WARNING: This review will freely discuss spoilers for RWBY Volume 8 up to and including the finale.
You know a season finale is gonna be just brutal when it not only has a content disclaimer slide in front of it, it also has a warning about suicide in the description. And so RWBY volume 8 ended, almost as it began — with all hope lost. Volume 8 was about concluding the Atlas arc, and the crew of RWBY did it in style, with the floating city of Atlas becoming another Atlantis, friends dying, and our heroes falling to a realm unknown. Volume 8 was not the best RWBY season, but this was probably its most devastating season since Volume 3 when Beacon fell.
The penultimate episode of Volume 8 had Yang Xiao Long (Barbara Dunkleman) falling through the portal world she and her team had used the Deity inside the Staff of Creation — after being instructed by that same Deity: “Do not fall.” Ruby Rose (Lindsay Jones), Weiss Schnee (Kara Eberle), and Blake Belladonna (Arryn Zech) followed her after a pretty difficult and outmatched fight against Cinder Fall (Jessica Nigri) in “The Final Word.”
What will happen post-fall is anyone’s guess, but this season was also just packed with so much it’s hard to decide where to start. We finally got Cinder’s long-hidden backstory, and it was just as juicy and rewarding as you’d expect it to be. Emerald Sustrai (Katie Newville) and Hazel Rainart (William Orendorff) became good guys, with the latter sacrificing himself so the heroes could escape and “kill” the unkillable Salem one more time. Penny Polendina (Taylor McNee) struggled with her autonomy and was finally rewarded for her struggle by becoming a real girl — a real girl who sacrificed herself via Jaune Arc’s (Miles Luna) sword in order to give her friends a fighting chance.
Actually, let’s talk about Penny: her death caused controversy in fandom, so it’s worth pointing out that this was something she had struggled with sense Volume 7: her place in the world, and whether she belonged in it or not. We can debate endlessly whether she should have committed suicide by proxy, but the point is, it was her decision to make, ultimately. For a robo-girl who had little control for most of her life, seeing her get to choose who her Maiden powers go to was awfully powerful.
Winter Schnee (Elizabeth Maxwell) finally got the Maiden powers she had been long promised by James Ironwood (Jason Rose), but she was given them — she didn’t have to take them by force. Her scene with Penny as Penny gives her the powers was genuinely heartbreaking, as Winter was reassured that Penny was always her friend, no matter what, even if she wasn’t going away entirely. Ironwood finally bit it as his beloved city crashed to the ground and was flooded — good riddance to a fascist. Most of the Ace Ops survived, except for Vine Zeki (Todd Womack) who sacrificed himself so a nuke wouldn’t go off…which had been ordered dropped on Mantle by Ironwood. Really, good riddance to that guy.
That’s not even covering half the cast; RWBY has expanded so much over the years since Beacon that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the storylines, but rewatches are all the more rewarding to see everything that was being set up early on. RWBY Volume 8 was well worth the wait, and presumably, RWBY Volume 9 (coming soon?) will also be just as exciting and enchanting.
Special shoutouts go to all the voice actors this Volume, who really stepped up their game for some seriously challenging scenes; to the animators and fight choreographers who made the superpowered fights fun and engaging and must-watches; and to the writers, who have the challenging task of keeping all the pins in the air. “Some roses will never bloom,” sure, but RWBY Volume 8 only blossomed a show that’s consistently be growing stronger.