Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reviewing is Magic: Episode 5

I rarely like the "zany, kooky" cast member of any show.  Anybody whose job in a show is to prove how "normal" the rest of the cast is in comparison is, 99% of the time, annoying at best, at worst a show-killer.  The only redemption is when the character manages to learn control during the course of a series, making the "bizarre" moments less bizarre over time while subtle hints remind us of the quirkiness that lies beneath the surface.

Good examples of this?  Parker on Leverage, Mozzie on White Collar, any number of characters on Scrubs.

Examples of it going wrong?  Well, From the episodes of NCIS I've watched, I'm pretty sick of Abby.  I grew to hate George on Seinfeld, though that was for multiple reasons.  Kimmy Gibler on Full House, the actress might be a fine woman, but we all hated you.  And don't get me started on Screech.  Do I even need to name the series?

So, keeping in mind how I feel about these characters...let's look at the first Pinkie Pie episode of My Little Pony.

...actually, hold up.  There's one theme that runs through the show that I will freely admit to loving.  We know that Twilight Sparkle had no friends (except Spike) before the first two episodes...but something that it takes a while to learn is that, without her arrival, odds are most of the rest of the cast wouldn't be friends, either.

Applejack and Rarity?  Nothing in common.  Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash couldn't be any more different, personality-wise.  And then there's Pinkie Pie.  Would you want to hang out with someone who acted crazy 24-7, and whose initial reaction to meeting someone new is to panic, run off, then break into your home to throw you a party?


So the episode opens with Pinkie Pie doing what she does best (being quirky) with Twilight Sparkle who is doing what she does best (reading, not talking).  After a few moments of this, Pinkie Pie spots Rainbow Dash overhead, and calls out.  Rainbow Dash, naturally does what any pony would do...runs away.  This leads to a somewhat corny gag if it weren't for the fact that Rainbow Dash plows head first into a cliff at high speed.  I swear, this program and brain injury.

Once we're past the title sequence, we resume our kookiness, with Pinkie Pie trying to find and talk to Rainbow Dash, leading to-

...well, actually it leads to one of the better homages to Pepe Le Pew.  Pinkie Pie even has the perfect "bounce" naturally happening in her step, and the speed that Rainbow Dash can fly at (previously established in the first episode) leads to this probably being one of the most natural jokes the show could tell, but one you wouldn't necessarily expect, since many children these days wouldn't get it.

So it turns out Pinkie Pie needs help setting up a prank involving a thundercloud, with the goal being to startle Spike so severely he gets hiccups.  Okay, cute, but I'll confess I smiled when Rainbow Dash immediately turned the prank around and did it to Pinkie Pie.  More often than not, the "quirky" character can't accept when someone else is "quirky" and gets insanely jealous. Pinkie Pie...enjoys it.  Huh.  That's a nice twist to the idea.  

We also get an acknowledgment of my earlier point here:  Rainbow Dash thought Pinkie Pie was annoying, and this is their first time hanging out.

We have a sneezing powder prank for Rarity, invisible ink prank on Twilight, painted apples for Applejack, and...oh dear, that leaves Fluttershy.  Okay, I see where this is going.  Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are going to learn about being sensitive, because Fluttershy's so sensitive, she'll take even the smallest prank personally, and her feelings will be hurt and hey, wait a minute, Pinkie Pie is saying the exact same thing.  ...okay, episode you've got me curious.  What's your moral?

So, the next day we see Pinkie Pie heading out to meet Rainbow Dash a- ...

...okay, so the moral is going to be "moderation is nice."  Got it.  So the-

...oh.  Hello, there.

Okay, so this is Gilda the Griffin, voiced by Maryke Hendrikse.  ...where do I know that name from?

Oh, right.  ...we'll get to that series later.

So it turns out Gilda is an old friend of Rainbow Dash's who's hanging out for a while, and here's where we seem to get into the thick of the story.  Gilda wants to hang out with Dash alone, Pinkie Pie keeps showing up (including using a pedal-powered helicopter bike, it seems), Gilda gets more and more irritated.  So maybe the moral is that Pinkie Pie is jealous?  It sure seems to be going that direction as the pony sips a milkshake and thinks about her behavior.

...but no, apparently not, as a small montage of Gilda going through town shows her own dark versions of pranks, theft, and-

-oh heyyyyyllllll no you did not just do that.  And Pinkie apparently agrees, since "no one treats Fluttershy like that.  No one.  This calls for extreme measures, Pinkie Pie style."

This is gonna be awesome, where Pinkie Pie sheds the goofball image, and goes all out on Gilda and- ...throws her a party?   ...ooooh, I get it.  Obviously, this is going to be Pinkie Pie pulling all sorts of pranks on Gilda!  Let's see, we have a joy buzzer, hot pepper candy, a dribble glass, relighting candles, and...well, okay the "pin the tail" incident wasn't really a prank, but it works.

Sure enough, Gilda flips out, Calls everyone lame, insults the pranks, and tries to leave with Rainbow Dash.  Here it comes, where Rainbow Dash says she loves Pinkie's pranks and...

...wait the pranks were Rainbow Dash's pranks?  Pinkie really just wanted to throw a party to cheer Gilda up, it seems, and I really did not see that coming.  Well played, ponies.  So Gilda leaves, Rainbow Dash apologizes for Gilda's behavior, Twilight apologizes for not believing Pinkie about Gilda, and we get a nice letter about how true friendship comes through.  Huh.

The Good:

Gilda is a pretty neat addition to the series, sort of the "mean girl" who was popular in school, but still puts too much stock in being popular with other "cool" ki- er, creatures.  It helps that Gilda does remind us sometimes that she actually is a "monster," and the electric guitar riffs add to whatever mood Gilda is in.

Also, it was nice to get some depth to Pinkie Pie.  She's still not my favorite, but I have to admit she isn't as obnoxious as I expected her to be.  The fact that she already has firmly set limits on how far she'll annoy people is a nice change from characters who take it over the top all the time.  Sure, she has some really bizarre moments (the bike copter, for one), but even those aren't aimed at being annoying.  Plus, it's nice to see a character react to something negative by being even nicer, instead of becoming vindictive.

...though, a vindictive Pinkie Pie would be terrifying.

The Bad:

The animation has a few weak spots here and there, more noticeable in the scenes with Twilight Sparkle.  The opening joke also falls (impacts?) flat, but does set up the starting relationship for the rest of the show.  We also don't get much of Rainbow Dash's personality this time beyond "I like to win" and Pranks are awesome!"  at least, not until the end.


Of the first five episodes, this one is probably my fourth favorite, but then again it's competing with a two-part opening and Applejack's episode.  That doesn't make it bad, and it'll stay ahead of some episodes I look at in the future (the diamond dogs one, for instance).  It is nice they're using the early episodes to help cement not just a pony's personality, but also how that pony relates with every other pony (most find her annoying, but she's protective of Fluttershy, who it turns out is a year older than Pinkie Pie.  Go figure.  Plus, it was interesting in the last episode that the only pony Applejack wasn't helping was Rarity, but we'll get to that.)

A solid episode, and the dirt time I didn't mind Pinkie Pie being herself.  Now here's hoping they can do a Rarity episode that will get me to like her.

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