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Soooooo.... Toffee...

Two warnings should be issued... first, this post is about Star vs. The Forces of Evil. If you don't watch that show, this blog entry will be mostly devoid of interest for you. Second, this post is being written by someone who has watched the entire first season of the previously mentioned show, so naturally SPOILERS will abound. Still here...? Oh, goodie. I'll just give it to ya straight... here are my predictions / thoughts about Season 2 of Star Vs. , especially as regards the now obvious main villain, Toffee. The very first on-screen appearance of Toffee is a shot of his right hand, which is missing a knuckle's worth of finger.

Exhibit A... Which detail is pretty inconsequential... until we get to the first season finalé, Storm the Castle. Here, Toffee kidnaps Marco, drawing Star into a confrontation to rescue him. At one point, Star uses her magic to blast Toffee, vaporizing his arm. However, he later regenerates it, quite handily (hee hee):

Exhibit B... The details are somewhat unimportant, but Star is forced into a final choice... watch Marco meet his doom at the (newly regenerated) hand of Toffee, or to destroy her wand... up until this point a McGuffin of literally universal power for whoever wields it. Toffee is apparently willing to forgo this power for his own purposes...
SURPRISE! Having no other option, Star duly destroys the wand using the "Whispering Spell", which Toffee tells her is not only the first spell her mother taught her... (wait a minute... how would Toffee, a monster, and thus the ultimate antithesis of the Mewnian Royal Family, know a detail like that...?) but is a sort of Self-Destruct Button for the wand itself. And if there is one thing mad scientists have taught me, it's that Self Destruct sequences always are accompanied by giant explosions. (Thanks Invade Zim and Kaolla Su...) At this point, I tend to differ from those who claim that Toffee had prior knowledge that the wand would explode... for he clearly is surprised by what happens... at first. After telling his minions "it's been a pleasure"... (which just adds to the ambiguity. It is pretty much what a Big Bad might say to his minions either when he achieves his ultimate goal and nothing more, or if he knew that the result of achieving his ultimate goal would blow them all up... most commentators seem to go for the latter interpretation, although there isn't much to favour either idea) his expression when the wand starts glowing shows clear surprise...
Star's reactions slightly earlier in the episode imply that the ghost of her wand's unicorn let her know that the explosion would happen. Toffee apparently wasn't privy to this. However, there is this later expression we see on Toffee's face: Now it's pretty deliberately framed so that we see this directly after the jewel in the wand is sundered, which would seem to imply that the sundering of the jewel is what makes Toffee smirk... however, this doesn't really gel with what I previously mentioned, and thus makes me suspect sea-animals of the scarlet persuasion... and the further revelation (later in the episode) that the sundered jewel is bad thing for the Mewnians just seems to be calculated to further this impression. I believe that Toffee was smirking for an entirely different reason. Namely, he knew that if this version of him got nixed by the explosion, there's still his missing finger: a backup from which he could regenerate if he were to be destroyed. So the first prediction I would make, is that Toffee will reappear at some appropriately dramatic point later in the series, explaining exactly what I've put down here... that his missing finger is insurance against his body's destruction. As for who he is, I suspect he is a missing member of the Mewnian Royal Family, possibly a sibling of Star herself, who was magically transformed into his monster form. First, we've seen that magic can permanently change a human into a troll (Ms. Skullnick), so it's not such a stretch to suggest that a Mewnian could undergo the same to become a monster. Second, it explains Toffee's knowledge of the secret wand destroying spell (which knowledge might not have included the explosion part - which it seems Star herself didn't know until the ghost unicorn told her about it). Third, it explains the line he said in his debut episode... "Yes, well. You're not the first monster to fall victim to their magic," and the look he gives towards the palace... which, admittedly, even a natural born monster might be inclined to say. But here's Exhibit C... why does a lizard have hair? None of the other monsters have hair, unless their design is clearly mammal, such as the bear and giraffe. The lizards, Lobster Claws and chickens don't have anything that could be construed as hair... even Ludo is a kappa, so his hair is expected somewhat. But for Toffee, a lizard monster such as he shouldn't have hair, unless something else is being hinted at here... So to summarize, here are some of my predictions as regards Toffee for the next Season of Star Vs: 1. Toffee will return, citing his formerly severed finger as the reason for his survival...
2. He will turn out to be a former member of the Mewnian Royal Family, transformed into a monster by magic and thus disowned, giving him a good reason to want to seek revenge on the Mewnians. What do you think? Is this likely? How do you interpret Toffee and what do you think Star Vs will give us in the future? Feel free to comment, and as always, stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Shipping the Mains

I like cartoons. You might have noticed. But there is a trend that sometimes drives me pretty nuts. Whenever you have a pair of main characters (of opposite gender or sometimes of the same gender), there is this tendency to somehow entangle them romantically. No matter how much ship tease the mains have with less central characters, it somehow seems that the two of them always end up together.
Case in point... And it almost never works... unless the relationship upgrade happens at the very end of the story (e.g. Korrasami in Legend of Korra), or it's clear from the start that the two only have eyes for each other from the very beginning (e.g. Bob and Dot in ReBoot). Why does it work in the first instance? Because we can let our imaginations go wild. How will they interact from here on out? What problems will they solve together? What will the children look like? The possibilities become endless. If the story continues after the mains have hooked up, all that potential is necessarily pruned, since we see what canonically happens during the "happily ever after" phase. We get the real life that happens after the honeymoon, and really, who wants to see what Reality Ensues? Why does it work in the second instance? Because we see what they went through to be together. That's inspirational. They broke through all barriers to be together in the end. We feel that we too can become the kind of person who deserves the love of another compatible person, and that nothing will stop us! So, the upshot of all this? I've been watching Star vs The Forces of Evil. I don't want Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz to end up as a couple (like... ugh... KP and RS). They work better as Marco X Jackie, and Star X ???. Can't we just have two friends who kick ass together and remain simply friends?! Star vs is already slated for a second and third season. I hope Star and Marco can stay "friends who will do anything for each other" rather than mucking it up with unnecessary romantic feelings for each other. I ship (when I ship @ all) Marco X Jackie. Plus, Jackie is totally a secret mermaid. Anyhoo, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

My Gemsona

So I've been getting into Steven Universe a bit, and after catching up on all the episodes, I got to thinking about creating my own Gemsona. So here she is, and even though there's probably a billion Gemsona's with this particular name out there, I'm sure she's still a unique Gem. Enjoy, or not... Background:
Obsidian managed to survive the Gem v. Crystal Gem War, and went on the run, hiding from both sides. Following the War, she wandered the planet. Sometime within the past few centuries, she found herself in Japan (Japan exists within the show - Connie once said "itadakimasu" before eating, although it would probably be more like Japan as usually depicted in Western animation than the historical version). She became enamored of the idea of the ninja, and the form of her current projection is modeled on them. She decided on becoming an assassin, who take jobs not based on the money (since she doesn't need it) but rather on how difficult her target is to get to and eliminate. Since the people who make enemies who want them assassinated are usually not very innocent, she mostly kills people who would be deserving of it i.e. evil people. However, the good she might do in eliminating these people is incidental and not her motivation, which is only the thrill of the challenge. (Of course, as her character interacts with the Crystal Gems and Steven, she'd probably develop into an anti-hero. But at first, it'll just be the thrill of the hunt.) Gem:
Her Gem is a triangular piece of Obsidian, divided into four smaller triangles, the middle one being raised. (Think of the Triforce from Legend of Zelda as a pitch-black gem). It's set into the back of her right hand. She can shape her gem weapons as knives, kunai or throwing stars. She can produce up to 8 of them (4 in each hand, extending from between her fingers) at a time and can throw them pretty accurately. Since obsidian is volcanic in origin, she can make them explode for extra damage or to produce a smoke screen. Fighting Style: Assassination / Ninjitsu
Her preferred style of combat is almost exclusively to strike from the shadows, then fade away into them. She can change her colour from light grey to pitch black in order to help her hide. If the advantage of surprise fails her, she uses her speed and agility to remain on the move, keeping at a distance from her enemies and throwing her weapons. Like her namesake mineral, she is brittle and therefore not very durable. Despite being relatively fast, she is next to useless in close quarters combat. If she is forced into melee distance, she can extend a shield from her Gemmed right hand. If the shield is hit, it immediately explodes into a larger version of her smoke bomb, allowing her to make a getaway. Appearance:
She appears to be a young Japanese woman. Her skin usually looks pale, but she can darken it at will, with her lips being a few shades darker. Her hair is shaped into a short bob, and is pure black. (In my mind, she resembles a more feminine version of Touya Akira from Hikaru no Go) Her outfit resembles the traditional black ninja garb of popular culture, rather than any historically-accurate outfits. A template for her appearance:

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

ER - Episode Repair: Amending "Amending Fences"

So, you're probably aware by now that I didn't find Amending Fences quite the magnum opus that many other fans did. Nor did I find much to enjoy in the character of Moon Dancer (Moondancer?), whose emotional struggles strongly resonated with many bronies. Nor Minuette, for that matter, but in her case, it's more a matter of personal taste. I don't like people (or ponies) who giggle incessantly; that sort of thing annoys me. "C'mon, let's fly! *giggle* Get it?" No, Minuette, because that is not a joke. Twilight can fly, you can only run. Neither of you are fleeing, so "let's fly" really isn't a pun. But back to Moondancer. I didn't see a shy pony hurt by somepony's thoughtlessness just when she was starting to open up to the world. I saw a pony who is unfairly projecting her own insecurities and feelings onto Twilight, without Twilight even knowing about it. If she wants to attach expectations to Twilight without so much as making an attempt at cluing her in, then it’s her own fault if Twilight doesn’t meet those expectations. Yet the episode wants to pretend that Twilight is at fault for this. The writers, and even Twilight herself, are too quick to attach blame to Twilight for MD’s own neuroses. Twilight even says at the end “Back when we were in school together, you invited me to a party. I was so focused on my studies that I didn't show up.” Which is a blatant contradiction of what we saw in the pilot and the flashback based on it. (I'll build more of a point on this later.) MD herself never invited Twilight anywhere. Twilight got a backhanded invite from a different pony. MD set up the party for Twilight, but she didn’t actually invite Twilight, and made no effort to ensure that Twilight knew that it was important to her. As far as I can see, Moondancer inflicted all this on herself. tl;dr: The source of Moondancer's emotion distress is not Twilight's thoughtlessness, as implied; it's Moondancer's own expectations of what amounted to a secret test of friendship that Twilight "failed". Is my point becoming clear at all? Leaving all that aside for the moment, the premise of this episode is one that looks really good on paper. Twilight realizes she was a bad friend in the past, and finds out that her behaviour at that time hurt somepony else, who is still suffering because of it, and she apologizes and makes amends (which is what "mending fences" means, so the pun in the episode title also makes little sense.) Great idea! Sign me up! I just think there were a few problems with the execution of that premise. So, in the spirit of being constructively critical rather than just critical, I offer a few suggestions for alternative routes that MA Larson could have taken that would ameliorate said problems. Even if you, dear reader, remain convinced that the episode's "problems" are not such, I would say that no writer is perfect, and so no episode is perfect. There's room for improvement, even if you love the episode with all your heart. First, I feel the episode hamstrung itself by making the scene in the pilot, where Twilight blows off the invitation to the party, to be the cause of Moondancer taking the psychological blow that the episode focuses on. Why? Because, quite simply, Moondancer was not in that scene. So even if she knew it was organized by Moondancer, Twilight really had no way to know that declining to go would affect Moondancer so badly - at least not without a sense of intuition and empathy for other ponies that she at this point lacks. It's asking her to be aware of something she couldn't have been known, and then punishing her with blame for her justified ignorance. So how to fix this? You can still leave that scene in and have it work, but if you're going to rewrite the past anyway, why restrict yourself to what we've seen before? Have a flashback to earlier in the day, before Twilight started reading her history book, where she meets with Moondancer, and Moondancer does actually invite her to her party. She could even say "I'd really like you to be there!" Go the whole hog, and have Twilight actually agree to go! Maybe she then tells Spike about it, so he goes to arrange his gift (neatly sealing up a plothole in the pilot, by the way, namely why Spike knows about the party, when it seems Twilight didn't until she was told by Twinkleshine.) Then later, Twilight gets caught up in her reading, runs into the aforementioned trio, and decides her research is more important than the party, leading to her saying they don't have time for presents and parties, even though they're on a break. Now we have Moondancer actually inviting Twilight herself, and Twilight betraying her trust by going back on her word to attend, which something I would actually agree that Twilight should be blamed for. It's a bit of arc welding that could easily have been introduced, and would fully justify Moondancer's emotional pain. There are some other issues that could have been fixed with little effort. 1. The scene where Twilight imagines how Moondancer would have reacted to her no show isn't a flashback, and so we have no real way of knowing if that's what really happened or not. I mean, push comes to shove, I'd probably accept it as accurate, but it grates on me that we have an imagine spot rather than a flashback. How to fix this one? Have Minuette describe it as a flashback of her own. She's basically the main mode of exposition elsewhere in the episode, why not here? 2. Leave out the "I don't even remember my friends' names" running gag entirely. It takes up time unnecessarily, quickly becomes exasperating, and goes against both the idea that Twilight considered them her friends in the past and that Moondancer would have attached so much emotional significance to Twilight. In particular, "Twilight Twinkle" is a red herring in the context of the episode. 3. Use the Cutie Map to start the episode off, rather than using Spike's random comment. You don't even need to include a scene of her checking the map, just have her say "the map sent me to Canterlot". (Yes, yes, "show don't tell", but if time is an issue, this could be used instead) Then Twilight arrives, determined to fix somepony's problem, only to find she caused it in the first place. That would seem much more impactful to me, and drive the lesson home to Twilight more naturally than as it stands. So, those are the tweaks and changes I would have made to this episode. I've tried to justify them as much as I can, and I hope they sound reasonable. If you can think of anything I've missed, or you want to denounce me as a cynical cretin, feel free to comment. Oh, um, hello, Moondancer... that is a big stick, isn't it?
*THWACK!*

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 101. “Princess Spike”: Twilight Snoozes, Spike Loses

I had good intentions! Honest! Until I… didn’t, any more… – Spike
Twilight's hittin' the hay books.   Summary
Twilight has been making arrangements for an Equestria-wide Conference, to the point where she is asleep on her feet. Princess Cadance charges Spike with seeing that she gets some uninterrupted rest before the conference proper starts. Spike tries his best to keep the environs quiet: moving a noisy polo game elsewhere, convincing a gardener to stop trimming some top heavy Dragonsneeze trees with his chainsaw, and stopping a construction pony with a jackhammer from working on a damaged water main. During a celebratory snack of some rubies, Spike is confronted by two of the delegates who have been double booked for their speeches. Soliciting the advice of the groggy Princess proves useless – she’s too addled by sleep deprivation to make any sense. Spike, seeing no other option, suggests that the two ponies simply share the hall. Believing the suggestion actually came from Princess Twilight (and not “Princess” Spike), the two accept it. This leads to Spike deciding he has free rein to make all decisions on Twilight’s behalf. He even starts taking on tasks that Twilight was due to complete, so that she won’t have to bother with them. Despite Princess Cadance’s increasingly concerned remonstrations, he continues to make decisions using Twilight’s authority, some of which turn out to cause trouble. Confronted again by Cadance, he admits he might be taking it too far, but in his defense, nothing really bad resulted… Of course, right then, disaster strikes. A stray shot from the polo players knocks over the Dragonsneeze trees, one of which falls on the water main, breaking the pipe and sending a torrent of water into the main hall, flooding it. Cadance is able to stop the water with some (never-before-seen) crystal magic, and an untimely opening of the main hall door by Fancy Pants himself lets the water flood out. Just when Spike thinks the disaster is averted, some broken branches from the Dragonsneeze trees that were washed into the hall make the dragon sneeze (fancy that!), shattering the centerpiece of the conference… a statue make up of gems from each of the cities in Equestria. Seeing the ruination, Fancy Pants rounds on the construction and gardening ponies, demanding to know why his orders weren’t carried out. They both state that Princess Twilight made the decisions that led to disaster, and Spike can’t find the opportunity to own up to his transgression before the angry mob of delegates head for Twilight’s chamber to confront her over “her” poor decisions. Spike manages to get there first and lock the door, just before Twilight wakes up… refreshed and ready to join the conference. Confronted by the furious delegates, Twilight is bewildered until Spike lets her know what he’s been getting up to. They all go back to the main hall, where Spike comes cleans and apologizes to the ponies. As a sign of forgiveness, they help him rebuild the statue.   The Bugz
Hoo boy! The Spike Abuse is strong with this one. And it starts early in the episode: he doesn’t even get to finish saying a few words before one of the ponies in the audience interrupts him. Throughout most of the episode, he tries his hardest to do the right thing in what is quite frankly an untenable position: Twilight needs to sleep, but the delegates need her to advise them. And there are THREE other Princesses, any of whom could have been the ones to sort out these important issues. Maybe they’re busy elsewhere, but that is never established in the episode, so it seems Princess Cadance is just throwing Spike in the deep end of the pool. Yet she’s only too happy to wag her finger at him when things go wrong. He shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place, and his only crime is not being genre savvy enough to realize it’s all going to end up biting him in his scaly backside. If you ask me, Cadance is the one at fault, not Spike. Not only the Princesses, but the universe in general seems to hate Spike too. I mean, come on… DragonSNEEZE trees? Dragon Quest established that ponies have virtually no knowledge of dragons, but they do know what kind of trees give them allergies? I guess the ponies who planted them couldn’t have foreseen a dragon having problems with them, but why would they plant trees that get so top heavy that a small knock is enough to send them tumbling? Isn’t that just a little bit of a safety risk, presence of a dragon or no? Even the end of the episode refuses to give him a break, heavily implying that he destroys the statue yet again with another sneeze.   The Shrugz
What was up with the griffon delegate? Either she comes from Griffonstone, or there’s another griffon city located in Equestria itself. If it’s the former, I have to wonder how such a struggling society can afford to part with a gemstone of that size (it’s not the smallest gem by a long way, even if it isn’t the biggest.) So is Griffonstone back on its feet already? If it’s the latter, then why is there a city of griffons within Equestria? Did the griffons we saw in Equestria Games and Rainbow Falls come from the former or the latter? Too many questions! Oh, and there’s Gustav making a cameo. Continuity nod! Speaking of continuity nods…
Agent Sweetie Drops is under cover again!   The Hugz
Fancy Pants returns, and we see that he is dedicated to maintaining Canterlot’s reputation. Even if he did take a chance on getting special treatment, he accepted “Twilight’s” ruling that it would be unfair to the rest of the delegates gracefully enough. He was also the first to step up after Spike’s apology and attempt to rebuild the statue. The scene where all the ponies (and one griffin) help Spike rebuild the gem statue brings the feels, even if the ending kind of ruined it. And where is Fleur? Did Fancy Pants perhaps dump her to make a play for Rarity? Intriguing! I also like Twilight snuggling up with the books when she’s tired. Adorable! Plus it could be considered a funny call back to Equestria Girls and Twilight sleeping on a bed of books. There also seems to be a much greater variation than usual in the shapes of the ponies, as highlighted by the delegates of the various cities.   Pros: Some heartwarming moments. Return of a few characters.
Cons: Spike is set up to fail in a situation he shouldn’t have faced in the first place. Spike Abuse continues to be a thing.   Final Thoughts
While this episode had one or two highlights, for the most part, it’s just Spike getting dumped on by the universe again. It makes it really hard to accept that Spike is in the wrong when he’s been thrust into a position where he’s basically set up to fail, which really pulls this episode down in my opinion.   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. Stay sunny 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 99. “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”: Pride in Bits and Pieces

None of us care about that dumb old idol. Don't you get it? We don't care about anything, and that's the way we like it! – Gilda Synopsis
Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are sent by The Map to the capital city of the griffon kingdom, Griffonstone. Twilight’s history books say it was a great city, united many years in the past by King Grover, using an artifact called the Idol of Boreas. When they arrive, however, the two find that the current reality is much different. The place is falling apart, nigh literally, and no griffon will give them the time of day… unless it involves getting money from them.
It's a little "eyrie", but the griffons call it home… The pair comes across Gilda, who is as rude as ever, but they also meet her Grandpa Gruff. For a couple of bits, the older griffon confirms the story in the history book, and also describes the loss of the Idol during the reign of King Guto. A monster broke in to steal the idol, but both fell into Abysmal Abyss. The loss of the idol broke the pride of the griffons, leading to a decline of the state into its current… state. Deciding that the Map sent them here to fix the problems of Griffonstone, Rainbow Dash aims to retrieve the Idol, leaving behind the more-thoughtful-than-usual Pinkie Pie. While Dash enlists the aid of a surly and apathetic guide to abseil into the Abyss in search of the idol, Pinkie returns to Gilda to try to find out more information. After seeing Gilda help another griffon, she realizes something and runs to find Dash. Meanwhile, Dash is stranded in the Abyss when the rope she is using breaks, and her guide, hearing that Dash has no more bits, leaves her to her fate. Pinkie arrives and after a few false starts, runs back to Gilda to enlist her help in the rescue. Gilda remembers the good feelings her prior friendship with Dash provided, via flashback to Junior Speedster Flight Camp. She agrees to help. While rescuing Dash, Gilda sees the idol, as well as the remains of the monster who took it all those years ago.
What’re you staring at? Forced to choose whether the idol or Dash is going to take the fall, as it were, Gilda makes the choice to save Dash from her predicament. This leads to reconciliation between the three, with Gilda apologizing for her behaviour in her first appearance. Pinkie encourages Gilda to befriend the griffon from earlier, and replace the bonds once created by the idol using friendship. The Map then signals them to come home.   My Thoughts on the Episode
This is a mixed bag of an episode. The writing is pretty tight, and provides a lot of foreshadowing. Two particular examples stand out. The first is when they get off the train. The platform they are standing on is in a state of disrepair. This provides an early hint to the poor condition of Griffonstone itself. The second is when Pinkie steps over a crevice, and some of the rock crumbles and falls. This detail hints at the danger Dash will face later in the episode, when the ledge she is on likewise begins to crumble. There’s been some… shall we say “vigorous discourse”… in the episode’s official thread with regards to the worth of the moral, which I don’t think I need to rehash here. Instead, I’d like to focus on a related but different matter. As in the premiere, the ponies are given what I’ve taken to calling the “Mission Accomplished” signal at the episode’s end, where their cutie marks flash and chime. But what mission was actually accomplished? Both Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie assume that the Map sent them there to “fix” Griffonstone’s problem. If Griffonstone is in such a bad way, it does indeed seem like the signal is given prematurely (¯Understatement, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again…¯) But that’s assuming Dash and Pinkie are correct in what they believe. Can I blow your mind, just a little? Maybe they’re not. If you look at what was actually accomplished, you might get the feeling that the Map sent them not to help Griffonstone, but to help Gilda. First point: if the objective was to help the entire griffon kingdom, it seems a little strange that the Map would send ONLY Pinkie and Dash, the two ponies who were wronged the most by Gilda in Season 1. Why not send the whole of the Mane Six? Second point: at the end of the episode, there are two things can be most definitely said to be “fixed”: 1. the relationship between Gilda, Dash and Pinkie, where she actually apologizes to them and they mend their fences. 2. Gilda's loneliness: she makes a griffon friend of her own, thus ensuring that she isn’t left alone again when the ponies leave. This feeling was strengthened for me by the fact that the Mission Accomplished signal is given after she returns and reports to the two ponies that her offering of a griffon scone was accepted and that she had been complimented by another griffon for the first time in her life. Third point: The Map accomplished one more thing with regards to Dash. Her broken friendship with Gilda was repaired. For one of the ponies whose new job it is to spread the magic of friendship, it might be considered somewhat of an albatross around her neck to have such a snarl of disharmony lying in her past. Biblical anecdotes regarding specks and logs come to mind. Perhaps the journey was as much for Dash's sake as for Gilda's. As a bonus, given this viewpoint, that controversial little moral becomes somewhat less of a glaring flaw in the episode. True, not true? I dunno. I just offer it as a different perspective on the episode. I think it holds up well enough to at least give it a bit of thought. Some other nice touches to this episode include the art shifts for the History of Griffonstone sections, yet another weird beasty (sadly deceased) to add to Equestria’s Monster Manual, a glimpse of the "aww, so cute!" filly and fledgling friendship in flashback form and some comedy provided by Gilda’s constant snark, as well as a few laughs courtesy of Pinkie Pie. The final scene was perfectly done. I know some people feel that it would have been funnier if Gummy had finished the cake, but c’mon, who do you think he is? Boulder? I find it much funnier to consider that he has literally been lying there in the same position throughout however long Pinkie’s trip took. So what are the negatives? (You know, apart from the obvious one…) Well, this tendency to name every single griffon using the letter G is really, really getting to the point of irritation. (Meet my newest sob story OC: Harrold the Griffon, banished forever for bucking the theme-naming trend.) Seriously? Grover, Guto, Gilda, Glenda, GRAMPA GRUFF (That’s a twofer, Celestia damn you!) It’s getting gauche, ghastly and groan-inducing!
Good grief!   Pros: Plenty of foreshadowing. There is a continuation of the arc started in the premiere. Gilda actually gets her redemption episode (finally).
Cons: The moral is (from certain perspectives) as entirely broken as the houses. The griffons really need to explore the ramifications of the rest of the alphabet.   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, and as always, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 96. “Tanks for the Memories”: A Mad Dash Episode

Who said anything about anger?! I didn't say anything about anger! I'm not upset! And I am not angry! Do I look angry?! – Rainbow Dash   Summary As the time comes to unwrap winter in Ponyville, with the help of the Pegasus ponies from Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash finds that her pet Tank is acting even more sedately than usual. Hearing from Fluttershy that he is gearing down for hibernation, Rainbow Dash is unable to accept that she needs to say goodbye to him until spring. When her attempt at halting the inevitable advance of winter fails, she goes into a deep depression. Via a touch of tough love, courtesy of Fluttershy and her other friends, Rainbow Dash finally comes to accept the truth, and makes her peace with the idea of a petless winter. The Mane Six bid a fond “see you later” to Tank as he digs himself a place to sleep.   Thoughts on the episode While the episode has a simple premise, and follows a simplistic view of the 5 stages of grief, it really manages to be emotionally effective. I would even go so far as to suggest that this is as close as this series will ever get to being able to portray a character actually dealing with bereavement, albeit a symbolic and temporary one. Let’s follow Dash on her journey. 1. Denial: Dash immediately denies what Fluttershy tells her about Tank needing to hibernate, and makes flimsy excuses to discount not only Fluttershy’s words, but even solid evidence confirming what she doesn’t want to believe. She even goes to get a second opinion. From Spike. When he seconds Fluttershy’s prognosis, Dash begins to segue into the next stage… 2. Anger: As the quote above attests, as Rainbow becomes less able to deny what is happening, she starts lashing out at Pinkie Pie and the others before storming off. 3. Bargaining: As it becomes clear to her that Tank really is going to hibernate, Dash tries anything and everything to stop the inevitable from coming to pass. Extra points for irony: her efforts just serve to speed the process.
Is there mushroom in Ponyville for snow? 4. Depression: A textbook case, Dash secludes herself in her room, ignores the Mane Six when they come to check up on her, and responds to any attempt at engaging her with a subdued “whatever”. Then Fluttershy happens. With one sentence, she shatters Dash’s composure, finally forcing her to fully face the facts. 5. Acceptance: With the cathartic relief of a good old crying session behind her, Rainbow comes to terms with the fact that Tank will be leaving her for a while, brings him to the others so that they can also say goodbye, and even decides to stay a while after he covers himself to read him a bedtime story. I think it was a great idea to have Fluttershy be the one to force Rainbow Dash to face the truth, having learned that lesson in Season 4 with the Breezies. Sometimes kindness needs to be dropped in favour of some tough love, baby. There’s definitely a bit of a “what the hell?” moment with Rarity here when she says, “I can’t bear to see Fluttershy cry!” Fluttershy? What about Rainbow Dash? Yet even within this emotional turmoil, this episode finds a few opportunities for a good laugh. The whole weather pony conversation with Open Skies, Clear Skies and Fluffy Clouds is a great example of Who’s on First. There’s also the part where Pinkie says that Applejack “cries on the inside”. I mean, like, duh! Right? Rainbow Dash also manages to show off a great many new expressions. The thing about Dash is she usually tries to act cool and stoic, so when she does show her emotions, it tends to be very funny. Of course, this episode is not entirely without its flaws. There are some continuity issues that ruin the experience for some fans. If we assume the episodes May the Best Pet Win and Heart’s Warming Eve are aired in chronological order, then this isn’t the first winter that Rainbow has weathered with her pet, so this hibernation issue should have come up before. It doesn’t bother me much personally, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we can loosen the assumption above, and suggest that the wintry events of Heart’s Warming Eve happened before Rainbow ever met Tank, eliminating the continuity flaw. After all, as far as I can remember, Tank never appears or is he referenced in that episode. Even if this isn’t possible, it’s probably best to just accept that the writers stuffed it up, and that this is the first winter Tank and Rainbow are facing together. This brings me to my second reason for not being too concerned: the focus of this episode is the emotions Rainbow is experiencing as she bids farewell to her pet, and I’m not one to let a continuity error vitiate the emotion. I would encourage others to accept it as a flaw in the writing, put it on the backburner of their minds, and just enjoy the roller coaster ride. I guess what I’m trying to say is that continuity is the servant to the story, not the other way around. Still, the irony of the situation doesn’t escape me: they go to lengths to include the Running of the Leaves, the weather factory from Sonic Rainboom, etc, precisely for the purpose of establishing continuity and then make what appears to be a massive error in the same area. As with many other episodes, Rainbow’s crazy actions don’t yield any consequences. I can only suspect that the weather factory explosion was brushed off as an act of Celestia, and Dash’s involvement covered up. This definitely hurts the resolution a bit, and is not a good moral for the kiddies to learn.   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. Overall, I enjoyed this episode as a metaphor for dealing with loss in an emotionally engaging way, not shying away from the sadness but still sprinkled with just enough humour to keep it balanced. It’s flawed, but to me, endearingly so. Now let’s see if the writers will have the cojones to put one of the ponies on a bus! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Equestria's Joys

Sing this to the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Verse 1: Doctors with Roses, And whiskers on kittens, Diamond Dog diggers And boastful magicians, A Bear brought to town by a pair of dumb boys, These are a few of Equestria’s joys. Verse 2: Derpy-eyed ponies delivering mail, Hostile takeovers, all doomed to fail, A whole town of ponies in love with a toy, These are a few of Equestria’s joys. Bridge: When the Queen schemes, When Tirek roars, When you’re feeling sad, Simply remember Equestria’s joys, And then you won’t feel so bad… Verse 3: The Magic of Friendship defeating the bad guys, An Alicorn Princess controlling the night sky, Great female role-models for all girls and boys, These are a few of Equestria’s joys!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 29. “Lesson Zero”: Much To-Do About Nothing

If I can’t find a friendship problem… I’ll make a friendship problem! – Twilight Sparkle Season 2 contains some of my favorite episodes in the show. Up there, but no longer at the very top, is the episode I will review today: Lesson Zero. In many ways, it shows its original place as first in Season 2, some of which are explored below. What the episode is about On finding out that she’s in danger of missing a (self-imposed) Friendship Report deadline, Twilight desperately tries to find a friend with a problem she can solve, but comes up goose eggs, getting more and more unhinged. Beleaguered assistant Spike goes from concerned to downright anxious as her madness progresses, eventually sending her to see her friends at the picnic they had planned for that day, hoping it will take her mind off the problem.
Wazzuuuuupp! However, her friends are less than solicitous, thinking that she’s overreacting to the situation, and sending her storming off. Things go from bad to worse when she uses an old toy named Smarty Pants and a magic spell (Want-It-Need-It Spell: works every time) to cause a fight between the CMC that she can break up and so have something to report. However, the situation escalates as the entire town gets brainwashed into loving and fighting over the doll. Running back to her friends, Twilight explains the latest mess she’s gotten them into, just as the sun goes down… and Princess Celestia herself arrives, for the first time in the show actually angry at Twilight. A simple counter spell sets things to rights, and a stern Celestia tells Twilight to meet her in the library. Twilight sadly bids her friends goodbye, certain she’s being sent back to Canterlot as punishment. As Twilight confronts Celestia, the others come in to defend her, claiming that they were at fault for not taking her concerns seriously. Princess Celestia hears them out, then agrees not to punish Twilight… as long as all six of them agree to send in friendship reports from now on... but only in their own good time. Celestia compliments Spike: he was concerned about Twilight, and asked her for help. As the Mane Six dictate a group letter about the moral of this episode, “always treat your friends’ concerns seriously”, Spike attempts to add his own self-congratulatory note, only to be stalled by a stern glance from Twilight. Everypony laughs!   What the episode gets right 1. The cold open provides a throw away gag, with Twilight’s first item on her To-Do List is to “make a to-do list”. Her grin as she delivers this line makes the moment, as does Spike’s exasperated groan. 2. Speaking of which, Twilight’s own exasperated groans after her friends prove less concerned about things than she is, along with her squeak (Da’oh!) when she realizes Rainbow Dash is about to bomb an old barn of Applejack’s are some of the highlights of the episode for me. 3. The scene in Sugarcube Corner is interesting, showing not only Mrs. Cake’s kindness, but also foreshadowing Twilight’s later neurotic breakdown, where just for a moment her expression changes to this:
Unleash the beast! 4. There are a lot of visual changes and upgrades, making this the first true Season 2 episode. The glow of a unicorn’s horn and the aura surrounding the object being manipulated is much more pronounced, with a darker colour and an undulating border replacing the vague pink glow of previous episodes. It’s also colour-coded for your convenience: Rarity’s aura is sky blue, Princess Celestia’s aura is a sunny yellow, and Twilight’s aura is reddish pink (Making them Cyan, Yellow and Magenta respectively! :laugh: No black magic, yet, though.) 5. While the day starts out with the sun moving normally, as soon as Twilight realizes she might miss a deadline, it starts moving in increments, with an audible ticking sound. Even the windmill moves in time with the sun across the sky. This is an interesting and thematic visual, reinforcing the urgency Twilight feels as time proceeds without pause. Twilight’s mane getting more and more untidy as she slips further into her madness is a great touch. And those expressions… 6. The first half of the episode is Twilight trying to find a friend who needs help. Epic fail after epic fail results. Rarity only lost a ribbon; Rainbow Dash is smashing Applejack’s barn on orders rather than out of anger, and Fluttershy is apparently killing a bear! Lucky it was only a chiropractic/massage session. 7. There’s lot of rule of three in this episode: Twilight’s imagine spots that Spike has to interrupt; Sweetie Belle’s line “I really like her mane…?(!)”; Rarity’s line “Of all the worst things that could happen, this is the worst. Possible. THING!” For both sisters, the final repetition contains some sort of a joke. Sweetie’s third is delivered with as much enthusiasm as the previous two were missing, and Rarity follows hers up with “What? I really mean it this time!” when the others are staring at her after Twilight gets into trouble. 8. And boy, does she ever. Celestia is not pleased to find the entire town in the grip of a mind-altering magic spell. Some have suggested that this is partly due to Twilight messing with pony’s minds right after having Discord do the same, which makes as much sense as anything. 9. The scene of Twilight and Celestia in the library is great, because you can see Spike listening in and holding onto his tail. You might just think he feels bad Twilight is in trouble, but it goes even further… he is the reason she’s getting the dressing down in the first place, and is feeling guilty about it. Luckily, Twilight is happy to hear that he was taking her concerns seriously enough to call on Celestia for help.   What the episode gets wrong 1. Once upon a time, I would not have hesitated to give this episode full marks. Alas, time has made me more jaded. There is a massive, massive problem with this episode: it relies on distorting Twilight’s organized, list-making personality to absurd levels to make the plot work. In this way, it is no different to, and even precedes,The Mysterious Mare Do Well andSomepony to Watch over Me. It’s one of the methods the writers keep using that I think is really irksome, and to find it in an episode I thought was so good otherwise is a major disappointment. The best episodes are always those where the character’s personality is natural, and the plot develops organically from that. I put Look Before You Sleep (S1) and Castle Mane-ia (S4) in this category, and those episodes still hold a special place in my heart. 2. Twilight’s deadline is self-imposed… Celestia never mentions a once-every-week aspect to the Friendship Reports. This makes the entire episode seem a little silly when you consider it. Even Spike is confused as to how Twilight came to that conclusion.   Other Thoughts 1. Okay… now Pinkie Pie is a fourth wall observer, that’s already established. There’s a scene at the picnic, when she uncovers her picnic basket, only to reveal balloons and the basket floats away. Many fans seem to think this is breaking the fourth wall. It isn’t. She is looking at Fluttershy, not at the “camera”, and it’s Fluttershy’s confused expression that she reacts to. 2. At the end of the episode, Celestia shows that the ability to teleport isn’t unique to Twilight. Moreover, she can apparently teleport via the moon… well, I suppose she did spend 1000 years raising it and the sun alone, so that makes sense.   Highlights/Quotes Rarity: “Please tell me I did NOT forget the plates! I did! I totally forgot them!”
Summons a couch to lie on
Rarity: “Why? Why? Whyyyy…? Ugh.”
Notices the others staring at her.
Rarity: “What? You didn’t expect me to lie on the grass, did you?” What Rarity says about Twilight, after spending the episode freaking out over trivialities.
Rarity: “Ugh, what a drama queen! … Ahem, relatively speaking…”
Her self-conscious smoothing back of her mane as she realizes the hypocrisy in the statement makes this work. Twilight telefrags the CMC’s beach ball and then:

“Hiiii, guuuurllllz!” BRRR! The CMC fighting as hard as they can to NOT play with Smarty Pants, and Scoots waving a hoof by her temple to indicate Twilight’s gone round the bend. Mayor Mare outpaces the entire field, and is only overtaken by the flying ponies… so much for her being old! Celestia: TWILIGHT SPARKLE! Applejack (Removes hat): Woah, nelly…   Pros: Makes many changes to the visuals and even to the premise: now it all of the Mane Six who are learning friendship lessons. Comedic episode with great running gags. There are some truly classic lines. Cons: Twisting the traits of Twilight for the sake of the plot. The whole problem is self-inflicted.   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! Season 2 reviews are underway. I may be taking a holiday from the site soon (for reasons), but I’ll probably drop in occasionally to update this humble little blog 'o mine. How long can I stay away? Who knows? Who cares? Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Season 4 Retrospective: The Best and the Worst Episodes

I have some good news and some bad news for you, dear readers. The good news is that there were some great Season 4 episodes. The bad news is that there are some real stinkers in there too. I ascribe to the idea that in situations like these, one should have one’s choice as to which kind of news to hear first. In the interests of following that principle, you will find my picks for the Best and the Worst episodes in Season 4 under the appropriate headings, hidden behind spoiler tags for your convenience (or perhaps inconvenience). It shouldn’t need to be said, but it will be anyway: these are just the way I personally feel about the episodes, and if you loved an episode I hated (or vice versa), that doesn’t mean I’m right and you’re wrong (or vice versa). Everyone reacts to things in their own unique way, and that is to be celebrated. If you think I got my facts wrong and want to correct me or wish to offer an alternative interpretation of events, feel free to do so. No guarantees you'll manage to convince me, but I'll try to weigh the evidence fairly. And so, I invite you to join me in a roundup of Season 4’s thrills and spills. The Good News The Bad News And there you have it, folks! Season 4, all tied up with a pretty little bow. Feel free to comment (politely, of course ) if you think I got the wrong end of the stick, or if you saw good or bad things I missed in any particular episode. See you in Season 5, and stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 89. “Equestria Games”: Spike’s Sad Stagefright Situation

You know who's disappointed in you, Spike? You. And only you can make it right with you again. What would that take, Spike? – Twilight Sparkle The time has finally come for the Equestria Games to begin. As their train nears the Crystal Empire, Rainbow Dash takes the opportunity to give the Ponyville athletes a final pep talk. She encourages them to go for the gold in all their events, before admitting that it might be a bridge too far for the Aerial Relay team of herself, Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy (along with Derpy as reserve). They’re up against the Wonderbolts, after all. This scene highlights just how far Rainbow Dash has developed as a character. She shows a great deal of maturity, and is even willing to be vulnerable and forthright in front of others. This is a far cry from the Rainbow Dash who used to hide her concerns under a layer of bluff and bluster, even from her closest friends. Scootaloo is also impressive here, not only by showing that she can at least hover briefly at will, but also by encouraging Rainbow Dash in return. Well done, writers! At the train station, Spike is happily doing his usual task of looking after everypony’s luggage, while the Crusaders look on. He tells the fillies that he has a system to calm himself whenever he’s under pressure: he counts to ten, and afterwards is calm enough to do the job right. No sooner has he finished explaining this than he is swept up into a chair by two Crystal Empire guards, and brought to Princesses Cadance and Twilight. The Guards are contrite about unceremoniously dumping him out the chair as they bow, making Spike even more confused at their words and behaviour. His confusion is cleared up when he learns that, due to his heroics in the Season 3 premiere, he is considered a VID (Very Important Dragon) within the Crystal Empire, even having had a giant statue made in his likeness. Princess Cadance then asks him if he will do the honour of lighting the torch for the opening ceremony of the games. He readily agrees. Under the less than indulgent eye of returning character Ms. Harshwhinny, Spike comes out to do his duty… only for the enormous crowd filling the stadium to trigger a sudden bout of stage fright. Even his handy trick of counting backfires, as it makes him even more aware of the tens of thousands of ponies watching. At least now we know how he counted all the grass at Sweet Apple Acres so fast. Even after getting the signal to light the torch from Ms. Harshwhinny, he finds the pressure to perform is causing, shall we say, "a reptile dysfunction"?
I’ve heard of having a “limp lizard”, but this is ridiculous… Unable to breathe fire, and without a backup (really, not even one just in case?), Spike tries to use himself like a lighter, recycling a visual gag from Apple Family Reunion in Season 3. Nothing works, and the crowd is starting to get restless at the delay. Princess Cadance eventually asks a guard to go down and help Spike, but Twilight acts faster, using her magic to secretly ignite the torch for him. A short time later, the Mane Six are congratulating the Crusaders on their flag waving routine, when Twilight joins them, and confesses her role in the torch lighting. They all agree the best thing to do is come clean to Spike. When he arrives, however, he is now convinced he has the ability to set things on fire with just his mind! I’m not sure how I feel about this joke. Spike is many things, but he’s not usually so stupid as to conclude he has new mental fire-lighting abilities, rather than realizing the more likely cause of his success. After a very awkward conversation with some of his Crystal Pony fans, Twilight mercifully puts Spike’s misapprehension to bed. The truth that he really DID fail in front of thousands of spectators depresses the young dragon, and he wanders off disconsolately. As the Aerial Relay takes place, Spike asks Ms. Harshwhinny if he can do something else for the Games. However, she doesn't know the whole story, and thinks he's just trying to gain even more popularity. She sarcastically comments that next he'll want to do a rock concert. At this, he gets an idea. An awful idea. The dragon got a wonderful, awful idea... After Cloudsdale's Wonderbolts narrowly beat out Ponyville for the gold, Spike volunteers to sing the Crystal Empire anthem, despite Shining Armor's best efforts to stop him. However, since Cloudsdale won, it's their anthem that is due to be played, one to which he doesn't know the words or even the tune. What follows next is without a doubt the hardest sceneto watch in the entire show, including all four Seasons and associated spin-offs. Spike has to make up the words himself, and he does about as well as you would expect, repeating lines about "being fast", "having wonderful trees" and "I hope this song is over now..." ad nauseum.
Captain! The "dafuq am I listening to?" levels are off the scale! Only Pinkie isn't gob smacked over how horrible this situation is, bopping her head in time with the horrible singing (later done again in Rainbow Rocks, with Pinkie and Sonata) She even screams out "Nailed it!" in the ensuing stunned silence at the song's end. Now, am I the only one who sees the simple solution here? All they had to do was give orders for the music to be played really loudly (it can be heard in the background anyway). Then Spike could just mouth any words he likes, and they could claim that the music "accidentally" drowned out his singing. Soblem prolved! In the wake of the recent events, Spike decides to wait out the Games in his room, moping. The Crusaders try to persuade him to come out for the final day of the Games, but he refuses. Twilight, eventually having had enough, sternly orders him to come with her to view the final event: Ice Archery. Reluctantly and in disguise, he follows her, saying that she can't understand how he feels for having let everypony down. Twilight says she does understand, since she has let ponies down too. Spike still turns away... Out on the field, one of the ice archers is paying a little too much attention to his Cloudsdale competitor. He trip and accidentally fires an arrow into a low hanging cloud, which ices up and begins to fall onto the panicking crowd. Since all unicorn and alicorn magic is now locked by a spell to prevent in-game cheating, things look bad... until Spike, using various pegasii as stepping stones, leaps into the air and uses his fire breath to melt the iceberg and save everyone. The crowd cheers, and the Mane Six and even all three Princesses thank Spike for his bravery. Despite this, he still feels like he isn't worthy, leading Twilight to the epiphany voiced above. To give him back his confidence, Spike is tasked with lighting the fireworks in the closing ceremony of the Equestria Games, and delivers his final thoughts as he does so successfully... the person whose view of you is most important, is you. Bonus points for the fireworks exploding in purple and green... and even Ms Harshwhinny seems much kinder at the end.   Thoughts on the Episode Once you get over the vicarious embarrassment of the anthem scene, you're left with another great Spike focused episode. Apart from that aforementioned scene, and the "I can light fires with my mind" joke, which thankfully is used to somewhat of good effect and then resolved before continuing with the plot, it's really just Spike struggling with a poor self-image, something we can all relate to at times. At the end of it all, he steps up and saves the day again, further cementing his status as saviour of the Crystal Empire... and let's face it, Precious Scales deserves it after all the crap he's been put through in previous episodes. And the ponies couldn't be happier for him. That's nice, isn't it? The writing was pretty good throughout this episode, from the opening scene showing Rainbow "Developed" Dash, to the excitement of the Games and the final action scene. Just one thing bothers me... where did Spike get that umbrella? There was a lot of good character jokes to be had here, and Pinkie was really on form, comedically missing the point in the fiasco that Spike creates, and "panicking" over the medal count. The Crusaders were also on form, with Scootaloo showing possible progress in her flying, and her surrogate sister relationship with Dash growing ever stronger. Speaking of Dash, her attempt to be nonchalant and overdoing it is perfectly in line with her character , as was Spike simply not noticing. Some other nice touches were various cameos in the crowd, including Prince Blueblood, the Maretonia Rarity clone, Cherry Jubilee, Fancy Pants, Braeburn; the list goes on. There are plenty others, go see how many you can find, even in this one picture....
I particularly like the one pony who is definitely Bulk Bicep's mom. He always did strike me as a momma's boy... There's also the griffins making a comeback!   Highlights and Quotes Spike's reaction to giant statue of him with the Crystal Heart.
Spike: Hullo, gorgeous!   All the unicorns have to have their magic locked during the games. Rarity's reaction is priceless!
Rarity: Hmph! <struts off>   Ms Harshwhinny's reaction to Spike wanting to do MORE for the Games
Spike: Maybe there's something else I can do for the Games. Y'know, something really worthy of the Crystal Empire's admiration?
Ms. Harshwhinny: What are you talking about? You lit the torch for the whole thing!
Spike: Uh, well, actually, that wasn't really–
Ms. Harshwhinny: That wasn't worthy enough for you? Ugh, for pony's sake! Next thing you know, you'll be asking to put on a rock concert. *snorts to herself* Celebrities... After Spike's disastrous singing of the Cloudsdale Anthem
Stunned silence...
Pinky (From the crowd): NAILED IT!   Pros: An episode that gave Spike the respect he deserves, while still making him suffer for his happy ending. Good character based humour. Concludes a major Season 4 story arc just in time for the finale. Related to the previous, many cameos. Visually spectacular. Cons: Some really cringe-making humour. Spike's belief that he can light fires with just his mind (the burning feather from Owl's Well notwithstanding...) also contributes.   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! Goddamn finally finished all the Season 4 reviews! It took a while, but sometimes the inspiration just refuses to strike. But it did, and it's done! In the next few entries, I'll look at an overall review of Season 4, exploring why it's possibly the best one yet, and also explore the many awesome songs and rank them, before turning my attentions to Seasons 2 and 3. There's also some other stuff I want to get going on writing, like some of my fanfiction, and even maybe some entries about shows that are not Friendship is Magic. Plus some Rainbow Rocks stuff, naturally! Looks like 2015 is going to a busy one for this fox! In the meantime, don't shoot ice arrows at any clouds, and of course, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Equestria Girls Franchise Saved Your Life

Yes, you. Science is now recognizing the significance of so called "butterfly effects". Even small, essentially undetectable variations in the starting state of a deterministic system can lead to vast different outcomes over time as the system states diverge. Essentially, if you can calculate values to a million decimal places, a difference in the million-and-first decimal place will eventually grow and wreck your prediction. The upshot of this is that even the smallest effects can change the course your life takes. The usual shorthand is "a butterfly flaps its wings, and <somewhere> gets a drought instead of a flood." I'd prefer to rephrase this as, "a butterfly distracts you for a second, causing you to avoid getting hit by a car you would have been hit by if the butterfly hadn't distracted you." So, let's replace that butterfly with the entire Equestria Girls franchise. Imagine you are walking home, and come to a red light. Maybe you were musing on the utter failure of the EQG concept to deliver a satisfying movie. Your musing leads you to miss the light changing green. Just as you realize this and are about to step forward, some jerk, driving while talking on a cell phone, sails through the intersection at a great pace, and misses you by mere centimeters. Thus you live when you would have died. Equestria Girls just saved your life. You're welcome. Now, wait, some of my more astute readers might be thinking. If I accept that the existence of EQG leads to me living when I would have died had it not existed, doesn't it work just as well the other way around? To whit, by the same logic, there have to be people who would have lived, but died because EQG existed. And to those readers I would say... "Good job! Have a Smartypants, you gold star, you!"
A surprising accurate reflection of my expression at the time of writing this... But here's the clever bit. Those people aren't really in a position to read this entry. Presumably, they have ceased to be, pining for the fjords; or they have either loftier concerns or more pressing problems to occupy them right now. Only people who are still on this mortal coil thanks to EQG can read this and potentially recognize its applicability to them. Now the chance that it actually applies to any one reader of my humble little blog is vanishingly small, that is true. However, as the time since EQG came out grows, so more people will be exposed to it. Secondly, the longer this blog entry exists, the more people can potentially read it and can apply it to themselves. So the chance that it will apply to at least one reader approaches 1 the longer time goes on. The logic is inescapable. Eventually, it will be true of someone who reads this blog entry. It might even be you. Until next time, stay sunny side up, and look both ways before crossing the street!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 88. “Inspiration Manifestation”: Be Careful What Rarity Wishes For

Spike! Never, ever, ever, ever take another book out of the library at the castle without asking! – Twilight Sparkle The preparations for the Ponyville Foal and Filly Festival are done, and the event is about to start. Pinkie Pie is of course thrilled at the prospect of having a giant party with the young ponies of Ponyville. But Rarity is also looking forward to it as she puts the finishing touches on a puppet theatre she was commissioned to do, with Spike looking on and complimenting her, as is his wont. Unfortunately, Rarity lets her tendency for form over function get the best of her again, and her client ends up with a really beautiful but utterly useless puppet theatre. It neither travels nor has enough room for the performance, and the puppeteer promptly announces his disdain at the offering before storming off. Rarity is naturally devastated, and goes into a funk, curled up on her chaise longue, crying over her failure and gorging on carton after carton of Vanilla Oat Swirl ice cream. Unable to console her, Spike decides to visit the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters Library, along with Owlowiscious, to find a spell that can help her. Behind a secret door, Spike finds a spell book bathed in lurid green light on a pedestal. The lock on the gate is no match for his fire breath. He grabs the grimoire, oblivious to the obviously evil exterior and the fact that the stairway is crumbling beneath his feet as he casually walks back to the main room. Owlowiscious is far less sanguine, but his hoots of protests are brushed off by Spike as he reads the title of his acquisition: Inspiration Manifestation (roll credits *ding!*). The subtitle explains more: the spell instantly brings ideas to life. Returning to Rarity, he succeeds in convincing her to try out the spell despite her lingering depression. Reading the spell, Rarity’s own magic is replaced by the magic of the book. As part of the incantation, we learn the only way to break the spell: speaking words that are true.
…wrong episode, Zecora. After upgrading first the cover of the book and then her fainting couch to prove the spell works as advertised, Rarity thanks Spike before setting out to adjust the puppet theatre to something more practical. The new design is a hit with the puppeteer, who declares that Rarity has redeemed herself, despite being suspicious as to how exactly she managed it. Rarity quickly silences Spike when he’s about to let Opal out of the bag and claims “trade secrets”. Having saved the day, Spike decides to return the book to the Castle, but Rarity asks him if she can keep it for just a bit longer. He agrees, and goes home for the night. Returning the next day, Spike goes to the Boutique to get the book, and finds that Rarity has been up all night effortlessly creating design after design. About this point it becomes clear that Rarity’s sanity is slipping under the influence of the spell. She ropes Spike into a new endeavor: secretly (just between the three of them) using the book to provide “beautifying upgrades” to the village. After a morning of incognito transmutation, Spike is finally realizing that Rarity is going too far. After she runs off alone to do more “improving”, Spike meets up with Twilight. She is of the opinion that some kind of new villain must be responsible. Resolving to steal the book away and end the spell, Spike chases after Rarity, after finding a subtle hint as to where she might have gone.
Hey, look, they got Blossomforth right this time. Looking at you, Rainbow Falls. Finding her on a nearby hill, Spike eventually manages to pickpocket the book away from her, and is forced to swallow the book whole (presumably destroying it with his fiery dragon digestion). Despite this, it seems the spell is still very much in effect. Realizing she doesn't even need the book anymore, Rarity totally loses her perspective, claiming that she is going to entirely transform Equestria itself with her new-found powers.
And that’s the right way to turn Rarity into a villain. Looking at you, Nightmare Rarity comic.  Seeing just how far round the bend his friend and crush has gone, Spike flatly refuses to let her continue down this path. He finally tells her what he really thinks of her recent actions: that while she might have the power to change things, that doesn't mean the changes are good, and that he fears he has let Rarity become “something awful”. With these candid words, Spike inadvertently triggers the ending condition for the spell, the magic dissipating and leaving behind a rather disorientated Rarity, who seems surprised to learn that she was the cause of “something quite terrifying” happening to Ponyville. She also tells Spike that he should never be afraid to be honest with his friends. Spike writes the friendship lesson he learned into the journal, just before Twilight returns home, having spent all day with both Princess Cadance and Princess Luna fixing his mistake. She firmly reprimands him for taking spell books out of the Castle Library without asking. Spike applies his new lesson and tells her that she doesn't look so good right now, making this perhaps the first time Twilight hasn't been happy at the end of a story.   Episode Analysis This episode is certainly a much better offering than the previous episode, which I gave a pretty hard time. First and foremost, it was a Spike episode, which is a… I don’t think I need to make that joke, you make it in your head already… while Rarity was in more of a supporting role. Spike actually learns a decent moral, and even the way the secondary moral is brushed aside is very much in line with Spike’s tendency to miss the point. He also deserves praise for being brave enough to tell Rarity "no", despite thinking it would be the end of their friendship. On the negative side, one could say his usual obliviousness was taken to extremes for the sake of the story. Which is, I have to say, one of the less worthy ways to generate a plot. On the positive side, I feel that this episode was presenting a rather realistic (in terms of the show, of course, not real life) way in which you could turn Rarity into a villain – give her the power to effortlessly realign the world into something more congruent with her own sensibilities, under the belief that she knows better than other ponies how they and the world should be. The scariest demonstration of the power of the spell comes in during the party scene. There, she quite clearly altered the appearance and behaviour of the clown and musician ponies themselves. Although most of the time she seemed to stop short of actually overriding the will of the “benefactors” of her power, that seems more like a decision on Rarity’s part than a limitation of the power of Inspiration Manifestation itself. A frightening thought, indeed. Given that it took three alicorn princesses to undo the damage (with difficulty) that was done by one pony (effortlessly), one wonders whether even Discord could defeat Rarity when she is wielding the power of her. Creative! GENIUS! Oh, and Inspiration Manifestation, of course.
There would be a caption for this picture, only I just got turned into a golden statue of a fox... Some other random thoughts: it was an interesting inclusion of Sweetie Belle’s parents actually spending time with the filly, and we finally see her dad without a hat to confirm that he is actually a unicorn. I also noticed Dinky was “paired” with a pony who was definitely not Derpy (Amethyst Star, I think), while other known sibling groups were also shown, such as Thunderlane and Rumble. Speaking of Derpy, did she even appear in this episode? I don’t recall seeing her. Not that it’s evidence against the common fanon of Dinky being Derpy's foal, but they could have used that opportunity to confirm the link for certain. (What double standard?) The other Mane Six all made token appearances, providing a few yuks, especially the bit where the poor robin was trapped in his new birdmansion. Although that was a bit of fridge logic…
Fly towards the eye of the pony giving you the directions, ya dumb boid! All in all, an enjoyable episode, focusing on the problem that Spike almost unleashed upon an unsuspecting Equestria.   Highlights and Quotes First...
Rarity: We shouldn't even tell anypony that it's me who's behind all the fabulous changes I'll be making! Won't that be a fun little secret for the three of us to share?
Spike: The... three of us?
Rarity: You, me, and the book, of course. Then the brick joke:
Spike: *sighs* I can't do it. I promised I'd keep all of this between the three of us!
Owlowiscious: *hoots*
Spike: Of course it's weird she meant her, me and the spell book. But– The spell book! Of course! If I can get it away from her, I bet she won't be able to use its magic anymore! *Owlowiscious rolls his eyes* Oh, come on, it's the perfect plan! I... just have to figure out which way she went. Cue ponies crying out about the blinding gold-paved streets. When Spike blames Owlowiscious for taking the book, the hapless owl gets this long-suffering expression on his face as if to say, "Whelp, time to take one for the team..."   Pros: A good day in the limelight for Spike. A believable “start of darkness” story, and rather frightening potential for Rarity to become a true force of evil. Spike learns a good moral about being honest. Cons: Perhaps he should have learned “don’t take things without permission” moral instead. Stretching Spike's ability to ignore details to an uncomfortable degree.   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! May you never be improved against your will and stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Flash! Ah-AAHHH!

Let's talk about everyone's favorite character in MLP evar... That handsome hunka hunka he-man, with the wicked blue hair and the mad guitar skillz, Twilight's destined future provider of wedded bless and 80 babies and a happily ever after for good measure, that god among men simply known as Flash Sentry. No, no pictures... his awesomeness is too much for this blog to bear should even his image appear in it. Maybe some of other bigger blogs could handle his radiance, but even then it would be too risky. Best not to try containing such munificent, angelic glory with a simple... Okay, that joke has outstayed its welcome. Much like another joke, referring to Flash as Brad. I did a little bit of research into his derisive little nickname, and was surprised to find that it started a full month (May 16th 2013) before the movie even came out (June 16th 2013). Now if that is not prejudging a character, I do not know what is. This name is apparently based on the idea that Flash is a jock. He is not. (Well called, people, well called.) He's a rocker. Now before you dust off the old rope and unfurl the map to the lynching tree, I will state that Flash Sentry is indeed a very flat character. He has no flaws at all, and that's simply unrealistic. It does not make for an intriguing character. Rainbow Rocks, ironically, did LESS with the character than even the feeble attempt of the original Equestria Girls in making him relevant to the plot. He does have some slight relevance... okay, stop tying that noose for now and just hear me out... in the original, since he dated Sunset and is probably wise to her tricks, making it somewhat understandable that he would investigate and prove Twi's innocence. In the sequel, he was put under the sirens' spell and then sidelined, and any bad behaviour he exhibited must be attributed to their mind control, and not to potential character developing flaws of his own. Anti-Flash fans happy yet? Despite - put that down! - this acknowledged lack of well roundedness, I still find myself liking him, because he does have all those nice guy qualities. Attribute it to whatever lack within me that you will, I simply think I could be friends with the dude. He isn't vain, doesn't mind things being spilled on him, he tries hard, he perseveres despite apparent rejection, he runs into things when he's a little self conscious (which is adorable) and he stands up for what's right. Now does that make him and his relationship to Twilight something we should support or decry? Do I think the ship is a good one? Brace yourselves, your flabbers may be ghasted... No. I don't. It just doesn't appeal to me, even though I suspect I would say they're not so different as to make it unworkable. Besides, it would be too pedestrian. Who would I pair Flash up with, if I could? Actually, Sunset Shimmer. Their former relationship is one mystery that I would love to have some more insight into. They dated, and although Flarebutt claims she only did it for popularity, there had to be something about him she liked. After all, he doesn't seem that popular within the school itself, and we only have Sunny's word for it that dating him would have helped her in that regard at all. In fact, one intriguing tidbit for ol' Flashy is that HE dumped HER. And this was long before Twilight entered the picture. Do none of the anti-Flash fans feel any inkling of curiosity about this fact whatsoever or what it may reveal about Sunny, Flash and their relationship? So what would I like to see? A story about Flash and Sunny getting back together, with her now the feisty gal he first was attracted to without any of that nasty, ulterior-motive, set-a-horde-of-teenage-zombies-on-Equestria baggage, and with him now being cut out of actual corrugated cardboard instead of the thin stuff. It should be set after Rainbow Rocks, but with flashbacks (no pun intended, or indeed, called for) to what happened in their former relationship. That would be the minimum. Naturally, Flash would need to be developed at least a few steps over the course of the story in order to make it more appropriate for him to date the now more fleshed out Sunset Shimmer. It would make Flash less two dimensional, neatly tie up the loose ends, and leave Twilight free to remain in Equestria, being the Princess of Friendship. Everypony wins! Well, as long as I can find a safe place to hide from all the Pro-Sunset-Shimmer-but-anti-Flash-Sentry fans who no doubt will now be after my hide. Oh, crap, I hear the battering ram already... stay sunny side up! * Sunny Fox escapes out the window *

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Sonata's Lament

I just don't get why so many fans wanted or expected a heel face turn from Sonata Dusk. As for me, I never saw any hint of remorse or doubt about her actions as a member of the Dazzlings. Not once did she look even the slightest degree uncomfortable with what was going on. Yeah, I get that she's ditzy and that she's cute, and that she loves tacos. I even compared her to Avatar: The Last Airbender's Ty Lee, who <<don't click if you don't want spoilers>> But really, I never saw any hint of redemption in Sonata herself throughout the entirety of the film. And it baffles me that anyone could look at the character and seriously see any hint of desire to turn from her evil ways. Oh, well. -_- I guess if you look cute and ditzy, you can get away with anything. To make the point, I offer this: After watching Twilight outright cry because of what Flash Sentry said to her and how he behaved, this appears directly afterwards, and Sonata is smirking the entire time (not to mention channeling Doctor Evil). Like, so a villain. And a moment later, she laughs just as loud and long as the other two do. Why no expectations of "coming to the Light side" for them? To conclude... Sonata does not want to be redeemed. She does not deserve to be. She is a villain, end of story. A cute, somewhat distracted villain, but a baddy nonetheless.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Then vs. Than

I am, I will admit, a bit of a "Grammar Nazi." You could even go so far as to call me a pendant, because I always strive to be correct in my use of language. And 99% of the time, I am. Although I prefer the term "Grammar Fascist", since the Nazis were hardly the only fascists around at the time, and why should they get all the publicity? So I'm going to set some people straight on the difference between 'then' and 'than'. I come across this particular error frequently. And when it's a person who isn't a native English speaker, I am willing to forgive it. If it's just due to laziness, then I feel no particular need to be charitable. Of course, the usual objection is "if the meaning is clear, who cares if the language usage isn't perfectly correct?" Well, I do. Blame it on being an English teacher (or a smartass, the two are virtually one in the same ) Besides, I think being correct in one's use of English indicates an attention to detail and a careful disposition, both of which I find worthy traits. And why shouldn't you strive to improve, native speaker or not? That said, please don't consider this as snobbery. I just care about the English language and wish it to be used properly. So when to use 'then' and when to use 'than'? Ironically, 'when' is a determining factor. 'Then' is used when describing some kind of sequence. It could be a simple description of timing, e.g. "I had a bath, then I ate dinner, then I went to bed." In this sentence, the order of events (when each event happened in relation to the others) is being described. "I had a bath and ate dinner and went to bed" provides the same information, but in this case, it's not explicit in which order the events happened. It could well be that "eating dinner" came before "having a bath". Context dictates that "going to bed" should be understood to be the event transpiring last, since it's hard to imagine a situation in which you ate dinner or had a bath after going to bed, but it's still technically possible. A second use of 'then' is when used as a conditional, e.g. "When English is used correctly, then I am happy." or "If it rains, then I will stay inside and watch ponies". It's more subtle, but the sequence is still there. The clause before the 'then' occurs first, and is the cause of the clause after the 'then', which has to happen second. 'Than' is used when a comparison is being made, e.g. "Rainbow Dash is faster than Lightning Dust." And that's it. If you find yourself wondering which one to use, remember that comparing needs 'than', when needs 'then.' PS:  

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 83. “Trade Ya!”: The Bizarre Bazaar

If you want to trade for a mint comic, you gotta have a mint comic! - Spike I’ll give it to you straight: This episode sucks. It feels pointless, a tale told by a fool, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Seriously. We learn nothing new about the characters, the moral is both obvious and obscure simultaneously, and there is almost no comedy or action throughout the majority of it. So let’s examine this cluster-cluck, and I’ll show you just how deep the suckitude goes. (I know that’s not a real word, just go with it.) We return to Rainbow Falls for this episode – a bad sign already, considering the flak the titular episode got – as the Mane Six arrive to join in the Trader’s Exchange. Twilight has to officiate as part of her duties as Princess, and is nonplussed to find out that her arrival is very much the focus of everypony’s attention. Borrowing a page from Fluttershy’s book, the poor Princess runs away from all the hype, hiding her face behind her wings; Applejack’s response is rather philosophical. At the Trader’s Exchange, traders exchange items (wow, I am insightful, aren’t I?) and as long as both parties get something they want out of it, anything goes. I have a few issues with this that I’ll explore later. At this point, the Mane Six split up into pairs (Spike goes off on his own) and the story line splits into three parallel stories. These threads are mostly separate, although we occasionally get a glance at one or other of the pairs in the background as each story unfolds. Story 1: Rarity and Applejack
Having a common desire to obtain some vintage items, the Odd Couple heads over to the appropriate stalls. Along the way, they decide that they should pool their items in order to get something they really, really want. It's a stupid plan, and sure enough, the obvious problem arises... they both find something that they will need their entire pool to get. Applejack wants a pie pan that can cook pies 5 seconds faster, while Rarity wants a brooch identical to the one she already has, but is older and therefore more valuable. I have to say, Applejack's item is at least practical, so she really should have gotten it. We've seen pie deliveries done by the Apples, so the pan will definitely be put to good use. In a slight reversal of what one might expect, the two of them start arguing over who is the better friend and therefore who should let the OTHER pony get what they want. They make little headway by humorlessly bickering over this for the majority of the episode, so let's move over to Story 2, shall we? Story 2 (The Main Story): Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash
Rainbow really wants to get her hands on a unique first edition copy of the first Daring Do book, thereby completing a whole set of first edition copies. Meanwhile, Fluttershy wants to trade her bear call whistle for a bird call one, but puts off her own ambitions to help Rainbow. Finding the owner of the book, Rainbow is crestfallen to discover that her prized possession (a rusty old horseshoe she considers lucky) is of no value whatsoever. The unnamed stall-owner (Let’s call her Theodora) agrees to give Rainbow the book if she can get the two headed canine, an Orthros, from the Ancient Beast stall, the owner of which wants something else. Naturally, this sets up a chain of items that Rainbow needs to eventually trade for the book, in the finest tradition of annoying video game trading chains. Rainbow finally finds someone who will trade what she needs for her old rusty horseshoe, a fragile crystal chalice. One touch, and it shatters. Distraught, the two Pegasus ponies painstaking stick it back together, only for the pony who requested it to shatter it again to finish a mosaic… alright, I’ll give the episode a point there, that was amusing.
Mosaic me like one of your French hens… Finally obtaining the Orthros, they head back to the original stall, but find a crowd of ponies in their way as the sun starts to set, which will signal the end of the Trader’s Exchange. Fluttershy uses her bear call to clear the road, but drops it as Rainbow desperately drags them onward. Reaffirming her decision that helping Rainbow is her priority, Fluttershy decides to leave it. Despite all their travails, Theodora now says she doesn’t want the Orthros, having spent a whole day watching how vicious it is. Fluttershy manages to convince her that an Orthros just needs to be properly trained, and entreats her to complete the trade. Theodora eventually agrees, but only on condition that Fluttershy comes with the Orthros to train it herself… a process that will apparently take months. Rainbow, blinded by the hope of getting her hooves on her prize after all the effort, agrees. Her joy turns to horror, however, when she realizes that she just traded Fluttershy away as well. Story 3: Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie
While she is there mainly to discharge her duties, Twilight reckons that she isn't obligated to do nothing the whole time. She has decided to trade away some of her books, since the library is getting overstocked. Pinkie, who doesn't have any thing she wants to trade and is just pony watching, decides to set herself up as her agent. This is after Twilight nearly trades away ALL her books to a little filly for a BROKEN quill, which Pinkie, sensibly, calls her out on.
Is Pinkie Pie gonna have to choke a filly? Less sensibly, Pinkie uses Twilight princesshood, and relationship to Princess Celestia, to raise the books perceived value, which results in nopony being able to trade for them. Which is just as well, since Twilight now decides the books have sentimental value. This makes the entire plotline here pointless, too. At this point, stories 2 and 3 converge when Rainbow arrives, desperate for Twilight to reverse the deal she made for the book by declaring it an unfair trade. After hearing both sides of the story, Twilight finds that she has to decide in favor of upholding the deal, since Rainbow Dash did verbally agree on it being fair in the first place. Rainbow makes an impassioned speech about nothing being more valuable than a friend, and therefore no trade involving a friend can be fair. This moves Theodora so much that she agrees to undo the trade, and Twilight declares the day’s proceedings closed.
Which technically makes this trade by Spike illegal… In the denouement, Applejack and Rarity each give the other a lesser gift that they traded their stash to get, Spike shows off his illegally gotten comic book (which is not encased in plastic, so I doubt it’s a mint comic anyway), Fluttershy reveals that Rainbow traded the Orthros to get her the bird call whistle, and Twilight gets rid of exactly one book, which is her copy of the first Daring Do book, by giving it to Rainbow. Mission accomplished? She claims it’s better because she can read it now with her friends.
Yeah, we see how often she reads books with her friends.

… I withdraw the comment. Why this Episode Sucks 1. The concept of trading one item for another makes sense, but how exactly does that extend to exchanging multiple items for a single item? If that’s valid, every pony would hold out for additional items, and less trading would be done as a result. The multiple item trade idea is in place for one reason: to drive the Applejack-Rarity plot thread. Speaking of which…   2. Not only was it utterly predictable to the audience that the plan of pooling resources would backfire, but it should have been entirely predictable to the characters too. In fact, a much better reason for going together and pooling their stashes is that it makes it more likely that they would have an item available that a particular stall owner would like to trade something for. Or did Applejack and Rarity both have junk that wasn’t worth much in the first place? In which case, why did they bring junk to the trader’s exchange?   3. Technically, Twilight trading all her books for a broken quill IS a valid trade. While Twilight doesn’t want the quill itself, she does want to get rid of her books. So she would be getting what she wants out of the deal, it would just be an intangible benefit. And intangible benefits are included in deals, since Fluttershy’s training of the Orthros is ultimately an intangible benefit (equivalent to indentured servitude – more on that later) and Twilight finds no reason to reject the deal on those grounds. And I hope no one would argue that the training clause didn’t form part of the deal. If the deal doesn’t go through unless that clause is included, then it’s part of the deal.   4. Most of the really big problems arise in the Fluttershy / Rainbow Dash story. First, we have Fluttershy totally ignoring her own desires on one hoof and Rainbow Dash’s thoughtless, nigh callous, acceptance of this on the other. That’s more than just being kind, that’s almost pathological self-sacrifice. Fluttershy’s not usually quite that meek. There was also an opportunity for her to show her more assertive side when defending the antique chickens from being traded, but she (literally) crawls away, once again making it clear that no amount of character development will stop her from being a pushover when the plot calls for it. The character derailments don’t stop there, however.   5. Oh dear, Dashie. She royally antique-chickened-up in this episode. Not only did she continually accept Fluttershy’s subsuming of her desires for her own, but she ended up trading her services away in the end. And yes, it’s true that Fluttershy was willing to make that sacrifice, but Rainbow didn’t know that. She was focused entirely on the book, and she never so much as glanced at Fluttershy, let alone asked her if she was willing to spend months away from her friends training the Orthros. (Note that Twilight doesn’t seem to have asked Fluttershy if she agreed to have her services traded for the book, either.) This is very jarring when you consider she is supposed to be the Element of Loyalty. Here, she is being loyal only to her own wishes. In her defense, I will say that she had a pretty rough time of it over the course of the episode, considering all the frustrations she suffered and the hoops she had to jump through, plus being put under pressure due to the time for the trade running out. Even so, this is something I would hardly expect of Season 1 Dash, let alone post-“Hurricane Fluttershy” Dash.   6. The deal itself carries some pretty unsettling implications. In fact, it includes outright indentured servitude for Fluttershy. I had originally thought that this amounts to slavery, but in doing a little bit of research, I found it wasn’t so clear cut, and that there are differences between the two. What is worrying is that in many cases, historically, these indentured servants were at the mercy of their masters, the unluckiest of whom could even end up killed by mistreatment. Is this really something that is allowed in Equestria?   7. Were any good lessons learned here? “Don’t trade your friends away for stuff” is hardly a moral that needs vital attention. Twilight learns that you need material items to remind you of the good times you had with your friends. And that you should hold onto your past, rather than look to your future. I can understand the idea of keepsakes or mementos, but holding on to every book you ever read because they played a small part in getting you where you are isn’t really a great moral. Applejack and Rarity didn’t learn any real lesson, and spend a lot of the episode pointlessly arguing. Neither Spike and Pinkie even had a moral to discover. So does this episode have any redeeming qualities? Well, yes.1. There were plenty of cameos to be seen in the background, such as Aunt and Uncle Orange, Donut Joe, Matilda, etc. And this one in particular: See, there's the stallion Rarity bought the asparagus from in "Putting Your Hoof Down". Seems he's more confident with the ladies, now doesn't it? Just as I predicted   2. There was a touch of humour, like the crystal chalice bit I already mentioned. There's also the scene where Applejack gets to reuse her Spock impersonation, then tries to play a shell game with the two brooches. It sort of backfires when she's forced to admit she doesn't know which one is which any more.   3. This pony. She is pretty. I call her Petal Pink. This was a really pointless episode. There was a funny touch here and there, but overall, it didn't teach much and it didn't do much to entertain, either. The idea of exactly what can be traded seems simple on the surface, but has some really unsettling implications, which I'm not sure the writers really considered while coming up with the plot. 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!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 87. “Testing Testing 123”: Reading Rainbow, Ritalin Required

I... I know the history! I know it all! But how in Equestria did that happen? – Rainbow Dash Rainbow Dash is busy NOT preparing for an important test on the history of the Wonderbolts, so that she can get into a newly formed Reserve squadron for her dream team. Twilight tries to get her focused, and help her with her own study methods, but the distractible Rainbow Dash finds them to be entirely useless. Reading and highlighting, listening to lectures, using flashcards: all are apparently of no avail when applied to the ADHD addled Pegasus. She’s too busy goofing off to actually learn anything. When Twilight finally gets through to Rainbow exactly how much important learning this knowledge is, panic sets in, and they start to argue. Fluttershy, of all ponies, breaks it up, and suggests some alternative methods for shoving the history into Rainbow’s brain. Her own recommendation is a play with the pets portraying princesses and ponies alike. Pinkie Pie then weighs in with an old skool rap style number, which Rainbow finds more entertaining than actually useful. Rarity’s fashion-based tour through Wonderbolt history also fails to help her. Applejack doesn’t have a study method to suggest at all, and in a rather unusual ditzy moment for the down-to-Earth Pony, starts teaching Rainbow the history of apples instead. Finding the group arguing over which useless method is least useless, Rainbow finally gives up entirely and goes into a funk and flies off. Also taking to the air to try and encourage her, Twilight almost flies into a pony in a helicopter.
Hot air balloons are, like, SO last season… Rainbow manages to push her out of the way, and mentions that she noticed the danger despite carrying on the conversation. She further explains that she keeps her eyes and ears on everything while she flies, maintaining some kind of hyperaware state that lets her subconsciously record even the tiniest details, and consciously keep track of the most relevant ones. Realizing that this skill might be the key to helping her, Twilight bolts off to again enlist the help of the rest of the Mane Six without an explanation, leaving Rainbow…
…under a dark cloud, on top of a dark cloud. Later inviting the still despondent Dash for another flight, she tries to make small talk as they go, with Dash producing some Eeyore-worthy responses. At the end of the flight, Twilight asks her what she can remember, and Dash begins to rattle off the history of the Wonderbolts perfectly. Shocked and delighted, Rainbow asks how it happened. Twilight tells that during the flight, the whole town was acting out the history below her, and shouting out the important facts – all of which Rainbow was absorbing without even realizing it. This lets her pass the test with flying colours.   Highlights and Quotes
Twilight looks at Rainbow’s highlighting, and we get this obvious parental bonus:

Naa naa nanana naa, and Twilight is the centerfold!
Followed by:
Twilight: Hey, I am not that tall! Pinkie’s rap, complete with art shift.   Rainbow Dash sees Rarity dressed up in the original Wonderbolt costume.
Rainbow: Rarity, you look ridiculous.
Rarity (unoffended): I am going to ignore that comment out of my desire to help you.   After the historical fashion tour fails.
Applejack: Why, I could tell you every little thing there is to know about the history of apples, but I picked all that up over years in the field as a labor of love. How much time you got?
Rainbow Dash: Twelve hours.
Applejack: (beat) Oh, then you are up a creek. Rainbow VisionTM.   The Good
While certainly not a laugh-a-minute kind of episode, there was a bit of humour to the proceedings, mainly generated by Rainbow’s class clown antics. And she looked adorable rocking back and forth on her stool, completed by the fact that it ended up being a whole percussion number with the aid of Owlowiscious and Spike. The dialogue had some gems, such as Rarity’s “I’ll just ignore that” line, and Applejack slipping in a fact about Granny Smith discovering granny smith apples. I was also impressed with Fluttershy’s assertiveness in stopping Twilight and Rainbow from arguing. It’s satisfying to see some of her character development being acknowledged and used in the episode. Even the pets got a bit of time in the spotlight (literally). It was a heartwarming scene when the entire town stepped up to help out, and a rather subtle joke was worked in there. The CMC shout E! U! P! and Big MacIntosh repeats it as EeyUP! This also doubles as a nod to “Flight to the Finish”, where the CMC represented the three races coming together. Along with Rainbow, we learn a lot of the history of the Wonderbolts, and world-building is always a big plus in an episode for me. It included a mythology nod to Firefly, a G1 pony who was also Lauren Faust’s favorite character, and probably deserves a share of credit for the high quality of G4 and the resulting brony fandom. Visually, the animators did some really interesting things, such as changing the entire look of the Pinkie rap to resemble old VHS footage, and later “rewinding” and zooming in on the different details as Rainbow sees them on her flights. The shadows of the two ponies moving along the ground and warping as they travel over objects is a fantastic touch, particularly considering that the shadows in the show are usually just circles. Finally, I want to mention the Aesop of the episode. The moral “everyone has their own way of learning” is worthy enough…   The Bad
…but it gets a little bit diluted by the implication that for some, that way of learning is basically a superpower. It also required an entire town of ponies playing dress up to pull off, so I question the practicality there. Also, I think Rainbow getting 100% is a little bit unnecessary. Couldn’t she just pass, or get A+ or something? I suppose it’s meant to reinforce the lesson, and maybe be a little bit of a bone thrown for her after so much stress during the episode itself, but full marks? Even the examiner seems to think something’s hinky. Plus we know she’s going to pass, so the whole “did she pass or fail” moment is an obvious red herring.   Final Thoughts
Overall, Testing is a worthwhile episode. The negatives I mentioned are mostly nitpicks, but the moral really does end up suffering due to the way the conflict was resolved by what is pretty much a Rainbow Sense, and not by hard work on her part. Still, there were great visuals, engaging dialogue, and a lot of interesting background on the Wonderbolts. Most importantly, we saw a happy ending for Rainbow Dash and her getting just that much closer to obtaining her dream. Fight on, Rainbow Dash!   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! Be sure to visit Sunny Side Den again soon! PS - I'm back, baby!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Sunny Fox Reviews "Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks"

There are few enough sequels that can be said to be superior to the original movie in the series, but I think “Equestria Girls 2: Rainbow Rocks” manages to make the list. Although it also has its flaws, I found it a lot more entertaining than the first movie. So today, I’m going to share some of the impressions I had following my first viewing. When I can get hold of the DVD, I may make a more in-depth analysis, so this one might be a little rough around the edges. The Things "Rainbow Rocks" Rocked 1. This being a movie featuring a Battle of the Bands, the songs obviously played a huge role. The music I thought was fantastic all around. The Dazzlings’ songs really were atmospheric, and sounded almost otherworldly. I could quite easily believe that there could be some kind of hypnotic power in the Dazzling’s voices. The visuals also matched the sounds well, with the way the girls moved and swayed reminiscent of snake charmers.   The Rainbooms also had a few good songs, and they all sounded good. Par for the course from Daniel Ingram, I expected no less. The rest of the talent line up was serviceable, with Snips and Snails providing a stylistic suck rap number and mike drop, and even Trixie getting a scene with her band… pity she couldn’t sing more than one line of her chorus, but then, the less I see of Trixie, the better. I did feel sorry for her when her chance at the final was unfairly taken away from her by the Dazzling’s manipulation of Principal Celestia and Vice-principal Luna, though... I don’t like having to feel sorry for Trixie. Maybe this should have gone in the flaws section below.   2. The way Sunset Shimmer’s story arc was handled. While the Humane Five had obviously forgiven her and welcomed her into the group, the rest of the school are understandably less eager to forget her former bad behaviour. (They did have to endure it for 3 years, after all.) Despite this, she managed to avoid backsliding a la Discord, even when she had her confidence shaken by the Dazzlings. She also managed to provide the means for summoning Twilight to help them, had several moments where she kept the group from falling into conflict, and in the end, stepped up to save the day. This movie really should have been called “Equestria Girls 2: The Sunset Redemption”. At any rate, this should have made up for the rather quick heel face turn at the end of the last movie, which generated a fair bit of criticism. One problem is that Snips and Snails don’t seem to be as mistrusted as SS, even though they were just as guilty. A minor issue.   3. The introduction of Vinyl Scratch in the lead up to the finale was a great touch. Particularly since you could often see her in the background, walking around wearing the headphones that ultimately protected her from the siren’s voices. It made it natural in hindsight that she would be the one Spike brings to help the Humane Seven, and to provide them with the equipment necessary to counter the sirens’ song-spell and defeat them. Bass cannon, indeed!   4. Speaking of the finale, it was more of a natural progression in this movie. I always thought the end of the first Equestria Girls came a bit out of left field, what with Twilight’s crown turning SS into a literal demon. This time, in contrast, the final fight was built up throughout the movie, and paralleled Sunset’s own progression from Atoner to Hero. It was also very exciting to watch, and seeing Sunset Shimmer get her own (much less frightening than the last) alternate form was superb.   5. Maud’s cameo. Being a fan of her all the way down to my bedrock, (no off-color puns, please) it just made the movie for me when she appeared in the kitchen to “feed” Boulder a midnight snack. There were a few other notable human versions of various ponies, such as Lyra and Bon Bon, which were also fun to see.   6. The characters were mostly spot on, with Rainbow’s tendency to hog the limelight and show off brought up. There was also Rarity’s love of outfits that was turned against her during the semi-final performance; ditto with Fluttershy’s shyness. Twilight was so busy trying to repeat her feat from Magical Mystery Cure by creating a counterspell that she couldn’t see the group disintegrating in front of her eyes. Pinkie was getting annoyed that she wasn’t having fun in the band, and Applejack was trying to reign in Rainbow, as she usually does. Luckily, the new addition, Sunset Shimmer, had enough of an outsider perspective to keep apart from the conflict and see the way to resolve it, which shows her own development and justifies her joining them. So that was a list of some of the good things I noticed. I’m sure there are more that will become apparent to me on repeated viewings, but for now, I’m going to have look at the flip side of the coin. The Things that "Rainbow Rocks" Tanked 1. Let’s examine the antagonists a bit more: The Dazzlings.   Creatures banished from Equestria by Starswirl the Bearded himself, this trio of sirens have apparently been kicking around the alternative human world for quite some time. First and foremost, we have Adagio Dazzle, the leader, planner and basic evil driving force of the group. Following her lead are Aria Blaze, the snarking, perpetually bored and angry one, and Sonata Dusk, the perky, somewhat ditzy and generally too nice-to-be-a-villain one. A picture of them appears below: (spoilered for size)     Yes, the Dazzlings are pretty much expies of the three main female protagonists from Avatar: The Last Airbender. While it’s not objectively a bad thing to borrow personalities, (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all) once I had the thought, I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I found it really distracting. There just wasn’t enough uniqueness there for me to form any lasting connection to any of the three characters. Blame A:tLA, but I just see Azula, Mai and Ty Lee. Personality aside, the designs were very creative and the colour schemes pleasing to the eye, so that’s a plus.   2. The exact nature of what the Dazzlings are wasn’t explored enough for my liking. Given that they were sent to the alternative world by Starswirl, who lived thousands of years ago, either they’re immortal, or they’re body snatchers. They certainly seemed to have a form that was separate from the human form, but when their gems were destroyed, the girls lost their abilities and became “normal teenage girls”, according to Twilight. And normal teenage girls with horrible singing voices, according to my ears. Does this mean the sirens themselves (who appeared as ghostly horses, not unlike the Windigos from Hearth’s Warming Eve) were destroyed, freeing the three girls? Or were the three of them just Brought Down to Normal by the loss of their gems? In which case, it seems a little bit harsh.   There was also no real resolution to the Dazzlings’ story. They’re just sort of beaten and then the movie ends. Where the “Meh” Things Were Meh. 1. Well, good ole Flash Sentry was in this one. Although he remains largely a flat character, at least he did misbehave once or twice, providing some hints at deeper character (aka flaws). In particular, he seems to throw a little hissy fit when his band is knocked out of the competition. He also proved no less vulnerable than anyone else to the Dazzling’s magic. Of course, there wasn’t enough time or focus to develop him much, but at least the romantic subplot didn’t end up distracting us from the plot.   2. The setup for alternative Twilight didn’t amount to anything, but instead, pony Twilight came back. This is a bit of a mixed blessing. It did give us a brief pony scene in Equestria, but it also retroactively nullified one of the central plot points of the first movie, that there was a deadline after which travel between the worlds wouldn’t be possible for a very long time.   I suppose they do justify it by introducing Sunset Shimmer’s diary that connects the two worlds, but it takes virtually no time at all for Twilight to engineer a brand new portal, and this one seems to be permanent. So watch out Flash x Twilight haters, now she can visit him any time she feels like it. Maybe the third movie will end with the two worlds colliding like in the comic series, and having to be permanently separated. It may be your only hope to avoid seeing this pairing.   Still, they did have to bring Twilight back to Canterlot High somehow, so at least they did provide some explanation of how it was possible, even if it was a little too convenient.   3. Princess Celestia and Luna were no shows in their Equestrian forms, and the human versions became little more than extensions of the plot, which could be considered a step back from the first movie, but then again, the focus was more on the conflict. I just wish we could have seen a little bit more of them. So to sum it all up, I really enjoyed Rainbow Rocks. I think it was better written story than the original Equestria Girls. The music was better and more varied than there as well. The three antagonists were decent, if a little too similar to A:tLA, and managed to be a legitimate threat. The voice talent, both singing and speaking, was up to its usual grand standard. The conflict in the Battle of the Bands was handled pretty well and provided a very exciting and satisfying climax. The denoument was a little bit too quick, and left some things unexplained, but perhaps we’ll find out more in the next movie. You know there’s going to be one. The portrayal of the Humane Seven was generally consistent with the respective pony’s characters and the way the human versions were shown in the previous movie. Sunset Shimmer steals the show with her character arc, and finally earns her happy ending and it was done in a rather realistic way. Unfortunately, Flash Sentry and the Principals were not given as much attention. So all in all, I’m pretty satisfied that Rainbow (indeed) Rocks. Share your thoughts on the movie and this review in the comments below if you feel the urge, and in any case, stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 86. “Leap of Faith”: Further Flim Flam Flummoxing

When somepony says somethin's too good to be true, it usually is. - Applejack The Apple family is busy having some watery fun together at the watering hole, but poor Granny Smith is feeling less spry than she once did, and doesn’t want to swim. As they head home, they find a group of ponies who are gravitating towards a large pavilion set up in a nearby field. On entering, they find a pair of familiar faces... the Flim Flam brothers are back in town! After a (rather lacklustre) song, the Flim Flam Brothers sell Granny Smith a tonic that they say will make her feel young again. Granny is partly convinced by an injured pony who drinks the potion and then throws away his crutches. The next day, Granny is swimming around as happily as a fish, and credits the tonic with making her young and confident again. A rightly suspicious Applejack, with Apple Bloom in tow, tries to find out what's going on by revisiting the Flim Flam Bros. tent. On the way, they see the same pony as before (who admits his name is Silver Shill) come out of the tent. They chase him, but he manages to escape, so Applejack decides to confront Flim and Flam personally. They point out that even though their "tonic" is nothing but apple juice mixed with beet leaves, it does seem to help her Granny. Applejack, feeling conflicted about dispelling her Granny's illusions, finally admits to Apple Bloom that it seems to work, and so they shouldn't question the details. Apple Bloom takes her word for it, and the pair... hey, wait a minute. Free-thinking, independently minded Apple Bloom (who has actively opposed AJ on numerous occasions) is now (plot conveniently) happy to just follow her big sister's lead? Since when has that been consistent with her personality? I don't like this at all. It's not like AB to just follow along like a good little duckling. I call bullshit. My outrage aside, let's continue with the summary. The following day, Apple Bloom suggests that she and her Granny enter the upcoming Ponyville Swim Meet. Granny is reluctant, but Applejack encourages her to join, with a little help from the tonic; of which they go to buy more. Seeing the Apple family "endorsing" the product, ("It 'seems' to work for Granny...") the gullible Ponyvillians start snapping it up, giving the Flim Flam Bros something to grin about. At the Swim Meet (With Derpy or Ditzy or Bubbles or Shish-kabob or Whatever in the stands for her obligatory cameo), Granny and AB perform a fantastic synchronized swimming routine which gets them top honors from the judges. The Flim Flam Bros take the opportunity to further their campaign, selling their tonic via Silver Shill Salespony. As he takes his first bit, he mentions to AJ that he used to feel guilty about lying, but since the most honest pony in existence endorses the tonic... realizing that her reputation for honesty is being turned against her, Applejack starts to reverse her course... Only to find her Granny is climbing up the high dive. She manages to lasso her Granny before she kills herself, but as a miffed Granny drinks more of the tonic, a familiar rainbow shines through the bottle and into Applejack's eyes. Admitting that she "lied" (more like her ambivalence was overstated) Applejack reveals the fake tonic, and states that its placebo effect was the cause of all the good the tonic seemed to do. With Silver Shill backing her up, she admits her wrong, discredits the tonic. In response, Silver Shill gives AJ his first bit ever, and promises to return another to the pony he bamboozled. AJ writes her thoughts about honesty over hurt feelings into the shared diary, and then goes to join AB and GS as they splash about, leaving behind her a single golden bit that shines with a familiar rainbow...   Thoughts on the Episode
One of the main features here is the return of the Flim Flam Brothers. Their new job matches their names perfectly, since it is literally a flim-flam that they are pulling on the gullible citizens of Ponyville. This is an ironic reversal of the taunt they used on the Apples in their last appearance: “I guess you’ll have to find a new line of work that doesn’t match your names so perfectly.” In that episode, they were presented as honest, if somewhat ruthless business-stallions with a product that really did what it was claimed to do. It’s a little bit sad to see them reduced to nothing but common villains in this episode. More disturbingly, it could very well be that their moral downgrade is a direct result of the events of the previous episode they appeared in. There they failed to make a profit, despite having a genuine product to sell. It’s possible that the Apples are somewhat responsible for causing them to resort to scamming ponies. There is also another of their crowd songs, which not only pales in comparison to the song in their first appearance, but also makes this episode seem like a bit of a rehash. Of course, it was entirely obvious from the very first appearance of Silver Shill that he was in on the whole thing, pretending to have a problem that could be cured by the useless product. Once again, the general population of Ponyville are shown in an unflattering light by falling for the ruse, even before Applejack’s “endorsement”. Speaking of Silver Shill, he is voiced by Ian James Corlett, who is actually Claire Corlett’s real-life father, so it’s a bit of a pity that he didn’t get to interact with Sweetie Belle. On the other hoof, it’s hard to see how it could have been included without seeming rather forced. One post I made in a thread long ago mentioned that I would like to see them acting together. I’m still waiting for that, but at least this is a step in the right direction.   Pros: Synchronized swimming scene was super. This episode is Applejack’s turn to get Rainbow Power, adding to the overarching storyline.
Cons: No Sweetie / Shill scene. The Flim Flam Brothers are now generic villains, with none of the redeeming qualities they had previously.   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! PS: This entry might need some updating.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 25. “Party of One”: Pinkie Pie’s Party Paranoia

Oh, you wanna do this the hard way? We’ll do this the hard way! – Rainbow Dash Pinkie Pie opens the episode with a song as she travels to each of the Mane Six and sings out an invitation to Gummy’s birthday party. As she visits each of them, her song gets slower and less energetic as she tires, and when she’s finished, she just manages to crawl up the stairs to her room before slumping to the floor. By the time of the party, though, she’s totally recovered, and the party proceedings are in full swing. RD and AJ are bobbing for apples, and find some of Pinkie’s surprises… Gummy tries to reenact a scene from Alien by face-sucking RD while AJ grabs a ball that’s tethered to the bottom of the barrel, pulling her head in for a dunking. Rarity is enjoying the punch… until she sees that Gummy swimming in it.
Rarity used Water Gun on Pinkie!

It’s not very effective. Pinkie’s enthusiastic dancing causes some pain for Twilight and Fluttershy when she bump-bump-sugar-lump-rumps them into opposite walls, but overall, the party guests are really enjoying themselves. As they leave, happily worn out from partying, Pinkie tries to get them to stay a bit longer. Twilight says that they need to go, but they should “do this again soon”. Early the following morning, Twilight finds that Pinkie has taken her parting words a little too literally. She gives Twilight an invitation to Gummy’s After-Birthday party that she’s throwing this afternoon… as in this afternoon this afternoon. Twilight declines, lying about having too much study to catch up on, and Pinkie accepts it. She also tries to give invites to Applejack and Rarity, but they also refuse, giving very weak reasons for why they will be busy. Pinkie gives Applejack a gimlet glance for a bit, but eventually goes on her way with a cheerful “okey dokey lokey!” When she finds Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash to invite them as well, they give the flimsiest excuse yet… they are looking after the house-like cave of a bear while he vacations at the beach so he can play volleyball / collect seashells collect volleyballs / play seashells.
Fu-sion-HA! Typically for Pinkie, she’s perfectly willing to believe the thing about the bear, but the rest of the reasons seem now more like excuses to her. Her suspicion grows when she sees Twilight sneaking around instead of studying. Twilight comes into Sugarcube Corner to pick up an order from Mrs. Cake. Pinkie eavesdrops on the conversation with a tin can telephone, but despite Twilight noticing it, she manages to hear enough to know that Twilight is keeping something back from her. As she follows Twilight, with more and more outlandish disguises, she sees that all of her friends are part of the conspiracy. When she confronts Rainbow Dash about it, Rainbow tries to run away, but like in Griffon the Brushoff, she can’t evade Pinkie’s cartoon powers. After being chased by a freakishly fast Pinkie Pie, she manages to escape into Applejack’s barn. Applejack manages to stonewall Pinkie enough to force her to “okey dokey lokey” again (much more threateningly) and leave, but she is determined to find out what her friends are hiding. Luckily she knows just the young dragon to interrogate… This turns out to be a really bad idea, since not only does Spike NOT know anything about what’s really going on, but the grilling pressures him into repeating back to Pinkie exactly what she suspects: that her friends don’t like her or her parties anymore. Hearing her suspicions “confirmed”, Pinkie goes into a depression, with her mane deflating like a popped balloon, and her colour becoming duller. She finds solace in a party with her new friends… various inanimate objects that Pinkie starts to believe can actually talk and move on their own, even though we see she’s the one moving them and making all the voices. Her madness deepens as she mulls over the way her friends have been acting, causing even Gummy to head for the exit. Into the midst of this steps Rainbow Dash. She apologizes for avoiding Pinkie earlier, and tells her she wants Pinkie to come with her to Sweet Apple Acres. Pinkie refuses, wanting to remain with her “real friends” instead. Visibly weirded-out, Rainbow tries to persuade her, but Pinkie pushes pile of rocks with a party hat named Rocky into her path. “Rocky” calls Rainbow a chump, and she starts to response as if he were real. Realizing what she’s doing, she give up on words and resorts to brute force. When Pinkie's resistance causes Rainbow to fall over, she gives the page quote, and then literally drags Pinkie all the way to the barn, and shoves her inside.
Surprise! Oh, wait, no. It’s only Pinkie… Inside, the Mane Six are waiting with a surprise party. Misconstruing the party as a celebration of her impending exile, Pinkie finally vents her anger at them for all lying and avoiding her during the day, but they explain they HAD to do it to keep her from finding out about this prematurely, because it’s actually a party for Pinkie’s birthday! Finally realizing that she misunderstood her friends’ intentions, and that she forgot her own birthday, Pinkie returns to normal form. At first, she feels bad that she misunderstood them to such a great degree, but Twilight assures her that it could have happened to any of them. (Not likely, but she’ s trying to comfort Pinkie, so I can let it go.) As the party gets into full swing, Twilight voice-overs the letter to Princess Celestia she will write: always expect the best and never assume the worst of your friends.   Thoughts on the Episode Like the 4th Season episode “Somepony to Watch Over Me”, the episode starts out so ordinary, and yet manages to take a really creepy turn towards the end. The contrast is even greater considering that the usual Pinkie Pie antics make up most of the episode, as she tries to get to the bottom of what her friends are hiding from her. Then came the party scene with Pinkie and her “new friends”, the inanimate objects. The slow distorted circus music in the background, the tic and twinges from Pinkie, the way the objects were first being moved by Pinkie, and then started moving on their own…
This expression pretty much sums it up. It manages to be both amusing and disturbing at the same time. Luckily, Rainbow Dash comes in to dispel the tension a bit. Many fans blame Spike for Pinkie’s depression, but Spike has often shown in the past that he doesn’t pick up on non-verbal clues very well. For example, he called Rarity out and applauded in Suited for Success despite the silence and Rarity’s utterly defeated body language. He also cheered for Pinkie’s song in Over a Barrel, even though the audience obviously thought it was terrible. And he did tell her that he would say whatever she wanted him to, so she really only has herself to blame. I personally don’t think of Pinkie and the so-called Pinkamena as alter-egos, so it irritates me a bit whenever fans treat them as two separate entities. Straight-haired Pinkie is just depressed Pinkie… and I actually like the way it looks when her hair is straight like that. I also have never read, and never intend to read Cupcakes. Still, I won’t let such things as I just mentioned dull my enjoyment of the episode itself. This could be just a coincidence, but the title of this episode is a possible reference to a short TV Programme that airs every New Year’s Eve (in South Africa, my home country, at least), called “Dinner for One”. Like the party scene here, it features a party with imaginary guests, with each role being played by the butler of Miss Sophie, James. Unlike here, the poor butler gets drunker as he drinks the alcohol for every one of the imaginary guests, and hilarity ensues.   Highlights/Quotes After Pinkie Pie chases her all over the town, Rainbow Dash finally escapes into Applejack’s barn.
Pinkie: “Mind if I take a look inside the barn?”
Applejack: “No. I mean, yes! I mean, you can’t come in here.”
Pinkie: “Rainbow Dash just went in there."
Applejack: "Oh, well, she was just bringin’ in… supplies! Supplies for the... renovation! Yep, fixing up the whole thing, top to bottom…” Glances over her shoulder* “Uh, lots of construction goin’ on in there right now!”
Twilight (off-screen): “You heard her! Construction!”
Everypony starts imitating the sound of construction, poorly.
Twilight (off-screen): “Safety gear! Safety gear!” And a little later:
Pinkie: “Secrets and lies! It's all secrets and lies with these ponies! They're up to something, Gummy… something they don’t want me to know about. Well, I’m gonna know about it… I'm gonna know about it big time! And I know just who’s gonna tell me all about it... tell me all about it, big time!” Pinkie’s delightfully dark and disturbing descent into dementia with her new party friends.   Pros: A surprising creepy look into the psyche of a pony who is supposed to be the joy and the laughter in the series, while still keeping a comedic overtone to the proceedings. Great expressions from all the Mane Six. Cons: None really worth mentioning.   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 sane, everyone! And with that, Sunny Fox Reviews Season 1 is done! It’s taken a lot of time and effort, and to be honest, I’m feeling a little burnt out. I may just take a break from blogging for a month or so, recharge the batteries, and hopefully, I can come back with some fresh content for you guys. Muchos gracias to my regular readers and commenters, it’s good to know that there are those who enjoy reading my ruminations enough to keep coming back to my little den in this corner of the interwebs. Take care and happy trails until we meet again! West Bishes, Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox