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Synopsis:

Spike is disappointed that he’s unable to be helpful to the Mane Six while they’re working on restoring the Castle of the Two Sisters. He ends up going to the library to read a “Power Ponies” comic he has, only for the comic to spontaneously suck him and the girls into it. The seven are turned into the “Power Ponies”, and Spike soon discovers they’re stuck in the comic until they defeat their archnemesis: the Mane-iac. However, Spike is downcast because while the girls were all turned into superheroes with powers, he’s become the powerless comic-relief sidekick Humdrum, and he’s upset he can’t help here any better than in the real world. The girls confront the Mane-iac but, due to no experience with the comic universe or their powers, are summarily defeated, captured, and put in the path of her “doomsday weapon” to be its first victims. Yet while captured, the girls reiterate their faith in Spike rescuing them, saying how he always comes through for them. Spike, overhearing this, is encouraged and shakes out of his own depression and ends up busting the girls out. The Mane Six destroy the weapon and defeat the Mane-iac, and everyone is teleported back to Equestria. Twilight Sparkle assures Spike that even if they don’t always need him, they know they can always depend on him.

Review:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most over-elaborate and sophisticated gloss for a Spike-themed episode ever. In the midst of all of this nerdom and fanservice, distill the episode down and it’s nothing more than a rehash of “Owl’s Well That Ends Well”, where the moral was Spike learning that he was valuable to Twilight and the girls. The end result makes this episode have one of the weakest, most tacked-on morals in the entire series.

But that said…it’s clear the show creators intended the take-home message to be the real “gloss” for this episode, and the rest of it was just supposed to be pure fun. And…er…it is for the most part. I can’t get over the fact Twilight Sparkle is a pro at magic but is suddenly a greenhorn as the Masked Matterhorn, or that Rainbow Dash makes storms and tornadoes all the time and yet is suddenly clueless as Zapp. It really doesn’t make sense. You can argue it’s a situation where they’re in different bodies that don’t “mesh”, but if that’s the case, Applejack takes right to being Mistress Marevelous. And while I love the somewhat-less-cliche nods to Green Lantern, the Joker, and the Hulk…the bulk of this episode is ripped off of the old Adam West “Batman” series. The problem is it still has enough inspiration from other sources, including the superior animated series, to not be a decent parody of the Adam West one. More like it just “ripped the more cliche and over-the-top bits” like the Mane-iac’s puns and the matching henchmen.

Still, the episode had good parts. Like I said, it’s mostly fun if you can ignore the fact the girls have gone up against “supervillains in real life” before. And the Mane-iac herself is a scream. It would have been easy just to make her a straight Joker ripoff, but her schtick with the hair really works well in more of the vein that Doctor Octopus uses, including rarely moving using her own four limbs, using the hair for locomotion, and flinging large objects as projectiles using it. Her tendency to laugh and rant is just barely not cliche enough to make her seem genuinely maniacal and psychotic, as is the voice acting by Ellen Kennedy (hope to see more of her in the future on the show).

Finally, I think it handled the moral better than “Owl’s Well That Ends Well”. Like I said before, Spike has a tendency to get portrayed in a negative light in the episodes he features in. This is a rare time where he was pretty much all-around positive.

What this episode did, to me, was show me Season Four had “hope” to be “a passable season”. I still dreaded it would be subpar to all the great Season Two episodes (with the possible exception of CMC ones), but I no longer feared that the show would “limp along” as it did for the first three episodes, although I had some residual fear it had “peaked” in this episode. The next two episodes, however, would finally put my fears to rest.

Fun Facts:

This episode has the distinction of being the only episode of the series so far with three writers credited to it.

Full cast breakdown:

– Twilight Sparkle as “the Masked Matterhorn”

– Pinkie Pie as “the Fillysecond”

– Rainbow Dash as “Zapp”

– Rarity as “Radiance”

– Applejack as “Mistress Marevelous”

– Fluttershy as “the Saddle Rager”

– Spike as “Humdrum”, the sidekick

This episode is (naturally) so loaded with comic-book allusions they’re almost too numerous to count.

– “Maretropolis” is a knockoff of Metropolis, home of Superman.

– The Mane-iac’s origin is similar to one of the renditions of the Joker’s origins.

– The Mane-iac herself, personality-wise, has a lot in common with the Joker (more the one done by Caesar Romero than the one in modern comics), but her “modus operandi” and power is more similar to Doctor Octopus. On being defeated, she lapses into uncontrollable insane laughter…much like the Joker routinely does.

– Humdrum is a knock off of Robin, in particular his character on the Adam West show rather than the comic. Spike even does the whole trademark: “Holy (Insert Whatever)!” deal that Burt Ward did.

– The Masked Matterhorn doesn’t really correspond to any one superhero in particular and is probably the only “original” one in the bunch.

– The Fillysecond is a takeoff of the Flash.

– Zapp is likely a takeoff of Storm of the X-Men, although the fact she controls lightning through her lightning-bolt pendant is more likely a takeoff of Thor’s Mjolnir.

– Radiance is a takeoff of the Green Lantern.

– Mistress Marevelous, considering her lasso and name, seems to be a takeoff of Wonder Woman, but I personally think she’s more of a takeoff of the Green Arrow (just using a lasso instead of a bow and arrow).

– The Saddle Rager is a takeoff of the Hulk.

– A somewhat more “subtle” takeoff of comic lore, again, in particular, the old Adam West “Batman” series, is the fact all of the Maneaic’s henchmen are hair stylists. It was always a common theme in the series to make the henchmen tie into the “theme” of the villain. Yet as a double nod, a lot of them are white-coated with green manes, making them look a lot like the Joker.

– In another less-explicit reference, the Mane-iac fails due to going on a stereotypical villain rant/ gloat while a hero foils her plans.

– In a non-comic reference, when the Power Ponies are victorious, Spike begins to say: “Once again the day is saved…”, which is a knockoff of the famous ending line to almost every episode of the Powerpuff Girls.

Fixing up the Castle of the Two Sisters? Six episodes in and they already forgot all about the crystal chest. 😛

Maretropolis is definitely the most “urban” we’ve ever seen the show, but as an additional allusion to comics, a few shots look very much in the same art style as “Batman: The Animated Series”. In particular the view of the factory after coming back from the second commercial.

As a nod to Spike’s infatuation with Rarity, while sounding off the Power Ponies, he has a visible tone of adoration on his voice while listing off “Radiance”.

Another Wilhelm Scream during the big fight. Speaking of which, once again, the writers are exploiting that rating system for all they’re worth for a “violent” episode.

“Fluttershy as the Hulk” was pretty much a joke everyone saw coming a mile away, but was still enjoyable. Although her official title is Saddle Rager, “Flutterhulk” became an instant hit online…at least, until she was surpassed by Fluttershy’s alternate form in the next episode. 🙂

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

 

 

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