Blake was right. The real world isn't the same as a fairytale. So, don't be fooled by the lighthearted humor, optimism, and laid-back animation style; RWBY is much heavier than it seems.
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- The Volume 5 Weiss Character Short counts as awesome for the first half as Weiss gracefully fights a swarm of summoned Grimm, but then she gets overwhelmed. She shouts for Winter, and they all disappear. Weiss can only meekly apologize for slipping up, and Winter is clearly disappointed in her little sister's inadequacy. Then she wakes with a start on the plane to Haven. Weiss may have finally escaped her family's tyranny, but she's not mentally out of the woods yet.Winter: *sigh* I won't always be around to save you, Weiss.
Weiss: I'm sorry. I'll get better.
Winter: You'll have to if you ever want to leave.
- Blake's Volume 5 Character Short sees Ilia and Blake discussing the former's reasons for joining the White Fang. Ilia explains how she 'felt like a princess' attending a school in Atlas. By her own admission, she did everything she could to fit in, to the point of insulting other Faunus. It was all rendered moot when a dust mining accident made the news, the implication being that Ilia's parents were among the victims. Ilia is ousted as a Faunus when her skin changes in response to her open grief, coupled with her classmates snickering at the thought of Faunus dying. Then she retaliated against her former friends by breaking their teeth.
- The Volume 6 Adam Character Short:
- The White Fang convoy carrying Ghira, Adam, Sienna, and Ilia gets stopped while just trying to pass through a town, by simple racist citizens. For all the times the audience has heard about Faunus discrimination, this is the first time it's shown on-screen in such a direct, real way.
- There is a firsthand demonstration of Adam's emotional abuse of Blake. Not only does he bring up her parents' abandonment of the White Fang, causing her to deflate and becoming submissive, he then falsely apologizes for it, and tries to make himself out to be the victim. It's a sickening, yet realistic tactic used by abusers.
- After she takes the reins of the White Fang, Sienna is shown to be incredibly supportive and kind to Adam. For all she believes it to be a Villainous Friendship, the viewers know it will end her betrayal and murder. Her last words to him even poetically foreshadow it.Sienna Khan: Adam... if you continue along this path, you might just find yourself standing beside me at my throne.
- Despite Adam having repeatedly shown what a complete and utter bastard he is, his haggard trek into the wilderness following his failed invasion of Haven Academy may elicit some sympathy; he began as a passionate advocate of civil justice for the Faunus, before his eventual transformation into a vindictive terrorist. With his faction of the White Fang now in shambles, his subsequent abandonment of his Grimm mask just cements how truly alone he is now.
- The fight between Blake and Weiss, and Ruby and Yang's sheer helplessness in the face of it, reveals to the audience how racists are made and not born. Weiss's family has been fighting a war with the White Fang for as long as she can remember; even as a child she heard of board members being murdered, and her father's method of handling the stress is to take it out on his family. She hates the White Fang and mistrusts Faunus because they've made her life a living hell, and Blake visibly flinches when Weiss describes an incident that may well have been the Black Trailer. However, the White Fang only came into existence because humans were oppressing Faunus, with the Schnee Dust Company inflicting cruelty, abuse, and near-slavery on its Faunus workers. It's clear to the audience that Weiss and Blake have been victims of a vicious cycle that will only keep going if they can't rise above it. The scene ending with a fleeing Blake pausing under Beacon's heroic courtyard statue in tears helps lock in for the audience what a sobering and tragic reveal this is for these two characters and why they behave the way they do.
Welcome To Beacon
- Blake's worry over the White Fang's plans. Even after Blake had previously agreed to let the team know if anything was worrying her, she had to be pushed by Weiss into voicing her concerns. This implies that Blake still doesn't completely trust her teammates, which says a lot about how she grew up.
- Ozpin's final words to a departed Ironwood are spoken directly to the camera, so the audience hears him but Ironwood doesn't. His tone makes it clear that he wishes for nothing more then to spare his students from the burdens that they will inevitably have to face. It also implies that he has more war experience than the general does. They both know a war of some kind is coming, but while Ironwood is doubting the ability of the students to be capable of fighting it, Ozpin is desperate to spare the students from fighting it at all. Spoken to audience as it is, it acts as a warning: Ozpin knows how bad things are going to get and is telling the audience to brace for it.Ironwood: But, ask yourself this: do you honestly believe your children can win a war?
Ozpin: [quietly] ...I hope they never have to.
- When Ozpin is debriefing Blake in flashback, he has a sad tone and demeanour. He closes the conversation saying, with the most anguished look on his face, "If you ever feel the need to talk, don't hesitate to ask". Ozpin seems to be genuinely concerned about Blake's situation, reveals he sees right through her Paper-Thin Disguise and knows she's a Faunus. More than anything, it's very clear to the audience that he's extremely worried about what the heroes are involved in, and it's just as clear that Blake isn't simply ignoring this; she doesn't recognise it for what it is — which makes sense; Beacon is her first experience since fleeing the White Fang of a supportive environment that genuinely cares about the wellbeing of people, including Faunus; despite her promise to Weiss at the end of Volume 1, she clearly still has trouble believing that she's in such an environment.
A Minor Hiccup
- Penny just seems pretty terrified throughout the episode, and like she genuinely wants to tell Ruby but doesn't know if she can trust her, or anyone. The sheer desperation in her voice as she begs Ruby to promise that they're friends. It's clear just how terrified she is that Ruby will abandon her once she learns that Penny is a Robot Girl.
- Weiss trying and failing to fake a smile at the thought of talking to her father. As of this episode, the extent of his treatment of her isn't clear, but this scene makes it absolutely clear to the audience that interacting with her own family requires her to steel herself and fake being happy to see them. It's also clear that the extent of the family's unhappiness is not well-known through the behaviour of the SDC administrator, who assumes Weiss comes from a normal family and therefore tries to insist on putting her in touch with her father or sister under the assumption she's being helpful. Weiss's polite, evasive refusals to such innocence requests emphasises that she comes from a very screwed up family environment.
Painting The Town...
- Torchwick quickly wins over the crowd of Faunus by acknowledging that he's not a good person and pointing out their common enemy: "the ones in control". While Torchwick is likely lying to win them over, it really says a lot about their lot in life that all he has to do is just remind them of that and they're willing to work with a known criminal who doesn't even try to hide his own Fantastic Racism against them.
- Blake's explanation of why the White Fang wear Grimm masks as a symbol of becoming the very monsters humanity tries to portray them as. It's a sad reflection of how far the White Fang has fallen from its once-noble goals, and another hint that Adam was a very bad influence on her and the organisation.
- Poor Blake is not faring well after the last episode. She's dozed off during sparring trials, seems too tired to even keep up with the girls walking, has baggy eyes from a lack of sleep, doesn't want to eat, coldly turns down Sun's invite to the dance citing they both have better things to do, and ignores her team's suggestion that she go to the dance to let off some steam. Volume 2 is shaping Blake up to be one of the biggest Woobies in the show.
Burning The Candle
- The exhausted, feeble Blake insists she can fight against evils like Torchwick, while Yang, fighting back tears and desperate for her teammate to stop self-destructing, shouts that Blake can't even budge a 17-year-old girl. It really shows how much these Huntresses-to-be just want each other's support in the middle of an uncertain moment.
- Jaune's reaction to Weiss asking Neptune to the dance. It's subtle, but screams his pain. It can definitely strike a chord with people who know what it's like to be rejected by someone who will never like them the way they'd want.
Dance Dance Infiltration
- Weiss trying and failing to neaten the single drooping flower in the vase. The flower taking the same shape as Jaune's discarded one makes it clear to the audience that Weiss is using her perfectionism to hide how upset she is that Neptune turned her down.
- Pyrrha's story about her life before JNPR. It's a thought-provoking exploration of how the best intentions can cause hidden harm to people you love. The consequences of loving support that pushed her to be the best she could be because they had such faith in her, have left her isolated, lonely and unable to form real relationships. In Beacon, where she's isolated from that previous support, she can finally form relationships. It really brings home the real life saying that a person never knows what's going on in another person's life — some of the most successful-seeming or happy-seeming people can be hiding terrible personal circumstances.
Search and Destroy
- Oobleck asks Weiss, Yang and Blake just why they had chosen to lead the life of Huntresses. When none of the three can give a solid answer, he looks genuinely disappointed. When Ruby asks him the question, Oobleck sadly talking about the lives that could have been saved and the conflicts that could have been prevented if people would just understand each other and learn from each other's mistakes. Until this point, the idea of being a Huntress has been portrayed as fun and glamorous, with only Ozpin engimatically hinting that the reality is different. Oobleck isn't enigmatic, laying out for the audience just how people can be their own worst enemy, and just how important Huntsmen really are to this world — not just as protectors of lives, but as ambassadors and symbols of how much better the world — and humanity itself — could really be. He's not just asking Team RWBY to rethink their attitude towards Huntsmen, he's asking the audience to, as well.
- Blake's interpretation of herself as a coward. Whenever she came across a situation she didn't like, or know how to respond to, she just ran. When Adam became more extreme in his methods, she ran. When her friends found out she was a Faunus, she ran. Her Semblance just reinforces her self-belief: she creates a copy to take the hit... while she runs. It's hard not to feel bad for her.
- The story behind Mountain Glenn: Grimm overran the city, forcing people to live underground in a last-ditch attempt at survival; then subterranean Grimm broke through, and Vale sealed off the tunnels to create the world's largest tomb. Normally a fast talker, Oobleck slows down as he describes the events. Before, in every scene he'd been appeared in, he's always kept up a very quick pace in all speech; even when he's calm, he'll maintain his rapid speech. Here? There are many long pauses within his sentences. The impact this leaves is rather jarring.
- The opening begins with a rose petal falling from the sky and landing on a lone rose while the text "Created by Monty Oum" appears, backed by slow piano music right before said rose is crushed by an army of Grimm. It's then followed by flashes of people struggling with emotionally-charged moments until it ends on Team RWBY slumped back-to-back in a circle underneath a Dramatic Spotlight: three of them look defeated, and only Ruby's head is raised with none of her usual optimism. The sequence creates a depressive, fatigued atmosphere for the audience, emphasized by the lyrics.
- There'll be no rest, there'll be no love,
There'll be no hero in the end who'll rise above,
And when it ends, the good will crawl,
The shining light will sink in darkness,
Victory for hate incarnate,
Misery and pain for all,
When it falls...
- Nora's nervous breakdown is comically over the top, but slips a truthbomb in the middle with the reveal that she and Ren are orphans whose only home is Beacon. It kills the comedy for the audience, who now know that Nora's cheerful energy is hiding a very sad story and insecurity.
- While Qrow speaks of it with pride, the sorry state of his team's photo implies he's been through a lot of pain with the disappearance of half his team. He calls them the "coolest team that ever has ever graduated Beacon", but there are tear-stains on the photo.
- Seeing Pyrrha grow increasingly scared, uncertain, and generally nervous around the headmasters she once wholeheartedly trusted and respected is hard to watch. She seems on the verge of tears as she speaks with Ozpin, Goodwitch, Ironwood, and Qrow; a far cry for her normally composed demeanor. She might be an ace in the world of Remnant, a pro at fighting, a world renowned champion, but she's still an innocent 17-year-old girl who was happily enjoying her everyday life with her friends - the weight of the choice to become the next Fall Maiden is clearly something she wasn't prepared to face.
- Yang getting goaded into breaking Mercury's leg. What the spectators see is Yang attacking him for no reason, just to rub in her victory, and they subsequently start booing and jeering her. That includes everyone who watched the tournament which is broadcasted worldwide. Her angrily telling Mercury he deserved it doesn't help in the viewers' eyes, despite Yang believing she acted in self-defense. On top of that, Yang is arrested. Her confused, terrified expressions as it dawns upon her what just happened, and the shocked expressions of her teammates sell it. All while a somber piano version of "I Burn" plays in the background. Easily one the saddest endings in the series thus far.
Beginning of the End
- It was sad enough just learning about Amber's situation in the prior episode, being a young woman in coma who is barely clinging to life. This episode shows that the events that caused her state started because she stopped to help what she thought was an injured and crying little girl.
- The circumstances by which Mercury meets Cinder and Emerald - his father dead by his own hands. According to Merc, Qrow smells like "my dad after a long day", implying that his dad was an abusive drunk. While his anger is understandable, to think that he was willing to kill his own father just to escape the abuse, explains why Merc is so nonchalant about taking life.
- Beacon's reputation is being questioned by the citizens after what happened with Yang. It's a school that exists to teach people how to fight with honor and nobility to protect humanity's very existence from the Grimm. Cinder's machinations have turned the population against the very organization that is trying to protect them.
- Ironwood really doesn't want to kick Team RWBY out of the tournament. He seems to truly hope that Yang was hallucinating and jerks his right shoulder as he mournfully observes that warriors sometimes see things that simply aren't there, even after the fight has passed. He's obviously caught up in a bad memory and is associating the situation with something bad that happened in his own past. It leaves the audience with the impression that, as bad as Yang's situation is, something even worse has happened to Ironwood and his duty prevents him from showing sympathy.
- In the aftermath of her disqualification, Yang is a shell of her former self until she realizes that Blake doubts her innocence. Witnessing her crumble into tears and say Blake's name in such a tiny, broken voice and huge, disbelieving eyes is a shocking transformation for an audience that is used to seeing her as the Boisterous Bruiser.
- When Qrow later talks to Yang alone, she's starting to doubt herself and the things she's seen. Qrow has to confirm that she isn't going crazy, and that she really did see her mother save her on Roman's train. Qrow then reveals that Raven left him a message to pass on to Yang: Raven saved her once, but won't ever do it again. On top of everything that's happened to her, Yang has been abandoned by her mom for a second time.
- Jaune reveals that Pyrrha was the first person to ever believe in him; even his own parents didn't. His attempts to get her to open up about her problems reduces her to tears; losing control of her powers, she accidentally slams Jaune into a wall and flees in despair. A broken and confused Jaune assumes he's failed again and blames himself for causing her stress. Pyrrha, on the other hand, believes that Jaune wants her to forever sacrifice her own happiness and identity to fulfill her destiny as a protector of humanity. Poor Communication Kills.
- When Penny is torn apart, both Ruby and Pyrrha collapse in tears, and the audience along with them. All three girls are paragons of virtue and idealism, but the audience is allowed to see the inevitable disaster building as the plot places the burden of intervening in time to stop it on Ruby's shoulders. In quick succession, Ruby has to realize that her new "friends" Cinder, Emerald and Mercury are manipulating her established friends. Her attempted intervention ends in failure. This is the first time Ruby has witnessed death since her mother died when she was very young, and she's never experienced betrayal before. Penny's ripped to shreds in a gruesome close-up shot for the audience and then left in pieces for the audience to witness from both Pyrrha and Ruby's perspectives, while a horrified Port and Oobleck look on, helpless to save a student. The message is clear: the heroes' childhood is over.
- Ironwood desperately tries to justify all he's done to Ozpin, made worse by Ozpin seeming to not give a damn and coldly ordering him "You brought your army to my kingdom, James. Use it!". What's significant isn't that he's guilty enough to actually need to explain himself, but he's worried that Cinder's words will actually steer Ozpin towards blaming him, or otherwise locking him out even more.
Battle of Beacon
- Emerald's expression as she looks down on the city while the distressed voices of hundreds of innocents at the mercy of the Grimm can be heard right below her. It stands in stark relief to Cinder's triumphant smirk and Mercury's cocky amusement.
- In order to preserve the lives of their students, Oobleck and Port choose to stay inside the colosseum and fight the horde of Griffons on their own. Port's final words are challenging "Barty" to one final match. When Ruby returns to the stadium, the Grimm are all gone, and so are Port and Oobleck. The scene is designed to look like it's the final stand of two stalwart fighters, and it successfully has that impact for everyone.
Heroes and Monsters
- Despite the awesome reveal of Velvet's abilities, it really hurts to see her using Penny's weapon. Her death is still fresh (just 2 episodes ago) and this scene serves as another reminder of her demise. Additionally, the music pauses right before Velvet's activating of Penny's weapon, giving additional weight to the scene.
- Hearing Blake sob when Adam backhands her to the ground. This girl has faced down and taken brutal blows from Paladins and massive Grimm, without uttering a sound. But this breaks her. She barely even tries to fight back.
- The confrontation between Adam, Blake and Yang is appalling from start to finish. The audience is forced to watch a scene of domestic abuse unfold as Adam blames Blake for his own violence against her, before promising to destroy everything she loves for leaving him. When Yang appears in view, the audience can see just how calculating Adam is as he assesses Blake's horrified realisation and concludes that Yang will be the perfect place to start carrying out that promise... by stabbing Blake in the stomach just to trigger Yang. Yang exploding with fire and rage and tears seals her fate, and the audience shares Blake's perspective in seeing the outcome coming in slow motion as it happens, silhouetted in black and blood-red imagery for emphasis: Adam severs Yang's arm with easy brutality, revelling in the pain he knows he's causing Blake. While it motivates Blake into moving enough to save the now unconscious Yang, Adam's casual destruction of a Grimm as he watches Blake flee is nothing more than a reminder to the audience that the scene began with Adam promising Blake that she'd be fleeing him by the time their encounter was over... a clear sign of just how in control and calculating his destruction of the two girls was. See the following YouTube reaction compilation, 08:51-08:54.YouTuber comment: (stunned silence)...tells you how powerful that scene is...
- The Aura transfer is revealed to the audience being about more than just a potential loss of identity for Pyrrha when it actually begins. Ozpin won't even let it go ahead until Pyrrha gives verbalised consent. And when it does, Pyrrha begins to scream in agony. While that's gut-wrenching in its own right, Ozpin's visible and audible distress at her reaction seals the mood and impact of the scene.Ozpin: I-I'm so sorry...
- As the show's most popular villain, Roman's death almost broke his fanbase. His rant reveals a lot about Roman's life, showing him to be someone whose had all the idealism stamped out of him by a harsh, unforgiving world in which heroes cannot survive. Throughout the series, Roman has created a charismatic personality that never falters, even when arrested and facing the most powerful military leader in the world. But the moment Neo is thrown off the airship, he cries out her name in the first moment of real emotion he's displayed before turning his rage on Ruby. Ruby used to be a nuisance, frustrating but mockable, but now he wants her dead. His rant is an unexpected twist in that it reveals that there really isn't much light in his life and that he actually doesn't want to support Cinder's plan at all: he has no choice; it's his only option for survival. And, with that reveal... he dies. Eaten Alive. It's a death that comes out of nowhere for the audience and makes his instinct for survival a tragic irony.Roman: It's not what I have to gain, it's that I can't afford to lose!
End of the Beginning
- Blake reaching to hold the unconscious Yang's remaining hand, while tearfully apologizing. In the last episode, Yang lost her arm trying to protect her from Adam, who has now revealed fully to Blake what a depraved monster he really is. She's blaming herself for Adam's actions, exactly as he wanted. It's tragic no matter how one looks at it.
- Pyrrha's Last Kiss to Jaune before shoving him in a locker and launching him to safety with her last words to him being her Catchphrase of "I'm sorry" said in the most heartbreaking tone imaginable. Pyrrha's "I'm sorry" was an amusing catch-phrase for the audience, but now it's turned into the most tragic last words she could possibly say to Jaune.
- Jaune calling Weiss and begging her and Ruby to save Pyrrha, before throwing his scroll away in frustration. The delivery of Jaune's dialogue in that scene is very emotionally draining and it speaks volumes of Miles Luna's voice acting capabilities. The anguish and desperation can be felt in Jaune's voice.
- Pyrrha's death. Despite putting up the most impressive fight anyone could have imagined, ultimately, the invincible girl falls in the most awful way imaginable: she's painfully crippled, and then shot through the heart. She doesn't go out with a boom or in a blaze of glory. She can only whimper breathlessly in front of Cinder as she dies. The viewers are then forced to watch as Cinder gently touches her body, disintegrating her into the wind and leaving behind only her tiara. The show has pushed the theme that there's no victory in strength, and the powerful Pyrrha dying in such a sad, feeble way brings that home for everyone.
- Just the look on poor Ruby's face when Pyrrha is disintegrated right in front of her. She already had one friend torn to bits earlier that very day, and she wasn't even present for the act itself the first time. This time, she has front row seats to the loss of one of her closest companions, and her eyes couldn't look more broken. When Ruby later recounts what happened to Qrow, there's an audible note of pure hatred in her voice when she says Cinder's name. Even Roman Torchwick only irritated her on principle for being a criminal. Ruby's supposed to be the happy, optimist of the team who always sees the positive side, no matter how bad things get. Now, however, she's been brought to the darkest point anyone has ever seen.Ruby: (With tears starting to stream down her face) I ... I ... I got to the top, and then I saw Pyrrha ... and Cinder! And then everything went white-!
- The way Yang has been affected by her injury and the loss of her team-mates is soul wrenching. When Ruby asks where Blake went and why, Yang says she doesn't know with an utterly crushed expression and even a quivering lip. She follows by averting her eyes and angrily saying that she doesn't care, but it's obvious that she's lying. A brief timeskip takes the outside environment from autumn to a snowy winter scene, and Yang is still lying in her bed, unable to move from it and unable to even respond to Ruby telling her she loves her. Yang was the life of the party: bold, vivacious, larger than life. Seeing her reduced to a ghost of her former self is a shocking change of personality for the viewer to witness.
- Seeing Goodwitch is still trapped inside Vale during the ending montage. She's still desperately trying to fix things, like she always does, but she's too exhausted to even repair the outside of a store.
- At the end of the episode there is a message in honour of the show's creator, who died before Volume 3 could be completed or aired: Monty Oum, 1981-2015. "We love you, Monty."
The Next Step
- Cinder. Seeing her current state and how fragile she's become can produce sympathy from the viewers. It's not hard to think she deserves it, but it's hard to watch it happen.
- When Jaune gets an armor/weapon upgrade, it's clear to the audience that Pyrrha's shield and circlet has been added to his sword and shield. When he changes his breast plate, it's revealed that the black top he wears has the Pumpkin Pete bunny logo on it. While Ruby finds it hilarious, it's a very different reveal for the audience, given the heavy Pyrrha overtones of the scene and the fact he's incorporating elements of Pyrrha's design into his clothing, armour and weapons — Pumpkin Pete was the cereal brand she had been drafted to promote through advertising, making it a gut punch reveal for the audience.Blacksmith: That was some fine metal you brought me. Accents the white nicely. Where'd you get it from?
Jaune: From a friend.
- Weiss is safe at home, amongst the familiar halls and scenery of her family mansion. And she has never looked so miserable. Whitley revealing that their mother is "already drinking in the garden" is coupled with the portrait their conversation occurs in front of: Weiss initially thought that their mother was the one their father was having a shouting argument with; the portrait reveals that Weiss and Winter look unhappy and uncomfortable, and their mother's portrait suggests a similar expression from their mother. The implication is clear that their mother has been a victim of Jacques, not just Weiss and Winter.
- It's small but Ren in the Shion Village scene is uncharacteristically forward. He's the first to enter the village fully, he seems especially distraught at finding the huntsman and is somewhat abrasive when telling the group to leave. And Nora is distraught at the latter. But the worst part? Both of them spot a symbol marked out on the ground and stare at it with what appears to be recognition - it's heavily implied, if not outright confirmed, that they've seen this before and are haunted by it.
- Jaune has been to Shion Village before several times. A place where he's made a lot of good memories has now been destroyed and it's not hard to imagine people he knew died in this attack.Jaune: I'm just tired of losing everything.
- The final scene is perhaps the most tragic in the volume. Ruby herself is being plagued with nightmares of Pyrrha's voice. It's clear that the guilt of failing to save her is taking an immense toll. Suddenly, Ruby awakens from her nightmare to realise she really can hear Pyrrha's voice; she follows it to a clearing where Jaune is secretly weapons training to a video made by Pyrrha. Jaune's silent pain is on full display; this video is the only interaction he now has Pyrrha, filled with her encouragement and faith in him and ending with a not-confession before looping back to the start. It comes across to the audience more as torture than training. Both Ruby and Jaune have found their own secret ways to torture themselves over Pyrrha's death.
Of Runaways and Stowaways
- Blake has grown extremely paranoid and tense ever since the fall of Beacon, such that even children passing behind her make her flinch as though she's about to be attacked. She's worried that Adam or his cronies could strike her in the back at any moment. And to her, Sun's return isn't helping her mental state; she went off alone specifically to keep the White Fang from targeting her friends, but Sun plans to chase her wherever she goes. Just a few months ago, Blake was actually happy and enjoying life with her loved ones for the first time in a very long time. Now, she's sullen, miserable, refuses to interact with anybody, and is hiding herself away from everybody she cares about. The one time she allows herself to relax and be happy, her world comes crashing down on her, her loved ones are damaged and broken up by the ordeal, and Adam has again managed to return her life to the living Hell that it used to be.
- There's finally a depressing scene with Yang. She's utterly crushed by the events of Volume 3, laying about in her house depressed and lonesome. She goes through the motions of living, haunted by the knowledge of what's happened to her. This is shown when she accidentally drops a glass, causing her to flash back to her fight with Adam; the memory makes her back away in fear then slam her hand down in shame. Depression and PTSD are often misunderstood and mischaracterised, but this mundane lethargy and fatigue, her initial rejection of the cyberarm, broken only by a momentary flash of pain at a very specific trigger, is more realistic than expected. This includes the sight of Taiyang hovering in the background, fully aware of Yang's pain but not intervening — just as in real life, all he can do is wait until she's ready to ask for help; there's nothing he can do until she's ready.
- Qrow and Raven's talk is full of this due to the hostility between them. Qrow takes constant jabs at Raven for being a Missing Mom to Yang and in turn Raven takes shots at Qrow for abandoning their tribe of bandits. The twins grew up together, and joined the same team, yet their personalities and experiences have warped their relationship past the point of any reconciliation.Qrow: So. What do you want?
Raven: A girl can't just catch up with her family?
Qrow: She can, but you're not.
- A subtle one, but when Yang wakes up, she's clearly still sleeping in the same sparsely decorated room she was in during The Beginning of the End, which appears to be some kind of guest room. A look around the room Ruby woke up in in that episode shows two beds (one with red covers, the other with yellow) and two desks. The sisters shared that bedroom, but Yang is still staying in what looks like a guest room. It comes across as though she feels she doesn't belong there, like home isn't even home any more.
- It becomes clear just how far the White Fang have fallen through Fennec and Corsac. They lie through their teeth about Adam being a renegade when in fact they actually support him, to the former leader of their group no less. Not only that but they plan to tell him about Blake's presence and their expressions make it clear they don't just know exactly what he's going to do with that information but are positively gleeful about it. There is just something tragic about a once peaceful group that just wanted to be treated as equals choosing to become a bunch of sadistic murderers that gladly stomp on the ideals they once embraced.
- Weiss is once again trapped in being used as a prop for her father's political gain. Her singing performance is even a barely disguised Calling the Old Man Out, and he doesn't even care. Her seeing the painting of Beacon how it used to be, it's clear she very much longs for the school and the freedom she had. And when she lashes out at the ignorant self-absorbed party goers, her father tries to shut her down completely. When Jacques tells Weiss that she's "embarrassing the family" it's clear that he's talking about the public face of the Schnee name rather than the actual Schnee family itself. It's sad to see a father care more about the publicity of his family's name rather than the family itself, or the feelings of his flesh and blood. Even more sad as Jacques' personality is far from fictional, and comes on the back of seeing what good fathers both Taiyang and Ghira are.
- When Henry Merrigold is attempting feebly to flirt with Weiss, he obliviously asks what the charity is for, despite standing less than two feet away from a dedication plaque. He then callously dismisses the whole affair, stating he simply comes to fancy occasions for the food before Weiss has him ejected. It just reemphasizes that no one attending is there for the sake of Beacon or Vale, but to service their own self interests. Ironwood's reaction to Weiss's loss of control shows that he is just as upset by the conversation as Weiss, and is also haunted by what happened at Beacon — but, unlike her, he has the power to get away with his reaction.
World Of Remnant: Schnee Dust Company
- Willow's alcoholism now makes a lot of sense. She married Jacques out of love, only for him to change his surname to hers and snatch control of her father's company away from her. She has been used, betrayed and trapped. All she can do is drink her sorrows away.
- Jacques has no qualms about disinheriting Weiss as punishment for her insolence, confirming he's both a physically and emotionally Abusive Parent. Whitley anticipated this to happen, since he's learned that he must follow Jacques' expectations to stay on his good side, strongly hinting that Whitley has been crushed by his father's abuse. In a single episode, Weiss loses the independence she earned at Beacon as well as her dream to save the family name. Her expressions throughout these scenes reveal the torment she's enduring, particularly◊ regarding Whitley's treachery. It makes full use of the creative team's animation upgrades, allowing the increased expressiveness of character faces to emphasise the poignancy of the family situation she's trapped in.
- The scene with Oscar and Ozpin is subtle, but it's clear Oscar has now realized that his simple life has already been upended, and not in the way he would have wanted or expected. Not only that, but Ozpin states that he went through the same thing, making it clear that his distress over Pyrrha potentially losing her identity from the transfer of Amber's soul came from experience — he went through a soul-merge of his own when he was a child and now Oscar's going through it, too.
A Much Needed Talk
- Ruby questions why Qrow didn't just travel with the group from the start and Jaune confidently declares that he was using his own niece as bait, after having already expressed anger over Pyrrha being "forced" to become the Fall Maiden. Even worse? Qrow more or less admits that Jaune's at least partially right. This scene shows just how much Jaune has changed. In Volume 1, he was thrown into a locker and shot into the forest and he said that his bully was just joking around. Here, his first impression of someone helping them from the sidelines, even though he's the uncle of his best friend, is that they were bait. Between Vale, Pyrrha, and Shion, the Jaune we knew up to this point is almost completely gone.
- Blake's conversation with her father becomes very sad and emotional when she breaks down and apologizes for going against her parents' will, even stating that she's not worth their love. It puts her hesitance to meet her parents in "Menagerie" into perspective.Blake: (crying) How can you still love me after what I did?
- Blake and Sun's slowly deteriorating friendship is hard to sit through. Sun is trying to protect her from harm and provide her with emotional support so she doesn't have to suffer alone, but she keeps harshly, even violently, dismissing him at almost every turn. At the same time, Blake is understandably angry at Sun's borderline Stop Helping Me! behavior. After undergoing severe trauma upon reuniting with Adam, Blake only wants to go home and emotionally heal, without letting anyone else she cares about getting hurt, so when Sun butts in and tries to help, Blake doesn't see him as support. She sees him as a nuisance. This culminates in Blake slapping Sun twice and throwing away his phone while proclaiming "I don't want your help!" This is a far cry from the Ship Tease they had in previous volumes.
- Qrow is revealed to have a passive, permanently active, misfortune Semblance, which prevents him from staying too close to friends or family for long without the bad luck screwing them over somehow. The implication is that this is the reason for his dismay at Team RNJR trying to help him fight Tyrian and why the beam almost fell on Ruby. He wasn't trying to protect them from Tyrian. He was trying to protect them from him.
Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back
- While Yang is recovering, she still has some issues to work out as pointed out by Taiyang which could cost her more. While talking to his daughter about Raven, Taiyang mentions that Raven's flaws tore his team apart and did a lot of damage to his family. It's obvious he has a heavy case of Broken Pedestal towards his ex-lover and it's tearing him apart talking about it. This is emphasised by Zwei's behaviour throughout the scene. He demonstrates the ability to follow conversations; when Yang bitterly apologises to Tai for reminding him of Raven, Zwei's normally happy expression changes that to one of sorrow making the scene much more upsetting to some viewers.
- While RNJR are transporting a poisoned Qrow through the wilderness and looking for help, he's delirious from the poison. The behaviour of Team RNJR makes it clear that they're terrified Qrow is about to die. This results in an argument between Ren and Ruby over which direction to take to seek help, but Ren is unusually emotional when Ruby suggested going through Kuroyuri. Nora seemed to understand what was going on with him, and the look on Nora's face and the fact she tries to calm him down really sells how seriously this is affecting him.
- The episode reveals that Ren witnessed the deaths of both his parents. His mother dies right in front of him as their family home is crushed; he regains consciousness in his mortally-wounded father's arms, who is trying to carry him to safety. The terror in his voice can be heard as he repeatedly asks where his mother is. When his father collapses, unable to carry Ren any further, he gives Ren his dagger and tells him to continue alone. Ren breaks down and his cry of "I can't!" is heart-wrenching, made worse by the shape of the dagger his father gives him: the exact jagged shape of the blades on Ren's weapon, StormFlower, making it clear that his weapon's unusual shape is a memorial to his father. His father then dies in a futile attempt to fend off a massive Grimm with a bow and arrow to buy his son time to escape. That is a horrible sight that no child should ever have to witness, and Ren fully breaks down, sobbing and hyperventilating as he realises he has lost everything and is now completely alone.
- This episode reveals that Nora was an orphan even before she met Ren. She was forced to go into the trash to get food, and she was bullied for it. How she came to be in that state isn't revealed, but it's heart-breaking to realise that her life is so terrible that Ren's personal tragedy bringing their fates together is actually an improvement on her state of existence. Even though they're forced to hide under a house together and watch the village and all its inhabits be destroyed, she is at least no longer alone. When he spots a vendor's wooden hammer and tries to get it, the desperation with which she grabs him and then hugs him when she realises they're going to stay together emphasises just how alone she's been. That's a terrible life for a young child to be living.Young Ren: We have to be brave now.
- While Jaune helps make Ruby feel better, it is still disheartening to see Ruby feel so guilty and feel that the remaining members of Team JNPR are in danger because of her. Jaune also struggles to find the right words because he pauses just as he's about to talk about how they "lost" Pyrrha. It's obvious that just saying it out loud is still painful for him.
- Just as Yang is uncovering her bike, Taiyang stops here and mentions he wants a better farewell than just a note. Although it's delivered like a funny line, it puts into perspective just how tragic of a character Taiyang is: Raven ditched him without a word not long after she gave birth to Yang and has shown to not even care about him, Summer died suddenly on a mission, he nearly lost both Ruby and Yang without knowing where they were, his youngest daughter, someone he has shown unconditional and nigh endless love toward, left him with only a note and Qrow, his brother in law, left without so much as a word. To summarize: he has lost both of his lovers, his brother in law and his youngest daughter without so much as a single word.
- The conversation between Sun and Blake is a mixture of heartwarming and a tearjerker. Blake makes it very clear she feels guilty not only for people getting hurt because of her but she feels extremely guilty for leaving Ruby, Weiss, and Yang behind. She states she hopes the rest of Team RWBY hates her for leaving. Watch Sun's body language during the first part of their conversation. He visibly flinches and puts his hands up defensively when Blake snaps at him, as if anticipating another slap.
No Safe Haven
- The Nuckelavee brings even Ren to tears over the pain it's caused him. He can't even fight correctly because his emotions are controlling him for most of the battle. The reveal that he still carries the knife that his father gave him just shows how he's never really moved on. He and Nora wind up under the same building that they were as kids in "Kuroyuri" when the town was attacked. When Ren brashly attempts to rejoin the fight, Nora restrains him in the same way she did as a child. Ren starts to reason with Nora, but she gives him an Armor-Piercing Slap to bring some sense back into him and tearfully begs him not to run off and get himself killed, at which point Ren briefly imagines Nora as a scared little girl. In a way, nothing has changed.
- Ruby's letter to Yang is filled with tear jerking moments. From being unable to mention the people they have lost to how much she misses her older sister and friends. Ruby even starts to cry as she writes the letter. During her monologue about having the strength to move on from the past, Taiyang is shown at home staring mournfully at the picture of Team STRQ. For one reason or another, his family has left him alone. Poor guy.
- When Professor Lionheart is talking about the events in Vale in Volume 3, his mention of everyone's horror at seeing Penny's death causes pained reactions from everyone, Ruby almost looking like she's about to have another breakdown, and Jaune's frustrated, angry silence in response to the news that Cinder's group cheated their way into Haven with forged transcripts is a bitter reminder that Jaune did the same thing to get into Beacon.
- The audience is shown Yang's left hand shaking as she reaches for a bottle of water after punching a lecherous creep; a clear sign that despite gaining back her will to fight, she's still suffering from PTSD.
- As hilarious as it is, Qrow's drunken bender after he meets Oscar is a sign of just how badly he was taking the lack of leadership after Ozpin's death—revealed through just how elated he is to have found Ozpin.
- Despite Oscar looking like an adorable harmless farmboy, RNJR's reaction when he asks for Ruby is hostility until Qrow stumbles in. It's a sad day when they can't even trust someone like Oscar at first appearance thanks to Cinder's group's infiltration and betrayal.
Dread in the Air
- The scene where Sienna Khan gets murdered by Adam Taurus definitely qualifies. Not only does the White Fang lose any shred of decency it had in the upper echelons, but it also makes the Belladonnas' plans a lot harder to pull off. Ilia wasn't kidding when she told Blake that her plans wouldn't work.
- Ghira's speech is effectively ruined by Ilia is heartbreaking. With just some angry words from her, she effectively placed doubt into every Faunus' minds, rendering Ghira's plea to his people to seek justice against the White Fang moot. Sun tries to stop her, but it is clear that the damage is done.
Lighting the Fire
- Weiss's hug with Yang at the end is heartwarming, but the desperation behind it shows just how lonely and starved for affection she's been without her teammates.
- After Yang finds Raven at her camp, Raven warmly welcomes her daughter, showing a maternal side to herself and preparing to welcome Yang into the tribe with a meal and a long talk, ready to answer whatever questions Yang might have now that Yang's proven herself strong and driven enough to find her and make her dreams reality. She even expresses concern for her men, taking note of the beating Yang laid down on them and accepting Yang's word when she said they struck first. Then Yang reveals that all she wants is Raven to use her Semblance to send Yang to Qrow. It's sad to think that, after a lifelong chase for her Missing Mom, Yang seems to have given up on it, but one can see Raven put her emotional walls back up in the next shot as she bitterly points out that family only wants to visit her when they want something from her. While this is a case of hypocrisy (she could have visited whenever she wanted and only sought out Qrow because she wanted something from him), she genuinely looks hurt when Yang rebuffs her attempts to begin repairing their nearly nonexistent relationship. She even displays concern when trying to convince Yang not to trust Ozpin.
- Ruby's Made Myself Sad moment where she says that Oscar will soon be "combat ready" - just like Penny used to describe herself. Followed by her speech to Oscar, revealing that she thinks of Pyrrha and Penny every day and wishing she'd spent more time with them, especially the moment when she mentions how they must keep moving forward.
- Oscar is feeling the weight of what he needs to do. He sounds absolutely crushed when he trails off. Looks like Ozpin wasn't kidding when he described their condition as a curse.Oscar: I always knew I wanted to be more than a farm hand, but this ...
- Ilia looks positively forlorn when she's ordered to lead Blake away from her house, so other White Fang members can swan in and kill her parents, and bring Blake to Adam alive.
Known By Its Song
- The "No Faunus" sign next to the bar's entrance is a stark reminder of the Fantastic Racism that permeates the world of Remnant and gives rise to groups like the White Fang.
- While talking with Weiss about their childhoods, Yang reveals she was looking after herself and Ruby from a very young age because of her dysfunctional family upbringing. After accusing Weiss of not understanding loneliness, Weiss explains just how bad her family life has been, and the reveal that Jacques was just a Gold Digger who didn't care about Willow or family makes it clear why Weiss was so dismissive of Jaune's advances in earlier volumes — she mentioned back then that she believed Jaune was just interested in her name and wealth. Now we know why: it's exactly what Jacques did to Willow.
- This is the first time Yang has talked about Blake since the Volume 3 finale, and she sobs has she reveals how hurt she is to have been abandoned by another person she cares about. The viewers haven't seen her so heartbroken and vulnerable since she lost her arm, and it's clear that her abandonment issues means that she has none of Weiss's faith that Blake will return.Yang: No one blamed her for anything! If she had just talked to us, she would've known that! How could I be there for her if she doesn't let me?! ... What if I needed her here for me? [starts crying]
- Blake and Ilia's confrontation in the alley leads to Ilia confessing that Blake didn't notice Ilia falling for her because she was falling for Adam. The absolute heartbreak on her face contrasts with the bright shade of pink her spots turn and her angry confirmation that Blake will be sent back to Adam. The audience is left sharing Blake's absolute horror at this news; unlike Ilia, the audience knows what an abusive boyfriend Adam's been; for an abuse survivor to be sent back to their abusive partner is a nightmare scenario.
A Perfect Storm
- The price Raven wants for her cooperation with Cinder's group? The death of her brother. Even the villains are shocked. While the audience knows the twins have a bad relationship, it was never portrayed as being this bad. While Raven later confirms this is a Batman Gambit to turn the villains and heroes against each other so she can steal the Relic to protect the tribe from Salem, it's still unsettling for the audience to realise that she's willing to put her brother's and daughter's lives on the line just to protect herself from Salem, especially as the audience can see that Raven is trying to convince herself that it's okay to treat her daughter this way.
- Cinder doesn't exactly deny Raven's accusation that she tricked Emerald and Mercury into fighting for her. It suggests that she doesn't really see them as anything other than pawns, which is somewhat disheartening given how loyal Emerald and Mercury have been throughout the series and how well the three of them work as a team.
- Ilia's breakdown while fighting Blake is heart-wrenchingly realistic. She was driven to despair after her parents' deaths and from being surrounded by prejudice toward her race, and was left not knowing what else she could do besides resort to Adam's brutal methods. When she does finally attack Corsac, Illia is reduced to tears, and it's clear the whole experience has drained her to the point of emotional collapse.Blake: Ilia, please! You're a good person, but you're making all the wrong decisions.
Ilia: SHUT UP!
Blake: Is this really what your parents would have wanted?
Ilia: I don't know what else to do! (crying) I don't know what else to do.
The More The Merrier
- Jaune finally finds himself face-to-face with Pyrrha's killer. Yet all he can do is tremble with grief while struggling to understand how Cinder can take so much pleasure from the countless atrocities she's committed. All throughout the confrontation, tears are visible on Jaune's contorted expression as he takes wild strikes at Cinder. And to twist the knife even further? Cinder initially doesn't even know who he is.
- Qrow is infuriated to discover Raven's actions. Despite Qrow verbally disowning her, Raven remains unfazed. The last line is perhaps the saddest: Despite Qrow's cynicism about Raven's loyalties, he had enough faith in her to believe that she'd never betray them like this. Now it seems he's finally given up on her.
- After learning that Leo set the heroes up, Qrow is obviously furious, but Oz? He doesn't get angry, or accusatory. He and Oscar just calmly walk up to Leo after the fighting breaks out, and Ozpin wonders what could have possibly happened to make his old friend turn out this way, in a tone that makes the viewers think he blames himself. And how does Leo react when he realizes that this little kid is the next Ozpin? He decides to take Oscar to Salem, desperately hoping that she'll finally let him go free in return, all in a way that shows he's clearly losing it from all the fear and desperation.
- Just like with Pyrrha, there is a defenseless girl on her knees in Cinder's presence. Just like before, she gleefully forms a projectile with her Maiden abilities and just like before, the girl shakes and gasps after being struck with it before the weapon disintegrates and she falls limp. Who is this girl in question? Weiss. Only this time, the audience gets the added "fun" of watching it happen in front of nearly all of her horrified friends using a projectile that looks look Pyrrha's javelin!
Vault of the Spring Maiden
- Hazel hates Ozpin because his sister Gretchen died on a Beacon training mission and he holds Ozpin personally responsible. His response to Oscar asking if she knew the risk suggests he knows on some deep level that Ozpin isn't really responsible, but he's hurting so badly that he cannot move on from her death. His rage seems to be the only thing keeping him going.
- Raven reveals a rare moment of vulnerability at the end of her argument with Yang, begging her not to get involved in the fight against Salem and tearfully apologising in a choked voice before disappearing. There are no excuses about survival or necessity; the viewers can see how conflicted Raven is, and how the cowardice defeats maternal love in her internal battle, so that she allows her daughter to take the fall on her behalf. Yang isn't facing Raven to see what that knowledge does to her and Raven never sees what it does to Yang. The viewers can see both reactions; this is the culmination of Yang's life-long search for a connection to the woman who gave birth to her, and the scene is an emotional wrecking ball.Raven: Its not that simple. You dont know me, you dont know what I've been through, the choices I've had to make!Yang: Youre right. I dont know you. I only know the Raven dad told me about. "She was troubled, and complicated, but she fought for what she believed in, whether it was her team or her tribe!" ...Did you kill her too?
- Despite everything he's done and everyone he's betrayed, one can't help but sympathise with Leo's final fate. He may have been a despicable Dirty Coward, at worst, but he definitely didn't deserve... whatever Salem did to him.
- Emerald insisting that Cinder is going to return with the relic, only to collapse into tears when Yang shows up instead. Props to the voice actors, because Emerald's despair and panic at the realization that Cinder is gone sounds all the more real with her near hyperventilating and Mercury's own desperate calls of Emerald's name.
- As sweet as it is to see Team RWBY finally reunite, there's a touch of bitterness to it for the audience as the camera moves to the three surviving members of Team JNPR standing off to the side: there will never be such a reunion for them.
- During the traintop battle, for a few seconds after Oscar runs off, there is a shot of Jaune, Ren, and Nora standing on the exit ladders...with the one directly next to Jaune empty. Pyrrha's absence is still definitely felt.
- There's a villainous example for the White Fang: After Adam took over the organization, he absolutely ran it into the ground. His remaining followers finally bite back by refusing to listen to orders, and in response, he butchers them all. It drives home how monstrous Adam is and how thoroughly defeated the White Fang is by this point.
- When Yang pleads with Ozpin to trust them, Ozpin tersely snaps that Leo wasn't the first lieutenant to defect from his side. He then explains that he doesn't want to sow disunity between him and the others, but he feels the need to keep a few secrets so he can avoid massive breaches of trust. It puts his calmness when faced with Leo's betrayal in hindsight, since he's seen it many times before. The worst part? Ozpin doesn't sound sad or hurt when telling RWBY about this, he sounds angry, even accusatory. It gives the impression that, on some level, he's already convinced that it's only a matter of time before they too sell him out like Leo, or walk out on him like Raven.
- Ruby asks if all the times Ozpin talked about having faith in humanity, it was for everyone else's sake. Ozpin's tired reply is that that was not what he meant to suggest before asking for Ruby to hand him the Relic. He doesn't really give a clear answer, but given the way he talks about Leo and the people who defected from his side before... It carries the implication that Ruby's not wrong.
The Lost Fable
- The sheer disregard that the Brothers have for a single life is on display as they casually kill and revive Ozma in the span of seconds in a petty tug-of-war. They seem to have no awareness of how its visibly traumatising Salem to watch her lover dying in front of her eyes over and over again.
- The scene also puts the God of Darkness' resentment of his brother in perspective. The God of Light is a force of creation whereas the God of Darkness is a force of destruction, so the former receives most of humanity's praise while the latter is left alone in solitude. Salem is implied to be the first mortal to ever seek him out for guidance, and he he seems almost elated, fulfilling her request to resurrect Ozma without hesitation. Then his brother shows up and engages in the tug-of-war with him, and Darkness lashes out at him like a child whose older brother just ruined his playtime, declaring Light to be a Hypocrite for seemingly turning away the one mortal who dared to seek him, while Light himself receives the most visits from mortals seeking guidance. While this turns out not to be the case, it portrays the God of Darkness as someone who desperately wants to be loved.
- During a flashback to Ozma's second life, there are countless Faunus trapped in cages like animals, simply because of their appearance. As bad as the situation still is for Faunus, most of them aren't subjected to this. It brings home the conversation between Ozpin and Blake at the beginning of Volume 2: Ozpin was right — humanity has come a very long way in how they treat Faunus; but Blake is right, too — there's so much more work humanity needs to do before the problem is solved.
- After she becomes infused with Grimm essence, Salem marries Ozma's second incarnation, sets up a kingdom in what became the Grimmlands, and gives birth to four daughters. Just seeing this happy family knowing it's Doomed by Canon can be depressing, as is the growing pain and horror on Ozma's face as he realises that he's going to have to sacrifice his one chance for a happy family life just to do what's right; his attempt to protect his daughters by taking them away from their dangerous mother shows the audience from where Salem's anger and spite towards Oz comes: a sense at having been betrayed and abandoned by him at a moment when she thought their life together was perfect. The ensuing battle is so terrible that their home and kingdom are destroyed, Salem is obliterated to a stain on the ground that regenerates in time to kill the fatally injured Ozma; even their four daughters are implied to be killed in the crossfire. The viewers witness a family tragedy unfold that is far greater than anything the heroes have experienced only to then watch an absolutely haunting portrayal of Ozma's reincarnation cycle reeling with grief for multiple lifetimes while Jinn describes the cycle of pain and suffering Ozma is now locked into.
- The four daughters are shown dressed in the colours of the original Four Maidens and they're shown to possess magic. Jinn's portrayal of Ozma's suffering reincarnations shows that the first incarnation after the death of the daughters is an elderly man who fits the description of the bitter Old Wizard whose life was transformed by four compassionate sisters. There is a sombre realisation that the creation of the original Four Maidens wasn't simply about protecting humanity, it was also about creating a memorial to Ozma's lost daughters.
- Salem's own path to her current villainous state is shown to be as tragic as Ozma's. She's genuinely happy in her life with Ozma and takes great pride and joy in her children. She's genuinely thrilled when she discovers they can perform magic and shows that, even though she's been infected with the destructive power that created the Grimm, she's still capable of being a loving and caring mother. It creates a genuinely tragic figure who had one chance to find the happiness that had eluded her, and the loss of that has created a never-ending bitter hatred, forcing a Forever War with a man she was once happy with.
- When one of Ozpin's former lives asked the Relic how he could destroy Salem, the knowledge of her invincibility crushed his spirit. The last shot is of Oscar, bent over in the same fetal position the incarnation was last seen in, no doubt feeling just as hopeless and desperate as he was back then. Ozpin's been catching a lot of flack since Volume 4, so a lot of people were expecting that he was the cause of Salem's change and that he felt guilty about it, which is why he was so desperate to stop Ruby in the last episode. It turns out Ozpin did absolutely nothing wrong in regards to Salem. The guy became a Cosmic Plaything for the God of Light and the past he shared with Salem was so painful that he locked those memories off in a place that not even Oscar could reach.
- Team RWBY got what they wished for, and discovered that Ozpin had very good reason to keep a few things to himself. Amongst other things, they saw Salem try and fail to commit suicide, then lead humanity to their doom against the gods, kill Ozma's second form and possibly their four daughters when they try to abandon her... and they are left with the knowledge that Salem's unable to be killed. After hearing this, Qrow and Yang are furious, Weiss and Blake are shocked, and Ruby's worried about Oscar; no-one is concerned with Ozpin's emotional state, but their reactions show why he was so worried about them finding out.
So That's How It Is
- What does Qrow do after learning about what Oz had hidden from him? He sends him flying into a tree. At the start of the episode, Ozpin is sitting in the snow in tears after having his past forcibly exposed. Despite this, and despite the fact that all he gets from the group is rage and violence, not once does he express any anger toward them, even trying to reassure Qrow that he's doing good with his life. And when Qrow rebukes it, he sadly accepts it.
The Coming Storm
- Neo and Cinder's duel visually looks awesome, but lyrics of the battle's song are melancholy, describing Roman as Neo's Only Friend and how heartbroken she is by his death. When her real body appears at the end of the fight, the confidence displayed by her illusion-self in the fight is gone, revealing a forlorn and lost looking girl whose once pristine clothing is now dishevelled and torn, and who is now wearing Roman's iconic derby hat. While the fight initially looked awesome because of the improvements she's made in her abilities and Semblance the end of the fight emphasises the lyrics of the battle song and create a sad picture of a bereft and lonely girl who's pushed herself to her limits to become strong enough to avenge his death; her sole reason to live is to avenge the death of the only friend she ever had.I had one thing, and you've taken it from me! A single light, a single friend, but you made that end!
- The fate of Brunswick Farms is revealed quite tragically; the workers there died en masse in their sleep. Weiss and Yang find this out the hard way. This takes a turn for the creepy when we see Weiss and Yang start getting delirious, and saying things that they don't mean.
Alone In The Woods
- Watching Ruby jolt awake at the beginning of the episode, panting and trembling in fear, is a quietly heartbreaking moment in an episode filled with supernatural horrors. Despite all her determination, it's clear the past few episodes have shaken Ruby just as badly as everyone else.
- Ruby's fear about Qrow finding the wine cellar is confirmed; he is so consumed with grief that he keeps trying to drown it away, invaliding him so completely that he's too busy getting shitfaced to realise the danger until Ruby and Weiss physically drag him away from the alcohol. His expression as he sees the burning Apathy Grimm he's being dragged away from reveals that he's utterly horrified that he was wallowing while the kids were fighting for their lives.
The Grimm Reaper
- After Tock slashed out her eyes, Maria retreated and never fought again, even after her eyesight got restored. Her subsequent lamentation about not doing more when she was still active and fit hits close to home for a lot of people who have regrets in life, especially the elderly.
- Yang seems morose at remembering her recovery period (especially her depression) when Maria praises her for her strength to keep on doing her duty as a Huntress. She might be back from the experience of losing her arm, but It Never Gets Any Easier recalling how Beacon Academy's fall changed her forever.
- Apparently Terra and her fellow technicians are being blamed for problems with the Argus military base's radar system and the relay station interfering with each other. Terra is also clearly annoyed about how it's resulted in work calls keeping her from her wife and son, and although Saphron is understanding, it's implied that it's not the first time this has happened.
- Caroline Cordovin, the Atlesian commander who the heroes were talking to, refers to Blake as a woman of "questionable character". Even after what Blake, her parents and her friends did at Haven Academy, there are people in the Atlesian kingdom who still adhere to racism and profiling.
- Nora is ready to throw up her hands and quit when she learns the truth, and Ren clearly isn't taking it all that well either, but special mention goes to Jaune for slamming Oscar into the wall when he finds out. After all the hardships he's been put through, including losing a quarter of his team, only to find out that his quest seemingly has no end in sight and might just be All for Nothing... it's hard to blame him for losing his composure.
- After angrily talking down Jaune from assaulting Oscar, Ruby goes outside and tries calling Qrow, only for her to throw her Scroll into the gardenbed in frustration. It's obvious that even Ruby's approaching her limit with the conflicts her friends and teammates are having over Jinn's revelations.
- Poor Oscar is getting put through a lot. He's constantly getting anger and blame pinned at his feet just because of his connection to Ozpin as his reincarnation, despite absolutely none of it being his fault, with Ozpin running away and leaving Oscar to clean up his mess. Is it any wonder he runs away by the end of the episode?
- Mercury's rant about just how depraved his father Marcus was gets in - he was not only routinely beaten in his "training", but Marcus stole his Semblance, forcing him to train even harder. And why? All because Marcus thought it made Mercury weak and would otherwise force him to use it as a crutch. What's worse was that Mercury never got his Semblance back - not even after he killed his own dad later on. Now, it's as if violence is the only thing he knows and has left, as Tyrian points out.
- While Jaune sits on a park bench in frustration, a maple leaf wafts towards a path in front of him. He follows it and finds himself staring at a massive statue of Pyrrha. It turns out that Argus is both her hometown and the location of Sanctum Academy, and he reflects on her legacy with a woman who strongly resembles his partner; the woman acts like she knows who Jaune is and is somehow thanking him for being Pyrrha's friend. It's clear that Jaune's been confronted with his grief and despair, and witnessing him internalize it isn't pleasant to watch. The scene is made even more difficult due to the song that is playing — the same melody that plays every time Pyrrha and Jaune were together on screen.
- The look on Qrow's face when Ruby, his sweet, loving niece chews him out for being unhelpful for the past few episodes. Yes, he's been an ass (if for understandable reasons), but the look on his face that he's yet again disappointed and hurt Ruby with his behavior (which almost got her and everyone else killed last time), shows that he's fearing the loss of yet another member of his family. And he has no one to blame except for himself.
The Lady In The Shoe
- After Adam tells Blake about how "All sorts of people" have hurt him in "all sorts of ways", he takes off the bandana over his eyes, giving the viewers our first look at his eyes. What we see is... horrifying. Adam has the ugly scars of the letters 'S D C' branded across his left eye, heavily damaging or possibly even blinding it. The implications behind it are unpleasant to say the least, and while it doesn't excuse his actions, it's not hard to see how he could end up hating humans. What's worse is that he doesn't use it to justify his actions against humans, he uses it to justify his persecution of Blake. He completely refuses to understand that he drove Blake away all by himself and instead tries to use his scar to torment and blame her for being so alone.
- While it was certainly necessary and well-deserved, the death of Adam Taurus can be this. After seeing the depths of his delusion and the Facial Horror he's endured, the way he calmly takes The Dying Walk off a cliff can be bittersweet. Blake's reaction doesn't help at all: her hands holding the Gambol Shroud fragment are shaking. After this, she can only collapse and cry.
- The first time Ruby tries to use her Silver Eyes against the Leviathan, she gets sidetracked from thinking of happy times by sadder memories, like Pyrrha and Penny's deaths, and Yang's Heroic BSoD after losing her arm.
- After Oscar admits that Ozpin helped him safely crash land the airship during their battle with Cordovin, Jaune and Nora are extremely shocked, but Yang is visibly hostile. Despite the additional events they went through before (JNR after settling in Argus) and after (RWBY after the train crash) each team respectively found out the truth behind Salem, and that both teams know he does care about their wellbeing, they still don't know how to handle Ozpin, and Yang at least is still far from accepting him back.
- Blake makes an offhand comment about the city of Mantle seeming "wrong", only to then be mocked and insulted by a drunken racist. When she tries to apologize, he just continues to spew vitriolic comments at her, calling her a "stupid Faunus". It sadly shows just how closed-minded and insensitive the citizens of Atlas can be.
- Penny's return is also a reminder of the people that died because of Cinder's actions in Volume 3. While this reminds the viewers of Roman and Pyrrha, Lionheart's statement in Volume 5 about most of Mistral's Huntsmen dying to stop Grimm attacks that night means that countless lives were lost that night, and the only ones that came back were Penny and Ozpin, the latter reincarnating into Oscar.
- While the episode is exciting as the cast shows off their new upgrades, it also reminds them of what they've lost or suffered on their journey:
- Jaune's new gear includes a smaller red sash, meaning he has to remove the one he's been wearing in Pyrrha's memory, running his hand across it as he realizes this. That the new sash is shorter is a reminder of Pyrrha's diminishing role in the show.
- Ren is now carrying his late father's knife in a sheath on his arm. Even though he killed the Grimm that killed his parents in Volume 4, he's essentially wearing his feelings on his sleeve.
- Clover asks Qrow about his old team. Qrow confirms that he was on a team, but found working alone to be better, the tone of his voice is a reminder of how Team STRQ was torn apart over the show's run.
- Once in the mine, Blake, Weiss, and Marrow have a conversation about the treatment of Faunus. Blake realizes this is where Ilia lost her parents. Weiss recalls how furious her father was over the accident, a factor in her "difficult childhood" as she put it in Volume 1, and tells Blake she wishes she could take back what her family's done. Marrow's part is how they can't really stop the bigotry because humans have no incentive to fix things, which is a reminder of Ilia's enraged declarations in Volume 5, and Velvet's bullying from CRDL in Volume 1.
A Night Off
- Watts rigs the election to ensure Jacques Schnee's victory while Tyrian slaughters numerous supporters of Robyn Hill in a way that allows Watts to frame Penny for the massacre. By posting doctored video footage of the slaughter just as Jacques Schnee is announced the winner, they create a burst of negativity that attracts a flock of Manticores to the city. Instead of doing her job to help protect the city of Mantle, Penny is sent back to Atlas in tears. It's a heartbreaking end to an otherwise low-key episode and marks the second time that Penny has been victimized by Salem's faction. Both times, she was simply in the right place at the wrong time.
- Someone at the rally referring to Penny as "Ironwood's robot". After previous episodes made it clear how much Penny cares about protecting the citizens of Mantle, her hearing how she's seen as just the General's weapon is very heartwrenching.
Worst Case Scenario
- Yang and Blake have a conversation in the supplies truck they've stowed away on to get the drop on Robyn. Both have qualms about how far Ironwood, and by extension themselves, are willing to go to do the right thing. Both regret having had to kill Adam to defend themselves, but Blake especially. Adam manipulated her, isolated her from her loved ones, and tried to kill her several times, yet Blake still feels that horrible about his death. The scars of his abuse haven't magically worn off; Blake still feels something for the person he pretended to be.
- Ironwood's worsening look on his face as he gets reprimanded by his fellow councillors (especially Jacques) and Robyn is just heartbreaking, given that he is acutely aware of their complaints and the damage they have done, yet he cannot bring himself to counter their claims, even though he has to justify his legislature given that he's trying to stop Salem.
- After Willow Schnee finally makes her first appearance, her meeting with Weiss is bittersweet at best. Between her worn-down appearance and mannerisms and downing a vodka bottle along with what's implied to have been three glasses of wine shortly before the scene, her deteriorated marriage has had a significant impact on her life.
- When Willow asks Weiss to take Whitley away from the house with her when she leaves, Weiss points out that Whitley wants nothing to do with her. While Whitley has been portrayed in his earlier appearances as a jerk growing into a carbon copy of his father, Willow's rebuttal casts him in a different light. Even though Weiss is highly aware of the abuse both she and Winter have received from their father, she's clearly oblivious to any abuse Whitley has suffered; Whitley makes her aware in Volume 4 that they must follow Jacques' wishes, but it's not until Willow responds to Weiss's accusation that it becomes clear that Whitley has become what he is as a defence against abuse. Willow's statement isn't angry or accusative; she sounds regretful, exhausted and factual. It drives home the fact that Whitley was, and still is, just as much a victim of the Schnees' abuse as Weiss and Winter were. And that Willow, even with how trapped she is, realizes the role she has played in creating that abusive environment.
As Above, So Below
- When Jacques is being taken away by the Atlas police, Willow turns to see Whitley sitting on the staircase by himself, looking forlorn and confused. For all his bratty behaviour, this scene serves as a reminder that Whitley is simply just a scared, lonely boy desperate for someone to genuinely love him.
- When Salem attempts to intimidate Ironwood into surrendering, Ruby intervenes to tell her that they know about her immortality but will still find a way to stop her. Every time Ruby has given a heroic speech, she's won her point and the day. This time, however, there's a gut-punching scene of Salem breaking Ruby with a single, dispassionate line when she tells Ruby that her mother once said the same thing to her and was also wrong. The statement is accompanied by Ruby suffering uncontrolled flashbacks to her mother standing on the cliff where her grave now lies. Instead of the idealistic, joyful memory that helped Ruby activate her silver eyes against the Leviathan in Volume 6, the memory is dulled, subdued and her mother looks deeply unhappy. Eerie, discordant music plays as Ruby clutches her head and sways as her silver eyes power short-circuits, before she finally collapses to the ground, sobbing, while a tearful and distraught Yang desperately attempts to comfort her. The scene is played out as a traumatic subversion of the Shut Up, Kirk! trope that is designed to devastate the viewers along with Ruby.
- Since the fall of Beacon, Ironwood has been showing increasingly unnerving and paranoid behavior and Volume 7 has piled up the stress on him via a number of different stress points ranging from the attacks on Mantle to the conflicts with Robyn and the Council, and Ruby's decision to hide Salem's immortality until she feels he can be trusted. Ironwood's PTSD is triggered by finding a black queen chess piece sitting on his desk and learning Salem is on her way just at the moment he, Team RWBY, Robyn and the Council all come together to save Mantle. Then, there's a desperately sad situation where the shocked heroes all turn on each other with a great sense of pain at feeling betrayed by the other side: Team RWBY won't support Ironwood's decision to concentrate his exhausted military's efforts on protecting the Relics and Winter Maiden in Atlas by declaring martial law and abandoning Mantle to its fate while Ironwood and Ace-Ops feel betrayed by Team RWBY's secret-keeping, leaking intel to Robyn and insistance on defending Mantle. At this point, it's unknown who is right or whose side to take, or even whether it's possible for any of the heroes to be right in a situation where there seems to be no good options available.
With Friends Like These
- While the battle between Team RWBY and Ace Ops is certainly cool, it brings a lot of sadness in context. Seeing your supposed allies with whom you were engaged together in battle mere hours before turning on you can hardly qualify as uplifting.
- When Clover tries appealing to their friendship to make Qrow back down, Qrow responds that "You don't know my friends. That's how it always goes!" Raven, Lionheart, Ozpin, Ironwood, in the last few Volumes Qrow has seen everyone he trusted turning on him or deceiving him, one after the other. And now Clover joins the list, and you can tell how much it's breaking Qrow to go through this again.
- Clover's sudden, violent death at the hands of Tyrian, using Qrow's own weapon to frame him for the deed. Rather than run for it or chase after Tyrian, Qrow decides to stay at his side while he dies, promising to get revenge on James for it while Clover simply wishes him luck. They watch the sun rise together before Clover finally passes, and Qrow gives one of the most painful, saddened screams towards the sky. What makes it truly tragic is that it was completely avoidable, with Clover saying that he wanted to trust Qrow and realizing that Ironwood was wrong in his dying moments showing that he could have seen reason if things had gone another way, but Salem and Tyrian's manipulations turned them against each other and they didn't realize it until it was far too late.
The Enemy of Trust
- Oscar's attempt to reason with Ironwood ends badly. Ironwood's emotional state visibly shuts down when Oscar calls him "James", just like Ozpin used to, with his eyes switching from clear to Dull Eyes of Unhappiness. He informs Oscar that only friends call him that and to address him as "General". For the viewers, this serves as a direct Call-Back to Ironwood's introduction in Volume 2, where Ozpin greets him as "General". Ironwood tells Ozpin that friends shouldn't be so formal and that Ozpin should call him "James". Just as the realisation that he's rescinding his friendship with both Ozpin and Oscar sinks in, Ironwood unflinchingly pulls his gun and shoots Oscar point-blank. The force of the hit breaks Oscar's Aura and sends him tumbling off the ledge to fall down a shaft of unknown depth, while Ironwood expressionlessly watches. Ironwood's emotional shutdown, his willingness to abandon his friendship with Ozpin and kill a fourteen-year-old boy just because Oscar didn't support his plan is a shocking discovery of just how far Ironwood's already fallen from the hero he used to be.
- Winter refuses to abandon Ironwood even after the full scope of his plan is revealed, only stopping to give Weiss and her friends a head start. Devastated at seeing her sister hurt, Weiss refuses to leave her, but Winter forces the issue by calling for medical assistance, making Weiss realize she has to follow her own path away from her sister. They still love each other, but it's clear that they will be at odds in the future, and they've accepted it.
- Fria's death, if only for the way Penny reacts to it. She was the only person who treated Fria as more than just a vessel for the Maiden power, and seeing her clutch at her eyes in an attempt to mimic crying because she can't even weep for her is heartwrenching. It's all the more heartbreaking in that the only thing Fria remembers, despite her condition, is her duty to protect the power of the Maiden.
- It's hard not to feel sad about how badly shaken Ren is by Team JNPR's overwhelming loss to Neo- in particular, the moment in which he encounters her disguised as Nora. The sight of "Nora" looking at him with fear as he's about to land a blow on her causes him to freeze up with a look of horror, allowing Neo to easily knock him aside. A moment later, as the team retreats, the actual Nora looks back to see that Ren is actually in tears. Combined with the fact that they were unable to fulfill their duty to protect Oscar and the Relic, Ren is visibly distraught in Team JNPR's final scene, hands clutching his head and unable to look Yang in the eye when she asks about what happened.
- Emerald's reaction to Cinder returning to Salem's base. She joyfully runs to greet Cinder, expressing her relief to see her alive, only for Cinder to coldly snap at her to be quiet. Seeing Emerald's face fall in shock and disappointment is incredibly disheartening to watch. There's a subtle frown on Mercury's face as soon as Emerald greets Cinder, and again after the former is reprimanded. It's depressing because he knows that Emerald cares deeply about Cinder and, despite vocally not caring about Emerald's personal issues regarding her, it's clear that it pains him to watch the exchange. The whole reunion reinforces what Mercury asserted to Emerald back in Volume 6: Cinder has no real unconditional care for either of them.
- Ironwood's execution of Sleet; whilst the latter had a short screen time, it was clear he was a man who cared about the people of both Atlas and Mantle, and the way Ironwood just cold-out murders him just for demanding answers for his recent actions shows just how far off the deep end Ironwood has truly fallen.
- Nora opening up to Weiss and Blake about how she feels about Ren's increasingly visible, yet still mysterious, issues is a very common real life problem that anyone can relate to. She and Ren were thrown together at a young age as orphans who had only each other to rely on. They've never been apart for their whole lives until Volume 8 splits them into different teams. Nora admits that she feels she currently understands Ren less than she ever did; as with all people who refuse to talk about their problems, Nora is left feeling like she doesn't know if it's her fault or not, and has come to the realisation that she actually has no clue who she is as a person because her life has been an identity that consists of her and Ren together. Many people struggle to figure out who they are as a person, or suddenly realise that they've been so attached to another person that they've completely neglected their own sense of self and mental wellbeing. Nora sense of sadness, loss and confusion over who she even is and if there's anything more for her in life than just being strong and hitting stuff is an extremely relatable and painful problem for a lot of people.
- Ren and Yang's argument in the tundra is the culmination of Ren's growing emotional distress throughout the previous volume finally exploding. All the fear and doubts he's been feeling about the choices the heroes have made and how overwhelmed he's feeling by the impossibility of Salem's immortality burst out, leading him to say things that he instantly regrets — too late to rescind the hurt his words cause. Although the characters don't appear to recognise it for what it is, it's clear to the viewers that the hero who used to seem like the calmest, most stable member of the team is rapidly descending through a vicious spiral of despair, blame and self-recrimination towards a full mental breakdown.
- Ruby's message to Remnant means that Taiyang sees his youngest daughter for the first time in months and can see that she's fine. But after that he discovers that she's been fighting in a Secret War against Salem, who is currently attacking where she is right now and she admits that she may not be seeing tomorrow. When the transmission cuts out he can only desperately beg for it to come back so he knows his daughter is okay before breaking down. Zwei can only attempt to comfort him. Even worse is that this was a recording, not a live broadcast. As far as Taiyang could know his youngest daughter, all that he has left of his relationship with Summer, may well have been dead by the time he saw this.
- After Penny succumbs to Watts' virus and falls from the sky, all Pietro can do is call out to her helplessly. The poor guy already lost Penny once during the Fall of Beacon, now he has to lose her a second time and there's nothing he can do about it. Penny's last words to her father make it more heartbreaking.
- In Volume 7, Robyn comments that the law isn't always fair, and Marrow mentions that Atlas's society is designed to keep certain people, especially Faunus, at the bottom of it. Cinder's backstory shows the viewers how true that is even for disadvantaged humans. She was once an orphan who was bought by an hotelier to function as a slave, controlled via a shock collar and abuse that occurred even in plain view. Illia states in Volume 5 that part of the problem are people who stand back and just let hate happen; out of so many people who could have intervened in Cinder's case, only one ever did — and only when she inconvenienced Rhodes enough to do so. His solution to saving her from becoming a monster by killing her family is to secretly train her to pass the Huntsman Academy entrance exams, requiring her to endure seven years of torture before she's old enough to take legal control of her life from her abusive guardian. Even a Huntsman who is portrayed as well-respected and free to do as he pleases feels Cinder has no other legal option, and he clearly won't break the law for her either. Cinder's situation becomes so untenable that she snaps just a few years shy of her goal, killing both her abusive family and Rhodes, whose attempt to arrest her ends with him patting her head affectionately one last time as he dies, as if sadly accepting that becoming a monster was her inescapable fate. The society Robyn and Marrow described is one that protects the abuses of the elite and gives the abused no sane recourse to change their lives around. As a product of that system, Cinder's options were reduced to one: become a villain in an attempt to escape her fate only to end up in the hands of another abusive woman who can also torture her via her Grimm arm — but who, this time, is both much smarter about keeping Cinder under her control as well as impossible to kill.Cinder: I don't have to run now.Rhodes: That's all you'll ever do.
- There is something heartbreaking about seeing Ozpin agree without hesitation that Hazel is right to torture him. The audience has witnessed Ozpin repeatedly taking excessive blame for the evil Salem has committed in his name and the actions, secrecy and lies he's been countering her with, but it's absolutely terrible to see that his guilt is so extreme that he actually believes he deserves to be tortured.
- While Weiss is changing Nora's dressings, she mumbles "Now what am I good for?". Even when barely conscious, her identity crisis is all-consuming. The poor girl has so little self-esteem that, even when bedridden and half dead, all she can think about is how useless she is now that she is incapable of doing the only two things she felt she was good for: "be strong and hit stuff". One can't help but share Weiss's pain and helplessness at being unable to do anything to comfort or support Nora's anguish.
- After Weiss asks her about the Marigolds, May reveals that they renounced her for wanting to help Mantle, callously replacing her with Henry. While it wasn't the impetus, May noting with disgust that they disowned her as their "son" confirms that their last twist of the knife was a refusal to acknowledge her as a woman. This echoes the painful experiences of many transgender people who have to deal with familial rejection both before and after coming out. With the additional knowledge that Kdin Jenzen is also a transgender woman who wanted to put everything she had into the scene to convey the pain that transgender people experience, it becomes an even more real moment that it already was.
- Ruby's reaction to finding out the truth about the Hound. There is a close-up of her face as she's faced with this terrible realisation: the memory of Salem taunting her about Summer... and then the expression of abject horror as she makes the connection between Salem's taunt and the tortured creature in front of her eyes.
- Close inspection of Winter's current outfit reveals that she has significant body support covering her spine, ribcage, arms, hips and thighs. This is grim evidence that Winter is so badly injured from her fight with Cinder that she's had to be medically rigged just to function away from her hospital bed.
- Team FNKI taking part in the battle to defend Atlas alongside adult soldiers, and Marrow's reaction to it. While they aren't defenseless and the situation is desperate for Atlas, it's still sad to see students having to fight in an apocalyptic battle because their kingdom is on the verge of annihilation and is implied to be running out of soldiers to defend it.
- The way Marrow and Winter keep being hit with increasingly devastating emotional blows from the decisions the General keeps making to protect Atlas. From Marrow struggling with the sight of kids like Team FNKI being put on the front line, to Winter's decision to proceed with the plan to detonate the bomb, the audience can easily see how badly torn apart both are between their consciences and their duty as loyal soldiers. While Marrow makes Winter pause by asking her what she'll say to her sister if she kills Weiss's friends with the bomb, it's clear to the audience that her response they'll keep going because of duty makes it clear just how close to breaking point they both are. It leaves the audience wondering just how much more these two can take before they can no longer handle following Ironwood's orders, and whether Winter really would have had the courage to tell Weiss the truth about her friends' deaths.
- Yang calling out Salem causing endless death after one bad thing happened in her life. Yang states that every person she has lost is because of Salem, specifically her mom, Summer Rose. After so much focus on Raven's biological relationship to Yang, this is a stark reminder for the viewers that the woman Yang spent her childhood believing was her mother was Summer, and that she along with Ruby lost a mother in Summer. However, Yang's statement that "everyone I lost" includes Raven, whose abandonment of Yang is based on her fear of Salem. Salem has therefore deprived Yang of two mothers.
- Hazel pulling a Heroic Sacrifice to buy the heroes time to escape Salem is equal parts awesome and heartbreaking. Hazel gives Emerald a soft, almost fatherly, smile before insisting she run, while she shakes her head, near to tears. It's tragic evidence that Emerald's blind loyalty for the abusive, uncaring Cinder has disguised from her the bond of genuine affection, friendship and protectiveness that she's had all along with Hazel — until it was too late.
- As Yang, Ren, Jaune, Oscar, and Emerald move through the tunnels on their way to the Schnee Mansion, they come across many of Atlas' citizens hiding down there. It's a somber scene all on its own, but it visibly has the most impact upon Emerald; seeing all these people huddled in fear is a stark reminder of who's been paying the price for all this bloodshed, particularly now that she knows it's not for some better purpose. In particular, Emerald's gaze lingers upon some scared little kids. While it probably reminds her of her own life spent on the streets, the two children are hudled up in exactly the same way as the illusory child she used to fool Amber, allowing Cinder to attack her for the Fall Maiden's power; it's something only the audience is aware of.
- It's not hard to actually sympathise for Cinder, after Watts gives her a nasty, but well-deserved, tongue-lashing about how her flaws have constantly interfered with both Salem's plans and her own goals. She turns away from Watts to face the viewers, a Single Tear falling down the same eye that cried during her back-story reveal. It strips away the mask of pride she constantly wears, implying to the audience that she does know deep down inside that Watts is right — she's been nothing but a screw-up ever since she obtained the Fall Maiden's powers and the image of herself she projects to others is a person she knows doesn't really exist.
- Seeing the once heroic Ironwood descend into madness culminating in this episode, before he announces his intention to blow up Mantle if Penny doesn't help him save Atlas. After reaching a low point of near-despair upon learning he has lost all his options for obtaining Penny so that he can save Atlas with the Relic of Creation, Ironwood learns that the SDC is using cargo ships to rescue the Mantle citizens. He laughs in a mixture of relief and madness, as he realizes that he can hold Mantle hostage to force Penny to be delivered to him. It's another sign of his increasingly unstable mental state, which is a far cry from his original personality of a man who never went out of his way to hurt innocent people for the sake of his "well-intentioned" goals.
- Ruby's Heroic BSoD over Atlas' increasingly dire situation and the apparent futility of her actions to help the people of the kingdom. It's particularly sad to see how the usually optimistic, brave and resilient Ruby falling to despair and depreciating herself, especially after how she managed to keep going for so long despite the many terrible situations and tragedies she went through. And when Yang tries to lift Ruby's spirits with a hug, there are tears forming in Ruby's eyes.
- During their argument, Yang walks toward Emerald's direction, causing Emerald to back down and puts herself in a defensive stance with a clearly frightened expression on her face. While Yang was certainly not going to attack her, it says much about Emerald's abuse at Cinder's hands to the point that she's afraid of being hit just for the slightest disagreement or expressing her own opinion.
- Ironwood's willingness to bomb Mantle destroys all of Marrow's remaining faith and loyalty in him. Marrow points out that he believed in the general, that they were working towards something better, and so he wore his rank with pride. Now Ironwood's throwing it all away, doing Salem's job for her, and he wants no further part of it. Even sadder is that Ironwood immediately tries to kill Marrow after this.
- Yang pulling a Heroic Sacrifice to take the blow Neo meant for Ruby, results in Blake frantically failing to save Yang. The viewers recognise the move she uses as a team attack strategy called "Bumblebee", where Blake throws her weapon for Yang to catch. They are shown a slow motion close-up of Yang's semi-conscious state and Blake's weapon falling inches too short to save her, before being treated to a gut-wrenching scream as Blake realises she can't save her. The audience then has to witness Weiss struggling in the background to stop Blake from following Yang over the edge while Ruby fights Neo in the foreground, implying that Blake has entered a suicidal frame of mind.
- Ironwood murdering Jacques Schnee. While the man was a complete and total jackass to his family and almost everyone he knew, before he dies he somberly tells Ironwood "we both lose" and hangs his head in defeat. And after Watts opens Ironwood's cell, Jacques asks if he will open his as well, and Ironwood kills him instead of saying no. And right before he dies rather than be scared or try to escape, he just looks shocked and sad, before Ironwood completely reduces him to ash. He may have been an asshole, but he didn't deserve that.
The Final Word
- During Qrow and Robyn's encounter with Harriet, the duo, alongside Vine and Elm, manage to get her to see reason in what she's doing, and manage to stop the bomb from dropping on Mantle... However, Watts still manages to activate the bomb's countdown, and the group has no way to escape from the bomb's blast radius in time. How they manage to survive? Vine performs a Heroic Sacrifice, using his Aura arms to create a barrier to trap the explosion in, at the cost of his life. Harriet's increasing levels of My God, What Have I Done? throughout the sequence hit hard, especially with her voice during her realization that Vine's sacrificing himself because of her attempts to follow in the late Clover's footsteps.
- Penny's final moments are gut-wrenching. After getting to know her again from Volume 7, and the struggle throughout Volume 8 to save her being rendered moot; she traumatizes Jaune by convincing him to kill her before Cinder can finish stealing the Winter Maiden's power. Raising the spectre of assisted suicide is such a dark and upsetting experience that the creators even provided a Content Warning at the beginning of the episode and specialist US phone numbers in the episode tag-line for any viewers who may be affected by the subject. Whats worse is also how short her time as a human was. She was overjoyed when she had her dream come true, of having to be a real person, only for that to be yanked away by Cinder. Truly a cruel twist ending for Penny's character arc.
- After Blake and Ruby fall into the void, Cinder proceeds to fight Weiss after wounding Penny, and proceeds to taunt Weiss about the deaths of her teammates. You can't really blame Weiss at that point for tearing up, as at that point, she had good reason to believe that her teammates were dead, and she was left as the Sole Survivor of Team RWBY. Even worse, she and her teammates had affirmed themselves as her family, and she had lost the first true family she had ever had, barring her sister.
- Even after the power of the Winter Maiden is passed onto Winter and she triumphantly takes down Ironwood, it's not a pure victory in the long run. Despite being evenly matched with Cinder and doing her best to protect Jaune and especially Weiss, she's forced to take a loss when she's unable to rescue Weiss after her younger sister is sent hurtling into the void. The despair in her voice when she screams out her name only cements the scene, and later she's seen shedding a Single Tear when she looks to Whitley, Willow, and Klein after emerging from the portal, very likely reminded in that moment that she failed to protect a part of her family.
- Qrow's final moments of the season, desperately screaming into his comms for Ruby and Yang with a look of agony and panic on his face, while Robyn stares in helpless worry; as far as he's aware, the nieces he was responsible for are dead and he couldn't do a damn thing to stop it. The dramatic irony makes this worse as one realizes that his fear that they died when Atlas crashed into Mantle is much more mundane than the more eldritch situation they are really in — falling into an otherworldly void without any apparent way to get back home.
- Ironwood's final moments show how far he's fallen from a powerful, respected, larger-than-life leader, through killing allies, burning bridges with friends and sacrificing/threatening the lives of the civilians he swore to protect to the pathos of his end: he's reduced to nothing, barely acknowledged by Salem when the two finally come face-to-face, and dying unmourned and alone under the debris of the kingdom he sacrificed everything and everyone to save. There's also the gut-wrenching implication that Ironwood has finally realized that his own shortcomings and paranoia got him in this situation in the first place, as Cinder mockingly tells him "Checkmate". It's easy to imagine that it brought him back to the moment he saw Cinder's glass Queen piece on his desk, and it hit him that he fell right into the manipulations of his enemies and did exactly what they wanted him to in ensuring their victory, which saw him lose friends, allies and the chance to carry on as the hero all through his own fault. Even worse, the realization only comes as his precious kingdom of Atlas finally falls.
- The destruction of Atlas and Mantle is pretty somber as well. A historical landmark and kingdom reduced to nothing more than ruins. Beacon Academy's destruction was the iconic symbol for the viewers of what the villains can achieve, but the Kingdom of Vale itself survived. The villains haven't been able to achieve anything on the scale of Beacon until Atlas; the sight of the two cities collapsing into each other and flooding in a way that emulates the sinking of Atlantis far exceeds the experience of Beacon in both scale of destruction and pathos.
- From Volume 1:
- The leitmotifs of the four main characters in the series seem to be at least half of the reason that the Fridge Horror and Tear Jerker is so noticeable to fans.
- The lyrics to "Mirror Mirror" certainly qualify, especially when you take a closer look at some of Weiss's behavior throughout the series.Fear of what's inside meTell me, can a heart be turned to stone?...I'm the loneliest of all
Fatlord27: She looks disoriented, almost as if she forgot where she was. She just bared her soul to the audience, she sang this song about her own terrible loneliness and it was like she was calling out for help. Then she realizes where she is, and curtsies like the perfect lady she's meant to be.
- It gets even worse during the trailer, where she sings the song while recalling a battle against an Armored Knight. A certain Youtube user, Fatlord27, put it best.
Mirror, mirror, what's behind you?
- Even worse is that, while she's singing about her loneliness, Volumes 2 and 4 respectively reveal that she has a sister and a brother. The nature of their relationship isn't addressed until later, but it's clear from the start that they are not at all close.
- After The Reveal in The Stray that implies her father was abusive in some way and it had an effect on her personality as she grew up, try these lyrics:
Save me from the things I see!
I can keep it from the world,
Why won't you let me hide from me?
- "From Shadows" is a spiteful, furious anthem from the perspective of The White Fang, an organization that Blake was born into, about how humanity had mistreated and oppressed them for long enough, and now they're about to fight back, complete with a somber piano piece at the start and end of the song.
- Although Gold is a happy song known to be about Yang always looking after Ruby, there's one line in the song that becomes this when you think about it. The second half of the chorus:Like the smell of a rose, on a summer's day/I will be there to take all your fears away
- It's reinforcing Yang looking after Ruby, almost like a mother would. Now, what was the name of Ruby's mother?
- In addition, this line:I'm so happy/Just to have you here
- With the revelation that Yang almost got Ruby killed when searching for her own missing mother, these and some of the other lyrics sound like Yang is reassuring herself just as much as Ruby.
- The lyrics to Red Like Roses Part 2 appear to be sung from the point of view of Ruby, despairing at the loss of a loved one. Then the full version of the song was released, and two more verses were added. The second verse appears to be sung from the point of view of whoever it was that died, full of regret that she had to leave Ruby all alone, and saying she had every intention of coming home again. Then the third verse is a duet, which sounds like an angry argument between the two. The fact that the second voice is sung by primary singer Casey Lee Williams' mother leans even more towards the idea that the song is about Ruby and her own mother.Every nightmare just disclosesIt's your blood that's red like roses...
- According to Casey Lee the song is indeed an argument between Ruby and her mother, Summer. Ruby is a young child angry that her mother left her alone to fight (and eventually die) and Summer is desperately trying to tell her why she had to go and apologize for it.
- The season finale's credits-song Wings, despite its soothing tone, and lyrics imploring, "Dry your eyes, now, baby," has a reputation for making many in the FNDM grow misty-eyed at the chorus.
- From Volume 2:
- For meta reasons, "Time to Say Goodbye" is Harsher in Hindsight: It was the last title song for a season completed prior to Monty Oum's sudden death, due to an allergic reaction to medicine he received that rendered him comatose. The song is about a warrior questioning why they continue fighting...
- From Volume 3:
- A small portion of "I'm the One" alludes to Mercury's childhood of abuse, what with being beaten and hated by his father, as well as Emerald's lack of a home, having no one to love her.
- "It's My Turn" is confirmed by Jeff Williams to be from Weiss's perspective about growing up under her father's thumb, and how she'd finally found her own path after years of enduring criticism, being emotionally broken, being told to feign a smile, being forced her to abandon her dreams, and being told that his abuse was something she was supposed to appreciate.
- The lyrics from "Mirror Mirror Part II" are about how Weiss was constantly put down, had her dreams belittled, and was prevented from forming any friendships. Despite all of this, she feels as if she has no right to feel sad or lonely, since she'd grown up with privilege that few else had.
- "Cold", the second credits song of the season finale (which was extended upon its inclusion on the soundtrack). Its motif feels like an ode about Jaune's feelings for Pyrrha when she comes into his life... as well as when she leaves. Add that with the Reality Subtext of Monty's death, and it's easy to get the tears flowing.I never thought a hero, would ever come my way,
But more than that, I never thought, you'd be taken away,
Now it's cold without you here, it's like winter lasts all year.
- From Volume 4:
I'm a harbinger, I cannot lie. I will change the color of your life.I am no one's blessing. I'll just bring you harm.Sad to say, I'm your bad luck charm.
- The training scene in "Remembrance" is punctuated with "Infinite and Unbound", a reworking of Jaune and Pyrrha's leitmotif. The music itself is hard to hear on it's own, let alone in the scene itself.
- The Volume 4 intro song, "Let's Just Live", is utterly heartbreaking during it's first half. Thankfully, the second half is far more triumphant.It used to feel like a fairy tale. Now it seems we were just pretending we'd fix our world, then on our way to a happy ending.
Then it turned out life, was far less like a bedtime story. Than a tragedy with no big reveal of the hero's glory.
And it seems we weren't prepared, For a game that wasn't fair.
Do we just go home? Can we follow through? When all hope is gone, There is one thing we can do.
And the lesson isn't new; that some dreams just can't come true.
- And in the second verse, we get this painful callback to Season 2's soundtrack:
- The song that kicks in during the second half of the fight between Qrow and Tyrian in "Punished," titled "Bad Luck Charm", the lyrics of which are enlightened on in the next episode, "A Much Needed Talk", where Qrow explains that his semblance is apparently Misfortune, which is useful against an enemy, but bad on friends and family. Oh, and he can't control it either. With this in knowledge, it makes the lyrics to this otherwise awesome fight theme so tragic and puts Qrow's character in a whole new light.
It happens every nightI watch my world igniteBut there's no waking from this nightmareThe stage is always setThe place I can't forgetThe hidden eyes that I can feel thereMy eyes are open wideI'm racing to her sideThere's nothing that I won't do for herBut this is not a dreamMy mind repeats the sceneI can't forget it and it's torture
- "Armed and Ready," while primarily about how Yang is back and ready to beat ass, also has some darker opening lyrics which indicate just how terrible things were for Yang in the previous few months while dealing with her depression and trauma.
- From Volume 5:
I feel like I'm running out of energy
- The song that plays during Weiss' character short, a prequel to "Mirror, Mirror" which tells of her descent into cold and isolation. She's isolated not just from others, but from her own self, as she changes into a person she doesn't recognize.
- While "The Triumph" is mostly an uplifting song, there are a few somber lyrics strewn in about how the past cannot be changed no matter how much we may want it, and we will never be able to reclaim what has been lost. The possibility of Penny and/or Pyrrha returning is becoming less and less likely...
- The full version of All That Matters is heartbreaking throughout. Very clearly from Yang's perspective, it details how she never expected Blake to stay around (after her whole life has consisted of people leaving her), but that she never expected Blake to just leave without even an indication of how to follow her. The song then goes on to make it clear that Yang fully believes that Blake will leave again and hurt her eventually, but to her "all that matters" is that she has Blake there now (in contrast to how "all that matters" was used by Ruby in the scene the song played, with Ruby and Weiss willing to let bygones be bygones and welcome Blake back, with Yang it's phrase as her thinking that she can't trust Blake to stay, but that she's willing to be hurt again just to be around Blake a little while longer).
While you just take everything in stride
The way I feel
To you is no big deal
Sad, but it's true
That the one thing I can count on is that I can't count on you
- The full version of Smile makes it pretty obvious that, from the backstory, it's Ilia's song. What makes this saddening is how it begins: a happy tribal drum song with Ilia's parents warning her about the world. And while the drumming keeps going for the chorus, it stops once we know what Ilia's thinking her parents would want for her: "Show them how you smile, it's only for a while... Take what you need, leave them to bleed. Let them know bitter while your revenge is sweet."
- From Volume 6:
The goal is not to live forever
- "Nevermore", while mostly a triumphant duet from the viewpoint of Yang and Blake about how they make it clear to Adam that he can't haunt them anymore, has a moment during the bridge. The bridge makes it clear that, despite their triumph over Adam, they do not see it as a cause to celebrate and are clearly remorseful about having to take a life to defend theirs. It also makes it clear that, despite Adam having been a monstrous abuser, they only see him as "a boy who lost his way".
- "Indomitable" is a mix between this and heartwarming. The song starts as a recount of the beginnings of RWBY, and Monty's vision as he and the others shaped the world. The song then takes time to recount the lessons Monty imparted on everyone, and comments how despite how unfair his death was, his influence will never be forgotten, and thus will live forever through what he left behind.
Cause eternity loves the creation of time
- "One Thing" reveals just how poorly Neo has handled Torchwick's death back in Volume 3. The lyrics suggest that Neo had a very Dark and Troubled Past and lived a life of misery before Torchwick came along, as well as state that Neo came to see him as the only good thing she had, and that she feels she has nothing left to live for except revenge against those (specifically Cinder, as the lyrics are clearly directed at a single person) who played a role in his death.
- At one point the lyrics outright state that Cinder destroyed Neo's life.
- The beginning lyrics of "Lionize" spell out how Adam has been mistreated and abused for being a Faunus since childhood. It even implies he started working as de facto slave labourer for the Schnee Dust Company since he was a kid. While Adam is a horrible abuser, the lyrics point out why he's so angry at humans and the world, and give a more light on what shaped him into the monster he became.
- From Volume 7:
- "Hero" is a pretty badass song on the surface, but when you listen to the lyrics it becomes clear that Ironwood has stopped caring about his own life in pursuit of protecting his kingdom, and that he also can't bring himself to care about his public image because he'd rather be hated than fail his people. His desire to protect people has become self-destructive, and he'll sacrifice whatever it takes to save the world, life and limb included. Additionally, he actually doubts his own mindset at one point. Some of the lyrics have him wondering if the public sees him as a heartless leader, being "more of a machine than a man". Right after this, he immediately changes his mind, wanting to stick to his self-sacrificial plans that he takes immense pride in. It's saddening to see how there is a glimmer of regret that is snuffed out by his patriotism towards Atlas.
- From Volume 8:
- During Cinder's initial time working at the hotel, a song starts playing with a Cinderella theme... except it's from the perspective of her stepsisters/mother talking down at her. It really sums up the attitude of the people she was forced to work under, and how hard it would be to live under such abusive conditions (and this is before the shock collar). Cinder probably had a better time at the orphanage, all things considered...You're no good, I hope you know
That your life is of no use
And the truth is that
No one's ever loved you
- During Cinder's initial time working at the hotel, a song starts playing with a Cinderella theme... except it's from the perspective of her stepsisters/mother talking down at her. It really sums up the attitude of the people she was forced to work under, and how hard it would be to live under such abusive conditions (and this is before the shock collar). Cinder probably had a better time at the orphanage, all things considered...
- Volume 3's DVD main menu uses score music from the Volume 3 episode Destiny. In particular, it's the score that plays while Pyrrha and Jaune talk about their troubles and how the scene is the first time it looks like the Jaune/Pyrrha ship is about to begin, only to be torn apart by the terrible choice Pyrrha is struggling with. It sums up the volume's emotional rollercoaster and hits the viewers with the emotional heartbreak that the volume ended on. The music can be listened to here, and includes fan reactions to the piece.
- "How are you okay with any of this?!"