Character Analysis, RWBY, The Mind of a Character

James Ironwood: The Biggest Missed Opportunity

I know I’ve done my fair share of bullying RWBY in the past. But to be fair: season seven wasn’t that bad. Sure, it wasn’t all that good. But it didn’t make me want to kill myself the same way that season six did.

Granted, I was drunk when I watched it, but that’s beside the point.

There was a small stretch of season seven where I was genuinely really engaged and excited by what was happening! The story had taken a surprising and enjoyable turn that had me excited to find out what would happen next! It felt like a natural narrative progression that would lead into seasons eight and maybe nine being the finale. Sort of like the end of the second act, where the heroes are defeated and at their lowest point, moving into the third, where they bounce back and win the day.

But it wouldn’t be RWBY if it lived up to even the lowest expectations, would it?

When General James Ironwood was introduced in season three, it didn’t take a genius to figure out where his character was going to go. He was an overly paranoid man with trust issues who put more faith in military power than Ozpin’s wisdom. Characters like him existed everywhere. It’s one of the most common negative character arcs of all time.

Which leads me to the part of season seven that I absolutely loved. And in case you still care about this series, regardless of my constant bullying (genuine props to you for sticking to it, I respect that), there will be mild to heavy spoilers ahead. So proceed with caution.

At a point in season seven, when everything is starting to go to shit, Ironwood is convinced to put some faith in the world and reveal the truth about Salem. He opens up to everyone, putting his full trust in those around him. And this faith proves well placed! Everyone takes it pretty well and the tide turns in the favor of our heroes! Salem’s forces are driven back and the day is saved! Ironwood himself even gets a cool fight with Chris Sabat’s character whose name I couldn’t be fucked to remember! Which he wins!

This could have been one of the most interesting and important twists in the entire story. Not only does it subvert audience expectations in a logical, satisfying way, but it also opens so many opportunities for the story going forward! Under Ironwood’s leadership, how do our heroes go forward? Do they go straight for Salem? Reclaim Beacon? Or maybe Ironwood’s resources could be used for team RWBY to find Salem’s weakness and defend Atlus. There are a ton of possibilities!

But then he finds a stupid chess piece on his desk and it all goes to shit.

That fun subversion? Let’s double subvert that by going back to the negative arc everyone already expected! All that buildup and narrative progression building towards the positive change? Nah, fuck that! The unbelievable amount of potential that could have pulled this messy story together in time for an ending?! Deader than my faith in this show’s writers!

What does this double-twist into the negative do for the story? Absolutely nothing! It’s just another way of padding out the story to squeeze out another extra season or two! Ironwood turning evil actually closes off possible story threads! It only leaves us with ‘how will our heroes defeat Ironwood and put someone better in charge?’ rather than the cavalcade of intriguing questions his redemption would’ve left us with!

Plus, it goes against the central theme of the show! From how Ozpin spoke to Salem in the opening narration of season one, you’d think this is a show about people being more than they seem. About them being able to overcome their weaknesses to triumph over hardship and evil. Ironwood turning good would’ve been a perfect example of this! It would’ve played into those themes perfectly!

But no. We lightly setup his heel turn, so we’ve got to make him a bad guy. Forget if it worked for the story and would’ve made it more interesting. And better. All while making perfect sense. Just make him evil! Fuck it! It’s not like the fans are intelligent enough to notice anymore!

I can’t even rationalize this decision. It is so baffling to me that I can’t even begin to deduce why they wrote the story this way. Did they just not think it through? Or are they that dedicated to their plan? Do they even have a plan?! I can’t tell anymore!

Ironwood’s positive character development wouldn’t have just been a fun twist. It genuinely could have saved RWBY’s story! Sure, it’s still messy and some of the seasons (cough cough four and five) are still really bad. But with this, it could’ve made sticking the landing so much easier! It could have made this story interesting and fun again!

But no. We’ve got to keep being needlessly dark and depressing. When do the heroes turn it around and win the day? Uh… eh, forget it! Let’s just keep riding this shit until everyone jumps ship! Then we can just cancel it without finishing it and no one will notice! It’s working for Red VS Blue, isn’t it?!

*Sigh*… Why do I even bother? Oh yeah. Cause it’s fun to pick on this dumpster fire that I used to love.

That, and it makes me feel better about my abilities as a writer.

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