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

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Episode 42: "Read It and Weep"

Aired 2/4/2012, written by Cindy Morrow (her seventh episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Rainbow Dash crash-lands during flying practice.
  • Act 1: Rainbow Dash wakes up injured in the hospital. Twilight Sparkle offers him a Daring Do adventure novel from the hospital's bookshelf, but Dash dismisses reading as only for eggheads. Alone and bored, Dash begins reading and is enthralled.
  • Act 2: Daring Do's adventures are interrupted as Rainbow Dash is visited by friends. She drives them off to keep reading but is released from the hospital before she can finish the story.
  • Act 3: Faking a relapse fails to fool the physician, so Rainbow sneaks into the hospital at night to steal the book. A chase across town ends at Twilight's, where Dash confesses. Twilight lends her a copy of the book.

Character: A character-driven episode? Yes. (Cue "big yes" fist pump.) From the teaser on, the story moves forward as a result of Rainbow's shame of reading and attachment to the story. This love of stories adds a layer of depth to the member of the Mane Six who needs it the most, and action is certainly the most suitable genre. Dash has called Twilight an egghead before and is constantly concerned about looking cool. Combining this episode with Sonic Rainboom, the egomaniacal confidence we see in other episodes may even be a defense mechanism; she has to consider herself the best or else she doesn't like herself. That's going a bit farther than her canonical presentation demands, but the interpretation is a valid one.

The obvious parallels between Dash and Daring (right down to the adventurer being a straight recolor of Dash's animation model) work on both levels: Rainbow may be imagining herself as the character, or her moments of fame may have caught the attention of an author or illustrator so that Daring actually looks like that in-universe. (Daring appears on the cover, supporting the latter interpretation...until the fourth season, anyway.)

Usually only your closest friends and family actually visit you when you're in the hospital. All five of the friends are there when she wakes up and return later on. Their support and understanding are no surprise at this point, and as the viewers we're a bit hurt that Rainbow feels compelled to put them off to maintain her ruse.


Lesson: The friends' attention to Rainbow and the close connection with Twilight's encouragement would already be enough to keep from docking this episode for being yet another story not about friendship. But while reading is front and center here, the real lesson is not being ashamed to admit your interests to your friends. This has an additional layer of significance to adult fans of the show for whom MLP itself is a "guilty pleasure." As long as your hobbies aren't destructive, your true friends will accept your interests even if they don't happen to share them. The fact that reading and intellectual pursuits are for everypony and not just "eggheads" (and that athletes can be smart) comes across just as well but isn't heavy-handed and doesn't hijack the friendship element of the plot.

Connections: The hospital was first seen in Baby Cakes. Dash and Twilight bond over Daring Do again in A Friend in Deed. Body Count: Ahuizotl says, "The world will suffer mightily at my hands." He actually has hands, though. Three of them.

 

Resonance: The entire Daring Do story is concentrated awesome, with a generous helping of scary by show's standards; this is far more intense and perilous than your typical Friendship Is Magic story. Rainbow's portion of the story has a fair amount of funny as well, with the "long minute," the story interruptions (e.g., Ahuizotl speaking in Pinkie's voice), the ruckus vs. fracas debate, and the source of the dog barks.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: The creators really did their homework on this one, with the multitude of shout-outs from various sources (including Hasbro, of which Battleship maker Milton Bradley is a subsidiary), the use of Ahuizotl, and the research necessary to design a medical environment. Just about all the characters we see in the hospital are new designs as well, including some new pony body types. There are a lot of nice moments here, and cutting back and forth between Dash and Daring does for us what it does for Dash: It makes an otherwise boring hospital stay into a thrill ride. The hospital portions allow us, and particularly younger viewers for whom this is really edgy material, to catch a breath before diving back in.

Of all the homages in this episode, my favorites are (1) the subtle Weird Al Yankovic reference and (2) the use of The Neverending Story music when Dash first contemplates picking up the book. Not only was that film one of my few childhood trips to the theater, but I read the book in high school, in one long ten-hour sitting, completely losing track of time. So I'm right there with Rainbow on this.

Other episodes this season have a bit more "feels," but for the fun, excitement, and humor of this story, along with its other strengths, I rate this an excellent episode.

 

Read It and Weep armor rating: Golden Vest
Ranked 15th of 26 season-two episodes
Ranked 92nd of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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