MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Episode 19: "A Dog and Pony Show"

Aired 3/11/2011, written by Amy Keating Rogers (her fifth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Celebrity singer Sapphire Shores orders dresses from Rarity.
  • Act 1: Spike helps Rarity dig up gems for the dresses. Three diamond dogs notice Rarity's ability to find gems and attack. Spike tries to fight them off, but Rarity is taken.
  • Act 2: Spike brings the other ponies to the rescue, and Twilight, Fluttershy, and Spike speculate on Rarity's fate. They eventually find their way down a pit to the diamond dogs' caverns.
  • Act 3: As the rescue team searches, Rarity is ordered to dig for gems and haul them, but she uses insults, whining, and sobbing to annoy the diamond dogs. By the time the rescue team arrives, the dogs beg them to take Rarity back, along with carts full of gems.

Character: For writers on any other show, Rarity would be the obvious choice for a damsel in distress. She's the most refined/ladylike and most melodramatic of the primary cast, and the least likely to put up with hard manual labor. (We can't say most feminine, because each of the Mane Six portrays a different style of femininity.) MLP's subversion of the stereotype is reminiscent of Joss Whedon's original concept for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, only with less violence. She uses her wits to apply her idiosyncrasies as strengths and even ends up being waited on hand and foot (er, hoof and...other hoof) before her kidnappers beg to give her back to the rescue team. Any viewers still on the fence about Rarity were probably brought around by her actions in this episode.

While Pinkie and Applejack have a couple signature moments, Spike gets the rest of this show's attention. At this point in the season, we're seeing less of him as Twilight's sagely sidekick and more of Spike as comic relief. But it's nice to see him actually interact with Rarity rather than just gush about her to Twilight, and his devotion to her shows that his feelings go beyond mere infatuation. Since he's usually absent in the adventure shows, this is the first hint we've seen of his physical strength as a dragon, as he's able to take on the three diamond dogs and does pretty well until his spikes get stuck in a tree.

The Diamond Dogs are okay as minor villains, but they're not very differentiated, and their voices are about as grating as Rarity's whining. They don't rank among the show's favorite antagonists, but they're well placed here in a purely comic role.

There's mention here of Twilight's ability to mimic another pony's spell after seeing it performed. This comes in especially handy in The Crystal Empire—Part 2, and its cooperative nature makes it a fitting skill for a bearer of the Elements of Harmony.


Lesson: "Just because somepony is ladylike doesn't make her weak." Or put more broadly, people who don't look and act tough may still be capable of taking care of themselves and standing up for their friends. It's a useful lesson about a common appearance-based prejudice that doesn't get a lot of attention.

So far, we've seen Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity (the three most "girly" ponies) all given as examples of capable friends we might be tempted not to put faith in. This is turning into a major theme of the series, and the writers follow their own lessons by keeping all the main characters—not just the tomboys—dependable friends and formidable opponents.

Why is there so much "feminine awesome" in this series? Part of the creators' intention for this generation of My Little Pony was to combat the habit of children's TV writers to treat girls' interests as nothing but "frilly pink silliness," as Lauren Faust puts it. Friendship Is Magic is what happens when writers and animators look at the world inside a little girl's mind and take it seriously. This episode is a distillation of that notion.


Logic: Yes, we know real-life gems straight out of the ground don't look like that. Kids need to be able to identify that these are valuable gemstones, and besides, this is the "magical land of Equestria." Maybe it's natural for them to grow like that. Body Count: Rarity says (to one of the dogs), "Well, somebody certainly needs proper nail care." Rarity also says, "Unhand me this instant, you ruffians."
Connections: Skyward screams, usually from Spike, have become a minor running gag in the series. This is about the only time they seem to be done seriously. Also, when I learned that a Spike and Rarity episode was titled A Dog and Pony Show, my thought was, "But Spike isn't a dog." Little did I know that two years later...

 

Resonance: One of the best comedy episodes, and one that features both Rarity and Spike at their most awesome. Spike's fighting to defend Rarity, both in the show's reality and in his fantasy, is wonderful to behold for a character who normally isn't given much to do. The entirety of Rarity's tormenting of her captors is hilarious (oh, the whining!), and I grinned widely her manipulation of them to the point that she's being waited on. The rest of the gang gets a fun moment taking the hounds for a ride (with Applejack saying what we're all thinking just before). One of my favorite moments is Spike's "Heigh ho, Twilight," and her actually going along with it.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: By now, word has spread about Rarity's designs, so this must take place after Green Isn't Your Color and probably after Suited for Success.

One reason Rarity comes across so well in this episode is the sheer amount of attention given to every posture, facial expression, and movement of the characters. The vocal and animated delivery are remarkably intricate, as important for an effective funny story as for a serious one. Fans who have analyzed the series are well aware that this is par for the course for MLP, but it seems especially obvious here. I put this just above Sonic Rainboom; it's amazing that MLP has had so many superb episodes that Rainboom gets pushed out of the top five of the first season, but there it is.

 

A Dog and Pony Show armor rating: Gold Armor
Ranked 7th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 70th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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