Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie get a shock reading the local news when they discover A.K. Yearling is retiring from writing, which means her alter ego, Daring Do, is retiring from adventuring. When they visit her to confront her, they find she’s sunk in depression on receiving a large amount of hate mail from the residents of the towns she passed through on her last adventure in Southern Equestria. Because her adventuring leaves a large amount of collateral damage in her wake, she’s seen as a menace by Equestrians who have never read her books or known any of the good causes she was trying to accomplish. To prove to her that most of the locals appreciate her, Dash and Pinkie take her back to Southern Equestria to talk with the locals and see what they really think about her. That plan soon backfires, as not only do the residents hate the consequences of her action, but a hooded pony keeps whipping up the crowd to think of her as a destructive villain. Things get worse when she is further accused of having stolen the glowpaz jewelry of the local city, which was meant as an offering to the memory of Somnambula–a legendary pegasus whose unfailing hope allowed her to save an ancient prince and send away a Sphinx that once terrorized the land. Dash, angry at his continuous accusations, confronts the hooded pony, and soon discovers it’s actually Dr. Cabelleron. He came to the town intending to steal the glowpaz for himself, but on seeing the bad impression Daring Do had given used it as leverage not only to frame her for the crime but to hopefully dishearten her into quitting all together. Now, however, he captures Dash and ties her up in the same trap that Somnambula crossed ages ago in an attempt to dishearten Daring Do by having her fail to save her friend. Pinkie, however, encourages Daring to have the same hope that Somnambula did and attempt to traverse the trap through a leap of faith. She does so, and as a result succeeds and is able to rescue Dash. The three head back to the village and head off Cabelleron and his goons just as they try to escape with the glowpaz, exposing them to the villagers and causing them to run off in defeat. Daring Do is acclaimed by the town for saving the day, and, before making good on fixing her collateral damage, she thanks Pinkie and Dash for reminding her never to give up hope.
“Daring Do Episodes” are not my favorite ones in the series. It was fine in her original appearance in “Read It and Weep”, but once she became an actual “real” character I never was quite grabbed by it. It doesn’t help that her other two episodes, “Daring Don’t” and “Stranger Than Fanfiction”, had an element of a surreal and meta vibe to them that made the entire thing seem to not reflect reality as it pertained to the show. This one, however, got me particularly unhappy as it had the trappings of a mess.
There’s a lot of plot to mix into this one and still seem like all of the same story, and I’m not sure it works out. On one hand, it’s supposed to be a story about Daring Do interacting with Rainbow Dash and getting her confidence back after being disheartened by a bad experience. And if that would have been the stand-alone moral, it probably would have been good. It was something not really explored yet on the show, but has been around since the creation of Spider-Man as a comic superhero…what does a hero do when the only side of them the world ever sees is their negative consequences?
Yet this was also another entry in the second-half-of-the-season narrative leading up to the season finale that needed to introduce Somnambula. That was far more difficult to utilize. The two biggest fans of Daring Do out of the Mane Six are Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash. Suddenly, however, Pinkie Pie has to become a huge one so that she can tag along in this episode, so that she can hear the story of Somnambula, so that she can in turn idolize her by the time the season finale comes around. Working those morals into the story was far harder. Unlike “Campfire Tales”, which was just an opportunity for some nice little pony stories, this one had to tie into the main plot.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it did too well. While there are parts of Somnambula’s story that are intriguing, walking across a rope bridge blindfolded isn’t the greatest challenge in the world. It is a challenge, true, but not necessarily one that requires hope so much as careful footing…especially since all she had to do was walk in a straight line. I’m assuming the bridge wasn’t supposed to be there originally and Somnambula had to make the same leap of faith Pinkie later did, but that it was omitted because it would have looked as if the Sphinx was just up front trying to trick her rather than give a challenge she couldn’t hope to succeed at. Not to say the Sphinx couldn’t have done that, but if the Sphinx had been that devious then there would have been no reason for it to honor losing the challenge. Plus, the focus of this episode, as it is Daring Do, is mostly Rainbow Dash and Daring Do. Pinkie Pie is more of an afterthought. And I don’t really get the sense as to why she would have gravitated to Somnambula more than anyone else.
Aside from that, this episode had been leaked on Youtube like so many others and I knew from pictures on recommended videos that Dr. Cabelleron would show himself in this episode. Nevertheless, I think I would have guessed rather quickly who the hooded pony was, and once that happened a lot of the ending was telegraphed. Finally, the ending moral as a result of all of this tried to jam three lessons into one: (1) not getting discouraged when things go wrong, (2) making things right when something happens due to your own irresponsibility, and (3) never lose hope. Smashing them all together didn’t really seem to work out too well.
Unlike other Daring Do episodes, this one doesn’t have any gaping plot holes so I can’t mark it down for that, but due to everything being put into it and forcing Pinkie and Somnambula into the whole thing, I don’t find it too great otherwise.
The timing wasn’t exactly perfect on this episode’s release along with the comic. Legends of Magic #5 was the first to reference Somnambula as well as the events of this episode, but it came out on September 6, 2017. This episode wouldn’t premiere in the United States until September 9, 2017. While this is something more of a fact for my review of that issue, Somnambula is portrayed in that comic as being more similar to Pinkie Pie, whereas in this episode (and “Shadow Play”) she seemed more solemn and mature.
The paper-selling pony at the beginning is a palette swap of Featherweight’s unusual design. A bit unconventional…
The “noodle story” is apparently on the same page as A.K. Yearling’s news.
Southern Equestria is apparently a bit more backward and isolated than Northern Equestria. Based on existing maps, the Badlands likely separate the two halves from each other.
For the source of the name Somnambula, a “somnambulist” is a sleepwalker…i.e. one who walks with their eyes closed. It’s a bit of a stretch to Somnambula’s story, but eh.
The “Get-On Inn” was featured in the novel “Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore”. The innkeeper is also a character introduced in that story, Mrs. Trotsworth. She doesn’t get mentioned by name in the episode but her name appears in the credits.
A true sphinx should have the body of a lion and the head of a man, but in keeping with ponies being the dominant sentient life in Equestria, the Sphinx in Somnambula’s tale has the head of a pony as well as wings of a pegasus.
Interesting animation goof. In the “hieroglyphic” style of Somnambula’s story, the Pharaoh appears to be female, but in the fully animated portions there’s a brief shot of the Pharaoh in the background with an Egyptian beard, indicating the Pharaoh is male. There’s a chance the gender was switched midway through production of the episode and never corrected.
The deal with the “leap of faith” is similar to a scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” with the final Grail Challenge.
As an interesting note about which member of the Mane Six idolizes which member of the Pillars of Old Equestria, most of the Mane Six idolize someone who is their same species but Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy change it up. Pinkie Pie idolizes a pegasus while Fluttershy idolizes an earth pony. I thought that was an interesting detail if intentional, as there’s no reason a pony of one species can’t look up to a pony of a different species, but based on how this episode went I tend to wonder if it was a last-minute goof up in the original plan and had no time to change it.
Although Somnambula has speaking lines in the legend, the narrator “speaks for her”. We wouldn’t hear Somnambula’s actual voice until the season finale.
2.5 Stars out of 5