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Episode review: "Not Asking for Trouble"

In any other season, "Not Asking for Trouble" would be a middle-of-the-road throwaway episode. It's simple, it repeats a lot of jokes, and its moral has already been done in this show. In season 7, however, I'm just glad the episode was funny, even though its simplicity wasn't enough to carry the handful of funny gags. Those repeated jokes are at least good on their own, Pinkie Pie is consistently delightful, and it's neat to learn just a little bit more about yak culture, but this is hardly a memorable episode in the grand scheme of the show, even with its small virtues.
When Pinkie Pie is invited to a festival in the village of Yakyakistan, she takes on extra responsibilities as a "friendship ambassador," and is dedicated to making a good impression. However, when this festival leads to an avalanche covering the village, she and the Yak leader, Prince Rutherford, clash over whether Pinkie should ask her friends for help. 
 
Asking for help is was one of the show's earliest morals. Season one episode four, "Applebuck Season," had this exact same moral. Because this is such a stale moral, the conflict of "Not Asking for Trouble" is never especially engaging, because it's both very simple and very familiar. In "Applebuck Season," the simple conflict contributed to Applejack's character building, and while the same is true here for Prince Rutherford, this just isn't a distinctive character trait for him. Initially, it seems that his stubbornness is partially because he doesn't want to ask non-yaks for help, but soon it becomes clear that he just doesn't like asking for help in general. At no point do either Rutherford or Pinkie have any self-doubt, and so the entire episode is little more than Pinkie trying to convince Rutherford to let her call her pony friends over. 
 
As a result, the entire episode is reliant on how creative Pinkie's attempts are. Thankfully, they're at worst still fairly amusing. First, she tells a fable where goats stand in for the yaks and cows stand in for the ponies, and second she attempts to lie that her friends want to come over and try the snow sandwiches which the yaks have begun eating in lieu of real food. Rutherford sees through both attempts, but Pinkie's efforts are amusing to watch nonetheless, as are her earlier attempts to appreciate and fit into Yak society. She clearly doesn't fully understand it, but she's constantly self-conscious about that, and attempts to be respectful in spite of her own lack of appreciation. 
 
Pinkie's relative maturity here doesn't come at the expense of her outgoing personality, however. She's still very loud and very excitable, and spends a good deal of the episode talking. Either she's trying to pass balloon trips by playing games with Gummy, stating her appreciation for Yak culture, or attempting to convince Rutherford, and while her characterization isn't exaggerated, it's not especially deep either. Aside from her efforts at cultural relativism, the episode doesn't tell us anything new about Pinkie, but thankfully her usual surface charms are intact. She's still creative and funny, her enthusiasm is still infectious, and her empathy is still admirable. Combine this with a small but respectable degree of patience - she respects the Yaks' wishes until she sees kids complaining - and this is probably one of her more solid appearances in recent memory.
 
I do enjoy seeing just a little more about Yak culture, and as always, I enjoy the relative sensitivity the show tends to treat them with. Unlike griffons, dragons, or even changelings to an extent, they don't stand in for specific personality traits, and since it's Rutherford alone who is keeping the yaks from calling for help, the climax doesn't devolve into ponies saving a foreign culture from itself, therefore avoiding unfortunate implications. Rutherford explains the Yikslurbertfest holiday as yaks smashing things to relax, and that's the kind of interesting cultural development which gave season 6's "Gauntlet of Fire" its novelty. Furthermore, Rutherford demonstrates more of a sense of humour here, at one point tricking Pinkie into thinking she broke a stick, which he announces by telling her to "check herself before she wrecks herself." 
 
Also funny is Gummy, who makes recurring appearances for visual gags where his lack of any reaction to what's happening around him never fails to be amusing. Gummy doesn't even respond when Pinkie tries to play games with him, and all of these gags are especially funny due to the context of season 5's "Slice of Life." What is he thinking at any of these moments? The question is funnier than any answer could be. This gag is repeated a few times, as are a few others, but they're at least good gags to repeat. In the climax, Pinkie manages to bring her friends over, and we even get to hear Rainbow deny Pinkie the game she was failing to play with Gummy. Ultimately the mane six don't get many opportunities to banter, but they do wind up clearing the snow from Yakyakistan. 
 
And yet, it's not clear how they accomplish this. Earlier, we saw the Yaks themselves failing to clear the snow together, so how were six ponies able to do a better job? They didn't even bring Spike, whose dragon breath might have been particularly helpful. Furthermore, while this situation is clearly desperate enough that going against Rutherford's wishes was the right call, I'm not sure if this moral could be applied more broadly. It actually does differ from "Applebuck Season" in that it also involves helping friends even if they don't ask for it, but I don't think I'd want unsolicited help unless the situation was indeed urgent. With that said, Pinkie doesn't barge in until she's certain that the situation is urgent and that the yaks don't have a plan, so more likely it's not meant to apply beyond such an urgent situation. Still a little rote, however. 
 
Any other season, this would be an unremarkable episode, but this is season 7, and I'm just glad for something funny. While the episode doesn't capitalize on it, "Not Asking for Trouble" does give characters a lot more space to breathe than many others this season, and while it's not as funny as the other three episodes I liked, it's still got a lot of strong jokes going for it, and that's the most basic thing I'm asking for. It's disappointing that this is one of the season's best episodes, but beggars can't be choosers, and "Not Asking for Trouble" is enjoyable enough in its own right even if it's not terribly memorable. This show should be doing better, but this episode is fine. 
 
Score:
Entertainment: 7/10
Characters: 7/10
Themes: 5/10
Story: 6/10
Overall: 63/100
 
You can find more like this at my offsite blog
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