Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 30: Castle Mane-ia + Daring Don’t


< Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31 >

Season 4, Episodes 3-4

Season 4 Episode 3: Castle Mane-ia

In five words: Ponies incite fears by accident.

Premise: The Mane 6 explore the ruins of Celestia and Luna’s old castle. Spooky shenanigans unwittingly ensue.

Detailed run-through:

Some of the show’s seasons have the third episode directly follow up from the two-part premiere, either to tie some loose ends or to begin the season’s overall arc. This episode does both, showing that Twilight Sparkle has combed through every book in Ponyville and found no information about the chest that came from the Tree of Harmony. It never fully sinks in for Twilight that she can’t learn everything from books; it’s a cute little quirk of her character that she still resorts to books after all this time.

Twilight Sparkle having wings makes it easier to show when she’s hyper-excited.

Twilight Sparkle initially considers checking out the libraries in Canterlot, but then she gets a letter from Celestia saying she should visit the ruins of her and Luna’s old castle in the Everfree Forest. It’s the same castle we previously saw Nightmare Moon ravage in a flashback, which explains why it’s in ruins and makes for some nice attention to continuity. It’s also the same castle the Mane 6 first got the Elements of Harmony from, which I admittedly forgot until Rainbow Dash brings it up about six minutes in, then retroactively added to this paragraph. Spike is creeped out by this place, but Twilight Sparkle is overjoyed.

Pinkie Pie was keeping score, and she just dashed off to do her own goofy thing.

The next few scenes show us that each of the Mane 6 has their own reason for coming to the castle. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are holding a competition to see who’s the most daring pony in Ponyville, and they frustratingly remain evenly tied, so they decide to find a new place to compete. I presume that Twilight Sparkle told all her friends about the familiar castle she saw in a flashback, which may mean it’s not entirely a coincidence that they all wind up at the same place.

Fluttershy loves to forget she can fly, which I simply view as a quirk with her character.

Rarity’s reason to enter the castle is to explore its fanciful architecture and recover some of its ancient tapestries, and she insisted on bringing Fluttershy over to help. This is very much in-character for Rarity; I can easily imagine her comically fainting the moment Twilight Sparkle mentioned an ancient castle. That just leaves Pinkie Pie, who’s going to catch us by surprise at the very end.

Fluttershy: Um, are you sure you need those tapestries?
Rarity: But of course!
Rarity: Although, I must admit these ruins are a fright.
Rarity: Just look at all the dirt everywhere! (grossed-out noise)

Rarity is scared of the castle solely because it’s so dirty, which is an amazingly Rarity reason to be freaked out. She tends to have her priorities skewed and gets unsettled or excited for strange reasons, which is yet another silly character quirk that never really goes away. Angel then runs inside the castle, which I imagine is so that he can lure Fluttershy inside because he knows Fluttershy is very nervous to enter.

Here’s the face Rainbow Dash makes as Applejack recounts an ancient legend about Nightmare Moon that Granny Smith once told her:

Her eyes show us that she’s more scared by this story than she’s willing to admit. Applejack and Rainbow Dash have had a competitive dynamic since season 1, and I bet Applejack knows that you can make Rainbow Dash terrified if you say the right things. It’s a good demonstration of how well they know each other.

And soon enough, the ponies accidentally scaring each other begins. Upon Rarity’s request, Fluttershy tries pulling an old curtain down, accidentally turns the wall behind it 180 degrees, and gets stuck behind the curtain. Due to convenient conversation timing (and location timing), Applejack and Rainbow Dash think it’s a ghost and run in fear. Perhaps on a meta level, Applejack knows that if someone says something like “pff, ghosts aren’t real” as Rainbow Dash did, it’s only a matter of time before they see a real ghost, because that’s how stories work.

… Oh, come on, I’m just being silly here. You know as well as I do that only Pinkie Pie is at all aware of the fourth wall.

In this review, I’m taking the approach of picking out whichever scenes are most interesting to analyze, and glossing over the rest.

Rarity: Where, pray tell, did you disappear to?
Fluttershy: What do you mean?
Rarity: While you were struggling under that fabric, the entire wall spun around. You must have activated a secret door!
Fluttershy: Oh. I’m sorry.

I love how Fluttershy’s only reaction to learning that the castle has secret doors is a meek apology. Normally, when characters in a show explore a castle, they’re surprised and intrigued to inevitably learn that it has secret doors that you activate by pressing switches, which is especially true in video games about castles. But since there’s no such thing as video games in the MLP universe, maybe Fluttershy has read plenty of books about castles instead? Or maybe Fluttershy isn’t invested in exploring a castle at all, and merely agreed to help a friend out.

Now that I think of it, it’s so obvious that this episode was inspired by castle-themed video games.
Even its title is a pun on Castlevania (obviously).

What’s the next interesting thing that happens? After accidentally setting off a floor trap that leaves Rarity and Fluttershy stranded, Angel winds up with Twilight Sparkle and Spike and accidentally flips yet another switch, this time one that opens a room with an extra secret library. This library contains a book that immediately catches Twilight’s eye: the Journal of the Two Sisters. It seems like Celestia directed Twilight to this library thinking that she’d be smart enough to flip the hidden switch, but it’s actually a mischievous bunny who flips the switch by accident. (Though compared to certain other episodes, Angel is reasonably well-behaved here.)

Applejack and Rainbow Dash go downstairs and enter a hallway of disembodied hooves while continuing to deny their fears. In amazingly hypocritical fashion, Rainbow Dash says that if Applejack is scared, she can just admit it. This demonstrates how both of them are not just scared of the castle, but scared to admit they’re scared.

Twilight Sparkle: Spike, you’ve got to hear this.
Twilight Sparkle: “I love to duck behind the paintings, and though the Hall of Hooves still gives her a bit of a fright, the trap door slide is Luna’s favorite!”
Spike: Hall of Hooves?
Twilight Sparkle: (turns page) “Soon the organ to the outside will be finished. I can hardly wait.”
Spike: What’s the organ to the outside?
Twilight Sparkle: I have no idea!

Twilight Sparkle sounds excited and joyful when she says “I have no idea”. Even though Twilight normally likes having all the answers to everything, here she’s excited to for once not know something about Equestrian lore, so that she can learn new things about it for the first time in way too long. She thought she knew all there was to know about Celestia and Luna’s backstory, and it says a lot about her character how eager she is to learn new things about them.

These curtains bear the legacy of Nightmare Moon’s fearsome rampage.

While Fluttershy searches in fear for Angel, Rarity keeps trying to get the ancient curtains off with magic, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s having so much trouble with it. Perhaps the curtains were deliberately made difficult to take down as a security measure against unicorn magic, because as I’ve said many times before, unicorns are overpowered.

The spooky shenanigans go a step further as a mysterious pony who later turns out to be Pinkie Pie plays haunting organ music, activating switches and traps with every key she presses. I can’t decide if Pinkie Pie knows or doesn’t know what she’s doing by pressing all those keys. As much as I like to theorize about Pinkie Pie bending reality through her will, I’m going to guess she’s doing this by accident, matching what the rest of the Mane 6 have been doing throughout this episode.

Twilight Sparkle is too absorbed in her book to notice the organ music or the sound of her friends screaming. It’s easy to see why Spike is so scared of this; he’s always feared the possibility of Twilight leaving him behind, or being too wrapped up in her own matters to save her friends. This reminds me of the scene in Spike at Your Service where Twilight is too absorbed in her books to pay attention to what Applejack tells her, and that scene suddenly seems a lot less nonsensical in retrospect.

The fear factor escalates further and further, with Applejack and Rainbow Dash, as well as Rarity and Fluttershy, losing track of each other, until all four crash into each other from behind, causing them to prance around like crazy. During this huge group freakout, Rainbow Dash successfully knocks down one of the tapestries using a little something called “brute force”, which is to say “crashing into it by accident”.

Fluttershy thinking Angel was crushed to death is genuinely heartwrenching.

And so, it falls into Twilight Sparkle’s hooves to be a responsible and mature leader and freeze her friends, then make them realize they’ve been scaring each other the whole time. Just like old times, she’s being the sole member of the Mane 6 to have her head straight. Together with her friends, she sets out to uncover the identity of the mysterious “Pony of Shadows” who’s been playing organ music.

It was Pinkie Pie the whole time, hence the myserty… er, mystery. Turns out she was playing the castle’s organ for fun, completely unaware that she was scaring her friends. This means that she unwittingly took part in this saga of the Mane 6 scaring each other, leaving Twilight as the only one who remained uninvolved. Once she reveals herself, she switches the organ’s tone to something more rock-sounding, reminding (or teaching?) less musically oriented viewers that organs can make plenty of sounds besides the typical pipe organ associated with churches and Halloween movies. Have you even SEEN how insanely customizable some organs are, with like fifty switches you can flip to give it just the sound you want??? I know such technology is kind of obsolete given the existence of digital synthesizers, but it’s still really cool and… wait, I got completely off track here.

Sorry, back to MLP. Pinkie Pie gives a zany explanation of how she wound up playing the organ when she was supposed to ring the school bell, which I’m going to pretend I understood because we’re almost done with the episode anyway.

In the end, Rarity decides to sew the tapestries back together rather than keep them for herself, which is very generous of her.

When the Mane 6 reconvene, that’s when the episode’s moral falls into place, specifically that you shouldn’t let your imagination get the best of you. It leads Twilight Sparkle to say the following:

Twilight Sparkle: Well, it’s good to know that whenever your imagination is getting away from you, a good friend can help you reign it in.
Twilight Sparkle: And even though I didn’t find anything out about the mysterious chest, I’m glad I was here to help all of you.

The letters to Celestia may be over, but the Mane 6 learning friendship lessons sure isn’t. It’s just done in different, more fluid ways, with the main difference being that they aren’t directed at the authority figure anymore, but rather shared between friends. Twilight goes on to give a secondary moral to this episode, namely that it’s valuable to learn about the past because it makes the present seem less scary, which is a moral that I highly agree with.

Keeping with the theme of passing the torch, Twilight Sparkle has an idea to start a friendship journal for her and all her friends to use, just like Celestia and Luna did. This serves as a successor to the letters to Celestia. Much like Lesson Zero, this episode immediately following a season premiere presents us with a new change with how friendship lessons are conveyed that allows for better fluidity.

This episode ends with a teaser of a new villain, namely the real Pony of Shadows. I would say this is further setting the stage for season 4’s broader arc, but it isn’t. Instead, this supposed villain is put on the sidelines until season 7 rolls around.

Overall thoughts:

This episode does many things well at once without feeling like a rushed mess: set the stage for season 4’s arc, hint at new lore, provide a new way to show friendship lessons, scare the daylights out of younger viewers, and give older viewers an homage to old-timey video games. On the surface, it seems like a simple episode about castle shenanigans, but it actually feeds viewers a ton of interesting lore along the way without interrupting the experience. There’s much more to this episode than meets the eye, and as usual, I found out what all there is only by picking it apart in depth.

Grade: B

I can’t find anything significant to criticize about this episode. This has proven to be a common sentiment in these episode reviews, which I guess demonstrates how much this show means to me.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Could it be that Discord destroyed all the books Ponyville had about the chest from the Tree of Harmony, to deliberately give the Mane 6 another challenge? That matches with Discord’s tendency to be an unseen hand, which he does plenty of in season 4, but I don’t think he’s the type of character who would use the same strategy twice.

Is it any surprise that Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle clash so much?

  • If you stop and think about this image above (it’s supposedly Pinkie Pie doing math and keeping her friends’ scores), it conveys that Pinkie Pie is an omnipotent reality warper with a completely different kind of brain from all the other ponies. She disguises her extreme power through wacky gags, but scenes like this show that I can see right through her act.
  • My mention of video games not existing in MLP reminds me that now that we’re in season 4, Twilight Sparkle has maybe canonically been to a human universe because Equestria Girls happened. This should make it much easier to justify any theories involving things like video games and computers through Twilight telling her friends about them… except doing so is a cheap easy way out. And when am I ever known to do anything the easy way?
  • Applejack mentions being 50% less scared of the dark than Rainbow Dash, and I wonder if that’s a light jab at her for saying nonsensical things like “20% cooler”. Maybe Rainbow Dash has a strong tendency to compare unmeasurable qualities in terms of percentages, and we only saw one such example onscreen.
  • Twilight Sparkle mentions near the end that maybe someday, other ponies can learn from their friendship journal too. Knowing what happens in Fame and Misfortune, this did not age well. But that entire episode is a weird elephant in the room that for now I can safely keep tiptoeing around.

Next up is another adventure-oriented episode, but with threats that aren’t so accidental.

Season 4 Episode 4: Daring Don’t

In five words: Daring Do’s truth is revealed.

Premise: While trying to figure out why the next Daring Do book has been delayed, Rainbow Dash and her friends discover that the books’ author and protagonist are one and the same, and then they get wrapped up in her adventures.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Rainbow Dash behaving exactly like a hyper-invested fan of a work of media, letting out an endless stream of excitement that the next Daring Do book is coming out exactly four months from now. I can see what was running through the show’s staff when making this scene (or really, this entire episode). Now that the show has a hefty community of fans who are extremely invested in everything that could happen with it, it’s only right for the show to shift its tone in some episodes to give friendship lessons to those fans. Rainbow Dash has become a counterpart to the show’s audience, much like how Homestuck has two characters strongly inspired by different sides of its fanbase, Calliope and Caliborn.* Given that MLP’s fanbase has a high proportion of men, it makes sense for there to also be several male characters who sometimes represent fans—some characters who already exist like Spike or Big Macintosh, others who don’t exist yet like Quibble Pants.

* I’m going to force myself to not talk about Homestuck for the rest of this review, because I’ve already blabbered endlessly about the comic’s fanbase elsewhere.

Rainbow Dash then dives into a storm of speculation about what the next book will be like, and the visuals switch to fantasy scenes featuring Daring Do facing off against villains and avoiding deadly hazards, done in a widescreen ratio just like Read It and Weep. Again just like that episode, Rainbow Dash gets humorously lost in her imagination and crashes into a tree. This leads Fluttershy to say something surprisingly snarky:

Fluttershy: Oh, I’m not so sure she’s gonna last another four months.

She’s right though. Rainbow Dash has become obsessed with Daring Do to the point where it’s occupied pretty much her entire brain, and she gets so lost in fantasies about the books that she can forget what is and isn’t real. Now we all know that this is something that has never happened to me in any conceivable capacity. I am a perfectly sane person who knows to control myself when it comes to obsessively investing in a work of media.

“Then how do you explain the words I’m reading right now?” I hear you ask. Oh, come on. Haven’t you heard of something called “jokes”? I bet you don’t even know what a joke is, do you. (Real talk, sometimes people say they have difficulty telling whether I’m being sarcastic, so I thought I would clear that up.)

A few days later, Rainbow Dash enters Twilight Sparkle’s house to see Pinkie Pie hosting a party for no reason whatsoever, not that anyone’s complaining.

Rainbow Dash: How come nopony bothered to invite me?!
Applejack: I came to invite you personally. But it seems you were a speck too busy reading the last Daring Do book for the twelfth time.

Poor Applejack doesn’t know what it’s like being hopelessly obsessed with a work of media. But Rainbow Dash reading the same Daring Do Book over and over doesn’t seem weird to me, because I’ve done pretty much the exact same thing. I wonder if Rainbow Dash keeps a journal where she writes lengthy analytical reviews, chapter by chapter, of each of the Daring Do books in immense detail? Maybe that’s a stretch, but I wouldn’t put it past her, especially because when Twilight Sparkle tells her the next book has been pushed back by two months, she’s downright pissed.* And you know what happens when Rainbow Dash is pissed, right? She insists on getting to the bottom of the situation and giving whoever caused it a piece of her mind.

But we aren’t there just yet. Before we go on, I’d like to analyze how Twilight Sparkle is perfectly content with waiting two more months for the next Daring Do book. She says she is a gigantic fan of A.K. Yearling (the author of Daring Do) too, and it shows given that she found out about the delay before Rainbow Dash did. But unlike Rainbow Dash, Twilight probably has a much wider range of book series she’s interested in, rather than fixating on just one. As such, she’s complacent with waiting a little longer because she has plenty of other authors to excitedly follow. I think it’s much more healthy to be moderately invested in a variety of works of media, rather than extremely invested in just one. That way, a setback in one work is far less of a sting.

I like to think I’m better at not obsessively following just one thing than I was when I was a teenager, but I honestly find it more pleasant to dive through media that’s already long complete than to anxiously follow media that’s active. Even though I deeply regret dropping off following the show after season 4 ended, maybe if I had followed the show through its later seasons, I would have been much more salty about its developments. Maybe I would have constantly complained about how Starlight Glimmer is the absolute worst character in any media ever conceived, and only gotten over my salt about her years later. Or maybe I should stop talking about Starlight Glimmer until we actually meet her. Just a thought.

* Now that I’m on season 4, I think I can be a little more lenient with using profanity.

Important note: Rainbow Dash pronounces “ASAP” as “ay-sap”, not spelling the letters individually.

Rainbow Dash: Don’t you get it? The new book is obviously delayed because she needs help dealing with whatever everyday nonsense is distracting her from spending her every, living, breathing second writing!
Rainbow Dash: So I… I mean, fans like me… can get to read the next book ASAP! Think about it.
Rainbow Dash: We could help her with her laundry, buying her groceries, cooking her meals… whatever!
Rainbow Dash: Now who wouldn’t appreciate that?

This passage comes off as laying fandom satire a little too thick in my opinion. It feels like it was specifically meant to jab at fans who view the creators of their favorite works of media as robotic machines who have no duties in life beyond creating those works of media. But then again, if you accept that Rainbow Dash is just as much of an egghead as Twilight Sparkle, this passage isn’t out of character for her.

Although Twilight Sparkle initially doesn’t like the idea, she soon enough agrees to join the rest of the Mane 6 in finding where A.K. Yearling lives. It’s not shown how they figured it out, though it evidently took a lot of extensive measures given that the author turns out to live in a remote forest away from most civilization. Maybe we didn’t see how they figured it out, so as not to give fans any ideas for how to stalk their favorite media creators and hassle them for their secrets? Or maybe it was done for the sake of saving time in this episode and getting to the good stuff… nah, that can’t be it.

The Mane 6 explore A.K. Yearling’s house only to find it in total disarray. While most of them are worried about Yearling’s safety, Rainbow Dash’s mind is fixated entirely on when the next book will come out. Could the parody of obsessive fans get any more obvious? I mean, maybe I’m not one to talk here, considering I have analyzed 68 episodes of this show in depth and am currently going through the 69th. I think it’s unfair for me to roll my eyes at Rainbow Dash’s relentless obsession. Instead, I feel bad for her with how obsessed she is, because need I remind you? I’ve been there.

(Whoa, what? The person writing these blog posts knows what it’s like to be obsessed with a work of media?! Next thing you’ll be telling me water is wet!)

What good is a reveal in any work of media without some foreshadowing and buildup? Before the Mane 6 know that A.K. Yearling is Daring Do, we see the author dig through her bookshelf and open a secret case that contains one of her prized artifacts, cleverly disguised as an ordinary book. She opens the case by solving a little puzzle on the rings that appear to hold the “book” together, which causes the horseshoe icon to glow, allowing her to open it. This looks an awful lot like something Daring Do would do, doesn’t it? This scene is meant to raise viewers’ eyebrows, dropping a hint leading to the reveal that’s soon to follow. If a reveal is dropped on viewers without any hints, the reaction is less of “oh, the hints add up!” and more of “where did THAT come from?!”

As the villains close in on this seemingly reclusive author, Daring Do takes her cloak off and reveals herself, then proceeds to kick the bad guys’ asses with style as the Mane 6 watch.

Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash: A.K. Yearling is Daring Do!!!
(commercial break)
Twilight Sparkle: A.K. Yearling and Daring Do are one and the same. My mind is officially blown!
Rainbow Dash: Eh, come on. I knew it all along.

I love Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash’s contrasting remarks on the reveal of Daring Do’s identity. Twilight Sparkle represents fans of a work of media who earnestly let their minds be blown and enjoy the experience as it’s handed to them. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, tries to play it cool and act like she’s ahead of the game and knows every detail, even when she doesn’t. I’ve been in both sides aplenty, though in the past few years I think I’ve probably been more like Twilight Sparkle. This is especially true with when I watched seasons 5 through 9 of this show for the first time; I enjoyed the ride all the way through without letting petty complaints get the best of me.

Even though I don’t have much to say about the action scenes, they’re a real joy to watch.

The Mane 6 watch the action from outside the windows, as though they’re the audience of an action movie they weren’t expecting to watch. Except they’re wearing 3D glasses, and not just that, invisible 3D glasses! I can’t decide if a stage play is a more fitting analogy though. Aside from this, I find it adorable that Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash are geeking out about the Daring Do books together. Maybe for the longest time, Twilight Sparkle wished she could have a friend to talk about this book series with, so she seized the opportunity to get Rainbow Dash into those books when she got into a wing accident. Maybe she deliberately got Rainbow Dash into a wing accident because she knew there would be no other context where Rainbow Dash would dare (no pun intended) to pick up a book? That would be stupid, but coming up with stupid theories is so much fun!

After another Daring Do villain, namely Dr. Caballeron, is introduced, the Mane 6 notice Daring Do has been injured and come inside upon Fluttershy’s suggestion.

Rainbow Dash: (gasps) Are you okay?
Daring Do: (slaps Rainbow Dash’s hoof) I got this.
Fluttershy: Um… she was just trying to help, Ms. Do.
Daring Do: Daring Do doesn’t need help. She handles her business herself.

I can easily imagine how Twilight Sparkle in particular is reacting to this. She likely sees some of herself in Daring Do, specifically how she was before she became friends with all the Mane 6. Twilight once insisted on doing things all on her own without any need for friendship, and now she finds another pony stuck in the very same dismissive pitfall. Even though Twilight Sparkle tells her friends they should leave Daring Do be, I bet that her brain internally lit up right here: looks like there’s a brand new friendship problem to solve!

Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash argue about whether they should help Daring Do, and the tense music in this debate belies how adorable it is for these two to both recite plot points from a book series that they know like the back of their hooves. This scene was so obviously inspired by debates fans get into about this show’s lore (or any show’s lore), and I sure can’t stay mad at it.

Right when Twilight Sparkle says that she and her friends need a well-thought-out plan, Rainbow Dash storms off to go join Daring Do. She goes back and forth between being excited and nervous as she makes her way to talk to her hero face-to-face. I feel like this was inspired by how some bronies tend to act around the show’s staff at conventions: extremely excited to see the people behind their favorite show, but worried they will say one wrong thing and be shunned forever. Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash in this episode represent how varied fans of the same work of media can be; how people with different personalities can be united through a shared obsession.

Rainbow Dash begs Daring Do to let her help on her adventures, but Daring Do insists she works alone and finds it safest to never trust anyone. Maybe Rainbow Dash also can sense that there is a friendship problem waiting to be solved; surely it would be better off if Daring Do had a friend by her side, since she can tell the situation is very tense.

As naughty as the villains of the Daring Do series are, they know something that Daring Do doesn’t yet: the power of teamwork. As Rainbow Dash follows Daring Do through her adventures, she sees Dr. Caballeron scheming together with his teammates, and then when Daring Do almost purchases the ring from them, Ahuizotl appears and brings his army of fierce cats with him. Throughout all this, Daring Do continues to work alone, and it’s clear she would benefit greatly from some allies too.

Daring Do has lost her hat, and Rainbow Dash knows from the first book how important that item is.
We saw her cleverly use the hat to escape near the end of Read It and Weep.

While Daring Do initially puts up a good fight, she is eventually tied up and captured, while still claiming that she doesn’t need any help. Soon enough, the rest of the Mane 6 meet up with a devastated Rainbow Dash, who also thinks Daring Do doesn’t need any help. But through her extensive knowledge of the book series, Twilight reminds Rainbow Dash that there’s always more to Daring Do’s situations than meets the eye. I must say, it’s incredibly sweet that these two have developed a bond through shared interest in Daring Do.

While Rainbow Dash isn’t sold on this idea at first, this speech from Twilight Sparkle convinces her otherwise:

Twilight Sparkle: It’s fine to look up to Daring Do. But you put her so high up on a pedestal, you can’t even see your own worth anymore!
Twilight Sparkle: She’s in the fortress, and we’re here. And we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t go in after her. And neither would you!
Twilight Sparkle: So, are you with us, or not?

There’s a big lesson to be taken in putting other people on a pedestal. You can get so carried away with how amazing you think a person is that you can’t see that they might have flaws and insecurities, or that you think there’s no way you can live up to them. Idolization of another person can be dangerous, and part of what this episode tells viewers is that it’s best done in moderation.

As Daring Do tries to escape from her clutches and almost falls into the rising water, Rainbow Dash arrives and rescues her at the last minute, then gives Daring Do her hat. Although Daring Do insists yet again that she works alone, her facial expressions show that she’s gradually starting to realize the value of friendship. On top of that, since Rainbow Dash was barely able to lift Daring Do up with the blocks weighing her hooves down, Daring Do might not have been able to escape on her own. As Daring Do keeps getting away with her exploits, the villains step up their game, so it makes sense that she’s at a point where she can no longer handle problems alone.

Not shown: guards in the fortress trying to stop the Mane 6, with one almost stabbing Applejack with a spear.

Yes, I included the grunts in the transcript. Why would you think I didn’t?

While the golden ring is passed around the Mane 6 as they avoid the Ahuizotl, Daring Do and Rainbow Dash lift some much heavier rings one by one.

Daring Do: If we can remove the giant ring at the bottom, the whole fortress will collapse!
Rainbow Dash: (grunts) Was this your plan all along?
Daring Do: I had to find a way to get into the fortress.
Rainbow Dash: You did it on purpose? But, (grunts), but I thought…
Daring Do: It didn’t count on… (grunts) how heavy this ring would be though. I guess having a little help can be handy sometimes.

Here is where Daring Do realizes the problems with facing a problem head-on without any friends: she can overestimate her own power and not account for every possible scenario, in this case the surprising weight of the rings. Moreover, she’s realizing that working as a team is so much better than working alone, given that this is easily the toughest adventure she’s gone through yet. The Ahuizotl stepped up his game, so Daring Do had to step up hers with the power of friendship.

This is such a sweet hug. Please appreciate it.

And so, Daring Do and all the Mane 6 escape the fortress just before it’s destroyed. Ahuizotl survives with some injuries, as do his guards, and he promises he will have his revenge. Daring Do thanks Rainbow Dash for her help, and the two exchange a hug. Think about it for a second. Just a day ago, Rainbow Dash never thought Daring Do would turn out to be real, that she would get to be part of Daring Do’s adventures, or that she would even get to hug Daring Do. This is a very nice payoff that elegantly leads to the episode’s moral:

Rainbow Dash: Just had the coolest adventure with the coolest pony ever. Came this close to blowing it because I got so wrapped up in how awesome she was, I almost forgot about how awesome I was.
Rainbow Dash: Good thing I didn’t, ’cause it gave me a chance to show her how important it is to put your trust in somepony else.

The Friendship Journal, as I said in the last episode, is the successor to the letters to Celestia. It serves as a new way to convey friendship morals that was Twilight Sparkle’s own idea, and it focuses not just on lessons that the Mane 6 learned, but lessons that they taught others. Rainbow Dash got the chance to teach someone she idolized a lesson about friendship, and we’ll get to see plenty more things like that throughout season 4. Just you wait.

Rainbow Dash even gets to be on the cover of the new Daring Do book. How awesome is that?

Rainbow Dash’s reward for helping Daring Do is that she gets to read the next book a week before anyone else. This shows that Daring Do has indeed learned the value of trust, and is trusting Rainbow Dash with two important things: not spoiling the contents of the new book for anyone else, and not telling anyone about her secret identity. It’s a very heartwarming way to end this episode.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is a great follow-up from Read It and Weep, and it cements Daring Do as a full-out part of the show’s cast who gives us some of the most action-oriented episodes MLP has to offer. As before, Rainbow Dash’s obsession with the book series gives us plenty of fandom satire that ultimately comes off as a heartfelt celebration of the show’s fanbase. Maybe some of this show’s fans find it obnoxious when the show panders to them or pokes at their ways, but I don’t mind it at all, so long as it’s done right (which it is here). I simply find it awesome that the show is at a point where it can reference the ways of its nerdy adult fans, not to mention that it even has nerdy adult fans.

Grade: B

The main thing holding this one back from an A is that Rainbow Dash’s fandom satire can feel a little too extreme at times.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I like how Caliborn is the first character from that one webcomic whose name I’ve mentioned twice so far in my MLP posts. It makes sense though, because he’s an amazingly fun character who represents the comic’s fans who try to deny they like it, much like how I spent years trying to deny I liked MLP.
  • Since A.K. Yearling wants to give her identity a secret, and Rainbow Dash is by this point a reasonably well-known figure across Equestria, I wonder if Yearling decided to give Rainbow Dash a pseudonym throughout the book. It’s common in nonfiction stories for real people to be referred to by pseudonyms, so it would make sense for Rainbow Dash to get one too.

Next up, we have season 4’s first Cutie Mark Crusaders episode! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to do an elegant transition between episodes each time.

See you next week as I review a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode and a superhero comic episode. I’m guessing both episodes will get modest-sized reviews, but who can know for sure? Certainly not me.

>> Part 31: Flight to the Finish + Power Ponies

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