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Episode 76. “Three’s a Crowd”: A Chaotic Day of Sisterly Bonding

Oh, just before you go... just a little, small request... - Discord Princess Cadance is coming to visit, and Twilight couldn’t be happier. Fluttershy has been given the go ahead to research one of Equestria’s most elusive critters, the Breezies, and she couldn’t be happier. Pinkie Pie just got a flyer about Used Patio Furniture and she couldn’t be wackier. And that’s the opening to Three’s A Crowd. After the credits, the Mane Six see Fluttershy off on her research trip, Pinkie displaying her usual signs of separation anxiety, until a red balloon distracts her. She rejoins the others waiting at the station for Cadance’s arrival. Twilight has planned to take her sister-in-law to the Starswirl the Bearded Travelling Museum for some sisterly bonding. How much fan art is going to require reworking now that we actually see a picture of Starswirl is anyone’s guess. Even one of his bells from his cloak (you mean hat, don’t you, Twilight? That's what you're pointing at) will be on display. (Spoiler alert… it’s that one, particularly notable for being indistinguishable from any of the others. ) The others of the Mane Six pledge to keep anything from interrupting the two Princesses personal time. The locomotive from the Crystal Empire arrives, looking very technological. Pity they didn’t have the technology to oil the brakes… that thing is loud when it’s coming to a stop. Cadance alights, flanked by one crystal guard, and one Flash Sentry (For God’s sake, people, stop calling him Brad… you’re insulting all the Brads of the world. ) He even glances back significantly as he gets back on the train. This scene raised a hell of a stink, with fans decrying Meghan McCarthy for lying, since she said he wouldn’t appear in Season 4. I don’t think it’s as bad as all that, and yet another example of the fan base overreacting to things. He doesn’t speak, after all. Some official sources also suggest that it was an animator who put him in there, despite him not being in the script, and you can hardly blame Ms. McCarthy for that. Nor should Derpy fans be too hard on the animator. It was animator initiative gave us Derpy Hooves, after all. Anyway, the two Princesses head off together. No sooner are they out of sight than a spinning blue something comes zooming out of the sky towards the Mane Five, forcing them to “DUCK!” and crashing into a nearby tree. As they gather around to find out more, a familiar voice comes from the tree. It’s Discord, who claims to be suffering from the Blue Flu. His sneezes also have a variety of chaotic effects: burning all the leaves on the tree; lampposts coming to life; houses floating away in the background, etc
Go home, Berry Punch’s house… you’re drunk. Discord is acting very pitiable, but there are indications that he might be faking… he says he is so weak that a spoon is heavy enough to drag him to the ground, yet in the next scene, he picks up Pinkie Pie and then uproots the entire tree, while looking for Fluttershy (nice reference to the “I want to be a tree” line there) so she can look after him, as friends should do. Applejack practices her Spock impression. Is it just me, or does Applejack have the best expressions in the entire show?
Yer story is highly illogical, Discord. Discord reveals that he and Fluttershy have been pen pals for a while, and that while Fluttershy had told him about the trip to see the Breezies, he’d forgotten it was that day. He decides the others must take care of him instead, which makes Rainbow Dash bug out, leaving her friends to deal with the problem. I know, I know, she doesn’t feel loyalty to Discord himself, but that’s not the issue for me. She should be loyal enough to her friends not to just declare the situation someone else’s problem. It’s only a minor gripe, though. Pinkie is fine with taking care of him, but Discord distracts her with another balloon, so that he can force Rarity and Applejack to be “it” instead, to their consternation. They decide they have to comply in order to keep Discord away from the Princesses, but Discord overhears them. He “accidentally” sneezes on them and gets them sick as well, before leaving.
Applejack: "Cerulean?! What an awful colour!"
Rarity: "Cerulean?! … I can make this work." When he arrives in front of the sisters-in-law, Twilight is not happy to see him. Considering this is the first time Discord and Cadance have met in the show, Cadance seems remarkably nonchalant to see such a weird creature. Perhaps Twilight told her about him off-screen. She also conjures a health bubble to protect them both, right before another nasal assault by Discord. They agree to take care of him, and head back to the library to put Discord to bed. They are just about to leave when Discord asks for a glass of water… in song. Being Discord, the visuals are rather frenetic, and the song itself gets faster and faster as it progresses, building up to a crescendo of Maelstromic (I know that’s not a word, just go with it) proportions. John Delancie doesn’t exactly have a great singing voice, but it’s not entirely awful. And then there’s this scene:
Bad touch! Bad touch! At the end, Discord drops the glass of water anyway. Realizing that he won’t stop pestering them until his “illness” is cured, they settle in for the long haul. Luckily, Discord “remembers” a cure for the Blue Flu, but they’ll have to go to the very ends of Equestria to obtain it. He tells them about a flower, the petals of which can be brewed into a remedy. They get roped in to hauling him there, towing a gigantic golden throne reminiscent of the movie 300 for him to ride. Once they arrive, they discover that Discord neglected to mention that the flower is as large as your average tree. Combining their levitation magic, they manage to pull it out, only to discover an equally gigantic worm creature was living underneath, and is none too happy about their removal of its roof. This starts an action scene where the two Princesses use their wing and beam power to battle the worm, each having a turn getting caught in its vines and needing the other one to bail them out. Eventually they force it to retreat and block the hole with some boulders. They return with the flower to Discord, only to find him back to normal and gleefully dancing. Of course, he was never even sick in the first place! He claims that he was thinking one day in his thinking tree, that Twilight might say they are friends, but he felt that he needed a physical demonstration of their friendship.
Appropriately enough, Discord does his best thinking when he’s high. So he faked his illness in order to test Twilight’s vow of friendship to him. Or so he says, since it’s pretty clear that he was hoping to ruin Twilight’s and Cadance’s day together. Cadance, however, is not put out at all, saying that while the day didn’t go according to plan, it still gave her the time to spend with Twilight, and the events have brought them closer, despite Discord’s best efforts. He’s rather miffed about that, but about this time, his karma finally catches up with him. The worm rears up out of the ground and sneezes on Discord, getting him sick for real. Back in Ponyville, Discord is in quarantine, with Fluttershy back from her trip and looking after him, and all he needs is one last little thing… a teensy glass of water.   Highlights Discord hugs all the ponies
Discord: Let the healing begin!
Rainbow Dash: Not it! *Zooom!* Discord is legitimately sick this time
Applejack: I don’t want to go saying you got what you deserved…
Rarity: Well, I have no trouble saying it: You got what you deserved!
Applejack not being bluntly honest, and Rarity not being very charitable. Analysis About Discord: I see him trolling, I’m hating. Yes, I’m back to disliking the reformed Discord. All the sense of menace he once had has been replaced by silly antics, and we’ve already got Pinkie Pie for that. He’s become rather pathetic, an annoyance rather than a legitimate threat. It’s irksome to watch, although I have to admit that John Delancie voices him brilliantly. The plot was for the most part entirely predictable. That Discord was faking his illness should have come as no surprise to anyone, nor should the fact that Cadance would enjoy the day anyway, or that Discord would end up properly sick by the end of the episode. However, credit where it’s due… the flower being huge and the worm living in its roots were a legitimately interesting twist. *Successfully resists urge to make an M Night Shamayalan joke* The fight with the worm is pretty cool, and at least this episode provides a reason for Twilight to have wings and more powerful alicorn magic. Still not much was riding on the princess part of the equation. It’s also the first time we’ve seen two spell users work together to levitate one object that I can remember. The visual portion of the song was amusing to watch, but it’s definitely not an earworm like some of the other songs we’ve had in this season. John Delancie just doesn’t quite have the voice to pull off the parts that are sung. Pros: Some nice action scenes; a Discord song, which has novelty value at least. Cons: Predictable plot; Discord is sad these days. I’d give this one six giant flowers out of ten. Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 75. “Rainbow Falls”: Rainbow Shows her True Colours (As do the Wonderbolts)

It's not easy, practicing with two teams, is it? - Twilight Sparkle Rainbow Falls is set in the titular (and well-named) town where the qualifying rounds for the Equestria Games are being held. Rainbow Dash has joined Fluttershy and Roid Rage Snowflake Bulk Biceps in the Ponyville Relay Team, trusting that her superior speed will make up for the other two’s poor flying ability and allow them to qualify. According to Thunderlane and Blossomforth, who are part of other teams, each pony is only allowed to race in one event…Wait, that isn’t Blossomforth. *Checks credits* *Credits list a voice appearance by “Blossomforth”* Well, now, that’s just stupid.
Accept no substitutes! Her loyalty is put to the test when Soarin of the Cloudsdale Relay Team is injured in a training accident, and the remaining fliers, Spitfire and Fleetfoot, invite Rainbow to train with them… behind the backs of her friends.
Are they thinking what I think they're thinking...? More importantly, is that Diamond Tiara's mom in the bottom right? While secretly training with both teams works for a while, Twilight catches on, and confronts Rainbow, causing her to feel guilty. Her dilemma grows more horns when the Wonderbolts suggest she abandon the Ponyville Team completely to fly with them in the qualifying round, since Soarin won’t recover in time, and Ponyville has no chance to qualify in any case. In an effort to avoid making a choice, Rainbow fakes injuries of her own, ending up in hospital… next to Soarin, who praises her friends for visiting her… he hasn’t heard from his own team, despite the fact that his wing is better already! Angry that the Cloudsdale Team is willing to drop one of their members and blatantly lie to her to get her to fly with them, Rainbow confronts them, and reaffirms her commitment to her own team. Despite not getting what they wanted, Fleetfoot and Spitfire praise Rainbow for her loyalty, and then welcome Soarin back to their team. In the end, both teams manage to qualify, and even cheer each other on. As a token of her esteem, Spitfire gives Rainbow Dash a Wonderbolt badge, which briefly shines with a rather familiar rainbow… Analysis This episode continues with the story arc that became apparent in Rarity Takes Manehatten. It seems there is a theme naming pattern for these episodes, with the Mane Six member featured having their name mentioned in the title. If so, we can expect the upcoming episodes entitled Pinkie Pride and Twilight Time to form a part of the ongoing plotline. There are a number of similarities between Rarity Takes Manehatten and Rainbow Falls. Like Rarity was, Rainbow Dash is confronted with a choice between achieving a long time goal and remaining true to her friends. The mysterious rainbow that Rarity saw makes its return at the critical juncture, and it’s important to note that the colours of this rainbow are not the traditional set, but instead correspond to the colours of the coats of each Mane Six member (white, purple, pink, yellow, orange, blue). But of course, I’m no doubt telling you stuff you already knew… Both episodes also end with the featured character getting a small item of some sentimental value, which glows with the same rainbow. My belief is that each Mane Six member will be forced to give up their object in order to obtain their Key, which will look like a regular key. As for The Box itself, I expect it will contain some sort of substitute for the Elements of Harmony that they gave up in the premiere. This episode sees Rainbow actually having to struggle with her Element of Loyalty, properly this time. As I pointed out in my review of the pilot, her loyalty was not really being tested by Nightmare Moon, since she was posing as a different flying team, so the temptation was far less than it could have been. Here, though, it actually is the Wonderbolts who want her to join them, which makes it that much more of a struggle for Rainbow to do the right thing. She actually has a true conflict of interests here, and I don’t blame her at all for feeling ambivalent. I also really like that Spitfire and Fleetfoot both come off as somewhat of a pair of smug jerks. This is exactly what was missing from the episode Daring Don’t. Rainbow Dash is forced to confront the fact that her idols might not be as noble as she might wish them to be, and chooses not to emulate them. And even then, it’s kind of understandable… they think Rainbow is a better choice for their team, and being competitive as they are, and lacking the in-built need to be loyal, they naturally want her to fly with them. Despite their actions not being exactly noble, they do acknowledge that they were in the wrong, and praise Rainbow for making the right choice and sticking with her friends. It was a good dash of realism (pardon the pun) in a show that can be a bit too simplistic at times. Is it just me, or does anyone else get a subtle shipping vibe from Fluttershy and Bulk? He seems to do a lot of things to impress or amuse Fluttershy, and she seems quite happy to let him, plus he really seems to hate looking stupid in front of her… intriguing…
P is for... Embarrassment. No episode is perfect, though, and Rainbow Falls is no exception. For a start, and speaking of Bulk Biceps (how did his parents know to name him that?), he is suffering heavily from Depending on the Writer here. If he was such a weak flier as he is presented in this episode, how in the hay did he ever manage to get the nod for Wonderbolt Academy and why was he never shown to struggle with flying in that episode? Another question mark is why nopony but Twilight could see through Rainbow’s faking. It should have been entirely obvious, especially to Fluttershy, who regularly nurses animals back to health, and therefore should know when somepony is truly injured. Pros: Finally presents a proper conflict of loyalty for Rainbow Dash; continues The Box story arc; Gives a bit more depth to Rainbow as well as her idols, the Wonderbolts; Has nice call backs to previous episodes. Cons: Bulk Biceps is contrary to how he was established in earlier episodes; Some questionable gullibility from the Mane Six; That wasn’t Blossomforth.   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! PS: Oh, yeah, and Derpy was in this episode too, wasn’t she? I don’t particularly care for Derpy, but I’m glad for the sake of her fans that she was included in this episode and that she hasn’t been cut from the show.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 74. “Pinkie Apple Pie”: Big Macintosh Almost gets a Line

Well, I guess that was the most terrifying cave in all of Equestria. – Granny Smith Twilight and Spike are busy being plot convenient when Pinkie decides to crash their study session on genealogy. Spike manages to explain to the mystified Pinkie what genealogy entails... he's come such a long way from not knowing what the words "precipice", "threshold" and "brink" are. (See Season 1, Episode 1) After using her Pinkie weirdness to cheat Jenga physics, and grab a scroll, she makes a startling discovery: she may be a distant cousin of the Apple family!
The horror! The horror! Just kidding. Applejack and family are in fact delighted to discover their relationship, and welcome Pinkie to the best darn family ya ever did see. They have the playful Apple Bloom and strong Big MacIntosh, the wise Granny Smith and the sensible Applejack herself. AB, Big Mac and Granny Smith provide some foreshadowing... AB's playing around sends her crashing into things; Big Mac has a pie slide off the stove he's lifting and land on his face; and Granny Smith's senile dementia (played for laughs) is highlighted when she refuses to admit that the bonnet she was looking for was on her head the entire time. Pinkie is tickled pink to be a part of this family.
I call this my "anime face"! However, they can't be 100% sure that she actually IS family, since the part of the scroll that could prove it one way or the other is smudged. They decide on a road trip to Cousin Golden Delicious, the family history buff of the Apple family, who they hope can confirm or deny the connection. After a plea from AJ to show their best behaviour for Pinkie's benefit, they set off with an overloaded wagon. A jaunty little travelling tune "Apples to the Core" follows. As with most Applejack related songs, the song features a strong beat, and each member of the family sans Big Mac, gets their own verse to sing. He does, however, contribute to the chorus. The song ends with the wagon breaking down due to Big Mac over estimating it's ability to carry the load (as foreshadowed earlier).
He's none too happy with Applejack making comments about it, either. Pinkie suggests they travel by river instead, and Granny Smith identifies a nearby tree with sap they can use to make a raft from the wagon parts. Everything seems to be running smoothly, with Pinkie taking pictures and creating a scrapbook, until the river splits into three. Applejack asks Apple Bloom to bring her the map. However, the filly's playful nature becomes her downfall (as foreshadowed earlier) when she accidentally drops the map overboard while dancing around. Granny Smith says she knows the way anyway, but due to her absent-mindedness and senior confusion, (going three for three, here) she ends up guiding them to the scariest cave in Equestria. "Ponies go in but they never come out," as she says. Which makes no sense, since how could they know about the cave unless somepony went in and survived it so as to talk about it? After making it out alive (Pinkie must have been Giggling at the Ghostly or something) Applejack tries to take over the wheel, leading to an argument which ends with the wheel coming clear off and falling overboard. Unable to steer, the raft falls over the obligatory waterfall, but makes it through with passengers and cargo... until Pinkie lightly lands on the top, and the whole thing breaks apart and sinks. Their spirits thoroughly dampened, the group arrives at Golden Delicious' home to find that she is out running errands. Pinkie declares she has time to get more scrapbook paper, and scarpers. The Apples berate themselves for arguing and ruining the trip, but end up forgiving each other. They conclude that they really didn't end up being the family they wanted to show themselves to be and that Pinkie might not want to be a part of their family. Pinkie, returning just in time to hear them say this, immediately points out that they are a great family, because even when things got bad and despite a bit of arguing, they pulled together in the end. She is still keen to be an Apple! Golden Delicious arrives home and lets them in... to say her house is "cluttered" is a woefully inadequate description.
Similar to saying the sun is "kind of hot". She has so much junk (sorry, family heirlooms) and so many cats that it's a wonder she manages to find what she needs... a book on the Apple genealogy. Opening it, they find the page they need is also smudged, making their entire trip a dead end. Pinkie is disappointed, but Applejack tells her that what the books says is unimportant, since she's proven herself an "Apple to the Core" for putting up with them during the trip. With a new wagon provided by Golden Delicious, the Apple family (all five of them) head home to write about what they've learned. Thoughts on the episode: I don't really know how to feel about this episode, which is why it took so long to get to reviewing it. The strongest impression I had from this episode comes from the series of running gags ("best whatever, ever", that damn eagle, the scrapbook pictures, etc) which is not really a good thing when the show is usually so character driven. In the case of Pinkie Pie, she seemed more like a vehicle for the gags rather than the Genius Ditz she should be. Her treatment by the writers just seemed a little shallow to me. And what is up with the weird powers her mane and tail seem to have in Season 4? Her mane is apparently hammerspace, able to absorb her scrapbook somehow, and her tail can not only use a camera, but is able to be back on her rump as the photo is taken, seemingly being in two places simultaneously! It's just Pinkamena Diane "Responsibility" Apple Pie being Pinkamena Diane "Responsibility" Apple Pie, I guess. Poor Big MacIntosh. He nearly had a line of his own here, but Granny Smith took that away from him. At least he got to say "Hey!" at one point. I like it when Big Mac gets something to say - one of the highlights of "Ponyville Confidential" for me was his tirade against the CMC - but I guess it's awesome because it's so rare. Still, according to Pinkie's reaction when they were talking, he's deep. What other wisdom is being kept from us? Applejack's stubbornness, matched against Granny Smith's, was quite funny to watch, but again, let's find some other flaw of hers to highlight. We've seen the stubborn side of her too often. The song was good, as I described above, but there are a lot of them. In the past 5 episodes, 4 have had a song in them. They're going to start sounding alike if they make an appearance too frequently. All in all, these are minor flaws, and the comedic slice of life episode is still one of the show's strengths, with a fine pair of morals: "being a good family doesn't mean never having conflict, but sticking together through the conflicts" and "really good friends can be a part of your family". Pros: Slice of life comedy is good. Some funny moments and gags. Good morals. Cons: Nothing really stands out as a shining example of awesomesauce. And what is up with the way Golden Delicious is living?   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up and enjoy the new episode in a few hours time.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 73. “Rarity Takes Manehatten”: The Fashionista’s Big City Blues

Oh, why, look, there’s our friend Rarity, going down in FLAMES! Isn't Friendship MAGIC?! – Rarity After waiting over two years, we finally have another Rarity focus episode. The summary is going to pretty brief, since the nitty-gritty of this bloggy ditty will be what is revealed about the characters. It's Fashion Week, a fashion designer competition to be held in Manehatten. Rarity is off to the big city to show off her new design of clothes, using her very own patented cloth. The Mane Six and Spike have decided to come along to support Rarity, and to show her gratitude, Rarity announces that she has tickets for everypony to see Hinny of the Hills, a long-sold-out Bridleway show. After they arrive in Manehatten, Rarity explains how she came by the tickets... she had given some of her designs to the costume designer of the show, who in turn got her the tickets. She goes on to say that Manehatten is a place where going good deeds can result in others reciprocating in kind. At this point, Rarity sings about how she likes to be generous and kind to others, inspiring the rest of the Mane Six to join in as they do good things for various ponies around the city, including the bellhop of the hotel, a grumpy stallion with a grumpy cat cutie mark (and I hereby dub him Sourpuss. He had cruel parents, alright?) and a taxi driver who needs a wheel fixed. They spend so much time singing and helping other ponies, that Rarity finds she has only 10 minutes left to get all the across town, or she will be disqualified from the competition!
Okay. Who said it? Who said, "Well, it can't get any worse..."?! Trying to find a taxi at that time of day seems impossible, but luckily, the taxi driver whose wheel they fixed earlier arrives to give Rarity an exclusive ride. Off she goes... leaving Spike to wonder aloud why he feels they're forgetting something. Our heroines realise exactly what it is... Rarity's dresses! Arriving in time, Rarity break down in tears when she realises the mistake, but fortunately for her, the bellhop arrives with the dresses, which the Mane Six asked him to rush over. (Never mind the Fridge Logic of how he could arrive less than ten seconds flat after Rarity, while carrying a rack of dresses, considering the Mane Six would have to have gotten back to the hotel, fetched the dresses, found the bellhop, and then have him go after her with them.) Getting in line with her fellow fashionistas, her friendly greetings are interrupted by the host of the event, Prim Hemline, who is not very impressed with Rarity's tardiness (Twilight could relate). After she dismisses them, Rarity is approached by a pony who introduces herself as Suri Polomare, who she has met before. She goes backstage with Rarity, and admires her line of clothes. She asks for a bit of Rarity's special cloth for "accents", and Rarity generously gives her an entire bolt of the stuff. Arriving in good time the next day, Rarity is shocked to discover Suri's duplicity: she has created an entire wardrobe out of Rarity's cloth, and is taking credit for making it! Rarity confronts her, but Suri simply tells her it's "every mare for herself" in Manehatten. It turns out that she didn't even make the dresses, but instead left them to her beleaguered assistant, Coco Pommel. Distraught as only Rarity can manage to be, she goes back to the hotel and tearfully tells the others what has happened. They pledge to help her "no matter what it takes". Hmm. Looking around the room, Rarity is inspired to create an entirely new line of clothes with their help. A few hours later, however, and the enthusiasm has waned considerably. Rarity is acting very impatient and short with them. When they hear that dinner will be delayed by an hour, Rainbow Dash points out that they had hoped to be watching Hinny of the Hills by that time, which the others are also clearly thinking. This "betrayal" pushes Rarity over the edge again, and she rants about how she's glad they know it's "everypony for herself" and storms out. The Mane Five dejectedly return to their sewing, spending all night on the dresses. The next morning, Rarity rushes out without a word of thanks, much to Twilight's annoyance. At the fashion show, Rarity's new line "Hotel Chic", is a big hit with the crowds. Happily Rarity looks for her friends... to find the section of stands where they should be is empty. Realising her victory at the fashion show might have come at the cost of her friendships, she bolts out, leaving a flabbergasted Prim Hemline in her wake.
Stand aside! Friendship emergency! Back at the hotel, she learns from the bellhop that her friends have already checked out. Assuming they went back to Ponyville without her, she sings a dark reprise of her earlier song, as she wanders disconsolately through another sudden shower. Rarity goes to thank Prim for her time, but runs into Suri and Coco, who tell her she should stay away from the furious Prim. But there are also some more ponies here to meet her: her friends, who haven't gone back to Ponyville, after all! They said that they simply overslept and missed the fashion show, which Rarity apparently lost. Rarity declares she doesn't care about losing, and apologises for her behaviour. Her friends forgive her, but not without Applejack getting in perhaps her snarkiest line ever: "Yeah, you were pretty rotten!" Twilight assures Rarity that a little bad behaviour on her part is not going to make them abandon her, and they leave as friends. Rarity has even managed to get an exclusive performance of Hinny of the Hills for them all. Meanwhile, Suri is very satisfied... she has been lying all along about Rarity losing the competition! After the show, which everypony loved, Rarity explains that she managed to wrangle an additional performance by agreeing to do ALL the costumes for the next show. This will leave her stuck for a while in Manehatten, which the others are sad about. They are interrupted by Coco, who gives Rarity the trophy that she actually won as first place in the competition, and apologises for agreeing to lie about it for Suri, and a present. She also says that Rarity and her friends inspired her to refuse to believe that it's "everypony for herself" through their willingness to forgive, and that she has quit as Suri's assistant. Rarity offers her the job of designing the costumes, freeing her to go back to Ponyville, and probably launching Coco's own career as a fashion designer.
Much like this expression is probably launching her career as a fan-favourite. Rarity writes her entry into the Journal, "Don't let those who take advantage of your generosity stop you from doing it, and don't take advantage of the generosity of your friends." She then unwraps Coco's present: a spool of rainbow coloured thread. Character Study: Ah, Rarity. Yet more of your glorious HAM have you bestowed upon this episode. Seeing as she is the focus, let's look at what this episode tells us about her. First, the opening, where Rarity asks Spike to carry her enormous pile of bags. Some fans suggest that she is abusing Spike's crush on her, by getting him to do things for her. It's a weakness of the writing that often comes up when Spike is being the buttmonkey. It's worth noticing that apart from a slight frown from Twilight, which vanishes a few scenes later, none of the Mane Six seem to notice. And later on, she rewards him for his efforts by getting him a carrot-dog. Personally, I'd like to see the whole unrequited crush thing dealt with in an upcoming episode. It hasn't been brought up since early Season 2. "That is what makes Manehatten so splendid and amazing... you do something nice for somepony, and then you never know when they'll do something nice for you!" This line in particular could possibly be misunderstood or taken out of context. Rarity is not saying she is only generous because of what she can get out of other ponies. She is making an observation that the good fortune of getting tickets for her friends came about because she did something generous for someone else, and that incident is typical of Manehatten. And then she shared that blessing with her friends. Besides which, it's really just a restatement of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's not quid pro quo. She certainly couldn't have foreseen that she would need a taxi, and decided to help the cabbie because he would help her later. She didn't even need to ask for help, it was offered. As for the song, it shows a number of ponies whom she helped, who never returned the favour. So she isn't going around being generous to get things in return, but she acknowledges that it's nice when it happens. As Rarity sings, it's her way of life to give freely to others. Let's examine her bad behaviour in the second act. Here, she treats her friends a bit callously, there's no doubt about that. But it's really quite justified. She's been on a emotional rollercoaster ride. First, from her happiness at being in Manehatten, to almost missing her appointment, arriving just on time, only to realise she forgot her dresses, to getting them back, to being given a bit of a talking to by Prim for being late, to being befriended by Suri, to finding out Suri has betrayed her... give the poor mare a break. Who wouldn't want to snap after all that stress? Running out without thanking the others is also understandable, since she's very stressed, and has to get to the show ASAP. The Mane Six also shouldn't escape criticism for their behaviour in complaining about missing the show, that they never would even have had a chance to see if Rarity hadn't organised it in the first place. First of all, Twilight had said they would do "whatever it took" to help her. Apparently, being willing to miss the show doesn't fall under that category. To Rarity, in the state she was in, it was another betrayal, on top of the one she'd been dealt by Suri. But let's talk about Suri Polomare. She is two-faced enough to put Discord to shame. Let's list her sins... approaches Rarity with false friendship, flatters her shamelessly (Rarity has done this in the past too) and then when offered the hoof, takes the whole foreleg, and uses the material she said she would use for accents and makes an entire line, probably in the same style as Rarity did, since she's seen all of Rarity's designs. Then she claims the cloth was her own creation, so add plagiarism and fraud to the list, and takes the credit rightly due to her assistant Coco. Then when she still loses, she lies through her teeth and is smug about it when it works. Hello, new least favourite pony! At least DT is honest in her dislike of the CMC, she doesn't pretend to be their friend and then back-stab them. Still, Suri gets her karmic retribution in the end, losing her presumably much-more-talented assistant. I could foresee her coming back as a villain a la Trixie, blaming Rarity for her losing the true source of her talent. Coco Pommel herself is an obvious reference to Coco Chanel, which implies that Rarity giving her the job as her friend's costume designer could well end up making her career. Thoughts on the rest of the episode: The song is the second "I Am" song for Rarity, and it's wonderful to hear Rarity singing on her own again. The lyrics are quite pleasant, all about how generosity is part of her life, and she suits word to deed. It's also good to see that her spirit is contagious, when the other start helping out too. The dark reprise also includes wet-maned Rarity, back for the first time since Sisterhooves Social, and really just makes you feel so bad for her. (Edit: @@Sunlight just reminded me that she had a wet mane in Magical Mystery Cure too. How could I have forgotten? ) I'm not sure exactly what was up with that shimmering rainbow that Rarity kept seeing. I hope that this is building up to something, because I have to admit, Twilight's alicorn/princess status is being really underplayed, to the point where I have to reevaluate my position that it needed to happen at all. In fact, this season as a whole has not yet delivered on the story arc that has been promised. A possibility is that this episode's mysterious shimmer and last episode's bat-fang are deliberately being left as hanging threads to tie up later, which I certainly hope is the case. A quick word on the animation... they continue adding a larger repertoire of subtle expressions on the pony's faces, little touches that continue to show an evolution of the art style. In particular, the look of Rarity's cloth, despite clearly being animated differently, didn't look out of place and artificial as has been the case in a few episodes. And the lighting and shadows when Coco enters the theatre are also very smooth and good-looking. The episode is for the most part well written and well paced. The bad behaviour exhibited by the characters is generally understandable and justified, and the resolution didn't seem forced. Rarity having her bad behaviour acknowledged and forgiven is a definite step forward from her Karma Houdini act in Sweet and Elite. Pros: It. Is. A. RARITY. Episode. Natural plot progression, a good song. Cons: Still not seeing any kind of story arc in these episodes, Spike-abuse is in full force in this episode. Villain may have been a little bit too villainous.   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, forum members. Forum, you just stay up, mmkay?

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 72. “Bats!”: The Epic Rap Battle of Applejack and Fluttershy

It comes down / to just one simple fact. / They’ve crossed the line, / it’s time that we attack! – Applejack Once again, it's Applebuck Season, and Applejack is eager to get kicking as the sun rises over her orchards. So she trots around, looking at the apples in the trees, dreaming all her pony dreams, licking lips so greedily... you get the idea.
These apples are the apples of this Apple's eyes... apparently. To her dismay, she find only ruined apples, thanks to the Vampire Fruit Bats. Calling the Mane Six to help her, she explains the situation through song, after introducing our Chekhov's Gun for this episode: a giant, perfectly ripe apple for the Appleloosa's State Fair Produce Competition. Fluttershy, being friend to all living things, joins in the song and tries to take the VFB's side. There seems a slight difference in the way she views them, compared to Applejack.
Brought to you by Fluttervision

Brought to you by reality. (Patent pending) Fluttershy wants to set aside part of the orchard as a sanctuary for the bats, but the others in the Mane 6 (and Spike) end up agreeing with Applejack that them bats has gots to go... especially Rainbow Dash, who can't handle the thought of a cider shortage. Twilight has the idea of using a spell to make the VFBs not want to suck the apples, and goes to the library to find one. She succeeds, but it will require Fluttershy to use her Stare on the VFBs to get their attention, making her an accomplice in an action she doesn't think is right. She reluctantly agrees. Now this is a departure from Season 1, where Fluttershy stated that she doesn't control the Stare. Now it seems she does. So did she learn to do it at will, or am I just nitpicking? You be the judge. So the Mane Six round up the bats, with some comedic antics going on the while, then Fluttershy entrances them while Twilight casts her spell, which seems successful. The group head off for the day, but Fluttershy starts looking longingly at those lovely, juicy apples... The next day, Applejack finds that her fruit is still being sucked dry.
Since when does Twilight Sparkle ever fail? Since always. But when they find the bats, it seems Twilight's spell is still in effect. So if the bats aren't the ones responsible, who is? The Mane Six decide on a late-night orchard stake-out, only to find that the culprit is Fluttershy! But not their beloved wallflower Fluttershy, this one is behaving just like a Vampire Fruit Bat! Twilight soon realizes the reason... while using her Stare, Fluttershy absorbed the thirst for apple juice that Twilight was removing from the bats.
Seems like Fluttershy has some Twilight sparkle of her own now... The Flutterbat is much stronger and quicker than normal Fluttershy, and none of the Mane Six can catch her. Why Twilight doesn't use her "Stop" spell from Castle Mane-ia is anyone's guess. At any rate, they use the prize apple as a lure, and mirrors to turn the Stare back on Flutterbat. This stops her long enough for Twilight to reverse the effects of the spell. Having their good old Fluttershy back, the Mane Six decide to build that VFB sanctuary after all, and later on, Applejack provides one moral, with Fluttershy providing another. (This dual moral thing seems to be a thing in Season 4) Spike is once again the scribe as he writes their conclusions into the Journal. For AJ, "Difficult solutions are better than easy answers", and for FS, "Don't let others push you into doing something you think is wrong." All's well that ends well... but wait!
Why, Fluttershy, what big teeth you have! Final Thoughts
This episode borrows quite heavily from "Swarm of the Century", with a vermin problem that Twilight tries to solve with magic and ends up making worse. The spotlight is shared between Fluttershy and Applejack, with Fluttershy perhaps slightly in the lead. The plot flows along quite nicely, there is some funny character based humour, and the design of Flutterbat (if not the name) is really awesome. Speaking of characters: Fluttershy showed a bit more of her assertiveness, only being convinced to help by Twilight pointing out that she should think of protecting Ponyville's apple supply as well as the vampire bats. Rarity showed her closeness with Fluttershy, being very gentle in trying to persuade Fluttershy to help get rid of the bats, calling her "sweetness" and so on. Pinkie Pie was a riot, and actually helped out in the midst of her madness, which is good, but still might be considered a bit over the top with her gags. Her prehensile mane was one of the stranger parts of the episode, letting her drill through the ground and hold a flashlight. Rainbow Dash seemed more focused on the cider than anything. As for Twilight, it seems to me that she is getting a little bit taller with each passing episode. Pinkie and Twilight are standing on the same plane. The following lines from bottom to top (running right to left from Twilight's end) are back of the leg, base of the tail, snout, and top of the ear. She's gained quite a lot of height. The song in this episode was interesting, reminding me of "What my Cutie Mark is Telling Me", with it being more spoken than sung, at least during Applejack's parts. I haven't formed a firm opinion on it, but I think it's catchy enough, especially the chorus of "Stop the bats, stop the bats!" I did feel bad for Fluttershy being the only one on her side, though. Highlights Rarity ends up with "bats on her face", possibly a reference to Pinkie's line in "Ticket Master". Pinkie singing "Fruit Bat Roundup" to the tune of "Winter Wrap Up". Rainbow tackling a scarecrow, thinking it to be the culprit. (Again, works well with the Batman theme!) The Bat-signal references were very appropriate. Pros: A fun romp. The design of Fluttershy's bat form was delightful. The animation in general continues to be top-notch, with effective lighting and blurring effects. Cons: This season is supposed to have a overarching story-line, right? For what it set out to do, this episode succeeds admirably. A little predictable, but when the journey is this much fun, that doesn't really matter. 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 71. “Power Ponies”: All the Superpowers except the Most Common One

Holy new personas, ponies! You’re the Power Ponies! – Spike / Humdrum Spike takes the centre stage in this episode. Late at night, he is reading a comic book instead of sleeping. Twilight tells him they need to get a good night's sleep, because the Mane Six and Spike are restoring the Castle of The Royal Pony Sisters in the morning. Of course, she relents a bit after he excitedly describes the plot - the heroic Power Ponies are facing their arch-nemesis, Maneiac, but their bumbling sidekick, Humdrum, keeps messing up. The next day, the crew are cleaning the castle, but Spike seems to be at a loose end, since his help is not currently needed. Twilight suggests he go read his comic book: wasn't Humdrum about to defeat the villain? Spike says Humdrum is only the comic relief, and never saves the day. Gee, could this scene possibly be setting something up? Spike, back in the library room where they found the journal, is stumped to find that his comic book doesn't have an ending... only a small verse (of sorts) written in on the last page in the corner: You can return to the place where you started,
When the Maneiac is defeated,
That doesn't even rhyme! He finishes reading it just as the Mane Six arrive, having decided to break for tea and biscuits: Take a closer look, to join the adventure in this book. The comic books starts to glow, and then sucks Spike in, a sight which strongly reminded me of the game Fable III, which features the player character also being sucked into a book. The rest of the Mane Six grab him, but they are all pulled into the book too. Well, Pinkie isn't sucked in as much as she jumps in with a "Whee!" They find themselves on top of a building, wearing the costumes and possessing the powers of the Power Ponies: Twilight is Masked Matterhorn, who can shoot energy beams from her horn. So not much change there. Pinkie is Filly Second, who is basically a pony version of the Flash. Again, not much change, just look at "Party of One". Rainbow Dash is now Zap, an expy of Storm from X-men, since she can control the weather (didn't she always?) Rarity is Radiance, who can create energy constructs from her bracelets, making her Green Lantern in purple. Applejack is Mistress Marevellous, who has a lasso she can control with her mind. The lasso reminds me of Wonder Woman, who has the Lasso of Truth, so I see what they did there. Another clue is the star symbol on her throwable horseshoes, which matches the one on Wonder Woman's tiara. Fluttershy is Saddle Rager. She is Hulk. That is all. Actually that's a really fitting choice, since we've seen Fluttershy angry... and we do not like her when she is angry... Spike himself has been given the role of Humdrum, who is basically Robin, only useless. They don't have much time to get over the shock of suddenly being in a comic book, and y'know, having super powers, before the villainness Maneiac appears, carrying the McGuffin she needs to complete her dastardly plans. And man, oh man, is this mare just so much fun to watch. Her power is her prehensile hair, which she variously uses like Doctor Octopus to talk on, or throw things. She can also use it like Spiderman to swing away. Oh, yeah, and she is utterly. Bugfuck. Insane.
The eyes... oh, Sweet Celestia... the eyes! The battle begins, with Pinkie (I mean, Filly Second) using her speed powers to escape from a thrown post box. When Applejack (I mean Mistress Marevellous) tries to use her lasso like a regular one to attack Maneiac, things don't turn out so good, leaving her roped (is this the second or third time this has happened to her?) to a streetlamp. At least the "mistress" part makes sense now.
I could caption this, but then I'd probably get a warning... She isn't the only one having difficulty. While Spike (I mean, Humdrum) knows all their powers, they don't seem able to control them properly. Matterhorn's attempt at a Cold Beam attack fizzles, and Zap accidentally summons a tornado instead of lightning, which sucks up our heroes instead of the villain. Radiance's attempts at making something useful are tainted by her unfulfilled desire for those tea and biscuits, and Rager doesn't want to be rude by Hulking out. Despite being able to briefly steal away the McGuffin, Humdrum trips on his own useless cape and drops it again. Maneiac sarcastically thanks him for helping her, before leaving (like Spiderman, as I mentioned before) by swinging away on her living tresses. Humdrum tells Marevellous how to use her lasso properly, which is by telekinesis and she uses it to "pop" the tornado. It's a comic book world, so we'll pretend this works. Humdrum is depressed to be the bumbling sidekick, but the others try to cheer him up. He's not really Humdrum, so he doesn't have to ruin things. They head to Maneiac's Top Secret Headquarters - a shampoo factory (who wrote this script, Joel Schumacher? That's as secret as Mr. Freeze hiding in an ice-cream parlour.) Matterhorn wants to decide on a plan, but as usual, Zap soars in headfirst, shouting a challenge and summoning lightning to zap the factory sign. At this, Maneiac's henchponies appear.
Evil has never been so FABULOOOOUS! The second fight begins, but while Matterhorn still seems to be having difficulty making her freezing ray work, Radiance has gotten the hang of things, levitating on flying carpets, creating giant parasols as shields (Hilarious in Hindsight to anyone who has seen the Fighting is Magic footage of Rarity ) tying up bad guys in strings, etc. Wait, wait, did Radiance just kill that guy when she bounced the falling sign back at him? Hard core. Filly Second is also putting her speed powers to good use, Marevellous can use her horseshoes as a bola, and Zap's gotten the lightning down pat. Only Rager is unable to help, since she can't seem to get angry. Despite beating the mooks, the Power Ponies find themselves petrified and depowered when Maneiac hits them with her Hairspray Ray of Doom, leaving only Humdrum free, because he's so useless. And... bucket. Despite his slump, he sneaks into the factory via the air vents. He finds the Power Ponies trapped in a cage, and regularly dosed with Doomy Hairspray, keeping them from recovering and using their powers. Maneiac's takes her time with a triumphant monologue about her plans to use a giant hairdryer gun to, you guessed it, take over Maretropelis (OF COURSE!) The Power Ponies remind her that Humdrum is still around to stop her, but she dismisses him as useless. This vote of confidence from his friends, however, cheers Humdrum... no wait, cheers SPIKE up, and he starts sneaking around and preparing a few plans of his own. He uses the tarpaulin to snag the henchponies, and knocks over the Hairspray Ray, which gives the Power Ponies the time they need to recover their powers and break out. The battle rages once more! But poor Rager still can't get mad, until Maneiac callously knocks down a cute little firefly. This results in one of the best pre-flank-kicking speeches ever to grace Friendship is Magic: Fluttershy: Are... you... kidding me?! I mean, I know you're evil and everything, but you'd hurt a teensy, harmless little fire-fly? REALLY?! Well, you're just a great, big MEANIE! There, I said it! What makes you think you're so special? Like the rules of common courtesy don't apply to you? WHY DON'T YOU PICK ON SOMEPONY YOUR OWN SIZE! Hulk!Rager takes the giant ray to the face and bounces it back at Maneiac, then proceeds to smash the hairdryer gun to little pieces, stopping only when she finds her friends staring at her in awestruck horror.
Fluttershy, we don't care that you're a giant hulking monster... you're still so cute! Maneiac herself finds she is having a bad hair day, as her own mane tightens up into a straight-jacket. She continues to giggle and cackle madly, though, so at least she's having fun. Spike begins with "Once again the day is saved...", which is really funny when you consider Lauren Faust's previous works, but they are sucked back to Equestria before he can finish it. The Mane Six babble excitedly about their adventure, and congratulate Spike for saving them, and remind him that he is an important part of the team. Lesson learned! Final Thoughts The idea of them being transported into the comic is very good. If this sort of trick had been used in the Daring Don't episode, I personally would have liked it much better, and many of the complaints fans had about that episode would have been avoided. But then again, I suppose then the complaint would have been that they're re-using the gimmick too soon. The costumes of the Power Ponies were very creative but their powers were not. In fact, the powers were extremely generic. They were, however, appropriately chosen for the ponies themselves. The villain was tons of fun to watch, laughing (what else?) maniacally, shouting out classic comic book villain lines about how "nopony can stop me", etc. The voice for Maneiac was provided by Ellen Kennedy, and she does an absolutely fantastic job. I wouldn't mind a story at some point about Maneiac somehow escaping the comic book, with a grudge against Humdrum, and having to be put back in again by the Mane Six. The actions scenes were well choreographed, and very entertaining, as well as including some luscious animation. Although at the end of my last Season 4 review, I admitted being worried about how they would pull this off, I think they did a decent job of it. It wasn't quite a parody of the superhero genre, but it didn't take itself too seriously either, which is a good balance. If there is a negative, it's that the plot was way too easy to figure out. The second the comic was introduced, it was obvious that they would somehow end up inside it, and that Spike would have to rescue everyone. Pros: Spike was in character, and showed once again that he can be useful; creative costumes; entertaining villain. Cons: Generic powers, utterly predictable 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! Keep emitting that yellow solar radiation, everyone!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 70. “Flight to the Finish”: Cutie Mark Crusader Flag Carriers! YAY!

Professionalism, Miss Harshwhinny! – Rainbow Dash Although this episode focuses on the Cutie Mark Crusaders, it’s basically another Rainbow Dash episode. At least this one is a little bit better than the previous one. This is much more like the Dashie I know and somewhat like on a good day than the quivering fangirl mess we had before. If you’ll permit me to go off on a tangent: In the previous episode, Rainbow did not act like herself. Many of the reviewers who had a favorable reaction to it argue that it was actually in line with her character to fangirl over Daring Do, because she has fangirled over the Wonderbolts in the past. However, the way she acted in “Daring Don’t” is very different from the way she acted previously. In the episodes “Sonic Rainboom”, “The Best Night Ever”, and “Hurricane Fluttershy”, she did squee a bit when she got to spend time with Spitfire, but she was never gushing about how cool the Wonderbolts are and how lame she is compared to them. She kept her cool, even though inside she was squealing with excitement, and didn’t let her admiration keep her from taking initiative and acting. In “Wonderbolt Academy”, she even had the gumption to go to her idol, Spitfire, and basically say, “I don’t approve of the way this is run, I’m outta here!” All of this is a remarkable contrast to her interactions with her Daring Do, at least in the first half of the episode, so I still think she was acting out of character there. Getting back to the episode I’m supposed to be reviewing: truly, Coach Rainbow is best Dash, especially the way she has to keep reining herself in (no pun intended) in order to maintain her appearance as Rainbow “Professionalism” “Danger” Dash.
Fits right in with Pinkamena Diane “Responsibility” Pie I also liked the reintroduction of Ms. Harshwhinny, although her constant “we are not amused” face was a trifle annoying to watch, and the call back to the Equestria Games from the previous season. The best part of the first scene is where the blackboard drawing that represents the “style” requirement is quite clearly Rarity.
It seems even Ms. Harshwhinny knows a high quality pony when she sees one. This scene sets up the plot, where the Cutie Mark Crusaders compete for the chance to be flag bearers at the Games. Of course, they are pestered at every turn by bullies Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, especially when the CMC’s quite frankly awesome routine leaves everypony visible awed. The terrible twosome bring out their greatest weapon, “blank flank”… only to find it utterly useless against the CMC. Silver Spoon’s reaction of utter shock and confusion is one of the highlights of the episode. It also goes to show that the CMC are developing, in that they are no longer allowing their blank flank status to concern them. Realizing they need to try a new tack, the bullies then point to Scootaloo’s inability to fly as something that will put the CMC out of the running. Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle are having none of it, but this is a sore point for Scootaloo already, and the spiteful words hit their target. I have to admit, much as I like some things about DT, this really is a new low she has sunk to. Of course, Scootaloo starts insisting that she has to be able to fly, or they’ll have no chance at winning, and nothing the other two can say budges her. This leads to their routine becoming as much of a mess as their Talent Show musical number from “The Showstoppers”, and that’s saying something. Despite her friends giving up for the night, Scoots continues to try to fly. The day of the competition, Scootaloo is not only late to the train, but also says that she wants to stay behind so that her inability to fly won’t ruin the routine for the others. This of course makes no sense, since the whole idea behind their routine is that it represents the fact that Ponyville has all three varieties of pony living in harmony. Leaving out the pegasii component renders the whole thing meaningless and therefore bound to fail. But she’s young and currently depressed, so she gets a pass on this logic. Apple Bloom, annoyed to the point of disgust, tells her they don’t want her anyway, and she and Belle get on the train, leaving poor dejected Scoots behind. Rainbow Dash, too excited now to be “professional”, says she hopes they win, and asks where Scootaloo is. On hearing how the two fillies treated their friend, Rainbow gives them a heck of a “What the hell, Heroes” speech, as is quite right, being the Element of Loyalty and stops the train so they can go back and fetch her. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, smugly satisfied that with the CMC staying behind, they’re definitely going to win, make a few mocking remarks and laugh as the train pulls away. And then Sweetie Belle delivers the line that quite literally made the episode for me: “I don’t like them one bit,” with the most deadpan expression and tone. Ah Sweetie Belle, you do get the best lines out of the CMC. That one is right up there with “Why does life have to be so ironic?” from “One Bad Apple”. Finding Scoots moping in her room, the two apologize for leaving her, and Rainbow Dash also comes to give her some comfort, with some inspirational words about how she thinks Scoots is great regardless of her flying ability. With the CMC back to full strength, all that remains is to get to the Crystal Empire in time. Scoots and her scooter, along with some skiing gear, provide the propulsion needed, and even gets her a hoof bump from Granny Smith as she passes, in another awesome moment.
High Five! Or is that a High One? Of course, their routine is enough to get them the prize, sending even Ms. Harshwhinny herself into a tizz with its brilliance, until Rainbow Dash ironically reminds her of her earlier insistence on “professionalism”. Final Thoughts Now this was a much better episode. Rainbow Dash is more in character, there are some really funny and really touching moments. The CMC also seem to be developing as characters, being less worried about their blank flanks and realizing that it doesn’t have to a weakness for them all the time. Of course, apart from Dash, none of the Mane 6 are present, which is refreshing. They weren’t needed and so they weren’t added, which I think is good writing. The central conflict about Scootaloo’s inability to fly was also quite natural, and so the plot flows along quite nicely, with some good pacing. Highlights:
The chalk drawing of Rarity.
The first song of Season 4 - passable but not brilliant.
Silver Spoon can’t believe that the magic phrase “blank flank” is ineffectual.
The CMC’s routine is genuinely impressive, especially with the streamers.
Sweetie Belle’s perfect lines.
Ms. Harshwhinny gushing about how awesome the CMC are. Pros: Good character-driven plot; good pacing Cons: A little predictable Final Rating 5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Next episode appears to be a “superpowers for a day” plot. I’ve seen it done in many cartoons, and unless it’s done with the intention to parody the superhero genre, it’s usually not very good. Not to mention the last superhero themed episode is widely considered the worst of Season 2. But let’s not dismiss it without seeing what they do with it. Until then, stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 7. "Dragonshy": Shrinking Violets Snap Dragons

Listen here, Mister! Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you get to be a bully. You may have sharp scales, snort smoke and breathe fire, but you do not, I repeat, you do not hurt. My. Friends! – Fluttershy This episode is the first in the series to focus mainly on Fluttershy. After being made aware of a thick cloud of smoke covering Equestria, her attempts to inform other ponies in town are hampered by her soft voice and shy demeanor. The louder and more boisterous Rainbow and Pinkie keep drowning her out as RD tries to break a ball bouncing record and Pinkie plans a party to celebrate the achievement. Before Flutters can get through to anypony, Twilight makes the announcement for her. The smoke is coming from a dragon who has arrived in Equestria for a short nap… which by dragon standards is 100 years. I wonder why Mayor Mare is nowhere to be seen; she should be there to try prevent panic, as she did during the cattle stampede in“Applebuck Season”. Since Twilight came to town, poor Mayor Mare has become superfluous. The Mane 6 have been tasked with getting the dragon to leave, and so they suit up, in an amusing montage that also serves as a shout-out to The A-Team. Fluttershy does her best to avoid going along, but Twilight declares that her ability to talk to animals will be indispensable. Rainbow Dash is skeptical, saying that Flutters is scared of her own shadow, which Flutters proves to be. As they continue on, Flutters continues to be the load. First she hesitates to climb the mountain, and when Rainbow reminds her that she can just fly up, one of the sleeping dragon’s snorts frightens her so much that her wings lock up, forcing Applejack to find a detour for her. This is good news for Pinkie, but bad news for Rarity, who loses a straight 36 times in Tic-Tac-Toe (or noughts and crosses, if you prefer).
Hey Rarity, let’s play Tic-Tac-Toe, One-in-a-Row (winner goes first). I’ll start! After they regroup, they almost get buried in an avalanche. However, it doesn’t seem so much that the avalanche is set off by Flutters shouting as it is by everypony sighing too loudly in relief that her shout didn’t cause one. Rainbow still continues to be uncharitable about it though. Finally, they arrive at the dragon’s cave, and Twilight lays down the plan… Rainbow will clear the smoke away with her wings, Applejack will have some edible ammunition on hoof to buck at him if he attacks, and Pinkie will distract him with a rubber chicken. None this should be needed, however, since Twilight will first try persuasion. She asks Fluttershy for her advice, only to find her hiding behind Applejack Flutters finally admits that she is scared of dragons, making the entire reason for her being there entirely pointless. Despite the best efforts of the others to embolden her, she doesn’t manage to overcome her fear.
Here, we have a rare glimpse of the shy and reclusive Pony-tailed Flutterhen... So Twilight goes in again and finally meets up with the dragon, a big red lizard in the tradition of Smaug, lying on a bed of gold and jewels. Her reasonable explanation and request are rejected, with the dragon ignoring her and going back to sleep. Next up is Rarity, who does pretty well at first, flattering and charming the dragon. She is within in an inch of convincing him when she puts a hoof in it by offering to keep an eye on his treasure for him… predictably, this doesn’t go down well, and he snatches back all the treasures. Then Pinkie tries to win him over with a humorous costume, and is defeated off-screen, coming back rather the worse for wear. Finally, Rainbow has had enough, and displaying more courage than brains, tells the dragon straight up to get out and gives him a double hoof to the snout. Enraged, the dragon roars at her loudly enough to send her rolling out the cave entrance, knocking down the others like nine pins. Finally coming out of his cave, he sends the group smashing into a rock with another roar, breaking off the top half of the rock to reveal Fluttershy.
Avast, Fluttershy's Rump! The sight of her friends in a groaning pile finally lets her break through her fear of the dragon, and she proceeds to give him a talking to of epic proportions. Using The Stare™ for the first time, she overrides his objections (“But that rainbow one kicked me…”) and ends up making the poor fellow cry. The others seem quite okay with the rain of dragon tears… shouldn’t those be boiling hot or made of acid or something? Realizing that he isn’t really a bad dragon, just one who made a bad decision, Fluttershy reverts to her kinder self, soothing him and telling him nicely that he needs to find somewhere else for his nap. As her friends gather to congratulate her on standing up to the dragon, he takes to the air… leaving behind all his treasure. Nothing is ever mentioned what became of it, so possibly it’s still lying there. Back in Ponyville, the pegasus ponies clear the last of the smoke away, Twilight writes her letter to Celestia, and Rainbow returns to her record attempt… which is ruined once again by Pinkie roaring like a dragon, scaring RD into dropping the ball. Fluttershy tells RD not everypony can be as brave as she is, only to be scared catatonic by a leaf falling on her. Cue the everypony laughs ending. This being the first Fluttershy centric episode, she takes center stage. While she is not my favorite of the Mane 6 by any means, this episode is still really enjoyable. The references to the A-Team and fainting goats are fun to see. It’s also good to learn a bit about dragons. Although at first he seems animalistic, it’s made clear that even adult dragons are thinking, reasoning beings, who can even be quite emotional at times. Fluttershy shows that despite her fears and shyness, when you get her going, she can be a real powerhouse. Rainbow Dash is quite harsh towards her, which is strange considering they do have a history going back to when they were fillies in Cloudsdale. Even Twilight gets a moment or two of being harsher than perhaps is necessary, like being a killjoy while they were going up the mountain (“Girls! This is no laughing matter!”) Applejack shows her calm and motherly side, being willing to go to great lengths to help Fluttershy along. It might have been interesting had RD and AJ’s roles been reversed in this episode. This episode also provides a bit of an insight into the relationship between Fluttershy and Angel Bunny. Many fans hate this little bunny for abusing Fluttershy, but their interactions are a bit more complicated than that. It’s indicated that Angel Bunny is sometimes exasperated by his owner, who tends to baby him. It’s more like a spoiled child’s relationship to a meek mother than it is abusive. Angel is also shown to be rather mischievous, causing trouble for Spike. I may make a blog entry examining Angel in detail at some point. Pros: More depth to Fluttershy; Fluttershy actually acting cool; some funny moments, like Rarity’s failing at the last moment, and the dragon’s wounded expression when Fluttershy is chewing him out; the reference to fainting goats. Cons: The relationship between RD and Flutters was sourer than expected; some loose ends, such as what happened to the treasure, and why Mayor Mare was absent.   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 69. “Daring Don’t”: Raiders of the Lost Plot

Now, Ahuizotle, you know I love you. But I can’t give you the ring 'til I’ve properly proposed. – Daring Do Rainbow Dash is getting impatient waiting for the next Daring Do book to come out. When Twilight tells her the release has been delayed even further, she gets the idea that mundane concerns might be causing the delay, and ropes the Mane Six into going for a journey to help her. So they head out, in a shout-out to Indiana Jones, with a red line on the map representing their travels. A little nonsensical gag reveals the line to be something Pinkie Pie (who else) is painting on the ground… Eventually making it to the house of the author of Daring Do, A.K. Yearling (subtle), they find the place a wreck. The owner herself arrives, wrapped up in clothes that do nothing to hide the fact that this pony bears a very strong resemblance to a certain in-universe “fictional” character. The Mane Six say they weren’t the ones who wrecked the place, and Yearling seems rather accepting of a bunch of strangers in her wrecked house and takes them at their word. Perhaps she has heard of Princess Twilight Sparkle, and therefore believes her. After the Mane Six go outside, a group of shady looking ponies arrive and confront Yearling, who tosses her disguise away to reveal what we’ve all already guessed by this point – A.K. Yearling is in fact Daring Do!
A.K. Yearling is my slave name… You may call me Daring Do! And right here, we have the first major contentious issue. Fans seem to either love or hate this revelation. I just find it old-pith-helmet, if you will. This particular twist is pretty common in cartoons. Now I’ve never been one to be against something based on the concept alone, but the execution has to be good for a cliché like this to work for me, and I just don’t see that they did anything unique with this idea. “It was real all along” is all that we get. Well, SolarFox, if you’re so smart, how would you have made this twist better? one might ask. Perhaps Daring Do has been embellishing her tales. Maybe Ahuizotle is just another pony who is Daring Do’s rival in the search for ancient artifacts, or is even the good guy in some way. It would be interesting to have Rainbow Dash having to deal with the disappointment of finding out her hero is in fact not so heroic. Just something, anything, to put a fresh spin on an old concept. Another problem with this reveal is that the Daring Do books are steeped in Aztec mythology, while the entire show up to this point has been heavily biased towards Greek mythology. We’ve had a manticore, a hydra, a cockatrice, Tartarus, Cerberus, the Pegasus race as a whole, griffins, and even the architecture of Cloudsdale (not to mention Pegasopolis from “Heart’s Warming Eve”): all of these are very Grecian in flavour. So this new mythology creates a fair bit of dissonance. To be fair, it is clear that the Mane Six travel a long way, so maybe Equestria has different mythologies prevailing in different areas, which is true of real life. Maybe the area of Saddle Arabia has djinn, sultans, flying carpets and the like... alright, I admit that would be intiguing... Anyway, back to the story. The Mane Six spend the next few minutes watching the fight from the window, while Daring fights alone to protect a golden ring. This is pretty cleverly lampshaded by Fluttershy, so a kudos point there. This fight scene is rather reminiscent of the crown throwing from Equestria Girls. The mid-level boss appears and takes the ring, leaving Daring Do herself injured. This is another small gripe: why is it that Daring Do gets injured every time she appears? And why does her injured leg heal completely a few scenes later? The thought that kept reoccurring to me throughout this episode was “We’ve seen this before.” I’ll come back to that. Daring Do flies off after the ring, and Rainbow “Planless” Dash goes haring off after her, leaving her friends behind. Loyalty, huh... maybe she’s just being loyal to Daring Do. Yeah, that’s it. Despite Daring repeatedly stating she works alone, Rainbow Dash won’t give up following her and trying to help. Daring almost manages to bamboozle the bad guys with an improvised disguise, but her attempt at bluffing is thwarted by the appearance of the Big Bad, Ahuizotle, who demands the ring from the aforementioned mid-level baddy. Revealing herself again, Daring is forced to fight Ahuizotle’s returning cat minions (“We’ve seen this before”) including the cute little white kitten. The cats don’t seem very well trained, attacking one at a time, and Daring is able to defeat them rather easily. Rainbow Dash continues to just watch instead of helping, and is more interested in returning Daring’s hat to her. This leads to her being grabbed by Ahuizotle. Yes, our brave Rainbow Dash, who has faced manticores, kicked a giant dragon in the face, faced down three other dragons to protect Spike, has been a hero in Ponyville… that Rainbow Dash, is reduced to the Damsel in Distress. With her as his hostage, Ahuizotle forces Daring Do to submit, and captures both her and the ring.
What’s wrong with this picture? You got it... cats can't tie ropes. Rainbow Dash is devastated at this turn of events, and despite the others catching up to her, is for a while unable to get over her own failure. She even decides to abandon her hero to her fate, in stark contrast to her Element (and that’s okay, the Mane Six don’t always act in line with their Element). Eventually, Twilight reminds her that Rainbow is actually awesome and they all head off to save Daring Do. A nice little fake-out, though, since we only see five ponies heading towards the fortress. The heroine herself is trapped in another over-elaborate, lingering, easily-escapable-with-any-kind-of-assistance death trap. You’d think that Ahuizotle would have learned better by now, after who knows how many books, and just thrown her straight into the piranha tank. Although perhaps he actually wants her to escape, to continue being a worthy adversary, given that the blocks she's tied to come straight out of the wall. Otherwise, the stupidity of this villain knows no bounds. Anyhoo, Rainbow saves her from falling straight into the piranha water, and Daring Do finally relents enough to team up with her. Meanwhile, the rest of the ponies interrupt Ahuizotle's ceremony, in another admittedly very well done action sequence, allowing RD and DD to sneak in. During their discussion, Daring reveals that getting captured was part of her plan, as was removing all the rings so that the fortress will collapse. So her plan is predicated on not only surviving a death trap she wouldn't have survived alone, but also in lifting gigantic golden rings she couldn't lift alone... with that kind of planning, it's a straight up miracle she's survived so long in the first place. The Mane Six battle distracts the bad guys long enough for Daring and Dash to lift all the rings, causing the fortress to collapse. Daring admits she couldn't have won without Dash's help, and then flies off to complete her book... which is about the events we've just seen. Exactly what story was she writing BEFORE Rainbow and Crew arrived, one wonders? I really hope Twilight also got a week-early copy, since she helped out just as much.
Wait, did Rainbow get cast as Short Round? Pros: It adds a bit to Rainbow’s character. There are lots of cute moments, and even some genuinely funny ones. The second half is stronger than the first half, if not enough to entirely overcome the bad first impression. Cons: The premise of the episode is a rather common twist, and is executed in a rather pedestrian manner. It also raises some concerns regarding the show’s universe, which take quite a bit of rationalization to reconcile. The Mane Six, particularly and especially Rainbow Dash, spend too much time in the first half just observing, instead of acting, which is particularly uncharacteristic behavior in Rainbow's case. Highlights: Daring Do giving Ahuizotl lip, and Rainbow Dash’s reaction to it. (You know what I mean, I don't even need a picture of it ) Return of Rainbow’s wub face.   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! Runs to find a bunker to hide from the RD fans... Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 68. “Castle Mane-ia”: Lunacy at Midnight Castle

I just wanted to restore ancient aaa-aaa-arrr-rrttttt! Waahhh! – Rarity Season 4 continues to show its quality with this episode. When watching it, I felt very much as if I were watching a Season 1 episode instead. Perhaps a lot of it has to do with the interactions between Rainbow and AJ, which hailed back to their friendly rivalry as shown in "Ticket Master" and "Fall Weather Friends". The second partnership in this episode is the one between Fluttershy and Rarity, again reminding us of the fact that these two are also closer to each other than to the others in general. The premise of this episode is a simple one: all of the Mane Six end up in the castle, each for their own purposes, and hilarity ensues, as each group unknowingly bounces off the other. The title itself works on three different levels. First, it references the Castlevania game series, second, it's a play on the word mania, and third, the Mane-ia part catches the general chaos of the episode very nicely. So the episode opens with the welcome return of Twilight's exasperated groan that first appeared in "Lesson Zero". Spike is getting his usual butt-monkey treatment, first by having his feather duster smashed by a book tossed in frustration, and then by being buried under a pile of books that topples over on him. Good thing he has those thick scales...
Celestia says, "Clean up those books, Spike!" I am the only one worried that Celestia is not only clearly magically spying on Twilight, but also writes letters pretty darn fast? I mean, I know, physical goddess and all, but still... the only thing I can think of is that she wrote that letter ahead of time, just knowing Twilight will go through all her Ponyville Library books in vain, and waiting for her to say that line... curse you, Trollestia! The letter informs Twilight that more information might be found in the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. So it's off to the Everfree Forest again, which now is apparently so safe that they can go in ones and twos with nary a care; perhaps the Tree/Elements of Harmony are making it safe now? Intriguing... ...is what Twilight no doubt thinks on finding the Library in the castle.
Twilight: *Sccchhh-winggg!*
Spike: I need an adult... Meanwhile, Pinkie and Gummy are officiating the dariest dare of all darey dare dares between Applejack and Rainbow Dash... no, no, NOT THE BEES! They are covered in them, but the real test is who blinks first... so why are the bees even needed? Anyway, the beekeeper pony (I'm calling him Johnny Bee Good, but who knows what the fans will come up with) whistles them back to their hives, leaving the contest undecided, and the contestants in beekeeper suits. Tailor fit for their manes and in RD's case, wings... huh... wonder if Rarity had anything to do with modifying them? AJ has an idea how to resolve the tie, though. Meanwhile... meanwhile... the pretty purple-maned pony herself is en route to the Castle, Fluttershy and Angel Bunny in tow, having decided that the tapestries of the Castle could do with a touch-up, and maybe even get some inspiration out of it herself... a twofer. They are followed into the castle by a large, mysterious shadow... AJ and RD soon rock up as well, and AJ expounds on her Granny Smith's story of an evil pony of shadows, a being created by some left over evil of Nightmare Moon. Woooo!
I'ma tellin you, Rainbow Dash, I once caught a fish thhiiiss big! As the episode goes on, the two pairs end up unintentionally scaring each other, helped out by the Castle itself, which is apparently tricked out with tricks and stuff. Rarity gets a good dose of irony, being interrupted in the middle of a speech about how they must be very careful, only to have Angel Bunny send her and Fluttershy through a trapdoor by accident... or was it? Dun dun DUN!
Well...
...my work here is done. Applejack comes clean to Rainbow about why she brought them there (to continue their dare challenge - first to leave forfeits) while Angel Bunny manages to find Twilight and Spike, accidentally scaring Spike into revealing another hidden chamber... one with a journal left by Celestia and Luna. Poor Fluttershy is worried about her precious bunny friend, while Rarity provides some light. Fluttershy frets about Angel being trapped by fallen debris (hint hint) or being trapped in a dark place with no way out. Rarity calls her on that one...
Setting horn phasers to snark... Despite getting out of the hole, (after unintentionally scaring RD and AJ away) Rarity has had enough, but Fluttershy convinces her to stay and look for Angel Bunny. Twilight reads about "The Organ to the Outside" just as the mysterious shadow is revealed to belong to a mysterious cloaked and hooded pony, who begins to play said organ. Spike's concerns about the mysterious sounds are brushed aside by Twilight, and even Angel Bunny starts laughing at him. A new low for Spikey-Wikey. The organ appears to control the traps... don't know why that comes as a surprise, since the page we saw clearly shows the connections between the organ and the different rooms where traps are located. Applejack is separated from Rainbow, Rarity is separated from Fluttershy, and part of one of the tapestries is separated from the rest of it, much to Rarity's dismay. Meanwhile, Angel is given more carrots, which is apparently enough to keep him from missing Fluttershy. Rarity declares to the Castle that despite its ingratitude, she WILL restore the wall art.
Pinkie Sense could have prevented this accident. This assault on her person convinces Rarity that the Castle is in fact, malevolent, and she starts to back away... Ditto for Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Applejack, and they all bump rumps. Scared out of their wits, none of them realize who the others are, and the ensuing mad Dash around the room ends up knocking one of the tapestries onto poor Rarity, who protests "I was only trying to restore ancient ar-ar-art!" as it falls. Bonus points for the tapestry being one of Luna, who shares a voice actress with Rarity. Fluttershy mistakes some debris for Angel Bunny, and is horrified when Applejack knocks a pillar onto "him". The noise finally attracts Twilight out to the balcony to survey the mayhem below... she declares that everypony STOP! (A nice call back to Luna's "BE STILL!" from "Luna Eclipsed") and suits spell to shout, stopping everypony in their tracks.
STOP! Twilight time! The ponies are surprised to discover that they are all in the same place, Angel Bunny shows Fluttershy he's okay, much to her embarrassment, and all the ponies explain what they've been up to. Rainbow thinks maybe Twilight has been pranking them by pretending to be the Pony of Shadows, to which Twilight replies, "That's just an Old Mare's Tale"... in the middle of the freaking Castle that proved to all six of them that Old Mare's Tales are sometimes true after all... logic, what's that? The organ music continues, and they follow it to its source... Pinkie Pie! She explains why she's there, and it makes as much sense as usual for Pinkie. So in the denouement, Rarity fixes tapestries, Fluttershy babies Angel Bunny, Pinkie is Pinkie, AJ and RD seem set to continue their dare challenge, and Twilight provides our morals for the episode. "Friends can keep your imagination from going wild..." yeah, not so much, Twilight. Everypony was there with friends already. The real moral seems to be... "learning stuff can help you not be afraid and help you solve your problems", which makes more sense. Spike announces the non-existence of the Pony of Shadows, but the evil yellow eyes seem to prove otherwise...
No Pony of Shadows... Orly?

Of course, it could just be Zecora again... Let's bring this overlong review to a close, shall we? As I said before, this felt rather like a Season 1 episode. The way the ponies interacted and ended up scaring each other accidentally was well done, and entirely believable. You can quite forgive them for going crazy at the end there, considering what they had endured. Rarity was in fine form, Fluttershy really got me in the feels when she thought Angel Bunny was being crushed, Twilight is her usual adorkable bookworm self despite the wings, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack played off each other as rivals for title of most daring pony well. There are a few negatives, though. This episode continues the trend of Pinkie Pie being more caricature than character. Pinkie is best written when her nuttiness serves to conceal some actual intelligent thought processes going on behind the scenes, in other words, when there is some kind of method to her madness. For me, this episode just didn’t get it as right with Pinkie as they did with the others. Although if you listen to her explanation at the end, it's all to do with parties and Pinkie misinterpreting the others actions as part of a game, which admittedly is very Pinkie. It's the other parts, like the ringing the bell, the jumping around with funny faces, the gags where her score keeping is a set of kid's doodles, etc, that felt off. It’s also a bit far-fetched that she could just “know” how to play the organ, despite never having done it before. Although she has demonstrated abilities to play multiple instruments, it’s clear that this isn’t some kind of Pinkie ability, like her Pinkie Sense. Otherwise, there would be no reason why she wouldn't be able to play the flugelhorn well in “The Crystal Empire”. In fact, instead of it being Pinkie, this was a perfect opportunity to bring in one of the musical background ponies for a moment in the spotlight. Imagine how funny it would be if we found out Vinyl Scratch enjoyed playing classical organ music as well as wubs, or if it turned out to be Princess Luna come to reminisce about old times, and even play a few pranks Celestia style... hell, even have it be Celestia. Just not the usual suspect of one of the Mane 6, which could only have been Pinkie. Opportunity missed? You be the judge. Overall, a decent episode with a simple premise and a natural comedy that arises when the characters are simply themselves. 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! Sorry for the ramble, folks, but always remember to stay sunny side up, and I'll see you for the next one.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 6. "Boast Busters": Tricksy Trixie Comes to Town

Unless an Ursa Major comes waltzing up the street for Trixie to vanquish, I’m not going to believe a word she says! And neither should you! – Spike The Disclaimer
I'll come right out and say it... I'm not a fan of Trixie, at all. She is a blowhard, she cheats at challenges, she treats Snips and Snails badly (in private) even though she was happy enough with them when they were praising her in front of a crowd, refuses to acknowledge that Twilight stepped in and did what she claimed to be able to do and couldn't, and sneers and runs away instead of thanking Twilight for saving her life (if not her wagon) from the Ursa Minor. And that's only her first appearance.
Now that all the negative stuff is out of the way, I'll accentuate the positive I find in Trixie during the following review, just as if I were her greatest fan... well, that's the idea anyway... The Plot
Twilight is practicing her magic tricks with help from Spike. Despite his insistence that she is "the most magical unicorn" in Ponyville, she demurs, finding the praise a little embarrassing. Spike's two associates, Snips and Snails, appear and tell them about a powerful unicorn who has come to town.  They go to the Town Square to find the Great and Powerful Trixie! Now to be fair, the Mane 6 members don't really seem to get the idea of showmanship. It makes sense for a stage musician to use hyperbole to sell their act. However, they immediately pass it off as boasting. And if that were that, their grumbling wouldn't amount to much. Until Rainbow, in an attempt to deflect attention away from a rather boastful comment of her own, boos Trixie. Now Trixie, quite properly, isn't about to take THAT lying down. She proclaims that her magical prowess allowed her to vanquish the dreaded URSA MAJOR! and has a lovely little light show to illustrate (hurray for alliteration!)  Still met with scepticism, she announces a challenge... "Ponyvillians! Anything you can do, I can do better!" And she points a hoof at Twilight, who is now worried that showing her own skills is going to turn her friends against her. Luckily, AJ is there to step in and accept Trixie's challenge. Unfortunately, her rope skills can be replicated by Trixie, and she ends up trussed. Rainbow Dash meets with a similar humiliation when she creates a rainbow that Trixie turns on her, and zaps her with a cloud to boot.  Spike then suggests a unicorn v. unicorn bout, but Twilight is too timid and Rarity too dignified to engage in such a tawdry affair. Until Trixie insults Rarity's mane, in which case... it... IS... ON! (Second best meme ever) Rarity creates a beautiful dress out of the curtains, to which Trixie responds by magicking her mane into a literal rat's nest... and worst of all, it's green!  Finding all her friends vanquished, and herself in the spotlight, Twilight runs away from Trixie's challenge, leaving nopony in Ponyville willing to challenge her.
This calls for a celebratory brushie brushie... ... and an oats smoothie, brought to her by the incredible Annoying Duo, who then pester her to tell them more stories. Well, beating neigh-sayers does make one tired, after all, and she asks them to come back in the morning. They run into Spike, who accidentally put the idea into their heads that they should bring an Ursa to town for Trixie to vanquish and prove her story.
A combined IQ of 1 They find the Ursa, who chases them back to Ponyville. Calling on the intrepid Trixie to help them, they find their hero doesn't have the power to do it, even though she gamely tries. Her efforts do little more than enrage the beast further. Spike finally convinces Twilight that she needs to step up, and she does. Using spells both small and mighty, she pacifies the beast (golly, donchaknow?) and sends it back home to mother... the real Ursa Major, who is quite a bit larger than her Ursa Minor baby.  With her wagon destroyed, and her reputation as well, Trixie departs Ponyville, leaving Twilight to "punish" Snips and Snails for reckless endangerment of the entire town... with mustaches.  What I think about the episode:
It's a bit of a mess. The Mane 6's actions are not very laudable, yet they are "proven right" in the story. The less I say about Trixie, the less hate mail I will be getting... I've already said too much, me and Michael Stipe both. The plot is a little too convenient: Snips and Snails happen upon the Ursa Minor in the very first cave they enter. The "punishment" they receive is a laughable one for major property damage and reckless endangerment. The moral "boasting is bad" kind of loses it's punch when you consider that Trixie is doing this for a living rather than just for the sake of it, and that Rainbow was doing plenty boasting of her own. 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 5. "Griffon the Brushoff": Crouching Griffon, Hidden Meanie

If “being cool” is all you care about, maybe you should go make some new cool friends, somewhere else. – Rainbow Dash Rainbow Dash is surprised to find a fellow prankster in the usually annoying Pinkie Pie when she is enlisted to help prank Spike by scaring him into getting hiccups. This leads to a strengthening of their friendship, as they spend the entire day pranking the rest of their friends. The pranks are all in good fun and pretty harmless, leaving even their victims smiling or chuckling. Only Fluttershy escapes their attentions, on account of her being too sensitive to prank.
I hope that doesn't come into play later on or anything... The next day, Pinkie means to carry on the same as before, but when she arrives at Rainbow's cloud house, she is instead met by Gilda the Griffin. After Rainbow introduces them, Pinkie invites Gilda to join them in their pranks. Gilda is more interested in spending some flight time alone with Rainbow, and they leave behind a rather dejected Pinkie Pie. After a while, Pinkie Pie starts making a nuisance of herself by trying to butt in, which annoys Gilda. Pinkie uses a trampoline, so Gilda flies higher. Pinkie then uses a bunch of balloons, so Gilda secretly pops them. Then that dashing young filly on the flying machine turns up again, and Gilda sends her into a spin which crashes her. Finally getting the message that she is not wanted, Pinkie vents to Twilight, who suggests maybe Pinkie is being jealous of Gilda and is finding excuses not to like her. Pinkie leaves in a squeaky huff, but soon after wonders if Twilight might not have a point after all. However, seeing Gilda scare Granny Smith, steal an apple and (horror of horrors) ROAR AT FLUTTERSHY, convinces Pinkie she was right all along. Now it's time to solve a problem named Gilda... PINKIE PIE STYLE! Which is "throw a party". During the party in honour of the new guest, it seems very much like things have been set up as a humiliation conga for Gilda, as prank after prank finds her. Finally blowing up, she rails at the rest of the ponies, accuses Pinkie of trying to make a fool of her with "lame" pranks, and tells Rainbow that the two of them should bail on the pathetic pony party. Rainbow isn't having it and tells Gilda that she was the one who set up the "lame" pranks, and it was only bad luck Gilda triggered them all. Then she gives an ultimatum... treat my new friends well, or go find some other "cool" friends. Gilda seems to think it over, but then accuses Rainbow of being a "flip-flop" and storms out. Twilight apologizes to Pinkie for being wrong about her and Gilda, and sends a letter to Princess Celestia with the moral: "You can't control who your friends hang out with, but you can control how you react to it." Character Study:
Pinkie wasn't very well behaved in this episode. She came across as a bit clingy, and pushed herself in where she wasn't welcome. Although Rainbow didn't mind, Gilda clearly did, so Pinkie seems a bit insensitive. That said, Twilight did make a mistake in suggesting Pinkie was in the wrong. First of all, she knew very little about the situation, yet acted as if she did. Secondly, most of the time she was reading a book and paying very little actual attention to what Pinkie was saying. This is emphasized by the episode's cold open, where again Twilight is reading and not paying attention to what Pinkie is saying. She even heaves a visible sigh of relief when Pinkie goes running after Rainbow. As for Gilda herself, while she is pretty lame by trying to act cool all the time, she does seem to genuinely care for Rainbow, even being willing to do a song and dance routine she clearly finds unenjoyable. Sure, she doesn't behave really well, but I think many fans dislike her to a disproportionate degree simply because she mistreated Fluttershy. Even her outburst at the party is in a way understandable. Pinkie greeted her and then immediately pranked her with a hoof buzzer. Why shouldn't she assume that Pinkie was responsible for the rest of the pranks too, or that they were deliberately targeting her? On the other hoof, she did act arrogantly...
Rarity: Can I go first? Can I have the purple tail?
Gilda: NO! You already have a purple tail! ...so it's not entirely unjustified when Rainbow calls her out on her mistreatment of others. Moral:
Sometimes you have to share your friends with other people, even when you don't like them very much. A decent lesson for kids to learn. Not much else to say there, it's a decent moral, but nothing ground-breaking. Pros: Some of the pranks are pretty amusing, and we see that Twilight is not so worried about staying in Princess Celestia's good books that she can't prank her teacher. Introduction of the griffin species and more information about Rainbow's early days is good too. Plus this conversation:
Fluttershy: Um, Pinkie Pie, about this party for Gilda... um, do you really think it's a good idea... I mean...
Pinkie Pie: Don't worry your pretty little head about Mean Old Gilda... your Auntie Pinkie Pie's got it all taken care of.
Fluttershy (Annoyed): I'm a year older than you. Cons: Making Gilda roar at Fluttershy just to make it clear that she is "bad". Given the blind devotion of some fans to the shy pink and yellow pony, it seems a bit manipulative. Gilda's way of speaking is a bit annoying. Overall impression:
A decent episode, with some minor problems and an unlikeable antagonist, but well put together.   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 43. “Hearts and Hooves Day”: In Which the CMC Attempt to Steer a Ship

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 4. "Applebuck Season": All Work and No Play Makes Applejack a Danger to Society

Your applebucking isn’t only causing you problems: it’s overpropelled a Pegasus, practically poisoned plenty of ponies and terrorized bushels of brand-new bouncing baby bunnies. I don’t care what you say, you need help! – Twilight Sparkle Applejack takes on the job of bucking all the apples out of the trees due to Big MacIntosh's injuries. Before she can start, she is forced to save Ponyville from a stampede. This action inspires the town to give her a big shiny trophy, but when she arrives to receive it, we discover that she hasn't slept all week, and is going a little bit loopy. All of Twilight's attempts to get her to accept help are rejected, and the sleep-deprived AJ starts messing everything up. She accidentally launches Rainbow Dash onto Twilight's balcony, then ruins Pinkie's free sample of muffins and ends up poisoning half the town. Then she gets short with a bunch of brand-new bouncing baby bunnies, sending them into another stampede... much less threatening to Ponyville lives but much more threatening to Ponyville gardens. Having had quite enough, Twilight goes to AJ again to tell her to accept help, just as AJ kicks the apples from the last tree, boasting about how she "did it all by herself". Her triumph is short-lived; Big MacIntosh points out the other half of the farm still to go. Finally admitting that she's in over her head, Applejack accepts the moral of the episode and the help of her friends. The Good
There is a nice little continuity nod to Ticket Master: It seems wearing Granny's girdle is the cause of BM's injury, since the bandages are wrapped around his middle. He also gets to speak quite a few sentences, in contrast to his "Eeyup" and "Nope", which is nice. The comedy in this episode is perfect. The awards ceremony is a classic scene, with Twilight's constantly interrupted speech and her final fit of exasperation, the sleepy Applejack's loopy behaviour, the long slow dragging of the award as she leaves, and her friends' reactions to her appearance are all great. The bunny stampede is funny both for the ironic echo of the earlier stampede, and for the fact that it's a bunch of cute little baby rabbits this time around, which adds a note of ridiculousness to the proceedings. Plus we get an introduction to the Flower trio of ponies.
Not their finest hour... This exchange: AJ: "Look! I did it! I harvested the entire Sweet Apple Acres without your help! How do you like them apples?!"
BM: "Um... how do you like them apples?"
Points to the other half of the farm, still untouched
AJ: Faints That is all.   The Bad
None   Summary
There really is not much wrong with this episode. The comedy is good, the characters act as they should, and overall, it's just a perfect slice-of-life episode, which is what the series tends to do very well.   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 39. “Baby Cakes”: Pie and the Art of Juvenile Maintenance

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 38. “Family Appreciation Day”: In Which the CMC Get a History Lesson

Long ago, when I was a little pony, things were very different here in Ponyville… 'cause there was. No. Ponyville! – Granny Smith Today’s review is for an episode that reminds us all that the older folks in our life deserve a great deal of respect, no matter how strange their ways may seem to us. It’s late at night at Sweet Apple Acres, and the timber wolves begin to howl. Granny Smith is outside, banging pots together and shouting about how the Zap Apples are a-coming. This delights the rest of the Apples, particularly Apple Bloom, who is finally old enough to help her granny make Zap Apple Jam. The following day, the family starts making preparations for the coming Zap Apple Harvest, and many of these preparations require somewhat… odd steps to be taken. One such step is for Granny Smith and Apple Bloom in matching bunny costumes to leap over watering cans while singing the Alphabet Song. Diamond Tiara and her father Filthy Rich arrive at the farm to negotiate the rights of selling the first hundred jars of Zap Apple Jam, and DT starts smirking at seeing the rather idiosyncratic process in progress. She offers some faked sympathy for Apple Bloom having to deal with such apparently senile antics from her Granny. While Apple Bloom hadn’t considered her granny’s behaviour strange before, she certainly does from that point on. A newly-embarrassed Apple Bloom accompanies Granny Smith on a shopping expedition, and mortification sets in at seeing her talking to the bees, biting the cooking wares, calling her by pet names etc. Even worse, both DT and Silver Spoon are present, adding to the shame. At school the following day, Apple Bloom is still moping, while Filthy Rich is making a presentation for Family Appreciation Day, talking about how his shop cornered the market and made him… well, Filthy Rich, of course. Most of the class (even Silver Spoon) is bored to the point of stupification, and Sweetie Belle is fast asleep, but Diamond Tiara is perfectly attentive. It’s the first time she’s been seen smiling a purely joyful smile without any hint of mockery or cruelty, and it’s when I first considered that there might be some redeeming qualities to the here-to-fore unremittingly negatively portrayed little filly.
She loves her daddy, she can’t be all bad. After Cheerilee thanks Filthy Rich for his talk, she checks to see who the next student due to bring in a family member is. Of course, it’s Apple Bloom. She explains that both Big MacIntosh and Applejack will be busy with the harvest, since the Zap Apples will disappear if not picked quickly enough, and won’t be available. Diamond Tiara, in a return to form, mentions that Granny Smith will be available, as she is certain that it’ll result in yet more embarrassment for Apple Bloom. So is Apple Bloom. As the weekend passes, the Zap Apples gradually mature. The CMC try various methods of avoiding having Granny Smith speak at school, including faking an illness for AB, impersonating Granny during her nap to cancel her appointment with Cheerilee, and even trying to pick the apples off the trees prematurely.
Sweetie Bot enacting Bucking Protocol 11.802B…

ACCESS DENIED! Every attempt fails. Even sending Granny Smith out of town to visit Uncle Apple Strudel just ends with both of them showing up at the school.
Ha ha! The senility has been doubled! Just as Apple Bloom resigns herself to the knowledge that her life is destined to be an endless succession of humiliation, Granny Smith starts to speak of a time when Ponyville wasn’t even on the map. Here the story shifts to a sepia-toned historical flashback. We see Granny Smith as a cute little filly, traveling across Equestria with her family of seed collectors. They eventually travel to an old timey Canterlot and meet the ever youthful Princess Celestia, the most regal of ponies, who sees how worn out they are and gives them a plot of land near the Everfree Forest, where they decide to settle and plant an orchard. A quick comment here: many fans criticized Celestia for reckless endangerment for putting them so close to the Forest, but Granny Smith does mention that it was made clear that they should stay out of it, so I disagree there. Most of the dangerous critters stay in the forest anyway. Even the parasprite from Swarm of the Century was found very close to the edge of the forest. If Fluttershy hadn’t brought it into town, there would have been no problem. But to continue... However, since the orchards they planted would take time to grow, there was a problem with getting enough food. Driven by hunger, Granny Smith decides to go alone into the Forest to find food. She eventually comes across the Zap Apple trees, but after getting a few of the fruit packed away, she is chased out of the Forest by the timber wolves. Luckily, she finds a pot to bang, scaring the wolves away. The Zap Apple seeds, once planted, sprout immediately into full grown trees, solving the food shortage. The Smith family learned about the magical ways of the trees, and Granny Smith also learned that there were special rules for making the Zap Apple jam. All her silly methods actually turned out to be the result of a long process of trial and error, and not a sign of senility, after all. Attracted by the Zap Apple jam, more ponies came to settle, and eventually founded Ponyville. Back in the present, Granny Smith’s story is applauded by the youngsters, starting with Silver Spoon of all ponies. This does not please Diamond Tiara, who exclaims that Granny Smith is “just a kooky old lady”. Apple Bloom immediately jumps to her Granny’s defense, saying she’s the most amazing pony in Ponyville, and even apologizes for not realizing it earlier. The story ends happily for everyone except DT, who is forced by her father to put on a bunny suit and join the others in jumping over the water cans.   Thoughts on the Episode
The best part of this episode is the moral: respect your elders. The way it’s brought across is a little esoteric, but this is a magical land of talking equines, after all. It’s also a great exercise in world building, explaining the origins of Ponyville itself, and adding to the lore of the world with the Zap Apples. As I stated above, this episode first hints that Diamond Tiara can be a better pony that we’re usually shown, she looks really cute when she genuinely smiles. Silver Spoon also gets a bit of credit, since she was the first to begin the applause after Granny’s story. We even get a bit of an insight into Filthy Rich. Although there it’s a bit more ambiguous… did he punish Diamond Tiara because he is a responsible parent, or did he do so just to keep up appearances and avoid damage to his reputation? Or maybe a bit of both. Apart from his frowns whenever someone calls him by his first name (which is understandable, all things considered) he seems a pretty decent pony, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The main weakness in this episode is the fridge logic it generates. It was stated in Winter Wrap-Up that Ponyville hasn’t used magic to clear up winter for hundreds of years, and it hardly seems likely that Granny Smith is as old as a few centuries. The “failure is the only option” aspect of the plot is a little forced, culminating in the mother of all coincidences, with Uncle Apple Strudel waiting at the station for Granny Smith, but as this is kind of a standard plot in TV shows, it’s not a major gripe. Highlights/Quotes
Granny Smith: Here, take this.
<hands Apple Bloom a branch and twigs>
Apple Bloom: Is this one of your gazillion secret herbal ingredients for the Zap Apple Jam?
Granny Smith: That there’s a broom. Now get sweeping, pipsqueak! Apple Bloom in a bunny suit. Her ears even react with her emotions! The scene with Cheerilee visiting the farm is wonderful, especially when Granny wakes up and assures the rather confused teacher that she will be attending after all. Watch the movements of her still-CMC-controlled limbs: she ends up patting Cheerilee on the head and squishing her cheek before slowly being pulled up towards the second story. It makes me chuckle every time I see it. Granny’s story is pretty cool, and as stated before, Silver Spoon begins the applause.   Pros: A great moral for kids. Some funny events. Silver Spoon gets a pet the dog moment.
Cons: A few too many coincidences. Some of what is shown here contradicts previously established information.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Next episode, we’ll move from a story about the previous generation to a story about the next generation. I wonder: will my review engage you? I’ll do my best to make it so. Until then, feel free to comment, compliment or complain, and stay on the sunny side!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 37. “Hearth’s Warming Eve”: From an Ice Age to a Nice Age

Hold on to your hooves! I am just about to be brilliant! – Chancellor Puddinghead (Pinkie Pie) Apart from the characters, one of the biggest draws of this show is the intriguing world of Equestria itself. In this episode, we’ll get to learn a bit more about the history of this place of wonder, magic and pastel-coloured ponies.   Summary
The Mane Six (and STEVEN! I mean, Spike) are in Canterlot to put on a play about the founding of Equestria. As they head to the Palace, they play a game of I Spy, although it seems that ponies don’t actually know how the game is supposed to work, instead just shouting out things they can see. As they are donning their costumes, a few squabbles mar the group’s usual harmony, exacerbated by an open window letting in frigid air from the blizzard raging outside.
You thought I was going to put some kind of Frozen reference here, didn’t you? A somewhat beleaguered Spike is serving as narrator to a packed audience of ponies. He sets the scene as some number of years BC (Before Celestia) in a land that is close to, yet is not Equestria. In this age, the Earth Ponies still grow the food, which they provide to both the Pegasuseseseses (Yes, I stole that joke from Pinkie and no, I’m not sorry about it) and the unicorns in exchange for controlled weather and a basic day / night cycle respectively. However, despite this cozy arrangement, the three tribes view each other with animosity and hatred. Unbeknownst to the three tribes, their mutual ill-feeling has attracted some weird flying horse spirit thingies, which create a protracted blizzard that threatens to starve / freeze them all to death. They set up a summit between the tribe leaders: Princess Platinum for the unicorns on behalf of her father, played by Rarity (the princess, not the father); Commander Hurricane of the Spartanesque pegasus race, played by Rainbow; and Chancellor Puddinghead of the earth ponies, played by Pinkie Pie. The summit fails as each leader is unable to resist blaming the other races for the current predicament instead of trying to work out a solution. They each return to their associated underling: Clover the Clever (Twilight), Private Pansy (Fluttershy – a flower, not a tree, but close enough) and Smart Cookie (AJ) and declare an intention to break away from the other tribes and found a new land. After some shenanigans, each leader finds Equestria and tries to claim it for their tribe, only to find the others there too. As they argue, the Windigos and their blizzard catch up to them, forcing them all to take shelter in a nearby cave. The close proximity only fuels their feud, and eventually the three leaders are frozen mid-rant (a power I wish I had, sometimes). This leaves their three assistants alone against the Windigos, whom Clover the Clever recognizes from a description given to her by a certain wizardly unicorn of some renown. As the ice encroaches on them, the three find that they don’t share the dislike of the others that their leaders have, and forge a friendship, just as they too are covered by ice. Suddenly, magical fire appears from Clover’s horn. It unfreezes the three of them, and then immolates the Windigos in the most graphic manner, marking the first onscreen casualties of the show… if you consider the Windigos alive in the first place, of course. With the Windigos gone, the leaders unfreeze and have a change of heart, deciding to live in harmony from this time forth in their newly minted land of Equestria. Back in the modern day, the Mane Six finish the play with a song, the audience joining in. As they congratulate each other backstage, the window flies open again, provoking another round of arguing. This is quickly ended when they hear a Windigo in the distance, reminding them of the perils of disharmony. Rainbow agrees to close the window, and everypony laughs as the Hearth’s Warming Fire burns brightly in the night.   Thoughts on the Episode
I do love that world building. The most interesting part of this episode is to me is the dual nature of the narrative. In some parts, it’s clearly a play performed by the Mane Six, with stage props and painted scenery, while at other times it seems to be the actual historical events. Switching back and forth between the two is a very interesting way of telling the story, somewhat more ambitious than simply showing flashbacks, which is as far as previous episodes ever went. There’s even a rather meta joke thrown in, where Private Pansy declares “I can see my [Fluttershy’s] future house from here” while in the historical context, blurring that line just slightly. When this episode aired, there was quite a debate over the flag seen at the end having a motif of the two Royal Sisters, who it was declared earlier were not yet in power. I don’t really understand why it’s a difficulty: you can also see painted scenery in the background, so it’s the play context we’re dealing with here, making that flag a mere modern prop. Sometimes this fandom can come up with some really convoluted theories to explain something that is really rather simple. It’s interesting that Starswirl the Bearded was name-dropped as being a mentor of Clover the Clever. Quite how that ties into the timeline and the eventual arrival of the Royal Pony Sisters is currently unknown (and please, let’s not involve the comics in this discussion). Although I doubt the historical personages actually looked like the Mane Six, it’s possible that Clover the Clever is an ancestor to Twilight herself, and the fire produced by the three assistants is an early version of the Elements of Harmony. However, I find it unlikely that we’ll ever get straight answers to these questions, given that it’s been three seasons and the writers are all different these days. C’est la vie… Ultimately, there’s not much more to say about this episode. As mentioned earlier, it’s a little disturbing to see the Windigos pretty much burn to death on-screen, as they do seem to be experiencing pain. They’re evil spirits, fair enough, but still, it’s quite graphic for a family show like this. There are no real flaws in the story itself that I think it can be marked down on, but I don’t think it does enough right to give it full marks.   Pros: World building. The framing for the narrative is ambitious and well done. A good song.
Cons: There are many unanswered questions, and presumably they will remain so. A rather disturbing “death” for the Windigos. That’s not how “I Spy” is supposed to be played.   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! Here endeth the lesson… feel free to comment below if you think I missed anything in this episode. It looks like the next couple of episodes are going to be pretty family based, with both the older and the next generations getting their turn in the spotlight, and I’ll be there to tell you what you should I think about it. Until then, take care and stay on the sunny side!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 36. “Secret of My Excess”: A Roaring Rampage of Greedy Growth

Spike WANT! – Spike Sparity doesn’t really get much focus in the show (although the same can’t be said of the fandom) but in this episode it does come into play. So take a seat (on second thought, leave the seat, but sit down in it) and we’ll dive right in.   Summary
It’s Reshelving Day at the Golden Oak Library, and Twilight wants no distractions. Unfortunately, it seems at least two of her friends didn’t get the memo: Spike, giggling to himself about a delicious Fire Ruby he has been saving for his upcoming birthday, and Rarity, who has come to the library to get a book on ruffled taffeta capes. Nice Sorcerer’s Apprentice musical reference, there. Upon seeing the Fire Ruby, Rarity is beside herself with admiration. Ha! I would never let the sight of something beautiful distract me from my goal, I’m focused, I’m…
Um… what was I saying, again? Rarity gets an unpleasant surprise when she hears that Spike intends to eat the jewel as a snack, but after seeing her gush over how lovely it is, Spike decides he’d rather give it to her. A surprised and delighted Rarity thanks him profusely and gives him a smooch on the cheek before leaving. Even Twilight comments on how generous a gift it was, and Spike promises never to wash his cheek again. We cut to Spike’s birthday party a week later, and we see that Spike’s kept to his word and has a rather grimy cheek as a result. Twilight decides the dirt has got to go, and uses her teleportation on Spike to try to pull him close enough to get it gone.


Does this qualify as a “running gag”? The impasse is ended decisively when Pinkie somehow gets teleported in instead. Her arrival allows Twilight to close the distance and sanitize the cheek area. Meanwhile, rest of the Mane Six have arrived with presents, leaving Spike rather bewildered, since he usually only gets one present, from Twilight, and you have one guess what that always turns out to be. Twilight retreats with a sheepish grin. Rarity is also in attendance, having set the Fire Ruby into a golden choker, and again thanking Spike for the gift. She calls it the most generous gift she has ever received, and that it’s inspired her to make capes for all her friends. Spike hears from Pinkie that the Cakes have something for him as well, and he heads to Sugarcube Corner to get it – a sapphire cupcake. Musing on how nice it is to get non-book presents on one’s birthday, Spike runs right into Cheerilee returning from a shopping trip. After apologizing, and helping Cheerilee to gather her spilled goods, Spike explains that it’s his birthday, leading Cheerilee to give him a hat for her present. Hitting on a new strategy to gain more stuff, Spike uses the fact that it’s his birthday as a tool to part ponies from their things, getting more demanding as he goes.
I guess you could call him a “smooth criminal”? YEEAAA… no. Twilight stops him, but only briefly: as soon as her back is turned, he has turned back to gathering. And he’s acting a bit more reptilian than usual… The next morning, Twilight finds Spike buried under a pile of ill-gotten gains, and a lot bigger, to her consternation. A visit to a pony pediatrician and then the local veterinarian yield no answers. Oddly, Spike is more annoyed by the pediatrician babying him than by the vet treating him like a dog… maybe the writers of Equestria Girls took note? A visit to Zecora finally gets results – Spike is growing up because he is hoarding stuff, a natural trait of dragons, it seems. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle: the more he hoards, the bigger and greedier he gets. (The most popular fan theory is that dragon mothers carefully control this behaviour in their kids in order to avoid what is happening to Spike.) During the explanation, Spike takes all of Zecora's things and books it. By the time Twilight finds her way back to town, and locates Spike, he is already beyond reasoning, even trying to take Scootaloo’s scooter, and has descended into Hulk speak, such as demonstrated in this entry’s quote above. As Spike’s rampage continues, Applejack gets roped in to help, much to Dash’s amusement.
"Um... Should I leave you two alone?" Fluttershy and Pinkie are pulled in, too, and finally, the now gigantic Spike grabs Rarity herself in a reference to King Kong, no less. Ponyville panics as air raid sirens blear and a few ponies have near misses with Spike’s stomping. Seeking larger and larger containers for his booty (I can weirdly relate) Spike steals the watertower, dropping a wave of water onto Ponyville. Fluttershy and Rainbow try to talk Spike into dropping Rarity, but instead he uses his tail to flail at them, eventually trapping them in Rarity’s ruffled taffeta cape, which tears off and dunks them into the local stream. The Wonderbolts arrive, driving Spike out of town and up the mountainside first introduced in Dragonshy. He puts all his hoarded items into a cave and then uses the watertower to trap the Wonderbolts, letting out a roar of triumph. Rarity is unimpressed, however, telling him off for (among other things) ruining her cape. This reveals her Fire Ruby, and when she sees that he’s noticed it, refuses to give it to him, because it’s a present from her friend Spikey-Wikey. However, the sight of the Ruby brings back the memory of Spike’s generosity in giving it to her, and undoes the whole transformation – revealing that the rampaging dragon is none other than Spike, but also leaving the two of them in midair. Cartoon physics, what’re ya gonna do? As they plummet, Rainbow and Flutters grab the torn bit of cape and fly towards them in a race against gravity. Meanwhile, Spike begins to confess his crush to Rarity but she stops him with a gentle hoof to his lips – she already knows what he wants to say. They share a touching moment of understanding… and then die on impact with the ground… Nah, I’m just kidding. Of course Rainbow and Fluttershy catch them, and lower them safely to solid ground. Spike contemplates the wreckage of the town, and is depressed at what he caused… but Rarity gives him a pep talk, saying that he managed to stop himself in the end, and that he’s her hero, even giving him another smooch. A little later, Spike sends a Letter to Celestia to tell her that he has learned that while it’s good to get presents, the greater joy is in giving gifts to others, while Rarity gives the others their completed capes. The episode irises out on the framed kiss mark on Spike’s cheek… m’wah!   Thoughts on the Episode
Let me get this part out of the way. Rarity obtaining Spike’s Fire Ruby is NOT an act of greed on her part. I’ve made this argument when looking at Rarity’s flaws, so I’m disinclined to repeat it here. Feel free to follow the link if you need further convincing, but if anyone were to mention that event as an example of Rarity being greedy or selfish, I can put it no more bluntly: that person is wrong. Objectively wrong. (And I don’t say that very often.) Moving on. There’s quite a bit of food for thought in this episode, as it relates to Spike. We’ve seen a magically aged Spike in Season 1, and this form doesn’t match that one at all. This is apparently a natural version of growing up for dragons, so the form shown in this episode is probably the “correct” one. One thing the forms agree on, though, is that even as an adult, Spike has no wings. He’s a wingless dragon. That theory was pretty much demonstrated as true if you look for the clues in that S1 episode itself...

...but at least this gains us some more confirmation. There’s humour and to spare here. From the visual gags such as Pinkie being teleported in instead of Spike; to the dialogue, such as the “assaulting him with cake” line; to even some more medium aware jokes like the close focus on Twilight and Zecora’s faces in their discussion, which allows Spike to ransack the hut. There is plenty to laugh at. Yet there is still excellent action, and some really touching moments. It’s the great balance of all these different emotional elements that really make this one for the record books. The characters are also perfectly represented, with Twilight being a firm but caring disciplinarian, Pinkie being funny and energetic, but not overbearingly so, and Fluttershy and Rainbow combo-pleading-demanding Spike to drop Rarity. There’s also Rarity herself, determined to share the generosity that was shown to her by giving something to her friends. Of course, no review of this episode would be complete without a discussion of Spike’s midair confession. It’s a pretty clear homage to a scene in Spirited Away, even down to the tears “falling up”. It’s also one of the few moments where Spike’s crush on Rarity is given more attention than a quick joke here and there. And wow, does it tug on the heartstrings. It confirms that Rarity is aware of Spike’s feelings, even if she perhaps can’t answer them. As I’ve surmised before, she might be avoiding dealing with it directly in order to protect Spike’s emotions from her inevitable rejection. If one wishes to view that in a positive or negative light, that’s a personal choice. I think she’s doing it for good reasons, not to take advantage of Spike, but that’s just me. This whole confession scene is also a bit of a triumph for Fluttershy and Rainbow, for the former showing she can keep up with Dash when motivated, and for the latter demonstrating her loyalty, speed and quick thinking. That this touching moment leads to no real change in the status quo is more a criticism of later episodes than something that should be used to mark this one down. It’s interesting that they showed Spike’s memory of gifting the Fire Ruby as different from the earlier scene, because it’s actually very true to life. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but your memory of any one event probably doesn’t mesh particularly well with what actually happened. All memories are more similar to a reconstructed dream of the event than to an objective video record. Odd but true. And the further back the memory lies, the more lies the memory backs. (Heh. I’m pretty proud of that one.) Psychology is so fascinating. But I’m getting off topic. If there is anything of a flaw in this episode, it’s that Spike’s rampage doesn’t really have any consequences, considering the huge amount of damage caused. Even though Rarity does try to put the best spin on it she can, the truth is Spike very nearly killed ponies, and did cause enough damage that it would be a very taxing thing to fix. A more complete acknowledgement of this would have been a good move. One other gripe could be that the moral, while a good one, seems a bit esoteric. “Tis better to give than to receive”… because receiving things makes you grow to gigantic size and steal things, and giving things away puts things right? Overall, though, there’s just not much wrong with this episode. I’m sad Junebug doesn’t get any attention, though.   Highlights/Quotes At the party
Rainbow: Don’t you know you get presents on your birthday?
Spike: Well, this the first birthday I’ve had in Ponyville. I usually get just one present. <Noticeably less than enthusiastic> From Twilight. <Even less so> A book.
<A sheepishly grinning Twilight backs away while hiding a covered book behind her back as a bleating SFX plays> Spike raids Sugarcube Corner
Twilight: Pinkie, stop giving him cake!
Pinkie: I’m not giving him cake! I’m ASSAULTING him with cake!
<Spike grabs all the cakes>
Pinkie: HOW DARE YOU TAKE THE CAKE!? Rarity takes the gigantic rampaging dragon to task, despite being in its clutches
Rarity: Oh, be quiet. You've got nothing to be proud of. You steal everypony's things, terrorize the town, and use me as a weapon against my own friends! Which, as horrible as it is, I can almost understand because you're a dragon and all. But this! <shows him her cape> This is a crime against fashion!
<Bonus points for Large!Spike making a "blah blah blah" motion with his claw as she's speaking> The Confession Scene. No more need be said.   Pros: One of the best balances of humour, heartwarming and hijinks yet produced by the show; every character is given the respect they deserve; Sparity, while not explored, is acknowledged; good references.
Cons: The moral is somewhat oddly presented; there are no consequences for Spike’s rampage.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Next time on Dragonball Z Sunny Fox Reviews Season 2, we can look forward to getting some of that good world-building. Until then, as always, stay on the sunny side of life.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 32: The Cutie Pox: In Which the CMC Fail to Learn the Art of Patience

I'm jutht too impathient to be pathient... - Apple Bloom Our intrepid Cutie Mark Crusaders Pin Twins Three Strikes Bowling Dolls arrive at the Ponyville Bowling Alley, aiming to get their cutie marks in bowling. However, bowling soon turns to blowing it: Sweetie Belle gets only gutter balls - and is incongruously happy about it - and Scootaloo bucks her ball so hard it ends up ricocheting all over the bowling alley, earning her some shocked stares from the other bowlers. On her turn, Apple Bloom appears successful in getting a strike. She also hears a spectator pony happily pointing out a cool, new "bowling" cutie mark. She is bitterly disappointed to find out that both the successful strike and the new cutie mark belong to another filly a few lanes over. Her own ball just manages to reach far enough to nudge the first pin. Although this technically makes her the best bowler out of the three, it sends her into a funk that nothing seems able to lift... not a cake from the Cakes, nor a hat from Rarity, nor a party from Pinkie. Still disconsolate, AB splits from the others and heads into the Everfree Forest. A trip over a root causes her to fall down and break one of her front teeth.
The tooth hurts. Luckily, Zecora soon finds her and takes her back to her hut. She even mixes up a potion to mend AB's dental disaster. Realizing that Zecora has a potion, brew or tincture for any occasion, she suggests that Zecora might be able to mix a potion that reveals her cutie mark. Zecora denies this as a possibility and continues to mix up another potion to help a rooster who has lost his ability to crow. She shows AB one of the ingredients: "heart's desire", a flower that can be used to fix any problem. When Zecora has to leave to find a missing ingredient, she leaves behind AB... who begins to scheme...
¯You're a sneaky one, Apple Bloom...¯ At the school the next day, AB is proud to present her (literally) shiny, new cutie mark, a silver circle. She claims it's something called a Loopdy Hoop (I guess Hula Hoop is a trademarked name) and demonstrates her skills with it. Even Cheerilee is eager to see what tricks she can do. In the middle of her routine, another cutie mark suddenly appears... this one for spinning plates. Since no pony ever has two cutie marks, DT and SS (who else? ) declare they must both be fake somehow. (They're right, as it happens.) When AB is challenged to show she can do this second talent too, she does, eventually involving most of the town in her combination demonstration. A weary but proud Apple crew return to the farm, and AB says goodnight. Shortly, though, Applejack is awoken by a strange sound coming her her lil' sis's room...not that, actually it's tap-dancing. A third cutie mark has appeared, and AB now not only can tap-dance, she has to...
I guess Gloria Estefan was right... the rhythm really IS going to get you... Applejack takes her to see Twilight, who was just reading about strange diseases. Spike finds her the right book and she reads out information about the Cutie Pox (roll credits!), a mysterious medieval malaise that makes multiple marks and adjudicates arbitrary acting out of the associated abilities. Worst of all, there is no cure listed... Hoping that Zecora might know of a cure, they try to head through town to her hut, but are slowed by Ab's involuntary talenting (I know that's not a real word, just go with it) including chess, window washing and lion taming. The townsponies panic and run when Spike lets slip that AB has the Cutie Pox. This gives Zecora, who has just arrived in town, the impression that the ponies are still afraid of her. After the misunderstanding is solved, Zecora reveals that she does indeed have a Cutie Pox cure... the seeds of truth, a plant that will only grow and flower when true words are spoken. She also makes it clear she knows that AB went behind her back and used up the last of her heart's desire. Pinkie tries to confess to eating more corncakes than she was allowed, but as high as she goes, it seems she's hedging, eventually begging for it to stop. Jeez, guilty conscious, much? Since there's a dearth of truth from El Pinko, AB finally admits to using up the last of the heart's desire to make a potion to fake her cutie mark, and that she didn't earn them honestly after all. This confession is enough to make the seeds sprout and grow a flower. AB quickly eats it, erasing all her marks and leaving her a Blank Flank once more. She apologizes to SB and Scoots for being dishonest about her cutie mark. Given the chance to report to Princess Celestia, AB explains that she has learned that she should be patient, and not will resort to dishonest means to get what she wants. She states that she will wait patiently for her cutie mark to appear.... yeah, that lasts about as long as you'd expect... When it's pointed out that AB actually managed to whip up quite a mean potion on her own, the CMC decide to try for their cutie marks in potion making, and head off at a gallop.   Thoughts on the Episode
While the premise for this episode might seem pretty fantastical, there are actually historical precedents, notable various forms of dancing mania, in which people seemed to be compelled to dance, even to the point of exhaustion, heart failure and death. I don't think it's a coincidence that the first uncontrollable action affecting Apple Bloom was a kind of dancing, nor that the Cutie Pox itself was last seen in Equestria many hundreds of year ago, mirroring the fact that such events were recorded in the 1500s. There's too much correlation for coincidence, and I do like it when we can see that the writers have done their research. The opening bowling scene was rife with Big Lebowski references. I see a little bit of parental appeal creeping in there. It's always fun to see ponified versions of characters from various movies. But, like, that's just my opinion, man. Continuing the theme of patience being a virtue, as most CMC episodes do, here again we see that AB's attempt at using the heart's desire to get what her heart desires backfires spectacularly. That magic is unable to make a cutie mark manifest before its time is also made apparent. Since the heart's desire seems to grant low level wishes, it "did its best" to give AB what she wanted, but since her actual mark appearing was literally impossible, what the heart's desire ended up doing was making something possible (if highly unlikely) happen instead... such as a sudden outbreak of a disease once thought gone for good. Similar to the dancing mania, this is a reference to something that does happen in real life, where diseases thought cured return to bedevil us as a species. As for things to mark the episode down on, there really aren't too many. Some fans were a bit offended by Applejack's comment about Zecora having a "zebra sense", which was perceived as AJ being a wee mite racist. Although Zecora always has had shades of the Magical Negro trope, that it was "Deep South" Applejack making the comment might come off as hitting is little close to home, and this could be considered carelessness on the part of the writers. There are also a few too many coincidences. That Zecora just happened to be making a potion with heart's desire, and that she just happened to have the cure for the Cutie Pox when she came to Ponyville to find a replacement for what AB had used up, and that the cure just happened to require a truthful confession in order for AB to learn her lesson... it all adds up to being a little too convenient. Almost as if Zecora planned it all along... hmmm... that bears looking into... But these issues are relatively minor, and could be considered nitpicks (where not outright paranoia... ) Overall, this episode is pretty enjoyable, and despite the ending subverting the moral, the moral itself is a pretty good one. This is not quite an indispensable episode, and it doesn't really gain anything on a second viewing, but there are no major defects in it.   Highlights/Quotes
The scene with a certain pink party pony confessing to conspicuous corncake consumption was pretty amusing, and totally in character for the somewhat gluttonous Pinkie Pie. Ponies in hazmat suits. That is all.   Pros: Some real life research went into this. Some references for the adults in the audience. Good humour. A worthwhile moral.
Cons: Possible unfortunate implications about "zebra sense". Some convenient coincidences for the plot to work.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Stay sunny side up, everybody!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox