#and left all the conflicts of the main plot completely hanging for so long so now we’re desperate to know what’s happening
The lack of action from our "heroes" is eerily similar to a Nostalgia Critic sketch I saw when I still watched his show. The idea was that to parallel what was reviewed in the episode, Fantastic Four, where the heroes barely did anything for most of it, Doug and his friends got superpowers and only choose to sit on the couch and watch Netflix while the world is under attack. The only difference is that was meant to lampoon the movie, and wasn't meant to be taken seriously.
Massive replay incoming! I haven’t seen the Fantastic Four, but I do still have a lot of thoughts on this choice and how badly it came across...
Though we can absolutely debate the merits/detriments of having 3/4ths of your title characters keeping to the sidelines while the Big Bad is here, I 100% believe that this could have been improved immensely if RWBY a) were more consistently written and b) allowed its characters to tackle conflicts central to what’s currently going on, not conflicts made up just for the sake of having a conflict (Yang randomly fights with Ruby, Ren has criticisms and then never brings them up again, etc.)
So what do I mean by this. I mean that the fandom isn’t necessarily wrong to argue things like, “RWB needs to be there to help Nora and Penny” or “They need time to regain their aura.” The problem is that the show never established these needs as necessary. The viewers have simply assumed those needs are there and judge the group’s actions accordingly. But for those of us asking questions like, “But how does Ruby standing by the window benefit Nora?” or “How long does it really take them to regain their strength?” we’re never given answers and thus are left with the belief that these needs do not exist and the group’s choices are not justified. It becomes, as you say, akin to a parody.
So how do we fix this? By having the show acknowledge those questions and provide believable answers. A few minor tweaks might include:
Having someone ask how long they’re just going to sit there. Let another character argue that they need to rest up before they do anything else. They can’t help others if they’re collapsing themselves. Then, keep these limitations consistent across the volume. In the last episode, Ren was suddenly using his semblance again, despite his aura breaking with very little time having passed between the two moments. So if he only needs a tiny chunk of time in horrific conditions to recover, why does team RWB supposedly need the whole day and night in complete safety, with heat, food, etc.? If “We have to recover” is meant to be a justification, show us elsewhere what lacking that results in: Ren, Jaune, and Oscar do not get their aura/energy back, they’re making mistakes, at the end of their rope, and generally not functioning because look, their conditions are so much worse. This is why a mansion break is necessary.
Have the group actively be trying to solve their problems. We didn’t start with “Someone needs to watch over Nora” we started with “Nora is incredibly injured and needs help”... but no one ever tried to get her help. Have them cycle through and reject some possibilities. Then have Weiss think of calling Klein and approach Whitley to see if he knows how to contact him. There, your protagonists are active and Weiss is helping to repair this relationship. As it stands, the group appears content to continue sitting around while Nora suffers, despite knowing she needs medical attention. We know, emotionally, they’re not actually content, but that’s what the actions imply. Where’s the scene where Ruby frantically asks May if the Happy Huntresses have any doctors and is it possible to bring one here? Where’s Blake hesitantly asking if it’s worth going back to Ironwood to get her help? The fandom assumes that sitting in the mansion = devotion to helping Nora, but we don’t actually see them trying to help Nora. Not in any meaningful way beyond putting cold towels on her head. What are they willing to risk and sacrifice for their teammate? Because sitting drinking tea while they hope things will magically fix themselves doesn’t convey much. We’re not talking here about how much the fandom assumes the group will do for Nora, we’re talking about what their actual actions read like.
Establish then why it takes three powerful fighters to watch over one unconscious woman already being cared for in a comparatively safe environment. The fandom acts as if Nora is a target when she’s not. No one is explicitly after her. If anything, given the initial assumption that the Hound was after Ruby as a SEW, she puts Nora in more danger by hanging around. Have the group debate the merits of being here to defend her if, by chance, something happens vs. putting their skills to use during a battle where very few huntsmen remain.
This debate should include the fact that half their team is missing. Not gone, missing. Last RWB saw they were going down to Mantle to help with general needs and low-level grimm activity. Now they’ve been MIA for hours. Blake, as the assumed love interest, and Ruby, as the sister, should be particularly desperate to find out what’s happened to Yang. If the group has to stay in the mansion for plot reasons, have Weiss talk them out of running into Mantle without a plan. What if what happened to the others happens to you too? The point is, May shouldn’t be the one concerned about the rest of the team and May shouldn’t be the one out looking for information.
Let the group actually decide something for once. Show us that they were going to help Mantle or Atlas and then, oh no, Penny interrupted those plans. As it is though, that scene frames it like Ruby will happily continue hanging out in the mansion until something else — something more dangerous than May’s demand to choose — forces her to take action. Indeed, that’s precisely what happened with the Hound.
Have Weiss or Blake begin to question why Ruby isn’t doing anything. Weiss has a whole conversation with May about how she wants to protect her home now. Blake is all about faunus rights and protection, with a whole faunus population freezing to death down below. Have one of them threaten to walk out, or actually do it with a, “You don’t need me to watch Nora sleep. I’m going to go do what I can.” These characters are supposed to be people with differing motivations and goals, yet whenever that should matter they’re suddenly happy to follow Ruby, even if by all logic there should be disagreement.
Have Nora wake up and tell them to do something other than waiting by her bedside. Let her be the one to get them back on their feet, showing them that she’s fine — she will be fine — and imploring them to help even though she can’t right now.
Explain to the audience what the group plans to do with all these civilians once they’re in the ships. Are they coming to the mansion? Try to fly them out of the kingdom? This is the one thing they’ve done since Amity and we’re given no indication what the actual plan is, let alone any debate about its merits.
Have Ruby be the one to see Penny in her controlled state, not Whitley, and give us some insight into what that means for her. I’ve likewise seen a lot about how Ruby doesn’t just need to look after a sick Penny, she needs to be there to protect Penny and others from her... but does Ruby even know what’s going on? Penny clash-lands without an explanation, she’s busy with the Hound, Whitley and Willow see her heading to the vault, the Hound knocks Penny out, Ruby is distracted by reunions and Ironwood’s threat. The imagined scene where Ruby learns what’s happening to her friend and weighs the dangers of leaving a controlled Penny alone in the mansion are just that: imagined.
That’s really just a small sampling of options here. As said, there are plenty of ways to tweak this plot to make the heroes seem far less passive than they come across here. The fandom often claims that those who criticize this plot-line don’t understand “show don’t tell.” Meaning, RWBY supposedly showed us something rather than telling us in a hand-holding way and we just didn’t understand it. It becomes more of an insult than an argument, the claim that RWBY wrote something nuanced, it’s not their fault you couldn’t grasp it. But it’s not that we missed the answers here, they simply don’t exist, and the fandom has made up their own answers instead, mapping it onto the canon and assuming that’s what RT intended all along. One individual’s ability to come up with a answer does not mean the story actually gave one, it just means we’re all writing RWBY fanfic in our heads while we watch the show.
And this is by no means an isolated incident. It happens every episode. Our latest bout of headcanons has come about due to the questions, “Why does kinetic energy only hurt grimm?” and “If it only hurts grimm, why was Hazel supposedly destroyed?” Each viewer is providing a different answer — “Kinetic energy is different in this world,” “It has to do with the amount of dust in Hazel’s body,” “The blast went in one direction, towards Hazel, and decimated everything in its path, but the aftershocks only hurt grimm” — all of these complicated, unsubstantiated, and ultimately noncanonical explanations... rather than just saying, “Yeah, it doesn’t make sense based on what the show has told us.” The mansion issue is just a particularly egregious example because we recognize that there’s a major problem with taking your main characters out of the action like that. Yet rather than acknowledging the problems with the writing, many fans are determined to fill in those answers themselves until it makes sense. And it does make sense! So many of these explanations would work, but right now they do not exist within RWBY. If we’re supposed to have an answer like, “The group knows they need to go help, but they’re just too traumatized and exhausted to do it. They know it’s wrong, but they can’t move” then tell us that. Show us that. Make it clear for the audience what the takeaway is. Because when you leave it entirely up to viewer interpret, you might indeed get a lot of “They’re just traumatized and need a break” explanations... but you’ll also get a lot of, “Wow, they’re a really cowardly and callous group, huh?” explanations too. One half of the fandom shouldn’t be mad at the other half for interpreting a completely subjective plot-line differently from them, everyone should be mad that our writers didn’t bother to include the canonical explanations from the get-go.
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