There is one trend that happens too often in media, especially in pop-culture, and that is the trend of loving everything that has the same name, brand, director, writer, etc. in it regardless of its quality. There’s people who love every single thing about Doctor Who, or those who love everything created by Joss Whedon, or even weirdos who are obsessed with Silent Hill to the point of pre-ordering games without even trying them out first. I am like that too, believe me when I say that I am not exempt of this. I love everything that has to do with Mass Effect, and I love every single Pokémon RPG that’s ever been released (the puzzle games and the pet-caring games though, are a horse of a completely different color). There are times when this backfires immensely, and the end result is laughable at best and sad at worst. I am still baffled at the people who try to defend “Prometheus” just because it’s a Ridley Scott movie, and Ridley Scott can’t do no evil as he is always perfect! “Robin Hood” and “A Good Year” never happened! Not in my real world head canon! Judging the quality of something just because you love one aspect of it (the creator, the brand, the universe, one of the characters, the writer) is not fair, which is not to say it’s wrong. Your opinion can’t be wrong. It’s your opinion! You can totally like something just because you love the one thing in it that makes you like it, but don’t expect that argument to hold on too well when trying to defend it. Especially if the place where you are trying to defend it is the internet.
So the episode starts in Ponyville, where we see that Rainbow Dash has formed a Aerial Relay team of pegasi for the upcoming Equestria Games, and for some reason this team is formed by Fluttershy, Bulk Biceps (artist formerly known as Snowflake) and herself. Their objective is to qualify for the games on the try-outs that take place at the Rainbow Falls, and to do that they have to train hard and try not to be distracted by Applejack’s apple brown betties, or Pinkie Pie’s crazy cheerleading antics. This proves to be easier said than done, as both Bulk and Fluttershy aren’t the strongest of fliers out there, and even though they have a lot of heart their physical conditions are not on the same level.
|P is for...uhm, "Phail"? "Phisaster"? "Phstake"?|
We then move to the train that’s taking all of the Ponyville’s teams to the Rainbow Falls. Rainbow Dash’s also counts with the support of the rest of the Mane Six, but they are not the only ones there as other Ponyville pegasi from other events are also along for the ride. Is here where we are told that the other pegasi have been picked for different events, leaving the Aerial Relay team with the least qualified ponies, which is why Rainbow Dash is staying with them, to compensate their lack of speed with her incredible skills. This seems to be what’s keeping Dash confident about their chances to qualify, and even when they arrive to the Falls they have ponies turning their heads at them as Rainbow’s reputation precedes her. However, things don’t seems to go so swimmingly for Dash, who can’t help but compare her own team with Cloudsdayle’s, which is formed by Fleetfoot, Soarin’ and Spitfire from the Wonderbolts. It’s pretty obvious that Dash doesn’t want to compare both teams, but when putting them next to each other Clousdayle has better cheerleaders, better outfits, better fliers and better chances at qualifying, while all that Ponyville’s team has is just a lot of passion, and perhaps an endless supply of apple brown betties. But having the best in the team doesn’t mean having the best focus as Soarin’ gets distracted by the sexy cheerleaders and injures his wing while doing a flying exercise.
|Admit it, you looked for porn of these two right after the episode ended. I know I did >_>|
With his wing broken, and missing a third member, Spitfire offers Rainbow Dash the chance to be in their team, and here’s the episode’s conundrum. Will Rainbow Dash be loyal and stay with the Ponyville team, even though they suck, or will she betray them and go with her life-long heroes and join the Cloudsdayle team? Well, since Rainbow Dash is a cheater of incredible proportions, she decides neither and takes onto being on both teams at the same time, which gives her too much perspective about how awesome the Wonderbolts are and how charmingly pathetic Ponyville is. This is ignored by everyone (as they are so busy with the competition) except for Twilight (who is just concerned about how use her pompoms), who catches her sneaking around and going to the Cloudsdayle team. Twi understands why Rainbow would like to be with the Wonderbolts, but if she does this everything that Ponyville has worked for will be lost at the games, so she calls her out on it and tells her to pick one side and stop fooling around. Even Rainbow seems to know that what she’s doing is wrong, but the decision is not an easy one to make.
|However, can you vote for me on the next Equestria Daily poll? I've been losing those since the Season started.|
Trapped between two teams, Dash does the only thing she knows how to do best: Scapegoat it. She fakes to be injured all over her body (to the joy of fanfic writers obsessed with breaking her wings) so she can’t play for either team. Once she gets to the Hospital she is then visited by her friends, who show support and affection towards her. Then her team visits her too, and they promise they’ll bring the gold medal to home no matter what it takes, as they have also found a replacement for Rainbow Dash, and that pony happens to be-
Yeah, happens to be Derpy, that’s right.
Uhm, ahem! I’m a pro, such professionalism. Horse business is serious business. Wow.
Seriously though, after her friends encourage Dash to get better from her fake injuries they leave and we discover that she has a roommate who happens to be Soarin’, who envies Dash for having friends that visit her in the Hospital. This is where we find out that Soarin’ hasn't been visited by her team, that he wasn’t all that injured to begin with and that the Wonderbolts wanted to have a better flier with them to increase their chances at qualifying so that’s why they didn’t encourage him to get better. After listening to Soarin’s shocking revelation, Rainbow decides that she isn't having any of that shit. She jumps out of bed and, along with Soarin’, they both go to confront Spitfire and Fleetfoot about this deception. Dash then reveals that she faked her injuries because she didn’t know who to choose to compete for, but after seeing how Cloudsdayle treated its athletes compared with how her friends and Ponyville treated her, she decides to stay with Ponyville. She also calls out the Wonderbolts for being a bunch of deceiving duplicitous liars. The Cloudsdayle team learns their lesson, they apologize to Rainbow, Ponyville and Soarin’, they welcome him back, and they all compete to qualify for the Games.
|But first Soarin' must pass the measuring contest! Let's see who has the biggest...uhm, wings!|
After some difficulties, and a few sloppy maneuvers, Ponyville manages to qualify by the skin of their teeth and they become athletes for the Equestria Games. Spitfire then seals her previous apology by giving Dash her Wonderbolt badge, and back in Ponyville Rainbow then writes in the journal how, although she loves to win and be the best, she loves her friends even more and that she’ll put them before wining every single day.
|Admit it, the more you look at this the more you are smiling.|
So that was “Rainbow Falls”, and I have no idea where to start with this episode. I really don’t. I have heard people call this one “Wonderbolts Academy: The Good Version”, but I wouldn't go as far as that. This episode, like that one and (almost) any other episode, has quite a few things that rub me the wrong way, and they are not allowing me to see the big picture. I think I should do the opposite of what I do and start with the things that I didn’t like so I can get to the good stuff at the end, sort of like eating a cabbage because there is a cake inside it.
|It's better than having the opposite, right? Cabbage-filled cake sounds disgusting.|
I think that this episode completely destroyed the Wonderbolts for me. From a narrative and character development perspective, they are some of the most unlikable characters in the show. I seriously don’t understand how can Rainbow Dash still like these guys, because she is so much better than them. They are nothing compared to how brave, loyal and upfront she is. Lets discuss each one of their members so you can understand where I’m coming from.
|I will just stay in bed. The floor's cold and I have no shoes.|
Soarin’ is a cool guy. He is nice, he seems to be brave, flawed, and he distracts himself easily. He likes apple pies, but he also likes pretty mares in skin-tight costumes and mini-skirts, and even though he fucks up he is upbeat about recovering. But then he doesn’t have the strength or initiative to get out of bed and go to the field to keep on training, so where did all that motivation go? Nothing is stopping him from doing anything except a lack of confidence that we never see or even perceive. It takes Rainbow Dash to make him get out of bed and back into training.
|You love my lizp, don't you?|
Then we have Fleetfoot. I will say this right now, I think I like her more than hate her because of that lisp that she had. Those of us who have read the official IDW comics remember Fleetfoot for being obsessively in love with Big Macintosh to the point that she imagines herself marrying him and living together forever. However this episode pretty much proves that the comics are not taken into account when writing the show, and that’s fine. I had no problem to see that her personalities don’t match, but her personality in the show is so bitchy, and demanding, and mean spirited. When it comes down to it, she had a pretty cute lisp, but I wanted to punch her attitude in the throat.
|Sunglasses have the power to turn you instantly evil.|
And then we have Spitfire. Spitfire is losing me, and I really don’t know where to go with her. Just taking it from how she was in “Wonderbolts Academy”, I think she didn’t learn anything about working as a team and looking out for her friends. That lesson that she called out Lightning Dust for certainly left no impact on her. She is willing to lie to Soarin’, deceive Rainbow Dash, and all that just for being faster than the fastest ones. She is willing the break the heart of several ponies just to be the best. Lightning Dust had the same attitude, and she ended up getting kicked out of the Academy. Why isn't Spitfire getting sanctioned for this? Why is she getting away with it? Oh, just because she apologized to Soarin’ and to Ponyville’s team? No penalties for Clousdayle or nothing? I’m sorry but I’m finding it really hard to believe that shit is going to fly.
|Sweep the leg! Goddamnit Maverick, what's your problem Ponyville!?|
So in this episode the Wonderbolts are a combination of Ice Man from “Top Gun”, those two assholes from “Karate Kid” and the Germans from “Cool Runnings”, and it kills me because their character arcs aren’t really all that bad. Their personalities is one thing, and they all rub me the wrong way, but when it comes to how their characters developed they weren’t bad at all. Their arcs had a beginning, a middle and an end. Their story within the episode started and finished, and their amends with Dash and Ponyville are closed. It all feels like they were resolved through gritted teeth, and I can’t shake off the feeling of unease the whole development gives to me, but I can’t fault the writers for giving them closure. It’s kind of a forced closured hammered with Mjölnir, but as they say, "A for effort".
|Uhm, Effort starts with an E.|
The other thing that I felt lacking was the comedy. It’s kind of obvious that Pinkie Pie was carrying most of the comedy in this episode, but her antics with the cheerleading squad became tiring after the second “P is for Whatever!” joke that she made. I liked her attitude, and her passion, but she wasn’t as funny as she was supposed to be. Bulk Biceps was a funny guy too, but we have to admit that his “YEAHs!!!” don’t carry the same punch as those from Seasons two and three. Also, there were a few moments where it felt really forced, like the scene where Rarity is trying the outfit and she makes the most fru-fru, lacey, girly outfits ever. I am sure we were supposed to laugh there, but I didn’t think it was all that funny. It’s hard to follow up an episode like “Pinkie Apple Pie” in its comedy department, especially when most of the comedy in that episode was of the “very fast, very sudden” variety, but who says there can’t be a bit of subtlety and cohesion when it comes to humor?
|You've been kicked out of the joke!|
Also, the rhythm was very clunky. This episode feels very similar to “One Bad Apple” or “Wonderbolts Academy” in that the separations between each arc are made in a very sloppy way. Let me put an example of what I mean with how an episode handled its three arc structure well.
Let’s pick, for example, “Apple Family Reunion”. The episode goes as follows:
- ACT 1: Applejack is worried about the preparations.
- ACT 2: Applejack’s preparations end up destroying the barn.
- ACT 3: The Apple family comes together to fix up the barn and bonding.
As how it is, “Rainbow Falls” works like this.
- ACT 1: Rainbow is worried about her team.
- ACT 2: She saves one of the Wonderbolts but then she finds it hard to pick which team to be in.
- ACT 3: She picks Ponyville and then they qualify.
You see what I’m talking about here?
|Oh wait, this bitch is serious! I think I'm going to giggle.|
In the first one, each arc is separate and it establishes a conflict that ends with a resolution within itself. In the case of “Rainbow Falls” the conflicts established in each arc continue into the next one or are established in the previous one, which breaks the flow of the narrative. There is too much stuff crammed onto the second act, and the first and third act feel like they are padded like crazy. I don’t see any logical reason to cut away when Soarin’ is falling to his demise only but to create false tension, and I don’t see why can’t we end the second act with Rainbow Dash faking that she has to go to Hospital. That’s why I say the rhythm is clunky, but this isn’t something new. The series is full of episodes with clunky rhythm ever since it first started (Look before you Sleep, Fall Weather Friends, The Stare Master, Read it and Weep, Family Appreciation Day, The Canterlot Wedding two parter, and so on). I should have gotten used to it by now, but it’s so jarring to me and it sticks out like a sore thumb that it’s hard for me to ignore it.
|This guy just hates everything.|
I know what this looks like. It looks like I am trashing onto another episode like I just did last week, like I did with “Flight to the Finish”, but I am not. All the problems that I mentioned are mine and mine only, and the only reason I have them is because I think this episode is lacking. I didn’t have enough with what we had. I wanted to have more. I wanted to see more of the Wonderbolts, and I wanted to see more of the conflict that they had with Rainbow and Soarin’. I wanted more comedy, more levity, a little bit more contrast between both teams. When all the problems that I have with an episode of this show (or of any show in general) come down to me wanting to have more of it is not a testament to how bad it is, but to how good they are and I want them to be and I know they can be. There is enough material in this episode to fill two episodes, but with the time constrain there are some elements that are going to suffer. They are not responsible for it, but nothing is stopping me from pointing out what didn’t work for me.
But not everything is bad in this episode, because there were some things that did work out pretty well.
For starters, I really liked the characters. I have already mentioned how I am happy that the Wonderbolts had a complete character arc, and that the conflict they started had a closure (even though it was an unsatisfying closure), and this is the same for every other character. Pinkie Pie kept on her enthusiastic cheerleading, which got transferred to Twilight, and that ended with the later dressed up as Tara Strong’s other alter ego from “Lollypop Chainsaw”. Applejack was really endearing with her apple brown betties (which is something I've never heard of but now I want to try) and she covered an aspect of any athletic competition that is usually ignored; you know, the whole nutrition and feeding aspect which is as important as the exercising and practicing aspect. I liked Rarity’s attitude, even though her dresses were…well, the word repulsive comes to mind, but she was positive about it. But the ones that I liked most were, without a doubt, Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps. Fluttershy was meek and weak, but she had the attitude of a winner, never giving up and never losing what little confidence she had. The kept on going strong even when Rainbow Dash was fickle about where her loyalties were. Nothing took her down and when the moment of truth came she did her best and it counted. Bulk Biceps was pretty great too. I did say how the comedy that came from him didn’t make me laugh all that much, but his attitude was to envy for. He too was strong, confident, and took all the potential out of those itty-bitty tiny wings of his. He proved that he is a guy that big not just because he’s all muscles, but also because he is all heart.
|He is also all Brony.|
Also, despite my gripes with the comedy, I have to admit that the slapstick was pretty good, what little there was. The scene where Bulk crashes onto the side of a mountain and Fluttershy gets lodged into his muscles is really funny. It reminded me of the classic Chuck Jones cartoons, and it made me giggle like an idiot. In fact, anything involving Fluttershy getting crushed by Bulk was funny. Physical comedy is something that cartoons nowadays rarely do, so it’s glorious to see it when it happens.
|Pinkie: What am I going to do with all these puns!?|
Me: Take those to the cremation oven, pronto!
I really liked the setting too. At first I thought I was going to hate it. I was convinced that the whole rainbow motif was going to feel old after a few seconds. This location is not Cloudsdayle, nor is it Winsome Falls from “Sleepless in Ponyville”, how can it hold a candle to those two locations? And the concept art wasn’t making me feel any more positive about it. I seriously thought it was going to suck. Well, I am happy to say that I was absolutely wrong. The setting never diminished from the focus on the episode, that is the characters, and it looked really interesting. I liked the rainbow waterfalls, and the rivers that mixed with water only to fall off other cliffs. The architecture looked like something out of Switzerland, very classic and very warm. It was as if a Final Fantasy town had fallen through a portal and landed in the middle of Equestria.
|I can hear the music of Nobuo Uematsu, can you?|
I also really liked the diversity of the other teams. I actually pointed at the screen and yelled out “Gryphons! Oh my God we have gryphons!” when I saw the Gryphon Team training with the other ponies. It’s really cool to see more characters that, even though they have no dialogue or development, have a personality and represent there is something more than ponies populating this fantasy land. Even though it could have been cool to show a bit more of the other teams, but then that would fall into the nitpicking category.
|Seriously, it's like the Russians in Pacific Rim, those guys have a fandom of their own.|
However, all of these points almost fall mute to the big, grey and blonde giant pegasus mare in the room. I will tell you something, the week this episode aired wasn’t a good week for me. It was rough, unpleasant, and it made me want to take a break on this show, this fandom, and everything about it. I seriously didn’t feel like watching this episode. I was this close to not watch it and just leave it for another day. Well, I don’t know what force of the universe motivated me to sit down and watch it, but I did, and I am glad I took that decision. That’s why I think I am always going to remember this episode.
It might not be the funniest episode.
It might not be the smartest episode.
It might not even be the best written episode.
But it came at a time, when I needed it. I needed a little pick me up to cheer me up and remind me why I, why we all do this. Why do we sit down in front of our PC monitors to make so much fanart, so many fanfics, so many animations and silly stuff, all related to these pastel colored talking tiny horses. The second this appeared on the screen, I was reminded of it.
|Remember when I was in the background? Well, not anymore!|
This is what I needed. I needed proof that what we do has an impact, somehow, and it had to be done by the awesome guys at DHX. It shows that what we do is relevant, and as silly as this sounds, this little grey mare represents it. She represents that this TV show and this fandom go hand in hand to spread something that is as real as all the friendships that I've built over the past three years. Yes, she doesn’t say a word, but she doesn’t need to. Her mere presence, not in the background anymore but right there along the Mane Six, was enough to cheer me up. Of course, she’s also there because Hasbro made a shitload of toys of her and how they have to promote them, but remember why those toys exist in the first place. Because a bunch of grown up guys noticed a cross-eyed grey pegasus in the background of an episode, and they built a legend out of it.
Remember how I said that there is a trend in pop culture where people will love something just because one aspect of it makes them ignore all of its flaws? Well, I guess the same way it works for me and this episode. There are quite a lot of flaws, big ones when you think about it, regarding the characters, regarding the narrative, and regarding the comedy, but I am more than happy to ignore them because of what this episode gave me. I wouldn’t call it the best episode written by Corey Powell, but the same way “Sleepless in Ponyville” moved to the point of sobbing, and how “Just for Sidekicks” proved to have a strong grasp on the secondary characters, this episode shows that sometimes what’s important is not those who come on tops, but those who are supporting them.
|Speaking of support, where the fuck was Spike?|
And now, if you excuse me, I have to go back to my blackboard room to put more tacks and tie more threads between plot points. I think that pool of thread has some sort of relation to that Wonderbolt insignia. But then again, I can always be a little paranoid about it.
- Defining Moment: Derpy Hooves makes a triumphant return ready to replace Rainbow Dash in the Equestria Games.
- Moral: Wining might be great (especially if you are Rainbow Dash or Charlie Sheen), but there is no doubt that the only thing better than winning is the friendship that you have with your friends.