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

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Episode 16: "Sonic Rainboom"

Aired 2/18/2011, written by M.A. Larson (his second episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Rainbow Dash coaches Fluttershy's cheering.
  • Act 1: Rainbow practices her act for the Young Flyers Competition, but her failed Sonic Rainboom attempt sends her crashing into the library. The rest of the Mane Six decide to travel to Cloudsdale to support Rainbow in the contest, and Twilight begins by casting a spell to give Rarity wings.
  • Act 2: The group arrives in Cloudsdale, Twilight having cast a spell to allow herself, Applejack, and Pinkie to walk on clouds. As they tour the city and the weather factory, the pegasi admire Rarity's wings, and she decides to enter the contest herself.
  • Act 3: Backstage, Rainbow is frozen with stagefright, seeing that Princess Celestia and the Wonderbolts are present. She switches numbers with other contestants and ends up going last, alongside Rarity. Rarity's wings burn in the sun and she falls, and the Wonderbolts are injured trying to rescue her. Rainbow dives after them all and creates a Sonic Rainboom during the rescue. Rarity apologizes afterward and Rainbow is pronounced the winner for her heroism.

Character: Even though she's usually cool and collected, somepony like Rainbow Dash who really doesn't like to lose would naturally have to deal with stagefright, especially since she knows she's going beyond her normal limits. It's also neat to see her childlike awe of the Wonderbolts almost lift her out of her fretting as the competition opens. By rounding out the character in ways that are true-to-life, the creators have made her more real and more likeable than a one-note show-off. She's definitely more fun to watch than during her snippier moments earlier in the season.

It's actually Rarity who drives the plot in this episode. Her experience with fashion shows allows her to recognize stage fright, whereupon she inspires the others to join Rainbow in Cloudsdale, her glee in being admired for the beauty of her temporary wings reinforces Rainbow's nervousness, and her Icarus moment forces the rescue that gives Rainbow her victory. Rarity's real weakness, love of the spotlight, is best illustrated in her almost maniacally self-indulgent laugh as the sun hits her wings at the factory. But even though she's often prone to lose herself in the moment, Rarity usually has the self-knowledge to recognize where she's gone wrong and is not slow to apologize.


Lesson: "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." In the episode, Rarity starts out with the best of intentions, actually desiring to soothe Rainbow Dash and help her chances in the competition, before she gets carried away. In real life, we're often far less noble and set out to one-up our friends from the outset. Nevertheless, the point is well made that being there for our friends is one of many good reasons not to make everything about one's self. Still, there are times to "show off," as we need to demonstrate our abilities to teachers, employers, and other gatekeepers of our destiny. The message is similar to the one in Boast Busters but is delivered with the skill that comes with the experience of having produced quite a few episodes by this point.

One minor point, sort of a personal pet peeve that's thankfully averted in this episode: This show does a great job with sincere, specific apologies, but too often those apologies are accepted a bit too casually—"It's no problem," "Don't worry about it," "That's okay," etc. True forgiveness requires a wrong to be forgiven. It's usually better to say, "I forgive you," or "I accept your apology," and in more serious cases to explicitly acknowledge what happened: "That really hurt me, but I forgive you anyway." Of course we expect Rainbow Dash to go the casual route, but Pinkie Pie's "We still love you" is the sort of thing I'd prefer to see in more episodes, as well as in real life.


Resonance: Fluttershy's lame cheering and a few of the pegasus bullies' dumber moments provide a few laughs, but most of this episode is about excitement and awesomeness: the weather factory, Rarity's wings, Rainbow's performance, and of course the climactic rescue. Cheers all around, especially for the visual effects involved in the rainboom itself. Applause also for making Rarity's fall truly scary as we see the real-life risk of those in distress injuring their rescuers as they flail around. I was moved by Rarity's line "You saved my life," and at Rainbow's excitement at finally meeting the Wonderbolts.

 

Logic: The physics of the rainboom as it's shown here? About as likely as flying through the tree-trunk wall of the library and into hundreds of pounds of books without injury. This is, after all, a cartoon. Body Count: Rainbow says, "You, on the other hand, better keep practicing."
Connections: As Applejack points out, this is actually Dash's second sonic rainboom. We'll see the first in a few episodes.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Yes, Hoops is basically Kevin from Ed, Edd, and Eddy, as voiced by Kathleen Barr (better known to bronies as the voice of the Great and Powerful Trixie).

Though we've seen plenty of her already, this is Rainbow Dash's defining episode. Just about everything you need to know about her early self is right here. (Her character develops in important ways in future episodes.) The friendships are going strong at this point, and the effects are beginning to push the boundaries of what we've seen Flash animation do. I really could watch this one every day; it passes in every category with flying colors. This episode is one of several that fall a hair below the Diamond threshold, as it just barely drags during the bits prior to Rainbow and Rarity's joint performance.

 

Sonic Rainboom armor rating: Golden Vest
Ranked 8th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 88th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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