Rainbow Dash's dream is finally within grasp, as she is accepted into the Wonderbolt Academy. At first everything seems to be going well. But then Rainbow is made wing pony to another pegasus, Lightning Dust, who is just as good as Dash, only a lot more reckless. Things start to go downhill as Lightning's dangerous attitude almost gets the other cadets hurt.
During a cloud clearing mission, Lightning decides to create a tornado to clear the clouds faster. But she and Dash lose control, just as Dash's friends are coming up in Twilight's balloon to visit her. Dash and the other cadets manage to save Twilight and the others, but Rainbow is furious at Lightning for her recklessness. She confronts Spitfire, and turns in her resignation. Just as Rainbow is about to leave, Spitfire stops her and tells her she was right about not being reckless. Lightning is removed from the Wonderbolts Academy and Rainbow is made lead pony.
While most of this episode is a fairly generic story, à la Top Gun, it scores points for being the episode that continues Rainbow's character development arc. Rainbow gets a lot of focus during this series, though my personal opinion is that this is because out of all the characters she needs the development the most. Not because she is undeveloped, but because she has the personality that needs the most maturing.
Personally I'm not a huge fan of Rainbow, but I can appreciate the development that she is being given. Early on I couldn't stand her, but the more episodes she gets the more I like her. Though sometimes she seems to take a few steps backwards in her development in episodes that aren't focusing on her.
Wonderbolt Academy manages to make one of the biggest steps in Rainbow's development, by having her face her biggest flaws head on. By this point a great deal of those flaws have been ironed out, but they do pop up from time to time. Mostly this episode serves as a point of reference in Dash's development. We get to see a representation of her as she used to be, magnified in the opposite direction of how she has developed over the course of the series. This gives Rainbow a chance to metaphorically face her former self and establish who she is now as the better personality. It gives her a chance to step in the direction of being a leader, something I imagine we will be seeing in the future of the series.
Like I said, Rainbow isn't my favorite character from the series, most of the time, especially if we only consider early episodes, she's pretty close to the bottom. But even so, episodes like this give me a chance to appreciate how well her character has been handled over the course of the whole series. There are a few cases where she regresses back to jerk mode, but overall she has forward momentum and I can appreciate that.
Pinkie's parts in the episode on the other hand show that she still needs to get over her neediness. While this flaw has been addressed before, I imagine that we'll be seeing more about this in the future.
My favorite part of the episode was when the cadets caught the mane six. There's a moment where Fluttershy remembers that she is in fact a pegasus, and flies on her own. Her look of embarrassment at having to be saved, coupled with Flitter's consternation is priceless. It shows the writers are aware that they tend to ignore the fact that Fluttershy can fly. Some episodes have completely forgotten it, such as Feeling Pinkie Keen where the biggest danger could have been bypassed if Fluttershy remembered that she could just fly Twilight over the chasm.
Overall, a great episode, not necessarily one of my favorites, but I can appreciate it for what it does more than for the specifics of the story.