My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Twenty-Three: “Where the Apple Lies”

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Synopsis:

Apple Bloom accidentally messes up a crate shipment to Filthy Rich of Zap Apple Jam, and when she lies to try and cover it up, it prompts the Apple Family to tell a story about how Applejack wasn’t always so honest…

Before Apple Bloom was born, around the time Filthy Rich first assumed control of his family’s store, Applejack and Big Macintosh argued about who would take over the farm, with Applejack saying she had better ideas and Big Mac saying he was the better worker. To try and show her brother up, Applejack made a deal with Rich to let him sell Sweet Apple Acres Cider at his store without consulting Granny Smith first, and only after the deal was made found out she refused to allow it. When forced to admit she couldn’t deliver on the deal, Rich got angry and threatened to cut off ties to Sweet Apple Acres and, as a result, Applejack quickly made up a lie that Granny was sick and the deal was made out of distress. Unfortunately, this prompted Rich and his fiance (future Spoiled Rich) to pay a goodwill visit to the farm, forcing Applejack to lie again that Granny was in the hospital. Yet when the Riches headed out to see her there, Applejack ended up lying further, first claiming the apple blight was infecting ponies to get Granny out to the hospital, then tried to get Big Mac to masquerade as a sick Granny Smith to fool the two. Unfortunately, this only led to more confusion until Granny Smith was nearly ready to amputate Big Mac’s limb, thinking it was infected with apple blight, which finally prompted Applejack to confess everything to everpony. While she realized her own mistake in lying to try to cover up her fault, Big Mac admitted if he had listened to her more rather than dictated his opinion on everything she wouldn’t have wanted to prove herself to begin with. Granny scolded them both for talking about replacing her when she’s nowhere near death, then scolded Rich for threatening to break off business with Sweet Apple Acres, before she went into a lecture on apple blight.

Back at the farm, Apple Bloom learns that ponies don’t “start out” as the individuals they are but have to grow into them as they mature, and the whole Apple family enjoys a glass of cider before heading back to work.

Review:

This episode is not only a step above the standard Applejack fare, but…heh…to me personally, it, well…

Let’s start with the main plot. Aside from a handful of flashbacks and “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, the backgrounds of the Mane Six are largely virgin territory for the show. I hope this episode is a sign of devoting more time to episodes focusing on that. While I think it was made a bit convenient for the show, it’s an interesting change to see that not only was Applejack formally not as honest as she is today, but Big Macintosh used to be a chatterbox who, in the words of his sister, spent all his time talking so he never had to listen to anyone else. (Of course, Big Mac takes it to the opposite extreme today…)

The “teenage” Applejack is an interesting design, but it works well. And it’s a nice little change of pace to see the relations she has with her other family members and business associates back in the day. The episode itself may not be laugh-out-loud entertaining, but it is engaging and interesting to watch unfold. I do feel a bit “cheated”, though. Applejack’s lies were more attempts to cover up for her own mistakes rather than anything heavy, and the line about how “the whole Apple family ended up in the hospital” was something of a bait-and-switch, as it was in the same sense of “the whole family ended up at Burger King” or something.

All of that said…the part that really stood out to me in this episode was, well, possibly “reading too much into it” as opposed to reading in-between the lines, but there are fan theories out there…

Until now I had assumed that Apple Bloom and Applejack were much closer in age. That she might have been a foal during the events of “The Cutie Mark Chronicles” flashback. However, now I see Applejack was approaching physical maturity prior to Apple Bloom even being born. Furthermore, although Apple Bloom isn’t “around” in the flashback, neither are the parents of Applejack and Big Macintosh. And the way they talk, it’s clear that one of them will take over the farm when Granny Smith passed on or retired…not their parents. Granny Smith also says “the whole Apple family ended up in the hospital”, although there were only three ponies there: herself, Applejack, and Big Macintosh.

All of this, combined with Applejack’s more “motherly” nature around Apple Bloom, I take as evidence for one possibility: Apple Bloom and Applejack aren’t sisters; Apple Bloom is Applejack’s daughter from a teenage, unmarried pregnancy. She’s pretending to be her older sister to spare her and herself the shame. Yes, I know even if this was true they’d never come out with it on a Y-rated show, but things like this have happened in history before, and so I’m sticking with it.

With that in mind, I personally rate this episode a little higher.

Fun Facts:

A rare episode to only feature a single member of the Mane Six (Applejack). However, as Granny Smith is voiced by Tabitha St. Germain (Rarity), she was in the episode too.

When Apple Bloom says that Applejack has never told a lie in her whole life, she gets her infamous “lying face” from the Season Two premiere.

Granny Smith apparently keeps rocking chairs on standby for stories. 😛

There’s been occasional hints here and there throughout the series of the relative ages of the Mane Six to one another, and it’s widely accepted that Fluttershy is the oldest based on her appearance in “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, where, while the other members of the Mane Six looked to be the same shape as the CMCs themselves, Fluttershy was taller and “lankier” as if she had just hit a teenage growth spurt. Similarly, in this episode, Applejack looks much the same way, and Granny Smith explicitly says she was older than Apple Bloom at the time.

Spoiled Rich appears in Granny Smith’s story as a younger version of herself, although her surname is “Milk” at the time. This confirms ponies do indeed have surnames. Her nose isn’t quite as upturned in this episode, indicating that was something that developed over time.

One of the trends that MLP:FIM has balked for years is not necessarily having the more upper-class and rich ponies lord their status over others. This episode confirms Filthy Rich is more of a friend of the Apples…he either just didn’t bring up Diamond Tiara to show them respect or he let Spoiled negate it.

One unicorn is in Ponyville General with a severed horn. :O Something tells me that this might end up being a bit more intriguing considering the upcoming feature film has one of its main characters as a unicorn with a broken horn.

As another random “The Shining” allusion, after Applejack says: “…for the big presentation!” and leads the scrubs-wearing Granny Smith on, in the scene are a pair of twin ponies standing at the end of the hall and staring outward. This is a parody of the ghosts of the twins from “The Shining”. Obviously, they don’t intersperse frames of them chopped up here.

In the next scene, teenage Derpy has apparently undergone eye surgery. Before you gasp in horror, remember that Derpy’s eyes were already wall-eyed back in the flashback in “The Cart Before the Ponies”. It’s likely that the attempt to correct her eyesight simply failed. 😛

How was a pony supposed to handle a bone saw made for a human’s grip?

I’m sorry…but when Apple Bloom goes: “I can’t believe you told all those lies!”…her country accent completely evaporates. She starts to sound like a different character.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Devotional #118: “Never Enough Time”

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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “A Hearth’s Warming Tail”

The story of “A Christmas Carol” is an immortal classic, so it’s small wonder it’s been redone so many times in so many different ways. The version that MLP:FIM did for “A Hearth’s Warming Tail” tends to emphasize one aspect better than the others do. In most versions, the main fault of Ebeneezer Scrooge that is pointed out is that he’s miserly, and his miserly ways are causing harm to others around him; in particular his clerk. However, the part that this particular version of the story played up was the other half–Scrooge (and Snowfall Frost) was hurting himself as well. He had gotten to the point of worrying so much about losing money that he had nothing but his hoarded money. No friends…no family contact…even though he was wealthy, it did him no good because he was cheap as he could be. Similarly, in the case of Snowfall Frost, as talented as she was at magic, all she used it for was to learn more magic and devoted her time to practicing it harder. She claimed to be wanting to create a better Equestria, but she neglected anything that would make Equestria worth living in to begin with. All the time she thought she was making the world better she was missing out on the real opportunities available to her. Her life was being totally wasted on a pointless pursuit that she thought was worthwhile while ignoring the things that were truly worthwhile.

Now that I’m an adult, I devote a lot of time to trying to get things done that need to be done. I work hard at my job, and I devote a lot of extra time to deadlines that are constantly coming up. When I get home, there’s plenty to do. Since I live alone housework is my responsibility as well as paying the bills, keeping the fridge stocked, staying up to date on laundry, and all the other chores. I try to go for a run every other day to get some exercise in, and that takes planning and time too, especially if I need to make up a missed day. There’s lots of life’s little hassles as well, such as a need for car repair or license renewal or anything else that comes along. Most of what I do requires me to spend a lot of time driving, not the least of which is my 60 mile round-trip commute every day. Then of course there’s things like this blog that I try to keep up on. Some days I’m lucky to get any time to myself. Some weeks it’s hard to find any, especially since I often have to do some work on the weekend.

All of these things need to get done sometime, and it’s usually better sooner than later. I work pretty hard at times and there are a lot of days I get burned out. When that happens, the last thing I feel like doing is attending a play for my niece or a wrestling match for my nephews. I’ve outright made excuses for family dinner invitations just so I could have a little time to myself. And when I was younger, I constantly made other excuses. And why not? I work hard all day, and a lot of things need to get done when I can find the time. So when I’ve had other things to do, or even when I’ve had free time in the past, I still made excuses to exclude myself. Sometimes it’s to do more housework or sometimes it’s just to relax personally, but basically I want a break from everything. And unfortunately some days the toil and drudgery has gotten so bad that I start to think of requests as a nuisance. Something else demanding my time when I’m busy as it is. Some days I wish I could just break off from it all so I could have some peace. And I’m not even married or have any children. I’m sure those that do feel this even worse.

But I will say one thing. In spite of constantly getting this feeling, out of all of the regrets that I have over the course of my life, the biggest one that I rue is not spending more time with my family. I regret any time we were doing something and I made an excuse I was too tired to run around with them, or any time I was so frustrated with something that I wasn’t wanting to hang out with them, or, especially, any time they actually requested to do something with me and I just plain told them no. You can bet nowadays I really wish they would ask me to do something once in a while.

Lord Jesus Christ spent a lot of time moving around and preaching to large crowds during His earthly ministry, but the Gospels also draw a lot of attention to times He spent just hanging out with His friends and loved ones. (Mark 1:29-31, Mark 6:31-32, Luke 19:1-10, Luke 10:38-42) Was Jesus simply “taking a break” during those times so He wouldn’t fall into a rut with His constant work? Or were these moments just as important to His preaching of the Kingdom of God as the more overt sermons and parables?

Jesus was seen as someone with power and authority, but He was also seen as someone very intimate and personal with those who followed Him. He was a contrast both to the Roman rulers as well as the religious leaders of the day who dictated things from on high and held themselves apart from other people. He may have spoke with authority, and He was indeed higher than all He spoke to, but He never acted that way. That’s probably why His disciples not only approached Him but accepted His teaching, even when it was challenging. His words were not simply commands on high but from someone who was loved and trusted; someone who had built up a relationship with them and who let them know how they were important to Him; someone who you could see coming over to your house and “hanging out” for a while. Jesus was as much “God” in those situations as He was in the bigger ones. He was available then as He was in the public eye. And in fact, one of the great emphasis points of Christianity is to view Jesus in this way: someone intimate and personal as a father rather than a great powerful being on high proclaiming law and judgement.

In the same way, many of us have friends and loved ones in which the most valuable thing we wish from them is not a roof over our heads, food on the table, or chores done, but they themselves.Likewise, there are many who probably want the same thing of us. When you truly care about someone, then simply having them around for a time is a joy and a gift. You connect with them in those moments far more readily than you do in any major event or occasion, because it’s there that you get to know them and interact with them on a more personal level. What more, it’s something that no amount of time, energy, or money can buy or substitute…no matter how much, at times, we try.

Our friends and loved ones are a gift from God. So is the little time we have to connect with them. To take either for granted is a dangerous practice.

My request for this week is that everyone keep that in mind as they go about their daily lives, and not neglect to make time and memories with those you love. And most of all, never neglect or put off an opportunity to let others know you care about them and to show it, even if it is stressful at the time. You’ll thank yourself for those moments later.

I close with a quote by Robert H. Smith:

“The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.

To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed,
To lose one’s health is more,
To lose one’s soul is such a loss
That no man can restore.

The present only is our own,
So live, love, toil with a will,
Place no faith in “Tomorrow,”
For the Clock may then be still.”

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, you have given me so much to be thankful for, but today I choose to thank you for the time I have been granted on this Earth. I pray that, as part of a good steward of what you have given me, I don’t neglect all the people you have brought into my life who are close to me and beloved by me. Please help me to share my love for them and let them know it, and thereby enrich both their lives and my own in the time you have given me; reminding myself that the most valuable things I possess to share with others can’t be earned through material means. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Twenty-Two: “P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View)”

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Synopsis:

On seeing Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie return from a Seaward Shoals boat trip, Twillight Sparkle and Spike are stunned to find them angry at each other and refusing to talk to one another. As getting them together to talk it out proves impossible, Twilight visits each one individually and gets a different account of how the boat trip was a disaster: each one claiming their attempts to make the boat trip something new and exciting was frustrated by the others before they sank the boat and ruined the trip all together. After reviewing notes she had Spike take about the experience, Twilight is able to find common elements in spite of how different the accounts were. She invites the girls (still angry at one another) out on a second boat trip and demonstrates how the boat capsizing was none of their faults, but rather was the result of an accidental capsizing by a Tri-Horned Bunyip attracted to food that accidentally went overboard. Furthermore, she points out the reason everyone frustrated their attempts to make the boat trip something new and exciting was because each one tried to make the boat trip something different for the others: a luxury cruise (Rarity), a boat party (Pinkie Pie), and an adventure for buried treasure (Applejack). Realizing how wrong they were, the girls make up and get to have a boating trip combining all three ideas, including Twilight, Spike, and even the Bunyip. Twilight reminds the girls that even long-time friends sometimes have problems communicating to one another.

Review:

There are a number of episodes that get considerably better on the second viewing, and, thus far, this is the biggest one of Season Six to me. The first time I thought it was another “thoroughly average” episode, but on the second go around I’ve seen a lot more.

The biggest thing I noticed was that this episode is essentially a Season One episode transposed. Take away Twilight Sparkle’s wings and relocate her to the Golden Oak Library, and this would easily fit in with Season One or Two. Since I know there’s been some pushback from older fans that the newer episodes have a different feel from the older ones, I would think that would be pleasing to them. It had Twilight using her “nerdiness” to solve a friendship problem and even giving a lesson at the end of it.

Aside from that, while the various antics of the girls aren’t the most outrageous they’ve ever been, they are entertaining in this episode; especially when the girls makes charicatures of one another. There’s a lot of body language sight gags with Spike in this episode as Twilight keeps subtly making him take notes. And, on top of all that, this was an interesting narrative: telling the same incident from three different perspectives. (Which couldn’t have been easy with four different writers…)

So…on the second viewing, I actually think this episode was pretty good for this season. Not the best by any means, but nice.

Fun Facts:

The title is a knockoff of F.P.O.V., or “First Person Point of View”, which can refer to a style of video game play but also is considered one of the four main ways in which a story can be told, of which the others are “Third Person Limited”, “Third Person Narrative”, and “Third Person Omniscient”.

This episode is tied with Season Five’s “Rarity Investigates!” for the most writers for a single episode (four).

No wonder Opalescence warms up to Twilight. After everything Rarity has put her through… :X

The return of Rarity’s drama queen bit of throwing herself on a fainting couch. Looks like she’s gone for a new style since Season Two’s “Lesson Zero”. She’s also gone back to scarfing ice cream.

When Twilight interrupts Pinkie Pie’s story, Spike has somehow gotten popcorn.

In Applejack’s version, Rarity is dressed like Rose from “Titanic”.

Applejack, in an “honest” moment, admits in her version of events she’s the reason the food went overboard.

One of the details that’s never resolved is exactly how much luggage Rarity brought and what she was wearing. None of them seem to agree, but it’s pretty clear Rarity is understating her own baggage and attire. (And based on “majority rule”, she appears to have been stretching the truth the most out of the three for the story overall, as both Pinkie Pie and Applejack agree she had more luggage and wasn’t willing to hit the pinata.)

It’s interesting to me that only Applejack is really angry at both of her friends. Rarity mostly blamed Applejack for the whole thing while Pinkie Pie blamed Rarity.

There are indeed bubbles in every version of the story when the food goes overboard, but I’m surprised that wasn’t just blamed on the food releasing air.

Pinkie Pie, in another show of cartoon physics, doesn’t run up to Twilight on the docks but simply pops up between Rarity and Applejack.

Applejack didn’t believe the story about the Bunyip at first…which is surprising as her map had a picture of one on it. 😛

A bunyip is a monster from Australian Aboriginal mythology. In the 1800s it seemed to share some characteristics of the Loch Ness Monster in people claimed sightings of it, although skeletal remains found were usually those of ancient marsupials. Its description varies, but this particular one is made from a number of shared traits among accounts, including a dog face, walrus tusks, and flippers.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Twenty-One: “Every Little Thing She Does”

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Synopsis:

Starlight Glimmer has been excelling in her magic lessons with Princess Twilight Sparkle, but now is nerve-wracked again when Twilight leaves for a lecture in Canterlot for the day and leaves her behind to have a friendship lesson of her own. In spite of intentionally avoiding these lessons, she decides to show herself off as a pro by handling five of them, one with each of the other members of the Mane Six, at once. However, shortly into trying to organize it, she becomes frustrated with the differences in personalities and requirements, and ends up resorting to using a spell to turn the five into mindless drones obedient to her will. Unfortunately, she ends up not thinking carefully about the directions she’s giving them, which they now mindlessly execute, and soon the entire Castle of Friendship is a disaster area…right as Twilight comes home. After undoing the spell and sending everyone else home, Twilight confronts Starlight and explains how the lesson wasn’t supposed to be about how skillfully she could handle doing tasks with the five of them but about building a relationship with them by doing things they liked to do, and says her next friendship lesson is an “advanced” one: apologizing. Starlight meets with the sore and upset Mane Five and gives a sincere apology; enough to where they agree to lend a hand with the cleanup around the Castle of Friendship. Once done, Twilight congratulates her on accomplishing her friendship lessons, and she realizes that by participating individually with each girl in cleaning up parts of the castle, she’s actually built relationships with them. The episode ends with Starlight, Twilight, and the others “chillax”ing on the roof.

Review:

This is just my opinion…but I think this episode is the ultimate “litmus test” for Starlight Glimmer. If you can get through this episode and still, oddly enough, see some interest and, dare I say it, positive qualities to her character…then you’ll be able to handle her for however long she’s in the series. I never thought I’d say that about an episode like this, but hopefully this will show you why.

If you dislike Starlight Glimmer and you go into this episode intending to continue to dislike her, that’s a shame because you’ll never get past the surface of this episode. Externally, it merely looks like an episode where Starlight Glimmer does something rather (admittedly) bad to almost all of the Mane Six and is able to get away with it at the end. But there’s really a lot more to it than that.

First of all, if you’re able to look past the action itself and toward the humor in it, this episode is one of the funniest this season. The reactions of the brainwashed Mane Five are genuinely amusing, especially with the eyeballs drifting and the mechanical way of responding to everything. On the second viewing, I first realized that Applejack’s scrapbook memories are all knockoffs of movies, and the one with “Predator” was hilarious.

Second of all, and, again, I can’t believe I’m saying this…but…I actually sympathize with Starlight Glimmer in this episode. I’m an Aspie myself. When it comes to social situations, I shy away from them as best I can. When I do go to them, I tend to focus only on the things I know because I don’t know how to react or what to do with things I don’t know about. I rattle on about science, programming, old video games, and even my MLP:FIM fandom because that’s all I know, and if no one else knows about those things it quickly gets awkward. There are times I’ve wished, deep down inside, that I could somehow get everyone to talk about the things I wanted to talk about. And yes, I often “miss the point” in things like this myself.

Third, and even more surprising than my last point, but…this episode is the first in Season Six to finally “nail” Starlight Glimmer. You’ve heard my complaints about other episodes this season; about how Starlight has been turned into Twilight to make her more appealing rather than trying to make a connection between her villainous self in Season Five and the character we see now. This episode treats her character as something I could never see done with her at the end of Season Five: believably.

In the beginning of this episode, Starlight has that residual “smugness” about her when she’s showing off her magic in front of Twilight. It carries over into when she’s doing her lessons; masking her own fears and inadequacies with an air of superiority and false confidence. When she meets with the five girls, she makes her same old mistakes: refuses to listen to them or their individual personality needs and instead tries to handle everything the way she thinks is best, ultimately culminating in the spell. And when all is said and done, where does she think she screwed up? With the spell…not with what she actually did. It’s not until Twilight spells it out to her that she realizes her problem. And even when she does and does “the right thing”, she still doesn’t realize she still fulfilled the friendship goals at the end.

This isn’t perfect and there’s still some gaps, but an episode like this actually serves to make up for some of the deficits of the Season Five finale. No, Starlight isn’t the best character. She isn’t that great of a person. She’s still more flawed than the other characters. But…she’s believably trying. She has a long way to go, but you can now see her walking down the path believably rather than simply already halfway down the road automatically.

People who despise Starlight Glimmer despise this episode, and, admittedly, for good reason. But as for me personally? I dare say, from a certain point of view, it might actually be the best episode of Season Six.

Fun Facts:

The animators had a LOT of fun animating pony pupils moving around in their eye sockets this episode. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do it this much.

Starlight Glimmer’s room has a framed picture of an equal sign…crossed out. 😛

Similar to the situation in “The Crystalling” (and, actually, in “The Cutie Re-Mark”), this episode solidifies the idea of “spell-combining”, which Starlight uses to create new spells with new effects.

Applejack’s description of family events correspond to lines and scenes in movies, including “Jaws”, “Predator”, “Braveheart”, and “Spider-Man”.

Ah, the one thing Starlight Glimmer can’t do: bake cake. (Remembers “No Second Prances”) …At least, without using magic. On that note, Pinkie Pie might be the only character in the series who ever held a grudge against Starlight Glimmer…even if only for a few minutes of “show time”.

First appearance of the rooftop pavilion of the Castle of Friendship.

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Twenty: “Viva Las Pegasus”

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Synopsis:

The Cutie Map has activated again and (much to their mutual displeasure) Applejack and Fluttershy are being called to Las Pegasus, which has an Equestria-wide reputation of being one colossal, loud, “fun zone” for shows, games, and parties. On arrival at one of the bigger resorts, run by a flashy pony named Gladmane, they have a hard time finding any friendship problems as the owner prides himself on being every guest and employee’s friend and keeping them happy. When they do finally find two ponies at each other’s throats, Applejack is infuriated to find that it’s Flim and Flam. While Fluttershy is willing to talk with them, Applejack is determined to find a different friendship problem, and finds ones in between Gladmane’s performers. After hearing all arguments, the two discover all of Gladmane’s performers would be more successful if they worked with each other to strike out solo, but because they’re at each other’s throats they can’t do it; and they realize Gladmane himself is poisoning everyone against each other to keep them working for him. With that in mind, the two manage to get Flim and Flam to reconcile so they can assist them with “hustling the hustler” and get Gladmane to confess to what he’s been doing. However, Gladmane sees right through their deception and ends up not falling for it. When Applejack and Fluttershy go to his office later to confront him personally about his behavior, he takes the opportunity to gloat over his success at manipulating others in the wake of their apparent failure…only to realize too late that was the real hustle: Flim and Flam expected him to boast after seeing through the scam, and when the girls went into his office they held his intercom button down while he bragged about his racket. The performers reconcile and leave Gladmane’s resort, leaving him ruined and getting him replaced by the Flim-Flam Brothers themselves. Applejack and Fluttershy’s flanks glow to show their success, but they soon regret it when they see the Flim-Flam Brothers successfully scamming patrons to see an empty stage for half-price tickets.

Review:

This is another solidly average episode to me this season, with nothing good and nothing bad about it. Not so odd that both of those episodes this season featured Applejack in a prominent role…as you know my opinion on her character from earlier reviews.

It tried to do things that were more interesting. Las Pegasus itself features a lot of background ponies who have never been seen before, but…they weren’t anything too monumental. The very idea of Las Pegasus appearing on the show was an opportunity at a new locale, but…almost the entire episode takes place inside Gladmane’s resort, so aside from the first look at it there’s nothing too big there. Plus, since a Y-rated show really can’t do a pony version of “Sin City”, the place looks like a big arcade or theme park almost rather than a casino. Basically, the citizens of Equestria are left with a rather lame reason to dislike it: it’s loud. :/ There’s a lot of parodies of characters in the ponies in this episode, but…none of them are too incredible.

Last but not least, while the Flim-Flam Brothers had an amazing song in their first appearance back in Season Two, they haven’t had too much appeal to me personally since then. I actually think they’re a bit more interesting in this episode when they’re not running another scam, but as far as the “minor antagonists” go, they’re disliked by a lot of fans.

The dilemma, while alright, is more of a rehash of times it has been done better. Sunset Shimmer did the same thing in “Equestria Girls”, and, as much as people hated her, she did have more personality than being an Elvis impersonator. And there is a rather pointless scene at one point in which Gladmane brings Flam into his office to show off his plan to run every hotel on the strip that never really goes anywhere or ties into the plot. It seems the episode was running short so they had to do something, unless that’s supposed to be where Flam learned about Gladmane’s intercom to tell Fluttershy and Applejack about it later. It’s minor, but…it’s still there.

Once again, there’s nothing “bad” about this episode. It’s just there’s nothing really to write home about either. The curse of Applejack lives. 😦

Fun Facts:

After first being mentioned in “It’s About Time” way back in Season Two, Las Pegasus finally makes an appearance. Although its position on the Equestria Maps indicates that it’s similar to Los Angeles, this episode revealed it has more in common with Las Vegas. Like Cloudsdale, it’s a city in the clouds. Unlike Cloudsdale, it seems to have ponies of all three kinds living there.

“Pone Fantastique” is likely supposed to be a knockoff of “Cirque de Soleil”.

Gladmane is voiced by Jim Byrnes, an individual with not only extensive voice acting experience but also an actor and Blues musician. Between his ducktail mane style, flashy suit, cape, and way of laughing, Gladmane is supposed to be in part a parody of Elvis Presley.

The same tourists from the first Cutie Map episode this season (“Spice Up Your Life”) cameo, walking behind Applejack and Fluttershy when they meet Gladmane.

Is Bernard (the rabbit pulled out of the trapeze artists’s hat) the first talking rabbit the show has ever seen? (Voiced by Andrea Libman, same as Fluttershy.) Anyway, soon after Applejack talks to a pony version of Scooter from “The Muppet Show”.

The prairie dog trainers are parodies of Siegfried and Roy, magicians who were infamous for their shows in Vegas featuring white tigers.

Gordon Ramsey Pony makes another appearance at the buffet.

The pulling-down of Gladmane’s statue is reminiscent of the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statue.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Nineteen: “The Fault in Our Cutie Marks”

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Synopsis:

Following the events of “On Your Marks”, the Cutie Mark Crusaders have gained a widespread reputation for their ability to help other ponies get their Cutie Marks and find their purpose in life. However, they get their biggest challenge yet when they are confronted with Gabrielle “Gabby” Griffon. Pretty much the only innately friendly griffon in Griffonstone, she oversaw the Cutie Mark magic that Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie displayed in their own visit when helping out Gilda, and since then has become obsessed with the idea of having a Cutie Mark of her own so that she can share the “magic of friendship” as well among the other griffons. The CMCs are at a loss as Cutie Marks are exclusive to ponies, but as Gabby is so excited and determined to get one they attempt to at least help her find her true purpose…with the extremely remote and highly unlikely chance that she’ll obtain a Cutie Mark from it. Unfortunately, this fails as well when Gabby shows off that she’s talented at everything, and in the end the CMCs are reduced to tears at their first failure to help someone else. However, not long after, Gabby suddenly bursts in and surprises them with a Cutie Mark on her flank, surprising but also enthusing them that they apparently succeeded. Yet when Gabby is eager to run off after showing them, they suspect something is up. When they finally catch up to Gabby stalled by helping push a wagon out of the mud, they discover the Cutie Mark is in fact a painted-on fake, yet Gabby says it wasn’t to make herself feel better but rather to make them feel better after she saw how depressed they were at their inability to help her. At that point, the girls realize that what Gabby really excelled at the whole time was in assisting other ponies, and they realize her true purpose is helping others; just like them. Prompted by that, the CMCs carve out a matching CMC emblem with a trophy in the center for Gabby to clasp her mail bags with, giving her a “Cutie Mark”, declare her the first griffon member of the CMCs, and even make her the first griffon ever to receive a “cute-ceanera”.

Review:

This is yet another one of those episodes that is a bit better on looking at it a second time. Back in Season Five we got “Tanks for the Memories”, which was a metaphor for death. This one…well…it’s not so clear. It’s not necessarily terminal illness in spite of the name, but it can be anything that someone wants that they can’t have. And that, unfortunately, is life.

We all like telling children growing up that they can be whatever they want to be, and when they’re young that’s mostly true. It’s also true that determination, perserverence, and dedication will take you past what the world says is an impassible limit…sometimes. Yet as everyone gets older they start to see their own mortality in focus and realize that some doors that are before them are ones they can never open. And for some people, unfortunately, the doors are shut early on while they remain open for everyone else.

With that in mind, I don’t think the lesson of this episode was as “on the head” as it could have been, but it was still nice. The point is ultimately not to become so obsessed with things you can’t have and cling to a fool’s hope on them so much that you lose sight of everything that you can change and do have control over. It’s kind of a mature lesson and one that we all hope we can learn later rather than sooner, but it’s still something we’ll all be faced with one day. Nevertheless I think it’s one that people might not get much impact from unless they’ve had to deal with it personally.

Aside from that, it was a rather dialog-heavy episode in spite of the montage toward the middle, and focused more on character rather than events. And with the CMCs, who normally aren’t as “animated” as the Mane Six, it doesn’t provide too much to write home about. Gabby is alright as a one-shot character, but…I guess it kind of proves the old adage that “characters who are nice people are boring”. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm and personality of the characters got me wondering if the CMCs really would manage to succeed…and what they were going to do if they failed. So I was emotionally invested, and that’s always a good sign.

So, with that in mind, another fairly good episode. How odd the CMC episodes turn out the highest consistent quality…

Fun Facts:

This title is a confusing one. “The Fault in Our Cutie Marks” is a knockoff of “The Fault in Our Stars”, and made me wonder if this episode would take the bold step of having a terminally ill character. While that ended up being untrue, after some research it seems to refer to the fact that one’s destiny is still in one’s hands in spite of the unchangeable things in their lives.

The “dinosaur” Petunia digs up has a skull suspiciously like a horse…

Tender Taps cameos. In the very next shot, the Big Macintosh color-swap pony from the Season One opening passes by in the background.

Gabby Griffon is voiced by Erin Matthews. She’s done a lot of voice acting, with her most recent one being Cidney Auron in “Final Fantasy XV”.

The events Gabby witnesses in her flashback are from Season Five’s “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”.

This is the second time Zecora has appeared this season (the first being in another CMC episode, “On Your Marks”), but with no lines.

Ponies have baseball…right. Gabby has opposable thumbs for batting and catching, but how do other ponies do it?

Although this is really a CMC episode in general, Scootaloo gets called out.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Eighteen: “Buckball Season”

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Synopsis:

Applejack’s cousin Braeburn has formed a team for a relatively unknown sports game called “Buckball” which requires a three-pony team of a unicorn, earth pony, and pegasus to play, but claims its the best; leading Applejack to want to form a Ponyville team to beat them. Believing she and Rainbow Dash are the best choices for the earth pony and pegasus, respectively, they get Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to form two-thirds of an opposing team so they can hold tryouts for a unicorn to round out their team. While eventually they discover Snails has a natural talent for it, the true surprise comes when they realize Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are even better at the game than they are, and they decide they want them to take their places. While the two agree at first, the next day Applejack and Rainbow Dash put them through a grueling practice regimen while continuously shouting the importance of winning this game not only for the honor of the Apple Family but for all of Ponyville, making the two so jittery and nervous they start messing up left and right. By the time the next day has come and Applejack and Rainbow have gotten all of Ponyville whipped up for the two to win the game, the pressure is on so much that the two declare themselves unable to win and kick themselves off the team. Realizing they’ve been pushing the two so hard the game is no longer fun for them, and they were only at their best when they were relaxed and having fun, Applejack and Rainbow Dash apologize and offer to take the places of the girls, but ask that they help them with a practice game first. In a much more relaxed and no pressure setting, Pinkie and Fluttershy regain their talent and again excel at the game. Now more mellowed out, they decide to follow Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and (surprisingly) Snips’ advice and not think about the pressure from Ponyville to win and just focus on having a good time again. With that mindset, Ponyville is able to win a 7-6 victory over Appleloosa. When Braeburn starts focusing on a strategy for the future rematch, Pinkie suggests that he just focuses on having fun.

Review:

This episode seemed to be all about “doing the unexpected”.

Not in the plot itself, of course. This one isn’t one of the major ones from the children’s playbook, but it’s a fairly simple storyline. Friend finds out other friend is good at a competitive sport and suggests they play in a big game; friend ends up pressuring other friend way too hard to win and makes the game not fun anymore; friend apologizes to other friend and other friend is able to have fun and play. They even went ahead and let Ponyville win the game once Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy relaxed, so Applejack and Rainbow Dash didn’t have to own up to their claim that they only wanted the two to have a good time at the end.

But, as in many episodes such as this one, it was all about the presentation, and this one I felt was rather nice on not going for the expected route in anything. One might have expected this to have Applejack and Rainbow Dash in the main roles, as both of them have shown they can be neurotic about competing. Instead, it went to Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, neither of whom are well known for being athletes on the show. To help drive the message home, they could have used the example of “tiger moms”, and to that end they could have had Applejack and Rainbow Dash pressuring the CMCs instead. (It would have made sense with an earth pony, unicorn, and pegasus needed for the game.) Instead, again, they used Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie; their peers rather than the younger generation (the fact that Applejack and Rainbow Dash were already abyssmal to the CMCs had already happened once this season already anyway…). One would have expected Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, or even Starlight Glimmer (renown for being able to do anything magic) to fill in for the unicorn. Instead, they used Snails…a character who has literally never appeared in the series when not being played off of Snips. They even go the extra mile and make him a Zen Master of ball catching (who would have thought a snail Cutie Mark would mean that?).

At its heart it’s a rather simplistic episode. There’s nothing terribly monumental about it, and the moral is one that could have easily fit in with earlier seasons. And yet there’s nothing wrong with being simplistic when it’s done well and everyone is in character. And the fact that none of the details were in the “playbook” and what would have been normally expected was a nice touch, and I actually give it kudos for that. Another solid episode in this season.

Fun Facts:

The “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi-chi” sound that is made when Applejack goes in slow motion to kick the apple is based off of a similar effect for TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. That is one hard apple, by the way.

Rainbow Dash can fly with one wing.

I kind of like the irony that Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are both voiced by the same actor, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack are voiced by the same actor. Enables everyone of the same mentality to not be confused. 😛

One of the quirks of this episode that was unusual but a nice surprise was making Snails a stand-alone character. Usually he’s the other half of “Snips and”.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy get so nervous that Pinkie Pie ends up tongue-tied and Fluttershy ends up shouting.

When Applejack and Rainbow Dash are walking down the train corridor, there’s an interesting modeling effect going on in the background to create the passing rows.

When Snips suggests the way to keep from being stressed is to “not think about anything…ever”, Pinkie Pie immediately takes to that. 🙂

I noticed that all of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy’s fans weren’t on the train to Appleloosa with them, but were still at the game. Also, no Little Strongheart in this episode…again. 😦

With only four voice actors in the credits, this is one of the least voice-acted episodes in the entire series.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Seventeen: “Dungeons & Discords”

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Synopsis:

Discord shows up for his regular tea with Fluttershy, but she and the rest of the Mane Six are headed for an overnight goodwill visit to Yakyakistan. Instead, she suggests that he hang out with Spike and Big Macintosh, although she doesn’t mention what it entails. At first, Discord is standoffish when they officially invite him, but when he hears it’s a “guy’s night” he decides to come along. His enthusiasm soon dims when he realizes that “guy’s night” means a night of playing the tabletop RPG “Ogres and Oubliettes”. He’s less than enthused about the game, especially when his actions in the game end in bad outcomes for him, and tries to teleport Spike and Big Macintosh to a jazz club more suited to his style. When they aren’t interested and suggest that Discord just watch them play if he doesn’t want to, he gets angry and brings the game to life: initially enthusing Spike and Big Mac but soon turning sour when the pain and danger to life-and-limb is real in that version. When Spike blows up at him, he also ends up revealing the only reason he brought Discord along was because he felt sorry for him as, without Fluttershy, he literally had no one else in Ponyville to hang out with. This causes Discord to suffer a truly painful blow to his ego; and he brings Spike and Big Mac back, apologizes for his behavior (even managing to say “sorry”), and then shows himself out. However, after he leaves, Spike and Big Mac feel pity for him again, and end up inviting him back and even suggest that his live-action version of the RP would be fun to do again if it was “toned down”. Cut to the next morning, as the girls return and see Spike, Big Mac, and Discord still LARPing and in character. Twilight Sparkle moves to excuse them, but Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash think it looks like fun and join in.

Review:

There’s a leading complaint going around about Discord episodes, and it’s somewhat merited. Discord’s character itself is usually the prime motivation for an episode. The idea of someone who’s “not really reformed” and has absolute power going around and making life Hell for the normal characters. The problem with this is that MLP:FIM is a show not only about learning about friendship but also one where characters overcome their own negative qualities and grow beyond them. Yet to keep the type of character Discord is, his personality needs a “cosmic reset” after every time something happens with him, so that he’s the same guy at the beginning of each new episode.

This episode is no exception, but it’s not quite as bad as it could have been. These aren’t characters in the Mane Six, so it’s understandable that the self-centered Discord wouldn’t really see a connection with them and would still play his own twisted version of a “game”. Yet aside from that, this one goes a step above from most Discord episodes, where Discord ends up counter-trolled or learns a lesson that should be someone obvious to most people. As another reviewer pointed out, Discord obviously thinks very highly of himself, and he even says in this episode that simply having him around makes things more entertaining and fun. Yet at the climax of this episode, Spike confronted him with the truth: he literally had no one else in Equestria to hang out with that night. The two individuals that he pooh-poohed as being losers and nerds had invited him out of pity. Far from being the life the party, the only reason he was at this “party” was out of sympathy. The experience is more than a little humbling for him.

But this was also a good episode for Spike’s character. After all, he was the one who invited Discord in the first place. And after Discord took things too far, he still was understanding enough to bring him back and give him another chance. This is one of Spike’s better moments, even if I’m not sure if it’s technically a Spike-themed episode.

Aside from that, this episode is wild with all of its normal Discord antics, and now it gives nerds like me something to cheer about with its tabletop RPG knockoff. Even more wild was that this was something from the fandom feeding back in on itself, coming from the IDW Comic.

The one bad part, which I mentioned at the beginning, is that Discord pretty much goes back to his old personality after this, as in “To Where and Back Again” the only one he cares got abducted was Fluttershy; not Spike or Twilight Sparkle. Still, this was an entertaining episode and, even if you dislike Discord, you have to appreciate how he got the business handed to him.

Fun Facts:

As if it wasn’t obvious enough already, the title is a takeoff of “Dungeons and Dragons”, probably the most infamous tabletop RPG of all time.

“Puerto Caballo” means “Port Horse”.

So now we know what the monster was in “Party Pooped”: a pony-eating yeti. 😛

It’s true the girls spend a lot of time out of town, but…usually Spike is with Twilight. He must not get many chances to RP. 😦

As a nod that Discord and Princess Celestia might be closer than it appears, Discord has a nickname for Celestia. 😛

This episode is the first instance of something from the IDW comic canon becoming show canon. In Issue #11, Shining Armor’s flashback reveals he and his friends played a tabletop RPG called “Oubliettes and Ogres”, an obvious takeoff of “Dungeons and Dragons”. Since then, the game has made frequent reappearances in the comic universe. Although Spike calls it “Ogres and Oubliettes”, inverting the names, there’s little doubt in the fandom minds that it’s the same thing.

The writers made additional contacts for this episode to make sure that “Ogres and Oubliettes” would be as close to an authentic tabletop RPG as possible…and they did a good job. When Discord won’t decide on a class, Spike rolls for one at random, which you can do in DnD. Also, you can indeed do almost anything in the game, which is the main edge tabletop has over, for example, video games, but you have to usually pass a skill check of some sort and roll, more often than not, a 20-sided die. Pretty sure “Transform into Root Vegetable” isn’t in the Character’s Compendium, though…although maybe I don’t have the latest version. 😛

Spike’s character Garbunkle resembles Gandalf the Grey slightly, but Big Macintosh’s character Sir McBiggun is a Dragonborn from Skyrim.

Discord teleports Spike and Big Mac to the Roaring 20s. Who would have thought he was a fan of zoot suits and jazz?

Big Macintosh gets to live his fantasies again. First in Season Five he got to be an alicorn, now he gets to be a unicorn black knight. 😀

The living versions of the Squizzard and skeleton knights move stilted, as if they’re done with crummy animation of only a slow frame rate.

Discord’s character Captain Wuzz looks like Legolas. On the second viewing, I realized one of his hands has turned into parsnips. 😄

Pinkie Pie appears to turn into a bard class while Rainbow Dash turns into a rogue class. Good choice…rogues are versatile. 😀

I’m a little surprised Twilight Sparkle didn’t want to join in. What kind of nerd is she supposed to be if she doesn’t like RPing? 😛 (In the IDW comic, she plays the game regularly.)

One of the few episodes this season where Tabitha St. Germain doesn’t have a voice, although Rarity is in a number of scenes.

As more support for my theory that even the show writers don’t want to write for Starlight Glimmer if they don’t have to, Starlight neither accompanies the girls to Yakyakistan nor appears at the castle…nor is mentioned the entire episode. Maybe she was in a sound-proof room all night. 😛

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Sixteen: “The Times They Are a Changeling”

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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle, Starlight Glimmer, and Spike are headed to the Crystal Empire to pay a visit to the royal family and Princess Flurry Heart, but find the entire empire in a panic when they get there. It turns out that a Changeling has been spotted in the empire and, after their own disastrous encounter with Changelings, Shining Armor and Princess Cadance have the empire on high alert until he’s found. Spike, soaking in his celebrity status, elects to join the royal guard in searching for him, and while patrolling an ice cave alone suddenly finds himself running right into the Changeling himself. He gets a shock a moment later, however, when the surprise of seeing him nearly makes him fall into a crevasse, only for the Changeling to rescue him. The Changeling reveals his name is Thorax and, unlike the rest of his kind, he was born with a desire to make friends with others. While he was ordered to attack Canterlot with the rest of his kind, he was unable to attack others, and on seeing the Mane Six show off their own friendship for one another was no longer able to live with his kind either. Now he hoped to make a friend in the Crystal Empire, also hoping that the love they shared would be enough to staunch his hunger so he wouldn’t need to feed off of the love of others. Spike returns to the Crystal Empire attempting to say that he made friends with the Changeling, but due to their notions of Changelings, his claim is dismissed as a bad joke. Spike gets a second idea where Thorax changes into the form of a crystal pony named Crystal Hoof and tries to introduce him like that. Although Thorax is skeptical of the idea of staying in a disguised form forever, the citizens of the Crystal Empire, including Princess Cadance, welcome him readily on assuming he’s a “normal” crystal pony. Unfortunately, on introducing him to Princess Flurry Heart, the love of the empire surrounding her is so strong is causes the starving Thorax to uncontrollably revert into his true form, and Spike, nervous about going against the opinion of the citizens who admire him so much, balks and doesn’t immediately leap to his defense, causing him to run off in tears. Realizing what he’s done, Spike runs after Thorax and, after apologizing for his behavior, manages to bring him back to the Crystal Empire; this time in his true form. While everyone else treats him with hostility at first, Spike sticks by him this time; going against the popular opinion and insisting Thorax is different even if it ruins his own reputation. Twilight accepts Spike’s explanation and moves to befriend Thorax as well, causing the other members of the empire to believe him too. Thorax is welcomed as the newest member of the Crystal Empire, he shares his hope that he might be able to one day change the rest of the Changeling hive society by introducing concepts of love and friendship, and Twilight points out to Starlight that friendship lessons can happen anywhere.

Review:

This is yet another episode this season that I am rather stunned got so poorly received. Can a couple minutes of one episode really do all that?

In many ways, this episode has shadows of rehashing Season One’s “Bridle Gossip”, but that’s fine with me. Racism and stereotyping is still a prevalent thing in society and, over the past few years, it’s gotten worse in American culture. It makes sense to do more than one episode highlighting it. This one isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as “Bridle Gossip”, however. It’s worth noting that the Crystal Ponies were still sealed away during the events of Season Two’s “A Canterlot Wedding”. There’s a good chance they only know about the Changelings by reputation. Yet even if they didn’t, the only thing we’ve ever seen of Changelings (“Slice of Life” notwithstanding) is that they are barely sentient, vile monsters. The fact that even a “nice” Changeling still needs to feed on love to survive doesn’t help either. So, really…the stereotyping element is here in this episode, but it’s not as strong as it was in “Bridle Gossip”.

Most Spike episodes highlight a negative quality about him, as I pointed out. However, unlike with Rainbow Dash in the past two episodes, this one is more forgivable and understandable. Spike doesn’t usually just highlight his negative qualities, but gets dominated by them throughout his episodes. In this one, it’s more of slip-up on his part. And I’ll go ahead and say that until you try to make a stand for something that you believe is right when you’re surrounded by people, many of them family and friends, who are going to say the opposite and you know will get angry and perhaps even insulting and condemning of you personally, don’t judge Spike too harshly for balking once at a critical moment.

Aside from that, I actually like Thorax. Many people are ambivalent to him and his new design at the end of Season Six hasn’t been that well-received, but I like more male characters. Yet I also like that he’s one of the first real “sympathetic” characters on the show. Thorax needs to feed to live. It’s nothing personal. It’s not something he’s proud of or wants to do. But he’s forced to live that way. And the show does point out that, so long as he “looks like everypony else”, no one shuns him at all. They actually like his good-natured personality. It’s only when they see his true self that they all immediately hate him innately.

I actually think this was one of the best Spike-themed episodes in the entire series. It had a good plot, good dialogue, moves at a pretty even pace, has some nice visuals and artwork… True, it has slight flaws here and there, but considering the audience of the show and the time frame that’s all forgivable. I have a feeling most people would agree with me for most of the episode.

The part that most people balk at is the resolution. Considering the fact this episode was done by three different writers, it’s kind of understandable that none of them really knew how to bring the Crystal Empire from the point where everyone hated and distrusted Thorax to everyone accepted and loved him, especially when they hadn’t really trusted Spike earlier when he said he made friends with him.

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it…the dilemma of this episode is resolved through “the magic of song”, at which point we have a pretty much universally happy ending in which everyone does a 180 in their opinion of Thorax…including Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, the two who it would be perfectly understandable if they were never willing to trust a Changeling for the rest of their lives. It didn’t help that “A Changeling Can Change” is considered the worst song of Season Six. The first two times I watched this episode I groaned when the song started and rolled my eyes through it.

Yet, to be honest, on watching it for this review? It’s…not that bad.

Oh, it has parts that are pat, to be sure, like Spike’s similes of snowflakes. And nothing really happens animation-wise in the song but Spike standing there soloing. Yet there’s actually a couple good lines in there. One of the lines draws attention to the fact that the ponies of the Crystal Empire say they love and admire Spike, yet when he said something they didn’t agree with they didn’t believe him. Yet Thorax forgave him even when he “backstabbed” him. Essentially he pointed out how Thorax appreciates Spike more than the empire that idolizes him. That’s a fairly good point. I think there could have been more good points made, such as the fact that the Crystal Empire loved “Crystal Hoof” and didn’t think anything bad against him until he was revealed to be Thorax, at which point they were so prejudgmental that they believed Crystal Hoof had been replaced by Thorax. And while it may indeed be a down part of the episode, it’s important to note that the song doesn’t change everyone’s opinion of Thorax. It only impacts Starlight Glimmer (who is still standoffish nevertheless) and Twilight Sparkle. It’s when Twilight accepts Thorax that the others fall in line. It’s still convenient but…not as convenient as it could have been. I noted on this viewing that, in spite of what happened to her, even Cadance was having misgivings about how they were reacting (possibly overreacting) to the presence of a Changeling before Spike’s reveal at the end, which is another point in favor of her character as a whole.

So while the song is definitely the weakest part of the episode, it still teaches a good lesson about cognitive dissonance, which is part of the epidemic of stereotypes and racism to begin with. How the desire to fit in and be accepted personally is enough to make us all start subscribing to things we know aren’t true…possibly even immoral. And that’s a pretty good lesson that builds off of “Bridle Gossip”. Add to the fact there’s some nice scenes and callbacks in here, the fact that I find Thorax to be an enjoyable addition to the cast, and a few good character points all around in spite of their negatives, and I actually think this was one of the season’s better episodes.

Fun Facts:

The title of this episode is a knockoff of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin'”.

I have to do my regular “headdesk” moment every time some character says Spike saved the Crystal Empire twice. :/

Spike’s (kinda creepy) Rarity doll makes another appearance.

Back in Season Three’s “The Crystal Empire”, I suggested that the little nursery rhyme Twilight and Cadance do might actually be a way of IDing themselves to each other now. It turns out that suggestion came true at least for this episode.

Kyle Rideout provides the voice of Thorax. While he has a filmography in a number of different things, the biggest reason he was chosen is likely because he provides the voice of Vinnie Terrio from “Littlest Pet Shop”, another show put out by DHX Media that airs on Discovery Family Network, and shares many voice actors with “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”.

Contrary to what one might think, the Changeling in Season Five’s “Slice of Life” is not Thorax. Among other slight differences, the eye and wing cover color is different.

Thorax actually does have pupils. They’re colored white instead of black, and they’re faded in with the rest of his eyes, which makes them hard to be noticeable. But there’s a couple scenes in this episode where it adds to his body language if you can pick up on them.

This episode along with the season finale really expanded on Changeling culture and their life cycle. As it turns out, Queen Chrysalis truly does operate in semi-hive culture, with all other Changelings being her offspring and needing to metamorphose into adults from larval forms. Based on the flashback, it was likely she sired him and the bulk of the other Changelings specifically to conquer Canterlot in Season Two. It also established that Changelings can’t “choose” not to feed (at least, not until the revelation in the Season Finale)…that they’re in pain and will possibly die if they don’t.

Spike once again reveals his propensity for making up bad names on the spot as he did in “Gauntlet of Fire”, when he uses the first two nouns he sees to come up with “Crystal Hoof”. Spike is like a bad online pony name generator. 😛

I love how Thorax’s eyes go all wonky when he and Spike nervously laugh.

Early in the episode, Spike accuses a rock of being the Changeling. Ironically enough, later in the episode, Thorax does indeed disguise himself as a rock.

One of the Crystal Pony Guards checks behind a stand up picture frame for Thorax. …Seriously?

Starlight Glimmer has a personal reaction to Spike’s song, for obvious reasons. While I thought her presence in this episode was a sign that she was going to start becoming a more “regular” character as opposed to one that needed to stand out in every appearance, it turns out she was likely in this episode only so she could have a pre-established relationship with Thorax prior to “To Where and Back Again”.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Reviews ~ Season Six, Episode Fifteen: “28 Pranks Later”

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Synopsis:

Rainbow Dash’s pranking of Fluttershy fails to go over well with the pegasus, prompting the prankster to be confronted by the Mane Six. When the girls point out to her that if you don’t make sure a prank is done to someone who can appreciate it and will enjoy it that you’re being “lazy”, Rainbow misinterprets it as a challenge and starts pranking everyone in town…mostly to get a laugh at their expense rather than something they would enjoy. The only individual who seems to think her prank spree is fun is Pinkie Pie, so the girls send her out to Rainbow Dash to get her to stop. In doing so, she learns Rainbow plans to prank the whole town by swapping out Filly Guide cookies that the CMCs will be selling tomorrow for joke cookies that turn the mouths of anyone who eats them rainbow-colored. In spite of Pinkie suggesting that this is a prank only she will find funny or clever, Rainbow insists on going forward with it. After the next day, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and the CMCs have sold cookies to everyone in town, but when Rainbow Dash goes around to see the results of her prank, she finds the town desolate. When she looks closer, she soon makes a horrific discovery: the joke cookie batch has affected everyone who’s eaten them, turning them into cookie-eating zombies. Soon they begin roaming the town demanding more. The only ones who don’t seem to have been impacted are those who were with Rainbow Dash, so she quickly runs back to them and gets them to barricade themselves and the remaining cookies in the barn at Sweet Apple Acres until the cookie effects wear off. Only once inside, the others reveal that they’ve eaten the cookies as well and turn zombie-like too. Soon the zombie mob is closing in on Rainbow Dash and the cookies, but just before grabbing them…the town suddenly reverts to normal, revealing they were playing a prank on Rainbow Dash the whole time. On proclaiming she didn’t enjoy the prank experience, Rainbow realizes how she’s been treating other ponies without regards to their feelings. For the “lesson” she learned, she announces to the town she’ll have to work extra hard to get them all back…before saying: “Gotcha”.

Review:

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the show would parody zombies, even if it was harder to work in. Zombie movies, after all, do tend to be for more mature audiences, and a Y-rated show can’t very well do the living dead, even in the most juvenile capacity. Yet the show still managed to not only pull it off but did so with a few nods to material the older fans would get.

Nevertheless, in terms of plot, this has to be one that you solidly see coming a mile away. While the episode itself was written with a few things that would have made it hard to seem like it could be a prank, such as the Cake twins being in on it and Applejack and Rarity having a casual discussion when Rainbow Dash isn’t present as opposed to talking about how the prank is going, the synopsis for this episode directly said that Ponyville was playing a prank on Rainbow Dash in retribution. I’m guessing they had to put that out in order to do zombies in this episode, as parents at home might have gotten upset unless the show explicitly warned that all of this was just a prank, but it still would have been fairly easy to figure out. Therefore, most of the enjoyment comes from the events throughout the episode and character reactions and interactions.

This episode was another divisive one among fans. I’m not the biggest zombie fan in the world, but the nods here were enough to make me crack a smile more than once. I liked the atmosphere in a lot of this episode, and a lot of the side characters get some screen time with some amusing reactions as well. However, a lot of fans didn’t care too much for zombie material and so that didn’t grab them, and I think what was more polarizing is this was the second week in a row Rainbow Dash has had to learn a lesson after letting one of her negative character traits run away with her. Especially since it was one she supposedly learned way back in Season One.

Personally, I think it was fitting. Rainbow Dash does tend to have an egocentric perspective at times. Even if she’s not egotistical, she tends to think anything she likes everyone will like rather than being more empathic. What more, she was kind of missing the point of pranking in the first place and starting to treat it as another competition, namely to be able to “get” everyone in town, and once it reached that point its understandable how she would get carried away.

I’ll give it one other compliment, too. The “Standard Child Cartoon Playbook” would have normally had Rainbow Dash doing a prank to Pinkie Pie that she didn’t think was funny and that would have been “the straw the broke the camel’s back” and turned her against her to join with the others in counter-pranking her. I always compliment a kid’s show when it doesn’t “go for the obvious”.

So combined with the funny and entertaining moments, I’m in the camp of those who definitely thought this was a good one. I kind of wish it would have played with the idea of “pony zombies” more and not spent so much time setting it up, but still a fun episode.

Fun Facts:

The title is a knockoff of “28 Days Later”, one of the movies that reignited the 2000s zombie craze.

This episode actually has a lot of ties to Season One’s “Griffon the Brush Off”, which was the episode where Rainbow Dash first really connected with Pinkie Pie via their mutual love of pranks. The whole setup for the start, in fact, is Rainbow Dash finally breaking the unwritten prank rule that Pinkie Pie had said in that episode: never prank Fluttershy because she’s not the sort of individual who would be amused by the experience.

This is an episode that tries to cover every character in town, but what’s interesting about that is that Starlight Glimmer is absent. I’ve noticed that she seems to only appear in episodes in Season Six in which she’s either the focus or her appearance is necessary for a plot device. It makes me think, even among the show writers, there are some who dislike her character and purposely omit her from episodes.

“Filly Guide” is an interesting take on “Girl Scout”. It could have just been “Filly Scout”, but they went the extra effort with it.

Rainbow Dash went to the trouble of moving Applejack’s bedside furniture into the pig pen as well.

One of my personal favorite parts of the episode is a confused Princess Celestia looking up from all the scrolls Spike is sending her. 😀

I can’t recall exactly, but this might be the first episode in which one of the characters calls the Cutie Mark Crusaders: “the CMCs”, just as the fans have been doing for years.

The scene where Rainbow Dash walks into Sugarcube Corner and runs into the “zombiefied” Ms. Cake is almost a direct ripoff of Claire Redfield’s arrival at a diner in “Resident Evil 2” for Playstation.

Andrea Libman sounds honestly rather unsettling in a zombiefied voice. O_O

I have no idea how in the world Mrs. Cake got Carrot and Pound to “go along with the prank”. 😛

In the shot with all of the “zombie” ponies, after Rainbow Dash says: “I don’t want the cookies!”, Cranky is making a rather unsettling face. Also, way in the background is “zombie” Octavia.

No ending theme again this time.

Rating:

3.5 Stars out of 5