It’s Summer in the human world, and Applejack and Rarity are trying to get a job at the newly-opened Equestrialand theme park selling caramel apples so they can spend the summer hanging out with each other. Instead, however, Applejack doesn’t get hired for the job, and Rarity ends up getting hired by the director of public affairs, an infamous and self-absorbed online “Snapgab” personality named Vignette Valencia, for the job of lead costume designer for the park’s Light Parade. Applejack is disappointed that she misses the chance to spend the summer with Rarity but, as a costume designer job is important to her, she encourages her to take the job regardless. While Rarity hits it off with her new boss readily, she soon gets overwhelmed by the demand of the position and ends up inviting her friends over to the park on the day of the Light Parade with VIP passes to hopefully help mitigate the stress. However, on arrival, Applejack is clearly upset to see how close she and Vignette are already.
As Applejack makes no secret of her jealousy of Rarity’s relationship with Vignette, she, in turn, shows no interest in the girls until they mention they’re the Rainbooms, and on seeing their own feed on Snapgab she decides to have them highlight the Light Parade. As Rarity is too busy to spend any time with the girls, including Applejack, they break off and go around the park. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash both end up trying out the roller coasters, but Dash is the one who ends up getting weak in the knees while Fluttershy enjoys herself. Afterward, Valencia tags Fluttershy to speak with her privately, announcing that she wants to make the Rainbooms appeal to a larger demographic by having them all change their appearances and personalities for the performance. When Fluttershy shows her hesitation, however, Valencia unveils her cell phone, which the audience sees has been tainted by Equestrian magic, and takes a picture of Fluttershy with it; teleporting her into a seemingly white, empty void.
While Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer attempt to win at a rigged ring toss game, with predictable results, Applejack notices Fluttershy is missing and tries to ask Rarity about it, but gets angry when Rarity seems to be more concerned (and increasingly stressed) about the parade. Applejack snoops around the park and finally discovers Fluttershy was last seen with Vignette. After a mishap involving a fake “Deputy Fun Inspector” badge that Pinkie Pie gave her, Applejack accidentally gets access to the park security cameras and spots Valencia as she brings Rainbow Dash to one side with much the same proposal she gave to Fluttershy. On refusing, Rainbow Dash gets zapped into the same void, and Applejack, on seeing her vanish, realizes they’re in trouble.
Rarity almost reaches a breaking point as Vignette, getting increasingly demanding and changing her mind almost constantly about what she wants, commission the costumes to be redone with an hour before the parade. She also gets angrier when Applejack doesn’t show up for final fittings and sound check on time, but as soon as Applejack does arrive she immediately reveals what Vignette has done to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. She attempts to prove it by swiping Vignette’s phone and using it, but unfortunately Vignette overheard her accusations and swapped her phone for a normal one. Nevertheless, Applejack persists in her accusations, leading Rarity to lash back that she’s angry that she was hired and Applejack wasn’t, before Applejack lashes out that Vignette always panders to everyone and that Rarity’s “not special”. This makes her break down in tears and Applejack shamefully runs off. Twilight, Sunset, and Pinkie, however, realize that Applejack never makes things up and was telling the truth about Vignette, but she snapshots them as well as soon as they discover it. Rarity comes back out just as Vignette creates holographic versions of the girls to perform instead according to her idea, and she likewise exposes that she no longer cares about Rarity’s vision and wants to use her own for the parade instead. Rarity realizes Applejack was telling the truth about Vignette, right before she tries to take a picture of her as well.
However, Rarity is able to interrupt Vignette’s phone by blocking its effect with her gem shields, and she runs off to find Applejack while Vignette herself takes over for the parade. On meeting Applejack, Rarity surprises her by apologizing for letting Vignette’s flattery of her distract her from caring about her friends and the two reconcile. Soon after, they get a call from Twilight who has a plan for getting them out of “the phone”, only for Rarity and Applejack to discover that the girls were simply teleported into a random white room within the park itself. However, they soon realize Vignette is getting more corrupted and is now changing whatever she doesn’t like, and that if she does the same to the crowd at the parade thousands of people will be crammed into the room at one time and will be crushed. The girls manage to confront Vignette at the parade just as the crowd boos her horrible song, with Rarity declaring it’s ok to want to be more admired but not at the expense of the ones who care about you. She and the girls “pony-up” and Rarity destroys Vignette’s phone with a rainbow whip. In the aftermath, Vignette admits her vast online popularity has become a substitute for having real friends in her life, but both Rarity and Applejack offer to befriend her. And as the crowd loved the “lightshow” during the parade, the girls are able to perform a new song to cap off the night: “Side by Side”.
Is this secretly, or even accidentally, the most brilliant entry in the Equestria Girls franchise to date?
Following a series of mediocre specials, what little love the Equestria Girls franchise seemed to garner from “Rainbow Rocks” appeared to have cooled considerably until “Forgotten Friendship/Most Likely to Be Forgotten” aired. I, at least, was far more enthusiastic about the future of the franchise after that came out and was looking forward to the next special. Unfortunately, this was a step backward, almost feeling like a glorified Youtube short rather than something worth an hour-long special.
Part of the reason “Forgotten Friendship” succeeded where “Rollercoaster of Friendship” failed that I realize I didn’t pick up at the time was not simply the focus on Sunset Shimmer but the fact that, aside from the first movie, “Forgotten Friendship” attached itself back to the main series more than any other entry. We spent a good amount of time in good ol’ Equestria and got to expand on both the pony Twilight Sparkle as well as Princess Celestia. By comparison, “Rollercoaster of Friendship”, like most EQ entries, is grounded solidly in the real world where there is, quite literally, little magic to be found.
On the second viewing, I compliment this entry for taking a few more risks, but none of them really panned out (with one possible exception…). One was the series attempting to subvert expectations. The girls appear that they’re on the road to all being trapped again with a buildup to another magic demon to fight, only to turn out they were never trapped at all but stuck in an ordinary room with an unlocked door the whole time. The problem with this one is it didn’t end up being nearly as funny as they hoped. It didn’t help that the build up to it was almost part-and-parcel a repeat of “Mirror Magic”. (Fluttershy is even the first one captured again.) Rather than being an amusing turnabout, it came off as series laziness.
Another was trying to focus on one or two of the girls instead of the group as a whole…and by “as a whole” I mean Sunset, Sci-Twi, and “Etc.”. 😛 This one focuses specifically on Applejack and Rarity and their relationship. The problem is one of the other specials already focused on Rarity: “Dance Magic”. So rather than looking like it’s giving all the girls their chance to shine, it looks like she’s unbalanced in coverage compared to the others.
The third, and biggest, was the villain. One thing the series hadn’t touched on yet that was ripe territory for the EQ spinoff was the impact of social media: how it encourages people to become more superficial while at the same time addicting them to the praise and attention they get from grooming a fake personality and appearance. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to hit that hard with the villain. Vignette Valencia is tied with Juniper Montage as the worst villain of the franchise. Unlike Juniper, they tried to give something charismatic with Vignette; namely her ability to roll off complicated responses mixed with LOLspeak and never pausing for air. It was an interesting idea, but it fell flat. Even after watching the special twice I can barely comprehend what Vignette is saying. What more, she is, by far, the most shoehorned villain redemption yet. Throughout the entire special Vignette is continuously superficial and self-absorbed. Even when she hires Rarity she’s only interested in using her. She doesn’t so much get “corrupted” in this one as gets more used to her newfound power. While people complain about Juniper, she at least came off in “Movie Magic” as someone thoughtlessly selfish as opposed to outright selfish. Vignette comes off as just plain selfish and uncaring. And while the special does try to pass in a message at the end about how one can have thousands of followers and no real friends, which is the true black mark of social media, it’s almost an afterthought like a fortune cookie message rather than tied into the plot.
Instead, the plot plays out like a series of Youtube shorts, especially with the bits with Fluttershy/Rainbow Dash and Sunset Shimmer/Sci-Twi. A lot of the humor comes from Rarity stressing out over her new job and the drama comes from the relationship strain between her and Applejack. None of that has anything to do with social media. Now if the series ever tries to do a special that really does focus on social media, it’ll come off as rehashing from this.
This all made for a rather mediocre special to me, but there were two things that stood out. One was something that stood out to me personally. The other…was pretty much the reason this somewhat unremarkable special ended up generating tons of buzz.
As Silver Quill noted in his review of “Friendship Games”, as admired as Sunset Shimmer is the ongoing complaint is that she’s effectively a different character from her initial appearance. He argued that the one thing Sunset has in common both as a villain and as a protagonist is her need to prove herself to be “better” than any challenge that comes her way. And what I liked about this special is it rammed it home in her scene with Sci-Twi. Although she states right at the outset that the game is rigged, she still has to beat it. Why? Because she can’t let the game be “better” than her. She has to prove she’s superior to it. She says it directly in a cold voice: “I don’t like to lose.”
The other needs little introduction…
In the world of the Internet, the rule for shipping two people together is pretty much that they simply appear in the same scene together. This episode, however, made a much more plausible case than usual for “Rarijack”. While all of it is solidly in the realm of ambiguous, there are more than a few moments in this episode. First, there’s the fact the whole center of the episode is Applejack and Rarity wanting to work in the same place so they can hang out all summer. Nothing’s wrong with that or unusual among friends, but the fact that it apparently is so important that the two of them get to do it together as opposed to any of their other friends is unusual. Applejack’s constant reactions to Rarity and Vignette shows she’s clearly jealous. She could be jealous of their friendship, but at the bare minimum that would indicate that Applejack views Rarity as a friend with a special status above the rest of the Humane Seven. Then there’s the fact that Applejack and Rarity constantly hold hands and blush when they look at each other, especially in the ending song when the two seem to be singing to one another.
Considering the fact that similar gestures and looks have been used with Lyra and Bon Bon, who the fandom considered to be a homosexual couple and the show writers seemingly endorsed in later episodes, this has led to widespread speculation that Applejack and Rarity’s human forms are a homosexual couple as well.
For me personally, I don’t think there was anything “conclusive” in favor of that viewpoint. If you realize the whole setup for this plot is contingent on Applejack and Rarity being closer friends with each other than the rest of the girls, it doesn’t seem so much of a big deal. For those who think the episode was implying that Applejack and Rarity or a couple, my suggestion is to think about the plot from the standpoint of them not being a couple and then ask how you could have presented the same plot in such a way to ensure no ambiguity while still letting their relationship as friends come through. I don’t think you could have, so this is going to have to be another one of those deals where I think the audience is just reading too much into it…or, perhaps, subtle fanservice.
In conclusion…average. It seemed a bit worse than average when it first came out due to being overshadowed by “Forgotten Friendship”, but now I consider it solidly middle-ground. Takes some chances but doesn’t really push them enough to work.
Similar to “Forgotten Friendship”, this special was originally conceived as a five-part miniseries to be showed as part of the Equestria Girls Youtube series. The TV version appears to be identical to this one.
Apparently, Stinky Bottoms’ Discount Hat Emporium exists in both worlds. 😛
Equestria Land ironically seems to be a land based off of MLP:FIM as if it was an actual series in the human world. Surreal.
Considering the fact the girls have dealt with actual Sirens, I’m surprised Rarity is so cool about fake ones being in the show. 😛
Microchips gets mentioned by name for the first time in a special, although his name was introduced in an earlier Youtube short.
MICROCHIPS: (Offering) “Caramel Apple?” APPLEJACK: “Uh…’Applejack’.” It took me a while to get that joke. That’s what you get for naming yourselves after common objects. 😛
Nice continuity joke. VALENCIA: “I need a stress salad!” (Later) FLUTTERSHY: “Do you mind if I eat this salad? I’m feeling stressed.” RAINBOW DASH: “You gonna eat that stress salad?”
Although they originally appeared in human form in one of the shorts for “Rainbow Rocks”, the humanized Flim-Flam brothers make their first special appearance in this episode.
After Rarity screams about needing a bigger pile of clothes to scream into, the shot fades out and fades in on one of the stuffed animals at Flim and Flam’s ring-toss game: a horse with the same coloration as Rarity. 😀
“…because she’s always blowing smoke up your chimney!” Earn that Y7 rating.
Pinkie Pie knew they were in a room the whole time but just went along with it. 😛
2.5 Stars out of 5