So it took me a little while to get to this (mostly cuz I'm lazy), but I'm gonna finally get to my double review of "Daring Don't" and "Flight to the Finish"! After a week of thinking and thinking, I seem to have come up with an opinion on "Daring Don't." It's an interesting episode to say the least, and definitely one of the more polarizing from what I've seen lately. But do I like it? Well, let's find out! First off, my review of "Daring Don't!"
(By the way, no more summarizing the episodes in a huge text wall, that just takes up too much time and I don't really put enough opinion into the synopsis part. I'll just state my thoughts about what stands out to me.)
Daring Don't Episode Review
Main Characters' role
The only ponies with a major focus on them here are Rainbow Dash and Daring Do (as well as Twilight Sparkle to a lesser extent). Rainbow Dash is kind of a mixed bag when it comes to staying in character. This is a whole side to her character we've only tapped into once, so it's fairly different from her normal personality. It feels awkward to have her fangirling over another character, but refreshing to see her acting differently from her tomboy-focused attitude. It reminds you that she is still a female and can't help but squee in delight when she meets an idol. Twilight, on the other hand, is the pony you would expect more to act this way, but it seems to be toned down a little more with her. She seems a little calmer than Rainbow Dash in the situation, but eager to show off her knowledge of the Daring Do series and argue with Rainbow Dash about it. Daring Do herself... well, she's apparently real now, so we have that. She seems to be a lot more... no-nonsense than she was in her last appearance. In "Read It and Weep," she was a little more playful, especially in her mocking Ahuizotl at the end of the episode: "Better luck next time, Ahuizotl!" It just seems like something a character on the same level of cheesy quotes as Sonic the Hedgehog would say. However, she is insistent on keeping Rainbow Dash from interfering throughout the better part of the episode. It works well enough for an adventurer like her, but it's quite a bit less lighthearted than she initially appeared to be. Overall, I expected more from Twilight, I expected different from Rainbow Dash, and I got to see a more straightforward side of Daring Do. I could have done without Rainbow Dash totally fangirling over Daring Do, but it could have been worse. As for Twilight, I think she should have been a little more upfront.
Main Characters' rating: 7.5/10
Now here's where it gets quite interesting to talk about. The running theme of Rainbow Dash going crazy for Daring Do throughout the episode is kinda awkward for me, but aside from that, the writers made her real. I will be on the side that says "I liked her when she was a fictional character," and she just seems out of place in the real world. It's not really a bad thing, because the duo of Rainbow Dash and Daring Do works to the point where it doesn't seem entirely artificial and ridiculous. The beginning of the episode up until they reach Darin- ...I mean A.K. Yearling's house is quite forgettable. The only scene that sticks out from the beginning is the one where Pinkie Pie is dragging a paintbrush along the ground, making a red line behind her, after a montage of a red line marking their progress across the Equestrian map. I admit, this joke amused me a little bit. It reminds me of one particular scene in Spongebob (or The Emperor's New Groove, whichever one you find more relatable). Most of Pinkie's humor has gotten considerably better, so I'm happy for that reason I guess. After that, we get to see some... hitponies... who I personally don't find terribly interesting either. A.K. Yearling reveals herself to be Daring Do after they show up (what a twist) and the subplot about a mysterious ring comes about. I guess that the whole ring thing could have been a little more interesting if they explained it better, but it completely went over my head when I watched this episode. Rainbow Dash decides to follow Daring Do after the hitponies leave with the ring, but Daring Do tells her to leave her alone, insisting that she handles the situation alone. Rainbow Dash is just too clingy for her, and she reluctantly gives up and lets her follow. They spot the hitponies, who planned to sell the ring to Ahuizotl. Right before Daring Do can trick the hitponies out of ownership of the ring, Ahuizotl makes his grand entrance. I have to say, Ahuizotl is one of the more interesting parts about this episode. He has taken a whole new level in awesome, often screaming his lines with some unexplainable epic ridiculousness. He manages to corner Daring Do and ties her up, taking the ring back to the "Fortress of Talicon" as well. Twilight and friends catch up to Rainbow Dash, and after she sulks about how she caused Daring Do to get captured, they manage to give her a pep talk and tell her to go save Daring Do, despite her constant warnings to Rainbow Dash to stay out of the situation. Meanwhile, Ahuizotl is planning to use the ring he seized from Daring Do to somehow unleash "eight hundred years of unrelenting, sweltering heat." I'm not really sure what he planned to use it for, but I don't know if I'd want to find out. Daring Do is stuck in a trap in the meantime, but just as she is about to free herself, Daring Do is saved by Rainbow Dash. This is where the demeanor between the two pegasi shifts a little and Daring Do finally accepts her avid fan. I like how they built up to this, and her change in feelings for Rainbow Dash feels genuine to me. Then they work together to remove the rings already set in place for the "ceremony," while the other ponies distract Ahuizotl and his minions. The fortress crumbles as Rainbow Dash and Daring Do work together to remove the rings, causing it to collapse on top of Ahuizotl and his henchponies. Daring Do thanks Rainbow Dash for her help, and leaves to finish her book. Some time later, we see Rainbow Dash receive a package, containing the newest Daring Do book, given to her before it was even released. So all in all, a lackluster beginning, a fairly interesting mid-section, and a quite heartwarming ending. I had some fairly high expectations for this episode. Unfortunately, it didn't meet those expectations, and left me quite confounded. It wasn't bad, but it could have been better. (One last thing, though, the facial features have noitcably been getting ridiculous lately. First the ever so ridiculous Twilight Scepter, now this Smugdash face? They let up a little on the wacky faces a little in the next episode, but seriously animators, are you just testing out all the facial expressions you can come up with?)
The plot: 6.5/10
Daring Don't Final Score: 7/10
It pains me to say this, but Daring Don't is one of the weaker episodes for me not just of season 4, but of the show in general. I honestly don't love how they handled the episode as a whole, and nothing seems to work for its benefit, but thankfully there weren't any bad moments. Just a bunch of really bland ones. But I guess that's that for this episode, now on to "Flight to the Finish!"
Flight to the Finish Episode Review
Main Characters' role
The name of the game for this episode is the Cutie Mark Crusaders' conflict with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon being their typical selves. I don't believe I've ever really addressed my actual thoughts on Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, so I'll start off with what I think of them first. I honestly don't hate them as most people seem to do, and I find them quite fitting for foils of the CMC. Their constant insults to the CMC are quite stereotypical for bullies, but thankfully they aren't the type to do any physical harm. They make for some convincing bully-type characters without ever seeming too harsh. As antagonists, they do their job well. I'm probably gonna get some flak for saying that I like DT and SS, but hey, it's my opinion. If you think they're mean to the CMC, well, they're supposed to be. The CMC, on the other hand, seem to have had quite a bit of character development over time. At one point in the episode, they bump into the bullies, who try to mess with them with their whole "blank flank" thing, but that barely seems to phase the CMC anymore. I'm kinda glad for this, as the "blank flank" insults were getting kinda old. As a trio by themselves, they are all still in character. The only one who really steps out of their boundaries is Apple Bloom, but I'll get into that later. Sweetie Belle doesn't have any of her name-brand adorable moments in this episode, which I personally find a bit disappointing (come on, she's supposed to be adorable guys!), but seeing as this episode isn't really focusing on her, more as the CMC as a whole with Scootaloo more deeply in the spotlight, I guess I can allow it for now though. I got a bit of a fill for diasweetes in the premiere episodes, but it wasn't enough for me. I demand more adorable Sweetie Belle moments, writers! But back on topic, the main focus is indeed on Scootaloo, as I said before. Like "Sleepless in Ponyville" before it, "Flight to the Finish" gives a lot more depth to Scootaloo as a character. Not only can you really sympathize with her in this episode (well I can at least), she's given quite a bit of varying emotions. From determined to depressed, Scootaloo is one character you can really enjoy from how she's handled in the spotlight. She gives us, in my opinion, one of the best character performances in the show as a whole. It's a tough choice between her performance in this episode and in "Sleepless in Ponyville." She's handled that well, guys. One of my favorite performances of a character ever is being challenged by yet another wonderful performance. The other two members of the CMC are kinda lacking, but that's not to say that they bring down the episode at all. Sweetie Belle just wasn't as upfront as I hoped she would be, and Apple Bloom, well, I said I'll get to that. Before I forget though, there's Rainbow Dash and... Ms. Harshwhinny? Been a few episodes since we've seen you, hasn't it? I honestly don't see much appeal in her character, but there are a few parts that I like about her. She works as a nice contrast to Rainbow Dash, but doesn't fare well on her own. Whenever Rainbow Dash and Ms. Harshwhinny are together, I'm entertained. But take Rainbow Dash away, and she becomes kind of boring. I get that the writers were going for that, but I just don't think she is that good by herself. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, is quite enthusiastic, and a nice refresher from her performance in "Daring Don't." She still is a bit eccentric in this episode, but it seems to work well here. She's not nerding out over something here, she is actually amazed by some raw talent from the CMC. To me, this works better. Admiring the hard work that the CMC give out to impress Rainbow Dash seems a bit more realistic, while RD totally geeking out over a fictional character being real just doesn't. I'm glad they did this, it seems like a subtle apology (for lack of a better word) for the last episode. Anyways, the characters all work well together, and while some lack a bit, the others are there to bring them higher up to bring a level of chemistry that works very well. The only problems I have are extremely minor nitpicks that don't throw anything off at all, and that's always a good sign when I have little to no complaints.
Main Characters' Performance: 9.5/10
At the beginning, we have Ms. Harshwhinny explaining to the schoolponies about the Equestria Games with a boring attitude, but Rainbow Dash enters and grabs their attention, enthusiastically getting them excited and motivated for the role of flag carriers for Ponyville. They all buzz with excitement, and go off to practice their routines for the judges. The CMC decide to work together, and they agree that the best way to represent Ponyville is to show off the three types of ponies - earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi - working in harmony to live in a friendly community. They then set off to come up with their performance with determination. Then... a song? I'll get this out of the way now: for me, "Hearts Strong as Horses" is not a better song than "Babs Seed." Probably not even one of my all-time favorites. But it is probably right in my top 5, if not then 6 or 7. It's fairly enjoyable, plus it vaguely reminds me of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan. Not the catchiest song in the world, but overall nice to listen to. (Also, at the time of me writing this, I've already seen at least two remixes of the song. Jeez the fandom is quick with this stuff.) The freeze frame gag at the end got me to laugh, mostly because I subconsciously hoped they were going to do the joke, coupled with the fact that they actually went through with it in the end. DT and SS then throw a few cutie mark-related insults at the CMC, which only seem to further push their determination to win. Sometime later, they show Rainbow Dash their work in progress, which amazes her inside, but she keeps as calm as possible about it because she agreed to Ms. Harshwhinny to not act crazy. This sends the CMC a mixed message, being unaware of RD's commitment to not step out of line. DT and SS were spying on them in the meantime, and while they admit their performance was great, they decide to get under their skin another way: by addressing the fact that the CMC can't have a pegasus who can't fly possibly hinder their performance. This does get to Scootaloo, and she completely loses focus of what she was doing and tries to practice flying. No matter how hard she tries, though, she just can't. She continually pushes herself to learn to fly, because she suddenly thinks that the only way for them to win is for Scootaloo to fly. Soon they show off their new performance to Rainbow Dash, who notices the sloppiness in their act. She tries to be friendly but warns them that they should go back to their old routine. Scootaloo, however, is still determined to fly, even when her friends agree to go back to the old routine. Irked by Scootaloo's focus on flying, the other two leave her to continue trying to fly. Scootaloo the realizes that she would ruin her friends' chances of winning if she couldn't fly, so she actually decides to tell them how she feels before they board the train to the Crystal Empire to perform. After a bit of heated conversation, Apple Bloom snaps at Scootaloo and tells her outright that she and Sweetie Belle don't need her anyway. On the train, Rainbow Dash notices that Scootaloo isn't with them, and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle talk over what happened with her. She urges them to go back for her, and they find her in her home extremely depressed. (Apparently she has a home now, so I can no longer call her an orphan.) This is probably one of the saddest scenes in the entire show, with Scootaloo throwing her scooter in the trash. Now that hit me right in the heart. It's like she just decided to completely give up on everything at that moment. Rainbow Dash shows up with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle to comfort her and reassure her that they still need her. Scootaloo is still stuck on the fact that she can't fly, but Rainbow Dash tells her that even if she can't fly for the rest of her life, she will still be an awesome pony in every way. Feeling reinvigorated, Scootaloo leads them to the Crystal Empire, where they are shown to be performing. The judges declare the CMC the winner, and they all celebrate. Surprisingly, Ms. Harshwhinny enthusiastically declares her admiration for the three little fillies in their performance. Rainbow Dash mocks Ms. Harshwhinny, saying how she is acting crazy when she told Rainbow Dash to be more professional in the past. After a brief laugh, Scootaloo checks herself for a cutie mark, but doesn't see one. (I wasn't faked out by this, guys! I'm the only one apparently!) She then remarks that maybe the CMC will get their cutie marks in flag carrying as the episode ends.
I was prepared for feels. Truly I was. For a while (acutally this still occasionally applies), I dubbed this episode "Scootafeels" solely because of what I saw from the animatic way back when. As more info got announced, my hype grew. This was one of the most anticipated episodes of the new season for me, even beating out my interest in the premiere episodes and the other two that were revealed as well. I set my expectations high for this episode. Really high actually. And they managed to exceed my expectations. Ed Valentine, you may be a new writer, but you've caught my interest already. For a first episode, you should be proud.
The plot: 10/10
Flight to the Finish Final Score: 9.75/10
Final thoughts and other stuff
That took a while to finish. I enjoyed talking about these episodes though, so that's all that matters I guess. Now I'm just gonna wait until next week to review the next episode: "Power Ponies." Actually, about that, I'm going to be on vacation for Christmas starting on Friday, so I apologize beforehand if I can't get to the review fast enough. I also won't be back home until January, so I have a question to ask in the meantime: would you like to see me do some video reviews for the episodes? I've been thinking about this for a bit, and I wanna know what you guys think. I would just come up with stuff for the episode off the top of my head and not spend hours typing it all out at once, plus you get to hear my glorious voice. Obviously I wouldn't be able to do a review in this fashion until "Rarity Takes Manehattan," which is scheduled for January 4, the next episode to come out when I can readily make proper videos again. I just wanna hear what you guys think though. Do you want to see a video review, or do you just want me to stick to this style?
Another thing, my fanfic which I have been working on for quite a bit is nearing completion. I'm about 70% done with it, but I'm gonna be pretty busy for this upcoming week, so you probably won't see it until 2014. I know it sounds far away, but really guys, it's only a couple weeks.
I guess that covers everything for now, so feel free to leave a comment about your opinion, and for now, take care!