Sunday, 19 January 2014

Episode review: "Rainbow Falls" (S4E10)

The Ponyville team and supporters
Technically it's a spoiler. But nobody in the entire fandom missed it!
It hardly seems like yesterday that Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic began, and here we are moving into double figures! Episode 10 was written by Corey Powell, who debuted with the classic "Sleepless in Ponyville" and went on to write the pretty decent "Just for Sidekicks" later in Season 3. This is her first appearance since then, and given the title we had a fair idea who would be at the centre of attention. After the break, I'll give you lucky people some more of my thoughts.

This wasn't a bad episode at all. It wasn't a real classic, though, and some of that was because of one pony: Bulk Biceps. I don't like his new canon name at all, but more importantly I didn't think his characterisation was great. If he's such a poor flyer, then a) how come he got into the Wonderbolts Academy and b) why's he on Ponyville's relay team anyway? We got an in-episode explanation of why Thunderlane couldn't be on it, but there are any number of other pegasi to choose from.

Okay, talking of other pegasi, let's mention that right now: Derpy is back! It seems that her reappearance has been in the works for a long time, but that the creative team deliberately left her out of the early episodes to maximise the surprise here. I was extremely satisfied with her portrayal: she may not have said anything (beyond a group gasp and cheer) but she certainly wasn't hidden away in a distant corner. It was in a different league from her S3 finale cameos: this was the most obvious Derpage since "Hurricane Fluttershy".

Spitfire, Rainbow Dash and Fleetfoot
The light at the end of that tunnel is an oncoming Twi

Then there were the Wonderbolts: they didn't do themselves any favours, and frankly came across as rather cocky and arrogant. I've never liked the attitude that you have to be like that in order to be a winner and I expected more of Spitfire after what happened in S3. Fleetfoot was just flat out unpleasant, to the extent that I almost felt like sniggering at her obvious lisp. The one member of their team who came out with much credit at all was Soarin', who was the nicest of all and almost got pushed out in favour of Rainbow (who'd earlier saved him!).

Going back to the Mane Six, two ponies above all dominated: one was Rainbow Dash, who ended up having her loyalty tested – and, of course, passing. We got the (now clearly significant) "rainbow eyes" thing while she was malingering in hospital, and the matching flash on her "lead pony" badge right at the end. (Surprised she thought so much of it after the way the Wonderbolts behaved, though...) I thought Dashie was written very well in this ep, especially in terms of the way she dealt with the Wonderbolts. She's come a long way from the wide-eyed young mare of the S1 premiere.

The other pony who really made a splash was Twilight. She was the only one who realised that Dash was two-timing the Ponyville team, and though she didn't have many lines, those she did were mostly important. "You know, choosing not to choose isn't really a decision" was a fabulous line. It made Twi sound almost like Celestia – which I'm sure was the point. I even wonder whether the rainbow-coloured wig she wore while cheerleading near the end might have been a subtle nod to Tia's mane!

A crowd gathers round the wheelchair-bound RD
"But it really was Ahuizotl! He's real, honestly!"
Applejack, Rarity and Pinkie had a fairly quiet episodes, unsurprising given that they've all featured extensively in one or other of the last couple. Fluttershy, being part of the relay team (clearly "Hurricane Fluttershy" did make a lasting difference!) had slightly more of a role, and was most entertaining and cute in her two-hoofers with Snowflake Bulk Biceps. We got a lot of extras this time, ranging from the aforementioned Thunderlane to a team of griffons (nope, no Gilda!).

For the first time in four episodes, there was no song. The background music was fine, and I liked the nod back to the "Wonderbolts Academy" training theme. But it's the visual design that I want to concentrate on. Rainbow Falls itself (assuming that's the name of the village) looked beautiful, and so did just about all the background design. I was particularly impressed by that moving-hoop obstacle: readers old enough to remember 16-bit consoles may get my Star Wing/Star Fox reference here!

All in all, "Rainbow Falls" was no classic, but it was more hit than miss. Inevitably, though, it will always have a place in my heart (and that of many other bronies) for bringing back our beloved Derpy. (My rating adds half a point just for that!) It also scores for continuing the Equestria Games storyline, for ramping up the idea of Twilight taking after Celestia and for giving Rainbow Dash her key quest. Although this isn't Powell's greatest episode, and although it does have its flaws, it's very watchable.

Twilight and Dash hug and make up
Fluttershy looks really rather creepy as a Cyclops
Best quote: Fluttershy to Bulk: "Um, 'Rainbow Dash' actually starts with an 'R'"

Yays
  • Rainbow Dash comes through her loyalty test
  • Twilight's quiet development as a princess
  • Soarin' in hospital won me over
  • Lovely visuals much of the time
  • Interesting to see griffons again
  • Derpy returns!
Neighs
  • Bulk Biceps' characterisation feels off...
  • ...and his canon name is terrible: another "Sweetie Drops"
  • Fleetfoot and Spitfire are really disagreeable
  • AJ, Pinkie and Rarity were rather one-dimensional
7.5/10

3 comments:

  1. I still haven't had chance to watch this one, as I'm having one heck of a game trying to find a version that has the sound in sync and doesn't go blurry every so often. I'm not sure why this particular episode is proving such a tricky one to find!

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