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RWBY: “Strings” Explores Character Introspection and Purpose

The last episode of RWBY ended with the biggest twist in the eighth volume so far. But, whilst Team Mantle are busy chasing down the kidnapped Oscar, Team Amity are trying to launch an infiltration mission. For what should be a hazardous, near-impossible task, the ladies manage to sneak into the Atlas military base quite easily. May Marigold uses her invisibility Semblance to shield the group, though it requires them to be quiet, as though their voices would be muffled, they would be exposed. The team get into an elevator with a pair of Atlesian soldiers, though Nora makes sure to press all of the buttons before sneaking out.

Penny goes all Inspector Gadget, inserting a USB finger stick into the network, using her father’s ID to bypass security doors. Too bad Arthur Watts is keeping an eye on things, in begrudging assistance to Ironwood. The unbalanced general hints torture was needed to “convince” Watts to help him, in particular, remote hacking Penny to control her as the Winter Maiden. The title “Strings” is an obvious allegory to Penny being based on Pinocchio. Her attempts to justify her own individuality are met with resistance from Ironwood, Watts, and Cinder, who wish to either control or destroy her.

The team reach central command, which is too hectic for May to maneuver undetected through. Penny offers a solution, by explaining how Ruby’s Semblance works: She breaks herself down to a molecular level, disregarding her mass, letting her move at fast speeds. Ruby can utilise this on other people too. Ruby, for whatever reason, is baffled by this. She has been able to transport herself and other people since Volume Three, having done so with Weiss, and again with Nora in Volume Four. Blake hilariously points that Penny knew before Ruby.

Ironwood realises the girls are sneaking around the base, cutting off their escape route. May plans to commandeer a jet to escape in, but they need a distraction first. Enter poor Bill, an Atlesian flunky, who is tripped up, spilling his boiling hot coffee into the lap (and crotch) of a co-worker. Ruby pulls off her newly understood Semblance, transporting her teammates up a staircase as Bill’s life crumbles around him. Not that Bill seems to care for the rules, in spite of the “No food and drink!” sign on the wall.

The girls enter a secured control room, guarded by an electrified door. Penny sits at a terminal, where Pietro is able to remote access his daughter’s systems, able to control her. This will no doubt be how Watts hijacks Penny. Nora, Weiss, and Blake wait for Penny and Pietro to do their thing (Blake spinning around on a chair in boredom!).

Our favourite kitty cat has changed a lot since she and Yang defeated Adam Taurus in Volume Six, becoming a lot more lively and fun. Nora then engages in girl talk with Blake and Weiss about her conflict with Ren and loss of identity. Nora believes she is defined by her relationship with Ren, but Blake provides some introspection, explaining that each person has many relationships in their lives; they are not defined by one bond. This relates back to Blake, who for the longest time, was defined by her history with Adam and as a Faunus. Having overcome such conflicts, Blake has grown as a person. This paves the way for Nora to do the same.

Pietro finishes, explaining when Amity Tower launches, it will now connect to Penny rather than Ironwood’s terminal. He then asks Penny to stay on Amity, alongside him and Maria. Though Penny wants to stay with her friends, Ruby suggests she should remain out of harm’s reach. The group are about to head through the next door, but find the Ace Ops waiting for them. Although Vine tries to be reasonable, Harriet and Elm stoke the fires for another scrap with our heroines. Penny is goaded through the door, trapping her in the room with them, and here we go again.

Penny activates her Winter Maiden powers, whipping up a blast of wind to launch the imbecile brigade nearly off the room’s bridge. The fight goes on, Penny combining her new magic with her normal weapons. Marrow brings the battle to a halt when he uses his Semblance of “Stay” to freeze Penny is midair. Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Nora try getting through an electrified door. Nora believes she is only useful at “getting strong and hitting stuff”, deciding to act on that. She charges up her electrical-based Semblance by channelling the electricity, which is directly connected to Atlas’ mainframe. Nora’s hair stands on end as she blows up the door, sending the Ace Ops flying.

Nora is left scarred and falls unconscious, as Team Amity charges into battle. Ironwood is ready to send in all the troops, but Watts instead suggests another plan. The Ace Ops get the message; Harriet angered that she can’t beat up children, but Marrow follows orders. Harriet is able to rip off one of Penny’s sword blades, cutting her strings, before the Ace Ops bail (Marrow lingering for a moment).

The group reach a hangar, board a plane hijacked by May, and escape Atlas. As the team tend to Nora, Penny realises it is time to go. After a smushy hug with Ruby, Penny gives a final salute and takes off for Amity. You can practically see the red flags! The episode ends with Ironwood delivering Penny’s sword to Watts, who makes it clear that hacking Penny is the go-to plan. Hopefully, Ironwood still has some sanity left to realise that Watts will likely try to double-cross him. When it comes down to it, Penny will bring about either Atlas’ salvation or destruction.

What did you like about this episode? What is next for Nora following her power boost and introspection? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed!

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Mark Russell