Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reviewing is Magic: Episode 3 (Baby, it'll be so nice, for I've got two tickets to paradise!)

Another day, another chance for ADVENTURE!  As I've already established, the relaunch of My Little Pony as its current incarnation is more than just a simple show for girls, it's a rich fantasy world filled with challenges, dangers, and threats that would easily fit in any "boy's" adventure series.  So, with episode three, we've faced the end of the world at the hand of a thousand year old plot for revenge, how do you build from that?

With an important lesson about sharing based on Princess Celestia completely forgetting how many friends her favorite student has.  Yeah.

Well, let's get this underway.

This was a real billboard.  I can't make this up.

Our episode begins with Twilight Sparkle and Applejack finishing up a harvest of some of the apples in the orchard, and I'll admit I'm a little disappointed that we don't see if all ponies can kick the sh!t out of trees, or if Applejack is just that hardcore.  Honestly, I'd be happy with either answer.

Out of the blue, a letter arrives from Princess Celestia, inviting Twilight Sparkle and one friend to the Great Galloping Gala, the biggest Disneyesque party that Equestria has to offer.  Spike, being the lone Y chromosome amongst all the women here, has the same reaction most small boys would have if they were invited to what is essentially the "World's Biggest Tea Party."

So this leaves one free ticket!  Applejack immediately puts in her case for being Twilight's "Plus One," pointing out that if she was invited to the fanciest party of all time...she'd set up a food stand and try to sell apple-related treats.  Applejack, you know I think you're awesome, but seriously, I don't think you need to have a ticket to an event to be a vendor there.  I think you can just sign up to be a vendor.

Rainbow Dash manages to crash the invitation (literally) by speaking up how much she'd love to go to it because it would give her a chance to try to impress her heroes, the Wonderbolts.  These are essentially the Blue Angels of flying horses, complete with long, black smoke trails following them that, quite frankly, confuse and scare me.

A recurring theme, in fact, for a lot of what Rainbow Dash does during the season is connected to how she wants to be a Wonderbolt some day.  To her, I'd point out that, while it is a great dream, having the plan of interrupting their show to show just how much better you are than everybody is probably not the best way to go about it.

There is a cute bit here tying to the second episode where Applejack accuses Rainbow Dash of not helping collect apples because she'd rather be spying.  I can't help but wonder if that was intentional.

Twilight Sparkle, of course, can't decide whose heart to break on an empty stomach, so she heads back into town to eat and ponder the current crisis, leaving Applejack and Rainbow Dash to sort out which one of them is better the only way you'd expect two "pretty little ponies" to do it on a show for girls:

Arm wrestling.  Fantastic.

Through a series of purely random incidents, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy all find out about the tickets, and I have to admit, hearing some of their reasons for wanting to go make me think Applejack and Rainbow Dash had the right idea.  Pinkie Pie just wants to go because it's the "biggest party ever" and, well, parties are her thing.  It just makes sense that she'd be there, right?

Rarity, of course, wants to go for the purely selfless reason of wanting to show off how elegant she is, and also meet and marry the Princess' nephew.  ...okay, I need to ask a continuity question here.

It was established last episode that Princess Celestia is over one thousand years old.  She has one known sibling, a younger sister, who spent 1000 years trapped in the moon.  Whose kid is this nephew, and how old is he?  There needs to be a Chris Hanson pony hanging out around him at all times, because dude, if you're picking up young ponies now?  That's creepy on levels that Edward/Bella couldn't hope to touch.

Fluttershy...I'll go ahead and say it, she has the best reason for wanting to go.  The party itself is irrelevant, she wants to see the gardens surrounding the palace.  See, that evening is the one night out of the year that all of the flowers bloom at once, and she'd love to see all of the exotic animals (I admit it, I laughed at the joke about "hummingbirds that hum, and buzzards that actually buzz").

Now, normally, a show like this would have left it with just two people wanting the spare ticket, and Twilight would have simply skipped the party herself to not disappoint her friends.  It's a clever twist, then, to make it so that, as she points out, even if Twilight doesn't go, she still has three friends whose feelings are hurt.

After another argument amongst all the ponies, Twilight Sparkle gets to experience the common trope of "everybody does ridiculous favors for the person with the tickets."  Rainbow Dash punches a single hole in a rainstorm to make sure Twilight's lunch isn't ruined, Rarity prepares a special dress for her to wear, Fluttershy and her woodland friends go "full Disney" and clean Twilight's home for her while Fluttershy sings, Applejack tries to bribe her with food, and Pinkie Pie....throws a party.

Again, most series would have the person accept all of the gifts before making up their mind, but not Twilight.  She actively refuses every single attempt to bribe her, because she actually wants to keep it "fair."  It's another nice touch to what would've been a generic formula episode.

Now, here's my favorite part:  All the other ponies Pinkie Pie invited?  They catch wise to the fact that this is over an extra ticket...and things go nuts.  We go full on Benny Hill.  Now, I'm not sure how many children know who Benny Hill is, or how many young girls should be exposed to regular scenes of horny old men chasing around women in their underwear to "Yakkity Sax," but there are not enough points I can award to the creators of this show for including it here.

Twilight gets away, and is confronted by her friends who decide that the ticket isn't worth what they've been doing to her, and each one gives up her right to go.  This leads to the other great twist in this show, where, instead of Twilight giving both tickets away to total strangers, or finding a pony whose "Make A Wish" wish is to go, or something.... sends the tickets back.

So, Twilight learns an important lesson about how sharing your blessings is important when you have friends, but if there isn't enough to go around it can leave you feeling bad, and the other ponies learn that just because someone has something you want, it's not fair to put pressure on that pers- er, pony.  So, maybe they won't be going, but they'll always have their friendship.

...or maybe Princess Celestia will just send a note back saying "Why didn't you say so?" with six tickets included.  That works, too.  Because seriously, you're her prize student, Twilight.  I'm pretty sure you could've at least asked.  And shame on you, Celestia...unless this was all to teach her a lesson, in which case, pretty sneaky.

The Good:

Benny Hill moments are always awesome.  And the lengths some of the ponies go to get the tickets are absolutely insane, especially Rainbow Dash seemingly raining out every other pony's day (seriously, the weather has a schedule in this world) just to make it look like Twilight gets special treatment.  This is nuts.  The animation on Spike is much better now than in the previous two episodes, and it catches up to the quality of the rest of the show.

Also, I still can't say enough nice things about the actors.  They do a magnificent job. 

The Bad:

It's a little disappointing that, after such a huge and epic storyline to start the show with, we then leap to an episode that's all about sharing equally (granted, the next episode is about the dangers of blows to the head and multiple concussions, but I'll get to that), but they can't all be huge action adventure shows.  I also feel that some of the ponies just didn't have good reasons to get to go to the party.  If I was invited to a White House dinner, and my good friend said they wanted to come so they can set up a food stand in the middle of a hallway, I'd feel pretty inclined to leave them behind, regardless of how much they could use the money.  And the whole "Celestia's Nephew" thing still bothers me.


Not as good as the first two episodes, but what it lacks in adventure it makes up for in humor and providing a bit more depth to what motivates the characters.  I do appreciate that, while I hated her reasoning for going to the party, the fact that Applejack feels responsible both for a lot of the work as well as financially supporting her family farm gives her a lot of depth, as does the fact that Rarity might be providing outfits to all of the fanciest events but is never personally invited to them.  We already knew that Fluttershy liked animals, Rainbow Dash wants to be the best flier ever, and Pinkie Pie loves parties, but the fact that even Spike got a little character development helped a lot.

Plus, I know for a fact this isn't the last we'll be hearing of the Grand Galloping Gala, so, we now have some of our first ongoing plot thread!  Whoo-hoo!

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