Note: This article was written before I watched Digibrony’s video on The Mysterious Mare Do Well.
The Mysterious Mare Do Well is one of the least popular episodes of Friendship is Magic. While every episode of the show has its critics, the general dislike for Mare Do Well appears, from my observations, to be almost unanimous. To this day, I have come across a select few people in the My Little Pony analysis community who have openly defended the episode. To this day, even after the release of episodes such as Spike at Your Service, The Mysterious Mare Do Well remains a point of contention, with many fans citing it as one of the worst episodes of the show.
While there are a number of issues with characterisation which detract from the episode, making it one of the weaker outings of Season 2, I feel that there are quite a few positive elements that are often overlooked. I view The Mysterious Mare Do Well as a good episode with a number of notable flaws, rather than an episode which is truly terrible. With a few minor tweaks, it could be elevated from a mediocre episode to a My Little Pony classic. It would definitely benefit from a directors’ cut. Nevertheless, I must judge the episode as it stands, regardless of how I would have liked the episode to have been written.
Digibrony recently announced that he plans to discuss The Mysterious Mare Do Well very shortly, indicating that he might be intent on defending the episode. With this in mind, I would like to present a number of my thoughts on Mare Do Well. Hopefully, this will ensure that my eventual review of the episode is not seen as a carbon copy, should Digibrony present similar points in his video.
The Mysterious Mare Do Well is a very effective exploration of Rainbow Dash’s character. While the characterisation of the Remane 5 can be called into question, Rainbow Dash is written very effectively. The central conflict of the episode is perfectly suited to Rainbow, given her past (and future) characterisation. Rainbow Dash has been presented as having a sizeable ego right from the beginning of the series, and she makes no secret of this fact, being quick to boast about her talents. At the same time, Rainbow has demonstrated notable insecurities. She left (or was expelled from) school at a young age, and Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 suggests that Rainbow has relatively severe learning difficulties. In Sonic Rainboom, is terrified at the prospect of failing to perform successfully in front of a crowd. In Read it and Weep and Ponyville Confidential, she displays a high degree of concern for her image, and the way in which other ponies perceive her.
The Mysterious Mare Do Well is, intended or otherwise, a prominent depiction of Rainbow Dash as the Element of Loyalty. Rainbow Dash loves being viewed as a local hero, to the point that it becomes a part of her identity. Rainbow Dash holds undying loyalty to the people of Ponyville, and her self-esteem is heavily predicated on the townsponies’ appreciation of this fact. Rainbow becomes so fond of this positive attention that she eventually loses sight of the real reason for her fame - helping others - and begins to emphasise the fame itself. When her place in the limelight begins to fade, her self-esteem takes a serious blow. She eventually goes looking for opportunities to display her heroism, but none present themselves, eventually causing Rainbow to hinder the townsponies, rather than help them.
This conflict is, while unusually cynical for Friendship is Magic, highly relevant. Modern culture tends to place a lot of emphasis on celebrity, to the extent that people often lose sight of the reasons that someone is famous in the first place. Celebrities themselves have been known to go to outrageous measures to retain their fame (e.g. Miley Cyrus), undergo identity crises as their fame diminishes (e.g. Justin Bieber and his new “bad boy” image), or let their lifestyles spiral out of control. This can, of course, apply on a smaller scale in any person’s life. People can become dependent on fame and popularity, to the point that their identity and self-esteem depend on it. While aspects of the setup and characterisation in The Mysterious Mare Do Well are notably flawed, this central conflict is well presented.
I will give a more detailed discussion of the positive and negative aspects of the episode in my full review. These are simply a few preliminary thoughts that I would like to publish before I watch Digibrony’s video concerning this episode.
~ The Almighty Atheist