Reviews: My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic S 2 E 8 The Mysterious Mare Do Well
On pulling off the illusion
Just think about how hard the rest of the Mane Six had to work to pull this stunt off. Rarity had to make four matching costumes without being barged in on by RD halfway through. Applejack had to take part in an intentional scam (to be also done against Trixie, of course-apparently she can't lie verbally without twitching, but she can take part in a running deception!) Pinkie had to learn how to walk normally: no bouncing or giggling allowed. Fluttershy had to get up the nerve to do a close-pass buzz on RD the moment RD decided that her wings were her unbeatable advantage. Twilight had to levitate more mass than ever before: rock is dense, and the gushing water would also have to be managed. "A lot of study" doesn't even begin to cover it, considering how much she would struggle to levitate far less mass against the Ursa. And whichever one made the grand entrance on the Mayor's stage had to be able to OUTRACE RD until getting into the center of town where the rest could get into the Scoobydoobydoors act. Sure, Applejack was able to match RD on the ground-WHEN RD had her wings tied to neutralize her natural speed advantage. In this chase, there was no handicapping: in fact, RD was quite motivated to run Mare Do Well to ground.
Why Mare Do Well?
Like a number of the other reviewers before me, I didn't particularly care for this episode. But for a long time, I struggled to pin down exactly *why* this was so. Was it the Aesop? No. Not letting your head get too inflated after genuine accomplishments is a good moral. Admittedly, they could have maybe *shown* that it was acceptable to be proud, rather than just have one line at the very end of the episode, but at least they included that. Was it the character interactions? Again, no. To an extent, at least. As far as aesops concerning pride and ego, Rainbow Dash is the ideal character to demonstrate the bad aspects. Similarly, her friends would be ideal to show her the way, and to provide a good example. Except they didn't; it was Mare Do Well that was selected to provide the good example. That's where it goes downhill for me. I mean...what was the point of the Mare Do Well identity? Did the Mane Five really need to remain anonymous? Did the costume allow for them to do things that they ordinarily would not have been able to do? No. To me, at least. Personally, all I see the MDW identity standing for is a couple of hours of effort from Rarity, and the other Mane Five then being forced to quickly don the MDW suit at the first sign of trouble. Surely, they could have been just as able to perform the necessary hero-work as themselves. I may be wrong, but to me it seems as though the negative aspects and escalation from the competition between RD and MDW could have been at least downplayed if it was RD's friends showing her up, rather than some shadowy entity that she has no previous good interactions with. After all, at the end of the episode, we see that RD is quickly able to swallow her pride when she finds its her friends 'out-heroing' her. Even the scene at Sugarcube Corner would have seemed more of a nudge than hypocritical if it were the Mane Five joking about something RD knew about. And that's where my issue comes from: this episode seems to have been built around the references to superheroes, rather than around the characters. Now, I don't mind references, like Huffy the Magic Dragon, My Little Lebowski, or even actual characters like Photo Finish, as these don't hamstring the plotline. To me, this episode could have focussed on the conflict between Rainbow's loyalty and her desire to be recognised.
This one rubbed me the wrong way
Okay, so Dash has an ego, and occasionally she trips on it. Her pals know this. However, they also know she has a paralyzing fear of screwing up and being humiliated in public ("Sonic Rainboom"). Her pals also know this. I also know the series really doesn't do plot arcs, but this is also not too far removed from the Discord arc where they all got a dose of Mind Rape. So why the hay do they all think it's a great idea to pull a prank designed to show their buddy up in front of everyone? It'd be a different matter if they pulled her aside and tried to tell her that the ego trip wasn't helping, or if they showed up as themselves to do heroic actions and pointed out how Dash is better off with allies, or called What The Hell Hero on the autograph sessions or things that could have got somepony killed. Instead, they play on her Berserk Button and insecurities, and then gloat about how awesome they are in what's an inside joke to them, but a jerkass ploy to Dash, who's not in on the joke. Rarity didn't even get this kind of Humiliation Conga when she tried to steal Dash's thunder in "Sonic Rainboom," nor has Twilight been called out on how often she tries to pass herself off as the only sane pony. Yes, the idea of not letting your ego get out of control is a good Aesop. It wasn't handled very well.
The Superhero episode, a minor issue in continuity recognition and semantics
I understand other's criticism of the episode even if I don't share it. I actually enjoyed the costumed rescuer's feats and thought Dash learned a bit of a lesson WITHOUT being totally humiliated. SPOILER My only criticism really comes down to nit picking, that I don't truly mind, it just bugs me. The persona of Mare-Do-Well is slightly redundant and it goes by unnoticed! The Mane Six have already saved the world twice, and when they are not handling personal issues, they're facing down danger to save a town(Ponyville/Appleloosa/etc.)or at least one another from dangerous situations. They functionally are superheroes yet nopony points this out. No off-hoof remark about previous exploits, no "Rainbow. You do realize we do this sort of thang' all the time, right?" At the end, I was honestly hoping they would keep the costume and give Dash a shot!
A simple fix to strengthen this episode
I agree with the previous statements that there was a sense of entitlement that the brony fandom was expecting for this episode that made it negative in their eyes. And I agree that the identity was predictable, but I think that was necessary (being a kids show and all) But I think there is still something fundamentally flawed with this episode that could have been corrected to strengthen the overall plot. Effectively, the episode is structured, to some degree, like "Applebucking Season" - one of the Mane cast has a problem, and either refuses to admit it or is oblivious to it, and the other Mane cast step in to help. However, unlike the above episode, where AJ's refusal to accept help leads to rather disastrous results for all of Ponyville, RBD's bragging rights simply make her insufferable to her friends - there's no harm to the town, just that she's annoying. But they never approach her directly on this, nor are we shown that when they are alone away from RBD's fanclub, that RBD is impossible to be around. If they had shown a couple ways that RBD's heroism going to her head to the detriment of their friendship or to the safety of Ponyville, that might have made the need to bring RBD down a notch with Mare-Do-Well a stronger driver for the episode. Some ways could have been RBD ditching a weekly Pet Playdate, not being there to help one of the others because she's off signing autographs, or perhaps something to do with letting her weather activities slide (eg: loose storm clouds over Everfree Forest move towards Ponyville over Fluttershy's home, and while RBD races to save all of Fluttershy's animals, all their homes are destroyed from the storm); RBD simply waves these off as "I'll get it next time, guys, promise!" Then, and only then, does it make sense for the Mane five to do what they did. You still end up with the same conclusion and friendship report, but the characterization and reasoning for the creation of MDW makes a lot more sense. Note that there's s hint of this when RBD is about to save the falling balloon (she gives herself 10 more seconds for autograph signing), but there needed to be more before MDW was introduced to show the dangers of her bragging. Basically, providing better reasoning for what the other Mane cast did would have tightened this episode much better, and only required revamping a scene or two.
Bit of a step down.
Now, don't get me wrong- I love this show. I practically worship the air it breathes, but this was a gigantic step down from the usual quality it produces. I don't usually make reviews but I found that it was worth pointing out; many of the jokes seemed forced, and the overall plotline was expectable, trite, and quite frankly disappointing. There seemed to be a few forced attempts at memedom hidden inside the episode (Spike is a ghost, anyone?), and a few of the characters were acting a bit... off, to say the least. I find this a shock, coming from such a fantastic episode as "May the Best Pet Win", but this isn't an isolated incident in the second season; "Sisterhooves Social" pretty much evoked the same response from me. I can't say the entire season is doomed to this fate, as we still have great works like "Lesson Zero" and "Cutie Pox" in our wake, but I'm praying that the season will hopefully shape up for the next few episodes. Overall... 6/10. And I'm surprised that I'm giving that type of a rating to this fantastic show. Hopefully things will change.
I think I've figured it out
(Possible spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet) I think I know what the problem is with this season so far. Oh, we've had some great episodes so far, but we've also had some mediocre episodes that, while not terrible, or even bad, and adding some much-needed character development, just aren't as good. The thing is, the 'mediocre' episodes, such as this one, don't feel any different from the good ones. I think I've figured out why: We've set our expectations absurdly high. We've been wanting more from the background ponies, especially Derpy Hooves/Ditzy Doo, and were expecting one of them to be the mysterious heroine. In hindsight, it should have been obvious what the resolution for this particular episode should have been. After all, what are friends for if not bringing you down to Earth when you get too full of yourself? (And besides, it's Rainbow Dash. She collects Break The Haughty moments like the Cutie Mark Crusaders collect Epic Fail after Epic Fail.) That being said, while the resolution should pretty much be obvious about halfway through the show, it wasn't that bad. It had some cute moments, and some utterly silly moments, maintaining the overall cheerful feel of the show. Plus, Rarity proves her epic sense of style yet again in the design of the Mare Do Well costume. I loved the 'Darkwing Duck' feel of it. After Discord, the bar was set quite high. Heck, after the first season, the bar was set high. While this wasn't the best episode, it wasn't a bad one. And taken on its own merits, quite enjoyable.