This very special edition of "Batbrony Reviews" is dedicated to Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco (episode writers), Kaylea Chard and Jae Harm (episode storyboard artists), "Big" Jim Miller (episode director), Daniel Ingram (episode music), Felicia Day (Pear Butter), William Shatner (Grand Pear), Bill Newton (Bright McIntosh), Ashleigh Ball (Applejack), Michelle Creber (Apple Bloom), Peter New (Big McIntosh and Goldie Delicious), Tabitha St. Germain (Granny Smith and Mrs. Cake/Chiffon Swirl), Bill Mondy (Burnt Oak), Cathy Weseluck (Mayor Mare), anyone else who worked on the episode, and of course Lauren Faust for giving us this show and making this episode possible to begin with. Thank you all for all you contributed to making the perfect episode of a truly remarkable show.
Those who regularly read my episode reviews have probably noticed by now that I have chosen to forego my usual introduction. No it didn't slip my mind, rather, it was very much an intentional decision. There is nothing "usual" about this episode, and hence a usual introduction would not have sufficed. The first time I watched this episode, I was too blown away by it, even after already anticipating it for over a month when word started getting out about how amazing it was, to really feel anything but pure joy. The second time I watched it, I spent the last five minutes of the episode crying; I have a feeling now that this may happen every time I watch it. I say this as someone who does not cry easily; the last time any movie made me cry, I believe it was Toy Story 3 back in 2010 (granted I don't go out of my way to watch sad movies, but still, even if I did I wouldn't be someone who cries just for anything). That movie made me shed some tears out of nostalgia, most likely because I was also fresh off of my freshman year of college and was watching it with my mom; this 22 minute episode of a show with a budget the fraction of what a Pixar movie costs, in contrast, made me weep like a newborn. What could have possibly elicited such a reaction? Nothing short of perfection, really. I've seen the best episode that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic will ever have to offer to me, and I'm perfectly OK knowing it can't get any better than this. Some things just don't need to be touched or surpassed, kind of like how The Empire Strikes Back will probably always be the greatest Star Wars film of all time. That's enough set up for this, however, it's about time we got this show on the road. Without further ado, this is Batbrony Reviews "The Perfect Pear."
While I obviously do not have a set format for my reviews, this review will have a very unusual format. It will break down elements of the episode in all areas (be it story, characters, writing, voice acting, animation, music, etc.) as I go through what was recounted in this episode in chronological order as it happened, not as the episode itself was organized.
Seeds of a Tragedy
The family feud is an old story trope in much of literature (it's also something we even observe in history quite a bit). The most famous example in Western literature (at least the one most people probably think of first) would be "Romeo and Juliet," but I would argue it is not among the finest examples of a family feud in literature (and I would hardly be the only one to make such an assertion). While the lesson is powerful and the tragic elements inherent to a family feud are there, there's not quite enough for us, the audience, to latch onto emotionally in regards to caring about the Capulets and Montagues. Romeo and Juliet are teenagers who fall in love incredibly quickly and get married before they even really know what being in love for a lifetime truly is (and subsequently die before they know as well), and the only other supporting characters who we really are emotionally invested in in regards to the feud are Tybalt (Juliet's cousin) and Mercutio (who's not even a Montague, but just a close friend of Romeo) and they die before Romeo and Juliet even do. By the end of the play, any characters we were sort of emotionally invested in are dead, the only truly likable one left is Friar Laurence, and there are no Capulets and Montagues left who we know enough about to really care about them, other than the fact that they just lost two young members of their families because of their bitter feud (whose roots we also don't know much of anything about). The writing is certainly as poetic as anything Shakespeare wrote, and as I said before, the tragedy and powerful lesson are both there, but anyone who truly knows Shakespeare would never claim that "Romeo and Juliet" is his finest or most enduring work (even if it was their personal favorite). So what makes for a truly powerful way to tackle the tragedy of a family feud?
Believe it or not, I believe that "The Perfect Pear" has done just that. Yes, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, a 22 minute episode of animated television has made me feel more emotional about the tragedy of its family feud than Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" ever has. How? I mean, really, how? Well, to get to the bottom of that, we need to start at the beginning. No, not of the episode, but of the feud itself between the Apples and the Pears.
The feud starts fairly innocently. In fact, you could even be forgiven for at first thinking it's about to fall into an old cliche one encounters in many children's animated programs where a family feud or rivalry between two people (that is largely played for laughs in the given show or episode) stems from something really petty or silly even. That's usually a big root of the "humor" in the entire feud. However, this episode quickly makes it clear that it is not playing up any of the feud for laughs, but is rather treating it with the utmost seriousness. Although it initially begins with Granny Smith and Grand Pear, two fierce competitors in Ponyville simply trying to outdo the other at selling their agricultural wares, merely smack talking each other in the course of business, it rapidly escalates into something far uglier than a friendly rivalry. This is nicely highlighted with immediacy and subtle urgency by the episode in a smart visual cue at the end of their first true feud with one another in the Ponyville market. At the end of that scene, the ponies they've been trying to sell apples or pears too, ponies who are their friends and neighbors, go from being excited with their products to being completely put-off by the scene before them. They don't think there's anything funny about the feud, rather, if you look at their faces, they're clearly at least annoyed and think they're both acting obnoxious, if not downright dismayed and saddened by it all. What already makes this a sad state of affairs is that we both (1) already know from over six seasons of seeing her what a lovable character Granny Smith is (which both makes the ugliness when she's in feud mode all the more jarring, as well as early on suggests that Grand Pear too was largely amicable when he wasn't feuding with the Apples), and (2) the episode itself makes a point of showing us how much the both of them love doing what they do (in Granny Smith reading stories to her apple trees at night and Grand Pear in turn making blankets for his pear trees), growing and selling apples, pears, or apple or pear products. There shouldn't be anything wrong with loving your work, but because they take their competition with each other too far in a hurry, an inherent ugliness, at least when it comes to the Apple Family vs. the Pear Family, is added to their work itself, which we know is so important to both families, central to their very identities.
And so, already tragedy emerges in the Apple and Pear Family Feud, with such a bitter, ugly element added to the thing which both families love so much: their work. They build a fence between both properties that does more than simply mark the boundaries of their properties, they're constantly trying to one-up one another, and it gets to a point where eventually, none of the Apples or the Pears, especially Granny Smith and Grand Pear, can even stand the fact that they share the same community or even think of an Apple or a Pear as their neighbor. Yet amidst this growing rift between the two families, a single, small hope emerges, which eventually becomes the best hope that both families have got.
This hope starts off small, as so many forms of hope often do. A tiny kindness, one foal giving another a cute nickname and sharing in a sweet moment with her, that's all there is to it really.
Enter Bright McIntosh and Pear Butter, who almost immediately latch onto something as foals which, by this point in time, virtually every other Apple and Pear has forgotten in regards to one another: possibility. The possibility of being friends with one another, the possibility of being even more than that, and the possibility of the beautiful things that can come out of all of that, so much more precious than anything "gained" by feuding with each other. For them, the feud is virtually meaningless right from the start. Oh sure, one's an Apple, the other's a Pear, and they both are well aware of what their families think of each other. But at no point do they let that keep them from being decent to each other and their families for that matter. Decency in turn evolves into kindness; kindness into friendship; and friendship eventually into full blown love.
From the start it seems as though these two were always destined for one another at some point in time, but that doesn't make the path they take to get there any less delightful to follow. Why? Well again, we return to that word, 'possibility.' In their growing love for one another, Bright Mac and Buttercup discover that it is possible to be even better ponies for overcoming the feud. Just as tragedy is inherent to the Apple and Pear feud by this point, so too is unconditional love inherent in how these two grow up around each other. They don't go about their business holding a grudge in their hearts that could consume them any minute or lead them to do bad things in turn. No, instead they go about each day letting their love for one another channel into everything they do.
So what kinda lives do they lead? Does their love save Equestria from some centuries old tyrant or ward off some monstrous creature? Do they grow to become leaders in all of pony society who everypony else looks up to? Not in the least, in fact, not even close. Now, make no mistake, what I'm about to say is no knock on the show's main characters. If anything it's rather amazing that the show continually sells the Mane 6 as such complex characters when they've done so many remarkable things by this point in the show that they could easily, in a far lesser property, morph into Mary Sues.
But what this episode does is something very hard and very rare in great love stories, or many stories in general of all kinds. It highlights what remarkable, beautiful things can come out of 'normal.' Because that's exactly what Bright Mac and Buttercup are, at least on the surface. They're farmers, they like life in their quiet little town with their friends and family, and friends, family, their work and each other is pretty much all they need. Describing it like that, this all sounds very pedestrian, and I can understand why. The only thing is, well... it's not, not in execution at least. Every step of Bright Mac and Buttercup's courtship is made up of very simple acts of love: the nickname of 'Buttercup' that Bright gives to Pear Butter; Bright's confessing he accidentally destroyed the Pear's water silo when he could have let her take the blame; the two of them sharing a picnic together, complete with him giving her flowers (even if he goes a little outside the box on that one, not by choice of course ); Buttercup writing and singing a song for Bright, confessing her love for him, and he in turn confessing his love for her with a carving of their cutie marks; their sharing milkshakes, dancing far across from one another in the town square, taking walks with each other through the seasons, or even Bright just doing a chore for Pear. These are simple, normal acts of love, and yet they tug on the viewer's heartstrings very much.
Let's take a look at Buttercup's song to get a sense of why, because the song is the perfect encapsulation of what makes Bright Mac and Buttercup's love story so heartwarming.
"You're In My Head Like a Catchy Song" is hardly the flashiest, longest, or most complex song that Daniel Ingram has ever written for this show. It may not even be the most technically impressive number we've heard on the show. And yet, somehow I now find a song that's really only two verses long and lasts just over a minute and a half is my favorite of the entire show. Why? Because it channels beauty through normalcy in the same way that Bright Mac and Pear Butter do. It's simple, one might even say bare bones, but therein lies its charm. If it were simple out of laziness, this wouldn't work at all, but it is very deliberately simple. The simplicity is sincere, intimate, the song not sounding like some grand, staged affair which we're not sure did or didn't just happen in the story itself, but rather sounding like something Pear Butter herself could have written. Horse feathers, it sounds like something any of us could have written! Writing music is hard, especially for people who don't do it on a normal basis, so as short as that song was, when you listen to it, when you hear the careful care and attention in Buttercup's voice that she gives to every note and word, you can just picture how long this must have taken her, how much time she spent making sure it was perfect for the stallion she loves. She could have written it in an afternoon, or days, or weeks even, whatever the case, we know she put time into making it just through the performance alone. That story, the story of what she put into it, how she poured her heart into it because she loves Bright Mac that much, that's where the beauty in the song stems from. It is a pure, sincere, intimate expression of her love, their love, and for those of us who have been in love before, it grabs us by reminding us of the things, big and small, we'd do for those we love.
All of this, the sincerity, the intimacy, the pureness, pervades every single act of their love. Nothing seems staged, nothing seems forced, nothing seems like it's there because it's a cliche of love stories. Sure they may all be old standbys, but things like picnics with your true love, walking with one another, giving your sweetheart flowers, or singing your true love a song, these are old standbys because couples have loved them for generations. It's not about what they're doing, though, it's ultimately about how they're doing it. These two, from start to finish, simply work. There's not a moment they share onscreen where they don't seem like they don't belong together, and that's how you know you've got a great love story on your hands. It's one thing for a story to tell us that two people are "star-crossed lovers destined to be together," but it is another thing entirely for us, the audience, to universally believe it. That takes hard work and skill in both writing and execution. Overall, this beauty of normalcy that we see in both the song and these two as a couple, the simple acts of love, their honesty and intimacy, this is what grabs us and won't let us go. This is the true heart and soul of this episode, the idea that so many wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary things that you never even imagined or thought possible can stem from even the simplest love if its strength and pureness are immeasurable. We may not be capable of saving a magical land of talking horses with ancient, magical artifacts, but what we are all capable of is plain old love, whether it be for friends, family, or yes, even the love of your life. And just like Bright Mac and Buttercup, we too are capable of producing wondrous, beautiful things the likes of which we may have not once thought possible if we hold in our hearts a true, pure love for those dear to us as they did for one another.
Tragedy's Greatest Blow
And yet, just when things seem to be heading to an inevitably happy conclusion, that old Apple Family and Pear Family feud rears its ugly head again in the worst way yet. Very suddenly, Grand Pear announces that the Pears are moving away from Ponyville, much to Pear Butter's dismay. There is certainly a logic to his making the move; there is more business opportunity for them in Vanhoover and less competition from an equally ardent farming family, so there is plenty that makes sense about it. Yet the sad part is that one can't help but get the sense that these are not Grand Pear's overriding reasons for moving. He just has too much hate in his heart for the Apples by this point, and it blinds him to so much. Not simply what his daughter is going through with Bright Mac, but also the fact that this is his family's home by this point. That they have a loving community of friends and neighbors around them who love what they do, that they're a cornerstone of this community, that they'd be throwing all of that away in the name of profit and getting away from a family which he insists they can't stand. With all this in front of us, I can't help but conclude this move is more about getting away from the Apples, ignoring everything wonderful about living in Ponyville, all in the name of a stupid, needless feud. Most tragically of all, it threatens to snuff out the possibility of the beautiful things that may come of Pear Butter and Bright Mac's love for one another, the possibility that they have always believed in. In fact, it comes very close to doing just that; understandably, Pear Butter can't imagine leaving her family. We don't exactly know if her mother is still in the picture or around at this point as we never see her, and it doesn't seem she has any siblings either, so for all we know her father may be the closest family she has left, not counting her more distant relatives. So it makes sense, very sadly, when she sadly announces to Bright Mac that she has to stick with her family in spite of her undeniable love for him. Neither of them want it, clearly, but Pear is just too scared and dismayed at this point to imagine an alternative; in this moment, it must seem as though her whole world is falling apart right from under her very hooves. And it certainly seems that way to us as well.
Love Always Finds a Way
And so it's left up to Bright Mac to open another door for her, to keep the possibility of them and the beautiful things their being together might lead to alive. It's ultimately up to her to say yes, but he has to take a huge leap of faith, the biggest leap of faith he's ever taken or possibly will ever take in his life, to give her the opportunity to say yes. It can't be easy. He has to secretly arrange with his best friend, his love's best friend, and Ponyville's mayor itself everything needed. They have to somehow get just enough onto the border between the Apple and Pear's properties for a proper ceremony, and even a small celebration afterward. All this without their families or the love of his life even knowing. And yet he somehow does it, and then his carefulness is rewarded in getting to show it to her. Everything he's done, all of it for her, for them, for what they could have, believing in his heart and soul that it's worth fighting for and taking the biggest chances in their lives for. Confronted with all of that, reminded how much he loves her and she loves him, her belief is rekindled again almost immediately and right then and there, Buttercup and Bright Mac choose to get married. They don't need it to be a town event or an affair planned months in advance; in this moment it is perfect, as perfect as any love story could be, especially for them. We already can see, the second she says yes, how much safer and reassured she already feels; in her heart too, you simply know that she knows this is right, that this is what they're supposed to both have. Exchanging and burying an apple tree and pear tree seed with each other, they prepare to say their vows...
But tragedy won't leave well enough alone. Their parents find them and for the first time, even though there's been plenty of evidence in front of them through the years, are confronted with the notion that their two children love each other. Even after their children tell them exactly how it is, finish saying their vows, and take their first true kiss as husband and wife, they're still too blinded by their mutual hatred to care. They assume that their kids are being stupid and foolish or simply trying to hurt them. They can't even consider the possibility that their children are acting more of the adult than they are. That all changes, however, when Buttercup says one single sentence.
"But... the Apples are my family now too."
That's when something clicks for one and snaps for the other. You look at Granny Smith's face, and she's shocked. A Pear has just said that the Apples are her family. Her. Family. Something happens in the older mare at that moment. A revelation, and suddenly you just know that their love, the beauty of it, its sincerity and the possibility it promises sweeps over her like a flood. For a moment she's genuinely too shocked to do anything.
But on the other side something far worse happens in her father. He feels betrayal, from his only daughter (probably his only child) no less. Still blinded by his hatred of the Apples, he thinks his own daughter is disowning her family; in reality, she's asking him to be a part of another now as she is. He just can't see that, though, he simply cannot. So instead he lays down an ultimatum, a terrible one. Be an Apple or be a Pear: you can't be both, not in my eyes, and if you're not a Pear you're not my daughter anymore. It's the worst choice a father could present to his daughter in this moment, one Pear Butter should never have had to make. But she knows what's right, even if he can't, and even though she'd rather not have to make the choice at all, she knows she must remain true to the love that has guided her all of her life. There's so much at risk, but she believes in too much in the good and beauty that could come out of her and Bright Mac's love to say no. So she makes the choice. Grand Pear leaves in a rage. And as the disowned daughter weeps into her husband's shoulder, the first fruit of their love is born: Granny Smith comes over and extends a hoof and a smile to her. She accepts a new daughter into her life and family, and Buttercup in turn gains a mother and a new family. Although there is sadness this night, love is already overcoming it, overcoming the ugliness of years of Apples and Pears feuding with one another.
Love continues its work through the years. Bright Mac and Buttercup settle down, Granny embraces her new daughter-in-law, and together they build a beautiful life and family together. Through the years Buttercup embraces being an Apple, leaving behind her old life as a Pear; we don't know much about this part, but I can't imagine it's out of hatred. Most likely it's just too sad for her thinking of her old life, of the family that left her behind. But as long as she has Bright and her new family, she is content, part of something intrinsically beautiful and special as could be. They go from being husband and wife to, eventually, father and mother as well, bearing three beautiful children together. They raise their children as best as they know how, with the entire Apple Family's love supporting them along the way as well.
Life is as it should be: with their love, their family, their work, their friends and home and community, Bright Mac and Buttercup are set, having everything they could possibly ever want. The beauty and goodness stemming from their love continues to unfold more and more each and every day, until it's as normal to them and their family as the apples they grow.
Then... then one day, they're gone.
We don't know how. We don't know when. Based on our best guesses from what we've seen in the show, it was some time ago; Big Mac was probably somewhere around 12 or 13, Applejack anywhere from 8 to 10, and Apple Bloom may have been at most a toddler, but possibly still a young foal with barely any memories even of her parents. We'll probably never learn how it happened, and that's OK, I don't think we need to. It doesn't matter how, it doesn't even matter that it happened, really. Because as sad as it is, as terrible as their absence is in this show, as horrible as the loss must have been for their families and for their children especially, the most important thing is the beauty and good they brought into the world by taking their leap of love together. By believing in it and each other so strongly that it could not be denied. They may be gone, we may never even see more of them in the show again (though I certainly wouldn't complain if we did in more flashbacks or flashback episodes even), but they're not really gone. Everything that the Apples are in this show, especially their children, is a testament to who they were and how they lived their lives. We've seen this throughout the show, the wonderful thing that the Apple Family is for both Ponyville and across all of Equestria, and we now know what an important part in that family that Bright McIntosh and Pear Butter played. All because they believed in their love and the possibilities of it. That legacy has been there from the start of the show, even if the writers themselves didn't envision this story arc at the time, and in this episode we see it at work once more in a truly beautiful way, healing something that Buttercup and Bright Mac probably hoped ever since they got married would heal some day. It's the arc that ties this entire episode together, that gets the Apple siblings learning all of this about their parents and the beautiful love that they had together in the first place. And it's the final triumph of Bright Mac and Buttercup's love over the tragedy of the Apple Family and Pear Family feud.
The Legacy of Love: Old Wounds Mended, Scars Left Behind, But Love Emerges From Tragedy
An old stallion shows up in the Ponyville market one day, unannounced, just there to seemingly sell his wares. We're not even sure what his plans are, how long he really plans on staying. How long it took him to come here, to come back home. We're told he has a famous shop in Vanhoover, but this does not appear to be a businessman in his prime. He doesn't seem to care much about money anymore, or competition, or being the best; he just seems to enjoy selling his pear jam to others who seem to enjoy it. Maybe he's remembered that over the years, why he enjoyed growing and selling pears in the first place: because it made his friends and neighbors happy, and made him happy in turn. He seems gentler for it now, wiser and quieter.
Then he spies a young filly. And he must know who she is. Perhaps he's seen a picture before, perhaps simply read about her. Or maybe... just maybe it's the fact that this filly is the spitting image of the stallion he hated for so many years for marrying his daughter, "stealing" her away from him. Whatever the case, he knows... it's his youngest granddaughter, asking him about his pear jam. He can't say anything, not yet. It's taken him long enough to muster up the courage to come here after all these years. So he starts by extending a small kindness to his youngest granddaughter with a gift of his pear jam; it's the first gift he's ever given to any of his grandchildren, the first endorsement he's ever given to his daughter's marriage and the life she built, the first time he's ever involved himself in the family they built. And it's with something he's loved making all of his life, but finally remembered why he loved doing it; because he loves sharing the thing he loves with others, especially his family. For now, that's enough for him.
It quickly becomes not enough for the Apple siblings, though. Taken aback by the kindness of somepony they've always been told is in a feud with their family for unknown reasons, they do what their parents would have taught them to do, what they've grown up for as they've gotten older: they seek to find answers, initially because they hope they might end the feud. As they speak to first family, and later friends of their parents they never even knew about, they learn a story about their parents they weren't even seeking at first. They learn about their love, how strong it was, ways they take after their parents they didn't know about that played a part in their own story, how their parents love and devotion to one another left such a positive impact on their family and the friends their parents had in life. In the process, they gain new stories and memories of their parents to take to heart, pieces of them they never had and never got the chance to learn about, treasures they'll hold onto forever; you can see it in their eyes as they learn more and more, how special this all is to them, ponies who don't ask for much out of life to begin with and yet at this point cannot get enough of all of this. What's more, they grow closer to friends of their parents in Burnt Oak and Mrs. Cake, ponies they now know who have wonderful stories to tell them about the way they lived their lives. I hope going forward that the Apple siblings keep getting closer to these two; it'd be a wonderful character development to see unfold, a way for them to get closer indirectly to their own parents, and a way for Bright Mac and Buttercup's love and its legacy to live on in both their friends and children.
And of course, they learn about the hurt that was never fully healed. About their grandfather, and what he did, the terrible, terrible mistake he made. After all these years, they'd be well in their right never to talk to him again. Nopony would really blame them if they chose not to. But that's not what they do, because they're their parents' children. Because they are the most precious, important legacy of Bright Mac and Buttercup's left behind by them, and they've been raised their whole lives to embody that love. They hold in their hearts a love that believes in possibility as much as their parents did with each other so long ago, and as long as they can believe in the possibilities of unconditional love, then they can find it in themselves to not shun their grandfather or hate him... but rather, to do what his daughter and her husband always wanted to do. Forgive him and welcome him back into their lives, now that he's ready to be a part of it. So they go off to find him, which doesn't take long at all in their small little town.
When they find him, he looks tired. Maybe even a bit lost, like he's not sure now why he's here, if he can do what he came here to do in the first place. He couldn't have known he'd never see her again. He couldn't have known that the last words he'd said to his daughter would be words said in anger. He couldn't have known that he'd never get to share in the life she led with her husband, that he'd never get to see her as a wife and a mother. He has to have hated himself for a very long time for this. Then a tiny voice calls out as he's closing up his shop, and then there they are... his three grandchildren. Even his old eyes can see that. The big one that looks just like the boy he hated for so long if he were red as an apple, but with his mother's shade of mane and her freckles too; the middle one, probably close to if not around the age that Pear Butter was the last time he saw her, grown into a fine young filly herself with the best of her mother and father in her, a true leader; and the littlest one, a spitting image of her father but as sweet and gentle as her mother was, who probably never got to know either of them that well and has needed her siblings and her grandmother most of her life to be her parents. He's probably thought for years about what he'd say to them in this moment, but he couldn't have fathomed how hard it really would be. Words he's probably practiced in front of the mirror time and again all fall by the wayside, and in the moment all he can muster is a tearful "I'm... so sorry. I-I-I was just so angry, but I never..."
It's the hardest thing he's ever had to do, but to his disbelief, not a second later his grandchildren are already embracing him. And just like that, he's home. The love of his grandchildren, the love that Bright Mac and Buttercup always had and believed in, it's all suddenly washing over him as it did Granny Smith on that fateful night so long ago, and it feels so good. Better than he could ever have imagined. He has another family now, as his daughter always wanted him too, and even though the sadness of the mistakes he made will never really be gone, will always leave scars, that's all they are now, scars. They're no longer the festering wounds that they were, and Bright Mac and Buttercup's love has finally healed the greatest, most terrible wound left behind by the Apple Family and Pear Family feud. As the Apple siblings bring their grandfather home to make amends with their grandmother, the two old farm ponies finally bury the hatchet and accept what their children always wanted them to: the possibility of loving each other and having one another as family. Reunited at long last, the family of Pears and Apples congregate in a tearful reunion years in the making beneath the branches of the physical embodiment and legacy of Bright Mac and Pear Butter's true love for one another: the intertwined apple and pear trees, sprouted from their apple tree and pear tree seeds planted so many years ago as their vows to one another, a perfect tribute to the beauty and goodness their love left in the world.
These are the miracles of love. These are the wondrous things it can work. In an imperfect world, love is never easy, even at its strongest. But it is always worth it, because the good it can bring into the world and work into others' lives, whether it be with friends, family, or the love of your life, is always precious and priceless in comparison to any other alternative. One does not even need particularly remarkable circumstances to bring remarkable love into the world; one simply has to believe in that love strong enough, and the possibilities of it, to work something miraculous through it that only they can. This episode perfectly understands and conveys this as many, many, many other fictional properties, many with bigger budgets or resources throw at them, have failed to do, even if that was their intent. It's a remarkable piece of television, and it will probably always remain my favorite episode of My Little Pony. I am blessed enough, in this moment, to be courting a young woman myself, a friend from my own childhood; so much of what I saw in Bright Mac and Buttercup's courtship reminded me of the love and wonderful moments we have gotten to share with one another, and this episode left me hoping so hard that we are able to bring beauty and good into the world through our love as Bright Mac and Buttercup did. I know many other friends who, under different circumstances, have been touched by this episode as well; some who have gotten even further along in love with others, some who very much hope to be blessed with a true love like Bright Mac and Pear Butter had in each other, and some who even have not just taken part in such a beautiful, wonderful love like those two had, but have also known the hurt of losing the one they loved, a hurt all too similar to what the Apples and Pears experienced in losing Pear Butter and Bright Mac. Yet, just as Bright Mac and Buttercup would never trade any bit of their love for one more minute of life, just as they had no regrets for their love and all the good it did despite all the hurt they went through, just as all who loved them and cared about them, despite their sadness at their loss, feel overwhelming joy, happiness, and love recalling how wonderful they were, those friends of mine too don't regret one minute of the love they shared with their own true loves. They too in loving one another brought immeasurable good, love, and beauty into the world, and the fact that this episode can capture the truth and beauty of these acts that so many have shared in in real life, that is what makes it, for me, stand head and shoulders above so many works of fiction in general, and every episode of MLP.
To those responsible for making it, thank you again. I can't wait to show it to my beloved Julianna next week, and maybe, just maybe someday I'll get to show it to children of my own as I teach them about what beauty and good true love can bring into the world.
-Despite this episode being a little light on the laughs (not in a bad way, mind you, the episode was very intent in its approaching its subject matter with seriousness, care, respect, and gentleness even, with only some lighthearted laughs here and there), I got a huge laugh at the beginning from Granny Smith's line about praline obviously being a better topping on apple-fritter-flapjacks than caramel syrup. Also, as a quick aside, this show always manages to get me in the mood for pancakes whenever they show up; I don't know why, but among any of the food they show, the pancakes always look especially delicious!
-This episode made me really want to see the Apple siblings doing more together. I mean, I know they've always been staples of the show, but here we got to see a side of all three of them we rarely have, and it was a delight. They all had great reactions throughout the episode as they learned more and more about their parents, and I would love to see long term impacts on all three of them as a result of this episode, like Big Mac spending more time with Burnt Oak, or Applejack or Apple Bloom getting closer to Mrs. Cake since she was such a good friend of their mom.
And of course, obviously it would be wonderful to see more of Grand Pear, but I don't know how much we can expect since he was voice by William Shatner; either they'd have to get him for more jobs (which isn't impossible considering John de Lancie still regularly does work as Discord), or they'd have to find a voice actor who can do a good impression of his Grand Pear voice (certainly not impossible either, though hardly ideal).
-Another notable laugh, possibly the best in the whole episode, came when we were first introduced to Burnt Oak. He was obviously designed to bear a striking resemblance to Sam Elliott, and clearly somebody took notice of this and just had to take advantage of it considering we already have a pony based on the Dude. So what did they do? They introduced Burnt Oak waving goodbye to The Dude pony as he walks away with a cart full of rugs!!!
THAT. IS. SO. PERFECT. You could even say it ties the whole episode together. While I know it's possible that this was written into the episode, considering no dialogue was devoted to it, I would venture a guess that the storyboard artists were responsible for this purely visual gag, so props to Kaylee Chard, Jae Harm, and any other storyboard artists who worked with them on it (unless of course I'm completely wrong and it was written into the script by the writers themselves).
-Our special guest stars Felicia Day and William Shatner both deserve praise for their roles as Pear Butter and Grand Pear. Felicia gave us a very well-developed personality in Pear Butter with not too many lines to work with, and little things like Pear Butter's occasional voice cracks or her very grounded personality made her an instantly lovable character. And of course I cannot praise her vocals in "You're In My Head Like a Catchy Song" enough, simply sublime.
William Shatner did an equally impressive job with Grand Pear, and I was especially blown away by the fact that he was able to create distinct voices for Grand Pear at three different periods in his life (young adult Grand Pear, middle-aged Grand Pear, and elderly Grand Pear) as well as by the emotion he injected into the role, especially in Grand Pear's finally reuniting with his grandchildren and begging their forgiveness. Bill Newton did a great job as Bright McIntosh as well, and I would certainly love to see him reprise the role at some point. Top notch job from all three of you, and I for one certainly will not complain if they return to these roles in the show at any point.
-Speaking of impressive voice acting jobs, let's give a hand to Tabitha St. Germain and Peter New. Tabitha of course killed it as Granny Smith and Mrs. Cake in the present day (also, I did not know until after watching this episode that Tabitha has always voiced Mrs. Cake, so let's just chalk that up to the seemingly never ending list of characters she seems to voice in this show), but like William Shatner, she had to voice characters at different periods in their lives, only she had to do so for two different characters. Her young adult Granny Smith voice was adorable, and I could even hear a tad bit of Applejack in there, and there were even subtle differences between her middle-aged Granny Smith and elderly Granny Smith. Same goes for Mrs. Cake, her younger and older selves somehow sounded a tad different, but not too much. Peter New, of course, did great as Big Mac (I very much appreciated that Big Mac was talking more here, it helped hit home how much this all meant to the Apple siblings), but I also forgot he voices Goldie Delicious, and that voice of his is hilarious! Goldie was a delight to see again, but he even managed to add some fairly heavy emotional moments to a character who has largely been used for laughs the couple of times she's appeared. A hand goes out to Cathy Weseluck too as young adult Mayor Mare and older Mayor Mare, though she had considerably less to do since her character was only in one scene.
-Excellent callbacks to Season 1's "Over a Barrel" when Applejack both read a bedtime story to her tree Bloomberg and tucked him into bed. She clearly picked up reading bedtime stories to apple trees from Granny Smith, but apparently she somehow picked up covering them in blankets as well from Grand Pear somehow. While it's most likely that either Granny Smith or, even more likely, her mother Buttercup taught her that trick, I like to think it was genetic and just passed down to her from her grandpa. There were a couple of other excellent continuities in canon in repeatedly seeing the moon with Nightmare Moon still in it in the flashback's to Bright Mac and Buttercup's courtship, or Mayor Mare still sporting her pink mane when she was younger (callback's dating all the way back to the very first episode of the show and Season 2's "Ponyville Confidential, respectively).
-Learning things the Apple siblings got from their parents was a real treat, even stuff that went unsaid. Things like where some of their physical features come from (Big Mac's mane and tail are colored just like his mom's, Applejack and Big Mac both have freckles just like she did, Apple Bloom has the exact mane/tail and coat colors as her father did, Applejack getting her hat from her father, etc.); learning that Bright Mac was honest just like Applejack; the fact that Buttercup had a talent for helping friends like Mrs. Cake figure out what they were good at just like Apple Bloom does with the Cutie Mark Crusaders; or the fact that Buttercup didn't like drawing attention to herself and keeping things low key just like Big McIntosh, were all wonderful things to learn. I guess we don't know if Bright Mac could or couldn't sing (he definitely couldn't play the guitar though), but it seems as though all three Apple siblings got their great singing voices from their mother, and Applejack most definitely learned how to play the guitar from her. But thankfully as well, the episode did not fall into the trap of doing nothing but showing how their parents were just like the Apple siblings; that's a bit of a cliche and it wouldn't have made for nearly as interesting an episode as one where we got to see their parents as interesting, unique, wonderful characters in and of themselves, not just carbon copies of their children.
-Daniel Ingram deserves extra praise for the music as a whole in this episode, not just "You're In My Head Like a Catchy Song." All of the music did a great job of helping tell the story, and the manner in which it was utilized in scenes such as when the Apple siblings reunite with their grandfather helped make those scenes all the more emotional and powerful. Wonderful job, sir, truly wonderful.
-Young Goldie Delicious briefly appears in one of the early flashbacks at one point, which is a super cool detail to fit in there. Also, is it just me, or does Burnt Oak bear more than a passing resemblance to Thunderlane? His young self really looked a lot like Thunderlane, and we do know Thunderlane is pretty bulky for a pegasus stallion, so it wouldn't surprise me if he had some earth pony blood. I'm very curious now as to whether or not they're related, possibly even father and son.
-Cloud Kicker and Alula can be seen together in the background very briefly in an early shot in the Ponyville market, which was a little detail I very much appreciated myself. There's a lot of fan canon out there in both art and fanfiction, drawn from what we've seen in the show itself, that speculates they're sisters, so seeing continuity like that was really cool.
-Another detail I thought was super cool was that it seemed like, especially in the earlier flashbacks, most of the ponies in Ponyville were earth ponies. It could just be a coincidence, but I get the feeling it was a subtle detail. After all, Ponyville was founded by earth pony families like the Apples, so it wouldn't surprise me if early on in its history most of the first residents who came during its initial expansions were earth ponies in turn, and it diversified among the pony races more and more as it grew. One of the few non-earth ponies in the earliest flashback was, of all things, Dinky, which implies one of two things: (1) either it was a silly oversight, or (2) they're implying that she is both Derpy and Time Turner's daughter, and that on top of that she may be doing some time travelling with Time Turner. Suffice to say, I like scenario #2 better.
-I would love to hear how everyone else felt about or was impacted by this episode. Obviously plenty of you have already shared your thoughts in the episode's thread or your own blogs, but feel free to share any others here. It's an episode I'll certainly never get tired talking about.
That's all I've got for ya'll this time, everypony, and thank you all for taking the time to read my most special edition ever of "Batbrony Reviews." Until next time, this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*