It is fascinating how RWBY has changed since it premiered several years ago. Beginning as an action comedy, the series has transformed into a full-fledged drama. Now, “Alone in the Woods” introduces genuine horror into franchise. There have been frightening moments before, but not an entire episode that ramps up the horrifying nature of the world of Remnant. Watching the episode was like watching a mix of Evil Dead meets elements of The Blair Witch Project. Our heroes have been jumping through hoops since Volume 6 began, and the episode throws them through more.
The beastly Grimm have mostly served the purpose of monsters-of-the-week, and came off as large, semi-scary beasts for our heroes to kill in exhilarating fashion. Over each volume, they have become increasingly more of a threat, each new type scarier than the last. Perhaps the Nuckelavee Grimm, which appeared in Volume 4, was the most frightening. Until today!
Team RWBY reluctantly camp out in the Brunswick Farms after finding the entire populace dead in their beds. Exhausted, frightened, and at each other’s throats, no one is entirely on board about staying in the house of the dead. Qrow is quickly getting drunk, but tells Ruby that they’ll be setting out at dawn. Ruby does have a sweet moment where she hugs her uncle in reassurance. Maria Calavera spends the episode reading the personal journals of the ranch’s founder, a bloke named Bartleby.
In a surprise move, nothing emerges from the creepy locked wine cellar during the night. It isn’t until the daylight that the horror begins. Everyone is rather detached, tired, irritable, and fed up, even when about to vacate the freaky farm. Qrow’s bad luck causes them to a lose a tyre on the trailer. Though Ruby tries to motivate everyone, Weiss asks what is the point in dragging the Relic of Knowledge to Atlas. Yang and Blake also express how fruitless their quest is, suggesting they chuck the Relic down a well, since it may be a long time before Salem finds it.
The apathetic Ruby ends up dropping the lantern down the well by accident when something with red eyes appears within. Snapping out of her hazy apathy, Ruby and the girls jump down the well to retrieve the Relic. Oscar is left to fix the busted tyre, Qrow hits the bar, and Maria continues reading the journals. She soon discovers what happened to the ranch’s folks – there is a colony of the freakiest Grimm ever living in the water tunnels below the ranch!
Seeing Ruby legitimately terrified of these Grimm was chilling. She has always been one to slay them without fear, but seeing Ruby vulnerable for the first time is a real game changer. These Grimm as called the Apathy, similar to Dementors, but their simple groans can drain a person of their very willpower. Maria comes to the rescue (how did she get down the well?). What follows is one of the most tense scenes in RWBY. The five flee through the labyrinth of water tunnels, pursued by the shuffling Apathy, which make the Walkers look like welcome puppies in comparison. The Grimm’s continuous groans are enough to nerf Team RWBY, just as they reach the staircase up to the wine cellar.
Things go completely insane when the Grimm cause Blake to briefly go catatonic, triggering Ruby’s Silver Eyes, giving the group mere seconds of recovery. Maria crawls to Ruby and tells Ruby to fuel the power of her eyes with happy thoughts and feelings, allowing Ruby to control the Silver Eyes properly, wiping out the Grimm. It’s like the equivalent of the Patronus Charm on the Dementors. Fuelled by a need to haul their asses out of there, Team RWBY bust out of the wine cellar and find a hammered Qrow up in the bar.
Weiss makes the sensible choice to burn the house to the ground and kill the remaining Grimm. Qrow objects to burning the alcohol, but upon seeing what is lurking in the basement, he shuts up. I also noticed that Yang takes Blake by the hand and guides her out the house. The group successfully flee the ranch to let it burn, clearly shook up by their encounter. Just another blow to their morale.
On the road, Maria explains that the Apathy drain their victims of their will, emptying them out til there is nothing left. The journals reveal the ranch was in debt toward its end. Bartleby decided to cut costs on paying Huntsmen to protect the ranch. All he needed to do was to keep everyone in the ranch calm at all times. How? Knowing the Apathy could suppress and drain emotions, Bartleby decided to lure two of them into the wine cellar and use them to bleach his family’s emotions. Turns out the rest of the pack followed, wandering into the water tunnels, which Bartleby sealed up. That many Grimm effectively drained the ranch dry of life, til everyone died, feeling nothing.
Holy Hera! This is one of the darkest things imagined in RWBY. This is like something from The Twilight Zone, or Fallout, or that the SCP Foundation would cook up. It is fantastically morbid. A desperate man, in an attempt to save his family and money, “hired” the very thing he was trying to protect the ranch from, to act as a muffler. Then, the rest of the horde came and did the job a little too well. It is disturbingly unsettling, and brilliantly written.
The girls make amends, committed to getting the Relic to Atlas. Ruby asks Maria how she knew what to do in relation to her Silver Eyes. Maria then states what the entire fanbase was guessing: Once upon a time, she, too, had the Silver Eyes. Hazel has mentioned that Salem’s group have “dealt” with other Silver-Eyed Warriors before. But, Maria said she was blind, so perhaps she evaded death or torturing by the badguys. No doubt she will help to mentor Ruby, and master her untamed powers.
By far, this is now the high mark of Volume 6. Absolutely terrifying Grimm, a cautionary tale on cost cutting, our heroes at their most vulnerable, and a step in the right direction for Ruby’s development.
Final Grade: A+
+ The Apathy are the creepiest Grimm yet, and I won’t be going into any wine cellars anytime soon.
+ Seeing Team RWBY powerless against the Grimm was edge-of-my-seat levels of terror. Especially with Ruby.
+ That. Goddamn. Backstory.
What were your thoughts on this episode of RWBY? Leave a comment below on our Twitter or Facebook feeds, or down below. RWBY can be watched on Rooster Teeth’s website, but this episode will only be available to Premium “First” members, and made public next Saturday.