Welcome to the Legion!

This wouldn’t be the first time coffee has been used as a euphemism. Maybe Ilia and Blake should have a cuppa.

RWBY V5Ch.8: ‘Alone Together’

The Nightmare Girls

This episode starts off with Ruby Rose (voiced by Lindsay Jones) looking up at  the clear sky as some white birds fly overhead. She can’t sleep. And neither can her older half-sister Yang (voiced by Barbara Dunkleman) . We know they both have nightmares, and Volume 4 showed each of them waking up because of them. I like that they don’t need to show us the nightmares, and that they just imply they’re happening by showing the result: up at the crack of dawn since further sleep isn’t an option. It isn’t long before Weiss (voiced by Kara Eberle) walks out to join them bearing the sweet gift of morning coffee.

Purple is a prominent color on the bisexual flag…coincidence in this episode ?

I also can’t help but notice the purple sash around Yang’s leg is center screen. It’s the only piece Yang wears that isn’t in her own color scheme. Her normal eyes are purple, but in terms of colors the characters choose to wear, Purple is the color that is specifically found with Blake (voiced by Arryn Zech) and her family. Coincidence??

It’s not long before Blake’s absence is felt by the other three team members of RWBY. Yang is abrupt and harsh; saying that she’s not upset Blake isn’t with them. That she is glad she’s gone somewhere else. “Why would I want her here?”

Her eyes flare red as she says this, hurt and anger force the change in her eyes. Once Ruby points out the change however, Yang is mortified.

Sure you don’t miss your partner?

She gets up and goes back inside. Ruby and Weiss are upset, but they let Yang go back inside without argument.

Aww, she calls her ‘B’.

Back in Menagerie, Blake is standing alone on her balcony and finds a message that Ilia (voiced by Cherami Lee Kuhn) left for her on her the underside of the wooden railing…awww. But also, in the words of the great Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a Trap!”

I like how the window pain divides the bed in two. And really highlights the theme of being alone.

Yang’s Confession and Weiss’ Wisdom

Some time later, Yang is sitting alone in her room, nearly in tears, and the door opens. The yellow-haired girl asks Ruby to leave, but to her her surprise, when she raises her head to look at the figure in the doorway, it’s Weiss. Yang is initially surprised, but allows the intrusion.

Her artificial thumb rests on Blake, and her left hand is on the sash that symbolically connects them.

Weiss doesn’t believe for a moment that Yang meant what she said about Blake earlier. Yang says Weiss, saying that Weiss has “this huge family with dinners, and recitals. Yang presses on, and tells Weiss that she has no idea what if feels like “to be left,” but Weiss doesn’t rise the the challenge.  There is a great deal of heartbreak in Yang’s voice. One one hand, this could simply be a girl sad her friend left her. In actuality, there is a ton of romantic implications in this scene, and not just between Yang and the absent Blake. Yang being destroyed by Blake’s departure, so much more so than Weiss and Ruby, is a direct parallel to Ilia also being destroyed by Blake’s departure from the White Fang prior to Volume 1.

She just smooths her skirt and calmly tells Yang that her father revealed that he never loved her mother, not even a little. Winter, Weiss, and Whitley; their entire family was the result of Jacques’ desire to usurp the Schnee name. He revealed this during Weiss’ 10th birthday celebration dinner, which he showed up very late to.

Weiss also describes her mother’s deterioration into alcoholism, paying off Weiss’ brother’s comment last Volume about ‘mother is drinking in the garden’. Perhaps watching her mother drink herself out of their lives is why Winter Schnee despises Qrow so much. It took very little for him to egg her on into starting the schoolyard fight in Volume 3. Qrow is after all, an alcoholic himself, and doesn’t hesitate to rub it in Winter’s face. Perhaps his drinking in front of her was less of a joke and more rubbing it in her face that the mother she knew was never coming back?

Yang is taken aback.

She didn’t really put any thought that Weiss’ picture perfect rich girl life might actually be hellish. In the last episode, the others, Yang especially, poked good fun at Weiss for being “a lot to deal with”. Maybe the fact that Weiss took the first chance she could to flee Atlas and study at Beacon (on another continent) should’ve been a sign to the others that life at home wasn’t good.

Yang apologizes, she didn’t have a clue how bad Weiss had it. How alone she was. Weiss waves off her apology. She makes a very wise point that she doesn’t know loneliness they way Yang does. But she “has her own version of loneliness, and Blake does too.”

Weiss asks Yang why she thinks Blake left everyone in the first place. We have a slightly better perspective on Blake’s reason since we saw Adam promise to “destroy everything she loves, starting with her“. And we see her apology to Yang as she’s desperately clutching her remaining arm while badly wounded herself. Yang wasn’t there to see it, but Weiss was, and I think she is far better at reading people than anybody really gives her credit for. I think she understands the unsaid depth of Yang’s feelings for Blake.

Weiss goes on to talk about how Blake was always guarding her secrets and especially her emotions during their time at Beacon.  “She was afraid to open up to people”.  Oh yes she was. And thanks to Ilia’s arc, her reasoning on that front makes so much more sense since she had a concrete example of what happens when the wrong people find out about secret Faunus heritage.

And when Blake finally let down her walls, “everything she was afraid of actually happened.” Well, her past caught up with her in a horrible way, but I don’t think her worst fear happened. I think her worst fear would’ve been if what happened to Ilia in Atlas happened to her. If the friends who seemed to accept her, turned on her because she was Faunus. Though I think it’s fair to say that may have been Volume 1 Blake’s worst fear.

And Blake’s friends would never hurt her like that. Even when Weiss was at her most “terrible,” she cooled down rather quick and asked that Blake show a little more trust in her team, so they could have her back.

Weiss says that she feared her past catching up with her, and it did in a really bad way. And she wanted to protect her team from that past, but Adam crippled her partner, the person she cared about most ouside of her family, and perhaps Ilia.

Yang replies that nobody blamed Blake (a Faunus) for the actions of the White Fang. And that “Blake would know that if she talked to us! How can I be there for her if she won’t let me?”

Please don’t cry. You cry, I cry.

“What if I needed her here for me?”

Weiss is momentarily surprised by Yang’s breakdown, after all, she’s the most resolute member of their team oftentimes. But Blake is Yang’s one emotional soft spot it would seem.

Weiss recovers and assures Yang that they can be there for Blake when she comes back.

Heartbroken little Sun Dragon.

Yang isn’t so sure. “If she comes back.”

“She will.” Weiss’ delivery of this line is beautiful. Weiss faith in Blake’s return is casually unshakeable. She’s come a long way from Volume 1.

Weiss  confesses that she’s come to consider “[Yang], Ruby, and even Blake more family than my brother or even my own father.”

“I’d do anything for you three, and I’m sure Blake feels the same.” I’d do anything for you. It’s not an accident that Weiss’ theme is in the background of this scene that largely deals with Yang’s pain. It’s also not an accident that this is moment the softest and kindest Weiss has probably ever been.

A closed fist could mean so many things in this scene.

Weiss says she will be there for Blake when she’s back. And she closes her fist when she says this.  This very deliberate shot could mean a few different things. It could absolutely be resolve. And I think it is partly that. But I personally think it’s also Weiss feeling a little bit of jealous of Blake. “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show…” right? Weiss being jealous might be a bit of a reach, but it’s also a very nice parallel with Ilia’s explicit jealousy in this episode as well. But also I think there is some romantic tension in this scene, though it might be one-sided on Weiss’ part.

When Weiss hesitantly ventures, “I know we’re not as close…” Yang gives her this look:

“…but I’m here for you too.”

Yang just realized that Weiss is a hell of a lot more compassionate and complicated that she ever really thought.

If this look isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

This scene was set up as romantic from Weiss’ point of view, and Yang’s. What really sold me on it, was the trope of the younger sister interrupting the most intimate moment. Seriously Ruby? You couldn’t wait like two minutes?

I’m just saying, we’ve all seen the storyline of the girl helping the guy try to catch another girl to make him feel better when she was the right one all along. We’ve all seen the guy and the girl in one of their rooms, on a bed, sitting exactly like this, and a younger sibling barges in breaking the moment. The subtext is there and it’s supported by structures you really don’t have to look very hard to find in romantic scenes the world over.

“Just because two characters of the same sex appear in the same story, it should not preclude the possibility of a romance between them. No, not everyone is queer, but the other side of that coin is that not everyone is straight.”-Brian Konietzko

Is it so hard to believe the same thing isn’t happening here between Weiss and Yang, especially in the episode we finally get our first canon LGBT+ character in Ilia? Hindsight may prove me wrong, in fact, it probably will. But right now, the subtext is strong with this one.

Ilia At The Crossroads

Rainbow tears.

Ilia Amitola‘s name is a pun. Which in itself isn’t unlike other RWBY names, but this one is special. Ilia’s color-changing skin and eyes are the only proof of her heritage as a Chameleon Faunus. So already, her name makes sense. However, when she revealed in no uncertain terms her romantic feelings for Blake, her last name meaning ‘rainbow’ takes on a new meaning: it’s the LGBT+ flag. Does that make Blake and Ilia the ‘flagship’?

Blake goes to meet Ilia, who steps from shadow with skin the color of literal darkness. Blake immediately offers Ilia protection from the White Fang, saying that she doesn’t have to be scared anymore.

“No, I am sorry.”-Ilia Amitola

Ilia says,”I’m sorry.” Ilia says it again in a huskier, more broken voice, but this time she raises her fist, signaling her fellow White Fang members to ambush Blake.

Are these two Remnant’s version of Batman and Silk?

Yuma (voiced by Nick Landis), a bat Faunus, and Trifa (voiced by Emily Fajardo), a spider Faunus take Blake down quickly. Yuma drops out of the sky and Trifa uses web that shoots out of her arm to bind her.

Blake yells at Ilia, “What world do you live in that attacking innocents is the right thing to do?”

Ilia fires back, “The same one you do!” She elaborates by saying that, “There are the humans that still hate the Faunus, and the other humans who stand by, and let the hate happen! But you know what snuffs out Hate? Fear.”

While we are ostensibly on Blake’s side, Ilia’s words are very indicative of her own experiences, and from that perspective she’s not wrong. Ilia’s emotional wounds and resultant hatred for humans only highlights the earlier scene with Weiss and Yang.

Ilia’s friends in Atlas laughed at a catastrophic mining disaster that likely killed scores of Faunus working in the (probably Schnee) Dust mines. Her parents died in that mining catastrophe. Her friends laughed right until Ilia’s control finally broke when she sank to her knees. “Every inch of me turned blue as I wept.”

Ilia Amitola fled Atlas and joined Sienna Khan’s White Fang. And  unfortunately, Adam poisoned her with spite.

The one bright spot of her life had been Blake. Perhaps she can thaw Ilia’s heart like Yang has thawed Weiss’.

Cardin Winchester assaulted the rabbit Faunus (and apparently Australian) Velvet Scarlatina. Not one human stood up to defend her.

It’s another testament to how far Weiss has come actually. During the Fall of Beacon, Velvet disposes (and magnificently so) of a couple Atlesian Paladins. A third Paladin caught her unaware and knocked her to the ground. Everyone steps up to try and distract the Paladin from killing her, but it’s Weiss who puts herself in front of Velvet and for intents and purposes laid down her life for the rabbit Faunus. It was that moment of extreme emotion that summoned Weiss’ Knight, which destroyed the Paladin.

But Ilia has only ever seen hatred for Faunus. She probably feels a little guilt as well, because she does pass as human when not in White Fang garb and/or actively changing the color of her body.

Ilia’s Confession

I do not condone Ilia’s conclusions regarding humanity in this scene. I think Blake is in the right. But Ilia isn’t 100% wrong. And that’s why she makes for a great character. She also declares quietly that she “doesn’t like hurting people, but I’ll tell you this, it gets results.”

“Yeah, and look where it’s gotten you!” Blake sends right back.

Aha! Compassionate Ilia lives!

And Ilia’s composure disappears and reveals the face of a scared young woman who deserves so much more, who could be so much more.

Blake sees Ilia’s potential. And Ilia knows it.

Ilia begins talking about how they all must make sacrifices, for the greater good. “No matter how much it hurts.”

Blake scoffs as she asks if Ilia thinks killing her is the greater good. Ilia looks away and answers with a simple no.

But then she says that killing her family is. They are political rivals for the soul of the Faunus people after all.

Remind me not to make Ilia mad.

Ilia has already revealed that she can’t kill Blake. But she will send her to Adam per her orders from Corsac and Fennec.

Adam is literally the worst.

Blake really loses her cool her, understandably. The thing is, Ilia doesn’t know that Adam will kill her. Ilia doesn’t know that the last time Adam and Blake were in the same room he for intents and purposes, decapitated her. Blake fooled him with a mirage.

Blake freaks out, saying that this isn’t who Ilia is.

Ilia took this moment to show Blake that she never really knew who Ilia was. Blake was so busy falling in love with Adam during the time Blake was in the White Fang, she never noticed Ilia had fallen in love with her.

Ilia is a lesbian.

Tell us how you really feel.

Blake’s surprised, and my heart breaks for Ilia.

The Chameleon Faunus bury’s her love for Blake and looks at her with eyes that are earily familiar. “We don’t always get what we want.”

Blake definitely has a type. The only two characters who’s eyes uncontrollably flare red when angry and hurt.

For the people in the back who still think this is subtext stuff I’m talking about is bullshit, here is yet another parallel between Ilia’s pining for Blake and Yang’s pining for Blake.

“I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I have seen your eyes, I know your eyes.”-Maz Kanata

In this episode, both display red eyes when being cruel to Blake, but both clearly care deeply enough for her that it disrupts their day to day life not being with her.

Ilia takes Yuma with her to the Belladonna house and leaves Blake to Trifa and the other dude.

Trap’s on you, shit buckets.

Blake takes this opportunity to spring her own trap. Sun drops down on to the nameless guy, while Trifa pulls out a markedly puny knife. Blake one-punches her. She asks if Sun heard what Ilia said.

Sun confirms he heard Ilia’s confession, but Blake marches past him to save her family and stop Ilia from making a huge mistake.

Assorted Musing

It has been two weeks since this episode came out on Rooster Teeth First. One week since it came out on YouTube. I’ve seen a lot of hate towards Ilia. I’ve also seen so much love for this character.

Ilia is a sympathetic antagonist. She is also a lesbian. If you have a problem that both of those things are true in tandem with each other. Or other intelligent talking points you’d like to iron out, I’d love to talk to you about that.

Comment down below, and I would love to chat with you about it.

If take exception to the fact that Ilia is gay because you don’t like LGBTQA+ folks, pleasantly go somewhere else.

 

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Nathan Levine

Nathan is from Culver City, California. Follow him on twitter @BellicoseEmpath.

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