Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 64: Newbie Dash + A Hearth’s Warming Tail

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Season 6, Episodes 7-8

Season 6 Episode 7: Newbie Dash

In five words: Nickname ruins Rainbow Dash’s dreams.

Premise: Rainbow Dash has finally gotten into the Wonderbolts, but at the cost of regaining her old embarrassing nickname: Rainbow Crash. She is not happy about it.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Rainbow Dash flying over Ponyville, with everyone’s favorite middle-finger-shaped castle in the background. The shape of the castle is clearly meant to indicate how Rainbow Dash will feel when she gets her new nickname, making this one of the cleverest pieces of obviously completely intentional foreshadowing the show has yet done.

Rainbow Dash has a little chat with Scootaloo about her supposedly small role in the Wonderbolts’ next performance, but then three of the Wonderbolts come in so that Spitfire can drop the news: Rainbow Dash isn’t just a reserve, but now will be flying with the Wonderbolts full-time. Scootaloo’s reaction is how Rainbow Dash would have reacted to this news back in season 1, while Rainbow Dash has the face of someone who was just told that something they have waited years for has finally happened.

Then Rainbow Dash’s face turns into that of someone who has processed that something they have waited years for has finally happened. Surely nothing will go drastically wrong on her first day, right?

I think this is only the third time we’ve been in Rainbow Dash’s house.
It feels like such an exotic location compared to all the others’ homes.

Rainbow Dash zooms by at lightning speed and asks a hyper-specific question about preparation:

Rainbow Dash: Uh, anypony seen my wing balm? I don’t want to be stiff when I show up at Wonderbolt headquarters.
Spike: Got it.
(Rainbow Dash grabs the balm and knocks Spike over)

A quirk of Rainbow Dash’s character is that while she slacks off and zones out a lot, if she’s actually interested in something, she will hyperfocus on it and prepare like crazy. I take this as another sign that she might have ADHD, which was heavily explored two seasons ago. It’s good to discuss some of the traits I like about her, given that the episode is so filled with Rainbow Dash episode pitfalls.

Rainbow Dash then reveals why took so long for her to get into the Wonderbolts: a previous Wonderbolt named Fire Streak retired and became a teacher, so a slot opened up. It seemed odd to many fans that Rainbow Dash wasn’t hired sooner given her strong qualifications, and this episode thankfully gives a logical reason why. It’s very realistic for someone highly qualified for a job to not get it because no slots are open, or some other circumstances that the hirers can’t control. That’s just how life works. I don’t have much else to say about this scene, other than that Rarity calls her “Dashie” which I find cute. Since that nickname isn’t often used in the show, there’s always some extra pizazz when someone does say it.

Now that Rainbow Dash found a way to make studying fun, she’s excitedly memorized all sorts of Wonderbolt history, which is rather nice.

Spitfire: Debriefings are every morning at
Rainbow Dash: 07:20, because there were 20 ponies in the original EUP Guard that became the Wonderbolts.
Spitfire: … Right.

Spitfire’s expression when she says “right” shows that Rainbow Dash’s statement about debriefing time was a ridiculous stretch. It’s the kind of stretch that fans of any work of media will inevitably make and put on trivia sections of wiki pages, especially wikis hosted on Fandom, which this show is sadly stuck with. Though as far as Fandom wikis go, the MLP one actually isn’t too bad. I really like the lettering system they devised to show which characters appear in which episodes, for one. But I do NOT like that they capitalize “pegasus”. Pegasus with a capital P is a specific character from Greek mythology, which is why spell check so stubbornly insists on capitalizing it.

The topics discussed so far have been a little random, I know. It feels like a throwback to my early MLP posts, where I would skip over most scenes in an episode and point out a few specific scenes to make random remarks on. But I promise I’ll get more focused once Rainbow Dash gains her embarrassing nickname.

Now here is where things get annoying. Spitfire drills a rule into Rainbow Dash’s head that she must look both ways before crossing the runway, and it feels painfully obvious that Rainbow Dash will forget this rule and get into an embarrassing accident. This is why so many Rainbow Dash episodes are frustrating to me: they decrease her intelligence so that she can make a complete fool of herself and then learn a patronizing lesson from it.

I skipped over a scene where Spitfire shows Rainbow Dash some treasured Wonderbolts memorabilia.

And before long, it happens. Rainbow Dash crosses the street without looking, two Wonderbolts throw her off course, and she lands right into a trash can. I can never watch this scene without my face tensing in discomfort, which happens a lot in Rainbow Dash episodes. This is unfortunate because there are some things I really love about her character, but here she’s made into a punching bag.

Misty Fly: Whoa. Most awesome entrance by a newbie ever.
Soarin’: Are you okay, Rainbow Dash?
Fleetfoot: More like Rainbow Crash.
(Wonderbolts laugh)

Soarin’ seems like the Wonderbolt who’s most willing to drop the brash act and ask about his friends’ safety, whereas the rest of them think they’re so creative by making the same obvious pun that everyone makes. The sports bullies did it in flight school, Spike did it when Rainbow Dash’s wings got cursed, and Rainbow Dash’s feelings probably were hurt much more than any other Wonderbolt when they got their embarrassing nickname.

Look at little Fluttershy, uncomfortable with all this bullying.

A flashback reveals that the exact same thing happened to Rainbow Dash when she was a filly, and she got the exact same nickname. Even her flight camp teacher laughed a little instead of telling the kids to cut it out. For some ridiculous reason, when Rainbow Dash is the focus of an episode, everyone really enjoys picking on her and making her squirm, and we’re supposed to think they’re in the right and Rainbow Dash is being childish.

Rainbow Dash claims she was just testing the others, and they all laugh at her until Spitfire tells them to stop. I’m not sure if I find it understandable that Rainbow Dash lied, because she really doesn’t want to look weak in front of this exclusive club, or if this is another arbitrary drop in her intelligence.

After Rainbow Dash flies more clumsily than the rest, perpetually distracted by her embarrassing nickname, she’s assigned something even more humiliating.

Spitfire: Rainbow Dash, over here!
Rainbow Dash: Yes, ma’am.
Spitfire: I’m glad you’re still here.
Rainbow Dash: Oh yeah? Did you want some ideas on how to make this show extra awesome?
Spitfire: Not quite. I know you’ve been a reservist for a while, but the Bolts have a few of their own rules they might not know about.
Spitfire: Like worst flyer of the day has to clean up the whole compound. Better get to it, Crash.

As unfortunate as it is that Rainbow Dash has to clean up a whole building on her first day as a Wonderbolt, this system is kind of smart when you think about it. The Wonderbolts don’t have a janitor, and instead their team members alternate between this position to motivate them to perform better. That’s what’s so frustrating about this episode: though its treatment of Rainbow Dash is painful, a lot of things about it are really well thought out and logical. It’s not like the whole thing is a sloppy mess of contrivances like multiple other Rainbow Dash episodes.

I don’t like going into “at least it’s not as bad as” mode, but this is how I feel about this episode. Rainbow Dash walks in on a surprise party at her house, where her friends and the Cutie Mark Crusaders (but not Spike, apparently) lighten the mood and give some genuine encouragement, which is something we didn’t get in The Mysterious Mare Do Well or Rainbow Falls. After some prying, she’s willing to admit her first day didn’t go as well as she hoped, and her friends are empathetic to her concerns. While Pinkie Pie does blurt out what everyone was thinking—at least she wasn’t called Rainbow Trash—Applejack puts a hoof on her mouth, showing that Rainbow Dash deserves some respect.

Rarity and Twilight Sparkle suggest for Rainbow Dash to think of the Wonderbolts as a team where everyone stands out in their own way and find her own way to stand out, and we’re about to see how Rainbow Dash interprets this advice.

Did Rainbow Dash set up all these balloons on her own?

I actually really enjoy the scenes where Rainbow Dash imitates each of her friends so she can get a more flattering nickname. While some people find it painful to watch, Rainbow Dash’s imitations are too hilarious for me to hate. She starts by waking everyone up in Pinkie Pie-esque excitement, suggesting the nickname Dynamic Dash, only to be told off about it.

Rainbow Dash’s imitation of Applejack, which goes with the nickname Forthright Filly, is incredibly impressive because both are voiced by the same person, and yet she still manages to sound like one person imitating another, aside from a few slips that straight up sound like Applejack. I seriously can’t begin to imagine how difficult it was to pull off, so hats off to Ashleigh Ball.

Reading Rainbow, the name for Rainbow Dash’s impression of Twilight Sparkle, is an odd one because instead of imitating Twilight’s hairstyle, she wears glasses while holding a book. My best guess for why Rainbow Dash didn’t imitate Twilight’s hair is because she already did so in The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone. Also, Rainbow Dash wrongly thinks Wonderbolt checklists are a new idea, because to her, being super on top of things and organized is solely a Twilight thing, and planning things hastily is the norm.

“Care Mare”, with her perpetually apologetic Fluttershy shtick, feels like she already knows this nickname won’t work. But she tries it anyway because she’s desperate to get a cool nickname, then she walks off while glumly apologizing. I must say, all these impressions really sound like Rainbow Dash trying to imitate her friends, not a voice actor imitating other characters, which is impressive.

And finally, Rarity is the pony who Rainbow Dash likes to imitate the most. The obvious explanation is that before this show, “Rainbow Dash” was a pony reminiscent of the Rarity we know today. In-universe, I feel this is partly a way for Rainbow Dash to let out her subtle girly side, and partly one of many ways she playfully jabs at Rarity. Rainbow Dash and Rarity have a unique dynamic that balances bickering with earnest mutual admiration.

Rainbow Dash: Ever since I was a foal, I’ve admired the mixture of bold lines and classic contours. They don’t call me Rainbow Fash for nothing.
Soarin’: Uh… huh…?
Rainbow Dash: The “fash” is for fashion.

Admit it. You thought for a moment that the “fash” was for fascism, didn’t you. I certainly did when I first watched this episode, even though I knew that made no sense.

Spitfire gives Rainbow Dash a suit that turns out to have “Rainbow Crash” on it—or rather, an icon that matches with that nickname, which cleverly keep things language-neutral. This is not even slightly respectful to Rainbow Dash, who keeps begging not to be called by that annoying nickname, but if the other Wonderbolts conceded then this episode’s plot couldn’t have happened. The pattern that each Wonderbolt has an embarrassing nickname is at least foreshadowed when Soarin’ is addressed as “Clipper”, which isn’t the most flattering nickname either.

Rainbow Dash has a group picture of her friends on her locker. How cute.

Rainbow Dash is determined to do something truly spectacular at the Wonderbolts’ show, and again, it’s painfully obvious how that will turn out.

The show starts, and the rest of Rainbow Dash’s friends exchange a few words, all confident her training has gone better by now. Then Rainbow Dash comes in, definitely not planning to do anything skeevy.

Rainbow Dash: Hey, can I borrow Scootaloo?
Scootaloo: Me? What for?
Rainbow Dash: Oh, heh… I just needed some help, and figured the president of the Rainbow Dash Fan Club was the right pony for the job.
Twilight Sparkle: I thought the Wonderbolt reserves were here to help.
Rainbow Dash: Oh, yeah, they’re all busy doing, uh… official reserve stuff, but… don’t worry! With Scootaloo’s help, everything’s gonna be awesome. Better than awesome.
Rarity: Does… does that mean practice went well yesterday?
Rainbow Dash: Gotta go.

Given how much Rainbow Dash nerded out about Wonderbolt facts earlier in the episode, her clumsy line about “official reserve stuff” should have tipped her friends off enough for them to ask if something’s wrong. But no one questions her about it beyond a few confused looks after she leaves the scene, which sounds to me like they’re going to let Rainbow Dash embarrass herself and then learn a lesson from it, which is exactly the annoying pattern that happens in so many of her other episodes.

Whenever Rainbow Dash gets ready to embarrass herself, Scootaloo’s presence always rubs some salt in the wound, especially with how uncertain she feels about this idea. Rainbow Dash wants Scootaloo to roll down a ramp and kick a storm cloud so that Rainbow Dash can make an awesome entrance, all because she doesn’t want to be called Rainbow Crash. A little kid getting pushed into her hero and effective big sister’s schemes is just so upsetting to watch, and not in a fun way. This is just so obviously going to fail.

Rainbow Dash and the other Wonderbolts fly together successfully at first, interspersed with Pinkie Pie ordering a perpetually larger piece of cotton candy for some reason. It goes well at first, until Rainbow Dash breaks off from the group and starts her scheme.

Not shown: Rarity covering Sweetie Belle’s eyes.

When Scootaloo kicks the cloud against her better judgement, the pain officially begins, and it keeps getting worse until Rainbow Dash lands into a pile of cotton candy. Why do we have to endure Rainbow Dash making a complete fool of herself so many times and so intensely in one episode? One thing’s for certain: when Spitfire says “way to go, Rainbow Crash”, that’s the one time the nickname is justified.

Wait, wait, I know why Pinkie Pie bought all this cotton candy. It’s clearly because her Pinkie Sense told her that someone is going to crash into cotton candy, so she decided to fulfill this prophecy by ordering the biggest clump of it that she could. She knows that the only thing more important than keeping her friends happy is keeping the timeline from breaking its intended progression. Because if the timeline’s events were broken, the universe would immediately explode and all her friends would not exist, and if her friends don’t exist, then they can’t be happy.

The main purpose of the Wonderbolt on the top left is for fans to waste a few seconds of their precious lives realizing she isn’t Spitfire.

Spitfire: You gonna tell us what just happened, newbie?
Rainbow Dash: I’m so sorry.
Spitfire: I should hope so. You changed the routine without consulting me, and put other ponies at risk. I’ve drummed flyers out of the Bolts for less.

I can’t decide if the Wonderbolts* are more wrong for picking at Rainbow Dash with this nickname, or if Rainbow Dash is more wrong for retaliating so viciously. Regardless of the circumstances that led to this trainwreck, I can’t blame the Wonderbolts for reacting so harshly. Lightning Dust similarly did something incredibly dangerous to boost her good name, and she was evicted without a second chance. It’s actually sweet that they’re letting Rainbow Dash stay.

* From this episode onwards, you can usually assume this word is shorthand for “the Wonderbolts minus Rainbow Dash”.

Rainbow Dash: I know. And I’m ready for whatever punishment you want. You guys were right to call me Rainbow Crash. I’ve always been a standout flyer, but… since I joined the Wonderbolts, I’ve only stood out for making mistakes.
Rainbow Dash: (sigh) It’s been my dream my whole life, but I guess maybe I’m not Wonderbolt material after all.
Soarin’: Are you serious? You’re the most talented we’ve ever had.
Fleetfoot: And you’ve saved all of Equestria like, a dozen times.
Rainbow Dash: Uh, I,
Spitfire: Of course you’re supposed to be a Wonderbolt. We’ve been waiting for a spot to open up ever since you joined the reserves!

Despite Rainbow Dash’s harsh treatment in this episode, there’s a very good moral to take from this scene: it’s perfectly OK if your first day in a new position you’ve always dreamed of doesn’t go great, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of your mistakes. This is where the Wonderbolts finally reveal that they each have an embarrassing nickname from a mishap on their first day. Soarin’s nickname is Clipper because he clipped his wing on a flagpole, and the others all have nicknames that tell a similar story, which serves as a way for the Wonderbolts to remind themselves to always keep improving. I find these embarrassing nicknames in-character with their competitive, loyal nature—just not so much the fact that they kept hassling Rainbow Dash with her nickname until after her second dramatic mishap.

Spitfire whispers her nickname to Rainbow Dash, and this is her reaction:

Rainbow Dash: Whoa. That is so much worse than Crash.

Spitfire’s nickname is left for fans to imagine, but there is no way it isn’t something vulgar. It almost certainly contains the word “shit”, and while the most common assumption is Shitfire, I’m going to go with something slightly more creative: Shitflyer. It only makes sense that the leader of the Wonderbolts has a nickname that mocks her entire flying skills, not just one incident.

Spitfire puts Rainbow Dash on probation for a month, which involves cleaning up after her mess and then regularly cleaning the entire compound. Despite this, Rainbow Dash is in a totally chipper mood, because despite everything, she did just achieve her dream of becoming a Wonderbolt. I can’t blame her at all.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is halfway between the good kind of Rainbow Dash episode and the frustrating kind of Rainbow Dash episode. Her friends treat her with decent respect and the story doesn’t have too many contrivances, but she also makes a big fool of herself and is picked on solely to drive the plot. If all Rainbow Dash episodes before this one were obnoxiously bad, I would praise it for being a step in the right direction, but the show has already had some great Rainbow Dash episodes that fully avoid these pitfalls.

It could have been a lot worse, and while I’m tempted to say it could have been a lot better, I don’t know how you’d make an episode about Rainbow Dash’s first day as a Wonderbolt without her spectacularly screwing something up. So maybe this episode could have at least been a little better.

Grade: C

If I can look back on an episode with notorious problems and think “aside from these specific problems, it wasn’t actually that bad”, then I will happily give it a C.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Shortly after the theme song, Spike gets stuck in Rainbow Dash’s suitcase, and right when he opens it, Pinkie Pie squishes him inside. Since this is the season that throws a bone to Spike, it’s a bit odd that this episode makes him the victim of slapstick once more. But I guess every character is the victim of slapstick sometimes.
  • Even though Misty Fly’s embarrassing nickname is clearly supposed to be Dizzy, she sounds more like she’s saying “Daisy”, which has led to some confusion among fans.

While this episode is built upon familiar parts of Rainbow Dash episode formulas, the next one dives into the unfamiliar through a one-off Christmas story with unusual presentation.

Season 6 Episode 8: A Hearth’s Warming Tail

In five words: Story told through extravagant musicals.

Premise: Since Starlight Glimmer isn’t totally feeling up to the Hearth’s Warming Eve spirit, Twilight Sparkle tells the story of Snowfall Frost—a historical figure who wanted to end the holiday with many parallels to Starlight’s old self.

Detailed run-through:

OK, I’m going to be real here. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to tackle this episode. It’s the biggest oddball of season 6, since most of it consists of a story of possibly fake historical figures we never hear about again, with only a tangential relation to the show’s storyline. I’m just going to analyze whatever I can and see what happens!

Hey, it’s Rarity’s parents again! They’re the most elusive of the Mane 6’s parents.

Like most musical episodes, it starts off with a musical number called “Hearth’s Warming Eve Is Here Once Again”. And because we’re in season 6, it has an almost overwhelming amount of details and flourishes, ranging from Octavia Melody conducting a choir to Lemon Hearts kissing a background stallion on the check to Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy singing a lovely little duet. The composition of this song is top notch, as are all the other songs in this episode, but I don’t really know how to talk at length about how well-composed they are. If I really wanted to, I could probably pick apart the music theory in these songs, but that’s not the point of these episode reviews.

Notice how Minuette’s magic can only carry part of the pine tree, and a pegasus has to help.
Maybe unicorns aren’t that OP after all.

I should note that this song has an unusual structure as to who sings what: each Mane 6 member gets a brief turn to sing part of the song, and the rest of it is sung by a choir. I’m only at the first song of this episode, but I can already tell this episode’s songs are some of the wildest the show has to offer.

Out of all the Mane 6, Rarity is the most easily annoyed by Derpy’s antics.

Which is funny, considering they have the same voice actor.

Rarity’s section of the song provides us some fun fanservice with tons of words that rhyme with “break”, an incredibly smart rhyming choice. Derpy drops an ornament and responds with her adorable shrug, then redeems herself by sitting atop the tree as its shining star. This proves once and for all that the old Derpy controversy is behind us, and she truly is the number one star of this show.

Twilight Sparkle: Hey, Starlight! Ready to celebrate your first Hearth’s Warming Eve here in Ponyville?
Starlight Glimmer: I was thinking I might just skip it.
Twilight Sparkle and Spike: (gasp)

We already had an episode saying it’s OK to skip out on holiday celebrations in season 5, and it was done beautifully. Because of that, it’s totally fair that the trope of a skeptical character being taught the joy of holidays through an anecdote is now played straight. This is the most played straight of the show’s Christmas episodes, which is made up for by the incredible musical numbers.

Starlight Glimmer continues being skeptical, and Twilight Sparkle responds by offering to tell a Hearth’s Warming story that she and Spike both enjoy, which I want to say is called A Hearth’s Warming Tale, even though this episode is called A Hearth’s Warming Tail. Maybe it’s a matter of dispute in-universe what that story should be referred to. Anyway, it may seem odd that “A Hearth’s Warming Tale” refers to a specific work of media in this show, but it’s less unusual when you remember that “A Christmas Story” in real life refers to an 80’s movie with a plot involving a BB gun and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Diamond Tiara and her mom seem to have a less strained relationship in this story.

This story takes place in Canterlot and introduces the one pony in the town who didn’t like Hearth’s Warming Eve: Snowfall Frost, the story’s counterpart to Starlight Glimmer. My first observation is that Canterlot looked way different back in the day, which isn’t too hard to believe. It’s common to see a picture of a city from a century or two ago that looks unrecognizable, especially if that city has become increasingly designed around cars, which is a tragedy.

It’s ambiguous whether the events of Twilight’s story canonically happened, but for the sake of this review, I’m going to assume they did. Twilight Sparkle describes Snowfall Frost as a unicorn highly well-versed in magic, surpassed only by Star Swirl the Bearded who she gets carried away in a tangent about, causing Spike to briefly interrupt the story. I think Twilight purposely picked this story because Snowfall reminds her of Starlight Glimmer; maybe that’s even part of why she chose to reform Starlight, since Snowfall gets better at the end.

I like the little detail where Snowfall Frost tries to turn a rock into gold but gets distracted and drops the rock. It shows she has perfectionist tendencies shared by Starlight, Twilight, and other unicorns of her type, and it helps put this story in the past because the days where humans thought alchemy could turn mercury or iron into gold are long gone.

While Snowfall Frost has clear parallels with Starlight Glimmer, her assistant Snow Dash doesn’t have as much in common with Rainbow Dash. I think Twilight imagines Snow Dash as Rainbow Dash only because they have similar names, which is easy to believe. Whenever I read a book, I picture the locations as places I’ve been to in real life. For example, if a scene takes place in a college dorm, I’ll imagine it as a dorm I’ve been inside. The same occasionally goes for characters, usually if they have similar names to people I know.

Snowfall Frost: Get this mess cleaned up. Those foolish ponies were ringing those blasted bells outside the window and I lost my concentration.
Snow Dash: Whoa. Ponies actually enjoying Hearth’s Warming Eve. Where did they get that crazy idea.
Snowfall Frost: Today is nothing to celebrate. Hearth’s Warming Eve is a menace. A dangerous day for all of Equestria.
Snow Dash: Dangerous?! It’s awesome! It’s the day we remember how unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies came together in friendship to defeat the Windigoes!
Snowfall Frost: That silly legend is the problem. Telling everypony that singing songs and being nice will solve anything? I’ve spent years studying magic, and that’s not how it works.

One fun thing about this episode is that it gives an excuse to show more of evil Starlight Glimmer, and this a great way to do so after her reformation. It also makes you realize how much she contrasts against her reformed self; even her tone of voice is much more casual after reformation. When Snowfall Frost gets passive-aggressive about the idea of her assistant going home and ignoring all her work, Snow Dash takes it literally and bursts out of the room, leaving Snowfall Frost alone.

The second song is a typical Christmas villain song called Say Goodbye to the Holiday, with tons of key changes and diminished chords. I don’t have much to say about the events during the song, since it mostly consists of Snowfall Frost preparing a nasty potion that shows a callback to the Windigoes from the first Christmas episode, so just know that it’s a fun little villain song. Oh, and there’s also a doll that looks a lot like Perry the Platypus, a character I happened to mention two episodes ago.

Starlight Glimmer: Wait a minute. Snowfall doesn’t like Hearth’s Warming Eve, so she decides to cast a spell to get rid of it altogether? That seems a little extreme.
Spike: Says the pony who tried to make everypony the same by replacing their cutie marks with equal signs.
Twilight Sparkle: I think what Spike is trying to say is that everypony has their reasons for doing things, even Snowfall. And if we could continue the story, we might just find out what they are.

While Spike raises an excellent point about Starlight’s hypocrisy, I can see why she’d be confused at the events of this story. Often, you won’t understand how insane and ridiculous something you’re doing is until you see someone else doing something similar, and then it’ll all click.

The globe behind Snowfall Frost proves that this show takes place on a planet, in case anyone thought the earth was flat.
Though I’m pretty sure we had also seen a globe in Secret of My Excess.

The Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Past enters the scene, and she’s portrayed by Applejack—a fitting choice, given Applejack is all about her old family traditions. Against Snowfall’s initial protesting, the spirit takes her to a flashback that parallels Starlight Glimmer’s childhood.

This guided flashback is told through a two-part song called The Seeds of the Past, which is interspersed with a brief speaking scene. The song blends Applejack’s country music with the show’s more typical expository song style to nice effect.

Young Snowfall Frost looks like an anime schoolgirl with that outfit.

Hey, she’s forgetting to be evil for a second!

As is the case with most villains who want to stop Christmas, Snowfall Frost used to love Hearth’s Warming Eve as a child. Just like Starlight Glimmer, we get a brief shot of her feeling something other than bitterness as she looks back on simpler times, before everything she thought she knew was ruined.

Looks like Professor Flintheart is the only character in this story who Twilight doesn’t analogize to one of her friends.

Professor Flintheart: Just what do you think you’re doing, Snowfall?
Snowfall Frost: Decorating the classroom for Hearth’s Warming Eve, Professor Flintheart.
Professor Flintheart: You said you wanted to learn to be a powerful unicorn, did you not?
Snowfall Frost: I do!
Professor Flintheart: And what is the way that one becomes a powerful unicorn?
Snowfall Frost: (clears throat) Work hard, learn, and use your skills to better Equestria.
Professor Flintheart: And how do these help you to learn magic?
Snowfall Frost: I want to be strong enough to stop Windigoes and help ponies.
Professor Flintheart: That’s just a story we tell little ponies. Real magic takes time to learn. (shatters ornament)

While Starlight Glimmer’s descent into villainy was caused by losing her best friend to a cutie mark, Snowfall Frost’s instead originated from desire to please her authority figure. And yet, there still are parallels. Both Starlight Glimmer and Snowfall Frost felt that everything they thought they knew was a lie—Starlight about friendship, Snowfall about a holiday powered by friendship.

Professor Flintheart: It’s your choice. Spend your time learning to become a powerful unicorn, or… play with your toys and make nothing of yourself.

Now we see where Snowfall Frost got her passive-aggressiveness from. She inherited this attitude from her mentor, though Snow Dash wasn’t as receptive to it.

As far as these kids can tell, Snowfall Frost randomly turned into a total jerk for no reason.
That can’t have been easy for them to process.

I’m transcribing the character on the right as Applejack because “The Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Past” is an absolute mouthful.

Snowfall Frost: ♪ The seeds of the past, they grow up so fast ♪
Snowfall Frost: ♫ The hurts never go away ♫
Applejack: ♪ The seeds as they grow, this we can’t let go ♪
Applejack: ♫ All tied to this one holiday ♫

Given by the tears from Snowfall Frost’s eyes, it’s clear that her childhood trauma hasn’t gone away, much like when Starlight Glimmer revisited the day Sunburst got his cutie mark. While it’s understandable to be bitter about losing your childhood friend, it’s weirder to be this traumatized about being told that your favorite holiday was a bunch of lies. Is this supposed to indicate that this one particular holiday meant everything to Snowfall Frost and was her main source of joy? Maybe this really was the case.

After the song ends, Snowfall Frost opens her eyes in the present to find the spirit has vanished. This leaves it unclear whether or not this was all just her imagination, and I think this ambiguity is really cool.

Next up is the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Presents, portrayed by Pinkie Pie. She insists it’s “presents” as in gifts, not “present” as in the time. I almost want to say it makes sense to associate Pinkie Pie with the present since she’s more focused on living in the moment than worrying about the past or future, but it’s almost certainly only because of the “presents” pun. Still, I like the idea that all three ponies portraying the spirits of past, present, and future were each deliberately chosen to match these themes.

This spirit has a Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Presents Sense, which is a mouthful of a name that I like to imagine she says in full every time. Her entire body shaking means that a song is about to come up, and I can’t blame her for being excited, because this next song is a real banger.

It’s everyone’s favorite background pony duo on the left!

This tap dancing solo is just so charming.

The fourth song of the episode is called Pinkie’s Present, and it is glorious. It’s bouncy and fun and jazzy and Christmas-y all at once, and it would be right at home in a classic 90’s animated movie. The title of the song has a dual meaning: it’s both about the joy of giving presents, and looking around you to appreciate the present. I love that the musical numbers get more and more varied in style as this show progresses.

Vinyl Scratch operating a phonograph is definitely one of the coolest details of this episode.

Turns out Snow Dash blasted out of the scene because she wanted to spend some time with her friends. Who would’ve guessed?

This episode didn’t need to go this hard with its musical numbers, but it did so anyway. Especially with this song, which is one of my favorite songs in the entire show—probably in my top 5, but I haven’t ranked them individually. Going harder than it has any reason to is exactly what I love about this show so much.

Twilight Sparkle: ♪ And the reason is to be with your friends ♪
Twilight Sparkle: What?
Starlight Glimmer: You know you’re doing your Pinkie Pie voice, right?
Twilight Sparkle: (blushes) I was not!

There is no way to interpret this scene as anything other than Tara Strong being jealous that she didn’t get to voice Pinkie Pie. I’ve seen a little demo animation from before the show’s cast was complete, where Tara Strong played Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash. Pinkie Pie had a similar hyper-cutesy voice to Bubbles from The Powerpuff Girls, a show that I probably could have become obsessed with in a different timeline. I won’t lie, it feels weird to imagine me turning into a Powerpuff Girls fan, even though MLP seems even more frilly and girly on the surface. But I’ve heard people find it appealing for similar reasons to MLP, and that I can completely believe. Maybe I should just give it a shot someday and hope it doesn’t take over my brain so much that I make a blog post series reviewing every Powerpuff Girls episode. Or at least, if I do make another blog post series reviewing every episode of a show, I should hope it happens after I finish this one.

This face represents me realizing I went completely off topic. Sorry, where was I?

The weird part is that I’m not even sure if it was Tara Strong who voiced the singing line. It might have been Rebecca Shoichet, given that she’s in the credits as Twilight Sparkle’s singer, and this line is the only thing Twilight sings solo in this episode. That would make the jealousy interpretation of this scene even funnier.

Spike gets up to take a break and refill his cocoa, matching with the break between this episode’s second and third acts. It’s one of the few times the show makes me remember it was initially designed to be watched on live TV, which is really weird to imagine.

After several ponies at the party—Snow Dash, Flutterholly (Fluttershy), and Merry (Rarity)—share a laugh about how ridiculous Snowfall Frost’s hatred of Hearth’s Warming is, Snowfall encounters the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Yet to Come, represented by none other than Princess Luna. She’s a fitting choice to represent this spirit because Luna has previously shown others what the future will look like if they don’t change their actions.

This leads to a dramatic musical number called Luna’s Future, where the spirit shows Snowfall Frost a bleak future without Hearth’s Warming Eve. This calls back to two scenes at once: Luna showing Sweetie Belle a bad future in a dream, and Twilight Sparkle showing Starlight Glimmer a bad future through time travel. I actually think the parallels with Sweetie Belle are closer than the parallels with Starlight Glimmer, because while Starlight first was shown the future then showed Twilight the past, Luna showed Sweetie Belle the past, present, and hypothetical future in that order. Well, the present was technically the past (the night before the dream), but it was close enough to the present that the comparison works.

As with Sweetie Belle’s dream, Luna leaves the scene with an ominous message before the future vision ends, leading Snowfall Frost to wake up in peril.

Just like that, Snowfall Frost has a change of heart and joins in on the Hearth’s Warming celebrations with some last-minute gifts, saying the usual “Christmas is about friendship” stuff. It’s a pretty dull and standard resolution to the story, but I guess the episode was short on time after all those wild musical numbers.

And what do you know, there’s one more musical number left! This time, it’s a reprise of the first song, with an intro sung by Starlight Glimmer, and the rest in alternation between her and a choir. Starlight took a clear message from this story, and she doesn’t need to say what message she learned, because showing it is much more effective.

The show can never decide whether electricity is canon. In this episode, it clearly is.

The moment the holiday lights are all turned on, Derpy herself starts glowing at the top of the tree. It might not make logical sense that Derpy would start glowing, but it makes a ton of thematic sense. Derpy is the shining light of the show, representing the vibrant fanbase that turned the show into such a gigantic cultural phenomenon and smashing success. She’s watching over all the other smaller, less important ponies as they sing one of their silly little songs.

I’m pretty sure Lyra bouncing in hyperactive joy is a fandom meme, and it’s canonized here.

During the chorus of the song, Rarity puts a piece of mistletoe in Fluttershy’s mane, which is some possible ship tease that seems very random. Random in the context of this episode, that is. As far as pairings between Mane 6 members go, Rarity and Fluttershy are among the most commonly seen together. They’re the two most artistic members of the group and share interests in singing and sewing, and they often go to the spa together, so I can see why they’d be teased here.

The way the Mane 6 members are arranged matches with three of their most popular ships: Fluttershy x Rarity, Pinkie Pie x Twilight Sparkle, Applejack x Rainbow Dash.

I could talk about all the characters in this group picture, but instead I’ll just talk about one thing I find especially perplexing. Apple Bloom is with her immediate family here, Sweetie Belle with her parents, but Scootaloo has no family around her. Is this proof that she was intended to be an orphan, like fans so loved to theorize before season 9 shot that down? Or did the show’s staff feel it would be better to give Scootaloo’s family a proper introduction than just a cameo? I think the latter is far more likely.

In case you need any further proof that Pinkie’s Present is the best song of the episode, it gets to be used in the credits. That’s how it went with all but one of the show’s musical episodes: the most memorable song scores the credits (and in each case, it happens to be the fourth song). This is the last of the show’s four musical episodes, as it so happens.

Overall thoughts:

I’ve always thought this episode was weirdly disconnected from the rest of the series’ story, and after reviewing it in depth, I think I still feel the same. This prevents the episode from sticking out too much to me, because I’ve always found the real highlights of the show to be the episodes that massively (or at least moderately) influence its story. That’s a problem that holiday specials in TV shows sometimes run into: they’re so disconnected from the rest of the show that I forget them entirely. Hearth’s Warming Eve and Hearthbreakers nicely avoided this by being about more than just holidays, going into detail about Equestrian history and Pinkie Pie’s family respectively. But this one plays the “characters tell a Christmas story” episode style as straight as can be.

My favorite thing about this episode is by far the musical numbers. Though I praised Pinkie’s Present the most, each one is cool and special in its own way. The episode has never stuck around in my memory well, but the songs make it an enjoyable experience.

Grade: n/a

This nonstandard grade does not mean that I love the episode so much that it’s beyond the need for a grade, or that I find it so revolting that a mere F can’t express it. That would be silly, because the whole point of my grade system is A is the highest and F is the lowest. It also does not mean that I find this episode painfully average. I decently enjoyed going through this episode, issues or not, which I guess means it should get a B? But it’s so disconnected from the show’s usual story and style that it feels weird to give it a letter grade like all the other episodes.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • One of my biggest Christmas pet peeves is starting holiday celebrations during early or mid-November. While I always thought that was a very recent concept, I looked up A Christmas Story to find out that it was also released in mid-November, almost forty years ago, suggesting that’s been a thing for much longer. I’m not sure if this revelation makes me feel better or worse.
  • If we’re to assume that both the story Twilight tells is based on true events, and that the spirits that Snowfall Frost encountered were actual living beings, and that the part about Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Presents Sense actually happened, then it’s a safe bet that this spirit shares the same spider sense gene with Pinkie Pie, Maud Pie, and Cheese Sandwich.
  • An alternate theory for why Derpy started glowing when the lights turned on is that her cutie mark happened to start flashing at this exact moment, and the Cutie Map is going to send her on some wild friendship mission after this episode—perhaps to liven up the Hearth’s Warming celebrations in Griffonstone? We see in later episodes that the map can send characters outside of the Mane 6 on missions. Off the top of my head, it does so with Spike, Starlight Glimmer, and Sunburst.

What’s better than a fountain of musical numbers, you may ask? A fountain of memes, which perfectly describes the next episode.

See you next week for an episode that I’ve never seen anyone dislike, and for good reason.

>> Part 65: The Saddle Row Review

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