Monday, 9 May 2016

Episode review: S6E07: "Newbie Dash"

BronyScot ticket sales will open on 11 May. I'll write more about that in a dedicated post later this week, but for now suffice it to say that I wish them every success. It's very unlikely that I'll make it to Glasgow myself, but I hope many others do. Okay, episode time!

Rainbow Dash impersonating Rarity to Soarin'
I honestly cannot imagine why anybody would write fanfics about this episode
Rainbow Dash has finally made it into the Wonderbolts as a full member of the squad. That much we knew from the synopsis and preview clip, but how would she get on? The fulfilment of Rainbow's dream – one first mentioned the S1 premiere – was quite a responsibility for the episode's writer, and a little surprisingly they gave it to a newcomer: Dave Rapp. (Dave Polsky was also jointly credited for the story, but only writers get tags here!) How did Mr Rapp do as a newbie himself? Follow me past the break to find out!

This episode seems to have divided opinion a bit, but I really liked it on first watching – and I still do. Admittedly part of this is because of the cold open, in which Scootaloo practically explodes with joy when Rainbow Dash is told that she's now a full Wonderbolt. But not only that. I'm pleased for Rainbow for achieving her life's ambition after so many years, I'm pleased that a new writer seems to have what it takes and I'm pleased that there was plenty of fun in the ep.

That last factor is important, since it takes the edge off what might otherwise have been quite an uncomfortable central storyline. I've been in that position of everyone other than me finding my nickname hilarious, and it can hurt. Even in the quasi-military setting of the Wonderbolts, and with the 'Bolts being ponies Rainbow already knows pretty well, it needs handling carefully. I think Rapp got the balance about right – and I particularly like the way "Rainbow Crash" has, by the end, been subverted from an insult into a (literal) badge of honour.

Spitfire telling off Rainbow Dash
"I'm not letting you share a hospital room with Soarin' again"
Let's be honest, though: Dash deserved to be taken down a peg or two for some of the things she does in this episode. She repeatedly breaks a basic safety rule – an absolute no-no in a flying team. She endangers other ponies with her reckless showing off – remind you of anyone, Dash? And she even enlists Scoots, who is clearly uncomfortable with the cloud-kicking plan but can't quite bring herself to tell Rainbow of all ponies to stop being so stupid.

One thing some fans don't seem to like is all those impressions that Rainbow does. Okay, perhaps that bit does go on a tad too long, but I think they're funny. Cringey? Sure. But cringey in the name of Dash trying much too hard to make an impression on her lifelong heroes? I can totally buy that. The taped glasses are my favourite touch: channelling Moondancer rather than Twilight, who Rainbow's impersonated already (in "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone"). Did this week's episode break Ashleigh Ball? Her voice acting here can't have been easy.

A few miscellaneous observations: I really like the animation during the flying scenes; compare what we see here with what we got a few seasons ago and you can see how much better the look of the show is today. Rarity calls Rainbow "Dashie", the first time anypony other than Fluttershy and Pinkie has done so in canon. I'm not sure whether it fits or not. And the callbacks to "Testing Testing 1, 2, 3", with Dash showing she remembers her stuff (albeit a little too enthusiastically), are both cute and funny.

Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts poster
Another nice callback, this time to the poster way back in S1E01
There are a few things that I don't care for in this episode, and foremost among them is Pinkie, who's really a little too close to her S4 one-noteness for my liking. Even back in S1, she made sure she was there to see Rainbow Dash in Best Young Flyer. The cotton candy scene here isn't all that funny anyway. I'm also still not a huge fan of certain supporting Wonderbolts (Misty Fly, this means you), and the pacing isn't quite spot on after the first act.

Not a perfect episode, then, but what is? ("Amending Fences" came close, admittedly.) Nevertheless, "Newbie Dash" a very enjoyable 22 minutes – with the old closing credits music, slightly to my surprise – and I think Rapp can be commended for his work. Of course, there's the usual nagging feeling when a character completes a long-running arc: are we getting close to the end of FiM? But for now, I'm content to be happy for Rainbow. This gets into the fours thanks to Scootaloo!

Best quote: Rainbow Dash and Spitfire: "Altius volantis! Soaring higher!"

  • Clever to twist "Rainbow Crash" into a badge of belonging
  • Dash's impersonations: cringey, but pretty amusingly so
  • Scootaloo's reaction to Rainbow getting the good news
  • Some really excellent animation for the flying sequences
  • The (drawn?) picture of her friends inside Dash's locker – aww
  • Good sense of RD's history, with well-judged callback/flashback moments
  • Pacing a tiny bit off, especially around the middle
  • I'm not a big fan of this episode's Pinkie
  • I still don't really like any other 'Bolt except Soarin'

No comments:

Post a Comment