Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 14: The Mysterious Mare Do Well + Sweet and Elite


< Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 >

Season 2, Episodes 8-9

Season 2 Episode 8: The Mysterious Mare Do Well

In five words: Being heroic bites back, apparently?

Premise: After Rainbow Dash gets a little too egotistical about her heroic stunts, a mysterious figure starts beating her to the punch again and again, much to her aggravation.

Detailed run-through:

Before I go through this episode in depth, I’m going to say something about Rainbow Dash.

I don’t know about you, but for me, “Rainbow Dash” is basically synonymous with “second-hand embarrassment”. When I watch almost any episode focusing on her, I get some form of second-hand embarrassment. Sometimes, the embarrassment feels believable or realistic, or reminds me of an embarrassing situation I got myself into. But other times, it feels like the episode is too mean-spirited towards Rainbow Dash or exaggerates her character too much. Now don’t get me wrong, Rainbow Dash is a great character. All the Mane 6 are great characters! It’s just that Rainbow Dash is the right degree of relatable that I am easily embarrassed at the things she does, and yes, I know she’s a fictional horse, but do you think there’s a rule saying that you can’t be embarrassed by a fictional horse? If I’m being completely honest with myself, Rainbow Dash is at least as relatable to me as Twilight Sparkle is.

This scene may well have been inspired by brony cosplayers.

This episode starts with a meeting of Rainbow Dash’s fan club, which Scootaloo appears to be the president of. Why the leader of a fan club is typically called the “president”, I cannot say. But I can say that this scene firmly establishes Scootaloo’s idolization of Rainbow Dash, which gradually blossoms into a sister-like relationship. It’s worth noting that Snips and Snails are part of the fan club, which makes a lot of sense—just as they had blindly latched onto worshipping Trixie in season 1, here they’re doing the same with Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow Dash then reveals that she secretly listens in on every meeting of her fan club and sometimes anonymously interjects, which is very much in line with her exuberant self-image. Self-image is a trait that she has in common with Spike (the so-called “new Rainbow Dash”); I’ll compare the two at the start of Secret of My Excess, the first episode that my next post will cover.

After the theme song, Rainbow Dash rescues various ponies young and old from life-threatening events like getting stuck in a well, almost rolling off a cliff in a stroller, and a balcony full of elderly ponies collapsing. The citizens of Ponyville eagerly cheer her on, which is more than warranted considering she’s saving other ponies’ lives, but the rest of the Mane 6 seem to pay far more attention to her arrogance. This is actually one of the times Rainbow Dash is at her least embarrassing, and yet her friends won’t give her a break.

Rainbow Dash has hired Spike as a news reporter of sorts, or really more like a biographer. While Spike is enthusiastically supporting her role as a hero, every single other member of the Mane 6 unanimously agrees that she’s being extremely arrogant. This sharp division between the Mane 6 and the background ponies’ opinion on Rainbow Dash feels rather awkward and forced.

And here’s where the Mysterious Mare Do Well (so named by Mayor Mare) comes in. Rainbow Dash swoops in and tries to save a mare from a deflating hot air balloon, but Mare Do Well beats her to the punch, which irritates her. Rainbow Dash abruptly switches priorities from rescuing ponies from life-threatening danger to being the only hero in Ponyville, and things just get weirder from here.

Similarly abrupt is Rainbow Dash’s decrease in competence at heroic rescues. She fails to stop a carriage from rolling down a hill while she had previously done quite a few feats requiring significant strength, but then Mare Do Well (actually Applejack in this scene) stops it successfully and saves the riders. It’s weird that only in the second third of this episode does the show remember that Rainbow Dash’s specialty isn’t physical strength. After all this weirdness, Rainbow Dash drops a surprisingly multilayered line:

Rainbow Dash: I can’t believe it! Mare Do Well is stronger than me?
Rainbow Dash: Well, a hero is more than just muscle. And she’s gonna learn that the hard way.

Rainbow Dash doesn’t know it, but when she says “she’s gonna learn that the hard way”, she’s referring to herself. She’s soon to learn (or at least probably learn?) that humility is an important facet of heroism, and it’s weird that we get such a meaningful foreshadowing line after an abrupt and forced decrease in Rainbow Dash’s power.

Next up, Mare do Well saves four construction workers from a collapsing building and gets a whole bunch of praise and admiration; Rainbow Dash saves one as well but doesn’t get any praise, which ticks her off. She somehow concludes that Mare Do Well knows what’s gonna happen ahead of time, which doesn’t make sense to me. Dodging items falling from above doesn’t equate to preemptive future knowledge (which is to say Pinkie Sense), as long as you’re careful and watch out for what’s above you. Maybe Rainbow Dash suspects that her friends are behind Mare Do Well and is jumping to conclusions (correct conclusions, mind you) from there? She obviously doesn’t know that from her surprised reaction at the end, but that’s still the most logical explanation I can think of.

Did Rainbow Dash’s intelligence suddenly plummet?

Rainbow Dash notices a dam with cracks in it and decides she can easily prevent it from breaking by covering the cracks with her hoof. Does she think that she’s just going to stand there forever and hold the dam shut? I guess this scene shows that she’s starting not to think straight and is increasingly desperate to do something heroic and earn attention, but it’s still incredibly weird. She did the same sort of thing in The Best Night Ever and it felt much more natural and fluid, but then again, her clumsy attempts at heroism were overshadowed by all the other crazy things that happened in the episode.

Mare Do Well (this time Twilight Sparkle) first saves Rainbow Dash from helplessly falling down the river, then uses a magic spell to seamlessly repair the dam. If that wasn’t annoyingly perfect enough, Mare Do Well (Fluttershy) then reveals she can fly, presumably to rub all the perfection in Rainbow Dash’s face and show that it’s impossible to be a superhero who’s good at everything all on her own? Or, wait, the intention was for Rainbow Dash to stop being such a show-off, somehow.

Most of this episode’s events I can accept and tolerate, but then comes a scene that I find completely irritating.

The members of the Mane 6 behind Mare Do Well (save for Pinkie Pie) hang out at Sugarcube Corner, praising Mare Do Well’s heroic feats and modesty. You may guess that the ponies are praising each other’s work—perhaps Fluttershy praises Twilight Sparkle’s magic spell, and Rarity compliments Applejack’s rescuing the carriage with her two hind hooves, right? WRONG! The ponies instead all praise either their own work as Mare Do Well or the hero’s general personality that they crafted together. Twilight Sparkle brags about the magic spell, which required a lot of studying, while Rarity praises Mare Do Well’s outfit. If we are to assume that Rainbow Dash has a hunch that her friends are behind Mare Do Well, then I can’t blame her one bit for being so aggravated. It would have made SO MUCH MORE SENSE if the ponies praised each other’s work. That could have done wonders for this episode’s moral! But instead, this scene makes the Mane 6 obnoxious if you know the twist.

Come on, Fluttershy. You’re nicer than this.

While Spike writes inaccurate things about Rainbow Dash, perhaps to poke fun at inaccurate or exaggerated news reporters, the rest of the ponies all laugh at her. Yes, even Fluttershy is laughing at Rainbow Dash. I mean, seriously. Fluttershy?! The laughter doesn’t come off as lighthearted, but rather actively making fun of how predictable she is. Normally all the Mane 6 have varied personalities that bounce off each other in all sorts of fun ways, but in this episode all besides Rainbow Dash are equally smug and haughty.

I’m sorry, I really am sorry, for sounding like a whiny YouTuber who fiercely tears into media that they have tiny gripes with. But this one particular scene puts me off so much, I had no choice but to write a rant about it.

Rainbow Dash becomes even more desperate in her search to do something heroic, somewhat reminiscent of Twilight Sparkle trying to find and then make a friendship problem in Lesson Zero but without the obvious mental breakdown. First, she tries to help Granny Smith cross the street, but she didn’t need help nor did she want to cross the street in the first place. It feels very unnatural that Rainbow Dash devolves from saving other ponies’ lives to desperately attempting to earn the slightest trace of attention. This is exactly the problem I tend to have with some Rainbow Dash episodes: her behavior is exaggerated for the sake of, or in this case over the course of, the episode. I like it better when shows don’t exaggerate a character’s traits depending on the episode. MLP usually does a great job keeping characters consistent between episodes, gradually developing them over the course of the series, but then you have weird cases like this episode.

Maybe the intention of this scene was to teach kids how to open jars of peanut butter.
Maybe the intention of this entire EPISODE was to teach kids how to open jars of peanut butter.

And then comes a scene that I can’t stay mad at because it’s so funny. Rainbow Dash notices a random background pony struggling to open a jar of peanut butter and resolves to save her from this horrible predicament… except she fails too, by aggressively trying to open the jar with her teeth. The random background pony uses unicorn magic to tap the jar against the base of a nearby fountain a few times, then passes it back to Rainbow Dash so she can open it and have her moment of glory. The background pony probably passed the near-open jar because she knew it would be more annoying if Rainbow Dash complained that she didn’t get to do it. Objectively speaking, this scene is the most ridiculous exaggeration of Rainbow Dash’s character yet, but it’s too funny for me to hate it! Jars of peanut butter aren’t even that hard to open—how about those annoying jars that store pickles or olives and seem to be shut tight until someone else comes along and magically opens it? Rainbow Dash’s difficulty even opening a jar of peanut butter humorously shows that her strong suit isn’t physical prowess.

And Rainbow Dash’s final clumsy attempt at a heroic feat is mowing a lawn, saving the grass from weeds that were attempting to eat it or something. She then realizes these attempts are pointless and has this monologue while resting on top of a gray cloud:

Rainbow Dash: All anypony talks about is Mare Do Well this and Mare Do Well that! What about me? How could everypony forget about me so easily?
Rainbow Dash: I mean, have I changed?
Rainbow Dash: Same sleek body, same flowing mane, same spectacular hooves… Nope, I’m still awesome! They’re wrong.
Rainbow Dash: But… then, why am I all alone? I hate being all alone.

Rainbow Dash comes dangerously close to the fourth wall when she asks herself if she’s changed and denies it. It’s like she’s aware that narrative forces snatched all opportunities for heroism away from her after Mare Do Well started beating her to heroic feats, and those same narrative forces drove her to do extremely trivial things in the hopes that she’d be recognized as a hero.

It’s never a good sign when I chalk up a story development in this show to narrative forces. That’s just a long way of saying that this episode makes no sense! Well, aside from the peanut butter scene. That scene actually does make sense.

Even Scootaloo has seemingly betrayed Rainbow Dash by joining the rest of Ponyville in celebrating Mare Do Well in a thank you parade, and I can tell how much that hurts Rainbow Dash. Their sisterly relationship has hardly become a thing yet, but Scootaloo turning sides feels like a gut punch to her no less.

Not shown: Twilight Sparkle and Applejack in the audience, pretending to be shocked.

At the thank you parade, Rainbow Dash confronts Mare Do Well head-on and almost rips her costume off before the superhero runs off stage, Rainbow Dash following her. It’s unclear which pony is Mare Do Well in this scene—although the first one to reveal her costume is Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash clearly chases several versions of Mare Do Well in the scene that follows, some with wings, some without. My guess is that Fluttershy is disguised as Mare Do Well on stage, and she ran off instead of letting Rainbow Dash rip off her costume because she’s nervous in front of crowds.

After a long chase, Pinkie Pie seemingly reveals herself to be Mare Do Well, much to Rainbow Dash’s befuddlement. But then, Twilight Sparkle and Applejack come in and reveal that they, too, played Mare Do Well at different points in time: Applejack used her raw strength to stop the carriage in its tracks, Pinkie Pie used her Pinkie Sense to dodge the collapsing building and save the workers, and Twilight Sparkle used an advanced magic spell to fix the dam. I do like that this episode efficiently reminds us what Pinkie Sense is by showing Pinkie Pie’s tail twitching followed by her dodging a falling flowerpot. It’s a succinct memory refresher that doesn’t distract from the point of this episode. And in defense of this episode, it probably was difficult to convey that Mare Do Well was using her Pinkie Sense without giving away her identity.

Fluttershy and Rarity then come in, revealing that they did the fly-by and designed Mare Do Well’s costume respectively.

Rainbow Dash: I don’t understand.
Rainbow Dash: Why? Don’t you want me to be a hero?
Twilight Sparkle: Of course we want you to be a hero!
Applejack: But a real hero doesn’t brag.

“Like you’re one to talk,” Rainbow Dash should have told her friends. This episode conveniently avoids discussing how hypocritical the rest of the Mane 6 were about bragging, just so they can teach Rainbow Dash a lesson. They basically gloat at Rainbow Dash while simultaneously telling her not to gloat, and they come off as way more arrogant than they were supposed to.

Who needs the old Rainbow Dash anyway? The new Rainbow Dash is right here.

Spike reveals that as Rainbow Dash’s ghostwriter, he already penned a letter to Celestia. Rainbow Dash would rather write the letter herself, and thus she scares him and Pinkie Pie away by claiming there’s a real ghost, which leads everyone else to laugh—weird having a sudden scene at the end where Rainbow Dash performs a mischievous act that her friends are OK with. She writes her letter, which we don’t need to hear narrated because her friends already told the moral, and then the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

This show has many episodes that, after analyzing in depth, I’ve come to appreciate on a far deeper level. This is not one of those episodes. Analyzing this one in depth has revealed a sloppy mess of contrivances underneath a fun and enticing premise, and it’s made it easy for me to see why this episode is so controversial among fans. Rainbow Dash starts off genuinely heroic, then she starts getting intercepted by Mare Do Well, then she starts doing ridiculous things in an attempt to be heroic, and then she learns her lesson about bragging from her wise and angelic friends who totally weren’t being haughty and arrogant themselves. I wouldn’t go so far as to act as though this episode never happened, but this is still a very sloppy episode.

Considering the extremely inconsistent quality of Rainbow Dash episodes, I find it relieving that among season 2’s three Rainbow Dash episodes, two of them are really good and only one of them is… this mess. The next (and last of three) Rainbow Dash episode in this season is Read It and Weep, which is one of my favorite episodes of the entire show.

Grade: D

The peanut butter scene is hilarious, and it’s this episode’s main redeeming quality. But one humorous scene doesn’t save a weird and contrived episode. This episode perfectly fits my initial definition of a D grade: a questionable episode considerably held back by contrivances.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Rainbow Dash’s line “If the dam breaks, the whole town will be flooded!” is hilariously easy to edit so that it sounds profane.
  • I know the random background pony who struggled to open a jar of peanut butter has a canon name: Amethyst Star, as listed in the credits of Slice of Life. There’s really nothing to say about that background pony until I get to Slice of Life, which gives her a brief scene with surprisingly poignant characterization. It’s hard being a random background pony. It’s hard and nopony understands.
  • Apologies if that last bullet point brought any trauma to people familiar with a certain webcomic. I just couldn’t resist the reference, OK?

So… this episode sure left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Next up is something hopefully a little less sour and a little more elite!

(I like doing little transition lines tying together each episode review. I should do that for every episode.)

Season 2 Episode 9: Sweet and Elite

In five words: Rarity provides expansive Canterlot worldbuilding.

Premise: While enjoying herself greatly on a trip to Canterlot, Rarity struggles to balance maintaining her newfound popularity with preparing for Twilight Sparkle’s birthday party.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Rarity entering the room where she will be staying in Canterlot, a city that for her may as well be heaven. Rarity is extremely thankful to Celestia for helping accommodate her upon Twilight Sparkle’s request, to the point where she even kisses Celestia’s hooves. Twilight Sparkle having asked Celestia to do this is a good example of her doing favors for her friends, which shows that she’s been taking all her friendship lessons to heart and qualifies as character development.

It must suck to be tasked with carrying all of Rarity’s luggage in one go.

After that, it’s revealed that Rarity packed an absurd amount of luggage for her trip, which is a running gag that never fails to make me laugh.

Weird that Rarity brought Opal to her trip, but I sure can’t complain about it.
That little cat somehow adds a whole new layer of depth to her character.

In typical Rarity episode fashion, Rarity starts by monologuing to her cat at a fancy restaurant about how perfect and wonderful Canterlot is, and then the worldbuilding kicks in with plenty of new characters who aren’t random background ponies. Rarity meets the haughty upper-class couple Jet Set and Upper Crust, and the clumsy house worker Hayseed Turnip Truck. Rarity’s episodes have quite a large swath of recurring characters, many of whom we meet in this episode; there’s also Hoity Toity, who we met back in season 1. It doesn’t take long for tears (not of joy) to well up in Rarity’s eyes, after those ponies claim she looks a little country-like and say that makes sense considering she’s from Ponyville. She resolves to change this reputation by designing a fancy new outfit for Twilight Sparkle’s upcoming birthday in her castle suite, even putting on her signature glasses in the process.

Fleur de Lis is one of those extremely minor characters with a surprisingly hefty fan following.

And then when Rarity crashes into the Canterlot celebrity Fancy Pants and his companion Fleur de Lis, she chooses not to make the mistake of saying she’s from Ponyville again, and here’s where she starts getting caught in a web of mishaps. Not everyone in Canterlot is so snobbish and uptight, as the surprisingly open-minded Fancy Pants later proves. In this scene, he invites Rarity to a Wonderbolts derby, leading her to intricately weigh the pros and cons.

Rarity: Pro: Seeing the derby from a VIP box is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Rarity: Con: Going to the derby cuts into the amount of time I have to finish Twilight’s outfit.
Rarity: Pro: Fancy Pants is the most important pony in Canterlot. His stamp of approval could mean big things for me here.
Rarity: Con: Twilight’s party might not be as sophisticated as the derby, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put all of my energy into creating her birthday ensemble. My Ponyville friends will appreciate my hard work more than anypony!

Rarity directs her monologue about pros and cons of attending the Wonderbolts derby (as with all monologues in this episode) at Opalescence while pacing back and forth, which I find endearing. She can’t help talking to herself, and she knows that many consider it weird, so she decides it’s less weird if she monologues to her cat. Not many other characters have monologues at their pets. Pinkie Pie does it with Gummy sometimes, but she’s, well… Pinkie Pie. And Fluttershy doesn’t monologue at her animals, but rather has proper conversations with them.

When Rarity decides to go to the derby in excitement, Opal gives her a disapproving look, then looks at her blueprint for Twilight Sparkle’s birthday dress that she’s been procrastinating on. It’s like the cat is telling her owner, “you can do what you want, but I’m warning you, this won’t go well. But you know, you can watch it blow up in your face if you want. I’ll just be sitting there licking my paws.” Those two have a really funny dynamic.

It’s endearing and awkward how much more outwardly enthusiastic Rarity is than the rest of the audience.

At the Wonderbolts derby, Rarity correctly predicts that Fleetfoot would win the race. Her explanation for how she knew says a lot about her character:

Fancy Pants: Bravo, Rarity! I say, how did you know Fleetfoot would be victorious?
Rarity: My friend Rainbow Dash talks about her all the time. She says what Fleetfoot lacks in size, she makes up for in speed.

This passage shows us that Rarity is not the type to tune out her friends’ excited ramblings about their interests. She actually listens and pays attention when Rainbow Dash goes on about how awesome the Wonderbolts are and what’s cool about each of them! It’s common practice to politely pretend you’re interested when a friend is rambling about something you have no interest in, but Rarity refuses to merely pretend she’s interested. She takes time to get to know her friends as well as she can, which she’s demonstrated before with the dresses and other gifts she’s given them.

Rarity then claims that Rainbow Dash is the Wonderbolts’ trainer, which impresses Fancy Pants further. As I said before, she decided not to repeat the mistake of letting it slip to those prior Canterlot residents that she’s from Ponyville, which shows how much stock she puts into maintaining a good reputation in Canterlot.

After the derby, several Canterlot residents pressure Rarity into attending events of theirs, even though she’s still yet to finish Twilight’s dress. As we saw in Suited for Success, although it is in her nature to do favors for others that they didn’t outright request, her big problem is that she’s all too willing to give into others’ direct requests if it makes them happy.

I love how all these famous art styles are replicated and lightly parodied, pony style.
(That’s the reason I’ve included this image.)

After Rarity monologues at Opal some more about how she’ll have to stay in Canterlot for a few more days, totally to prepare for Twilight’s birthday and nothing more, we get an upbeat musical number with Rarity singing about being “the type of pony everypony should know”, which consists entirely of her having a blast in Canterlot. The song is done in an energetic pop style and perfectly captures how much Rarity is having the time of her life gaining popularity in Canterlot, blissfully forgetting all about her friends back in Ponyville.

Pointless trivia: this song is in the same key as Art of the Dress, the last song to have played in a Rarity episode.

A part of the musical number especially worth noting is the group shot shown above. This shot has Rarity surrounded by surprisingly few generic background pony designs, instead opting mostly for character designs specifically for Canterlot residents, mixed in with a few familiar celebrity faces (Hoity Toity, Sapphire Shores, Photo Finish) and characters we met in this episode. The cameos of characters we met in season 1’s episodes focusing on Rarity, which occur throughout this song, are a good example of something I love about this show: the subtle details put into episodes as callbacks. The people who worked on this show KNOW that the show’s adult fans (like me) gobble down subtle details like delicious candy. Even Prince Blueblood appears in this song, and for all we know, Rarity may well have reconciled with him. Or maybe she didn’t, and she’s just quietly tolerating his presence.

Also in the shot above, as a fun background detail, Derpy Hooves dressing fancy by wearing a paper bag on her head. Derpy is the first of many background ponies to canonically stop being just a background pony. I’m reminded that I’m not many episodes away from The Last Roundup, where Derpy’s first speaking scene sparked enormous controversy and caused her time in the spotlight to be cut short for a while.

This song ends with a somber section, where Rarity gives us a surprisingly realistic portrayal of procrastination. She’s been putting off making Twilight Sparkle’s birthday dress, not to mention all the other birthday preparations, and we see how thoroughly distracted she is from that preparation with the little she makes of the dress. She does the very beginning of her dress work and then gives up, letting the blue piece of fabric surrounding the head area fall to the ground while Opalescence watches in feline disapproval. It’s equivalent to writing the first sentence of an essay for school that’s due in a week and then giving up, although for me, procrastination extends far beyond schoolwork. Every ambitious project published to the Internet that I’ve ever done has encountered significant amounts of procrastination, and I’m sure my MLP blog posts will be no exception. Just wait until I give up for a year and a half at a completely arbitrary point in season 4. I can easily see it happening.

Right when Rarity is ready to leave her suite and return to Ponyville, she gets a letter from Jet Set and Upper Crust asking to attend the high-scale Canterlot garden party tomorrow, the same day as Twilight Sparkle’s birthday. After some deliberation, she chooses the garden party and writes a letter to Twilight, claiming that she has to stay longer her cat is not feeling well. She gets extremely theatrical when she narrates the portion of the letter where she claims Opal is ill, as if she knows what she’s doing is wrong but doesn’t want to confront the truth that she’s been avoiding preparation for her dear friend’s birthday, and then she goes back to her normal tone when she writes the letter’s closing. She isn’t avoiding the party preparation because she hates her Ponyville friends now, but simply because she’s been so distracted in Canterlot.

The ponies surrounding Rarity are loosely arranged in rainbow color order.

The next day, when Rarity has finally gotten ready for the Canterlot garden party, her friends all come in by surprise, causing her to faint. Her friends decided to host Twilight Sparkle’s birthday party in Canterlot since Rarity has to stay there. This late change of plans is another example of Twilight and friends doing generous favors to Rarity, giving her a taste of her own medicine, except in this case the medicine is a good thing.

When asked about Opal’s health, Rarity excuses her friends for a moment and soaks the cat in water, and Fluttershy, the resident animal expert, apparently falls for it. I would guess that she knows Rarity is full of nonsense but is too kind to tell her as much, so she instead plays along with the act that Opal is ill.

In an pleasant surprise, Twilight Sparkle sees the unfinished dress and doesn’t realize it’s unfinished, but instead remarks that it’s simple and practical and considers it a perfect fit for her. Happy accidents are commonplace when making art, and Rarity is surely remembering as much when she expresses extreme relief and quietly uses her tail to throw the dress’s fanciful blueprint in the trash.

The party cannon is now party CANON!
(That was a horrible pun, even for me.)

As Rarity’s friends reveal that Celestia has kindly allowed them to host Twilight Sparkle’s birthday in the Canterlot castle, Pinkie Pie presents the debut of her party cannon, which she reportedly never leaves home without. I can’t explain why, but I really, really love that the party cannon is a thing that exists.

We then get a montage with upbeat jazzy music featuring Twilight Sparkle overjoyed to have a proper birthday party. It’s a safe bet that this is the first time she ever got a real birthday party with real friends, so it’s easy to see why she’s so exuberant about it.

When Rarity secretly switches to the much more formal Canterlot garden party, the music abruptly switches to slow orchestral music, featuring first a close-up of Octavia Melody playing her cello, then a shot of her bandmates, who aren’t all the same ones from The Best Night Ever. The harp player is still there, but the other two have been replaced. The close-up on Octavia demonstrates that she is another background pony who’s found a substantial fan following.

Fancy Pants smells cake frosting on Rarity, and she makes up a story about dabbing frosting behind her ears, then dashes off and returns to the party. Rarity has at this point firmly decided to vastly overestimate how stuck-up Canterlot’s citizens are, especially Fancy Pants.

Rarity is provided some stereotypically miniscule “fancy food” at the garden party, and then she does something with the food that’s extremely Rarity. She secretly dips the food in chocolate, hoping that will make it taste better while still meaning that she has eaten it. And after she eats the chocolate-dipped fancy food, she spits it out anyway, perhaps because the flavors so strongly clash. I imagine that Pinkie Pie would gladly dip the food in chocolate and swallow it in one gulp; Applejack would taste it and admit it tastes like garbage, then talk about how her food at Sweet Apple Acres is so much better; Rainbow Dash would grab the food and secretly throw it away; and the others would eat the food and pretend they like it. Only Rarity would make an honest attempt to eat the food while the garden party’s guests can’t see her.

I don’t know why I analyzed this scene in so much detail, but I guess I just went ahead and did. It’s just one of many scenes in a montage that switches back and forth between Rarity in the two parties at increasingly brisk speeds, where she makes up increasingly ridiculous excuses and distractions.

Rarity’s cover is blown when her friends notice a croquet mallet in her mouth, but her friends turn out to be OK with the revelation that she was in two parties at once, and even impressed that she switched between the two so quickly—noticing a pattern here? This episode is all about Rarity hiding truths that she had no reason to hide, and her friends and new acquaintances forgiving her easily. The viewer is consistently immersed in Rarity’s mindset and is convinced that she needs to keep up those lies and excuses to maintain her reputation in Canterlot, but it turns out there was no need to hide anything!

And then comes a montage where Rarity watches in horror as the Mane 6 brutally stomp all over the garden party’s formality and subtlety. While the montage is mostly meant to be humorous, we do get a few moments that show some of the ponies redeeming their horrendous time at the Grand Galloping Gala. Fluttershy is successfully befriending the animals this time; perhaps she did some research on how Canterlot’s fauna differs from Ponyville’s? Pinkie Pie gets to goof around to much more successful results than before, and as for Twilight Sparkle…

… her exuberant dancing (under an expansive definition of “dancing”) is so hilarious, it transcends words. All the guests from Canterlot back away in fear as Twilight Sparkle dances to her heart’s content, and she even sticks out her tongue briefly. Her normally collected nerd self has been washed away, and she’s gone unhinged.

Fancy Pants notices Twilight Sparkle’s dress and asks her who made it. After she says it was a good friend of hers from Ponyville, Rarity tries in vain to distract the guests, but Twilight Sparkle then blurts it out. Rarity first walks away in embarrassment, but then gives a speech about how all these ponies who crashed the party with their unsophisticated mannerisms are her very best friends. Fancy Pants responds with a surprisingly open-minded remark:

You can’t see it here, but Applejack’s hooves are very muddy.

Fancy Pants: I, for one, find them charmingly rustic.
(Jet Set and Upper Crust stop laughing, guests gasp)
Fancy Pants: And I think the dress you made for your friend is lovely. (chuckles)
Fancy Pants: I dare say every mare in Canterlot would be wanting one!

There we have it: Fancy Pants is basically a make-up for Rarity’s time spent with the aggravating Prince Blueblood. Though she hasn’t found a new love interest, she’s made a new friend who’s open to learning about all her other friends and is refreshingly decent and respectful to her. Fancy Pants easily sways the guests’ opinion with the last line quoted above, which says something about… popular people swaying opinions, I suppose. He then offers Rarity to introduce him to her friends, which we can presume she does offscreen. You can easily imagine Pinkie Pie saying something goofy upon being introduced, or Fluttershy saying hi in a meek and gentle manner.

Poor Spike is left behind yet again.

Rarity writes a letter to Celestia in her suite, which is weird because Spike isn’t here to deliver it. Perhaps knowing this predicament, Celestia comes to Rarity so that she can tell this episode’s moral in person. Basically, Rarity tells us that you should never forget where you came from no matter where you go, and that you are the product of your home and friends. That’s a pretty good moral, one that encourages viewers to take pride in who they are. It’s a moral that might be more applicable to adults than to children, since children don’t tend to travel places by themselves. A moral more applicable to adults makes sense because there are plenty of adults who enjoy this show. Not me though, I only like this show ironically.

Jokes aside, the poor suitcase carrying pony reminds Rarity and Celestia to hurry up, and with that, the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

Wow, I analyzed this episode a lot more thoroughly than I thought I would! Well, it is a Rarity episode, but still. I had originally intended for this post to cover three episodes, but when I realized my review of this one was getting long-winded, I decided to cut it down to two episodes.

As a refreshing contrast against The Mysterious Mare Do Well, my appreciation of this episode increased tenfold after going through it in depth. And it’s easy to see why that is: Rarity is a character of nuance. Subtle details and clever methods of storytelling are used to showcase what a great character she is and get the viewer immersed in her mindset. This episode portrays Rarity with many of the same techniques as Suited for Success, an episode that I’m a big fan of.

One more thing worth mentioning: this episode provides a lot of worldbuilding for Canterlot. It’s the first one to show us the day-to-day life of Canterlot’s inhabitants, setting the stage for future Rarity episodes, plus a few Twilight Sparkle episodes since she grew up in Canterlot.

Grade: B

I hesitate to give this episode an A because that grade is reserved for episodes that I find extremely memorable. Still a great episode though! Sadly, we won’t have another Rarity episode until season 4.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I’m extremely grateful that Rarity only awkwardly bumps into Fancy Pants once instead of making it into a running gag like in Equestria Girls. Boy, does human Twilight Sparkle bumping into human Flash Sentry get old fast.
  • “Derby” is an incredibly annoying word to type since I talk about Derpy Hooves so much.
  • You know in cartoons where a meow randomly plays as something collapses or breaks in the distance? That happens when Rarity’s suitcases collapse onto the poor pony tasked with carrying them, except the meow makes sense because Opal is right in the room. This show may be rife with slapstick humor, but unless we’re talking about Pinkie Pie, the humor is still grounded in some degree of reality.
  • Sometimes I laugh to myself thinking about how freakish it is that a show about cartoon ponies, under the name My Little Pony, can be this good and engaging and genuinely a blast to watch. Not that this has anything to do specifically with this episode, I just wanted to say that.

Although we won’t have more Rarity episodes for quite a while, the next one hinges on Spike’s feelings for Rarity, which is… maybe just as good, probably!

See you next week (or in two weeks, depending on how other posts go) as I go over the aforementioned Spike episode plus two more: a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode and a Christmas special of sorts.

>> Part 15: Secret of My Excess + Hearth’s Warming Eve + Family Appreciation Day

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