Sunday, 15 December 2013

Episode review: "Flight to the Finish" (S4E05)

Scootaloo and friends scoot off to the Crystal Empire
I love the way Scoots' wings can change gear!
And here we are again! It only seems a week since the last episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Wait... it was only a week! This time around, the episode is one I've been looking forward to ever since I read the one-line synopsis. I loved "Sleepless in Ponyville", so "Flight to the Finish" has a lot to do to displace it as my favourite Scootaloo ep. The task falls to a brand new writer to the show, Ed Valentine. Can he manage it? Jump past the, er, jump and we'll see!

What everyone wanted to know, of course, was whether Scoots' inability to fly would be directly addressed – and if so, what we'd be told about the reasons for it. The animatic clip released at SDCC made it clear that it would be a plot point, which just increased the hype levels. This turned out to be because the Cutie Mark Crusaders were planning a spectacular routine to win them the right to carry the Ponyville flag for the Equestria Games in the Crystal Empire. A good, clear storyline that fits well with the show's style.

Some MLP writers are spot on from the start: Corey Powell was with the aforementioned "Sleepless in Ponyville". Some take some time to warm up, like Merriwether Williams, who started out with the infamous "Mare Do Well" but was later responsible for the much better "Wonderbolts Academy". I think Valentine may fall between those two extremes: he didn't seem to have everypony's speech patterns quite right to start with (especially Diamond Tiara's) but by the end things were falling into place.

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon make fun of Scootaloo's wings
And how far can you fly, Diamond Tiara? Hmm?
Rainbow Dash was the only member of the Mane Six to appear this time round, reprising her coaching role (silly hat and all) from a couple of other episodes. I wasn't terribly happy with some of her human-like poses – I think the show has moved too far away from the S1 days when the characters were more clearly ponies in stance and mannerisms – but I liked her character. She was a bit over the top in being wildly overenthusiastic and then checking herself... but hey, this is Rainbow Dash we're talking about.

We had a song! "Hearts as Strong as Horses" was a rather nice song, too. I think it's over the top to put it in the same class as the likes of "Smile" or "A True, True Friend" but it's probably as good as "Babs Seed" and that's pretty solid. You can argue about what the word "horse" actually means in Equestria, but it's been used off and on in the show ever since S1. Interestingly, Claire Corlett has now taken over Sweetie Belle's singing duties from Michelle Creber; the change is seamless.

One of the most interesting things about "Flight to the Finish" was that we saw real disunity within the CMC for the first time. The arguing in "Stare Master" was just silliness, but when Apple Bloom says "If she's gonna quit, we don't want her, and we don't need her!" then that's really quite a powerful moment. Good characterisation, too: it makes perfect sense that AB would be the most stubborn of the three fillies. It also contrasts with the very message of the CMCs' routine: that Ponyville (only? Interesting if so...) is a place where three types of ponies live in friendship.

Ms Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash
Rainbow Professionalism Dash
I said a minute ago that I liked the way Rainbow was written in this episode, and that's particularly so in one special scene: Scootaloo has gone home (so she does have one!) and thrown her scooter in the bin. Rainbow Dash bursts in and gives one of her finest ever pep talks, as befits the representative of loyalty and an awesome adoptive big sister. She tells Scoots that it doesn't matter whether she ever learns to fly. She doesn't need to emulate Dash in everything she does to be "all kinds of awesome anyway".

So, other than the aforementioned humanesque poses and unevenness of DT's scripting, were there any problems? Well, the very end was a bit rushed, but oddly enough, one relates to what I just said: it was a slight disappointment to have such a vague answer to the question of whether Scootaloo will ever fly. I have a nagging feeling that, had it not been for the lingering effects of Derpygate, they might have been braver with a "disabilities don't have to get in the way of friendship" message. They didn't even take the other brave way out and give Scoots her cutie mark. A shame.

All that said, "Flight to the Finish" continues S4's record of not having served up a poor episode. It's still shaping up to be a very good season, and there's been an awful lot of backstory, foreshadowing and world-building in the five eps we've seen so far. Daniel Ingram obviously still has what it takes in the song department, it was nice to see a more homespun slice-of-life story again, Rainbow Dash remains in S3 rather than mid-S2 mode (thank Celestia) and the animation is great. Keep it up, folks!

Snowflake is terrified by a butterfly
Fluttershy played tug-o-war with them. Snowflake freaks out. Who's tougher?
Best quote: Rainbow Dash's "You're all kinds of awesome" speech to Scootaloo.

  • Season 4's first song – and it's a good 'un
  • Rainbow Dash's wonderful speech to Scoots
  • Explores real disunity within the CMC for the first time
  • The Doctor and Rose(luck) together in the background!
  • Looks like the Games will form another season arc
  • Copped out of taking the Scootawings issue head-on
  • Diamond Tiara's lines didn't quite work
  • Too many human poses these days, guys
  • Rather a rushed ending
  • Ms Harshwhinny was a bit dull


  1. another sweet review! I think that when eps do what I want them to I go into full fanfilly mode and cannot be objective :P I do see what you mean though with the negative points... I just can't feel them yet. AnYpony agrees with you too :3

    but Digicurious are fanfillying over it with me :D

    1. It's interesting... I did much the same squeeing over "Sleepless in Ponyville", which I absolutely love despite there being a few problems with it. This one? For some reason the flaws stand out a bit more. It happens sometimes: "Wonderbolts Academy" only got 7 despite being mostly great, simply because I couldn't stand Spitfire in it. :P

  2. I think I'd have to agree with that review and the total. It *was* a good episode, definitely, and I can see why so many fans have really taken to it judging from what I've seen. But there's that feeling that somehow it could have been so much more after all that hype. I think most of us were expecting a lot more of the story to revolve around Scootaloo's wing problems.

    Personally I wasn't expecting her to get her cutie mark, as I just have this instinctive feeling they'll be keeping that back for all 3 of them to get their mark at the same time. And it didn't seem the likely place for that to happen, just yet. But I did think more would be made of the bullying side of things, and although it IS an important part of the story, it didn't really feel like the central point of the story - which is perhaps what we were all expecting.

    Still, I did enjoy it anyway, and the song - while maybe not a 10/10 for me, was certainly a very catchy one and proved memorable. So it was certainly good to hear a song at last, and a decent one. And yes, I'd agree that Rainbow was especially good in this episode. Given what she had to do, and how she tried (very successfully) to boost Scootaloo's confidence, that was obviously very good to see.

    Of course if I were giving this a mark out of 10, I'd dock 2 points because Pinkie didn't turn up at all. ;)

    1. Hard to argue with any of that (except maybe the Pinkie line...) and I still wonder how they'll do the cutie mark thing when/if the time comes. After all, it will be such a big change that, even if the series keeps going and the G4 style stays, there might be a case for calling it G4.5 from that point onwards. Still, we know there are more than 20 more episodes at the very least. :)

  3. My favorite FiM episode.

    Many ponies returns, the Games, brandnew song and more!

    1. Oh, I can definitely see why so many fans like it! I wish I could have liked it more, but 7.5 is still a good mark so I'm pretty happy. :)

  4. A great review! It's interesting you've picked up on Rainbow Dash's human-like poses. To be honest they don't bother me that much. If you have wings, you're going to have four other limbs free to emote with, and with RD being as expressive and exuberant as she is, it seems natural that she would project that onto her body language. I remember a storyboard artist saying in a Q&A panel that RD was fun to pose. Notably the other non-pegasi characters don't do this because they're not physically able to, and it would be out of character for Fluttershy to wildly gesticulate.

    1. Thanks! The poses don't *really* bother me, and a lot of the time I don't even notice them. For some reason, they happened to stand out more this time around. It's interesting: I absolutely love the way Andy Price draws the ponies in the IDW comics, and they're considerably more expressive than they can be on screen. So I'm possibly just a mass of contradictions!