Ever since we first met Rainbow Dash we've known that her lifelong dream was to join the Wonderbolts, an elite team of fliers known around Equestria as the best of the best. Yesterday, we saw her achieve her goal.
Not only that, but we got a pretty damn good episode. We had the return of some fan-favorite characters, a few new ones to play with, and a new location- the Wonderbolt Academy- to add to our growing map of Equestria. We got to see the training process for the Wonderbolts, some more of Twilight's not-so-sturdy balloon, and Pinkie Pie generally being Pinkie Pie. Stir in some impeccable pacing and an antagonist we can actually relate to quite easily, and I'd call this episode one of the best of the season so far.
If you'll excuse the pigeonholing, I'd call it the best so far.
Allow me to quantify my statement with my usual snark. Let's followup.
|Dash still has the best house in Equestria.|
Actually, question time- the pegasi are responsible for generating rainbows, right? Is Dash's house part of that rainbow-generating network, or does she just have a few generators on hoof for the effect? Cereal Velocity, asking the dumb questions since 2011.
There's another thing. Some people were saying after the episode aired that Pinkie was being extremely out-of-character. I respond with a shrug. Pinkie's character is one that is extremely concerned with her friends' well-being. I don't think anything she did was out of character.
|"WHERE'S THE MONEY, LEBOWSKI?"|
|Obligatory exposition of how awesome Dash is.|
|Troll level: maximum.|
Hey, Dash, why didn't you send in your Wonderbolts application, like, two seasons ago? Oh, it was convenient for the plot? Eh, sure, let's go with that.
The Wonderbolts Academy. Not actually inaccessible to non-pegasus ponies, just really inconvenient to climb. It's sort of like that large mountain in Skyrim. Throat of the World or something. I spent like two hours trying to climb the wrong side of the mountain before I realized the other side had stairs. I kind of kept that incident to myself for a while.
I'm going to try to name all of these ponies by memory. Here we go. Raindrops, Thunderlane, Cloudchaser, Horse Power, Rainbow Dash, and Lightning Dust.
Okay, I missed a few, and I know one of them is new.
|Spitfire's best 'deal with it' face.|
And then, Spitfire! Xyro was very happy to see her show up. I know because he told us. A lot.
|"Why is your mane so awesome?!"|
Spoilers: I really like Cloudchaser's mane.
|You now realize my eyes look like oranges.|
So, Lightning Dust. Let's talk about Lightning Dust.
I have very few issues with her. As a dash of perspective, this show is generally meant for younger viewers, and sometimes that means making the antagonist a little more oblique with their intention to be the antithesis to our heroes. While she is certainly a little oblique at times, it's in a way that we can immediately understand and relate to. She has Rainbow Dash's brash personality cranked up to eleven, and wants more than anything to prove herself and to be the best, and she doesn't really care who she steps on to prove it.
Being abrasive to your peers is one thing, but one has to consider the atmosphere that fosters her attitude. There are several factors in play: firstly, Spitfire is more than happy to reward her reckless behavior in the beginning, first with the title of Lead Pony and later with praise for her efforts. This would have been enough to spur her on, but also remember that Lightning and every other pony in this scene is in a constant contest to become an actual Wonderbolt. These two things combined are more than enough to justify her actions. Let's not also forget that, throughout all of this, she forges a genuine friendship with Rainbow Dash (at least in her eyes), treating them both as equals and partners despite her higher rank.
Specifically, it's these three things combined that make her one of the better one-shot antagonists we've seen so far. She's certainly better than the bro-ponies from Sonic Rainboom.
Seriously, her eyes look like oranges. I can't look away.
Another note that I'd like to make about the supporting cast in this episode is that they knew when to keep quiet and simply fill the scene, which was pretty much all the time. The show has had issues in the past of extra ponies being a little too in the spotlight for their own good, but there wasn't a hint of that here. The story was focused on Rainbow Dash and Lightning Dust, as it should have been.
Good writing. Nothing else to it. Kudos.
|I support pegasi doing things with their wings. More of this. Please.|
Again, I don't think Pinkie was acting any stranger than usual in these scenes. The point of these little snippets was to give us a plausible reason for the other five to float on up to the Academy and subsequently enter the storyline and give some spice to the climax, and in my humble opinion they worked perfectly. They weren't distracting, they were a nice break from Dash's storyline, and they were pretty damn funny.
|Since you are simply recruits, we're going to make you wear outfits that are even more revealing than the regular Wonderbolts outfits. Because why not.|
|This thing looks positively horrifying.|
Does this pony have a name? I couldn't name her earlier. Help me out here.
|"Wait a second, these aren't my glasses."|
The return of the comically-oversized levers to control a comically-oversized contraption. Maybe if he were a unicorn he wouldn't need them. Unicorn master race.
|I don't even have to caption this.|
Okay, I'm sorry, how do pegasi even use cups? If they grabbed the handle with their mouth... it doesn't work at all. Do they use their freakishly dexterous wings?
Also, Thunderlane's got a cute butt.
|Looks like real important work you're doing there, Spitfire. I hope you don't get interrupted while doing that extremely important autograph signing you appear to be doing. Nope.|
|"Let me just sign my glasses real quick."|
|"Now get out of here before I... sign you."|
I don't see what you see in this pony, Xyro.
|"Do you see my contact lens?" "Nope."|
Okay, here's an idea. Someone make a Capture The Flag game that uses pegasi. I'd play that for pretty much forever, right after I'm finished playing ball with Twilight.
To rebuild Ponyville, of course. Not just to play ball.
|Someone drew stuff on my wing, and now they're useless!|
I like that how even though Pinkie's mane is generally a giant poof anyway, you can still manage to make it look messier than it already is. How long has she even bee-
Rarity got a speaking part yes yes yes everyone go home the followup is over.
I'll say it again, though- these scenes existed purely to give the other five a reason to be in danger, and yet still I don't feel that the time spent on them was wasted. I'm repeating myself because I was impressed. I hid under your porch because I love you.
|Thunderlane still has a cute butt.|
Cloud creation? But they're pink clouds, so they're enemy clouds. I'm not sure, let's go with that. Balancing those buckets on their heads must be very difficult.
|And then the Academy went full steampunk.|
I'm... I'm sorry, why can't you fly past them? You're literally in a three-dimensional area and you have wings, just fly past them. You're clearly faster. They must have put some interesting stuff in those clouds they just went through.
Does every pegasus have a trail like this? I kind of want to see everyone else's.
Yeah, Thunderlane and Raindrops, you just... you punch those clouds. Yeah. You go, guys.
I'm not even sure what Cloudchaser is doing back there.
|Plot element #1, and...|
|... plot element #2. Nothing about this could possibly go wrong!|
|Wait, damn it.|
There was one positive about this whole potentially deadly situation- Rainbow Dash has clearly won the award for best face this episode.
|Well, this looks familiar.|
You know, I hate to be picky... no, wait, I love it. The point is that very few of these ponies actually have an excuse here. Twilight and Fluttershy have absolutely no excuse, Pinkie can probably survive this, which leaves only two who should be genuinely scared. Also, Rarity's tail is a little disjointed here. I just noticed.
Kudos to Applejack for keeping her hat on the whole time, though.
|Even Cloudchaser knows how dumb that was.|
|Pinkie wins second place for best face.|
This scene is a genuine Really Big Deal. We know that being a Wonderbolt is Dash's most treasured dream, and for her to walk out for the sake of her friends and her ideals is a huge decision. It really shows how much she's grown as a character, and I'm very glad that it was put in.
It was revealed from one of the show's writers that this episode had an alternate ending that didn't involve Dash being let back in and Lightning Dust being demoted. It, in all probability, involved Dash leaving the Academy for good.
Would that have been a better ending? It's a tough call, because they're both valid endings as far as I'm concerned, because neither detract from the overall moral of the episode. Neither invalidate anything that happened, because what happened was so much more important than how the story turned out in the end. I can say that that ending might have been pretty damn depressing, and that might have been the reason it was cut.
Let's end on a good note- nay, the best note:
|I don't even have to caption this.|
This was, in my humble opinion as a writer for a pony blog on the internet, the best episode of season three thus far. I can find very few things to fault it for, and what it did right it did very right.
Ciao, ponies. Til next week.