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8 December 2013

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic "Daring Don't"


Writing for a sequel, especially when the first part has had a lot of time to cement in the minds of fans all over the world and by a writer who so many people admire for her previous work, can be a tough thing to do. Nobody denies nowadays that “Aliens” is one of the absolute best movies ever made, and that its quality overshadows the original “Alien”, to the point that people remember James Cameron more than Ridley Scott. I’m sure nobody believed that “Aliens” was going to be better than “Alien” when it was being made, or when it premiered. It was time and time alone what put it where it is now. Following the work of another author can be difficult, so I can only imagine the size of the challenge Dave Polsky decided to brave.

I’m going to have fun with this TL; DR. If “Read it and Weep” was “Raiders of the Lost Arc”, then “Daring Don’t” is definitely more “Temple of Doom”. Good thing there is not a trace of “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” here. And if you want to figure out my analogy please keep on reading.



The episode starts with Rainbow Dash losing her mind because the newest book of the Daring Do series is yet to be released, and it’s four months before it arrives. It doesn’t help ease her anxiety when, while visiting Twilight to share her enthusiasm, she is informed that the book’s release date has been pushed by two months. I am not a fan of Valve or Half-Life 3, but I’m pretty sure a lot of Bronies were chuckling when they saw this scene. Getting release dates pushed is like increasing the level of torture in that device from “The Princess Bride”. Rainbow Dash then does what every normal fangirl would do in a situation like this: Panic. She thinks A.K. Yearling, author of the books, is experiencing writer’s block and so she decides to grab her friends and go help her!


She discovered that the "Fire, fire, fire!" technique didn't work all that well.
So, what happens? They arrive to the house, and find A.K. Yearling being all depressed and uninspired to they decide to cheer her up like Pinkie Pie did with Cranky Doodle Donkey, right? Actually, no. They arrive to the house, after what is probably the absolute best Indiana Jones reference/joke ever made and find out that A.K. Yearling is the real Daring Do, all the way down to the pith helmet and the whip. She gets assaulted by three thugs that steal a mysterious golden ring away from her in order to sell it to Ahuizotl, so they can make a lot of money out of the deal. So, you’d expect them to chase these thugs through a market-place or something similar and then they all get captured, right?


Seriously, this part is comedy gold.
Actually, no. Daring Do tries to get the ring from them but they get attacked at their camp by Ahuizotl himself, and what follows is a very well shot and planed fight scene between Daring and Ahuizotl’s cat army. It even allows itself to deliver a couple of witty dialogue exchanges and one of the funniest Rainbow Dash faces ever. Sadly, and because of a mistake from Rainbow Dash, Daring ends up getting captured and is taken to Ahuizotl’s fortress. Dash is about to quit and go home, since she considers herself to be useless when compared to Daring, but her friends cheer her up and talk her into storming the fortress and saving Daring. So what? Are they going to save Daring Do and then she’s going to refuse their help and only accept it when it’s too late, right?


Yeowch! You kitten-punching pegasus bitch!
Actually, no. Daring Do starts saving herself, but then Rainbow Dash gives her an extra hoof and they both join forces to stop Ahuizotl. They stop him from putting the last golden ring in his world destroying device, and cause the entire pyramid to collapse, all while the rest of the Mane Six fight his army of evil brainwashed cult ponies. They all return home, Daring Do and Rainbow Dash become friends and end up in good terms, and Dash learns the lesson to appreciate her own virtues and not diminish them by comparing them to those of her heroes. She receives the newest Daring Do book a week earlier, only to find out that she is featured in the cover next to her heroine.


She paid for the book in snuggles.
You know what? I am going to give kudos to Dave Polsky for his writing in that I had no idea where it was going. Every single thing it threw at us was twisted and turned around to the point that it had me guessing the whole time, and even though I don’t always enjoy this kind of stories I think it works really well here. The characters feel right at home in it, and they act as if they are self-aware that they are in a work of fiction. The dialogues between Rainbow Dash and Twilight are just perfect. They are every single conversation between nerds of the same branch ever, how they start comparing facts, citing chapters, referring to books, mentioning characters, places, artifacts, McGuffins, and how the rest of her friends just stare at them in bewildering confusion. They are the dorkiest dorks in this dorky side of the show, and they are just so… adorkable! They are so adorkable, and they love it! It flows so well, and the jokes just write themselves. It feels so honest that it hurts. This has the side effect of leaving every other character in the background, and even though Dave Polsky does his best to give every one of them a bit of a role it’s clear that the focus were Twilight, Dash, and Daring Do.


Mmm, your mane smells like the back of a postage stamp.
Speaking of which, Daring Do was brilliant in this episode. It’s starting to feel like she is less Indiana Jones and more a character of her own volition. She had a lot more dialogue, she is a deadpan snarker, and she isn’t afraid of showing her wit every now and then. She does have that stick in the mud side of her too, but it doesn’t last for long and in the end learns to accept the help from others. I love it when an already established character that didn’t get any development experiences change and swallows her pride. Also, the fact that she is a real archeologist and exists within the world of Equestria might destroy almost all the fanfiction that was written about her, but it expands upon the universe of the show big time. Now her stories actually happened, they are recollections of real events, which means all those exotic locations and places full of peril and danger do exist in this world, which does make a lot of sense. The world of Equestria is obviously based on our own, so it’s not surprising to consider that there were ancient cultures who believed in the occult and tried to garner the power of the Gods. It’s really cool when you think about it.


For example, all the established plot points are never addressed again. Fluttershy and her birds? Never addressed again. Pinkie Pie’s holiday part? Never addressed again. The three guys that get inside A.K. Yearling’s house? Never addressed again. That weapon of mass destruction? Never addressed again. And that mysterious book out of which she takes the ring? Yepp, never addressed again, which by the way it kind of pisses me off. This is two Dave Polsky scripted episodes where we have had a book being mysterious and holding a plot McGuffin and they haven’t been explained!


Suck it Frodo, mine's bigger.
Also, the episode’s structure is very wonky. I already mentioned how it keeps you guessing until the end, so once everything is wrapped up I was still wondering if what happened was real or not. I will admit, this is something that can go away after several viewings, but first impressions are very important and this episode only had the chance to make one, and this one is that the structure is not very good.


I'll show you structure-! Ouch, I hurt my narrative.
The other problem is the tone of the episode, which is all over the place. This is something that’s common in episodes written by Dave Polsky, and not to disrespect the man (he is a very nice guy who works really hard after all) but his episodes shift gears so quickly that the narrative suffers greatly from it. It goes from thrilling to sad to funny to thrilling again, and it throws me off so much that my emotions feel like a ragdoll. I am always happy to have my emotions experience a one hundred and eighty degrees turn, but when this happens every five seconds it stops being fun and it becomes annoying.


I am not a princess, piss off!
Also I found the setting really distracting. I know this is a nitpick, but why in the bewildering name of Celestia’s sunny butt does Daring Do have her house sitting right next to Ahuizotl’s pyramid!? And why is Ahuizotl still on the loose and nobody has done anything to stop him? This is very unfortunate, because the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the places are breathtaking, and the technology and mystique are on par with those of classic adventure movies like “King Solomon’s Mines” and “The Mummy”, but everything surrounding them is so weak. I guess that having access to an evil cult, slow death-traps and ancient artifacts that can cause untold destruction is something that can pass in a Tetrarchial Society like Equestria. And now that I mention it, what the hell is Twilight Sparkle doing in the freight of the battle? Wasn’t she told by her friends to step out of danger in the Season premiere and now she’s jumping right into the action where she could likely be injured or killed? It’s not like she is needed to make this plan work, she could’ve been crushed by a falling stone block or worse!


"Weee, I have a total disregard of my own safety! I'm a Princess, LOL!"
So you’d imagine that, with its somewhat balanced combination of good things and bad things, this episode would fall more on the middle of the road than in either the good side or the bad side for me, right? Well, this would be true, if it wasn’t because I get so much out of it. This is one of those episodes that give me something that I don’t think any other episode does, and that few other TV shows have done.


Aside from showing ponies doing the spread-eagle.
This episode is like that one episode of “Batman: The Animated Series” where the caped crusader meets with his childhood hero and fight crime together. This is a “What-if” scenario that every child and every adult who ever enjoyed any sort of fiction wanted to find themselves in. What if your favorite hero was real and you were there to see them kick some ass? What if you had the chance to hang out with Hellboy and go kill Cthulhu? That’s exactly what this episode is all about. It’s 22 minutes of Rainbow Dash hanging out with the one character she has grown to love and admire more than anyone else, and that’s something that resonates really close to me. The fact that this actually happened and it wasn’t just in her head or in someone else’s imagination makes the situation all the stronger and engaging. I know some people scream self-insert, or fanfic-y writing, or ruined forever, but that’s not what I take from this episode. What I take, aside of this being one of the most heartwarming experiences this show has ever had, is that those heroes that we admire are, in the end, no different from us. Our own feats and victories are not less important than theirs. It’s really something seeing how Rainbow Dash disregards all the awesome things she has done just because her admiration for Daring Do and her adventures has clouded her perception. It’s a really important message, and it’s something that too happens to me all the time! Every single day I look at artwork done by other artists while I discredit my own art as well, when I have people (and even these artists) coming at me saying that they are not as bad as I think they are.


Fed-Ex is refusing to ship your package, Dash. Stop insisting.
I wasn’t seeing all this when I was watching the episode though, but I gave it time and thought and came up to that conclusion. This shows exactly why I think those involved had their hearts in the right place.

But enough beating around the bush, is the episode good or is it bad? Well, the episode’s quality, and whether you liked it or not, depends on how hard the issues I already brought up damage your suspension of disbelief. My suspension of disbelief is plot-hole proof, and nitpicky proof so, despite all these problems, I can safely say I still enjoyed the episode. It has good comedy in it, good writing, good dialogue, the characters stay in-character, the action is very thrilling, and I can still appreciate the artistry in the production design and the effort in creating a fun and adventure-esche atmosphere. I can take all these things with me and have fun with them, despite having the major problems stare at me directly in the face.


Yes, my fanfic is finally complete! Now lets see if those smug-faces of Daring Daily publish it.
It’s just like in “Temple of Doom”, my favourite Indiana Jones movie. Is it perfect? No. Does it have a lot of weaknesses? A lot. Can it be compared to the original? Oh, hell no. Is it fun, enjoyable, has good characters, great action scenes and an undying sense of adventure and peril? Hell, fucking, yes. This is going to be one of the most memorable My Little Pony episodes of the season, and for bad or for good we will always remember when the fiction within the fiction became reality.

 


- Defining Moment: Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash engage in a battle for the ages, to find out who is the biggest Daring Do nerd.

- Moral: Just because you think the feats of your heroes are big doesn’t mean your own feats are insignificant.

8 comments:

  1. Oh thank goodness James.... I know about the problems, but I really enjoyed the episode. I thought I was the only....

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  2. I don't know why you say that some of those pllot points are never brought back again when some of those are either jokes or... whatever the TV equivalent of connective tissue is. It's what connects one scene to the next. Also, I'm pretty sure those guys that broke into the house when they were right there in the second action scene.
    -Also, a princess willing to throw herself into danger and kick some ass? How could you not like that?

    ANYWAY:
    -I honestly feel this is my new favorite Rainbow Dash episode.
    -Some people analyzing this episode can't wrap their heads around the idea of Daring Do being a real character, but I think it's a really good twist. It's kind of silly in and of itself for a series of fantasy books to be as popular as it is in a world of magic, so having Daring Do be real makes a ridiculous amount of sense to me. It's also cool how know we know that the Mane 6 aren't the only ones going around fighting evil creatures and saving Equestria (even if it is to write books and collect magical artifacts).
    - RD being a total dork is fantastic
    -Is it just me or is Dr. Caballeron really supposed to be Belloq from Raiders?

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  3. I think this episode will continue my streak of calling Dave Polsky an underrated writer.

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  4. While watching the episode, I enjoyed it enough, but this is one of those episodes where, once it's finished, fridge logic hits you like a train at top speed. There is so much in this that doesn't make sense, it's useless to even try and list it all.

    People complained about Magical Mystery Cure fucking canon up? Ha, that episode's got nothing on this one. Why are there suddenly Maya ponies? Why do the Princesses let Ahuizotl run around free? Why are all these McGuffins left laying in the open by the Princesses? Why are all these death-trap filled ruins not guarded by the Princesses' guards? Did this episode take place in Equestria or outside of it? Etc.

    Now all of the above would have been fine if the writers were going to adress all of this at some point, but you know they won't and that makes me want to pull my hair out. Ever since Season 3, it's been feeling more and more like the staff gave up caring about consistency. Nowadays, their world-building often makes no sense, with this episode being a shining example of that.

    This is one of those episodes where you need to turn your brain off and not think about logic, plot or world-building, because if you do, you'll be reduced to a mess quivering in the corner of the room. Once you do that, you can enjoy its good things, such as the nerd-battle between Twilight and Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash geeking out, etc. Just, don't think of the plot or the world. Ever. Spare your brain the torture.

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  5. I seriously hope that you were streching for a joke there because...seriously, the birds and the hat party? Those were just to establish the setting, we know that this is the kind of thing that Pinkie and Fluttershy do in a daily basis so this is just to set the setting of a regular day...at least, that´s how I saw it.
    I´m glad you keep doing these reviews, I always like them. Should I make fun of you about the "letting a week pass between episodes" or just be happy that you keep writing? I chose the latter.
    Good work =)

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  6. As I've said elsewhere, I think this episode would have been better with the pointless ensemble cast cut out. All it needed was Rainbow Dash, Twilight (who would have a slightly larger role), and Spike (who would play the part of the snarky non-fan). My main problem with this episode was mostly just that it seemed to lack focus—I think cutting down the cast would help with that, even though it wouldn't entirely solve it.

    Anyway, great review, as usual! I always look forward to these.

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  7. I guess this is my favorite episode in Season 4 up to now, so I give 4/5. I know, a lot of people don't like it, but let it be their own problem.

    First, the humor was just awesome. Some of the strongest jokes of MLP history were thrown at us, and I laughed my ass off several times. I'd like to mention just the two most hilarious here: Pinkie Pie paints the red line all along their way; Pinkie seizes the upper ring in Ahuizotl's fortress by jumping weirdly.

    There was also a dramatic line in the story between Rainbow Dash and Daring Doo. At the climax of her self-conflict, when she felt useless RD decided to go home, but recovered thanks to her friends. After that, the resolution was carried out well.

    Both Rainbow Dash and Daring Doo have learned something important, thus the moral was more than fine. RD has learned to appreciate herself, and Daring Doo to appreciate the importance of teamwork.

    Another side of RD that all of us happy to see again and again is the Fangirl. Her overenthusiasm makes me smile every single time. She can be almost as obsessed as we bronies with this series :)

    I enjoyed the plot as well with its unexpected twists, e.g. when Daring Doo turned out to be a real pony, or Ahuizotl turned out to be a real threat for Equestria.

    Let me continue with the character-interactions as one of the strongest points. The interactions concentrated around RD. Her dialogues with Fluttershy, Twilight and Daring Doo were very funny and reflected their personalities. The nerd-battle was priceless especially as I use to have similar discussions about MLP episodes.

    Pinkie was totally in character and I don't want to offend her anymore. Instead, I won't write about her if she happens to be out of character again.
    Twilight was also good. She went to the background when needed and gave chance to other characters to do the things on their own.
    Now, Daring Doo has become a more elaborated character. She wasn't that all-good supermane, and she had to learn from her own mistakes.

    The balance was nearly perfect amongst humor, drama, and moral. I had no issues with Dave Polsky's emotional roller-coaster, I just screamed and enjoyed it :D


    There were a few negative points, though.

    I cocked an eyebrow sometimes because there were some annoying inconsistencies:
    Why didn't Twilight and her friends help to stop the thieves? They just stood at the window and watch the scene.
    Why didn't Daring Doo destroy the smallest ring right at the beginning, when she had it in her book? No, she had to destroy the biggest one to save her ego.

    RD was too nervous of Daring Doo and the forthcoming challenge. It is completely understandable, but she is the coolest awesomest pony, and she has a huge ego at the same time. Why did she lose all of this and started to act in such an extreme way?

    Finally, the whole episode was a bit too cartoonish for me. I know, My Little Pony is a cartoon itself, but there are more cartoonish and less cartoonish -in other words, more realistic- episodes. And usually, I prefer the latter. I understand that a Daring Doo adventure story must be cartoonish to an extent. In this case, surprisingly, it wasn't embarrassing. However, it felt a bit distracting. As you said, we didn't know for sure for a while whether the world of Daring Doo is a real thing or just Dash's fantasy.


    To sum up, it was really interesting to see how this episode continues the story of "Read It and Weep". Well, Dave Polsky did a good job and I'm looking forward to seeing his next episode. I'm also very satisfied with Pinkie Pie because she was hilarious! I'm wondering now that Dave Polsky loves to write Pinkie, because he wrote Pinkie so well several times before.

    PS. I lol'd at the twentieth pic on this page. I would call it 'Rainbow Dash, the funicorn'.

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