Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Synopsis:

While going about the market, Apple Bloom meets an elderly pony who has opened up a pear stand named Grand Pear, who she learns used to live in Ponyville but moved away to Vanhoover where his pear farm met financial success. He talks kindly to her and gives her a jar of pear jam for free, which she rushes home to show Applejack and Big Macintosh. However, on seeing the pear jam, they react strongly: saying that the Apple family and the Pear family have been feuding for years and have nothing to do with each other. Yet when Apple Bloom asks why, neither of them know as Granny Smith has always gotten emotionally distraught when asked about it. They end up going to visit Goldie Delicious to ask, who reveals the Apples and Pears used to have farms adjacent to each other in Ponyville, and Granny Smith and Grand Pear led their respective families in a feud over who was the better farmers for years. The only two who got along were Bright Macintosh of the Apples and Pear Butter of the Pears, who the three realize were their deceased parents. They next go to Burnt Oak, Bright Mac’s best friend, and find out the two started a secret romance after Bright Mac refused to let Pear Butter take the rap for him accidentally breaking a Pear water tower. They next go to Mrs. Cake, Pear Butter’s best friend, who got her Cutie Mark and talent for baking thanks to her and discovered how much time they spent together while trying to bake her a “thank you” cake. After years of secret dating they confessed their love for one another, but soon after Grand Pear gave the announcement that the Pear family was relocating to Vanhoover and the two realized they’d soon be separated. Finally, they go to Mayor Mare, who reveals the night before the Pears were supposed to leave Bright Mac had a secret wedding ceremony with Pear Butter so that they’d always be a part of each other’s lives, which they sealed by planting an apple seed and a pear seed on the very spot where they exchanged their vows. Yet at the conclusion of the ceremony, both Granny Smith and Grand Pear stumbled on the marriage. Grand Pear, unable to stomach the idea of Pear Butter being married to an Apple, forced her to choose between her family and Bright Mac, breaking her heart. She ended up siding with the Apples and Grand Pear angrily disowned her and walked away, never seeing her again. Hearing all this, Applejack, Big Mac, and Apple Bloom decide to confront both of their grandparents. They first go to Grand Pear, who finally realized after all these years how foolish he had been and moved back to Ponyville to try and get to know his grandchildren while he still had time. They bring him to Granny Smith, and the two apologize to each other and finally reconcile. Their grandchildren then take them out to the grove where Bright Mac and Pear Butter were married, and reveal that the seeds they planted have grown into trees that are wrapped around each other.

Review:

When “My Little Pony: The Movie” came out, there was some fan hype that it might actually be a contender for Best Animated Film. I never seriously believed that, and I feel these fans shouldn’t have either. They forgot the one crucial element about “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”: it is a show that exists for the explicit purpose to sell toys. It probably has had more effort put into it than any other show that exists simply to sell merchandise, and definitely far more than was ever necessary, and as a result it helped elevate the quality of children’s animated programming as a whole and got viewers to “expect more” from their shows…but it still is there to sell toys. It’s not out there to make anything dramatic like “Steven Universe”. It’s not out there to make anything intelligent like “Gravity Falls”. You can’t expect anything award-winning from it as if it was. This isn’t Disney, Pixar, or even Dreamworks; it’s Hasbro.

Yet every once in a while, through a combination of the talent, heart, love, and intrigue that the writers and animators put into it, it manages to make something genuinely beautiful, poignant, and honestly heart-wrenching. It did that once with “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”. It did it again with “The Perfect Pear”.

Needless to say, “The Perfect Pear” remains the most highly-rated episode on IMDb of MLP:FIM. This episode finally got into the topic that the audience has been kicking around for a couple seasons: what happened to Applejack’s parents? The funny part is it didn’t really answer that particular question, and it probably never will thanks to the show rating. Nevertheless, this episode did everything humanly possible to say “their parents are dead” without actually saying it. Just like the romantic content in this episode, a lot of “dancing around the issue” without making it look as if they were dancing around the issue had to be done in order to meet archaic censor requirements. (Balderdash, of course. As I’ve said before, death really doesn’t care how old you are. Might as well expose kids to it now.) The episode deserves some credit just for that.

The side characters in the episode are also notable. Burnt Oak was obviously created just for this episode, and it’s clear from his design that he was meant to be at least partially a gag character, but he still works in very well. Very natural. So does Goldie Delicious, Mrs. Cake, and Mayor Mare. None of them seem like they were “forced” to be in this episode in order to tell the narrative. So another good point there.

The fact this episode actually had some “star power” behind it was likewise surprising. Both William Shatner and Felicia Day were in it, and both of them did a great job. The role of cartoon ponies is something that would have been so easy for both of them to just go silly with. The fact that both of them took their parts so seriously for, again, a show designed to sell pony toys is a major credit in my opinion to them both.

Now, of course, the actual plot…

I’m not sure I liked this episode for the same reasons everyone else did. People were quick to point out the “Romeo & Juliet” nature of Bright Mac and Pear Butter’s relationship, or the idea of them being from feuding families. I didn’t really care too much for that aspect. That’s been done to death for literally centuries. It was already an old plotline by the time “Romeo & Juliet” made it famous. Nevertheless, it’s because it’s a timeless tale that it’s stayed around for this long. And compared to “Hearts and Hooves Day”, between the animation and the voice acting, this is finally a genuine romance. In “Hearts and Hooves Day” it was nothing more than a parody of what kids thought romance was like. This one, on the other hand, definitely feels far more genuine and sweet. Again, not something that’s easy for a Y-rated show to pull off, and it works because everyone commits so hard to making things look natural. Bits like Bright Mac and Pear Butter having a playful exchange over the guitar song and the etching in the rock, or Bright Mac sending that picture of Pear Butter to her only for her to send it back with him added to it, or Pear Butter waking up that morning seeing Bright Mac passed out pulling her weeds for her that night. All things that are genuine and sweet. Honestly, far more convincing than the actual “Romeo & Juliet” (then again, most romances are, but moving on…).

Yet like I said, that wasn’t what got me. Part of the appeal with a timeless story is not in retelling it verbatim but rather finding a different way to tell it. And that’s what this episode did. While everyone (including the characters within it) makes it look as if this episode is all about the story of Bright Mac and Pear Butter, at the end it’s clear it’s really the story of Grand Pear.

I come from a family myself in which, unfortunately, clinging to a hatred of an individual is ultimately more important than familial relationships. It’s a tragedy. It does nothing good for anyone involved. It’s astonishing to me that we as human beings can get it into our heads that somehow the best thing we can do in regards to someone else is “stay angry”. This is another episode in which I feel the moral is solidly for adults rather than children, but it’s one that needed to be shared.

Ultimately, it wasn’t Pear Butter who chose between her father and Bright Mac. It was Grand Pear who chose between his grudge and his own daughter. He ended up placing a higher value on his grudge, and as a result he never saw his daughter again and will now have to live his remaining years knowing that the last thing he said to her was words of anger. And it took him years of a wasted life to finally come to his senses and realize he could either regret what he lost until the day he died or try and get back what his daughter left him while he still had a chance.

I fixated a lot in this episode on Granny Smith. Although her role in everything ends up being downplayed, along with her reactions, I did notice that right up until the break up at the wedding she had as little love for Pear Butter as Grand Pear had for Bright Mac. It’s not until she saw Pear Butter get disowned by her own father that, I think, she got a wake-up call of her own. I’m probably reading too much into cartoon characters, but…I do wonder if Granny ever asked herself after that…possibly more than once…”If their roles had been switched and it had been Bright Mac choosing to stay with the Pears, would I have done the same thing?” I figure it was that which got her to embrace Pear Butter as her daughter-in-law, and that was the real reason Granny got upset every time the feud was brought up. She knew all along she played as bad a role as Grand Pear. In the end, yes, it was he who did the leaving and that’s probably the reason she’s still a bit upset to see him again at the end. Yet I also think she realized she was in the wrong, and that telling her grandchildren the truth would have meant admitting there was a time she hated their mother.

The ending of the episode is happy…yet still bittersweet. The Apples and Pears are finally one family as their children had always seen themselves, but it was something that took years to finally happen. There was a lot of wasted time there, and there ended up being some things done that can never be undone. Yet even then, it’s like Apple Bloom said. They can’t go back in time and change what happened no matter how much they want to, yet now they can move forward together as Apples and Pears.

The result is a haunting message for those at home. Don’t waste your life being angry at people. It’s too precious for that, and you aren’t even guaranteed that they’ll still be here at the end of today. As was once said, “holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. This episode made that abundantly clear.

This episode was far more realistic drama than had ever been seen before on the show. The final supreme irony is that it was an Applejack-themed episode, ones that are traditionally, as I have said before, bland. Loaded with sweetness, sadness, heart, and tears, this was the rare episode that fully shed its “toy sale chains” and rose to be something genuinely poignant and beautiful.

Nothing else to say besides that its nickname is well-deserved: “The Perfect Episode”.

Fun Facts:

Although it is hinted at in every single possible way by the nature of the character dialogue and responses, as well as the memorial at the end, due to being a Y-rated show it is never explicitly stated that Bright Mac and Pear Butter are dead. One of the writers, however, at one point tweeted that they were killed by Timberwolves.

Burnt Oak appears right in the beginning in the background when Apple Bloom is walking through the market.

Grand Pear is voiced by William Shatner of “Star Trek” infamy. I can’t help but marvel at the irony that this is the first non-comedic role that William Shatner has played in years, and it’s a cartoon pony. Nevertheless, there is just a touch of meta humor with his character, as his hair style is the same infamous one Shatner had in the Star Trek “movie era” as Captain Kirk.

Applejack’s family “washes up” in the outhouse. Ew. Also, Granny Smith is totally oblivious to the hole Applejack and Big Macintosh dug in the floor. She even walks over it without a thought.

Kudos to Tabitha St. Germain for her “young Granny Smith” voice. It sounds as if she decided to go with her best imitation of Ashleigh Ball’s Applejack.

I’m not sure if it happened in earlier episodes, but young Goldie Delicious appears in her story. Her mane used to be green.

It’s a great episode and all, but…uh…wish they could have afforded younger voice actors for the part where Bright Macintosh and Pear Butter talk to each other as foals. The adult voices are awkward.

Pear Butter is voiced by Felicia Day, who I personally know best from the revival of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

Burnt Oak is a pony version of Sam Elliot. Specifically, the unnamed cameo that he played in “The Big Lebowski” who acted as the narrator. This is emphasized in his official introduction in the episode when he just gets done talking to “Lebowski Pony”.

Mrs. Cake’s maiden name is Chiffon Swirl.

On a personal note, I hate the whole “two lovers sharing the same scarf” thing. That’s the sort of thing that they do all the time in animation but in real life would be terribly awkward. Moving on…

Way back in “Ponyville Confidential”, it was revealed that Mayor Mare’s natural mane color is pink and that she dyes it gray. This episode showed that it really is pink.

To emphasize the time period, in all of the flashbacks there is still a “Mare in the Moon”.

Note that Bright Mac and Pear Butter are never depicted kissing until they are explicitly declared to be married. Censors for ya’. 😛

Rating:

5 Stars out of 5

Advertisements