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April 20, 2017

Shower Thoughts with RWBY (Part 4)

All aboard the RWBY Volume 4 Headcanon Express!

…I would make a longer and more meandering intro, but given that this thing has reached Part 4, I think it’d be best if I speed things up and not drag my feet.  Alternatively, maybe I should hire a full-time editor to shadow my every move (and word) so I can make stuff that’s actually a manageable length.

Then again, if I did that, then I’d have less money for muffins.  Can’t have that.  So let’s get crackin’.

In case you’re only just now joining me on this little thought experiment (for…some reason), here’s a summary for my hypothetical version of RWBY’s fourth volume up to this point.  After the fall of Beacon, Yang turned into a punch-drunk berserker who was willing to brawl her way into the depths of the criminal underworld to prove just how “fine” she was.  Just when she was about to become the queen of crooks, Blake -- who’s spent the last six months as an increasingly-intolerant spy for “justice” -- launches her attack.  The two of them fight, and almost kill each other -- but realize how far they’ve fallen as they break down in tears. 

With their wills aflame and their hearts united, the two of them decide to campaign harder than ever to reclaim what they really want, even more so than Remnant’s solace: the revival of Team RWBY.  But as Blake quickly reveals, there’s a problem.  Her information network has long since revealed the status of Weiss Schnee.  Despite her wealth and the prestige behind her name, the white-clad warrior is behind bars.  Locked up, with the key thrown away months ago.

So once again, the story flashes back to a point six months ago.  As a reminder, Weiss was scooped up by Daddy Schnee and forced to head back home, partly so that his asset daughter wouldn’t fall prey to the Beacon fallout or any future harm.  No doubt Weiss isn’t exactly doing a little jig at the prospect of being holed up in some cushy-yet-chilly mansion until the end of days -- or acting as a puppet strung along by her father -- but that’s basically how the actual Volume 4 went.  Isolated from her friends, acting on her father’s behalf (including performances for the Remnant elite), being a good little girl sealed up in her proverbial tower -- it’s all there.  By the end of the volume, Weiss has had enough and -- with the help of her butler Kline -- engineers an escape.

In theory, Weiss’ plot (like Volume 4 in general, IMO) sounds good on paper, but once it’s up on YouTube the execution falls flat.  I get it, though; at the outset, Weiss is more than willing to be subservient -- to be a beaten-down dog -- in the wake of her father’s overwhelming presence and pressure.  She has her limits, which is why she does end up escaping.  The problem is that, unfortunately, Weiss doesn’t feel like Weiss throughout Volume 4 -- and when she does start feeling like Weiss again (however slightly), the Volume’s already over and we’re told to wait for Fall 2017 for the actual good stuff.  It’s just one more reason why the real Volume 4 feels less like the next chapter and more like a placeholder.  A holding pattern.  Filler, even.

Like I said before, the entire premise behind my version of Volume 4 is to have each member of Team RWBY face the worst by forcing them to face their best.  The traits that made them lovable -- and really, who they are in general -- would be the very same traits that would A) put them in jeopardy, B) help them realize that the real world is a lot different from their safe space at Anime Hogwarts, and C) push them to evolve as characters by overcoming their foibles.  Weiss is no exception.  She’s bold, haughty, demanding, and outright snooty at times -- but no one can say she’s lacking in things like determination and pride.

So, first things first: yes, my Volume 4 would do pretty much exactly what the end of Volume 3 and the start of Volume 4 did: take the sassy swordswoman back home to be pretty much placed under an informal house arrest.  The crucial difference?  She wouldn’t spend all of her time acting meek and reclusive.  No, from the first few minutes on, the audience would get to see Weiss doing pretty much exactly what you’d expect Weiss to do: rage and bitch about the situation from top to bottom.

It wouldn’t end there, though.  Her escape wouldn’t be consigned to the last few scenes of the volume.  It would happen within her first episode.  And again in her first episode.  And again, and again, and again.

The Huntress makes it plainly clear that she doesn’t want to be there, and tries to escape.  The problem is twofold.  First, she’s going up against a mega-corporation with resources that scrape the upper edges of infinity; she’s a teenage girl with a sword and a bad attitude.  Second, and more importantly: Weiss can’t help but screw up, over and over and over again.

I’m not saying that as an indictment of her character.  I’m saying that because I have to be realistic about the circumstances and odds.  In terms of real-world experience, I think it’s safe to assume that Weiss is a bit lacking.  Her problems at Beacon could be solved almost exclusively by “use sword” or “use magic”, even when she had to stare down criminals like Torchwick.  Whatever information she had was snagged by using her family’s connections.  Her wits, not so much.  That’s not to say she’s lacking in intelligence, but she’s at a loss when it comes to practical applications of that knowledge -- especially since she’s going up against a major economic power.

So the opening part of her story has Weiss trying to escape, only to fail at the last possible moment.  She gets brought back into quasi-captivity, even if it leads to her raging and lashing out at her family.  It doesn’t stop her from engineering another escape (and another, and another, and another), but dear old dad’s having a hell of a time with the situation.  It stops being a threat and more of a sport for him.  Then it becomes an annoyance.  But then Weiss screws up again, and it warps back into being funny.

Plan after plan and scheme after scheme follow Weiss’ attempts to escape from the Schnee manor, ranging from complex, Rube Goldberg-esque chains of distractions to sneaking around in cardboard boxes Metal Gear style.  In the end, Weiss manages to find the one plan that works for her: brute force.  Instead of subterfuge and tactics, she opts to just blow apart whole chunks of her home until she can run right the hell out on her family.  Fortunately for her, she manages to steal a plane and bail on the manor at subsonic speed.  She’s ecstatic about her success, and the fact that she’s decisively proven her strength (within and without) to the world.  There’s just one problem she didn’t take into account: she has no idea how to fly a plane.  So ultimately, she does her best Joseph Joestar impression and crashes right the hell up.

She makes it out fine, albeit with her share of scrapes.  Unfortunately, her ride is more or less ruined save for a few instruments in the dashboard; worse yet, she’s crash-landed in what appears to be the middle of nowhere.  Short on options, she decides to venture out and see if she can find something of use.  But her nature trek only serves to remind Weiss that she’s hamstrung by the wilderness around her -- no survival tools or instincts, so she ends up bumbling around in a real comedy of errors for days (and eventually weeks) on end.  It reaches a climax when she finds out that those weeks led her to the worst possible destination…i.e. she finds out that she’s just been walking around in a circle.

On the plus side?  Some folks from a nearby village wandered toward the crash site (again, since Weiss was MIA the first time), and lead her back there.  Though to her dismay, they’re quick to point out that she would’ve found them near-instantly if she didn’t go in the opposite direction. 

Weiss ends up being led to…oh, let’s call it “Palette Town” for now.  It’s a ho-hum village that’s barely even a blip on most maps -- lacking in connections to the outside world at large and almost devoid of modern creature comforts, but still more or less a stable, happy environment.  But the idea of living in the boondocks doesn’t exactly appeal to the Huntress heiress, so she starts plotting ways to get back to civilization ASAP.  The problem?  If she wants to leave, she’s welcome to -- if she’s got what it takes to brave a trip that’s at least 300 miles long.  Needless to say, the wind is taken out of her sails.

The problem gets compounded even further.  As tranquil as Palette Town appears on the surface, the villagers are quick to note that they’re not immune to Grimm attacks -- the frequency of which has been on the rise since the big tournament.  Weiss decides that she’s going to use her powers and skills to defend the town, which is as much a way for her to do what’s right as it is to mend her wounded pride.  The villagers humbly accept, but Weiss starts overextending almost immediately.  It’s not enough for her to become the town’s defender; she thinks that they have to modernize.  Energize.  Stylize.  And she’s convinced that it’s up to her to turn the bumpkins into a fabulous fighting force.

You don’t need a spoiler tag to know that it doesn’t work as planned.

Weiss tries to remodel whole chunks of the village, but fails on account of her not knowing the first thing about construction.  She tries to update the villagers’ wardrobes, but fails because she can’t even knit a sock without needing an impromptu trip to the emergency room.  She tries to upgrade their technology, but fails since she can’t even figure out how her own phone works (a phone which might as well be a brick, at that moment).  Despite her best attempts at commandeering and upgrading Palette Town, she’s woefully inadequate.  The most she can do is fight off the Grimm, and even then their numbers let them get some collateral damage in while she’s fighting elsewhere.

The constant failures start to weigh her down.  Why does she keep failing?  Why does she face mishap after mishap?  Why can’t anything good happen to her, even though she’s giving it her best?  She can’t wrap her head around it, and the villagers -- despite their good intentions -- aren’t much help.  They tell her flat-out that they don’t need her upgrades or interference; even if they don’t have much, in their eyes they still have more than enough in their lives.  They’re satisfied with the way things are, and satisfied with Weiss’ role as a bodyguard.  Under normal circumstances, that would be enough to soothe a Huntress’ soul -- but Weiss isn’t satisfied, and ends up more frustrated than before.  She doesn’t want to be satisfied with what she has; despite the free ride she’s entitled to as a Schnee, it’s not enough for her, and not even what she wants in the first place.  She wants more, and more on her own terms.

Unfortunately, THE MAN doesn’t approve.

Remember earlier when I said that Weiss’ ride still had a couple of working instruments in the dash?  Some of those happened to be the kind that would keep comms open -- or, to be more precise, allow others to keep track of her position.  So it turns out that Daddy Schnee has known where Weiss has been from day one, meaning that A) she never really managed to escape, and B) he was basically just screwing with her and watching her bumble in the woods for a good laugh.  But eventually, the farce grows old.

He goes in with a slew of armed forces -- including Ironwood and a couple of special units, just ‘cause -- to forcibly bring her back.  Weiss refuses, and lashes out instead; she manages to take out a few mechs, but THE MAN has superior numbers and equipment, so it’s a losing battle from the first second on.  Despite being given a chance to go in quietly, Weiss refuses.  She ends up doing something that neither she nor her father would expect: in a fit of rage, she strikes him directly -- albeit with something just above a nick.  Still, it’s more than enough.  Ironwood restrains and detains her so that she’s got no chance to escape, and assigns several of his men to stay in Palette Town to whittle away at the Grimm.  Daddy Schnee, on the other hand, isn’t quite so generous.

Like I said, the farce grew old.  And because of it -- because of the indignity of his injury -- he has his daughter thrown in jail.

In an instant, Weiss loses everything.  She’s stripped of her sword, her Dust, her clothes, her worldly possessions, her freedom, her status, her wealth, and even her hair.  Her signature ponytail gets lopped off, and at best she’s only got a bob that barely makes it past her earlobes.  Unsurprisingly, she’s left broken by the turn her life has taken.  One failure after another has prevented her from even coming close to having the independence she craves, and being behind bars -- not to mention surrounded by the dregs of Remnant -- has put her in a position at once worse than anything she’s ever experienced and no different from what she’s used to at the manor.  So she resigns to a life behind bars.

Yet because of it, something unusual happens.  By giving up -- by ceasing to care about anything or anyone -- little by little, she starts to find solace in her situation.  The prison life that should be hellish to her turns into a nuisance, then a fact of life, and then, eventually, into a home just as welcoming as Beacon once was.  You can think of it as Stockholm Syndrome if you want (which is what Weiss suspects on some level), but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s getting more and more acclimated to it by the day.  The ambience, the flow, the very way of life becomes second nature, ushered in by the criminals she comes to know, respect, and even laugh with.

Daddy Schnee likely assumed that locking up her daughter would’ve taught her a lesson -- that his word is law, and she should be happy to stay under his thumb.  That plan backfired in every sense of the word.  Not only has her spirit of rebellion been reignited, but she’s also become a different, stronger person because of it.  She’s also darker, in the sense that she’s had her hopes and dreams crushed -- and that’s only been exacerbated by the company she’s kept.  Though she can still put on airs of being prim and proper, she’s a lot more wary of the shifty, scumbag tactics that prisoners have long since known about.  (Also, Weiss has been pumping iron on and offscreen, and she’s ecstatic whenever she gets to show off her new guns.)

Having learned that his daughter’s on the path of the Criminal Upper -- which reflects poorly on him -- the big boss decides to resolve the situation permanently.  He uses his connections, resources, and inside men to engineer a prison riot/breakout, so that Weiss can “fight” her way to “freedom” and thus inadvertently waltz right back into the Schnee mansion.  (And he’d be all geared up to cover up as much as he could about the circumstances, i.e. basically painting Weiss as an innocent victim that he had to have rescued and rehabilitated.)  But as the riot takes place, his plans go awry.

Weiss doesn’t try to escape.  She’s content with beating as many escapees back into their cells as possible…at least, when she’s not content with doing nothing.

Against his better judgment, Daddy Schnee and a group of hired goons storm the prison to figure out what Weiss is doing and why.  Sure enough, he finds her and presses her on her decision -- and with it, her tranquility despite the situation.  With a smile, Weiss explains her reasoning.  She learned over and over again that despite her status -- as a Schnee, as a Huntress, and as everything in between -- she was a failure who was lucky to survive a single night in the woods.  She had so much to learn, and her experiences while flying solo only reminded her of how far she has to go.   Of course, dear ol’ dad is quick to point out the inconsistency: if she wants to go far, then why is she willing to stay locked up?

To his shock, Weiss has a straight answer for him.  She admits that her desires -- to grasp her independence, to prove her worth, to overcome all trials, to stop being a failure -- are so massive that the mere thought of them crushes her day by day.  Indeed, she would like to escape from that prison.  But she knows doing it at that moment, in that certain way, will only put her right back in her father’s clutches.  So she’ll wait.  She’ll run out the clock on her sentence.  She’ll continue to grow and evolve on her own terms; she’ll realize her limits, and go beyond them however she can.  Weiss is 100% convinced that her day is coming -- the moment when she manages to fulfill every desire, hope, and dream, unfettered by the constraints of society or class.

And in that moment, with her father looking on, Weiss makes her final declaration.  She doesn’t need to escape.  She doesn’t need to run.  She doesn’t need to prove anything to her father.  Even if she stays in that jail cell, she’s freer than she’s ever been.  And Daddy Schnee can’t do a damn thing about it.

(Damn, I love that clip.  Cracks me up every time.)

That doesn’t stop him from trying, though.  He sends all of his men in to drag Weiss back home, unaware of how drastically he’s underestimated Weiss 2.0.  She gives him a pretty thorough demonstration, though; while she still has the potential and penchant for the finesse she had in previous volumes, her months in prison have shown her brand new ways to fight.  Brutal attacks, wild swings, dirty tricks; low blows, stomps, headbutts and more; she’s basically picked up a brand new fighting style, and can either switch between the two, or mix and match as needed.  Not surprisingly, she makes quick work of Daddy’s foot soldiers.

And not surprisingly, he brings in even more of his goons -- elites armed and ready to take her in, even in the midst of the prison chaos.  But because of the prison chaos, he’s unaware of two new entrants in the fray.  Just when it looks like Weiss is about to take a nasty hit, Blake drops in to deflect it and fight by her comrade’s side.  That’s more than enough to drive the patriarch up a wall…but Yang, with a brand new mechanical arm to her name, pins him to a wall with a smile.  At Weiss’ request, the blonde bruiser lets him go.  It’s no genuine act of mercy, though; it’s at once pity and a threat, in the sense that Weiss could do much more on her own if she wanted to.  But what kind of person would she be if she wailed on an old man?

(OK, that’s a good one too.)

In the wake of the prison riot, Blake and Yang cart Weiss out of captivity and into the comfort of their spiffy helicopter (that they totally earned through legitimate means).  Weiss is of two minds about the situation; she manages to get her freedom much earlier than expected, but she has to walk back her bold claim she just made.  Moreover, she openly acknowledges that she failed to escape on her own; her gal pals had to bust her out instead.  Rather than dwell on it or despair, Weiss ends up shrugging it off.  It just means that she’ll have to keep getting stronger -- that she’ll venture forth until the day she can break out of prison single-handedly.

And so, Weiss decides that she’s 100% onboard with reforming Team RWBY.  It was thanks to their crime-fighting quartet that she grew and evolved as a person -- that she came closer to fulfilling her desires than she ever could alone.  The time she spent in Beacon may not have made her into some invincible, all-knowing goddess, but it did let her take the first step.  And thus, she wants to take another, and another, and another, and thousands more with her friends by her side.

Also, she wants to show off her sick guns. 

Well, there you go.  That’s another chunk of my RWBY Volume 4 treatment down.  So given that, there’s only one place left to go.  And it’s an important place.  Let’s see if I can wrap things up in one last post where the focus is all on the leader of Team RWBY and the star of RWBY…uh…Ruby.

I wonder if that ever gets confusing for anyone out there who’s only listening to talk about the show.

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