MLP:FIM season 4, episodes 3&4 – “Castle-Mane-ia” and “Daring Don’t” – thoughts and review

So, I fell behind on my episode round-ups after getting a nasty cold last week. It seems to be clearing up, thankfully, though the cough and stuffy nose will probably persist for a while, as they always do. Ugh. Then some other stuff got in the way…

Anyway.

Since another episode has already gone by, I’m going to post about both of the above episodes in one post here. As always, spoilers abound! Ye be warned! Arrrr.

First, Castle-Mane-ia, which was absolutely amazing. Mostly for simply being hilarious.

This was pure slice-of-life comedy in the show’s finest tradition, and has quickly become one of my favorite episodes of the entire series. And at the same time, they used the episode to drop in a bit more world-building; this is the first time since the pilot that the former castle of the royal sisters was revisited, and the first time it’s ever been explored in any depth, which was pretty neat.

Still, as mentioned, the strength of this episode was its comedy, as well as the character interactions. It was great to see RD and AJ butting heads in competition again.

Right off the bat, we got another one of those amazing Twilight “Uuuuhhh!” frustration sounds, followed by a great visual gag with the book pasting Spike’s feather duster.

Twilight was in top adorkable form, Spike had some fantastic “Oh, great” moments, and the shenanigans with the four “exploring” the castle had me laughing throughout. I especially love how both RD and AJ nervously proclaim “So hey, if you left, I win right?” independently of each other after losing track of one another.

And Rarity’s utterly dejected – yet perfectly logical – “She’s with me.” response to Rainbow asking Fluttershy what she’s dong there, while dripping wet and covered in tapestry and delivered in that signature Rarity voice that only Tabitha St. Germain is capable of, had me in stitches. Seriously, this

RarityTapestry-ShesWithMe-MLPFiMS4E3

is easily up there as one of my favorite funny moments in the entire series. It’s funny: way back (all of a year and a half ago… feels like longer!) when I first found the ponies and caught up with season 1 on Netflix, my favorites were definitely Twilight and Rainbow Dash. I liked em all, but those two were at the top, Dashie especially. I thought that Fluttershy would be up there, as well, but as time went on, I realized that I just didn’t find her as interesting as the other characters. Rarity was also on that level of “she’s good, but not as interesting as the others.”

Well, looking back across the entire 3+ seasons, things have certainly shuffled a bit. At this point, I’d be hard pressed to NOT say that Rarity is right up there with Twilight, in that “almost my favorite along with Dashie but not quite”, and the strength of her voice work is a really big part of that. In what I guess would be “third place” on this wonky, wobbly system would be Applejack. Now, this isn’t to say that I dislike either Pinkie or Flutters – I don’t, I love them all, and a bunch of background characters to boot. But I just find the other characters that much more interesting/funny/etc.

Back to the episode. That the organist was Pinkie I figured out a bit before they revealed it, but only like a minute or two before. When Twilight manages to calm everyone down, I noticed that the current roster of present characters was the mane five + Spike, and then it occurred to me that surely, any situation involving Pinkie and a bell wouldn’t last long, if anypony else in the vicinity of said bell had anything to say about it. “OKAY THANK YOU THE BELL SOUNDS WONDERFUL NO MORE TESTING NEEDED BYE.” So at that point, I thought ok, I bet the “Shadow Pony” is really her. More Pinkie Pie randomness! But in a good way. That said, it would be interesting to see them do something with her other than just pure wall-bounce kookiness (and that’s not even a challenge to the pony powers that be to do something they’ve never done before; she has been used in other ways. “Pinkie episodes” still have plenty of wall-bounce kookiness, of course, but my point is that there have been episodes that aren’t JUST about that, and I’d be interested to see another).

Lastly, it was just cool to see them use that castle again. The lore in this world is actually pretty interesting, and I really like the fact that – if what we’ve seen so far is any indication – season 4 is going to be heavy with it. I don’t have a favored theory about who the glowy-eyed shadow at the end was. I think it would be amazingly cool if it DID turn out to be Starswirl (or some kind of projection of him or something), but I’m not sure.

Oh, and given the title, that I spotted, there weren’t any specific Castlevania references per se, i.e. a particular moment in the ep that was a callback to a particular moment in one of the games. More just the general atmosphere of the castle, the pipe organ music, the trap doors and hidden passages everywhere, etc.

“Daring Don’t” was a lot of fun, for the most part. “A.K. Yearling” (har har) being, in fact, Daring Do herself and simply writing about the adventures she’s actually had is a pretty fun idea, even if it’s perhaps not the most original route they could have gone. But seeing her “in the flesh”, so to speak (and seeing that she’s just as tough and clever as the Daring from the books) was a delight.

Of course, we also find out that she’s developed a distrust for basically everypony, due to how dangerous her adventures tend to be (and also because of how often they involve “secrets”, according to the episode… but that’s undercut a bit by the fact that she writes it all down in published fiction novels afterward! Still, she could have just thrown that in there as a way to blow Dash off, so it’s not a big deal). For this reason, the initial attempts of the mane 6 (and Dash in particular) to help her are met with the aforementioned blowing off. In the end, though, she and Dash end up working together after all, and it seems like perhaps our favorite multicolored mare has won her over a bit, at least if this is any indication:

"ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh"

“ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh”

This episode also was fantastic with the facial expressions, from Daring herself but mainly from Rainbow Dash.

maxresdefault

“How YOU doin’?”

There were some problems with the episode, however. For one thing, it’s a little hard to believe that the (former) Elements of Harmony, defeaters of Nightmare Moon, Discord, and Sombra, led by the former personal student of Princess Celestia who is herself Equestria’s newest Alicorn Princess… would be such unknowns. DD seems to have no idea who she is dealing with. To be fair, this is hardly the first time this issue has come up (“Sweet and Elite” comes to mind), but it’s just kind of awkward. I get why it happens, too; some stories would simply be impossible if you really properly acknowledged what the status of these characters would mean. It’s really not that different from when the characters would seem to “forget” about some of their everyday technology in Star Trek, because said technology would solve the current crisis quickly and easily, ending the episode about twenty-five minutes early.

So, we are left having to reason out why Daring doesn’t seem to have any idea who they are. One takeaway is that the mane 6’s status as Equestria’s Heroes (and Twilight’s pair of special statuses on top of that) are relatively unknown outside of Ponyville and Canterlot Castle. This is a bit wobbly as an explanation, but kind of works for a pony as reclusive as Daring is shown to be. So this is kind of a flaw, but not a huge deal.

At first, I was irritated by the fact that the mane 6 just stood by outside Daring’s house while she was in trouble, but once Fluttershy called attention to it (which made it clear that it was meant to stand out and be funny, almost like they forgot – as this Indiana Jones-esque scene played out in front of them – that they weren’t watching a movie!), I minded it less and found it amusing.

Beyond that, it was just a lot of fun to watch, so much so that I’d have to say it was one of those times where I’d say, I can see and acknowledge the flaws, but while watching the episode, I’m simply having too much fun to care. And there were a lot of simply great moments in the ep – Daring’s “I can’t give you the ring ’til I’ve properly proposed” taunt, the d’awwww moment at the end with the hug, Applejack’s “Drop the ring, Ahui… whatever your name is!”, and – probably the best of em all – Rainbow Dash and Twilight having a Daring Do nerd-off to decide what to do next!

Overall, I’d have to say that they have done a great job following up on what was an extremely strong start to the season. I’d give “Castle-mane-ia” a 10 out of 10, and “Daring Don’t” would come in around an 8.5. For reference, since I neglected to mention it in my dedicated review post, “Princess Twilight Sparkle” would be a 9.5. At its best, it was every bit as good as “Castle”, but it did have that one awkward part where the others send Twilight home, which I felt just didn’t work very well. Whereas Castle is an excellent episode with basically zero serious flaws. 10. I changed my mind; PTS deserves a 10. I re watched it, and the problem I mention – while present – really isn’t so overwhelming to the intent of that scene and the ones that follow. And everything else about it is just so amazing, I don’t feel it’s right to not rank it as one of the very best episodes of this season, and of this entire series thus far.

Next up as far as pony ramblings: a review of “Flight to the Finish” – which will hopefully go up BEFORE the next episode airs this time!

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