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Episode 31. “Sisterhooves Social”: Sibling Spat Sees Sweetie Switching Sisters

Well, then, maybe I’ll try the Sisterhooves Social without a sister. In fact, I think I’ll try the rest of my life without a sister! – Sweetie Belle Rarity is having a wonderful dream which is intruded on by the smell of smoke. Thinking it’s a fire, she wakes up and tumbles downstairs… only to find that her sister Sweetie Belle is the culprit. The smoke is an intended “breakfast in bed” burning. An annoyed Rarity is about to give her sister a piece of her mind when her parents surprise her with a cheery morning greeting. It turns out, they’re going on holiday, and leaving Rarity to look after Sweetie for an entire week. After the parents leave, Rarity suggests they clean up the kitchen and prepare an actual edible breakfast. However, Rarity being Rarity, she ends up doing everything herself, to which Sweetie protests. Rarity reluctantly allows her to garnish the finished breakfast, but even that comes with overbearing oversight and demands that it be carried out perfectly. The tension between the sisters continues to rise as Sweetie tries to be helpful, but only ends up messing up something – she washes Rarity’s one of a kind sweater, shrinking it; uses up her stock of rare baby blue sapphires to draw a picture of the two of them, forcing Rarity to go find more; and worst of all, tidies up Rarity’s Inspiration Room, which only serves to disrupt her creation process. Rarity only just manages to push down her anger, but states that she needs a little alone time. A dejected Sweetie Belle goes for a walk, bumping into Apple Bloom, who listens to her tale of woe. Trying to be helpful, Apple Bloom suggests that Sweetie ask Rarity to join her for the titular Sisterhooves Social, an annual event held at Sweet Apple Acres in which sister teams can compete. Sweetie’s enthusiasm is swiftly dashed, as Rarity tells her that “playing games in the dirt” is simply uncouth. Angry that Rarity is so unwilling to do anything except on her own terms, Sweetie decides that she’s going to disown Rarity as her sister. In the heat of the argument, Rarity is only too happy to agree to these terms, and the two part ways. Sweetie ends up being consoled by the Apple sisters, and they show her how they work together at almost everything. As Sweetie remarks, it’s like they’re just one pony. Even when it seems like AJ is going to get angry on account of AB splashing her with crushed grapes, it ends with just a playful tussle, much to her relief. Meanwhile, back at her boutique, Rarity finds that the previous disasters Sweetie caused all seem to have unanticipated benefits: the shrunken sweater is perfectly sized for Opal Wopal, and her newly neatly organized Inspiration Room ends up giving her an idea for another line of clothes: “Full Spectrum Fashions”…
Hey! I should sue! Although Rarity tries to rationalize away the good fortune so as to maintain her indignation, she finally comes across the picture that Sweetie drew of the two of them, showing that she really does love Rarity and appreciates the fact they are sisters. Overcome with remorse for her earlier behavior, and wanting to make things right and get her sister back, she heads out to find Sweetie so they can make up. When she does find Sweetie later that evening, who is having a camp out with the Apple sisters, her attempt at patching things up is quickly scuppered by her own inability to realize that she still wants everything, even the reconciliation, to happen her way, and Sweetie quickly rebuffs her, deciding to adopt AJ as new big sister… to the consternation of everypony else. Rarity is understandably put out by her failure to return to her sister’s good graces, but AJ finally makes her understand that being sisters requires a give and take, and that Rarity is failing because she is not willing to compromise. Rarity comes to a decision… The following day is the day of the Sisterhooves Social. Sweetie sadly wishes the Apples luck, but perks up immensely when Apple Bloom steps aside to allow Sweetie to be AJ’s sister for the day… and she means one day. As they come to the first obstacle, a mud pit, AJ falls in and re-emerges covered in mud. (SPOILER! ALERT: It’s actually Rarity, as one could see with a closer look at “Applejack”.)
The eyes have it… Working together, the two manage to come within a gnat’s wing of victory, but ultimately get second place. Her spirits not dampened in the slightest, Sweetie Belle gives a big thank you hug to “Applejack”, knocking off her hat and revealing a unicorn horn. Rarity quickly shakes the rest of the mud off, and Sweetie realizes that the Apple sisters were in on the plan too. Given proof that Rarity really is able to put her own wishes aside in favour of doing something nice for her little sister, Sweetie Belle forgives Rarity and readopts her as sister. Rarity suggests they celebrate: with a trip to the spa. She’s quite serious about it, too. Fortunately, despite the spa joke and final semi-disagreement, Rarity really has learned her lesson, and is now willing to compromise with Sweetie… even if it does involve getting a little a lot just the right amount of dirty on occasion.   Thoughts on the Episode
While the basis of the episode is Rarity being selfish in her relationship with her sister, it’s not too much of an out of character thing for her. Rarity likes things to be organized, or not, the way she likes it in her own home, which is fair enough. I know from experience that sometimes an older sibling might be slightly less willing to do things that they would do without hesitation for their friends, in a “darkest under the lighthouse” kind of way. Both sides have a point here; Sweetie is driven by nothing but affection for her older sister and a desire to help her out, but good intentions don’t always equal good results. On the other hand, a sibling relationship does require a certain amount of compromise, and Rarity was at fault for not being willing to do that. The good part is that she does learn her lesson, and it stays learned. In a series that quite frequently has characters forget previous morals and lessons and so have to relearn them, this is quite the refreshing aversion, as we’ll see in some of the later episodes. Praise should also be given to both Applejack and Apple Bloom for not only behaving like sisters should behave to each other, but also AB being willing to relinquish her “sister rights” and a chance at competing in the Sisterhooves Social, and AJ for her sensible wisdom and wholesome advice. We have seen in previous and following episodes that that relationship is not always as perfect as presented here, but that’s an understandable move on the part of the writers, to contrast the one-sided relationship that Rarity and Sweetie have at first with a more equal partnership, as the Apple siblings represent. There was some decent humour in this episode, even if it wasn’t a laugh riot. The jump cut with Sweetie confidently predicting that Rarity will love the idea of the Social, to Rarity disparaging it is classic. The voice acting is great, with Rarity’s declaration of intent to get back her sister and Sweetie’s pretty spot on impersonations of her sister being fussy being highlights. Oh, and two words: “One. Day.” It’s interesting to see the contrast between Rarity and the rest of her family. Her parents, while seeming like good ponies, are nothing like their refined and elegant daughter, and it’s pretty clear that Sweetie takes after her folks much more than Rares does… especially the cooking skills. Rarity points out the burnt juice, but personally, I find it more impressive (for a certain value of “impressive”) that Sweetie is able to melt toast. There is really very little to criticize in this episode.   Highlights/Quotes
That previously mentioned cut:
Sweetie Belle: That sounds like the perfect way for us to hang out! Rarity will think it's an excellent idea.
<CUT>
Rarity: What a ridiculous idea. The uncouth discussion… about being uncouth:
Applejack: 'Uncouth'? She said the Sisterhooves Social was 'uncouth'?
Apple Bloom: Yeah! Uncouth? [belch] Wait. What's uncouth?
Sweetie Belle: It's not just the Social. She thinks I'm uncouth.
Applejack: Honey, Rarity thinks everything's uncouth.
Apple Bloom: [with mouth full] What's uncouth?
Applejack: It means uncivil. Y'know, bad mannered?
Apple Bloom: [belch]
Applejack: Exactly! This epic fail at persuasion:
Sweetie Belle: Hm. You want to me to go home with you, so that we can do what YOU want to do?
Rarity: Um… yes?
Sweetie Belle: Just forget it! She may be willing to lend out her sister, but not for very long:
Applejack: Sisters for a day!
Sweetie Belle: No way!
Apple Bloom: One. Day.
<A little later>
Apple Bloom (poking Sweetie): One. Day. Good luck! Any example of Squeaky Belle, really. This moment:

Even mud knows better than to dare stain Rarity... her fans can be a little protective!   Pros: A good moral that sticks; some fine voice acting; AB and AJ are great here; some chuckles to be had.
Cons: Nothing really worth marking the episode down on.   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 3. "The Ticket Master": The Legend of Trollestia is Born

Rainbow, I do not feel comfortable accepting favors. Zip up that hole in the cloud right now! – Twilight Twilight is helping AJ bring apples into the barn when a letter from Celestia forces its way out of Spike's oesophagus, to invite Twilight plus one guest to the Grand Galloping Gala. This scene pretty much created the Trollestia meme. Because there are not enough tickets, fans thought that Celestia was playing around with Twilight. It's pretty clear from the way the letter was written, though, that this isn't true. The letter is very impersonal, starting with "Hear ye, hear ye" rather than Celestia's usual greeting, "To my dearest pupil Twilight." Probably some harried clerk sent the letter instead. Then Rainbow Dash falls from the tree where she was napping to avoid work and asks Twilight for the spare ticket... but AJ ain't havin' none of that:
Mmmm... tastes like Skittles... The two start arguing over the ticket, ending up in a winner-takes-all armwrestle, but Twilight breaks it up, saying the one with the best reason should go. This is silly of her, for two reasons. First, Applejack's reason for going (which Twilight already knows, mind you) is clearly far better. She wants money to help her farm and her family. RD only wants to go so she can get a chance at meeting the Wonderbolts. Even leaving aside the fact that this is a pretty selfish desire on RD's part, I don't think the WBs would be all that happy with someone dropping in uninvited to ruin their routine. The second reason is that Twilight was already asking AJ to go with her when RD interrupted. Citing a rumbling tummy (d'awww!) as a reason to have time to think, Twilight retreats. The predictable happens, with Twilight meeting each of her friends, who all really, really want to get that ticket from her. First she (literally) runs into Pinkie, who mistakes the tickets on her snout for flat golden bats, somehow. Pinkie's imagine spot shows that she knows NOTHING about the GGG, thinking it one big super duper party for six-year-olds. Next comes Rarity... Rarity, the strong independent business mare, wants to be swept off her hooves by Prince Charming? Lame! Yeah, when I first watched this episode, I wasn't a Rarity fan in the slightest. I was, in fact, in the "Applejack is best pony" camp. Hard to imagine, isn't it? Angel Bunny and Fluttershy arrive. AB steals the tickets from Spike and brings them to Flutters, who also wants to go to the GGG, because there she can meet and befriend many rare animals...
Well, that's gonna work out well... AJ and RD re-enter the fray, and everypony argues until Twilight snaps and shouts for quiet. She send them away, and goes to get food. She does a "loves-me-loves-me-not" with a flower from her table decorations, and then eats the petals, which is just too d'aww-inducing for words (except "d'aww", naturally.) Then her friends start showering her with favours, each trying to get browny points for the ticket... some more subtly than others. First RD, then Rarity, AJ, Flutters and finally Pinkie. What I love about this is that everyone who says Rarity is manipulative fails to realize that all of the Mane Six acted the same way in this episode. Pinkie lets it slip that Twilight has a spare ticket, setting off a chase through town with all the ponies now wanting to trade a favour for the ticket. See Twilight. See Twilight run. Run, Twilight, run! Finally cornered, she teleports herself and Spike back to the library, where all her friends have been waiting to ambush her. Realizing their actions are distressing Twilight, they all give up their claim to the ticket (RD only when she is guilt-tripped into it), causing Twilight to decide to send both tickets back unused. This results in Celestia giving them all tickets, even Spike, with a bemused "Why didn't you say so?" message. Yes, folks, this could have been resolved in the first two seconds of airtime, if Twilight had just written a letter saying "What gives?" But alas, hindleg sight is 20/20... While the episode is amusing, and references Benny Hill, the plot really could have been resolved quite easily if Twilight had just let Celestia know she needs more tickets. It's the first slice-of-life episode after the pilot, so that should also be taken into account.   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 on the sunny side!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

“Hiiii, guuuurllllz!” BRRR! The CMC fighting as hard as they can to NOT play with Smarty Pants, and Scoots waving a hoof by her temple to indicate Twilight’s gone round the bend. Mayor Mare outpaces the entire field, and is only overtaken by the flying ponies… so much for her being old! Celestia: TWILIGHT SPARKLE! Applejack (Removes hat): Woah, nelly…   Pros: Makes many changes to the visuals and even to the premise: now it all of the Mane Six who are learning friendship lessons. Comedic episode with great running gags. There are some truly classic lines. Cons: Twisting the traits of Twilight for the sake of the plot. The whole problem is self-inflicted.   Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon! Season 2 reviews are underway. I may be taking a holiday from the site soon (for reasons), but I’ll probably drop in occasionally to update this humble little blog 'o mine. How long can I stay away? Who knows? Who cares? Stay sunny side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 16. Sonic Rainboom: The Rar-Icarus Episode

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 14. “Suited for Success”: Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Exile! I guess technically I’d have to move away to live in exile. Where would I go? And what would I pack? Oh, it’s going to take me forever to do all of that packing. What are you supposed to pack when you go into exile? Are you supposed to pack warm? – Rarity This is the episode that made me a Rarity fan. Before I watched it, Applejack was top in my book. So, with that, let’s jump in headfirst, and see why it happened. Rarity is busy with her dress for the Grand Galloping Gala, while gushing to Opal about it. Opal is unimpressed, but every sound noncommittal she makes, Rarity interprets as an offer to help her, leaving the poor cat balancing her mistress’ sewing supplies and being rather exasperated about it. Applejack and Twilight come into the Boutique, and despite noticing she is busy concentrating and deciding not to disturb her, they whisper loudly enough to each other to defeat the purpose of it. Rarity, exasperated herself, puts on a rather brittle smile as she turns and asks “Is there something I can help you with?” Twilight has an old dress with a button that needs to be sown back on, but Rarity declares it to be unfitting for the occasion, and insists on making her a brand new gown for the GGG. Twilight eventually agrees, thanking Rarity for her generosity. Applejack is also lackadaisical, stating that she was planning on wearing her old work duds. They reach a compromise: AJ can wear her duds as long as Rarity can spruce them up a bit. Rainbow Dash then comes crashing through the roof and into some of Rarity’s supplies, inspiring Rarity to make a gown for her too. She decides each of the Mane Six will get a new gown from her, and then they’ll hold a fashion show! Even Rainbow Dash is excited about it.
Rainbow Dash apparently likes cosplaying Plants vs Zombies Applejack expresses concern that Rarity might have difficulty making six original stunning dresses at short notice, but Rarity laughs it off. This leads us into… it. The song that is still my favorite, even after all this time: The Art of the Dress. Borrowing heavily from Stephen Sondheim's "Putting It Together", it features Rarity having the time of her life while she designs dresses for her friends, effortlessly using her telekinesis to move around a virtual typhoon of sewing supplies, and singing about how easy it is to make dresses. After the song, she brings her friends in to see her creations. Despite her enthusiastic explanation of how she came up with each dress, she finds her friends reactions oddly subdued. Eventually, they admit that while the dresses are nice, they’re not quite what they were imagining. Rarity is very disappointed that her friends don’t like their dresses, and stoutly insists on redoing them so that her friends will be 100% satisfied. As they leave, she quietly wonders exactly what she has let herself in for. Having redone Fluttershy’s dress, she brings her in to see it. Fluttershy tries to hide her dissatisfaction with the new design, but Rarity picks up on it anyway, and eventually convinces Fluttershy to say what she really thinks of it. However, she regrets it when Fluttershy gives a rather scathing criticism of damn near everything about her dress, demonstrating a hidden knowledge of sewing techniques. The episode then enters the dark reprise of Art of the Dress. I really cannot fathom why this part of the song was not included in the album Songs of Friendship and Magic. As I pointed out when I reviewed the album, it really is an oversight of epic proportions, since this half of the song is even better than the first half. Oh, well. I’m sure it will be officially available at some point in the future. Even if I have to track down Daniel Ingram myself and camp outside his house until he agrees to release it. Enough about that for now, though. The song continues at a much more hurried pace, to reflect Rarity’s flustered state of mind, and we see each of the ponies make ridiculous alterations. This scene also provided us with the 20% cooler meme, courtesy of Rainbow Dash. By the end, Rarity is both exhausted and deeply unhappy with the results of the others’ interference, and pronounces them to Opalescence as the ugliest dresses she has ever made. Her friends, however, are overjoyed with their dresses, even while Opalescence shows her disapproval of them. Rarity can’t even bring herself to say anything nice about them. Then Spike bursts in with (what he thinks is) good news. Hoity Toity, an important figure in the Equestrian fashion world, and a pony version of Karl Lagerfeld, has heard about Rarity’s dresses and will come to see the fashion show. Cue twitchy eye from Rarity, who realizes that disaster is around the corner. Rarity is hyperventilating backstage as Ponyville gathers for the fashion show, and Hoity Toity makes his entrance.
Brown-nosing: you’re doing it wrong. As Rarity feared would happen, the fashion show is a disaster, with Hoity Toity delivering a scathing indictment of the designs, everypony in the crowd laughing at his comments, and even the Mane Five belatedly realizing that they’ve overdone it on the redesign. Spike is entirely oblivious to this, however, calling Rarity out onto the catwalk to take a bow, and applauding enthusiastically, even though the crowd is silent except for some mutters and whispers. Despite this, Rarity is still pony enough to come out, showing a great deal of bravery and dedication to her craft. A few days later, however, she’s a total wreck, having locked herself in her room to wallow in self-pity, or whatever it is ponies are supposed to wallow in and crying about being made a laughing stock. The friends are unable to coax her out, and try to think of something they can do to fix the situation. Fluttershy suggests “panic”, to which Rainbow Dash comments, “That’s your answer to everything!” (It is too, she suggested back in “Dragonshy” that the dragon warranted panic.) Twilight, peering through the keyhole, sees Rarity’s unfinished dress and gets an idea. A little later, Rarity is considering exile and idly wondering what she should pack, when she hears Opalescence yowling from outside. She spots her pet, apparently stuck up a tree, and immediately runs out to rescue her, stopping short when she realizes it was Rainbow Dash who stranded Opal. However, it was for a good cause: to entice Rarity out so they can show her the dress they completed for her (using Fluttershy’s knowledge that she demonstrated earlier.) Rarity compliments them on their handiwork, and accepts their apology for not leaving her to do their dresses the way she wanted them, as they should have. She even gets a second chance to impress Hoity Toity, and the second take takes his breath away.
Trixie can suck it. This is how you put on a show! Her original designs are enough to amaze the hotshot fashion icon, and he compliments her for her impressive debut, and requests a dozen of each dress to feature in his boutique back in Canterlot… by the following Tuesday, causing Rarity another bout of twitchy eye. Meanwhile, Twilight delivers a dual moral for this episode: first, you can’t please everyone all the time, and if you try you’ll end up with a disaster; second, that you should accept a gift graciously, and not criticize it.   My Thoughts on the Episode This episode comes very close to a perfect study of Rarity’s character. It really shows a lot about Rarity’s qualities, both good and bad. Her generosity and self-sacrifice, her skill as a dress-maker, her love for her pet and her willingness to forgive others are highlighted, as are her penchant for histrionics and her tendency to overreact emotionally. Her positive qualities raised my opinion of her character, and even her negative qualities made for an entertaining episode. Her freak-out, and her later whimsical ruminations on having to pack for exile were very amusing to watch.
And she looks absolutely darling with her hair styled like this. There are a few things plotholes, though. We clearly see that Rarity’s unfinished dress is in the same room she has locked herself in. There isn’t enough time for the others to finish it in the time it took her to go out to Opal, so they must have taken it at an earlier point. It’s possible that she left the room at some point, allowing them time to get in and take it out, but then why didn’t they just wait for her in the room itself? Then there would be no need for the ruse with Opal in the first place. Another thing is that Pinkie mentions that Rarity hasn’t come out of her room for days, yet Hoity Toity (who said his time was valuable) is still hanging around long enough to be invited to the second fashion show. Why? Did he leave and come back, or just stand around doing nothing for days? There can’t be much in Ponyville to keep him busy, since he’s only there because Spike told him about the first fashion show. Not quite a plot hole, but how could the others look at their original dresses and not like them? Conversely, how could they look at the final dress designs and not notice how unremittingly hideous they are? Fluttershy at the least should have realized it, considering her earlier comment about Prêt-à-Porter versus true haute couture. (Why does France exist in Equestria?) Some other highlights are the second fashion show, where Rarity uses her magic to put on a visual feast, with an awesome musical theme for each pony and dress, and of course, this episode features the best song yet produced in the series (in my opinion, of course).   Pros: Great insight into Rarity. A wonderful song that is yet to be matched. Two morals for the price of one. Cons: Some plot-holes and question marks.   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 13. "Fall Weather Friends": Grudge Rhymes with Fudge

Forgive me, girls. I know I’m not an athlete, but shouldn’t the Running of the Leaves involve actual running? – Twilight Sparkle to Applejack and Rainbow Dash Applejack and Rainbow Dash are engaging in a friendly match of horseshoe tossing as the episode begins. Their good natured banter is marred a bit when Applejack ends up the winner, and is just a little bit too smug about it for the somewhat-of-a-poor-loser Rainbow to overlook. Rainbow suggests an Iron Pony Competition to settle once and for all who the better athlete is, and they seal the wager with spit and a hoof bump. After the credits, Applejack explains to Twilight and Spike what they are planning. Well, she tries to, since Rainbow keeps blurting out what she was busy saying, while doing stretches. Twilight agrees to be the judge, and Spike takes it upon himself to be the announcer, as the rest of the Mane Six arrive to watch. The first event is the barrel weave, in which Applejack manages to best her previous time. However, a slight nudging of the barrel nets her a time penalty. Now this scene is great for countering fans who say Applejack is no good at “fancy mathematics”, since she adds up the times just fine. She’s also pretty much the one who keeps the finances in check for Sweet Apple Acres, so obviously, she can do maths. Some fans really need to realize that sometimes a funny line like “Don’t you use your fancy mathematics to muddy the issue!” is just a funny line, not the basis for the entire character. (Yes, I’m exaggerating. Sue me. ) Rainbow’s agility is on display during her run, which is slightly slower than AJ’s time without the penalty, but still results in a victory for the multicolour-maned mare. As the events continue, more and more ponies start arriving to watch, leaving Twilight astonished to see how much the crowd has grown. The events include kicking footballs, rodeo, roping poor old Spike into a roping, etc. and any of them using the legs seems to favour the apple-bucking Applejack. Ball bouncing, however, is all Rainbow, which is a nice little reminder of Dragonshy. She also wins the bronco buck, although I suspect Spike was tired after Applejack’s turn, which might not be entirely fair. What definitely isn’t fair is Rainbow using her wings in the push up contest, although Applejack tries to ignore this in favour of being “a good sport”. However, as the competition continues, Rainbow begins to use her unfair advantage more and more. In the final event, Tug-o-War, Rainbow simply flies up to avoid being pulled into the mud pit, lifting poor Applejack into the air and leaving her dangling just like in Look Before You Sleep. When she tries to tell Rainbow off for cheating, she accidentally lets go of the rope, and falls into the mud. Rainbow claims victory, but Applejack is now thoroughly ticked off, and calls her out for cheating. Rainbow points out that they never agreed that she couldn’t use her wings; Applejack counters that she thought it was too obviously cheating to mention it. When Rainbow claims she would have won in any case, Applejack challenges her to a wingless rematch on the morrow to prove it; it’s the Running of the Leaves, a marathon to shake off the fall foliage.
Face/Off it ain’t. The following day, Spike urges Twilight to hurry up, since he wants to be the announcer for this competition as well. His hopes are dashed, however, when it turns out Pinkie is already “the eye in the sky” announcer, commenting on the race from the Twinkling Balloon. Luckily, Pinkie is more than willing to let Spike be her co-announcer, and hauls him up into the Balloon with her. Meanwhile, Applejack reiterates the terms of the race, and to ensure compliance from Rainbow, ties her wings up. Both are flabbergasted when Twilight joins them and the rest of the racers at the start line, and Rainbow pokes fun at Twilight’s lack of athletic ability and the fact that she has never run a race, only read about it before. Her jibes are actually pretty funny. The race begins, and Applejack and Rainbow lead the pack. Pinkie and Spike comment on the action, but Pinkie being Pinkie, her observations are all pretty far out of left field, leaving poor Spike to try to keep up the best he can. The race starts out pretty on the level, and the leaves are falling as the pack forges ahead. Front runners Rainbow and Applejack exchange some words, and Applejack suddenly trips. She immediately thinks that Rainbow tripped her, but Twilight arrives to point out that she tripped over a rock, and tells Applejack that she needs to pay more attention to where she is running. Somehow, Applejack is able to make up the ground, and passes Rainbow just as she decides to slow down a bit. Rainbow in turn catches up, and remarks that the race isn’t over yet, to which Applejack replies “It is for you!” and runs on ahead. This time, it’s Rainbow who trips over something and blames Applejack for it. Twilight, again coming on the scene a short while later, tells Rainbow that Applejack would never cheat, and even points out the stumbling block, a stump. RD is not convinced, even though she tripped long after Applejack had pulled far ahead of her, and decides that the cheating is now on. The two continue to try everything to slow down their rival, including using branches, tree sap, and even a swarm of bees (although that backfires on AJ, since the burst of speed RD gets running away from the bees puts RD ahead of her.)
Not the bees, NOT THE BEES! RD manages to send AJ off the track by reversing a direction sign, and she ends up on a cliff. Luckily, she gets a lift from the Balloon to get back to the front and continue running, prompting an outraged RD to point out that they agreed on “no flying”. AJ replies that they technically agreed on “no wings”, in a lovely little bit of loophole abuse. As they reach the final stretch, AJ and RD are so busy pulling each other back that the rope tying RD’s wings comes unraveled.
So much nom… RD declares “all bets are off” as she starts to gain altitude, but Applejack pounces and brings her down again, as they cross the finish line in a big ball of violence. Still arguing over who came first, they are shocked when Pinkie announces that they tied… for LAST place! Twilight comes up with a medal, but admits she didn’t get first place, only fifth. She says she did so well because she followed her book’s advice: pace yourself and sprint to the finish when the other runners are tired out. Princess Celestia herself comes out of the crowd, being there to watch the Running of the Leaves, one of her favourite events of the year. Both AJ and RD apologize for their behavior, but Celestia forgives them, saying that she understands how a pony can get swept up in competition. Twilight finishes by stating the moral of the episode: to remember that the friendship is more important than the competition. The poacher. Since they were concentrating on cheating each other and not on knocking down leaves, there is still a need for more running, and Applejack and Rainbow Dash, restored to their former friendly rivalry, set off into the sunset together. Highlights When Rainbow and Applejack are staring each other down after the marathon challenge, Rainbow blows a raspberry, causing them both to giggle for a moment, then their expressions get serious again. Rainbow and Applejack teasing Twilight about learning how to run from books: AJ: “Have you ever run a race?”
TS: “Well, no... but I do know a lot about running.”
RD and AJ trade glances, and both try to keep a straight face
RD: “And you know this from…?”
TS: “Books! I’ve read several on the subject.”
RD falls over laughing
RD: “What d’ya read, ‘The Egghead’s Guide to Running’? Did you, did you stretch out your eye muscles to warm up?”
RD is rolling on the floor at this point
RD: “Get it? Eye muscles?”
TS: “Scoff if you must, Rainbow, but the Running of the Leaves is a Ponyville tradition, and since I’m here to learn, I’ve decided I should experience it myself.”
AJ is also sniggering, but tries to be serious for a moment
AJ: “Well, I think that’s just dandy, Twilight. Good luck.”
RD: “Yeah. See you at the finish line… tomorrow!” Twilight passes Rainbow and Applejack during one of their altercations in the woods, and delivers the wonderfully backhanded insult quoted above. Analysis A pretty straightforward episode here, driven by the rivalry between two good athletes. Pinkie and Spike’s interactions are also funny, with the pink pony’s purile pontifications mystifying the less lateral-thinking lizard. The dialogue overall is very enjoyable, as is the lovely fall scenery. There are a few minor problems, as mentioned: how Rainbow concluded that Applejack tripped her when she was nowhere near her at the time; if Twilight was going so slowly, how could she catch up enough to get fifth place; both Applejack and Rainbow being a little too willing to follow the letter of the law than the spirit. But these are relatively minor, and the episode is highly entertaining. Pros: Good character driven plot; funny dialogue; a good moral; lovely animation Cons: Loophole abuse; some minor lapses of logic.   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 leafy side up!

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Episode 12. "Call of the Cutie": Apple Bloom's Blank Flank Blues

*Deep breath* There’s a cuteceneara this afternoon and every pony in my class will be there and they’ll all have their cutie marks, and I wanna get my cutie mark, but I'm no good at selling apples, but I really want to go to the party but how can I go to the party if I don't have my cutie mark which my big sister says I’m gonna get eventually, but... I want it now! – Apple Bloom This episode introduces not only the Cutie Mark Crusaders, but also the Bully Duo of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. In the opening scene, teacher Cheerilee explains about Cutie Marks, the magical flank tattoos that all ponies acquire once they discover themselves. This lesson is ostensibly taught to the students, but it’s really for the benefit of the audience, and the students who already have theirs find the lesson incredibly boring. Apple Bloom, however, is fascinated. She is distracted by DT, who wants her to pass a note to SS. The second it touches AB’s lips, however, Cheerilee notices, somehow missing that the note came from DT not a fraction of a second earlier. When she confiscates the note, she finds it blank, and DT makes a joke at AB’s expense about the fact that her flank is as blank as the paper is. This scene pretty much sets up the plot of all the CMC episodes to follow. It also has palette swaps of Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, the other CMC members.
Maybe they’re in disguise due to embarrassment about their blank flanks. While Apple Bloom is still put out about being a blank flank, her friend and fellow blank flank Twist tries to cheer her up by offering her some of her homemade candy canes. DT and SS also appear, inviting both of them to her Cuteceanera despite (or knowing DT, because of) their lack of cutie marks. Most of the episode features Apple Bloom trying everything she can think of to earn her cutie mark before the party. However, her overeagerness to sell apples at the market not only scares away the customers, but ends with Applejack telling her to go back home. When she stubbornly refuses, Applejack softens and encourages her to visit Twist, so that they can go to the party together. On arriving at Twist’s place, however, an unpleasant surprise awaits: Twist is no longer blank flank, having rather inconveniently realized that making candy IS her special talent. Twist urges her to come with her to the party anyway, but DT and SS happen to be passing by and passing comments, which makes Apple Bloom feel even worse.
Equestrian weather can be rather literal at times. Rainbow Dash notices the moping Apple Bloom, and offers to help her get her cutie mark: the key is trying as many things as possible in as short a time as possible. This starts a montage of epic failery, (I know that’s not a word, just go with it) with every attempt at anything ending in disaster, despite Coach Dash’s best efforts. While Coach is pondering what to try next, Pinkie comes past and offers to let Apple Bloom eat cupcakes. Once she is ensnared, however, Pinkie admits that she doesn’t have any cupcakes, but that they should make some, which of course, means a Random Song Out of Nowhere. It’s pretty catchy. Apple Bloom’s talent is definitely not making cupcakes, since they come out burnt to a crunchy crisp. The baking is interrupted by the arrival of Twilight Sparkle, whom Apple Bloom entreats to make her cutie mark appear by using magic. This also turns out to be a bust, since magic can’t make a cutie mark appear before it’s time (this does NOT prove that cutie marks are entirely immune to magic, as some fans seem to think, only that making one appear prematurely is impossible, since it requires an epiphany on the part of the young filly herself.) Finally having had enough, Apple Bloom decides that there is no way she will be attending the party without a cutie mark, but suddenly realizes she is already there: it’s being held at Sugarcube Corner! Her attempts to hide are foiled, and even her escape out the door is blocked when Applejack arrives and says how happy she is to see that Apple Bloom came to the party despite the thing with Twist. Then she leaves her to the tender mercies of her “friends”: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, who are happy to have their punching bag in their clutches. Thinking quickly, she grabs a nearby table cloth and wraps it up into a makeshift gown to cover up her still blank flank. Then she outfoxes DT by claiming that not only does she now have a cutie mark, but that it’s so awesome that revealing it will make everyone pay attention to her and not to DT. Unfortunately, her bluff is uncovered when she trips and exposes her flank. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon start in on her again, when a new voice interrupts with the words: “You got a problem with Blank Flanks?” Cue Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo coming out from under a nearby table.
Just like Twisted Sister: they’re not going to take it… They come to Apple Bloom’s rescue, saying that her blank flank is a sign of her future potential, and revealing that they too are blank in the flank. The young party guests rally around the three, leaving DT and SS out in the cold. This is probably why DT seems to have such a grudge against them: they outshone her at her own party. But more about that later on. The three blank flanks become firm friends, and start calling themselves the Cutie Mark Crusaders, aiming at finding their special talents together. Twilight closes the episode with a message about how a weakness can be something that helps you meet your best friends. While the moral is a little bit forced, the purpose of this episode was to introduce the CMC and set up the plot line, which it does pretty well. It’s entertaining while simultaneously making you feel bad for all the bad stuff Apple Bloom goes through. Apparently the universe has a grudge against her. A question that could be raised is why Applejack and Cheerilee are so oblivious to the fact that Apple Bloom is being targeted by bullies. Plot convenience is really the only answer. Pros: Introduces the CMC; amusing to watch how epically AB fails at nearly everything Cons: Convenient plot; moral is a little weak. Highlight: Apple Bloom's kite not only crashes, but also disintegrates! 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 11. "Winter Wrap Up": Twilight Sparkle Fails

The time has come to welcome spring, and all things new and green.
But it’s also time to say goodbye, it’s winter they must clean.
Twilight Sparkle, you may not sing; this kind of rhyming is my thing! This episode gives us the first proper song of the series. By “proper”, I mean not a Pinkie Pie “random song out of nowhere”, but an actual musical number featuring multiple characters. And it is glorious. But let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start. Twilight wakes up excited because it’s Winter Wrap-up Day, where spring is pony-ually (I know that’s not a real word, just go with it) brought to Ponyville. Spike is unimpressed and grumpily goes back to sleep. Fortunately Twilight anticipated that. She quickly gets her winter clothes on and rushes outside, only to realize it’s still dark out… and there is absolutely no snow to be seen. I sometimes wonder if anyone watches the episodes before they are released, because that is a major mistake, as we see plenty of snow in the rest of the episode. Twilight and Spike head to the Town Hall, where all of Ponyville has gathered and been assigned to one of three teams: the Weather Team in blue, mainly pegasii; the Planting Team in green, mainly earth ponies; and the Animal Wake-up team in tan. Twilight, being new, has no team assignation, and the song reflects both her desire to help out and her uncertainty as to what she can do without using her special talent, magic. Twilight tries to help the various teams, but lacking wings (for the time being), she can’t help the weather team. Her nest-building tutelage under Rarity’s discerning eye results in a disaster of a first attempt, which Rarity then spends the majority of the rest of the episode trying to fix. Her first attempt at lake scoring on skates with Pinkie likewise goes wrong, and when she tries to help Fluttershy wake up the hibernating animals, she keeps running into all the kinds of beasties she doesn’t want to see: snakes, bats and even a family of skunks.
Twilight just found out where BatBrony likes to hang out… Spike insists that Twilight should just use her magic, but she steadfastly refuses. They make their way out to Sweet Apple Acres to help with the snow cleanup. Applejack is doubtful, but lets Twilight try pushing one of the snow-shovel-thingies. Finding that she lacks the physical strength to move it, she finally breaks down and decides to try a spell – specifically, a “Come to Life” spell. Spike, noticing that she is using magic, approves. However, this doesn’t last long when Twilight’s snow-shovel-thingie starts going too fast for her, and she ends up ploughing into both AJ and Spike, and sending an avalanche of snow onto the space the Planting team has just spent the morning clearing of snow. Applejack is uncharacteristically but not unreasonably angry with Twilight, sending her running off in tears. Utterly depressed, Twilight is hiding in the bushes as Spike tries to convince her to lighten up. He doesn’t do a very good job, pointing out everything Twilight has proven a failure at. Nearby, an argument between Applejack and Fluttershy about how quickly to melt the snow breaks out. Fluttershy is actually very assertive in this scene, since the safety of her animals is at stake. More and more ponies end up joining the argument, until Mayor Mare arrives to give them all a stern talking to, for once proving that she does wield some influence in the town. I had wondered before. Even then, the town is unable to pull together, until Twilight realizes that her organizational skills can save the day. With the help of a nearby bird (and a little illicit magic), Twilight gets everypony's attention and organizes the crew in a musical reprise montage. Some things make sense, like putting the snow-plough, ground-plough and seed planters in a line to do three jobs at once; using Pegasus power to get rid of all the clouds, snow and ice with a tornado; or using teams of ponies to score the ice. But the way the Animal Wake-up team tie all the bells together so that they can be rung at the same time leaves me scratching my head. It isn't possible to tie the bells to the ropes faster than a pony can ring it at each burrow anyway. Not logical, but I guess for the sake of the story, it's forgivable. After a day and night of pulling together, Spring arrives on time for the first time, and to celebrate, the Mayor thanks Twilight and gives her the title of All-Team Organizer, with a swanky new vest to celebrate.
Who's got game? I got game! Pity nopony thinks to save poor Spike, who is napping on the last rapidly melting block of ice. Later, as he sits by the fire with a case of the sniffles, Twilight dictates her Letter to Celestia: "Everyone has a special talent to help others, and you can find it if you try hard enough. Also, ponies can do anything when they work together." Thoughts on the song: Apart from "Winter Wrap Up" being a whole-town, rousing musical number, it also provides a bit of foreshadowing of the episode, because after Twilight’s solo part, the tempo really picks up for the final refrain, hinting at the way that her help will speed up the process of wrapping up winter. It's a really catchy crowd song, with a good beat. Thoughts on the episode: The plot is pretty standard... the newcomer doesn't fit in anywhere, and gets discouraged, until she finds out she can do something to help after all. Still, it was funny to see all of Twilight's epic fails, you end up feeling quite sorry for her, and the happy ending comes when that she finds her place in the end. A really nice slice of life episode. Highlights: Rarity breaking down in tears while trying to fix Twilight's nest. The song, of course. The melodic reprise that also doubles as a hard-work montage. Spike kind of gets a bit of comeuppance for making fun of Twilight the whole episode through. Pros: A great crowd song, a good moral, and some funny moments. Fluttershy being assertive. Cons: Not an extraordinarily different take on the "awkward newcomer" plot; lack of snow in the opening scene is a really big mistake and really shouldn't have happened.   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 103. “Amending Fences”: It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want to...

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

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

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

“But…”

“Oops! Gotta go!”

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

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

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Disney Princesses Tattoos

In my varied travels through the 'net, I came upon these: Tattoo-arific (I know that's not a word, just go with it) pictures featuring the most well-known Disney Princesses.   Which one do you like the best? Can you guess which one I like?   Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/donnad/disney-princesses-as-fierce-vintage-tattoed-pin-ups I had nothing to do with the creation of these, but I sure do like them.

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Derpy in Season 4

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox

 

Are The Friendship is Magic Comics Canon?

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

Sunny Fox

Sunny Fox