· EPISODE 17 – Stare Master.
- Writing: Chris Savino.
This show does have a very solid chapter structure. In each episode, wrapped with the conflict, we are presented with traits that keep developing the characters, so they grow on us and we care for them. It’s a basic story-telling technique: Present the characters with a conflict and according to their reactions they will have a certain development. But with the following series of episodes we could see how the writers were focusing on particular ponies. We have “Sonic Rainboom”, focused on Rainbow Dash; we have “Suited for Success”, focused on Rarity”; “Feeling Pinkie Keen” focused both on Twilight and Pinkie. So it was bound to happen that we had an episode focused on Fluttershy, and let’s be honest people, it took a while!
Not only is an episode focused around Fluttershy, but it’s an episode that turns Fluttershy into an über badass, even bigger than what she already was. Talking that dragon down to the point of making him cry has nothing on what she does in this episode. What starts like a cutesy, harmless episode about the Cutie Mark Crusaders (also known as “The Story Arc Crusaders”) ends up like a book of H.P. Lovecraft (you know, like Earthbound). Due to a series of events, Fluttershy ends up taking care of the Crusaders, who slip under her radar and end up inside the Ever Free forest, looking for Fluttershy’s missing chicken. Then…things get scary. How scary? Enough to leave an impact on the way I see chickens for the rest of my life.
I am going to spoil the ending of the episode, so don’t whine if you say I didn’t warn you of the spoilers. As soon as Fluttershy steps into the Ever Free forest, the first thing she comes across is Twilight turned into a stone statue. By what? Well, if you look at any D&D manual, you will learn that Cockatrices can turn other living creatures like animals into stone with their Death Glare, and that’s exactly what happened to Twilight here. Things already seem screwed up! If the most powerful Pony in Ponyville, Miss Ursa Minor Vanquisher, is taken down this easily, what are the chances of Fluttershy to survive and save the girls? Well, Fluttershy has an ace in the hole, a move she can’t seem to control or understand simple called “The Stare”. That’s how she took down the Dragon, and she used it before in this episode to gather her scared chickens. So, how does it go for Fluttershy when she is faced against the cockatrice? Well…I can pretty much say everypony in this show has Chuck Norris’ DNA, because they are all badasses! Not only does Fluttershy stare down the cockatrice, but she does it WHILE SHE IS BEING TURNED TO STONE! And yes, she manages to even revert the spell. That was really cool, and it was incredibly badass from Fluttershy. This is good, up until now we never got a real explanation on how she took down that dragon in episode 7, or why is she so shy all the time. She is scared of her power, she can’t control it and that turned her into this fearful fragile creature; a fearful fragile creature that can burn herself into your brain. As she said: “So, watch out!”
· Defining Moment: Fluttershy VS Cockatrice. AVP has nothing on this. Fucking nothing!
· Moral: Never bite more than you can chew. Just because you are good at one thing doesn’t mean you can be good at everything.
· EPISODE 18 – Show stoppers.
- Writing: Cindy Morrow.
Again, another episode focused on the Cutie Mark Crusaders. You can say at this point that Lauren Faust was getting away with more than she actually thought she could. Well, she said so on her DeviantArt, so I guess this only shows what a great dealer she is. But again, just like “Call of Cutie”, this is an episode too focused on this group of supporting characters you may or may not care for, but in my case it grew on me. I ended up liking these characters a lot and how hard they try to find a place to belong and a talent of their own. I like Scootaloo with her racing abilities. I like Sweetie Belle with her aspirations at being like her big sister Rarity. I like Applebloom for how stubborn she is, pretty much like I am. Leaving aside the fact that they all look adorable, they are a very well defined and compensated group of characters that has nothing to envy from the main cast of Ponies.
That aside, the premise of the episode is pretty interesting. A talent show where young Ponies can show their abilities and, if done correctly, might even get their Cutie Marks. This is enough reason for the Crusaders to present themselves to the show. The only problem though is that they do it wrong. Very wrong. Catastrophically, irredeemably, awfully, painfully, destructively and hilariously wrong. Just so you get an idea of how it goes, let’s assume each of the Crusaders’ talents: Applebloom seems to be good at designing, painting and fixing stuff; Scootaloo is a natural born racer, knows how to do dance moves and gymnastics; Sweetie Belle shows a talent for musical composition and singing. Well, take those talents, shuffle them, and give them in random order, and you will end up with Sweetie Belle doing the costumes and the production design, Scootaloo singing and composing the songs, and Applebloom doing the dance moves. As I said, a total disaster.
But as disastrous and catastrophic as it all goes, the whole thing really humbles me. It is a very good message, though not fully explained and ending with an ambiguous Aesop for the kids, but me as an adult caught it rather quickly. As I said, the first time I watched the episode I wasn’t too enthralled in the whole Crusaders thing, and I didn’t like the fact we were focusing on them so much. Call it heart warming, or call it brain numbing, but these characters are now some of the best of the entire show, and I hope they keep developing them in upcoming seasons. I am so eager to see their Cutie Marks I already know I’m going to cry as soon as they get them.
· Defining Moment: The very start of the episode where we see each of the Cutie Mark Crusaders showing off their talents…without realizing that’s what they are good at.
· Moral: Never spread yourself too thin. If you are good at something, don’t try being good at something else. It’s okay to try other stuff you might be interested in, but you shouldn't dedicate all your energy towards it.
· EPISODE 19 – A dog and pony show.
- Writing: Amy Keating Rogers.
While that does take a big part of the episode we spend a good deal of time with Rarity as she has been kidnapped by the Diamond Dogs, a seemingly underground society of precious stones scavengers that are like a mix between the Morlocks from Jules Verne’s “Time Machine” and Gollum from “Lord of the Rings”. These guys tie her down and force her to find diamonds using her “Precious Stone Locator” Magic spell. What they don’t count with is that Rarity has a secret weapon under her hoof: Whining! Well, not so much as whining to be fair, but more like an excess of personality. She’s spent the entire series being a perfectly polite lady who likes clean, organized stuff, and when that collides with the Diamond Dog’s rude ways things go amuck…for the Diamond Dogs. They may seem too soft on her, but just imagine what her high pitched wailing does to their sensitive canine ears, in a cave! No wonder they gave up to her wits (AKA, whining).
But honestly, this is a fantastic episode to boot and have a good laugh at. It’s very well written, it has memorable moments, Rarity is a gem (Baddum Tish) all thanks to the fantastic and talented Tabitha St. Germain, and it keeps adding more examples to the Monster roll call this show has. We have now like, how many? Twenty deadly, pony-eating creatures? The looks can be cartoony, but they work and the animation and voices (or sound effects when the monsters are not evolved enough) just add to the mix. This is one of the best episodes of the season, without a doubt.
· Defining Moments: Yes, in plural, because there are too many to just put one.
The First one is when Spike fantasizes with rescuing Rarity, seeing himself as a broad shoulder, squared chin knight in a shinny armor who rescues the Princess from a dungeon. Rarity dressed as a Princess included and everything.
The Second one is when Rarity starts crying after one of the Diamond Dogs calls her Mule. Her wailing gives me feelings so mixed up I am confused. Should I laugh? Should I feel sorry for her? Should I take out my camera and start snapping? Why not all three at the same time?
· Moral: Girly doesn’t mean weak, it can actually mean tougher than you.
· EPISODE 20 – Green isn’t your color.
- Writing: Meghan McCarthy.
Another Rarity focused episode! Well, not really, it’s more a Rarity and Fluttershy focused episode, and I personally have no problem with that, though I understand the people complaining about it online after this aired. I can actually defend the amount of episodes Rarity got in such a short time span. Of the main six ponies she was the least developed. She had two episodes where she showcased her personality, but after them she was pretty much gone from the main scene until “Sonic Rainboom” and then with “A Dog and Pony Show”. That said it’s wonderful to see a reverse of fortune being treated in the My Little Pony universe.
That is the aspect that fills the entire episode, how Rarity tries to get the attention of this photographer only for her attempts at getting attention end up diverting it. That’s something that happens a lot in the art world. Not the (possible) fact that your friends end up getting more recognition than you do, but the fact that trying to get the attention of someone in particular ends with you failing at it, leaving you alone and empty. But if we take something out of this episode is how Rarity deals with that failure of a plan she schemed. Instead of wallowing (which is what we all expected her to do), she just shrugs it off and keeps on going with her fashion business. She doesn’t make a big deal out of it, which is great! The one that’s not so lucky is Fluttershy, and if what she goes through is not the thinnest thinly veiled metaphor for fashion victims, then I might be reading things somewhat wrong.
But you know what? It’s not Rarity nor Fluttershy the ones who steal the show. Yes, the episode is about them, about their friendship and their feelings, but the show stealer here is Pinkie Pie. Pinkie Pie comes in this episode as down-right psychotic, paranoid and just plan scary. She is the scariest character of the whole bunch. You’ll never know where she is. You will never know where she’ll pop out of. You will never know. She is beyond our comprehension on how physics work in the world of Equestria. She is impossible to grasp. Yes, the episode carries a powerful and important moral about being sincere, not telling lies and being honest with your friends, but you can throw all that out the window as soon as Pinkie Pie sprouts from a basket full of sponges.
· Defining Moment: Pinkie Pie. A mirror. Is this Black Swan all of a sudden!? Actually, no! Forget that, Darren Aronofsky is not that fucked up.
· Moral: Lying to your friends is really bad, especially if what you are lying about is your feelings. Things can get so bad not even magic can help you.
· EPISODE 21 – Over a Barrel.
- Writing: Dave Polsky.
This episode’s biggest problem is how out of character everybody is. Seriously guys, this episode takes the characters we’ve been following for the last 20 episodes, and turns them inside out completely. Dave Polsky, writer of “Feeling Pinkie Keen” got everybody wrong, even Pinkie Pie! Rainbow Dash goes from brave and thoughtless pony who’s loyal to her friends, to stealthy and careful, and she abandons her friends to go after revenge. It only gets worse when later on she actually tries to mediate in the conflict that’s part of the main plot. Applejack goes from cool-headed and calmed to hot head that’s not open to reason. Pinkie Pie, for the first time in the series, screws up with her song. You can say that’s a Trope breaking moment, but is there a Trope dedicated to Pinkie Pie’s miraculous singing!? Fluttershy goes from reluctant, uhm, shy pony, to glomp Pinkie Pie as soon as she sees her. Not to mention Rarity not being more considerate of Applejack's request of using an entire cabinet just for a tree. Yes, is silly, but she is the element of Generosity. A little complaint is understandable. Three minutes of complaining, is just stupid.
But what really gets under my skin is the moral of the story, the biggest shoehorn this show has had so far. So the moral of the episode is, get ready for it: You have to learn to share and care. And this is told during a conflict between Pony settlers and Indian Buffalos. Yeah, a lesson about sharing and caring is told using one of the biggest bloodbath massacres of all time as a background curtain. How stupid, how fucking stupid is that!? Who wrote this? Oh yeah, one of the ten guys who worked on the screenplay of “Scary Movie 2”, that makes sense now. And if only my complains would end there…How come nobody mentions this episode when we have seen the characters making mentions to previous episodes? It seems like they don’t want this to be cannon. Why the Pony settlers are portrayed as this angry, angsty, apple buckers, pie cooking jerks, and the Indian buffalos are portrayed as this apparently receptive peaceful guys who were driven to violence? Why does Rainbow Dash hang with them instead of being with her friends?
All the good stuff at the start of the episode vanishes as the conflict reaches its end. You might expect the slapstick would’ve saved it for me, but it didn’t either. It’s an overall uncomfortable episode, at least from the moment they leave the train onwards. Before that, the episode is good. But after the train part, let’s better forget about it. Also, let’s hope Dave Polsky doesn’t write another episode again.
· Defining Moment: The whole dialogue about Fluttershy being a tree. So, is she a tree or not? We need answers damnit!
· Moral: You have to share, and you have to care…but make sure you don’t do it while fighting against the Indians and you are Colonel Custer, or else you will end up with a Tomahawk between the eyes.
· EPISODE 22 – Bird on the Hoof.
- Writing: Charlotte Fullerton.
To summarize the plot of this episode really quick and really short, spoiling completely to all of those who haven’t seen it, so watch out: Remember that scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where he goes to meet Dumbledore and his pet Phoenix bursts into flames? Somebody decided to make an entire My Little Pony episode out of that scene alone, and guess what? It’s awesome.
It’s a perfect way to remove the bad mouth taste left after “Over a Barrel”. A very sweet episode centered around Fluttershy that starts with a lovely tea party…I mean, brunch. I like how they call them “brunch”, not “tea party” anymore. It’s like they want to avoid being girly or something. But yes, the brunch is a really fun, really enjoyable scene, and it’s surprising how long it took me to spot Princess Celestia amongst the crowd of ponies. For such a regal personality, she blends in the crowd really well, and that shows great character design. The reactions and behaviors of the characters go from the eerie to the adorable to the gasp-worthy: Applejack sweating her doubt on what to eat first; Rarity panicking over getting her dress dirty; or Pinkie Pie eating Celestia’s cupcake (don’t say you didn’t gasp at that scene). It’s also great to see how humble and, well…normal she is. Lauren Faust’s portrayal of royalty goes as: “Yes, they are like us. They get happy, they get sad, and they pull pranks too”. I’ve never seen a TV show doing that, and if I ever watch a TV show not doing such a thing I will call bullshit on it and switch it off.
On the other hoof, seeing Fluttershy fight against her best intentions to nurse back to health Celestia’s pet Filomena are really, really funny, especially for how Filomena trolls Fluttershy. All she goes through, the puking, the failures at making Filomena eat the pills, the feathers transplant, it’s for the sake of comedy and for the sake of drama as well. She suffers such ordeal only to catch a pile of smoky ash that used to be a dying bird one second ago. Filomena falling from the fountain and then exploding in flames is a rather fucked up example of unintentional nightmare fuel. Of course, everything turns out okay, as Princess Celestia reveals that Filomena is actually a phoenix and bursting into flames is part of her life cycle (it’s a clever idea, giving an immortal Princess a pet that can’t die).
So this is a really, really good episode, but I want to ask you: Have you noticed how Fluttershy is turning more and more into a Beast Master? Every episode that rebels around her has some sort of hideous Monster showing up (Photo Finish doesn’t count, no matter how much you wield the fact that she’s German). I like that on her. She fits the role real well, with that connection with nature and everything.
· Defining Moment: Princess Celestia pranking Mr. Cake at her Brunch, setting up the tone for the rest of the episode.
· Moral: Never took matters into your own hands, even if you have good intentions.
· EPISODE 23 – The Cutie Mark Chronicles.
- Writing: M.A. Larson.
To the non-fan (or newcomer) this episode might appear as the prototypical Cutie Mark Crusaders episode made to follow what is a flimsy Story Arc. That viewer will be wrong and probably smell of elderberries. I am sorry for the snarky comments; I watched a few Zero Punctuation videos in between episode analysis, but this is true! This episode has to do with the Cutie Mark Crusaders as much as Finding Nemo has to do with Jaws. Yeah, they both involve sharks, but one is a cartoon and the other is a horror movie…that then devolved into a cartoon with the sequels, but I am getting side-tracked, back to the Ponies!
This episode tells the stories of the Main Cast, the six Ponies we’ve been following since episode one, as they tell the Crusaders how they got their Cutie Marks, and the level of Cute just rises each time we see a filly version of them. I think the structure works really well, starting with the toughest pony, that being Applejack, and then going in order of cute to Fluttershy, Rarity, Twilight, Pinkie Pie and finally Rainbow Dash. It’s really interesting seeing each pony and how they looked like as kids. Yeah, they are so cute you feel you are turning into a cake as you watch them, but they are so damn interesting. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie are the most interesting, especially Pinkie since we don’t only see how she got her Cutie Mark, but also her puffy Party Hair. It’s lovely and hilarious. I can say the same for Twilight Sparkle, who compensates her magic maturity with a lot of excess of happiness and childish innocence. Her bouncing scene makes me giggle and chortle because I see myself in her.
Overall, this episode is a fantastic treat of an origin story, and it deals with each character fairly and honestly, giving them a good share of screen time and not making one character or another more important. What many people complained about are the apparent inconsistencies, but I don’t see them nor share their opinion. And as a Rainbow Dash fan this is a lot of fun to watch. Not only she is so awesome she pulled off the first Sonic Rainboom when she was a filly (something she did mention in episode 16) but she also gave all of her friends (and herself) their Cutie Marks. People call her God-Tier. I call her Goddess of Awesome! Don’t be fooled by the apparent protagonism of the Crusaders, as they are there like walking talking MacGuffins, but if you have already warmed up to them by now you can even have fun with their silliness. Really good episode with a fantastic ending, one of the best of the entire season.
· Defining Moments: Not two, not three, not four, but five! Yes, the Top Five Best Moments of this Episode are:
5. - Fluttershy singing. Disney Princess Status: Achieved.
4. - Pinkie Pie’s first party. Scootaloo’s face when Pinkie ends her story is priceless.
3. - The six girls hugging at the end of the episode.
2. - Twilight’s entrance exam.
1. - Rarity getting dragged by her horn, over the mountains. Her face is priceless.
· Moral: If you haven’t found any friends yet, don’t give up. It takes a while to find your real friends, and maybe by the time you do, you’ll realize you used to watch the same things when you were kids.
· EPISODE 24 – Owl’s Well that Ends Well.
- Writing: Cindy Morrow.
I will be honest with every single one of you right now. I am not a big fan of Spike. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the guy works hard, he is cute, he is small, he is a dragon, he looks perfect to make merchandise out of him, and the girls love him. He has a good, solid personality and enough traits to say he actually does have dimension and depth. But even with that, he is a character that feels rather detached from the entire concept of the show. Every character has, at least, one or two good friends they hang around with. Rainbow Dash has Pinkie and Applejack; Rarity has Fluttershy and Twilight; Fluttershy has Twilight and Angel Bunny. But Spike apparently has Twilight and…a crush on Rarity. He is also quite reluctant over the whole friendship is magic thing, because it’s the vehicle writers use to connect with the audience that don’t like the series’ plot (pleasing everybody I see). So as far as a character, he never said nothing to me. Until this episode.
If you thought Rainbow Dash has self esteem issues then you haven’t seen Spike acting in this. As soon as Twilight starts hanging around her new Pet Owl he becomes this panicky, filled with fear bunch of scales that tries to please her but gets overshadowed. Not by the Owl (I refuse to write his impossible to spell name), but by his own inability to co-exist with others. Things don’t get better when Twilight finds out that Spike destroyed one of the books and didn’t tell her. This sends Spike into a rage spree that fits more to Dan Backslide from “The Dover Boys” than to that cute dragon we saw in episode 1. Yes, it’s cartoony and silly, but he stages a frigging murder scene! Yes, yes, it’s a stuffed plushy mouse, it’s ketchup, it’s silly, but due to that politically correct policy we have had in cartoons for almost two decades now scenes like these are what we’ve been missing in animation.
The ending of the episode is pretty epic too, with the Owl saving the day as Spike and Twilight run away from another dragon in the Everfree Forest (honest to Celestia Ponies! That place is more dangerous than Jurassic Park! Put an electric fence around it or something!). It even manages to avert its own Trope of having Twilight sending the report on Friendship like we’ve seen in other episodes. This time is Spike the one who has learned a lesson, and I am sure this will help him to humble up a little bit. This is an episode built to appeal to Spike fans and make those who are not fans like him more. In both cases I think it works. Spike fans love this episode, their hearts break when Spike starts crying; and I actually like him a bit more now. He has more dimension and depth, and having weaknesses always does for a more grounded character. Really good episode indeed.
· Defining Moment: Spike cranks up the Dick Dastardly costume, with evil twirling moustache and everything, to plot against Twilight’s Owl. Priceless.
· Moral: Just because your friends make other new friends it doesn’t mean they are trying to substitute you or put you aside. Also, don’t run away from home, that’s dickish!
· EPISODE 25 – Party of One.
- Writing: Meghan McCarthy.
Okay, this is the kind of episode that I really love. There’s so much amazing stuff in here it’s easy to get thinly spread, so I will go to the core of the episode right now: Pinkie Pie is the scariest, creepiest, most disturbing, most fucking nuts animated character I have seen in my life! Not even Ren from “Ren and Stimpy” comes close to her, and he once raped his best friend! (I think). But Pinkie Pie is, how to put it, a mixture between Heath Ledger’s Joker and Batman. Yes. If The Joker and Batman had a baby, it would be Pinkie Pie in this episode. Why? I will tell you why, explaining the plot.
So we have Pinkie Pie, organizing a Party for Gummy, her pet Alligator. Despite her being quite happy and cheery during the party we see the other ponies getting rather mauled, slammed, kicked and cartoonily abused in several ways. It’s okay though, they keep partying as they are really good friends to Pinkie and they don’t mind the slapstick abuse. But then the next day her friends start to avoid her. They don’t want to talk to her and they make excuses not to go to her next party. Was it because of her previous party? As the audience, we are following Pinkie so we think they are genuinely avoiding her (if we are grown ups we might know why, but I bet little kids were clueless while watching this). Things go so wrong that Pinkie sets Spike to an interrogation session and she forces him so much he ends up lying to her, telling her what she really doesn’t want to hear: Her friends don’t like her and her parties and they are avoiding her because they don’t want to be her friends anymore. And then, things get fucked up. Reaaaaaaally fucked up.
The last part of the episode, up until its happy-go-lucky twist, is a journey inside Pinkie Pie’s mind and tortured psyche. Her hair falls down and straight like when she used to be at her Rock farm, her coat color darkens, and she builds a team of surrogate friends formed by a sack of Flour, a pile of rocks, a bucket of turnips and a splurge of lint. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, they are all wearing party hats, and Pinkie Pie is doing their voices while moving them. And during the whole scene her eyes twitch, and every time they twitch the background changes. But then, things get worse. She basically sinks deeper into her madness and for a couple of minutes we see how her surrogate friends become alive and talk to her. I was crawling on my chair, I kid you not. That felt like something out of "Cuckoo’s Nest" or “12 Monkeys”, not a cartoon made for 6 year old girls! That scene alone is a gem and one of the most memorable moments of the entire season. It can get worse though, if you’ve read certain fanfic called “Cupcakes”. Also, this is just a personal note but I wouldn’t mind seeing Pinkie Pie with straight hair again. She looks real good with it.
But in the end it all turns out okay. Pinkie Pie was just paranoid about her friends’ behavior. They were not avoiding her, they were throwing her a birthday party, so it was all just a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding caused by Pinkie Pie’s fragile mind and scarred psyche. So you know what to do next: Keep Pinkie Pie happy and cheery, before she goes fucking crazy again and decides to create her some new friends using a chainsaw! Best episode since Sonic Rainboom, I genuinely can’t wait for the season finale!
· Defining Moment: Pinkie Pie’s party of imaginary friends. Creepy is not enough, that segment is downright terrifying.
· Moral: Don’t expect the worst from your friends…unless you are friends with Mark Zuckerberg.