Friday, 14 September 2018

Episode review: S8E20: "The Washouts"

Short Fuse, a short, red stallion wearing a flight suit, getting angry at the state of his sandwich
"What do you mean, bacon?"
Apologies for the delay in getting to this episode review. I hope to get the Text Review Roundup posted tomorrow, then I should be more or less back on the normal schedule next week. Anyway, "The Washouts" was an episode I'd been looking forward to, as it promised to be one about the relationship between unofficially-adoptive-sisters Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo. Nick Confalone had one okay-I-suppose episode this season ("The Maud Couple") and one very entertaining one ("The Break Up Breakdown") – which category would "The Washouts" fall into?

Very much the latter, I'm pleased to say! Confalone gave us a generally very satisfying look at a slightly older Scootaloo, with many of the trials and tribulations that young human teens will recognise – and a compelling, head-on acknowledgement from her of her inability to fly. In some ways, this is Scoot's equivalent of last season's Sweetie Belle episode "Forever Filly", though I prefer "The Washouts" by some distance, and I don't think that's just because of its star. (She's canonically "Scoot", not "Scoots", it seems. Oh well.)

Strangely enough, I'd been spoiled on Lightning Dust's return but had somehow forgotten about it by the time I watched this episode! That meant there was a fun feeling of "Hello..." as I caught sight of a strikingly-coloured mane during the initial Washouts routine. Dusty was a bit of a mixed bag: the initial joshing with Rainbow was nicely done (though given "Parental Glideance", surely Scootaloo would know their history?), but it was over all too soon and from then on she seemed to have very few redeeming features.

Scootaloo wearing a Washouts flight suit, carrying a helmet under her arm and looking self-satisfied
Speaks for itself, really!
Dash's (over?) protectiveness towards Scootaloo was very well portrayed. It tipped over at times into outright weirdness, such as in her eavesdropping of every one (!) of her fan club meetings. You can see why Scoot felt suffocated and determined to be her own pony, and I thought this element was much better written than in S4's "Somepony to Watch Over Me". Of course, in the end all was happiness and Scootalove was preserved. Hurrah!

The Washouts troupe did their job of being a darker side to the Wonderbolts without simply aping the Shadowbolts. Perhaps their attitude was ramped up a little too high, but with one exception (of which more in a moment) it felt right for the episode. The oddly Australian-accented Rolling Thunder was a pony I could imagine seeing again, though Short Fuse's one joke was wearing thin by the end. (He's a background pony in "Top Bolt", by the way. Nicely done.)

Twilight was a little strange in this episode. She seemed very easily swayed by the Washouts' grimy glamour, and I'd have expected a little more loyalty to her close friend Rainbow Dash – ironic, huh? She did have a very nice scene where she flew along with Rainbow, one that strongly reminded several people of "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3", but I still struggle a bit to believe she'd be thrilled by a death-defying stunt show, even after eight years' character development.

Twilight and Rainbow Dash flying, Dash looking annoyed as she glances off up and right
"And what's with this stupid logo, anyway? Where's our stupid logo?"
Worse, though, was her apparent indifference to the hugely dangerous stunt Scootaloo was set up for at the end. All right, she couldn't have known that Scoot was having second thoughts – and Lightning Dust not caring made Dusty an out-and-out villain in my book – but especially since she didn't know where Dash was, Twi still should have stepped in. I'm all for teens making their own decisions and learning the hard way, but literally risking death? That's several miles over the line.

Okay, time to go back to something I did like. Scootaloo's portrayal in this episode was outstanding throughout. Watch her in some of the scenes where she's caught in an effective tug-of-love between Rainbow and Lightning; she says very little, but she doesn't have to; her body language and facial expressions do it for her. The reveal where she appears in Washouts uniform is quite a moment, too. Plus, of course, at the end everything is good again, while Dash has learnt something too.

Spitfire's "DRINKING THROUGH A STRAW!" routine was okay, I suppose, but Saturday Night Live (source of the sketch that inspired it) isn't the cultural touchstone here it is in the US, so to me "okay, I suppose" was all it was. I also suspect the Scootaloo Fan Club will never be seen in the show again, but oh well. Some very good animation touches as usual, not least Dash popping out from behind Spitfire with "Patent Pending" at one point.

Rainbow Dash and Lightning Dust arguing as Scootaloo looks on, bemused
I hadn't noticed, but both mares have the same eyelash style. Little touches!
Overall, I was very happy with the episode. I've probably spent a little more time than usual talking about the aspects I didn't so much care for, but don't let that give you the idea that I disliked the ep as a whole. Far from it. With its exploration of the fact that Scootaloo isn't a little filly any more, it hews to Friendship is Magic's admirable (and for a kids' cartoon, fairly rare) acknowledgement that children grow up. It may not have been perfect, but "The Washouts" put on a great show.

Best quote: Pinkie Pie: "Mmmm! Quality confetti cannon work!"

  • Great exploration of a teenage Scootaloo
  • That dramatic "I. Can't Fly!" moment
  • Rainbow's stupid/heartbreaking desperation
  • Colourfully and thrillingly animated
  • The long-awaited return of Lightning Dust
  • Scootalove. Always, in the end, the Scootalove
  • The Mane Six's inaction at Scootaloo's trick
  • Ignoring "Parental Glideance" canon is just stupid
  • The "STRAW!" routine wasn't actually all that funny


  1. A very enjoyable episode despite Dash's ego reaching Lewis Hamilton levels at some points. Lighting Dust seems to be going the same way as Flim and Flam, a minor villain who is easily stopped by the Mane Six. One though does spring to mind, has there been a bad Scootaloo episode? As I'm struggling to think of one. As I said a good episode which gives Scoot some great character development.

    1. Has there been a bad Scootaloo episode? How about this one?

      I mean, it's not the worst episode this season, but I found myself just not caring about anything. I might have enjoyed Lightning Dust's reveal more if it hadn't been spoiled way early; I blame the fandom for that. But I never really cared about her to begin with, and despite us getting some closure, having her back did nothing for me. I really got sick of one-note angry pony in a hurry, too.

      All I got out of this episode was a rehash of two episodes -- Mare Do Well and Wonderbolts Academy -- that are some of the worst of the season's run, coupled with requisite "hello, fellow kids" jokes aimed at the fandom. I don't understand the appeal.

    2. I haven't watched it for a while, but I remember being quite fond of "Wonderbolts Academy". Though the fact it came straight after the sublime "Sleepless in Ponyville" wasn't in its favour, I suppose.

      As for "The Washouts", I think it largely depends on whether you find Scootaloo compelling here. If you didn't, then to you it's not going to be a great episode. I did, so to me it was.

    3. Wonderbolts Academy is the story of a mare being punished by having her dream taken away for acting like Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash watches from the sidelines. :/ Times past, Rainbow would have been the one wanting to do the death-defying stunts here; the Somepony to Watch Over Me mantle doesn't suit her at all.

      And I guess maybe I don't care about Scootaloo. I dunno, nothing in this struck my fancy, as it were, aside from the "Rainbow Dash!" "Lightning Dust!" "Scootaloo!" bit, that was great.

    4. @stewart jarvis:

      has there been a bad Scootaloo episode?

      Depends what you count as a Scootaloo episode. She plays a role in "Mare Do Well", which I don't think is much cop, but she's not the central character. But "Sleepless in Ponyville", "Flight to the Finish", "Parental Glideance" and "The Washouts" could all be considered Scootasodes, and I'd happily rewatch all of them. :)

  2. Beside Spitfire scene and that one continuity error, everything else about this ep is great. ;D

    1. Yeah, it's strange about the continuity, given "Parental Glideance" was only last season. Oh well, still a lot of fun. :)