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