• "Games Ponies Play": Episode Followup

    So who would've thought this was a Rainbow Dash episode? In all honestly, I could probably cut the followup here and leave people happy. Just until I remind them that this scene doesn't actually answer the question of whether or not Rainbow Dash is an orphan. Think about it.
    For my friends ready and raring to go with their copypasta, I ask you to pause and take a moment to contemplate this metaphor for the ceaseless passage of time: 

    For everyone else, let's get this followup started before they snap out of it. I'll even toss it beneath a break for y'all this time!

    So, uh. Just kidding about the new episode, by the way. The Hub threw up alternate scenes from "Just for Sidekicks" and hoped no one would notice. Worked for me!

    Or maybe this was when we all realized we were stuck in a time loop. Come on, Hasbro. Groundhog Day was forever ago, and the fanfic community's gotten you beat at least twice anyway.

    I want to point out an interview snippet Entertainment Weekly conducted with Rainbow's VA, Ashleigh Ball (who just so happens to be touring the States with her band right now!), in which she reminisced about Vancouver's bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2010. As a good chunk of Friendship is Magic is produced in B.C., it's easy to see how Rainbow's struggles throughout this episode would resonate with the staff.

    Nice to see the animators bringing feather-tip flight back from "Hurricane Fluttershy." I'm actually surprised that no one on the show's thought to do this for making air quotes by now.

    This isn't the first time we've seen tiny Rainbow Dashes reacting to calamity. Also, Cloudsdale has a nifty mayor and Pegasus Hooves ages backwards in time, if "Sonic Rainboom" is anything to go by.

    From the look of it, Rainbow Dash's father might have a shooting star for his cutie mark. I've also heard a few folks calling him Rainbow's brother, but given that we've seen Twilight as a filly with her older brother in his teenaged years, I'm not so sure that's the case. At any rate, we can finally put the myth that all pegasi have no family to its painful and just demise. You guys argue over what to call Shooting Star/Lucent in the comments. I'm going to get drunk in celebration, but I'll only pretend to 'cause alcohol is expensive.

    Honestly, before I knew much this episode, I thought it was going to focus on Twilight a lot more. This shot here makes it clear that she's sharing the helm with Rainbow Dash for the next twenty minutes. I can't be sure whether or not we've seen an episode to date that gives Twilight a large amount of screen time without making her the focal character, but Rainbow Dash stepping into Twilight's leadership role adds to the depths she's been developing all season.

    She doesn't do a fantastic job of it, spoilers. But who does, on their first time through?

    Meanwhile, Pinkie slides in with a very important point: skies are for screaming at,very loudly and frequently.

    Am I the only one around here who feels sorry for that stallion in the glasses? He's stuck on a train with six screaming girls and a noisy dog.

    Aaand he's called a lady, to boot! His little vay-cay isn't quite starting off the way... he... planned... oh.

    Did you guys see that? No, seriously, give that shot a second look. Aside from Applejack's new... uh, hat.

    Somewhere in his lair of salt and stone, M. A. Larson peers into the fire and steeples his fingers. The seeds of the Magical Mystery Cure have been sown. Either that, or it was this.

    I think this is a metaphor for what Canadians think of Americans visiting their country.

    As you can tell, the denizens of Canada are working very hard to ensure their city looks as good as possible for the Olympic Games. I get the impression, however, that the one on the left's a bit intense about it.


    I mean, if we're to keep this Canada metaphor going, you people are so badass up there that you say hello to each other in judo. Rarity seems to be taking after you lot frighteningly well.

    And before you protest "but Couch, Cadance didn't punch Twilight when she got there!" bear in mind that's only because Twilight knows how to block the blows.

    I adore the framing of this shot 'cause it speaks so much for what's in it. Gak Refined changeling goo does wonders for the complexion, as Cadance learned not that long ago.

    There was an odd scene back on the train where the others get impatient with Twilight for wanting to rehearse the welcome dance a thirteenth time. They're visibly more irked at her than they were when she was freaking out just as much in "Lesson Zero", but it set the stage for Cadance to teach Twilight a very lovely lesson about stress management. I can definitely imagine these two doing the same thing when Twilight was a filly, and that Cadance was only reminding her of something from her past.

    Man. Imagine a world where folks became presidents because they took Bad Boys II to heart. Woosa your way to that crown, Twilight!

    As someone who's looking into medical school, I feel obligated to say this: you CANNOT sit in that position unless your spine is bisected. Ho, ow! I don't care if it's tradition to speak using the royal "we" and to use this much volume when addressing one's subjects employ power tools when preparing your coiffure! Anatomy only works that way if your name rhymes with Lob Riefeld or you are a target of the Hawkeye Initiative.

    If you are an animator at DHX and just read through that, feel free to say hi to me if we ever meet in person.

    This was the moment Rarity realized that not only was her last hope of getting an episode this season was gone, but also that she was getting written out of this one. Cereal Velocity became so mad seeing this that it turned him into a princess. Or was that because M. A. Larson turned him into one? I forget.

    I have to hand it to Tara for her spot on delivery during this scene. Upon finding out that they have fifteen minutes to build an exact replica of Princess Cadance's ceremonial headdress over there prepare for Ms. Harshwhinny's arrival, Twilight takes a deep breath and manages to remain calm. She definitely takes after Princess Celestia's tranquil speech habits throughout this scene, which gives me hope for the season finale. 

    "Put the pudding out to thaw before you eat it, or you'll crack a tooth?" Pinkie can say the craziest crap right now, and Twilight won't even get rustled.

    Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, is starting to feel the pressure. Going off what I said earlier, though, she's placed the burden of ensuring the Crystal Empire's bid for the Games is successful right across her withers, so Twilight finds herself in the advisory role for once. Out of all of Twilight's friends, I get the feeling Dash discusses things with her the most, just as she did back in "The Crystal Empire, Part 1."

    I quite liked this mare, even if her behavior throughout the episode was somewhat removed from her first few seconds of screentime. Really, you'd think anypony who'd steal Rarity's spectacles would be more unsympathetic than Joffery Baratheon. But look at her! She's happy and country and everything! For Pete's sake, she even beats Pinkie to Pinkie-hopping her way to the castle.

    And yes, as many of you have pointed out, her cutie mark obviously means she's Scootaloo's mother. More imaginary drinks!

    This is a CouchCrusader followup. I'll post as many adorable screengrabs as I please, thank you.

    "Twists and turns are my master plan," as some unimportant person once said. Ms. Harshwhinny seems like a decent pony to know, though -- you just have to get past her suspicion that every nice thing done for her ever has Games-sized strings attached to it.

    This scene would've ended very differently in TomSka's hands, or that guy who does Perry Bible Fellowship.

    I once 9-manned ICC in a single night. It was awesome.

    No, we didn't go there in Cata gear. I don't know what you're talking about. Shut up.

    Classic cinema technique right here: enforce a character's claustrophobia with telephoto shots and extremely tight crops. You see this as a device in 12 Angry Men, where the cameramen slowly zoom closer and closer onto each juror's face as deliberations escalate and tempers flare.

    When I covered "Spike at Your Service," I compared myself to Twilight. I guess I'm Rainbow Dash this time. I'll zoom into the minutiae of these episodes and say things about them thinking I know what I'm talking about.

    You wanna know the truth? I don't know what I'm doing. I never knew what I was doing at all.

    Lucky for me, adorable moments between Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash are objectively wonderful. Ha-cha-cha!

    If you've been paying attention so far, I'm not even 10 minutes into the episode at this point. The last thing I need to do right now is run through how ALL of the gang's welcoming dance is flat-out awesome, so have a selected still from this veritable fount of pony goodness.

    Did you know they're really into English majors? It's not too late to change, all you CS people with your societal usefulness and secure post-college employment prospects!

    Okay, one more.

    EDIT: And best CMC's robotic alter-ego just found this for me, too. Thanks, M. A. Larson!

    That's right. You guys continue dancing around that one little question that would've cleared everything about this episode up. One tiny, five-second question.

    Where are you going? We still have half the episode left to cover!

    I lied earlier when I said I was Rainbow Dash. Just like when she wasn't aware that Spike was leaving her service, Twilight is so far into her zone that she overlooks the one thing she needed to take care of outside of it, kind of like me spacing on my physics post-lab assignment last week. Fifty-eight point ouch percent.

    Just go back and listen to Twilight's little "oh" there, along with Rarity's strangled "mm-hmm!" I gotta say that Tabitha's a savant when it comes to all the different ways she can deliver panic with her characters.

    "Um... how much episode do we still have to cover?"

    Pinkie's... tricky. We've seen her improvising all sorts of zany schemes at the drop of a hat (her Welcome Wagon, or her plan to almost-kill-but-not-really Best Pony Applejack). Obviously, all her ideas can't be winners, and sometimes she falls flat... woosa. C'mon, Couch. Just point out how knowledgeable their guest seemed to be about architectural motifs of the Neo-Gothic school and leave it to the comment section to puzzle out from there.

    Ignoring the one mentioned in "Hearts and Hooves Day", Equestrian princes are two for two in the unicorn department (as well as the tinted sclera department, too. One of the 99 problems of being white-coated.). Shining Armor definitely seems to be taking a more lax approach to his attire when compared to his Canterlot peer, though -- one Rainbow Dash would probably agree with. His days with the Royal Guard seem to do wonders for his coaching style, too.

    Of course I'm not shipping this. Better fics have been written on weaker evidence.

    "He's married, too."

    I know that, all right?!

    Also, feast your eyes on the birth of calm and collected Twilight Sparkle. This was probably my favorite moment of the episode, considering how fast everything goes to cobbles a few moments later. She's certainly come a long way from "It's About Time."

    Meanwhile, our favorite unintentional impostor has found her people.

    "Hello, Canada!!"

    Pay very close attention to the fake inspector's voice work during this scene. Do horses really go "Brrrrrrrreee!" when they whinny sometimes? Actually, I hardly care. That was pretty cute. Going further, I think this is also pretty good proof that pegasi are overrated if us earth ponies can give their fastest filly a run for her money.

    This is probably the first roof Rainbow has failed to crash through in the history of ever. Just think about that. Crystal Kingdom architecture is OP.

    Now we get the truth of the matter: our visitor calls herself "a wild mustang from Mustangia." It's a bit strange how a pony so free-spirited and dependent on being out-of-doors would dress herself (and possess spectacles, and ride trains), but those additions just might've come from the art department. To be honest, I think the notion of nomadic herds of ponies who travel Equestria all year would be worth exploring. Maybe the population of Appleloosa used to be wanderers before enough of them got curious about settling down.

    I bet this'll fly over most kids' heads at first. Even if they get smart enough to ask their parents if Shining Armor's already married, this is one of those scenes they'll look back on in ten years and go, "Oh my god. I get this." I wonder if our parents went through these kinds of things watching Saturday morning cartoons with us. The idea that many of us are old enough to have spawn of our own now... ha. Wow. pardon me while I go searching for my special someone.

    Also, Shining Armor wins best face for this episode, but this is a very close second right here:


    Just go back and screencap this segment y'allselves. Every frame's good, from Pinkie's screaming to Twilight's "what is air" moment.

    I have no idea how intentional this was, but check it out. Pinkie's chowing down on another delicious Crystal Empire cinnamon bun. Whatever, right? She's Pinkie. Her role this episode is to comically miss the point of everything that's fired at her with a 40mm cannon, except she seems to have thrown that off and put together a thundering train of logic to put her "MMMMystery on the Friendship Express" self a kick in the patootie.

    Just where did she get that cinnamon bun from, though?

    Oh, she just got it from behind unbreakable Crystal Empire glass, as Rainbow Dash proved not two minutes ago. Cool. All right. Yeah.

    Gotta swim through hell if you wanna go to the spa. How's that for some cosmic direction?

    I noticed this right away when it first came up, but now that we're this deep into the episode, I really have to wonder why Cadance wasn't in full crystal mode, like the rest of her people (same with Shining Armor, back at the stadium). Seems like a curious lapse of attention after spending so much time getting her mane done. Granted, she probably wasn't expecting to make Ms. Harshwhinny's acquaintance so abruptly, but still, I wonder.

    And here we go. Just when Twilight's about to step up and explain why the welcoming committee didn't go quite as planned, Rainbow Dash Karkat-paps her out of it like a pro. We've seen Fluttershy take the blame for her actions in "Bird in the Hoof," but that doesn't diminish the importance of what Rainbow's doing here by speaking out. Remember that little flashback from the beginning of the episode? It's easy to forget beneath all the mind games Rainbow's accusing the fake inspector of, but that's only because she foresees the return of a very real and personal tragedy in her life and would go to almost any length to avert it.

    Almost. We've seen her limits in "Wonderbolt Academy", though I don't think this episode escalated matters enough to force that dilemma upon her.

    Strangely, even though Ms. Harshwhinny spent the past minute or two criticizing the sycophancy of every bidding city she visits, she doesn't seem to mind the same treatment lavished upon someone who isn't her. There's a quick line right before Twilight and the gang pull off their welcome routine where she makes sure to say her friends and her aren't actually from the Crystal Empire, so it's up to you guys to determine whether that suffices for their apparently unbiased bid on behalf of Cadance's people.

    It's definitely awesome to see how happy Rainbow Dash can be for other ponies' successes, even if she has to be involved in that success somehow. It's almost as good as getting it for herself.

    Still... she's been shafted out of plenty of things in her life. Remember your motto! Roll with it, Rainbow Dash! You're gonna go far, kid.

    The rest of this episode is basically "Just for Sidekicks" footage, so hit up Alex's followup for shots from there!

    As a final note: much as I would've liked to see Corey Powell holding the reins here after her wonderful work with "Just for Sidekicks," I could understand the risk of giving a newcomer control of three episodes. With this episode, Mr. Dave Polsky takes three writing credits and one story credit, and basically cements himself as Writer of the Season. I'd say his episodes deserve repeated viewings, especially with this one if you weren't going into it thinking of Rainbow Dash as the focus character.

    I think that's going to do it with my involvement with Season 3 for now -- Cereal's returning next week to wrap it all up for you folks. I was blown away at the reaction to my first followup here, and I can only hope I've done okay by y'all the second time around.

    Thank you for reading.