The fat Pegasus from the pegasus episodes last season has a name: Bolt Biceps. (I guess he must be – gasp! – a horse.) And the ponies are now gearing up for the Equestrian Games in the Aerial Whatevers tryout (relay, as it turns out). RD is, as usual, full of self-aggrandising bluster casually concealed by that little cough-cough gesture whenever she falls into mentioning how much she…I mean Ponyville…wants them to make it to the games. With the Sochi Winter Olympics just around the corner, this episode couldn’t be better timed. (And I still haven’t got around to booking the archery lessons I wanted to take both after the 2008 and 2012 games.)
Fluttershy is in on the game. I can guess the ending already. ‘Hey, you didn’t qualify for the games until Celestia intervened! No problem!’
Pinkie is their cheerleader. I can see this being more irritating than inspiring.
And AJ has brought them apple Brown Betties, which BB, surprisingly un-aerodynamic, has started into.
Don’t forget to breathe. Yup, Celestia is going to have to give these guys a bye.
After the credits, Twilight (whose horn seems to have grown slightly since her apostheosis) gives them a few words of, erm, encouragement. The weak link seems to be BB, but of course AJ and Rarity have tagged along, AJ wanting people to ‘carbo-load’.
The other pegasi are discussing the internal politics, with the Wonderbolts representing Cloudsdale and happy to have some competition…if you’re lucky. And RD wants more than luck. She needs…practice.
And decent cheerleaders.
RD starts off with the practice.
BB can’t stay afloat, Fluttershy needs to be introduced to the baton before she will take it, and Rarity wants to colour-coordinate the baton (in reality a horseshoe which is evidently magnetic for hooves). Not the best start. But this is going to be a success: otherwise we won’t get to see the actual Games themselves in the show, right? And, despite the tone of the series, you can’t really show an episode saying ‘Hard luck, but not everyone wins all the time! It’s the taking part that counts’, because the usual message is ‘It’s the taking part that counts, but actually, since the ponies are the heroines, we have to make them win.’ It’s slightly fairer this time, because these are tryouts and the first four teams win. So it’s not like there’s only one winner. All must have prizes.
Cloudsdale has the Wonderbolts. Sooo, maybe you can learn something. Please?
From Cloudsdale’s POV, Soarin’ can do better. He falls from the sky, and shakes his wing as if he’s hurt. It seems to have got sprained.
This is MLP all over. He praises RD for scooping
BB seems to be a dumb jock character.
Could RD fly with the Wonderbolts? She was brought up in Cloudsdale after all. In order to qualify for Ponyville, she has to be OK to qualify with them. The WBs hint that she was so good at the Academy last season (if you haven’t seen that episode, go and dig it up, because it’s how to do a military episode without actually involving Equestria in World War P) that she could do it.
However, for once, RD is actually being loyal to her team-mates when presented with something a bit better than her …mediocre team.
The WBs are, actually, a little sinister in this episode. Under normal circumstances, Spitfire, who calls her decision wise, should be a little bit more honourable than that, no?
Awesome. RD is not only able to keep up with the WBs, she’s become one of their team.
Twilight, still trying to figure out cheerleading in theory and practice, is a bit perplexed by RD’s desertion.
BB and Fluttershy are struggling, carboloading, and basically goofing off. They don’t know she’s practising with the team.
I think I know where this is going. I’m not sure I like the contrivance involved in getting there (Ponyville must have more suitable athletes than Fluttershy and Bolt Biceps, even if they made sure everyone else was mysteriously doing other events), but so be it. It’s easier to tell a story, particularly for kids, if you demonstrate the extremes of the situation, rather than the middle range.
Twi tells her that one of the teams needs more help than the others. Ponyville can still qualify, because she can fly fast enough to make up the difference. Then there’s another proposal from the WBs – join our team properly.
The WBs are pointing out the obvious. Even with you on their team, they’re still a bit stymied by the poor potential in both FS and BB. Hmmmmm. These guys are already being made out to be trying lure her with promises of …well, not cake exactly, but the way they’re portrayed is interesting.
So RD’s ego has been stroked. But Twilight tries to guilt her into refusing. Now there is another moral involved: it’s OK to cut down a tall poppy through the 100m extreme guilt tripping sprint. Nice.
RD wants to be the best. The way the other episode with Rarity went, was that the guilt trip kinda worked, but the ponies acquiesced in her scheme despite wanting to do something else. They put Rarity’s success first, and helped her to achieve something, for which Rarity went through hell but won out and was generous in return.
And immediately, we see RD’s way out of the dilemma. She appears in a wheel chair dressed in bandages. (I do hope we’re not lapsing back into G3’s anthropomorphic ponies. G4 has been very good at keeping the characters’ action and worldbuilding consistent with equine anatomy.)
She tripped on a …foam hoof, and landed on a fhfhfhfhfhaasseeeer…
OOOOOOOOOOOH! RD’s illness is so fake.
Fluttershy offers to take care of her. Or somepony will. Or a medic. ERM!
They realise she’s faking it.
Shame, it would have been a pretty decent thing to do, actually. Particularly in response to a rather obnoxious guilt trip, which is meant to be sympathetic but comes out all wrong, as if my correct response, when offered a job, with a couple of unemployed friends, would be to turn it down because my other friends don’t have jobs.
They have a replacement. The Pony Who Shall Not Be Named. (Oh dear. I have avoided pony spoilers all week, not very difficult now I’ve taken a break from tumblr, but…this is going to cause a little bit of outrage, although to be fair, this is putting a bit of faith in The Pony Who Shall Not Be Named.)
Twilight is still on the obnoxious guilt trip. Give over, Twily. I think RD has done an honourable thing, particularly since the WBs invited her to train/fly with them, she qualified for their team and under normal circumstances in athletics Bolt Biceps would be in the weightlifting team. I think the episode is a bit contrived in favour of a ‘look after your friends at your expense’. Having friends is nice, but friends don’t often begrudge another friend their own success, particularly not when most other episodes featuring RD have been promoting her and pushing her to succeed on her own terms. Twilight may be in the right as concerns the show’s overall theme, but she’s being a jackass. When I got a temping job the other month people didn’t say I shouldn’t take it just because some of my friends don’t have jobs and I got one. They were, y’know, happy for me, because they knew being employed, even if only for a few days, was important for me.
Fluttershy tries to stem some of the frustration by promising RD the gold medal if they win it.
Soarin’ is upset his friends haven’t been to see him. It turns out the Spitfire and Fleetfoot believes that he’s not 100% and they were going with somepony else.
Oh, how convenient. So the WBs are also jackasses.
This is a frustrating episode. It seems to be forcing the story into ‘tall poppy BAD, ambition BAD’ syndrome. It’s not the sequence of events, it’s how the ‘sympathetic’ character is behaving, and how convenient for the story that the best flyers, who want to be 100%, are being accused of abandoning a friend who might not be 100%, so RD will go back to the Ponyville team.
There are other, nicer ways to push this message. I’m going to persevere, but the way this is written grates on me like Feeling Pinkie Keen did on atheists and sceptics (so I know how people feel about that episode now). Sports is about competition and being the best. They could put this message across a lot better by using a different milieu, and to push RD to be the best she can in Ponyville while now trying to rein her in because oops! she might abandon her friends! is a little unfair. I get that RD might have had to have this episode, and they had to have a story about a tryout before we got to the EGs, but this is ‘settle for mediocrity in personal achievement because FRIENDSHIP!’ – I don’t like it at all. Twilight could become a princess without incident. Why can’t RD be a Wonderbolt?
It’s worse than ‘Celestia will make it so you can win’.
Oh and now we get RD realising she’s missing her friends.
And the huge guilt trip begins, and the self-criticism session begins.
Fluttershy steps forward.
And Spitfire accepts RD’s capitulation (after having a moustache-twirling moment which seems VERY out-of-character) and invites Soarin’ to rejoin them. It’s not a bad resolution – Spitfire reacts with pretty damn decent magnanimity – but this just feels like a contrived story to teach a specific ‘tall poppies get hurt’ message rather than anything particularly in character.
And they qualify.
I’ll give this 5/10. It’s a nicely put together episode, and quite exciting and with a bit more action than the last one, which was as dull as ditchwater and shied away from any particular argument. The message and contrivance leaves a bad taste in my mouth. ‘As much as I love winning…’ – why couldn’t she both win and have friends? Like, for example, Rarity, who won off the back of a pony sweatshop and her friends magnanimously sacrificed their own personal entertainment for her victory? Or Twilight herself? ‘Don’t want to do well for myself because friends.’ ‘My friends will savagely guilt trip me because I dare to want to be good at something?’
Why not ‘Want to do well for myself because friends?’ ‘My friends will help me do well for myself and I’ll help them do well for themselves too?’
The way it’s put together is shoddy for the message, shoddy for RD’s self-image, and that’s the second time we’ve seen a peer-pressure self-criticism session rather than a Today I Learned.
I’m not down on the show; it’s just this one episode that feels wrong in the way they plotted the story to deliberately drag someone who was getting too ‘above herself’ down. There’s obviously nothing wrong with sticking to your roots or having friends, but the previous WBs episode, where RD was genuinely dealing with an obnoxious bully was much better from a point of view of an inspiring message. In an age where we want little girls to aspire to better things, to tell them that they can go all the way to the top, a ‘I won’t win at any cost, I’ll stay with my friends and not want to do better’ episode is really out of place. As I’ve said, Twilight got her wings; of all the people who have aimed high and achieved what they got through their own hard work and being the protégé of a demigod, she should be the last person to succumb to ‘cut down the tall poppy’ syndrome, and should see clearly that aiming high doesn’t mean having to abandon your mates. But the way the story is set up, there’s no other option for RD but for her to be sent to the Friendship Gulag.
Maybe it’s time to let Rainbow Dash have her wings properly and not always have her have to learn a lesson about humility.
Not keen at all; not as a lesson for little girls who need to know that aspiration shouldn’t have to mean leaving your friends or your roots behind, and that your friends can be happy if you have something they don’t. Must try harder.