Analyzing “Rainbow Falls”

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“Despite the contrived failure of a narrative, it’s actually pretty good!”

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Alright, so the rainbow eyes are clearly a thing, which is going on, with the keys. This is a pretty good episode. There’s a lot of funny bits, but a lot of the dialog is repetitive and redundant. Six out of ten.

(music fade)

Okay for real though, Rainbow Falls is another really weird episode for me, in that I kind of enjoy it harmlessly as-is, but when I think about it the concept just kinda baffles me. Not in the same way that Bats or Daring Don’t baffles me, but in a way that might be a bigger point of contention. Cookie Cutter totally disagreed with my assessment of the episode when I explained it to her, so maybe this will raise some interesting discussion.

I think that Rainbow Dash was completely in the right for wanting to fly with the Wonderbolts; and Ponyville–Twilight in particular–was in the wrong for trying to stop her. I understand that Rainbow Dash is the element of loyalty, and that by her own words, she would “never leave Ponyville hangin’.” But this seems to be a case of diminishing returns for Rainbow Dash, and I think it’s about time that Ponyville stopped hangin’ on to Rainbow Dash and let her, y’know… spread her wings.

The bottom line here is that even though they do an impressive job of just barely qualifying in this episode, the chances of Ponyville winning the relay race are next to none, and everyone seems to understand that. Twilight treats Rainbow Dash like she’s a camp councilor doing something noble by letting two very special ponies compete out of their league, which is kind of insulting to them to begin with. Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps concede that Rainbow Dash can go to the other team towards the end, and seem more or less acutely aware that they shouldn’t be here throughout the episode.

The Equestria Games is an athletic competition that’s obviously meant to parallel the Olympics. It’s a place for the best of the best to assert their skills and emerge champion. It’s not an elementary school baseball competition where every team gets a trophy for trying because it’s really just about practicing for something further down the line. If Ponyville knew they didn’t have a strong team with any likelihood to place in the competition, then why bother trying? Why hold back Rainbow Dash by attaching her to the relay team instead of putting her in an even that she was guaranteed to win?

In fairness, we could say that RD competing with the weaker team means an even bigger challenge for her, and that if she can carry this team to victory, it would assert her utter dominance as an Equestrian flier without question. This would create a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing drama, where the overdog is painted as an underdog, making their victory that much more intense, which is actually a classic sports genre trope. Still though, while that could be fun to see in the long run, it’s not something RD seems confident is going to happen, and she could literally take the gold anywhere else and make Ponyville proud without a contrived underdog narrative. This might be coming down to personal preference on my part, though.

More so than Rainbow Dash’s placement, though, what struck me as contrived was Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps being on the team in the first place. I understand that the other Ponyville pegasi were doing other things, though I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more than six Ponyville pegasi in total. But maybe the others just weren’t interested. Still though, isn’t there an event better suited to Bulk Biceps talent? Why isn’t he deadlifting or something? Isn’t that what his cutie mark is telling him? Fluttershy, meanwhile, isn’t even an athlete. I feel like she just came along because she felt like someone had to do it.

Maybe none of this would bother me if destiny wasn’t such an explicit concern of ponies in Equestria, or if the Equestria Games weren’t such a direct parallel to the Olympics. In the end, I can totally get behind Rainbow’s reasoning for siding with Ponyville. The Wonderbolts were being dicks and bad team players, and they deserved to be called out on it, and I could see not wanting to be on a team of assholes, but I still feel like the things which brought us to this conclusion were contrivances.

As seems to be a trend in season four, a lot of the dialog that bothered me in this episode came from Twilight Sparkle. I hope we’re going to find out that Twilight is competing in some kind of magic event at the games, because I started to yell “why don’t you fly the damn relay race” when she kept taking an attitude with Rainbow Dash. She’s gotta be a better flyer than Bulk Biceps by now. It’s entirely possible that she can’t compete as an alicorn or as a princess, which would be more than understandable, but I still don’t like her attitude. When Rainbow Dash asked her, “what would YOU do?” my answer was “expect my friends to understand that this is my chance to live my dreams, and that I kind of care about flying a lot more than these guys do.”

Seriously, you aren’t going to tell me that this is something BB and Flutters have “been dreamin’, they been waitin’,” for. One of them hates flying and the other has chosen a life of bulking. Why isn’t this a lesson about sticking to your guns or something?

Particularly obnoxious to me was Twilight’s argument for why Rainbow Dash shouldn’t switch teams, which is basically that all of her friends efforts will be for nothing. First of all, it plays into the sunk cost fallacy, which is a whole other hang up of mine I recommend reading up on yourself. Secondly, these friends have only engaged this on a minor level, and it’s not as though the entire possibility of Ponyville winning any events rests on Rainbow Dash. There’s a ton of competitors in a ton of fields who could be competing in the games, and the mane six could be cheering for them. The Ponyville cheer team seems pretty half-assed in comparison to the Wonderbolts team anyways.

I feel like the episode is making out Ponyville to be a humble little town that we’re supposed to feel sorry for because they’re underdogs, but the reality is that the Cloudsdale team is better prepared, equipped, and just generally care more. If Ponyville gave as much of a shit as Cloudsdale did, they’d be regimenting themselves the same way. This isn’t really a question of one team being more priveleged than the other like it seems, it’s a question of one team being more legit. The Wonderbolts are fliers because that’s their passion and destiny. This isn’t a story about a small town that wishes they could be the best fliers but they don’t have the money to afford the kind of training that would make them great, which is another popular sports narrative–it’s a story of a town that threw their hat in even though they didn’t have enough players that actually gave a shit.

Despite the contrived failure of a narrative though, this is one of those cases where I found things to enjoy about the episode just because Pony is so good at being naturally likable. I adored Fleetfoot, who was needlessly evil and sounded like she chain-smokes cigars between shots of whiskey all day, and Soarin and Spittfire are always fun. I love that this continues and expands on Rainbow Dash’s arc, though if I was being cynical I could call it a blatant and far-worse retread of Wonderbolts Academy. Seeing Derpy again was a really pleasant surprise, and I love that she gets such a triumphant entrance.

At the end of the episode, I thought it was neat how the crowd, including Soarin, are cheering for Ponyville, which once again plays into underdog sports tropes, but in this case it kind of works because Rainbow Dash really did show up the Wonderbolts as an equine being and no matter how you slice it, is still the most impressive athlete in Equestria. I love the idea that the Wonderbolts are steadily becoming fans of HER instead of the other way around. I also thought Applejack and Pinkie Pie were hilarious in this episode, and for once I didn’t begrudge forcing all of the mane six into an episode, though Rarity was just kinda there.

The grand narrative that seems to be emerging this season is that the elements of friendship are ultimately the most important thing there are. I think what they’re going for in the long run, is to show how even though the ponies have ambitions which ostensibly could have driven them away from one-another, they’ll eventually come to realize that they can live their dreams without leaving their friends behind. This could be a pretty cool theme, especially if we see RD and Rarity gradually become disillusioned with their old ideas about their futures and realize that they’re already happy doing what they’re doing. It would just need to be handled believably and not made too hokey. I’m interested to see where this whole thread leads.

NOW! before I let you go, there’s a few things we need to discuss, starting with Equestria Daily.

With the ever-increasing number of people talking about each new episode of MLP, my workload for EQD started to get really intrusive and, to be honest, completely tedious. As such, I’ve decided to step down from the position of analysis poster and leave it in Sethisto’s hands once more.

A lot of people have been curious about how my decision-making for what got posted on EQD worked, so I’m going to talk a little about why the process was, and increasingly has been, so selective.

Equestria Daily follows a schedule in which there’s one post every hour, on the hour, from 9AM to 10PM Mountain Time. That means there’s typically thirteen posts a day, though there may be more or less depending on how many big projects are released.

Every day, there’s a Nightly Roundup, a Drawfriend post, at least one comics post, typically at least one music post, and often a custom compilation. Original animations typically get their own posts, and pretty much any kind of news about the show is bound to get its own post, and in these cases other things are often moved to get them out in a timely fashion. Fanfic updates are often not based on the same schedule as the other posts, as they can be hidden.

While this structure is far from rigid, I think it gives you a good idea of the fact that EQD is a variety blog which follows a sort of formula. With the exception of fanfics and music, which go through a group of prescreeners, almost everything is posted by two or three guys, and the majority of it is posted by Sethisto. Most of it is gathered by people submitting things to the site, or by the EQD staff finding stuff they like and posting it up.

EQD is entirely built on the premise of being a variety site for promoting a slice of fandom content for people who want to see a variety of neat things over the course of their day. It is not aggregator for any one subject, so much as a vertical slice of everything. If you wanted to see every noteworthy piece of art and comic, you’d be better joining a Deviantart group. If you wanted to hear all of the worthwhile music, you’d follow FiMMusic. If you wanted to read all the noteworthy fanfics, you’d hang out on FimFiction. And if you want to see all the analysis videos, you should be following the reddit board r/mlpanalysis that I created just for that purpose.

The reason I joined EQD was to highlight some of the best analysis and review videos so that they could get more attention, since Sethisto didn’t have time to watch all of them and figure out which stuff was good. However, at this point it’s clear to both of us which channels are going to be featured each week, and at this point the community is big enough that people regularly submit analysis videos to EQD so I don’t have to go around fetching them all.

People have often asked why I only post one to three videos in a post instead of doing something like the music of the day posts, and the reason is that those posts don’t work. EQD’s oversaturated music posts have long shown that anything which doesn’t get an individual feature gets swept away in the flood, which is why their music posts have always been controversial in the MLP music community, and have lead to the creation of sites like FiMMusic in the first place. Inflating the noise to signal ratio of analysis videos on EQD would defeat the purpose of posting them in the first place, which is to promote the best ones, not to aggregate them all.

I think that it’s important for everyone to realize that while getting on EQD is a great way to get promoted, it’s far from the only way. My channel had a few thousand subscribers before I ever even made it into a nightly roundup because I posted all my videos to the mylittlepony subreddit, and cross-promoted with other youtubers, while the youtube algorithms promoted me because of the frequency of my videos. EQD is not the best place to promote your analysis videos because their audience is not dedicated to the subject of analysis: they are just interested in seeing a little of it here and there.

Incidentally, if you haven’t figured it out by now, you should be checking out everyone on screen right now. Watch a video or two, figure out who you like, and subscribe to them. I’m subbed to and endorse all of these people, and my favorite channels are the ones written in yellow.

Also, if you’ve got a three-hour, analysis sized hole in your week, go check out the second episode of the epic Elements of Brony series. It’s well worth it.
OKAY! Moving on to another topic! Patreon!

I’ve completely revamped the patreon rewards twice in a row. If you have already paid for a reward tier which I removed, then don’t worry, I will still provide your reward, though the time frame for completion depends entirely on how busy I manage to unmake myself in the coming months.

I’ve completely removed the rewards that involve me doing analysis of whatever you want, because I came to realize that it’s not the simple thing I imagined it would be. I was reminded that the entire reason I run an independent channel in the first place is so I can talk about things I’m legitimately interested in and have ideas about instead of what a publicist or other authority would ask me to. Trying to cram analysis about things I didn’t have plans for into an ever-expanding schedule of things I already plan to talk about has proven very difficult, and I’ve taken long enough trying to confirm that it just doesn’t work.

On the upside though, I’ve added very cheap reward tiers where I’ll do readings of pretty much anything! Readings don’t require me to think, I just have to read. A lot of people say they like my voice and want me to read stuff, so now you can make me do that. I’ve also added a tier where you can get access to a three-hour google hangout with me once a month. This seems to work out well for other people who’ve tried it, so I definitely think it could be a lot of fun. Really though, rewards or no, it’d be greatly apreciated if you could help me out by becoming a patron. Even being on the one-dollar per video tier is massively helpful to me.

Wrapping up now, you’re probably wondering why I threw this epic-length update section into one of my main series videos. It doesn’t bother me too much that my update and vlog videos typically get a fraction of the hits that my regular videos do, because I don’t expect everyone to engage with my channel on the same level. However, what does irk me is that every single day someone asks me a question that could easily be answered by watching my update videos. So, instead of making videos about Patreon and EQD and then getting a million questions about them later, I figured I’d put them out in the open. If you didn’t care, you could’ve closed the video ten minutes ago.

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