Sunday, 8 December 2013

Episode review: "Daring Don't" (S4E04)

Daring Do prepares for battle
"Bring it, Polsky"
Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has got off to a pretty impressive start, and three episodes in we've yet to see a really disappointing instalment. This time around, the show welcomes back a stalwart of the writing stable, Dave Polsky. I personally wouldn't rate any of his episodes as absolute Celestia-tier examples, but in the main they're good fun if you don't look too hard for problems. Will "Daring Don't" follow that pattern? Join me after the jump and we'll see!

This is very much a Rainbow Dash episode, as you'd expect from one with Daring Do playing a major role. Twilight is the main support, again unsurprisingly given that (as she pointedly remarks at one stage) she was the one who introduced Dash to the series in any case. Although there's a lovely opening scene for Fluttershy, a couple of bits of silliness from Pinkie Pie and a rather startling hat for Applejack, these ponies (and even more so, Rarity) are reduced to little more than background characters for the majority of the ep.

Rainbow Dash impersonates... er... someone?
I'm not even sure I want to know what this is based on
Polsky pulls a major surprise in "Daring Don't" in terms of world-building. The vast majority of fans (including me) had assumed that Daring Do was a fictional character, and that AK Yearling would just be doing a bit of self-insert dreaming when she wrote her books. Instead, Yearling is DD, and so both she and her main enemy Ahuizotl are utterly real. I'm not sure how I feel about this: it's rather out of nowhere, and the Mane Six are surely famous enough adventurers in their own right that Yearling/DD would have heard of them.

As was the case with "Read It and Weep", I was impressed by the (for want of a better word) cinematography in this episode. There are widescreen shots, sweeping pans, all that sort of thing. It did a lot for the ep's atmosphere. Once again there's no song, but once again William Anderson comes up trumps with his background and incidental music. There are obviously strong echoes of Indiana Jones, but then that's the case with just about everything where Daring Do is concerned and it feels entirely appropriate.

The henchponies prepare the ceremony
One ring to rule them all...
If you're just out for a good time rather than concentrating too hard on the actual plot, "Daring Don't" is a really enjoyable episode. It's action-packed in the, er, action sequences – although the pacing is a bit uneven – and the fanfillying from Rainbow Dash and (to a slightly lesser extent) Twilight Sparkle is highly amusing. Their back-and-forth exchange about details of books three and four (the only ones that get mentioned, for some reason) is brilliant. Pride of place, though, must go to Dashie's facial expressions. Unforgettable, sometimes in a good way...

At the end, we saw the journal used for the first time in anger. Rainbow Dash's comments were reasonable as far as they went, though really a moral along the lines of "respect celebrities' privacy" might have been better. After all, there were clear (and presumably deliberate) parallels between Rainbow's stalkerish obsession with Yearling and certain of the less constrained members of our own fandom. (Or indeed any fandom, but it's ours that's relevant here.) I was a little uneasy that what we actually got was a message along the lines of "Pester your favourite author enough and they'll put you in their next book."

Rainbow Dash holds the new book
In reality, doubtless written by AK Rogers...
This was quite a hard episode to rate, but my gut feeling is that this was the least impressive of the three stories we've had thus far. It was a huge amount of fun, and I laughed my head off at Rainbow Dash's (and to a slightly lesser degree, Twilight's) fanfillying. But as with several of Polsky's previous episodes (especially "Too Many Pinkie Pies") it seemed to make fun such a high priority that one or two quite substantial underlying problems were glossed over. As such, it scores well but not brilliantly.

Best quote: Daring Do: "Now, Ahuizotl, you know I love you... but I can't give you the ring till I've properly proposed." Twi's "pedestal" speech to Rainbow comes close, though.

  • Very funny at times, especially RD/Twi's geek-out "duel"
  • Rainbow Dash's range of facial expressions
  • Major world-building, setting up for DD to return later on
  • The music was particularly impressive
  • Aztec mythology to go with all the existing Greek stuff
  • Fluttershy was stupidly cute in the opening scene
  • If Ahuizotl is real, how come no-one but Daring seems to know?
  • The rest of the Mane Six were barely used
  • Moral seemed to be "if fans stalk enough, they'll get rewarded"
  • The Wilhelm Scream is becoming overused


  1. I'm really undecided with this episode. I think you're definitely spot-on when you say that if it's watched purely as a "don't worry about it" kind of episode, just for the fun of it and just to enjoy the action, then it does the job fine.

    For me though, that idea of the author actually *being* Daring Do just didn't work at all. It's undoubtedley just me being me, but I simply couldn't get past that thought of "you're joking..." It didn't completely wreck the whole episode, by any means, but for me at least, it certainly didn't do it any favours. "Not only did Rainbow Dash get to meet her favourite author of all time, but her favourite author was in fact the main character from the books AND she got to help her out and take part in a quest and then end up in one of the books." No, it's not really doing it for me. Really though, I *am* keeping in mind that the main target audience is obviously children and that has to be remembered, so I've no doubt they would have found that a genuinally wonderful idea. :)

    Still, that aside it was good to see more of DD and I still say it would be amazing if someone could put together a DD game along the lines of Tomb Raider. Some of RD's expressions were priceless, especially that bemusing one you showed above. I have no idea what that was a nod towards and I'm not totally sure I want to know. ;) Naturally, Fluttershy's scene at the start was extremely cute in a way only Ms Fluttershy can manage, and I love the bit where Pinkie seemed to build up a "jump charge" before she hulahooped the ring across the room. There was also something just a bit disturbing about the way Ahuizotl was crawling along, around 14:00...

    And yes, the moral was certainly an interesting one. Not really quite sure how to take that! Perhaps it's time to start hassling Neil Gaiman. ;)

    1. I don't think I'm quite as negative to the idea of DD being real as you are, and actually I'm starting to come around to the idea -- but it still doesn't quite sit right with me. It's interesting, as I said in a UKoE post recently, that four episodes in we've already had two big, controversial decisions: this being one and having the Mane Six return the Elements of Harmony being the other. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were some other big surprises on the way!

    2. I think maybe it was just the wrong time for me to have watched it at that point. I gave the episode another chance and it didn't seem as much of a "problem" this time. I'm still not sure it was the right idea, but I do think children would see it as a really nice idea nonetheless. But it still seems a strange decision. Still, as you say, it all adds to the whole "what will they do next?" :)