Sunday, 6 April 2014

Episode review: "Testing Testing 1, 2, 3" (S4E21)

Rainbow Dash argues with Fluttershy
Pinkie? Can we have an Epic Rap Battle of Equestria over here, please?
Including this one, there are now just six episodes remaining of Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. After last week's relatively underwhelming offering, could veteran writer Amy Keating Rogers produce something special? Her record so far in this season – she brought us both "Pinkie Pride" (with Jason Thiessen) and "Filli Vanilli" – gave cause for optimism. This was a Rainbow Dash episode, though, and those have never been entirely predictable in terms of quality. Join me after the break!

Well, as far as I'm concerned, this made it a hat-trick of excellent episodes. It was great, perhaps even rivalling the best we've seen in S4. It packed a huge amount into its 22 minutes, ranging from hilarity to deep emotion, from argument to complete weirdness. We got world-building; we got Equestrian lore; we got a story where Twilight needed her wings; we got Rainbow Dash heading towards Wonderbolt status; we got more alicorns. Wait, what? Oh yes we did! Though not quite in the way that you might have expected...

Back to the central plotline, though: Rainbow Dash has to pass a test to get into the Wonderbolts Reserves (who seem to have come out of nowhere in a Shining Armor-type way) and Twilight – who else? – is trying to coach her. AKR gives us some brilliant exchanges between these two, ranging from Dash's jibe about "freakout arias" to Twi's "I am not that tall!" to the entirely convincing petty argument, which briefly threatens to turn nasty ("Just because you've got wings doesn't mean you can fly!") before being calmed down by Fluttershy.

Pinkie raps; Vinyl, er, scratches
Not that this is fanservice or anything, right?
This sets us up for the middle part of the episode, which is so full of win that the ponies might as well just be saying "Win win win" the whole time. Fluttershy's attempt to teach Rainbow through the medium of drama seems to owe something to the CMC school of set design – but there's a lovely payoff at the end of the episode, where all those costumes do work, albeit in a different way. Yes, the other ponies' ideas are used too, but Fluttershy's is the most prominent, as you'd expect from Rainbow's closest friend and another pegasus.

Okay, at this point I have to mention Pinkie Pie's rap. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, which is part of the reason it's so brilliant. It was apparently written by AKR, not by Daniel Ingram (hence the lack of a song credit in the end titles, I suppose) and I think it will be regarded as one of the show's classic scenes. It's helped by some excellent production work: the 4:3 aspect ratio and VHS-style "deterioration" give it an appropriately 20-year-old feel. Pinkie's lines also scan a lot better than many raps I've come across!

The lore that's added in this episode is added with a light hand (hoof?) but there's actually an awful lot of it. We now know that the Wonderbolts are inextricably linked to the whole Luna-banishment affair, and so they now take on a much more significant role than that of a simple display team: they possess immense Equestrian symbolism. AKR has said that the mention of Firefly was a nod to Lauren Faust (@Fyre_flye), rather than to the G1 pony, but I doubt that will stop the fanart and fics from coming thick and fast!

Applejack and Twilight dress up as past Wonderbolts
Yeah, Rainbow, that was my face during Pinkie's rap scene, too...
This episode also did very well in giving all the Mane Six something significant to do. In the way it did that without feeling rushed, it reminded me of "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" back in S1. (It actually felt like an S1 ep in some ways.) Every one of them had their memorable moment: apart from Pinkie's performance, there was Fluttershy rocking her Princess Celestia outfit; Tabitha St. Germain's dual role and Nightmare Rarity (in a way); Applejack's blunt "You're up a creek"; and Rarity's truly brilliant glare at the aforementioned AJ when the latter made a disparaging remark about fashion shows.

But that wasn't all! There were also some nice cameos from Ponyville's other residents. The CMC were around and about, and (as befits a pegasus-centric ep) Scootaloo was the most prominent: she managed another short hover – and landed rather than thumped down at the end of it – and also made sure she saluted as the fillies held up a drawing of the Wonderbolts. Big Mac (eventually) gave the "EUP / Eeyup" payoff we'd been waiting for all episode, and Filthy Rich also had a walk-on part.

It's actually very hard to find anything about this episode that I didn't like. I guess the Wonderbolts Reserves coming out of nowhere was a little too convenient, and the helicopter didn't quite fit, but that's about all. It was very well paced, packed with entertainment and full of intriguing new facts about Equestrian history. We also had a nice moral – that not everypony learns in the same way – that meant Twilight had something to chew on as well. The more I think about it, the more I think that this rivals "Filli Vanilli" as my favourite episode of the season. Wow.

Fluttershy dressed as Princess Celestia
Give me this in Season 5 and I will rate every episode 11/10
Best quote: Rainbow Dash: "Aah! Pinkie, you're real!"

  • A massive amount packed in without feeling rushed
  • Excellent interaction between Twilight and Rainbow
  • A really nice, well crafted moral for both Dash and Twi
  • Very attractive, inventive visual effects
  • Some brilliant dialogue (and in Rarity's case, non-dialogue)
  • Intriguing glimpses into Equestrian history...
  • ...starring Opalescence and Angel!
  • Pinkie Pie's rap: a work of (an evil) genius
  • Fluttershy is best alicorn princess. As if we didn't know already
  • The Wonderbolts Reserves rather came out of nowhere
  • That helicopter, pedal-powered as it was, felt slightly out of place
  • One surprisingly obvious animation error (Twi's mouth not moving)


  1. I love the bit where Rainbow was mucking around with her stool it was so adorable!

    1. Yes, I loved that too! This was one of the easiest reviews I've written, because there was so much to talk about that I could reach the right length easily... but it was also hard, because I had to leave some things out. If Meghan McCarthy ever left the show, I'd be more than happy for AKR to take over at the helm.