Monday, 21 September 2015

Episode review: S5E15: "Rarity Investigates!"

Noir Rarity lounges on the couch
"A lot depends on who's in the saddle."
Fresh from last week's Rarity episode, this week we have... a Rarity episode! And its writing credits bothered me a bit when I first saw them, as there are two writers – Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco – with a story by four people – Lewis, Songco, Meghan McCarthy and M. A. Larson. Can this end well? There's only one way to find out, and that's to follow me past the break for the usual spoiler-filled waffle about "Rarity Investigates!" in all its glory... or otherwise.

Happily, this turned out to be great, certainly the best Rarity episode since "Rarity Takes Manehattan" and perhaps even since "Suited for Success". It isn't perfect, but it makes up for its few flaws with an immensely enjoyable film noir homage and some lovely moments of friendship between Rarity and Rainbow Dash. On which note, isn't it wonderful to see those two working together for a full episode for a change?

My biggest problem with this ep comes early on: the Wonderbolts are always going on about sticking together and looking out for each other (they do so in this very episode), so why are they so ready to suspect Rainbow Dash's guilt? Also, Wind Rider was a fairly obvious suspect from the word go. I wasn't too impressed with the Wonderbolts' behaviour there, and I think they should have apologised properly to Rainbow later and admitted that they'd learnt a lesson themselves about not jumping to conclusions.

Still, once that initial bump is out of the way, apart from Dash's annoying show-off air dances the bulk of the episode is truly fabulous to behold. Rarity turns out to make a really perfect gumshoe, and the decision to pay homage to film noir with large sections of the episode being shown in black and white really pays off. The transitions between colour and b/w are remarkably smooth and unintrusive, and even the odd mix (when Rarity finds the lock of Dash's mane) works. Bravo.

Wind Rider and Spitfire
He's smooth. Too smooth...
The very start of the episode features Sassy Saddles, which is a nice piece of continuity, though she doesn't do a great deal after that. Instead, we have some more Wonderbolts material. We get (I think) the first ever canon pegasus mum in Stormy Flare (the first pegasus dad was Zipporwhill's back in "Filli Vanilli") and there's even a small speaking part for Misty Fly. I'm sure the SoarinDash shippers will enjoy this episode a lot, but even for those like me who aren't, their interactions are fun.

Another thing you notice about just how stylish this episode is? The animation. There's great use of lighting, shadows and poses: I can't remember an ep where Rainbow, especially, has shown so much expression with her whole body, not just her face. The creative team are clearly supremely comfortable and confident with what they're doing now – something borne out by the closing scene, shown in b/w despite being apparently very colourful. Restraint wins the day, and it works.

There are considerable echoes of "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" in this episode, although this is basically better in every possible way. Ponies stay in character, the pacing is better, there's some good use of the Royal Guards and Rarity's seeming fripperies turn out to be vital to solving the mystery. This is how you do a detective story in My Little Pony, fillies and gentlecolts. There's even the odd touch of self-aware humour, like the musician pony.

All in all, I was very happy indeed with "Rarity Investigates!", and I may well have to re-evaluate my feelings about multi-credited episodes now. It can't quite reach the rarefied heights of a five-star rating, as that irritating setup still nags at me a little too much for that, but it's a very high four and an ep I'm sure I'll watch again for the sheer pleasure of it. This may not have been "Amending Fences" great, but it is still great and is heartily recommended.

Rainbow Dash interrogates the Royal Guards
"Now I come to think of it, Princess Celestia always orders cake. Maybe it was her?"
Best quote: Rarity: "We had a long road ahead of us, Rainbow Dash and I. Well... not too long, because we didn't have much time."

  • Superbly stylish, with the noir transitions handled wonderfully
  • Really excellent, atmospheric incidental music
  • Fantastic to see Rainbow and Rarity team up for an entire episode
  • We finally get to see (one member of) a Wonderbolt's family!
  • The credits music, with its echoes of the usual theme tune
  • Humour, though fairly restrained, is handled with a skilful touch
  • The continuity with "Canterlot Boutique" is welcome
  • The 'Bolts weren't exactly loyal to Rainbow Dash at the beginning
  • Wind Rider was a fairly obvious suspect from the start
  • Rainbow's show-off air dances were a tad grating and felt a bit forced


  1. That might be my new favourite episode. I'm not even sure what else to say about it. Rainbow Dash wasn't even annoying in it!

    As soon as it started the noir voiceover and Rarity corrected herself, I knew these new writers had good stuff in them.

    1. Lewis and Songco also wrote "Castle, Sweet Castle", which doesn't seem to have caught people's attention nearly as much. (I gave it a four, albeit a lower four than this one, but I've seen people place it dead last in S5 thus far.) I have to agree with you, though: I'm very much hoping they'll be writing more Pony episodes.

  2. I need to re-watch this episode. Everyone is really gushing over it, but I just thought it was okay. I'm not a huge fan of mystery episodes, though. I dislike any mystery that you don't received the clues to along the way, as well. It always feels cheap to me when the characters start listing out the elements that tie it all together that we were not privy to. Not that I didn't like the episode. I enjoyed it, just not to the degree that everyone else seemed to. I'll need to watch it again and see if I pick up on some things that I missed the first time around.

    1. I thought the clues were generally there, if not called attention to that much. As you're going to give it another go, I'll remain vague, but for the most part I thought it was a fair mystery. Though sure, if you're not a fan of mysteries in the first place, this was not likely to be a favourite episode.

    2. The indication of clues was there, but not the clues themselves. They don't make sense until we are told what they actually are. It's a common way that mysteries are told, but I don't personally care for it. I dislike when I get to the end, and the sleuth says, "Well, I noticed in the parlor, there was a red coat hanging on the coatrack, and since Mr. Smith was a member of the Caganasty Boating Society, all of whom wear read coats, it means he must have been here!" Yeah, we might have seen the coat in the background, or the protagonist might have squinted at it while continuing dialogue about something else, in the way Rarity does with the curtains, but unless I've been given this information somehow about the Caganasty Boating Society, it feels lame to me at the end when they do the reveal. It's the way I feel in this episode when Rarity declares that the letter smells like Wind Rider's cologne. Sure, she sniffs it, but never mentions anything about what it smells like, so it feels cheap to me to bring it up as a clue at the end. I feel like the fun part of a mystery is figuring it out, not waiting for someone else to figure it out for you. It's just a personal preference, so this episode didn't do a lot for me. Since a great many mysteries are done in the way that this one is, I'd say that my opinion isn't widely held. It certainly didn't stop a ton of people from loving this episode. I certainly liked it. I just didn't REALLY like it like many people did.

      What I did appreciate was a better look at Soarin' that didn't make him look like a doof. He seemed pretty competent that whole episode. Well, besides the general witch-hunt atmosphere the group had. He looked like a generally skilled second-in-command.

  3. I've watched this twice, and I can't say enough good things about it. The animation and (dare I say) cinematography was outstanding. Also, that totally gratuitous suncream nosebop moment that will surely live on in infamy... I think the animators knew exactly what they were doing there! There are few places in MLP where Rainbow Dash genuinely acts cute, but this time we got a whole episode's worth :D

    1. Oh, they knew all right. Just like they do with the Cheerilee/Big Mac moments we get! This is probably tied with "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" for my second-favourite ep of S5 at the moment. ("Amending Fences" is, and I suspect will remain, top of that particular heap.)