“Refuge” amps up the growing tension within RWBY, as characters question what they once knew about themselves and the world. This builds up to one momentous shock twist in the episode’s closing moments. Though the temptation is there to just dive straight into it, we have to cover the rest of episode first.
Last volume saw the arrests of Qrow Branwen, Robyn Hill, Jacque Schnee, and Arthur Watts for different reasons. Now, the four have all become cellmates in Atlas, separated by dust-powered security walls. Qrow is pretty bummed out about the murder of Clover, clutching his bloodstained emblem. Despite Jacque trying to play the innocent card in comparison to Qrow, Robyn is convinced Qrow did not murder Clover. Atlesian soldiers enter, pistol whip Watts, and drag him out of the room for presumed torture or interrogation. Qrow is ready to go on the warpath against General Ironwood, though Robyn may try to keep him on the more dignified path.
In Mantle, Joanna Greenleaf instructs citizens to head for the crater under Atlas. Team Mantle (Yang, Jaune, Ren, Oscar) enter Pietro’s office, discovering three hoverbikes, much to Yang’s delight. Our blonde bombshell is thrilled to be back in her comfort zone so to speak, leading her teammates on a wild ride through Mantle’s streets. The group take out some Grimm, thanks to Jaune using a little dust shield projector, which can magnetise onto Jaune’s shield.
To avoid the Grimm attacking, Yang asks Ren if he can use his Semblance to mask them from the sight. Ren can repel emotions, though he has been having trouble with his own since the last volume, due to all the negative feedback. Jaune agrees, suggesting he help Ren by using his own aura-amplifying Semblance. One grumpy old lady protests having to go to the slums to mingle with Faunus, but Yang promptly shuts her down. Still baffling how some people will choose prejudices and ignorance over common sense. How topical!
The large group of people slowly trek across the city, with Jaune fuelling Ren’s Semblance with his own. Oscar brings up the rear, finding it absurd how some people just refuse to work together. Ozpin speaks to him, sympathetic to Oscar’s turmoil, warning him that the union of their souls will become one. The only way to survive Salem is for everyone to work together. Ren remains increasingly agitated and snappy, even when Jaune tries to give him a pep talk. The worst fear for Ren is that members of Team JNPR will die, or he will completely self-destruct by cutting off all of his friends.
Elsewhere, Team Amity (Ruby, Weiss, Blake, Nora, Penny) meet up with May Marigold to find a way up to Atlas. It is great to see the Happy Huntresses get more fleshed out now. May was identified as the first transgendered character in RWBY, as well as cousin to Henry Marigold, a priggish artist introduced in Volume Four.
They enter the Snow Shoe Shipping warehouse, a subsidiary of the Schnee Dust Company, hoping to use pneumatic tubes to send mined dust up to Atlas. It is filled with drones, but Weiss reassures her friends that they are controlled by the SDC. Penny wanders over to a terminal with Atlas Academy as the destination. Ruby approaches to comfort her, Penny expressing how she dislikes friends falling out. Ruby assumes she means her confrontation with Yang, but Penny is actually talking about her former military comrades. Still lost on where she belongs, Ruby comforts Penny by telling her that she remains the Hero of Mantle, becoming the Winter Maiden to protect them. Weiss gets to “test” the tubes when an eager Nora hits a button, sending our ice queen flying up the tube.
Team Mantle arrive at the crater campsite, where our favourite sheep-eared Happy Huntress, Fiona Thyme, is running the show. Though grateful, Fiona assumes they would have struggled without their teammates. This irks Yang, and Ren stomps off. It seems like Mantle is coming together as a community, with the police evacuating hospitals, and old mineshafts being cleared to make into temporary homes. Another Grimm sighting is seen in the eastern district, prompting Team Mantle to spring into action.
Through some clever teamwork, they take out a Teryx, but face more Grimm nearby. However, this pack suddenly freeze, turn tail, and runaway in fright. Grimm act purely on instinct, so whatever is coming must be terrifying even to them. Oscar is suddenly and very viciously ambushed by a new Grimm called the Hound. This is actually the creepy one that Salem summoned at the end of the previous episode.
The Hound is in a constant state of transformation, or possibly evolution, turning from a quadruped into a bipedal. It has an inky, shifting body, bringing forth similarities to Venom or Bendy and the Ink Machine. It knocks out Oscar, intending to kidnap him. Yang, Ren, and Jaune leap in to save Oscar, but the Hound uses him as a shield. The Grimm thinks! In a twisted way, this may reference how otters use their offspring as ways to deter predators from attacking.
Ren angrily demands the Hound to give Oscar back. The Hound shifts something in its throat, and replies, “No!”. The Grimm spoke! It is like the pivotal scene in Rise of the Planet of the Apes where Caesar bellows out a defiant “NO!”
This is such a mindblowing moment that it leaves the others so shocked that the Hound sprouts wings and flies off. Praise must be given to the animators for having the characters react realistically; for these monsters they have seen as mere animals now have intelligence.
Is this because it is some sort of evolution that Salem has been working on? Or is there an actual person within, acting as a host for the Hound? Cinder’s arm is actually a Grimm which is slowly infecting her body. Perhaps, the Hound is of a similar origin. If so, then who could be inside? Speculation is that it is Ruby’s mother Summer Rose, who Salem confirmed to be either dead or defeated last volume.
Though Fiona calls the team for another assignment, they have more pressing matters to deal with. It appears Salem needs Oscar, or at least Ozpin, to use the Relic of Knowledge. This mirrors the series’ Oz similarities. Oscar stands in for both not only the Wizard of Oz, but Princess Ozma (who Ozpin’s original incarnation is named after), and Dorothy Gale. He just got kidnapped by a flying monster to be dropped off with a wicked witch. You get the picture.
What were your thoughts on this episode of RWBY? What is the mystery behind the Hound? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed!