Friday, January 11, 2013

Reviewing Is Magic: Episode 4

Welcome back to part 4 of "Erik Has Too Much Spare Time My Little Pony: Reviewing Is Magic."  I realize that not everyone might enjoy this part of the blog as much as I enjoy writing it, but I'm not being paid to do this, so I'm rather free to do what I want until I get bored with it (see: 2012, 2011, 2010...ahem).

Now, most of the people I know who probably look at this blog will never watch an episode of this show.  That is a real shame, in my opinion.  See, I've always had the mindset that, if I'm going to criticize something, I should really know what I'm talking about.  People I know might hear me say something "never really caught my interest" or "didn't really excite me" as reasons I didn't watch/read/play/whatever it is that's been mentioned, but I generally attempt to keep actual criticisms of a source of entertainment limited to ones I've actually partaken in.

The only real exception is Jersey Shore.  I haven't watched an episode, but I've seen the stars outside of the context of the show, and I'm pretty sure I'd hate them just as much in an edited block of time as I do when they're au natural.

In this case of this show, unless your schedule is so busy that you can't take the time to watch a 22 minute episode for free on Youtube, what's the harm?  If you like it, hooray.  If you don't, at least you'll be able to say why instead of just going with vague generalities.

Anyway.  To be completely honest, it was when I watched this episode I knew I had to blog about this show.  Watching it, I was horribly fascinated by the fact that a children's show was apparently making light out of what was, for all intents and purposes, a traumatic brain injury.

Let's begin episode 4, "Applebuck Season."

The episode begins with Applejack and her brother (Big Macintosh, get it?) discussing how they have what might just be the largest apple crop Applejack has ever seen.  Unfortunately, Big Macintosh injured himself, and since nobody ever explains exactly where glue comes from in this world, he has to heal up, leaving it up to Applejack to harvest all of the apples herself.  Big Macintosh points out it might be too much for one pony on her own, but Applejack simply takes it as a challenge (and also demonstrates her complete misunderstanding of how math works).

So, we'll have 22 minutes of Applejack kicking the holy hell out of trees to knock apples loose.  Okay, not the plot I would script, but- oh wait, what's this?  First....a stampede!

That's right, a herd of cattle is storming towards Ponyville!  Sure, it's not quite the huge world-ending cataclysm as "ancient evil brings eternal night" but that much beef can do a lot of damage.  Plus, this also establishes two interesting facts: 1) Cows can talk just like ponies.  2) Dogs can't.

I'm not even going to try to figure out that logic.

So, after single-handed (hoofed?) saving the town (because ponies that can use magic or could fly are obviously useless in stopping many tons of beef charging forward), Ponyville residents decide the smart thing to do is thank Applejack with a party...several days after the stampede occurred.

So what has Applejack been up to?  Harvesting apples, of course!  And here's the first hint something is wrong:  The "most capable and dependable pony" is late to her own award ceremony, yawning constantly, and gets distracted by her reflection during her own speech. 

I have no excuse for Pinkie Pie.  Insert "wooooooo" sound effects here.
So, time passes, and Applejack is still hard at work kicking trees and falling asleep in the middle of walking.  Twilight tries to figure out what's up, and Applejack explains that it's "Applebuck Season," the harvest season's name (cause, y'know, they buck at trees, so, applebucking).   Sign two that something wrong here:  After Twilight steps out of Applejack's way, Applejack doesn't realize she's moved, and then her vision starts to swim, Twilight's voice gets echo-y, and Applejack keeps missing the large, inanimate objects she's trying to clobber.

So, yeah, right now it's just exhaustion.  But wait, it gets worse.

Twilight points out that no single pony could possibly harvest all of the apples, at which point Applejack becomes Barney Stinson.

More time passes, and we see Applejack showing up to try to help other ponies with tasks (being all "dependable" and everything), and here's where things get dark.  The first step is helping Rainbow Dash with her newest stunt, which involves jumping off a platform at least two stories up onto a see-saw that will launch the blue pony into the sky.  Exhaustion and physical reflexes, eh?  How bad could it be?

This bad:

Three sharp impacts with the ground.  Could it get worse?  Yes.  And immediately.

While picking up an apple on the ground, Applejack connects the back of her head with a low-hanging tree branch.  The crunching sound effect, following by the ringing that lingers a bit as she tries to clear her head made me cringe.  After once again turning down help, Applejack takes another quick blow to the head from a branch, and staggers away.

Let's just say that her attempts to help Pinkie Pie bake some cupcakes (hearing everything in slow motion and misunderstanding instructions), and completely botching helping Fluttershy herd some bunnies don't go well, and get to the end.  Applejack finally manages to declare victory as the last apples come down...only to discover that the part of the orchard she cleared was only half of it.  This leads to Applejack passing out.

Let's review our symptom list here:

Hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, decreased smell or taste, and reduced strength and coordination in the body, arms, and legs.  Except for vomiting, nausea, and seizures, I just described the symptoms of traumatic brain injury.   This is never addressed in the show.

Anyway, Applejack finally admits she needs help, and one of my favorite scenes is when every other pony is simply carting around a simple basket full of apples, Twilight Sparkle uses her magic to clear at least 30 trees of apples at once with telekinesis.  Way to a) show off, and b) make every other pony irrelevant, Twilight.  Yeesh.

So, yeah, it's a simple moral (it's nice to offer help, but you also have to be able to accept it), but the way it's presented is just so dark.  Really, when I'm watching a TV series about ponies learning the importance of friendship, I don't expect it to turn into a story like this.

The Good:

It's an episode about Applejack!  Aside from that, we get another small look at what surrounds Ponyville, and now we know other species (cows and donkeys) also exist, though whether the cows are farm animals or simply a settlement outside city limits (perhaps with their own millennial-aged cow princess?) is never really explained.

For what it's worth, Applejack's exhaustion/injury is portrayed really well, letting you wonder towards the end just what it's going to take to have her accept help without either seriously injuring herself or killing someone else.  Also, it's nice to hear some dialogue from one of the male ponies.

The little touches (Twilight's frustration while trying to deliver her speech about Applejack, various expressions and moments) are also extremely well done, and your vision isn't clouded by apples in trees, there's some neat stuff to pick up in the backgrounds of various scenes.

The Bad:

Jesus Christ, I spent a lot of time cringing while watching this.  I said before that they portrayed the depth of Applejack's being stubborn well, but it didn't do as good a job making the moral as subtle this time.  As soon as you hear her accept the challenge of doing it on her own at the very beginning, you know where this episode is going.


Stronger than the ticket episode, not as strong as the opening two, I will say that whenever I think of My Little Pony and just how crazy it can get, this episode will come to my mind quickly.  There are more insane ones out there (just wait until I get to the zebra racism one, the one about settlers vs. indian buffalo, or Discord), but for this kind of craziness to happen within the first five episodes is pretty intense.

So, up next we get a mythological creature, and...oh god, it's a Pinkie Pie episode.!

No comments: