• entries
    128
  • comments
    206
  • views
    103274

Entries in this blog

 

I Squee, You Squee, We all Squee for Rubber Ducky!

While I am obviously a fan of Friendship is Magic (I mean, like, duh, right?), what you may not know is that I am also a fan of Beast Wars. So imagine my surprise and delight to find another connection between two shows that I love to watch. Another connection you may or may not know: Claire Corlett, voice of Sweetie Belle, is the daughter of Ian James Corlett, one of the voice actors from Beast Wars. The more you know... ...I must get around to making some blog entries about old cartoons I love soon... so much to do...

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

I need advice about pets…

I have a pet by the name of Paul. I got him as a gift from my parents when they visited me a few months ago. I recently decided it was time to train him. However, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get him to respond to his name. And you can forget about playing fetch, he doesn’t even move when I throw the stick. Please help me. I’ll post a picture of him so you can identify his species…     What do you think the problem is?

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Guess what?

Hey everybody. Notice anything different about me today? That's right. I got a haircut.
Oh, and this happened. Yep, I've lost the lovely purple text under my user name. Contrary to the image above, which is purely a joke, it was a voluntary decision on my part. For a whole year, I've been part of the moderating team. Although it really was a good experience for me, it is a role that can be difficult to fulfill at times, and of course, made many demands on my time, mind, body and soul. I still have mixed feelings about my decision to resign. I'm glad that I'll have more time to devote to other things, but also saddened to leave a group of people who I really enjoy chatting to and being part of a team with. The main reason I'm resigning is due to personal circumstances, largely to do with work and long commute times that take up more of my time and energy than before. It has nothing at all to do with issues either from the staff or the general member side. Basically, it's not you, it's me. With the newest wave of promoted mods, SCS, Sugar Cube and Wingnut, (Congrats, I'm sure you'll make me proud) along with previous mod DashForever (a most worthy fellow whether he has that fancy purple text under his username or not) back on the case, and the other mods and admins who continue to shoulder that burden, I'm happy at least that my leaving is not going to critically impact on the staff's ability to do what they need to do. The road is yours, now. Use it well. As a final request to the members in general: If you get a warning, please don't immediately rush to post some kind of status update crying out to all and sundry about how short the end of the stick that you just got is. In most cases, the warning is the end result of a long discussion and is by no means one staff member donning their ten-gallon hat, spurs and six-shooters to dispense frontier justice. In all probability, they are not targeting you for a personal reason, they are just doing what they are supposed to be doing. Someone's got to end up getting their hands dirty. Think, first. Take a step back. Did I deserve this warning? Could I have avoided it by acting a different way? If you've thought it through honestly, and you still feel hard done by, speak to the mod via PM first, and if you're still not happy with the explanation or wish to take the dispute further, open a support ticket. Shouting out from the rooftops via status update is never a good way to respond to being warned. Also, if you were arguing with someone and both of you took it too far, don't assume that only you were punished and they weren't. I've seen a number of times when a member calls foul and favoritism because they aren't aware of the fact that the other person involved was also punished, even though they were. You don't see everything that is going on behind the scenes. The staff do. Just be aware of it. That said, if you do truly feel you are in the right and the staff is in the wrong, then by all means, take the steps needed to get the decision reversed. Mods make mistakes sometimes, it's inevitable. But it doesn't inevitably have to lead to forum drama. Well, enough wagging of my finger for one blog post, ne? This isn't good-bye to the forums either, although I would like to spend some more time doing other things. I sometimes feel a bit one-dimensional, what with all the pony in my life. I have a few goals to work on. Learning to play the guitar is one. Getting to the 5-kyu level in Go is another. Get out more, meet more girls, that kind of thing. I feel free to come and go a little more now, but this place will still be a big part of my life for the foreseeable future. Might also get some time to work on my fanfictions, which I have a few good ideas about. Anyway, happy trails til we meet again, and of course, keep chasing those rainbows and staying on the Sunny Side of life. Represent.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Get to Know SolarFox...

... wait for the autobiography like everyone else. These forum fads... Scrunchy Face Shaky avatars, Get to Know blog entries, etc. I guess it's all in good fun and I shouldn't judge, but really... do something original, people! Be like best pony Rarity... don't follow trends, create them! Now excuse me while I continue working on my most innovative innovation yet... episode reviews!   I only tease because I love you guys...

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Flash! Ah-AAHHH!

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

ER - Episode Repair: Amending "Amending Fences"

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Equestria's Joys

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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 99. “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”: Pride in Bits and Pieces

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 9. "Bridle Gossip": Meet Twilight Flopple, Flutterguy, Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Apple-teenie and Spitty Pie

It is unwise to venture down this road. Your actions will make my anger explode! – Zecora This episode introduces the very convenient Zecora to the show. This magical Zebra eventually became a kind of second mentor to Twilight, a role she was supposed to play more frequently, according to Faust. However, in her first appearance, she is feared as an evil enchantress by the Mane 6, with the notable exception of Twilight. We start with Twilight and Spike wandering through Ponyville, which seems to have become a ghost town for some reason. Spike suggests pony holiday, his own bad breath (no worse than usual, which implies either that bad breath comes part and parcel of eating gemstones, or that Spike doesn’t clean his teeth) or even Zombie ponies.
“GGRRAAAIIINNNS!” PS: Don't mine at night! Passing by Sugarcube Corner, their attention is attracted by Pinkie, who tells them to get inside quickly before “she” gets them. Finding the rest of the gang there (along with Apple Bloom) Twilight wants to know why they’re all hiding in the dark. Applejack points out the window at our new zebra friend, Zecora. How they know her name without knowing anything else about her is a question mark for me. Anyway, Twilight tells them about zebras, that her “garish” stripes are not a fashion choice but something she was born with; Rarity is quite overcome with horror at the thought. The others say that she lives in the Everfree Forest. We also get a bit more information about said Forest, furthering a comment made by Applejack in the pilot: “Folks say it don’t work the same way as Equestria!” Twilight tries to talk some sense into the others, along with some well-placed snark at their ignorant assumptions of evil intentions. Apple Bloom tries to chime in in support of Twilight, but is rather bluntly brushed aside by Applejack, because the “big ponies are talking”. When Twilight tells the others that if they were brave enough, they could talk to Zecora and get the real story, she decides that is exactly what she will do. She leaves unnoticed, to follow Zecora as she heads back into the Everfree Forest.
I am a brave pony… I AM a brave pony… oh, sweet Celestia, I hope she didn’t see me! Finally noticing an Apple Bloom-shaped hole in the scenery, the rest run out to find her, leaving Spike on guard. They follow all the way into the Everfree Forest, and right into a patch of pretty blue flowers, AJ grabbing her sister and lifting her onto her back. When Zecora tries to warn them about the Poison Joke (a play on poison oak… well, no dur), they take it as the evil enchantress threatening them, and shout at her to go away. Twilight is adamant that there is no such thing as curses. This is forgivable, since we don’t hear about curses being real until Season 3, but since magic can ban ponies to the moon or cause eternal night, one might think she’d be a little more open to the idea of magic being used for evil purposes. Applejack says as much, warning Twilight that sometimes “Old Mares’ Tales really are true.” The ironic thing is, all of the Mane 6 saw an Old Mares’ Tale come true in the pilot, so they should know this. Despite her doubt of the whole evil enchantress spiel, Twilight finds herself having nightmares about Zecora being evil. In the morning, she finds she has a problem… the opposite problem than one might expect: her horn has been cursed with spots and now flops around in a way that makes me wonder if this episode should have been censored…
Insert joke about “spotted dick” here… Looking for an explanation, Twilight dismisses Spike suggestion that this might indeed be a curse, as well as refusing to look at a book called “Super Naturals”, believing it to be about the supernatural. One space can mean a lot. Soon, her friends start arriving, each “cursed” in a different way: Pinkie Pie can’t speak because of a swollen tongue; Rarity’s coat has grown out until she resembles Fluffle Puff; Applejack has shrunk down to become a different form of apple-based cider; Rainbow Dash’s wings are on upside down, making her crash into things; and Fluttershy’s voice has become 20% deeper (Okay, I know, that meme is overused, but I so seldom employ it, you’re just going to have to forgive me.) Spike, of course, finds it all hilarious and gives them all insulting nicknames. He has trouble with Twilight at first, but eventually comes up with something for her too. Apple Bloom, blaming herself for the others’ misfortune, walks out to find Zecora, so she can make things right. She gains a teeny-tiny stowaway in Applejack, who notices her leaving and jumps into her big-little-sister’s mane. The others of the Mane 6 notice she’s gone, and have a brief panic attack over stepping or sitting on her. Pinkie Pie even checks under Rarity’s coat, eliciting an indignant, “Have you never heard of ‘personal space’?!” Some people think Pinkie replies to this question with a blunt “Nope”, but I personally think she’s just telling the others that Applejack isn’t in there. Realizing Apple Bloom is also gone, they decide to head out to Zecora’s hut in the Everfree Forest. Meanwhile, Applejack pops out of her sister’s mane and demands she turn around. AB simply refuses, since she’s now the “big sister”, and deposits her on a branch over a ditch. This leads to one of my favorite quotes from Applejack ever: see Highlights below. She isn’t stuck for long, however, since as the others make their way into the Forest, Rainbow accidentally crashes into the tree where AJ is, ending up with said pony in her mouth. AJ wiggles free, cobbles together a bit and bridle and shoves them into RD’s mouth. A well placed tiny knee to the stomach sends her new mount up, up and away. Meanwhile, the rest find Zecora’s hut, complete with strange masks, various ingredients, and a bubbling pot of something green. When Zecora herself wonders aloud where Apple Bloom is, even Twilight becomes convinced that Zecora is evil and hankering for some pony soup. Cue Spitty Pie and Hairity's high-pitched shrieks, (EEEEEE!) along with Flutterguys resonant baritone yell (AAAHHH!), a short scene which has me laughing every time I watch it. Along with RD and AJ’s arrival, they break down the door and confront the evil zebra witch. Rainbow’s wild flying starts wrecking the place, and even knocks over Zecora’s cauldron. She is outraged at their intrusion and accusations of witchcraft, and literally ends up butting heads with Twilight. She also has to deal with a minor major assault by Applejack, who valiantly ropes her ear.
Who is this wrestling with my ear? I find this pony very queer. Apple Bloom then appears in the doorway, and the truth comes out. Zecora had heard from AB about the Mane 6’s afflictions, which were as a result of the Poison Joke, and was making up a bubblebath cure, with AB going out to collect some necessary ingredients. Zecora’s explanation in rhyme confounds Applejack, who protests from her perch on the zebra’s ear, “Would somepony please talk normal?” Hypocritical humour at its best. She also amusingly takes offence at Twilight’s statement that their problems are just “little jokes” the plant has played on them. When Twilight asks where the cure comes from, Zecora shows her a book; the very one she dismissed because she misread its title: “Super Naturals”. Thus is the moral for this episode delivered: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, applying equally to the book and to the Mane 6’s treatment of Zecora. One bubble bath later, everyone is back to normal, and Zecora has been accepted as an honorary citizen of Ponyville. Pros:
The humour in this episode is spot-on, from Spike’s dubbing of the ponies with nicknames reflecting their problems to Applejack’s many hilarious lines. The lesson is a good one, not to let outside appearances deceive you and to make sure you look a bit deeper to find the truth of the matter, and is delivered in a very natural way. Although Pinkie’s song is pretty standard for her, being a “work in progress”, the true delight is Flutterguy’s “smooth jazz” rendition, complete with beatnik backing. Cons:
The plot is rather straight-forward, and doesn’t really offer any surprises. Then, again, it really doesn’t need to, so this is nitpicking.   Highlights:
Pinkie: I heard… Zecora EATS HAY!
Twilight: Pinkie, I eat hay. YOU eat hay!
Pinkie: Yeah, but I heard it’s the evil way she eats hay… The exchanges between AJ and AB are priceless. AJ pops out of AJ’s mane
AJ: You turn around right now, Missy!
AB: No.
AJ: “NO”? You can’t disobey a direct order from your big sister!
AB tosses AJ up in the air and catches her, then puts her on a tree branch.
AB: Sorry, Applejack, but I’M the big sister now! Spike has a rare opportunity to mock the others for once:
Spike: This is hilarious! We’ve got Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Spitty Pie, Apple-teeny, Flutterguy and…
Turns to Twilight, and pauses
Spike: …eh, I got nothing. Twilight Sparkle? I mean seriously, I can’t even work with that.
Twilight: Eh he he. This is no joke, Spike.

And later
Flutterguy: Spike, aren’t you coming?
Spike: Sorry, gotta stay here and search for a cure…beat… Twilight Flopple! 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 89. “Equestria Games”: Spike’s Sad Stagefright Situation

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 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

 

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 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 8. "Look Before You Sleep": Sleepover Shinnanigans

Y’all wouldn’t know “practical” if it came up and bit ya! – Applejack to Rarity This has always been one of my favorite episodes in Season 1, featuring as it does both Rarity and Applejack (my first and second favorite ponies). It’s one of those slice of life episodes that puts two ponies in a situation and just lets their personalities drive the story forward. All of Ponyville is tidying up the trees in preparation for a big storm that the pegasus ponies are due to create, to make up for a previously missed rain shower. They’re taking down broken branches so that the storm doesn’t knock them off the trees onto any passersby. Rarity, however, is mending the branches instead, and prettying them up with some topiary. Meanwhile background pony Daisy is lifting branches magically, despite lacking a horn with which to do it. Rarity’s artwork is not appreciated by the more practically-minded Applejack, who pulls off the branch Rarity was working on, and then remonstrates with her about focusing more on prettifying than completing the task. Their argument escalates until they decide they need to give each other some space before they really say something they’ll regret. However, the storm has other ideas, as a lightning bolt convinces the two they need to stick together and find shelter… and fast.
Pony sacrifice… Rarities and Applejacks living together… mass hysteria! Luckily, Twilight has noticed them, and calls for them to hurry over to her library, protected as it is by a magical lightning rod. Rarity points out to Applejack that she has mud all over her hooves from hiding under the bench earlier (seen above), and tells her she needs to wash up. Twilight tells Rarity to make herself comfortable for the evening, since Spike is away on Royal Business in Canterlot. Then she excitedly suggests they have a sleep over, since she has never had one before. She even has a book entitled Slumber 101 – “Everything you Wanted to Know about Slumber Parties but were Afraid to Ask”. Rarity is unwilling to be cooped up all night with Applejack, who is having a few troubles of her own as she tries to wash her hooves.
Applejack would prefer a hoedown to a hose down With her hooves sparkling clean at last, AJ is mortified to find Rarity and Twilight with mud on their faces. Rarity explains that this is part of them giving each other makeovers, and Twilight shows AJ the book. AJ is no more willing than Rarity to stay, but another flash of lightning stops her in her tracks. Rarity gives AJ her own mud mask, as well as cucumbers for her eyes. Applejack, having the appetite of a full-grown stallion, eats them instead. Twilight, delighted that she has another victim for her nefarious slumber party plans, is oblivious to the dirty looks her guests are giving each other. As the evening wears on, the tension between AJ and Rarity gradually builds, with them daring each other to do things they despise, like Rarity letting her mane get drenched, and AJ having to put on a frou-frou glittery lacy outfit. Despite a rather successful (for Twilight) ghost story rendition, the two guests gets more and more annoyed with each other. When a pillow fight becomes more like a pillow war, catching Twilight in the crossfire, she dispiritedly suggests they all go to sleep. Even this is not enough to keep the peace, with the feuding fillies arguing over who gets the blanket. Twilight finally blows up at them both, and sarcastically asks if anything else can go wrong… it promptly does, with lightning striking a tree outside, threatening to topple the top half onto the neighboring building. Applejack points this out as the reason why they needed to take down the broken branches, even though it’s a million-to-one freak event, and throws a lasso the catch the tree, ignoring Rarity’s exhortations to stop. When AJ pulls, the tree ends up coming in through the window, crashing down into Twilight’s bedroom.
Presenting the latest pony sensation: Dope on a Rope (With apologies to Applejack fans ) Rarity has her turn to say “I told you so,” and Applejack apologizes to Twilight… who is not at all satisfied. She also seems to have taken a blow to the head, looking through her book for advice about having a tree in one’s bedroom and wondering if this situation qualifies as “camping”. Unable to fix the mess she helped cause, Applejack tries to convince Rarity to stop reorganizing the books and help her with the tree. Rarity is having none of that, until Applejack apologizes to her as well. Despite an initial reluctance to “get all icky”, Rarity lets go of her obsession with details and decides to help. She uses her magic to turn the tree into a number of art pieces, and the left over trunk is delicately nudged out of the window by Applejack. Rarity is miserable about being icky, damp and covered with mud, but Applejack knows just what to do… she puts cucumber slices on Rarity’s eyes. With the fences mended, the two embrace as Twilight notices the beautiful artworks… which aren’t in the book either. The last few scenes have Rarity and Applejack finally learning to get along with each other despite their differences. Twilight sends Celestia a letter to that effect, and then asks the newly reconciled friends if they wouldn't like to have another slumber party soon. Her only response is two pillows to the face, and the merry laughter of her friends. This episode is pure gold for Rarity and Applejack fans. It's really their episode, with Twilight taking a smaller role providing the straight pony to their comedic duo. There really is very little to detract; at most, the idea of characters who are the equivalent of young adults having a slumber party is a little odd, but that can be excused when one remembers that Twilight never had one when she was younger. Pros: Different pony personalities provide enjoyable interactions. Cons: It's a slumber party   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 79. “Filli Vanilli”: The Highs and Lows of Fluttershy's Singing Career

“When / you / find / you’ve / got the music / got the music in you…” – The Ponytones In the opening, Fluttershy is busy feeding her menagerie, and unabashedly singing out of simple joy. That joy turns to horror when she realizes that her friends have been watching her the entire time, and her natural reticence reasserts itself. However, her friends admit that they entranced by her beautiful voice, especially Rarity, who urges Fluttershy to join her a capella singing group, The Ponytones.
Can we call them a barber-crop quartet? Despite the fact that The Ponytones are singing at an event for the pet shelter at her own behest, Fluttershy refuses to join due to her stage fright. Rarity is very disappointed, but is understanding of her close friend’s limitations. The group includes Big MacIntosh, Rarity and another mare, named Torch Song, as well as another stallion by the name of Toe-Tapper. After a quick run-through and practice, Rarity encourages them to rest their voices until the final practice before the performance the following evening. Fluttershy, meanwhile, has been listening to them as they practice and proves unable to stop herself swaying in time to their music. This makes it clear that she really would like to join in if she could get over her stage fright. The night of the performance, all seems in readiness… except for Big MacIntosh, who is late for their final rehearsal. When he finally does arrive, he is puffing and out of breath. Before he can do more than open his mouth, Rarity scolds him for his tardiness, pushes him into line, and blows the opening note on her pitch pipe. Unfortunately, he’s unable to start them off; he has lost his voice due to a Turkey Call competition the previous evening, where he was outperformed by Pinkie, of all ponies.
She can now add “turkey” to her list of birds she’s impersonated. The group rushes over to Zecora’s hut. She says she can cure Big MacIntosh, but her remedy will take more time than they have. Zecora suggests making the poison joke from Season 1 into a potion to deepen Fluttershy’s voice, making her Flutterguy once more. Fluttershy agrees, but only if she can remain hidden behind the curtains and have Big MacIntosh lip-sync to her singing. Suiting deed to word, The Parlatones Ponytones perform, making the evening a success, and getting many animals adopted.
Cheap price for deer. One of the group’s fans, a little pegasus filly by the name of Zippoorwhill, asks them to perform at her Cuteceanera, and despite Rarity making an excuse in order to save Fluttershy from another performance, Fluttershy herself is quite willing to continue. She can’t disappoint such a cute young filly after all. At the party and each subsequent performance, another booking is made, with Fluttershy always pretending reluctance. Secretly, though, she just enjoys the performing too much to stop. Rarity is not fooled by this for long, again showing that she can be very perceptive. At each performance, Fluttershy gets more and more animated, giving poor Big MacIntosh problems as he has to play catch-up with her improvised singing. Just before the final performance, however, Rarity takes Fluttershy aside and tells her that Big MacIntosh’s voice is healed, and she doesn’t have to perform as Flutterguy anymore. She convinces them to let her sing from the shadows one more time. During the performance, she gets carried away backstage, and ends up knocking down the curtain, revealing herself to all and sundry. Despite uproarious applause, her stage fright overcomes her again, as she has a hallucination of giant floating pony heads with spotlights for eyes. Pretty terrifying, actually. Distraught, she runs off back to her cottage. The others follow her there, and some innocently insensitive words from Pinkie set her to running again, earning her a rebuke from the others.
Taking the Spiderman connection a bit too far there, aren’t you Pinkie? Finally getting her to confront her fears, the others wring an admission from her that it wasn’t an all-bad experience, and that she did quite enjoy the singing. She’s even willing to sing with the Ponytones to the animals. However, she still won’t perform in front of strangers, and asks them to let her get over her stage fright in baby steps. Her entry into the journal states that she has learned that one shouldn’t let their fear keep them from being the best they can be.   Thoughts on the episode While Rarity is well known for her beautiful singing voice (Kasumi Evans) in real life, this is the first time it’s been acknowledged that her voice is just as beautiful within the show’s universe (that I remember, at any rate). While this is a good thing, it’s a little jarring to see Rarity, or even Big MacIntosh, for that matter, being in a pony singing troupe, since it hasn’t been alluded to previously. This also introduces a few instances of Fridge Logic. Big MacIntosh has been described as “very shy” by Apple Bloom, but he’s perfectly willing to perform on stage in front of large crowds? There is also a question mark of a similar nature floating over Fluttershy’s head. She has sung in front of a (much, much larger) crowd before, in “Hearth’s Warming Eve” and it was acknowledged earlier in that episode that she didn’t feel comfortable with it. Yet she is crippled by stage fright this time around, when the crowd she has to perform for is much smaller and mainly consists of Ponyville residents. This could be handwaved, perhaps, if she was able to mentally subsume herself into the persona of Private Pansy for the performance in “HWE”. Pinkie was superbly badly handled in this episode. For the pony who is supposed to make others feel happier, this feels like the writer was really taking liberties with her character. She doesn’t even have the excuse of playing up for the fun of it, as she did in “Luna Eclipsed”. Since everyone and their grandmother has pointed out this flaw in the episode, I won’t harp on it further. Rarity, on the other hoof, was wonderful in this episode. I refer not only to the aforementioned confirmation of her lovely singing voice, but also the way she handled Fluttershy, which was extraordinary. Remember that Rarity lives for bringing out the beauty in things, and Fluttershy’s voice is something she really wants to have others hear and appreciate. Yet despite that, she quickly accepts that Fluttershy can’t perform due to her crippling stage fright. It highlights her generosity in a natural way. She also quickly cottons on to the fact that Flutterguy is accepting bookings because she wants to perform, rather than just to avoid disappointing others. Yet apart from a knowing smile, she doesn’t give away that she’s seen through the ruse, surprising Fluttershy when she finally reveals it. This is a far cry from “Green Isn’t Your Colour”, where she couldn’t see that Fluttershy was only putting on a brave face. That’s some pleasing development there. Zippoorwhill… dear sweet deity of diabetes, is this filly cute. Like her namesake, she zooms around constantly, is over the moon to have the Ponytones perform at her party (“We got The Ponytones! We got The Ponytones!”) and she is even able to handle the disappointment when she thinks she may not be able to book them. I hope we see more of her and her daddy, who has a very interesting accent. As for the other Mane Six members, Applejack managed to provide some good humour, with her hat floating in mid-air due to her surprise at hearing Fluttershy sing, and the way she ascertains the situation with her rapidfire questions to Big MacIntosh. Rainbow Dash was a bit of a non-entity, and Twilight also had very little screentime, but then again, the focus was on Fluttershy and to a lesser extent on Rarity, so it’s to be expected. The plot itself was quite simple, which allows a natural progression of events. One negative is using Pinkie to push Fluttershy’s emotional buttons, but overall, the simplicity of the story works in its favour.   Highlights (Shamelessly copied from TVTropes)
Applejack's assessment of the whole situation goes down as this.
Applejack: Turkey call?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: Trash your voice?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: Zecora remedy?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: Not quick enough?
Big Mac: Nope.
Applejack: Needed a deep voice?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: Poison joke?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: Flutterguy?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: Better now?
Big Mac: Eeyup.
Applejack: And that shy filly was livin' her dream in the shadows because she couldn't bring herself to come into the spotlight?
Big Mac: Eeyup. Zippoorwhill gets the Ponytones.
And just Zippoorwhill in general, really. Pros: Continuity nods galore; Rarity and Fluttershy friendship highlighted; Big MacIntosh gets to say more than “Eeyup” and “Nope”. Cons: Pinkie, what have they done to you? Fridge Logic at points.   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 78. “Simple Ways”: No Easy Path to Love

Now, if y’all will excuse me, I have a hootenanny of a time to prepa-ah. – Rarity It’s nearly Ponyville Day anniversary time, and the Pony of Ceremonies is announced: Rarity! She has a plan for an elegant celebration, with a cider tasting and silent auction, a dance, and a fashion show. The Mane Six are admiring of her plan, but Rarity has a bit of an ulterior motive. She wants to impress Trenderhoof, the travel writer who will be covering the event, on whom she has a huge crush, and to whom she has built a little shrine.
Even Norman Bates would be like, “Dude, that is creepy!” Convincing Twilight to accompany her to the station for moral support in meeting her idol, Rarity is beside herself with anxiety, freaking out when she thinks he might not arrive. Then when he does, she is too nervous to actually greet him, and tries to hide under Twilight’s tail. Twilight solves that problem with a telekinetic shove, and Rarity manages to welcome Trenderhoof… who is a bit of self-absorbed twit, but not necessarily a bad pony. As Rarity shows him around, he makes several condescending comments about the town, showing a casual arrogance that’s pretty grating. Rarity, however, still has hearts circling her head, and doesn’t notice. Finally, they get to Sweet Apple Acres, and while discussing the merits of the farm au naturel, begin to fall in love (Well, Trenderhoof does, since Rarity is already head over hooves for him)… until Trenderhoof notices Applejack bucking trees, and falls for her instead.
I sincerely hope that “twanging” sound was Cupid’s bow Spike tracks down Rarity to find her in full breakdown mode over losing Trenderhoof to Applejack. She seems to have totally forgotten what she knows about Spike’s crush on her, but it’s probably because she’s so focused on her own drama. She tearfully wonders why Trenderhoof is interested in Applejack instead of her, and finally concludes that the simple and hardworking ways of a country girl are what he sees in her. Determined to beat Applejack at being Applejack, Rarity tries to do some of the chores around the farm, but has absolutely no idea how anything should be done, sitting on top of the plough as if she thinks it’s going to move by itself. Of course, when Applejack demonstrates the right way to do it (pulling it), it ends up making Trenderhoof even more admiring of her. Rarity also tries a hoof at apple bucking while the other two watch, but her bucking is too much style and too little strength, and manages to knock down only one apple after an entire dance routine. She does look darling while she does it, though, especially in her presumably self-made work duds. Applejack delivers a rather subtle jab at her (“Your way sure is long on style...”) and excuses herself, clearly annoyed by both Trenderhoof’s fascination with her and Rarity’s attempts to win him over that are making it more difficult for her to finish her chores. When Trenderhoof asks Rarity if she thinks Applejack will agree to be his date to the celebration, she considers it the final straw, and storms off in a huff, leaving him looking rather bewildered. Even though Applejack tries to assure Rarity that she isn’t interested in Trenderhoof, Rarity is too jealous to listen, and vows to prove herself as country as Applejack to win him back. She decides do this by adopting an entirely different persona, and changes her plans for the celebration from “Small Town Chic” to the title drop for this episode, “Simple Ways”. She also dresses up in country clothes, including a straw hat, unkempt mane and droopy drawers, and speaks in a noticeably fake Southern drawl that she can’t keep up when her concentration wavers. Applejack finds it pretty hilarious, at first, but less so when Rarity refuses to listen to her and go back to her normal self. She leaves, declaring that she has to set up a hootenanny of a time, infuriating Applejack with her stubbornness (like she has room to talk about being stubborn! ) As Rarity organizes a less-than-her-usual-standard fashion show, a new model shows up: Apple Jewel. It is, of course, Applejack, showing that she has not forgotten the time she spent in Manehatten as a filly. Her mane is done up, she’s wearing an evening gown, and even some sparkling jewels. Even her accent, while still country, is nobler than usual. It sounds like much more natural a shift than Rarity’s attempt at changing her accent. And don’t forget the duck-face! The two proceed to repeat the conversation from a little earlier, but with their positions reversed. Applejack, still hoping to show Rarity how silly she is acting, gives a little smile and starts acting out an exaggerated version of Rarity herself. Rarity returns fire with a parody of her own, and gets steadily more unhinged as the scene proceeds. Eventually, she throws herself into the pig pens, loudly declaring her love for mud…
Except mud that lands on expensive evening gowns, obviously. This fashion disaster is enough to get Rarity acting like her old self, and she finally realizes how far wrong she has gone. She thanks Applejack for knowing her better than she knows herself, and compliments her on her new look. Applejack sheepishly admits that it’s actually one of Rarity’s gowns, horrifying Rarity, who gets Spike to go find some detergent, STAT! At this point, Trenderhoof appears in his own set of dungarees, saying he wants to give up his life as most interesting pony in Equestria and live on the farm. Applejack flat out tells him she doesn’t want him on her farm, finally making him understand that she doesn’t return his feelings. Rarity convinces him that he should continue to be a travel writer, and that he shouldn’t change himself to suit somepony else’s expectations… if somepony won’t accept you for who you are, it’s their problem, not yours. She takes her own words to heart, realizing that she should not change herself to suit Trenderhoof. With the lesson learned, Rarity proceeds to re-reorganize the plans back to her original vision, and the celebration goes off without a hitch. Trenderhoof asks Granny Smith to dance, showing that he’s come to terms with Applejack’s decision. He even ends up giving Rarity a rose at her fashion show!   Thoughts on the Episode This episode is a mixed bag for me. I was entertained by Rarity acting all country, and by Applejack’s attempt to balance out the situation by acting… well, like Rarity. She really cleans up nicely, and Rarity really dirties up nicely. It was fun to see both Applejack and Rarity parodying each other, and Rarity declaring “I LOVE BEIN’ COVERED IN MUD!” and leaping into the pig pen was a sight to behold. On the other hoof, it feels like this episode was designed to highlight every flaw Rarity has, and it recycles the plot from Season 1’s “Green Isn’t Your Color”. Something Rarity really wants for herself ends up going to one of her friends instead, and her green-eyed monster takes over.
Not that green-eyed monster, I meant Rarity! In this case, it’s the affections of Trenderhoof, rather than success and fame, but it’s pretty much something we’ve seen before. If anything, it’s worse, because she at no point tries to be happy for Applejack, it’s jealousy all the way. So we have Rarity’s obsession with Trenderhoof to the point of Stalker with a Crush, jealousy, manipulation of Spike when she isn’t completely ignoring the feelings she knows he has for her, changing her personality to suit somepony else, being angry and spiteful to Applejack over something Applejack can’t control and in fact doesn’t want, and selfishly focusing on her own problem to the point of risking the town’s reputation. Of course, these are all qualities we’ve seen before in Rarity, but in this case they’re all together, and there isn’t even justification for her bad behaviour as there was in “Rarity Takes Manehatten”. Not to mention her rather out of character moments when she is terrified of meeting Trenderhoof at the station, to the point where she tries to hide behind Twilight. This is the same problem that arose in “Daring Don’t”, and it’s as annoying to see Rarity do it as it was to see Rainbow Dash do it. The rest of the Mane Six (apart from Twilight) are pretty much unnecessary to the episode, having few lines and not really contributing anything to the plot. Pinkie was again made into a caricature of herself, being just there for gags. I’m not sure RD even had a single line that wasn’t a collective “ooh” or “ahh”, and Fluttershy had only one that I remember. Trenderhoof himself is a bit of tool, but he clearly means well, and is innocently unaware of quite how condescending he sounds. Being a character we’re unlikely to see again, he’s pretty two-dimensional, but I didn’t have much of a problem with him being there. He’s the necessary Apple of Discord for this episode, if you will, and really doesn’t need to be more than that. He can’t sing or rhyme, though. There are two saving graces in this episode. One is Tabitha St. Germain’s performance. She had to keep switching from Rarity’s eggs-hajj-erated cou-untreee drah-aal to Rarity’s usual Mid-Atlantic accent, and she does it impressively well. The second is Apple Jewel, the elegantly-coiffed, evening-gown-wearing, southern nobility alter-ego of Applejack, the counter-point to Rarity in country getup. So now Pinkie has Pinkamena, Rarity has Droopy Drawers, Fluttershy has Flutterbitch/Flutterbat and Applejack has Apple Jewel. Just Rainbow and Twilight need to get an alternative personality, and we’d have the whole set!   Highlights Apple Jewel strutting her stuff, showing off her plot.
And her duck-face! “I LOVE BEIN’ COVERED IN MUD!”   Pros: Funny dialogue and situations; Apple Jewel; Droopy Drawers; Good voice acting all around. Cons: Rarity shows off many of her flaws; Pinkie is a flat out waste of running time; Trenderhoof is a bit underwhelming; Plot is rehashed.   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 77. “Pinkie Pride”: The Gathering of the Goofs (There can be only one!)

A super-duper party pony: that pony is meeeee! - Cheese Sandwich Following on in the same vein as Rarity Takes Manehatten and Rainbow Falls, this episode continues the Mystery Box and Key arc, and as the title indicates, this time it’s Pinkie Pie’s turn to learn that her friends are more important than being known as the best party planner. Again, I don’t see it as “relearning” their Element, but as realizing that their friendship should be the most important thing in their life. The opening scene returns us to Appaloosa, where we see a party of both ponies and buffalos is in progress. The one responsible makes his appearance… Cheese Sandwich, voiced by well-known parody musician Weird Al Yankovich. His “Cheese Sense” tingles, letting him know that his next destination is Ponyville. He sets off with his rubber chicken companion, Boneless.
So throwing parties all the time will give you the equivalent of Spider Sense? Meanwhile, in Ponyville, Pinkie is planning a birth-iversary (combining a birthday and the anniversary of moving from Cloudsdale to Ponyville) for Rainbow Dash. Rarity again comes up with the name – like she did with Flutterbat, although this time the word is slightly more imaginative.
Sweetie Belle: That’s not a word!
Scootaloo: What are you, a dictionary? Cheese arrives, and Pinkie is at first delighted to meet another party pony. However, he turns out to be too good at throwing parties, leaving Pinkie overshadowed. She decides to give up being the town’s soiree engineer, and goes home to mope. However, seeing pictures of all the parties she’s thrown in the past (and a few well-placed rainbows) she gets her mojo back! Confronting Cheese, she challenges him to a goof-off (which it would be more accurate to call a polka battle) at high noon… or since it’s already 3 in the afternoon, at 3:10, so that Rainbow Dash can judge between them and choose the best party planner. Their musical (and nonsensical) contest escalates to the point where it actually starts to annoy Dash and ruin her birth-iversary. Pinkie realizes this as the now-familiar rainbow flashes in her eyes. She brings the goof-off to a halt, conceding the right to plan the party to Cheese, so as to prevent making Rainbow any more unhappy. Things start looking up when Rainbow comforts Pinkie, saying that although the town got carried away with Cheese Sandwich, she’ll always be the resident party planner. Cheese Sandwich also arrives, to tell everypony a story about how he became the life of the party. In a flashback, we see Cheese as a shy colt, who is inspired by a very special young filly throwing a party. That filly is of course, none other than Pinkie Pie! He then gives her his friend Boneless, (complete with rainbow shimmer) to show his esteem, before leaving on his never-ending quest to spread the joy of celebration. Luckily, he has another friend, Boneless II, to keep him company.   Analysis So… many… songs! And I though Magical Mystery Cure was jam-packed with music. Of course, having Pinkie the character in the spotlight and Weird Al as a guest voice star, it was pretty much inevitable. Plenty of polka to go around. The highlight of the songs for me was the appearance by Diamond Tiara, who is grudgingly forced to admit that Pinkie did a good job of planning her Cuteceanera, which is rather a first for the character. I’m still hoping she gets a focus episode at some point. The focus of the episode, of course, is the pattern of the spotlight character be faced with a dilemma, be reminded that their friends are more important than the problem before them, and have a rainbow realization or a prismatic epiphany, if you will, lead them back to the right path. That being so, it wouldn’t be fair to point out the predictability as a flaw for this episode. Weird Al is great as Cheese Sandwich. As I referenced earlier, it’s slightly odd that he also has a variation of Pinkie Sense, although perhaps he somehow caught it from her when he was a colt. It would be rather ironic if the rubber chicken was the actual carrier of the Sense from Pinkie to Cheese, since we see that it was originally Pinkie’s rubber chicken that he picked up. Derpy is somewhat prominently placed in this episode. It seems that they’re going out of their way to include her, which her fans must be very happy about.   Highlights The banner of Rainbow Dash features a drawing of her that looks extremely accurate, but it turns out, it actually is Dash, and the picture drawn on it is revealed to be rather different, and much less skillful. Diamond Tiara talks about Pinkie throwing her party for her, and the interactions between her and Silver Spoon during the song are quite amusing. Cheese uses some of Pinkie’s lyrics from the “Smile” song, and then flat out denies it when she calls him on it. Of course, Weird Al is well known for polka compilations of other musicians’ works.   Pros: Continues the Season 4 story arc; has a great guest star in Weird Al/Cheese Sandwich Cons: Cheese Sense raises some questions.   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