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#TrixieDidNothingWrong

Coming up next millenium, on a Very Special Episode of Sunny Side Den: A recently created thread is sparking a heated debate about Trixie! And her (mis)treatment at the pointed ends / of the writers' quill pens... (Do they still use those? Why did that last sentence sort of rhyme? WHY DO WE PARK ON DRIVEWAYS AND DRIVE ON PARKWAYS?! So many Questions!™) But I have cut through the Gordian Knot™ of argument and counter-argument to arrive at THE TRUTH!™ Sad! Sick! Believe me! And here, in all its glory, is the ultimate truth, justice and the American way! (which, by the by, appears to be "outsource all your voice acting needs to Canada!") Guys, I think we all know who the real cause of all Trixie's #Totally #Unfair and #Not #At #All #Poetically #Justified #Woes is... one scaly S.O.D. (Son Of a Dragon) at whose clawed feet we can lay the blame! If Spike hadn't said "Look, unless an Ursa Major comes waltzing up the street for Trixie to vanquish, I am not gonna believe a word she says, and neither should you!", Spins™ and Slains™ would never have gone looking for one. GAAAASP! Does his evil know no bounds? When will just vengeance fall upon the one who truly deserves it? This is something that cannot be denied! Grab your pitchforks, ready your torches! We must punish the perpetrator truly responsible for the totality of Trixie's torrid treatment! (Alliteration never gets old for me... for you, eh, YMMV.) Brought to you by the Trademark Corporation™ and your friendly neighbourhood Sunny Fox! PS -  

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Looking at Rarity Part 3: Allies, Associates and Antagonists

Mane 6 (and Spike!) Applejack This relationship has definitely seen the most development. From barely being able to stand each other for more than a few hours in “Look Before You Sleep”, they now seem to be quite firm friends. Of course, Rarity still tries to get Applejack to be more ladylike, and Applejack still thinks Rarity needs to be less fussy, but overall, they seem to have come to an understanding of each other. Applejack’s selflessness devotion to her family has helped Rarity strengthen her bond with Sweetie Belle, where before she was a little selfish. Applejack taught her the importance of compromising. Highlights:
Episode 46. “It’s About Time”: Applejack fixes the crack in the dam, while Rarity fixes up the leaves in AJ’s mane.
Episode 53-54. “The Crystal Empire”: Applejack cheers Rarity up with a kind word in “The Crystal Empire”.
Episode 61. “Spike at Your Service”: Rarity teaches Applejack how to play the “damsel in distress”.
Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: Applejack says bluntly, “Yep, you were pretty rotten…”
Episode 78. “Simple Ways”: They each parody the other. Twilight Sparkle I don’t usually ship Mane Six members together, but when I do, it’s Rarilight. If I were one to let subtext reign supreme, I would believe these two are already in a relationship. Right from the first episode, Rarity has been very touchy-feely with Twilight. Just go watch the end of “The Crystal Empire”, and tell me she doesn’t act rather tenderly towards Twilight there. She was the first to start singing, went to Twilight to raise her head up with a gentle touch to the chin when Twilight blushed, and put her hoof over Twilight’s as the train left. Sorry, Spike, you’re losing out to your adopted big sister. Even if you ignore the subtext, it’s clear Rarity has a strong regard for Twilight. She noticed she was bothered in “Lesson Zero”, she worried about Twilight not having her crown in Equestria Girls, and most importantly, although she wanted to marry a prince and be a princess, she has never once expressed the slightest sense of jealousy that Twilight is now a Princess and not her. That’s pretty telling, because she was jealous of Fluttershy, and they’re probably the two who spend the most of their time together. Highlights
Episode 16. “Sonic Rainboom”: Rarity rump bumps Twilight to encourage her to find a spell.
Episode 29. “Lesson Zero”: Rarity calls Twilight a drama queen, after a day of non-stop drama.
Episode 53-54. “The Crystal Empire”: Rarity starts the song to Twilight. Rainbow Dash Rarity’s relationship to Rainbow is similar to Applejack, only with a lot less butting of heads. They don’t usually interact, and when they do, it’s pretty low key. We mostly see Rarity doing nice things for Rainbow, like making her a pretty dress for Princess Celestia’s visit, or supporting her in competitions... at first. Not much else to say. Highlights
Episode 14. “Suited for Success”: Rarity facedesks when Rainbow can’t be any clearer about her dress than it needs to be cooler.
Episode 47. “Dragon Quest”: Rarity tells Rainbow she was surprised her plan worked, and gets a rump to the face in response.
Episode 61. “Spike at your Service”: Rarity gives Rainbow a very snarky response to her fanfiction plot, which goes right over Rainbow’s head.
Episode 75. “Rainbow Falls”: Rarity takes the relay horseshoe to paint it, to Rainbow’s annoyance. Fluttershy Indications are that Rarity and Fluttershy have been firm friends for a very long time. They often have spa dates together, and Rarity frequently tries to bring Fluttershy out of her shell. Being the prettiest and second-most ladylike Mane Six, they seem to have a lot in common. Their Elements are also quite compatible, since Generosity is being giving with one’s possessions and Kindness is being giving with one’s time and emotion. Other indications of their closeness include Fluttershy helping Rarity with Opal, Rarity calling on her when she needs someone to fly up and help her borrow the Castle decorations. She also tried very hard to be happy for Fluttershy when she caught the eye of Photo Finish, and felt terrible when she was envious. She also very quickly forgave Fluttershy for the vicious tongue-lashing she got in “Putting your Hoof Down”. Highlights
Episode 17. “Stare Master”: Rarity is speechless when a quiet word from Fluttershy pulls the CMC into line.
Episode 45. “Putting Your Hoof Down”: Rarity pushes a slack-jawed Pinkie’s mouth closed after Fluttershy stands up to Iron Will.
Episode 57. “Magic Duel”: Rarity creates a camouflage outfit for Fluttershy that includes bunny ears.
Episode 79. “Filli Vanilli”: Rarity quickly picks up on Fluttershy’s eagerness to continue singing. Pinkie Pie Again, not really much to say here. Rarity is sometimes exasperated at Pinkie’s antics, and can even be quite stern with her, but they tend to get along very well most of the time. Pinkie also seems to put some trust in Rarity. In “Last Round-up”, she simply leaps off the stagecoach and tells Rarity to catch her. Highlights
Episode 7. “Dragonshy”: Pinkie beats Rarity at Tic-Tac-Toe… 35 times in a row.
Episode 45. “Putting Your Hoof Down”: Pinkie and Rarity team up to help Fluttershy be more assertive, but she does so badly that Pinkie buries her head in the ground. Rarity tries to comfort her with a gentle hoof on her mane.
Episode 62. “Keep Calm and Flutter On”: Rarity checks her reflection in Pinkie’s newly polished hooves.
Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: After Rarity delivers her “going down in flames, isn’t friendship magic?” line, Pinkie gives her a sheepish grin and nods agreement. Spike This is one of the most important and talked about relationships in the series. Ironically, given that FiM doesn’t have much by way of romance. A lot of people give Rarity grief over what they see as her taking advantage of him. In some ways, they’re right, but it’s actually much more of a give and take than is sometimes recognized. Yes, she gets him to do stuff for her, but most of the time, Spike’s perfectly okay with it. And she’s hardly the only Mane Six who does. She also frequently gives him rewards for his troubles, such as gems to eat, a carrot-dog, etc. She also sticks up for Spike frequently, and went to great lengths to keep him safe in “Dragon Quest”. It’s clear that she does care for him in her own way. I suspect that Rarity simply doesn’t know exactly how to handle Spike’s precocious crush on her. After all, by the standards of dragonhood, Spike is not even a teenager yet. She can’t view him as a romantic prospect, but she cares for him and certainly wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings. So, until she can find a way to let him down gently, she keeps their relationship at status quo. Perhaps in her mind, letting him do things for her is a way of showing that she does want him to be around. Not always, of course, but I think that’s a large part of it. Highlights
Episode 19. “A Dog and Pony Show”: Spike valiantly defends Rarity from the Diamond Dogs.
Episode 36. “Secret of My Excess”: The most touching Rarity-Spike moment, as he tries to confess while falling, only for her to shush him and show that she already knows.
Episode 61. “Spike at your Service”: She takes a bite out of his terrible pie to make him happy.
Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: Rarity gives Spike that carrot-dog, which is promptly stolen by a bird. He has it again later, so either he got it back or bought a replacement. Family: Parents, Sweetie Belle and Opal Rarity seems to be deliberately avoiding taking after her parents, who seems like very friendly, if unsophisticated types. Middle class is probably a good way to describe them. We don’t yet know if her dad is a unicorn or earth pony, due to his hat. (BREAKING NEWS - He actually is a unicorn, as shown in "Imagination Manifestation"!) She hasn’t really interacted with them enough to get much of an idea of how close she is to them. While Opal can be temperamental, she seems to have affection for Rarity in her own enigmatic cat way. Her moods follow Rarity’s, and she tries to remind her mistress of her priorities at times. Opal seems to stoically suffer some of Rarity’s more whimsical tendencies, such as her baby-talking and coddling. Rarity’s relationship with Sweetie Belle is the focus of a fair number of episodes. While their sisterly relationship has had its ups and downs, Sweetie Belle clearly looks up to Rarity, and Rarity clearly loves her and tries to do good things for her. While she took her a bit for granted in earlier seasons, Rarity has gotten much better at compromising, mainly due to the events of “Sisterhooves Social”. Where before she would put her own comfort and desires first, she’s now more willing to sacrifice them for Sweetie’s sake. The most recent episodes have shown that Sweetie has long been harbouring a grudge for Rarity overshadowing her, and they may become even closer now that Sweetie has realized that Rarity doesn’t want to keep her in her shadow. Highlights
Episode 31. “Sisterhooves Social”: We get to meet Rarity’s parents. This episode also improves the sisters’ relationship.
Episode 35. “Sweet and Elite”: Opal taps the design for Twilight’s dress, and is annoyed when Rarity doesn’t notice.
Episode 58. “Sleepless in Ponyville”: Despite despising camping and “all that… ugh… nature”, Rarity is willing to brave the wilderness for her sister… as long as no heavy hauling for her is involved. Sweetie doesn’t seem to mind, just being glad that Rarity is there.   Romantic Prospects Fancy Pants Catching the eye of this stallion is one of the best things ever to happen to Rarity. He’s also later appeared in Ponyville and Manehatten. Could he be following Rarity around? And is that supermodel pony who always hangs on him just eye candy, or a romantic partner? For Rarity’s sake, I hope not! Trenderhoof Creepy shrine? Check. Trying everything she can to win him over? Check. Learning that changing yourself for someone else is a bad thing? Check. Getting over him?
Antagonists: Discord Along with most of the others, Rarity is skeptical of Discord’s change of heart. She blames him for the embarrassment of making her think a rock was a diamond, and so she has little patience or sympathy for him. Photo Finish Photo Finish was rather abrupt to her, made Fluttershy a star and caused Rarity to feel like she had betrayed her best friend by being so jealous. Photo Finish has yet to return in a speaking part, but she was present in a cameo during “Sweet and Elite”, so we could speculate that Rarity is over it. Prince Blueblood Apart from acting like a prat, he used her as a pony shield against flying cake. In the dress she was terrified somepony would spill something on in “A Bird in the Hoof”. A crime against fashion! After she told him just what she thought of him, she was forced to flee, and smashed her glass slipper so that he couldn’t find her. Despite this, he also had a cameo, so perhaps she has forgiven him too. Trixie Although Trixie has done some nasty things to her, Rarity seems to dislike Trixie mainly because of how she treated Twilight. Perhaps we can learn more if Trixie gets another episode (I’m counting the minutes ). Suri Polomane Suri represents what Rarity could become if she lost her sense of generosity. And morals in general. Although Rarity was deeply hurt by her betrayal, she didn’t try to excuse her own bad behaviour towards her friends. She also doesn’t seem to feel a need to get revenge on Suri for taking advantage of her generosity. Perhaps she considers Suri losing her talented assistant, Coco Pommel, to be punishment enough. And with that, I draw this three-part analysis of Rarity to a close. Do you think I was accurate? Do you disagree with my points or have something more to add? Any comments are welcomed. Until next time, stay Rarity-side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 100. “Slice of Life”: The First Cut is the Derpiest

… – Vinyl Scratch Summary
Cranky Doodle Donkey and his love Matilda are set to get married on the morrow, when the aptly named one mentions that everypony is asking him if he is nervous about getting married… today! Realizing that the invitations are for the wrong date, the asinine pair (no, that’s not an insult, that’s literally the latin term meaning “donkey”) rush to finalize the preparations a full day early. Hijinks ensue. Memes ascend. The wedding eventually goes off without a hitch, thanks to the Power of Wubs. Wow. That is literally the shortest summary I’ve ever written.   Analysis
First up, let’s get a few things clarified before I review this strange offering: one part episode, one part congratulatory hand…. shake for the brony community. Yes, the episode is very heavy on the fan service. And in some ways, that really annoys me. When I saw that Cranky was shouting at the pony who had made the mistake on the invitations, that it was Derpy messing something up again, and even worse, her first instinct is to placate him with muffins, I literally double face-palmed. I just sat there, head in hands, weeping inside, until the opening credits ended. And then I sucked it up and continued to watch the episode, because I try to reserve judgement on an episode until I’ve seen the whole thing (usually more than once too). And the fan service just kept coming. Fan service will always be a very subjective thing. I don’t care for it, in general, unless it’s subtle enough not to be a distraction from the story. That claim isn’t valid here, the fan service is front and center, interwoven as it is with the central “rushed wedding” story. And yet that story could have been told without it. Cranky and Matilda’s story is also Pinkie Pie’s story, so it could have been a Mane Six episode. (Did she even get a line? In the episode which central situation she was instrumental in bringing about? For shame.) I consider it a bit of a waste of a plotline to sacrifice that potential to serve as the vehicle for a “day in the limelight” for the (popular) background ponies of Ponyville. But here’s the thing I really want my readers to understand: apart from the above caveat, I can make peace with the fan service. And I don’t think it should influence how one views the quality of the episode, either positively or negatively. Sitting through this episode was somewhat of an ordeal for me, but that doesn’t in itself make it bad. And for those of you who also found the fan service hard to stomach, think of it this way: the writers obviously took the most popular and well known fan theories to ratify into canon. Essentially, they’re giving us what was voted by the majority of the brony community as the most popular! Democracy in action! If you don’t like it, you’re probably not part of the majority whom they were trying to please with it. Whether this point makes you less critical of the fan service, or more critical of the concept of democracy, isn’t for me to choose. It makes for an interesting case study of memetics, too. To reiterate: the fan service aspect of this episode isn’t going to change my opinion on it. Disclaimers out of the way, let’s move on.   The Hugz
There are plenty of returning cameos, continuity nods and the like. Listing them all would take a really long time. I’ll focus on just a few. The sea monster / serpent reappears, now definitely named Steven Magnet, and we find out that he’s an old friend of Cranky, and they had many wacky adventures together. I like this, it makes a connection between previously unconnected characters, harks back to Cranky’s comment that he’s “made many friends” in his journeys around Equestria and creates an awesome pair of bookends. There’s also the part where Steven cuts off one half of his beloved MUstache to serve Cranky as a replacement wig. A touching moment, and more proof that experiencing generosity leads to one showing generosity. Rarity influences this episode just by her pure generous awesomeness!
It rubs off on everyone! Speaking of the wedding, I really enjoyed seeing that Changeling (another odd friend of the groom, it seems). If I liked nothing else about this episode, I would consider that worth the price of admission! His or her reaction to the other guests staring at him or her is great. There was also the interesting aside with Derpy's eyes, where we see that she can straighten them for a while if she wants to. This detail retroactively explains an observation I had made (but never pointed out) about Season 1's episodes: apart from the pilot, and up until "Feeling Pinkie Keen", Derpy (or perhaps I should say Ditzy Doo) was actually lacking her trademark derp. Every time she was in a scene, her eyes were straight. Obviously, about that time, the staff became aware of the popularity of "Derpy" and decided to roll with it.   The Shrugz
I can handle the confirmation of Vinyl and Octavia being house mates, (since I never cared about it one way or the other) but the decision to split the house down the middle as a representation of their… oppositeness… makes me tilt my head.
Hey, Octavia, Vinyl: Two-Face called. He wants his house back! Hmm, Derpy and the Doctor. I know this was always one of the most popular theories, but where is the evidence in the show proper that these two spend much time together, before this episode? Lyra and Bon Bon are inseparable from way back within the show, but Time Turner (or are we now meant to call him The Doctor or is his name Doc, like the dwarf?) and Derpy aren’t usually seen together. Heck, the last time I remember seeing him, he was walking around with Roseluck! In fact, I don’t see much point in the entire sideplot with the bowling ponies, it just seemed to take up time while not adding much. Then again, maybe that’s just the episode trying to justify its title with some navelgazing. Either way, this is one of the more complicated and problematic elements of the episode.
Hey, Doc: Tom Baker called. He wants his… oh, wait, I did this joke already. Never mind. Gummy being a Catatonic Philosopher is just a straight up stolen idea from “Bravest Warriors”, as in the Paralyzed Horse. It’s also somewhat difficult to reconcile with the scenes where we’ve seen him actively doing stuff, like trying to catch the balloon in “Party of One”, or affectionately biting Pinkie like in “Feeling Pinkie Keen”. It works as a gag, though… barely. The last really important relationship explored in this episode was the Lyra and Bon Bon / Secret Agent Sweetie Drops. A nod to the “official” vs fan-made name issue there, props. It also seems that Celestia is not above a little governmental conspiracy and cover up. What else is Spymaster Celestia hiding from the pony populous, one wonders? But of course, the main controversy here is the whole shipping aspect. While the two ponies frequently repeat that they are just “best friends”, you’d have to be naïve to believe that settles anything. Fans who ship these two are not going to be put out in the slightest. Let’s be honest, there’s no way the writers could make any kind of romantic connection explicit, so the “best friends” line proves exactly nothing. In fact, it sounds very much as if they’re trying hard to convince themselves of that…
“We’re just best friends!”

“But what about, you know... last night?”

“Oh, that was just ‘best friend’ sex… Meant nothing.”

“But…”

“Oops! Gotta go!”

"Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am? I guess you really ARE a secret agent!" You see my point.   The Bugz
The flower trio gets a really awful treatment here. In “Applebuck Season”, the joke works because their reaction to a life threatening stampede of cattle is the same as their reaction to a distinctly less severe stampede of bunny rabbits. The overthrow of expectation provides the humour. If they overreact in the same way to EVERYTHING, then there is no overthrow of expectation and so that humour is vitiated. In an episode dedicated to expanding on background characters, this flanderization is extremely out of place and jarring. I don’t want to say the resolution was forced… but it was. Seriously, Vinyl and Tavi burst out of their house in a “Wubmobile”, pick up the bride, groom, cake, and guests accidentally, fly through the air while reflected in Gummy’s eyes in one of the trippiest sequences this show has produced, they crash into city hall… and then everything literally falls into place, including the three layer cake! That somewhat strains credibility. The closing thoughts from Twilight were unneeded, too.   Pros: Plenty of continuity; some fan favorites get a bit of development.
Cons: Really forced resolution, some characters are flanderized far too much.   Final Thoughts
Many fans have opined that this episode should somehow be given a free pass from criticism, because it’s a gift to the brony community. I think no episode should get a free pass. It should be treated as any other episode. Does that make me ungrateful? Maybe. Just because it’s a present, doesn’t mean I have to appreciate it. If my cat leaves a dead rat on my pillow, it being a present doesn’t change the fact that I’m left with a rat corpse… and a reason to incinerate my pillowcase. Or, in a slightly less extreme example, let's suppose someone gives me a gift of some kind of food I really, really don't like the taste of. In reality I might be forced to tell a bit of white lie to avoid hurt feelings, but here, there's really no need to pretend to be happy if I hain't. For those who want to somehow disavow this episode’s canonicity on the same grounds, that’s a no-go too. This episode happened, it is canon. Deal with it. Speaking of that, while I find a certain sly amusement in the fact that Derpy is now canonically called “Muffins” (Check the closing credits), I feel Derpy’s fans should be a little more put out by the fact that the writers didn’t even have the balls to use her true name in the credits. Not that it’ll make her fans stopping thinking of her as Derpy, of course. Nor should it. I’m still going to use it to annoy ‘em, though! If you liked the fan service, that doesn’t mean I think there’s something wrong with you. If you like fanon becoming canon, more power to you. It’s simply not to my taste, and I feel like the plotline of Matilda and Cranky had potential was not realized in order to shove in as much of that as possible. Once you strip the fan service aspect away, you’re left with a pretty middle of the road episode. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not anywhere near the best the show has produced.   Final Ranking
Rarity’s Cutie Mark Rank – A scintillating story! Sure to be rewatched frequently.
Rock Candy Rank – A highly enjoyable episode, but it couldn’t avoid a cavity or two.
Tom Rank – Average. While it looked like a diamond, it turned out to be just a rock.
Boulder Rank – Below average. Take it out once or twice, then leave it in your pocket.
Rock Farm Rock Rank – A terrible episode. Leave it where it lies. May the next episode be less contentious (than the previous two), and as always, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 43. “Hearts and Hooves Day”: In Which the CMC Attempt to Steer a Ship

Girls, can you explain why I look like I’m getting married at the bottom of a pit? – Cheerilee Hearts and Hooves Day (the Equestrian version of Valentine’s Day) has come to Ponyville, and love is in the air. Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are busy creating a giant greeting card to give to their teacher, Miss Cheerilee. This construction involves large quantities of paper, lace, glitter and paint. Despite the rather haphazard method of its creation, the finished product looks oddly professional… and far too large to fit into the envelope. At school, Cheerilee thanks the girls for their gift. Sweetie surmises that she must have gotten an even better present from her “Very Special Somepony” but Cheerilee reveals that she is currently single, stunning the fillies. Despite their protests (and a rather put-upon expression from the teacher), Cheerilee insists she is content with her romance situation, and that the good wishes from her friends and students is enough for her.
Then Sweetie got an idea. An awful idea. Sweetie got a wonderful, awful idea. (Yeah, I know: wrong holiday. What of it?) Sweetie decides the Crusaders should take it upon themselves to find a worthy stallion to be Cheerilee’s VSS, and they quickly head out into Ponyville to find the perfect match. Their search takes the form of a song, sung mostly by Sweetie herself, as they consider and ultimately reject all of Ponyville’s single stallions left and right. There are a few noteworthy images during the song. (Oh, hai, inspiration for Button Mash) Including the first outright acknowledgement of death in Equestria… yup, the “too old” pony is a priest officiating at a funeral: you can see the casket on the right of the screen. The other rather noteworthy entrant in the potential partner pageant is the stallion who is “too strangely obsessed with tubs of jelly”. Eventually, they come to Big Mac, who they find doesn’t have any plans for HnHD, and decide he will be the one. Apple Bloom points out that Big Mac is shy and probably wouldn’t make the first move on Cheerilee. They then decide to set up a picnic at the gazebo, to set the mood and get Cheerilee to make the first move instead. After the picnic is all set up, Cheerilee appears. The girls had brought her out, saying they need help with identifying a tree… an apple tree. Cheerilee is understandably confused. Just then, Big Mac also arrives, having come to fix the gazebo. The fillies then try to leave them alone, hiding in the bushes. Cheerilee looks long at Big Mac, leans in, and they think their plan is working… only for Cheerilee to point out something stuck in his teeth. “Oh, come on,” indeed, Sweetie Belle. Bonus points for the record scratch. The music sounds distorted afterwards, too. The two then head off in opposite directions, leaving the fillies flabbergasted by failure. Cue Twilight… who bumps into them while reading a book. She mentions that the holiday was started by a love potion, piquing the attention of the CMC, who borrow the book and then book it before Twilight can recommend any other reading material. She is not pleased. The CMC prepare the potion, and again call out Big Mac and Cheerilee, passing the potion off as punch they want the two to taste test. Cheerilee explains to Big Mac that she’s entirely aware that the three fillies are attempting to set them up, but they decide to humour them anyway and drink the “punch”.
Punch drunk. Love. The delight of the CMC at their plan coming to fruition is quickly cut short by Cheerilee and Big Mac becoming Sickenly Sweet Sweethearts, complete with baby talk and pet names. At least Big Mac is saying more than his customary "Eeyup" and "Nope". On the other hoof, given what he is actually spouting, maybe that would have been preferable. Thoroughly weirded out by the lovebirds, as it were, the CMC retire to their club house to found out what went wrong… only to discover it went horribly right instead. It turns out the original love potion was given by a princess to a princess (interestingly, the princess in question is depicted as an alicorn) but they were so busy being in love that it ended in the destruction of their kingdom. Apple Bloom has a rather dark imagination, we find, as she imagines the results of Big Mac not being able to farm and Cheerilee not being able to teach being an epidemic of poorly educated and starving ponies. However, Sweetie explains that the spell can be broken if they can prevent the couple from seeing each other for an hour. Sounds like a plan… The fillies find Big Mac and Cheerilee at Sugarcube Corner, making even Mrs. Cake uncomfortable with their PDA as they share a milkshake… or would, if they could stop insisting the other take the first sip. When Mrs. Cake mentions wedding bells in the near future, Sweetie gets another idea… using preparations for a wedding as a pretext for keeping the sweethearts apart. AB and Scoots take Big Mac to get a diamond, and Sweetie takes Cheerilee to Carousel Boutique to get a wedding dress. Sweetie traps Cheerilee in the fitting room, while Apple Bloom stalls Big Mac by refusing all the proffered diamonds. A moment’s carelessness means that Big Mac escapes her. AB sends Scoots to inform Sweetie while she tries to stop Big Mac’s pronking progress. However, not even tying a rope to a house is enough to stop him.
And this is exactly the sort of thing that drives Berry Punch to drink… At the Boutique, Sweetie is distressed to hear the news, but gets another idea on spying some nearby shovels. They quickly dig a pit trap for the suitor, and Big Mac calls out for Cheerilee just before falling in. Hearing her snookums’ voice, she busts out, veil and all, and heads for her beau. The CMC try to stand in her way, but she simply bowls them over and leaps into the pit. Fortunately, the two were kept apart long enough to end the spell, leaving a very confused Cheerilee to ask what in Equestria is going on and why she is getting married in a pit. The CMC come clean and admit that they made a big mistake trying to force the two into a relationship. Cheerilee thanks them for their concern but she and Big Mac agree the three need to be punished by doing all of Big Mac’s chores (presumably just for the rest of the day.) They also pretend to be going on a real date, just to mess with the fillies some more. And off they stride into the sunset together…   Thoughts on the Episode Oh, Sweetie Belle, why do you do things? Without her bright idea to set up Cheerilee with somepony, none of the hijinks would have ensued. Although to be fair, only her first (well, and second, but that was more of a group decision) idea really backfired, the rest of her suggested courses of action actually did assist in ameliorating the first blunder. I think it would have been a little better for AB and Scootaloo to have come up with some suggestions that helped solve the crisis too, since as it is the episode is rather heavily weighted towards Sweetie. She is my favourite Cutie Mark Crusader, though, so I’m not going to object too hard to it. I thought the cringe aspect of the enforced relationship was pretty well handled… the way the two acted under the influence of the love poison was just balanced enough that it didn’t become too annoying, but still did enough to make it uncomfortable… which is as it should be, considering the CMC basically used “date rape” tactics on both Cheerilee and Big Mac. I’ll give Apple Bloom a point or two for being the only one to actually question whether they should be doing this. Pity she was so easily convinced to proceed. In the end, the fillies can be given a bit of a pass for overriding Cheerilee and Big Mac’s free will, since they are fillies, and such lapses of judgment due to immaturity are easier to forgive than in somepony you could reasonably expect to know better. (Looking at you, Starlight Glimmer!) The important thing is that they did learn their lesson, and they didn’t get off scot-free. Props to Cheerilee for assigning them some sort of punishment and not just letting it go. The moral is a little bit meta, since it seems to be a subtle rebuke to the habit some fans have of pairing up ponies without regard to whether it would actually make sense for them to be together. A little bit of romantic speculation is fine (I do it myself sometimes), but I disapprove of the lengths some fans will go to in shipping. See the “Die for our Ship” entry on TV Tropes for examples of the kind of things I mean. But back to the episode itself. As I mentioned above, there were a lot of stallions not usually seen around Ponyville during the song, which seems a little bit odd if you think about it, but hey, songs in the show have always needed some leeway in terms of realism. At least it gave the animators an excuse to experiment… although perhaps some experiments were not meant for ponykind to know…
A very jarring image, that. Speaking of jarring images, the scene in Sugarcube Corner is possibly the most suggestive in the show to date. Dat cherry… And then there’s the shots of all three CMC fillies straddled by Twilight… That one gave me some “Hiiiiii, gurllzzz!” flashbacks. Brrr.   Highlights/Quotes Watch Cheerilee’s expression when Sweetie asks about her not having a VSS… Single people everywhere can relate. The song is pretty darn funny… watch for that split second of morbidity, though! Cheerilee leans in towards Big Mac… soft romantic music plays…
Cheerilee (dreamily): Big Mac…?
Big Mac: Yup?
Cheerilee (normal tone): …you have something stuck in your teeth…
Sweetie Belle (In the distance): OH, COME ON!! When the love potion recipe calls for a Pegasus feather, Sweetie casually yanks one out of Scootaloo’s wings. Cheerilee’s Foe Tossing Charge towards Big Mac… then she leaps towards him with an expression of joy… until she realizes they’re about to collide face first…   Pros: A good moral that works both in universe and out of universe. Some pretty funny things happen.
Cons: Perhaps a bit too Sweetie-centric. Unsettling implications if you think about it too much. Carousel Boutique, but no Rarity? For shame!   Final Rating
5 – Button’s Mom Rank: This episode has got it going on.
4 – Big Mac / Cheerilee Ship Rank: It seems like it should work, but there’s something not quite right…
3 – Button Mash Rank: Worth inserting a coin or two, but nothing super special.
2 – Hugh Jelly Rank: Once taste is enough, then put the lid on the jar.
1 – Love Poison Rank: For your own sake, don’t ignore the pony skull on the label…   And once more, we get to see a familiar holiday done the pony way, and it is sweet! Not a perfect episode, but still probably one of my favourites featuring the CMC. Next we have an episode that is somewhat less romance themed, A Friend in Deed. Join me next time as we greet a new character and welcome him to Ponyville. Until then, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 42. “Read It and Weep”: Rainbow Dash Joins the Egghead Herd

I hate to admit it to myself, and I’d really hate to have to admit it to my friends, but… I love this book! – Rainbow Dash Twilight, Rarity and Pinkie are watching as Dash practices some of her precision flying. However, during a particularly difficult maneuver, Dash loses control and crashes into the ground, breaking one of her wings in the process. Confined to the Ponyville Hospital to rest and recover, Dash finds herself going nutty from boredom. When she complains about this to her friends during one of their visits, Twilight grabs a book from the library cart entitled Daring Do and the Sapphire Statue, and suggests Dash read it, as it’s one of Twilight’s favorite series of books and the protagonist, the eponymous Daring Do, is a lot like Dash herself. While she holds off for a while, she is eventually driven to open the book and start reading. Quickly becoming absorbed in the story (a basic Indiana Jones knockoff) she is surprised and embarrassed to find she does actually enjoy reading after all. As she works her way through the story, her friends occasionally come to visit her, but she is so hooked on the book that she would rather get rid of them… by means of messy mealtime manners, gratuitously giving up at games and shamelessly simulating slumber. Unfortunately for Dash, her wing heals pretty quickly, and she is discharged from the hospital before she can finish the book. After unsuccessfully attempting to persuade the doctor she is still injured, she resolves to break in. However, the new patient in her bed thinks she is a thief, and sounds the alarm. The doctors, nurses and night watch-pony all give chase, waking up the whole of Ponyville with the hue and cry. Finally cornered, Dash comes clean about her new literary habit, expecting that she’ll be made fun of, but Twilight assures her she’s just as cool, whether or not she is a reader. She even agrees to let Dash read her copies, and the episode ends with Dash curling up with the second book in the series. Thoughts on the Episode This ended up being one of the shortest summaries of an episode I’ve ever done. I could pad it out by including the story of Daring Do, but really, if you just say “Indiana Jones as a pony”, that’s all you really need to know. Not that the story within the story isn’t competently told, but there really is not very much you aren’t going to predict ahead of time. One of the better parts of the episode is how it weaves the story into Dash’s experience, which can get pretty surreal, such as when the menacing villain Ahuizotl gives his nemesis DD a bright and cheery greeting in Pinkie’s voice. There are a few other times this sort of linkage is done, which is really very cleverly interwoven. The humour in this episode is mostly quite subtle, like Dash getting bored within a literal minute, and her antics in trying to get rid of her visitors. Less subtle is the joke that drops after the chase: while trying to catch the “thief”, the hospital staff appear to be accompanied by a tracking dog, complete with excited barking. On bringing Dash to bay, the barker is revealed to be a pony in a straitjacket, one of the hospital patients. The joke does make me laugh, but it also makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Making fun of the mentally ill is not something I would condone, but perhaps the very silliness of the idea vitiates the offense. The moral is standard, but appropriate considering the brony fanbase: like what you like, and don’t let how others’ perceptions of it dissuade you. Overall, the episode is just a fun romp. Highlights/Quotes Rarity describes a good book as “almost as good as silk pajamas”. Guess what she’s wearing when woken up? Pinkie has one of her moments:
Pinkie: Yeah! I love reading, and my head isn't even close to the shape of an egg! It's more the shape of an apple, or maybe an orange, but a big orange! More like a grapefruit really... Pros: Some good jokes. The two main stories are interwoven well. An unexceptional but fine moral.
Cons: The Daring Do story is bog standard, even though it’s set in a jungle. A possibly insensitive joke about the mentally distressed may offend some. Final Rating 5 – Daring Do Rank: A great episode. A tip of the pith helmet to this one.
4 – Circle of Jungle Cats Rank: A good episode, but might have a weak link or two somewhere.
3 – Housecat Rank: Aww, it’s so cute about how hard it’s trying. Not succeeding, but trying.
2 – Easily Escapable Death Trap Rank: Worth watching once. After that, assume it all went to plan and leave the room.
1 – Ahuizotl Rank: Hand it off to someone else, fast! Well, that was short! There’s just not that much to cover in this episode, I guess. You are of course welcome to point out anything you think I missed, or make any other comment you wish. Next time, Love (Potion No. 9) is in the air… until then, stay safe, read a book, and stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 41. “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezer 6000”: Apples, Ya Got Trouble

He’s Flim, he’s Flam, we’re the world famous Flim-Flam Brothers: Travelling Salesponies, non pareil! – Flim and Flam Fluttershy gets an involuntary early morning wake up call, courtesy of Rainbow Dash. After a bit of embarrassment and blushing, Fluttershy is quickly hustled out into the pre-dawn dark of Ponyville. Rainbow Dash is in a hurry to get her and Flutters to Sweet Apple Acres, because today’s Fighting Day – fighting for a share of the Apple family cider, that is. RD explains that Pinkie Pie usually gets there first and buys more than her fair share of cider, which ends up depriving RD of her allotment when the cider sells out. Despite her determination to defensively defuse the disastrous dearth of delicious drink, this year looks like more of the same, since not only is Pinkie camping out at the front of the line, but she mentioned the idea to most of Ponyville, so the line is already super long. Then Pinkie rapturously gushes about how good the cider is, and how she hopes it won’t sell out before RD gets some! A bit later, the Apples open up the cider shop, and Pinkie, as is her wont, buys about a dozen mugs. Of course, the cider sells out just as RD reaches the front of the line.
“The only thing more delicious than that cider are your tears of misery, Dashey!” Suddenly a machine drives into view, with two ponies atop. These are the brothers, Flim and Flam, and they introduce (via song) their invention, the titular machine, which they boast can provide enough cider for all of Ponyville. All they need is the Apple family’s eponymous product, and 75%  of the profits. Since this would lose money for the Apple family, they refuse to accept the deal, leading Flim and Flam to drop their affable façade and show their ruthlessness. They declare that they’ll simply become competitors instead, and drive the Apples out of business… and out of their farm and home, too. Eventually, the two sides agree to a cider squeeze off, a competition on who can produce the most barrels of cider, with the winner getting exclusive rights to sell cider in Ponyville. Mayor Mare agrees to be the referee, and Time Turner agrees to be the, um, timer turner. And so a battle commences: good old fashioned pony power vs. machinery and magic. After the Flim Flam bros take an early lead, Twilight asks if the Mane Six are allowed to assist, a judgment which Mayor Mare defers to the pair. They confidently claim that they don’t care if the entire kingdom of Canterlot assists the Apples, it being a lost cause. So the Mane Six join the fray… Fluttershy helps AJ knock the apples down, Pinkie and Apple Bloom catch them in baskets, Rarity and Granny Smith sort the good apples from the bad (Or as Rarity puts, the lovely from the horrid #RarityIsBestPony), Rainbow Dash assists Big Mac running the treadmill to crush out the apple juice, and Twilight magically stacks and tallies the barrels as they come out. It works so well that the Apples start catching up, shocking the FFB into action. They speed up their machine, but it starts sucking up entire trees along with the apples, causing the quality control to reject all input. In desperation, they switch off the quality control, allowing them enough throughput to win the competition. RD shows her loyalty by intending to fight for her friends, but AJ sadly agrees to the forfeiture of the cider rights and hence the farm itself. The FFB laugh in triumph as the Apples sadly drift off, the rest of Ponyville mourning along with them. The FFB start to sell their cider, but due to them switching off the quality control, the resulting mess is undrinkable, and an angry mob gather around them. Seeing which way the wind is blowing, the two quickly hightail it out of there, leaving in peace the Apples to sell the cider they produced during the competition. RD is again left just missing out when the cider runs out yet again, but Pinkie offers her a mug from her purchases, making peace, while AJ dictates her letter to Celestia. (Reproduced here in its entirety, because it’s just that damn good…) Dear Princess Celestia… I wanted to share my thoughts with you. [clears throat] I didn't learn anythin'! Ha! I was right all along! If you take your time to do things the right way, your work will speak for itself. Sure, I could tell you I learned something about how my friends are always there to help me, and I can count on them no matter what, but truth is, I knew that already too. And so the ponies raise a mug together.
A good head but an ugly mug... and AJ is there too! Thoughts on the Episode Boy, everypony is greedy in this episode. Pinkie is greedy, buying far more cider than is fair. The Apples are greedy, since they allow this, when it would be extremely easy to implement a one-pony, one-mug policy. It shows they care more about the money they make with the cider than having their product be enjoyed by the most ponies. The Flim Flam brothers are greedy, wanting the lion’s share of the profits, when it would have been far more sensible to accept an equal portion or even slightly less, since without the Apples’ apples, they have no ingredients to work with. Speaking of the brothers, they’re quite a good addition to the villain roster. I hesitated a bit to actually categorize them as villains, rather than simply as antagonists, in the original sense of the term. Even as ruthless and greedy as they are, that alone doesn’t really tip them over the edge into villain territory. What does is how much delight they take in beating the Apples, even taunting them and laughing at their misfortune. Despite their name, they don’t really engage in any real dishonest behavior, unless you count trying to pass off as their cider what they made from the Apples’ produce. And their designs are pretty interesting. They are much taller and slimmer than the rest of Ponyville, in the style of Fleur de Lis, and their outfits are taken from The Music Man, the same movie being referenced in the song the brothers sing. As usual, Daniel Ingram’s composition is deluxe. There are plenty of funny things going on in the background, too. A point I’d like to make regarding the song. The chant of “cider, cider, cider” which repeats through the verses highlights a rather subtle theme that the episode explores… the power of mob mentality. In this episode, it both helps to set up the conflict and resolve it. Firstly, the song has bolstered the desire of the ponies for more cider, making it necessary for the Apple family to actually take the FFB’s bet. The smarter thing would be to just ignore the pair and pack up and go home. After all, the FFB have no product without being able to use the apples, or at least would have to find another source, cutting down their potential profits. But with the crowd already disappointed with the Apples due to the cider shortage, that option gets closed off. But mob mentality is also what ultimately saves the day. Due to the FFB cider being ruined, the brothers have to clear out smartish to avoid things getting ugly for them, leaving the Apples with the de facto right to sell their cider. The moral of the story may be “quality beats quantity”, but this other underlying thread in the episode deserves to be highlighted. Now let’s look at some bad behavior by other ponies. First, while Dash is, as usual, loyal and prepared to defend her friends, she also contributed to that negative mob mentality I noted earlier. When she is left ciderless, she inadvertently becomes the mob ringleader. She’s also shown as being much more eager than anypony else to get some of the FFB’s cider during the song – after initial skepticism, I must add in her defense. I think she can be forgiven, though, since her heart was in the right place, and her behavior was a result of her understandable frustration at losing out on the cider, largely due to Pinkie's careless greed and the Apples’ lackadaisical approach to selling. Pinkie also gets the Bad Behaviour Ball. First she buys way more than her fair share of the cider, and then she goes on to talk to Dashy’s face about how great the cider is and how she hopes it doesn’t run out, which it obviously will, thanks in part to her! Again, though, she manages to redeem herself by actually giving Dash a mug of cider at the end. As you could tell from the plot synopsis, I like the ending. Rather than a generic restatement of the moral, it actually bucks the usual trend of the show and provides amusement. Speaking of morals, I loved the bit when Twilight offers to help and AJ simply says “I’d love the rest of my family to help.” A far cry from the pony who almost ruined Ponyville through stubborn refusal to accept help in Season 1. I like when something like this is shown to actually have stuck and not be ignored. And speaking of amusement, there’s the opening bit when Rainbow Dash pulls off Fluttershy’s bedclothes, and she blushes and covers her chest, despite the fact that the ponies hardly ever wear clothes anyway. Funny, if not making a lot of sense when scrutinized. Horses don’t have pectoral mammaries. Although covering the correct spot would mean that the scene would not have gotten past the censors, so this is just a case of me being pendantic again.   Highlights / Quotes If you watch carefully during the song, while the rest of the Apple family look uncertain, Apple Bloom is smiling and very much enjoying the performance. RD is about to get some cider, when AJ lassos the barrel and accidentally knocks her mug out of her hooves, spilling the cider on the ground.
Rainbow Dash: <With a mouthful of cider-mud> “Is this some kind of cruel joke?”

Yes, Dash, yes, it is: the writers' cruel joke. When Twilight announces they're catching up to the Brother, Flim does a spit take right into his brother's face. Pros: Good villains in design and demeanour. A nice twist on the Letter to Celestia pattern. A surprisingly subtle secondary moral. Some really sad moments. A rarity: a moral from a previous episode is actually remembered.
Cons: Some bad behavior by some of the ponies. Final Rating 5 – A Proper 1420 Rank: A great episode. To be savoured at every opportunity in your community.
4 – Sweet Apple Cider Rank: A good episode, but something in there disappoints slightly.
3 – A Glass of Water Rank: An average episode. Nothing too good or bad.
2 – Mine’s got Rocks in it Rank: Worth watching once. Just don’t break your teeth.
1 – Flim Flam Jerk Cider Rank: Dreck. And that is the last episode to focus on Applejack for a while. Next up is Read It and Weep a.k.a. Dash’s Single Target Sexuality Eggheadedness. Come and read my words about the words that Dashy reads, next time around. Until then, make any comments crass, complimentary or contrarian you like (only not the first one, please), and stay sunny cider up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 40. “Last Round-up”: The Rodeo Pony’s Country Town Blues

I just don’t know what went wrong! – Derpy The episode opens with Applejack racing around a rodeo course set up on her farm, while Apple Bloom cheers her on. During her jump over one of the fences, her hoof just clips the obstacle, unnoticed by AJ herself. She finishes by tossing a bale of hay, to applause from her little sister. Apple Bloom is enthused and gushes about how good AJ is and how she’s certain to take first prize at the Equestrian Rodeo. But AB isn’t the only one with expectations… Ponyville is organizing a grand send-off for their potential champion, and RD is helping put up the banner, with “assistance” from a certain blonde, grey-coated pony with bubbles for a cutie mark. Just managing to dodge a bolt of lightning, RD utters the historical line, “Now, careful, Derpy!” Said pony is jumping up and down on a cloud. She leaves off with that, but her clumsiness makes trouble for RD as well as damaging Town Hall further than the lightning did. Despite the setbacks, AJ manages to thank Mayor Mare and the town for supporting her, and pledges her winnings to help make repairs, before setting off on the train to Canterlot. A while later, and the Mane Six and Apples are waiting to surprise AJ with a Congratulations party. However, she doesn’t show, instead sending a telegram to say she’s delaying her return. The Apples are distraught, but our heroes vow to find AJ and bring her back. They proceed to Canterlot and ask around at the rodeo grounds as the rodeo crew pack away, and eventually, they are pointed to a town called Dodge Junction. On arrival, Pinkie needs a tinkie, and manages to find AJ almost immediately when she races to the station outhouse, catching her just coming out. (Is this the first mention of such necessities in the show? I think it is, but feel free to contradict me in the comments if I’m wrong.) Applejack is less than enthused that her friends have tracked her down, and she tells them that after the Rodeo, she decided to spend time in Dodge Junction for a change of scenery, and to farm something other than apples, namely cherries. They meet with AJ’s new boss, Miss Cherry Jubilee, who speaks of AJ winning so many medals at the Rodeo that Miss Jubilee offered her a job on her cherry farm. AJ entreats the others to return to Ponyville, but they refuse, suspecting that there is more to AJ’s decision than she is letting on. They take jobs sorting cherries as AJ works the conveyer belt, and make small talk in order to persuade AJ into revealing her secret. She won’t budge, however, and starts trotting too fast in agitation, leaving Pinkie and Fluttershy increasingly overwhelmed by the rate of cherry arrival. When Fluttershy desperately yells for her to stop, all the cherries end up flying at AJ, covering her completely in pulverized cherry. Momentum is a harsh mistress… She leaves in a huff, and the rest decide they need to stop pulling their punches; cue a staggered zoom cut on Pinkie Pie... In the orchard, AJ is bucking down the cherries, and Pinkie comes to help. After a while, she starts to talk, and just doesn’t stop. Eventually she wears AJ down, and she agrees to tell the Mane Six what the truth of her situation is, but asks if she can put it off until breakfast tomorrow. They acquiesce, on condition that AJ makes a Pinkie Promise™ on it, which she reluctantly does. The following day, AJ is nowhere to be found. Pinkie, furious at the broken Pinkie Promise™, leads the charge to find her. They catch up with her at the station, forcing her to flee in a horse drawn carriage. The Mane Six load up in a cart pulled by RD and Fluttershy and give chase. Pinkie manages to leap onto AJ’s carriage and demands an apology for the broken Pinkie Promise™. AJ claims she didn’t technically break the promise, since she specified “at breakfast”, to which she never went, unable to face the prospect of revealing what actually happened to her. Pinkie accepts her half-apology for the time being, and leaps back to the Mane Six cart, knocking Rarity and herself out. They are left behind as RD can’t waste time turning around to retrieve them. Well, Pinkie, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into. AJ decides to cross just in front of a train, hoping it’ll cut off the Mane Six Three cart. At this, the team pulling her carriage abandon her for endangering them. AJ turns back to gloat about her escape, but RD and Fluttershy just fly the cart right over the still passing train. AJ tries to run, but RD tackles her, knocking her bags open and sending all her medals flying. AJ finally tells them the truth: she won many medals, but none of them were first place. She also didn’t win any prize money. Feeling like she let Ponyville down, she wanted to work for Miss Jubilee to earn the money instead. Fluttershy and Twilight assure her that having her home means more than having her win or bring home a prize. Even RD can’t quite maintain her stoic exterior. Applejack goes home to meet her family and in voiceover, gives her friendship lesson report: Winning isn’t everything, and your family will love you regardless. Meanwhile, Rarity and Pinkie are heading home via handcart, Pinkie talking all the way. Rarity is not happy, and intends to give RD a piece of her mind when they get home. Thoughts on the Episode
This used to be my favorite episode. I still like it a lot, but there are better episodes since. Let’s get the home-invading pachyderm out of the way first. This episode led to an unpleasantness that would come to be known as Derpygate. Basically, in the wake of the episode, there were scattered complaints about the portrayal of Derpy, claiming that it was offensive to the differently-abled, which lead Hasbro to change the scene. The RD line naming her as Derpy was removed, her eyes were slightly straightened, and all of her lines were redubbed. This was despite the fact that there were many more positive reactions to Derpy’s canonical inclusion, including from many differently-abled fans themselves. For myself, I definitely understand the anger and frustration of Derpy’s fans. While I think the new voice for Derpy (yes, I’m still considering it her name – it was broadcast originally as that) suits her better – and better matches her earlier line in Applebuck Season – removing the name and altering the eyes are not changes I support. As is so often the case, the vocal minority get their way. I’m sure they thought they were doing the right thing, but that doesn’t mean it was. Slice of Life went so far as to credit her as “Muffins” instead of Derpy. There is a certain amount of sense to such moves, however it might rankle. Hasbro want to protect their image, and to that end, they sided with the seagulls. It would have been more admirable if they had had the balls to stick to their guns, though. (Pardon the mixed metaphor there.) Moving on, this episode offers a lot of entertainment. There are a number of lovely minor touches. First, for Applejack: the fact that she didn’t have a perfect run on her own farm hints towards her falling short of first place. Quality foreshadowing, that. Then there’s the bit where AJ thinks the train is going to stop the pursuit… if you look carefully, you can see past the train where Twilight just tilts her head slightly, as if to say, “You’re kidding, right?” just before RD and Flutters fly over. AJ’s expressions are great too, from her pleased but embarrassed blush at being complimented, to her stubborn “you ain’t getting nothin’ out o’ me” face. She also delivers some great lines, especially at the end. She just sounds so frustrated and dejected over her lack of a first place finish, you really feel her pain. Pinkie also gets in on the act, so much so that this is almost a Pinkie episode. Her antics while holding it in are a rare example of good toilet humour (What? It’s not quite an oxymoron; that style of humour is hard to pull off well, but not impossible.) There’s also that ominous zoom-in on Pinkie along with “dun dun dun” music, contrasted as it is with the cute and silly image of her licking up some spilt cherry pulp. Not that it isn’t justified, since she shows that her prattle can be weaponized, although her dialogue is pretty funny on its own. But perhaps the best part is her nonchalant “Rarity catch me!” line as she leaps backwards at an entirely unprepared Rarity… watch out for Twilight’s duck, it’s awesome. Some other good points: Cherry Jubilee has a great design and voice, and seems really nice all around. The poor mailpony gets snubbed by Twilight, but at least he gets a slice of cake courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood Pinkie Pie. Some great lines, apart from those already mentioned, also stand out. In summation, there's a lot of good in this episode, and not all that much that is bad. I wish the original version had been kept, but even with that caveat, this episode is just really entertaining and on point for all the characters. Highlights/Quotes Anything Pinkie does in this episode. The end scene is pretty hilarious, with Rarity darkly swearing some sort of revenge for RD for abandoning them, while Pinkie just keeps repeating her cherry product names. Pros: Pinkie is hilarious. Very good Applejack expressions and line delivery. The small details just add so much.
Cons: Derpygate… which is not a con for the episode itself, so it doesn’t affect the rank! Neener, neener! Final Rating
5 – Blue Ribbon Rank: A real winner. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Red Ribbon Rank: A very good attempt, but falls just short of glory.
3 – Rodeo Clown Rank: An average episode, assuming you don’t have coulrophobia. Not bad, not great.
2 – Cherry Rank: Nice once in a while, but too much may make you ill.
1 – Calamity, Mane Rank: Fails at the first hurdle. From an AJ episode, we change tacks and charge straight into... another… AJ… episode……. huh. At least the rest of the Apple family gets more screen time in this one. Plus new villains will be introduced… we may be in trouble! Nonetheless, nothing can stop the Smooze nitpicking! Join me for my next review… Super Speedy Cider Squeezer 6000. Until then, comment if you wish, and as always, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 39. “Baby Cakes”: Pie and the Art of Juvenile Maintenance

Now how in thunderations is one of them twins a unicorn and the other a pegasus? – Applejack The Mane Six are all at the hospital, waiting to see the new foal born to the Cakes. However, Sugarcube Corner appears to have been having a two for one sale, since the foal turns out to be twins… and one is a unicorn and the other a Pegasus. Applejack wonders how that’s possible, but Pinkie is distracted by the prospect of having two new playmates. She also tries to celebrate their 0th birthday, to Nurse Pinkheart’s chagrin. Rarity and RD both mention that the babies may show bursts of unusually strong magic and wing power respectively. Cut to a month later, and Pinkie is having great fun with her new little friends, and also learning a bit about babies, including the need to change, feed and burp them. She has little interest in those things, though, just wanting to play some more. Suddenly, the Cakes remember a huge order from out of town that they had forgotten about. Strapped for time, they decide to find a baby-sitter, pronto. Pinkie volunteers, but they are reluctant to use her, not being sure she understands the difference between being a playmate and a caretaker. They ask each of the other Mane Six, but they all have good reasons why they can’t help… well, except Rarity, who just refuses, but is flattered that they considered her. With no other choice, they entrust the twins to Pinkie, and rush out.
Abandonment anxiety ensues. The twins immediately start crying, heedless of Pinkie’s attempts to quiet them. They only stop when Pinkie accidentally knocks a bag of flour onto herself, something they find hilarious. Pinkie’s savvy enough to see where this is heading. She tries bathing, feeding and changing, making a mess of each one due to the mischievous antics of her youthful charges.
Pound Cake used Water Gun!

It’s Super-effective! Twilight at one point comes to offer her help, but a tactless remark puts Pinkie’s back up, and she icily declines the offer of assistance, shutting the door in Twilight’s face. Realizing that Twilight’s comment about some ponies not being up to the responsibility is a pretty accurate description of her, she decides to get tough. And it seems to work, as the twins capitulate to Growly Pie… until her back is turned and they vanish from their crib. Suddenly the tone shifts, the house becoming dark and eerie with a sinister shadow sliding about the ceiling, and Pumpkin Cake’s chewing on a squeak toy echoing oddly. The shadow reveals itself as Pound Cake, whose can now fly. He proceeds to drag Pinkie all over the house when she tries to get him down. Pumpkin also gets in on the act, phasing through obstacles, using telekinesis to get her toys, and even levitating, ignoring all Pinkie’s efforts to stop the two from running riot. Finally overwhelmed, Pinkie gives up and sits bawling in the middle of the room. This checks the twins, who realize they may have gone too far, and they cut the antics, even pouring flour on themselves to cheer her up. An understanding with her charges achieved, Pinkie puts them to bed and then cleans up the entire place. When the Cakes get home, she shows them the twin peacefully sleeping. They are astounded at how responsible Pinkie has proven herself in their absence and offer her the position of “go-to babysitter”. Remembering how tough a challenge the twins actually were, Pinkie balks, but hearing them say her name in their sleep convinces her to agree. And all’s well that ends well.   Thoughts on the Episode A pretty heartwarming little tale of Pinkie learning to be responsible for baby ponies. I don’t have kids myself, but I imagine the scene of Pinkie just crying tears of frustration at disobedient infant antics would hit home for many parents. But I think anyone can feel bad for her and understand what she’s going through. The episode is loaded with Pinkie Pie sight gags, such as teleporting through viewing windows in the hospital, jumping out of cakes way too small to actually hold her, and even being both the stand-up comedian and rim-shot artist at the same time. However, it doesn’t help her against the twins’ onslaught. The flour running gag was used well, even coming back around in the end when the twins use it themselves to serve as an apology / cheer up move. Oh, that line from Mr. Cake… Some fans have speculated that his delivery of that line and the sheer illogic of the given explanation means that he’s trying to cover up the real reason for the “anomaly” implied in the episode quote: namely, Mrs. Cake’s infidelity. However, I disagree; and for more reason than just “this is a family show”… Since there are no male alicorns, the only way for the twins to get pegasus and unicorn genes would be if Mrs. Cake was unfaithful with a pegasus and unicorn simultaneously. That stretches the bounds of plausibility, if *ahem* nothing else. I think the handwave was telegraphed by Mr. Cake’s explanation – it doesn’t make sense in terms of real world genetics, but they’re going with it anyway, and the line is simply lampshade hanging. I know some people are instantly turned off by baby episodes, and to be fair, this episode doesn’t really do that much to subvert the usual plot points, so I can understand why it might be off-putting to some. I don’t really figure it’s enough to make the episode unbearable for me, but I can see the criticism as valid. The other criticism I’ve heard is that Pound and Pumpkin are simply too strong in magic and flying respectively to be credible, especially since young unicorns such as Sweetie Belle and filly Twilight are shown to have to try really hard to get their magic to work. It was pretty clearly spelled out that unicorn babies have odd magic surges, which is enough to explain it as far as I’m concerned. And since pegasus flight ability can be considered magic in its own right, I have no problem with the Pound Cake side of the equation either. Again, it’s not something I’d personally mark the episode down on, but I get why it’s a problem for some.   Highlights/Quotes Pinkie (to Pound): This is a crib. It is only to be used for napping. sleeping, and on occasion, with permission, as an pretend old-timey western fort.   Pros: Some good visual gags. D’aaawww levels are off the charts.
Cons: Episode is about babies, with the usual tropes that apply.   Final Rating
5 – Rarity Rank: An episode that truly brings me joy. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
4 – Luna Rank: An episode I enjoy, despite some flaws. It might not be perfect, but that’s fine too.
3 – Derpy Rank: An average episode for me. It engenders no strong feelings one way or the other.
2 – Discord Rank: An episode that is not to my taste, but others might find it worth watching. Once.
1 – Trixie Rank: Ursa Minor bait. I would avoid this episode at all costs, and suggest you do the same. Hi again! It’s been a while since my last review, hasn’t it? How y’all doing? Next up is an AJ episode, and one I like. However, it did create somewhat of a scandal at the time. I’m sure you FiM veterans will know what I’m talking about, but I’ll go into more depth about it in the review, for those who might have only joined the fandom recently. Until then, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack vs Aku – Part Two (Episode CI)

And here, at long, long last, we are: the final episode of Samurai Jack. When last we left him, it seemed Jack had finally been beaten by the shapeshifting Master of Darkness… and Daddy’s Little Destroyer. Let’s see how this all pans out… What Happens
Throughout the land, all the various peoples and groups that Jack had encountered gather around their viewing devices in dread, because Aku is making an announcement. Aku uses the opening from previous seasons to preface his gloating. Then Aku himself appears, showing off the captured Samurai Jack and his sword. In order to break the spirit of his subjects for all time, he is broadcasting live his final victory in finishing off Jack… if only he could decide quite how to do this momentous event just right… Jack pleads with Akushi to fight, but it seems to have no effect, and Aku finally decides to let her have the honour of killing his defeated enemy. However, before the final blow is struck, the armies of every group still able to put up a fight attack Aku’s tower. In the ensuing battle, Jack is blasted free. He tries to get the sword while Aku is distracted by the others, but Akushi stops him. While able to inconvenience Aku to a degree, the armies of good are unable to actually do any significant damage, and Aku even starts using his evil to create an army of his own. Things seem to be looking bleak for our heroes, but then the Scotsman’s ghost arrives with the red-haired, reindeer-riding cavalry!
Scotland! F*ck yeah! Using a set of mystical ghostly bagpipes to transport his daughters through the sky, and to launch an attack powerful enough to affect Aku himself, the Scotsman reunites with Jack, naming each of his daughters and offering Jack his pick.
I think the last one’s name is Ovalylongag… Jack demurs and shows the Scotsman his new girlfriend… but, said girlfriend still being a black blob of Aku’s evil at this point, the Scotsman is less than impressed. Aku, frustrated by the attacks on him, launches himself into the sky and rains down spears of darkness, to devastating effect. The armies of good are being routed, until the Scotsman uses his bagpipes to create a shield, and even destabilize Akushi. Jack is caught inside Akushi's roiling black blob, and struggles to reach Ashi, who is still fighting the ocean of darkness. It seems like they will lose the struggle, and Jack desperately shouts to Ashi that he loves her. Ejected from Akushi, Jack lands flat on his back, and Akushi begins to choke him to death. (Now there’s an erotic asphyxiation meme waiting to happen.) Then her hold on his throat loosens as Ashi, empowered by Jack’s confession of love, manages to overcome the evil, reverting to her black catsuit look. Aku orders her to kill Jack again, but this time she is in control and denies Aku as her father. He attacks and she fights back with the same powers that Aku has, like eyebeams and shapeshifting. It seems her victory over Aku’s compulsion hasn’t severed her access to his powers. All his powers… as Jack and Ashi both quickly realize, that includes time travel! Ashi stretches her arm to grab and return Jack’s sword. Then she uses her screech powers to make a portal back to the past and, as Aku realizes with despair, it’s one he can’t interfere with or destroy. Back in the past, the initial fight between the as-yet-nameless Samurai and Aku plays out as before, with Aku sending him into the future… however, Jack and Ashi arrive back in the following moment. Aku chokes out what will turn out to be his final words, “You’re back already?!” as Jack wastes no time using his sword to cut down, trap and then destroy Aku once and for all. Soon after, all the people the Samurai trained growing up, as well as all the citizens of the Empire, are gathering for his wedding to Ashi. As she walks down the aisle towards him, she suddenly stumbles and collapses. Jack runs to embrace her, as she tells him what is happening: since Aku was killed in the past, he never donated his evil essence to the Cult in the future and thus Ashi was never born. She fades away, leaving Jack clutching her empty wedding kimono. The disconsolate Jack rides his horse through a misty gloomy forest. He sits down by a tree and mourns. A ladybug lands on his hand, and he slowly smiles with renewed hope and lets it fly away, as the sun comes out and lights up the same trees that Future!Aku had destroyed. The screen fades to black as the title “Episode CI” lingers.

So beautiful, it almost makes me forget the writers tearing my heart out and stomping on it... Thoughts on the Episode
And thus the curtain falls on Samurai Jack. It’s been a long ride, with many ups and downs. I’m glad that we got this final Season to resolve Jack’s story, but… sob… They killed Kenny ret-goned Ashi!
You bastards! In a way, I admire the sheer brass testicles / ovaries of the writers that led them to go this route, but… why? Why can’t we have nice things?! I didn’t think something like this would happen, really, even given how dark Season 5 could get. This… this was just mean-spirited. And it’s not like it was a necessary consequence of time travel, either. You can’t simply resolve the grandfather paradox by erasing Ashi. If Ashi didn’t exist, Jack would never have gone back to the past, thus wouldn’t have been able to kill Aku and thus make Ashi not exist. (I’m not going to do the cross-eyed joke! I’m not in the mood.) And then there’s the fact that Jack still remembers her… unless the ending scene is meant to imply that the memory of her faded away eventually, just as she did – unlikely with the way the scene was shot and how Jack’s expressions were shown, but still something your mileage could vary on. Speaking of delayed-reaction reordering of timelines, that’s another weird thing… why did it take so long for Ashi to be affected? Just so that the timing could be even more sucky for our poor hero? Dick move, writers, dick move. I mean, I can understand making the artistic choice they did, but I really did want Ashi to get her happy ending with Jack. I'm just really sad I didn't get to see my prediction come true... instead, heartbreak. But I'll live. If I were able to rewrite the ending, it would go like this… Jack and Ashi arrive in the past the moment BEFORE the Samurai gets sent to the future. Jack and the Samurai team up to take out Aku, and kill him with a super-cool double magical sword strike. As Aku dies, Ashi feels Aku’s evil leave her, as before, but as Jack tries to help her up, their hands go through each other. Jack and Ashi realize that preventing the Samurai from going to the future in the first place means they, the second copy of the sword, and the future timeline of Aku’s reign (coincidentally, virtually the entire series itself) all will cease to exist. After taking a short time to explain to the Samurai what would have happened, they start to fade away. Jack and Ashi redeclare their love for each other and share a final kiss as they fade out of existence, saddened but consoled by the fact that they are leaving existence together. The Samurai revels in his victory over Aku and the celebrations begin. Jump ahead a while, the Samurai is married, with a new born heir being held by the new Empress, wife and mother… who just happens to look a lot like Ashi. Bam! Perfect happy ending… Ashi still goes out, but now so does Jack, who now never had to suffer those 50 years of despair. We can still have our victory at a price without leaving the hero to suffer alone. Since the Samurai was never affected by Aku’s time travel, he ages perfectly normally, thus removing the question mark over whether or not Jack is still immortal. The Prophecy of the Guardian’s time portal is also resolved by never actually having happened, so the inconsistency of Jack’s older appearance in that vision vs the events of Season 5 is reconciled. All tied up with a neat bow, thank you very much! It’s such a pity the writers didn’t consult me, I coulda set them straight… sigh. Other thoughts: So in the end, the Guardian was apparently killed by Aku. I had hoped we might see him one last time… even if it were merely a flashback to witness the battle between them. Seeing the various friends Jack had made reappear en masse makes his absence even more notable. At least the Scotsman got his chance to shine and reunite with Jack. Oh, the irony… Aku managed to destroy all the time portals, yet still sowed the seeds of his own destruction by “blessing” the Cult of Aku. This lead not only to Ashi being born, meeting Jack and helping him regain his determination to destroy Aku, but also equipped her with the exact necessary power to negate all his efforts at preventing Jack’s return to the past. Add in the fact that he could have won if he had simply done to Jack what he did to the Scotsman a few episodes earlier and the Pie of Irony is complete, ready to throw in Aku’s flaming-eyebrows, fang-mouthed face. Heh.   Overall, Season 5 has been a fun but bumpy ride. I give you my thanks for joining me on this journey. I may or may not write a review of the whole of the season/series at a later time, and I think I should probably start on FiM Season 7 like I’ve been saying I’ll do for the past couple of months. Please look forward to it, and join me again in the future. In the meantime, feel free to give your own perspectives in the comments. How did you feel about how the season wrapped up? Do you think my ending would have been better? (Because I do.) What did you enjoy most about the season? What did you enjoy least? Share your thoughts. And until the next time we meet, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack vs Aku – Part One (Episode C)

Why does this episode make think of John Lithgow and Sylvester Stallone? Huh… Anyway, the penultimate episode of Samurai Jack is upon us! Let’s see how the lovebirds are doing...   What Happens Following on from the last episode, Jack and Ashi are kissing. However, the romance is dampened by the fact that they still have slug juice in their mouths, causing them to separate and spit the taste out. Reassuring each other that it isn’t a reflection on the kiss itself, they decide to get clean. While Ashi, still wrapped in Jack’s gi, goes to find some suitable clothes, Jack heads outside the ship and luckily finds a broken pipe to use as a shower. Ashi, now clad in a green one-piece dress, appreciates the view of Jack nekkid, but leaves his now-clean gi where he can find it. The two both manage to find some bugs in the desert to cook for dinner that night, despite being chewy and rather unappetizing. Jack reminisces on the beauty of the valley where he grew up, before Aku returned, and mentions that he thinks that he will only ever have the memory, which saddens Ashi. We switch back over to Scaramouch’s journey and Scarry has coopted an octopus to serve as his body. He finally finds Aku’s spire, and despite an automated recording from Aku that he is not currently receiving visitors, proceeds inside. He convinces Aku to talk to him and tells him about the issing-May ord-Sway of ack-Jay. Aku is pleased to hear this, and restores Scaramouch’s body as reward for bringing the good-bad news. They dance.
Do the Robot! In the morning, Ashi wakes to find that Jack has left her behind in secret and follows his trail again. (Note the separate beds… I guess a kiss is as far as they went… pity) Jack walks through the desert, and finds himself in a familiar place… the wreckage of giant robots all around. As he clambers over them, he comes to a destroyed time portal and sees some familiar red sun-glasses broken on the ground. It seems the Guardian and his time portal are no more. (Ah, man. I had hoped to see him again. I guess prophecy is not infallible…) Ashi arrives and soon, so do Aku and Scaramouch. Aku does his usual “fooooolish Samurai!” bit, until Jack unsheathes his sword. Scaramouch barely manages to protest before Aku blows him up… this time for good. (He just got… Scarasmooshed…  YEEAAHHH!) Jack tries to attack Aku, but the Shogun of Sorrow avoids him easily, despite being distracted by something that smells like him, but isn’t. Aku then turns to Ashi… As it turns out, Aku did once visit the Cult of the Daughters, and even contributed some of his evil (from his hands, I might hasten to clarify) for the High Priestess to drink, thus impregnating her with Ashi and her sisters. (So the name “the Daughters of Aku” turned out to be literal. I must confess, I didn’t see that one coming…) Ashi is unable to control her body, attacking Jack with a purloined sword. After they trade a few blows, Aku fully releases the evil within Ashi, turning her into a black-clad clone of himself, with GREAT FLAMING EYEBROWS! The fight resumes, Akushii being much stronger and faster now. Jack still manages to graze her with the sword, releasing the good part of Ashi long enough to beg Jack to kill her before she is again subsumed. However, Jack cannot bring himself to do it, and drops his sword. A triumphant Aku holds it up as Jack collapses before Akushii and… WATCH OUT! Thoughts on the Episode You see, Friendship is Magic: that is how you do a cliffhanger! I always disliked the habit of two-parters in FiM being aired together… it leaves no time for tension to build. And for now, that is where I will leave it. Comments welcomed, and look forward to a bumper review when this whole shebang is all wrapped up. Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack’s Swag (Episode XCVIX)

In this episode, another of my theories goes belly up (I sincerely hope), and I’m forced to make some retractions… what do you think of that, Jack?
“Drinks all around!” Oops, wrong Jack. Anyhoo, let’s move on to the seventh episode of Samurai Jack, Season 5. Fish heads, tiger heads and Stanley Kubric inspired imagery await us…   What happens A gigantic monolithic ship is hit by asteroids and crash lands. Next we see Jack and Ashi in a desert city. Jack samples some of the local cuisine and gets his head transformed into a fish. Ashi is less than enthused, but luckily it quickly wears off. They board a gigantic camel, along with a large number of tiger-headed aliens. In the crowded quarters, Jack and Ashi are pushed together, and it gets a little awkward… we see quite a bit of UST between the two as they try to avoid touching hands and any other bits, in fact. The will-they-or-won’t-they-tête-à-tête is interrupted as they are attacked by the tiger aliens, and forced to escape out a window. They swing down to the desert on the reins and continue on foot. A gigantic sandstorm begins, and they seek shelter in the crashed ship from earlier, which is revealed to be huge. They make their way deeper and end up getting lost, when something starts chasing them. Ashi gets bitten by a venomous slug, forcing Jack to suck out the venom.
So, here’s Jack sucking on Ashi’s… um, ashi… Oh, by the way, “ashi” means “leg” in Japanese, so get your mind out of the gutter! You’re blocking my light. As they continue on, they find themselves being stalked. Their enemy is revealed as a colony of slugs like the one from earlier that form a giant monster.
“My God… it’s full of slugs!” Jack eventually finds an armoury with a device that can destroy the monster, but the critical part of the explanation is lost when Jack is distracted by Ashi accidentally discharging a blaster into the wall. The two take the device and move on, Jack desperately trying to activate it. Ashi, having armed herself with a double headed sword and a shield, once again takes point as Jack struggles to use the device. The slug monster attacks them again, and Ashi ends up losing her outfit to its attacks. She feels no real qualms about fighting in the buff, but Jack certainly does and is forced to use his gi to cover her. When Jack admits he has no idea how to work the device, they trade roles back and forth. They finally manage to activate it just as the slugs swarm all over them. The device makes the slugs explode, leaving the pair alive, panting from exertion and covered with slug goo. Perfect time for a Big Damn Kiss!
"Romance in Samurai Jack? Surely you can’t be serious!”
“I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” MAKE OUT! Thoughts on the Episode On Jack and Ashi’s blossoming romance: *sigh*… the Rule 34 squad is going to have a field day with this episode. Which brings us to my first retraction: I was also wrong that Jack and Ashi would be revealed to be father and daughter. At least, I really really hope I’m wrong about that, because otherwise… ewww. Even worse, Ashi technically already fulfilled the first part of the Electra Complex double whammy, when she killed her own mother. We can probably take it as read that there is no familial relation between the two, because surely that would be a bit too squicky even for this season. With that caveat, I don’t really object to Jack and Ashi getting their freak on together. Sure, there’s an age gap and a probably even larger experience gap, but they’ve been through a lot together in a short space of time, and Ashi’s speech about how he saved her life and showed her the truth of Aku’s evil gives them bonus relationship points. Plus there’s a hint of real world psychology in the way they ended up, ahem, sucking face. Known as Misattribution of Arousal, in situations that involve a heightened arousal of the nervous system, the signals generated by fear, exertion or similar can be misinterpreted as physical attraction. How much this works in reality is up for debate, as with so much psychology/sociology research (the “squishy” sciences), but it’s a good enough working theory. Ashi not feeling any shame about fighting naked is a pretty clever touch, given the revelation that she always fights essentially naked, and Jack’s reaction to her nudity is adorable and in-character too. So all in all, the romance angle is pretty well justified in my mind, but YMMV. Since I’m in a retracting mood (I’m assuming Jack is not, at this point )… uh, do you remember my review of Episode XCIII, in which I opined that the tiger-wolf subplot was unnecessary and didn’t contribute? Well, whoops. Second retraction: that was foreshadowing for this episode that the tiger guys would try to kill Jack.
This might also have been a bit of a clue, in hindsight. In other news: I liked the villain of this episode, a non-sentient hive-mind of venomous slugs. There’s been a great variety of foes for Ashi and Jack to fight this season, so the creativity category gets a solid ten out of ten. This show has never had a problem with creativity and it’s good to see this is still the case. In the category of things to question, I’m not sure how much I liked the fish-head scene. It seems rather out of place… although, one earlier season episode had Jack being magically transformed into a chicken by a bad tempered wizard, so perhaps it’s more a return to form i.t.o. the comedy? It just seems odd given the darker tone of Season 5, so maybe the contrast is responsible for this seeming like a Big Lipped Fishhead Moment. It also seems a bit odd to dedicate a whole episode to forging Ashi and Jack into a Battle Couple. Fun though it was, it didn’t really change much in the grand scheme of things, making it seem like filler. There again, it avoids the whole Avatar: The Last Airbender issue of keeping the leads’ romantic relationship up in the air unnecessarily, so perhaps the episode deserves its place in the lineup. To sum up, this was definitely an interesting turn of events, but I’m not entirely displeased by it. It’s good to see Jack having things going his way after how much he’s been suffering, and they do make a good couple… assuming as always that certain theories are wrong. Jack will one day be an emperor, after all, and an emperor needs an empress. In fact, I foresee the final scene of the season showing Jack and Ashi in the past, with their newborn heir as the ultimate happy ending… make it sho, numba one! And with that, little remains but for me to invite you to comment as you will, and as always, hope that you stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack’s Journey (Episode XCVIII)

In this episode, questions are answered and unexpected characters make their reappearances. Join me as we rejoin Ashi and Jack on their quest to regain the Sword of Evil’s Bane…
No, not that one… So let’s jump on our oversized budgerigars and have a look.   What happens The episode opens in the past, as Jack Classic climbs a mountain pass, escorted by the cutest little mountain goats that ever did goat. At the top he finds some old stone pillars and (wonder-of-wonders!) a working time portal… and it’s not guarded by an African-American Blue Warrior…
No, not that one… Jack leaps into the portal and it seems like his quest has finally been achieved… until, in the ultimate Dick Move, Aku reaches in and plucks him out of the time portal. Casually blowing the time portal to pieces with his eye beams, Aku gleefully informs his nemesis that that was the last one in existence and taunts him about how he almost made this time. Enraged, Jack leaps at Aku, but the villain, leery of his sword, avoids his attacks and transforms the goats into gigantic evil minions to occupy Jack while he escapes. Still blinded by his anger, Jack doesn’t recognize these as the same goats who accompanied him earlier and he kills all three. Seeing them return to their normal forms, but still quite dead, Jack is horrified, and drops his sword. One of the pillars falls and knocks the sword into the pit where the time portal once was. Jack is left unable to anything except watch it fall into the darkness. Back in present day, Jack and Ashi ride a gigantic budgerigar (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, a budgerigar is a kind of small parrot – err, except that this one is, ya know, gigantic and all…)
We’re gonna need a bigger Speedo(TM) to smuggle this one… The Australians out there should get that joke. They descend into the hole to look for the sword but are unable to find it. Ashi wonders if someone took it, but Jack, seeing the bones of one of the goats he killed, is sure that the sword abandoned him when he killed innocent creatures in his anger. He decides he needs to go on a spiritual journey to retrieve it. They return to the top and Jack sits near the edge of the cliff to meditate. Meanwhile, Ashi is left to guard his back, and it’s a good thing she’s there… an army of orcs has arrived to kill Jack. Ashi makes like Gandalf and blocks the path. Despite being derided for thinking “one little girl” is enough to defeat an entire army, she promptly does just that… However, the army is merely a distraction… an assassin slips past and starts to climb towards Jack. Ashi reaches the top first, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood giant parakeet, and is confronted by an unexpected enemy… her mother, the High Priestess. The HP tries to get Ashi to turn on Jack, but having seen the truth of things, she refuses, and they fight. The HP proves a strong opponent, but when she gets a chance to leap towards Jack’s unprotected back, Ashi throws an arrow through her and she plunges over the cliff. Exhausted, Ashi collapses. Meanwhile Jack makes a trip while tripping and reaches a temple with a small old monk who asks him to make tea. He does so, but when the monk tastes it, he declares it bad… Jack is not balanced internally, and therefore cannot make good tea. HalluciJack reappears and he’s once again the crazy version. He screams imprecations at the old monk and tells Jack to force him to give the sword back. Jack finally realizes that HalluciJack is the reason why he is no longer worthy of wielding the sword… or maybe we should call him… Mad Jack! Dun dun DUN! Eeeyarrrk! Gesundheid! Yes, Mad Jack is back! Jack faces off against the manifestation of his own negative emotions, and with Eye Beams of Understanding, destroys Mad Jack. This brings him back into inner harmony and he meets the three gods Ra, Odin and Vishnu. They not only return his sword, but they also use a clothes beam…
No, not that one… …to restore his previous look.
Shave and a haircut… three gods, 50 years and a secret test of character!... TWO BITS! Returned to reality, Jack is finally, truly truly truly outrageous back! He finds Ashi and revives her and she compliments his new (for her) look. Where to next? Aku! WATCH OUT! Thoughts on the Episode Well, a lot of interesting parallels with previous episodes are on display here. Of necessity, I’ll need to explain one or two things that happened in the previous seasons for context. First of all, there was an episode that featured Mad Jack… a being Aku manifested from Jack’s own anger; think Dark Link. He had all of Jack’s prowess and was essentially unbeatable in combat. Jack’s solution to this was pretty much the same one as in this episode… he calmed himself down and got rid of his anger, thus causing Mad Jack to fade away. My previous theory re Omen and HJ is therefore wrong, but I’m happier with it this way. It provides us with a great callback. Okay, so maybe it isn’t literally Mad Jack back, but it’s close enough for government work. Second, there was an episode where Jack was lured into a graveyard and attacked by zombies resurrected by Aku, who actually managed to steal Jack’s sword from him and pin him down. When he tried to stab Jack with the sword, however, it simply bounced off without leaving so much as a scratch. Jack then says that “in the hands of evil, [the sword] could never be used to harm an innocent,” before reclaiming it and forcing Aku to flee. Is there a contradiction here? Perhaps not; Jack is not evil, so he can harm innocents with the sword. It could also be that the transformed goats were given a veneer of evil by Aku, and this by-passed the protection enough that it could kill them, leaving them still dead when they reverted. Thus the heartbreak. Speaking of, this incident could help explain why Jack was so distraught when he thought the children from two episodes previous had died, and why he didn’t bother to check first. It’s still a question mark for me, but less of one now. The sword continues to display some measure of sentience and mystical power, literally vanishing from the world when its wielder was deemed unworthy to wield it. I mean, heh, what does it think it is, Mjolnir? Come to think of it, Odin WAS instrumental in its creation, so that kind of makes sense. Hmm... Well played, writers… well played. So here’s a bit of a discussion point – given that the High Priestess displays quite the serious skill of her own in fighting Ashi, who curb-stomped an army of thousands single-handed, why did she not simply join the Daughters when there were still seven of them and assist them in crushing Jack? Did she think she had to stay behind in case they failed and she would have to replicate the feat of having sextuplets? This seems like a serious case of Villainous Stupidity on her part. Poor form, writers… poor form! Well, at any rate, Jack has his sword back, HJ/MJ and HP (probably) are toast and Ashi is still alive. Aku’s days appear to be numbered… in fact, only three episodes remain! Join me again for the next episode of Samurai Jack Season 5. In the meantime, leave your comments below and remember to stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack Tracking (Episode XCVII)

The fun fun fun continues with the sixth episode of Samurai Ashi… I mean, Samurai Jack Season 5. While Ashi tracks Jack’s journey, a villain unexpectedly returns, on a journey of his own. Will the villain’s dastardly plan succeed? Will Ashi find Jack before he does something irreversible? Isn’t it weird how the word “irreversible” is itself irreversible? (Well, not if you want it to make sense anyway…) Questions, questions! And the answers lie below, so let’s leap right in…   What happens We rejoin a concerned Ashi riding on an airship. She is attacked by two large hooded creatures who have heard her asking about Jack’s whereabouts. She dodges them and tells them she is trying to find Jack to help him. They reveal themselves as two of the Woolies – a race that Jack saved in the previous seasons. We get a flashback to the relevant event. (Get used to that happening in this episode.) A staff member of the airship tells Ashi that Jack got off in this area, and she immediately leaps out of the airship. She uses her sickle-onna-chain to slow her descent into a forest and continues on her journey. Back in the destroyed village from the first episode of Season 5, what is left of Scaramouch reactivates and rejoices in being alive, baby… despite being just a head and neck, which reduces him to moving around at the pace that a bunny hops. Or perhaps the pace that a fox trots.
How is he going to do the Fandango, now? With his phone destroyed, he shoulders the burden of giving Aku the news about Jack’s loss of his sword in person, and legs it, since he has some news he needs to get off his chest. You’ve got to hand it to him for being resolute, folks! You wouldn’t think he had the stomach for it! He’s not totally ‘armless yet! Okay, I’ll stop now. For every body’s sake. Ashi sees a group of Akubots riddled with arrows on the retreat. The archers responsible for the robot rout confront her and ask if she is a friend or foe of Jack’s. When she says she is the former, they lead her to their village complete with giant Jack statue and relate their tale (by flashback, natch). They were tricked by Aku (slight “retcon” there, I’ll come back to it) into gaining superlative skill at the cost of being enslaved to protect a magic Wishing Well. Jack defeated them and destroyed the Well instead of wishing for passage home, and thus freed them. However, they haven’t seen him recently, so she continues on. Scaramouch finds a port, and tries to board a ship. He is stopped by a bouncer (oh, the irony!), who won’t let him on because he’s just a head, and when he boasts about being Aku’s favourite bounty hunter / assassin, is pointed to a sign that lists him as #3. He finally gets on board by bribing a guy with a shrunken head into letting him use his body. Once they part ways, Scarrie opines that the guy looks kind of like a talking penis… Yes, he uses the actual word “penis”. We’ll come back to that, too. Back to Ashi, who hears rave music and travels down to Funky town. When she asks a party-goer if a Samurai came this way, a spotlight shines down on her. The DJ (who is YARC - Yet Another Returning Character) asks the obligatory “Friend or Foe” question, and then plays a tribute track to Jack, telling how, well, just guess… Yup, you got it in one… how Jack saved them once. They all dance the Jack Dance and make S shapes with their fingers, before sending Ashi to the next checkpoint. Said checkpoint is a clear water spring with a waterfall and pool and all. Ashi remembers a particular childhood ceremony, where was dumped naked into a bunch of presumably not entirely mundane coals, thus creating her catsuit by burning it directly onto her skin! She enters the pool and uses a rock to scrape the catsuit away. Since this leaves her naked, she creates a dress using the plant life around her to replace it.
I guess it’s the latest spring fashion! (The joke works in two ways! ) Scarrie is enjoying his cruise, albeit with a few bumps along the way, but he manages to locate a phone and get through to Aku. Before he can spill the beans re Swordless Jack, though, he gets into an argument with some dogmen about the noise they are making, and is thrown overboard. Aku hangs up, never realizing how close he came to getting the information he needed to hunt down and destroy Jack once and for all. Huzzah! Good going, Scaradouche! You see, Lone Star, Good will always triumph, because Evil is dumb! Or something like that. Ashi finds a bar where she meets Da Samurai (YARC), who is now the bartender, and has been for many years. She hears how Jack defeated many of the bar patrons in the past, and even taught Da Samurai what it really means to be a samurai. The group is also graced by a cameo from Demongo the Soul Collector (YARC). Leaving the bar, she runs into a shadowy figure who directs her towards Jack (YARC?). She finds him sitting in a graveyard with a bare blade in front of him. The Apparition, who is finally officially named as the Omen in the credits, appears and floats over to her, telling her she can witness, but not interfere. When she asks what she is to witness, Omen responds “the end.” The Omen then tells Jack he has been dishonoured by his failures, and he must therefore commit seppuku. Ashi tries to get through to Jack as he prepares to disembowel himself, and the Omen fights with her. Overmatched by the spirit in strength, but agile enough to evade his attacks, Ashi continues to remind Jack of all the people he has helped over the years, and the lives he has saved (including hers.) Nothing seems to help, and the Omen declares “No more words!” but Ashi finally reveals to Jack that the children he thought he had helped kill are still alive. This breaks Jack out of his suicidal depression and he quickly puts paid to the Omen. Jack compliments Ashi’s new look, and thanks her for her help. She asks “What now?” and Jack replies, “It's time to find my sword.” Aww, snap! Looks like Aku had better… WATCH OUT! Thoughts on the Episode Let’s first deal with the ever-classy Scaramouch, and the “penis” line. Umm… yeah… for the record, I did NOT expect that sort of line in Samurai Jack. Ever. I kind of had to stop the video for a minute after that and simply... marvel. By the way, how does a robot even have the context for that sort of comment? All he should have down there is plastic underpants and a trademark! (I will wuvs you forever if you can tell me where that reference originates! ) He got very close to ruining things for Jack, but luckily, his cocky attitude (heh) got him in enough trouble that he wasn’t able to get the message across to Aku, so sighs of relief all around. "Evil will oft evil mars", indeed. If he had just been polite to those he encountered, he would have succeeded and that would probably have been curtains for Jack before he could get his sword back. Speaking of the sword, I’m glad that Jack is finally back on track as far as defeating Aku once and for all goes. While my suggestion that Ashi might have to sacrifice herself to bring Jack back to the land of the living was incorrect, (although she did risk being killed by the Omen, so give me half points, okay?) she might still have to do so to retrieve the sword. I hope not, though; killing her off after she finally came over to the Light side would be pretty cruel. Blood, eyebeams of death and mentions of male reproductive anatomy aside, I don’t think Season 5 is going to go that dark. Next, as I contemplate Ashi, there’s that whole thing with the origin of her form-fitting catsuit. It appears to be less a garment and more, well, wearable charcoal. This reveal pretty much means the Daughters have in fact been wearing little more than black body paint this entire time, which is just odd to contemplate. I mean, freedom of movement I can see as being an advantage, but what about modesty, huh? They aren’t Doctor Manhattan, with his "withdrawing from humanity" excuse, is all I’m saying. Plus the logistics of it all… how do the Daughters go to the bathroom or deal with menstruation or any of that? On second thought, maybe it doesn’t need to be thought about too much. I like Ashi's new look, particularly the Expository Hairstyle Change. It makes her look even more Asian, which brings me to a Wild Mass Guess: could Jack, somehow, be the FATHER of the Daughters of Aku? I admit it’s unlikely that the High Priestess was impregnated by Jack, given the whole “we have to kill the Samurai” deal, but it would certainly put an ironic spin on Ashi’s quest to kill him and subsequent conversion to being his ally. Then again, "[50 - Ashi's Age + nine months] years of no progress" + young man's body = rather big need for stress relief... intriguing... It's probably just my imagination running wild again, but time will tell. Ashi’s journey is a textbook example of a Continuity Cavalcade, with many appearances from characters featured in episodes from previous seasons or YARCs, as I decided to call them. It fulfills two purposes… it expands the knowledge of newcomers to the series and serves as a nostalgia buffet for fans like me. Best of all, because of the first point, it’s not actually fan service! Slice of Life, take note! Again, I note the distinct lack of the Guardian, but there are still four episodes to go, so plenty of time for him to reappear. Perhaps once Jack actually defeats Aku, he will age a bit (not the full 50 years, but a decade at least) and his appearance will become more like it was shown in the relevant episode, and we'll have a final Jack / Guardian showdown. Or maybe that’s all going to be retconned. Again, not much to do about it but wait and see. Genndy Tartakovsky, don't fail me now! Speaking of retcons, the archers mention that they found out after the fact that Aku was the one who cursed them. If I remember the episode in question correctly, the Well was a Jerkass Genie that had nothing to do with Aku: it granted wishes, but always in some kind of twisted, monkey’s-paw-esque way. The archers wished for unbeatable skill with their bows, which they were given... in return for becoming mindless slaves conscripted into protecting the Well. Jack decided he couldn’t risk his wish to return to his own time being corrupted in the same way, and therefore destroyed the Well instead. This episode says it was Aku’s doing all along… which I find somewhat unsatisfying. It’s not like Aku is the ONLY evil being in existence, and having it all bad stuff somehow trace back to him seems unnecessarily trite and simply bad writing, in the final analysis. Oh, Well. (Heh.) A quick word on the Jack Track; I blame that on Tara “Twilight Sparkle” Strong, as she provides the voice of Ashi. I guess she can’t appear in any series where there isn’t at least one musical interlude. In seriousness, though, I used the word “blame”, but the song isn’t that bad, and to see Ashi just having fun dancing for once was very heartwarming. Plus lots of hot swaying bods to look at.
Why isn’t Scaramouch at the rave? Because he had no body to go with! Dah dum TISH! This episode again had no HalluciJack. Maybe the Omen and HalluiJack were connected in some way, so once the Omen had Jack ready to commit seppuku, HJ was no longer necessary. Maybe we’ll never know, but some clarity there would be appreciated. (Yes, I know I’ve implied in the past that “mystery is good”, but I want this particular thing explained, dammit! So sue me.) Again, this was a good episode, niggles aside. Plenty of call backs, more Scaramouchy goodness (as it were), Ashi getting a new outfit to mirror her change of heart, and best of all, Jack’s finally got his game face on, and is determined to find his sword, defeat Aku and get back, back to the past! And Sunny Fox will be with him each step of the way! Until the next episode airs, feel free to make your mark below, tell me what you think, and don’t forget to always stay, as they say, sunny side up! PS – I guess I should get around to reviewing Season 7 of MLP at some point… I'll keep you updated, y'all. Mwah!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Scotsman’s Back (Episode XCVI)

And he got biz-zay! It’s a whole family of Supers Scots!   What happens Three armies arrive at Aku’s tower, one army of tanks, one army of rhino-riders and one army of statuesque red-headed Scottish warrior women. These are led by the Scotsman, Jack’s old buddy… now literally his old buddy. Although he is now grey-haired, one-eyed and wheelchair-bound, the Scotsman hasn’t lost his pep, and is delighted to have found Aku’s lair. After seeing what his daughter is wearing to the battle, he tells her and the others to cover up, producing a mass groan of “Da-aaaad…!” They obey him and cover themselves, promptly to uncover themselves again as the Scotsman gives the order to charge. The tanks and rhinos advance and launch missiles at Aku’s tower, while the Scots charge, the Scotsman's wheelchair being pushed by Scottish Daughter #1, Flora. Inside, Aku demands to know what all the noise is, and is told by his computer’s voice – no doubt on loan from Invader Zim – that he is under attack. Unzipping his vid-window, Aku is delighted to see some enemies he can crush – which he does, literally; he shapeshifts into a ball and simply rolls over the first two armies. Miley Cyrus, eat your heart out! Seeing this, the Scotsman realizes that the attack was foolhardy and instructs his daughters to run for it while he distracts Aku, who is aiming to complete the slaughter. The Scotsman taunts Aku, calling him a scared baby hiding in his crib, terrified that Samurai Jack is still out there inspiring people to resist him. Aku cuts him off by way of laser eyebeams, leaving behind the Scotman’s skeleton for a moment or two before it crumbles to dust. Aku is satisfied at first, but then gets depressed again at the reminder of the Samurai and goes back to his tower. The Scottish Daughters mourn the loss of their father and pick up his broken sword as a memento, but then his ashes stir and the Scotsman’s ghost appears. The Scotsghost is delighted to note he is back and back in his prime, no less. His answer to his marveling Scottish Daughters as to how this is possible? Why, Celtic magic, o’ course! Magic runes, laddie! All them fancy eye beams will get ye nowhere! The Scottsghost vows to raise another even bigger army and to find Samurai Jack to lead them. Meanwhile, Ashi and Jack are still on that island. Ashi has a vision of the High Priestess urging her to complete her mission and kill Jack, but she argues with it instead, saying she wants to know the truth. The HP accuses her of always being the weak one, but the vision ends. Ashi then gets to ride on Jack’s giant snake… wait, let me rephrase that… Jack summons a sea serpent to swim them to the shore, and says farewell to Ashi. She continues to follow him, however, and when he stops for the night, she demands that he prove to her that he is the good guy and Aku is the bad guy. Jack refuses, not believing she is able to let go of her long-infused hatred enough to accept the truth. She is angry at this, and makes as if to leave, but Jack changes his mind and tells her he will prove that he is telling the truth if she follows him tomorrow. Ashi lies on a rock looking at the sky and asks if it is true that Aku made the stars, but Jack tells her the fairy tale that his mother taught him about two children, Sun and Moon, who rode a phoenix and shot arrows into the sky to make the stars.
D’aawww! Who’s a cute little anthropomorphic representation of a heavenly body? You are! Yes, you are! The following day, Jack and Ashi travel to a field of jagged rocks with a single tree. He tells her that this field used to be covered with those trees, but Aku destroyed them, leaving but one left as a taunting reminder of what he had done. Seeing she is still not convinced, Jack takes her to a space port, where a gang of exiled criminals have just docked. An official of Aku allocates them land that is already occupied by innocent, peaceful people, and it is implied the criminals will simply dispose of them when they land. The two end up in a village that has been destroyed, and all the children kidnapped. Ashi is finally convinced of the truth of the evilness of Aku, and they attempt a rescue, but the children have been given implants that allow them to be controlled and turned into an army of mindless beserkers. Jack tries to fend them off while Ashi tries to locate the controlling device. She does, but is trapped and electrically tortured by the operator while the children continue to attack Jack in a frenzy, who is unable to fight effectively due to his need to hold back. Ashi manages to free herself, knock out the operator and shut down the machine. This causes the children to “short out” and collapse. Jack, horrified that he and Ashi might have killed them all, gives a scream of denial and slumps down. The Apparition appears and tells Jack, “It is time.” Jack simply agrees, and walks off into the green mist. Meanwhile, Ashi comes back down to find the children lying there. She cradles one of them and is delighted when the child stirs. The rest start waking up as well. Overjoyed at their triumph, Ashi looks around for Jack, and is anguished when she can’t find him. She starts calling for him, for the very first time using his full name. Annnd… WATCH OUT!   Thoughts on the Episode Huzzah! for the return of the Scotsman! I always did like that guy, and although I knew he would reappear (Thanks, Internet, for spoiling that! #sarcasm), it did me good to see him still fighting the good fight. Not a smart fight, mind you, but a good fight. And boy howdy, are his little swimmers strong! Every one of those Scottish ladies is his daughter. His poor wife! I assume she has passed by this point, since he doesn’t mention her. Classic cranky old father behaviour when he harangues them all for dressing like “ye was going to a dance!” and making them cover up, however briefly. Tension breaking moment of humour there, I like it, I do like it. The Scotsman is just hilarious in general, though. Seeing Aku effortlessly plough through two armies… “Ye know what, this was a bad idea!” Gee, ya think? Now all we need to complete the roster of awesome is for the Guardian to return. Aku claims to have destroyed all the time portals… but I think he missed that one. Because Jack has to go back to the past somehow, and that portal was the only one that came equipped with a prophecy. Although how that vision of an older Jack defeating the Guardian gels with the current situation of Jack’s current status as the Ageless, we’ll have to wait and see. Anyhoo, previous Season tangent ahoy! Gotta get back, back to the past present! I’ll admit my flabber was ghasted when the Scottsman was blasted. My gob was thoroughly smacked. After waiting so long to see his return, I felt it was a very unceremonious, nigh ignominious death. I mean, I know Season 5 hasn’t been puppies (with laser-beam eyes or otherwise) and rainbows (on fire or otherwise), but that seemed rather bleak even for the darker and bloodier tone the new episodes have got going on. Sheesh… Luckily, he soon comes back as the Scotsghost, so that turned out all right. Speaking of ghosts… while we don’t get a HJ appearance, we do get the Apparition… and boo yah! I was right about him being some sort of “Jack joins his ancestors in death” deal. In the wake of the “death” of yet more innocents, this time children, and believing himself partially responsible, Jack finally agrees it’s time to leave this cruel reality, shuffle off the mortal coil, join the Choir Invisible, pine for the fjords, yeah, you get the idea. I’m not quite sure I feel about that. Yes, Jack isn’t exactly a paragon of stability these days, but to just assume that all the children had died without even checking to make sure seems a step a little too far. With such good writing as we’ve been treated to up to this point, this particular development seems forced. I guess it ain’t SJ S5 without a cliffhanger ending. And the operator’s speech about “children are gullible and therefore easy to control”, while ironic in being delivered to Ashi, doesn’t really make much sense given that, y’know, the village kids are literally being controlled. It’s not at all the same situation as Ashi’s. Those nitpicks aside, though, this episode was fine. Perhaps not quite as engaging as some previous episodes, but Ashi is now on the side of right, Jack is off communing with his dearly departed, the Scotsghost is raising an army and things proceed apace towards their conclusion. And just one more review to go before we’re all caught up! Will Ashi find Jack? Will she have to remain behind in the world of the dead in order to send him back to the land of the living? Will Batman ever get rid of that bomb? Questions, questions! Please leave comments, commendations or condemnations below, if you consider that course congruent with your conscience. Chocolate chip cookies, you’ll have to send by courier. Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack’s Backpack (Episode XCV)

I’m getting a sinking feeling that the theme naming of these entries is going to become harder to pull off... and speaking of sinking feelings, let’s check in with Jack and Ashi!   What happens Jack falls from the sky, hitting a few branches on the way down that slow his descent enough for the snow to cushion his impact and save his life. When he regains consciousness, he leaps up in panic, swinging a spear around in case of attack (STOP! Hammerspace! ...Oh, God, I’m old…) The only creatures in sight are some crows, and Jack calms down a bit. He notices a blood trail, and follows it to find Ashi, lying as if dead. The crows begin to caw at him, Jack hearing it as a chorus accusing him of murder; in defiance, he shouts back that it was the Daughters’ choices that lead to their death, ending the latest hallucination… but not the last one we’ll see in this episode. When he gets close to Ashi’s “body”, she leaps up and attacks him with her sausage-onna-bun sickle-onna-chain (actually, the former is generally considered to be more lethal than the latter). However, on her own she is quickly defeated and left dangling wrapped up in her own chain again. She verbally lays into Jack once more, but when he just stands there watching her swing, she eventually runs down. Jack tells her she is confused about the respective locations of Jack and Aku on the spectrum of morality, and muses that he has met machines programmed with Aku’s lies and hate, but never a human. Ashi is having none of it, however, having been warned by the High Priestess that Jack is deceptive. Tricksy and false, precious, yesss. Their “conversation” is interrupted by a colossal worm devouring them and half the nearby landscape. Even while falling towards the monster’s maw, Ashi is still trying to cut down Jack, which pretty much just annoys him at this point. She knocks herself out on some of the floating debris, and Jack grabs her as they enter the body of the creature, Jack slowing their descent with his feet. After setting her down, Jack rests for a bit, only to hear joyous laughter from an awoken Ashi, who praises Aku and rejoices that Jack has finally been defeated: they’ve both been devoured and are in her opinion already dead. Jack replies that he has been inside giant beasts before and escaped. A group of large bugs approaches, and Jack uses the chains still wrapped around Ashi to make her into a backpack, to her annoyance.
Presenting: AshiUshiro! Stylish and practical! Get yours today at your local GIANT WORM! She still tries to sabotage Jack, even as he fights, but a glancing blow from an enemy knocks her unconscious. Jack defeats the monsters and escapes further into the kaiju. During a rest period, Jack hallucinates some more (I’m getting tired of typing that word at this point), having a conversation with a British-sounding puffball and then HalluciJack. HJ scoffs at him for “getting involved” again with Ashi, and reckons that he should just give over trying to convince her to join his side and simply leave her to her own devices. Jack notes that Ashi is resisting him not because she is inherently evil, but because she’s been fed lies her whole life; she’s essentially an innocent victim. He also blames himself for the situation, since he never found a way to defeat Aku and return to his own time. While Ashi watches Jack argue with himself, another kind of bug monster abducts her, and Jack is forced to rescue her. Then back on his back she goes as the journey continues. Various scenes of odd Parasites Of Unusual Size ensue, until Jack and Ashi find themselves close to an exit from the monster (That’s good!)… pity it’s located over a pit of acid. (That’s bad.) However, various flying creatures are in the same area. (That’s good!) But so is a giant predatory flying fish. (That’s bad.) Barely avoiding the predator, Jack and Ashi are shot out of the exit, escaping the kaiju and landing in the sea. Luckily, there is an island nearby. Jack drags Ashi to it and then sits down to rest and recover. Ashi, seeing him with his guard down and his back turned, manages to find her sickle and creeps towards him. However, a ladybug suddenly flies past. Ashi remembers the High Priestess crushing one that found its way in the Cult's cave, and notes that this one lands on Jack's hand. He simply smiles and lets it fly away. Comparing his behaviour with what she has been taught he is like, she finds she is unable to kill him. She drops the weapon and hugs her knees while she contemplates and… SHE DOUBTS!   Thoughts on the Episode I laugh at Ashi and Jack’s first conversation. “You are very troubled…and very confused,” indeed. It’s a minor laugh in a rather dark season. In retrospect, the whole getting swallowed thing was ultimately fortunate for Jack. Actions speak louder than words, and Jack’s continual heroism in keeping Ashi alive really hits home for her in the end. Not to mention the ladybug scene. Throughout Ashi’s appearances, there’s been one aspect of her nature that is highlighted: her curiosity. Curiosity is the bleach to indoctrination’s mould. A curious person asks questions and their eyes (and minds) are open, so they are the hardest to pull the wool over. Once she saw that Jack’s actions gave the lie to the picture of him she had been painted, she found it impossible to hold to her belief in his evilocity (Yes, I know that’s not a real word, just go with it). Of course, while she can’t simply kill him out of hand anymore, she still doesn’t fully trust him. She’s simply considering the new information she now has about him. While Jack is quite right about her being a victim of a slanted worldview and therefore blameless, he doesn’t seem to have extended that logic to the Daughters he has already killed. Or perhaps he has, and that guilt is just hidden. Will we see Jack having hallu – grrr… visions of the Daughters in a later episode? Perhaps he reasons that despite their innocence, at the time he had the choice of him or them, and can lay the blame for their deaths at the feet of whoever raised them to hate him. Questions, questions. Obligatory HalluciJack cameo is obligatory. Quite strange how he notes that Ashi has disappeared before Jack notices. Is HJ really a product of Jack's mental strain, or could it be somehow independent? A ghost Aku cursed him with that tries its best to get him to just "end it all"? I'm probably overthinking things. Jack inside a giant monster: been there, done that, got the furry-back armour. Still, Ashi is now at least entertaining the belief that Jack isn't the evil she was told he was, so the interlude didn’t happen without reason. We are moving right along to the reappearance of everyone’s favourite Celtic warrior, so I’ll see you in the next episode, and don’t forget to stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack Attacks Back (Episode XCIV)

Rivers and caves and wolves, oh my! Welcome back, loyal readers! Today I look at the third episode of Samurai Jack Season 5. There’s quite a lot to get through, too, so let’s not waste any more time and dive in like we just got stabbed in the gut and found a river!   What happens Following Jack’s first battle with the Daughters of Aku, he is left bleeding out while floating downstream. After the shock of going over a waterfall, Jack regains consciousness long enough to grab onto a log, and is later startled by a frog sitting on the log that shouts, “They’re coming!” causing him to panic. Jack finally gets to shore, leaving a few patches and handprints of blood. Finding a cave, he drags himself into it, finally pulling out the dagger from his stomach before collapsing again. HalluciJack returns, looking a lot more monstrous this time.
Here’s JACKIE!! (And yes, I know they used this joke in the show.) He taunts Jack about having killed a human for the first time, not simply a robot… although he also points out that Jack has left literal piles of robot corpses in his wake, (at least one of which was sentient, which is pretty close to killing a living person). Jack is so weak he can barely speak, much less argue with his alter-ego. HalluciJack continues, saying that the rest of the Daughters will still be coming after him, and that he will have to kill them, or let them kill him instead… or is that exactly what Jack is counting on? Jack denies it. The white wolf from the previous episode also comes into the cave, but sensing that Jack is a kindred spirit, the wolf doesn’t attack, instead allowing him to share the den. Pulling himself together a bit, he uses a piece of bone and some plant fibres as needle and thread to stitch up his own wound. Jack continues to spend time with the white wolf as they both recover from their injuries. The wolf helps Jack find food, licks his wounds and even curls up with him on cold nights. Eventually, the wolf is back to its full strength, and sets out, leaving Jack to ponder. Jack has a flashback to his childhood before the return of Aku, when his father, the Emperor, had his carriage/palanquin/whatever-they-used-in-ancient-Japan-to-cart-around-Royalty attacked by bandits. After killing all the guards, the bandits call him out. The Emperor calmly tells him them to leave peacefully, or they will be killed. When the bandits refuse and attack anyway, the Emperor slaughters them in seconds. Jack is watching through a gap in the door, and has his face splattered with blood. Later on, the Emperor cleans Jack’s face, and tells him that everyone is a product of their choices. This memory gives Jack the resolve to fight the Daughters, even kill them if necessary. Meanwhile, the Daughters have managed to find their way out of the collapsed temple, dragging the body of their dead sister. However, they simply dump her body and leave, stating that “Death is failure.” The remaining sisters travel down the river, finding the occasional evidence of Jack’s trail, following it into the forest. While in the forest, they see a deer. Having never been outside their Cult’s temple, however, they are unsure exactly what it is, presuming it’s a minion of Aku. Then the larger buck steps into the open, and they conclude this is a stronger minion, that will kill and eat the smaller deer. Instead, the two start nuzzling, which totally surprises and even weirds out the Daughters. As the Daughters stalk closer, they hear Jack’s voice from the trees. He gives them the same ultimatum his father gave the bandits, to leave or stay and face their “destiny”. Ashi retorts that “Our destiny is your death!”, and they reject his offer. Jack suddenly bursts out from under the snow, using handmade spears to kill three of them in rapid succession. The remaining three Daughters team up and manage to hold their own for the most part. However, Jack has prepared the terrain too well, and after a running battle, they have a final showdown on a fallen tree over a high cliff face. Forced by the narrow arena to face him one on one, the Daughter quickly find out that Jack still outclasses them individually. The first sister (who uses a spear) he fights barehanded, eventually throwing her off the tree, presumably to plunge to her doom. The second sister attacks and Jack punches her so hard her neck is broken, and she too falls. The final sister (Ashi, who else?) manages to put up the strongest fight, but even she is ultimately defeated and left dangling from her chain, losing her mask in the process. She goes into a furious tirade against Jack, insulting him, and vowing to never stop trying to kill him. Jack is unmoved and calmly unwraps the chain from his arm and lets Ashi drop, still screaming imprecations. He breathes a sigh of relief… then the tree below him snaps off and he too falls.
I guess he forgot to… WATCH OUT!   Thoughts on the Episode Jack hallucinates a lot in this season, doesn’t he? The frog, the haranguing from HalluciJack, the weird blood-trickling-everywhere scene when he meets the wolf; the list goes on. I think this is justified due to his 50 years of induced mental issues, plus massive blood loss. No, really, with all the blood spilled it’s a wonder he has any left in him five minutes in. Although HalluciJack does state that the wound itself is not the reason he becomes so weak and feverish (“You’ve survived worse.” Yes, but not on-screen, HalluciJack!), but instead the realization that he has killed another human being for the first time. This episode confirms that up to this point, Jack has only fought or killed robots, certain previous season episodes about bounty hunter team-ups notwithstanding. Hurray, we can stop arguing about it now! And it only took 13 years, too. The white wolf returns! As I mentioned in my previous episode review, the parallel story of the wolf being included in it strikes me as unnecessary. Here he actually plays a role in helping Jack to survive, so he has a valid justification for inclusion. In my opinion, the wolf’s appearance here in this episode would have worked equally as well had it been the first time we saw him. We know who the wolf is and how he was injured, but I would have preferred the air of mystery. It would have worked well with the frog, too, to create an “even nature wants Jack to survive” theme. Ah, well, their story, their blatant symbolism and unnecessary clarity, I suppose. The interlude with the Daughters and the deer is simultaneously amusing and saddening. It highlights just how ignorant the Daughters are of the world they are supposedly trying to defend by killing the Samurai. The one Daughter opining, “I don’t like it!” when the deer are showing affection makes it clear just how little affection the Daughters have experienced themselves in their lives, to the point where it’s an alien and uncomfortable concept to them. Moving on to Jack’s flash back – once again, the sheer beauty of the animation and the skill of the writing are demonstrated – the colours are fantastically vibrant, and the way Jack and his father share a moment of quiet awkwardness in the wake of what would definitely be a shocking experience for a young child is simply wonderful storytelling. The expressions let us experience the emotions of the two better than any dialogue could. And the father’s explanation of what happened and how it was necessary, even if unfortunate, is exactly how a good father would discuss a difficult topic with a young child. Choice and consequence: people must decide their own path and they have to accept the outcome of their choices. And if that means you have to kill them to defend yourself and your family, then that’s their responsibility, not yours. How good a moral that ultimately is, is an exercise left to the reader. Jack’s rematch with the Daughters is awesome. Jack shows just how skilled a warrior he is, and turns the tables on them perfectly by ambushing them in turn. Reality Ensues: training from birth is not effective as 50 years of fighting experience, not to mention Jack’s own extensive training with multiple weapons. Only as a group do they have any chance of defeating Jack. A thought here about the Daughters: they do clearly know how to work together and fight as a unit, as their Ashura mode shows.
Maybe it’s actually the Dazzlings in disguise? I like the way Jack uses his battle experience to good effect to lure them out to where he makes his stand, choosing a place where the terrain nullifies the advantage of their superior numbers, allowing him to basically curb stomp them one by one. Ashi is the only one who manages to injure Jack when alone, and even then it was more that Jack was allowing her attack to hit so that he could use the chain against her. Ashi’s final tirade against Jack smacks of a child throwing a temper tantrum, and Jack clearly treats it as such. He barely bothers to listen as he unwraps the chain and drops Ashi. That he follows her in free fall a few moments later is quite ironic, and gives us a downer ending (pun intended). It was not something I expected, to be honest, so good for you, writers! On another note – Jack definitely kills the first three sisters, and the one he punched probably died immediately, but apart from Ashi, there was one more sister he simply tossed off the tree, who by rights should be alive. Although she fell into a different place than it seems Jack and Ashi did, and may therefore have made landfall in a rather more fatal fashion. Still, it’s possible she might return. This episode crammed a lot in: Jack’s recovery, his flashback and the final fight, but it managed to do it all with aplomb. If the previous episode had a gripe-worthy element or two, this episode pretty much redeems all of that. Plus yay for white wolf survival! This fox approves. Season 5 goes from (slightly lowered) strength to strength. Join me again soon as we find out who will be dropping in on the next episode. Same fox-time; same fox-blog. Stay sunny side up and don’t forget to WATCH OUT! (Like Jack did.)

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack’s Attacked (Episode XCIII)

Here we go with the second episode of Season 5, featuring the first fight between immortal wandering Ronin Jack and the team of warriors dedicated literally from birth to slaying him, the Daughters of Aku. Things are going to get interesting...   What happens The first part of this episode allows us to catch up with an old friend: the Shapeshifting Master of Darkness, the Emperor of Evil, the Shogun of Sorrow… the one, the only, AKU! After waking up, while dealing with dirt-tracking delegations and socializing with scheming scientists, Aku tries to brush aside any mention of the Samurai, saying he no longer cares whether Jack is still running around, and sinks back down out of sight. In actuality, though, he is very much in despair and depression over the issue. He has a conversation with a psychiatrist version of himself, lamenting the fact that his plan of destroying all the time portals and letting old age defeat Jack for him has backfired so horribly, since Jack no longer ages.
Special Offer: Two LARGE HAMS for the price of one! He wonders idly if there is not someone out there who will take care of the whole having-an-immortal-mortal-enemy-thorn-in-his-side issue for him. Cut to Jack, as he is ambushed by the Daughters, who wreck his bike and attack him with such speed and ferocity that he can barely even track their movements as they hit from all sides. In the melee, he loses his Tuning Fork Sword to one of his attackers. Pressed to his limit, he manages to use a belt of grenades as a smokescreen and hides under a metal dome (wreckage of a giant robot Jack easily defeated earlier in the episode) as it begins to rain. And enter HallicuJack – a version similar in appearance to Jack as he had been in previous seasons, his hair still neatly tied up, clean shaven and dressed in his signature robe. Jack and HalluciJack have an argument as HalluciJack claims that these new enemies are too strong for him, and he should just give up. Jack responds that his opponents are only nuts and bolts; he has been in seemingly hopeless situations before, but then finds a way to survive. HalluciJack counters that that was when he still had his sword, and further states that he just wants this to end and that their ancestors are waiting for him to join them. Jack sees the Apparition again, but behind it, he sees the entrance to a temple. Ignoring HalluciJack’s certainty that he’ll be killed before he reaches it, Jack sprints for the entrance and its promise of safety, the Daughters soon following. Jack goes to ground in the darkness, but rather than searching for the needle in this temple haystack, the Daughters instead hide themselves to lure him out. After a period of stillness, Jack attempts to sneak out again, but can’t avoid encounters with the Daughters. Eventually, he runs into a giant cavern filled with sarcophagi and the remains of an unknown Warrior King and his armies.
He keeps them up his sleevies… Jack hides in one of the sarcophagi, and the Daughters regroup in order to stalk him. After a tense game of hide and seek, Jack is discovered and the fight resumes. Finally, the last of Jack’s armour is destroyed, leaving him clad only in a loincloth. He manages to gain some distance and runs desperately through the corridors seeking escape. One of the Daughters (the one who took his Tuning Fork Sword) cuts him off, but with only a single opponent to face, Jack manages to take it back and in one swift counter-attack, slits her throat. Her mask falls apart, revealing the face beneath. Jack is horrified to realize that what he thought was just another machine was really a human being. He also discovers that she managed to stab him with her own dagger in the last moments of the fight. Bleeding heavily, Jack drags himself towards the end of the corridor, leaving a long smear of his own blood on the stone. He uses the Tuning Fork Sword on the walls of the corridor, and falls into a fast-flowing river, just as the temple explodes and partially collapses. Jack floats face down in the water, bleeding aaaand… WATCH OUT!   Thoughts on the Episode Savvy readers may note that the summary makes no mention of the white wolf fighting the tigers. I left it out because one – it interrupts the flow of the summary unnecessarily; and letter number B – I feel it didn’t add anything to the episode itself. I know that the wolf’s story parallels Jack’s own struggle against the Daughters, and that the wolf himself reappears in the following episode, but symbolism for its own sake, particularly blatant symbolism, can be distracting and actually detract from a story. And I think it kind of did here. Also, we know Jack will survive, so showing the wolf apparently dead after the battle with the tigers doesn’t even work as misdirection. Still, these are relatively minor gripes. Back to the episode itself. Yay! Aku’s back, too! And we get to see his take on the whole situation, which is “yup, this sucks”. The psychiatrist version of Aku is pretty funny, seemingly being more eloquent than Aku himself, even though it doesn’t make that much sense, considering it IS Aku himself. While the original voice actor of Aku, Mako Iwamatsu, unfortunately is no longer with us, the new guy, Greg Baldwin (thanks, IMDB!) does a pretty good version… not perfect, but then, Mako was one of a kind. I had kind of hoped that Aku would remain unseen for a while longer, to make his eventual return to the small screen more impactful, but since we already heard him on the phone, I guess him being The Ghost in this season wouldn’t make that much sense. Greg Baldwin has bills to pay, too, you know. This scene does serve to give a bit of light humour amid the rather dark tone of the rest of the episode, so there’s that, I guess. This episode being mostly a running battle with Jack against the Daughters, there isn’t much to talk about apart from the HalluciJack scene (a rather darker mirror of the earlier Aku segment) and the hide-and-seek scene, so let’s go over those. The fact that the Apparition appears when the HalluciJack part of Jack mentions suicide firms my opinion that the Apparition is the representation of Jack’s desire to end it all, which he struggles against. There’s a bit of libido / destrudo dualism there – while the word libido has been co-opted to mean “sex drive” in common parlance, it’s probably more accurately described as the desire for life, as opposed to the desire for death – and making an external representation to portray an internal struggle is pretty common in fiction. Stinker HalluciJack is going to be a fixture from here on out, though, so we’ll have a chance to discuss him again further down the line. The scene with the cavern and the Daughters hunting Jack down is simply wonderful, and perhaps the best part of this episode – the music ratchets up the tension beautifully (the music is almost too beautiful) and Jack’s terror is highlighted here, but I do have one or two questions. First, I didn’t quite understand the firefly bit. Does that represent Jack’s fading hope the closer the Daughters come, or did the firefly somehow lead them to him – which doesn’t make sense since it was inside with Jack. Secondly, exactly how do the Daughters all gravitate to the correct sarcophagus, if the firefly was inside and didn’t lead them there? Any explanation would be welcome, since I don’t quite understand that part. The final fight with the single Daughter provides us with the non-robotic reveal, and reaffirms Jack’s superiority – while outclassed by the Daughters as a whole in this episode, one-on-one he is still the better warrior. In fact, the final stab the Daughter gets in probably would have been avoidable had Jack not been in a blind panic and already at the tail end of his strength from the previous fighting. This scene also cements the tone shift by actually presenting real, red, non-oil blood being spilled for the first time – on both sides. We’ve seen Jack get scratches now and then before, but actual messy, bleeding abdominal stab wounds is a first here. It’s done so suddenly that the blood is legitimately shocking on first viewing. Well, unless you’ve been watching the previews or adverts, it would be. It’s fortunate for Jack that the sister he faced had his TFS: convenient coincidence is convenient. Another honourable mention for the scenes fought in darkness, lit up only when steel strikes sparks. It’s simply beautiful to watch and gives an idea of just how skilled the fighters all are… just not quite skilled enough on the Daughters’ side, as the above paragraph demonstrates. Overall, despite some question marks, the second episode of Season 5 is pretty solid. The Daughters are set up as a legitimate threat to Jack’s life, his continual struggle with pushing himself on despite having little hope and running more on pure stubbornness to survive than any kind of end goal helps us identify with and root for our favourite samurai, and there is even a little comic relief from everyone’s favourite Architect of Annihilation Aku to keep the mood from getting too bleak. And that was episode, still bringing the thrills. I’ll be back to give my thoughts on the next episode real soon. Complain or compliment below, you know the drill. Stay sunny side up, y’all, and remember to WATCH OUT!  

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Jack's Back! (Episode XCII)

Very recently in a close-by land...A wish really did come true... Yes, cartoon fans, Samurai Jack is back on the grid! A mere 13 years after the series was left in limbo, a final ten-part conclusion is airing. Jack's back, babe! And he is sporting a new beard, a new ride and a new attitude. It's beau coup cuckoo, babe! Skeeeee-dee-bab-bab-boo! (That's scat speak for SPOILERS AHEAD, YO! - and those spoilers will cover more than just the first episode - you've been warned!) What Happens
The first episode of the new season begins with a trio of aliens (rather cute anthropomorphic dog-ant hybrids of some sort) running from Aku's minions. The three (either a mother, daughter and babe-in-arms, or a big sister, little sister, and a babe-in-arms, or some combination of those - does it really matter?) are quickly surrounded by the robotic bugs. Thinking this the end of the line for them, the two eldest each give a final message of "I <3 you", using their antennae to spell it out. All of a sudden a warrior in samurai armour riding a motorcycle appears and quickly lays waste to the robotic bugs, using spiked wheels, a staff/spear/trident thingie and even various guns. During the fight, his mask gets destroyed, revealing a familiar face with a distinctly unfamiliar amount of facial hair. "Jack"   "?" signals the middle child. After defeating the final attacker, the Jack rides off wordlessly, with the grateful middle sister signalling "Thank you!" to him as he leaves. The intro plays... we get a voice over from Jack (Phil LaMarr reprising his role as the eponymous samurai) stating that "Fifty years have passed..." He also mentions that he has found that he is not aging and expresses his despair that Aku is choking the past, present and future. Despite the bleak overtones, Jack's final words show he is still determined to succeed... "Got to get back... back to the past... Samurai Jack!" The new season wastes exactly zero time in clarifying that it aims to be far darker than previous seasons, with a silhouetted scene of a woman crying out in the throes of childbirth. As each of the seven children is born, they are held up by the Cult of Aku and then placed on a altar. The high priestess (also the new mother of the seven - how she can bare to stand up and then doesn't die from blood loss, I have no idea) pledges the seven daughters to Aku's service - specifically to kill Jack, thereby succeeding where all others have failed. The next scene is Jack riding through a bleak desert (no symbolism there, no indeedy) and then finding himself in the Running of the Leaves.
Shouldn't that involve actual running? He sees a column of smoke in the distance, but decides to ignore it. He comes upon a stream, and refreshes himself. He is soon disturbed by visions of his father, mother and his people, crying out to him and asking why he never returned to save them from Aku; accusing him of leaving them to die. He then sees a mysterious ghostly apparition of a warrior on horseback wearing samurai armour, which finally scares him enough to run towards the smoke. Stopping to make camp, Jack finds the visions returning in even greater force when he rests, pushing him to make haste. In an odd example of Time Dilation Story-telling, we see the Daughters of Aku training as they grow from toddlers to young adulthood. One of them in particular (named Ashi) stands out... first by making a mistake during the martial arts training (and being told that one mistake = death), then by sneaking away to gape at the beauty of the world outside their conclave enclave cave while the others face off an Amazonian fighter of their order (which scene incidentally provides us with the central tenet of the Daughters' training and indoctrination: Aku is a powerful and beneficent creator and the Samurai is an evil monster who seeks to desecrate what Aku has created - the jury's still out on whether the Cult as a whole believes this, or if it's just a convenient way of instilling a wish for Jack's demise into the Daughters). Later on, a teenage Ashi almost falls off a pillar, just managing to hold on with one hand. Another sister attempts to help her, but is stopped by the High Priestess, who states that "the weak have no place with Aku". She then grinds her staff on Ashi's hand and demands "Are you weak?!"... to which Ashi gives a kiai yell and then regains her footing and pushes on... to the approval of the HP. Back in modern day, Jack finally reaches the smoke, and finds an entire village (more like a city) in ruins, its now-dead inhabitants sprawled everywhere. As the smoke clears, the perpetrator is revealed... a robotic assassin who introduces himself as Scaramouch the Merciless (plus a tithe of titles too tiring to type). He exhorts Jack to take out his ka-ray-zee sword, and is delighted to discover that Jack no longer has his sword... a quick flashback reveals that it fell into a pit (presumably) many years ago. Scaramouch attempts to contact Aku via phone to relay this vital info, but Jack puts the kibosh on that by throwing a kunai at the phone and then firing a few Consecutive Normal Punches at Scaramouch's face. Unfortunately, Jack is not Saitama, and Scaramouch manages to recover and gain some distance. Scaramouch uses his magic flute to animate the rubble into a golem to attack Jack. Jack defeats the golem but then starts hallucinating starving children pleading for him to help them, prompting Scaramouch to observe that he's gone beau coup cuckoo. Scaramouch sends some rocks flying at Jack, inadvertently snapping him out of his reverie. This time, Jack manages to destroy the flute. Scaramouch is not particularly put out, using his scatting powers to remote control his scimitar and pulling out a "tuning fork" sword - anything it hits soon explodes. This causes one of Jack's daggers to blow up. Scaramouch declares "No one plays the blades like I do... NO ONE!" and sends his scimitar at Jack again. Elegantly dodging the attack, Jack allows Scaramouch to hit his final remaining dagger three times... and pause... (kidney punch!) Scaramouch declares it's been fun, but the outcome of the fight is clear... Jack's going to lose and die... until Jack nonchalantly throws the dagger at Scaramouch just as it explodes. This gives Jack the opening to cut Scaramouch in twain with his own scimitar. Scaramouch declares "th-th-th-the-the... that's all folks!" before exploding. Jack takes the tuning fork sword and strides off, once more victorious. Next we switch tracks to the Daughters as their final trial is at hand. The seven climb a spire, fighting off the best fighters of the Cult. Ashi dodges a few arrows, and uses one to stab the archer in the eye, before stealing her bow and shooting two of the Cultists her sisters are facing, also in the eye. Both turn and mutter "Ashi." (The Daughters do, I mean, not the Cultists, who are in fact dead now.) All seven make it to the top, to be greeted by the High Priestess, who declares their training complete and them ready...  "You are Seven... but now you wear the face of One... One Purpose, for which you were born... to kill THE SAMURAI!" They exit the temple and WATCH OUT! Gotta get back, back to the past... Samurai Jack! Thoughts on the Episode
Hmm, let me guess which of the Seven Daughters of Aku is going to feature most heavily from here on out... it's got to be... Grumpy! Oh, wait, that's one of the seven dwarfs... my bad. I doubt I'd have been hailed as any kind of seer for predicting that she would become one of the central characters this season (since she does). More on that later. The whole concept of the Daughters, from the depiction of their birth with attendant screams of birthing pain, to their brutal training regime, to their final violent test of readiness, highlights that the new season is going to be far darker and bloodier than previous... and I say, bring it on! Not to mention that their tight-fitting catsuits really accentuate their, um... skills. Jack himself is quite understandably having difficulty after fifty years of non-stop wandering the land, not even aging; a side effect of being flung into the future, it seems. The loss of his sword, being in itself a massive development, has forced him to update his armoury and adopt the use of guns (Holy Sidearms, Batman!) Then there's the hallucinations - his people alternately drowning in streams, burning alive, children begging them to save him, "have you forgotten?", "why have you forsaken us?" and all the rest... understandable manifestations of his guilt, although pretty disturbing to watch. And we haven't even met HalluciJack yet! Although we do first see the Samurai Apparition in this episodes. Some fans think this ghost represents someone Jack fought in the past and now wishes to escape. I'm more of the opinion that the Apparition represents Jack's final "solution" - killing himself and joining his ancestors. Which is really kind of messed up, now that I think about. Where there's life, there's hope, but Jack definitely is struggling with finding the will to keep going. Small prediction here: Jack will get his sword back - it is still the only thing that can actually defeat Aku. Unless he finds some other way, but if he hasn't managed to do so in 50 years... I also think that Ashi will help him to do it, maybe sacrificing herself in the process. Moving on to the villain of the first episode (the Daughters don't count): Scaramouch the Merciless, babe!
"Hiya, Jack, baby, welcome to Scatman's World!" This guy is just a lot of fun, combining over the top theatrics with a pretty BA skillset. He also has a bit of hidden pride, seen when he declares "No one dances the blades like I do, babe. NO ONE!" while giving Jack a death glare, right before going back to Affably Evil scatting. His weapons of choice all fit right in with his theme of musical assassin - a scimitar he can control by scatting, which is heavy enough that Jack himself has to drag it along the ground, a pipe that can control the debris around him and even form it into attack monsters, and finally that sword that sets up a resonance on anything non-organic, causing it to shatter explosively. Although perhaps he is not as valuable to Aku as he suspects, since Aku doesn't recognize him over the phone. Despite being quite fun to watch, he is totally a bad dude, and Jack's fully justified in ending him for killing an entire village just to draw Jack out. The fight itself is pretty spectacular, demonstrating that while Jack may have lost his sword, he hasn't lost his skills. In the end, Jack doesn't even really seem to be pushed to his limits. Without his PTSD getting in the way, it would have been even more one-sided. The way he simply tosses his final dagger as an improvised hand grenade is not only made awesome by his sheer coolness, but also demonstrates that he has brains as well as brawn... although, that was never really in doubt for anyone who knows about the previous seasons. A quick mention of the animation - gorgeous as always! Just looking at some of the establishing shots of the landscape, I could weep for their sheer beauty. And the action is wonderfully animated too. This is currently my desktop background: So the final season of Samurai Jack is at long, long last under way. It hasn't disappointed me yet, 4 episodes into its 10 episode run, and I don't expect it will. What do you think of the continuation? (Not a reboot, thank Odin, Ra and Vishnu!) If you like, leave comments below and WATCH OUT! for my next review of Samurai Jack season 5, babe!      

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Sombra is Best Villain (A Bookend Diaries Supplemental)

Before I take on the Season III episodes, I wish to first talk about a few of the more controversial issues raised. To start, I want to discuss the issues that some fans have with Sombra.   I don’t think he was that bad a villain in many ways. The ironic thing here is that Sombra, easily the most disparaged villain of the series, is the only one who did not give the Mane 6 victory on a silver platter. He loses despite, and not because of, his actions, none of which are stupid. I wish that I could say as much for Nightmare Moon, Discord and Queen Chrysalis. The other point is that the Mane 6 only won through a series of very lucky coincidences that no villain, no matter how savvy, could have predicted or planned for.  In part, I understand why he gets a bad rap, because he is (on first viewing) a very poorly characterized villain. He simply isn’t shown to have the depth of the other villains. His lines are extremely limited, and he didn’t get to do much in the episode itself before blowing up. One thing he did do, however, is disable one of the only two ponies who are keeping him out of the Kingdom he wishes to retake. And I don’t think that’s an accident.  Here’s my reasoning. He couldn’t have known the Mane 6 were coming. He has been camping right outside the empire, trying to get in. Shining Armor did know the Mane 6 were coming. When he left the city, Sombra would have seen him first. Being a unicorn himself, he would know that Shining Armor must be the one keeping him out, since the Crystal Ponies don’t have the magic necessary to protect themselves without the Crystal Heart. All of this makes me think that Sombra was there to attack and disable Shining Armor, who as far as he knew, was the only one stopping him from reclaiming the Crystal Empire. That implies that Sombra is not just an animalistic shadow (har har) of his former self, as some claim, but a reasoning, self-directing villain, as much as can be claimed for any of the other foes the Mane 6 have faced. His plan, if indeed that is what we are meant to assume it is, is not only clever, but it works. At least, it would have if Shining Armor were the only unicorn protecting the Empire. So that runs counter to the claim that “he doesn’t do anything in the episode”. The thing about Sombra is that most of his villainy and planning was set up before the episode even begins. He removed the relevant page from the one book mentioning the Crystal Heart. The entrance to where he kept the Crystal Heart was hidden and only someone with dark magic could open it. None of the crystal ponies have horns, and presumably they have no magic. Even if they did, it's far more likely to be Light magic. The next trap, a door leading to the victims worst nightmare is more fiendish still, because it's triggered by using Dark Magic, which the victim would already have been primed to use because it got them results a little bit earlier. It's also an insurance policy against a pony having dark magic skills to begin with. The only way to escape it is to have someone else come and snap you out of it. Sombra also created a delaying staircase that Twilight just happened to have a spell to deal with, which she had never demonstrated before this episode. Then at the end of that, he had an alarm set up around the Crystal Heart to let him know someone had found it. It's not an automated trap, though. When Twilight triggers it, we are given a brief glimpse of Sombra reacting and then casting the spell to trap Twilight. So, again, Sombra is acting and doing things in the episode. This also hints that he might have even stronger magical power that Twilight does. He's savvy enough not only to consider the possibility of her teleporting, but also has the power to override her when she tries it. So Sombra plans intelligently and craftily, destroys information vital to his enemies, is strong enough to negate the magical ability of both Shining Armor and Twilight, actively targets those who stand in his way and only has victory snatched from his grasp due to pure luck on the part of the Mane 6. First, it's lucky that Rainbow happened to bump into the librarian pony just as she remembers the real Crystal Heart. It's lucky that Twilight just happened to bone up (stop sniggering, please) on gravity spells for her "test". It's lucky that her last-second dive for the Crystal Heart ended up not with her grabbing it, but instead knocking it away from the trap. And last, certainly not least, it's lucky that Spike was around to save everyone. Spike is the key to victory throughout the whole episode. He breaks Twilight out of her Demon Door trance; his own experience with it clarifies how it works; he points out that the staircase is just a delaying tactic, and finally, he's on hand to grab the Crystal Heart while Twilight is trapped. To summarise, Sombra's pre-planning and actions in the episode would have resulting in him winning if not for the interference of Spike, a healthy dose of unanticipated good luck for the heroes, and a last second wife-toss, all of which is enough to ruin anypony's plans. I feel saddened that fans allow his lack of discernable personality (beyond that of being an evil dictator with an unhealthy fascination for dark crystals, of course) to distract from the fact that he was actually very effective at being villainous. Keep chasing those dark crystals, everyone.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

WTDW: What's the Deal with... "Tricks Up My Sleeve"

Let's face it.... there are two songs from Rainbow Rocks, (one sung by RD and one sung by ... ugh... Trixie) that are pretty pedestrian, compared to such gems as "Welcome to the Show" and "Let's Have a Battle". Neither RD nor Trixie are exactly my favorite characters, and their respective songs don't do them any real favours in that respect. But for this entry, I'll focus on Trixie's "boast song". And it contains this wonderful line: "You're from the past, I'm from the Space Age..." Ummm.... Trixie, darling... you do realize the Space Age started in 1957,right? So I don't know quite what you're trying to get across here. Yeah, this entry is pretty thin on content... Oh well, stay sunny side up anyway...

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 103. “Amending Fences”: It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want to...

Twilight Sparkle! You old so-and-so! What are you doing here?! - Minuette Summary
After Spike comments that Twilight was a bad friend before coming to Ponyville, she decides to make a trip back to Canterlot to find her old “friends” so that she can apologize to and reconnect with them. The two revisit Twilight’s old quarters, to “start at the beginning”.
Apparently, it’s a very good place to start… I will give the writer a point here, for making a clever simile about how Twilight left her previous quarters and her friendships in the same incomplete state. Treasure that, writers, because you got virtually everything else wrong… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Twilight tracks down Minuette (Colgate to the bronies), and after a brief photo op, they head off to find Twilight’s other old “friends” , Lemon Drops and Twinkleshine. At Joe’s Donut Diner, Twilight apologizes for being a bad friend in the past. The three manage to brush it off while still somehow making Twilight feel worse. A visit to the school science lab triggers a flashback for Twilight, who asks where Moon Dancer (another “friend”) is. They track her down, but find she isn’t interested in seeing any of them. Twilight follows her for a bit, and sees she’s very isolated. She then finds out from Minuette that there was a time she seemed to be opening up… until the party Twilight blew off in the pilot episode. Twilight realizes that her nonattendance is the reason why Moon Dancer is so introverted and shy now. She resolves to apologize and help Dancer to overcome her past pain. Oh, the old awkward conversation in the library with everyone going “sssshhh!” bit. Really pushing the comedic envelope on this story, aren’t they? After that, Twilight takes Moon Dancer back to her old quarters, and proffers the key to the library, on condition that that she joins the old gang for dinner.
Oh, hai, Starlight Glimmer! By the way, how’s your stalker life? It doesn’t go well. Twilight, desperate to fix her mistake, enlists Pinkie Pie’s help in throwing a party for Moon Dancer. After Twilight again apologizes, Moon Dancer finally opens up and confirms that Twilight skipping her party really hurt her and made her retreat back into her shell. Seeing all the friends Twilight has gathered for her (including her sister), Moon Dancer decides to give friendship another chance. Spike gives her a photo of her friends, and the episode ends with Moon Dancer (now fulfilled) and the others heading out for a game of Calvinball.   The Bugz
I cannot understand why fans are praising the writing in this episode. I think it’s horrendous. Now don’t get me wrong… if you connected emotionally with Twilight and Moon Dancer’s story because you’ve had similar experiences in the past, and you like it on that account, I have absolutely no issue with that. Entirely without sarcasm I can say that I’m happy for you. But I will try to show that the story itself is very poorly written. The plot is artificially kicked off by a random comment from Spike. It’s not the first time this has happened (Lesson Zero comes to mind) but in this episode, going this route is missing a huge opportunity for the Cutie Map to come into play. Yes, remember that Map? The express purpose of the Map is to highlight situations requiring the magic of friendship. One would think that a pony that isolated, and (ostensibly) made so by the Princess of Friendship herself, would merit a response from whatever is controlling the thing. But not even a blip. Nearly halfway through the season, the Map has been used a grand total of twice. This was a perfect time to increase that count. It would also have been much more effective for Twilight to arrive in Canterlot, not sure why she had been summoned there, and then on encountering her old “friends”, had the realization that her past actions had led to this situation, and that she now had to fix it. Basically, I think it would be cool to have a moment of realization: "I'm not just here to fix the problem... I AM the problem!" You might have noticed I’ve been using quote marks every time I type “friends”. This is because whatever relationship Twilight had to the ponies she knew in Canterlot before moving to Ponyville, “friends” is not an accurate description. The pilot goes out of its way to establish that Twilight was isolated and antisocial. In the pilot, Twilight is tasked by Princess Celestia with “making friends”. Not “making new friends”, not “making friends in Ponyville”, “making friends”. There are many other lines that imply heavily that the Mane Six are her first set of friends. But perhaps you don’t consider that proof enough. And that’s fair, it’s got some wiggle room. Now how about A Canterlot Wedding? I don’t need the BBBFF song to make the point. Even before she starts singing, Twilight upright states the following: “Before I came here and learned the importance of friendship, Shining Armor was the only pony I ever really accepted as a friend.” There is no wiggle room or ambiguity there. Shining Armor was her only friend before Ponyville. And she didn’t even mention him until that episode. Now much less must she have cared for the “friends” who in Amending Fences are suddenly so important to her? She couldn’t even remember their names! Oh, and that’s a running gag that pretty much negates any and all emotion in the episode. Twilight can’t remember her friend’s names, her friends apparently don’t remember Moon Dancer until she brings her up, and Moon Dancer calls her “Twilight Twinkle” accidentally. Yet we find out that they were all friends before and Moon Dancer was so fixated on Twilight being her only chance to find friendship? Somehow, I don’t find that convincing. I can guess what you’re probably thinking. “Sunny Fox, didn’t you say in your Tanks for the Memories review that you don’t let continuity negate emotion? Aren’t you backpedaling here?” No. I still think an emotion connection with an episode trumps issues of continuity. But here, the emotional connection becomes unbelievable because what we’re given in the episode runs counter to what has been already firmly and unambiguously established. This is no minor point of fridge logic or a continuity error that can be handwaved; this is a full blown retcon of past events for the basis of creating a plot. The second major difference is that the emotional connection that is the focus of TftM, between Dash and Tank, has been built up over a few episodes, such as the quick, surreptitious nuzzle in Just for Sidekicks, and involves a pony that we already know very well and can connect with, ourselves. We feel Dash’s emotional pain because the relationship is believable in and of itself, and because the closeness of their relationship has already been established prior to the episode. This is most certainly not the case with Twilight and Moon Dancer. (tl;dr: Emotion trumps continuity, but only if the emotion is convincing.) Other decisions puzzle me as well. The flashback in the science lab has no real purpose. It doesn’t establish any meaningful backstory, other than to confirm Twilight and Moon Dancer went to school together. It certainly doesn’t help convince me that there was anything worthy of the name of friendship between the two. At best, it serves to remind Twilight that she hasn’t seen Moon Dancer yet… which is also unnecessary, since Spike already mentioned her as one of the “friends” to reconnect with, so Twilight doesn’t really need a flashback to justify bringing her up. Edit: @@Dark Qiviut has pointed out something I missed regarding the flashback. It establishes that Moon Dancer is very similar to Twilight (a bookworm and antisocial) and would therefore probably feel closer to her than the others, which might help explain why she took Twilight's rejection so hard. Good catch, DQ! That’s enough ripping the story to pieces. Let’s look now at the characters. Minuette was extremely annoying with her constant giggling. I previously described her as a “discount Pinkie Pie”. My mind hasn’t changed. And then when all three get together, the giggles have been tripled! She’s not entirely useless, as she is the main source of exposition for Twilight, but she really grated on my nerves the whole episode. Speaking of Pinkie Pie, she is brought in (rather unnecessarily, I feel: Twilight couldn’t have planned a party on her own?) to set up the party at the end, and to just be Pinkie. I get the feeling gravity has just entirely given up on being able to control her. It’s worth a chuckle, but it’s still reducing Pinkie from a character to a gag machine. The episode doesn’t do any favours for Twilight, either. She just assumes she’s so important to other ponies that her losing contact with them is causing them terrible suffering. She was right in Moon Dancer’s case but that’s, what, one out of five? She only could be about 20% wronger if she tried (hur hur hur). Her demeanour in the flashback reminded me more of Diamond Tiara than Twilight. How does one reconcile that with the happy filly who leaps around shouting “yes yes yes yes!” in the Cutie Mark Chronicles? This episode doesn’t make Twilight fallible and thereby relatable, since her mistake was made before her character development. I don’t consider her a Mary Sue, like some of her detractors do, but this episode certainly makes me wonder if they might not have a point about her being represented as infallible these days. The previous episode had a similar problem, because her “failure” wasn’t due to her but to the yaks deplorable tendency to make a huge fuss over tiny inconsequential details. I mean, what kind of immature idiot behaves like that? Now we come to the real millstone around the neck of this episode: Moon Dancer herself. Let me start with a question: if this character were to be introduced as someone’s OC, what do you think the response would be? Overwhelmingly negative, is my guess. A minor positive point is that they use the colours of G1 Moon Dancer, but she’s just a Twilight recolour with glasses and eyebrows; two thirds of Groucho Marx, as it were. Apart from her lackluster design, her fixation on Twilight is one of the least justified elements of the story. Apparently, Twilight hurt her by not attending the party she organized, thereby causing her to give up on friendship. There are a number of problems with this. First, she never actually invited Twilight to her party, or made it clear in any way that it was important to her. Twilight was given an off-hand, second-hand invite by Twinkleshine. Second, why was Twilight so important to her in the first place? That flashback indicates that their similarlity might have caused that. But oh-so-similar Twilight wasn’t the one who started to bring her out of her shell. Moon Dancer literally credits the three of them (Minuette, Lemon Heart and Twinkleshine) for making her think she might want to be more social, and as far as we’re aware, everypony but Twilight was at the party. Their support and friendship apparently wasn’t worth anything in Dancer’s eyes; it was Twilight or nothing. Third, as Spike mentions, she was given an assignment by Princess Celestia, and so couldn’t have attended the party even had she wanted to. Princess Celestia knew she needed to send Twilight to Ponyville to stop Nightmare Moon (she as much as says so at the end of the second episode), so the assignment would have given to Twilight regardless. Because of these points above, her reaction to Twilight’s absence from her party becomes an overreaction, and Twilight shouldn’t be blamed for that. All in all, I don't find Moon Dancer's reclusion and subsequence outburst at Twilight was justified, which really rips out the heart of the emotional conflict the episode is built around. What moral are we meant to take from this? "Attend every event you're invited to, just in case someone's self esteem relies on you being there"? "It's okay to shut yourself off from society because one person snubbed you once"? "Focus on one person and if they won't be your friend, give up on people entirely"? Or just maybe, it might be "Be careful of what you do, because even the smallest action may have consequences"? Yeah, let's go with that one. My point here is that the moral is kind of confused. They may have been going for something like the last one above, but I don't think they did a very good job of it.   The Shrugz
It was interesting to see Starlight Glimmer stalking Twilight. I admit I was not observant enough to notice her for myself when I watched the episode, so I only found out by reading the episode's thread. It has to be deliberate, and I'm glad to see that the writers are trying to build a continuing story arc. It doesn't make the episode better or worse, but it's definitely worth mentioning. I found this entire episode to be in a sense unnecessary. Going back to a single scene, that in all likelihood was there just to establish Twilight's credentials as a antisocial bookworm, and expanding on it, doesn't really contribute to the story of Twilight and the Mane Six learning good lessons through friendship. It's going back and revisiting your past, not improving yourself for the future. I want to see Twilight moving forward, not going back and trying to fix every mistake she's ever made. Let her make new mistakes and learn from those. Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis appear to be a couple again. So much for my Rarity x Fancy Pants ship, huh? Or is Fancy Pants just a two timer? Yeah, I call shenanigans on the idea that Spike's tail can perforate and crush a present, disemboweling a teddy bear in the process, yet leave the picture (which generally would have been placed on the bottom of the box with the teddy bear on top) untouched. Minor nitpick, though, so it's a neutral rather than a negative. And what's up with the title of the episode, anyway? "Mending Fences" would have been just as accurate a title, with the added benefit of actually being an existing expression. Why "amending fences"? It just comes off as trying too hard to make the title some kind of pun (not a new problem with FiM...) Twilight can invade Flatland, if only for a few minutes. I find it somewhat amusing that some fans have praised this idea for showing a limit on Twilight's magical power. She can go from three dimensions to two and make herself into a sentient line drawing, and because it's a temporary effect, that makes it a restriction? Do tell.   The Hugz
As I've mentioned in the episode discussion thread, there is a lesson to be learned here, about how a single act of thoughtlessness can lead to hurting someone, and that one should be careful of that. It's somewhat mired in the poor writing, but I think that's what they were going for. Spike at least got a little screen time that didn't involve him getting dumped on by the universe. He also showed his more thoughtful side, by presenting Moon Dancer with a present. Which she apparently treasures, even though it didn't come from Twilight...   Pros: An interesting premise, and there is a good moral in there somewhere, trying to get out.
Cons: The premise is poorly executed, the central conflict is based on one pony's obsession with Twilight, the characters introduced are nowhere near as likeable as our Mane cast is, the moral is rather unclear.   Final Thoughts
I had hoped that on reflection, I would find a few more positives in this episode. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The more I think about this episode, the clumsier and more nonsensical I find it.   Final Ranking:
Rarity’s Cutie Mark Rank – A scintillating story! Sure to be rewatched frequently.
Rock Candy Rank – A highly enjoyable episode, but it couldn’t avoid a cavity or two.
Tom Rank – Average. While it looked like a diamond, it turned out to be just a rock.
Boulder Rank – Below average. Take it out once or twice, and then leave it in your pocket.
Rock Farm Rock Rank – A terrible episode. Leave it where it lies. Wow. What has happened to me? Have I become jaded? I've spent most of a day typing up a scathing condemnation of a simple story about righting past wrongs. I blame Slice of Life... it all went downhill from there... Stay sunny side up, or whatever.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 10. “Swarm of the Century”: The One Where Zecora Forgets to Rhyme

You’ve got a problem, all right! And a banjo is the only solution! – Pinkie Pie Princess Celestia is on her way to visit Ponyville, and preparations are well underway. While the town goes to town on the decorations, Fluttershy is searching the fringe of the Everfree Forest for flowers in honor of the Royal Visit. She comes across one of the cutest little critters you’re ever going to see. Despite seeing it devour an entire bucket of apples, she decides to take it home to show off to the others… leaving the empty bucket behind as an ominous chord plays in the background. Twilight and Spike are tidying the library, but keep getting in each other’s way. Spike suggests that only one of them should be doing this, clearly hoping Twilight will excuse him from the chore. This backfires when she agrees, but then tells him to continue cleaning and leaves. Once again doing the job of Mayor Mare, she goes out to oversee the sprucing up of Ponyville. One wonders, does Mayor Mare even have any authority in Ponyville now that Twilight is living there? Visiting Sugarcube Corner, she finds Pinkie eating all the treats that are meant for the Princess. When Twilight remonstrates with her, she claims taste testing. Just then, Fluttershy slides in, eager to show off her new pet… or pets, as she now discovers she has three. Twilight agrees that they are adorable, and takes one for herself. Pinkie, however, announces that she has no need for parasprites, but now has to go find a trombone. Many fans, at this point, blame Pinkie for not being clear about what’s going on. Personally, I blame Twilight instead. Pinkie is supposed to be ditzy; Twilight is supposed to be smart. One simple word, “Why?” would have cleared up everything. Fluttershy: Pinkie, do you want the other one?
Pinkie: Ugh, a parasprite? Are you kidding?
Twilight: A para-what? <<< The logical next question is “What is that?”
Pinkie: Now gotta go find a trombone!
Twilight: A what? <<< Another insightful comment. This is the perfect opportunity to ask “Why?”
Pinkie: A trombone... you know… <makes a trombone sound>
Pinkie leaves
Twilight: Ugh... typical Pinkie… She makes no further attempt to find out more, despite Pinkie having identified the little guys. She even seems to forget Pinkie ever mentioned them, as we’ll see later. Anyway, Twilight takes her new pet with her as she goes to visit Rarity, who is busy putting the finishing touches on a lovely dress… for Rainbow Dash. Huh, didn’t expect that… Also finding that her one has become three (do these ponies know nothing about geometric growth?), Twilight gives one to Rarity and Rainbow Dash, ignoring the arrival of Pinkie, who is still trying to collect musical instruments. This scene provides a nice little bit of fridge brilliance, as well, so take note of how Rainbow, out of all the ponies, is the only one to actually kiss hers. I’ll explain why this is notable later. As night falls, Twilight puts Spike and his new pet parasprite to bed, and seeing how peaceful they look, she stops feeling nervous about the Princess’ visit the following day, and goes to sleep as well. The morning brings a rude awakening, as Twilight discovers that the library is now absolutely full of parasprites. Spike is as stumped as she is as to where they came from, since he only remembers feeding the original parasprite during the night. They start to wreck the library, and Twilight and Spike hasten to capture the little guys. Meanwhile, Rainbow also finds herself in trouble, as the horde of parasprites she has all seem overly affectionate… probably because she kissed the one that produced all these others, as I mentioned earlier. Freaked out by this, Rainbow flies away in a panic. In contrast, Rarity is quite happy to have the little swarm help out with her dress-making… until one of them throws up in her face, and the vomitus becomes a new parasprite. Any pony would be grossed out by that, but when it’s Rarity… hoo, boy. She demands the parasprites leave her boutique, and also starts gathering them into her saddlebags. As she exits, she meets Pinkie, who has found a harmonica. When she plays a chord, the parasprites react to it, hinting at the resolution of the episode. Seeing all the parasprites, Pinkie announces a banjo as the only answer to the problem, and leaves again. All three end up at Fluttershy’s cottage, only to find she is having just as much trouble with her parasprites. Then Applejack arrives with more apples, which are promptly devoured, and the others rope her in to help them herd the critters away… except for one which Fluttershy kept, setting them back to square one… or ground zero… one may tend the resemble the other. The next solution, a tornado courtesy of Rainbow, is also doomed to failure, this time because Pinkie’s cymbals gets sucked in, disrupting the tornado and dumping all the parasprites into Ponyville proper. Hastening to the scene, the ponies discover the parasprites eating all the food. After Applejack runs back to protect her farm, Twilight casts a spell to ruin the parasprites’ appetite, which backfires spectacularly when they start eating everything that isn’t food instead. At that, the ponies scatter to protect their own interests. Rarity goes to the boutique and tries to shoo them away from the clothes, but when they all start throwing up, she is forced to retreat to a stool in the middle of the room and scream for help… and in comes Pinkie, grabbing another instrument and then leaving again.
Hey, Pinkie, I think Squidward wants his clarinet back… Applejack and family are guarding the orchard, which the swarm ignores entirely, instead eating the house. Applejack’s reaction is priceless. Twilight even seeks help from new friend Zecora, who is annoyed about being interrupted while she meditates and being dumped on the floor, forgetting for the first and only time to date to rhyme her lines (“Have you gone mad?”)
Zecora, the red-nosed zebra, had a paraspritey nose… Despite Zecora referring to them by the same name as Pinkie Pie, Twilight still seems not to remember these things are called parasprites. Zecora’s verdict is discouraging, to say the least. Running back to town, Twilight starts to crack under the pressure of the situation. Then One-Mare-Band Pinkie Pie appears, playing polka with a multitude of instruments. Twilight is bemused to see that the parasprites start dancing in time to the music, and begin to follow Pinkie in a neat line. As the rest of the Mane Six follow Pinkie, Celestia’s flying carriage arrives. Greeting her faithful student and friends, Celestia notices the Pinkie, parasprite and polka procession, and believes it to be a parade in her honour. The rest of the Mane Six just go with it, and Celestia regretfully informs them that there is an “infestation of bothersome creatures” situation she has to deal with elsewhere in Equestria, and the visit to Ponyville will have to wait. Before she leaves, she asks Twilight for her latest report, which Twilight ad-libs: “The solutions to your problems can come from those whom you least expect” or something. After that, the Mane Six go to apologize to Pinkie, and return “in triumph” to the still wrecked Ponyville. This episode is rather middle of the road for me. The central confusion could so easily have been cleared up if either party had bothered to clarify their side, but then, I guess that is the entire point of the episode. There are a few humorous moments, in particular when the parasprites ignore the orchard and eat the house. The Apple family’s reaction provides a lot of glee. The ending provides me a sneaking suspicion that Princess Celestia understands the situation better than she lets on. She looks more aghast than surprised to see the parasprite parade, despite professing not to know what these “adorable” creatures are. It’s quite possible she recognizes the parasprites, and since they are coming from Ponyville, she would be able to deduce that there is a problem there. She would obviously want Twilight to save face. The Guards who have been pulling her carriage also seem to have very knowing smiles, if you ask me. All in all, it’s highly probable that she has seen through the whole ruse. Highlights
Rainbow Dash, seeing Pinkie running full speed in reverse, delivers this ironic echo of a line in “Griffon the Brushoff”: Pinkie Pie, you are so random! The scene where Rarity thinks Pinkie Pie has come to help her against the parasprites, only for her to grab a flute from the table and leave again. Rarity just screams louder. Twilight’s brief trip to looney land:
Twilight’s brain: Snap!
Twilight: Okay, here’s the plan… Rainbow Dash, you distract them…
RD flies by shouting with a bunch of overly affectionate parasprites chasing her
Twilight: Good! Everyone (sic) else, we need to build an exact copy of Ponyville over there… we’ve got less than a minute! …beat… Zecora was right. We’re doomed. Pros: There are some very funny scenes. The way the situation goes from bad to worse is also very entertaining. Cons: Various characters have to carry the idiot ball for this to work. Final Rating 5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 35. “Sweet and Elite”: Rarity, Lacking Verity, Inspires Hilarity

What croquet mallet? – Rarity I love Rarity but this episode really tries its hardest to make me dislike her. I mean love as a character, not romantically – whatever floats your boat, but that’s just not my kind of thing. But in the words of the Cat!Inquisitor, “This is your judgement day, bud. I gotta be cruel. There can’t be no favours.” Enough stalling, let’s do this.   Summary
Rarity is in Canterlot to buy fabric, and is staying at the Castle as a guest of Princess Celestia by way of Twilight’s request. She decides that making Twilight a dress for her upcoming birthday party would be the perfect way to thank her. She has a chance encounter with a pair of Canterlot socialites, Jet Set and Upper Crust, who admiringly ask about her hat. When she is outed as being from Ponyville, the two retract their approval and insult Rarity as being “country”, before sticking their noses in the air and leaving. This snub spurs Rarity to show her class by making Twilight’s dress super fancy and something “worthy of Canterlot”. On her way back to her apartment with necessary supplies, she literally runs into a pony of very high social standing named Fancy Pants.
Now isn’t that an ironic name? He doesn’t even wear pants. Stammering apologies, Rarity lets slip that she is a guest of the Princess, which Fancy Pants thinks makes her worthy of his attentions, and he invites her to join him in his VIP (Very Important Pony) box at the Wonderbolts Derby. After a brief internal debate about whether to prioritize the social boost spending time with FP will bring, or the time needed to make Twilight’s elaborate dress, she chooses the former. Joining FP are other important high society ponies, who are shocked to hear her contradict him in who is most likely to win the Derby. As it turns out, Rarity’s inside knowledge of the Wonderbolts, which of course comes from Rainbow Dash, means her prediction is vindicated. This further impresses FP and his hangers on. I like this scene for its treatment of both Rarity and Fancy Pants. First, it shows Rarity is not afraid to speak her mind, and second, it shows FP is quite gracious when contradicted and proven wrong. As a bonus, it’s the first time Fleetfoot is named. Unfortunately, this is almost immediately followed by Rarity lying about who Rainbow Dash is, saying she’s the Wonderbolts’ trainer. This is bad because, well, lying is wrong, and inexcusable, even for one’s favourite pony. Secondly, it’s a lie that makes no sense: she could just as easily told the truth. Rainbow Dash is the winner of the Best Young Flier competition, and one of the ponies who saved Equestria twice, and a pony who clearly has the ability to become a Wonderbolt herself. Which should be plenty important enough for anypony. Nice going, writer! Suddenly being the center of attention, Rarity is invited to various events by the socialites. She tries to refuse so as to work more on Twilight’s dress, but eventually gives in, by way of a musical montage. I love this song, Becoming Popular. I don’t care who you think is the best singer out of the Mane Six, unless you say “Kazumi Evans”, you’re simply wrong. (Okay, not really, music is very subjective… still, you can’t deny she has a lovely voice.)
Art Gallery Rarity – the true masterpiece on display. Rarity, having made little progress on Twilight’s dress, is about to return home in time to finish it, when she gets a written invite to the Canterlot Garden Party, courtesy of the two snooty ponies she wasn’t important enough for before. She decides to go, despite this meaning she will miss Twilight’s birthday. She next perpetrates the biggest lie ever written in the show, claiming Opal is too sick to travel as an excuse for why she can’t be there. Despite the entertaining histrionics, this is again a lie that is pretty unnecessary, and y’know, wrong. (It might even be… badong!) The simple truth would probably have been accepted. Rarity is about to leave for the party when the Mane Six surprise her: they decided to move the Twilight’s birthday to Canterlot so Rarity could attend despite Opal’s condition… when they ask to see Opal, Rarity douses her with water to make her look sick, which earns her a face that promises retribution…
Of course you realize, this means war? Luckily, Twilight prefers thinks the plain dress and thinks Rarity deliberately made it that way. The group head to the Canterlot Ball Room, which Pinkie has decorated using her party canon (first appearance!), since the Garden is being used for the Garden Party. As the evening proceeds, Rarity joins in the party antics of the Mane Six, but decides to try to split her time between the two parties. This leads to one of the funnier sequences in the show, plus what I consider the best visual gag ever:
Of course, splitting her time between two parties tires her out, and she ends up being found out when she accidentally brings in a croquet mallet from outside. She tries to apologize, but Twilight still doesn’t realize she was being dishonest, and thinking of her as just being business savvy, is perfectly okay with Rarity going to the other party. Then disaster… Rainbow Dash suggests they all go to the other party, which they promptly do. This is probably not as presumptuous on Dash’s part as it might seem; after all, they had no idea that Rarity had been specifically invited, or that it was an exclusive party. Still, their behaviour at the party is pretty disruptive and boorish. Rarity tries to pretend she’s not part of their group, but when Fancy Pants asks about Twilight’s dress, the jig is up. Twilight proudly proclaims that Rarity made her dress, and she loves it. Fancy Pants asks if Rarity does know the other ponies, and she hesitates… however, seeing the dismay starting to appear on the faces of her friends, Rarity confirms that she does know them, and that she considers them wonderful ponies and wonderful friends. When Jet Set and Upper Crust deride them all as “ruffians”, they are unexpectedly defended by Fancy Pants himself, who says they are “charmingly rustic”. Rarity starts a Lesson Letter to Celestia, but gets to deliver it to her in person instead, saying that one is a product of where they come from, and they should always be proud of it.   Thoughts on the Episode
This episode is entertaining, but it really does a number on Rarity’s integrity. She tells blatant lies for her own benefit, sneaks around behinds the back of her friends, and generally behaves more like a weasel than a pony. And this is coming from ME, so you know it has to be bad! Perhaps even worse, her lies and bad behaviour are never discovered, never acknowledged or even noticed in-universe. I also feel that her treatment of Opal was reprehensible. Never mind Rainbow’s treatment of Tank; this was outright animal abuse. I can only hope Opal gave Rarity a good few bites and scratches when they got home, because they would definitely be deserved. And although she was polite to her poor, put upon bellhop, neither she nor Princess Celestia really seemed to care about his problems. The moral too pretty much comes out of nowhere, and the lesson pretty meaningless considering she spent much of the episode trying to deny her roots. Worse, she sacrificed nothing of herself to learn the lesson. Oh, and one more big flaw in the episode: No Spike! At Twilight’s birthday party! He’s not even mentioned. Not cool, writers, not cool! Now that I’ve fully acknowledged the bad, allow me to focus on some good. First, we see that Rarity really does have what it takes to make it in Canterlot. As in real life, making the right connections socially is an important part of making a success of your endeavours, especially in a society where status is paramount. Her ability to think on her hooves is demonstrated as well, even if it is mostly used in devious ways. Fancy Pants was a great character to introduce. Despite his position as an elite of Canterlot, he seems quite down-to-earth, friendly and kind. (And he has a huge… horn… wink wink, nudge nudge) He’s nowhere near humble, of course, but he still provides a wonderful contrast to Jet Set and Upper Crust. Our first view of these two is them stalking about, noses in the air. And they’re a pair of trend chasers, too. They are snobs, through and through, and give the lie to anyone who ever described Rarity as such. There’s a difference between pride and arrogance, and arrogance is needed for someone to be a snob. Despite her poor showing in other areas in this episode, at least Rarity is not anything like those two. Also, it should be acknowledged that she did make the right choice in the end. And she didn’t have to actually make the bad decision and then somehow make it right, as happens in some other episodes. When push came to shove, she came down on the correct side. I enjoyed the humour in this episode too. The two-party sequence is extremely funny, and is done with minimal dialogue, letting the visuals and facial expressions do the work of portraying the hilarity.   Highlights/Quotes
The song: absolutely spectacular. Party cannon becomes part of the canon! The aforementioned conga line gag. Plus Rarity absently dipping her hors d'oeuvres into the chocolate. It’s all in the details, Dash:
Dash: Okay, what’s with the croquet mallet?
Rarity (muffled): What croquet mallet?
Dash: Duh, the one in your mouth.   Pros: Great humour, especially visually; some nice firsts introduced in the form of FP and the party canon.
Cons: Rarity really misbehaves and yet avoids due karma mostly through luck; a clumsy, tacked-on moral; no sign of Spike.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Woah, ironic. At any rate, I think I’ve spoken enough ill of Rarity… in the next episode, there’s a scene where I can actually defend her actions, and thus the rightful order shall be restored to the universe of this sunshine vulpine. Until then, remember that honesty is the best policy (even if you think you can get away with lying) and stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 34. “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well”: aka Copyright Infringement: The Episode…

I hate being alone. – Rainbow Dash You know that I said this is a bad Rainbow Dash episode? Well, I take it back. It’s a bad Mane Six episode. Heck, it’s a bad Ponyvillian episode. Nopony is going to come out of this one looking good. Let’s get this over with.   Summary
It’s a sunny day in Ponyville, but the local weathermare is reporting a high chance of DOOM! in the local area. Rainbow Dash helps out some of the ponies when disaster strikes, and is duly given due praise. However, she starts liking the praise a bit too much, and it starts inflating her ego. After a few too many boastful comments, the Mane Six start to get annoyed with her. Sometime later, a thief has apparently stolen Twilight’s balloon, and wrecked it, and is plummeting to her DOOM! while Dash delays her rescue to sign some autographs. When she does get on the case, the balloonist is instead rescued by a mysterious masked figure, leaving Dash to get tangled in the balloon. The fickle fools of the town immediately decide that this new hero is the bee’s knees, and Mayor Mare makes the new arrival eponymous. Dash is none too happy at being overshadowed. Over the course of the next few subjective hours of screen time, a pattern becomes evident. Dash arrives to help prevent a runaway vehicle, but fails. Mare-Do-Well pitches up and stops the cart, proving that she’s stronger than Dash (who is a Pegasus, why should she be strong at all, anyway?) At a construction site, a mechanical failure leads to a building falling apart. Dash’s attempt to boast is cut short by a plank flying through the air.
Actually, I think Spiderman threw that one because Dash stole his catchphrase. She does manage to save one construction worker who would surely have been DOOMED by being crushed under falling bricks, but Mare-Do-Well saves the other four, by apparently being able to sense when debris is going to fall before it actually does. Not that the worker Dash saved says “thanks” or anything, the ingrate. Next, Rainbow sees a leak in the dam, and plugs it with a hoof… actually causing the crack to widen. Then she literally pats herself on the back, leading to the collapse she was trying to prevent.
Quick! Get Superman to spin the earth backwards! We’ve already ripped off Batman and Spiderman, so why not? Mare-Do-Well saves her from the flood and magicks the rocks back into place, leaving Dash to wonder how she can compete. She tries to console herself by thinking about the fact that she can fly and Mare-Do-Well can’t… only she CAN. Dash sulks while the Mane Six discuss how wonderful Mare-Do-Well is: strong, fast, magical, fashionable and best of all, humble about her heroics. Dash shouts at them all and storms out, looking for something to prove she is better than Mare-Do-Well, but the DOOM! seems to be expended. Stupidity ensues, and eventually Dash gives up.
She’s looking pretty DOOM!y… I mean, GLOOM!y. Things get even worse when she finds out Ponyville is giving Mare-Do-Well an award for her good deeds. Dash decides to unmask the Mare, and chases her around, eventually tracking her down and pulling off the mask to reveal Rarity. Then more Mare-Do-Wells come out and reveal themselves as the rest of the Mane Six. They were taking turns playing the Mare in order to show Dash a lesson about being a hero with humility. Dash gets the point, and this interminable episode grinds to its conclusion.   Thoughts on the Episode
There’s a comic in the episode discussion thread that perfectly sums up this episode’s huge fatal flaw. I’m sure you’ve already seen it. Despite the fact that sitting her down and just telling Dash that she was making too much of herself would probably have avoided this entire problem, their first reaction is to gang up on and humiliate her. The burned hoof may teach best, but you don’t go grabbing the hoof and thrusting it into the flame deliberately. There’s also not much point in having a moral of “don’t talk yourself up too much” when they were doing just that in praising Mare-Do-Well, who was them all along. One could perhaps argue that they were aware of that, but doing it purely to try to get through to Dash, but really, they could have just owned up to it right there instead of allowing Dash to leave. This episode doesn’t give Dash much respect either. Yes, she can be boastful, but not to that extent. And while she’s not book smart, she isn’t an idiot either. Once she saw that Mare-Do-Well had both a horn and wings, she should have immediately realized it could only be one of the Alicorn Princesses or multiple ponies sharing the wearing of the cape. The Royal Sisters are ruled out due to size, since they’re noticeably larger than most ponies and Mare-Do-Well is certainly not. That she didn’t cotton on is pretty much a middle finger to her from the writers. The citizens of Ponyville look pretty bad by the end, too. As soon as Mare-Do-Well makes the first rescue, they instantly forget about Dash. Even Scootaloo, who has always idolized Dash, turns on her. The construction worker whose life she saved runs off without a word of thanks, or even an acknowledgement that both of them were needed for the rescue. The whole town comes across as fickle and forgetful. Is there anything good to be had here? Maybe one or two of the jokes can get a slight chuckle. There’s also some continuity nods here and there, like Pinkie Sense playing a role in the construction site scene. The design of the Mare-Do-Well costume is pretty cool, despite being lifted from Batman. On the whole, though, this episode is just a chore to sit through, and it’s probably worse for Dash’s fans on account of how she gets treated… by the other characters and by the writers.   Quotes (There are no highlights)
Twilight: Call me silly, but I think all this attention might be going to Rainbow’s head…
Pinkie: I think you may be right, Silly.   Pros: Maybe one or two gags worthy of a smile; Pinkie Sense gets a reference.
Cons: Everypony gets a slap in the face; utterly predictable; a botched moral; both Marvel and DC should sue for copyright infringement.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the mooooon! Well, thank Celestia that’s done. After two episodes of Dash, the next one will focus on Rarity, with some bad behaviour on the part of my favorite fashionista pony. Hey, she’s not perfect, I can admit that. Tune in next time, same website, same blog, and as always, stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 33. "May the Best Pet Win": Slow and Steady Wins the Space

This isn’t a game, you know… Now these games will determine which of you is fit to be my pet. – Rainbow Dash Could it be? A Rainbow-Dash-centric episodes that doesn't totally suck? This must be my lucky day. How did DHX manage it? Let's take a look at May the Best Pet Win! and see.   Summary
Rainbow Dash is speeding through the air one fine day, and is joined by Owlowicious. The two begin to race, and oddly Owlowicious is even faster than Dash. She doesn't particularly care, just having fun with the pure rush of speed and joy of competition. Wait a moment... Rainbow Dash is losing a race, and she doesn't care? Well then, this has to be a dream. This is confirmed when Owlowicious starts morphing into a mix of all the Mane Six' pets. The appearance of Opal popping out of Angel Bunny's mouth, hissing, shocks Dash enough to jar her awake from a nap (a nice callback to the habit mentioned in earlier episodes), to find all the pets around her.
Welp, that's my next month's worth of nightmares prepared... Thanks, DHX! The Mane Six also appear, having arrived for their weekly Pony-Pet Playdate. Fluttershy is worried that Dash might be angry at being left out of the loop, but she agrees that since she doesn't have a pet of her own, it didn't make sense to invite her. But after hearing how much fun she is missing out on, she decides to get a pet of her own, to Fluttershy's delight. Back at the cottage, Fluttershy and Dash sing a duet as she shows off all the potential pets in her menagerie. It takes a while, but Flutters finally gets the hint that it needs to be a creature that can fly. Dash decides the only way to find the best pet is to have a competition. This takes the form of various contests to ascertain speed, coolness, bravery and other factors Dash is looking for in a pet. Flutters begs Dash to let a tortoise compete, despite not meeting the flying requirement. He totally tanks the tests, too. Finally, though, the field is narrowed down to four fliers: an eagle, an owl, a falcon and a bat. Dash announces the final event... a race through Ghastly Gorge, with the competitor that crosses the finish line with Dash being the winning pet. The tortoise competes too, despite not making the cut earlier. While the various hazards of Ghastly Gorge hamper the rest, Dash manages to sail through, having flown the course multiple times. However, her nonchalant attitude becomes her downfall, as she fails to watch where she's going, and smacks into a cliff face. This causes an avalanche of falling rocks, one of which pins her wing to the ground, while the other racers pass her and leaving her behind. Trapped, scared and on the verge of tears, Dash is delighted to hear someone is coming. She's less delighted when she sees it's the tortoise. However, he is able to get his head under the rock, and lifts it, freeing her. Meanwhile, the Mane Six are waiting at the finish line, and grow concerned when Dash isn't the first to cross. Seeing the rockslide in the distance, concern turns to panic, but they soon spot the tortoise heading their way, carrying a rather rueful Rainbow. Although the first one to finish the race was the falcon, Dash points out a technicality... she had said that the pet who crossed the finish line with her would earn the right to join Team Dashie, and that was the tortoise. The falcon accepts this disappointment with dignity, and a wing shake for the winner.
Poor fella; don't worry, you're still a champion in my book. Perhaps the guilt at not trying to assist Dash in her predicament is the reason he takes it so well... or maybe it's because he can't actually speak up to object. Toss a coin to decide. Either way, Dash dubs her new pet Tank, in honour of his determination. When Fluttershy points out that Tank, being a tortoise, can't fly and will keep Dash grounded (but not in the good way), they rig up a propeller for him. Maybe she should rename him Helicopter. Dash closes the episode with a Letter to Princess Celestia, delivering the moral: speed, ability to fly and coolness are all worthy things to have, but physical ability is as important as having the right attitude.   Thoughts on the Episode
I'm not a huge fan of Rainbow Dash, and to be honest, many of her focus episodes don't help her case in the slightest. Some of the most disappointing episodes in the series for me are Dash episodes. This is not only because she's possibly my least favourite Mane Six, those episodes truly do suck over and above that. Here, however is a Dash episode actually done well, developing and improving her character by having her learn a valuable lesson about tenacity, as well as introducing Tank to the series; would that all of her episodes could do so well. While the final outcome is no real surprise, there is adequately competent foreshadowing throughout the episode. That Tank can lift objects with his head was demonstrated early on, during the bravery test. In the song, Tank briefly dons a pair of sunglasses when Dash mentions that she wants a cool pet, and we see Dash wearing a pair of her own, so there's a minor link there too. The humour of the episode is pretty good. There are a few running gags, such as the whole turtle-tortoise debate, deliciously subverted at the end by Fluttershy being the one corrected on her nomenclature, and a brick joke or two such as Dash saying "gesundheid", first to the eagle and then to Twilight. Drill sergeant Dash is pretty funny, too. The best gag is where Twilight objects that coolness, awesomeness and radicalness are all pretty much the same thing, earning her a condescending pat on the head from Dash. And doesn't she just look delighted? The musical number of this episode is also pretty great, and to this day I still enjoy listening to the song when it come up on my MP3 player. Speaking of the music, there's also a bit of fourth wall joke made when Dash whistles a few bars along with the background music ("Ride of the Valkyries", unless I miss my guess) during the race. It's a minor touch, but I thought it was creative anyway. The moral of the episode is pretty standard, but it's a particularly good lesson for Dash to have learned to see value in things other than speed and coolness, particularly determination and perseverance, the things that I appreciate in Dash's character myself. It's also pretty appropriate that Tank convinces her by demonstrating her own Element, Loyalty; another example of how they complement each other. The episode is not without its flaws, however. Dash's dismissive attitude towards Tank in the beginning and her treatment of him don't fall far short of animal abuse, until he actually saves her hide. She's also remarkably blasé about the setting the final race in a place like Ghastly Gorge, with its not inconsiderable dangers to life and wing... those Quarray Eels in particular are pretty nasty. It's played for laughs, but the bat ends up basically eaten, and only escapes through the eels nose. There's also the fact that Dash seems more interested in being first than seeing the ability of the animals: she outright says "But I'm supposed to win!" when she gets trapped and sees the others flying away without her. She also used the trick favoured by all five year olds (people, not ponies) of speeding up the ready-set-go for an unfair advantage. She also exploits the loophole of "the one who crosses the finish line with me is the winner" to deny the falcon his rightful prize. She specifically states that requirement as necessary to prove that the winner can keep up with her, which Tank assuredly can't. She may be sticking to the letter of the law, but she sure is violating the spirit of it (not particularly unknown behaviour from her.) It might have made a stronger statement is Dash admitted that the falcon actually had won the right to be her pet, but she was reversing her decision in light of Tank's heroic assistance.   Highlights / Quotes The song. Rainbow Dash: <snip> Coolness. Awesomeness. And radicalness.
Twilight Sparkle: Aren't those all the same thing?
<beat>
Rainbow Dash: You would think that, Twilight. And that's why you would never qualify to be my pet. The bat plays the MLP theme on a set of glasses, then shatters them with a hypersonic shriek.
Rainbow Dash: Whoa! That was truly awesome! But I'm afraid this is the radicalness competition, so I'm gonna have to take some points off.   Pros: Dash develops; good humour; a worthwhile moral; that falcon rocks.
Cons: Some questionable actions from Dash; perhaps a spot predicable; loophole abuse.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moooooon! So that was a good Rainbow Dash episode... give or take the odd wobble. Next up, unfortunately, is an episode set to upset all the gains from this one... until then, stay on the sunny side.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox