foyer to say he’s back, and that Ruby should really come out to meet him.
This scene was great. It was short, punches you right in the feels, and it is earned. This scene did not impact me deeply as the reunion between Yang and Weiss. But I think I may be in the minority on that one. I think it may be down to the music being so much more powerful in “Lighting the Fire” than it is here.
So anyway, after Ruby drops the tea set, she is extremely hesitant to run into Yang’s arms. She feels guilty that she didn’t stay and try harder to get Yang to engage with her. She wasn’t sure that Yang wanted her around. Yang is an awesome sister but she understands that post-arm loss she wasn’t the easiest to be around. Yang erases any doubt: “I love you.”
Weiss is standing back, watching this reunion and even she can’t not cry.
Once Weiss jumps into the arms of her best girls, all is right with the world. At least in this moment, they are unbreakable.
See you all next week.
Want to talk about RWBY with me? Comment below or find me on twitter @BellicoseEmpath.