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RWBY: “War” Is A Cathartic Mid-Season Finale For Volume 8

Due to Covid-19, Rooster Teeth’s animators have had to work from home, making their usual workload and process more difficult. As a result, it was announced the volume would pause until February 9th, giving the company more time to complete the episodes. “War” serves as a decent midway point, where certain characters reach a crossroads in their respective arcs. Rather than focus on the actual war between Salem and Atlas, the episode explores the emotional catharsis of certain characters, or at least the start of facing their personal hurdles.

Winter and the Ace Ops have taken Yang, Jaune, and Ren into custody, frightened by Monstra. Ironwood tells Winter that a bomb is being prepared for delivery to blow up the whale from the inside out. Winter volunteers to lead the task, Ironwood explaining that it must be delivered on foot to avoid detection. When Winter mentions the prisoners, Ironwood instructs her not to let them out of her sight. Yang, Jaune, and Ren object to the mission, unwilling to sacrifice Oscar, though Winter herself is clearly troubled by Ironwood’s state of mind, and how he is willing to do anything in order to win.

Jaune makes the suggestion that he and the others go on a recon mission to rescue Oscar before the bomb run, and potentially take out the enemy. Marrow is baffled that they’d risk going in on their own, but Yang asks if the Ace Ops wouldn’t do the same for each other. Elm criticizes the futility of risking three lives for one, but Ren expresses that Oscar is their friend and they would do anything to save him. Harriet scoffs at Ren’s sentiment, believing that the job always takes priority, even if a teammate is lost, as they can be replaced.

Ren leaps up, angrily shouting that no one is replaceable, referring to both Nora and Pyrrha.. It is refreshing to hear Ren truly share how he feels rather than remain the level-headed stoic he was until recently. This moment appears to unlock the true potential of Ren’s Semblance, allowing him to read the emotions of others around him, in the form of lotus petals, that each are in different mood-based colours and states of movement. Ren guesses Harriet is furious about Clover’s death, as her petals are wild and red. Marrow’s flutter downward and are blue, Elm’s red and orange petals are flying upward, and Vine’s remain serene, green, and stable. Ren realises Team RWBY beat the Ace Ops because the latter deny their own camaraderie, and will never truly work as a team.

Elm gets pissed, but Winter steps in, deciding to send Yang, Jaune, and Ren off to scout out Monstra. Harriet objects to letting the prisoners go, but Winter fantastically shuts her down with the simple retort, “I outrank you.” For someone who claims to value following orders and getting the job done, Harriet sure loves to question them. Just before heading out, Ren realises Marrow wants out, though he remains committed to his duty. Ren then notes that Winter is conflicted, as her lotus petals are a storm of colour.

On Monstra, Salem is clearly having fun conducting the attacks. Emerald sneaks away, eavesdropping on Hazel’s “interrogation” of Oscar and Ozpin. Hazel believes that Salem will create a new world using the four Relics, which he is fine with as long as Ozpin is gone. Ozpin denies this, explaining that Salem’s true goal is to actually summon the Gods to judge humanity, hoping their division will be enough to wipe out the whole world, her included. Hazel disbelieves this, revealing when he first met Salem, he killed her multiple times, but she revived herself, even when he reduced her to pieces. Hazel then joined Salem to get revenge, but Ozpin asks him if it truly benefits him, and asks if the entire world is expendable for his rage.

Oscar persuades Ozpin to let him take over, revealing Jinn’s name to Hazel, though it is exclusively to him, so he may learn the truth about Salem’s plans. Emerald, having heard the whole conversation, shares the information with Mercury. He believes the most practical thing is to not disobey Salem and to fall in line as Hazel did. Mercury dismisses the idea of Salem wishing to destroy the world, only for Tyrian to appear and confirms that she is, finding the whole concept beautiful. Tyrian then whisks Mercury away to set out for Vacuo to acquire the Relic of Destruction, though Emerald may have planted seeds of doubt in Merc’s mind.

Over at the Schnee estate, Team RWBY are troubled about what to do. May enters, ready to head back to Mantle, leading to a debate about where their priorities lie. May reasons that Mantle only has the Happy Huntresses for protection. When Weiss asks if May has any family, she denies this, having rejected her family after changing her gender. Weiss is not so keen to abandon her family as she once did, May asking her what side she is on. Blake mentions how the Ace Ops said the same thing, but Ruby stops any arguing, reminding everyone that they are all against Salem.

In the mansion’s foyer, Ruby suggests rescuing Qrow and Robyn, but May shoots her down, hammering in the reality that not everyone wins in this situation. May gives Team RWBY a choice between Mantle and Atlas. Just then, a knock on the front door brings some much needed salvation in the form of Klein, Weiss’ butler and father figure! To Weiss’ astonishment, Klein reveals Whitley called him to help tend to Nora. Whitley denies doing it for Weiss, which delights her, the siblings sharing a hug. There’s hope for Whitley yet.

The episode ends with another thunderous crash, announcing the crash landing of Penny outside. What are the odds she’d land right outside the Schnee estate?

Cinder and the Hound were both sent to hunt down Penny, so it looks like when RWBY returns next year, there will be a showdown at the Schnees. The opening titles hinted at the fall of the Schnees, with more fatal ends for some characters. The episode has set up the next steps for the volume, with Yang, Jaune, and Ren off to rescue Oscar. Oscar himself is sewing seeds of discord in Salem’s ranks, hoping to recruit Hazel to his cause, with Emerald being another potential candidate. In a more seasoned mirroring of Cinder’s limits, Emerald may hit a similar limit to her abuse and abandon Cinder.

The stage is set, now the pieces just have to be moved.

What are your thoughts on this midpoint for RWBY’s eighth volume? How will you pass the time until February 9th? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed!

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Mark Russell