P.S.: This is kinda funny, too:
P.S.: This is kinda funny, too:
There are some thematic similarities to the episode Forever Filly, but more basically this was a total unicorn episode. Maud was the only non-unicorn, but she fit in just fine because of the theme.
The issue I see portrayed here that the episode sadly didn't even quite touch on due to it being like a unicorn mind bubble is that friendship based on common interests alone, not on interest in each other, is a relatively weak friendship. It's a wholly different level to base it on deeper bonds than just shared interests. New discoveries and all matters of the mind might delight the heart, but when they are gone, so is the delight. And usually just being together a lot in childhood creates a strong bond by itself, but here we saw an example where that, too, was just based on shared interests. (I have a deliberately puzzling saying to sum this up: "True friendship is nothing personal.")
Thus, Starlight was closed to just sharing joy with her friend, to generate/practice friendship instead of just expecting to reap the fruits. Her openness is very conditional; her friendship is not practiced in appreciation of itself. Once again I am reminded how Fluttershy should be the actual princess of friendship. She is very heart-focused, and that's where the source of potentially infinite strength lies. In fact, because of how she helped Discord, she should be the Princess Of Mighty Friendship (POMF). And since Pinkie Pie's element is laughter, she should be the Princess of Neighs (PoNeigh). But I digress.
This episode could maybe also be considered somewhat autism-themed, since these things seem typical troubles that autistic people face in their life. This would at least explain why the resolution was very modest and still based on the characters' traits that caused the trouble in the first place. A doing-what-works kind of approach that also preserves their character archetypes.
When Starlight commented on how the warehouse looked smaller on the outside, that was an amusing self-joke. Who didn't think exactly that? "Where the hay is that huge warehouse in Ponyville? Never seen it before."
Judging by the bed scene, Sunburst seems to have gotten too used to wearing his robe. Or maybe the reason he is wearing it all the time is because he's got some kind of insecurity. Starlight seems to know, since she's not inquiring about it. This is the same kind of oddity as with Fluttershy in an early episode. It's generally a bit of a downer to me if the writers ignore the characters' pony nature and just make them act like pony-shaped humans.
I found the brief Maud comedy dialogue very witty. Selfless humor, all in the perception, not in the performer. But then she kinda blew it and revealed she's just got a Cmdr. Data approach to it. From the show audience perspective it still worked though. She was funny when she claimed she wasn't and then wasn't funny when she claimed she was.
I like to say there's no such thing as a bad Fluttershy episode, but I have to and gladly will expand that to Pinkie episodes. Not much more to say here. I just enjoyed it way too much to do an analysis.
And I love the idea of half-birthdays. Such a pinkie thing.
Pinkie.Scriptum.: When it comes to hugs, she knows what she's doing. If the hug is too tight, you are too tight.
Oh and did anyone else see this for a brief moment?...
( I've drawn this myself. https://dowlphin.deviantart.com/art/Antlerjack-710062236 )
I definitely had to raise awareness of severe pie deficiency a moment later...
Not much to say for me on details here. Slight connections to Fame and Misfortune. When Twilight made a deal with Iron Will, the problem and likely chain of events was obvious.
They need to take the helm and do what Iron Will had in mind, but their way, through sincerity. A bit of a soft mutiny, maybe. Twilight could still improve her leadership skills there. Maybe get some assertiveness lessons from Fluttershy? (Oh well, as I said, it was predictable that things would turn out that way in the end anyway. Just make sure you apply this awareness to your life, too.) I just found it very unlikely how Twilight could miss the Northern Stars, considering she was looking in their direction, with only the ship's cabin blocking the view.
Lesson: Don't make deals with crooks, but set them straight, set proper standards. That contract wasn't even legit, considering nopony but Twilight's parents signed it. But apart from that, while law is a worthwhile concept, there are higher virtues that trump it. The Dao De Jing puts kindness over justice. The former is more powerful than the latter, i.e. it does not practice justice, yet somehow takes care of its concerns, too.
It is a really good book that I would suggest Twilight to read, so here's the segment from it that I am referring to, from a modern-language version (http://www.beatrice.com/TAO-pamphlet.pdf):
People with integrity
don't even think about it.
That's how you can tell
they have integrity.
Other people talk about
how much integrity they have,
when they really don't have much.
Truly powerful people
don't do anything,
but they get the job done.
Other people are always busy
but nothing ever gets done.
When kind people act,
they do so without thinking about it.
When the just act,
they're always sure
they're doing the right thing.
But when the righteous act,
and nobody reacts,
they try to force everyone
to do things their way.
If you're not in touch with Tao,
at least you can still have integrity.
If you don't have integrity,
there's always kindness.
If you don't have kindness,
there's always justice.
If you don't have justice,
all you have left is righteousness.
Right at the beginning when I saw Kettle Corn, I was like: Woah! Bagua calligraphy! ^^
The haiku thing then made it pretty clear that hers is an Asian arts theme. In case you didn't know, circle painting is a very profound practice about reading and getting to know yourself and your interaction with the world and ensuing inner state. I also want to point out that writing a haiku is about more than the 5-7-5 format. Good haikus contain a bit of a turn of expected events or such, surprising the reader in an enlightening-entertaining way. - An example of mine:
On the mountain's peak
Eagles circling beneath me
Sky reaches so deep
The episode touches many angles all worth pondering. Rumble was a bit of a wakeup call for the CMC's 'just doing their thing' and becoming a bit inflexible in their mind that way. Him being driven by own issues and rallying others to seek external affirmation and avoidance is of course another common theme, but in that he also had a teacher role. The CMC were right though that cutie marks have a mind on their own (I would say they're a symptom of the inherent Equestrian magic of the land) and one can always trust them to be a wise guide.
We probably don't have to mention that it was kinda obvious what Rumble's issue was early-on. But as I said, in a way only half of his issue was in lack of understanding (of his older brother) on his part. The other half was in the CMC's lack of realizing what was going on.
This episode's lesson is close to me because I have experienced something like this myself. I once participated in something meant to heal and guide, but the organizers were so used to just doing their thing again and again that they got stuck in a rut and had become a bit inflexible in their mind, going in opposition to what the healing and guidance is supposed to be all about. But that served an important purpose, a little crisis that needed to be experienced by all involved. And that's also the spirit of MLP episodes. Conflict arises as a means to shed light on things that need to be resolved.
Two episodes with Zecora in a row. Nice. Maybe the writers, as I, thought that she hadn't been around for such a long time that she deserves the extra screen time.
And a whole episode full of Fluttershy. Sweeeeeeet!
OK, some throughs while watching:
- How can Zecora possibly not know about those flowers? She seems to know those flash bees, she's pretty much a herbal witch at home in the place, she knows about poison joke, but not about what those blue flowers can do that are floating around, falling from trees?
- Fluttershy being out of breath from running to the castle... Why didn't she just fly? Is she really faster on hoof than flying?
- When she presented the situation to Twilight, it was probably just to not waste episode time and because miscommunication wasn't a tool of the plot, but to me as a communication buff it is always a joy to witness right-to-the-point talk like that, haha. She might have picked that up from Pinkie Pie.
- They were so worried about Zecora coughing bubbiles, but I don't find that so bad. Ask Pinkie Pie what she thinks about this.
- I kinda expected that Zecora would eventually lose her ability to rhyme, heh. Those weird blue flower diseases like to shake things up massively.
- The two 'Fluttershy door puzzles' in a row were kinda hilarious.
All those technical points aside, the message of this episode was very dear to me. ( And it was a Fluttershy episode! Always a huge plus! )
She cares so much for others that she can through cases like this enter an extreme imbalance that helps no one. After all, maybe the information about the mask WAS there in the book all along, as visualized, but she was too tired to make the connection. Then again...
What was a bit of the usual odd writing though was that in three days our smart pony Twilight couldn't figure out a solution. (But these maneuvers are kinda common in writing, actually.)
Another closely related lesson of the episode is that when you obsess too much over something, your mind blocks itself from utilizing things like intuition and calm observation. Sometimes you just gotta sleep over it to see more clearly.
This episode starts with Pinkie pronking (you guys!). My favorite part of the episode.
I found the not well thought-out adventure chees a bit too much at times...
Walking straight across a straight bridge blindfolded shouldn't be that hard for a pony, and you can also sense the edge with your hooves if necessary, not to mention its movements giving away your center of gravity.
The leap of faith thing was an obvious Indiana Jones reference; no surprise in this episode, hah. But them not seeing the steam vents until they jumped was odd, not to mention them being oddly powerful, giving that scene a very strong arcade jump&run game flavor, and the fact that flying was disabled in the interior space of the pyramid didn't help, ha-ha. Immediately made me think of World of Warcraft.
That scene and the whole episode made me think of a "jump&pronk" game starring Pinkie Pie. (That would actually have been a good episode title, haha.)
When Rainbow Dash was captured by the villain, I thought: Why didn't she just fly off? But then when she was tied up she wasn't gagged and thus could scream for help. All seems like they tried to fit so much into the episode that they cut corners to a degree beyond the normal.
And then finally the villain publicly reveals his plan, but then is surprised by the backlash. This is a lot cheesier than what it is based on, touching on self-parody territory.
Oh and then the fact that Daring Do seems to care so much about the villager that she rescues them from danger, but doesn't bother talking to them. Reads newspaper articles about the mess she actually left and cannot figure out by herself that maybe she could help them clean up and/or explain why it happened. Dr. Caballero wasn't really the problem here, he simply exploited a void of communication.
Even for a kids' show the writing quality was a bit borderline. I can only assume that maybe they wanted to cram too much into one episode and the playtime limit necessitated such crude simplifications.
In closing, and in the spirit of this episode featuring Pinkie (Actually, I don't need that excuse, haha), two conclusion I took from the episode:
1) Idol worship is idle worship.
2) Daring Do turned more into Caring Do.
Interesting. First Thorax episode two eps ago and this one has a similar approach: Mess things up and that fixes the problem. Actually not that rare, actually, if you think about it. Starlight and Trixie themselves weren't the friendship problem this time as severely as Spike. But it was close. But more or less many episodes follow this pattern. When does the first attempt at solving the problem ever succeed? Exceptions from that are a delight to me. Magical Mystery Cure comes to mind. I am so glad they didn't have more time to drag that out.
Pretty early it was obvious to me the way to help Pharynx was to give him purpose again. There's a reason he was the only one preserving the old way. A pendulum that swung to the other side needed to come to the middle. No one left behind, so to speak.
Beautiful role reversal writing: Thorax used to be in a very similar situation as Pharynx was now.
Also, in how in the end Pharynx transformed, this episode expressed a very profound spiritual lesson: From acceptance comes change.
P.S.: I'll never get used to ponies walking on three legs while talking with their hoof. The animators should really focus on making them more expressive in other ways if they feel it necessary. It's mindbuck to me every time. Something I'd expect to see in a YTP video and laugh.
P.P.S.: Maulwurf - German word for mole. Nice easy pun for a mauling menace.
OK, let's see. A secretly-entertaining-two-guests story. Not sure whether we had that before. Watching it didn't leave me with enough energy to investigate.
The problem became visible quite soon, too.
In such episodes that can be difficult to watch because so formulaic, especially for a season 7 ep, the little things provide the contrast. Spike exclaiming: "Fighting! Yes!" was very funny, and also Twilight's extreme portrayal towards Ember, or the reaction to the claim she is so much like Starlight.
I just personally don't enjoy this story archetype easily.
It did advance the character stories though, so that became the main driving purpose.
I found it personally disappointing that Ponyville folk is scared of pink fire breath. I mean, seriously, how much nicer can you make a searing wave of air? Sneezing cotton candy? ... OH HEYYYY! IDEA!
What I found really good stuff was how Muffin Murderer - I mean Ember - had difficulty telling Twilight and Starlight apart. Might seem absurd to us, but it happens in interspecies relations or even interracial. One is being used to facial features and general appearance of one's own kind and less used to distinguishing detail of others. That might have been hinted at here. Ember has a different perception, calibrated to dragons. Although execution in detail would then leave some questions, since Ember remarks how colorful everything is in Ponyville, indicating that she does have good color perception. Hm, maybe she just has trouble distinguishing different hues of purple. Hmmmm, but Twilight has wings and Starlight hasn't. OK, forget all that, I think she just has an attention deficit.
The coffee cup scene and possibly others before in the show indicate that the sun is traveling across the sky, really making me wonder why Celestia has to raise it in the morning if it's moving on its own anyway. I think this is just inconsistency and I find it a bit sad when Equestria is assimilated too much to our world's ways instead of celebrating the differences. (Twilight or Pinkie eating flowers seemed a rare case from long time ago underlining their... ponyness? Equinity? )
The charge scene between Ember and Thorax was so ridiculously time-warped that it has to be called a parody, but it didn't quite click with me. Probably reminded me too much of Naruto, LOL.
In essence, the topic of this episode was, again, severe neurosis. Don't we love our neurotic Equestrians? (Must be something in the water, considering Ember and Thorax acted refreshingly natural.) But it also showed how focus on positive outcomes can help with that.
The whole complex of lessons that emerged is beautiful though because in order to solve the friendship problem, Spike was prompted to change himself. He experienced the cause first-hand, him being the problem. So the message is that we create a better world by bettering ourselves and that being a teacher also means being a student.
And then Ember and Thorax help each other solve their problems, so this episode towards the end severely gained 'meaty bits'. Spike then learned, which should relate him to Discord, that sometimes you can be a more passive influence, less controlling, just a catalyst for bringing about the solution through crisis. Problems are teachers and people can assume that role. That's OK, too. ... As long as you don't make it your purpose in life, right?
First, the theme of the episode seemed excessive in the execution. But it's not exactly rare that the writers do that and go all the way, like here with what amounts to mass insanity, making one wonder why the mane 6's popularity never seemed to have been received like this before the book publishing.
Second, the episode obviously conveys the point that if you adress the masses, better not let them know you too well and let you not know them too well. It's not desirable and not good, but sometimes the world can be tough as nails. But these situations are exactly where one has to decide to make an effort, to not just swim with the current, because the water stinks. Identify what is your sphere of responsibility and what is others and then avoid overextending. Going out of your way is commendable, but responses to that should be taken as indicators of whether it is appreciated.
Which leads me to the third point: This episode could almost be seen as a critique of the MLP fandom (but also of society and fandoms in general). And it is also how I feel about it sometimes. People have all kinds of reasons for liking the show, but the probably most valuable and most-needed part is often not really taken to heart. Or mind, if you will. Actually making an effort to make the spirit of Equestria come to life not just in easy but especially also in testing times, through honing character, I often felt that missing, including after my observations and experiences at conventions. In spiritual lingo one would say "bliss junkies".
The eventual song number took me a minute to thaw to because it was so bluntly thrown against the problem, and I could predict the (non)reaction to it (At one point I cynically thought that after it the rabble would probably ask for free concert tickets.), but it was a really nice, uplifting piece whose lyrics at times also felt to me like adressing the fandom. Felt a bit like a celebratory review to a last season actually, like a looking back at a long journey. Which made it even more touching. They also contained some headscratchers though. Do they really like what's flawed about people or do they have an easy time overlooking it when willingness to work on oneself is there? And Dashie's cocky confidence gives her the courage to fail? I thought she always had that and it was to not-quite cover up her fear of failure. (Little gem from me here: Failure is that which is at war with failure.)
Very nice conclusion: Just accept that you cannot adress the masses with high virtue material and expect it to be integrated. Unsurprisingly then it was foals who were still open to it, and those who are are the ones deserving to receive your attention and energy.
The episode is also art in that it offers people an empathic experience regarding the type of fans aimed at. Watching that mass insanity is painful, and you might go: "What warranted this suddenly?". That's how it makes the writers feel. When the mane 6 sing their beautifully uplifting song and then right after it - BAM - NOTHING received, that moment really sucked, right? You go: "This is becoming horribly cynical if not even an episode's highlight can solve the problem anymore". That is how it makes the writers feel. Over 20 minutes you are having their experience, so that you hopefully understand them and recognize the value of what's important about the show.
And the end was conveying the lesson of how to avoid overextending. Did you notice Applejack was first in mentioning they need to deal with the problem at hand, and Twilight said she should stay in the friendship moment? Applejack sang in the song that she has a tendency of wanting to please everypony. The mane 6 there had to focus on their close friendship to recharge their spiritual batteries for a bit in the face of overwhelming hostility.
I myself certainly had and still have to learn in a painful way that it is alright to give up hope on some people or to lose respect. It is a bow of appreciation to the good things in you that said people do not appreciate. They can eventually pick up the bread crumbs if they're lucky. They would just choke on more than that. Going all missionary on them would only feed the insatiable and signal that they have power over you, which is what the whole madness is based on. Sometimes it is wiser to let people stew in their own juice.
P.S.: At this point I thought: Oh yeah, Dashie, REALLY skillful attempt at a disguise, especially for you.
P.P.S. (Pinkie Pie scriptum):
Apples and pears aren't so different. They just speak different dialects.
At first this looked to me like just another "be yourself" episode, but I think it is more interesting to look at how it was the environment that determined whether Discord was present or fading. He tried to adapt and fit into something not him and started fading. Someone else, a friend, Fluttershy, brought the environment back to nourishing him where he couldn't do it by himself anymore.
I.e. sometimes we need others to lovingly do for us what we cannot do ourselves, to add a perception of us that we may have lost, and that might require tangible means, as shown in the episode when Fluttershy's words didn't make a difference. Words are about minds arguing, and in that game, if the problem is in the mind, the problem will always win. As was shown by Discord just countering any of her suggestions with words.
Generally, the episode couldn't possibly have been a downer for me because, as I like to say, "There is no such thing as a bad Fluttershy episode." <3 <3
P.S.: I was a bit disappointed to not see the words "Judgy Clerk Pony" in the credits.
Oh well, TO ACTION! ^^
I thought the black spots weren't part of Luna's cutie mark. Last time, when it was taken away, only the moon vanished. I assumed it's just her natural coat (and that it's naturally symmetrical). Hm, maybe that was just draining the power from the cutie mark.
Interesting dreams ponies have. Pinkie surfing on the gummyboard, wearing shades, I like that a lot, heh. And Derpy as queen, on her side another ... background character. ;-)
Starlight's dragon toothbrush was funny.
Twilight her frequent freakout self, but totally understandable why she couldn't calm herself. Still so much admiration for the regal sisters and projection of crucial importance to Equestria. (She underestimates the importance of everypony else's contribution.)
The episode was full with playfulness, action and lovely little details and a new insight into ponies' daily life.
I will close with one of my favorite pictures from olden times that immediately came to mind when realizing the theme of this episode. I call it "Maneheart"...
Twilight was giving a history lesson about some king and an "Idle of Boring Us".
Pinkie lectured about the Ba-King instead.
I rewatched the episode the very next day because Pinkie.
Conclusion: My Little Pony - Baking Powder Is Magic
Hm, now that was odd. A Halloween episode was perfect timing, but a Christmas episode right before that, that's kinda odd.
What Fluttershy said in the end is roughly how I feel, too. I don't like to play any kind of prank on people that causes bad feelings and discomfort, unless it's to a trivial degree. Just like Fluttershy said: Seeing others in such a state, caused by me, that would make me feel very bad, regardless of prank or not. The feelings are the same. A certain sensitivity combined with empathy prevents enjoyment of that.
Of course they could have told her to just be afraid, to accept the experience; that it's just one night and the whole point, but why should Fluttershy condition herself like that? It would change who she is, and with good, accepting friends, she is in the lovely position of not needing to. She can overcome her fears when it is really required, when it's serious. That's good enough.
They also could have told her that her many worries of being attacked are unfounded and that there's nothing to really be scared of, but that would have defeated the whole purpose of Nightmare Night. ( No, I don't mean candy. )
Speaking of which... Pinkie's candy bag art made me laugh so hard! Like soul images.
The episode generally had a lot of fun little details.
As mentioned in my tweet https://twitter.com/Dowlphin/status/660491881525153796 I must say though, they should really cut back on the ... Wilhelm squeaks ^^, haha. Gets as annoying as the screams can become. Funnily, this was a Halloween episode and as far as I can tell there was actually no Wilhelm SCREAM in it. (Not saying there should have been.)
Apparently they know how to make colored contact lenses in Equestria. Or what other means could Fluttershy have used to change her eye color?
Here are two more spontaneous thoughts I had while watching:
I have been writing a lot about the pain of abundant spoilers. :okiedokielokie:
Can you see where this is going?
No, not gonna say it. You say it!
Let the star of the episode be your hero and do your best to become a hero, too.
Just the usual lesson, actually. But damn, this one is dear to me.
Side note: When you are really making a sincere effort and your intention is pure, but you eventually still falter, life might have your back. The universe appreciates sincerity, action from the heart, and doesn't punish without purpose. Punishment always takes two.
While in execution a lot bothered me about this episode, the overall picture is quite fitting to show some differences of Equestria. I found it weird that toupets don't seem to be a thing there. It was a bit funny how they treat a mane like a very special and magical thing, but Pinkie Pie has shown long ago that there's something to it. Rarity just utilizes its magic in a somewhat different way, heh.
The bottle confusion was just one of those lazy things. At first I didn't even realize they had gotten two different liquids, because I assumed they'd at least get a label or such. The way it was set up one would assume Zecora did it intentionally.
And with all the different tries of toupets improvised out of anything but hair that gave a totally different look, it was odd that nopony suggested to her to use what's left of her mane for such.
P.S.: Role switch would have resulted in Punkie Pie. I'd have loved that just for the ... pun!
Remember Dashie's fear of failure and sometimes overbearing self-glorification? I think the real meat of this episode was written between the lines.
I'd say timing is important and that managing to get along better with her parents could only happen right now, in this episode, not sooner.
I think this only makes sense if we assume that indeed Dashie enjoyed her parents' praise, despite the embarassment. That would make her an odd personality though, because I haven't heard something like this happening. Could be almost schizophrenic. Again - Would explain some of the other troubles she had to deal with and her current personality.
I would say the overall lesson of the episode was that if your parents are like that... be cool.
(Dashie tends to pretend to be cool, but underneath it might look different, which underlines this.)
Remember that this is not primarily a show to teach parents (although it hopefully does teach anybody), but to teach kids, so it doesn't matter whether her parents were a bad example or not. This was about how to deal with it.
As for the details: The door was a hilarious idea. (Subverting viewer's expectations is always fun.) Scootaloo's reaction to Dashie's outburst seemed overly dramatically extreme. The nap joke was the lowest point of the episode; horribly forced.
An excellent episode. I like it so much!
Discord being in his own unique way the teacher more than ever, taking care of the last remnants of problematic ideas from the past that unsurprisingly Twilight would cling to the most, since she is very intellect-focused, and the mind is the origin of all suffering.
It also showed how easily one can fall into self-delusion by making up a self-image designed to avoid being honest to oneself. That kind of honesty being the crucial first step in having a positive impact on the world by having a positive impact on yourself. Thus also hinted at how when we THINK we got stuff figured out, safe and secure, that might be the most dangerous time.
And I especially liked the somewhat unspoken message in the lesson:
That true friendship comes from the heart, not the mind.
The mind on its own would attempt to create a fake of the real thing, an imitation. Something you can observe every day; best example corporate marketing, but also in individuals.
I also grinned knowingly at one point and was wondering whether the writers intended the hint at the irony:
When Twilight was at Zecora's place and insisted that there must be some kind of magic involved in her friends' behavior, I thought:
Well, DUH! There's indeed that one special kind of magic that causes people to have a great time together. You claim to be the Princess of Friendship, educated and skilled in various forms of magic. I'm quite sure you've heard of it.
By the way, Zecora's potion bottle was definitely magical, too. I mean, did you see how much liquid came out of the thing?!
You know, with stories like this, I'm not worried that they might run out of ideas and the show takes a nosedive. As long as they keep having fun like this and don't change the formula, it gives me a warm feeling when thinking about the future. With so many things in our world eventually becoming corrupted, there needs to be at least one exemplary defiant champion in our life. As long as the makers of the show heed their own lessons, we're all safe.
I often look at deep themes that connect MLP episodes to my life experience, and I will do that here, too:
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
This is one of those episodes that trigger my cynical side due to related experiences. In the end they say they got inspired by the play, but really? Charity Kindheart did a big thing before and people were willing to help there, too, despite it being so big. She left and all spirit vanished.
I.e. people love bullshit. The obvious point is that inspiration is exactly what did not happen. Inspiration doesn't mean to follow a strong leader when prompted to. It means becoming one yourself. Living what you witness. They proved that they weren't inspired through their inaction after Charity left. But of course people are always eager to state their bogus beliefs about themselves. And in the case of the moustached pony it's not even a surprise: He had shown how full of shit he is before when he mentioned how 'busy' he allegedly is, with not a moment to spare, while lazily enjoying the sun on a float. (Hm, where have I heard stuff like that before? ... Oh right! Galacon 2014 charity song collab project, from The Living Tombstone.)
It's only a happy end in the sense that they found a replacement leader figure and gave her an initial boost. Give it a couple more events like that and then imagine what happens if Coco Pommel leaves. She'd better find a successor in time. ... But what's the point of doing all that if it doesn't really inspire people anyway? How should it be uplifting for the ones making the effort?
That gives this episode an unspoken grim afterthought, a sister-message that is overlooked in the limelight of the star.
I would tag-line the episode: "Doing free energy giveaways in vampire town".
All talk, no walk. The usual. It's everywhere. Deviations from it are a rarity.
Why didn't Fluttershy try to help Discord get a ticket? She just ignored the matter. Nobody knew the mail had delay. This is like Ticket Master again.
Also, I was surprised at first that he supposedly hadn't been invited, since we know Celestia's attitude towards giving the Grand Galloping Gala an interesting touch. I simply couldn't believe she would not invite Discord. (Twilight should know better by now, too. But that's an ongoing issue in general. So hard to get rid of old habits and ways of thinking.)
It generally lowers my enjoyment a bit when problems build up solely due to miscommunication. I know that it is one of the great challenges in the world, but still, it's a lazy technique and effectively made Fluttershy be uncaring. ... Couldn't keep the episode from being quite the enjoyable one though.
Anybody who thinks about shipping now needs to be put down.
At least she's not biting it anymore.
Elegantly implemented Metal Gear reference. (Although the perspective seems a bit off.)
Pinkie knowing it's Discord. Shaking the camera. OMG, so much highlevel pinkieness in one scene!
Shame is all about norms and contrast, isn't it?
And this closet is the jewelry wardrobe. Unguarded of course. Who needs guards in a royal castle? ... Oh wait.
Dear Discord... when the critics say that Maud Pie is funnier than you, then you really need to... ah, forget it, there's nothing you can do.
Pinkie's dress is lovely.
Dimensional portal: Now this is a somewhat more appropriate, not-so-much-immersion-breaking use of that technique. Apparently it's intended to be clashing. I'm just surprised it didn't cause lovecraftian mental distress. I guess they simply cannot fully perceive the otherness of that dimension.
P.S.: Tree Hugger has attained mastery in clichée. ^^
What bothered me:
- The Game of Thrones reference was the most unskillful and tryhard reference I've ever seen in MLP. I could sense the badum-tshh pause for the expected laughter.
- Yet another Wilhelm scream soon after. This is starting to look like an obsession. The sound design is really getting crude and in-your-face. They need to get out of their head and practice some more sensitivity for subtleties.
- Oh, a song again. A mediocre uplifting song about sabotage. This felt like a quantity-over-quality approach. Less can be more.
- Tank's voice acting was none. While it was just yawning, they could have imagined what a turtle's yawn would sound like. Instead, it sounded exactly like some random adult male non-actor yawning. This doesn't fit with the fact that Tank doesn't talk, because the voice totally suggests that he should be able to.
- No consequences at all for the sabotage? Does she have diplomatic immunity or something? (Probably time constaints, considered of secondary importance to the episode. But even just a brief hint at it would have been better than just acting like nothing bad happened. That together with her weird counter-productive behavior during the winter work not even being noticed by the other ponies felt very odd, like the episode was focusing too much on Rainbow Dash being the star and story and forgetting the impact on everything else.)
What I liked:
- Various character interactions. Not all of them, but the episode had some minor highlights. I liked the one with the name confusion. It got me confused at first, too, which is nicely involving and thus skillful.
- The general message of the episode is very valuable.
Overall I found this a mediocre episode.
It had Fluttershy though.
Just some thoughts I had about the episode.
When Rarity and AJ were at the peak of their heated competition, I was delighted: It's the old Rarity+Applejack polarity tension again! I remember it fondly from "Look Before You Sleep". Very entertaining. (And not the only other case of that clean-vs-dirty issue ... remember Sisterhooves Social?)
There are so many polar pairings just among the mane 6. Smart of Lauren Faust. Makes for a huge amount of character-driven story telling.
Too bad Spike's crush on Rarity made him unable to stand up to her, otherwise he would have been the perfect role model to show Rarity how to deal with it, how to get over the fact that the crush isn't mutual.
Their whole interaction is probably a mix of Rarity exploiting his crush and allowing him the pleasure, to keep it on a low flame, by helping her out and being around her.
Really impressive and playful approach in this episode: A voice actor with no 'Southern' accent emulating someone with a Southern accent who's trying to sound like someone without that accent.
When I first heard Trenderhoof, the voice reminded me a lot of Will Smith's German voice actor. Now you know how Will Smith sounds in German movies.
Alright, enough military talk. ^^
Some brief thoughts on various scenes from episode 11. I'd love to make these things into full Youtube commentary videos, but that's not really feasible at the moment. :-/
So let's get right to it...
When Twiley talked about the Starswirl exhibition and Dashie expressed how lame she thought that is, I found that a bit rude. After all, nopony asked her to attend, so why the complaining?
When Cadance left the train and was teasing Twiley with being overly formal and then said it's not necessary, I was almost expecting Twiley to start the "sunshine sunshine" dance. Maybe Cadance then would probably have told her it's not formal enough, haha. Especially as long as the guards were still standing there.
The part where Discord sings is amazing! Apart from all the stuff contained in the many brief scenes, the whole musical-thingie with the focus on that tiny glass of water reminded me of something. That whole style. I don't know what, but it feels like this was inspired by a certain piece.
And yeah, the scenes. There was a crystal-clear Harry Potter scene in it, there was the always-fun messing with the pony models (picking Twiley's horn and making a flower bouquet out of it and the totally hilarious mane-swap that just has to earn Discord so much sympathy), there was a reference to Swiss herbal cough drops, there was a possible break with canon by showing an airport security scene (where a pony with a dental brace was hesitant to walk through the metal detector), a skiing goat, a squeaky-squeezy Twilight Sparkle doll, an awesome picture with the princesses and Discord holding the tiny glass that looks like inspired by a Star Wars poster or a heavy metal album cover, AND THEN ... it would really surprise me if that awesome and beautiful golden pony harp didn't become twicane's best friend, haha. We even know her mane ... I mean name, because Discord sang "a singing harp that's named Louise". So we have that twicane-like character, a name and we know she can sing, so she can talk. Yep, this is definitely becoming twicane 2.0. ^^
After that musical number follows something that if you think about it, is a semi-roleplaying adventure. (Discord playing the role and the others having an exciting adventure.)
Near the end, when Discord seems kinda dissatisfied and grumpy... I'm not sure whether this isn't just part of his act. I'm suspecting he, just like Pinkie Pie sometimes, just enjoys playing a role, like life is a theater play.
When he's sick again, it is difficult to tell whether it's real this time, but when he enjoys asking for a glass of water again and is generally using the exact same words he used on Twiley and Cadance, I'm very sure he has no intention to pull the same number again. No, Fluttershy is back and he enjoys making the exact same request again, but this time with Fluttershy showing what a good friend is like, and rubbing that contrast into their faces.
When Twiley concluded that with a good friend, even a day full of chaos can become a pleasant experience, I'm wondering whether she included Discord in that definition, hehe.
Oh and I should roll my eyes, shake my head and sigh at this point, followed with a giggle, because they again snuck a Wilhelm scream into this episode. This time it was somewhat conceiled within a sound, but if you pay attention to the moment where the 'flower snake' retreated into the hole, you can hear it clearly at the end of the sound it made there.
UPDATE 2014-01-29: Did some additions and restructuring.
I like season 4's episode 11 "Three's A Crowd" a lot because of the valuable lessons contained within that are touching on my own life experience ... especially one unlearned (!) lesson that might be too in-your-face (or inconvenient) for people to notice.
To begin with, this episode toys with a common tool in script writing, where subplots are wrapped up and vanish and we never hear of it again. I'm sure many people were wondering: "So now Discord is reformed? Where is he? Doesn't he still need the friendship that caused him to reform?"
And the episode treats this as if it happened exactly like that. The mane cast (excluding Fluttershy) really couldn't care less about what Discord is doing, as long as he leaves them alone.
This is a situation very close to reality and makes this like an episode inside of an episode. It is disappointing, because one would think that Fluttershy's amazing strength and skill in winning Discord as a friend would surely inspire her friends to try that approach, too, among other things to practice forgiveness. But instead, they don't care. Out of sight, out of mind. They still want to cling to the past, despite Discord's actions from back then having been relatively harmless.
Not only is this an unwise and somewhat shameful behavior towards Discord, but it is borderline disrespectful towards Fluttershy. Despite her amazing accomplishment that none of the other ponies would have deemed possible, they still don't give her credit for what she did. She basically singlehoofedly freed Equestria from a villain, and she didn't even get a lousy t-shirt.
And Discord (hopefully, finally) taught them a valuable lesson, making him a real - but sadly unappreciated - friend to the mane 6. The kind of friend that is not just pampering you with rainbows and unicorns, but the kind of friend who's got your back and calls you out on your bullshit and pokes you when you're losing 'the path'.
A while ago Fluttershy taught Discord a lesson about friendship, and he is a good student. He understood the lesson, while Fluttershy's close friends are still struggling. Such a good student in fact that he is now helping the other ponies learn lessons about friendship. This makes those ponies look quite bad, and it should. You gotta handle the cognitive dissonance and see in what way Discord is/was a better person than those ponies. Those who miss(ed) something the most will also have the greatest appreciation for it.
Life lessons can come from where you least expect them. But if your whole perception of reality is slanted towards your expectations, you might miss the most valuable ones.
Some moments in the episode that stood out for me:
1) When Discord showed Twiley the letter he got from Fluttershy and stated that he never hears from the other ponies, Twiley responds by saying that she doesn't even know where he lives. He abruptly silences her, and one can see various meaning/intentions in this, or no deep reason at all, but at that moment I was thinking: "Yes, Twiley, what does that tell us about you? Why DON'T you know where he lives? Of course he could have relayed the information to you directly, Princess :-P, but he did to Fluttershy! Did YOU ever bother to inquire about his whereabouts? Ask Fluttershy maybe? No."
Pinkie Pie spelled out what the others thought, too: They were truly surprised that Fluttershy and Discord are pen pals. They still cannot comprehend the level of sincerity in Fluttershy's friendship.
2) When Twiley eventually got angry that Discord was just faking, this is an interesting moment, because he didn't try to conceil it, and his ways are no secret. She really should have known that he is faking, but doing it for a good reason. Of course faking the need for help is not as motivating as a real need, but hey, from a certain standpoint there was a real need. He was merely playing the nemesis. He took a route of action that in a different light could be interpreted as a mildly desperate act.
Also, Discord was toying with her real motivations; those that made her ignore the obvious fact that Discord was faking: Apart from wanting to quickly get back to her relaxing time with Cadance, she wanted to preserve the image she has of herself. We all know how Discord is, so rejecting him shouldn't have been received badly by the other ponies... except Fluttershy! ... at least that's what Twilight thought, because she had a guilty conscience. It is like one of those situations where two people are lying to each other and both know it but don't say anything for mutual face-saving. (Discord's unspoken words here: "You know I'm just faking and I know you just want me gone. But I don't kid myself about my real motivations.") When in the end Discord made her compliments about how she indeed is the true friend he doubted she'd been, that compliment was as fake as Discord's illness. A true friend to him, like Fluttershy, would have had the confidence based on that authenticity to tell him he should stop faking ... but of course, Discord wouldn't have played that game with Fluttershy in the first place, since he knows she is a true friend to him. There is no lesson for reformed Discord to teach. And he also values their true friendship too much to risk ruining it by being dishonorable of what Fluttershy did for him. When Fluttershy caused Discord's reformation, she didn't do it for mere personal gain, but out of real compassion for the pain that made Discord become sorta nasty. He probably only was like that because personal experience made him believe that people like Fluttershy don't exist in the world, or at least that those acts of compassion are not available to him.
3) When Rarity and Applejack stated that Discord got what he deserved, I thought: Indeed, he got at least one true friend (the first he ever had), and while they were referring to his illness that apparently was real this time, he actually got another confirmation of Fluttershy's sincere caring for him. And he used the same wording towards her that he used earlier when he was faking it just to rub it in the other ponies' faces. Or did you really think when he asked for a glass of water again that he had any intention to toy with Fluttershy like he had done with Twilight and Cadance? If so, then think again!
In contrast, the official lesson learned at the end of this episode was pretty much a copy of what had already been conveyed in the season 1 finale "The Best Night Ever" and degraded Discord to a mere catalyst for it.
Now you see how much can be learned from the show if you look closely and accept inconvenient thoughts, too. And it should also make clear why the show means so much to me. Often it's like what I've been thinking/feeling/saying all along, and the show is like a rare incident of hearing a familiar voice - a likeminded entity - all the way to the core. And the contrast between this and what I mostly experience in the real world can be very painful and disheartening.
P.S.: I wanted to add that Pinkie Pie was the least disrespectful to Discord, so when I'm talking about the ponies, I'm not only fully excluding Fluttershy, but also to some degree Pinkie Pie. ... After all, she shares a certain passion with Discord, hehe. ... And she also left the stage quite early. But while she, too, didn't care what Discord was doing, when he was there, she was trying to make the best of the situation. And he rejected her hospitality because he knew that the other ponies had a much bigger need for working though their issue with him. And Pinkie Pie even objected to not being allowed to help him, haha. In a way, she turned it around and toyed with him in his own unique style. This deserves a "Well played, Pinkie Pie!". But here, too, it is not just a little fun, but a display of the wise approach of solving a problem by focusing on the solution instead of the problem, or to realize the core motivation behind behavior. It's really deep stuff.