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5 February 2012

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. "Read it and Weep" REVIEW

I am of those people who gets intimidated pretty quickly. I might look like I don't give a crap for what other people think on line and that I like to spout my opinion everywhere like one of those water sprinklers, annoying everyone. But in fact, I am not. I really am terrified of giving my opinion about something, mostly because I don't always know how to react when facing others opinions (especially if it's worded insultingly). I say all this because, after last week's review, I might have actually called the attention of a lot of people, and now I wonder how you guys will react to what I have to say about this. Well, we better find out, won't we? Let's go to it!

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 have to give Twilight some credit. She picked the perfect book to get Rainbow Dash into reading, because it's cool, it's fun, it's simple, and it stars a pegasus. And as we all know, pegasi are really cool. Rainbow Dash puts the book aside for a moment, her eyes widened in surprise at the realisation that she doesn't hate it, far from it, she loves it. She grabs the book between her arms and smiles, throwing herself over the pillow saying "I love reading!". Then, as quickly as she smiled, her face freezes and whispers, terror in her voice, "I'm an egghead". I will say this right now and state that DHX were not trying to make a Brony reference here, but we can't deny how many of us have said this when we first started watching the show. "Oh my God, this show is so good! I love it!". Five seconds later, "Oh no, I love My Little Pony." Just for this parallelism that I share with Rainbow Dash I was already on board with this episode, and I wanted to know more about how it kept developing. It worked both ways, as I forgot about Dash's injury and focused my attention on the adventures of Daring-Do. Great work there Cindy Morrow!

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.
Now, like Michael Bolton said, back to the good part! Daring Do is almost there. She can see the statuette standing on the pedestal, glowing with blue tones that send rectangular and triangular reflections over the dusty rock surface. There is only one obstacle left between her and her price, a floor full of tiles that, when stepped on, make arrows shoot out of the walls. She uses all her cunning instinct to try and figure out the way to get through that floor without turning into a pony kebab. She hops and flips over to the other end of the room, the statuette only a few inches away from her. After a careful surveillance of the pedestal, she lurches forward, grabs it, and sets up a mechanism that makes the floor burst into a lava pool. That is frigging cool. As tiring as lava is for a cliche, it makes everything a lot more awesome. Daring Do finally escapes the temple, only to clash into a freaky looking alien thingie that sounds like Pinkie Pie. Wait, Pinkie Pie!? Pulled out of the book's world for the second time, Rainbow Dash receives the visit of her other three friends, Rarity, Applejack and Pinkie Pie. While their intentions are nice, Rainbow Dash quickly shuns them away thanks to her disgusting way of eating Hospital food. The three friends leave, surely considering the possibility of getting Dash into an asylum, as Dash returns to her reading.

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.
- Defining Moment: Anything involving Daring-Do. Somebody should take those clips and edit them into a movie. I hope we see more of her in the future.


- Moral: Don't reject something without giving it a chance first. Basically, don't judge a book by its cover, literally.


  1. When i saw this episode and finished it, my first thought and what i see yours also is best episode ever, but being more objective, this episode is near the top. Simply this episode have all what I love from a cartoon episode: Good references, especially references of what i love. Indiana Jones is all over the place there and I can't get tired of it no matter how many times this has been made in other shows. Also references of Harry Potter and Phineas and Ferb were thrown at the end of the episode, in case you don't know what i am talking about, you can ask me he he.
    Well about the issue of Rainbow reading a book, the first time i look at the synopsis of the episode, i couldn't believe it; i thought it was like mixing water and oil and i couldn't know what to expect, but when i saw her reading the book, it was me all over again when i read Harry Potter and seeing her down the blanket with her lamp reading it was awesome. For me, the cutest scene in the whole season is watching Rainbow in her room comfortably and happy reading the whole collection of books, thanks for having the photo up there. Cindy Morrow is an expert of getting manly tears out of me.

    1. It's definitely one of the best the series has ever produced, if only because Daring Do is such a likeable hero. If Hasbro ever decides to expand their brand, they should sell Daring Do small novels for little kids. I will totally buy them, despite them being out of my demographic. I guess asking for Harry Potter-long novels is too much.

      Cindy Morrow is up there with M.A. Larson and Megan McCarthy as one of the best writers of this show.

  2. I thought that there was a rather different reason for shooting the opening scene the way they did. In cartoons for children, slapstick and physical comedy is an integral part, but if you'll notice, none of it does any actual physical damage. Part of what makes it funny is that the character gets up and walks away. In this episode, Rainbow's crash actually does some serious damage, and she has to go to the hospital. This might be alarming or scary for children, unused to actual physical harm in the show, so they didn't show it on-screen.

    1. There's also the fact that no matter what they could have shown we would have pointed out that she's had worse crashes than that. So they didn't show it, and also added a sickening splat sound effect so that we could imagine a crash that would actually be big enough to injure Dash.

    2. That scene a lot has a lot of impact, and it's in a great deal thanks to that sound effect.

    3. I bet they went for that as well, but I still think they were saving on it to focus on the more awesomely detailed and thrilling Daring Do sequences.

  3. I feel a little guilty admitting it, but I don't really enjoy reading that much, or rather, I don't like reading fiction very much. That put me in a weird position watching the episode as I got to watch Dash get really invested into something I don't particularly care about. I did enjoy the Indiana Jones references, though, and that villain left plenty of room for creative fannon material.

    One interesting thing to note is the similarity of the books cover art to a piece of fan art from November:

    I wasn't at all bothered by the intro segment, and it kind of worked like reading, as you had to use your imagination to picture something that was being described to you.

    1. I find it hard for me to find time, sit down and read a book. I literally have to have nothing to do to take a book and read through it.

      Also, I completely agree with your view on the intro segment. I never thought of that.

  4. 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.

    You've described why I considered this episode mid-tier instead of top-tier. Ms. Morrow's writing is very straight-forward: Everything is laid out from start to end with few bends. She's 'exactly what you see on the box'. (Though she can surprise the audience, as she did with the ending of Sisterhooves Social.) She doesn't have the joy of tweaking tropes that Mitch Larson has, nor the Warner-style humor of Meghan McCarthy.

    Don't get me wrong. The action sequences of this episode were superb. Daring Do is a very fun character, and I want to write fanfic about her. The episode was good, just not top-tier.

  5. Night Watch is actually my least favorite of the City Watch books. I think it's because it has too much Vimes. I love Vimes to death, but his cynicism needs to be accompanied by Carrot and the gang. The latest one, Snuff, also has a lot of Vimes. But he's tempered by his wife, manservant, and a couple interesting new characters.

    I'll say this though, Night Watch is definitely the deepest and darkest Watch book. Though not the deepest and darkest Discworld book, I Shall Wear Midnight stole that title from it two years ago. My *gods* that book is dark. The 'rough music' segment was hard to read...


    I liked the episode, but it didn't wow me. Like you said, we've all seen this story before. But it was far, far superior to Mysterious Mare-Do-Well. It doesn't beat out Lesson Zero, Last Roundup, or May the Best Pet Win, though. I think I'd tie it with Luna Eclipsed in my Season 2 awesome-ometer.

    About the actual review: You spend too much time providing a synopsis of the episode. There are times when you simply describe what's happening without commenting on it. In a review you should only describe scenes in which the content of the criticism (or lack of) warrants that level of detail. Otherwise just refer to the scene instead of describing it.

    1. Hehehe, I only started with Discworld now. I like Vimes, thus far. I wonder where that whole deal in the rooftops leads him to.

      I will go on record in Brony History as one of the ten people who actually liked Mare-Do-Well ^_^;

      I was going for the narrative aspect rather than the opinion aspect. I try to provide an explanation of the episode for the outsiders of the fandom, so they read through it and decide whether it's worth watching or not. If I just pointed out things I did or didn't like, it wouldn't have the same appeal.

  6. Weren't you bothered by the outrageous lip-synching errors? I've never seen anything so bad in the show before. Applejack says an entire sentence with her mouth closed, and Daring-Do says something, but we'll never know what because the voice track only includes "ugh," while her mouth is moving. I was also bothered by the uber-typical male doctor, gaggle of female nurses dynamic, and the immersion breaking electrical devices at the hospital (while at the same time RD uses a firefly-powered lantern). To me, this episode could have been great if not for all of the production flaws, but instead it stands as just another mediocre Rainbow Dash episode.

    1. I wasn't all that bothered, because I usually don't focus on petty animation errors.

      However, I know what happened with that voice edit. If you notice, Darign Do says "Ugh" and a few scenes later she says "Ugh, not again". Those two were swapped, because when she talks it looks like she says "Ugh, not again". Look it up.

  7. I'm I the only one glad to finally see the inside of her house/room?

    1. Nope. I'm really happy too, for profesional reasons.

  8. Personally, I think this would have made sense if the episode had come after the "finding a pet episode". Though random injury works as well.