Directed by Paula Decanini & Kerry Shawcross
Watts: I hope you do, James. I hope you do.
Between Watts, Tyrian, and the seemingly endless swarm of Grimm, evil is encroaching on our heroes from all sides. The biggest threat, however, may be hiding where they least expect it.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Arrow Catch: Tyrian spends much of his fight with Qrow, Clover and Robyn catching Robyn's arrows out of thin air. Eventually, he catches one with his teeth. This time, however, Robyn has anticipated the catch and fired an explosive bolt. As soon as he catches it, it flashes and then explodes in his face.
- Batman Gambit: When Ironwood defeats Watts, he states that he's willing to sacrifice anything to defeat Salem. Although defeated, Watts indicates with satisfaction that he hopes Ironwood does exactly that. Although Cinder didn't know Salem had made Atlas her target, she capitalizes on the situation to leave a black queen chess piece in Ironwood's office, hoping his fear will trigger him into giving away the Winter Maiden's secret location by sending Winter there. Not only is Cinder right but, when Salem manifests in Ironwood's office, she states that Watts' plan never included victory. Ironwood's paranoid behavior has ensured she got what she wanted: chaos in Mantle, divisions between potential allies, and the ability to destroy Atlas's long-range sensors to allow an army led by Salem to approach the kingdom without being detected.
- Big Sister Instinct: When Salem uses the fate of Ruby's mother against her, Ruby collapses to the ground, sobbing. Yang rushes to her side and cradles Ruby's head on her lap to comfort her.
- Brains Evil, Brawn Good: Invoked by Watts when he points out that "his brain and Ironwood's brawn are evenly matched". Ironwood is clearly the superior fighter, but Watts' control of the environment by hacking the stage set-up keeps the General off-foot, and nearly kills him several times. Ironwood only wins by being reckless enough to sabotage his own strength to achieve victory.
- Break Them by Talking: Played with between three characters until it's finally played straight. Salem attempts to convince Ironwood to surrender peacefully without putting up a resistance; while she backs a visibly fearful Ironwood into a corner, she doesn't manage to break his nerve. Ruby quickly intervenes to target Salem, stating that the Relic of Knowledge told them everything about her and that, while they know Salem cannot be destroyed, they do know she can fail and be defeated. Although Salem loses her smile at Ruby's words, she calmly replies that this is exactly what Ruby's mother said, and that she was wrong. Salem suddenly using Summer against her causes Ruby to collapse to the floor in tears.
- Blunt "Yes": When Blake points out that by moving Atlas high into the atmosphere Ironwood would be abandoning Mantle to die, Ironwood's response is a direct and terrifyingly calm "Yes, I would."
- Call-Back: When Ruby first fought Cinder in Volume 2, the latter's weapons were made of black glass. She reported to Ozpin, Glynda and Ironwood that the masked intruder she fought used black glass but she wasn't sure it was the wielder's Semblance. When Ruby sees the black queen on Ironwood's desk, she realises it's made of black glass and points out that it has to be Cinder.
- Cliffhanger: The episode sets up a lot of plot and conflict for the next episode, due to Cinder watching Winter to locate the Winter Maiden, Salem revealing she's on her way to Atlas and could arrive at any minute, and Ironwood turning on Team RWBY to arrest them for lying, insubordination and leaking intel. However, the episode doesn't end on any of those situations. It ends on the reveal that Jaune, Ren and Nora have reached their dorm room only to find it scarred from battle and a pile of dead Atlesian knights on the floor: Oscar and the Relic of Knowledge are missing.
- Counting Bullets: Watts counts his own bullets as a sign of his efficiency and sharp mind. When Ironwood tackles him to the floor and both their Auras break, Watts holds his gun up to Ironwood's head in a stand-off, at which point Ironwood reveals that he was counting too and Watts is out of ammo. Watts then reveals he knows, throwing Ironwood briefly off-guard, just long enough for Watts to trap Ironwood's arm in a hardlight shield.
- Defiant to the End: By the end of their fight, Ironwood has overpowered Watts, who was last seen being held by the neck over a volcanic biome by the former. Even with the latter being held dead to rights with Ironwood declaring that he "will sacrifice whatever it takes to stop Salem", Watts is unfazed. He simply grins, spits out blood, and states he hope that's true.
- Determinator: When Watts locks Ironwood's arm in a hardlight shield, he states that Ironwood will be facing the possibility of adding even more metal to his body if he doesn't stop trying to escape the trap. Ironwood then pulls his arm free of the shield, ripping all the skin of his entire arm and capturing a startled Watts. He informs Watts that he will do anything to stop Salem and protect Atlas, his shredded arm acting a a visual sign of just how far he's willing to go to keep that vow.
- Didn't See That Coming: The protagonists know that Salem's forces have been working to divide Mantle and Atlas, and successfully capture Tyrian and Watts, as well as discovering Jacques' role in enabling Watts to achieve his goals. However, none of them have any idea that Cinder is in town until they find a black queen chess piece sitting on Ironwood's desk which is made from Cinder's signature black glass. This causes Ironwood to begin second-guessing everything they've done to this point while Team RWBY react with shock because they were under the impression that Cinder was dead.
- Disc-One Final Boss: Watts and Tyrian have been the primary antagonists of the volume so far, but their capture results in Salem revealing that they were simply a decoy to distract the protagonists from the main course: her. The protagonists also find out that Cinder's in town after she leaves a black queen sitting on Ironwood's desk and Ironwood turns on Team RWBY for their lying and leaking of intel. The final two episodes are therefore set up for Cinder, Neo and Ironwood to be the primary threats.
- Dissonant Serenity: When Ironwood is describing his plans to launch Atlas into the atmosphere, abandon Mantle to the Grimm and declare martial law, his voice is calm. Too calm. When Blake states he'll be abandoning Mantle to die, his face becomes serenely blank of emotion and he calmly states he knows.
- Divided We Fall: Cinder breaking into Ironwood's office drives him into a paranoid frenzy, and he declares martial law and orders Mantle to be abandoned. This turns him and Team RWBY, nominally allies against Salem, against each other.
- Driven by Envy: This was ultimately Watts's reason for betraying Ironwood: Watts felt he was always passed over for that "fat imbecile", Pietro. He therefore wanted revenge against Ironwood for not recognising his genius.Watts: You never appreciated my genius, James! You just stood on top of it and called yourself a giant!Ironwood: I gave everything you could have wanted!Watts: You chose that fat imbecile over me!
- Faux Affably Evil: In a gentle, almost motherly tone, Salem tries to offer a Deal with the Devil to Ironwood, promising to end Atlas's suffering if he hands her the Staff of Creation and the Lantern of Knowledge. Ironwood and Team RWBY don't fall for it one bit.
- Near the end of their fight, Ironwood burns his flesh arm to get Watts, declaring that he will sacrifice anything to stop Salem. When he learns that Salem herself is on her way, he decides to sacrifice Mantle so as to keep Atlas and the Relics out of her reach.
- When Ironwood calls the Teams back from Mantle before the evacuations are complete, RWBY and JNR worry about his reasons. The Ace-Ops on the other hand insist that they not question the general's orders. This is to set up the conflict in the second half of the episode; RWBY's well-meaning disobedience towards Ironwood's authority, and the Ace-Ops' unflinching loyalty to him.
- From Bad to Worse: After Watts and Tyrian are dealt with, Ironwood and the Ace-Ops discover that the long range sensors on Atlas's coast are offline - meaning that either Watts shut them down, or that they've been destroyed already. Ironwood then decides to declare martial law and abandon the city of Mantle completely before the evacuations are finished, and leaves his office as the Ace-Ops hold Team RWBY within to prevent their interference. On top of it, Team JNR discovers that Oscar and the Lantern of Knowledge are missing.
- Gravity Screw: Watts spends most of his duel with Ironwood running away, using his control over the arena's staging to throw the general off while he chases after him, particularly manipulating gravity.
- Hope Spot: A third of the way into the episode, things are looking incredibly optimistic. Watts is defeated, Tyrian is in custody, and the citizens of Mantle are being evacuated to safety in Atlas. When Ironwood is being told this, he stops as he enters his office to just sigh and even starts smiling. Then he discovers the Black Queen chess piece in his office, and everything quickly goes downhill from there.
- Internal Reveal: The chess piece planted in Ironwood's office is made of black glass. Ruby identifying the material is what alerts the heroes to the fact that Cinder is alive and active in Atlas. The audience found out she had arrived in Atlas in Chapter 10, and knew she was still alive and active in Volume 6.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: After numerous volumes of unnerving behaviour, Ironwood's rage at Blake, Yang and Ruby's lies after Cinder infiltrated his office finally drives him to declare martial law and abandon Mantle — especially after the Ace-Ops discover that the long-range defenses along Solitas's coast are offline. By the end of the episode, Ruby tries to warn her allies that Ironwood needs to be stopped before Ironwood cuts her comm and has Team RWBY arrested.
- Jump Scare: Everyone arguing about the right and wrong course of action to take causes a Seer Grimm to jump out of Watts's briefcase almost into Ironwood's face.
- Life-or-Limb Decision: At the end of their fight, Watts manages to trap Ironwood's non-cybernetic arm in a Hardlight barrier, which will severely burn it should he try to move it out. While Watts seems to think he's in the clear, Ironwood rips his arm out of the shield, tearing off all of the skin in the process. He then defeats Watts with his remaining cybernetic arm.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: When Ironwood leaves to declare martial law in Atlas and abandon Mantle, Team RWBY try to stop him, only for the Ace-Ops to get in the way. Neither team is happy about this, especially Marrow, but the Ace-Ops are loyal to Ironwood and they must follow his orders.
- The Needs of the Many: Upon discovering that Cinder is in town and has left a black queen on his desk, Ironwood concludes that Salem has been one step ahead of them the entire time and, when Salem herself manifests to reveal that she's on the way to Atlas as they speak, Ironwood completely changes his strategy. He orders Winter to take the Maiden powers from Fria instead of waiting for Fria to die a natural death, he decides to implement martial law and to raise Atlas so high into the sky that the Grimm won't be able to reach it, abandoning Mantle to die in the process. His argument is that evacuation has exhausted his army, if they try and protect both cities they'll only lose both cities, but if they try to protect one city, they can at least save that much and prevent Salem from obtaining the Winter Maiden and the Relics. Ace-Ops supports his decision with Vine observing that sometimes, a battle needs to be lost to win the war.
- Now That's Using Your Teeth!: After catching Robyn's crossbow bolts in various different ways throughout the fight, Tyrian finally catches one between his teeth. However, Robyn actually fired an explosive bolt that time, so the bolt blows up in Tyrian's face.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Watts' eyes widen in shock and horror when Ironwood escapes his force field, despite having to rip the skin off his arm in the process.
- Tyrian is shocked when he catches one of Robyn's arrows... only for said arrow to start ticking, right before it explodes in his teeth.
- Ironwood freaks out and drops his bag in a panic when he returns to his office after defeating Watts to find a black queen on his desk.
- Sadistic Choice: Salem's threat to arrive personally with an army of Grimm and Cinder's presence in Atlas forces Ironwood to make a choice: hold his ground against an insurmountable foe to continue an evacuation that will leave the kingdom defenceless against the new threat or abandon Mantle to secure the relics and the Winter Maiden and ensure at least one of the two cities can be protected. He chooses the latter, arguing that at least something can be protected that way.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Team RWBY feels that Ironwood's decision to abandon Mantle is wrong. They thus disobey Ironwood's orders; Ruby puts out a call to Qrow, Team JNR, Winter and Penny warning them of the plan to abandon Mantle and that Salem is coming. Before Ruby can finish, however, Ironwood cuts off her signal and has the Ace-Ops arrest Team RWBY.
- Shut Up, Kirk!: Ruby stands up to Salem, confidently declaring they know everything about her thanks to the Relic of Knowledge and she may be immortal, but she's still fallible and can be stopped. Salem completely destroys Ruby's confidence and leaves her on the ground in tears by revealing that Summer Rose said the exact same thing and was wrong.
- Spiteful Spit: Watts spits out a bit of bloody spittle when Ironwood holds him by the neck over a volcanic pit.
- Tempting Fate: After trapping Ironwood's arm in a Dust forcefield, Watts taunts him, saying that he'd have to be willing to flay all the skin off his arm to escape. He's shocked when Ironwood does exactly that.
- Trick-and-Follow Ploy: Cinder deliberately plants a black queen on Ironwood's desk to trigger his paranoia about how many of Salem's forces are in Atlas and whether all his decisions to date have played right into Salem's hands. In his paranoia, he orders Winter to go to the Winter Maiden and take Fria's power. This is exactly what Cinder was waiting for; having been watching Winter ever since planting the chess piece, she is able to follow Winter in the hopes of being led to the Winter Maiden, whose location she didn't know.
- Uncertain Doom: Watts's status after his battle with Ironwood isn't stated, and he was last seen held over a volcanic biome of the Amity Colosseum with his Aura shattered and James clearly ready to kill him.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Ironwood realises Salem's forces are stronger than he thought and that she's approaching with an army while Cinder is somewhere in the city, Ironwood becomes dangerously authoritarian. He decides to enact martial law and send Atlas higher into the atmosphere to outfly the ability of the Grimm to reach it. He intends to abandon the city of Mantle to die in the hopes of saving Atlas and the two Relics. The heroes try to call out Ironwood for all the thousands of deaths he's going to cause in Mantle because of this, and Ruby eventually tries to get a message out to her allies that Ironwood needs to be stopped. However, he cuts her communication and has the Ace-Ops arrest Team RWBY.
- Wipe the Floor with You: Ironwood finishes his fight by shoving Watts to the arena floor and dragging him to the edge by his face, scratching it messily, before following up with a Neck Lift over a volcanic terrain.
Ironwood: I know.