Say hello to the handy TL;DR that will teleport you immediately to the end of the review, in case you don't want to read through it. I know, kind of ironic I put a TL;DR in the review of this episode; you know, because reading is important, and you shouldn't skip because then why do I spend three hours editing for nothing? But anyways! Is this episode good in Friendship is Magic standards? Yes, of course it is! Is this the best Rainbow Dash episode yet? Well, it certainly does come close to it, and you will only find out if you flip the page over. I mean, scroll down a little bit.
So the episode starts with a great example of how to save budget for later parts of the episode. We see Rainbow Dash performing some amazing stunts and daring tricks that will make anyone of us lose our jaws by how hard they would hit the floor! Oh wait no, we don't see any of that. We see Pinkie Pie and Rarity (who have been together a lot during this season for some reason) reacting to Rainbow Dash's tricks. Now to be fair, I actually like this idea. It's obvious there is a big "We did it to save in costs" banner hanging over the whole scene, but it works really well. It's hilarious to see Pinkie Pie going "AY, AY, AY!" and the sound effects only add to the comedy. Besides, not showing us what Dash is doing fires up our imaginination, because we wonder what's she really doing. I bet she's writing her name in the clouds.
We then cut to a really well set up intro seen through the groggy eyes of Rainbow Dash as she wakes up in a Hospital bed with a broken wing. Oh, so here's where cartoon characters go to recover, I guess the whole "change to the next scene" deal only works when they feel like it. I'm just being mean, of course many other cartoons have done this and it does lead to some really interesting character driven scenes. We are told that Dash needs to stay in bed while her wing heals up, which sends her into a desperate mood of the "I need to fly! I can't get stuck here in bed! I'll go crazy!" Twilight, worried for her friend, decides to fix the situation the only way she knows how, and so suggests Rainbow Dash to (surprise, surprise!) read a book. She brings in the first book of an adventure series starring a character called Daring-Do. Dash throws the book away, as she considers reading something only egg-heads do. I like what follows, as the five friends support Twilight's argument and state that reading is really good, no matter what type of pony you are. Rainbow Dash just scuffs the idea. Her friends leave, and so we are treated to some really believable hospital moments. If you have never been in a hospital before, you don't know how boring it is. There is literally nothing to do but either wait, or read. Dash takes this a step further as she emulates Steven McQueen in The Great Escape, suffers through hospital food (which looks accurately disgusting), amuses herself with the light switch, and fails to tell a joke to her roommate. After one miserable minute that feels like three days, Dash finally grabs the book and starts reading.
It's here when our second storyline starts, as we are introduced to the adventures of Daring-Do through the imagination of Rainbow Dash. Now, you will allow me to make lengthy reviews of each fragment, because they are wonderful and easily some of the best moments this series has ever had. Whenever we enter the world of Daring-Do the picture narrows into a wide screen, and there's even an aged movie filter with sepia tones. It feels like watching an old serial, you know like those that inspired George Lucas to create Indiana Jones; even though the segments do reference that movie series in particular. The whole thing is treated like the good ol' pulp novels, with an evil power, an evil villain, life threatening traps and exotic locations. We see Daring-Do reaching her location, her wing is injured, which forces her to muscle through the jungle thanks to her cunning instincts, until she finally arrives to her destination: Generic Brown Temple #09 from Unreal Tournament.
|It even got the spikes right.|
We then return to the book, where Daring-Do steps inside the temple to find for the Sapphire Stone. She encounters with many traps, like pits of fire, alligators on the ceiling, and-wait, what? Alligators on the ceiling? How does that work? No, wait, wrong question. Why wasn't that in Indiana Jones!? That's the better question! However, none of this stops our daring heroine, as she crosses trap after trap, slides safely under a closing door and finally arrives to the treasure chamber. The sun light gets through a hole in the ceiling, and it reflects against a pedestal in the distance. The pedestal beams with a lens flare that will make J.J. Abrahams green with envy, and then Twilight comes and ruins everything. Twilight and Fluttershy show up at Rainbow Dash's bedroom, to play a board game with her and keep her entertained. Rainbow Dash hides the book and ditches her friends away, as she tells them she just wants to go to sleep. Now, this is something we saw of Rainbow Dash before, her inability to admit things. She always tries to keep a facade with her friends, trying to appear all tough and badass, while she actually is an insecure pony with a soft heart. So she hides the book and doesn't dare to admit to her friends that she enjoys reading.
|We all have done this. We just wouldn't admit it.|
We learn that the creature is actually the book's villain Ahuizotl, who is loosely based on a mythological Aztec creature of a very similar aspect. He wants to take the Sapphire Statuette for... some world conquering... McGuffin driven ancient artifact that will-Never mind, that's not important. What's important is that our heroine is now trapped, tied to a sacrifice altar, with closing walls of spikes, spiders, snakes, and quick sand. How is she going to get out? We are about to find out, when the Doctors break into the novel and pull Rainbow Dash out again. If anything, this episode is getting the message through really well, without pounding the kids over the head with it. Reading is really cool, it takes you to places you've never been in, you should read some books now! Sadly, the Doctors are not that into the message of the episode, so they take Rainbow Dash out of bed and kick her out of the door on a wheelchair. No, really, they do literally kick her out of the door. I know this show is made in Canada, and for what I know health care is generally better, but as soon as that scene happened I went to my friend and said "Now that's some American public health for you". I'm not American, but you guys can either correct me or validate me in the comments.
So Rainbow Dash is now out of the Hospital, unable to finish her book. She won't go ask Twilight for a copy, as she doesn't want to admit she enjoys reading, so she decides to do the most sensible thing: Dress up in ninja gear, sneak in and steal it. What follows is the most disastrous stealth mission anyone has ever conceived. Not only does Dash get caught, but she also ends up without the book. She tries to escape, awaking her friends and half of Ponyville in the process, and finally gets detained in front of Twilight's library. With her friends there, she finally confesses that she got inside the Hospital to get the book back, so she could finish it. Her friends shrug it off, as it's not that big of a deal. The Hospital ponies leave it be, and Twilight offers Dash to lend her the copies she owns anytime she wants. In a very interesting way to avert sending a letter to Celestia, Dash and Twilight deliver the moral with a very casual conversation. Twilight tells Rainbow Dash that reading is something anyone could enjoy, no matter how athletic or intelligent they are, and Rainbow Dash says that it's not a good idea to reject something until you try it.
Okay that's all fine, but there's one thing that must be resolved before we end! Does Daring-Do survive and get back the Sapphire Statuette!? Thank Luna, we go back to the book as we see our heroine breaking free from the machine thanks to her bouncy hat and a McGuyvering of the laws of physics. She finds out where Ahuizotl is, recovers the statuette and ends the book running before the sunset. Dash closes the book, hugs it against her chest, and moves to the next one, unable to contain her enthusiasm for what new adventures she'll go through next.
So that was "Read it and Weep". What do I think of it? Well, I loved it. I know I've said that a lot lately, but I frigging loved it. And I don't mean "Oh it's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and because it's my favourite thing right now" loved it. No. I really mean it as "I love it for being a fantastically well put together piece of television entertainment". The segments with Rainbow Dash experiencing the book were great and gave an insight of her character that I really enjoyed. Seeing that she can fan over more things than The Wonderbolts or a flying competition is both heart warming and cheerful. When the episode ends and she wiggles her legs in happiness that's the most adorable thing in the World. But what really stands out of this episode are the parts with Daring-Do. Oh my God, I want to read those stories. It's a genius way to sneak in an adventure plot that wouldn't work in any other context but into a fantasy world within this fantasy world. It wonderful to see that there's magic in Equestria beyond that the unicorns can do. In a world fuelled by the imagination of a person there's still place for the characters to have imagination themselves.
As for the aspects I could nitpick, well, there are a few but they are so petty I feel a sting of guilt mentioning them. First of, this episode feels exactly like a Cindy Morrow episode, and I seem to be getting good at identifying each writer's personal quirks. I made a quick analysis on M.A. Larson the other day, so why not making a quick one on Mrs. Morrow's style? She is one of those writers with solid ideas, so solid and perfect it's impossible to bring anything new to them. I don't mean they are bad, I just mean we have all seen them. The concept of a character going into another world to evade him or herself is not new. While her story lines are not revolutionary they are very tight, and her writing is really consistent and has no holes in it. It's like a really well cooked meal you have eaten a thousand times before. It's the exact same thing, but it's so good you don't get tired of it. Its heart is in the execution, and the execution here was perfect. Well, not really, let me clarify. The parts with Daring-Do are perfect. I wouldn't change a bit of them. The pacing, the style, the music, the writing, the tone, they are just perfect. However, things don't work that well for the other segments. When Dash tries to kick her friends out it feels weird, and it feels even weirder when Dash tries to break into the hospital. The intro and the ending are really good, but every "normal life" segment in between feels a bit off putting. This however does help a lot to contrast between how awesome the fantasy world is compared to how mundane the "other" fantasy world is. This show managed to create mundanity in a universe full of talking horses. That's both amazing and kind of sad at the same time.
Overall, it's a great episode. It was enjoyable all the way through, it was fun, it was funny, it was thrilling, and it gave enough ideas and material for fanfiction writers to work with for months. You read me right folks. I want to see those other books in fanfiction form! I'll gladly commission you for them if I need to! Now where did I put "Night Watch"? I need to finish that one!
|That actually looks a lot like my book pile right now.|
WISH. FREAKING. GRANTED!!!
- Moral: Don't reject something without giving it a chance first. Basically, don't judge a book by its cover, literally.