Analyzing “The Mysterious Mare Do Well”

Text version and links:

My OC is designed by Mizuki Takashima:
Ending card by Munchy:
Thumbnail art by Jowybean:

Ending Song:
a train between Canterlot and the Great Divide – Le Soldat Pony:

Viewers have been asking me to tear the Mysterious Mare Do Well a new one for just about as long as I’ve been making these videos. Not having seen the episode since first marathoning the show in 2012, I remembered not liking it very much, but I wasn’t sure it was nearly as bad as people make it out to be. Having rewatched it now, I can safely say that yes, it is a really terrible episode, but what’s more interesting to me than the fact that it’s terrible is the reasons usually given for why.

Many have criticized the way that the mane six went about trying to teach Rainbow Dash a lesson through a convoluted scheme instead of through communication, along with the fact that the lesson Rainbow learns at the end doesn’t seem to be earned by the episode’s narrative at all. These things are certainly problematic, but I think that Castle Mane-ia had very similar problems, and that episode is pretty well-liked by the fandom. Some criticize the fact that the plan the mane six concocted barely seems to make any sense, leaving the plot a confusing mess, but there have been plenty of popular episodes with confusing and unclean storylines, such as A Canterlot Wedding or the Super Squeezy Cider Squeezy 6000, which only come under fire from the likes of Antony C.

One of my favorite critics and all-around idols, Film Crit Hulk, explains in his writing the concept of “tangible details.” Basically, when people really love or really hate something, they tend to explain what made it good or bad by talking about the details which stand out the most. For instance, if you ask most people why they hated Star Wars Episode I, they’ll tell you that it was Jar Jar Binks that ruined the film, even though he’s just one part of a much more complicated problem. Other films, such as Disney’s highly successful Frozen, have proven that a comedic character inserted particularly to appeal to small children does not automatically ruin a movie, but that character works in Frozen because the movie is all-around well-written, while Star Wars Episode 1 isn’t.

The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well doesn’t suck just because it makes no sense, the entire episode is just a pile of boring garbage. So much of the dialog is trite and forced that it’s almost embarrassing to watch. Just look at the scene at the beginning where all the kids in Rainbow Dash’s fanclub try to come up with the best synonym for “awesome” to describer her with. Is ANYONE laughing at this? Can you even imagine this conversation taking place outside of trying to establish the storyline of this episode?

Or what about the scene where, after mare-do-well’s first appearance, the mayor just shows up and exposits to a random group of surrounding people that there is a new hero in town and she shall be known as the mysterious mare-do-well. It’s such a random way to set up the scene, just so Rainbow Dash would be able to hear her rival’s name right after meeting her.

The entire episode is so painfully repetitive that it feels longer than the average MLP episode. We watch Rainbow Dash save the day three different times, and while it serves to show us how cocky she’s getting, none of the scenes are really exciting. Then we have three different scenes of Rainbow Dash getting shown up by the mysterious mare-do-well, all of which are too long and don’t really serve any purpose that couldn’t have been handled in just one scene.

The episode reaches its lowest point, however, when Rainbow Dash starts desperately trying to find problems to solve around town. Once again, we sit through three whole scenes of Rainbow Dash enacting completely unfunny scenarios, and we already get the point right from the start. Even the final chase scene, with Rainbow Dash trying to chase down mare-do-well, is repetitive and boring to watch, and they could’ve done so much more with having the mane six creatively avoid Rainbow’s dashing.

It’s all just so uninteresting and pointless that it’s hard to watch. By the end of the episode, nothing is clear that wasn’t from the very beginning. And that’s sad, because conceptually, this episode actually had a pretty good idea with how to further Rainbow Dash’s development.

Rainbow Dash isn’t the kind of pony who understand something just by being told. Time and again, she will reject learning something until she experiences firsthand the benefits of it. She’s also been shown to be incredibly competitive, so the idea of playing on her competitive nature to teach her a lesson was kind of brilliant. All they had to do was write it so that the mysterious mare-do-well shows up rainbow dash and then somehow SHOWS rainbow dash how humility and tact help her to get things done better. And I think that’s what the episode was trying to do, but it just kind of fails.

The one scene that could’ve turned the whole episode around is the one where the mane six are talking about how awesome mare do well is in front of rainbow dash. Much has been said about how the mane six are just kind of bragging about how awesome they themselves are, and how this does not seem to help rainbow dash in any way. All it would’ve taken was for one of the mane six to point out to rainbow dash that the reason mare do well was able to get things done so much more efficiently is because she wasn’t stopping to sign autographs and pat herself on the back. Then, there could’ve been a scene where Rainbow Dash realizes first-hand that she’s been doing things out of self-interest, and ends up selflessly helping somepony in the end and feeling really good about it. Makes a hell of a lot more sense than a minute-long scene of her chasing mare-do-well down, literally being told the lesson that she was supposed to learn, and somehow now perfectly understanding it even though she had no reason to do so before.

Altogether, the Mysterious Mare Do Well was a good episode concept executed so poorly that it managed to be one of the worst episodes of the entire show. While the mare-do-well costume design is pretty fantastic and the general concept is sound, the episode’s completely ridiculous dialog, utter failure to provide a cohesive storyline, and overall boringness make it a dark mark on the otherwise fantastic front half of season two. Up next, to cleanse my pallatte, I’ll be tackling one of my FAVORITE episodes of season two instead. I’ll seeya then!

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