My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro.
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of The Wonderbolt Years! Rainbow Dash’s ongoing quest to become a member of the prestigious group might be reaching its ultimate conclusion with this episode that puts her among their ranks once and for all! Will this manage to be just as good as the LAST time a major series long plot line had gotten a resolution which was Crusaders of the Lost Marks or is this a hasty conclusion that doesn’t adequately capture the magnitude of this event? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash expositing to each other about an upcoming Wonderbolts event in Ponyville that Rainbow Dash will be a part of. Rainbow Dash corrects her about one thing which is, as you know, she’s actually a RESERVE member which means she’ll be there but not in the main event. Well that’s too bad. If only there was a way for her to get a chance to fly with them, or if the Wonderbolts finally gave her a shot in their ranks. If only something like that were to happen…
Yay! Rainbow Dash is finally a member of the Wonder Bolts! I find it a bit odd that one of them decided to retire JUST as the tour was about to begin and that they’re gonna have the new recruit in the routine right away (the Ponyville show is in two days), but whatever. We do need at least SOME sort of conflict for Rainbow Dash to overcome which I can only assume is the reason they also don’t explain why a reserve flyer doesn’t ALREADY know the routine. If you’re an understudy, you STILL have to know your lines ahead of time! That being said, it’s no doubt a big day for Rainbow Dash who has to report the Academy right away and barely has time to pack a bag and say goodbye to her friends before having to leave.
It seems clear that this is gonna be an episode about knocking Rainbow Dash down a peg as she’s going into the Wonderbolts with a cocky attitude, so chances are I am NOT going to like this one. Probably my LEAST favorite episode in the entire series is The Mysterious Mare Do Well which had the Mane6 act very shady and detestable to teach Rainbow Dash a lesson about ego. Hopefully this doesn’t go down THAT route and that the lesson will be taught in a REASONABLE manner instead of having her go through an existential crisis. We can only hope. Anyway, things start out okay with Rainbow Dash following Spitfire around and getting lectured whenever she breaks a rule (how does she not know these rules already?) and she’s given her official Wonderbolt uniform. After putting it on and going back out to meet with Spitfire, she breaks that one rule again (always look both ways before crossing the street) and is almost T-boned by an oncoming Wonderbolt. Luckily she manages to jump out the way in time but lands right into a trash can where the other Wonderbolts proceed to laugh at her and give he the nickname Rainbow Crash. Wait a minute… haven’t I heard that somewhere before?
Well THAT sure was an unfortunate landmine for them to jump on. Oh well. It’s not like this is one of those douche-tastic groups that use hurtful names as terms of endearment, right? That’s TOTALLY not what the rest of this episode is gonna be about… right? So… yeah. That’s exactly what happens. Rainbow Dash is trying to keep up with the bolts and, considering this is her first day as an OFFICIAL one instead of a reserve, she’s probably doing just fine but Spitfire keeps calling her Rainbow Crash over and over again WHICH CLEARLY IS NOT HELPING!!
Things only get BETTER once the day is over and it turns out the worst flier of they day (I’m sure they’re objectively chosen and it isn’t ALWAYS the newbie; COMPLETELY sure of that!) has to stay behind and clean the bathrooms. Oh, but Rainbow Dash is cocky (i.e. putting up a front to maintain her dignity) so I guess this is all super justified. Oh and look! One of them calls her Crash during a nice moment! That makes it PERFECTLY FINE to keep triggering traumatic memories! Maybe I’m getting a bit worked up over this (the message at the end could go several different ways) but this of ALL shows using hazing imagery is REALLY uncomfortable to watch.
Rainbow Dash goes home emotionally drained and ready to cry herself to sleep (she’s really gonna travel between Canterlot and Ponyville on a daily basis?) but finds that all her friends are STILL at her house and are waiting to hear how her first day as a Wonderbolt went. She tries to put on a brave face so that her friends don’t get too worried but THEY actually pay attention and notice that something is up, unlike say… her teammates. Fluttershy in particular knows how serious the situation is when she finds out the nickname is the same one that has haunted Rainbow Dash for years, and they all try to cheer her up and do all those things that a loving and responsible support network should do. Feeling renewed and ready to move forward, Rainbow Dash valiantly heads back the next day and is ready to prove herself to the rest of the team… by acting like her Ponyville friends. Okay…
So Rainbow Dash’s rationale here is that she needs to do something that will make her stand out from the rest of the team. I don’t know how that led to her thinking she should imitate the Mane6, but needless to say that it does little to impress and she ends up wasting so much effort on that when she SHOULD be working on the routine. I would like to reiterate that two days is still PROBABLY not enough time to get someone from zero to perfection, but I’m willing to go with the idea that Rainbow Dash is talented enough to nail it if she focuses on it. Spitfire seems to finally notice that Rainbow Dash is going through something (it took split personalities for her to notice that?) and has something ready to motivate Rainbow Dash and make her feel truly welcome on the team! So what is it that Spitfire has planned? Well she’s gotten her an official Wonderbolts jacket which we can only HOPE is not made of leather. Rainbow Dash falls in love with it immediately and finally feels like a real member of the team… until she notices that her stupid nickname is on the jacket.
Is Spitfire being intentionally cruel? I don’t think so. It’s tradition for the team to have their nicknames on their jackets (presumably the others have dumb nicknames based on their own failings), but Spitfire also seems to be oblivious to Rainbow Dash’s feelings about any of this. She shouldn’t be babied or given special treatment, but this is how abuse and ill-will fosters in this kind of environment. Someone is gonna take it too far and will hurt someone else. What will the Wonderbolts do when that happens? I don’t know, and that’s kind of worrying. We’ve still got the event in Ponyville left, so maybe they’ll make that point crystal clear by the end of that, which will SURELY be filled with shenanigans. Rainbow Dash has a plan. Not a good plan; in fact, it’s a pretty dangerous one, but she DOES have a plan. Using Scootaloo (please don’t drag a kid into this), she plans to pull of an impressive move at the end of the routine so that the Wonderbolts will be overcome with awe and forget about that whole nickname that gives Rainbow Dash really bad flashbacks. More specifically; at the end of the routine, Scootaloo will kick a storm cloud towards Rainbow Dash with the hope that it will shoot out lightening right behind her and it will make her look cool. I guess it’s kind of like getting someone to use a confetti popper behind you, only this confetti popper can start fires and kill people.
Is this the proper way for Rainbow Dash to deal with the problems she’s having? HELL no! Should she be punished once this inevitably falls to pieces? HELL yes! Do the Wonderbolts share just a bit of responsibility for this though? I would say yes. People should be held responsible for their own actions, but stacking the deck against them with emotional distress (unintended or not) doesn’t help matters in the slightest, and while Rainbow Dash has not come forward with how much that nickname hurts her, she’s not the Captain. She’s not the one responsible for making sure the team stays together and that any weak links (say… A ROOKIE!) are dealt with appropriately.
Sure enough, everything goes to hell when she puts the plan into motion. She nails the routine perfectly, but Scootaloo I guess knocked the cloud too far and it ends up in front of Rainbow Dash instead of behind her. Not wanting to get electrocuted, she veers to the side, lands in a tree, and then shenanigans ensue for a good thirty seconds before ultimately getting zapped by the cloud.
Thankfully, no one else gets hurt during the performance and the biggest casualty here is Rainbow Dash’s pride. When confronted with the other Wonderbolts, she finally breaks down and admits that she’s a worthless loser who doesn’t deserve to be in their presence. The others find this whole thing quite chuckle worthy and explain that the name calling was not meant to be actual attacks on her and that she’s easily the most talented of the bunch. Oh! So because they didn’t MEAN to be hurtful, any hurt feelings are automatically not their fault! Good to know! Still, the acknowledgement that no harm was intended (and the all the rest of the bolts share THEIR nick name stories with Rainbow Dash) is enough to ease her mind and to have her stop worrying about the nickname which I guess is gonna stick. She’s assigned cleanup duty for the event, but this seems COMPLETELY Reasonable considering her actions, and she is more than happy to do it. And so, the episode ends with Rainbow Dash truly feeling like she’s a part of the team and finally having a chance to live out her dreams! After sweeping the floor of course.
I guess this isn’t a bad episode, but it hit me in a REALLY bad way that something like Mysterious Mare Do Well or (to a much lesser extend) The Mane Attraction. This episode was about comradery and team-building being mistaken for bullying which is a weird topic for this show to take this kind of stand on. What is the message here? Take mean spirited comments in stride because they actually like you? Isn’t that one of those things we DON’T want to instill in young girls? Isn’t this the same basic (and woefully outdated) argument that little boys are mean to girls because they like them? You may argue that what is being portrayed here isn’t an unheard of scenario; that some people need to be toughened up or to lose their ego for the benefit of the group. Fine. That’s something I can get behind. My problem though is that the entirety of the miscommunication (and thus the entire lesson to be learned here) falls upon Rainbow Dash’s shoulders and not the team’s. Let’s say that Fluttershy was skilled enough to be a Wonderbolt and this was happening to her. There’s no doubt that no matter how well-intended the mean nicknames are that Fluttershy would not have been able to handle it (a similar line was drawn in Griffon the Brush Off). Would the Wonderbolts have been willing to capitulate to Fluttershy’s (or anyone who had an issue with the name calling policy) needs, or would that disqualify them from being a member of the team? I don’t think this is an insignificant question to ask considering that this is the topic the show wished to discuss. A scene where Rainbow Dash tells Spitfire about the trauma associated with that nickname and her apologizing, or a scene where it was made clear that a line was never to be crossed no matter how well intentioned, would have done a lot to fix my problem here. Wonderbolts Academy worked because we got such a scene where it was clear that Spitfire was willing to listen when she was informed of bad behavior; therefore establishing that there were boundaries for what is and is not acceptable from a Wonderbolt. This episode is not one I plan to rewatch because of this, so while I’m sure some people will get a kick out of it and feel that it taught a valuable lesson, I’m just not one of them as this is easily the worst episode of the season so far. Hopefully it will only get better from here.