Episode [2.16] – “Read it and Weep”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“What’s this? ‘Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone’.”
“This is the first story in the series. I own all of them.”
“No thanks. I so don’t read. I’m a world-class athlete. Reading’s for eggheads like you, Twilight. Heh, no offense, but I am not reading. It’s undeniably, unquestionably, uncool.”
How to redeem Rainbow Dash following her… let’s call it “rough” early showing this season? Well, this episode is a start.
It’s true that this episode does kind of fall into the overall Rainbow Dash formula at this point of being focused mainly on her ego, but fortunately it’s a departure from the “look at how great I am” version of it that sort of weighed her down in the first half of the season. This episode does two things very right in my opinion, and viewing them through the lens of Dashie’s character works better than it could have for any of the others. First, and most obvious, is that the overall theme of the episode is one of not writing something off before having tried it, and breaking past the preconceived notions of something being beneath you or outside of the realm of possibility for you based solely upon what it is. The topic is specifically reading, but it’s not hard to extrapolate that outwards to just about anything that someone might consider “too [insert descriptor here]” for them. Like, say, a cartoon horse show aimed at young girls (it’s not even a little surprising that this episode is very high on the list for a large portion of the adult fandom).
But the other thing it tackles, admittedly very briefly (it’s only sort of indirectly poked at save for a few lines towards the end) is the idea that someone can be both athletic or physically focused and also be smart. While it’s a little implicit in most of the episode (Rainbow Dash calls herself a “world-class athlete” in the same breath that she claims reading isn’t for her), it’s a little more up front in her words at the end – Rainbow Dash doesn’t think of herself as being smart, even after she admits enjoying reading. It’s not dwelt on a ton (at least, not in this episode), but I do really like that Twilight rather specifically responds to that line of thought, telling Rainbow Dash flat out that being athletic and being smart aren’t mutually exclusive. That’s decidedly different than just repeating the “reading is for everyone” line, and while this episode doesn’t do too much exploring of that particular side of Rainbow’s self-esteem, I do like that it’s brought up.
I really like the concept of Daring Do, an Indiana Jones-style character. She’s pretty obviously a Rainbow Dash recolor, but the two looking so similar works really well – Rainbow Dash identifies with her almost immediately as she starts reading the book, so of course she would become a self-insert in her mind as she read through it. Granted, of course, she looks like that on the cover as well, but it still makes sense for the fleshed-out version in Rainbow Dash’s head. The scenes in the book are appropriately Indiana Jonesish, with some fairly direct references at Raiders of the Lost Arc and The Last Crusade thrown in there, and Ahuizotl’s design is a pretty neat one.
Overall, I just like this episode as a chance to center Dashie out a bit. The minor amounts of world building through the inclusion of a fictional series that Twilight and Rainbow will share a love for from now on is nice, and while there’s not too much in this one that I can find to latch onto to talk a bunch about, it’s still one I’ve enjoyed watching every time I’ve seen it.
Like Tessa, I also appreciate that this episode is a bit of a reprieve from the Dash-bashing that’s thus far permeated this season, insofar as the only one who is actually doing any Dash-bashing is Rainbow Dash herself as she tries her darndest to convince her friends that she doesn’t enjoy reading. I guess you could say that pretty much all of Rainbow’s troubles this season have resulted from a form of unwitting self-sabotage whereby she constantly tries to convince her friends she’s all that and a bag of chips; in this episode, however, she quite consciously tries to convince her friends she’s not an egghead, something I’m not sure any of her friends actually ever bought in the first place and something that (at least in my opinion) is a positive thing. That some people (or ponies for that matter) are so scared of intelligence or academic pursuits or even the mere thought thereof is something that baffles me to no end, but I digress.
For some reason, I’ve always found the anatomical differences between animals of different species fascinating. Us humans always seem to wonder what it must be like to have wings; do horses wonder what it’s like to have fingers? (Well, other than Lyra of course, which is an unambiguous “yes.”) In the case of Equestrian ponies, even within the species there are anatomical differences, and as such anatomical injuries unique to the… er, what was the term we used for this again? Clans? Subspecies? Anyway, wing injuries are unique to pegasi, and ostensibly the Worst Possible Thing™ for them as wings and flying are a central part of who they are. It’s almost like pegasi need to be flying in the same way that fish need to keep swimming: it’s how they breathe, how they feel alive. Rainbow Dash hints at this in Swarm of the Century where Rarity is dressing her up and thereby preventing her from flying (which she does not appreciate one bit), and many a fan-work depicts wing injury or (gulp) complete loss thereof to be an impairment that is feared worse than death. That the injury was handled in the same way as something as mundane as a sprained ankle or broken wrist (and not to mention by a non-pegasus, at that) kind of dumps a bucket of water on my roaring headcanon here, but that’s okay: the episode isn’t about weathering through an injury, after all, it’s about not knocking something until you’ve tried it.
Of course, that doesn’t stop the brony community from taking that “weathering through an injury” thing and running to the moon and back with it! Now you too can be as bored as Rainbow Dash in the thrilling ball-bouncing simulation game that is WAITING IS MAGIC! It’s actually kinda catchy once you get the hang of it… at least until you ask yourself, “Remind me again why I just dropped 25 minutes bouncing a ball against a hospital wall?”
And while I’m riding this game-related tangent to the moon and back, the Battleship knockoff was just brilliant. At first I thought this was simply a thinly-veiled attempt at not mentioning the name of a brand-name game to be able to get away with it on television, but some quick Googling reminded me that Milton Bradley (who produces Battleship) is a subsidiary of Hasbro. Clever use of all your different assets, Hasbro! My hat goes off to you.
Speaking of hats (and bringing this tangent at least somewhat closer to the actual episode), Applejack now has some competition when it comes to ponies who wouldn’t be caught dead without their hats: Daring Do! I can totally see why Rainbow would enjoy following Daring Do in her adventures: this kind of stuff is right up her alley. While it’s very obviously one big Indiana Jones reference, I don’t file it into the “knockoff” category any more than I do horse-ified city names like Manehattan and Canterlot or Equestrian holidays like Nightmare Night or [warning: forward reference to next episode detected!]: it’s just a continuation of the whole notion that Equestria and Earth share certain parallels, and that said parallels are merely a coincidence or just the natural order of things or perhaps that Equestria is actually a post-apocalyptic Earth and… whoops, there goes the fanon to the moon again!
Oh, and Ahuizotl. What a freaking awesome character. He’d be a truly terrifying beast were he not such a dope.
And because it’s great: “I knew the book was good, but I didn’t know it could drive a pony to petty theft!” In the parallel universe where I’m heading off this week, that’s what the episode’s quote would be. 😛
This episode doesn’t usually make it to my “episodes I enjoy and can rattle off the top of my head” list, but it probably should as I think it’s a pretty solid episode. It’s got some slice of life (point), some adventure (point), some great faces and reactions (point), and even a pretty neat villain (point… minus a half point for being a dope). And on top of all that, it’s turning the page a bit (har har I’m not even sorry) on Dashie’s character development. As I’ve said more than once, it’s the characters that draw me into this show so deeply; seeing them grow and mature even a little bit makes me smile.
For a parting song, how about we DO something a little… DARING? Okay, lame. But yeah, check out Never Back Down (Feat. d.notive and Yelling at Cats) by Aviators. The song is a bit of a prism through which you are presented the charge to never give up, but it’s up to you how you interpret the refraction: is it a song about Daring do, or the artists, or you? Worth a listen.
Two major segments to this episode: Rainbow Dash recovering from her injury and getting hooked on Daring Do (a pun on derring do, a heroic action), and Rainbow Dash recovering the book from the hospital when she’s released early. One more, I suppose, for the action in the book itself.
There’s a long history of athletes who are also academically strong. Pretty much anyone in the NCAA, but my personal favorite is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Degrees in Criminology and Physiology, professional football player and wrestler, now most famous as an actor, AND he’s also into Dungeons and Dragons. Being good at one thing does not mean that a person cannot be good at another thing. The word for someone who is very good in multiple fields is “polymath”.
Time passes very slowly when you’re used to being very active and are suddenly very stuck. Dash turns to Twilight’s suggested book out of sheer bored desperation, and immediately sees something of herself in the protagonist. The book hooks her so hard that, when she’s released early, she breaks back into the hospital to finish it. The break-in doesn’t go so well, ending with a chase scene and… uh.
Screwy really messed with my head for a minute. The whole scene reminded me more of a prison breakout than a hospital, and I got a seriously bad vibe from it. Really would like to know how a barking patient managed to accompany a doctor a nurse and a flattop security guard on a midnight chase.
I like the episode, I love the Indiana Jones references, the moral and character development are fantastic, it’s great right up to the end, then it just loses me and hits my nope button. It’s only two minutes, but dang.
Overall favorite moment in the episode is this shot: Dash is trying to fool Twilight, Twilight isn’t buying it, Dash has an eye open to check if Twilight is buying it, and keeps going when it’s obvious that she doesn’t. Completely in character for everyone.
I will bet anyone that Rainbow Dash becomes a speed reader after this. If you’ve gotta be an egghead, might as well do it fast.