Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 13: Sisterhooves Social + The Cutie Pox + May the Best Pet Win!

Introduction

< Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 >

Season 2, Episodes 5-7


Season 2 Episode 5: Sisterhooves Social

In five words: Sibling frustration reaches breaking point.

Premise: When Sweetie Belle asks Rarity to go with her to the [insert episode’s title here], Rarity refuses and Sweetie Belle decides she wants to be Applejack’s sister instead.

Detailed run-through:

This episode begins with a scene that perfectly demonstrates the premise of its first half: Sweetie Belle clumsily attempting to do nice things for her big sister. To start off, Rarity waves up from pleasant food dreams to the smell of smoke, which leads her to see Sweetie Belle about to prepare breakfast in bed for her. Sweetie Belle starts this show as well-meaning but clumsy and not very good at anything; among the three Cutie Mark Crusaders, I’d say she has the strongest character development as the show progresses. But then again, she’s my favorite of the Crusaders in general.

Rarity’s parents make their first (and only voiced) appearance in this episode, and all I can think about is how unlike every other member of the Mane 6, Rarity didn’t get an episode going in depth on her relationship with her parents. We just know them as parents who embarrass their elder daughter regularly and have far lower standards for food than her, while seeming to get along perfectly well with their younger daughter. They’re supposed to be Sweetie Belle’s regular caretakers until Rarity basically supersedes that role, meaning we don’t even get more scenes of Sweetie Belle interacting with their parents. Rarity’s parents just say they’re going on vacation for a week, leaving Sweetie Belle to stay with Rarity, and that’s all we hear from them.

Rarity having a “parent episode” so to speak would have been GLORIOUS! And yet, she just… didn’t get one, I guess. Ah well, not everything is perfect. The blueprint for a potential Rarity parent episode is there though, with an uptight elder daughter and ridiculously laid-back parents. I’m sure fans have written decent stories of their own about Rarity’s relationship with her parents. Or Sweetie Belle’s relationship with her parents, for that matter.

With their parents headed out, we get a live demonstration of Rarity and Sweetie Belle’s difficult relationship. Much like in the beginning of Stare Master, Rarity gets a bunch of chores done while Sweetie Belle screws everything up in her attempts to do something useful or kind. As I said in my review of Stare Master, these situations demonstrate Sweetie Belle’s frustration because of how much she looks up to her sister. Sweetie Belle knows that Rarity has a natural gift for doing extra favors out of pure generosity, and she’s clumsily attempting to do the same. She thinks that such a generous pony would appreciate all those favors done for her, which makes these scenes sting.

To cap all this off, Sweetie Belle presents Rarity a drawing that we don’t get to see yet, which horrifies her because it uses an entire collection of rare gems that she needed for a client’s outfit.

Rarity: (sighs) Sweetie Belle, what am I going to do with you?!
Sweetie Belle: Oh! We could paint together, we could ride bikes, play chess, sing a song, catch frogs, pillow fight…
Rarity: That’s not what I meant!
Sweetie Belle: Oh.
Rarity: Now I have to go and find some more of these gems!
Sweetie Belle: I’ll go with you and help!
Rarity: NO!

Sweetie Belle was looking forward to spending quality time with her sister, but Rarity clearly doesn’t feel the same. She’s far too caught up in her own busy affairs to consider taking time with Sweetie Belle; notice how she brushes off a long list of activities that Sweetie Belle proposes. Among the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ sister pairs, Rarity and Sweetie Belle have easily the most difficult relationship.

Rarity leaves to find new gems and then comes home to see her inspiration room perfectly clean and tidy, much to her horror. She says that the room is intentionally messy to allow for inspiration, leaving Sweetie Belle confused as to what she could possibly do to make her sister happy. It’s clear that Rarity is exerting her selfish side in this episode, with her trademark generosity overridden by frustration at her sister.

Sweetie Belle briefly imitates Rarity in this scene, which never fails to make me laugh.

Apple Bloom then tells Sweetie Belle about the Sisterhooves Social, a team-based sports competition that she and Applejack participate in every year. Sweetie Belle thinks Rarity will love the idea, but we quickly see otherwise.

Rarity: What a ridiculous idea. A contest at Sweet Apple Acres? It doesn’t sound… very… clean.
Sweetie Belle: So what? Now you’re back to hating messes?

Here, Sweetie Belle tries to point out a double standard in Rarity’s willingness to make a mess, but it doesn’t get through Rarity at all. From Sweetie Belle’s perspective, this inconsistent opinion on messes makes Rarity come off as haughty, rather than tidy or fashionable or anything. This leads Rarity and Sweetie Belle to get into an argument and break off their sisterly relationship.

While visiting Sweet Apple Acres, Sweetie Belle only sees the very best side of Applejack and Apple Bloom’s relationship, with the two working together on farming chores that seem more like a game than chores. It’s only natural that when you’re feeling frustrated with a relative or friend, you start thinking that everyone else has it better than you and can only see the most positive side of other people’s interactions with their relatives or friends.

Meanwhile from Rarity’s perspective…

Is she saying Foal Spectrum or Full Spectrum? I can’t decide.

Rarity: (gasps) IDEA! This is genius!
Rarity: I shall call it… Full Spectrum Fashions! Why, if Sweetie Belle hadn’t…
Rarity: (clears throat) Well! No matter. She still shouldn’t have touched my things without permission. HM!

As an artistic pony, Rarity knows well that inspiration can come from the sources you least expect it to, often through complete accidents—this is a fact that I also know well. She almost appreciates Sweetie Belle for the accidental inspiration and comes very close to realizing that Sweetie Belle isn’t so bad after all, but then she decides to resume her frustration.

After a scene where Applejack and Apple Bloom make grape juice together, we get more of Rarity finding new inspiration from Sweetie Belle’s mishaps. The sweater that Sweetie Belle accidentally shrank by letting it dry outdoors, which I hadn’t mentioned earlier, ends up a perfect sweater for Opalescence. It may slowly be sinking in for Rarity that mishaps can easily aid her inspiration, but the sibling frustration remains intact.

I don’t hate Applejack or anything, I promise. I just have more to say about Rarity’s scenes in this specific episode, OK?

After yet another scene of Applejack and Apple Bloom doing farm chores together that I don’t have much to say about, the viewer finally gets to see the drawing Sweetie Belle made for Rarity, and it tugs right at the heartstrings. The artwork is simplistic but incredibly heartfelt, and the usage of gems to form a heart shows how much Sweetie Belle loves and looks up to her big sister. If you think back to the start of The Cutie Mark Chronicles, Rarity was Sweetie Belle’s immediate first guess as to who the coolest pony in Ponyville is, which immediately makes it clear what Sweetie Belle truly thinks of her sister. And yet this episode has let us forget that fact until the scene shown above. It’s very fitting that we don’t get to see the artwork until after the sisters have their falling out, because when we didn’t see it originally, it’s clear that Rarity was so distracted by the unprompted usage of her gems that she couldn’t notice what the drawing was trying to tell her.

At an evening camping scene, Rarity comes in and Sweetie Belle seemingly reconciles with her, until it turns out she wants Applejack as her new big sister.

Sweetie Belle: A sister is someone who loves and takes care of another sister. Applejack’s a real sister.
(silence)
Applejack: Hold on, Sweetie Belle. Don’t get ahead of yourself here.
Apple Bloom: Besides, she’s my big sister!
Applejack: Yeah, um…
Sweetie Belle: (to Rarity) Maybe she should be YOUR sister, so SHE could teach you what a good sister is supposed to be!

It’s easy to tell how Rarity is taking these words: in true Rarity fashion, she doesn’t try to inflict the blame on anyone else, but rather realizes it’s all her fault. At least, that’s the interpretation I’m taking away from this given how Rarity acted after her failed fashion show in Suited for Success. Just like I said in my review of that episode, Rarity is not the kind of character who will let anyone else take the blame for something she’s responsible for.

Rarity goes to Applejack for advice on how to be a good sister, and here’s a memorable line from their exchange:

Applejack: Being sisters is like… apple pie. You can have amazing apples, and you can have a wonderfully crispy crust, but only together can you have a perfect apple pie.

Sometimes in life, all you need to understand a concept is a good metaphor, and that’s exactly what Applejack provides us here. This scene demonstrates the power of metaphors, because that’s when it finally sinks in for Rarity how poorly she’s been treating her sister.

I guess Applejack wanted her hat back, and Sweetie Belle happily conceded.

The Sisterhooves Social begins, and amidst some old lady shenanigans where Granny Smith struggles to use a megaphone, a scheme begins where Applejack lets Sweetie Belle be her sister for a day and soon swaps places with Rarity undercover, the “cover” being mud of course.

Pretty interesting that none of the little sisters in the race have their cutie marks yet.
Actually, it’s not that interesting. They’re all just generic background ponies.

The cool thing about this sister swap scheme is that if you’re an attentive viewer, you’ll notice that “Applejack’s” eye color looks different from usual. What’s a good reveal without some subtle foreshadowing to build it up? If a reveal doesn’t have some foreshadowing or hints beforehand, then it comes off as forced and out of nowhere. This scene is a lot more fun to watch knowing that this is Rarity in disguise, especially because Sweetie Belle is so full of good cheer.

It’s weird saying phrases like “attentive viewer” instead of “attentive reader” like I’ve done in other blog posts.

“Applejack” and Sweetie Belle make second place in the race, which nicely compromises the sisters’ strong bond and their lack of athletic skills compared to Applejack and Apple Bloom. And then comes the reveal that Applejack and Rarity switched places in the mud hole early in the race, which perfectly demonstrates the extreme lengths Rarity will take to reconcile with her sister. Taking such extreme measures to please others is very characteristic of Rarity; it was one of the first things we ever saw her do, if you think back to Friendship Is Magic, Part 2.

And then to prove she’s the same old Rarity, she decides to hold a celebration at the spa. It’s clear to viewers at this point that sometimes you need to give into your sibling’s interests rather than your own, which Sweetie Belle happily does.

To end the episode, Rarity and Sweetie Belle narrate their letter to Celestia, which Spike transcribes. Something interesting to note is that this is the first episode where Twilight Sparkle isn’t seen or even mentioned. Even though I am a big fan of Twilight Sparkle’s character, it’s a great change for her to no longer appear in every single episode, because some episodes in season 1 awkwardly shoehorned her in.

Anyway, the letter is about how to be a good sister, which involves making compromises and having a mutually fulfilling relationship, but most importantly having fun. Rarity and Sweetie Belle argue about whether to say “a little bit dirty” or “a lot dirty”, and Spike suggests a compromise that they happily agree to. This live demonstration of siblings compromising is followed by a pair of birds in a tree being friendly siblings, which is a perfect way to end this episode.

Overall thoughts:

This is a good episode with a clearly demonstrated moral, applicable just as much to older siblings as it is to younger siblings. Even though the ending letter is about being a good sister, I see no reason for it not to apply to brothers as well. Depending on whether the viewer is an older or younger sibling, Rarity or Sweetie Belle (or both?) will be easy to relate to. The best part of this episode is without a doubt Rarity tearfully looking at the drawing Sweetie Belle made for her.

Grade: B

I like Sweetie Belle. I also like Rarity. What more needs to be said?

Miscellaneous notes:

  • During the scene with Rarity’s parents, bossa nova music plays, which contrasts against the fancy harpsichord music that plays in Rarity’s scenes. The bossa nova music sounds like it would be right at home in a slice of life anime. I guess the intent in using that music is partly to suggest Rarity’s British or mid-Atlantic(?) accent is an act that she deliberately put up to come off as fancy? I don’t know, I just like analyzing music scoring.
  • Applejack says that the bruised apples are collected for pigs to eat instead of being sold to ponies, which implies that farm animals in the show are lesser than ponies, even though several season 1 episodes show them being voiced and sentient. I would say that starting from season 2, the show decided to no longer make farm animals voiced, which would be a logical explanation, but a sheep talks a bit later in this episode, making me still a little confused about farm animals’ intelligence in this show.
    • You know what? This is obviously just a show for little girls. I shouldn’t be thinking too hard about all this. It’s not like this show has a lot of details put into it for adult fans to catch onto or anything. Can you imagine how ridiculous that would be??
  • I already said that this the first episode without Twilight Sparkle in it, but it’s possibly more interesting that Scootaloo isn’t even mentioned in this episode. I guess her sister-like relationship with Rainbow Dash just wasn’t a thing yet, so she had no reason to take part in the Sisterhooves Social… not yet, anyway.

Wow, this review turned out longer than I thought it would be! Next up is an episode that I definitely won’t have quite as much to say about.


Season 2 Episode 6: The Cutie Pox

In five words: Cutie mark fabrication goes bonkers.

Premise: Apple Bloom tries to cheat her way into getting her cutie mark by brewing a potion. Though she initially fools her friends, her lies quickly catch up to her and lead to uncontrollable chaos.

Detailed run-through:

This episode begins with an homage to The Big Lebowski, of all movies. I say “of all movies” because this extremely non-family-friendly movie (which I have seen, for the record) is the absolute LAST thing you’d expect a My Little Pony show to reference! Or it would be the absolute last thing, if it weren’t one of Lauren Faust and her husband’s favorite movies. Still, though, “My Little Pony referenced The Big Lebowski in two episodes”* is one of those sentences that sounds like a joke but isn’t, which is a testament to how much of a massive success this show is. And at the time, it was only in its second season!

Movie references aside, this is another scene where the Cutie Mark Crusaders try something new to get their cutie marks and fail after the first try. Not much to say here other than that the Crusaders’ episodes very often start with scenes like this. Apple Bloom is especially bummed out about her failure, because she almost thought she got a strike but it turned out to be another pony who just earned a bowling cutie mark. The fact that she lost sight of her ball and mistook another for her own helps show how inexperienced she is in bowling.

* The other is Slice of Life.

Yeah, I can tell this is going to be one of those episodes that I’m not going to have a whole lot to say about (relatively speaking). The first interesting thing that happens after the intro is Apple Bloom entering the Everfree Forest and encountering Zecora, who says the following:

Zecora: What has happened to you, youth?
(Apple Bloom opens her mouth)
Zecora: Ah, you’ve gone and chipped your tooth.

Zecora’s usage of the word “youth” in this rhyme is interesting because she said “youth” before she noticed Apple Bloom had a chipped tooth. Considering that Zecora always speaks in rhymes, clearly she must have prescient future knowledge or some form of x-ray vision—how else would she know in advance that Apple Bloom chipped her tooth? Yes, I know the writer of this episode obviously didn’t think too hard when writing this, but come on, overanalyzing scenes is fun.

Zecora makes a potion to fix Apple Bloom’s tooth, but she tells Apple Bloom that there is no potion that can be brewed to artificially give her a cutie mark.

Is here some sort of copyright on the name “hula hoop” that I’m not aware of?

And it seems as though Apple Bloom has proven Zecora wrong. Her cutie mark is a “loop-de-hoop” as she calls it, and she starts perfectly spinning a hoop around her waist. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are unimpressed until she performs a flashy hoop stunt that causes both their jaws to drop. Cheerilee even lets Apple Bloom interrupt the usual school schedule to teach others about these hoop stunts, which is weird but perhaps reflects the easygoing nature of Cheerilee’s teaching.

But then, Applejack suddenly gets a second cutie mark, which Diamond Tiara immediately assumes is fake.

Diamond Tiara: Miss Cheerilee, have you ever heard of a pony with two cutie marks?
Cheerilee: I must say that I never have… but maybe Apple Bloom has two special talents!

Clearly neither of them knows the quills and sofas guy who we saw in Owl’s Well That Ends Well. This is an incredibly silly theory, but what if the quills and sofas guy really did earn two cutie marks just like Apple Bloom is doing in this episode, except stopping at only two? Dual cutie marks could well be an extremely rare oddity in ponies, perhaps a genetic mutation of some sort.

… OK, there’s no reason for me not to refer to the quills and sofas guy as his canon name, which is Davenport. Even though he’s such an extremely minor character, there is a decent amount of fanfiction about him, I just did a quick search. Bronies are relentlessly dedicated to their craft.

After Snips and Snails provide her plates and sticks to spin them on, Apple Bloom demonstrates both of her cutie marks simultaneously. It must further sting poor old (not actually that old) Davenport when Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo say Apple Bloom is the “most special pony ever” simply for having two cutie marks. This is a very silly observation, but since I don’t have much meaningful to say about this episode, I’ve decided to have a bit of fun here.

I can almost hear Spike saying, “I really like her mane!”

Some of the humorous stunts Apple Bloom performs are slicing through a cloud like a cookie cutter* without disturbing Rainbow Dash’s sleep and reshaping Twilight Sparkle’s mane to look like Rarity’s. These crazy tricks tell us that something may be a little off with her, because typically a pony’s area of expertise isn’t completely upended when they earn their cutie mark.

* Like an actual cookie cutter, I mean. Not “cookie cutter” as in generic and repetitive.

Skipping a bit, Apple Bloom wakes up with a third cutie mark in tap dancing, and Twilight Sparkle discovers that she contracted a disease called the Cutie Pox, which has no known cure. Even though Twilight says the disease disappeared as mysteriously as it arrived, Apple Bloom still panics. Shouldn’t she think the pox will go away naturally? Or is Twilight saying that ponies with the pox just have to live the rest of their lives with it? That would be pretty tragic. Apple Bloom’s fourth cutie mark is in speaking French, and it spirals further out of control from here.

Zecora visits Ponyville to get supplies, only to see once again that almost everyone is locked inside their homes, this time due to fear of this new disease. She needed to find a flower that went missing, which sure enough is the same flower that Apple Bloom used to give herself the cutie pox. Even though there was no cure for the pox in Twilight Sparkle’s book, Zecora has some seeds called the Seeds of Truth to take care of the problem. I’m not sure why this known information was nowhere to be seen in the books; maybe this was meant to teach viewers that they can’t learn everything from books instead of interaction with other people?

The Seeds of Truth only grow when someone tells the truth (presumably a difficult truth to admit). Even though Applejack, the element of honesty, is right there in the scene, she asks someone else to tell the truth. Is she forgetting she’s supposed to be the honest one again, or is she deliberately imposing a challenge on others because she knows it would be too easy if she does it? Or does Applejack simply not have any difficult truths to admit? I’m asking real questions here. It’s totally not because season 2 still tends to forget Applejack is supposed to be honest.

Pinkie Pie fails to grow the seeds when she confesses to eating more corn cakes than she said, I guess because that wasn’t a difficult enough truth to admit? Or maybe because her first confession was a lie; first she said she ate three then corrected herself and said it was six.

In any case, the plant finally grows when Apple Bloom admits she didn’t earn her cutie mark and merely brewed a potion to give her one. Immediately after that, Apple Bloom eats the plant and her pox is cured. This could be interpreted as Apple Bloom admitting not just to others, but to herself, that she didn’t earn her cutie mark. She tried to convince herself that this was a proper way to earn a cutie mark, and only now does she realize that’s total bogus. She apologizes to her fellow Crusaders and Zecora, who both forgive her because of her honesty.

Apple Bloom takes her turn to narrate a letter to Celestia about being patient and honest with yourself, as well as not taking shortcuts to earn what your heart desires. But then in typical Cutie Mark Crusaders fashion, the three then forget their lesson and set out to find their cutie marks all over again. Their style of immediately forgetting their friendship lessons sets the Crusaders apart from the Mane 6 and other adult characters, because for the child characters, morals take much longer to sink in.

Overall thoughts:

This episode uses unrealistic fantasy scenarios as a metaphor for something that happens in real life, and compared to others, I’m not sure how good a job it does with that metaphor. I guess the cutie pox disease is comparable to lying that you achieved something and having your lies eventually catch up to you and you start feeling overwhelmed with lies? It’s a weird metaphor, but it does a reasonably good job conveying this episode’s moral.

Compared to prior episodes featuring the Cutie Mark Crusaders, this one doesn’t give them much new characterization, except for maybe Apple Bloom’s newfound interest in potion making, which I view as more of an example of her being open-minded than a defining interest. I don’t have much else to say about this episode; it’s easily one of the least memorable in season 2.

Grade: C

This episode doesn’t stand out to me, but it isn’t actively bad either, hence the neutral grade. Also, I’ve decided that if I don’t have anything to put in miscellaneous notes (as is the case here), I’ll skip that section and move on to the next episode.


Season 2 Episode 7: May the Best Pet Win!

In five words: Rainbow Dash completes pet pattern.

Premise: Rainbow Dash realizes that she’s the only one of her friends who doesn’t have a pet and resolves to change that by hosting a competition between prospective pets.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with a dream sequence where Rainbow Dash performs aerial stunts without a care in the world and races against Owlowiscious, who soon turns into a freaky amalgamation of all her friends’ pets. She then wakes up to her friends’ pets and is relieved that it was just a dream. The amalgamation seems to come into Rainbow Dash’s head through noises that the pets make, but that doesn’t explain how Gummy came in, since he never makes any noises. Does Gummy have psychic dream invasion powers? Or is it just the result of Rainbow Dash’s brain adding him into the pattern? Gotta be psychic dream invasion powers, the other explanation is just plain ridiculous.

Alright, let’s stop fooling around here. This episode gives us a lot of interesting things to unpack about Rainbow Dash’s character, so there’s no need for random tangents this time. To start things off, Rainbow Dash learns that all her friends have been holding weekly pony pet playdates, which she hasn’t been invited to because she doesn’t have a pet, and it probably never occurred to her to have a pet. When she sees all her friends play with their pets, she immediately decides that it’s cool to have a pet. Rainbow Dash normally has high strung standards for what she considers to be cool, which makes this abrupt new decision interesting. Fluttershy gets excited and uncharacteristically antsy to help Rainbow Dash choose a pet…

Weird seeing Fluttershy flying and Rainbow Dash staying on the ground.

… which leads to a rather lengthy musical number, sung by Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. The song is orchestral and mostly in a 6/8 time signature, drawing humorous tension between Fluttershy’s love of all animals and Rainbow Dash’s strict policy on coolness as Fluttershy presents all the potential pets she has. For Rainbow Dash, being cool is no laughing matter, and neither is being awesome or radical. She gets amusingly serious when she discusses these topics, which she does plenty in this musical number. This musical number is fun to rewatch because there are quite a few moments where a certain turtle solemnly tries to get even a sliver of Rainbow Dash’s attention.

Fluttershy eventually gets the memo and realizes that Rainbow Dash wants a pet that can fly. The song drops its 6/8 time signature and switches to the more conventional 4/4 (which it had previously done in a short interlude) when Rainbow Dash decides to hold a competition to determine who will be her pet. This change in musical tone helps show how excited Rainbow Dash is about this competition idea. Not excited in the way she gets about Daring Do books or meeting the Wonderbolts, rather the way she gets when she’s confident she’s going to do something awesome. The musical number ends with Rainbow Dash dropping the episode’s title.

Rainbow Dash plays the role of an abrasive sports coach when she begins the competition to determine who will be her pet. This demonstrates both how seriously Rainbow Dash is taking the idea of having a pet and her aspirations of joining the Wonderbolts.

Unless you’re a biologist, tortoises and turtles are the same thing.
Now don’t get me wrong. If you are a biologist, feel free to go ballistic if people mix the two up. You have every right to.

Before the competition begins, Fluttershy interrupts and brings another animal into the fray.

Fluttershy: Now you just pay attention, and try your best, and—
Rainbow Dash: Seriously, Fluttershy, the turtle?! What did you bring that thing here for?
Fluttershy: Technically he’s a tortoise, and he’s always dreamed of being somepony’s pet. He just wants a chance to compete, he won’t get in the way. You won’t even know he’s here.

Rainbow Dash may not know it, but she and that turtle/tortoise are a perfect match. Rainbow Dash has only now realized how much she’s missed out on without having a pet, and so she’s hosting a competition so she can have the best pet possible. Fluttershy is a reliable source on the thoughts of all animals, and she tells us that the turtle badly wants an owner to his name.

Rainbow Dash uses seven criteria to judge her pets: speed, agility, guts, style, coolness, awesomeness, and radicalness, the last three of which she insists are not the same thing. As we see in the agility competition, she’s elaborately keeping score and judging all the pets using numbers, which shows a more intellectual side than she normally lets on. I’ve said plenty that Rainbow Dash is secretly a gigantic nerd, and this episode hints at this fact before it’s fully confirmed later in the season.

There can’t possibly be actual sharks in the pool… right?

At the end of the radicalness competition, Rainbow Dash presents a gauntlet of dangerous obstacles that the tortoise fails to even begin getting through. I have no idea how this family-friendly show managed to get away with showing a guillotine! I don’t even find it humorous that a guillotine is briefly shown in this episode, I just find it completely baffling. It’s a lapse of unexplained horror in an otherwise resounding episode. Rainbow Dash closes the curtain and calls out the turtle for being such a pathetic wimp, then narrows down the potential pets to four competitors.

All those potential pets, joined by the yet to be named Tank, participate in a race against Rainbow Dash, who has the following to say:

Rainbow Dash: Actually, Ghastly Gorge isn’t scary. It’s fun!
Rainbow Dash: I’ve flown through it a million times myself, so… obviously I’ll be at the front of the pack.
Rainbow Dash: But whichever of you make it across the finish line with me will have proven you can keep up with me, and will have earned the honor, and glory, of getting to be my pet.

Rainbow Dash carefully phrases the criteria for winning the race to emphasize not just speed, but her element of harmony: loyalty. I imagine she’s using that wording to filter out the pets who are fast but aren’t guaranteed to stay by her side when she needs them the most; only one of the pets truly understands what she means here beyond “fastest wins”. After these instructions, Rainbow Dash immediately blasts off and the flying animals follow her through the spiky trees and other hazards.

But then, Rainbow Dash’s confidence gets the better of her as she crashes into a wall and gets part of her wing caught under a rock. None of the flying animals stop to help her, and it slowly dawns on her that she may be trapped here forever, which she doesn’t take well. It is at this point that she fully realizes what sort of pet she desires: not just one that can keep up with her coolness and speed and all her other criteria, but one that’s willing to stop and help her when she needs it most. Essentially, she’s come up with an eighth criterion that takes priority over all others: loyalty. She assumed that any pet would immediately help her if she got into an accident, and she’s been proven wrong. Well, it’s more that she assumed she wouldn’t get into an accident in the first place, but the point still stands.

This little guy never gives up.

Rainbow Dash’s sense of doom increases when she thinks she will be stuck in the gorge forever with the most annoying turtle in the world, but the turtle (who this time Fluttershy forgets is a tortoise) proves her wrong. In a surprisingly touching scene, Tank uses his tiny head to lift the rock and then carries Rainbow Dash to the finish line, which her friends move ahead so that they don’t have to wait any longer.

Not shown: Rainbow Dash giving Tank a hoof bump.

The falcon wins the race and seems like the perfect pet for Rainbow Dash at a glance, but she chooses the tortoise and explains why:

Rainbow Dash: The falcon sure does look cool. He’s absolutely everything I wanted in a pet. (sighs)
Fluttershy: Yay?
Rainbow Dash: But I said whoever crosses the finish line with me gets to be my pet.
Pinkie Pie: You did? You did say that! She did say that! That was the rule!
Rainbow Dash: And the only racer who crossed the finish line with me was the one who stopped to save me when I needed help. The tortoise!

Rainbow Dash admits that choosing the tortoise over the falcon isn’t an easy decision. She loves cool and awesome and flashy things more than anyone else, but she deliberately phrased the rules to imply the winner is the one who finishes with her, which she assumed would be synonymous with crossing the finish line first. Her claim that it was merely a technicality that led Tank to be her new pet shows that she has trouble admitting she’ll take loyalty over coolness any day.

Even the falcon isn’t too cool to graciously accept defeat, which he does by shaking hands… er, shaking a foot and a wing with Tank. Rainbow Dash then narrates her letter to Celestia about traits to look for in a pet, and she gives a bunch of clumsy synonyms for a word that kids aren’t likely to know: tenacity. That word is said outright by Twilight Sparkle, naturally enough. Rainbow Dash compares the turtle to a tank, which ends up being his name.

Fluttershy reminds Rainbow Dash that she wanted a pet that could fly, which is easily worked around as shown above. Rainbow Dash joins her friends in the next pony pet playdate, and with that, the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

I’ve said before that Rainbow Dash’s episodes are hit and miss; this one is a definite hit. It’s one of those episodes that gives her a new layer of depth beyond her initial image of being “too cool for school”. Her choice of Tank as a pet is a surprisingly sweet subversion of expectations that completes the pattern of each pony having a pet that contrasts against them in some way.

Also on the topic of completing patterns, season 2 is where the show starts fully acknowledging that it has adult fans, many of which are extremely nerdy about it—not me, though. Don’t look at me, I’m totally not nerdy about MLP. Nerdy fans of any work of a media love noticing patterns between characters and documenting information in a mechanical fashion, so this episode throws a curveball at the completion of the pet pattern. Very little is shown of Rainbow Dash’s day-to-day life in the early seasons, which is probably why she wasn’t shown to have a pet at first. She’s largely a blank spot in terms of backstory and daily life because she’s always on the move, and the show fills those blank spots in very interesting ways.

Grade: B

It doesn’t strike quite as hard as some later Rainbow Dash episodes, but it’s still a good episode that adds a lot of depth to her character.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I love the fireworks that show up when Rainbow Dash sings “coolness that defies gravity”. Just wanted to put that out there.
  • On the topic of defining words that kids aren’t likely to know, I didn’t mention in my review of Sisterhooves Social that Applejack defines the word “uncouth” because that was too much of an aside. I enjoy when shows like this take a moment to define advanced words, because having an advanced vocabulary is cool.
  • Also on the topic of advanced vocabulary, “criterion” is the singular form of “criteria”, which is plural. It’s incredibly annoying when people use “criteria” as a singular noun!

See you next week for two episodes that I’ll have a lot to say about: a polarizing Rainbow Dash episode and the season’s only Rarity episode.

>> Part 14: The Mysterious Mare Do Well + Sweet and Elite

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