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

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Episode 161: "Daring Done?"

Aired 9/9/2017, written by Gillian M. Berrow (her third episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash learn that author A.K. Yearling is retiring.
  • Act 1: Pinkie and Rainbow visit Yearling, who shows them articles from the town of Somnambula, where she is hated for damage caused during a recent adventure there. She plans to retire both as an author and as Daring Do, but Rainbow insists they visit the village to see that Daring is appreciated.
  • Act 2: Daring Do is despised throughout the village. Rallied by a robed figure, the villagers are most upset about the destruction a statue of Somnambula, a mare whose legend involves rescuing a prince from a sphinx. Daring is falsely accused of also stealing the glowpaz the ponies used to offer to the statue.
  • Act 3: The robed figure reveals himself to be Dr. Caballeron and kidnaps Rainbow Dash. To rescue her, Pinkie and Daring Do imitate Somnambula's act of hope, and they return to the village to expose Caballeron as the real thief. Daring makes up for the damage she caused, and the statue is restored.


Character: While Rainbow Dash dominates the episode, she doesn't offer anything new here, except that she's much more her usual confident self than she was during her first meeting with Daring Do. This time around, Rainbow is the encourager and Daring is the one who needs propping up.

At first glance, it seems Daring Do has already learned her lesson when she's introduced. She says straight up that she's been too focused on her missions to consider the mess she left behind. But the story's about more than that. Now that it's all caught up with her, her spirit is broken. And Dash and Pinkie are the perfect ponies to bring her out of the dumps so that she can patch things up and get back to stomping bad guys. We might wonder, once she retires, which identity remains? Is her real name A.K. Yearling, with Daring Do a name she chose for her adventures, or is the Yearling identity just a disguise and a pen name? A.K. Rogers prefers the former while promotional material indicates the latter, but it hasn't been established on the show as of yet.

I notice three things about Pinkie Pie in this episode. The first and most obvious is the callback to Pinkie's original leap of faith in the first season's Feeling Pinkie Keen (although the leap itself was actually taken by Twilight Sparkle). And if the air jets she lands on seem a bit contrived, that's just Pinkie for you. Of course the universe would bend itself to her need of the moment. Next, Pinkie mostly plays the part of comic relief when she's a supporting character, but when she's paired up with another character in a featured episode, she's usually the voice of reason. Finally, the legendary pony introduced in this episode has a connection with Pinkie via her association with hope. Recall that Celestia identified Pinkie with optimism near the end of Magical Mystery Cure.

As I write this, by now I've seen the season finale. Without spoiling too much, I can say that Somnambula and the legendary ponies from Campfire Tales are indeed real historical ponies, and their association with AJ, Rarity, Rainbow, and Pinkie are not a coincidence. And like the others, Somnambula has been mentioned on the show as the author of a spell, twice in fact. It's neat that Somnambula is a pegasus, which gives her a link to Dash and Daring, too. It's curious that she and the rulers of the legend are pegasi while the others in the legend are earth ponies. (The modern villagers are a mix that includes unicorns as well.)

Dr. Caballeron's desire to discredit and dispirit Daring Do is logical enough, but his disguise is a little too obvious to the viewer, and Daring should at least recognize his voice. His revealing himself to Dash once his trap is set would be okay if he weren't in the center of the marketplace, presumably in sight of a dozen villagers. However, I'm not buying that Caballeron's goons could just capture Rainbow Dash like this. She ought to be as hard to catch as she was in The Return of Harmony. It's a consequence of our main characters being too powerful for a story like this, and it happens a lot but the slow pace of Caballeron's monologue and his henchponies' approach makes it especially jarring.


Lesson: We get a one-two-three punch of lessons spelled out in the last minute of the story, which saves me a bit of time. Courtesy of Daring Do: "Even if you're fighting for something good, you're still responsible for your actions." Next, as Rainbow Dash says, "If something bad happens that you didn't intend, you shouldn't give up hope or lose faith in yourself." And finally Pinkie reminds us you've still got to "make it right." Compensation and settling up are part of the reconciliation process.

This would have been a fine episode without Caballeron's ruse and misrepresentations. There are MLP episodes such as Bats that are weakened by having their message overshadowed by action and spectacle. But while I agree that Caballeron takes the spotlight off the main lesson somewhat, I don't judge this episode too harshly, for three reasons: (1) As I just mentioned, the lessons are spelled out at the very end of the episode. (2) Viewers tuning into a Daring Do episode expect adventure; with only one appearance a season, a purely slice-of-life story for Daring Do would disappoint a lot of people. (3) Realistically, enemies are quickest to throw accusations when they believe they will stick. Daring Do's legitimate faults created an opening for ponies to believe Caballeron's lies about her, and made it difficult for Daring Do to defend hersef.

His role in the episode illustrates the importance of being "above reproach." Ask yourself the question, "If someone accused me of something, would people's response be, 'My friend would never do such a thing,' or 'Yeah, I guess that figures.'?" A life of integrity and consideration allows you to admit and correct your mistakes without the risk of people assuming the worst due to a false charge or a misunderstanding.


Resonance: The elder villager who recounts the legend has a wonderful storytelling voice; I could listen to him for hours. Pinkie is just all-around awesome throughout the story. I sympathize with the villagers' plight, their frustration with Daring Do, and the loss of their statue, but I'm also relieved to see their good judgment, placing blame, gratitude, and acceptance where they belong once the truth is revealed. Daring's unqualified acceptance of Rainbow Dash as a friend makes me happy, and it's touching to see how Dash truly cares about Daring and isn't just an obsessed fan, not that that was ever really in doubt.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: I would have liked to see a little more time spent with Daring Do trying to make amends, but otherwise I'm okay with what we get here. The art style in the flashback is beautiful and fits the nature of the story as an ancient tradition. The legend is one of my favorite scenes of the season, and this is the first episode where I feel like I know what makes Daring Do tick on a personal level.

I love the lesson, and I believe it's highly relevant today. Too many people seem to think having a cause you believe in justifies pretty much anything, but just being "the good guys" doesn't give license for meanness, lawbreaking, and violence. There's usually a better way, and where necessity does cause hurt feelings or property damage, at the least we can go back after the fact and "make it right."

I've considered why it is that Daring Do episodes tend to end up around the middle of the pack for me. It could be that I'd enjoy them more as their own series; there's a little bit of a genre shift away from what's typical of MLP. My favorite Pony stories tend to be either slices of life or else kingdom-in-crisis stories that pull out all the stops. So while all the Daring Do stories are very well done and I have no complaints about the character, I guess their look and feel just isn't what I watch the show for. That being said, even with my concerns about the ease of Dash's capture, I rate Daring Done as excellent, just a hair below Berrow's first episode, The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows.

 

Daring Done? armor rating: Gold Armor
Ranked 20th of 26 season-seven episodes
Ranked 87th of 175 stories overall

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