• "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3": Episode Followup


    Hands up if you agree that Mrs. Rogers' return to pony was one of the best things to happen to Season 4. We got everything in this episode: worldbuilding, character exploration, plenty of laughs, stunning cinematography... I'd keep gushing, but...

    Haha, who the hay am I kidding? My followups are all about the gushing. Doing them every other week a while back was a bit intense, but now that I've had some time to collect myself I can start being entertaining with these things again, too.

    Hit the break for this week's followup of "The Only Mare to Put Ten Points in Perception". As always with me, it's pretty long! wakka wakka!

    I like how Twilight's reading out front as if she's finally realized Ponyville doesn't know it has a public library. Well, I guess the foals do, but they're all too short to reach the door handles anyway.

    You'd think a lifelong admirer of the 'Bolts would internalize every exact detail about her idols, right down to the secondhoof market rate for Fleetfoot's used sweatbands. To be fair, though, no one beats Rarity in the "collector of creepy paraphernalia" department.

    Anyway, while Rainbow's busy yakking at Twilight about how nopony gets the best of her in flight, notice how Twilight sank into her cloud for a brief moment before stabilizing. Sure, we're pretty far in the season right now, but this is the first time I remember Twilight ever using this particular breed of pegasus magic in the show.

    Hats off to Mssrs. Hall and Cliff -- much as in "Pinkie Apple Pie" and "Pinkie Pride", the details in the boards they made for this episode really set it apart from the rest of an already great season.

    Twilight's been taking on more and more mentor roles and qualities as the series progresses, so it's a refreshing change of pace to see her lapse back into her pre-princess testing nerves. Rainbow Dash couldn't have done a better job calling her out on this one.

    Let's get started with this week's best face competition, because Rainbow and Twilight really get into a rally with it.

    It's just nice to see Twilight geeking out over something again.

    I can't begin to express my gratitude for how much of this episode was a love letter to the style of the 90's. The awkward, awkward decade of my childhood, how I miss it.

    "Can't we just swap fanfics or something?"

    I guess every mare outgrows scrolls and moves onto copy paper sometime.

    So did Twilight's head become super small here, or did the rest of her get absurdly large? Haha, kidding. We need more creative scene transitions like these. Pinkie flipping the screen around later was really well done.

    Rainbow Dash invents indoor tanning. Neat!

    I have a friend who looks just like that.

    Love-15. Twilight pulls ahead for best face.

    Y'know, because things went over really well the last time Twilight lectured at somepony.

    "I swear there was a desk here a moment ago."

    15-all! They're just trading back and forth all day. I could watch 22 minutes of nothing but these faces and would enjoy the episode just as much.

    Twilight proves herself to be a decent draughtsmare here. We've seen offerings from Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and, just now, Rainbow Dash, and it's kind of fun to peg one against the other.

    Fluttershy doesn't need to draw. She just heads into the Everfree and finds a bear to practice chiropractic on.

    Let's all take a moment to remember this is a kids' cartoon. It can't be all aerial dogfights in ancient castles or throne-shaking historical revelation. If your stool squeaks and that makes you laugh, rock that sucker for what it's worth!

    Game and set, Spike! Just look at that. Jan got C&D'd 'cause he invented tiny comedic irises* and Hasbro got mad at him for establishing priority.*


    Anyway, if you listen really closely, Rainbow, Owlowicious, and Spike here are playing along to the Wonderbolts theme song in the background (matched grip, though? I'm sure a few of you complained). And the next time you watch this episode, pay close attention to Spike's drum harness.

    Twilight should just be happy there isn't a different Dash in her classroom.

    Rainbow has moments when she gets really heavy on herself (as we see coming up), but she's quick to spring back from adversity, too. The crew leaves her hanging here and she brushes the whole thing off with a shrug so chill it formed a Bose-Einstein condensate.

    Free-fall to hard-stop in nothing flat. Most other ponies would drop the velocity part and just call this stunt terminal.

    I'll show myself out. Later, though.

    Cloudchaser is Really 1,020 Years Old. Maybe she went to the Wonderbolt Academy for a refresher?

    There's this guy on Derpibooru who applies... really creative edits to MLP screengrabs like this one. They're all safe for work in the strictest sense of the term, but I'll stop there.

    "You're not Applejack, but you'll do."


    I think a lot of writers in the fandom get nervous about escalating conflicts between good friends as far as this, but scenes like these go a long way in setting stakes for any story. Rainbow Dash hurls some genuinely hurtful things at Twilight, and Twilight retaliates in kind.

    Cool as it'd be for us to see Twilight in a 'Bolts uniform (and there's definitely been fanart of that months before this episode ever came out), we hardly ever see her dangling someone else's dream in front of them while claiming she could do better.

    Here's Fluttershy deciding she needs to smack a filly. Look at her. She's not even tensing at the thought of going between two of her best friends. What a face.

    She doesn't even apologize for interrupting them, either. She wants them to know they were being crappy to each other, and Twilight and Rainbow Dash at least have the grace to apologize to each other immediately.

    When I think back on the majesty of the pony fandom's early days, this scene is more apt a metaphor that I'm comfortable admitting to.

    A lot of episodes can struggle with balancing the roles of the Mane 7 in action. Remember: Rarity was supposed to appear in "Luna Eclipsed" and Applejack was to come out as the ultimate cake thief in "MMMystery on the Friendship Express", but both their bits got cut for time. Pinkie's "Don't Worry, I Run Dis Ship" face here really encapsulates how well everyone got their say into helping Rainbow Dash with her problem.

    I'll catch some heat for saying this, but "Spike at Your Service" likewise did well with giving everyone in the mane cast a say without crowding the script too much.

    >Dat aspect ratio
    >Dem scan lines
    >Dat Flavor Flav respect
    >Dem geometric graffiti backgrounds

    I can't love this horse anymore.

    Friendly reminder to everyone that the 90's stopped happening 15 years ago. Yeah, and Vinyl.

    I honestly have no idea why Rarity thinks the Wonderbolts had bad uniforms. If they'd used these for flight patterns, that's definitely an issue. As a former marching band member, though, that shako and plume combo really speaks to me.

    I haven't even gotten to how "with it" Rarity is here, but she doesn't even think about getting annoyed with Rainbow's protests here. What a nice friend!

    You could stuff a stallion in this hat and heave him off of Canterlot Falls, and no one would be the wiser

    We have best face contenders leaping into the ring on all sides here. They're all hitting simultaneous home runs in the fifth quarter, and my bookies have given up keeping track of the rebounds.

    I like how Applejack rags on Rarity's little costume party, only to walk outside as the only other one still wearing hers. I'll let you all decide what that means, but I have my own thoughts here.

    Who needs counterspells when you have hooves?

    And as much as I like Applejack, I'm definitely on Rainbow's side here. Cowgal's trollin'.

    ... all right.

    Rainbow Dash hit me pretty deep here. Not that I have the worst self-esteem on the planet, but I definitely have times where I feel like I failed something pretty hardcore, and nothing people say to me will make me feel any better 'cause I'm too busy trying to find ways to turn their words back on them. You've been proven wrong once, so you do everything you can to avoid being proven wrong after that, and when people are trying to convince you that things aren't as bad as they seem, they're only telling you you're even wronger than you are now.

    Logically, you know there's zero benefit to digging in and pushing others away. And yet, doing that lets you hold onto what "right" answers you think you have, and you momentarily turn the tables on life even as you're setting fire to your friendships.

    It's just as painful being in Twilight's position -- having that outside perspective while you see someone close to you putting themselves down for no good reason, but you lack the words to haul them back on their feet. Sometimes a little space is the only answer.

    Someone's been taking notes from Alfonso CuarĂ³n. Long shots (or "oners") like this one, without any intermediate cuts, are quite rare in 22-minute cartoons. Not once during this part of the conversation do we look away from the ground below. Unless you've really been paying attention to the episode, all you know is that this shot's a setup for something big in a couple of minutes.

    Look at those shadows, too! You wouldn't think moving them correctly over terrain would be a big deal...

    Cherry Berry reached a point where she's had it with ponies messing with her balloons. That 'copter has more hearts in it than an Aztec temple.

    Also, when Twilight gets hands again, don't let her anywhere near the driver's seat.

    REWIND! This show, mare, I tells ya.

    Also, this is a good scene for storytellers to take note of: mood swings like this are perfectly plausible for someone in Rainbow's situation (from "I'll never live my dream" to "this is something I've always done and that's why it looks so effortless to you."). It's hard to stay down on yourself when something that comes to you as second nature so thoroughly surprises someone you respect and care about.

    I'm just going to say I didn't come to the same conclusion as Rainbow here.

    Can we get more little world-building details like this, please? Pegasi can influence their local weather just by their mood, apparently.

    All Applejack wants to know is how the hay she got up there. Do you see a ladder? A rope? Stairs?

    Man, this could be a wallpaper. Another nod to the animators here -- it would have been so easy and so expected to draw this scene in profile view and close-ups only. No. You're in flight. Pull that camera back and show just how big the sky is.

    We saw similar framing way back during the balloon chase scene in "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", and the animation there is pretty stellar, too.

    (And for those of you who were paying attention to what Rainbow planned to do with her life after flunking the Wonderbolts' exam, Amy snuck in a little reference to "Singin' in the Rain". RD's a bigger musical nerd than we'd taken her for.)

    You have to wonder how much front doors mean to pegasi who can just, I dunno, take a window or something.


    "Rainbow, are you sur--"

    "I've thought this through! Come at me!"

    Flashback! Have Princess Luna's voice actress voicing Rarity voicing Luna. I'm actually kind of surprised Tabitha wasn't told to cut out the middlemare -- the fandom would have exploded

    Fluttershy is really rockin' those hair ribbons, too.

    Another wonderful oner. When DHX and Top Draw let loose, they don't mess around.

    And Pinkie, be quiet. General Firefly's uniform is totes snazzy. (For those curious about the name, this is worth noting)

    Every military brony out there has to be twitching from how the 'Bolts name their highest officers (Admirals and Generals in alternation? Whut). Maybe the corps integrates personnel from diversified land, sea, and air defenses, which poses some interesting worldbuilding fodder for the fandom.

    Don't you think / it's pretty weird / for a pony / to have a beard / Burma-Shave

    Fun fact: Production on this episode crashed to a halt when Fluttershy flubbed her last line here. For weeks afterward, all Rainbow Dash could do was demand cheese omelettes in French. I really hope someone gets this joke.  

    So, Dash finally managed to get the Wonderbolts' history in her head. Ask me how it works, and I couldn't tell you. Some brony out there's probably trawled Google for a bit and come up with a theory or two, but I think that runs the risk of missing the most important message here. Some journal entries this season come from someone owning up to being "wrong" -- to mixed results, if said pony had their reasons for acting how they did.

    No one gets thrown under the Absolutely Wrong Bus here. Dash simply learns differently than most other ponies do, and it's okay that their ways of learning don't work for her. And it's Rainbow who ultimately provides the answer to her own problem. 

    Still, I'm genuinely curious about what the more psychologically-inclined of you out there think about that. Does she have a good map to an established learning model in the literature? Does she stand alone? Considering Amy maintains a public blog about raising her epileptic son, I'm really not surprised to see her take a risk and present Rainbow in this non-mainstream light. I've already talked to a couple of folks who've more than identified with her educational struggles in this episode.

    And so Twilight leaves her books strewn all over the place, but Applejack can't tap an inkwell out of position without scaring the daylights out of her? Such double standards.

    Oh yeah, and Dash passed her test.

    Now that you've finished the episode and know how Dash learns new things, go back and watch the scene where Twilight tries to surprise Rainbow. I'll still be here.

    Thanks for a great season, Amy! All of us in the fandom can't wait to see what you come up with for Season 5!

    And thank you for reading with me, all the way through. CouchCrusader, out.

     Yeah. No best face controversy this week.