Episode [2.07] – “May The Best Pet Win!”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“The falcon sure does look cool… He’s absolutely everything I wanted in a pet.”
“But I did say that whoever crosses the finish line with me gets to be my pet.”
“You did! You did say that! She did say that, that was the rule!”
“And the only racer who crossed the finish line with me was the one who stopped to save me when I needed help. The tortoise!”
May The Best Pet Win, AKA “Dashie is a jerk to animals for 20 minutes”.
I have a bit of a problem with Rainbow Dash this season, and it’s that I don’t find her particularly likable, as a good amount of her stories tend to both start with the assumption that you already like her and are also inordinately focused on her ego. When it’s used as juxtaposition to the story’s contents and allows us to take a peek behind the mask of the informed trait of “awesomeness” that is Rainbow Dash to get a deeper look at her, such as it was in Sonic Rainboom, that works really well, but when that isn’t the main point of the episode (and it honestly shouldn’t have to be every time she gets focused on) and all we’re doing is having her set herself up for a stumble when her bravado falls short only for her to do the same thing all over again repeatedly later (as in THE VERY NEXT EPISODE later), it sort of starts to rub me the wrong way.
I’m not all that sure what my point is supposed to even be here, aside from possibly just trying to justify why I’m not actually that fond of this episode, while simultaneously realizing that it probably deserves a better look than I initially want to give it. I’m trying really hard not to let the knowledge of the next episode’s existence color my opinion of this episode, but it’s difficult, because the two combined were a one-two punch that remain fused in my head as the reason why all the build up for the character that Season 1 managed to do for me crumbled back down to nothing.
And really, that’s not fair to this episode, because it is much better than my memory gave it credit for.
The other 5 of the Mane 6 don’t actually get much focus at all in this episode, but I do love the little bits of them that we do get. Rarity having absolutely zero control over Opal, Pinkie and Gummy being a hilariously bizarre perfect match for each other (with Gummy pretending to be a brain slug for half the scene), and finally Fluttershy immediately reacting when she hears something she’s likely been waiting to hear for years.
Which leads us into the first song we get for the season (surprisingly late into the season, at that). I don’t have particularly strong opinions one way or the other on this song. It’s unique for me in the series in that it’s the background music for it that I wound up kind of falling in love with, and not the vocals or the lyrics. The mobile game is likely to blame for that, as it makes use of the instrumental version of the first half of the song an awful lot, and it was the first time I’d really paid full attention to just the music without the vocals over it, and I kind of love how bouncy and fun the tune is, even though the lyrics and vocals never stuck in my head as particularly memorable.
I have mixed feelings about the contest. It makes for some cute scenes and some really funny gags, but simultaneously leaves me frustrated with just how much of a bully Dash is being towards the animals in the name of finding something to make her look good. I get that the point of the episode is that she’s approaching it wrong, with Applejack and Twilight even commenting on that a bit, and there’s a particularly telling moment during the final race after the avalanche she caused winds up grounding her and she cries out that she’s supposed to win, which sort of gives the impression that the games were there as much to feed her own ego as they were to narrow down her choice of pet. In the end, the payoff is rather well done, as the end game does pull Dashie back down to earth and she starts re-evaluating what it is she actually wanted in the first place, and winds up giving up the would-be obvious choice of pet in the falcon in favor of the animal that seemed least likely to appeal to her, until her concept of what a pet was supposed to be got re-adjusted.
There’s a “but” in there to be said, but not one that doesn’t involve episodes other than this one, so as that’s the case, I’ll leave that point hanging for the time being to be picked up and carried forward again later. Within the vacuum of this episode, the trajectory of self-centered braggart Dashie missing the point to the slightly more humbled one finally getting it works, and works well.
Also we’ve now met Tank, who I really like. From Fluttershy’s dialogue there’s an implication that the poor guy’s been passed over by pet seekers in the past, and he just wants to be given a chance. Despite being completely ill-suited for Rainbow’s games, he still makes an effort at all of them (and likely would have succeeded in the one involving Opal had the butterfly not beaten him to it). We’ll be seeing him around here and there from this point on (although not quite as much as the other pets, admittedly Opal and Gummy get a lot more screen time and Angel runs away with by far the most out of any of the pets, although he’s more of a full-on character than the others so it’s not an entirely fair comparison).
It was at Midwest FurFest in November 2011 that I saw this episode for the first time, the very first episode of MLP:FiM I ever watched. I had seen pony pictures pop up on the Internets here and there before, but at the time I really had no idea what the whole pony thing was. By some stroke of providence, one of my online friends I had met through the Lion King fandom was at the convention as well, and she suggested I come to the “My Little Pony Panel” so I could see what the craze was all about. While it’s obvious that I’ve become quite the devoted fan of the show since then, to be honest this episode didn’t quite sell me at first. It was fun to watch, especially surrounded by a ton of fans all packed into a panel room (I enjoy the vibe when many people in one place get excited about what they love all at once), but given that it’s not really much of an “introductory episode,” there weren’t too many bits I could really find myself latching onto (much less understanding). Not that I can or should fault the episode for this, since I don’t think it would be on any self-respecting fan’s list of top introductory episodes, but it’s somewhat amusing to look back at how my first real exposure to pony was such a “suboptimal” one as it were.
For example: with no background, I found this scene to be quite strange. Granted, I think Fluttershy’s reaction was a bit over the top even today, but the scene makes me smile so much now.
Oh, and before getting to the song, I just want to mention: Tessa, I was going to use that exact same screenshot of Dashie’s
bad trip crazy dream had you not already. 😛
Okay, so the song. Back in Friendship is Magic, Part 2, I proposed four categories into which show songs may end up for me. Find a Pet falls into category 4, the rare “I only really like the remixes; the original just doesn’t do it for me” category, and even then I don’t find myself seeking out the remixes very often if at all. It’s certainly a fun song with a catchy melody to it (which, as was the case with Tessa as well, had been drilled into my brain after hearing it constantly in the MLP Gameloft
time-sink game), but it just doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies like some other songs do. For a long time I’ve tried to figure out why this is, and I think it comes down to something like this: songs tend to either take a concept or character and explore it (Winter Wrap Up, Cutie Mark Crusaders, Art of the Dress) or serve solely to move the story forward (Hop Skip and Jump, Singing Telegram; yes I recognize they’re short Pinkie jingles), and I find myself almost always much preferring the “exploratories” over the “move-forwards.” I put Find a Pet firmly in the move-forward category, as it is instrumental (ha) in setting the stage for the rest of the episode while its only real connection to the characters is that it helps to showcase Dashie’s ridiculous ego. Yay. As someone who is ever so fond of these characters, such a song that doesn’t really provide any new insight just doesn’t really register on my “want to listen to again” radar.
But we do get this. Did you catch the Easter Egg? Our viewing group didn’t the first time around, but upon a second play-through the room exploded. Twice.
The following scenes where Rainbow is judging all her potential pets really does slather on the self-aggrandizing. After this (and the innumerable other times her ego is pumped to the size of the moon) I’m surprised the top Google Images search for the term “narcissism” isn’t a picture of Rainbow Dash. Or maybe the suggested term in web search instead (“Did you mean: Rainbow Dash“). Rainbow strokes her own mane (figuratively speaking) so much in this episode I’m surprised she doesn’t give herself a bald spot. Of course, the next episode somehow cranks this up even higher, but that’s next episode.
For all the ego going on, though, I found the contests very fun to watch. All the different animals had all sorts of clever gags in addition to raw speed and agility (or lack thereof) to try and win Rainbow’s admiration. That eagle put on a pretty good show, I must say. And Tank’s efforts? Priceless.
The race through the Ghastly Gorge was pretty awesome, too, but I think there was a missed opportunity toward the end when Rainbow Dash gets her wing trapped under the boulder, as that’s when we very nearly saw her at her most raw (much like in Sonic Rainboom). It’s not that I want to see our beloved ponies suffer under duress more often, but I would gladly have traded this episode’s song to be able to hear more of Rainbow’s inner dialogue as her defense mechanisms begin to break down. Yes, we all know her veneer of awesomeness/radicalness/coolness is thin and flimsy, but she works so darn hard at maintaining it that it might as well be made of tungsten carbide; seeing it crack doesn’t happen too often but, I believe, is crucial to understanding her as a character. Perhaps the difficulty in penetrating this armor is one of the reasons why Rainbow Dash is one of the least favorite of my favorite ponies; that said, knowing that there’s more to her than her endless narcissism does give me hope that one day we’ll see her excel without her armor.
And that’s why I think Tank is the star of this episode: he punched through that armor against all odds and got to Dashie on a level that surprised even her. That and he looks pretty swank in dem glasses.
For this episode, I’ll leave you not with a Fina a Pet remix but rather something entirely original: Rainbow Dash Picked Me! by d.notive. Grungy, different. Recommended!
Iwas completely not expecting this to be a musical. Oh man, this is great. After the let down of the last episode, this one is an absolute joy.
Rainbow Dash doesn’t want a pet. She doesn’t need a pet, with the responsibility it entails holding her down. She doesn’t want one, right up until it becomes a competition. Then she doesn’t just want a pet, she wants the best pet ever. A long list of qualifications and requirements follows, all of which she winds up throwing out the window when she finds the one trait a pet needs to fill: Companionship.
I suppose the lesson here is that what you want isn’t always what you need. Resolving the difference between the two is tricky and important, and I’m glad that (in this instance at least) Rainbow Dash figures it out. And, having read Tessa’s part, I’m totally looking forward to her learning it again next week.
The comparison to the story of the Tortoise and the Hare is pretty obvious. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it definitely won a heart.
The music in this episode is fantastic. The My Little Pony theme on wineglasses? Magnificent. And I approve of any use of Ride of the Valkyries. Tessa and Gerf both talked about a game that uses Fluttershy’s pet song, so I’m going to have to look that up now.