Welcome to What the Ship?! – the series that introduces, analyses and evaluates the pairings between RWBY characters, known as ships. In this issue we’re covering the most popular ship for RWBY’s luckiest bachelor Clover – Fair Game.
It’s a ship between Qrow Branwen and Clover Ebi – two professional huntsmen with exactly opposite Semblances. Qrow’s Semblance is Misfortune, which causes bad luck to everyone around him. Clover’s Semblance is Good Fortune, which causes good luck instead. In a game where both Clover and Qrow played for the same team, their Semblances would end up cancelling each other out, neither handicapping them nor letting them cheat – hence the ship name Fair Game.
How is the ship portrayed in the show?
The portrayal of Fair Game in the show is fairly consistent with how most other ships are portrayed – the characters give each other cute looks and glances, but never outright state their relationship verbally. That is perfectly fine, but nothing extraordinary in RWBY. What is extraordinary, is that this ship not only has a definitive end in the show, but was also publicly denied by CRWBY.
Qrow and Clover meet for the first time like all great relationships start – with one tying the other up and leaving them on the ground. In V7E1 “The Greatest Kingdom”, after Qrow and team RWBYORNJM land in Mantle, they fight some Grimm and get captured by the Ace Ops. Our favorite druncle tries to plead with Clover, but Clover completely ignores him. You’d think that’d be a terrible start to a relationship, but Clover then picks up Qrow’s weapon Harbinger. While smiling. We know the rules – if someone has a weapon they named and you pick it up while smiling, you have to marry them.
The two finally have a conversation in V7E3 aptly named “Ace Operatives”. While team RWBYRNJ + Ace Ops split into teams to get rid of a Geist Grimm in the mines, Clover and Qrow go as, appropriately, the Alpha Squad. Their clashing personalities are immediately revealed – Clover’s optimism and chipper charisma is contrasted great with Qrow’s paranoid cynicism. Like mentioned previously their Semblances are also direct opposites. Like Newton’s thirty-fourth law states: “Opposites attract and makes the best ships sail”.
Of note in the episode is that Clover gives a not-at-all subtle nod to Qrow when talking about their semblances. It was the moment that had the fic writers pull out their quills and ink, and had the fan artists place their canvases upon the easel. All because of that damn smile and the wink.
Their banter continues throughout the episode and into V7E5 “Sparks”, where the two are seen playing cards, with Qrow, quite understandably, on a losing streak. Clover keeps complimenting Qrow on his mentoring of the young huntresses and huntsmen under his wing, while Qrow deflects the compliment and gets a friendly scolding for this. Qrow also shows a moment of vulnerability, giving away that he used to drink. Their scene in the convoy is really heartwarming and at the same time – heartbreaking, if you know what’s coming.
In V7E9 “As Above, So Below”, Qrow and Clover are the last two to leave a burning airship, which is basically foreshadowing for Fair Game’s future. Clover once again throws his friend a cocky smile before making a badass exit, while Qrow amusedly remarks: “Show off…” In V7E10 “Out of in the Open” our loveable huntsmen and Robyn confront Tyrian and in V7E11 “Gravity” fight him. Their styles compliment each other perfectly, with Clover distracting, ensnaring and controlling Tyrian with his fishing rod, while Qrow brings the beatdown with heavy swings of his scythe and fists. Robyn is there too, but she’s not too important for us now.
At the end of the episode, however, things take a turn for the much worse, as Ironwood snaps and brands Ruby’s gang, including Qrow, as traitors to be captured. The news break out while luck-of-the-Irish, the scorpion and two birds are flying in an airship. Clover rejects any attempts on Qrow’s part for a compromise. Things are about to get heated.
Unfortunately, it’s not a hot makeout session that occurs in V7E12 “With Friends Like These”, but an airship crash after Tyrian’s interference. With Robyn knocked out, Qrow and Clover circle each other, exchanging personal attacks. Clover does call Qrow “friend” and the scythe-wielder agrees – it always ends up with him and his friends, referring to how three different friends of his – Ironwood, Lionheart and Ozpin – all betrayed him. Their subsequent battle wakes up Tyrian, who eagerly makes this a triple-threat fight.
Now here things get ugly. Tyrian suggests he and Qrow team up to take out Clover first, before fighting each other. Qrow agrees and they both team up against Clover. Surely teaming up with a serial killer against your friend, or worse, potential partner, is an awful idea. But I choose to die on this Hill and say that Qrow’s decision definitely makes sense. Hear me out.
First of all, Qrow definitely considers Clover the weakest combatant out of the three. His weapon, while extremely annoying, is much more useful as part of a team, to control and distract enemies, while the potential to inflict serious harm is low. Qrow knows himself well and has seen firsthand how deadly Tyrian can be – Clover’s out of his league. By removing Clover early, Qrow prevents a situation where he’s the one who gets knocked out first, which would be likely spell death for both Clover and himself.
Second, Tyrian is hyper-specific with his wording – “Let’s put the kid to bed,” he says. Although there’s no reason for Qrow to trust Tyrian, he definitely can trust himself, and would do his hardest to not harm Clover. The Faunus finishes it up by saying “and then finish it”, implying their fight would be to the death. Qrow knows that Clover wouldn’t kill Tyrian, as unlike real life, Atlesian law enforcement hasn’t shown to carry out deadly force against people who haven’t been convicted yet. Besides, Clover doesn’t have the tools to finish Tyrian off either. And Qrow really wants Tyrian dead.
This decision, although understandable, was definitely the wrong one and Clover ends up being stabbed to death by Tyrian wielding Qrow’s sword. It’s a truly shocking scene, and after Tyrian escapes, Qrow is left alone with his dying friend. Qrow swears vengeance on Ironwood, while Clover, in his last breath, wishes him good luck… Qrow’s anguished scream is proof that he and Clover were definitely more than just workplace buddies. The story of these two ends like it began, with one standing and the other one on the ground, unable to move.
Clover’s death in RWBY is only the second time that a ship was so devastatingly sunk, right after Arkos was confirmed canon and immediately gone with Pyrrha’s passing. Unlike Arkos, Fair Game had only one Volume to fully develop, but it’s a fantastic ship nonetheless.
Number of lines spoken between Clover and Qrow: 59 lines.
Number of “looks” given to one another: 26 looks.
Lines are counted only if the recipient of the line is clearly the other person or the recipient is obviously reacting to the line. A “look” is when a character is obviously expressing attraction of any kind towards the other person. Winks count double, not half.
How popular is it?
Fair Game is by far the most popular ship for both Qrow and Clover, with Gears of War (Qrow/Ironwood), Snowbird (Qrow/Winter) and Tanglewood (Clover/Ironwood) being far behind in popularity, even when combined. It gets a lot of fics and fan art, which is incredibly wild, considering that this ship was about a brand-new character being paired with an old fan-favorite, but also that it lasted for less than a single Volume!
One of the ways we can measure the popularity of a ship is by comparing the number of fan stories on AO3, a website dedicated for written fan works. More popular ships tend to get more stories, it’s pretty simple.
Fair Game has 1861 fan works made at the time of writing, which is an absolutely wild number. For comparison, Gears of War only has 686 works, which is still huge, but remember that this ship set sail back in Volume 3, four years before Fair Game! Indeed, Fair Game is so popular, that within 2 years of its existence it surpassed every other ship in popularity besides the big three – Bumbleby, White Rose and Arkos. All of which are about Volume 1 characters! That also means that Qrow/Clover is by far the most popular Male/Male ship in the show, a category that’s usually the most popular shipping category in a lot of media.
Admittedly, out of the 1861 works most aren’t all about only Fair Game, as many writers of various genres insert the ships they like into their works, but it still is a great way to measure popularity. What surprised me a lot, however, was how Clover’s death impacted the popularity of the ship. While usually stuff like characters from the ship finding love elsewhere, being written off or killed off don’t impact a ship’s popularity too much, Fair Game’s case is fascinating. Out of 1861 works, 1693 were written after Clover’s death. That’s almost 91% of all Fair Game fics! It seems that killing off Clover actually made fans think up their own stories of him and Qrow, even if their story was finished in the show. Speaking of which, Volume 8, infamously had Robyn dunk on Clover a bunch before dropping a “You respected him.” line to Qrow, when referring to Clover. It felt a bit too forced and definitely diminished the impact of Qrow’s anger and pain, especially when having her say “You loved him” or at least “You cared for him” wouldn’t have been too strange. Which leads us perfectly to the next part…
What does CRWBY think of it?
Oooh boy, it’s a tough subject. During the Volume 7’s run, some members of CRWBY openly admitted to shipping Fair Game (at the time called Qrover, a far worse name) and Rooster Teeth even released merchandise for the pair just a few days after the Volume’s end:
This was definitely in poor taste, as the FNDM hasn’t yet recovered from how Fair Game ended. And I don’t just mean they were mourning their favorite character.
Queerbaiting is a difficult subject to explain, especially through text. In short, it’s a technique where creators give hints and clues, sometimes overt ones, of an LGBTQ relationship or representation, while never actually committing to it. It’s used to receive all the positive attention (and of course, all the money that comes with it) from including the representation while also having plausible deniability to keep the attention (and money) of people who are weak enough to be offended by this representation. To learn more about queerbaiting, I recommend watching Rowan Ellis’s and SarahZ’s videos on them.
Whether or not CRWBY engaged in queerbaiting is something that I’ll leave to you to decide. Writer of the show Eddy Rivas has vehemently denied these claims. Eddy’s responses, alongside a lot of the criticisms towards CRWBY for queerbaiting, can be seen in the appropriately named Fair Game Deserved Better blog on Tumblr. Another CRWBY member, Kdin, who is both trans and voices a trans character in May Marigold, answered to these concerns over a year later in a fantastically written Tumblr post. In short, Clover was never meant to be in a relationship with Qrow, or even gay at all, and even if it came across like that, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to invalidate other LGBTQ representation in RWBY, like May. And especially it shouldn’t be used as ammo to send death threats to CRWBY, which, as we all hopefully can agree, is inherently a really shitty (and illegal!) thing to do.
This leaves us with a few facts. CRWBY, although using Fair Game to promote the show and merch, never intended for it to be a thing. This can be reasonably explained as CRWBY consists of a lot of people who are working on the show and some can actually have headcanons that they were eager to share with others. As for the merch, well, the people behind RWBY social media accounts or the store pages, haven’t exactly proven themselves to be reliable sources of information, or even really in touch with the community/reality.
As it stands, it’s one of the few ships in RWBY that has been officially disowned by its creators.
The two make a great pair and definitely seem to have a thing going on, while being supported by many loyal fans. Still, it’s weighed down by the discourse on queerbaiting and unfortunately has been completely rejected by the writers of CRWBY.
Fair Game Buoyancy Rating: Battlecruiser Sunk By Cannons (92%/0%)
A buoyancy rating is decided by the portrayal of the characters in the show and the popularity within the community and the show’s creators. It only represents the possibility of the ship being featured in the show (“becoming canon”).
What other ships should we cover in this series? A weird ship got you confused, or maybe you want the world to know about your favorite pairing? Let us know in the comments!