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Mike Cartoon Pony


Nintendo gamer and animation lover. Also likes pastel cartoon ponies. They do that to people. And ghosts.

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Sep
21st
2019

Episode Review: "Daring Doubt” - Season 9 Episode 21 · 4:29pm Sep 21st, 2019


Jeez, all these “Daring D___” titles are prime candidates for getting easily confused at this point, whatever that they’re pun-tastic.

Discounting whether spending the show’s sixth-last episode on another Daring Do centric story is wise or not, given all the other characters, plotlines and areas of the show that are candidates for, if not being wrapped up, at least getting something of a tribute or a send off episode, we have here an episode that is somewhat functionally similar to “Daring Done?” An outside source is causing trouble that threatens the reputation of Daring Do, and subsequently her normal ego A.K. Yearling who fictionalizes her Dr. Jones adventures. On the surface, “Daring Doubt” also shares the similarity to that episode of Rainbow and another member of the Mane 6 being on an artefact-hunting adventure with Daring… sort of.

Before I progress, a bit of housekeeping. Daring Do episodes are often divisive ones, at least since “Daring Don’t” introduced the fact of Daring Do being real and A.K. Yearling simply writing up about her adventures (possibly to fund them, though I can’t recall if this is ever confirmed), as opposed to her being fictional as she was all the way back in “Read It and Weep”, the fantastic episode that spectacularly brought Rainbow’s Season 2 jerk-level way down. Personally, I cannot deny something about that dubious concept, and the logistics and plot holes/contrivances it brings, as well as the practicalities of how Daring Do episodes must function thereafter, is very logically dubious, given it means coming up with ways to involve our main heroes in situations they are nominally outsiders to… well, they certainly fall into the “fun and enjoyable if you don’t think too much about it logically” category. And the steam was starting to slip from them a little in the last one, “Daring Done?”, content to be a mildly entertaining episode that nominally contributed to the Pillars arc and little else.
That said, there can be fun to be had in spelunking of the adventure serial variety, something both “Daring Don’t” And “Daring Done?” provide in spades (Stranger then Fan Fiction being a structural anomaly for a Daring Do episode, though it still has a bit of that).

This ends up being true of “Daring Doubt”, though the cracks in its construction show far more then past Daring Do episodes. In fact, it took almost no time at all following the episode’s conclusion for its mild retconning, among other things, to prove to be quite the head scratchers. Unsurprisingly, Nicole Dubuc was behind this one, dubious both as a showrunner and as a writer, notable not just for her lack of writing nuance in the characters, but for a ego-like ignorance of the importance of events in episodes made before she came onboard in late Season 7, in favour of heightening her own contributions (even I cannot deny the fact of her writing Scootaloo’s aunts into the show after having created them for a chapter book). But we’ll get back to that.

The episode starts off with Fluttershy thanking Rainbow Dash for having lent her the series, having converted her to being a big fan too. As such things will, Rainbow is devastated to learn this includes a new novel by another author deriding the adventurous pegasus, down to revealing her to be real. Irritated by Fluttershy’s enjoyment of this other novel, Rainbow drags her along to A.K. Yearling’s book signing, only to witness the author getting heckled by ex-fans. As luck would have it…

[screenshot of Rainbow reacting incredulously to the book's cover being draped over a store]
“He’s doing a signing across the street?”

Yep, plot contrivances galore! Thankfully, the two deduce right away that this guy is Dr. Caballeron, which is one area it improves over “Daring Done?”, which kept his obvious identity a secret for half the episode (though given such things are staples in old-school adventure serials, it’s not something that undermined that episode too much). Their attempts to grill him are casually diverted, and upon Rainbow deciding to retreat, he puts on a sob story that, following his attempts to join with Daring Do (a callback that is factually correct), he opposed her simply to try and get artefacts for museums, and failing that, to sell them to make ends meet. It’s a little more convincing then that in the moment, enough that we don’t judge Fluttershy too much for her supposed naivety and acceptance when he invited her on an adventure for a new artefact.

Much of the rest of the episode until the artefact, a Truth Talisman, is obtained, boils down to cutting back and forth between Daring and Rainbow in pursuit, and Fluttershy unknowingly winning over the loyalty of Caballeron and his henchponies through acts of kindness as they trek, including cases where she saves them from jungle wildlife. It has to be said that, though maintaining a theme of hearing others’ side of the story throughout, the episode keep switching tack as to its focus, both character and plot-wise, for better or for worse. It’s certainly not a Rainbow and Fluttershy episode, much like how “Sweet and Smoky” was certainly not a true Spike and Fluttershy episode (which this episode also shares some similarities with), and even though Fluttershy is nominally the main character, the episode all but forgets about her acts of kindness reforming Caballeron and his henchponies in the last five minutes (not to say it doesn’t still happen, but Fluttershy’s effect is de-emphasized). The action and adventuring alone the way is decent, but merely competent when compared to examples of past episodes.

Another contrivance pops its head in by the Truth Talisman, naturally, forcing its wearer to tell the truth, which is used to validate not just Caballeron being won over by Fluttershy, but also validating Ahuizotl’s true motives of opposing Daring Do and Caballeron due to needing to protect relics in the jungle basin he resides in (one more taken and he’s out of a job, apparently). Yep, this does happen. I won’t blame you if aspects of this episode fall into the “turn off your brain” category, for the last act of the episode crosses over into "what the actual hay" territory by quite some distance. But certainly the focus on Daring and Caballeron making amends during the last chunk at the de-focus on Fluttershy (other then her continuing to demonstrate the theme of knowing others’ side of the story before jumping to conclusions) is structurally woeful. As is the episode completely forgetting about the individual reforming of the henchponies, who all got moments and even names along the way. There's plenty more structural mishaps you needn't bother searching for, given how loudly they announce themselves.

The biggest head-scratcher of all is Caballeron, who doesn’t actually fit with the theme of having a fair motive at all – the episode straight-up admits, via the Talisman, that he was always in it for the money, yet everyone forgives him offscreen (you know, the pony who tried to kill Daring many times). He and Daring even collaborate on a book, hilariously upstages by a novel of Ahuizotl’s own, in a coda ending so out-of-nowhere and rapid-fire it almost zips over how crammed the episode’s resolution is. Almost.

The more I unpack the episode’s plot, the more contrivances pop up (while Ahuizotl’s villainious behavior in “Read in and Weep” can be explained by that being A.K. Yearling’s functional interpretation of the events, his actions in “Daring Don’t” are rather more dubious”), but it does at least have the benefit of Rainbow and Fluttershy being done well. While my initial suspicion of Fluttershy knowing Caballeron was up to no good and that she’d be playing along with him either to capture him or to reform him because she believed he deserved a second chance proved false, Fluttershy is balanced well, hitting the niche of being believing but merely naïve rather then dumb in this case for doing so. Rainbow doesn’t receive that much focus once the adventuring starts, but there’s noting too wrong there either. And the episode is visually paced fine, with good timing to some of the gags and action moments throughout. This is opposed to the written pacing, which like many an episode has a slow-paced setup and then a rushed adventuring part that covers all the plot points buts loses any real nuance in doing so.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t an abysmal episode, even if it’s the weakest Daring Do episode without much thought. But the combination of Daring Do episodes not holding up well to scrutiny and the same being true for episodes of these last two seasons, plus other drawbacks to most of Season 9’s output (and, you know, Nicole Dubuc; her awful habit of writing stories that don’t fit in with those before she joined the show with Shadow Play continues in full force here, given how much this screws with the character of Daring, Caballeron and Auhizotl), leaves “Daring Doubt” another muddled, woeful Season 9 affair, even if the experience of watching it is better then a few other Season 9 episodes. That’s an adventure story for ya.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS
- The episode basically putting an end to the careers, heroic and villainous, of Daring, Caballeron and Ahuizotl comes across as an shoehorned way to make this feel like a Season 9 episode, with the sentiment of “this episode concludes their story, isn’t that what you wanted?”. Um, no. Not only were these characters that didn’t really need a resolution and few were clamouring to go one, coming up with a plot that seems to exist to lead to this convoluted a scenario doesn’t really work all that much. The episode does so much damage to this admittedly-not-very-important thread around Daring Do that it would have been far better off simply not existing, leaving her with no resolution but us free to imagine her continuing her adventures as she has been.
- I honestly misheard Random Angry Fan #1’s comment at A.K. Yearling as “Daring Do kills puppies!” as opposed to “kicks puppies”. A part of me likes to think the delivery was intended to get across that sentiment, just for the sheer absurdity of viewers doing a double-take but still being censor-safe, this being a show that can’t mention death in any form.
- The flying speed of pegasi in a hurry and the speediness of the shot means that the Indiana Jones hat grab here is actually able to sneak up on the viewer. That, and it followed a moment very similar to the unfurling of the stone steps downward in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Clever parody misdirection, using one spoof to allow the next one to get the jump on us.
- This series can still have it in itself for a good reaction shot that produces a gut laugh. I audibly guffawed at the reveal at the end of Ahuizotl being an author now too, even if, being a non-pony species, his “disguise” should fool absolutely no one. Also, I think they vastly overestimate the demand for a novel from the point of view of a temple guardian.
- “The temple traps are far too dangerous to face without a map, and maybe even with one.” Cue no traps been show inside the temple past the entrance before the treasure room itself, with none of Rainbow and Daring’s temple journey being shown at all. Season 9 writing shortcuts and inconsistencies, am I right?

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Comments ( 1 )

Would you be interested in checking out this story I created a little while ago, by any chance?

EA Moment of Truth
At the end of "Daring Doubt", Ahuizotl revealed after touching the Truth Talisman that he was a Jungle Guardian who was tasked with protecting the artifacts of the River Basin. However, was that really the truth he was spilling? Or somehow...a lie?
A Man Undercover · 5.4k words  ·  64  12 · 813 views
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