Newbie Dash review
Okay, saw this coming. And I knew it was going to be cringeworthy. But this goes beyond the pale.
Let's face facts. Rainbow Dash is a solo act-- she has a huge ego and lives to be in the spotlight. This is precisely the opposite of what you want to have if you're going to work on a TEAM. So there was inevitably going to be an episode on this issue. But anything this episode wanted to achieve, it failed-- largely because of the show's own history and canon.
May I take a minute and first address the fact that putting Dash in the wonderbolts is just a horrible waste of talent? She's canonically the best flier in equestria, objectively better than anyone in the Wonderbolts. Blew the doors off all their academy records, the only one who can do a Rainboom... hell, she's good enough that they tried to poach her off the Ponyville Equestria Games team. And that's before addressing her role as a member of the Elements of Harmony. Joining them is like taking Micheal Jordan and putting him on the pee-wee basketball team.
Remember back at Wonderbolts Academy where Dash KNEW how to work on a team, actually looked out for them, and called Spitfire and Lightning Dust out on LD's reckless grandstanding? Remember how she led Tornado day, how she worked so well with the Equestria Games, Winter Wrap Up, and all the other times when she's been there demonstrating her ability to handle teamwork? Remember when she was what you'd expect from someone who's been doing this her whole life-- COMPETENT? The writers certainly don't.
But of course, as of this episode, somehow it never sunk home in all her years of being part of countless organizations and teams, as well as a Wonderbolts fan (idiot ball #1) that if she became a Wonderbolt, she wouldn't be the star of the show, she'd be just another pony in a uniform. And she suffers this sudden onset brain damage just because Wonderbolts, and only because Wonderbolts.
Oh you do get a sense of her wanting to BELONG in the group, but her approach to getting their attention has been to try and grab a spotlight. In this episode she's force-fed an Incompetence Ball as well so she's suddenly a sub-par flier who has to struggle to keep up with the illustrious anointed Wonderbolt veterans. (Dear GOD I hate those characters. Spitfire is at her absolute lowest, too--- I mean--- she gives Dash a team jacket with the insulting nickname “Rainbow Crash” embroidered on it? And cackles about how she'll mock Dash for YEARS about her wipeout? It's official, Spitfire is worst pony. And the rest of the Wonderbolts aren't far behind.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Back to the first point: the collision was inevitable. Dash the showpony colliding head on with what it means to be part of a team. And we all knew it was going to be painful to watch. But as always, whenever Dash is front and center, the writers decide she had a bowl of Stupid Flakes that morning and have her behave in ways epic in their idiocy. Her efforts to stand out-- or more properly, to get the respect of her (douchebag) teammates--- get more and more cringeworthy, till she finally pulls an epic boner and sabotages the airshow by having Scootaloo push a thundercloud into the middle of it so Dash could show off some extra stunts. Same routine as when she learned Tank was going into hibernation-- more and more foolish efforts till she does something that as a career stunt flier and a lifelong weather pony she would NEVER EVER do.
(Frankly, a story like this doesn't HAVE to be cringe-tastic in skilled hands. Not everybody has to go through a gauntlet of humiliation to learn to work as a team, for crying out loud--- if they did nobody would ever join a team for fear of the inevitable humilation. Come on, go beyond the paradigm, writers!)
But beyond the cliche' cringe factor, the biggest problem with this episode is that any positive message about learning to be part of a team is lost in the fact that Dash is canonically a far better flier AND hero than her idols, so much so that realistically portrayed they'd be holding her back.... and in the fact that the Wonderbolts aren't a worthwhile group to belong to.
Let's review the list of crimes.
1)Incompetence. They bungled an air rescue so badly that Dash had to save their lives.
2)Incompetence. Bungled dealing with Mega-Spike, got taken out in literally a matter of seconds.
3)Dickery. Invited Dash into the VIP lounge at the Grand Galloping Gala.... then ignored her in favor of schmoozing various upper crust knobs.
4)Malice. At Rainbow Falls, tried to lure her away from the Ponyville team... despite being shoo-ins for the qualifiers, and knowing that it would torpedo Ponyville's chances entirely.
5)Malice. Lied to both Dash and Soarin' to facilitate the above.
6)Dickery. Brushed off the whole thing with a lucky pin and the most insincere 'boy we learned our lesson' speech ever.
7)Incompetence. Bagged instantly by the Changelings.
8)Incompetence. Flattened by Tirek instantaneously.
9)Malice and Dickery: one of their retirees frames Dash. The ENTIRE TEAM turns on her instantly, and demands that she prove she didn't do anything or be banned for life--- and give her one day to do it.
(reflect on the fact that this was instigated by a veteran of the team. Backstabbing appears to be a legacy sport with the Wonderbolts.)
10)Utter Dickery: Not only saddled her with an insulting nickname, went so far as to give her an official Wonderbolts jacket with the name sewn on as a patch.
These aren't a crack team of military fliers. They're a squad of bitchy high school popular girls. And Spitfire is their queen. And they have been this way for five seasons solid! They're obnoxious, egotistical and DISLOYAL. Why the HELL is Dash, the Bearer of the Element of Loyalty, even giving them the time of day?
There was no need for Dash to suddenly get an attack of the Stupids. If the episode was about belonging with the group, or being part of the team, it could have been handled so much better. But the writers ignored both her own five seasons of character development, AND the actual character (or lack thereof) of Spitfire and the Wonderbolts.
So what's the lesson here? The one they intended, “being part of the team,” has been lost to any non-adult viewer who won't pick up the nuances. What the target audience is going to pick up after all this time is going to vary from 'don't stand out from the group, that is bad' to “It's okay for the cool kids to treat you like dirt, so long as you finally get 'in' “.
And don't give me that BS about how “every cadet goes through it.” Yes, it's how crack squads induct the rookies, by giving 'em a rough time. It's also how frathouses conduct hazing, and schoolyard gangs initiate new kids into their ranks. And which scenario is the target audience of the show more likely to be facing? Kids don't need lessons in being 'part of the team' when the world is presently so full of blind followers.