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Episode 24. “Owl’s Well that Ends Well”: Hoo’s on First?

I am truly disappointed! This is NOT the Spike I know and love! – Twilight Sparkle This is the other episode that tends to top many Worst Episode lists for Season 1, or overall. I guess I can sort of see why. Is has quite a number of flaws in characterization, writing and execution. Let’s turn a baleful gaze upon “Owl’s Well” and see why it tends to make people cough up pellets. The episode starts off cheerfully enough, with Spike helping Twilight to make arrangements for an evening of meteor shower watching. His general preparedness and organizational skills earn him words of praise from Twilight for being “a number one assistant”. As they are about to leave to meet the rest of the Mane Six (and other ponies), Twilight remembers a book she wants to bring, the “Astronomical Astronomer’s Almanac to All Things Astronomical.” Spike goes to fetch the book, but the dust from opening it makes him sneeze. The resulting involuntary blast of flame burns the pages to ashes. Spike puts the cover of the ruined book back rather than owning up to the mistake, and steals Fluttershy’s ominous chord cue. At the picnic and meteor watching site, Spike’s spread of fruit, cookies and punch impresses the other ponies, who gather round to praise him. He even gets a present from his crush, Rarity: a bejeweled bow tie. He begins to milk his moment in the spotlight for all its worth, until Twilight tells him enough. As the meteor shower starts, the youngsters sitting on their sisters’ backs, Spike begins to yawn, and eventually ends up asleep in the punch bowl. Twilight returns home with him, and tucks him into bed, proud of her worn out little assistant. She starts to work on a report about comets. (It seems to be scientifically accurate, raising some questions. To what degree is Equestrian astronomy the same as real life astronomy? Twilight’s description of what comets are seems to argue that real life physics holds sway, but how does that tie in to magically raising the sun and the moon? It’s not that important to the story, of course, but I do wonder…) A stiff breeze sends her paper sailing out the window, and she wishes that Spike were awake to go fetch it, but she finds there’s no need… an owl has brought it back for her. Thankful for the assistance, and aware of how cold the night can be, Twilight invites the owl to remain with her while she continues writing her report. The following morning, Spike is aghast to discover he’s overslept, and hasn’t done his morning chores. Despite his flustering, Twilight tells him not to worry: the owl – to whom she has given the name Owlowiscious – has already done them. Spike insists that she doesn’t need another assistant, but Twilight brushes off his protests and tells him to make friends with Owlowiscious as she goes out to run some errands. Unnerved at the owl’s ability to twist his neck around, Spike tries to make it clear that he is the superior assistant. The conversation, being only “hoo” on the one side, ends up frustrating him, and makes him even more certain that Owlowiscious has come to try and steal his job of being Twilight’s assistant. His concerns grow even more when the new arrival starts getting attention from the Mane Six, and Owlowiscious even receives another bow tie from Rarity.
Spike’s looking greener than usual today… Fluttershy and the other suggest that maybe he’s worried about Owlowiscious replacing him as assistant and in Twilight’ and the rest’s affections, but Twilight doesn’t believe them, despite Spike’s clear dissatisfaction with the situation. This is the first major problem. Twilight disregards what the others have to say, when it’s entirely obvious that they’re right. Adding to the annoyance is the fact that this is paid only lip service later on. When Twilight breaks her last quill, Spike eagerly dashes out to obtain a replacement. However, he gets nothing but frustration: the Quill and Sofas shop only has sofas in stock, Pinkie has everything beginning with Q except a quill, and Fluttershy’s chickens are leery of lending their own feathers. He eventually manages to obtain a tiny chicken feather, but on returning to the Library, he is told that Owlowiscious provided one of his own feathers for a quill already. He asks sarcastically if he has any chores left that Owlowiscious hasn’t done, and again Twilight is oblivious to the signs of his anger, telling him that he has plenty still. He falls asleep on the stairs midsentence, and Twilight decides to let him sleep. He’s in for a rude awakening when Twilight discovers (via Owlowiscious) that the book he ruined was in its place the entire time, and hadn’t been missing like he’d claimed. Angry at him for his lie, she gives him a tongue lashing and leaves in a huff. Spike confronts Owlowiscious, but is given the “hoo” treatment yet again. Having read a book on owls earlier, Spike knows that they eat mice, but not that they can only hoot? It’s a minor gripe, but they’re adding up. This is the point where things get really weird. Spike, seeing a mouse running past, decides to frame Owlowiscious for mouse murder, and suddenly dons a top hat, a black cloak and a moustache of evil, and laughs maniacally. What the actual…? This needs more analysis than will fit here, so see below for that. Stealing Opal’s toy mouse from Rarity’s place, he rips it up, splashes ketchup all over to simulate blood, and even pulls the feathers out of a pillow to create a fake trail of owl feathers for the frame… which would possibly have worked better if he didn’t walk backwards right into Twilight while he was busy setting it up. He tries to baldface his way out, but Twilight is now simply furious, not only for him trying to frame Owlowiscious, but for doing such an unconvincing job of it. She lays into him again (using the words quoted at the top) and slams the door behind her. Convinced that she doesn’t want him around anymore, Spike runs away from home. A sudden downpour starts, and he takes shelter in a cave. Fortunately, the cave is filled with gems, and Spike has himself a little feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to overcome his sadness at being exiled from his friends. Even more unfortunately, those gems belong to a much larger and fiercer dragon. Being a baby dragon and apologizing doesn’t win him any sympathy points, and the larger dragon starts chasing him around the cave. Trapped in a corner and about to become an ex-dragon, Spike is saved by Owlowiscious, whose fancy flying distracts the dragon away from Spike. Twilight is also there, and calls for him to jump on her back. Exiting the cave, they start running through a dark wood with an enraged dragon close on their heels. It doesn’t seem like a winning proposition, but Owlowiscious comes to the rescue again, using his night vision to guide Twilight and Spike through the trees. They manage to lose the dragon and escape. Glad to be reunited with Twilight, and reassured that she would never want him to leave, no matter how badly he behaves, Spike still wants to know how they found him. Twilight points to his ketchup covered feet, saying that he left an easy trail for Owlowiscious to follow. Spike apologizes for misunderstanding Owlowiscious’ intentions, but is stymied for a third time by Owlowiscious forgiving him with hoots. Back at the Library, Twilight tells Spike he should write the letter to Celestia. He does, saying how one shouldn’t lie or be jealous, and pledges to do… something we never hear, because he falls asleep. Twilight sighs, “Oh, Spike…” and gets her own chance to misunderstand Owlowiscious’ hoots. She laughs at her own stupidity, and Owlowiscious sees us out with a wink to the audience.   Thoughts on the Episode Well, there are some major problems here. Twilight totally misreads Spike throughout the episode, even after being told exactly what he’s feeling by the others, and the only acknowledgement of this is one line about her being insensitive. That’s quite a stretch considering how close the two are. Secondly, it really does seem like Owlowiscious has ulterior motives, with the way some of the scenes are shot to make him seem really creepy. Of particular note is the scene where Twilight walks out and he slowly turns his head to look at Spike just before the door slams. Not to mention that he did grabs books for Twilight, despite Spike being awake and about to do the same task, and that he showed Twilight the book Spike ruined and lied about.
He’s being undermined… literally. Not only were all those scenes apparently red herrings, but Twilight at the end tells Spike that Owlowiscious is only supposed to help her at night while Spike is sleeping, which is not at all what he was doing earlier in the episode. Yet Spike still gets cast as the villain. The scene with the Dick Dastardly impersonation really came out of left field. It was entirely unnecessary, and just ends up seeming out of place and annoying. The scene would have worked just fine if it had been done just with simple expressions. I mean, yes, framing an innocent bird for something he didn’t do is pretty bad, but Spike should at least think it justified, if he really believed Owlowiscious was threatening to replace him. So it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for him to act as a outright villain. Is there any good to be had? Well, the action scene with the adult dragon was quite exciting. Both Spike and Owlowiscious get a fourth wall glance, which is interesting. The set up with the burnt book was relatively well done, and there are some funny scenes, which I’ll quote below. Overall, it’s a pretty lackluster episode, but in its defense, its flaws are less glaring than in Over a Barrel. I still watch it on odd occasions.   Highlights/Quotes When Spike falls asleep in the punch bowl.
Pinkie: "Now the punch has been... Spiked!" Spike tries unsuccessfully to get a quill for Twilight.
Spike: "But your store is called 'Quills and Sofas'! You only sell two things!"
Shopowner: "Sorry, junior, all out of quills until Monday... need a sofa?   Pros: Some good action and comedy scenes. Cons: Spike is way off character, Twilight is way too oblivious to how he feels, Owlowiscious really does act like he's undermining Spike, the scene with the hat and cape is a bit silly. The "hoo" joke was really overused - 4 times!   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! Next time, I’ll be looking at the final review I have to do in Season 1, A Party of One, and it’s much better an episode than this one. So until then, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 15: The Final Rankings

It’s time to bring together all the disparate threads of the Bookend Diaries. (It’s mostly because I like round numbers. 0 and 8 are my favorites). I will consider the Premieres and Finales separately, and rank them in each category from worst to best. Since villains tend to take centre stage in these episodes, I’ll rank them too. Premieres: Friendship is Magic; Return of Harmony; The Crystal Empire; Princess Twilight Sparkle Finales: The Best Night Ever; A Canterlot Wedding; Magical Mystery Cure; Twilight’s Kingdom Yes, I know I previously left out The Best Night Ever, and even opined that it shouldn’t be considered the Season 1 Finale. I haven’t changed my mind, as such, but since it technically did air as the final episode of Season 1, for the sake of completeness, I’ve added it in there. The Season Premieres Booby Prize Third Place Second Place The Winner   The Season Finales Booby Prize Third Place First Place TIE Villain Ranking: So that’s that, at least until Season 5 begins. As always, feel free to comment, and stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 23. “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”: In Which the CMC Got a History Lesson

These namby-pamby stories aren’t getting us any closer to earning our cutie marks. They’re all about “finding out who you really are” and boring stuff like that! – Scootaloo The Cutie Mark Crusaders are trying to get their marks in zip lining, despite Sweetie Belle’s uncertainty. Unfortunately, the friction from the three sliding fillies burns through the rope, dropping them through the trees and onto the ground. As they clean off the tree sap and pine needles, they lament their continual lack of success. Apple Bloom suggests they ask some of the ponies who already have their cutie marks how they earned them. Scootaloo, typically, thinks Rainbow Dash should be their first port of call. They start off on Scoots’ scooter and trailer, and come across some “varmints” who have been stealing from the farm and are being chased by Applejack, who collides with the three. Apple Bloom asks her sister to tell them her cutie mark story, despite Scootaloo’s protests, since more help is better help. When she was a filly, Applejack decided she wanted to leave the farm and live the sophisticated life. She makes her way to Manehatten, where her Aunt and Uncle Orange live. Quickly adapting to the high life, she seems to be fitting right in… until she mentions the farm and the roosters who used to wake her up. This baffles the other guests, and makes her aunt look rather embarrassed. She also finds the fancy food fails to fulfil. Later in her room, she really feels homesick. Suddenly, a rainbow appears that seems to point back to Ponyville. She finally realizes that she really does want to live and work at Sweet Apple Acres. She runs home to Granny Smith and Young Big MacIntosh, and as she gets there, her cutie mark appears. Her story told, Applejack sees the varmints have come back to taunt her, and runs off after them. Scootaloo, unsatisfied with such a “sappy” story, reiterates her determination to hear Rainbow’s cool cutie mark story. The CMC almost crash into Fluttershy, who is leading a family of ducks across the path. Hearing that they are looking for RD, she mentions that she got her cutie mark thanks to her. When Fluttershy was a lanky little filly, she was shy and a poor flier. Believe it or not! After being taunted by the young stallions (from “Sonic Rainboom”) for her lack of ability, she is saved by filly Dash, who tells the bullies to knock it off. To prove her toughness, filly Dash agrees to race the two, and Fluttershy is the flag waver. The three speedsters accidentally knock Flutters off her cloud, and she plummets to the ground. Luckily, there is a low flying cloud of butterflies to catch her. Amazed at her first experience of the world near the ground, she sings a happy song as various woodland creatures surround her. A sudden loud boom and rainbow startle the animals, sending them running and hiding. Fluttershy manages to talk to them and assuage their fears, discovering her special talent and gaining her cutie mark. Despite having gotten a bit of RD’s story, Scootaloo wants to know more about the race itself, but Fluttershy is unable to give her any more information. Sweetie Belle suggests that maybe Rarity will know where Rainbow is. Not one to let an opportunity go by, Rarity enlists their help in making some dresses, as she tells her own story. Rarity always wanted to be a fashionista, but was unhappy with the costumes she had made for the school play. With time running out, filly Rarity gets despondent. Suddenly, her horn activates on its own (suck on that, Twilight! Unicorn magic only happens when you decide to make it happen, is it?) and drags her out of town and over the hills for an entire night. Despite fighting it for a bit, she decides to let her horn have its way, hoping that it will have something to do with her love of fashion, and maybe even her cutie mark.
I used to wonder what my destiny was…

And then it hit me! Filly Rarity angrily demands to know why her horn brought her all this way for a “dumb rock”. A sudden rainbow shockwave passes by, splitting open the rock and revealing a horde of jewels hidden inside. Using the jewels to spruce up her costumes, she makes the play a great success, and finally achieves her cutie mark. An exasperated Scootaloo delivers the quote at the top of the page, and despite Rarity trying to point out that “finding out who you really are” IS the way to earn a cutie mark, she pushes the others out, declaring “We need action! We need Rainbow Dash!”
...you got Twilight. Filly Twilight was awestruck by Princess Celestia raising the sun, and decided to devote herself to the study of magic. She commenced a comprehensive course of voraciously devouring various treatises on prestidigitation, mysticism and enchantment. Her parents decided to enroll her in Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, to her delight. Not so delightful, though, was her entrance exam. Bringing in a purple spotted egg, the examiners watched with stony expressions as she tried to do… something to it. Too nervous to concentrate, Twilight resigned herself to failure, when a sudden loud noise startled her. This unleashed her magic, which caused the egg to hatch out into a familiar little baby dragon. However, unable to control her power, she proceeded to turn her parents into plants, levitated the examination panel, and cast a forced aging spell on the newly hatched Spike, sending his head crashing through the roof and into the open. Seeing this from outside, Princess Celestia herself came in to calm Twilight down with a touch. Coming back to herself, and undoing all the effects of the uncontrolled magic burst, Twilight tries to apologize, but Princess Celestia tells her that she has a very special gift for magic, and that the Princess wants her to study and learn to control it: as her protégé. Not only that, but her cutie mark has also appeared in the meantime. An ecstatic filly Twilight jumps around yelling “Yes!” continually… …and turns out also to be doing so as a full grown mare in the present. The CMC take the chance to escape, and once Twilight realizes what she’s doing, she sheepishly assures the bystanders that she’s fine. Scootaloo is wondering why they are running into everypony except Rainbow Dash, when Pinkie appears in the trailer too, saying that if she were Rainbow Dash, she’d be at Sugarcube Corner. She promises to take them there as long as they listen to her cutie mark story too… Filly Pinkie lived with her family on a rock farm. They were serious and dour folk; they never had a smile or a reason to pretend; their world had flat backgrounds, and little need to sleep. (And that, little ones, is how you quote an R.E.M. song) One day, as Pinkie was delaying her return to the house, a sudden rainbow and shockwave appeared, causing her straight mane to turn poofy, her coat colour to become more saturated, and her face to smile. She wanted everyone to feel that joy, but since rainbows aren’t that common, she needed to find another way. So she spent the night preparing a party, and in the morning, brought her family in to see it. Although it seemed at first as if they couldn’t handle it, they all found the joy that Pinkie had found, and as they danced, her cutie mark appeared… Pinkie ends her story with probably the strangest non sequitur she’s provided yet (see quotes below) Following Pinkie into Sugarcube Corner, Scootaloo finally finds the idol she’s been looking for this whole time, along with the rest of the Mane Six. Already aware that they want to hear her cutie mark story, Dash looks modestly pleased, and then jumps right in. Filly Dash flew as fast as she could for the sake of Fluttershy but she found that her opponents were also pretty fast. Refusing to lose to the bullies, Filly Dash pulled out all the stops, flying faster than she ever had before, sending them both into a tailspin. And then, it happened! For the first time since the days of legend, Filly Dash reached the rarified heights of Pegasus potential, and caused a sonic rainboom. Realizing that she made the impossible happen, Rainbow won the race, and at the same time earned her cutie mark… Apparently hearing the story for the first time, the rest of the Mane Six one by one realize that that sonic rainboom was the cause of each of them being able to discover their special talent and earn their cutie mark. The Mane Six have a heart-warming group hug, to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s delight, and Scootaloo’s disgust. Unperturbed, the two fillies catch their compatriot, gal pal, confidant, bosom buddy, etc in their own group hug. Fluttershy suggests singing another song, eliciting a big NO! from poor Scootaloo. Back in the library, Twilight writes a letter to Celestia, saying that some ponies may have a mystical connection to their friends, even those who they haven’t made yet. Spike, like Scootaloo, isn’t so impressed with the more saccharine aspects of the day’s lesson…   Thoughts on the Episode I love backstory and world building, so this episode is delightful, if a little bit diabetes inducing. The filly versions of the Mane Six are adorable. Let’s look at each of the stories in turn: Applejack’s Story: Special mention should be made of Applejack’s freckles, which were more numerous back then. I also found it quite funny that Applejack harboured thoughts of the high society life, which is something usually more associated with Rarity. Her time in Manehatten seems to have stood her in good stead, considering her stint as Apple Jewel in Simple Ways.
Caption? This don't need no caption! Enjoy the awesome! There’s a delightful little visual treat in the story. At the party, her mane is elegantly styled, but when she mentions the roosters, a few strands suddenly stick out, marring the perfection and showing that her more rustic side is making itself known. And to cement the message, her aunt then tries to smooth the stray strands back into place. Although I have to question how the Manehatten socialites can be so ignorant as to not even know what a rooster is. There’s also the question mark of Applejack’s parents. They don’t appear, and neither does Apple Bloom. Was she even born yet? Although I suppose they could have been on the farm, and they just didn’t see her off for some reason. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. Fluttershy’s Story: Fluttershy definitely looks taller and slimmer than any of the other fillies. This ties in well to her statement that she is a year older than Pinkie Pie. Since the rest of the Mane Six fillies are the same shape, it’s possible that they are all the same age, and Fluttershy is just one year older for some reason. We also get to see Filly Dash here, and hear her voice breaking, which is just awesome. The major problem here is that despite Filly Dash racing for Fillyshy’s sake, she seems rather unconcerned that she might just have killed her by knocking her off the cloud. Perhaps she just didn’t see her falling. Speaking of, I have to wonder just how a flock of butterflies could safely stop her fall… maybe just one more example of Pegasus magic at work? Her “I love the ground” song is sweet, and the way she really belts it out is an indication of just how happy she is. Overall, just a really sweet little story. Rarity’s Story: I spy Filly Cheerilee among the costumed performers! I guess she must be the same age as the Mane Six. It seems there was also another teacher in Ponyville before her. Is it just me, or does the teacher’s mane look like a tennis ball? Filly Rarity doesn’t yet have her trademark accent, but her mane and eyes are just as beautiful as ever. She also seems to have quite a lot of potential magical strength herself, since her horn is powerful enough to tug her along, and to detect a cache of jewels from over the hills and far away… literally. Someone needs to make a neverending gif of Rarity going up and down the hills. I find it funny to look for parallels between Rarity and Sweetie Belle, and one makes itself known here. Rarity says “dumb rock” in much the same way Sweetie said “dumb fabric” in The Showstoppers. And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that, since I’ve pointed out the contradiction of what Twilight believes versus what happened to Rarity often enough. Speaking of Twilight, let’s move on to… Twilight’s Story: It starts with Twilight attending one of the Summer Sun Celebrations. Distractingly, many of the background ponies of the present are shown in the flashback, giving the impression that some ponies are either unaging, or have identical clones in later generations. I know it’s just for convenience, but still. Twilight’s mom and dad are shown, and as a point of trivia, the mother shares the appearance of the G1 Twilight. I feel like they missed an opportunity to introduce her brother here, but possibly he wasn’t even thought of at this point. Come to think of it, Pinkie’s story didn’t show Maud either, so that’s probably the reason. I wonder what the test for other applicants was. Surely they don’t have a ready supply of dragon eggs with which to test every potential student? Or maybe they do. At least Twilight’s insistence on the importance of tests and being prepared for them now has an explanation. This also introduces Spike, although he described his egg as “purple and green”, while this one is “purple and pink”. A minor inconsistency. I’d also like to point out that the dragon shown on the cart clearly has no wings, even though it appears to represent a fully grown dragon. For this reason, I think Spike is one of a species of dragon that is wingless by nature. Her little jump for joy session is quite funny, especially the way it brings us back to the present time. Pinkie’s Story: Although at the time, fans were uncertain as to whether or not Pinkie was actually telling the truth about her cutie mark, given the rather unusual setting of a rock farm, and with the way she ended by saying the “how Equestria was made” line, season 3 confirms the existence of the rock farm in Magic Duel, and of course, in Season 4’s Maud Pie. As I mentioned above, Maud seems to have been a later addition, since she isn’t shown (and no, she’s not one of the other sisters.) This story is notable for providing the first true middle name for a pony with “Pinkamena Diane Pie”. Pinkamena has since become the name for depressed Pinkie in fanon, which annoys me a little, since I don’t see depressed Pinkie as a separate personality. Sad or angry or whatever, it’s still Pinkie. Besides, wouldn't Diane make more sense as the sobriquet for the alternate persona? (Whom I don't think exists.) A good continuity nod is the music that Pinkie has playing during her party. It’s the same as the music she played in Swarm of the Century to lure the parasprites back into the Everfree Forest. We also see three balloons that end up being her cutie mark, which is a nice touch. Rainbow Dash’s Story: Pretty much the simplest story, as it does little more than tie up the other stories. And be awesome, of course! One thing to mention: since the bullies are clearly two of the same ones we saw in Sonic Rainboom, it seems a little odd that they don’t know about Rainbow Dash doing the sonic rainboom. Even if they were knocked out when it happened, surely the word of all the other ponies who saw it happen and were cheering would have confirmed it for them. A slight nitpick, though. There isn’t that much to say for the main story, being little more than a link between all the flashbacks and backstory.   Highlights/Quotes Each flashback forms its own highlight. Pinkie tells her story:
Pinkie: “…and that’s how Equestria was made!”
Scootaloo: “Wha... huh?"
Apple Bloom: "Look! Here we are!"
Pinkie: “Maybe on the way home, I can tell you the story of how I got my cutie mark! It’s a gem!”   Pros: Backstory and more backstory. Seeing the Mane Six as fillies was fun too. Cons: Some question marks are left. We still don’t see most of the family members of the Mane Six. Background ponies are repeated in the flashbacks.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries - Part 14: “The Best Night Ever”: Grand (Galloping Gala) Expectations

No! / I've waited all my life / for this moment, / and I’m not going to / let it slip by! / If it's the last thing I do, / I'm going to make this / The best night ever! – The Mane Six The day of the Grand Galloping Gala has finally arrived, and preparations are being made. Twilight decides to literally make it a fairy tale, as she uses her magic to turn an apple into a carriage, and four white mice into four white horses. One of them apparently has the ability to turn invisible, since only three are seen running off when Opal tries pouncing on them. Twilight is upset that now she has no horses to pull the carriage, but Rarity simply enlists the help of a couple of nearby stallions instead. Of course, no review of this episode would be complete without pointing out the animation error that briefly turns one of the stallions into a Cyclops. Rarity’s charm seems able to rearrange somepony’s facial features; that’s how powerful it is. As the mares prepare to party, Spike goes on about how they can all have fun at the Gala together. Although the girls are intending to pursue their own agendas, Twilight assures Spike that they will spend at least a bit of time together. The scene transitions into tuxedoed Spike driving the carriage while he talks about his plans to show the ponies various attractions of the Castle. Arriving at the Gala, Spike alights and opens the door for the girls, who are looking gorgeous in the dresses that Rarity made for them. What follows is a wonderful melodic treat, as the Gala guests all sing together with the Mane Six, who each get a verse about what they will be doing and what they want to get out of the Gala, as they previously discussed in The Ticket Master. Fluttershy wants to meet and make friends with the rare animals of the Palace Garden. Applejack wants to sell apples and apple accessories to earn some money for repairs at Sweet Apple Acres. Rarity wants to meet and be romanced by Prince Blueblood. Rainbow Dash wants to meet the Wonderbolts and show them her stuff. Twilight wants to spend time talking with her teacher and mentor, the Princess. Pinkie Pie just wants to party. At the end of the song, the group disperses, leaving behind a dejected Spike. Although the girls are thrilled to finally be having “the best night ever”, they each soon find things going awry in a variety of ways: On entering the garden, Fluttershy comes on too strong, and startles the animals. Nor do they warm up to her with time, and there is also an old groundskeeper who constantly gets in her way. As the night wears on, Fluttershy gets more and more unhinged, eventually trying to trap the critters in a net, laughing maniacally while dramatic lightning flares in the background.
It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE! Muuaaahahahaha! In fact, she’s so unbalanced that she literally becomes unbalanced, falling over and setting off her own trap. Applejack sells an apple pie to one of the Wonderbolts, Soarin, but the rest of the party guests consider her goods to be too low class, and prefer the hors de oeuvres. Eventually Applejack decides to bake an elaborately decorated apple cake to prove that her food is good enough for the upper class ponies. Rainbow Dash saves Soarin’s pie when he drops it, and gets to introduce herself to the Wonderbolts. They remember her for being the one who saved them and winning the Best Young Flier’s Competition, as seen in Sonic Rainboom. They thus invite her to hang out with them in the VIP area. However, their celebrity status and popularity with the other guests hinders Rainbow’s attempts to impress them. Rarity manages to corner her “Prince Charming”, only to find he is nothing of the sort, but rather is a preening, self-absorbed twit who expects Rarity to pamper him. He forces her to do things like: open doors for him; pay for food for the both of them (which he spits out and declares to be “common carnival fare”) and use her cloak to walk over a spilled drink. Twilight meets up with Princess Celestia, and is invited to stay by her side for the evening. However, they end up being too busy greeting the party guests for them to have any time for private conversation. The constant hoof shaking also ends up giving poor Twilight a repetitive strain injury. Pinkie Pie joins the upper class ponies on the dance floor, but her exuberance and high energy antics merely exasperate the more sedate party goers. For the second time in the season, her attempts at patching things up via a musical number, the Pony Pokey, prove ineffective. She then tries even harder by starting up a DJ dance party instead. The finale kicks off as Applejack wheels her cake into the room, just when Pinkie Pie decides to do a stage dive, and Rarity comes in behind her Prince Charmless, while Rainbow Dash also enters with the Wonderbolts. Pinkie lands on the cake trolley, sending the convectionary flying towards Blueblood, who drags Rarity in front of him to use as a pony shield, and the cake splatters all over Rarity and her dress. This being the final straw, she lays into Blueblood for being such an ungallant louse. He’s more interested in keeping his just-groomed coat clean, so Rarity shakes some of the cake onto him, causing him to fall on his rump and knock down a statue. Rainbow dashes to the rescue once again, and catches the statue. However, its unwieldy weight is too much for her, and she staggers into some decorative columns, knocking them down like dominoes, and the statue shatters anyway. Twilight enters with Princess Celestia to find the hall in ruins, and stare in shock at the devastation. And just when she thinks things can’t possibly go more pear-shaped… enter Fluttershy, chasing the terrified targets of her friendly overtures, except now they’re not so friendly. At this, the party dissolves into complete chaos, and Princess Celestia suggests they run. Twilight whistles to the crew, and they skedaddle. One of Rarity’s glass slippers comes off in the confusion, and when Pinkie says that this means her prince is sure to find her, Rarity shrieks and runs back to smash the evidence. XD
From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee! Having been left alone all this time, Spike is drowning his sorrows in hot chocolate and donuts at Donut Joe’s, when the ragged group arrives. They tell him the events of the night, and despite agreeing with his conclusion that the night was awful, the Mane Six laugh it off. Twilight is slightly concerned that Princess Celestia might be angry at them for ruining the Gala, but Her Highness joins them to say that she’s fine with it: she had hoped their presence might enliven things, since the Gala is usually a very boring event for her. The Mane Six and Spike decide that since they are now all together, the night isn’t so awful after all!   Thoughts on the Episode A better one-episode finale than Magical Mystery Cure, that’s for sure. Not that I found as many problems with that episode as some, but I can’t deny this trumps it in quality to a significant degree. While the plotlines for each of the Mane Six are pretty amusing, Fluttershy’s slow break down into insanity and the resulting violent outburst definitely takes the cake.
“Takes the cake”?! Very funny! This episode is also the culmination of the first season’s “story arc”, which began with The Ticket Master, continued with Suited for Success, and was briefly referenced in Feeling Pinkie Keen (Spike’s outfit is the same one that Twilight created then, minus the top hat, which they never ended up finishing.) The Gala dresses also appeared in various other places throughout the season. The moral of this episode is “Things don’t always go the way you want them to, but if you’re with friends, you’ll still have a lot of fun”, which is rather suitable for a cautionary tale such as this one. Another moral one could glean from this episode is that you shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations. Ultimately, it was their misunderstanding of what the Gala actually entails that led to their own disappointment, and their attempt to force things to go their own way that led to disaster. The plot itself is a parody / satire of Cinderella. The theme gets set up at the very beginning, where Twilight does her Fairy Godmother routine, only to have things immediately go wrong. This very nicely foreshadows the later events. There’s also the part where Rarity makes sure the Prince can’t use her slipper to find her. The song is absolutely fantastic. The visuals are epic in scale, the melody is lovely, and each Mane Six gets their chance to sing. I particularly like Rainbow’s part, and the crescendo at the end… just wow. If you didn’t like this song, you may need to check your pulse. If there’s any negatives to be found, they are pretty minor. One is the rather prevalent animation errors in the opening scene, and the other relates to a minor plot inconsistency. In The Ticket Master, Rainbow wanted to impress their Wonderbolts by dropping in on their performance. However, their show was finished by the time the Mane Six entered the Palace. True, her plan had probably changed due to her wearing a Rarity special, but an acknowledgement of the change would have been a bit more satisfactory. Still, that’s really quite a nitpick on my part.   Highlights/Quotes The crowd song “At the Gala” is simply perfect, and so catchy, I still have to listen to it when it comes up on my mp3 player. “Into the Gala we must go, we’re ready now, we’re all aglow.
Into the Gala, let’s go in and have the best night ever.
Into the Gala, now’s the time, we’re ready and we look divine!
Into the Gala! meet new friends!
Into the Gala! sell some apples!
Into the Gala! find my prince!
Prove I’m great as a Wonderbolt is.
To meet, to sell, to find, to prove, to whoop!, to talk.
Into the Gala, into the Gala, and we’ll have the best night ever…
At the Gala!”
Just typed that all from memory, that’s how good this song is!   Possibly the single greatest line in Season 1:
Fluttershy: “You’re… going… to LOVE ME!”   Spike’s “I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough” moment with Donut Joe is a lovely little parental bonus.
Spike: Hey! Pony Joe! Another donut…
Joe: Don’t you think you’ve had enough?
Spike: Another donut! Extra sprinkles   Pros: Pure comedic gold. The crowd song is fantastic. The writing is skillful, with foreshadowing, references to previous episodes, and a smooth progression to a great climax, courtesy of Flutters, and to a lesser extent, the other Mane Six. Cons: There are some minor animation errors.   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 all your expectations be met and stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 22. “A Bird in the Hoof”: Trollestia, Take Two

Do you know what Princess Celestia will do to you when she finds out you’ve kidnapped her pet? – Twilight Sparkle In her cottage, Fluttershy is busy reuniting one of her mouse patients with his family. Angel Bunny runs onto the scene, carrying a pocket watch and trying to get her attention. Despite a few false starts, he manages to remind his mistress of an important event: brunch with Princess Celestia at Sugarcube Corner. She keeps coming back to thank him, until he locks the door behind her, and she finally gets her rear in gear. At the party itself, Rainbow Dash tries her best to get a reaction from the Royal Guard escort standing guard at the door. She even asks how she can get to be one herself. Oh, Rainbow, you just have to dye your coat white, grow by a metre, and become a stallion… nothing to it! Bored at the lack of success in making them change their stony expressions, she goes back inside. When Fluttershy arrives, the guards sternly block her path, until Twilight notices her and asks them to let her inside. As the party goes on, Twilight confides her anxiety that everything will go well when her friends meet the Princess. And she has a right to be anxious… Rarity is wearing her Gala dress and is terrified that it’s going to get dirty, making her a nervous wreck; Applejack is petrified at the thought of making a faux pas by eating the wrong food item first, eventually declaring she’s not even hungry, and that damn ham sandwich… I’ll have more to say about that later. Worst of all is Pinkie Pie, who seriously needs her take her Ritalin. She’s bouncing off the walls and eating everything in sight in the most uncouth manner. She even ends up scarfing down a cupcake intended for the guest of honour…
Foolish mortal, to steal the cupcake of a god! Your death will be slow and painful… No, I kid, Princess Celestia is perfectly sanguine about the whole shebang. The Cakes, being the hosts, are waiting on her hoof and um, other hoof, by pouring her more tea as soon as she sips it, so she plays a little joke on them: she only pretends to sip, making the cup overflow when they try to “refill” it. Gotcha! Twilight is reassured when the Princess starts talking to Fluttershy, finding common ground in their love of helping the woodland creatures of Equestria. At this point, the guest star for this episode makes her appearance: Philomena, Princess Celestia’s pet bird, looking very much the worse for wear as her feathers fall off and she coughs in a sickly manner. Fluttershy is disturbed by her condition, but before she can ask anything about the bird, the Princess is called away for an audience with Mayor Mare. I guess she still does wield some political power, despite Twilight effectively being Celestia’s representative in Ponyville, so good for her. The guest of honour gone, the party winds down. Applejack leaves with a huge stack of leftover treats, Pinkie cartwheels out the door, inflicting a minor assault on a bystander as she goes, and Rarity demands that nopony move as she backs carefully out the door with her dress unstained. Twilight remarks to Spike that she’s glad nothing major went wrong… as we see the door to Philomena’s cage has been opened, and the Royal Pet has been birdnapped… by Fluttershy. Cue ominous chord. Is it just me, or does Fluttershy seem to get more ominous chords than the other ponies in general? Back at her cottage, Fluttershy tries to cure Philomena, but she finds that her patient is not only difficult to care for, but rather uncooperative. She refuses to take medicine or any health food, and every treatment Fluttershy tries just makes her condition worse. In the midst of this, Twilight arrives to thank Fluttershy for making a good impression. Horrified to find out that Fluttershy took Philomena without asking, she tries to get Fluttershy to put her back before anypony is any the wiser. Too late! On their way to the door, they are stopped by the two Royal Guards, who are looking for the missing pet. Despite a very unconvincing performance, Twilight manages to hide the presence of the pet, sending the Guards away. Since the cat’s out of the bag (so to speak), Twilight agrees to help Fluttershy treat Philomena. However, her “tough love” methods end up scaring the poor bird off, setting off a chase scene a la Benny Hill, with Scooby Doo Doors, Paper Thin Disguises, and various other tropes that are expected for these sorts of things. The whole crew (Main Six, Guards and Philomena) ends up at the fountain, just as the final feather falls. Philomena, giving a dramatic death performance, falls off the top of the fountain. Fluttershy runs to catch her… only for the body to burst into flames and crumble to dusty soot.
And that was the last time Fluttershy ever tried to bake… The Princess arrives, demanding to know what is going on. Twilight tries to cover for Fluttershy, believing she’ll be given a lighter punishment, but Fluttershy admits that it was she who took Philomena in order to help her, and is willing to take the responsibility for the unhappy outcome. The Princess pauses at the pyre of her poor pet as if to mourn, but then she tells the still pile of ashes to quit playing the fool… whereupon, they spiral up into the air, and in a flash of fire, the real Philomena is reborn! As will come as a surprise to no one much, it turns out that Philomena was a phoenix all along, and was using her latest cycle of death and rebirth to play a few tricks on Fluttershy. The Royal Pet back awing, and everything fixed up, Philomena gives Fluttershy an apology and a feather. Even Rainbow Dash gets what she wants when she tells Philomena to make the guards laugh by tickling their noses, and the rest join in as the episode closes out.   Thoughts on the Episode Right, time to deal with you, ham sandwich! My good golly gosh, what a storm in a teacup this little guest at the party created! You can always rely on someone creating a thread pointing it out and making elaborate speculations on the secret carnivorous nature of our dear ponies. It’s a nigh monthly event, and every single one seems to be under the “charmingly” naïve assumption that it’s the first one to bring it up.
Curse you, Oscar Mayer! You have no idea of the chaos you have unleashed! CURSE YOOOOU! I’m not quite certain how serious the thread creators are in proposing the notion that the ponies are running slaughterhouses for the poor pigs on the sty sly, based on what is certainly a simple oversight on the part of the animators of that particular scene. The ponies eat hay, oats, occasionally apples and their diets are completely vegetarian, according to Pinkie’s song from Over A Barrel, so stop bringing it up! Since they do eat eggs, you could at most conclude they are somewhat omnivorous. For that matter, stop bringing up the opening credits. Derpy’s been in the train since Season 2, and Discord joined the lineup (peering out from Fluttershy’s cottage) in the first episode of the fourth Season, so you can stop pointing them out like you’re expecting people to praise your perspicacity. (Of course, I realize that I have no control or veto rights over what other members create threads to discuss, so this is more just venting than actually expecting anyone to comply. Plus, it let me use the word “perspicacity” in a sentence; a rare opportunity, sadly… Feel free to ignore it, if you want: this is just so cathartic! ) PS: This is not meant to be an attack on this thread and others like it. There, the point in discussion is the treatment of the non-pony animals in general, not just the “carnivore conspiracy”, so it gets a pass. Oh, dear, I seem to have gone off on one of my tangential rants again. Sorry. Back to the episode review. Like many of the slice of life episodes, this is one is a lot of fun to watch. The party scene is hilarious, due to the Mane Six’s behaviour and also gives us a bit of an insight into Princess Celestia’s more playful nature. Spike gets to be useful as he uses his dragon’s flame to cook some pies. The way Philomena’s treatment goes keeps the comedy bubbling along nicely, and it starts coming to the boil when Twilight enters the scene. Her imagine spots are entertainingly over the top, and even give Fluttershy her first breaking the fourth wall moment, when she pushes apart the bars as the scene dissolves back to her cottage. Other than Spike, no one else has really interacted with Twilight’s imagination in this way, and that only happens in Season 2, so Flutters got there first. As I mentioned above, the resulting chase scene is entertaining, if a little bit standard. My favorite scene is after the chase. Just before we get to that though, there’s the bit where Rainbow Dash comes across Twi and Flutters running after Philomena and presumes they’re racing. It’s a good character gag. At the fountain itself, Fluttershy gets under Pinkie, eliciting a “Hey!” and Twilight physically picks up Rarity, getting an exasperated “Put me down!” before dropping her. The speed of the joke is something I find funny. Another positive aspect is the theme running throughout the episode, that of pranking. Rainbow Dash tries to prank the guards, Princess Celestia pulls a prank on the Cakes, and the entire plot of the episode is Philomena playing an extended prank on Fluttershy. Then it all comes full circle, with Rainbow enlisting the mischievous bird to finally get the guards to laugh, providing us with an effective brick joke. This is the sort of tight writing that was definitely missing in the previous episode. Even considering her earlier joke, I don’t get the impression that Princess Celestia was deliberately hiding Philomena’s true nature from Fluttershy, so despite the title of this blog entry, I don’t think this was a case of Trollestia. I understand why some people do think so, however, so if that includes you, I get it. There is, however, one major problem (and a few minor ones) with the episode. Although things turned out alright in the end, Philomena’s fooling around did actually result in Fluttershy shedding tears when she thought the bird was dead, not to mention her guilt at her constant failure to cure her patient. That guilt must have been even worse when she was seeing the end result of her good-intentioned intervention. It just seems mean-spirited on the part of Philomena, and I think Fluttershy was a little bit too quick to forgive the bird for making her cry tears of grief as a joke. She took it a bit too far for my liking. On the minor flaw side, the moral of the episode (ask permission instead of taking things into your own hooves) was a little bit tacked on, but at least they subverted the “letter to Celestia” for the second time. (The other time was Swarm of the Century.) Then again, maybe the rushed moral was deliberate. The episode also ends with “Everypony laughs”, which is a bit of an outdated way of ending an episode. In part, it was justified, but it’s still a cliché. Finally, it seems a little inconsistent for Twilight to be so concerned about how Celestia might react to things. She did prank her own mentor with disappearing ink at the end of Griffon the Brushoff, so what changed in the meantime that makes her so certain the Princess is going to banish Fluttershy for taking her pet without permission? If Celestia can take a joke, surely she can forgive somepony who only wanted to help.   Highlights/Quotes The party scene is full of good jokes. Twilight and Fluttershy covering up for Philomena’s coughing
Twilight: It’s that dry night air.
Fluttershy: But it’s daytime.
Twilight: … Well, day air is even drier. The scene by the fountain.   Pros: Good writing with a strong theme. Some great comedy, including some classic character gags. Cons: The central prank was perhaps a little cruel. Clichéd ending. Forced moral.   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! And remember: PHOENIXES ARE THE DEVIL!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 21. “Over a Barrel”: How the West was Won, and the Pies It Got Us

My father stampeded on these grounds, and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him… – Chief THUNDERHOOVES The Mane Six are on their way via train to the Western frontier town of Appaloosa so that Applejack can give one of her apple trees, Bloomberg, to her relatives there.
The train's engine is not very powerful, unfortunately… it only has four horsepower! Applejack is babying the tree by reading it a bedtime story, to the annoyance of Rarity, so is also put out that the tree has a car all to himself while she is lodging with the rest. The gals are chattering excitedly, irritating both Rarity and Spike, who are trying to get some shuteye. Spike eventually escapes to Bloomberg’s car, while Rarity goes for the direct approach and shouts the others into silence. They awaken in the morning to find a herd of buffalo are keeping pace with the train. Their delight turns to concern when the buffalo start ramming the train, sending the Mane Six bouncing around. Eventually, the smallest of the buffalo, later introduced as Little Strongheart, jumps onto the roof and heads towards the rear car, Bloomberg and Spike. Although Rainbow Dash attempts to confront the interloper, she is unprepared for how agile she can be. RD slams into a sign, and gets left behind as Strongheart uncouples the last car and the rest of the herd push it away. Poor Spike is last seen calling to the Mane Six for help as they recede into the distance. On arrival at Appaloosa (sorry, I mispronounced that, it should be AAAAAppa<<whinny>>LOOSA! ) they try to explain the situation, but AJ’s cousin Braeburn is too busy pushing them from sight to sight to listen. He shows them the various puntastic locations, including horse-drawn carriages, horse drawn horse-drawn carriages, Wild West dances, Mild West dances, the local watering hole and the Sheriff’s office.
Always ready to serve and protect… but only after his siesta! After they get to the apple orchard, AJ finally gets through to Braeburn and explains that buffalo took their tree, and their dragon, while RD and Pinkie are both missing, presumably attempting a rescue. Braeburn talks about how the buffalo want the orchard to be removed entirely (although not why, an issue which I will discuss later). While this is going on, Rainbow is indeed on Spike’s trail, although she still has both a headache and a grudge against Strongheart to nurse. Pinkie surprises her, and Pinkie being Pinkie, gets them discovered by the buffalo, due to her own obtuseness. Luckily, Spike is nearby, and has clout with the buffalo on account of being a dragon. Thus safe from trampling, the three head back to the buffalo’s camp. As they eat dinner (gruel and gemstones, you figure out who eats what), Rainbow encounters Little Strongheart again, and is mad enough to try to leave. Strongheart apologizes for the earlier ruckus fracas and makes amends. They meet up with Chief THUNDERHOOVES, the leader of the buffalo, who explains (at enough length that even the other buffalo are falling asleep) that the Appaloosans have planted their orchard on the tribe’s sacred stampeding grounds and trapped them. Rainbow Dash decides to take their side, and resolves to talk to the Appaloosans and get them to move the trees. As the Mane Six Appaloosa-side prepare to set out for their own rescue attempt, their missing party members meet them, and bring Little Strongheart to talk with Braeburn. The peace talk is immediately derailed by RD and AJ taking sides and starting to argue. Pinkie tries to mend the rift with a song, but it’s apparently so bad that all the Sheriff and the Chief can agree on is how much it sucks. Chief THUNDERHOOVES gives an ultimatum for high noon the next day… the trees are either gone, or they will be trampled, along with the entire town. Sheriff tells him to “bring it” and thus both sides prepare for war. Despite the overtures of the Mane Six, back on the same side again, no pony or buffalo seems willing to listen. As the deadline approaches, Chief THUNDERHOOVES begins to have second thoughts, and it seems like the war is averted… until Pinkie repeats her awful song, and “CHHAARRRGE!” As the buffalo advance, the Appaloosans let loose with a barrage of apple pies, as well as defensive measures that have varying degrees of effectiveness. As Chief THUNDERHOOVES charges at the Sheriff, who has run out of ammo and can only resolve to meet death with dignity, a stray pie downs the Chief. The battle comes to a halt as both sides start to mourn the Chief’s falling, until the pie also has a falling… onto the Chief’s tongue. Awakened by the taste of the pie, he announces that he has a much better idea. The majority of the trees can stay as long as the buffalo have enough room to stampede, and in exchange, the Appaloosans have to provide them with pies. The peace restored, Bloomberg is planted in a new home, AJ and RD run off into the sunset with Little Strongheart, and Twilight tacks on the moral for today’s lesson: compromise good, conflict bad.   Thoughts on the Episode I have to admit, I don’t have much of a cultural context on this one, not being American. Even so, I can see how taking something like the conflict between Native American tribes and western settlers, an extremely violent period of history, and reducing it to a food fight could be considered rather damn insulting. The writing is really off this episode. The conflict over how the land should be used is not such a bad concept in itself (except so far as mentioned in the former paragraph) but how is it that the buffalo could have made their dissatisfaction known without actually saying WHY they wanted the trees gone? Braeburn knows the buffalo have a problem with the trees. So did they just march up to the ponies, say “Move those trees!” and then trot off back to their teepees without another word? It would be another thing if the two groups had had some sort of meeting before that, and been unable to come to a resolution. There’s no evidence of any such thing happening, so the groups on either side of the conflict seem rather unreasonable. That’s simply not realistic, and as I said, pretty insulting compared to the actual conflict it was based on. The conflict within the Mane Six is also badly handled. Little Strongheart and Braeburn were ready to discuss the issue, and at least find out what the other side wanted and where they were coming from. This could well have led to a compromise and resolution, sans The Battle of the Baked Goods, but both Rainbow Dash and Applejack ruined it by taking it upon themselves to speak for the two parties and ending up in an argument. Yet in the scene where the Appaloosans are preparing for the fight, all of the Mane Six are together and on the same side. I think it would have been more interesting to have Applejack actually side with the settler ponies, and Rainbow side with the buffalo, with the other Mane Six ponies caught between the two. As it is, the conflict between the Mane Six members goes nowhere and so seems somewhat arbitrary. Speaking of Mane Six characters, both Rarity and Pinkie Pie had a pretty awful outing in this episode. Let’s start with Rarity. In this episode alone, I could understand how some people could have considered her behaviour whiny.
I am not whining, I am complaining! I mentioned this briefly in my recap of A Dog and Pony Show, so as promised, here’s a bit fuller of an explanation. (Ghostie and the rest of the fan club will just have to forgive me for this…) First, in the opening scene, Rarity was complaining about having to sleep in the same car as the others while Bloomberg got a sleeper car to himself. Apart from her plaintive tone, she’s also being a bit of a diva here, acting as if she should get special treatment. She was also rather abrupt in shouting at the others to be quiet… although, I sympathize with her somewhat in this. I also hate being kept up by others making noise when I’m trying to sleep, and can get very irritable. Still, it’s not a very admirable scene for Rares there. She also sounded pretty whiny when Applejack accidentally pulled her saddle bag strap too tight. (“Gently, please!”) Now for Pinkie Pie. Oh, man, was Pinkie in poor form. First of all, she disappears to follow Rainbow Dash without apparently giving the others any explanation of where she was going, then gets them captured by the buffalo by being oblivious to the fact that Rainbow was trying to hide. Even Pinkie should have been serious, if she was there to rescue Spike as she said she was. They were lucky that Spike was there to rescue them instead by vouching for them with the buffalo. Later on, she sings a song that escalates the situation. Oddly, it’s not all that different from any of Pinkie’s other songs, so why it made things worse is beyond me (plot convenience, I guess, so one more chalk mark under Poor Writing.) That may be forgivable, since she was just trying to help, and couldn’t have known that the song would be such an epic fail. But then right before the battle, she sings the damn song again for no reason, and sets off the buffalo, who were having second thoughts. Pinkie usually knows when to be somewhat serious, and her childish behaviour here is another mark of poor writing. The final battle and the downing of Chief THUNDERHOOVES during it are also problematic: for the buffalo it makes sense, but why are the ponies sad he went down? To them, he’s the unreasonable enemy who wants them gone, and is willing to trash their town and destroy their food source to make it happen. They should have been glad when he gets taken out. Speaking of, how could anyone have really thought an apple pie in the face was lethal or even damaging?
I used to be a buffalo chief, until I took an apple pie in the face…

Tell me about it! Unless the pie Chief THUNDERHOOVES was hit with was a dark matter apple pie, it shouldn’t have knocked him out, and it certainly shouldn’t have stopped his unconscious body from squishing Silver Star due to pure momentum. (The Sheriff’s “face death with dignity” moment was pretty awesome, though.) It's even more egregious (I love that word!) considering that we see how the pies work against every other buffalo: they don't do damage but rather make it so they can't see where they are going. As for the final solution Chief THUNDERHOOVES came up with, it’s blindingly obvious in hindsight: clear enough space for the buffalo to stampede while still letting the rest of the apple trees grow, and share the fruit / pies. Did it really require a minor war, major property damage and grieving for a fallen leader for someone to hit upon that idea… … Actually, the thought occurs that it did. Maybe the writer was a bit more subtle and skilled than I’m giving him credit for. You see, Chief THUNDERHOOVES gets the idea because the pie was so delicious. This matters because we were shown what the buffalo eat previously, a kind of mushy gruel of unknown composition. From Rainbow Dash’s reaction, it doesn’t seem very appetizing. Pinkie likes it, but then, Pinkie likes any food that doesn’t outright poison her (and liquid rainbows aren’t food). At any rate, the hint is there. Once Chief THUNDERHOOVES tastes the pie (tastier than what he’s used to), he realizes that the trees can benefit him and his tribe as well. He no longer sees them as an obstacle and nothing more, and this opens the way to the compromise. There was even some foreshadowing of the resolution during Pinkie’s song, when she sticks an apple into both Little Strongheart and Sheriff Silver Star’s mouths… so Pinkie did have the answer after all but no one noticed! ) Can we balance out the negatives even further? On the plus side… at least it gave Dark Qiviut an idea for an OC. Alright, that’s not really much to do with the quality of the episode itself, so let’s look for some more positives, of which Little Strongheart is one. At least she gets a name and a bit of a personality; better than the rest of the buffalo, apart from Chief THUNDERHOOVES. As her name implies, she’s determined, but kind. She was willing to apologize to Rainbow Dash, and wanted to find a peaceful solution to the orchard problem. She’s also pretty athletic, and as Rainbow admits, rather fast for being so bulky (compared to the ponies at least… except Bulk Biceps). One wonders why she’s not only the youngest but apparently the only female member of the tribe. Is she the daughter of Chief THUNDERHOOVES? Do only males and youngsters get the opportunity to stampede, and the female buffalo are just elsewhere while the episode plays out? I guess we won’t get any answers to these questions, unless the buffalo reappear for more than a cameo (Pinkie Pride) in Season 5. As for the buffalo, although clearly the Equestrian equivalent of Native Americans, they manage to avoid many of the stereotypes. They speak perfectly good English / Equestrian, no “hows” and “ums” are heard, and they don’t dance around the fire beating tomtoms, so we should probably give the writer credit for not making them as offensive as he could have. He pretty much had to include the feathered headdress, teepees and war paint, though. Overall, the episode has some major problems, and the things it gets right are much less in evidence. Still, on thinking more about it, I can’t give it the lowest ranking, since those things are there to be found. The upshot of this is that it gets a rescue from the bottom of the pile… but not by much.   Highlights/Quotes Regarding Bloomberg getting a bedtime story and a private car.Rarity: You talk about it as if it’s your baby or something.
Applejack: Who are you calling a baby? Bloomberg’s no baby!
Applejack: <To Bloomberg> Don’t let Widdle Wawity make you all saddy waddy, Bloomberg’s a big strong apple tree, yes he is! A-coochi-coochi-coo-coo-coo! Everyone knows the “Fluttershy is a tree” conversation, so no need to repeat it here. After Pinkie’s song:
THUNDERHOOVES: It appears that Sheriff Silver Star and I have come to an agreement.
Silver Star: We have indeedy.
Everyone leans forward hopefully…
THUNDERHOOVES: That was the worst performance we’ve ever seen.
Silver Star: Absatively!   Pros: Little Strongheart is a somewhat interesting character. The tree conversation was amusing. Here and there is an instance of clever writing / foreshadowing to be found. Cons: Mostly poor writing. Rarity is too whiny. Pinkie Pie is a bubblehead who ruins everything. Rainbow and Applejack do more harm than good. It takes a bloody conflict and great tragedy of history and reduces it to apple pies and bad puns.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 11: Back in the Saddle with "Princess Twilight Sparkle"

Well, Season 4 is officially underway! with a very satisfying two-parter right out of the starting gate. "Princess Twilight Sparkle Part 1" opens with a flying lesson for the most recently ascended alicorn princess, under the tutelage of Rainbow Dash. However, it seems Twilight's new appendages don't come with a manual. She ends up ploughing into the ground after trying to practice her "big finish" for the upcoming Summer Sun Celebration. This scene makes it pretty clear that Twilight is now taller and more horse-like than her friends, and her horn is noticeably slimmer and longer. Her wings are larger and of a different shape to regular pegasus wings. All of which is to be expected, and I like the changes personally.
She ate her Wheaties... While she may have changed physically, she's still the same old Twilight personality-wise, refusing to wear her crown or to allow her friends to treat her differently... for the moment at least.  In the next scene, the Mane 6 discuss the Celebrations to be held both in Canterlot and back in Ponyville. Twilight's new status means that she has to stay behind instead of being with her friends on the anniversary of their meeting and defeat of Nightmare Moon, which she is unhappy about. However, the others manage to convince her that it won't be as bad as all that. Twilight's stain-glass window is quite interesting to look at, having a picture of Starswirl's journal and another book with Twilight's cutie mark on it. The animation and lighting in this scene really is top notch. However, one gripe is that Pinkie continues to be the "gag" character, doing little more than making odd pronouncements and not otherwise contributing to the scene. The next scene treats her a little better, though.  Back in her suite, Twilight and Spike go through (what else?) a checklist. Being ahead of schedule, Spike suggests a quick trip to Ponyville, but Twilight worries about something going wrong in the meantime. Like in "Lesson Zero," her train of thought becomes a little erratic at the prospect of disappointing Princess Celestia. Also it has shades of Pinkie Pie from "Wonderbolt Academy". Princess Celestia herself soon arrives to provide both reassurance and quite a bit of double-nostril alicorn pictures.
These babies... She confides some of her feelings to Twilight, about how she previously dreaded the Summer Sun Celebration as a reminder of her having to banish her own sister. Now, she says, she can feel joy of her own in having her sister returned. This conversation really does add a lot to Celestia's character, and is pretty touching. Princess Luna, meanwhile, seems to be having a ball raising the moon outside. After their talk, Princess Celestia leaves Twilight to double-check her checklist. A freaky vine comes out of the ground and attacks her. Perhaps it's best that it happens off-screen... Twilight wakes to find that day and night have decided to join forces. With Spike in tow, they head out of the castle. The citizens of Canterlot (many of whom we've seen before from "Sweet and Elite", including Jet Set, Upper Crust and all the high class ponies Rarity accepted invitations from) gather around in the hopes that Princess Twilight will know what's going on. A Royal Guard rescues her from the press to tell her that not only Princess Celestia, but Princess Luna too, is missing. (Spike faints) They then ask her to give them orders. (Spike faints) Reluctant at first, Twilight steps up and tells them to keep looking for the other Princesses. Just then, a guard comes with a message from Ponyville... the Everfree Forest is attacking! (Spike faints - has he been taking swooning lessons from Rarity or something?)
It goes a little something like this... Back in Ponyville, the Mane 6 are having to deal with the encroaching Everfree forest. Fluttershy's animals are all cowering in her cottage, the entire Apple family is fighting a losing battle against weeds, with Big Mac taking the brunt of the forest's sauciness. His usual "yup" and "nope" make their appearances here, so this indicates we're not getting much more lines for him than that even in Season 4. In the sky above, Rainbow Dash is fighting a losing battle of her own against spiky black clouds. One even manages to knock her from the sky, but...
... and right before she hits the ground... shoom... she pulled out... hroom! The plants also seem able to affect a unicorn's horn, as poor Rarity discovers when her magic causes her teapot to go on a rampage. Opalescence is not amused in the slightest, despite Rarity's protests that she isn't doing it on purpose. Even magically challenged Sweetie Belle is not spared from the shenanigans, and ends up being chased by a curtain. The Mane 6 eventually find each other and wonder what's to be done.  While all this is going on, Twilight back in Canterlot decides to go to Ponyville herself. After a literal "forgot she could fly" moment, she and Spike take to the air. Bonus points for the spluttering engine sound effect as Twilight first gets going with a bit of wobbling, and for the seat belt gag (where was that hidden?), then the crash landing, leaving poor Spike to make the acquaintance of Mr. Window. Her friends are glad to see her, and Pinkie's Pinkie Sense gets a workout, allowing her to dodge a branch that then hits Rarity. Oddly enough, it's clearly "twitchy tail", which should mean something falling from the sky, not a branch coming in from the side, but meh... When told that the Princesses are missing, Rarity steals Pinkie's GASP! sound effect in retaliation. After thinking about it for a while, Twilight comes to the conclusion that Discord is the one behind all this, and they don the Elements of Harmony to summon him... and his bathtub. It's funny that he's singing "Winter Wrap Up" as he appears.  Discord himself is in good form, which makes me a little bit less inclined to say he's been ruined by being reformed. I prefer him as a villain myself, but even now, he provides a good deal of entertainment. His protests of innocence fall on deaf ears (except for Fluttershy, and even she isn't quite willing to believe him - she does however make the very good point of "innocent until proven guilty", so props to her for that.) He suggests asking Zecora, who has been driven out of the Everfree Forest.  Conveniently, she has a potion only an alicorn can get to work. I really do wonder why Twilight uses dark magic here, but perhaps that will be explained later. Drinking the potion, she gets a vision.  Back in the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, Princess Luna comes out and appears to speak to Twilight, saying that she is not going to stand by while others "bathe in your precious light". Understandably confused, Twilight is then horrified to see that Luna is having a bit of a bad mare day ()
What do you mean, "We've run out of Moon Pies?!" Using her magic to cause an eclipse, Luna begins to transform into Nightmare Moon, in one of the most badass sequences ever shown in the show. The sheer amount of effort that went into this is amazing, and the zoom in on Twilight's aghast expression is fantastic. Now this, fillies and gentlecolts, is how you do a cliff hanger. Honestly, they should have just ended it there, and made everybody squirm for a week.  Whew! What a journey it's been and we're only half way through the premiere! Stay tuned for the next half of my review. Until then, stay sunny side up, everypony!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 20. “Green isn’t Your Colour”: Secrets, Spas and Superstars

Losing a friend’s trust is the fastest way to lose a friend… FOREVER! – Pinkie Pie Another Rarity-centric episode, but it also shines a spotlight on Fluttershy to an equal degree… which is precisely the problem. As Fluttershy and Rarity are having their weekly spa visit, Rarity tells Fluttershy about a chance meeting with Photo Finish, yet another important fashion pony in Equestria. She is a photographer, so Rarity manages to convince a reluctant Fluttershy to be her model for a photo shoot in the boutique. On the day itself, Rarity enlists the help of Spike (as a pin cushion, but luckily it’s painless for him) and the others to make everything just so. Even Fluttershy ends up getting a bit annoyed at the rigmarole. Twilight and Pinkie are both in attendance, and Spike calls them in close to tell them about his “secret” crush on Rarity. Twilight rolls her eyes at his request not to tell anypony, but Pinkie takes her promises seriously, and convinces Twilight to do so. Then Photo Finish herself arrives. She has an indeterminate European accent (German, perhaps?) and her look reminds me a lot of Lady Gaga.
She dresses in a rather less silly manner, though. She takes only a few photos before announcing that she has found her latest fashion star and is going to make her shine all over Equestria. It’s a rather clumsy dramatic device, really, where a character uses vague pronouns instead of names and ends up generating misunderstandings that could easily have been avoided. During a photo shoot in the park the following day, Photo Finish makes it clear that she wants Fluttershy to be her star, not Rarity. Although saddened at being so abruptly dismissed, Rarity exhorts Fluttershy not to miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance before leaving. Due to her moe appeal, Fluttershy gets more and more famous, and starts to feel some strain with the pressure of being popular, only continuing to model because Rarity told her she must, and a belief that quitting would hurt Rarity’s feelings. As for Rarity, she gets continually snubbed and ignored, and her jealousy over Flutters’ fame is finally fanned into a furiously flaming furnace. When Fluttershy’s modelling commitments make her late to the spa date, Rarity confides her feelings of jealousy to Twilight, but asks her to keep it from Fluttershy so as not to hurt their friendship. Cheering up a bit from the catharsis, she leaves just as Fluttershy finally arrives. Finding her best friend has already gone, Fluttershy lets out her frustration in a cute little scream. She then tells Twilight her own feelings. Twilight considers just telling her what Rarity is really feeling, but Pinkie keeps popping out of various implausible places to warn her not to. She eventually hits upon the idea of using telekinesis to make Fluttershy act in an unattractive way at her next fashion show, so that no one will want her to model again. True to her word, at the next event, she makes Fluttershy appear uncouth and an awful model, and it seems to be the end of her career. Unfortunately for the plan, Rarity has just come in. Having realized that despite her jealousy, she doesn’t want Fluttershy to fail after all, she comes to her rescue by cheering for her creation of “a whole new style of modelling”. The crowd is swayed by this to support Fluttershy once again. In the dressing room, Fluttershy is annoyed that she’s become more popular than ever, and kicks a vase in frustration… which hardly wobbles. Meanwhile, Twilight is going crazy trying not to blurt out everypony’s secrets, and resorts to increasingly ludicrous actions to gag herself. Rarity comes in at this point, and everything gets brought out into the open. Realizing that all this angst could have been avoiding by just being honest with their feelings, they reaffirm their friendship. Fluttershy tells Photo Finish that she is finished with photos, and the two best friends leave together, with Photo Finish utterly confused. Right about then, Twilight’s self-control fails and she blurts out the one secret that is still a secret: “Spike has a crush on Rarity!” Pinkie appears again to chide her.
Mirror Pinkie on the wall, whose Fourth Wall is thinnest of them all? Later, as the four of them relax at the spa, Twilight dictates a letter to Princess Celestia about being honest about one’s feelings, but Spike refuses to write it because she blabbed his secret. Twilight sincerely apologizes, and Spike forgives her and says he’ll write the letter… as soon as he’s finished fanning his favorite fashionista.   Thoughts on the Episode While the driving force behind the episode is the incorrect assumptions that both Fluttershy and Rarity make about how the other feels about Fluttershy’s new modeling job, Twilight is also examined here. She gets caught between the frustration of being in a position to fix the situation, and her promise to keep everyone’s respective secrets. Although it provides much of the humour, with Pinkie popping up everywhere, and keeps the plot going for the full runtime of the episode, equating “telling secrets” to “betraying trust” is a problematic concept for me. While in many situations, they are the same thing, in many others they aren’t. Some secrets are simply not worth keeping if doing so results in greater harm to those involved. Twilight should have chosen the lesser of two evils and just come clean with what she knew. I’m sure even Rarity and Fluttershy would have agreed that the benefit of learning the truth would outweigh any “loss of trust”, if it could even be said to be at stake here. And if one is going to suggest that the problem was “breaking a promise” rather than just “telling a secret”, and that was the trust at stake: Spike’s concern at the end was not that Twilight had broken her promise, but that she had told someone about his crush and revealed his secret. So while Pinkie may have been focused on the “breaking promises” aspect, it’s arguable whether Spike or Twilight had the same concerns. Let’s look now at Rarity and Fluttershy. This episode cemented the fact that Rarity and Fluttershy are very close, and that they like to spend time in each other’s company. This is part of why Rarity feels as guilty as she does about her jealousy. It’s not just a friend she’s harbouring ill feelings toward, it’s her best friend. She also feels she is letting herself down, since she sees herself as a lady, and as she says in the previous episode, “A lady is never jealous.” Despite this, she does try really hard to be happy for Fluttershy in the beginning and when it counts, she realizes the error of her ways and puts herself on the line to rescue Fluttershy. (She also gets a moment of affirmation for obviously being a pony who knows good fashion! ) Fluttershy is also willing to put herself on the line for her friend, doing something she doesn’t like simply because she feels it’s what Rarity wants. She is also genuinely frustrated that her new job is keeping her away from her best friend. Her expressions of said frustration are amusing in their scale. As for the “antagonist”, Photo Finish: While she is abrupt and self-absorbed, she doesn’t seem like a particularly bad pony. She’s just a little insensitive. She’s really amusing to watch, as well, with her odd accent and turn of phrase: “I go!”, “de magicks!” and “Flootershy!” being notable. Apart from the character studies, this episode did give us “Pinkie Promises”, and managed to make Pinkie seem even weirder than before. There are also a few references to Snow White sprinkled in there. Rarity makes and wears a black cloak reminiscent of the evil Queen / old crone, and the theme matches well too, since that character was also motivated by jealousy of her more beautiful rival. There’s also the apple that Pinkie takes a bite of. She pauses and her expression makes it seem like something is wrong, as if the apple was poisoned and then she pronounces, “Mmm, juicy!” (And in case anyone thinks I’m stealing these ideas from the recap of this episode on TV Tropes, I’m not. I’m the troper who put that particular entry on the page in the first place. ) There’s also a little bit of visual humour throughout, such as when Fluttershy’s mud mask is just two tiny dollops on her cheeks, or when one of the spa sisters arrives to polish her horn with a file (cue sheepish grin and squee from Flutters) Then there’s Spike, who wants to keep his crush a secret, yet is wearing a T-Shirt with Rarity’s face in a heart on the front. One of the stranger things to note is that after this episode, Fluttershy’s time as a famous modelling superstar is never mentioned or referenced again, which seems a bit unrealistic, considering just how popular she was shown to be… although, it's a cartoon, so this may be an acceptable break from reality.   Highlights/Quotes Whenever Pinkie shouts “FOREVER!”, particularly the time where she jumps up out of a basin full of sponges like a shark. Twilight meets with limited success while attempting a Pinkie Promise:
Twilight: “Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my…. Owww! Pinkie agrees not to tell about Twilight’s plan in mime. Diggy diggy pony! Okay, so I'm not being very original, but damn, is that a cute video!   Pros: Some good and rather realistic character moments. Pinkie is hysterically funny in this episode, but all characters get their chance to contribute to the comedy. Snow White references. Cons: Relies on the pronoun game. Some confusion as to what is at stake: loss of trust from breaking promises or loss of trust from revealing secrets. Rather an enormous snap back.   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 stylish!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 19. “A Dog and Pony Show”: Poachers Hiding in the Trees

“Whining”? I am not “whining,” I am complaining. Do you want to hear whining? – Rarity Rarity is hard at work in Carousel Boutique as she puts the finishing touches on her latest creation. Hearing the bell at the door ring, she turns to find a living legend in her shop: Sapphire Shores, the Pony of Pop! Ms. Shores even greets Rarity by name, saying that she heard of her through a rave review in a fashion magazine, and has come to buy a SENSATIONAL! outfit for her latest tour. Rarity quickly shows the Pony of Pop the piece she has just completed… a dazzling, bejeweled outfit. Sapphire immediately agrees to purchase it, but she also wants 5 more. Rarity, having used up her whole stock of jewels, faints at the thought of having to get more. She enlists Spike’s aid for the task, since he’s a good digger. Although no doubt he would do it for free, she promises Spike that he can eat some of the gems for a reward… just as soon as they have enough to get started on the new clothes. As she uses her magic to find the gems, and as Spike digs them up, they are unaware that some Gollum-like creatures are watching them… Realizing that Rarity is the one who can find the gems, they decide to kidnap her. Meanwhile, Rarity decides that she had enough gems to be going on with, and gives Spike a huge blue gem for his reward. Overcome with gratitude and infatuated as he is, he decides not to eat this gem, since it’s a gift from Rarity. Suddenly, Rarity’s horn automatically activates (again proving Twilight wrong about “magic only happens when you want it to happen”) and detects another jewel – this time up in a tree. Unfortunately, this jewel is on the collar of a Diamond Dog. Despite Rarity trying to be friendly, this Dog is obviously up to no good, advancing menacingly as the pony and dragon back away. Suddenly, his companions ambush them from underground. Although Spike and Rarity put up a bit of a fight, eventually, they grab her and pull her underground, leaving Spike behind to scream his denial to the heavens. Quickly fetching the rest of the Mane Six, Spike leads them to the place Rarity was captured. There they find the entire field is covered in holes. Although they bravely try to get down one, the Diamond Dogs start filling them up, then use their home ground advantage to thoroughly defeat them.
The latest Equestrian arcade sensation! Whack-a-Dog! While all this is going on, the ponies have a few have a shared imagination spots about Rarity being terrified and helpless, first at all the dirt (“Get away, dirt! It stings! It burns! Oh, somepony please, save me, save me!”) The second one is about Rarity being terrified by the three Dogs popping up out of nowhere to demand baubles, beads and treasures. Since pure force seems unable to help them, Spike hits upon the idea of using his gift gem from Rarity as bait. Seemingly, dragon skin has natural pockets… Finding an open hole, he dangles his prize on a line. Twilight says he’s very selfless for giving up the gem Rarity gave him (point of logic: how did she know it Rarity gave it to him when she wasn’t there at the time?) and Spike has a little imagine spot of his own, where he is an older, well-built, brave dragon knight, who single-handedly beats the Diamond Dogs and their little dog minions too (point of logic: how did he know what they looked like, since he only saw the three leaders previously?) with his lance (compensating for something?) and dragon fire. Then he bursts into Rarity’s cell, where his damsel in dis dress is waiting for his rescue. He goes in for his victory kiss as the vision ends…
Awkward… At least AJ doesn’t seem to mind too much. This Kodak moment is interrupted by the Diamond Dogs taking the bait, pulling Spike towards the hole. The rest of the Mane Six grab onto him, but they are all pulled in anyway. Pinkie, of course, jumps in because it just seems like fun. Dragged through the tunnels (Pinkie riding on Flutters’ back and laughing in glee the entire time), they end up underground… but now have no idea which way to go. This prompts another Big No from Spike. He comes up with the idea that the tunnel with the most gems will lead them to Rarity. Now if only somepony else knew the gem finding spell. Luckily, it just so happens that Rarity once showed Twilight how to cast it (and welcome back to Plot Convenience Theatre!) and it reveals every jewel in the entire room. They start off down the corridor. In another part of the cave, Rarity apprehensively asks what the Diamond Dogs mean to do with her, but is relieved when she hears they only want her for her gem finding skills. She shows them a pocket of gems, and asks to be let go. Instead, the Dogs want her to dig them up. She does… one scrape at a time. Frustrated, the Dogs ask the other dogs to dig them up. Instead of her digging, they decide to make her haul the cart as she searches for ALL the jewels. She does so, but keeps up a constant tirade about the working conditions, the poor hygiene and various odours from the dogs themselves. They try to shut her up, but Rarity keeps on with her verbal punishment, demanding that they call her Miss, Rarity, or Miss Rarity rather than “pony”. They really get more than they bargained for when they tell her to “stop whining.” In the wake of this auditory assault, the Dogs end up caving in to all her demands, decorating the chamber, fanning her and providing her with water, all just to keep her quiet. Realizing that their dignity is at stake, they try to reassert themselves and put the harness back on her, whining or not. But when one of them slaps her rump and calls her a mule…
“This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into…” As the Mane Six approach, the dig dogs try to capture them, but end up being bucked off. Just then, what sounds like a fight breaking out comes from the next chamber. Spike tries to ride Twilight into battle, to her indignation. She relents, though, and carries Spike through the doorway… only to find the Diamond Dogs running away from Rarity, and begging the Mane Six to rescue them! Rarity greets her friends and Spike and enlists their help to haul several wagons full of gems that the dogs dug up for her. The Diamond Dogs are just so glad to be rid of Rarity that they let them leave with every single gem. Back on the surface, Rarity reveals that she had control of the situation the entire time, and Twilight congratulates her on teaching her that being ladylike does not make a person weak, and that wit and quick-thinking will triumph over brute force.   Thoughts on the Episode Being a Rarity focus episode, particularly one that highlights her intelligence and adaptability, and confounds the expectations of her being weak and helpless, you know I’m contractually obligated to love it! Some fans focus on Rarity’s whining in this episode as a negative, but here, I found it entirely justified. One needs to realize that it’s all just an act that Rarity put on, specifically in order to get an advantage over her physically stronger captors. That’s why it’s annoying to me when fans decry it and even more so when they act as if it’s typical of Rarity. Heck, there are much better reasons to call her whiney in “Over a Barrel”, which I’ll cover when I review that episode at a later time, so using this particularly scene to find fault with Rarity is rather unfair. That scene is absolutely hilarious to me, especially the “oh crap, this is going to suck” expressions on the Dogs’ faces. And once whining is no longer effective, she switches to crying, prompting even one of the Dogs to glare at his compatriot for making things even worse. Of course, the contrast between how the others imagine events are unfolding and what actually happens is funny in its own right. There are some good references that parents can get, such as the Diamond Dogs being poachers, and even hiding in the trees, which is a nod to the David Bowie song. There’s also the Lone Ranger bit between Spike and Twilight, which almost certainly wouldn’t be noticed by teenagers or preteens.   Highlights/Quotes Spike’s entire rescue fantasy scene, for just being such an over the top “all-conquering hero” daydream, and ending with Spike in real life puckering up to Applejack, of all ponies.
AJ: “Woah, there, lover boy! ” Pinkie deciding to go for a ride on Fluttershy.   Rarity’s epic whining, topped off with the following:
Diamond Dog: “STOP WHINING!”
Rarity (even louder): “But I thought you waaanted whiiining!” Spike (on Twi’s back): “Hi ho, Twilight! Away!”
Twilight: “And what do you think you’re doing?”
Spike: “Please, Twilight. Just give me this?”
Twilight: *sigh* “Fine…” *Rears, neighs and charges*   Pros: Highlights Rarity’s intelligence and wit, as well as her rising prominence in the fashion world. There are some really funny moments, including those wonderful imagination spots. We see some Bowie and Lone Ranger references, unusual in a cartoon. Cons: Rarity whining is a very hit or miss scene: fans either love it or hate it. The concern of Spike being taken advantage of by Rarity rears its head again, especially when she takes away the gem he was eating at the end, but at least she does reward him earlier in the episode.   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 fabulous!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 18. “The Show Stoppers”: In Which the CMC Brought the House Down

Look here are three little fillies / Ready to sing for this crowd. / Listen up, ‘cos here’s our story / We’re gonna sing it really loud! – Scootaloo As the episode opens, Applejack is leading the Cutie Mark Crusaders towards a secluded area of Sweet Apple Acres. They arrive at her old treehouse, which Applejack offers to let them use as a club house. The three fillies’ response is in a word, subdued, mainly due to the fact that the clubhouse is literally falling apart, as Applejack finds out when she tries to lean on one of the walls. Despite the dilapidated condition of the club house, the CMC decide to use it. Scootaloo busies herself with drawing a map of Ponyville and riding her scooter around, doing tricks and leaping over tree branches (foreshadowing her skill at scooter riding and other physical, kinesthetic skills.)
Who directed this, John Woo?

Or maybe it was the Wachowski Brothers Wachowskis? Meanwhile Apple Bloom fixes up the club house, making it as good as new, sanding, painting and so on, which impresses Scoots when she arrives (foreshadowing Apple Bloom’s skills in arts and crafts.) They head off to find Sweetie Belle, following the sound of her voice as she sings the theme song with lyrics that she is working on (foreshadowing her skills as a songwriter and singer.) When Applejack comes to check up on them later, they are busy singing their new theme song, but Scoots manages to hit a discordant note, making AJ wince (thus giving us some foremuffling – I know that’s not a real word, just go with it – instead of foreshadowing.) She compliments them on their hard work, and hears their plans to leave no possible vocation unattempted, aided by their map. After she leaves to buck some apples, the CMC go from place to place in Ponyville, attempting things. However, each attempt ends in disaster and a distinct dearth of cutie marks.

And in one case, a distinct surplus of squid… how did that get there, anyway? They end up in the library, just in time to meet Twilight and Cheerilee. Twilight tries to advise them on trying things they already like, rather than random activities, while Cheerilee suggests they join the Talent Show to be held soon. There are prizes to be won, and they just might get their cutie marks there. The three fillies decide to do an epic rock ballad for their Talent Show appearance, and of course choose exactly the wrong role for each of them to play. The tone-deaf, kinesthetic genius Scootaloo wants to write the song and sing instead of dance, the crafts-savvy Apple Bloom decides to combine kung fu and dancing instead of making the set and props, and singer / song-writer Sweetie would rather do the crafty things instead of actually sing in front of a crowd. They also steal some of Rarity’s supplies and borrow some items from other ponies around town. As they plan their performance, we see just how much they suck at the task they chose for themselves. Each of them provides advice to the others that further reinforces how much better suited they would be to the work than the pony they are advising. As they practice for the final performance, AJ checks up on them again, only to be horrified at how badly they are doing. She isn’t able to bring herself to tell them so, though. On the night of the performance, Twilight comes to wish them luck, and tells Sweetie Belle she’s looking forward to hearing her sing. To her consternation, she hears that Scootaloo is singing, AB is dancing and Sweetie is doing the props. Before she can advise them any further, their turn comes up, and they run off to perform. In an homage to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the three fillies start off with only their faces lit up as Scootaloo sings the opening lines. Poor Applejack in the audience lets out an audible groan, and the rest of the crowd is simply transfixed by how bad it all is. As the song goes on, various things go wrong, like AB and Sweetie colliding in midair, a fan accidentally being turned on to full, and the shoddy props and set pieces starting to topple, eventually collapsing onto the three fillies just as Scootaloo mangles the finishing lines. The three pop up from the wreckage, eager to see the crowd’s response – which is gales of laughter. Disappointed and embarrassed, the CMC slink offstage. However, they are soon called back for the presentation of the awards. To their surprise, they find that they have been given an award – for Best Comedy Act! They decide to just go with it, happy that they won. They eagerly check to see if this has given them their cutie marks, but alas… Twilight is first to congratulate them, and gets hopeful when they tell her that they know now that they should embrace their real talents. All seems set for them to finally realize the folly of their ways, until they announce that their true calling must be COMEDY! As the fillies run off the talk to their various sisters / sister-figures, Twilight is left to give us the closing lines… “Someday…”laughs “Someday…”   Thoughts on the Episode The main highlight of the episode is the stylistic suck of the song, which manages to be a bad performance while still being an enjoyable one. According to the audio commentary, Scootaloo’s voice actor, Madeleine Peters, actually sings very well, and the constant need to sing badly on purpose ended up putting a lot of pressure on her, enough that she ended up getting ill from it. None of this is obvious while watching the episode though, so definite kudos to Ms. Peters. A rather funny note about the awards though… we don’t see a performance from them, but the Bully Duo is shown on the stage, along with the magic act pair of Snips and Snails (showing that maybe they’re not entire useless after all, and a continuity nod to their adoration of Trixie – however undeserved – and her magic act) as well as Sunny Days (Daze?) and Peachy Pie (relation to Pinkie currently unknown) reciting poetry on rollerskates.
Talk about your “poetry in motion”! All of this means that Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara performed, but didn't manage to win any kind of award! Take that, biotches! There’s also a heart-warming moment in the final scenes, where the CMC show off their awards to the older ponies. Although Rainbow Dash is not technically Scootaloo’s sister, she is there along with real sisters Applejack and Rarity, which makes this the first example (possibly, could anyone confirm that?) of Scootalove! On the downside, the moral lessons are a little bit murky. Actually, what even IS the moral of this episode? Here’s some bad ones I found: “Stupidity is rewarded.” “You can have an entire stage of set pieces fall on you and not be hurt.” “If you obviously see someone is doing something wrong, which will end in disaster and embarrassment, you should just let them get on with it, rather than be honest.” (And that one comes from Honest Applejack, for extra facehoof points!) For a first season episode at least, the moral should be easy to identify. Maybe I’m just being stupid – wouldn’t be the first time – and missing the good moral lesson among the bad ones. Another flaw lies in the writing. While entertaining, the entire premise of the episode is an Idiot Plot, purely to keep the CMC from actually getting their cutie marks, so that the status quo can be preserved. While this is not so bad a goal, really, it does end up dampening my enjoyment of the episode a bit. I felt like shouting at the three fillies to stop being so stupid! It does at least provide us with a little more development for the fillies, and hints towards what their special talents may be and how they might suss them out.   Highlights/Quotes As the CMC gather up their supplies:
Scootaloo: OK, so that's six wooden planks, 4x8 plywood, a box of nails, four cans of paint, and four brushes. Anything else?
Sweetie Belle: Yeah... Instructions on how to use six wooden planks, 4x8 plywood, a box of nails, four cans of paint, and four brushes.
The staggered zoom just makes this moment even funnier, especially the way Scoots just glares at Sweetie and then starts up her scooter. As they prepare, Sweetie doing the backdrops:
Apple Bloom: Uh... maybe you should also clean your paintbrush between each color.
Sweetie Belle: Oh, I was wondering why all the colors looked like mud.
Apple Bloom: You're not using power tools, are you? The whole song and dance performance.   Pros: A bit more light is shed on what sort of talents each of the CMC might one day realize leads them to their cutie marks. The main song is so bad it’s good, and really shows off the acting ability of the voice talent cast. The comedy is pretty good, especially the epic fails as they plan and execute their performance. First evidence of Scootalove. Cons: Idiot Plot, which provides a lot of frustration. It ends on a possibly questionable set of morals. It’s the second CMC episode in a row. There are some animation errors. Twilight says “My little ponies” far too many times.   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 your props always stay sunny side up! (And not look like mud.)

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Are The Friendship is Magic Comics Canon?

The comics are great. I like the art style, I like the darker stories, I like the funny little references they throw in. (Well, some of the artist OC cameos get a bit annoying, but eh) Some are better than others, of course, but overall, they're a hoot.
And Applejack agrees. The question is, are they canon? Or should they be considered an alternative continuity? Can we use the comics as evidence for headcanon theories in the same way as the show itself? Join me as I examine this question. The first 4 issues deal with Queen Chrysalis, which puts it chronologically after the Season 2 Finale. The second arc is the... sigh... "Nightmare Rarity Arc" (reasons for the sigh to be addressed when I've saved up enough anti-nausea medication to consider reviewing it... it might be a while...) And here is where things get interesting. You see, Luna is shown in this arc, but as she was at the end of the pilot, her "depowered" form.
Yeah, you go to your room and think about what you've done! During the events of the comic, she gets powered up by the POWER OF LOVE! This restores her to her default Season 2 appearance... wait a minute... Season 2?
Woah... that is badflank... but don't try to distract me! This is where we apply our brains (or whatever reasonable facsimile thereof I can muster...) You see, Season 2 has Luna in her new form by the 2nd (I have a different counting scheme... just go with it) episode, while the comic has her in her old form as late as following the Season 2 premiere. So we have a contradiction... oh, wait... no. You see, I was assuming that the comic arcs are presented in chronological order, but actually, there's no reason to make that assumption. The "Nightmare Rarity" arc could in fact be placed chronologically before the Queen Chrysalis arc, which wouldn't contradict the show. Thus proving conclusively that the comics do in fact follow the same continuity as the show... Well, unfortunately, there's more to the story. You see, during the "NightRarity" arc, we get this panel. There is not much else that this could be referring to, except the CMC being kidnapped in the events of the "Queen Chrysalis" arc. We still have the comic contradicting the show's timeline, so I have to conclude that the comics cannot be canonically linked with the show itself. I would consider it an alternative timeline of sorts, personally. Since generalizing from only one example could be misleading, I do have another example of a mismatch between the show and the comics. For this example, we turn to the comic featuring Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in High School, “Neigh Anything”. At the party during the climax, we have a scene where the past!Mayor Mare (one hopes that’s her title and not her real name, because otherwise her parents are clairvoyant) is talking with the past!Cheerilee about what their aptitude test results were. Cheerilee states that hers says she should be a teacher, and she disparages the notion (for those not fluent in Eighties Dudespeak, “grody” means gross, so she definitely is poo-pooing the idea of being a teacher here.) According to the show, Cheerilee’s cutie mark only appeared after she had decided to become a teacher and bring joy and learning to fillies and colts. Hence we have another contradiction of the show. Huzzah! Well, Sunny Fox, one might say, you can’t see her cutie mark with Mayor Mare in the way, so you can’t be sure she has one yet. Fair enough point, but luckily, I have an answer for it. From a previous scene with Cheerilee, we can clearly see that she already has her cutie mark. Thank you, comic writers! At any rate, I'll be reviewing the comic themselves in this section too, to give my own impression about each of the major arcs, along with ranking, a list of pros and cons, and of course a list of the references I got in each one. I hope you'll join me in my endeavour. Until then, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The MLPF World Cup and the Fluttershy Effect

Warning: This blog entry will contain many more swear words than usual. Reader discretion is advised... I really mean it... lotsa swear words... Are you sure you really want to go through with this? Don't say I didn't warn you! Nothing's going to dissuade you from reading this, is it. Oh well. I warned you, and you didn't listen to me, so that's your own lookout. Begin RANT END RANT I think I'll go back to my reviewing now... Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Derpy in Season 4

Let me get one thing straight right off the bat: I don’t hate Derpy. So please don’t immediately jump to the conclusion “he’s a hater, so therefore everything written here is irrelevant.” That isn't even a valid argument in any case. Even if I were a "hater", it would not automatically make my opinion any more or less worthy than it would be if I were her biggest fan. So I hope that is clear. Also from the beginning, I want to make a distinction, which is clear in theory, even if in practice it can be a little hard to differentiate. It is this: there is a difference between evoking emotion and manipulating emotion. Basically, the former invites you feel an emotion… the latter forces you to. An example may make it a bit more concrete. I once read a fanfiction about Trixie, retelling Boast Busters from her perspective. And throughout the fanfic, Trixie kept thinking to herself about how much she loves her caravan, how she views it as friend, how they’ve been through so much together. The upshot, of course, is that it later gets trashed by the Ursa Minor, which anyone who saw the episode already knows. So we’re forced to feel sorry for her even before the event we’re supposed to feel sorry for her about happens. That’s manipulative. If she had reflected after the fact on what she had lost, that would be evoking an emotion. It’s a matter of timing and subtlety. If you accept this premise, but wonder what it has to do with anything, read on. At the beginning of the Season, Derpy was noticeably absent from proceedings. There were even rumours that the show staff had been told they were not allowed to include her, and that she had been cut from the show. And that would have sucked. Luckily, this was not true… she had a triumphant return in “Rainbow Falls”!
The heavens opened, an angelic chorus rang out, and there was much rejoicing and dancing of bronies! And believe it or not, I was as happy as anyone to see that wall-eyed mare waving her flag. I thought it was a perfect way to put paid to the rumours of her demise, greatly exaggerated as they were. Unfortunately, then things started to get out of hand, and I began to get annoyed with the way they kept shoving Derpy into every episode. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was subtle, but the writers were making it very obvious when she appeared. Then it settled down again, and I thought things were going back to normal. Then came the Season 4 finale. When Tirek was on the rampage, he stole the Pegasus magical flight ability. I really didn’t like the way Derpy was used here. Surely the villain draining every Pegasus in Equestria should make us feel bad enough. But they make sure to show it happening to Derpy, presumably trying to make the scene even more shocking. To me, that seems to fall firmly on the manipulative side of the equation. “Look at all the poor Pegasus ponies…” “Who cares? Oh, wait, it’s happening to DERPY TOO? Oh, the ponianity!” (Yes, I know that’s not a word, just go with it.) I repeat that I don’t hate Derpy by any means, but the charm I find in her begins to fade when her appearances start being distracting or manipulative. It's possible that the more obsessive members of her fanbase are probably dusting off their pitchforks, lighting their torches and tracing my IP right now, but I maintain that Derpy should not be the focus of the show. Put her in, by all means. She just doesn’t need to be front and center, taking attention away from the true stars of the show. Personally, I like having Derpy in there to add a funny background event (like popping up from a well), or as an easter egg for eagle eyed enthusiasts (like being in Cranky’s snowglobe). I hope it goes back to that in Season 5.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 17. “Stare Master”: In Which the CMC Went Off Half-Cockatriced

You’re the Queen of Stares! You’re the Stare Master! – Cutie Mark Crusaders The episode opens in Carousel Boutique, where Rarity is working herself into a state due to a large order for the following day. Not helping matters is Sweetie Belle, who wants to assist her sister and perhaps earn her cutie mark, but instead ends up causing a domino disaster when she tries to get a spool of ribbon off a high shelf. After losing the time to set the room back to rights, Rarity declares that she can’t make do with any more interruptions. Cue doorbell, and a frustrated “What NOW?!” from Rarity. Seeing that it’s Fluttershy, returning Opal from being groomed, she apologizes for the outburst, and thanks Fluttershy for taking care of Opal… who is much more affectionate towards Fluttershy than towards her owner… or her owner’s sister…
Or her owner’s sister’s mane. :3 Rarity asks Fluttershy if she used “the Stare” on Opal, but Fluttershy replies in the negative. She doesn’t have control over the Stare, it just happens. Rarity regrets that she can’t ask Fluttershy to stay, due to her work load, but she does take time to show off her gold silk, which Sweetie seems to find fascinating. Now there’s a bit of theme that starts here. Rarity uses the phrase “bit off more than I can chew”, which is going to keep cropping up. She also takes the time to explain the expression to a baffled Sweetie Belle. I attribute this to the whole “edutainment” aspect that the first season of the show had. Just then, the other two thirds of the Crusaders arrive in the form of “Scootaloo! Apple Bloom!” (Just in case you forgot what their names were, I guess) and the three start shouting excitedly about their plans for Crusading during their sleepover at Rarity’s. Sweetie Belle has even made them each a cape… lined with gold silk, to add just the right touch. Considering the fact that she only found out about the silk two minutes ago, she must have some kind of superspeed or time stop power, since there literally has been no time in which she could have cut out the gold silk and completed the three capes. We’ll add that to her ability to defy the laws of physics that we saw during the ribbon incident. A small spool of ribbon managed to knock over a clothes horse, and that somehow generated even more energy, enough to wreck the entire room… could it be…?
Not so farfetched, after all? Rarity naturally freaks out over Sweetie using the last of her gold silk, and now she’ll need to make more… meaning that the sleepover is a no go, since she won’t have the time to spare looking after the three fillies. Fluttershy offers to take care of them instead. Rarity, showing a bit of Genre Savvy, warns Fluttershy that she might be underestimating just how demanding the three can be, but Fluttershy insists on her ability to look after them. Rarity reluctantly agrees, and the three race off with more shouting, Fluttershy in tow. Heading back to Fluttershy’s, they meet Twilight, who is on the way to Zecora’s cottage in the Everfree Forest to get some tea. She also expresses the concern that Fluttershy might be in for a busy night with three energetic fillies, but Fluttershy is certain they’ll be “little angels”. When they arrive at the cottage, Fluttershy quickly finds that Rarity and Twilight were right. The three little fillies tear their way through the cottage, trying out various Crusader vocations such as “Creature Catchers”, “Carpenters” and “Coal miners”. Fluttershy’s attempt at getting them to play “Shush” is also an epic failure, and eventually, even patient Fluttershy is beginning to get frayed nerves. She finally convinces them it’s bed time. She tries to put them down with a lullaby… which Sweetie Belle happens to know.
Setting eardrums to DefCon One… What follows is one of the more epic songs in the season, with Sweetie Belle lustily busting out a “lullaby” at full volume, complete with gospel choir backing and a visual accompaniment. Although, technically, it’s Michelle Creber (who usually provides the voice of Apple Bloom) who provides the singing voice in this instance. The song is loud enough to wake up Fluttershy’s chickens, who start running amok. The Crusaders teleport out the window to become “Chicken Catchers” (again with the C’s) and eventually rouse even Fluttershy to anger, and she firmly orders them to stop. Her attempt at coaxing the chickens back into their coop is unsuccessful, until she turns the Stare on them. Mesmerized, the chickens almost seem to be telekinesised through the doorway (I know that’s not a real word, just go with it). Turning back to her young charges, she finally convinces them to go back to bed. They even promise “no more Crusading until tomorrow”, using each other’s voices. Seriously. Go listen carefully, the fillies speak with the wrong voices. The minute Fluttershy is out of the room, though, their promise is forgotten. Noticing that one of the chickens (Fluttershy later provides the name as Elizabeak… cute ) has escaped through a hole in the fence, the three become “Chicken Rescuers” and head out into the Everfree Forest, following Elizabeak’s tracks. Scootaloo gets her cape caught on a fence post, and a corner of it rips off. Inside, Fluttershy realizes that it’s just too quiet, and quickly finds out where the three (and her chicken) have gone. After scolding herself for being a too proud and “biting off more than I can chew”, she follows them into the Forest. The girls are busy calling for the chicken, in between arguing over the “right” way to call a chicken (creating the Scootaloo chicken meme), and arguing about their special talent being arguing. (“Is not!” “Is too!” “Anything yet?” “Nope.” “Darn.”) Meanwhile, Fluttershy is getting more and more nervous, and begins to fly around in a panic. Seeing Twilight in the distance, she races to her, only to find that Twilight is rocking out.
Twilight went into the woods to get stoned.

See? B*tch be trippin’! Realizing that a cockatrice must be on the loose, Fluttershy redoubles her efforts to find the girls, promising Twilight that she’ll come back for her. She manages to find the fillies, but can’t get them to realize the danger – the cockatrice (head of a chicken, body of a snake) sounds too silly. Even worse, Elizabeak runs past, distracting the CMC. They go to grab her, only to find they have two chickens… one of which is the cockatrice! After showing it means business by petrifying Elizabeak, it turns its stony gaze (heheh) to the girls, who scream and run away… straight into statue Twilight. This sets them to screaming even harder, giving away their position to the cockatrice. Fluttershy calls for them to stand behind her, and seeing the terror on their faces gives her the courage to confront the cockatrice, face to face, eye to eye. Even as she starts turning to stone herself, Fluttershy tells the cockatrice off. The cockatrice redoubles its efforts, but Fluttershy’s Stare is just too powerful. Its will broken, the cockatrice’s magic shatters off of Fluttershy, who threatens dire consequences if the cockatrice doesn’t reverse its spell on Twilight and Elizabeak… like telling its mom on it. The three fillies declare Fluttershy the Stare Master, and promise to listen to her from now on, as the restored but groggy Twilight joins them. The next day, back at the cottage, Fluttershy tells Twilight all about it as Twilight takes a letter to Celestia, saying that she’s learned “not to bite off more than I can chew.” Rarity also arrives, having managed to make her delivery on time, and to pick up the girls… who are still running around making noise. While Rarity is unable to get them to listen, a quiet word from Stare Master Fluttershy does the trick, and the fillies go to pack their belongings. Rarity is amazed! Wow. How did this little review end up being so long? I’ll try to be quick on the analysis.   Strengths: The comedy in this episode mostly lies in the three fillies and their conversations. Just about every discussion they have is punctuated with hilarity. The cockatrice is a legitimate threat, able to take out the magically formidable Twilight apparently without effort. It also makes sense that Twilight doesn’t remember it happening, since presumably her short term memory didn’t have time to be converted to long term memory. A similar thing can happen when a person is knocked unconscious – they don’t remember the actual event. Perhaps the part of her brain that stores long term memory turned to stone first? Perhaps I’m overanalyzing… yeah, the second one seems likely! The song sequence is also interesting, since the song itself is pretty catchy, and Michelle Creber seems to have an incredible talent. There’s also a nice theme running through the episode, which makes the plot seem cohesive, so I think it’s also quite a well written episode. Weaknesses: As alluded to before, how Sweetie managed to make three capes with the gold silk in literally no time at all is a major point of fridge logic. There are some minor animation errors, such as the wrong filly speaking at the wrong time, and at one point, Sweetie Belle’s ear manages to do a vanishing trick. The continual full-volume shouting and screaming by the CMC can also be pretty hard on the ears.   Final Thoughts on the Episode The exact nature of the Stare is food for thought. It really does seem to me to be a magical ability. There are some indications. There is a Twilight Zone synthesizer liefmotif when it happens, and the chickens almost seemed to be moved against their will, even squeezing through a too narrow doorway. The fact that it could counteract the magical effect of petrification could also be seen as pointing in this direction. Although it’s possible that the Stare just unnerved the cockatrice enough that it couldn’t keep up with the spell, rather than directly counteracting it… I still think it makes more sense to go with the former explanation, because even before the cockatrice seemed to be straining, the effect on Fluttershy was quite slow compared to Elizabeak. Then again, it’s not the first time we’ve seen an apparently magical ability that can’t really be explained, but is undeniably real, since we had Pinkie Sense introduced not so long ago… and Pinkie Pie in general really.   Highlights On arrival at Fluttershy’s
Fluttershy: So... what do you want to do? Play a game?
Apple Bloom: We are the Cutie Mark Crusaders!
Scootaloo: And we want to crusade for our cutie marks!
Sweetie Belle: And we…. Um… yeah, what they said! After accidentally breaking a table:
Apple Bloom: Hammer.
Scootaloo: Hammer!
Scootaloo picks up a hammer. She passes the hammer to Sweetie Belle, who passes it to Apple Bloom.
Sweetie Belle: Hammer.
Scootaloo: Hammer!
Scootaloo picks up a hammer. She passes the hammer to Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo: Hammer… Hammer!
Scootaloo picks up a hammer. Various construction sounds
Sweetie Belle: That doesn’t look like a table.
Scootaloo: We were making a table? Actually, anything that comes out these fillies’ mouths in this episode is comedic gold.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 16. Sonic Rainboom: The Rar-Icarus Episode

“Yay!” – Fluttershy Rainbow Dash is teaching Fluttershy how to be a cheerleader. As the quote above indicates, it doesn’t really seem like the best choice of pony for the role, with her sweet, demure voice unsuitable for loud cheering. Rainbow needs Fluttershy to cheer for her as she competes in the Best Young Fliers Competition, to be held in Cloudsdale. Rainbow practices her routine for the competition, to more barely audible cheers from Fluttershy. However, her piece de resistance, the Sonic Rainboom, goes wrong, sending her corkscrewing into Twilight’s library, which has just been tidied. At least she got the “boom” part right.
Library fine? Hardly. After explaining the situation, the two Pegasus ponies leave. Rarity, seeing that Rainbow’s apparent bravado is a show to mask her anxiety over the competition, exhorts Twilight to find a spell to get the non-flying Mane Six ponies into Cloudsdale too, so that they can support their friend. Luckily, Pinkie had a flight spell land on her face. Rarity volunteers to undergo the possibly dangerous spell as a test subject, and Twilight duly casts the spell. After the lightshow, an exhausted Twilight states that she thinks it worked, as coloured lights play over the walls. In Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy meet up with some stallions, who make fun of “Rainbow Crash” and ridicule the idea of a Sonic Rainboom as just “an old mare’s tale”. The teasing hits Rainbow hard, shaking her confidence in herself. Just then, Rarity arrives, flying with a set of beautiful butterfly wings that Twilight’s spell conjured for her. She is shortly followed by the rest of the group in Twilight’s balloon, who leap out onto the clouds… which to Rainbow’s astonishment, they can now be supported by, just like Pegasus ponies. Twilight explains that the wing spell was too difficult to do more than once, but luckily, she turned up a “walk on clouds” spell instead. Delighted, Rainbow offers to show them around her and Fluttershy’s childhood home city. As the tour goes on, Rarity starts to let her new wings go to her head, as it were, ignoring Twilight’s warnings that they are very fragile, and that she should be encouraging Rainbow instead of showing them off. Rarity, who by this point is virtually unhinged by all the attention she’s been getting, refuses. One of the Pegasus pony bystanders suggests that Rarity should also enter the competition. She decides to do just that, causing Rainbow to start spiraling down into a nervous wreck. The Competition itself begins at the Cloudsdale Coliseum, with the Wonderbolts as celebrity judges and even Princess Celestia herself in attendance. The remaining four Mane Six members are also in the audience, as are the stallions from earlier. Backstage, Rarity primps and preens in her dressing room, while Rainbow does her best to delay her own turn by switching numbers with other ponies on the sly (including Derpy). Eventually no other competitors remain and, confidence utterly demolished, Rainbow is called up… just as Rarity pronounces herself ready, dressed in a garish ensemble including thickly-caked makeup that even a clown would probably refuse to wear. Due to the late entry, there is only enough time for one more performance: Rainbow Dash and Rarity must go out together. To make matters worse, Rarity has switched out Rainbow’s rock and roll music for something classical! As Rarity does a graceful aerial dance, Rainbow finds herself messing up every part of her routine… crashing into the side, and sending a wayward cloud flying into Princess Celestia’s booth. Realizing her only chance to pull out a win is to complete the Sonic Rainboom, Rainbow gains as much altitude as she can. Rarity, meanwhile, is also flying upwards, so that she can beam the sunlight through her wings over the entire coliseum, hoping to give them a spectacle for the ages. She succeeds in doing so, provoking oohs and ahs from the audience. However, like Icarus, she finds that flying too close to the sun is a bad idea. Her wings having been immolated, she has only enough time for an “uh-oh” before she begins to fall. As she drops down below through the coliseum, the Wonderbolts dive down to rescue her, but are knocked out by her panicked flailing, adding three more imminent victims.
Rarity used Struggle! It’s super effective! Hearing Rarity shriek, Rainbow Dash quickly abandons the competition to dive down after her. With the life of her friend and her idols at stake, Rainbow goes faster and faster. And then it happens…
Phase 3: The Sonic Rainboom! With a rainbow shockwave, and a rainbow contrail, Rainbow Dash saves the day in the nick of time by catching all four ponies, and carrying them back up to the coliseum, to the cheers of every pony… none cheering louder than Fluttershy herself! In the aftermath, a contrite Rarity apologizes to Rainbow Dash for getting so caught up in her beautiful wings that she forgot why she was there in the first place, and Rainbow shows a good deal of generosity of her own by graciously forgiving her. She does wish that she could have met the Wonderbolts when they were awake… Luckily, they’re right behind her, come to thank her for saving their lives. Princess Celestia also joins them, to congratulate Rainbow Dash on winning the Best Young Fliers Competition for her heroism and her Sonic Rainboom. Even the stallions come to congratulate her and apologize for their earlier behaviour. They ask if Rainbow wants to hang out… but “Sorry, boys. I’ve got plans…”
For a Wonderbolt sandwich!   Thoughts on this Episode I love it. Yeah, it features some bad behaviour from Rarity, but I think it’s balanced out by the fact that she was the reason the Mane Six even decided to support Rainbow in Cloudsdale. Not only did she pick up on Rainbow’s true feelings (due to putting on enough fashion shows to recognize stage fright) but she insisted they be there for her, and she stepped up to be the guinea pig for the spell with little hesitation. Her subsequent behaviour is not far short of temporary insanity. First of all, listen to her laugh when she sees the ponies’ reaction to the sunlight through her wings. That does not sound like a mentally healthy laugh to me. Consider also the outfit she wore during the competition itself. Rarity prides herself on looking elegant, and she is anything but elegantly dressed there. The pony knows fashion, people, it’s her raison d’etre. She clearly wasn’t in her normal state of mind at the time. She also apologized profusely at the end. It’s also a pretty heartwarming episode overall. The contrast between Fluttershy’s cheering at the beginning and end of the episode is really emotional to me, and gives good feels, while also providing some comedy of its own. This episode provided a good glance at Rainbow’s character, showing that she can doubt herself at times, and implying that her tendency to toot her own horn might have its roots in a vulnerability she tries to keep hidden. That makes her a lot more interesting than she might have seemed beforehand. And let’s face it, she totally kicked flank in that climactic scene. She swooped into action without a thought to help her friend, despite the fact that that friend had put her through quite a trying time. And in the end, it all works out for the best. And her “ohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!” when meeting the Wonderbolts is pretty adorable too. Visually, the episode has a lot of nice touches. Even before we see the results of the spell, in the flash of light the outline of Rarity’s wings can be seen for a frame or two. Cloudsdale looks lovely, and it’s good to have a bit of world building. The scene where Pinkie tastes the liquid rainbow is pretty funny, and the expressions on Pinkie’s face match the colours… when it’s green, she looks ill, when it’s yellow, she looks like she’s tasting something sour… and of course, this is the pony who likes to cover cupcakes in hot sauce, so if it’s too spicy for her, it must be pretty strong. You can also notice when Rainbow is being teased, she flicks her tail, very much as a horse would if irritated.   Highlights After Rainbow smashes into the library, knocking all the books down.
Fluttershy: Rainbow Dash, you rock! Woohoo!…” Surveys the scene. “Did my cheering do that?” A bit later:
Pinkie: A flight spell? One sec. Page 27.
Applejack: How did you do that?
Pinkie: It fell on my face when Rainbow Dash knocked me into the bookcase.   Pros: Explores Rainbow Dash’s character. The action is genuinely tense and exciting. It can be quite emotional too. Cons: None, really.   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 sonic side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 15. "Feeling Pinkie Keen": Beware of UFOs (Unidentified Falling Objects) and Hydras

I know it doesn't make much sense...but those of us who have been in Ponyville a while have learned over time that if Pinkie's a-twitching, you better listen. - Applejack  Alrighty. This episode. I've put it off for long enough. Let's go.  Spike and Twilight are working together on a spell to make Spike a tux, a cane and a top hat out of leaves, a stick and a rock. I'm not sure why they don't just ask Rarity to make the clothes for them. Maybe they're on a budget. Anyway, Spike is distracted at a critical juncture by Pinkie Pie being more Pinkie Pie than usual: running around with an umbrella hat on, and hiding under various places, like rocks.
Maud approves of your hiding place, Pinkie. Twilight asks Pinkie what she's up to and finds out that Pinkie's tail's a-twitching and that means stuff is going to start falling. Twilight laughs this off as ridiculous, and gets a frog to the face for her trouble... it falls out of the sky and lands on her snout. The frog came from Fluttershy and her autolevitating cart (Yet more proof of magical pegasus flight.) She's transporting them to Froggy Bottom Bog on account of the town pond getting too overpopulated. Bonus points for the poor guy who apparently is airsick. Spike gushes in amazement about "Pinkie Sense", but Twilight is skeptical... even after falling into a ditch herself, right after Pinkie's tail twitches again. Applejack comes by and confirms that Pinkie Sense is real, even if it doesn't have a sensible explanation, having been proven multiple times to long-term residents of Ponyville. Apart from twitchy-tail, Pinkie Sense can manifest as flopping ears, which means someone is about to get dirty - and a cart splashes Twilight with mud. While cleaning up, Pinkie continues to talk about her Pinkie sense... and we get an introduction to her pet toothless alligator Gummy (achy shoulder = alligator in the bathtub). Twilight then tries to justify disbelieving Pinkie Sense on account of her experience that magic is something a pony chooses to happen, and takes effort and study... while Pinkie Sense makes no sense. Pinkie counters with a complete non sequitur about Pinkie Sense combinations... in which the order of actions is important. Earflop-Kneetwitch-Eyeflutter means "a beautiful rainbow", while Earflop-Eyeflutter-Kneetwitch means "Twilight gets a library door to the face courtesy of Spike" or in a non-vindictive universe, "watch out for opening doors". Next Twilight tries to understand Pinkie Sense scientifically by hooking her up to a bunch of sensors, but Pinkie Sense is being coy and nothing happens. A frustrated Twilight throws a scientific hissy fit, and starts to walk out - only for a Pinkie Sense Combo to happen when Spike comes in looking for her, and flattens her with the door. The next few scenes are a farce, with Twilight spying on Pinkie while trying to understand and/or disprove Pinkie Sense. The Vindictive Universe is in full effect here, making it a humiliation conga line for Twilight. She gets stung by bees, falls into AJ's apple cellar, and it culminates in a bunch of objects being dropped on her from a delivery truck ponied by Delivery Derpy (not a mailmare, exactly, but probably a nod towards the common Derpy fanon.) AJ meets up with Pinkie and asks what she's doing. Pinkie brightly responds that she's busy letting Twilight spy on her without her knowing... only she does, but didn't want to spoil the secret. Twilight is not pleased...
Twilight's losing it... a rapid dash in the opposite direction would be an outstanding idea... Suddenly, Pinkie gets a new Pinkie Sense manifestation to add to her repertoire, an all over body shudder that predicts a doozey will happen at Froggy Bottom Bog... where Fluttershy was going. Worried that something bad might happen to Fluttershy, they charge off to the rescue, despite Twilight trying to be the voice of reason. She decides to tag along anyway, so she can gloat when they find out nothing's wrong. Meanwhile, something is wrong... a monster appears to be stalking Fluttershy. However, when the others get there, she seems fine, prompting Twilight to be smug and announce that she knew Pinkie Sense was wrong... all while a four-headed Hydra rises up behind her. They manage to run away from the beast, but end up on a cliff with only a set of pillars to lead them to freedom. Fluttershy manages to get over with a hop, skip and jump, Spike follows, and Applejack drags the still-shuddering Pinkie over with her strength. Twilight buys time with a Leeroy Jenkins / Rainbow Dash move by charging the damn thing, managing to slip between it's legs, causing it to fall over on one of it's own heads. However, despite this reprieve, the Hydra is still on her tail, and one of the heads crashes into the first few pillars, smashing them. Pinkie tells Twilight that she needs to take a leap of faith, and she does so... only to fall short. It looks like the end for Twilight... but a bubble from the swamp bounces her back into the air, and over to safety.
Squeee! Oh, yeah, I just remembered I could have just teleported! Twilight admits that Pinkie was right about the Hydra doozey, but suddenly Pinkie starts to shudder again... the Hydra wasn't the doozey. At this, it seems Twilight finally has cracked, as her mane and tail literally start flaming in rage. It's short-lived, and Twilight returns to normal, finally giving in and accepting Pinkie Sense, even if she can't explain it. As it turns out, her believing WAS the doozey, and Pinkie trots off, happy that she has a new pawn for her soon-to-be-revealed plans to form a cult... or maybe, she's just being Pinkie. In the final scene, Twilight asks Spike to take a letter, but he's distracted to see that Twilight is wearing an umbrella hat... because Pinkie's tail is a-twitching. After a hearty laugh, Twilight dictates her letter... sometimes, you find something unexplainable, but that doesn't mean it isn't real. You just have to have faith in it, and your friends. Spike opens a window to send the letter... and Celestia herself drops out of the sky onto the balcony to pick it up.
Holy guacamole, indeed.   Thoughts on the Episode Let's tackle that elephant in the room first, because that moral sure is a doozey. It's not quite a rejection of science for religion, since Pinkie Sense is a repeatable, observable phenomenon. That Pinkie Sense exists and works is perfectly clear, it's just that the mechanism is mysterious. In the same way, unicorn telekinesis works, but nowhere has there been an explanation of the mechanism responsible. It's just magic, and that is that. As for Twilight's contention that unicorn magic only happens when the unicorn chooses to do it...
Orly? We later find out from Rarity in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" that it isn't even true. Filly!Rarity had no idea what her horn was doing, and even tried to fight against it. So Twilight doesn't know as much as she thinks she does. And she wasn't very scientific about it either. Consider the scene where Pinkie's nose is itchy, and she seems afraid of something falling. Twilight says that's inconsistent. She doesn't consider the fact that there might be two distinct feelings that mean the same thing. Basically, she's already made up her mind that Pinkie Sense is not real, and is interpreting her observations in the light of that belief, thus not able to see all the possibilities. The problem with the moral is that it seems to be saying, "If you don't understand the mechanism behind what you are observing, just give up and accept it." Needless to say, that attitude is not helpful for a true scientist. You should keep trying to understand the mechanism, even if you never manage to figure it out. Mystery is not to be valued if you are a scientist. I guess all it really means is that Twilight is not really a scientist, and that's fine. Science is a wonderful way of exploring the world, but there are also other ways, and far be it from me to disparage others for their way of life. (Well, twice in one week, at any rate ) Also a quick note about the way Twilight seems to be punished by the universe for trying to find out why Pinkie Sense works. That's not a great moral either. Enough about that. Let's talk about the Hydra. It's a little unusual to see one with only four heads, and of course, we never see one of them cut off, so the "two grow back" thing may not apply here. Our Hydras are different, perhaps? Or it may be that four heads was the point after which it got too hard to animate. At any rate, despite the fact that it tried to eat the ponies and Spike, the Hydra himself seems rather endearing (as endearing as a giant four-headed lizard-monster can be) One of the heads seems just a little bit slow on the uptake, although he did get a laugh out of the other heads smacking into things. He (the whole Hydra) even blows the ponies a raspberry as he leaves. The small touches in this episode are great, like the aforementioned airsick frog, Pinkie rolling in the grass like a real horse, Twilight scooping up a running Spike to put him on her back. Of course, there are some small errors. After Pinkie starts shuddering, Applejack's barrel of apples vanishes, and reappears a few frames later; one of the Hydra heads rises up behind Spike and the rest of the group, but later all four are behind Twilight, things like that.   And of course, the fact that Twilight should just have been able to teleport over the chasm is ignored for the sake of drama. Oh well. Makes for a more exciting climax, I guess.   Highlights After the frog has crawled onto Twilight's cheek
Pinkie: "Um, Twilight... you got a little something on your face there."
Twilight: "Oh, really? Did your 'Pinkie Sense' tell you that too?"
Pinkie: "Nah, I could just see it... Lalala!" Twilight leans on a barn door to show Spike not to be afraid of doors, but the door she should have been watching out for is the one leading to Applejack's new apple cellar. Applejack (off screen): "Twilight! You came to visit my new apple cellar! How nice... Twi? You okay?... Uh, Twi...?" This exchange on the cliff:
Spike: Do you know any spells for turning a Hydra into a mouse?
Twilight: No.
Spike: How about a squirrel?
Twilight: NO!
Spike: How about...
Twilight: No small rodents of any kind!
Spike: That's too bad. Rapidash Twilight. That is all.   Pros: Small touches. Introduction of Gummy. Some good comedy. A rather intimidating yet somehow endearing monster. Cons: Possibly a questionable moral. Little animation errors. Twilight conveniently forgetting she can just teleport.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

The Bookend Diaries – Part 13: Season 4 Finale "Twilight’s Kingdom": Heroic Stupidity Strikes Again

How does it feel? Knowing that soon, every pegasus, unicorn and earth pony will bow to my will... and that there is nothing that you can do to stop it? - Lord Tirek So, Season 4 has come and gone. It certainly went out with a bang, providing us with the most impressive display of magical battle the series has yet seen. Still, despite the visual feast, the finale has its problems. Let’s plunge right in, shall we? The finale starts with another trip to the Crystal Empire, this time to meet with delegates from Maretonia. Spike is quick to remind everyone of his status as the Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious, which Rainbow is getting tired of hearing. Rarity has a glorious snark prepared, “And we never hear a peep out of you regarding your exploits…”, only to be gloriously snarked in turn by Applejack when she says Twilight gets to smile and wave as a princess: “And how is that different to smiling and waving as NOT a princess?” In contrast to the gang’s good-natured teasing, Twilight’s mood is rather dour, as she feels a bit disillusioned with her status as Princess. She doesn’t feel like she is actually contributing much in this role. This is made worse when it turns out her task during the delegates’ visit is to unfurl a banner, and she is shut out of the conference between the delegates and the other Princesses. The delegates are two of the ponies we saw in “Equestria Games”, a rather imposing stallion with a beard and a mare who looks very much like a taller version of Rarity, with an elaborate headdress. (Why the country isn’t called Maresopotamia is beyond me. Perhaps it sounded a bit hard to pronounce, so the writers decided to go with Maretonia instead.) On coming out of the chamber, they thank Twilight for understanding their desire to keep the conference between as few ponies as possible, and take their leave. When the other Princesses join her, Twilight pours out her heart to them in song. The three Princesses (also in song) try to reassure Twilight that she will find out her destiny in time. (Didn’t Celestia say she already met her destiny in “Magical Mystery Cure”?) This song is really kind of moving, and for bonus points features Princess Luna actually singing for the first time. Her singing voice, as with Rarity, is provided by Kazumi Evans. Her spirits somewhat lifted, Twilight retires for the night, as do the other Princesses. Unfortunately, things are not all hunky dory in Equestria. A mysterious hooded figure is prowling around, draining unicorns of their magic. Princess Celestia sees this happening in a dream vision, and Luna confirms her fears… Lord Tirek is back on the scene! Calling for Twilight and her friends, Celestia tells the tale of Tirek and his brother Scorpan. While they originally came to Equestria to take all the magic of the ponies, Scorpan eventually was befriended by them, and told them all about Tirek’s evil plan before booking. Beaten and captured, Tirek was sent to Tartarus. However, he escaped when Cerberus left his post way back during the events of “It’s About Time”. One wonders what he was doing all that time, but Celestia implies that his imprisonment left him too weak to steal any magic until now. However, now that he has recovered his strength, each pony he drains will make him stronger and more dangerous. While it’s great to have such a great call back to previous events in the series, it makes me wonder why his absence from the prison was never noticed. Somepony has been really incompetent. Either Twilight was stupid and didn’t tell Celestia about Cerberus going AWOL, or Celestia was stupid and failed to check to make sure none of the extremely dangerous prisoners escaped. (Are the villains in Season 5 all going to be Tartarus escapees? I really hope not. That would just be lazy writing.) I’m going to go with the second one, because that way, I get to do a thing where I set up a theme. It’s also likely that Twilight would have mentioned it in one of her reports, being the thorough pony that she is, so I’m leaning towards it being Celestia’s fault. Back to the story. Twilight assumes that the duty of defeating Tirek will fall to her, but is again disappointed when the Princess tells her that she is sending Discord instead. Since he can sense magical imbalances (when was THAT ability ever mentioned before?), the next time Tirek drains a unicorn’s magic, Discord will be able to find him, and defeat him. Since Tirek is so weak, he won’t be able to drain the more powerful Discord of his magic. Back in Ponyville, Twilight is yet more depressed that she isn’t being as useful as she wants. Discord pops in as Poppins, and gloats over that for a bit, before handing the ponies the journal they’ve been keeping with some of the “more interesting” parts bookmarked, and insinuating that the box might be important for Twilight’s Princessness, before leaving on his mission. Tirek drains another pony, and turns toward who he thinks is his next victim… only to find that the hunter has become the hunted, because it’s Discord! Tirek’s magical attacks turn out to be useless and Discord is easily able to capture him.
I’ve heard of splitting headaches, but this is ridiculous. Of course, it’s at this point that Celestia’s plan backfires massively. The wily Tirek manages to convince Discord to turn on the ponies (his devotion to Fluttershy notwithstanding) and help Tirek drain their magic. After reading the bookmarked parts of the journal, Twilight comes to realize the pattern that has been repeating over the event of the Season, and that each pony has been given something after inspiring another pony by standing by their Element of Harmony despite hardship. The flashbacks were a little unnecessary, in my opinion, and waste a little bit of time unnecessarily, but that’s a small gripe. Gathering their objects, Pinkie decides to interrogate Boneless… but he’s keeping mum.
I’d have thought a guy called Boneless would have been spineless too. Throwing it at the box accidentally results in the toy transforming into a true key. Of course, the Mane Six soon discover that each item can be turned into a key in the same way… but one keyhole is left over, since Twilight hasn’t found her key item yet. While this is going on, Tirek and his new ally are going around Equestria taking the pony magic. Once Tirek has enough unicorn magic, he is able to take the Pegasus flight ability (thus confirming that Pegasus flight is a form of magic rather being purely physical) and even the strength of the earth ponies, becoming larger, stronger and hornier with each meal. Princess Celestia calls Twilight and is forced to admit to her that she trusted Discord too much. Ya think? You sent the freaking Spirit of Chaos and Mischief (who once ruled all of Equestria) to capture another evil pony-goat-centaur thing who also wants to rule all of Equestria, and YOU DIDN’T HAVE A BACKUP PLAN?! You didn’t even consider that he might turn on you and team up with the bad guy? I mean, I can understand Fluttershy being blindsided by Discord’s betrayal, but you’re the leader of the entire country. You need to be a bit more savvy than that, Princess. And that’s my theme… Celestia is fugging stupid! At any rate, Tirek is on his way to steal the Princesses’ alicorn magic, and with it, he will be unstoppable. So the only option is for them to give up their magic before he can get to it. But it can’t vanish into nowhere… Twilight is going to have to contain it! “But wait,” you might say… “Silly SolarFox, you just said that Celestia didn’t have a backup plan. Doesn’t this qualify?” No, it doesn’t. First of all, it seems to be a response to the events. If they had given Twilight their magic before sending Discord out, as insurance, then it could qualify as a backup plan. Secondly (and this is another check mark under the Stupid Celestia column) one of the original reasons for sending Discord to stop Tirek is his ability to sense magical imbalances. So the “give all alicorn magic to Twilight” plan is fatally flawed, since Discord is obviously going to be able (and indeed, he does) sense that the magic is all in Twilight. Sure, he kept it from Tirek, but Celestia couldn’t have predicted that he would, especially since, y’know, he’d just betrayed them all. That being the case, this measure smacks of a desperation play, rather than a calculated backup plan. Luckily, we can have a slight break from Celestial Stupidity as the first half of the finale closes out. When the second half begins, the Princesses invest all their magic into Twilight, leaving them drained and weak, and Twilight sparkling. She is told to go into hiding, and not to tell her friends, because otherwise they’ll be in danger. Aren’t they already in danger? Tirek is looking to drain every pony in Equestria, so they can hardly get into more danger than that. A better idea would to tell them exactly what’s up and have them ALL go into hiding together, so he and Discord can’t use them as hostages against Twilight.
Then again, how likely is that to happen…? Oh. Right. So Twilight heads back to Ponyville, and keeps her secret, despite her frequent Power Incontinence confusing and concerning her friends. She decides to go alone to the Castle of the Pony Sisters, leaving her friends to keep everypony indoors, just in case. Meanwhile, Tirek drains the magic of the Royal Guard, including Shining Armor, who gives Discord a furious “How could you do this?” line, which actually does seem to somewhat shake him. Heading into the Throne Room, Tirek is furious to discover that the Princesses have hidden their magic from him, and he promptly sends them to Tartarus. Discord is seeking proof that Tirek will keep his end of the bargain, and to convince him, Tirek gives him a medallion that he says belonged to someone close to him, as a sign of their alliance. At this, Discord declares he does love a good accessory, and even muses that maybe Rarity has rubbed off on him a little. Seeing a stained-glass window of a fourth alicorn princess, Tirek realizes that she must now have the magic of the Princesses. Discord, admitting that he was holding that information back as insurance, tells him about Twilight and her friends. They quickly repair to Ponyville. The Mane Six members along with Spike are still unaware of his change of heart and ask him if his quest was successful. His response doesn’t thrill them… he traps all six in a cage and steps aside to reveal Tirek. Fluttershy is in tears when she realizes that Discord has turned on them, although he says they shouldn’t have been surprised. Discord: Surely you saw this coming? Fluttershy: *sobbing* I didn’t. I really didn’t. I don’t generally fawn over Fluttershy like her fans do, but just seeing that face so entirely heart-broken… yeah, that didn’t feel good at all. Applejack, trying to hold and comfort her, gives Discord such a dirty look it’s a surprise he didn’t melt on the spot. Tirek drains the ponies of their magic, and for good measure, decides that he’s had enough of this alliance, and he turns on Discord, draining his magic as well. Betrayed in turn, and utterly bewildered, Discord asks Tirek why… wasn’t the medallion a sign of everlasting loyalty? Tirek, now enormous enough to dwarf Discord, sneers that the medallion belonged to his traitorous brother and meant nothing to him in the first place. Applejack is less than sympathetic: Applejack: Surely you saw this coming? Discord: I didn’t. I truly didn’t.
Oh, Applejack, will you ever stop your trolling? As Twilight tries to get her magic under control (randomly teleporting across Equestria before ending up between two rocks), Tirek finds her. She manages to teleport to the library, but a gigantic blast from Tirek totals it. Luckily, Twilight is able to pull Owliwicious out before it goes up, and he beats a hasty, if somewhat sad, retreat. A moment of silence, for the Golden Oak Library... okay, now it's time to kick some pony-goat-centaur thing ass. Enraged by the destruction of the library, Twilight proceeds to open up a can of magical whoop-ass on the hulking brute, in what is the most absolutely amazing fight sequence, a la Dragonball Z, with zwee fighting, actual physical hitting, magical beam attacks, mountains being destroyed and all. Words can't really do it justice, it just has to be seen to be believed.
For your crimes against the Dewey Decimal System, I WILL MAKE YOU PAY! Finding the powered up Twilight Sparkle evenly matched with him, Tirek decides to play his ace in the hole - he shows Twilight her friends (the Mane Six, Spike and Discord) trapped in bubbles, and offers to release them if Twilight will give him the alicorn magic. But wait... what is that rainbow shining over each bubble in turn? Twilight agrees to those terms, insisting that Discord be released as well. After he lets them go, he takes Twilight's magic, and grows to absolutely enormous size. Meanwhile, Discord apologizes to everypony, and says that now he realizes how important their friendship is. He gives Twilight Scorpan's medallion as a gesture of his new and now genuine appreciation for the magic of friendship. Realizing they have the final key, the Mane Six hurry back to the box and open it. That same rainbow appears as they unlock it, and connects up to the Elements on the Tree of Harmony. Then it powers them all up. With their new powers (and new manestyles) they make short work of Tirek and send him back to Tartarus. Then they travel all over Equestria, restoring the stolen magic to the ponies. Finally, the box plants itself just outside of Ponyville and a castle grows out of the ground... The Princesses, now freed from Tartarus, arrive, and Celestia tells Twilight that this castle is hers. She's going to be the Princess of Friendship, and along with the others in the Mane Six. Even Spike gets a small little throne beside Twilight's. As the final song of the season plays, the Ponyville residents come to the castle, and the Rainbow of Light flies through Equestria, to be seen by all the new friends the Mane Six have made this season. And so the fourth Season comes to a close, and the great Pony Drought begins once more.   Thoughts on the Episode Visually, this episode is just gorgeous. Apart from the climactic battle, which is very impressive, there are some nice little touches as well. Things like Spike eye's not going grey (since he has no magic to begin with, unless you count the fire breathing as magic). There was also the part when Twilight had to lower the moon and raise the sun, where her mane started to flow and get all starry, just like Luna and Celestia. There are however, some really questionable decisions on the part of writers, as relates to Celestia and her plans. The logical problems don't ruin the experience entirely, but they're pretty darn grating when you think about them. Discord's betrayal and subsequent return to the fold are believably done. You really get the sense that he truly has learned his lesson this time around. A taste of his own two-faced medicine, if you will. About Tirek as a villain... it's pretty awesome that he can be both subversive and manipulative, as well as a threat purely on his ability to drain magic and gain power. His look certainly changes the most out of all the villains we've seen so far. His story arc was very creative, and I think the writing team can be said to have made up for their Celestia blunders. If anything, he can claim that he lost due to circumstances mostly outside of his control, although turning on Discord probably wasn't his smartest move. I hope that fans who complained that Twilight becoming an alicorn meant the end of her character development have seen the error of their ways. And the ones who complained that her friends are no longer important, too. This finale seems to have quite firmly addressed those issues. One more minor gripe, and it might not make me very popular, but I felt there was just too much Derpy. She features very prominently and distractingly in a few scenes, which is pretty irksome to me, not being a fan of hers. Of course, her hardcore fans no doubt feel otherwise. Well, Season 4 was very entertaining to me, and more than made up for Season 3 being a little sub-par. Now that Twilight has truly taken up her mantle of Princess of Friendship, it'll be interesting to see where she and her friends, go from here.   Highlights Applejack giving Discord a truly humbling ironic echo That final battle. Good lord! Pros: A visual extravaganza; A really effective and menacing villain; Closing out of the Rainbow of Light story arc on a strong note. Cons: Celestia is losing her touch; the Rainbow Power designs look a little silly   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Looking at Rarity Part 3: Allies, Associates and Antagonists

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

March Madness and the Rarijack Effect

Now that the March Madness competition has ended in a four-way tie, I feel like I need to talk about some of what has transpired in the course of this contest. My involvement until the quarter-finals was rather perfunctory. I really started taking an interest in it when Twilight went up against Rarity. And this is how it ended… bump... bump... sugarlump... SMASH! It’s no secret that I’m a pretty gung-ho Rarity fan. Not at Ghostie’s level of devotion, perhaps, but I’m vociferous enough about it in my own right, if I may be so bold as to say. So I was overjoyed to see this happen, I really was. I don’t think that it can be fairly held against me by fans of Twilight that I found the victory reason to celebrate. I don’t believe I gloated about it much either (except perhaps in the Rarity Fan Club thread, but that’s understandable, isn’t it? At least it’s in the right place.) I then concluded that the reason that this happened was that Rarity’s popularity must have grown. I still think so, but I understand now that I was wrong about the nature and magnitude of the change. There will be more on that later. Unfortunately, I was less than impressed with certain Twilight supporters’ reactions. I’m not going to make this personal and name names, or directly quote entire posts, but the general idea was that there were some green people sitting in corners. “It was unfair,” some said. “Twilight is the better pony,” quoteth others. “Let’s make sure we do everything we can to ensure Rarity fails from now on,” spake still others. I found this to be both churlish and childish. (Although, some of them later changed their stances, to their credit.) In contrast to the intensity of this match-up, the following matches were very low key. Derpy, a perennial fan favorite (don’t ask me why, but members are entitled to like whichever pony for whichever reasons they choose) lost to Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash lost to Applejack. Around about this point, I started to see mentions of a Rarijack alliance, to whit, a collaboration among fans of Rarity and Applejack (generally in a shipping capacity) to vote for those two ponies. Such mentions seemed to carry the subtle implication that this was somehow wrong or unfair. Or maybe there really was no such implication and I’m being defensive. For myself, I guess I have to admit that I qualify for membership in this alliance, although not for reasons of shipping, but rather that Rarity is my favorite pony and Applejack is my second favorite pony (btw, my most relatable pony is Twilight Sparkle and in some part Pinkie Pie, but I don’t need a character to be relatable in order to like them. As for shipping, when I ship any Mane Six pairing, it’s Twilight X Rarity) So naturally, I would wish to support both of these ponies against their opponents, and vote accordingly. I also voted for Pinkie in her matchup against Derpy, because I like Pinkie Pie better than I like Derpy. (Shall I call this the RariPie/Pinkity alliance, then?) Then the semi-finals began, Fluttershy vs Applejack and Rarity vs Pinkie Pie. I voted for Applejack and Rarity. And wow, did things catch fire. Both competitions were fierce, as much so as Twilight vs Rarity, with all four ponies alternatively gaining leads (quite massive leads in some cases) and then being caught up or surpassed. It really was all up for grabs, and I was very entertained. Less entertaining to me were some of the posts. Again, naming no names, but there was a great deal of mud-slinging going on. From certain members we got the now infamous “Rarity is a Nazi” posts. And then they tried to pull the “don’t take it so seriously, it’s only a joke” card. Has that ever been a mitigating factor? You can’t say something deliberately insulting and then add “no offense/only joking” and expect people to accept it. There were other victims of what can only be called a “smear campaign”, such as Fluttershy. This is really saddening, and I had hoped that forums members wouldn’t stoop to such measures. Support for a pony is best shown by supporting that pony, not attacking and slandering/libeling their opponent. There were also rumours of other underhanded tactics being employed, such as getting friends from off the forum to register and vote, or duplicate accounts being created. I can’t really speak to the accuracy of said rumours, and if true, fans of every pony are just as likely to have done so. It would be a little arrogant to assume that Rarity fans are incorruptible angels and every other pony’s fans are ruthless cheaters. I can only speak for myself when I say that I don’t use tactics like that. All of the above had left me feeling a bit down on the whole shebang. It being late where I live, I switched off my computer and went to bed, putting it out of my mind as far as was possible. I’m currently suffering from a blocked nose, so it wasn’t precisely a restful sleep, and around about 2am, I was still awake, only having dozed fitfully on the interim. So I decided to check on the results using my cellphone. I had last seen Rarity trailing Pinkie by 1 vote, and Fluttershy trailing Applejack by a few, so I steeled myself to the probability that Pinkie had won the round over Rarity. And although I would have been disappointed, I would have congratulated Pinkie and her fans on a hard-fought and well-deserved victory. As I said, without knowing for certain that questionable tactics had been used and how much, I would have accepted the result. Imagine my surprise when I found the new poll. Basically, now each member could vote for only one pony, or all of them. So it was no longer possible to vote for the one you like better from each match. You had to vote for your favorite. A vote for “all characters” was precisely what it says on the tin: every character got a vote… actually 2 votes. (Each vote for a particular individual provided half a point. Why add this mathematical complexity?)
Don’t you use your fancy mathematics to muddy the issue! This is like a high jump competition where you vary the height above sea level. It doesn’t matter how many members vote for all, just as it doesn’t matter how high up you are. So it’s meaningless in the practical sense. But it lets a member feel good about helping everyone equally, doesn’t it? To this I say, rather just abstain from voting altogether and feel good about that. Since the option to abstain was always there, a “vote for all” choice adds nothing except the opportunity for self-deception. The new Battle Royale system is equivalent to a control group in an experiment. It eliminates (controls for) the ability for fans of multiple ponies to mutually aid each other. In other word, it eliminates the effects of the so-called Rarijack alliance. Given doing so has put Rarity far behind the other three and shows that she was indeed benefiting from votes from the Applejack crowd (and I would wager some from the Fluttershy camp too). While it’s good to know what the real situation is, this result is troubling, and not just from the view of those who supported Rarity. Twilight’s fans are now quite entitled to question whether Twilight might not have beaten Rarity if this method had been used since the beginning of the competition; I find it hard to deny that they’re probably right. And I can understand the frustration they may be feeling. But does this make the result of the bout between Rarity and Twilight unfair? I don’t think so. Here’s my reasoning. If one wishes to count how many fans consider a particular pony as their favorite, a head to head elimination tournament is not the way to proceed. Because at each round, you are not asking “which of these ponies is your favorite pony?”, you’re asking “which of these two do you like better?” Sometimes the questions yield the same answer, but much more often, they don’t. As such, how a person ranks the contestants comes into play, not just which of them is their favorite. A pony whom more members consider their favorite can be beaten as long as enough members don’t have either competitor as their favorite, yet rank David above Goliath. I think this is a natural consequence of the tournament model, and in no way goes against the spirit of friendly competition that is the objective of the tournament itself. And if one wishes to point out the influence of Rarijack, surely we need to ask: why is Dashlight not equally prevalent? Or DerpDash? Or any other pairwise combination of ponies that fans may prefer? If Rarijack is a stronger influence than is Dashlight, surely Dashlight supporters only have themselves to blame. There was nothing preventing Twilight fans from voting for Rainbow Dash and Rainbow Dash fans for voting for Twilight in their respective matches, and I’m sure there were plenty who did. It’s a little late to start calling foul when the same conditions have been prevalent since the beginning of the contest, just because they ended up causing your favorite pony to be beaten. Heck, if you want to completely eliminate the influence of alliances, just put all 32 names in a single poll, and forgo the entire tournament setup. No need for seeding. Dr. XFizzle’s heart was in the right place, but I don’t think this change to the poll was fair, and I can’t view it as a legitimate move. It undoes all the hard work and effort of members to rally legitimate support for their favored pony. I still voted for Rarity, but out of loyalty, not out of a spirit of eager participation as I did before. The change to the poll removed the influences of fan alliances, but I don’t think it did much to control outside rallying, mudslinging or multiple accounts, which really do constitute an unfair advantage. The immorality of multiple accounts is easy to show, being a violation of the “one person, one vote” principle. What about outside rallying, i.e. asking friends from off-site to register and vote? This is incorrect because it relies on the newcomers’ loyalty to members who are their friends, and not loyalty to the ponies being voted for. It becomes a competition to gather supporters rather than a competition to support the ponies. Now mudslinging isn’t unfair, as such, but is certainly is not a respectable way to go about doing things. There is no easy way to prevent duplicates/outsiders from voting. You would have to do it manually, i.e. members would have to actually post their votes. That way, any usernames that are suspect like Rarijack20 or only joined on the day (i.e. Blank Flanks) could be ignored. Any member who tried to use smear tactics would forfeit their right to vote. Of course, this means a rather prohibitive amount of extra effort on the organizer’s part, and duplicate accounts that have been around for a while and not been detected could also slip through, so it’s unlikely we’d ever get an entirely fair contest. It’s the nature of the beast. I would be interested in a control of the control, as it were, to investigate the Rarijack Effect. I would change the poll from “vote for your pony” to “vote for the final you want to see”. So the options would be Fluttershy vs Pinkie; Applejack vs Pinkie; Fluttershy vs Rarity; Applejack vs Rarity. It’s equivalent to the first format used, rather than the new system, since it basically asks who do you want to see win and be runner up. I wonder what sort of data would result from this. A brief note on tactical voting… I don’t tend to do this. I consider it a little unfaithful to the pony you support, because you’re trying to get the opponent that easiest to beat. If you’re confident in your pony’s chances, you would expect them to come out on top even against worthy competitors. I also feel a close race is much more entertaining than a one-sided one to watch. That said, I don’t think of it as underhanded or unfair. Vengeance voting, however, I highly disapprove of. As I said, it’s childish and petty to wish failure on a contestant just because they beat one you liked. At least make sure the pony you’re getting vengeance on actually is the one who beat your favorite. Of course, all the above it now moot, since the competition has now been declared a four way tie. I guess Dr. XFizzle decided that continuing a compromised tournament was meaningless, but it’s another move I disagree with. It’s not fair to the supporters of whichever pony would have been the champion, and I doubt it would have been Rarity, much as I would have liked it to be. It makes the past two or three days of voting an exercise in futility. I still do take away the warm fuzzies I got from seeing Rarity win against Twilight, so it wasn’t entirely a waste, although I wish the tournament had resulted in a sole winner. If their success were due to doubtful practices on the part of some of their supporters, then whoever had participated in such would have found their victory hollow. And if they didn’t feel bad about winning through cheating, then they’re not the kind of people I’ll waste my anger on. For my part, I know I supported the ponies I like in a fair and sportsmanlike way.   Conclusions So, looking only at which pony fans identify as their favorite, Rarity’s rank within the fandom is still quite low, and has not increased as much as I originally thought. But in terms of ranking all Mane Six, I feel Rarity is in a much stronger position than she has been previously. If this weren’t the case, there is no way she would have beaten Twilight even with the Rarijack alliance helping her along. She may not have moved to the top of many lists, but she’s probably moved up in more lists than she has moved down. And it seems that in many lists, the first two spots are now 1. Applejack 2. Rarity. I hope that lessons can be learned from this March Madness tournament, and that future competitions will be consistent, fair and the participants well-behaved. Stay sunny side up.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Equestria Ain't Out There, People

You know, there are a great many threads on this forum regarding the multiverse and the possibility that Equestria is real and "out there" somewhere. The argument is pretty much the "infinite number of monkeys" argument. Given an infinite number of monkeys sitting at an infinite number of computer keyboards, eventually one of them has to accidentally type out, by virtue of hitting keys at random, the complete works of William Shakespeare. To extend the thought experiment, any possible combination of words (i.e. every story ever told) would have to be produced. Good luck finding it among all those simians, though. That's fine as far as it goes. But I would give you another image. Sitting at a table and having an infinite amount of time to roll a 6-sided die (die is singular, dice is plural), no matter how long you sit and roll that cuboid sucker, you ain't ever gonna get seven. I doubt any region of the multiverse is conducive to Flash-animated sentient horses. So, is our universe an infinite number of monkeys on keyboards, or it is a roll of the die? I don't know, and I don't really need to know in order to decide. Because essentially, even if theoretically sound, the Equestria so postulated could not be reached by any foreseeable means. Which means it might as well NOT exist in the practical sense. So, I guess my point is that we can't yearn after a vision of Equestria. We have to live here in the real world. It's got plenty of wonder and the magic of friendship to spare. Go get it.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 85. "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils": Sister's Doing it for Herself?

Let me see... you [Princess Luna ] just rescued me from a maniac laughing Rarity cloud... yeah, probably dreaming. - Sweetie Belle Rarity is busy with a very important order for Sapphire Shores, who has come to think of her as her favorite designer. Despite this, she agrees to check on Sweetie Belle’s costumes, which the filly has made for her new play… which she wrote, produced and will star in (she’s a triple threat) along with her Cutie Mark Crusader buddies. Unfortunately, the play is the following night, and it’s pretty clear Sweetie Belle is not cut out to be a dressmaker, as it were, causing Rarity a bit of additional stress. On the night of the performance, Rarity is late, but arrives just in the nick of time with entirely redone costumes. They are so good, in fact, that after the play, Sweetie Belle finds that no-one can remember anything except for the costumes. Furious, she bursts into Rarity’s room, where she and the rest of the Mane Six have just finished the clothes for Sapphire (incidentally missing the play itself).
Keep calm and… RUN AWAY! Sweetie accuses Rarity of making the dresses too good on purpose, so that she can steal the spotlight, and mentions a similar event in the past… her fifth birthday party. Rarity is understandably confused, having just done her best on the dresses for the sake of her sister. Sweetie, however, is too angry to listen, and storms out. Later, she can’t sleep, and after getting up for a drink of water, finds that Rarity has left her door open. She sneaks in and removes a critical thread from the ornate headdress that Rarity made to wow Sapphire with, as revenge for her perceived wrong.
I guess you could say she’s a smooth criminal. Satisfied that she’s done enough to teach Rarity a lesson, she gets back in bed and soon falls asleep. In her dream, she is receiving an award for her play, when an evil Rarity cloud comes to rain on her ceremony and melt her award statue.
Every cloud has a sister lining… I think that’s how that expression goes. Sweetie realizes she’s dreaming when Princess Luna arrives. (See quote above). The Princess of Dreams then takes Sweetie back to the day of her fifth birthday party. The audience sees her memory of it first… she came out all dressed up, only to find Rarity handing out the party favours she made, and offering cake. The fillies and colts are so impressed (one comments “who needs the party girl, anyway?”), that Young!Sweetie Belle retreats in tears, thinking that Rarity showed her up deliberately. Luna, however, then shows Sweetie Belle what she didn’t see… that before she came down the stairs, her guests were about to leave out of impatience, forcing Rarity to bring out the party favours early, and that after she left, Rarity actually gave her all the credit. Sweetie realizes that Rarity, far from stealing the spotlight, was doing her best to look after her little sister. But the journey through Tel’aran’rhiod isn’t over yet… Luna next shows Sweetie Belle what will happen because of her actions. The headdress falls apart when Sapphire Shores dons it, leading her to drop Rarity as her designer, and indeed, to tell all her fans about what happened. Rarity, devastated and publicly disgraced, develops an intense obsession with checking and rechecking (and rerechecking) everything, to the point that she can no longer continue making dresses. Eventually she becomes an insane recluse hiding in the ruins of her boutique. There are no cats. The horror of the vision wakes Sweetie Belle up, and she rushes to Rarity’s room to repair the damage she caused… only to find that Rarity has already left for Canterlot and the awaiting disaster. Gathering her friends, they head to Canterlot themselves. They get inside the building where Rarity is just getting ready to show Sapphire the headdress. Sweetie Belle snatches the box from Rarity, and with a little help from her friends, temporarily gives her sister the slip.
The chase scene is quite a thriller Princess Luna is waiting for her, this time in the real world, and Sweetie Belle admits that she really messed up. Luckily, Luna provides her with some thread, and an idea to make the headdress even better… Rarity confronts Sweetie Belle, who tells her the whole story, and apologizes for what happened earlier. The sisters reaffirm their bond. Meanwhile, due to the interruption, Sapphire Shore’s superstitious streak surfaces (say that ten times fast), and she is about to turn Rarity down, when Sweetie Belle tells her to take a closer look at the headdress. Sapphire is delighted to see a dolphin motif that Sweetie added at Luna’s prompting, since she loves dolphins and considers them a sign of good luck, dreaming about swimming with them. So once again, the day is saved, thanks to the True Princess of the Night!   Thoughts on the Episode
This episode is quite similar to “Sleepless in Ponyville”, except it’s Sweetie Belle’ and Rarity’s turn. Princess Luna again demonstrates her ability to teach a Cutie Mark Crusader an important lesson by using their dreams. She even rescues her young subject from a nightmare in both cases. Perhaps a future episode will feature Apple Bloom getting a dream vision from Luna. Speaking of Sweetie, it’s nice to see that she now can do telekinetic magic reliably, following the previous development in “One Bad Apple” and later in “Twilight Time”. In contrast, poor Scootaloo is still having trouble flying. The dream vision itself could provide an explanation for Sweetie Belle’s stage fright, particularly since we’ve now seen Rarity is one of the Ponytones. Maybe she doesn’t like to sing in front of others because she’s afraid of Rarity deliberately overshadowing her again. Now that she’s learned the truth about her fifth birthday party, it’s not too much to hope for that she will be willing to sing, and thereby finally earn her cutie mark. She certainly isn’t going to earn it by writing or acting! Rarity shows her generosity in a more natural way than in “Rarity Takes Manehatten”. She genuinely is looking out for her little sister, even before she learned the lesson in “Sisterhooves Social”. Regarding Sapphire Shores… let me see… she sounds like a sassy black lady, but her coat is white, she has a very prominent sharp shape to her snout, and she is also known as “The Pony of Pop”… yeah, she’s the pony version of Michael Jackson. The actions of vision!Sapphire made me pause for a bit. I can somewhat understand losing faith in Rarity as a designer due to the headdress falling apart, but then to publically humiliate her by telling her audience about the fiasco just seems mean spirited. It’s not how I would like to think of her, but then, her character hasn’t really been explored, so perhaps she is capable of being so petty. Still, I’d prefer to think that Luna was overstating the consequences in order to make sure Sweetie learned her lesson, rather than that what she saw really would come to pass. Let’s look at some of the more questionable plot points. Firstly, the Mane Six seemed rather too eager to make themselves scarce when Sweetie confronted Rarity. Rather than sticking around to see if they could help arbitrate, they pretty much just grin sheepishly and then vamoose (which would be more like “vasheep”). So much for the magic of friendship. This could have been avoided if either Sweetie or Rarity had asked for privacy, but as it stands, it makes the Mane Six look a little bit faithless. The second one is pretty major… how did Princess Luna know what really happened at Sweetie Belle’s fifth birthday? She was still trapped inside the moon, and moreover, she was still Nightmare Moon at the time. I suppose it’s possible that Rarity later dreamed the true event (in which case, I have to wonder how accurate it is), or that Luna can read minds or something, but no explanation or even a handwave is provided. It’s also unclear how accurate the vision of the future was. Did Luna just make it up to drive the lesson home, or would it really have happened? Maybe she drank some of Zecora’s “see the past” potion. Apart from these and other minor flaws, this episode was entertaining and also quite heartwarming. The visuals were very imaginative, especially during the dream sequences, although some are rather disturbing. The vision of the future is very bleak, and there’s even an instance of Body Horror when Sweetie Belle’s hooves melt into the floor and prevent her from doing anything to stop what she is seeing. Not to mention her pretty heart-rending cries for Luna to make the vision stop as she tumbles wildly through dream space.   Pros: More Sapphire Shores. Sweetie Belle’s magic has developed. Good visuals.
Cons: The Mane Six are useless. Some minor plot holes.   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! Sweet dreams and stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 84. "Maud Pie": Can't Read My, Can't Read My Poker Face

I don't know if you've noticed... but I don't show my enthusiasm for things quite in the same way my sister does. - Maud Pie The Mane Six are gathered outside Sugarcube Corner to meet Pinkie in the pink before dawn, wondering why she called them to meet her so early in the morning. She invites them in, and they find she's been a tad busy cooking...
♫ In the Big Rock Candy Mountains,
There's a land that's fair and bright... ♫ Many courses of rock candy later, the Mane Six have tooth pains and stomachaches, but Pinkie really wants them to choose the best flavours so that they can make best-friend rock candy necklaces with her sister Maud, who is coming to visit. It's a tradition between the two sisters, and Pinkie wants her friends and sister to share it together. She explains the origin of this tradition via art shift. She also mentions that she and Maud have been sending the necklaces back and forth since she came to Ponyville. In the next scene, the Mane Six and their pets are waiting at the picnic, Rarity wearing a gigantic crystal rock hat, which is falling apart. One crystal lands in the muffin bowl. As they discuss their anxiety that everything will go well, Pinkie appears and announces that she and Maud have arrived. It takes quite a while longer for Maud herself to appear, though, and her pace is best described as sedate, in contrast to Pinkie's rapid bounce. Not only is her walking sedate, her overall demeanour is very placid. She pauses a while before she speaks, and when she does speak, it's in a rather flat monotone. Twilight welcomes her and introduces the others. Rarity then steps forward to ask her about her dress and what it "says", only for Maud to point out that it doesn't "say" anything. On account of being a dress. Ahem. Burn? Rarity retreats. Next, Applejack tries by introducing the pets. Maud has her own pet rock (natch), named Boulder. Couldn't resist. As the picnic erodes on, Applejack offers Maud a muffin. She eats the rock that dropped in earlier instead, pronouncing it "crunchy". Now this is the point at which I first started to "get" Maud. She's soon to complete her Rockterate in Rock(et) Science, so she clearly isn't stupid enough to mistake a rock for a muffin. I think she did it deliberately, as a gag. Then she was probably wondering why her jokes were not going over well with her new acquaintances. See, she's not the "opposite" of Pinkie Pie in personality. She's just as wacky and fun-loving as her younger sister. The difference is that she expresses herself very differently. Rainbow Dash comments that Pinkie said Maud likes games, and Maud suggests they and Boulder play "Camouflage". It's like hide and seek, only waaaaay more intense. They spend the rest of the day looking at all the rocks in the nearby areas, trying to find Boulder. After hours, Maud announces she's found him... he was hiding in her pocket. Again, this seems like straight up trolling by Maud, and again, it doesn't go over well. Fluttershy suggest they call it a day, due to popular pet demand, and Pinkie, Maud, Gummy and Boulder say their goodbyes. Despite the rather stilted first encounter, Twilight suggest that maybe meeting in a big group was making Maud shy, and that one on one will work better. First up is Rarity, who tries to design some clothes for Maud, only for her to choose a dirty old dishcloth. Then when Rarity brings a bunch of them, she says this one will do and drapes it over her back. This is high quality trolling, especially since she stays deadpan when Rarity actually laughs at the joke. But she stops before the gag goes too far, and before Rarity spends actual time sewing the dishcloths together. On a nature walk with Fluttershy, we again meet Hummingway the hummingbird, and get introduced to a species of spider that Maud seems to have taken an interest in. Maud says she was looking at the rock.
He's taking it pretty well. (That flower must be a spider-orchid.) Next is Twilight's turn. Maud mentions she likes to recite her own poetry. You'll never guess what the topic is... yes, existentialism, nihilism and the absurdity of being, what else. At Applejack's farm, she helps with cider making by "peeling" apples with a rock. She still seems to be wondering why her rock-based humour isn't working. Rock tossing with Rainbow Dash also reveals a similarity to Pinkie Pie... Maud hurls the rock so far it pretty much creates a nuke. So she seems to have Pinkie's reality-bending powers, at least as far as rocks are concerned. RD concedes defeat, only for Maud to troll her by claiming she doesn't like winning.
Pinkie, have you been into the poison joke again? When they gather at Pinkie's to start making the necklaces, the group are forced to tell Pinkie that they don't feel it would be honest to make Best Friend Necklaces, because they just haven't clicked with Maud. Pinkie's mane deflates a bit, but she says she understands, leaving the rest feeling very guilty. Back at the library, a newly reenergized Pinkie bounces in to say she's figured out something to bond everypony. It's a giant obstacle course with something for everypony, including a giant rock tower to slide down. As Pinkie demonstrates each part of the course (applesauce slide for Applejack, shiny fabric pile for Rarity, a book wall for Twilight, a poker game of critters - I'm sure Maud would win that hands down... haha, get it, hands? - for Fluttershy, a cupcake wind tunnel for Pinkie, the rock slide for Maud; and the whole thing is a race for Rainbow), she gets trapped on the rock slide, and the giant rock at the top starts to slide down.
Boy, talk about your rock and your hard place... Before any else can react, Maud springs into action, flying through the obstacle course, leaping into the air, and drilling the rock into harmless pieces with her bare hooves. Showing the most emotion she has yet, she tells Pinkie that she went a bit overboard trying to make her friends Maud's friends. She decides to spend the rest of the time at the rock farm. Pinkie goes with her, leaving the rest to contemplate. As they talk, they realize that there is something to bond them with Maud... When the two Pie sisters arrive at the rock farm, the Mane Six are waiting for them. They apologize for the rocky start to their relationship, and explain that their mutual love for Pinkie Pie will be their bond, and ask to try again. When Maud still sounds the same as before, Pinkie points out that she is really excited, she just doesn't look it. A week later, and at the train station, the Mane Six each give Maud a necklace they made. When Pinkie and Maud trade theirs, Maud opens a box filled with every necklace Pinkie ever gave her. Only Twilight is around to see it, and she asks why Maud hasn't eaten them. Maud responds that she doesn't like candy... ...but she does love Pinkie Pie...   Thoughts on this episode There were 3 squees in this episode. That's too many. I'm really having to look hard for negatives here, because this episode is virtually perfect. Maud is delightfully funny, being so perfectly deadpan. As I pointed out, though, I think it's more of a issue of her introverted outer shell masking the chaos that's really going on inside. She isn't that different to Pinkie Pie inside, but as she herself says, she expresses it differently. Maud is a small pool that goes deep, hiding a lot under a calm surface. This episode is more of a character study of Maud than anything. No major events take place, no morals as such are learned, unless it's the moral of letting others express themselves as they want to. The constant rock puns were amusing in the low key way that Maud herself is amusing. This sort of humour is very much in line with what I like, so I found it very entertaining.   Pros: Simple plot. Some very dry humour. Maud looks awesome, whether smiling or not.
Cons: Too much squeeing.   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 rocky side up...

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 80. “Twilight Time”: In Which the CMC Get Their Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Okay… I know exactly how to handle this… RUUUN! – Sweetie Belle The Cutie Mark Crusaders have been taken under the wing of the new Princess, and she is helping them learn new skills, in an attempt to help them find their special talents. Sweetie Belle is practicing her levitation magic on a broom, Scootaloo is trying to put a unicycle together, and Apple Bloom is trying to make a plant-growth potion. Things are not going very well, but the fillies are really enjoying their Twilight Time. The following day, the CMC are at school, while Diamond Tiara shows off “her” gymnastic skills – by getting her butler to do it for her because she claims she’s too tired. Despite the obvious fact that she hasn’t done a ruddy thing, the entire class of fillies and colts applaud her. They are, apparently, all complete idiots, a fact Sweetie Belle remarks on. After this, DT and her bully understudy Silver Spoon come over to talk to them. The two slyly suggest that Sweetie Belle can hang out with them and some celebrity ponies in Manehatten; if Rarity will take her. They are quite well aware that such a trip isn’t on the cards any time soon. Annoyed by their teasing, Sweetie Belle reveals that they have been spending time with a Princess, so there! This news astonishes the two bullies, who are star-struck by the thought of Twilight now being a Princess, and they beg to be allowed to join in with Twilight Time. The CMC are reluctant at first, but the possibility of watching the two arrogant fillies failing at something is enough to persuade them to agree. When they arrive, the two bullies go into hysterics at being in the presence of royalty, and head on into the library. Twilight suggests to the CMC that they should keep Twilight Time between just the four of them in future. However, the following day, the three fillies find out that Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon have told the entire class about Twilight Time, making them the most popular fillies in school. Of course, they also claim to be the CMC’s best friends, to bask a little in the reflected glory. The rest of the class now also wants to meet Twilight, but Sweetie Belle knows exactly what to do… Instead of taking them all to Twilight Time, she invites Twilight out to a restaurant, where they can see her as long as only one or two of them comes along. Of course, they all decide to pitch up, much to Sweetie Belle’s annoyance. She tells them to keep out of sight. Inside the restaurant, it seems Twilight is taking another leaf out of Celestia’s book by eating in a decidedly non-regal fashion.
Like teacher...

...like student. Pinkie Pie shows up for a brief cameo, and points out the pack of foals at the window taking photos, who hide whenever Twilight looks around. Eventually, though, she spots them, and comes outside to see them. After signing a few autographs, and pointing out she is only here because the CMC invited her, she flies off. This gets Pipsqueak (seriously, are his parents trying to get him bullied?) to conclude that the CMC decide where Princess Twilight hangs out, ratcheting their star status up another notch. Speaking of which, Pipsqueak seems to have change his Princess allegiance.
Thou ungrateful whelp! Thou said I wast thou favorite Princess! Firmly entrenched as the Fillies Everypony Should Know, the CMC accept favours from their classmates in exchange for chances to see Princess Twilight, and end up being invited to an exclusive pool party by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon; exclusive because it excludes all the other foals, locking them outside the pool area. The CMC try to leave for Twilight Time, but DT and SS want to join them again. When the CMC refuse, DT, SS and the entire class turn on them, demanding Twilight Time, Twilight Time! Cue the quote above, and a race to get to the library first and explain things to Twilight before the horde descends on her… a race the CMC lose. On seeing all the foals, Twilight seems taken aback, and Sweetie Belle hurriedly tries to explain. Twilight is fine with the unexpected guests, though… she only told them to keep Twilight Time private for their benefit, not her own. She lets them in and of course starts organizing them into groups. When she asks Pipsqueak what he wants to learn, however, he says he wants to be a Cutie Mark Crusader so that he can get favours for being close to a Princess too. With the cat let out of the bag, Twilight turns to the CMC for an explanation. When Sweetie Belle says they really do treasure Twilight Time for its own sake, Twilight asks for proof that they have been improving their skills. The CMC try to oblige, but everything they try goes hideously wrong. Scootaloo takes apart one of the foal’s scooter, but is unable to put it back together properly, Sweetie Belle can’t lift the broom, and Apple Bloom’s potion causes an apple to balloon up and explode.
I hereby rename thee “Scoota-Blew It”, “Sweetie Fell” and “Apple BOOM”! The spell of popularity broken, the rest of the foals leave. Feeling like they’ve ruined everything, the CMC dejectedly fix up the scooter (Scootaloo), make a potion that grows a flower (Apple Bloom) and levitate it to Twilight as a parting gift and apology (Sweetie Belle). Seeing their contrition, Twilight gives them another chance, and during the next Twilight Time, they show that they have improved their skills. Meanwhile, Sweetie Belle writes an entry into the diary, with the following moral: you should treasure your friends because they are your friends, not because you can get a benefit from being their friend.   Thoughts on the Episode I’ll admit it, I was entirely confident that this would be another “Key Episode”, since it fit the pattern of the previous episodes. Instead, they subverted the pattern and then did so again in the next episode, “It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies”. So much for that, huh? That’ll teach me not to go making assumptions. Ironically, I thought the flower the CMC gave to Twilight would be her key, but instead, Fluttershy gets the flower as a Key in the next episode. Ah, well. Ce la vie. Another CMC outing, this one just chockfull of continuity nods. Apple Bloom is again brewing potions, which Scootaloo suggested at the end of “The Cutie Pox” might be her talent. Sweetie Belle’s sparkling horn from “One Bad Apple” takes on more significance, and we see that she is now developing her telekinesis ability. There’s even a subtle nod for Scootaloo, again from “One Bad Apple”, in that her mechanical abilities are being developed. That episode even had a cutie mark false alarm with a wrench cutie mark that turned out just to be an impressionist grease spot. We also have somepony referencing Twilight’s new position as Princess, with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon acknowledging her upgrade, and we even see her flying off to further hammer home the point. This is a step in the right direction of advancing the status quo, so let’s hope this trend continues. Speaking of Diamond Tiara, at least she got some kind of development too, which was good to see. I have to admit a certain sneaking regard for that filly, so I liked to see that she can praise the CMC when the conditions are right (and she can get something out of it for herself, of course), and that she can hold others in high regard at times. This episode wasn’t as kind to Silver Spoon, though, since she continues to be the tag-along kid, virtually echoing Diamond Tiara at every point and being a good little follower of her slightly more charismatic leader. She also seems genuinely awestruck by meeting Princess Twilight. Her usual mocking expression is refreshingly absent for most of this episode. Still waiting for a DT episode, Studio B! It was nice to see the regular foals make an appearance, such as Featherweight, Pipsqueak, Twist and the unnamed fez-wearing newspaper-reading colt (fan name Truffle Shuffle, although I would prefer to call him Chowder, personally) as well as a whole host of new designs which I hope will reappear sometime later in the series. In terms of comedy, it was pretty low key. A few giggles were to be had at Twilight’s atrocious table manners, at Spike’s running nachos joke (from a small plate to a huge mountain to the huge mountain dumped into the garbage) and Sweetie Belle’s continual “don’t worry, I got this” comments as the situation escalates. Speaking of which, the dynamics of the CMC also seems to have shifted. Sweetie Belle is the apparent leader for this episode, and it’s her actions that ultimately drive the plot forward. Nominal leader Apple Bloom and action girl Scootaloo take a backseat. Since Sweetie Belle is my favorite CMC member, I approve, although it’s more than likely that the leadership will shift back to Apple Bloom in future. Oh, and Squeakie Belle is in full force this episode, which is always fun. Of the Mane Six, only Twilight and Pinkie Pie appear, and Pinkie is only there for the “everyone hides when someone is looking” bit piece. Pinkie is the really the only pony who could fit in this role, since a more serious pony wouldn’t be able to just ignore the foals at the window. The other ponies are not needed, so they are not added, apart from a brief mention of Rarity, which is something in the episodes favor.   Pros: Tightly contained plot; Some DT development; Continuity; Nods to Princess Twilight Cons: Not a key episode – Studio B, ya got me! The foals applauding DT when it’s clear she hasn’t given them reason to doesn’t make sense. Not much comedy.   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 – I realize that I haven’t updated in a while. I’m enjoying my new freedom, but I’ll try to be a little more consistent in future.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 81. “It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies”: Or Being Cruel to be Kind

You can do it, Breezies! – The Mane Six In the cold open, Fluttershy is training the rest of the Mane Six to cheer quietly. The Breezies are going to coming through Ponyville on their migration, and a loud cheer may distract them. This is a lovely reversal of Rainbow Dash trying to get Fluttershy to cheer louder in “Sonic Rainboom”. Also reminiscent of “Luna Eclipsed” with the ponies voice getting softer each time. Eventually, she’s happy with their stage whisper cheer. As the episode proper begins, all of Ponyville has gathered to watch the Breezie migration. Rainbow Dash, Flitter, and another stallion are providing the breeze, which has to be very gentle. As Fluttershy explains to Mr. and Mrs. Cake, the breeze will activate the Breezie’s magic and help them get their pollen home safely. Rarity has decided to commemorate the occasion with a sequin-covered purple gown, that is pretty much blinding, and may distract the Breezies. Rarity finally agrees that one can have too many sequins, and takes off her gown to reveal a blouse even brighter underneath. Needless to say, this has to go too. The Breezies come into town, looking like tiny fairy ponies with enormous (proportionally) wings, thin bodies and legs, and long eyelashes for both males and females, who are virtually indistinguishable. One Breezie (Seabreeze) is shown calling encouragement (or perhaps more likely, imprecations) to the others. Spike wants a closer look, but is having trouble seeing through the crowd. Standing on Pinkie’s back is no option either, since it might make her explode. He eventually gets the best seat in the house by climbing a tree. Unfortunately, his dance of joy at getting so close to the Breezies dislodges a dangerous menace: a single leaf!
He just twigged to the fact that something bad is about to happen. The leaf accidentally floats into the path of the Breezies, breaking the air flow and separating a group of about a dozen stragglers, including Seabreeze, sending them into spins in the turbulent air. The wind crew are unable to re-connect them with the larger group, and to avert disaster, Fluttershy leaps into action. She manages to safely catch all of the wayward Breezies, and bring them down to the ground. Seabreeze thanks her in the pony language, revealing that not only is he a he, but that he is the only one who can speak pony, although they can all understand it. Spike comes to grovel for his mistake, and is forgiven by Fluttershy and the others, if not so quickly forgiven by the Breezies themselves. Fluttershy decides to take the Breezies to her cottage to rest for a few minutes from their ordeal before being sent on their way again. The Breezies settle in for a rest, and despite Seabreeze urging, insults and frustration, keep making excuses to continue taking advantage of Fluttershy’s kindness and hospitality. They don’t want to leave, and Fluttershy doesn’t have the heart to force them. The various ponies visit to check if they are ready to go, but each time, Fluttershy asks for a few minutes more. Eventually, Seabreeze has had enough, and he sneaks out to try to make it home on his own. He is nearly killed by falling acorns and ends up crashing into a beehive – to the annoyance of the bees inside. They are quite ready to sting the poor little guy to death, when Fluttershy finds him. When her asking nicely doesn’t make the bees back off, she gets firm with them, and tells them in no uncertain terms to get lost. Realizing that she needs to do the same with the recalcitrant Breezies, Fluttershy learns that being kind doesn’t mean you can never be firm, making her eyes shine with the Rainbow Shimmer. They return to the cottage, and Fluttershy tells the Breezies it’s time to go. Despite her stern attitude, she ends up shedding a few tears after they leave. Meanwhile, the wind team is finding it difficult to find a balance in the breeze. The Breezies are too few in number to handle the strength of wind needed to get them home in time. Luckily, Twilight has recently learned a spell that will transform the Mane Six into Breezies themselves, enabling them to reach Breezie critical mass, as it were. This really shows her power upgrade, as she effortlessly casts a spell that targets all the Mane Six, and the Breezie group simultaneously. Despite a rather awkward middle stage, they all end up as Breezies.
Hey, it IS easy being Breezies! You lied to me, Title Card! Both Twilight and Rarity retain their horns, meaning that Rarity has been temporarily upgraded to alicorn status as well! Their ranks bolstered, the group manage to use the breeze to return across Equestria, with Seabreeze showing that he is much more encouraging and even apologizes for his previous rude behaviour. Finally, they reach their destination and float through the portal into Breezie land. The Breezies meet up with their loved ones, particularly Seabreeze, who is happy to see his wife and child again. This emotional reunion has to be short-lived, however. The portal is closing, and the Mane Six Breezies have to return to Equestria. Fluttershy says a final farewell to Seabreeze, who gives her a flower as a present. As the portal closes behind them, Twilight returns them to their original forms. Luckily, Fluttershy’s flower increases in size with her (somehow) and as the episode ends, it shimmers with a rainbow once more. Key, get!   Thoughts about the episode I enjoyed this episode for its world building, and for gracing us with another Key. Having watched some G3, I was already familiar with Breezies as a concept, although of course, they have been greatly reimagined here. Where in G3 they looked like miniaturized versions of the other ponies (albeit with long antennae and butterfly wings), here they look much more insect like. They’re also very much out of their element in Equestria, which makes one wonder how they manage to survive without pony assistance. Of course, it’s possible that this sort of event only happens at very great intervals. I don’t really have a problem with Twilight knowing a Breezie transforming spell that helps her save the day in the end. Is it a convenient plot-device? Most certainly. Is it a Deus Ex Machina? Undoubtedly. My point is, this often happens. This isn’t the first time Twilight has pulled a useful spell out of nowhere, with no prior indication or a scene where she learns it. It’s not even the fifth time. She has used the following spells, with various levels of hand-waving and effectiveness: a make-parasprites-stop-eating spell which backfired (“Swarm of the Century”), a gem-finding spell which she was taught by Rarity off-screen (“A Dog and Pony Show”), a walk-on-clouds spell which she found and even cast off-screen (“Sonic Rainboom”), the failed Failsafe Spell and successful memory-restorer spell (“Return of Harmony”), the also backfiring want-it-need-it spell (“Lesson Zero”), a laser blaster spell and remove-illusion-from-Changeling spell (“A Canterlot Wedding”), a reverse-personal-gravity spell (“The Crystal Empire”). Why is this instance so much worse in many fan’s opinions? Secondly, the Breezies have obviously been a hot topic in Ponyville, otherwise the entire town wouldn’t turn out to watch them. From “Boast Busters”, we know Twilight is often inspired to research things she hears about, such as her research into the Ursa Major, so it’s not much of stretch to suppose she was inspired to do research on the Breezies off screen and thereby discovered the spell she uses at the end. Although the male and female Breezies are nigh identical, it does seem as if the difference lies in the length of the mane and tail hair. When we finally see Seabreeze’ family, his wife has the long hair and mane (the baby of course could be either, since even if were a girl, she wouldn’t have been alive long enough for her hair to grow out.) In every scene where the Breezies embrace, you will notice that each pair has one Breezie with long hair and one with short hair. I’m going to assume they’re all heterosexual. Or at the least, that they’re all metrosexual. The eyes theory (males have round eyes, females have slanted eyes) doesn't hold true even for the real Breezies. If it isn't the hair length, then there is no real way for us as viewers to tell the genders apart. Yes, this episode has some flaws. The character based jokes fell a bit flat. Some things were not well explained regarding the Breezies themselves, such as why only Seabreeze was so keen to get home when other Breezies also apparently had loved ones. As stated, the resolution was a bit forced, although not unforgivably so. The way Fluttershy learned her lesson is also a little bit different to previous episodes like this. Here, it was an understanding that Fluttershy should already have learned in “Putting Your Hoof Down” with Angel… that showing kindness does not equal being a doormat, as she was definitely being to the Breezies. She also didn’t have to choose between her friends and her own wishes, as Pinkie, Rarity and Rainbow Dash did. This could be why they didn’t fit this episode into the naming pattern for Key episodes that the first three did, although perhaps that “pattern” was just a coincidence. It’s not a perfect episode by any means, but I still enjoyed it. I’d been looking forward to the Breezies, and I don’t feel cheated. I also think the Mane Six look great as Breezies. Despite that, the flaws are there, making this episode less than it could have been.   Pros: Breezies. The Mane Six as Breezies. Key episode. World-building. Cons: Question marks. Forced resolution. A moral that perhaps should have been learned before.   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 Breezie!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 82. “Somepony to Watch Over Me”: The Perilous Pie Procession

I really wish my sister were here! - Apple Bloom The Apple family is having a counsel, and it’s finally decided that Apple Bloom is old enough to stay home while Granny Smith is away visiting, and her big sister and big brother deliver some apple pies to some far away towns. Despite Applejack having her reservations, she starts off on her journey. To make herself feel better, she leaves Apple Bloom with a long list of chores and instructions. Apple Bloom is over the moon to be on her own for once, but also determined to prove capable of staying home alone. She’s doing fine, until Applejack returns to check on her and startles her into spilling spaghetti sauce all over herself. Thinking her former concern is justified, Applejack becomes extremely smothering, keeping tabs on Apple Bloom constantly, slamming helmets onto her head at the slightest provocation, baby proofing everything in sight and continually reiterating that she can’t trust Apple Bloom to continue basic subconsciously-controlled life processes without her big sister being nearby. As the day wears on, Apple Bloom gets more and more irate. Enlisting the help of her CMC friends, she decides to deliver the pies that Applejack hasn’t, so as to prove she is independent and responsible. This leads to one of the few funny moments in the episode, as she starts to sing a song about the situation, only be shushed by Scootaloo, who claims there’s no time for a song.
A: I baked you a pie!
B: Oh, boy! What flavor?
A: APPLE BLOOM FLAVOR!
*Guitar riff!* Apple Bloom sneaks out the window and away with the pies, while her friends cover her escape with subterfuge. Sweetie Belle dons a spare bow and gets into bed to pretend to be Apple Bloom taking a nap. Scootaloo hides in the closet so they can take turns. Applejack comes in for a spot check, which she fails, as she doesn’t notice that her “sister” has a different colour scheme, a different mane style, and is more “horny” than usual too (pardon the double entendre). I guess those bows come from the same shop as Clark Kent’s glasses.
Hmm. Somethin' seems a mite strange here... Oh, well... ♫Hush now, quiet now, it’s time to lay your sleepy head…♫ Over the next few minutes of screentime, Applejack keeps popping in to ask if “Apple Bloom” needs anything, or if she heard a call. This might be why Scootaloo never gets a chance to play Apple Bloom, since she might not want to take the chance of Applejack coming in in the middle of the swap. At any rate, in her final check-up, Applejack muses aloud that perhaps she is being a bit silly with this whole issue (no… really?). This makes Scootaloo so happy that she shouts out and ruins the whole thing. The jig is up! As the two CMC tell her what happened, Applejack is horrified to find out Apple Bloom left without fire-proof boots, a lion-tamer’s chair, a snake-charmer’s flute and a hunk of ricotta and that she left hours ago. At this point, the episode makes a hard left turn into Surprise Creepy City. We rejoin the silly filly herself, as she follows the map, leading her (and therefore us) to the hellish atmosphere of the fire swamp. The only thing missing is the quicksand and the Rodents of Unusual Size – possibly because they’ve been eaten by the monster of this episode – the Chimera! The Chimera has a tiger and goat head in front, and a snake for a tail, all female, so kudos. Said monster is only too happy to see some pies, and a side order of tender young filly fillet. Although it isn’t the first time the possibility of something eating Apple Bloom has come up, (“Bridle Gossip” and the Apple Bloom soup) this is the first time it’s being presented quite this seriously. Despite the Chimera’s Faux Affably Evil manner, (even engaging her in conversation about annoying hovering sisters) it’s pretty clear that Apple Bloom is in danger of literally being filleted and eaten. That’s rather dark, and the evil gloating snickering of the Chimera’s three heads as it stalks her makes this entire scene border on Nightmare Fuel (well, at least for the target audience). As the Chimera chases her, Apple Bloom ends up pushing the cart to the top of a hill, only for it to roll down and into the foliage. She has bigger concerns, though, as the Chimera finally corners her. Things look bad for the plucky little filly… but guess who comes galloping to the rescue? ♫Applejack! BUCK, YEAH! ♫ Using her Fetish Fuel Boots of Flame Resistance +1, her Folding Lion-Tamer’s Chair (+2 vs Tigers), her ChiméPokéFlute (puts snake monsters to sleep; also awakens sleeping Pokemon), and the hunk of ricotta for the goat, Applejack makes short work of Three-in-One, leaving it pinned to a tree on either end.
Say cheese! Applejack tells Apple Bloom off for going on such a dangerous journey alone, but is happy her sister is safe, even if she did lose all those pies… wait a minute, no she didn’t! Apple Bloom returns the pie cart to her sister, making Applejack realize that a pony who can successfully be rescued from being eaten and NOT lose her pies along the way must be independent enough not to need constant supervision. Yeah, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but at least it ended Applejack’s overprotective streak. The pie delivery is made… to one of the more offensive stereotypes I’ve seen this show produce so far. We is hillbillies! We eat Swamp Water Casserole! Yeehaaww! And then the episode ends without any kind of moral being addressed. Perhaps because Applejack knew the moral all along? Or lazy writing? You be the judge!   Thoughts on the Episode Despite having a fire swamp, and a three headed beast of myth, this episode is surprisingly boring. Perhaps that is because it’s too one note in the first half. The comedy gained from Applejack’s constant babying is rather quickly overshadowed by the annoyance the same engenders, with a few exceptions.
I have to admit I laughed at the double helmet gag. As I’ve pointed out in one thread, I don’t think calling Applejack “out of character” is accurate. We know she’s very family orientated, and can sometimes go barreling along without noticing how her behaviour is affecting others (as in “Apple Family Reunion”). But she’s usually willing to have her sister run all over Ponyville, left her alone or in the company of two other fillies at her clubhouse, despite the thing being, to coin a phrase, “one big bad wolf’s fart away” from collapse and on a secluded part of the farm. Who was it who fixed up that clubhouse good as new? The answer begins with “A”, and ends with “pple Bloom”. Applejack even came along and acknowledged it in that episode. Now, for the sake of the plot 53(!) episodes later, Applejack suddenly doubts her sister’s ability to walk across a room without tripping and breaking her neck. That’s not OOC, that’s exaggerating a character trait (protectiveness of her sister) to absurd levels for the sake of a gag. I’m not sure which I dislike more, really. Not to mention that the gag itself wears thin very quickly. Then the central conflict is hurriedly resolved in a single line, after an event which by all rights should cement Applejack’s concern for her sister rather than assuage it. Never mind that your sister was nearly eaten, the real tragedy would have been the lost pies! Oh, they’re safe! Dodged a bullet there, alright. Is this episode as low in my estimation as “Daring Do”? Not quite, as there are a few appreciable jokes and scenes that rescue it from sinking that low, but it gets really close. Not every episode can hit one out of the park, but this one barely makes it up to bat.   Highlights Apple Bloom calmly accepting the decision, and walking off. The CMC wait until they are out of sight around the corner before they start celebrating. Tiger head: “You're lucky, you know. You've got no idea what it's like to have a sister constantly looking over your shoulder…” Apple Bloom: “Uh, actually…”   Pros: The Chimera fight scene. The aborted song, poking fun at all the fans who claim there are too many unnecessary songs. Cons: Flanderizing Applejack. The central concept played for comedy gets stale very quickly. Scootaloo has a moment of superb stupidity. Those hillbilly stereotypes. No moral worth mentioning. The resolution makes little sense and is very rushed.   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 fire-swampy side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox