RWBY Volume 7 – Lucky Number or An Unfortunate Result?

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for RWBY

Too Long for Twitter may no longer be receiving regular updates, but that doesn’t mean I’m stopping these RWBY reviews. And Volume 7 was certainly an interesting one to re-watch.

I remember, on the whole, my Entertainment Dome co-host and I thoroughly enjoyed it initially, though we weren’t lacking in complaints. But with this volume especially, many aspects were hard to critique since we had no clue where the plot was going to end up. Any problems we may have had in one episode could be immediately addressed in a later one.

So, on a second viewing, is Volume 7 as solid as I remember it being? Is it maybe even better or does it being complete reveal issues I wasn’t aware of before?

Positive: The New Outfits

I remember being a little put-off by the new outfits when they were shown in the new opening. I think I had grown to love the Volumes 4 -6 outfits so to see them be replaced must’ve rubbed me the wrong way.

But, they quickly grew on me and the change of clothes made sense once the gang were made official Huntsmen and Huntresses. It’s a major turning point in their lives and a new wardrobe reflects that.

I don’t know if I would call them their best outfits, but none of them are inherently bad. They all suit their characters well and there are plenty of aspects I like about them. Examples include Ruby’s slightly more tussled hairdo, Blake’s new haircut, and Ren wearing his father’s knife on his right arm.

If there’s one thing I unequivocally dislike, though, it’s Jaune’s new hair. I understand that it’s supposed to represent him becoming more mature but I don’t think it suits him in the slightly. I remember recoiling when I first saw it; it makes him look like some douchey dudebro, if you get what I mean. At least all those mums like it.

I may as well take this moment to briefly mention some of the weapon upgrades they received. Of all the ones we saw, I think they’re great additions that are thankfully used numerous points throughout the volume, with my personal favourites being Yang’s timed grenades and Ren’s grappling hooks. Here’s hoping they continue to be used in future fights and aren’t completely forgotten about.

Positive/Negative: Penny’s Return & Character Arc

Some of you may be confused why I’ve classed this as a negative, but let me be clear. Penny coming back is not what I have an issue with, far from it. I was pushing for it since Volume 3. After all, since she’s a robot, could she not be rebuilt? No, my problem is how she came back.

I mean, her reintroduction scene is great. The heroes are fighting off some Grimm when, suddenly, green lasers rain from the sky to wipe the monsters out. The music builds up as we see a new but still familiar silhouette against the moon. Penny is alive! And the moment she sees Ruby, her eyes light up and she tackles her friend to the ground, ecstatic to be reunited with her.

No, my problem is that, despite the fact that she’s alive again, it’s then immediately treated like it’s not a big deal. Pietro very casually explains how he fixed her right up (which, to be fair, is later revealed to not have been as simple as he made out to be) and everyone’s response is essentially “Huh, neat.”

I’m sorry, did you all forget that she DIED?! Even though the possibility for her being rebuilt existed, the heroes didn’t know that. And given the horrible circumstances of her death, you’d think the team would be pleased to know that she’s okay and not suffering any trauma of her own.

But what really aggravates me is that the show gives Ruby no time to process this. Her friend, who she saw torn to pieces, is alive in front of her, but Penny shortly takes off before the two can properly talk about it and then they never do.

The last few volumes have had moments which showed that Penny’s death still haunted Ruby. And let’s not forget that Ruby had an opportunity to stop it, but was sadly too slow. That and Pyrrha’s death are two of her biggest traumas, but this volume completely glosses over how she’s been quietly struggling with Penny’s death. As much as I hate to be “that guy,” I’m gonna say it – this piece of fan-art is how the scene should have played out.

And you know what, since I’m already here, I also feel like the writers missed some good opportunities for further drama with Penny’s return. I remember theorising that maybe Penny would have had her memories wiped to protect her from the trauma of her death, which would lead to her not recognising Ruby.

Or maybe Pietro, out of some misguided attempt to keep her safe this time, would have given her a different personality and made her colder and more standoffish so as not to get close to anyone. I’m not going to act like my ideas are inherently better, but it does hurt a bit to see so much potential be completely ignored.

As much as I dislike how Penny came back, the arc she is given is decent enough and her becoming the Winter Maiden is a fantastic decision that I never even considered, proving once and for all that she’s as human as anyone else.

In fact, she makes for a great parallel to Winter, who later expresses frustration at allowing her emotions to control her. Penny, however, being a machine, cherishes her emotions and thinks they are valuable. Looks like Penny might be more human than some actual humans.

Lastly, I also appreciate the reveal that Pietro used his own Aura to build Penny. Aside from explaining why she has a soul to begin with, it creates tension as he only has so much Aura to give. If Penny could just keep being rebuilt, there’d be no reason to worry about her dying again.

But with this information, either Penny dies for good next time or Pietro may end up sacrificing his own life for his daughter to get one last chance.

Positive: Ruby Lies

In Volume 6, when the heroes discovered that Ozpin, despite having requested that he be trusted, had been keeping a number of important secrets from them, the heroes were rightfully outraged.

It was abundantly clear that choosing to hide such information yet demand to be unconditionally trusted was something the heroes found disgraceful and would most certainly never consider doing themselves.

But when Ironwood asks why Ozpin isn’t available, what does Ruby do? She says that they don’t know why he’s gone and makes a point to not mention that Jinn only has one question left.

She lies.

I love this moment, partly because it’s so shocking for Ruby of all people to exhibit distrust with a supposed ally like Ironwood (this is the same girl that tried to appeal to Raven and Cordovin’s better natures, and they were antagonists), but also because of how it’s addressed later on.

While a couple of other characters think Ruby made the right call, as the situation in Mantle isn’t a good look for Ironwood and makes him a hard person to put faith in, Oscar correctly points out that doing so makes them no better than Ozpin, who they lambasted for keeping secrets.

Later on, though, Ruby admits to Qrow that she’s fully aware of the hypocrisy and isn’t even sure what she’s doing is the right thing (let’s also not forget that she is still a young girl of 17 years). Qrow, however, reassures that the one difference between her and Ozpin is that Ozpin didn’t trust anybody, whereas Ruby does, at least, trust her friends/teammates and is willing to give others her trust if they earn it.

While the show does highlight how Ruby is doing things differently compared to Ozpin, it never fully vindicates her decision either. It simply highlights the incredibly complicated situation that she is in, while providing enough reasons to justify both sides of the argument. This is a common thing that permeates the whole volume and I will most certainly be bringing it up again.

Of course, by the end, Ruby and Oscar decide that they should tell Ironwood about what Ozpin was hiding, which highlights the big theme of the volume: trust and how it’s far more beneficial to believe in and work with others than simply following one person’s orders.

Positive: Watts is Incredibly Extra

Watts very quickly became one of my favourite villains when he was introduced in Volume 4 and his appearance in Volume 5 most certainly helped. So, when I realised that he would be making a far more active role in Volume 7, I was very excited and he did not disappoint.

Aside from learning a couple of bits and pieces about his backstory, what I particularly loved about Watts in this volume is that he isn’t as straight-laced and professional as he makes himself out to be. The dude has as much of a flair for the dramatic as Tyrian does, though not in an unhinged fashion.

The way he casually struts down the street, subtly manipulating the traffic lights and such around him so he can keep moving, allowing accidents to occur and risking peoples’ lives without so much as blinking, his over-the-top movements as he orchestrates his scheme to frame Penny for murder like he’s playing on some grand piano to an audience; it just makes him very entertaining to watch.

Tyrian may be more openly psychotic, but Watts’ actions also demonstrate that he’s actually not much further off and most definitely has no empathy for anyone else. The world can burn around him as long as he gets what he wants.

TL;DR, Watts was already a smug bastard you love to hate and this volume only doubled down on that. Between him and Tyrian, I can’t wait to see what other heinous things they’ll pull off in the future.

Positive: Blake & Yang are Gay and I Apologise for Doubting It

Remember how I dedicated a whole section in my Volume 6 review to how I felt that, despite what some fans believed, the BlakeXYang ship might not have been canon and was done in a way that could still be read as platonic?

Well, the writers clearly sensed my doubt and proceeded to pick up a big stick with the words “BLAKE AND YANG ARE GAY” emblazoned in gold across it and repeatedly hit me over the head with it throughout Volume 7 (though I suppose “BLAKE AND YANG ARE BI” would be more accurate).

Granted, it’s not like they were making out every other second and the two actually take a bit more of a backseat this volume (makes sense given how much focus they got in the previous one). But there were plenty of interactions between them that made it abundantly clear that their relationship goes beyond being just friends, such as when Yang is flustered over Blake’s new hair-do.

Hell, Blake rebuilt her weapon with a clear piece of yellow metal, possibly from Yang’s weapon or arm, which the camera focuses on when it’s first revealed. It’s a very obvious piece of symbolism about how connected the two are.

I also want to give special mention to their brief scene in the truck when they’re trying to ambush Robyn. It’s a sombre but sweet discussion about how crappy the situation is, with the two in disagreement about whether they should be hiding info from Ironwood, without it turning into a vicious argument.

Not to mention that, while Adam is long dead now, Blake’s still affected by what she and Yang did. Adam may have been a piece of shit, but she clearly didn’t want to kill him and has no desire to take another life again, even though she probably knows that the current circumstances mean she won’t have a choice.

All in all, I really like how Blake and Yang’s relationship has developed and how it’s handled in this volume. I’m still a bit mad that the two didn’t kiss, though. I mean, Ren and Nora got a big damn kiss, so where’s Blake and Yang’s? I don’t even ship it that much and I feel like it’s deserved.

And I must once again make my totally reasonable demand to have Ruby and Weiss hook up too. Like, come on, they barely hung out this volume! No, I’m not being entitled! At least let them hold hands!

Positive/Negative: The Ace-Ops

I found myself really liking the Ace-Ops from the moment they appeared. An elite group of individuals with unique weapons and powers themed after Aesop’s Fables? Clover’s weapon being a sword/fishing pole hybrid alone was enough to win me over.

Though I wouldn’t list any of its members among my favourite characters, they serve their role as Ironwood’s special ops force, mentors, and eventual antagonists perfectly well.

They’re all likeable enough thanks to their personalities and abilities (I’m personally a fan of Marrow’s Freeze Semblance and his boomerang/sword/rifle weapon) and have enough screen time to make you get attached to them without completely overshadowing the main characters.

Yet despite their rather jovial attitudes, them choosing to side with Ironwood at the end still feels in character. Their personalities don’t pull a complete 180 and they become nasty villains or anything (though Harriet’s sudden aggressiveness can arguably come across as rather out-of-character); they’re still fundamentally good people. Unfortunately, they consider themselves soldiers first and foremost and soldiers follow orders, regardless of how they may feel about them.

That said, I do have one issue with the group: their claim that they are not friends. This, on its own, wouldn’t be a problem and it is a main contributor to their loss against Team RWBY later on in the volume.

But their words and attitudes feel like they contradict each other. Despite this insistence, every scene where they interact with each other is filled with playful banter and good-natured ribbing; the kind you only really see between friends.

If the writers really wanted us to believe that the Ace-Ops are strictly co-workers, maybe they should’ve had them act more professional and dial back the banter. Sure, maybe it would have made them less interesting and/or entertaining but it would have at least made their claims more believable.

It’s not a massive dealbreaker, but I remember it really bothering my Entertainment Dome co-host and I when we were watching Volume 7‘s initial release. It’s definitely an aspect that could’ve been fleshed out had the volume not had so many other, more important sub-plots to focus on.

Aside from that, though, the Ace-Ops were a welcome addition to this volume and I’m curious to see what they’ll do in the next volume, especially considering Clover’s death.

Positive: Robyn and Mantle’s Distrust in Ironwood

When we were reintroduced to Ironwood in the second episode, I became rather worried that the writers were aiming to make him 100% sympathetic. While he is still a good person and his actions are well-meaning, I feared that the show would ultimately portray him as a tragic and underappreciated figure, who is simply misunderstood by the general public.

Considering how the first episode alone established how screwed up the situation is in Atlas and especially in Mantle, trying to make a character who is almost on the threshold of becoming a straight-up dictator the one in the right would’ve left a very sour taste in the audience’s mouth (especially given the current political climate).

Not to mention that the show’s previous attempts at handling politics that somewhat reflect the real world (i.e. the White Fang) were rather poor and borderline insulting.

Thankfully, later episodes and a second viewing of the whole volume proved that this wasn’t the case. While we as an audience could understand Ironwood’s decision making, the show never wholly justifies it.

The growing anger, resentment, and distrust from the general public and Robyn, however, is justified. Even when Robyn herself briefly becomes an antagonist towards the heroes, her vigilantism still feels like the appropriate response to Ironwood’s refusal to disclose any information, not helped by Watts and Tyrian’s actions that make it seem like Ironwood is assassinating his critics.

This volume’s attempt at handling a more politically charged story could very easily have exploded in the writers’ faces, but I feel like it manages to strike a good balance. It has you begging for the two sides to talk and come to an understanding, something that several characters themselves suggest (Nora explicitly says she thinks keeping secrets from potential allies is stupid).

The only villains are those not on either side i.e. Watts, Tyrian, and Jacques, who are eager to take advantage of the growing dissent and deliberately make things worse so both sides remain at each other’s throats. Of course, by the end, Ironwood does lose any credibility he had when he officially becomes an antagonist, but I’ll get into that later.

Basically, the political conflict is handled decently and manages to avoid every major pitfall it could’ve potentially fallen into.

Positive: Ren & Nora’s Characterisation

After Volume 4 surprised me by giving Ren a backstory and character development, I was fully expecting him and Nora to fade into the background and remain as supporting characters, which I would’ve been fine with.

But, while they don’t necessarily get a lot of focus in Volume 7, I was still pleasantly surprised by the few moments they do get, and I’m not just talking about them finally kissing.

Firstly, Nora’s outburst at Ironwood over potentially establishing martial law and how his ‘sacrifices’ are hurting the people of Mantle. Considering Nora usually plays a comic relief role, it’s always great to see her show other sides of her personality besides hyperactive goofball.

Having her be the one to call Ironwood out and be openly empathetic with Mantle makes a lot of sense too if you remember the few bits of backstory we have for her. All we know about Nora is that she grew up in poverty. She had no family and was barely scraping by, forced to steal food and almost living like a wild animal. None of this comes up during this scene, though, making it a nice, subtle character moment for her.

As for Ren, the gang’s night off from work quickly begins to show how the conflict with Salem is severely affecting him. While everyone is dedicated to the cause, Ren sees any time not spent training or preparing as a waste. How can they afford to relax when so much is at stake and they still don’t even know how to properly defeat Salem (assuming that they can)?

It’s a shame that it doesn’t get much focus in the rest of the volume, but Ren’s growing stress and anxiety is fascinating considering his whole thing is being the calm one; the one most in control of his emotions.

But in this volume, we see him start to spiral, and it begins affecting his relationship with Nora. At first, his dismissal of Nora’s flirting seems like typical “oh ha ha he’s so oblivious,” but it later becomes clear that it’s completely intentional.

It’s not because he doesn’t care about Nora, far from it. It’s also not just because he isn’t good with expressing his emotions; I sense that he fears that his relationship with Nora could be a distraction. If he doesn’t remain focused on the mission, then there will be dire consequences.

And sadly, this fear is proven right. I mean, to him, at least. The moment he reciprocates Nora’s feelings, Tyrian strikes and a bunch of people wind up dead. Obviously, it’s not his fault, but I think he now associates him kissing Nora with that incident and, as a result, he believes his feelings are a weakness that can be taken advantage of.

Want further proof of this? When chasing after Neo to get the lamp back, Neo disguises herself as Nora. Ren knows it’s not really her and lunges to attack, but Neo, with Nora’s face, shoots a hurt and fearful expression at him. Ren falters and it allows Neo to escape. As he and the others are forced to retreat, we see him visibly crying, tears streaming down his cheeks.

I don’t know if my character assessment will prove accurate, but everything seems to point to Ren possibly becoming more detached from his emotions. When Ironwood orders for Robyn to be arrested and brought in following her becoming a vigilante, Ren doesn’t hesitate to comply, with a cold look on his face.

At the very least, I hope this is going somewhere in future volumes. Ren possibly being won over by Ironwood’s methodology, maybe even betraying his teammates because it will be ‘for their own good’ would make for some compelling drama.

It’s kind of a shame that what I consider to be a pretty fascinating character arc for Ren is little more than a bit part. This could’ve been a full-fledged subplot but it sadly has to compete with several others and I really don’t want this to be swept under the rug come Volume 8.

Positive: Winter

Winter is far from being one of my favourite characters in RWBY, but I appreciate her appearance and the role she plays in Volume 7. Her last appearance in Volume 3 felt like more of a contribution to Weiss’ arc than establishing Winter as her own character, but here, I feel like we really got to understand her better and see her as more than just Weiss’ badass older sister.

She doesn’t necessarily undergo any major changes, but it is nice to see her bond with Weiss. It was always clear before, but the volume reiterates that, while she may not always be great at showing it, Winter cherishes her sister and simply wants what’s best for her.

I particularly like the scene they have after meeting Fria. At first, I was a bit put off that Winter had effectively been groomed by Ironwood into becoming the next Winter Maiden, but the show kind of acknowledges this and Winter herself says that it’s now her choice too and she isn’t simply following orders in this regard.

But my favourite moment of hers is her brief interaction with Jacques. We’ve always known that their relationship is as strained as you’d expect from the Schnees, but Winter’s confidence and independence seemed to suggest that she’d moved on and outgrown him; he longer had any control over her.

But her outburst at him proves otherwise. This is by no means a bad thing either as it helps humanise her and make her more sympathetic. She’s tough, but she’s no less of a victim of her father’s abuse.

This then leads to a great scene between her and Penny, where she expresses regret over blowing up at her father. Her dialogue heavily implies that she views her emotions as a crutch, a weakness. This puts her in great contrast with Penny, the machine who was able to develop emotions and cherishes them, because they’re what make her human.

This comes to a head when Ironwood gives the order to abandon Mantle and Winter complies. She’s not happy with it and probably would prefer any other solution, but she says her feelings are irrelevant and that she has orders. Ironically, she’s arguably closer to acting like a machine than Penny.

However, I think what will really make or break Winter’s character is what comes next. When she is left wounded and barely able to move, she demands that Weiss and her friends surrender for disobedience. And when they refuse, she calls for back-up, while also telling Weiss that she’s giving them a “head-start.”

While a nice gesture, showing that Winter is allowing her emotions and love for her sister to dictate her actions one more time (maybe her calling for back-up was also a way to force Weiss to run so that she’d be “safe”), but it firmly puts Winter on Ironwood’s side.

So, the question is, what sort of role will she have in Volume 8? A conflicted adversary who will eventually be won over to the heroes’ side? Or will she follow Ironwood to the bitter end and be his perfect soldier? While I’m curious, a part of me is concerned that her character could go in a direction unpopular with fans, one that could effectively jeopardise or ruin what characterisation she’s had so far.

It’s for that reason why I was hesitant to write about Winter in this review. It’s difficult to praise or critique a character arc when said arc isn’t finished. But, given how this and the previous volume have handled complicated scenarios and conflicted characters, I think Winter’s future is in safe hands.

Positive: Meeting Willow

She may have only made a brief appearance, but meeting Willow Schnee was still a big moment. She had only been talked about before and everything made her sound like an alcoholic and emotionally destroyed mess. And, sadly, her scene proves those descriptions to be accurate.

Her and Weiss barely interact like mother and daughter. Despite the fact that this is probably the first time the two have seen each other in so long, the two are emotionally and physically distant.

Even when Willow reveals she put secret camera throughout the house and managed to record his conversation with Watts, this isn’t empowering. It doesn’t show that she’s been playing him and plotting to expose him or anything. She did it out of paranoia and fear. She’s so broken that even with that damning evidence, it doesn’t look as if she was going to do anything with it until she ran into Weiss, leaving it to her daughter to expose Jacques.

There is a brief moment where we see her motherly instincts kick in, when she expresses relief that Weiss isn’t staying. She still cares for her daughter and wants the best for her, even if that means leaving.

It’s a short, sad scene that only further highlights how horrid Jacques is and makes you hope that, maybe some day, the Schnees can rebuild what he ruined, though there is one moment from this scene that I really don’t like.

Negative: Weiss is Blamed for Whitley’s Behaviour

This is a very minor moment, but it still rubs me the wrong way. As tragic of a character Willow is, I do not like how she implies that Weiss is, at least partially, to blame for how Whitley has turned out.

While I’m sure this was not the writers’ intention, her line of “You left him alone. With us” makes out as if Weiss abandoned her brother and that’s why he became the little, smug shit we met in Volume 4.

Admittedly, Willow bringing up that Whitley has been groomed by his father is an interesting point. Back in Volume 4, I simply wrote off his nasty and manipulative behaviour towards Weiss as him taking after his dad, never considering that he is still a child and only became like this because Jacques is the only family he really had, with his mother an alcoholic recluse and both of his sisters leaving the family home.

He is ultimately another victim of his father’s abuse and I’m glad the show acknowledged this and pointed it out to me. But I do not like how it tries to guilt Weiss and make out like her leaving him behind was a bad idea. You can’t fault her for wanting to escape.

Plus, we’ve never really been given any indication that Jacques hadn’t sunk his claws into Whitley before Weiss left. Given how they interacted in Volume 4, with Weiss at one point even saying that Whitley never liked her or Winter, it gave the impression that Whitley was always a little shit or Jacques began grooming him before either of the sisters left.

And like other potential subplots this volume, this is dropped before it really goes anywhere. Maybe with Jacques now in prison, the Schnees can begin rebuilding their relationships, but there’s already a lot happening and I can’t see this being touched upon that much or even at all.

Negative: Jacques Defeat

As gratifying as it was to finally see Weiss put Jacques in his place, to see him squirm and panic as everyone in the room sees him for the pathetic man that he is, and to see him get dragged to jail, I can’t help but find the whole thing rather underwhelming.

Ever since we got to see how horrid Jacques was and how he was ruining the Schnee family, I expected him to be a major antagonist for a volume, for his defeat to serve as an important moment in Weiss’ character arc. In the end, though, he becomes a patsy for Watts and his defeat is rather effortless.

Not to mention it’s clear that Weiss stopped being afraid of him a long time ago. Her confronting him, while great to see, was not a personal struggle for her, at least at this point in her life.

It felt like Weiss really had to take a backseat during the last couple of volumes, so I was expecting a lot more for her in Volume 7, with it being set in her home kingdom and her family coming back into the spotlight. But she really doesn’t get much focus here either and, as a fan of her character, I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed.

In retrospect, Jacques was likely never going to be a proper villain, especially with the likes of Watts and Tyrian around. Him being manipulated by Watts and then left hung out to dry was probably the most fitting way he could’ve gone.

I guess my disappointment stems from the fact that I felt this was going to be a major and climatic moment for Weiss, and it’s really just a smaller part of the actual main plot. Here’s hoping Weiss gets a lot more focus and stuff to do in Volume 8.

Positive/Negative: The Distrust Dissolves Really Quickly

A big part of this volume is Ironwood’s refusal to put his trust in people outside of his inner circle hurting the general public, resulting in everyone else distrusting him.

Eventually, it reaches a point where he’s left with no choice but to inform Robyn and the council exactly what is happening. And they… surprisingly accept it and immediately agree to work together?

Not gonna lie, this was rather surprising. Instead of there being some massive fallout over the reveal of Salem and why Ironwood was keeping secrets, everyone takes it surprisingly well. Even Robyn, who had plenty of reasons to resent Ironwood and refuse to work with him, is ready and willing to cooperate before he explains the whole truth based on what she learned from Blake and Yang.

Some might call this is unrealistic or rushed, and to a degree it kind of is, but there’s a reason why I’m also classing this as a positive. Let’s be real, in a lot of other media, having the main character finally confess and reveal their secrets, only to be met with “No, you’re still lying!” or “I can’t believe you hid this from us! We can’t trust you now!” has always been beyond irritating.

It would’ve been even worse here as Mantle is in the middle of being invaded by Grimm. If the characters did start to get pissy at each other, we’d have been screaming “Now is NOT the time!” Thankfully, the characters seem to acknowledge this too and simply prioritise dealing with the current problem and wait till afterwards to properly grasp and discuss the Salem issue.

The same goes for when Ironwood is told about how Salem can’t be killed. While he is distressed about it (and it possibly plays into his later actions), he bounces back pretty quickly and refocuses on protecting Mantle.

All of this was likely done because even the writers didn’t want this to potentially drag out and eat up time, especially with so much still to do before the volume’s end. It may be rushed, but it’s greatly appreciated. And besides, we still get a nasty and dramatic fallout later on.

Positive: Ironwood VS Watts

Considering Ironwood and Watts’ weapons are just guns, I was expecting a very simple confrontation between the two. And that wouldn’t have been a bad thing. RWBY is known for its fast, frantic fights, but I would’ve been fine with the two ducking in and out of cover, taking potshots at each other. Think of a fight between two snipers, something like that.

I figured it would make a neat change of pace and serve as a nice contrast to the Qrow, Clover, and Robyn VS Tyrian fight. Instead, we got easily the best fight in the volume and one of my new personal favourites in the whole series.

While Ironwood and Watts don’t exactly have interesting weapons, they make up for it by using them in somewhat interesting ways, such as Ironwood using the gunshots to launch himself and Watts actually counting the bullets fired.

But the key aspect to why this fight is so enjoyable is the environment used. Because it’s set in the Amity Colosseum, the area can change shape and new obstacles can be introduced, keeping it visually interesting. And what’s more, Watts himself is in complete control of it, forcing Ironwood to be forever aware of his own surroundings as he pursues Watts. The use of gravity, in particular, is my favourite aspect of the whole thing.

I’m also pleased with Watts’ fighting style, in that he doesn’t have one. Sure, he can throw a punch and knows how to fire a gun, but Ironwood obviously has him outclassed in terms of strength and skill, so he relies on his smarts and using his tech to manipulate the arena. Plus, it’s an utter treat to see the smug asshole getting decked in the face after being relatively untouchable for so long.

And all the while, you have the song Hero playing in the background, my favourite part of the official soundtrack. As much as I love Casey Lee Williams’ singing, her being the primary vocalist runs the risk of a lot of the songs blending together, so I’m glad they got guest singer Caleb Hyles to do this one and I hope they bring him back for more in the future.

Hyles just seems like the perfect pick for what is essentially Ironwood’s theme song, reflecting his desire to do whatever it takes to save people, regardless of the cost. But though he calls himself a hero, his words and the intensity behind them show that he is falling down a slippery slope.

TL;DR, this fight is so much fun to watch and definitely one of the best fights in the whole series thus far.

Positive: Salem’s One-Scene Wonder

It may only be a brief scene, but how can I not bring up Salem’s appearance in Ironwood’s office? Last time we saw Salem, she was something of an emotional wreck, having had her plans to retrieve the Relic from Haven foiled and learning Ozpin was still alive.

But here, her eerie calm composure has returned. What makes her particularly frightening in this scene is how comforting she sounds. She doesn’t come across like she’s threatening Ironwood, despite leaning over him. She almost sounds like a gentle mother promising to make everything better. Her facial animation almost makes her look the part too. I legit thought for a second that Ironwood would crumble and side with her to protect Atlas.

This scene has so much significance as well, as it’s Team RWBY’s first proper encounter with the main antagonist. And Ruby takes the opportunity to call her out, to show off her trademark defiance and let Salem know that they will defeat her, even if they can’t kill her.

And what does Salem do? Immediately snatch back control and break our hero with only 11 words.

“Your mother said those words to me. She was wrong too.”

… Holy shit. Aside from the heavy implications that Salem killed Summer, Ruby has no comeback and just breaks down crying, with her silver eyes flickering, as if she’s losing control of them.

The image of her mother gave Ruby strength in Volume 6‘s climax, but Salem managed to corrupt and tarnish it, turning it into a source of pain. Aside from being another reminder that Ruby is still a young girl thrust into a war, it somehow makes Salem even more villainous because, now, the heroes and audience have personal reasons to want to see her stopped.

And while it’s not the main focus of this moment, I love how Yang immediately rushes to hold her baby sister. Let’s not forget that Summer was Yang’s mum too, but if Yang is just as mortified as Ruby is, her big sister instincts take precedence.

Had Salem simply left with a warning or a quiet smile, it would’ve been nowhere near as effective as this. We’ve seen how she’s been able to emotionally cripple people before with Lionheart, but seeing her pull it off with our main hero goes to show that maybe finding a way to kill her isn’t as much of an issue if she can leave you in an emotional wreck before the fight’s even started.

Positive: Team RWBY VS the Ace-Ops

A fight between Team RWBY and the Ace-Ops felt inevitable, even long before the two teams found themselves on opposite sides. The new blood vs the old guard. The young, upcoming Huntresses vs their far more experienced mentors. And, boy, does it live up to expectations.

Aside from just being a really fun fight, with each member perfectly matched with their respective opponent (Ruby vs Harriet, Yang vs Elm etc.), it manages to subtly justify why Team RWBY wins through the classic “power of friendship” trope.

Team RWBY don’t just win because their beliefs are stronger than the Ace-Ops; they win because they are wholly united by a common goal. As for the Ace-Ops, while they all side with Ironwood, the group is still divided.

Elm and Marrow try to reason with their opponents, whereas Harriet and Elm treat Team RWBY like traitors and are just pissed, to the point where it almost seems like they’re actively trying to kill them. Marrow straight up tries to stop Harriet at one point for that exact reason.

While Team RWBY are undoubtedly stronger than before thanks to their training, the Ace-Ops’ lack of unity is what ultimately brings about their downfall and I appreciate that this is demonstrated naturally through the characters’ actions and dialogue.

Not to mention, as I said, the fight’s just a lot of fun to watch. My personal highlights include Blake and Yang’s team up moves, like Blake using one of her shadows to hide some of Yang’s grenades and Ruby and Harriet’s super speed showdown, with it anticlimactically ending with Harriet running into a wall of ice and knocking herself out.

If I had to complain about one thing, I feel like Harriet’s personality does a bit of a 180. Like, she suddenly becomes needlessly mean and kind of nasty, which wasn’t really hinted at. But, at the same time, I weirdly kind of like it. Harriet’s been a pretty nice mentor to Ruby, so to see that maybe her niceties weren’t entirely true or that she’s secretly resented the idea of somebody else being just as fast as her is a tad interesting, though that’s all speculation on my part.

Almost makes me want to see her come back as a straight up villain in Volume 8, obsessed with taking down the girl that humiliated her. Then again, Ruby’s already got two other women out to get revenge on her; she doesn’t need a third. Speaking of which…

Positive: Neo VS Team JNR + Oscar

Okay, I wasn’t originally going to focus on this, but my inner Neo fanboy has wrested control of my body and here I am. There’s nothing all that special about this encounter; I just find it fun to watch, mostly because of Neo.

While I hesitate to call it a one-sided fight, Neo is very much in control throughout most of it. She doesn’t even appear to be taking it that seriously; the one part where she expresses mock surprise before dodging a lunge from Ren is a delight.

The best part is when a separated Oscar appears to be saved by Nora from some guards. We only get a brief glimpse of her, but the way she moved off-screen had me screaming “WAIT THAT’S NEO!” It’s impressive how the animators have made her movements so distinct that an eagle-eyed viewer can figure out when she’s disguised as someone else.

Not much else to say except I hope to see her do more in the next volume.

Positive: Qrow & Clover’s Friendship

When Clover revealed that his Semblance caused good luck, I was fully expecting Qrow to be jealous of him; to resent the fact that there was somebody out there perpetually blessed while he was cursed to forever bring misfortune.

But to my delightful surprise, the exact opposite happened. Instead, the two rather quickly became very good friends and I much preferred this. Not necessarily because I found the friendship to be particularly deep, but because of what it gave Qrow.

Volume 6 was not kind to him, with Ozpin’s ‘truth’ sending his self-loathing and self-destructive tendencies into overdrive. Thankfully, things appeared to be improving for him by the end and Volume 7 later confirms that he’s going teetotal, which is a nice bit of minor development.

But, while it’s never outright stated, Clover offers him somebody who can balance his Semblance out. Part of Qrow’s isolation was brought about because his bad luck power affects his friends too, but he doesn’t need to worry about that with Clover.

It’s not just the powers, either. Clover becomes a legitimate friend throughout the course of the volume, as demonstrated as they play cards during one scene. And when Qrow deflects a compliment, Clover calls him out and effectively assures him that he has worth; that he has achieved things to be proud of. It’s brief, but the sentiment is there.

You could maybe make an argument that, considering the Ace-Ops are strictly co-workers, Clover saw in Qrow an opportunity to make a genuine friend as well rather than just another colleague.

I was honestly expecting Qrow to possibly choose to remain in Atlas in the future, since his friendship with Clover would give him a place he could belong and not be in a constant state of anxiety. But, that turned out to not be the case.

Positive/Negative: Qrow & Tyrian VS Clover

On paper, this fight is conceptually really good and I think it still manages to hit the emotional beats it was aiming for. Despite their strong friendship, Qrow and Clover’s ideologies are incompatible, thanks to Clover prioritising his loyalty to Ironwood. Whether it’s because he thinks Ironwood’s in the right or because he’s simply following his orders doesn’t matter and it results in the two having to fight.

And then Tyrian steps in to make an already complicated fight even more so. Now, personally, I’m always a sucker for when heroes and villains are forced into a situation where they have to cooperate, so I was all onboard for Qrow and Tyrian teaming up. Hell, I was onboard with Qrow VS Clover period, since their Semblances would cancel each other out, meaning Clover is forced to rely on his own skills without his good luck safety net.

However, this led to complaints from some fans about how Qrow was an idiot for even thinking of teaming up with him considering… you know, Tyrian’s a psycho serial killer, effectively making it his fault that Clover winds up dead.

But I have to 100% disagree. In my opinion, Clover is the one at fault. When Tyrian attempts to step into the fight, Qrow immediately shifts targets, recognising Tyrian as the greater threat. And what does Clover do? Interrupt him and disrupt his attack. And this isn’t the only time either. There are a couple moments when Qrow attempts to attack Tyrian and Clover keeps getting in the way.

I understand that Clover is meant to be incredibly by-the-book and his insistence on following Ironwood’s orders is what leads to his downfall, but I really struggle to buy that even he would prioritise fighting his former friend over the known murderer.

No wonder Qrow was forced to cooperate with Tyrian. Maybe you could attribute it to his overconfidence because of his Semblance, but then I think that should’ve been made more clear. To me, it looked like he either saw Qrow as the bigger threat or he thought “Well, Ironwood’s orders were to arrest Qrow, not Tyrian, so I’ll leave the incredibly dangerous scorpion man that took three of us to defeat last time for later,” which is still stupid.

Like I said, I still enjoyed the fight itself and, while I hope it doesn’t cause Qrow’s character to regress in the future (just let him be happy, writers!), Clover’s death was as heartbreaking and tragic as it wanted to be (that silhouette shot of Tyrian stabbing him was stunning IMO). It just could’ve been handled so much better and not feel like it came about out of stupidity rather than poor circumstances and bad luck.

Positive: Ironwood’s Arc

I’m not going to mince words – Ironwood’s arc is the lynchpin of Volume 7. While it would have been very easy to have Ironwood become a villainous dictator from the outset and serve as the volume’s primary antagonist, the writers opted to do something more interesting but trickier.

Their goal was to establish Ironwood as a good person making awful decisions. The very first episode showed that Ironwood’s actions weren’t really benefitting anyone in the short term and, by the end of it, our heroes were arrested by his personal Ace-Ops squad. All in all, it was not a good look.

But once the heroes and audience see him in Episode 2, he’s not some tormented supervillain monologuing about how it’s all for their own good and how if they’re not with him, they’re against him.

He’s cordial, he’s friendly, he even chuckles a bit when he learns how the kids stole a ship, and gives Qrow a sincere hug. That last one’s a big deal considering it had been long established that these two don’t really get along.

And to top it all off, his plan’s honestly pretty good. He realised that Ozpin’s secret keeping was more detrimental than beneficial and decided to build a satellite to re-establish communications and inform the world of Salem’s existence. He knows that it would send people into a panic, but giving the world an enemy to unite against makes sense.

But, ironically, his decision to keep said plan a secret to everyone besides his closest allies makes him appear untrustworthy and it results in a lot of peoples’ lives being upended and on the verge of ruin.

As I wrote earlier, the show never vindicates Ironwood’s actions, but it doesn’t try to make him appear as unreasonable. He may be a capable leader, but his actions and emotions reveal that he’s ultimately a single, scared man who is struggling to deal with the weight of the situation he’s in.

He knows he’s ruining lives, he knows people see him as the bad guy, and the stress of it all is getting to him. To get through it all, he tells himself and everyone else that it will all be worth it in the long run. As long as his plans lead to Salem’s defeat, he’ll do whatever it takes.

The show does a really good job at making Ironwood a tragic figure, someone who is constantly teetering on the edge into becoming an antagonist. You want to see him overcome his own fears and eventually be won over to the heroes’ way of thinking, and it looks like that’s what happens when he finally agrees to work with Robyn.

And that’s why it’s even more tragic when, in the end, his fears do take him over. Salem showing up at Atlas’ doorstep leads him to decide that sacrifices are necessary. If hundreds of innocent people have to be left to die in order for everyone else to have a fighting chance against Salem, then needs must.

I especially love the symbolism used for Ironwood’s turn. His being half machine already fit his rather cold demeanour and then, during his fight with Watts, he chooses to sacrifice his human arm to finally win. In a way, he already proved that he was ready to throw away his humanity to achieve his goals.

I also love his parallels with Lionheart. Both of them were firm allies of Ozpin who ultimately betray him and/or his values and are dark reflections of the characters they’re based on.

Unlike the Cowardly Lion from Wizard of Oz, Lionheart had no hidden courage and was just a coward. The Tin Man yearned to feel emotions, particularly love, but Ironwood clearly deems his emotions a hindrance, a weakness, and chooses to discard any empathy or compassion he may have.

And finally, it’s important to note how Ironwood, despite his constant insistence that he be trusted, has no proper understanding of how trust works. Trust is the core theme of Volume 7 and things don’t really work out for the heroes until they start trusting in one another.

But what Ironwood seeks isn’t trust – it’s loyalty, it’s obedience. Despite Blake and Yang leaking his plans to Robyn and that eventually resulting in her being more willing to hear him out and help, he expresses anger that they disobeyed his orders and sees it as a violation of his ‘trust.’

And when Ruby attempts to warn the others about his plans to abandon Mantle, he disables her scroll, – the one he gifted her I should add – an act that shows that he never really trusted her or the others either, finally revealing him for the hypocrite he is.

And if that wasn’t enough, in order to firmly establish the path he’s chosen to walk, he offhandedly shoots Oscar, a literal child, with the express intention of killing him. All with the coldest of expressions on his face.

Had Ironwood’s character arc failed, I think Volume 7 as a whole would’ve fallen apart. Thankfully, the writers’ gamble paid off and I find Ironwood to be one of the best written characters in the whole show. And I’m very eager to see where the path he’s chosen will take him, whether he somehow crawls out of the darkness or only further embraces it.

Conclusion

Volume 7 could’ve gone so wrong had its narrative and themes be mishandled in the slightest and I’m thankful that it didn’t. It’s far from perfect and I’d argue that, unlike Volume 5, it had too much going on, with several sub-plots being underdeveloped. There are even aspects that I chose to skip over in this review because I felt like I had nothing to really explore or discuss beyond “This is good” or “This isn’t good” (e.g. Cinder’s scenes near the end).

But what we do have works, the important moments are as effective as they should be, and it achieves in showing a complex scenario where the solutions aren’t easy, making it what I consider to be one of RWBY‘s best volumes so far.

In fact, let’s do something knew and rank the volumes from best to worst to see how it stands against the others.

  1. Volume 3
  2. Volume 6
  3. Volume 7
  4. Volume 4
  5. Volume 2
  6. Volume 1
  7. Volume 5

Between Penny becoming the Winter Maiden, Ironwood’s turn, Qrow’s arrest, Cinder getting the lamp, and Salem herself descending onto the battlefield, Volume 7‘s conclusion promises big things for Volume 8. I have no idea what is going to happen and that is very exciting.

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