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

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Episode 14: "Suited for Success"

Aired 2/4/2011, written by Charlotte Fullerton (her second episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Rarity elicits her pet cat's help at the boutique.
  • Act 1: Rarity volunteers to make gala dresses for her five friends, singing the Art of the Dress song as she designs them. The dresses are poorly received.
  • Act 2: Rarity designs a new set of dresses based on the friends' ill-informed and poorly expressed preferences. The finished dresses are exactly what the friends wanted, and Spike arranges to show them off for a famous fashion mogul. The show is a disaster.
  • Act 3: Rarity wallows in pity until her friends apologize and introduce a new dress. Spike arranges for the fashion designer to return and see the original dresses, which he raves about.

Character: This is Rarity's first solo outing in production/airdate order, and it remains one of her most memorable, largely due to her two catchy musical numbers and her epic breakdown. Her generosity shines here and drives the plot; as in the premiere, she drops everything in order to help her friends. The crisis she faces is one faced in real life by people with Rarity's penchant for giving: unappreciated gifts, and she responds as most true givers wouldóby trying to give more and better. We're not at all surprised at her melodramatic side, complete with shout-outs to multiple stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

By now the cast are friends solidly enough that an incident like this doesn't threaten their ability to get along. Applejack and Rainbow, both of whom have chafed at Rarity's "frou-frou" personality before, are at the forefront of the group apology, and there are no hard feelings even before Rarity's problem is solved. Just as the rest of the Mane Six don't have much of an idea what a high-society gala is like (as we saw in The Ticket Master), they're not up on fashion, either, even with Fluttershy's "freaky knowledge of sewing." The only surprise here is their good judgment in creating a dress Rarity loves, albeit based on her own designs. Being of the decidedly non-dress-wearing variety, Spike is necessarily in the background here, but he's put to good use as he schedules Hoity-Toity on his own initiative and takes another turn at announcing. And by his tone we get the impression he's doing this as a friend and not just out of his crush on Rarity, so there's a bit of character development even here.

One other little character-based bit is the first appearance of Vinyl Scratch, aka DJ-Pon3, a fan favorite who thus far has shown up once per season and only for a few seconds at a time. In fanfic she's almost universally paired with classical musician Octavia, even though the two have never appeared in the same episode.


Lesson: Twilight's letter addresses both sides of this crisis, but it's not really Rarity who learns the lesson here. Honestly, she takes the only gracious path open to her through most of the episode. She is very definitely good-Rarity here. The moral learned by the others is obviously relevant to kids whenever they receive gifts from friends and family. And note that the message is not that we should just pretend to like something or merely appreciate the thought, but be open to the possibility that the giver might actually know what's best for us better than we do.

I suspect there's an additional lesson here for TV show executives to respect the judgment of writers and animators who know what they're doing and are under pressure from time and budget constraints just like Rarity.


Connections: A follow-up to The Ticket Master, with the season finale completing the story arc. Also the introduction of Opal, third pet of the Mane Six (following Angel and Winona). A clothes rack containing the dresses made in this episode is used as a generic prop throughout the series, including in previous episodes. We also see Rarity wear her gala dress on a number of occasions both before and after the gala itself.

 

Resonance: Some episodes are full of outright comedy, but this is a mostly serious slice-of-life episode. Most of the feeling of this episode comes from Rarity's predicament the moment she sees her friends' obvious disappointment at the dresses, her humiliation at the first fashion show, complete with a "walk of shame," and her friends' heartfelt apology and efforts to make amends. Rarity's wallowing elicits some laughs as intended, but the show makes the transition from serious to funny and back without giving a sense of whiplash. The second fashion show is impressive even from a male perspective, and there are some fun little moments with Rainbow Dash's "20% cooler" remark and the cameo of the kitchen sink.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: This probably takes place after Green Isn't Your Color since Rarity is undiscovered in that episode and this one marks her initial discovery.

Message-oriented kids' shows have an unfortunate tendency to teach most of their lessons by having one character in the wrong and all the others in the right. Done to excess, this can send the message that it's always wrong to go against the crowd. MLP often takes the opposite approach, and this is a fine example of the group reacting poorly and failing to appreciate the outlier pony's good judgment.

Due to the fashion-oriented premise, it's probably not the best episode to introduce a skeptic to the show. But bravo to the writers for taking the most girly of concepts and presenting it in a way that appeals to just about everyone willing to give it a chance. And bravo as well for two stylized musical numbers (with excellent contrast due to the voice work) and the design work involved in creating twelve gala dresses in one episode (three for Fluttershy and only one for Rarity, plus two each for the rest), as well as the clothes for the pony audience. For the effort put into this episode and the high entertainment value, I give this one a spot just below Dragonshy.

 

Suited for Success armor rating: Iron Armor
Ranked 12th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 105th of 147 stories overall

 

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