RWBY Retrospective: The Villains

Grimm Tidings From Remnant

Warning: Spoilers for RWBY through season 8.

Salem: [narrating] “A smaller, more honest soul… It’s true that a simple spark can ignite hope, breathe fire into the hearts of the weary. The ability to derive strength from hope is undoubtedly mankind’s greatest attribute. Which is why I will focus all of my power… to snuff it out.

“The End of The Beginning” (Season 3, Episode 12)

The world of Remnant is well-guarded. Brave Huntsmen and Huntresses guard the Kingdoms with advanced weaponry and soul-based superpowers. But Remnant is under siege. The merciless Creatures of Grimm stalk every corner of the globe while villains plot in the shadows.

Grimm are on the loose in Justice League/RWBY: Superheroes and Huntsmen part II, and they’re bringing at least one villain with them. So who are the monsters attacking Remnant? Let’s find out.


Dust: A mysterious mineral that can generate energy and enhance weapons with elemental effects. Most technology runs on Dust, which is non-magical.

Aura: A Huntsman’s power source generated by their soul, aura provides super strength, speed, agility, a force field, and a unique superpower called a Semblance. Too much damage will temporarily shatter an Aura, removing those powers.

Maidens: Women wielding godlike magic through the ages. Their powers transfer to a new host when they die, usually to a random woman.

Faunus: A subspecies of humans with one animal part (usually ears or a tail) and night vision. They are heavily discriminated against.

The Creatures of Grimm: Lusus Naturae

Inspiration: Fairy Tales (The Brothers Grimm)

Qrow: “You think they’re scared of your little ships? I’ve been out there, and I’ve seen the things she’s made. And let me tell you: they are fear.”

“It’s Brawl in the Family (Season 3, Episode 3)

The Creatures of Grimm infesting Remnant are shadowy monsters drawn to negative emotions that attack humans on sight. Grimm grow larger, stronger, and smarter with age. The most common breeds are werewolf-esque Beowolves, armored Ursas, and flying Nevermores. 

Many Grimm have strange powers. Geists can possess objects to become giant monsters. Manticores fly and breathe fire. The Apathy are the scariest Grimm. Though slow, their scream drains a victim’s will to the point where the victim collapses, indifferent to the approach of death.

The Creatures of Grimm include some heavy hitters. The Wyvern is a giant dragon that spawns Grimm from its body. Leviathans are Grimmzilla, complete with a mouth-based laser. The Hound is used for stealth operations, blending shapeshifting with human-level intelligence. A flying whale called Monstra serves as the villain faction’s flagship.

Salem: Divide

Voiced by: Jen Taylor
Inspiration: The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz) Rapunzel (Rapunzel)

Salem:It’s important not to lose sight of what drives us: Love, justice, reverence… but the moment you put your desires before my own… they will be lost to you. This isn’t a threat, this is simply the truth. The path to your desires is only found… through me.”

“So That’s How It Is” (Season 6, Episode 4)

Salem is Queen of the Grimm and the Big Bad of RWBY. She lurks in the Land of Darkness, directing her forces and creating new Grimm to bedevil Remnant. Salem is patient and manipulative, finding the exact buttons to dismantle her foes.

Salem was once a human princess locked in a tower by her cruel father. She was rescued by a hero named Ozma and they lived happily ever after… for a while. Ozma died from illness and a mourning Salem begged the God of Light to resurrect him. He refused, and later cursed her with immortality for going behind his back to beseech the God of Darkness.

A furious and immortal Salem led an army to kill the gods, who wiped out all life except for her. The brothers created new humans for a second chance. They resurrected Ozma as Ozpin, gave him the ability to reincarnate through hosts, and charged him to protect humanity from Salem’s wrath. Salem now seeks four relics of the gods in hope that she can force them to destroy the world and finally kill her.

RWBY: Cinder Fall/All Things Must Die

Voiced By: Jessica Nigiri
Inspiration: Cinderella (Cinderella)

Cinder:You Atlas elites are all the same! You think hoarding power means you’ll have it forever, but it just makes the rest of us hungrier! And I refuse to starve.”

“The Enemy of Trust” (Season 7, Episode 13)

Cinder Fall is Salem’s most valuable pawn and was RWBY’s assumed Big Bad until season 3. She was raised as a slave by a cruel hotel owner and her daughters. Cinder was tortured with a shock collar for any failure. A Huntsman who frequented the hotel secretly taught her how to fight. Cinder eventually used those lessons to kill the owner, the daughters, and her teacher when he tried arresting her.

Salem took in Cinder, feeding her hunger for power to keep her subservient. She helped Cinder steal half of the Fall Maiden’s powers, making her a match for any Hunter. Cinder now serves as Salem’s lead minion while scheming to steal every Maiden’s power.

Cinder wields Midnight, a pair of swords that combine into a bow. Her Semblance superheats and shapes rocks to forge obsidian weapons. The Fall Maiden’s power allows Cinder to fly, conjure elements, and control the weather. A Grimm replacing her arm is the key to stealing Maiden powers.

Roman Torchwick: Chatterbox

Played by: Gray G. Haddock, Billy Kametz, Chris Wehkamp
Inspiration: Romeo Candlewick (Pinocchio) Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange)

Ruby:What are you doing!? Without these ships, the Grimm will destroy everything!”
Roman:That’s the plan.”
Ruby:But why!? What do you get out of it!?”
Roman:You’re asking the wrong questions, Red! It’s not what I have to gain, it’s that I can’t afford to lose.”

“Heroes and Monsters” (Season 3, Episode 11)

Stylish Roman Torchwick was the first villain to appear. He is a famous crime lord who stole Dust from stores and cargo ships. Cinder strong-armed Roman into serving as her agent in exchange for his safety.

Roman is charismatic and quick with a joke, but turns to cynical jabs when frustrated. He’s bigoted against Faunus and enjoys meaningless violence despite putting on gentlemanly airs. The only person Roman treats well is Neo, his partner in crime.

Roman has not yet discovered his Semblance. He’s content to let hired goons and Neo fight his battles. Roman fences with Melodic Cudgel, a cane with a hidden gun. 

RWBY: Neopolitan/One Thing

Voiced By: Casey Lee Williams
Inspiration: Hecate (Greek Mythology) Neapolitan (Ice Cream)

Cinder: “We both want that girl dead, so quit wasting time fighting me, and let’s discuss how we kill her together. [Neo lowers her weapon.] Okay, let’s talk. [Neo pouts and points at her mouth to remind Cinder she’s Mute] …Right.”

Neopolitan debuted as a deus ex machina to save Roman from Team RWBY. Not much is known about her past, but she is Roman’s only friend and sidekick. Neo is mute, using body language, expressions, and illusions to communicate. 

Neo began working for Cinder to avenge Roman’s death at Ruby Rose’s hand. She is wary of Salem’s genocidal plans and Cinder’s megalomania, but sticks with them for her shot at revenge.

Hush, little reader, don’t say a word or Neo will impale you on her umbrella-sword of that name. She also casts illusions with her Semblance, often disguising herself as loved ones to make foes hesitate. Combining these with a fluid and graceful fighting style makes Neo a dangerous assassin.

Fun Fact: Series creator Monty Oum saw a woman cosplaying as Roman and was inspired to create Neo. He searched for a voice actor, but made Neo mute after fans latched onto that idea.

Emerald Sustari: Fear

Voiced By: Katie Newville
Inspiration: Aladdin (1001 Nights)

Emerald:It’s not over! Cinder will come back, she’ll have the Relic, and she’ll stop all of you! She won’t let us down.”

“Haven’s Fate” (Season 5, Episode 14)

Emerald Sustari is an orphaned thief that Cinder recruited for her useful hallucination Semblance. The urchin rewarded Cinder by treating her as a surrogate mother and became her most ardent supporter.

Emerald was assigned to spy on Team RWBY by posing as their friend. Her manipulation killed one of their allies and ruined another’s reputation. Emerald is terrified of Salem’s endgame and only supports her out of loyalty to Cinder.

Thief’s Respite is Emerald’s weapon of choice. These revolvers transform into kusarigama or curved shortswords. Emerald’s Semblance causes audio-visual hallucinations, but requires concentration. Tricking more than one person at a time gives her a migraine.

Fun Fact: Emerald is one of the most famous RWBY characters thanks to a plot-relevant cameo in Doctor Sleep. Actor Kylie Curran loves the character and asked to substitute from Emerald during a mental battle instead of Daenerys Targaryen. And by happy coincidence, both Emerald and Curran’s character fight someone named Rose.

RWBY: Hazel Reinart/War

Voiced By: William Orfendorff
Inspiration: Hansel (Hansel and Gretel)

Adam:Your master was concerned with Sienna’s willingness to cooperate. Now she doesn’t have to be.”
Hazel:…No one needed to die today.”

“RWBY “Dread in the Air” (Season 5, Episode 2)

Hazel Reinart was a typical person until his sister Gretchen became a Huntress. She died on a training mission and Hazel blamed the academy’s leader, Ozpin, for her death. He joined Salem’s emissary because of their mutual enemy.

Hazel speaks softly and is his own big stick. He minimizes casualties while advising allies and enemies. Hazel goes berserk when Ozpin is near, attacking anyone to get at his foe. Working with Salem is hypocritical, but Hazel thinks that she is unbeatable and Ozpin is throwing children into a meat grinder.

Hazel doesn’t need weapons. His Semblance prevents him from feeling pain, which he uses to shove Dust crystals into his skin. Each one makes him stronger and grants an elemental effect. Hazel’s Aura quickly regenerates and is bolstered by willpower, making him an unstoppable juggernaut.

Arthur Watts: The Sky is Falling

Voiced By: Christopher Sabat
Inspiration: Dr. Watson and Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes)

Watts:You think you’re entitled to everything just because you’ve suffered, but suffering isn’t enough! You can’t just be strong, you have to be smart! You can’t just be deserving, you have to be worthy! But all you have EVER been is a BLOODY MIGRAINE!

“Ultimatum” (Season 8, Epsidoe 10)

Dr. Arthur Watts was a brilliant scientist working for the Kingdom of Atlas. He believed that his work was being ignored in favor of a colleague’s. Watts faked his death and joined Salem for revenge.

Watts was born to high society and retains that attitude. He is strict and formal until his sadism shines through when he has the upper hand. He also has a temper and hands out deconstructive rants like Halloween candy when upset.

Watts is a genius hacker. He wears rings that run programs with a gesture, manipulating technology to support him. Watts uses an ornate, but unnamed 20-shot revolver loaded with Dust bullets. It’s cumbersome to reload, which forces him to count his shots. Watts isn’t much of a fighter and doesn’t know his Semblance, but he’s deadly with prep time.

RWBY: Tyrian Callows/When It Falls

Voiced By: Jesse James Grelle
Inspiration: The Scorpion (The Scorpion and The Frog) The Joker (DC Comics)

Tyrian:Children, please. If you’re not loving what you’re doing, you’re in the wrong field!”

“Lost” (Season 6, Episode 9)

Tyrian Callows is a Faunus serial killer. He was caught and sentenced to death, but rescued by Salem. She knew his reign of terror would increase Grimm attacks, and he adored her desire to kill everyone. Tyrian joined immediately, worshiping Salem as a goddess incarnate.

Tyrian peppers his speech with poetic compliments and theatrical flourishes, but contrasts them against crazed grins and sadomasochistic displays. He is more observant than he looks and masks cunning with madness. Tyrian goes berserk easily, especially if something displeases Salem.

Tyrian wears The Queen’s Servants, bladed gauntlets with embedded machine guns. His Faunus trait is a scorpion tail used to lethal effect. Its poison blends with his Semblance to corrode a victim’s Aura, making it difficult for even a Huntsman to survive.

Didya Get All That?

The reason fairy tales are an old name for horror stories.

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