Monday, May 9, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 133

Well, that was a pretty disappointing episode.  I didn't exactly have high hopes for Newbie Dash, but the combination of character-breaking idiocy (not to mention character-breaking in general; from "egghead" on, Dash has previously shown that she has no trouble grasping the concept of "friendly teasing") from Dash, and a crude "impersonations" gag that felt about fifty times longer than it actually was--and which didn't even make sense to begin with!--pretty well tanked the show for me.

Sometimes, after watching an episode and seeing a few peoples' thoughts, my opinions on the episode change, and in this case, my feelings toward it became even a bit more negative after seeing what other people wrote.  Interestingly, though, it wasn't the people panning the episode who drove it a little deeper on my personal "worst of FIM" list; it was the people defending it.  Although I didn't have a big problem with the hazing when I watched the show (again, friendly teasing--it's how a lot of people bond, especially in highly competitive environments), the way people were defending it was almost entirely using Stockholm logic, trotting out classics like "it's not abuse if it's just verbal putdowns," "That's just how they show love," "If she really didn't want it, she should have said so" (and, when it's pointed out that she did unambiguously show her displeasure, the goalposts are immediately moved to "well, she should have said it more clearly/forcefully/often"), and that classic, "This is what they did to me, and I turned out fine, so I get to do it to you."  Don't get me wrong, I still think that a little jocular mockery is a staple of bonding... but I'm really uncomfortable with the way some of this episode's fans are trying to justify it.

Anyway, the good news is, the beginning and end of the episode were excellent.
 After we headed up to Wonderbolt training, I feared this would be the only Carrot Top we'd see all episode.  Luckily, my patience was rewarded!

Poor Carrot.  Three spacious stands with six levels each, and she still ends up behind the one pony who brings a giant, view-blocking hat.

Anyway, reviews!  Below!

The Three Travelers, by Caerdwyn

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A fable of three ponies from long ago, who came upon a great fortune... and of what they did therewith.

A few thoughts:  Let's be honest, this is my kind of story. I like Celestia and Twilight's notes on the story, in that they ground it as a piece of in-universe writing and provide some wonderful temporal placement.  They let the author shed light on little touches, like the way the story never specifies species, which I might not have considered the full implications of otherwise.  That said, they might have felt more needed had the story itself not spelled out its own moral quite so explicitly.   Still, this is a good lesson, not to mention one that feels at home in Equestria, told in that storyteller's cadence which practically cries out to be shared aloud.

Recommendation:  This is an easy rec for fans of folklore and fairytales.  It is very traditionally preachy, though, so readers who don't enjoy having explicit morals unambiguously spelled out for them might not find it to their tastes.

My Mountain, by LunaUsesCaps

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rainbow Dash wheedles Derpy into competing in a race--something Derpy absolutely wants no part of, for very good reason.

A few thoughts:  It's strange; all the characters in this story (Derpy, Cloudkicker, Dash) are unambiguously cast in their backstories and personalities from The Life and Times of a Winning Pony, yet this doesn't try to fit into that continuity in any way.  Odd.  Anyway, to the story itself!  The writing here isn't the strongest--I'm pretty lax about saidisms, but in this story they even started to bother me--and at times the lessons are a little too convenient or on-the-nose... but "on the nose" is something that seems to me like it fits Equestria pretty well, much of the time.   I liked how everything from Derpy's job to the race itself was kept thoroughly Equestrian/pegasi-ian, especially the little details that a reader might not even notice; that kind of attention to setting made this stand out for me.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for something with a good mix of drama and (race) action, and don't mind a fair bit of cynicism and bitterness along the way, this would be a fine choice.


  1. I actually enjoyed the episode well enough (except for The Return of Faic). Guess that, after nearly thirty years of watching television, I've become desensitized to the idiot ball. Dunno that Dash was totally out of character, though. People with big egos can take things a little too personally at times (often resulting in them not being able to take what they dish out), and she had a bad history with that particular name

    Can't say I'm surprised at some of the defenses you saw, or the parallels with rape apologetics. This fandom scares me sometimes

  2. Holy crap! Carrot Top is Talking to Lucky! And holy crap! Lucky has his fabled cart, not seen since the events of Winter Wrap Up! From the looks of it, it seems he's transporting... flats of broccoli, maybe? Or giant green books? Perhaps a crocodile?

    Point being, despite the otherwise arguable quality of this episode, I think we can all agree that that was a landmark moment. We also learned something very important about pegasus anatomy when Rainbow Dash was hit by lightning and we got a peek at her skeleton. Apparently they do have finger bones in their wings, along with a weird... cloud shaped bone where their stomach should be, which I can only assume is used to maintain buoyancy. I guess pegasi are more like some strange bat/fish combo than actual horses.

    As for the stories, the first one—oh, wait! Clovers! That's what Lucky must have been hauling around. Of course. It's so obvious in hindsight. The fact that I didn't think of it first is kind of embarrassing. I mean, come on... what could Lucky possibly have needed with a crocodile?

    1. I imagine that their conversation in that scene went something like this:

      "Heya, Missus Top!" cried Lucky, cheerfully dragging his wagon up the street. "Care to buy a bushel of clover?"

      Carrot Top could already feel a headache coming on.

      "Lucky, what have I told you every single time you've dragged that wagon full of clover into town?"

      Lucky scratched his chin thoughtfully. Carrot Top waited patiently for him to speak. At length, his eyes lit up, "Was it--"

      "I told you," she interrupted, "That clover is a weed. Do you know what farmers do with weeds, Lucky?"

      "...Buy them in bulk for greater savings?"

      "We weed them, Lucky. Hence the name." Carrot Top sighed. "I spent all Thursday afternoon pulling clover out of my garden. If, for some unfathomable reason, I wanted some, I would have kept that clover, instead of throwing it on my compost heap." She eyed the wilted pile of greens in Lucky's cart dubiously. "And in any case, it'd be fresher that way. Where did you even get these? They look like you picked them and then left them out in the sun for a week."

      Lucky straightened. "Actually, I grabbed these from a magic pile of clover that suddenly appeared right next to your house a few days..." he trailed off, slicking back his hair unconsciously as the gear inside his head churned, "...which I'm starting to suspect wasn't really a magic clover pile after all..."

      "'Magic clover pile,'" Carrot Top repeated, her nested quotation marks clearly audible.

      Lucky brightened. "You know what that means, right? These are just as fresh as the ones from your garden!" He grabbed a hoofful. "Sure you don't want to buy some?"

      His only answer was a sigh.

    2. "...Well in that case," said Lucky, glancing around to make sure nopony else was listening, "perhaps you might instead be interested in a 'slightly used' crocodile?"

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  4. I'm gonna write a whole blogpost on this soon, but -- Dash's emotional vulnerability portrayed in this episode is characteristic of a foreclosed identity struggle as studied by James Marcia.

    If this were true, it would have come out of left field, but is still consistent with everything beforehand -- we see no evidence of identity exploration in the show, at least. It would also have enormous consequences, morally, for the children watching this show.

  5. I was really hoping for a reasonable plot in this episode. Yes, Dash is an amazing flyer, but learning to work with a team where she has to fit in rather than stand out would have involved character growth as well as realistic conflict. Instead...

    Well, at least her strength is impressive. How she carried an idiot ball that huge for so long was amazing.

    1. But part of the problem here is also that she's already done that, flying with them as a backup before and presumably training with other reservists for other potential cases where they'd be needed. It's something that, if we were going to see her learn how to do it, we should have seen before now.

    2. Well, based on this episode, she still hasn't figured it out.

  6. Heh, and here I am, not usually one of Rainbow's greatest defenders -- and I really liked the episode, despite not particularly enjoying the teasing. I had a nickname years ago that everyone but me thought was amusing, and it hurt. I still feel a little uncomfortable when I remember it (which is why I'm not repeating it here, despite its being SFW). And yet I came out on the side of the episode fairly conclusively, silly impersonations and all.

    1. Maybe it's because that "trying too hard" cringey stuff was pretty much how I responded, with fairly similar results. (Except the "being a Wonderbolt" bit, regrettably.)

  7. Is Applejack's hat not giant and view-blocking enough for you? WHAT DOES A POOR MARE HAVE TO DO TO GET SOME HAT RECOGNITION FROM YOU, SIR?!

    1. He probably didn't even see her. She just blends into the background so well :P

      Yeah, I'm that guy. Also, Second Best Horse wears a perfectly sensibly-sized hat

    2. It's true! You could fit a couple of AJ's backup stetsons under Rarity's monstrosity with room to spare.