Chapter 8: Destiny
“Do you believe in destiny?”
We start off immediately with General Ironwood convening with Yang and the rest of Team RWBY in their dorm room, arguing about what occurred at the end of her match against Mercury. Yang tries to say that Mercury attacked her, but James states that the video footage clearly shows Yang proactively attacking him. Weiss and Ruby jump to her defense, and James gently reassures a distraught Yang that the staff at Beacon know she would never attack a student without cause, and expresses his theory that her behavior was a reaction to stress and adrenaline from the fight. He follows with, “When you’re out on the battlefield, your judgement can become clouded in an instant. Sometimes you see things that simply aren’t there…even after the fight has passed”. I’d like to point out a detail that I noticed the first time I was watching this episode. When James is talking about seeing things on the battlefield, the camera cuts to a close shot of him as he flexes his right shoulder in what seems to be discomfort, and he glances at it briefly before he finishes with, “even after the fight has passed”. This implies that he went through something similar, perhaps even got injured as a result. Knowing what I know about the future episodes, this moment raises a lot of questions about James’s past, at least for me.
He cuts off Yang’s attempted retort by announcing that regardless of motivation, the world saw her maim an innocent boy and as a result, Team RWBY has been disqualified from the tournament. He leaves shortly thereafter, and Yang implores her teammates to believe her. Ruby and Yang readily voice their support, but Blake is silent and avoids eye contact with everyone. (Oh, boy.)
After a pause, Yang prompts her, and Ruby and Weiss share a look of shock when she still doesn’t respond. FInally, Blake reluctantly admits that she wants to believe Yang. Weiss responds aggressively, but Yang, realizing that Blakeactually doesn’t believe her, starts to cry.
Blake finally meets Yang’s gaze, but immediately finds herself unable to hold it, and looks back down at her lap. Incredulously, Weiss asserts that Yang would never attack an innocent student, and Blake inclines her head toward Weiss, the implied question of “Wouldn’t she?” practically radiating from her pained expression. With a sigh, she starts explaining to the girls that someone very dear to her once changed, became violent and ruthless in his actions. The situation strikes too close to home for her, she admits that it’s ‘too familiar’. But she continues on by reassuring herself that Yang isn’t Adam, and asserts the she will trust Yang, but only after Yang looks Blake in the eyes and assures her that Mercury attacked first, not the other way around, and that Yang regrets what she did. Yang readily does, and Blake seems convinced.
To me, Blake’s expression at the beginning of this conversation conveys a pain that is less a reaction to the fear that Yang acted out of malice, and more a response to the fact that Blake is physically unable to immediately trust Yang, her partner, because of Adam. As she states in the scene, Yang isn’t Adam, and I think that is an idea that Blake struggles with reconciling frequently, not only with Yang but with everyone she meets. It’s normal behavior for someone who has been in an abusive relationship, and from what we’ve seen of Adam, he is definitely an abuser.
Yang declares that she wants to rest, so the girls exit. Jaune intercepts them in the hallway and asks how Yang is holding up. The two teams converse for a moment, and Ruby wishes Pyrrha luck in case she gets selected for the next match, and tells her to win one for Beacon. She looks away, her expression falling and her mask slipping off to reveal how terrified she is. Just as quickly, she slide back into an easy smile, and optimistically assures everyone that she’ll try her best.
After a moment, Ruby declares that she’s going to head to the arena for the next match, but Weiss and Blake decline to join her, say that they’ve had enough fighting for one year. They share an adorably tender moment where Weiss asks Blake if she’d like to join her for coffee, and instead of saying yes, Blake instead fires back with ‘tea’, and smiles.
The girls depart and we are left with Team JNPR. Nora all but assaults Pyrrha with a motivational speech and advice in preparation for her next match, and Ren tags in and whips out a power smoothie from hell that has Nora vomiting and screeching in agony about what the hell is wrong with him.
Pyrrha giggles at their antics, but is still outwrdly tense. Jaune picks up on this and intervenes, suggesting that they all get some fresh air.
We return to Yang, who is obviously not resting and instead staring wistfully out of the window at Team JNPR walking toward the fairgrounds. Qrow enters the room and observes her from the doorway.
After a beat, he announces his presence. Yang is startled, but doesn’t face him as she lethargically returns his greeting. Not bothering to mince words, Qrow straight up asks her why she attacked Mercury. She stiffly retorts that he already knows why, to which he deduces that she’s either lying or crazy. Yang angrily insists that she isn’t lying, and Qrow responds by flippantly concluding that she’s crazy and saunters over to where she’s seated.
Yang retorts that maybe she is, and mentions that she saw her mother during her fight with Neo (back in the Volume 2 finale). This gets a genuine reaction of surprise from Qrow, and he quickly assures her that she isn’t crazy. He then confirms that Raven really did save Yang that night, and Yang is shocked. Qrow reveals that Raven recently contacted him, and gave him a message for Yang; she saved her daughter once, but she shouldn’t expect that kindness again. Then, after reassuring Yang that she can make it through this, he confides that when Raven spoke with him, she left a few clues that could help Yang locate her. (!!!)
Drawing what conclusions I can from Qrow’s monologue, Raven honestly seems like kind of a bitch. I might be harboring a bit of a grudge against her for abandoning Yang as a baby, but that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to dislike someone!! I’m eager for her to be introduced, because let’s be honest, of course we’re gonna meet her. They’re so obviously setting her up to be Yang’s personal development quest. One thing that Qrow mentions catches my interest specifically, though. He admits that Raven sees the world in a way he doesn’t agree with, and that she’s dangerous. On the one hand, I really hope she gets introduced as a villain because that would make for so many juicy conflicts later on, but on the other hand, I kind of hope she isn’t a villain, because Yang honestly deserves a break from emotional turmoil and I have a suspicion that her mom being evil might do it for Yang. Nothing more is revealed about Raven for the rest of the volume, so fingers crossed for the Volume 4 premiere this Saturday!
We cut to Pyrrha, who’s ditched the rest of her team and is seated outside the dining hall. An appropriately soft piano tune plays as a golden leaf swirls by on a breeze, and lands at Pyrrha’s feet. She stares at it and looks as if she’s about to cry. She remembers Autumn’s comatose body attached to all those machines several hundred feet below her, but Jaune interrupts her and offers her a cone of cotton candy. He takes a seat, and they have an emotional exchange where Jaune expresses his desire to help her. Touched and almost overcome, Pyrrha leans into him and assures him that he already has. As they sit in silence, another of autumn’s leaves poignantly blows in and joins the first. It is a [raw, beautiful moment] that isn’t limited to romantic interpretation. The clip I’ve linked has the audio removed and the score amplified, and it honestly makes this moment so, so incredible.
Their peace is short lived. Pyrrha pulls away after a moment, and she reveals to Jaune that she doesn’t know what to do. She then asks him if he believes in destiny, to which he responds that he isn’t sure. Pyrrha explains her personal perception of destiny as a lifelong goal that you work toward, not a fate that’s set in stone. She wonders aloud,
“What would you do if something came along that had the potential to stand between you and your destiny? Or what if you could suddenly fulfill your destiny in an instant, but at the cost of who you were?”
Pyrha then reveals that she’s always believed that she’s destined to protect the world, and that she’s been convinced that she’s been right. But she’s unsure if she can do it, can handle the pressure. Jaune fiercely affirms that she can do it, that the Pyrrha he knows would never let anything get in her way. Pyrrha’s feeling reach a fever pitch, and her careful mask that’s been slipping throughout the entire episode finally shatters. Pyrrha bursts into tears and Jaune immediately reaches out to comfort her, but Pyrrha commands him to stop. He presses, and gently asks if he said something wrong. Overcome with conflicting emotions, Pyrrha lashes out with her polarity semblance and throws him into the wall. Horrified by her lack of composure, she draws back and chokes out her signature “I’m sorry” before running away. Jaune is left on the ground, and he brokenly wonders what he said.
Ruby makes her way to the line to board the arena shuttle, but takes a detour over to Velvet, who’s enthusiastically snapping pictures of Sun. Velvet expresses sympathy toward Yang, for which Ruby is grateful, but then she reveals to Ruby that Coco also saw a hallucination during her and Yatsuhashi’s match against Emerald and Mercury. Strike One. Ruby is suspicious, but she makes the rest of her way to the arena and takes a seat.
As she’s impatiently scanning the seats while waiting for the match to begin, she spots Emerald in the front row. Strike Two. Slowly, the pieces start to fall into place and she exits her seat and weakly makes her way down a maintenance corridor, presumably to question Emerald about why she isn’t with the injured Mercury. In the background, Doctor Oobleck announces that the randomized opponent selection is beginning, and an electric guitar slowly begins strumming something reminiscent of a boss battle intro. A very uninjured and mobile Mercury exits a security room and wordlessly confronts Ruby. Strike three. Taken aback, Ruby stops short and calls out to him. He doesn’t respond, and Ruby hears Professor Port announce Penny as the first contestant. Some more pieces fall into place, and Ruby slowly comprehends that something very sinister is in play, and she demands to know what Mercury is doing. Mercury maintains his silence, and the guitar riff swells as Penny’s opponent is revealed to be Pyrrha Nikos. (If you’ll recall, Penny Poledina is a fucking robot.)
Her eyes widen in alarm and she cries out in dismay. Mercury finally opens his damn mouth and snidely points out that polarity versus metal could be really bad. Ruby’s eyes narrow as she grabs for Crescent Rose, but her fingers only grasp at empty air. Weaponless, she stares at Mercury in trepidation. He smirks and shifts into a combat stance as we cut to the arena where Penny and Pyrrha are entering the battle stage. Laden with tension and nerves, Pyrrha closes her eyes and takes a breath to ground herself, and the scene fades to black before the match is kicked off.
So, uh. Holy fuck.