» TRS Round Table 035: Rainbow Falls Review

It’s time for a multicolor pony parade here at TRS! Rainbow Falls first aired on January 18, 2014, and we’ve set up the TRS Round Table to talk about Rainbow Dash’s latest shenanigans in loyalty and awesomeness. Joining the Round Table are RudeCyrus, Sind, The Doctor, ComradeCosmobot, and KefkaFloyd! Read on for a rush of rainbows.

KefkaFloyd: Rainbow Falls is brought to us by returning season three writer Corey Powell. Having to live up to immediate home runs like “Sleepless in Ponyville” or “Just for Sidekicks” is a pretty tough standard. Does Rainbow Falls stack up?

Sind: Rainbow Falls stacks up like a tower made up of a random mix of Lego and playmobil pieces that have been chewed on a few too many times. Rather, it sticks out like a sore thumb; an ugly blemish in an otherwise smooth(albeit uncharted) landscape.
Or, in more simple terms, Rainbow Falls is bad. bad bad.

That is not to say that Corey Powell’s previous episodes are particularly fantastic; while I consider them the height of what season 3 had to offer, they were still not as good as plenty of other episodes we have seen so far. However, they are still episodes that I consider to be at the very least good, if not even great, and Rainbow Falls manages to fail quite spectacularly in comparison.

RudeCyrus: I didn’t dislike this ep as much as some others, but it was definitely the weakest of Corey Powell’s output. It’s a shame, since I love “Sleepless in Ponyville” and “Just for Sidekicks.” I think part of the problem is that the focus was on a much larger cast of characters, which included Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Bulk Biceps, and the Wonderbolts. In “Sleepless,” the focus was mainly on Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash, while “Sidekicks” focused on Spike, with the CMC appearing later. It made this episode feel a little stretched at times. It did pick up after RD faked injury because it featured ponies dealing with personal problems, which is a big reason why I watch the show.

Cheerleading Ponies The first appearance of noted gaudy recolor Dewdrop Dazzle.

The Doctor: I think it was certainly a weak episode, but not necessarily a bad one. I do have to stand up for Powell that while this might be her weakest episode thus far, “Sleepless in Ponyville” ranks for me as one of the shows finest, and “Just For Sidekicks” was incredibly enjoyable. In the end, this just wasn’t a story that needed to be told. Rainbow Dash has developed past “must win!”, so putting her in that position again didn’t really work for me. Not to mention they establish on the train ride to Rainbow Falls that Dash chose to team up with the weak flyers to help out that team, rather than compete in an event with Ponyville’s stronger flyers, or a solo event on her own. She overcame the conflict of the episode before the episode even began.

I think the plot would have been served better served to give the choice a more personal hook for Rainbow Dash. Play up the hometown angle more than just a quick one time mention. Have the team be made up of old friends of Dash’s from Cloudsdale. Go with the big hook, and make Rainbow Dad the Cloudsdale coach. Make it more than just “well these guys can win”.

While the plot didn’t work, I enjoyed the side stuff with the other ponies. The new Cheerleader ponies were adorable.

ComradeCosmobot: I have to agree with The Doctor. “Rainbow Falls” wasn’t bad (it’s premise was sound, as were a number of the jokes), but it certainly had its fair share of flaws in its execution. For my part, I was surprised how flat Pinkie Pie was written in the ep more than anything else (was there any line Libman didn’t end up having to shout at the top of her lungs?), although this is a common problem with the other writers as well. Similarly, Applejack’s weird feeding fetish was funny the first few times, but eventually outgrew its welcome. As others noted as well, Rainbow’s conflict was a little too “perfect,” and really could have done with a stronger tear in her loyalties (The Doctor’s proposal of “old friends” on the Cloudsdale team probably would have made for a much stronger conflict than one sparked by “oh gee it’s the Wonderbolts”), and removing Spitfire’s “over-the-top” disloyalty to Soarin from the equation would have made the choice to stick with Ponyville all the harder to make.

All in all, I’d call the episode uneven. It’s hardly among the worst episodes the series has had, but it certainly isn’t one I’d recommend to others.

KefkaFloyd: The conceit of this episode (that Rainbow had to go with Big McLargeHuge Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy because the ponies could only compete in one event each (and thus all the other pegasus ponies were taken) seems a bit flimsy, but it did get us a few good laughs.

Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps Flint Ironstag!

RudeCyrus: Fluttershy was adorable, as always, and Bulk Biceps was amusing. There was too much time spent on their antics, however.

The Doctor: The one event decision certainly explains why these two, but it also hurt the impact of the main plotline, since Dash has chosen to be on this weak team, rather than a strong one.

Sind: While Bulk Biceps™ and the yellow one are handled well as characters in general, their role in the episode felt really contrived. Fluttershy doesn’t strike me as someone who would ever compete in games such as this, and as many have noted, Bulk Biceps™ is suddenly much much weaker at flying, for reasons of… plot convenience, I guess.

drunkill: Obviously the entire episode is based around the fact that the team selected is less than stellar, it was adequately explained and resulted in a few laughs as the personalities don’t obviously glue together. In the end it was strong enough to last out the episode.

Sind: My main issue with this however is that it didn’t need to be like this. They could have used other, more likely to partake, pegasi, and simply explained that they would still lose against the competition without Rainbow Dash. Or maybe they could have used something along the lines of “the main team are injured/sic/unavailable, and it’s up to the backup team to just qualify ponyville for the contest.”

As it stands now, I don’t really care for whether or not the team manages to qualify, and I feel as though they shouldn’t really either, which is part of why I felt the main conflict of the episode felt weak.

Rainbow Dash’s place also makes no sense. With each pony only being allowed to compete in one event, you’d think she’d partake in something more her style, such as a sprint, or a freestyle competition. But of course not, we’ve got to force the theme of ‘loyalty’ somehow, don’t we? 

This brings me to the biggest issue I have with this episode, because it’s not just the participating team that feels out of place. Practically every character in this episode feel not like themselves, badly designed, or like they don’t belong. The lattermost is especially easy to observe. Characters like Twilight and Rarity neither have any reason to be there in-context, except perhaps providing moral boost, nor do they add anything to the narrative. And while Pinkie and AJ do have a canonical reason to be there, they still fail to add to the narrative, and should have been left out, or at least put less focus on.

And it certainly didn’t help that I found Pinkie’s behaviour in this episode obnoxious more than anything, or that Rarity is suddenly incapable of producing fashionable attire. This, along with the stuff I mentioned in the paragraph further above, is what made the characters feel really out of character in this episode.

ComradeCosmobot: Rarity? “Fashionable attire?” You obviously don’t remember the filly whose big idea for the costumes of the school talent show was “add gems to EVERYTHING.” Clearly gems are the key to fashion in Equestria. That said, I agree that there were quite a few places in the episode where believability was sacrificed in favor of telling a story about loyalty, and the relatively flat characterization of Pinkie Pie and Applejack was a bit much.

Sind: And lastly, I felt that the wonderbolts, specifically Spitfire and Fleetfoot, were also badly written. Their “over-the-top disloyalty”, as Cosmobot called it earlier, makes them feel very bland and uninteresting, and worst of all, makes Rainbow Dash’s “dillema” even more pointless than it already was.

The Doctor: I think other episodes this season seemed to force in the rest of the Mane 6 into the story, but for this episode, it made sense. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are competing, it makes sense that the other 4 would come not only to support them, but the rest of the Ponyville athletes. Pinkie Pie seemed to take on the role of the booster club leader, and Twilight over the course of the episode joined in. Applejack took the waterboy role, getting food and refreshments for the athletes.

Rarity, while maybe a bad choice, was in charge of costumes. We’ve never really seen Rarity design anything that would not be considered “girly”, so the bad designs kind of worked. She was out of her element. She’s Fabulous Horse, not the Sporting Equipment Horse. Remember when Rainbow Dash complained about the aerodynamics of her dress in “Canterlot Wedding”. So I don’t really think the uniforms being bad is all that out of character based on what type of fashion she normally designs.

Rainbow Dashes Away Zoom zoom!

KefkaFloyd: Rainbow’s moral quandary is one that I think a lot of people can relate to. Do you go with a team that you know is going to win, or do you stick with your friends who might not win with you but would definitely lose if you weren’t there?

The Doctor: In this case there was more to it. Rainbow Dash chose to be on the weak team to help them, not to mention she was apparently taking on the role of team coach. I think the plot worked well when she was just filling the training role with the Cloudsdale team. She get to fly with her heroes, and she gets to help them out as they need a third to practice. And she wasn’t totally neglecting her Ponyville team, as they were getting training in too. When she seriously considered leaving the team, that crosses a line given how far into it they are. Maybe if the opportunity had arisen before the qualifying event the choice would have carried more weight, but Rainbow Dash really was committed to her team at this point.

drunkill: It brings up a few hints of a nice lesson here for kids, winning isn’t everything, you’ve got to have fun and friends along with competition. If winning is all you want, you’ll be missing out on some important experiences.

ComradeCosmobot: Not only that, but you just know that the only reason Fluttershy is even competing is to support her friend Rainbow Dash. As Sind pointed out above, Fluttershy isn’t exactly the competitive type, and I don’t really see any other reason Fluttershy would be competing in the first place. Of course Fluttershy would support Rainbow Dash jumping over to the winning team (as she probably wasn’t really all that invested to begin with), but even so, it poses a conundrum, because don’t you owe something to your friends if you are the one who brought them out here to train in the first place?

Sind: The dilemma could prove to be interesting if done correctly, though I personally didn’t have much hope for it from the beginning. As I explained in the forums, before this episode aired, the question of “should I move to the other team or not” is one that should be easily answered.

Simply put, if you’re in the competition for fun, you should stay with the team that you are already in. And if you’re in it for competitive reasons, you should switch to the team that is best for you career-wise, and your friends should understand and support this.
Of course, the fact that RD joined this competition with Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps of all ponies makes it obvious that she was never taking it seriously in the first place, making the dilemma feel out of place. And then the “decision” is made even easier when the other team turned out to be utter douchebags.

Lastly, this is the kind of dilemma that should occur between seasons. Or are they seriously suggesting that Dash can just randomly switch teams the day before the qualifications?

I mean, what kinda games is this?

Twilight Sees Through Rainbow Rainbow’s acting can’t fool Twilight.

RudeCyrus: Her friends should understand and support her, yes, but it goes the other way too. If Rainbow Dash switched teams she’d be saying, “I don’t think my friends are worthy competitors and shouldn’t be taken seriously.” That’s hurtful. Even if Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps aren’t the best, they shouldn’t be brushed off.

KefkaFloyd: The Wonderbolts as the Cloudsdale team was an interesting choice. Instead of random Cloudsdale ponies, they went for a Dream Team setup, with Fleetfoot getting her first speaking role.

The Doctor: Being a fan of the comics, I wish they could have included some of Fleetfoot’s character from the “Art and the Zen of Gazebo Repair” arc. Maybe have her get hurt instead of Soarin and proceed to stalk Bulk Biceps or another pony. It was a bit unfortunate to see Spitfire as a bit of a jerk. She already demonstrated questionable leadership skills in “Wonderbolts Academy” and now we see her asking Dash to ditch her friends to join them. It was nice to see Soarin continue his run as the nice Wonderbolt. There to have fun, not mean spirited, just the all around nice guy.

ComradeCosmobot: To be fair, getting Fleetfoot’s character from the comics would have been hard when you consider that this episode’s script would have had to have been locked down well before “Art and the Zen of Gazebo Repair” was conceived and published.

Sind: I think they did manage to capture some of the same character. In the comic, Fleetfoot is being shown as quite arrogant and egotistic. And this proved very much true in the episode as well. Further more, if they had played out the scene you suggested, Doctor, it would feel more like a repeat of the joke.

RudeCyrus: Fleetfoot has the best lisp. It was also nice that Soarin’ had some more lines, and I hope whatever future appearances means we hear from more Wonderbolts.

Sind: I did like Fleetoot’s voice, yes.

KefkaFloyd: Speaking of, Blast Hardcheese Bulk Biceps is the latest background pony to be elevated to a speaking role. How’d he do in his bigger role?

drunkill: I thought it was quite well done, it raised his status from a one trick pony (ahem) into a proper side character with some details and personality.

Bulk Biceps He’ll still be Big McLargeHuge in my heart.

The Doctor: I really liked the fun moments with Gristle McThornpony Bulk Biceps having fun with the other ponies. Bouncing AJ’s apple brown betties on his biceps. He didn’t come off as arrogant, or showing off, but just having fun, and the other ponies seemed to like that. I didn’t care much for him being klutzy flyer. In addition to contradicting his acceptance into the Wonderbolt Academy, it also made him more of a gag character, rather than a new character that could have developed into a real character. It’s kind of the same thing they did with Derpy in “The Last Roundup”, make a gag, rather than a character.

ComradeCosmobot: I don’t really have a problem making him a gag character. With biceps that bulky, how could you not? Plus, how much more boring would the episode have been had Biceps had a different character? No, I really didn’t have a problem with how he was played here. And frankly, if anyone had to be a flat, gag character in this episode, I’d rather it be the background pony than one of the Mane Six.

RudeCyrus: I thought he was a well done gag character, though, as mentioned, there was a little too much time spent on watching him fail at flying. Still, it’s better than Pinkie Pie being a gag character.

KefkaFloyd: And we’ll get it out of the way: another background pony made an appearance for the first time in a long time.

Sind: Yes, it was nice to see Thunderlane again :v:

Derpy Returns Hey, everybody! /Brak

ComradeCosmobot: I don’t know what Kefka is talking about here. I didn’t see Blossomforth in the episode at all!

The Doctor: I’ve said before that I don’t like how they did Derpy in “The Last Roundup”, and honestly, I’ve never had a strong like/dislike view on Derpy. I think she’s fun as a “Where’s Waldo” type in joke. I did think she was cute and a nice addition to this episode though. They did however tease us in the press release that we would get more Blossomforth, and they never delivered. Shame on them!

RudeCyrus: I was totally pleased with Ditzy’s appearance, since I like her design. I think giving her a speaking role (especially the way she was voiced) in “The Last Roundup” was a mistake, so this was a nice return to the usually mute pegasus that she is. I hope she has more background appearances in future episodes.

The Doctor: I always thought the perfect way to give her a speaking role in “The Last Roundup” would have been to ignore the “she’s and klutz” view of the fandom, and go with the “she’s the mail pony”. Have her deliver AJ’s letter, say it’s her birthday, Pinkie gives her cake, and boom, it’s a shout out and super adorable.

ComradeCosmobot: Sure, but then Applejack would have no reason to go win first place to begin with if City Hall wasn’t being totally destroyed. Still, I agree that Ms. Doo’s presence here was very appropriate, and in some respects even better than the many, many inserts she got in season 2.

The Doctor: Well, this is Ponyville, there are a few dozen ways they can say the town hall was damaged. Bad Twilight spell, Cerberus, Ursa Minors, bad Twilight spell, dragons, evil plants…

KefkaFloyd: Based on this episode and Rarity Takes Manehattan, we’ve seen a pattern develop based on big flashing signs that say “THIS IS PLOT RELEVANT.” It’s all leading up to rainbows.

The Rainbow is a Clue Hey! Listen!

drunkill: It is almost like this could lead to some sort of Toy tie-in related development… :iiam:

ComradeCosmobot: I wonder if these Rainbow objects have some sort of secret Power we’ll see unlocked at the end of the season…

Sind: um… guys, you should get that thing checked out. It’s probably not healthy you know. Could be a sign of prolonged exposure to harmony radiation or something.

The Doctor: I’m curious how they chose to tie in the items if at all. I’m of the opinion that the key is the act of generosity, or the act of loyalty, more than the items. In both cases these were carried out not only by our main protagonists, but a supporting characters as well (Coco and Spitfire). I also noticed that in both cases we got a diary entry, and I think the diary is going to come more into play than these items. I’m not expecting the spool of thread or Wonderbolts badge to turn into keys.

ComradeCosmobot: You don’t introduce a Chekhov’s thread spool if you don’t intend to use it. I fully expect the diary to be relevant too, but it’s pretty obvious that the items themselves will play some role in the future.

RudeCyrus: This is all a subtle hint that Rainbow Dash is the best pony.

KefkaFloyd: Look at all these people with their wrong opinions, there was not enough of the best fashion horse in this episode at all! Make sure you come back next time to the TRS Round Table for more pony fun. 

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