• "Newbie Dash": Episode Followup

    Ponies happened!

    Let's get right on in there.

    That is the most disappointed happy face I've ever seen in this show. Or the happiest disappointed one. It looks like trying to find the bright side of a Moebius strip in a lightless room.

    Superhero landing! Superhero landing! (Those are really hard on the knees.)


    As always, the background artists are doing some incredible work tuning up the places of Equestria. There's even a bunch of cloud pillars in Dash's neighborhood, so are they making like a Cloudsdale exclave in Ponyville (above Ponyville?) or something?

    What with Starlight getting center stage last week, I'm glad she gets to spend some time with the rest of the gang helping Dash prepare for her upcoming assignm--

    Oh, she's not here.

    I'm genuinely curious to see how the show includes (or excludes) her with or from the main cast as the season(s) go on, though. Group scenes like this are very tricky to write -- either you leave someone out and get questions like "but why was mai waifu not there she is blue horse bird's friend too" or you stick them in and wait it out their rationed dialogue. I'll address this here and say that I felt this episode leaned a little too much on the latter, and you can go find an analysis video if you want more on this topic.

    >implying that you will never >imply as hard as Rainbow Dash

    New Rainbow Dash aside, what is Rainbow packing to Wonderbolts HQ? Figure it out, Twilight.

    The storyboarders did something very cool here by taking the standard "leaning on the doorjamb" trope and applying a pegasus twist to it. Strictly more effort than normal? Not to this flaphorse.

    Ponk's had six seasons to into rhetorical questions. Do you think she'll ever get them?


    We're picking up right from where we left these two last, and how thankful I am of it. Rarity and Rainbow Dash make the best of odd friends.

    That's the same cake Mrs. Cake was decorating when Starlight came to visit last week. Huh.

    Of course it's Fluttershy bringing up the stakes for Rainbow's first show as an official Wonderbolt in a caring-yet-totally-unhelpful manner. She's done it before, man.

    Thankfully it seems that Rainbow's become a little more resilient in the five seasons since.

    Also, holy cats the amount of things wings do in this episode. Eat your heart out, "Hurricane Fluttershy" and "Castle Mane-ia."

    Twilight, you'd think you'd have learned about lecturing Rainbow on reality by now.

    Have a wide shot of Wonderbolts Headquarters/Academy, and how they've remodeled since we were here last.

    Listen to this egghead spouting off all of this Wonderbolts trivia now. Proving that acing that 'Bolts history exam in Season 4 wasn't any joke.

    "No one's pulled your tail in a while, newbie. We ain't done with that yet."

    Hands up if you remember all the teeth Rainbow pulled out of Applejack's mouth trying to fly off someplace with her still attached. Yeah, thought so.

    "Wow! General Flash sure had a huge underbite."

    "Actually, newbie, bigger chins make you more aerodynamic. Shame we kinda phased that out as a species."

    All right all right all right. This is the moment -- Rainbow Dash is officially an in-uniform Wonderbolt. Five seasons after we run into her for the first time (or, rather, she runs into Twilight), TheDream.exe has happened.

    I don't think it's really hit me that this had happened. There were always discussions in the earlier fandom days about what RD would do in the show when she joined the 'Bolts, and though the conversation earlier in the episode kind of waffled on it, it seems like Rainbow Dash is tour-bound for the rest of Equestria. So would that mean we'd start to see less of her and watch the rest of the main cast drift apart? Rarity has boutiques in Canterlot and Manehattan, Twilight's become a princess (that happened, didn't it?)...

    To keep this short -- I think the characters continue to grow with every season, and the show's growing with them. However, we're still going to see Rainbow Dash hanging around Ponyville with her friends. It's a disservice to look at Rainbow and think "WONDERBOLT WONDERBOLT WONDERBOLT" when she's had a perfectly fine existence apart from them. She can have stories that care about other commitments in her life, just as the rest of her friends do.

     Still -- I couldn't be prouder of this little idiot.

    No, you can't.

    Scrunchy face.

    I'm gonna take the chance to self-promote by saying that moments like these is why I like drawing Rainbow Dash so much. She often dives into situations way over her head without realizing it, and the consequences almost never fail to amuse me.

    That poor flight instructor. I'm sorry for what she must've put up with.

    Another hot tip: Hoops up there was voiced by Terry Klassen, the voice director of the show. Guy's a riot and I got to interview him at Babscon. I'm hoping to get the recording live on the blog this week, so stay tuned!

    Hotshot flyer that she is, I was really glad that the show didn't pull punches with her inexperience in high-performance formation flight. It's a completely different paradigm for her to absorb, and she struggles with it because it's just that little bit different from her own experience flying solo. The second biggest point the episode makes comes from watching her offering this stunt and that routine to improve the Wonderbolts and utterly whiffing on why her suggestions aren't taken seriously.

    Co-ed locker rooms, tho.

    "Wait, Anon--!"

    Someone had waaaay too much fun (read: beer) working on this take.

    It feels like the CMCs swing on the world's largest pendulum of artistic competency. The bob is on the right side for once, seeing how they gave the pony exactly four legs and no more.

    Pinkie would be the one to smile at the thought of Rainbow Dash covered in gunge.

    Applejack demonstrates why she's best pony.

    Hold those Molotovs, Pinkie-friends, I promise I'm gonna wrap this up all tidy at the end.

    Because Aquaman couldn't take this followup, there's Rarity.

    Any time Rainbow Dash gets an idea, you know it's time to contact your insurance company and add another twenty Gs to your liability coverage.

    WOW did Dash go all-out with those balloons.

    So now we get to the part of the episode that was received... lukewarmly by a sizable population of the fandom, me included. It's not hard to explain why -- if Pinkiedash is gonna be a thing, then so must Appledash, Twidash, Flutterdash, and Raridash as well. That's not even touching the shippers.

    We know this isn't going to work. It's going to confuse her comrades-in-pinions and make her out to be an even bigger featherbrain than how she was the previous day, and many of us want to see the exact opposite in her. So the episode's become predictable, and flat for it.

    Only.. that isn't right. I will do an explain that comes later.

    Besides, Pinkiedash's biggest failure here is that Pinkie does not pbbbt unless under the influence of poison joke. She bleps.

    Just sayin': if Appledash isn't good enough for Fleetfoot while she's brushing her teeth, Appledash isn't good enough for you.

    I really have to wonder what kind of day it was in the booth for this episode.

    "Ashleigh, you're gonna voice Rainbow Dash voicing Applejack."

    "Hold my beer."

    You won't believe how many Twidash fics we get here.

    Spitfire sums it up pretty well.

    I think Dash is overdue for some fillings. And a hearing aid. And no small amount of dignity, either. Poor poni.

    Flutterdash time. Utterly bewildering. "Care Mare"? What are you even doing

    So the MLP wiki has a significantly detailed Wonderbolts roster, but for some reason I remembered that was Blaze giving that bomb-flank shoulder rub to Fleetfoot (who, I forgot to point out earlier, seems to have changed eye shapes since we last saw her goggles-off in "Equestria Games"). More to the point, though -- shoulder rubs. I'd kill for one right about now.

    Even more to the point -- there's a pair of naked mares behind him and Soarin's nothing but business.

    Aw yeah, time for Raridash.

    Soarin' seems less-than-impressed, but I'd say this impression was on point.

    Before I'm yanked off-stage, Cranky should really be asking Rainbow how she got her mane to do all of her friends with a couple wing passes and a toss of her head. Seriously, that's some skill right there. Rarity would be seething with jealousy! Go back to that previous cap -- Dashie's even got the false eyelashes!

    I think this part of the episode becomes a lot more enjoyable once you realize why Rainbow did what she did. To get herself a better nickname? Sure. "Crash" is a source of embarrassment brought back from her fillyhood, and she was willing to as far as to put "Rainbow Fash" on her flight jacket.

    But it really took a talk with my friend Aquaman (another comrade-in-followup-arms here and auteur spectaculair) before I realized that Rainbow wasn't necessarily trying to be each of her friends. Her default "awesome" personality only earned her humiliation so far, and in looking for a new one to try out she had five others ready to go courtesy of her closest friends -- though, granted, this is already reading too deep into the issue.

    And it's not even that Rainbow Dash has internalized trauma from being called names as a filly. The episode reads that way, possibly to its detriment, from the flashback and Fluttershy's recollection at the party. All the same, it's not that Rainbow has mentally regressed in age to when she was an insecure, bullied, and weak foal.

    The truth is much simpler than that: Dash is naturally very hard on herself, and with the stakes as high as they are now -- not just making a good impression on her lifetime idols, but also recovering from a poor one -- anything less than perfection from her is nothing but complete and utter failure. She isn't concerned with getting kicked out of the Wonderbolts. She's terrified that she isn't good enough for them. The difference there is who's doing the judging -- the former lies outside of her, the latter wholly within.


    Aaaand she's talking to Roseluck, who has somehow grown a horn. You know, I'm digging the look.

    Pinkiecus piecus never approaches its prey from the same angle twice. From above, below, or through the fourth wall, it always gains the upper hoof in the blink of an eye.

    "My parents haven't done this with me in... ever."

    I'm so sorry I get one that's all I ask please don't come after me

    "Aaand if you screw this up and miss, it's a thousand-foot fall onto sharp rocks and the bottles left over from Mrs. Harshwhinny's campaign stopover from last month."

    And then you get shots like this where Rainbow Dash really is at her best -- slightly deluded, but otherwise genuine excitement and enthusiasm. That part of her gets really underrated among her hater, singular, because two such people existing on this earth at the same time would disprove the existence of goodness in the universe.

    This is the face I usually have at work on Thursdays -- I have a task to do and I can do it, but I won't know why and have the worst feeling that I'll flub it somehow.

    Nice catch, Twi.

    No, really, things got Season 1 in here in a hurry.

    The cotton candy vendor has a really nice design. I didn't know stallions could rock poofy pink hair, but it definitely works!

    My favorite flying background music from "Rainbow Falls" and "Rarity Investigates!" returns with a groovy backbeat, adding a little exclamation point to Rainbow's newfound Wonderbolt status. Like the rest of the girls on the ground below, this entire sequence was a joy to watch.

    EDIT: You guys! Remember back in "Testing, Testing, 1 2 3" when Twilight called the "Icaranian Sun Salutation" Celestia's favorite flight pattern? Here the 'Bolts soar vertical, spread their wings, stall, and fall back to earth.

    Who knows if the staff can confirm this, but that episode DID share a storyboarder with this week's. This would still be amazing only as a coincidence and one hay of a callback if it was intentional.

    Scrunchy face.

    Scootaloo lines up the kick!

    And it goes to show you that Sweetie Belle is still too young to understand what happens when you introduce a pony to the bottle.

    "Birdemic is real!"

    And from this one scene emerged the exile horde of Sonicdashers, and lo a new era of friendposting begins.

    >tfw you have two microseconds to process the enormity of how badly you just f[buy some apples]d up

    So even though it was only a dream at the time, we got to see a literal apple-shaped bone in Apple Bloom's tummy in last season's "Bloom and Gloom." So I guess pegasi have clouds? And super disturbing wing phalanges?

    Man again, those wings.

    Not a lot of us come from the kind of culture the Wonderbolts cultivates, which is why this last scene (once again, per my good friend Aquaman) is so crucial. All the teasing and bi-- uh, buddy duty Rainbow had to put up with from her fellow 'Bolts? All the times they snickered at her, or put an embarrassing nickname on her flight jacket, all without mercy?

    They did all those things knowing she's one of the best they've ever recruited, and they did so respecting her talents every second of every day.

    Hazing isn't a paradigm that makes sense to someone outside looking in. And there are absolutely scenarios where it goes too far and lawyers get involved. But all that happened here, objectively speaking, was a nickname and some toilet-scrubbing.

    Ponies like Rainbow Dash (and, by extension, people) are their own biggest obstacles to success, because they don't realize that the standards they hold themselves to are much, much more taxing than what others want of them. Rainbow expected to not only fly perfectly with the Wonderbolts in her first two days there, but to change the routine and disregard the rules because she would make them better.

    And then she expected that the others would expect that of her in turn, because that's how she wanted them to see her.

    The crucial element here is that they didn't.

    You can argue that Dash hasn't found sufficient coping mechanisms to get over her childhood bullying, and that she was getting triggered, and I would be remiss to generalize that issue as something to be "gotten over" for everyone. But it's just as important to argue that the Wonderbolts were teaching Rainbow to be at peace with making mistakes, and that she didn't need to be so intense on herself.

    Everyone shares their embarrassing nickname ("High Wind" pictured here with some fine pinion-pointing) because not only were they the rookie themselves at one point, but because it's allowed them to take themselves less seriously and bond over their experiences. Because, look:

    Even Rainbow Dash gets to smile a little after she realizes that it's possible to be laughed at and still respected, even admired. Follow that up with some additional smoking from Spitfire, and immediately after that a "here's your goggles, rookie, you're still one of our own" and it finally clicks with her.

    Go back and watch this episode again, but don't take Rainbow's side this time. You'll notice that Misty Fly's "that was amazing" comment to Rainbow Trash was completely sincere, as was Spitfire's "Welcome to the Wonderbolts, Crash!" For me, it also had the bonus of taking the edge off of Rainbow's imitations of her friends (and again, those were more what she thinks make her friends special, not actual attempts to be PinkieAppleTwilightFlutterRaridash). She's a dumb rookie, and we can laugh at her for it because we've been there, and for the most part we've come out the other side all right for it.

    I'll let Aquaman send this off because he explained it in so much less words than I did:
    This kind of culture never looks good to people who aren't used to it, but this really is how it works, insulting nicknames and taunting and everything. My group of IRL friends and I never miss a chance to rag on each other, but on the flip side we'd all take a bullet for every man on the team and will probably (get drunk enough to) cry at everyone's weddings. 
    The fact that the show not only displayed that culture in earnest but ultimately portrayed it as a good and positive thing is incredible to me. It's a different kind of friendship, but it's just as valid as what we're used to seeing from FiM. For me at least, that's exactly what I was hoping to see today.

    Congratulations, Rainbow Crash. All of us are so proud of you.

    Big ups to as always to the staff who worked to bring us yesterday's ponies, especially storyboarders Emmett Hall and Thalia Thomlinson, and first-time MLP writer Dave Rapp.

    Thanks for reading. CouchCrusader, out.