Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 31: Flight to the Finish + Power Ponies


< Part 30 | Part 31 | Part 32 >

Season 4, Episodes 5-6

Season 4 Episode 5: Flight to the Finish

In five words: Bullying gets better of Scootaloo.

Premise: The Cutie Mark Crusaders prepare an opening routine for the Equestria Games, but when Diamond Tiara mocks Scootaloo for her inability to fly, they’re discouraged from going further.

Detailed run-through:

Been a while since we last were at the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ school.

To start this episode, Cheerilee brings two special guests to the class she teaches: Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash. They announce that the kids may get to take a part in the Equestria Games, specifically through a competition where they each need to come up with a flag-carrying routine, and the winning team gets to perform it in the games. This is the point where I remember that the Equestria Games are the other overarching plot of season 4—the one that doesn’t involve finding the keys for the mysterious chest, that is. But those plots do intersect in Rainbow Falls, which is a few episodes from now.

Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash play off each other in fun ways as they explain the rules of the opening routine. Ms. Harshwhinny insists on keeping a reserved, professional attitude, while Rainbow Dash can’t control her excitement and brags about the time she carried the flag as a filly, which Scootaloo of course swoons over. When Ms. Harshwhinny mentions that Rainbow Dash will accompany the winning team to the Crystal Empire, the Crusaders’ faces light up one by one. To them, this is their chance to see the place they got a taste of when Spike wrangled them up in babysitting antics! And opportunities to go such places don’t come easy for them, being fillies and all.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders brainstorm their opening routine, which is supposed to focus on what they love about Ponyville. Since their group has one pegasus, unicorn, and earth pony each, they decide it would be a good idea to represent how different types of ponies come together in Ponyville. Now, there is plenty of logic to this: Ponyville contrasts against how places like Canterlot are dominated by unicorns, or how Cloudsdale is habitable only to pegasi. This isn’t meant as a criticism of anything; just a brief appreciation of how the show’s locations have developed and become more distinct from each other through its course.

The shadow shaped like one big horse nicely symbolizes the power of teamwork.

Time for the first musical number of season 4! This one is called “Hearts as Strong as Horses”, and it’s sung by the Cutie Mark Crusaders. It always puzzled me what exactly the deal with horses is in this show, where all ponies in it big and small are referred to as, well, ponies. I’m going to guess horses in the MLP universe are mythical creatures from millennia ago whose names have wormed their way into plenty of figures of speech like “horsing around” or “as strong as a horse”.

As for the song itself, it’s in a proud, triumphant tone and features the Cutie Mark Crusaders working hard and exercising as they prepare for the flag-carrying routine, with some scenes even showing the fanciful form of shading we’ve gotten now and then in season 4. The exercise sequences are done with a sense of humor, with various instances of the Crusaders making their tasks easier by (for instance) eating the apples off of a heavy weight, which makes sense because they’re kids and not professionally trained athletes or anything. I can’t help but notice that for once, the Crusaders aren’t constantly screaming about how they’re going to get their cutie marks in flag raising. This time around, they’re simply excited to represent Ponyville and play their part in the games. Scootaloo in particular is focused on making Rainbow Dash proud above all else.

After the song ends, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon go on about how amazing their flag-carrying routine supposedly is, then they mock the Cutie Mark Crusaders for being blank flanks. But by now, the Crusaders have gotten desensitized to this mocking. Instead of proclaiming that they will get their marks once and for all, they are determined to win regardless of whether they have their marks. This is where it dawns upon Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon that their routine of mocking the Crusaders has gotten old, and it won’t be long before they devise some far nastier material.

The strings being connected to Apple Bloom’s hooves suggest that earth ponies’ hooves carry more punch than the other two types of ponies.

Ah, confetti fireworks. You can never go wrong with fireworks.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders show Rainbow Dash their flag routine. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon watch from behind the bushes, expecting it to be a hilarious trainwreck. But it turns out a big success, with Scootaloo flying her scooter through a trampoline and leading them to celebrate Ponyville together with the group pose shown above.

Rainbow Dash keeps restraining herself from screaming about how awesome the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ performance was, and ends by saying that it was just OK. I think this demonstrates Rainbow Dash’s extreme degrees of loyalty. She took Ms. Harshwhinny’s words about professionalism to heart, and she stopped herself just barely enough that these literal-minded fillies couldn’t parse how awesome she thought the performance really was.

I think it says something that Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon haven’t shown us their routine yet.
Perhaps they’re so nervous that they think the only way to win is by destroying their competitors’ confidence?

And then come Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, ready to rain on the parade harder than ever before.

Diamond Tiara: Girls, we just wanted to say your act is quite impressive!
Sweetie Belle: Wait, WHAT?
Apple Bloom: Um, thanks?

Oh boy time for me to divert from what I was going to talk about and dissect one line from Sweetie Belle in extreme depth yet again because I am a helpless idiot and can’t control myself. Are you ready?

Sweetie Belle’s reaction to Diamond Tiara praising their performance is very different from Apple Bloom’s. While Apple Bloom is confused but grateful that Diamond Tiara seemed to like it, Sweetie Belle is shocked at this and can tell something isn’t right. She’s smart enough to know that Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon won’t just randomly start complimenting the Cutie Mark Crusaders—it’s only ever a way to get under their skin, as we’re about to see.

/end Sweetie Belle tangent (that was modest as far as my Sweetie Belle tangents go)

Silver Spoon: But of course! As a matter of fact, we think you’re very brave.
Scootaloo: Brave? Why?
Diamond Tiara: Isn’t it obvious? It is to us. In fact, it’s obvious to everypony. You’re showing all three types of Ponyville ponies, yet you have a pegasus pony
Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon: who can’t even fly!

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle brush off the bullying as usual, but for Scootaloo, this really hits her hard. By now, the show has proven itself to be ready to handle a heavy topic, heavy especially for school-age children: being bullied for having a disability. A physical disability to be specific, because mental disabilities are in a whole different league of “difficult for media to tastefully handle”. This is an important step for the show’s originally intended audience, which didn’t stop being a thing or anything.* The show needed quite some time to establish that Scootaloo can’t properly fly, and unlike with Sweetie Belle’s inability to use magic, the show presents this as a permanent disability, not a hurdle she eventually gets past. It’s a good way to show that some people are simply born with physical disabilities, and to tell viewers to respect them all the same. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle know this skill full well: they know Scootaloo can’t properly fly, but they don’t care and love their friend all the same.

* This is not to say such situations involving bullying can’t be applicable to adults. Of course they can.

I guess the Crusaders forgot what they learned in One Bad Apple?
Telling adults when they’re being picked on, that is.

Scootaloo is hurt hard by these words and resolves to do something the other two Crusaders doubt is possible: learn to fly within one day so she can overhaul the flag routine. She doesn’t know it, but she’s giving Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon exactly what they want by scrapping the original routine. Diamond Tiara is determined to get the fame and recognition she would get from winning the competition together with her sidekick, and the two aren’t afraid to get their way using some nasty words.

Upon Scootaloo’s insistence, the Crusaders have overhauled their routine to have Scootaloo start with a “big impressive flying entrance”. It hurts pretty hard to see Scootaloo consistently fail to fly, no matter how hard she tries. She’s so desperate to break free from her disability, but by subjecting herself to this impossible task, she’s letting Diamond Tiara win.

The next morning, the Crusaders show their revised routine to Rainbow Dash. While Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are exhausted and disgruntled with these changes, Scootaloo is as awake and eager as ever because she’s just that desperate to impress Rainbow Dash and/or one-up Diamond Tiara. Continuing her attempts at staying professional, Rainbow Dash says that she liked the old routine better. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle tell Scootaloo that she’s now made the show entirely about her, which is quite tragic. Scootaloo so badly wants to fly, and she keeps trying to convince herself it’s possible to learn flight within such a narrow timespan. It’s more upsetting the more you think about it.

“Why does this stupid butterfly get to fly and I don’t?” I can almost hear her saying.

Scootaloo: Here I am.
Apple Bloom: We were scared you were gonna miss the train!
Scootaloo: I… I’m not going.
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle: WHAT?
Scootaloo: I’m the weak link. If I go and fall, flop, or do anything but fly, I’m gonna blow it for you two.

Think about it for a second. Sweetie Belle never tried to use any magic in the flag routine, nor did Apple Bloom use any of her supposed earth pony strength. So why should Scootaloo feel a need to fly? The answer is simple: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon’s words got to her, and they got to her hard. This episode shows how easily words of bullying can hurt someone on the inside, because the routine was never about the ponies showcasing their special abilities to begin with. It was about how three different types of ponies were united as one, with only minimal attention put on their differences.

Sweetie Belle: I can’t believe you’re quitting on us!
Scootaloo: But you’re better off without me!
Sweetie Belle: But that’s not true, Scootaloo!
Apple Bloom: You know what, Sweetie Belle? Forget it. If she’s gonna quit, we don’t want her. And we don’t need her!
Scootaloo: Fine!
Apple Bloom: Fine!
Sweetie Belle: (begrudgingly) Fine.

This is the sort of situation Sweetie Belle finds herself in a lot. If you look at the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ expressions shown above, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are mad at each other, but Sweetie Belle’s face shows us that she wants nothing more than for her two best friends to stop arguing. She’s not the type to resort to petty fighting or acts of revenge; as the resident pacifist of the group, all she can do when they get into a conflict is glumly hope it’s resolved.

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle board the train without Scootaloo, and unfortunately it is only after Scootaloo has left them that Rainbow Dash can no longer contain her excitement for the Cutie Mark Crusaders to win. If Rainbow Dash hadn’t felt pressured to maintain a professional attitude this whole time, then Scootaloo wouldn’t have so easily stopped believing in herself. It’s weird to think about how easily all this could have been avoided.

Apple Bloom: She got in her head that the only way to represent Ponyville was by flying in our routine. When she couldn’t do it, she told us that… she was quitting.
Rainbow Dash: And then you tried to stop her from doing that, right?
Sweetie Belle: Well, actually we kind of told her…
Apple Bloom: Well, we didn’t want a quitter.
Rainbow Dash: Hang on. Are you nuts?! You’re a team. And a team never leaves a friend behind!

I’m really starting to pick up on a pattern in season 4: it’s focused more on the Mane 6 teaching friendship lessons than learning them. Rainbow Dash has mastered loyalty through and through, so when she finds out that Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle left their friend behind, she immediately springs to action and rectifies this. She stops the train and hurries over to Scootaloo’s place…

We may not know who Scootaloo lives with, but at least she isn’t homeless.

… bringing the other two Crusaders with her for the emotional reconciliation. Scootaloo says that part of why she wanted to fly during the flag routine is because Rainbow Dash flew during hers as a filly. But Rainbow Dash assures her that she’s cool in her own way and doesn’t need to be exactly like her hero/sister figure. The most interesting part of this scene is that Rainbow Dash leaves it open whether Scootaloo will ever learn to fly. To some viewers, this gave hope that learning to fly would be part of her character arc… except it never happens. But at this point in the show, how are any characters supposed to know for sure if Scootaloo’s disability is permanent? She’s still young, and this scene clearly intends to tell viewers (especially children) that their future is an open book.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders start singing Hearts as Strong as Horses again as they get back on their hooves, then a full reprise of the song plays as they make their way to the Crystal Empire using Scootaloo’s scooter skills, with a little boost from Rainbow Dash to start. This reprise nicely shows that Scootaloo has her own cool special skills, even if she can’t fly.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders perform their routine as it originally was and win the competition, and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are predictably annoyed. We don’t see what their routine looked like, other than that they wore fancy dresses for it. To bring this episode full circle, Rainbow Dash jabs at Ms. Harshwhinny for not maintaining a professional attitude when she goes off about how awesome the routine was.

Scootaloo ends the episode by saying that the Crusaders are going to get their cutie marks in flag carrying, which leads them all to laugh. I think it says something that only at the end do the Crusaders say anything about getting their marks (besides Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon trying to pick on them for it). It seems like for once, they’re willing to poke fun at themselves for being so obsessed with earning their cutie marks. They know in their hearts that winning the flag-raising competition is a perfectly acceptable prize.

Overall thoughts:

In terms of handling physical disabilities with respect, this episode is a success. My biggest criticism with it is that Ms. Harshwhinny’s insistence on keeping a professional attitude is the only thing that allowed the conflict to happen in the first place. It feels a little contrived and weirdly prevents Scootaloo from understanding how much Rainbow Dash sees in her until the end. Still, this episode provides good character development for the Cutie Mark Crusaders, making them less fixated solely on getting their cutie marks and more interested in doing cool things as friends.

Grade: C

This episode is very close to getting a B, but the criticism I mentioned is strong enough that it doesn’t quite make it. Still a good episode overall.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I feel incredibly sorry for the background pony shown above, who says “maybe it’s me!” when it’s announced that the opening routine competition will have one winner. I can tell that she so badly longs to be as relevant as the Crusaders, Diamond Tiara, or even Snips and Snails. Alas, she’s forever doomed to be a random background pony, and not even one that fans give attention. (But there probably is some fan out there who has written heaps of fanfiction about this one particular background pony.)
  • Rainbow Dash says that the flag competition is the single most important thing that will happen in the kids’ young lives, which is weird to me. Surely getting your cutie mark is more important, right? Ah well, this episode comes off as mildly sloppy to me anyway. But only mildly.
  • Scootaloo says in the drowsy second run of the routine that there are four different types of ponies, before correcting herself to say three. Perhaps she’s internally scratching her head, pondering whether alicorns count as a separate type? Maybe throughout her flight practice, Scootaloo’s mind kept wandering to this very question.

The next character in line to doubt their own self-worth is Spike, who the next episode focuses on.

Season 4 Episode 6: Power Ponies

In five words: Superhero episode meets Spike episode.

Premise: When Spike doubts his own self-worth, he and his pony friends are transported into the world of his superhero comic books, where the Mane 6 play the role of the Power Ponies, and Spike is stuck as their sidekick who can never do anything right.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Spike keeping up Twilight Sparkle awake by reading and then telling her about a comic book series called Power Ponies. With the way Spike describes the backstory of the villain called the Mane-iac, which involves a tragic accident at a shampoo factory that gave her wacky powers and turned her evil, it’s obvious that this episode serves as an homage to superhero comics and movies. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence in shows that aren’t typically focused on superheroes—the formula can easily be broken to pay homage to superheroes, parody them, or somewhere in between, and this episode is definitely on the “homage” side. It almost feels like a rite of passage for a cartoon to have one.

Spike goes on to mention Humdrum, the Power Ponies’ bumbling sidekick who only ever seems to get in the way and cause problems, which obviously has parallels with Spike himself. I’ve already talked plenty about Spike’s role as a sidekick and the problems his episodes run into, so don’t expect me to rehash that stuff too much here. Only a moderate amount.

The next morning, the Mane 6 are hard at work fixing Celestia and Luna’s old castle… while all Spike can do is stand around and do nothing, because his friends have it all covered.

Twilight Sparkle: Why don’t you find a quiet spot and finish reading your comic. Weren’t you right at the part where Humdrum was about to stop the villain?
Spike: Humdrum never stops the villain. He’s just there for comic relief.

“See what I mean?” reality is telling him.

Do you know what it’s like to relate to a character in a bad way and feel like you share their annoying flaws? That’s how Spike feels about Humdrum. Spike getting his claws stuck in a bucket and struggling to get it off is extremely funny in itself, but it’s hard not to feel bad for him, which draws some tension against this slapstick humor. This episode feels like the show is using its obligatory “superhero episode” to try to redeem a common criticism with Spike: he’s the brunt of humor far too often and doesn’t get to do cool stuff of his own much. But by quelling this criticism, this episode fuels another: that Spike only gets to be useful when everyone else is powered down. I already discussed this when I reviewed The Crystal Empire, but I’ll probably discuss it further in the episode’s climax.

Spike’s book ends with a blank page with some tiny text on the bottom right corner, telling the reader that they can return to the start of the book by taking a close look. This causes a storm of magic energy to appear from the book, and Spike and the Mane 6 are sucked inside. Getting sucked into the reality of an in-universe work of media is common in shows that are full-out unhinged from realism, and while MLP isn’t realistic by most standards, this still feels like an unusual gimmicky thing for this show to do. A more positive way to say this would be that this show isn’t afraid to experiment with new formats and genres.

Maybe this whole time, the author of Power Ponies based these characters on some subconscious knowledge of the Mane 6 and their wacky prophecies?
Don’t know, I’m just spitballing.

Spike recognizes Maretropolis (Mare-tropolis?), the location of the Power Ponies comics, and sees the Mane 6 each playing the roles of the books’ six superheroes. Each Mane 6 member has a superhero correspond with their powers in clearly intentional ways, whereas Spike corresponds with Humdrum through sheer lack of special powers. I view these superhero roles as an amplified version of how the Mane 6 each already have something that could be construed as a superpower. Fluttershy can communicate with animals, Rainbow Dash has her lightning speed, Twilight Sparkle and Rarity have magic,* Applejack has her lasso tricks and tough hooves, and Pinkie Pie is Pinkie Pie. As for Spike… he can breathe fire, at least, but not much else. In these superhero roles, the Mane 6 each have far more fanciful powers, whereas Spike has none. Typically, lack of a superpower is compensated by wit or leadership skills, and Spike is going to demonstrate the former when the time comes. Though there’s not really indication that Humdrum can’t breathe fire, probably? But even if he could, he probably never has a reason to because of the Power Ponies’ abilities.

* Yes, I know that all unicorns have magic. But I raise you this: all unicorns are overpowered.

Yep, that’s a reference to the Joker alright.

And soon enough, we get to see the Mane-iac in person. While The Mane 6 are confused at their new superhero roles, Spike knows who’s who very well, which already shows he’s not as useless as he thinks. His knowledge of the comic book series comes in handy here.

See that pink trail on one of the buildings? That’s her.

Pinkie Pie is the first of the Mane 6 to get a hold of her superhero abilities: she appears to be crushed by a mailbox, but it turns out she ran away at insane speeds, because she’s playing the role of a hero named Fillisecond. It makes sense that Pinkie figures her power out first because she already has a huge swath of reality-bending powers, which includes running at enormous speeds. Pinkie Pie could’ve arrived in this comic book unchanged and held up perfectly well.

The rest of the Mane 6 have much more trouble using their powers. Applejack accidentally gets herself tied to a pole, Rainbow Dash unwittingly summons a nasty tornado, and the rest fail to accomplish anything useful.

Spike tries to grab the Mane-iac’s electric orb, but he trips and drops it, allowing the Mane-iac to grab it once again while spewing out endless puns on the word “mane”. And that is how Spike learns that he is playing the role of Humdrum. I can’t imagine he didn’t see it coming. He knows that all he can do now is try to guide his pony friends and help them figure out their powers.

With a little more guidance from Spike, it doesn’t take long for most of the Mane 6 to get a hold of their powers. Applejack gets untied and uses her lasso to stop the tornado, and after they escape, it turns out Rarity has conjured a shield to keep herself nice and tidy, followed by a broom to clean herself up. The Mane 6’s superhero powers all tie in with abilities they already have in some way, and I think I can already say Rarity’s superpower is the most fun of all. Spike is bummed out that he doesn’t have a superpower, and his main purpose so far has been exposition to move the plot along. I imagine that in the comic books, Humdrum usually serves that very same purpose.

The Mane 6 arrive at the shampoo factory and have to deal with a storm of subordinate ponies before facing against the Mane-iac while Spike continues doing nothing. The first thing to happen here is that Twilight Sparkle does the superhero shtick of calling out her attacks and says “freeze ray”, but all she manages to do is summon a snowball. Could it be that Twilight Sparkle is deliberately holding back her magic powers so that she doesn’t steal the show? Nah, that would be a lame excuse. A more interesting reason might be that she’s trying to use her already acute magic skills and highly overestimating them, instead of honing in on her unique superhero powers. Could this be an example of Twilight’s overconfidence hidden beneath her humility? It probably isn’t, but come on, you know how much fun I have overanalyzing random scenes.

Hey, looks like Twilight did the freeze ray successfully offscreen!

Here is Rarity exerting her inner cold-blooded murderer.
(What other explanation could there possibly be?)

One of the ponies the Mane 6 are fighting kicks the sign from the shampoo factory down, but Rarity conjures an umbrella to bounce it up and, as far as the viewer can tell, kill that poor guy. After the explosion shown above, the pony atop the building is nowhere to be seen. Rarity then has the following to say:

Rarity: Oh, I do so love a functional accessory!

That is such a nonchalant reaction to a possible murder. All the other Power Ponies defeat the crowd members while keeping them alive. Now that I think of it, maybe it’s a good thing that Rarity isn’t the Mane 6 member who became an alicorn princess. Between this scene and her actions with the wrong cutie mark in Magical Mystery Cure, who knows what horrors she would unleash if her magic were boosted outside of this probably fictional comic world? I love Rarity and all, but putting her in a position of power could well send her down a path of lust and villainy.

I almost forgot to mention that Rainbow Dash’s superpower in this episode is generating lightning bolts.

The Mane-iac then gets out her Spike Episode Plot Device and freezes the Mane 6: first Rainbow Dash, then the other four shown above, and finally Fluttershy who hides at first and still hasn’t gotten angry enough to unlock her special power. Yes, I know she calls it the Hairspray Ray of Doom, but I know its real name is the Spike Episode Plot Device. Want to know why? Because while the Mane-iac almost freezes Spike with the device, she changes her mind and decides Spike is too useless to be worth freezing. This matches a common oft-criticized pattern with Spike episodes: he only gets to do something cool when everyone else is powered down, since he tends to be so heavily outclassed. But maybe I shouldn’t be too snarky; let’s see how the rest of the episode plays out.

What was this bucket even doing here?

You know how jokes are generally much less funny the second time than the first? The scene shown above takes advantage of this effect. Spike gets his claw stuck in a bucket yet again, and this time, it’s much easier to feel bad for him, since we already got humor value the first time.

When the Mane-iac says there’s nopony who can stop her, she’s true in a way. Spike isn’t a pony.

Fluttershy: (clears throat) I don’t mean to interrupt, but aren’t you forgetting about somepony?
Mane-iac: Humdrum? Little guy? No superpowers whatsoever? (laughs) He’s utterly useless!
Mane-iac: Please. Everypony knows you just keep him around because you feel sorry for him. Wah, wah.
Twilight Sparkle: Maybe in your world. But in our world, Spike, uh… Humdrum always comes through when we need him! Always.

The Mane-iac thinking Spike/Humdrum is useless is the only reason it’s possible to defeat her. It’s hard not to think about how Spike only gets his time to shine here when his friends’ powers have been disabled, as though the story is specifically making way for him to save the day. Her statement that Spike is useless doesn’t make him unlock superpowers within him and reveal he has powers after all. Instead, the situation has been dropped down to be within the constraints of his abilities.

Now, there’s no denying that the thing Spike does to save the day is cleverly executed. While the Mane-iac is distracted by her gloating, Spike sets up a trap with hooks that catches most of her lackeys, then kicks the guy in charge of refilling the hairspray timer to keep the Mane 6 frozen so that the hairspray ray freezes the rest of the lackeys instead, and the rest of his friends unfreeze. This is some smart thinking on Spike’s part, no doubt helped by his extensive knowledge of the world of his comics.

Now that Spike has had his moment of heroism, the Mane 6 can go back to being cool heroes who wallop the bad guys with all their wacky powers while Spike watches, this time not in gloom but in pride. But there’s one who still hasn’t used her power, namely Fluttershy.

Fluttershy is about to leave the building, deeming herself useless, but just then, the Mane-iac punches a fly that was getting in the way of her attempt to murder Fluttershy. And Fluttershy does not take this well.

In fact, she gets so enraged that the Mane-iac hurt a defenseless animal that she turns into the Incredible Hulk. This ability has precedence within the show’s canon: it’s much like how Fluttershy has been able to stand up to dangerous creatures using The Stare when faced with extreme circumstances. All the Power Ponies’ superpowers match with their Mane 6 counterpart to some extent, and Fluttershy is no exception.

But as a Power Pony, Fluttershy defeats others less through intimidating them and more through sheer brutality. The Mane-iac fires a beam right at Fluttershy, but her mass deflects it and instead hits the villain on the face. She destroys the hairspray ray with her rage until the anger dies down and she taps her hooves together while remaining muscular. Even though this is a Spike episode above all else, Fluttershy has a little arc in it too, where we’re reminded of how she goes HARD with her powers, but only ever uses them in extreme circumstances. There’s probably a narrative trope this could be matched up with.

Look how pathetic the Mane-iac appears, tangled in her own mane.

Not shown: Pinkie Pie revealing she grabbed cupcakes at the last second.

And just like that, Fluttershy has dealt the final blow on the main villain, and the Mane 6 and Spike are back home. They’re all proud and happy and chatter at length until Twilight Sparkle and Spike give this episode a quick moral: that you can be a helpful friend without needing superpowers. Perhaps this moral is applicable to the real world, where people might feel jealous of friends of theirs who have extraordinary skills.

Twilight Sparkle: But I do have one question. Where exactly did you get that comic book?
Spike: This one I got in Canterlot at the House of Enchanted Comics.
(Mane 6 exchange glances)
Spike: Well, I didn’t know it meant they were literally enchanted.
(Twilight Sparkle shakes her head, the rest laugh)
Spike: I thought it just meant like, the comics they sold there had really enchanting storylines!

I suppose it’s left for fans to decide what else could lie in the House of Enchanted Comics. That place seems to be a one-off justification for how this episode happened. After this point, I imagine that Twilight Sparkle and Spike agreed not to get books from that library again. This is helped by the fact that Twilight Shakes her head at Spike’s last statement, showing that such naive assumptions are typical of Spike.

The Mane 6 all walk away, then Spike joins them, reminding them that he’s an important part of his team. I don’t think they intended to leave Spike behind to begin with; they probably just thought he was still absorbed in his comics. The episode ends with the enchanted comic book disappearing, having its purpose completed.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is a fun little one-off that puts the show in a different genre from its usual content. It puts a twist on the superhero episode formula by having the seemingly useless sidekick save the day, then I guess by having the equivalent to Hulk finish saving the day. It’s really cool having MLP toy with its own formula more and more as it progresses, but there’s the glaring flaw that Spike only gets to do something cool when all his friends’ powers have been disabled. Still, this is a fun episode overall, with plenty of action scenes that are fun to watch.

Grade: C

The flaw I mentioned is too glaring to give this episode a B grade.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The way Spike says the name of Radiance, who is the superhero that Rarity plays, comes off to me like he may have a crush on Radiance. Radiance probably already reminded him of Rarity, so it makes sense here. Spike having a crush on a character from his comics is a funny concept to me, but I honestly don’t think it’s that weird to have crushes on fictional characters—as long as you are fully aware they aren’t real people. If you go off pretending they’re real, then that’s when it gets creepy.
  • Speaking of Rarity, Inspiration Manifestation towards the end of this season gives a further look at what happens if she’s given the ability to conjure anything. I’m getting excited to imagine what all Rarity analysis I can glean out of this.
  • When talking about Rarity making items appear out of thin air, I found myself almost using terminology from a certain webcomic like “alchemize” or “appearify”. Though that may have something to do with the fact that as of this writing, I am rereading that webcomic and remembering that it has left a permanent dent in my brain.
  • Having a miscellaneous notes section dedicated entirely to Rarity is a fun change of pace from the several sections dedicated entirely to Derpy Hooves. What’s next, a miscellaneous notes section dedicated entirely to Sweetie Belle? I can see it, honestly.

If you liked Fluttershy going through one-off transformations, the next episode will give us more of that.

See you in either one or two weeks for an episode I am PSYCHED to analyze: Rarity Takes Manehattan, which is season 4’s first Rarity episode. Oh yeah, “Bats!” too.

>> Part 32: Bats! + Rarity Takes Manehattan

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