The fourth episode of Volume Nine is by far the most engaging of the Ever After so far, though its pacing feels a little unbalanced. Much like the Curious Cat, our attention is drawn towards how the characters are thinking and feeling, only to be diverted to something else. Key questions and emotional confrontations really need to start taking root as we reach the midpoint of the 10-episode volume. Yet, the volume won’t get out of its own way to address them, often bouncing back to the comedy and characters finding their situation absurd. Team RWBY either can’t quite comprehend whether or not they are supposed to coheres to the fairy tale world, or rebel against it.
For now, they have to win the attention of the scatterbrained but nurturing Curious Cat, hoping he can guide them to the tree. This remains their sole focus, which is understandable considering what went down, but their tunnel vision repeatedly gets them into trouble. The Cat remains a very, well, curious feline, with a unique colour palette, design, and Robbie Daymond providing the voice.
To pass the time, the girls share their adventures with the cat, who then makes his own meta-commentary on the story and certain aspects of the show. These include describing Ozpin and Oscar’s relationship having “uncomfortable implications”, and even references Ciel Soliel; Penny’s teammates briefly introduced in Volume 3, only to never appear again afterward. These meta jokes are cute, but take up too much time, especially when evolving into Deadpool/Pinkie Pie levels of fourth wall breaking.
This commentary goes on as they enter the next acre of the Ever After, a giant midnight forest of glowing toadstool. The cat then asks how the girls intend on defeating Salem after their crushing defeat at Atlas. This hits Ruby pretty hard as the responsibility dropped on her continues to weight at her heart. Ruby stops, causing the cat to disappear again. Beforehand, he advised the girls not to speak to anyone in the acre without his presence. They immediately meet the Herbalist, a three-eyed caterpillar-esque figure, voiced by Chrisopher Guerrero. He sweeps away and burns some multicoloured leaves, whilst asking the girls what they are, much to their annoyance.
The Herbalist, who seems very committed to his role in the Ever After, invites them into his toadstool home. The Herbalist asks again his question, reiterating that he knows who, what, and why he is what he is, prompting Blake to explain that huntresses are heroes. The Herbalist then asks if they are good huntresses, further upsetting Ruby, whilst Yang just wants to acquire a means to break the Red Prince’s shrinking spell.
The exasperated Herbalist claims he is trying to help, but claims the girls are complicating things. In layman’s terms, the Herbalist is trying to get the girls to knowledge who they are in the present and overcome their emotional barriers to change – something which the unusually close-minded team can’t comprehend. Weiss wants to get the heck out of dodge, the Herbalist making a passing comment implying he turned the Red King into the Red Prince, likely unable to get past his own issues.
Fed up, the Herbalists takes the girls into a backroom where he basically drugs them with his magic hookah pipe. Time for a vision quest! Separated, the girls find themselves in an impressively animated smoky abyss, where they are confronted by their younger selves. Yang, Blake, and Weiss are all offered exits in a manner from their current paths. Yang can go back before her losses; Blake could become either a human or cat, free of trying to bridge two species; and Weiss is tempted to become a “nobody”, free of baggage and bad relatives.
Rather than an even moment’s hesitation, Yang, Blake, and Weiss all reject their offers, reaffirming who they are as huntresses. Yet, the scene and their responses are very symbolic. The self-reflective dialogue works, as Yang accepts her losses and who they have helped her to grow; Blake refuses to choose a simple life over her loved ones and people; whilst Weiss brings the house down with a fiery speech asserting who she is, complete with great lines like, “granddaughter of a hero, and a child to a villain; a citizen of a fallen kingdom, and an heir to nothing”. Their conclusions act as bookends to the pivotal campfire scene from Volume 2. The three also draw their weapons, which act like an extension of their beings.
As for Ruby, she has hit rock bottom. Her younger, peppier self almost appears to be taunting her with her once solid sense of hope. It was Ruby who once said that their weapons are a part of who they are, but she feels lost without Crescent Rose. Ruby acknowledges that life isn’t like a fairy tale – as Blake once told her when they first met. Unable to live up to the heroes in storybooks, Ruby has still been placed into such a role, as her younger self playfully tells her to fight forever against Salem, reminding her that even Summer Rose failed. Young Ruby points out the unfairness of their situation, suggesting that Ruby can be whoever she wants to be – even become a different person.
The Curious Cat suddenly drags us out of the scene, scolding the Herbalist for losing his way, defying his purpose. The cat then transfers a piece of his heart to the Herbalist to re-evaluate things, much like he did to the Red Prince. The Herbalists then makes a comment about how he is a workaholic, describes Team RWBY as peculiar things, and then is swallowed up by a hole in the floor. The episode ends with our heroines completely bamboozled at what just happened.
The Cat’s power and authority brings up all sorts of questions and theories about just what his role is in the world. Earlier in the episode, he explains that they can’t reach the tree, but rather it reaches them, claiming it is all down to perspective. That is likely what the Ever After all comes down to, by looking at things from another angle. Team RWBY are struggling to come to terms with this, focused entirely on their external journey, and not their internal one. The inclusion of the internal self-reflective scene was great, but felt a little rushed. Though, a question springs to mind: if Team RWBY visited the Herbalist, have others characters done the same and accepted the offer to change?
Did you enjoy this episode of RWBY? If tempted to change who you, would you do it? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed.
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