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RWBY 3×03 Review: It’s Brawl in the Family

We are back in business everyone!

So after the disappointing second episode, Rooster Teeth redeemed themselves by giving us an episode that I would have ranked as one of the top five, if it were not for the rollercoaster ride emotions that episodes six to twelve gave me.

Perhaps I’m giving this episode more credit than it deserves, as it does come right after what was arguably the worst episode of Volume 3, but hey…

WINTER VS QROW!!!

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Meh sky colour, but awesome fight.

Before I dig into the episode, I want to talk about the title. This is something that, in retrospect, I should have done for episodes one and two, but oh well.

“It’s Brawl in the Family”-I do feel like someone at Rooster Teeth made a typo here. If it had been “A Brawl in the Family” or “It’s A Brawl in the Family”, that would’ve been fine. The actual title seems to be using incorrect grammar. It’s nothing big, but it does bug me a little.

Obviously the titular conflict is between Weiss’ elder sister, Winter, and Ruby’s uncle, Qrow. For some reason or another, there is bad blood between the two. It probably has something to do with Qrow’s distaste for the Atlesian military, but we don’t find out. Fingers crossed it’s revealed in Volume 4, where I’m hoping Winter will get more screen time.

The conflict does seem to not just be isolated to Winter-Ironwood butt’s heads with Qrow too. This suggests that the aforementioned brawl refers to an ideological conflict with Qrow and the Atlesian military at large. Winter seems to have the same thing going on-when Weiss gives us excited exposition (nice job RT of spicing the exposition up), Winter doesn’t seem very pleased by the separation between the school and the government.

While I can’t share every detail on this yet due to spoilers, I can clearly see signs of civil war brewing in this volume. The fight between Winter and Qrow was one way of showing the strong difference of opinion over government involvement in education between Atlas and Vale. This may be a hint by RT of what we’ll be seeing in future volumes…

Sigh. I’d love to elaborate, but I’m going to have to wait until my episode twelve review to fully explain where I think Weiss’ arc is going, because I need to use spoilers to do that. But speaking of Weiss…

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Onee-chan!

WINTER!!! We finally get to meet another Schnee! Wait, is that a good thing?

Let me perfectly clear-I like Winter. Particularly the way they subvert the trope of the elder, sterner sibling. When she first appeared I thought “okay, this is good. I can dig this.” But then during her fight with Qrow, we see that she is very much an older Weiss. She’s hot-headed, sassy, and an absolute treat to watch. I’m really pleased that RT shook things up by adding more juvenile qualities to her character. Giving her genuine flaws while subverting a trope is a big thumb’s up for me.

I’ve got to give a nod to whoever designed her costume as well. It was elegant, it was regal, it was so very Winter Schnee. By that I mean the outfit reflected the personality of the character wearing it, which is something I really like to see.

But I have to make a complaint. Not against the character herself-but how she’s framed.

When Winter meets Weiss and Ruby, we get a loveably goofy and awkward conversation, and a glimpse into Weiss’ inner child. I was really enjoying the scene…until this happened.

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Yeah…no.

Before you start typing in the comments, I know what RWBY is. It’s a show meant to emulate anime. So this means that we will see very anime tropes from time to time-like Weiss punching Ruby. This is something I’ve seen in the Fairy Tail anime dozens and dozens of times. And for the most part, I’m okay with it. I’ve accepted that anime is not a realistic depiction of how people behave. The brawls that go on between Natsu Dragneel and Gray Fullbuster, for example-I know that they’re for comedic purposes. As I’ve gotten older, I have become a bit more wary of this as I now know that physical abuse is a real danger to people around the world. It’s not a laughing matter by any stretch of the imagination. However, I’m aware that anime requires a certain amount of suspending disbelief, so I can let it slide.

But not in this situation.

When Weiss starts rambling about her life at Beacon, Winter hits her, and it’s played off for laughs.

BIG. FAT. NOPE.

It’s been implied throughout the series that Weiss was abused by her father. Remember just two episodes back, when a song about an abusive relationship, ‘It’s My Turn’, was played right before Weiss got a call from her father? Who she repeatedly avoids talking to throughout Volumes 2&3? Who she (SPOILERS) is clearly very uncomfortable being in the presence of?

Look, it’s understandable that Weiss doesn’t talk very openly about her abuse. It’s also understandable that Winter would pick up some of her father’s abusive traits.

BUT IT IS NOT FINE FOR THAT TO BE FRAMED AS FUNNY.

Look, I’m not an abuse expert. Maybe I’m reading too much into things. I sincerely doubt that RT put this in there as a middle finger to abuse victims. But this interaction left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’m just very wary of the implications of framing an abusive interaction between two abuse victims as funny. If they’d focused in on Weiss closely following the blow, and made an attempt to show the damage done, I’d be fine. A subtle wince? A quickly hidden grimace? It wouldn’t need to be a huge reaction, just a small one, so the audience would know that something insidious was going on.

What we got was the back of Weiss’ head as Winter scolded her. And I’m sorry, but that just wasn’t enough. Not impressed, RT.

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Mondays.

So we see that Winter is genuinely interested in Weiss’ life, albeit in a very…I guess you could say formal manner? While this doesn’t make up for that smack on the head, it was nice to see RT subverting the stern elder sister trope.

And then it happens-the fight we’ve all been waiting for…since we saw them butt heads in the opening credits (which I will be doing a full analysis of in the episode twelve review).

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Before I review the fight though…where the hell did Qrow come from?

Check the long shot of Winter and Weiss walking towards Beacon. There’s no Qrow. We then cut to the point of view of Qrow, who appears to be drunkenly staggering along before he destroys two Atlesian Knights. Which is fine, but where did he come from?

I suspect he may have been using his (SPOILER) Semblance to sneak up on Winter. It makes sense-it kind of looks like his POV is drifting from side to side. You can also here a swooshing sound effect before he attacks the Atlesian Knights. Perhaps that’s the sound he makes when he transforms? Look, it’s not really that big a deal, I just thought that he might be keeping it secret. Or maybe RT is pulling a Negan and not showing us the full picture so that we can have a neat surprise later. Although one would think seeing a crow transform into a man would be cause for reaction by the crowd.

So after talking some smack to Winter, and hinting at a previous encounter with her, Qrow fights the elder Schnee.

And this…this was awesome. This was the first time we saw a professional Huntsmen and Huntress go head to head, and it did not disappoint.

The choreography. The music. It was just so good! Okay, there was the odd animation error, such as the blade of Qrow’s weapon changing colour, and the occasional unexplainable event (such as Qrow’s weapon appearing out of nowhere-unless he pulled a Captain Jack Harkness ;), but I really liked this fight. While I do think RT should’ve had someone slip in a line of dialogue explaining that the reason they’re so fast is because they’re professionals (and not have us learn through their livestream), I liked the blink-and-you-missed-it editing. It meant that the battle could range all over the courtyard, yet keep focus on Winter and Qrow.

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One does not simply fuck with Winter Schnee.

I loved Winter’s weapon, especially when she leapt at Qrow with both swords. It was similar to Weiss’, but different enough to be unique. Qrow’s weapon was okay, but I like Crescent Rose more. Also, I wanted to see it in scythe mode. I bite my thumb at the person who decided to tease the audience with that. Although it did help in the characterization of Qrow, and that’s what also makes the fight so good.

Yes, we’re getting great action, but we’re also finding out who these characters are. We learn that while Winter may look like she’s a strict, rule-abiding young woman, she’s clearly hot-headed. And from the sassy smirks she gives to Qrow, she might be a bit overconfident as well. She charges head-first into Qrow on three separate occasions, demonstrating that she’s a bit brash.

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*Practicing for Colgate commercial*

As for Qrow, this fight fleshes him out. From the way Ruby and Yang have described him, it’s obvious that he’s a badass. The previous episode revealed that he was an alcoholic, but it’s this episode that shows us just who Qrow is. His nonchalant nature during the first part of the fight tells us that he’s a laid-back individual who knows how to manipulate people. Then when Winter gives him a real challenge, we see the nonchalance peel away, revealing an experienced warrior who knows exactly what he’s doing. His argument with Ironwood serves to solidify this.

As for the music-excellent. This was a battle where the absence of a song was good. Songs are fantastic accompaniments to battles, but they can draw your attention away from the fight. Not a great idea for a battle where it’s already hard to keep track of the fighters. The soundtrack made the fight fun. It wasn’t serious, it was a skirmish between two people who didn’t like each other that much.

Overall, a great fight. Very little in the way of thematic tie ins, but I was fine with that. While I’m sure they weren’t fighting at their full potential, we got to see a nice display of Qrow and Winter’s abilities.

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Unfortunately for Winter (and the audience), Qrow tricks her into attacking him while he’s unarmed. Then we get Ironwood! I’m glad he’s back. He might be a bit rash, but he seems like someone who lives with the weight of his past actions constantly weighing him down, and for me that makes his scenes that much more interesting.

A quick Ruby/Qrow interaction, and then we’re off to Ozpin’s office, where all of the interesting shit goes down. Although Glynda, if you’re going to scold Winter for fighting Qrow, at least give the man a thorough chewing out of his own. Failing that, get Ozpin to do it-he seems to be the one person Qrow respects. This is something that I’ve come to disguise-the person who retaliated gets punished more than the person who goaded them into retaliating. Speaking from personal experience, it utterly sucks when you’re in trouble but the other person gets away scot-free or very lightly. And while this happens with both sexes, I can understand the sexist implications of a woman being punished for a man’s actions.

Now ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the plot to actually move along! Alright, alright, that’s a little harsh. But you get what I’m saying. RWBY is a great show, but it so often seems the case that the sinister, horrific actions that drive the plot forward barely get any attention paid to them.

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So it was a pleasant surprise when we see Ozpin’s group actually talk about the threat of Cinder’s group, even if they don’t know their enemies’ identities. Not to mention, for every question answered, more replaced it. Who is Autumn? Who is the enemy that this group is fighting? Drip-fed information can be frustrating, I know, but I liked it here. While Qrow’s speech about the secrecy of the group did seem a bit odd, they managed to tie it into a genuine conversation about Ironwood’s approach to their enemies.

My highlight? Qrow’s hinting at something very, very sinister. I cannot help but get excited when characters tease us with mysteries that give us enough information to get a broad outline of something, but not so much as to make it obvious what the enemy is. The unknown forces the audience to imagine the horrors Qrow is talking about, and that lack of knowledge makes their enemies that much more terrifying.

Speaking of enemies…

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She could give the Joker a run for his money.

Cinder and co. are plotting once again, and now have control of the randomization process through Ironwood’s Scroll. If you missed it, go back and watch when he retrieves his Scroll from Ozpin’s table-you can briefly see a black queen chess piece appear. Kudos to RT for not spelling out Cinder’s strategy to us. I appreciate villains who don’t explain their ‘master plans’, and leave it up to the audience to work out. Granted, it’s still fairly obvious that Cinder is manipulating the battles for her own ends, but it’s still admirable.

Also, shout out to the voice actress for Cinder Fall, Jessica Nigri. Every time Cinder opens her mouth, I’m in a terrified awe of her, and it takes a lot of talent to pull that off. I’d normally praise an actress or actor for a real life performance, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Not to mention, whoever animated that last scene, where Cinder slowly claps as the camera zooms in. This is how you make a threatening villain.

So overall, a great episode (WAY better than last week). Great introduction for Winter and Qrow, and an excellent fight chock full of characterization. Qrow’s hints at the true nature of their enemy really made the episode for me, as it was the first time RWBY had given us a hint of something darker and sinister. My only complaint was the Weiss and Winter interaction, and the disturbing implications of the framing of that scene.

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Join me next week/time (exams have arrived, sorry) for Lessons Learned!

P.S. Sorry this review was late. It would’ve come out last week, but miscommunication and a surplus of articles meant it was pushed back.


Images courtesy of Rooster Teeth Productions and HBO.

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