I'm in shock. When I saw that the writer for the episode was Merriweather Williams, I was dreading what was to come. I do think that Merriweather has some talent as a writer but, to me, her episodes for MLP have been okay at best and horrendously bad at worst (ie that superhero nonsense in season 2). I do still have some problems with this episode but, this time, I feel that what is done well is done SO well that it makes up for the things that annoyed me. First it is a very well structured script; things are foreshadowed and there are good payoffs to everything that is set up. Secondly, the conflict is a very interesting and relatable one, and it is written well enough to make it easy to empathize with Rainbow Dash. Actually, the stuff with Rainbow Dash and the academy is practically flawless, but there were a few minor details that I wasn't sure about. My main problem here is with Spitfire.
In this episode Spitfire only cared about individual performance and, although it made for a great scene at the end of the episode, I think it is inconsistent with her role in the story. The Wonderbolts are a TEAM based flying group, so it doesn't make sense that the captain would value and reward reckless self serving ambition taken at the expense of fellow flyers. It's nice that Rainbow Dash was able to learn her lesson on her own, but it is a lesson that Spitfire, of all people, should understand by now. Another minor problem I had with Spitfire is her voice actor. In the episode Spitfire is supposed to be a hard-ass recruit trainer, but her voice actor sounds like one of the babies from Rugrats. It's no big deal but it was a little distracting, for me at least. Apart from Spitfire, however, I utterly loved everything about the main storyline.
The sub plot, I didn't like so much. Actually, I REALLY didn't like it. The sub plot revolves around Pinkie behaving generically and very stereotypically "crazy". It's hard to explain what is wrong here because a lot of fans seem to have trouble relating to Pinkie Pie and often assume that she is just "random". My problem here is that she IS just "random", whereas in season one I could always see where she was coming from. Obviously, many people will not notice the difference, but it really irritated me.
So, overall, I think I actually loved this episode. It's hard to say because I really hated the Pinkie Pie stuff, but I really, REALLY, loved the main plot. Regardless, I can't wait till the next episode.