· EPISODE 9 – Bridle gossip.
- Writing: Amy Keating Rogers.
By far, this is the funniest episode of the entire season, and it shows in every single dialogue and slapstick scene. Note that I say, this is the funniest, not the wackiest (that’s 6 chapters later). Showing a really good sense of exposition, the episode starts with Twilight Sparkle stepping into Ponyville after been taken by 28 days later, all is deserted and there’s no ponies around. Why so: Because once a month a mysterious figure dressed in a robe steps into Ponyville, lurking, and digging at the ground. This figure is a zebra called Zecora, and the inhabitants of Ponyville think she is an evil witch. Twilight refuses to believe this and dares the ponies to try and talk to her. Sadly the only pony brave enough is Applejack’s little sister Applebloom, who steps all the way into the Everfree Forest to try talking to Zecora. They drag her out of there and on their way out they step into some mysterious blue flowers, right in time to hear Zecora say: “Beware, beware you Pony folk. Those leaves of blue are not a joke”. The next morning, all the ponies wake up with affections.
I really don’t know if Amy Keating Rogers was aiming for this but the way I see this episode is like a cartoon take on The Evil Dead series. Don’t see it? Think about it: Scary looking forest, heroines affected by silly “curses”, a goofy take on the paranormal subject, the main characters becoming butt-monkeys (all of them, even Pinkie). It does feel like a Sam Raimi movie, to me. But of course, the biggest element of all is the pure solid gold comedy, which focuses on how each pony is affected by whatever stroke them: Twilight gets a floppy horn; Rarity gets her fashionable looks destroyed; Rainbow Dash’s wings get reversed; Applejack becomes tiny; Pinkie Pie develops a bloated tongue; and Fluttershy… Is the funniest thing in the history of ever.
What’s funny is that the level of abuse reached in this episode goes all the way up to 11 because not only every pony is stroke by a condition that destroys what they value the most, but at the end of the episode they are the ones who get scolded (for really good reasons, that’s where the Aesop of the story is after all). It’s a trademark of Amy Keating Rogers, she is an expert at taking a piss to the Ponies, and she is awesome about it.
· Defining moment: Fluttershy revealing what her ailment is. Your jaw will drop, and then you won’t stop laughing.
· Moral: Don’t be a racist idiot. Never judge somebody by the way they look or act, try learn more about the person before even make any judgements on them. Yeah, you know what? Fuck it, this is Drag me to Hell for kids.
· EPISODE 10 – Swarm of the Century.
- Writing: M.A. Larson.
I don’t know if this because I am in a mood for the horror movies of the 80’s and 70’s, but I see a lot of elements from disaster movies and horror movies in this episode. The premise is already really good: Fluttershy finds an apparently adorable creature near the edge of the Everfree forest and she brings it home. What she doesn’t know is that this creature known as Parasprite eats more than Pacman and it multiplies faster than a virus. So in the time span of one night, Ponyville and its surroundings are filled with thousands of Parasprites and it’s up to the protagonists to take care of the situation. All of them do except Pinkie, who seems busier gathering instruments. And if it couldn’t get worse, Twilight casts a magic spell that stops the Parasprites from eating all the food…so they eat everything that’s not food (they even try to eat Rainbow Dash!).
Just from the technical stand point, this episode is outstanding and it should be showered with tech awards. The sound is really good, the orchestral soundtrack ranges from tunes of Gremlins to Bonanza, and we go from references to Critters (with that giant ball of Parasprites) to the Hamelin Flautist (the episode’s ending). But from the story telling stand point is really remarkable too. It’s good to know that Twilight’s all powerful magic only makes the situation worse instead of solving it (she can’t recur to magic every time they have a problem). It’s also refreshing to see that the all wise shaman zebra Zecora we saw in the previous episode doesn’t hold the answer to every question.
In my opinion the ending is a bit of a let down, especially when you start drawing conclusions. Not to spoil it but maybe improving the communication skills between the main ponies would’ve avoided all this disaster. But for the sake of a good dramatic story, I am willing to ignore them. Plus, it ends on a brilliant brick joke, I can excuse an episode for being lousy if it has a good brick joke.
· Defining Moment: “Okay! Here’s the plan: Rainbow Dash you distract them! Everyone else! We need to build an exact copy of Ponyville right over there, we’ve got less than a minute!”
· Moral: Just because your friend’s opinion doesn’t seem good to you is no reason to ignore it. You should take all your friend’s opinions into account.
· EPISODE 11 – Winter wrap-up.
- Writing: Cindy Morrow.
Up until this episode, this show has had pretty good musical moments. We had “Giggle at the Ghostly” in the second part of the pilot; “The Grand Galloping Gala” in episode 3; or “She’s an evil enchantress” in episode 9. All of them songs sang by Pinkie Pie, songs that might not stand up against other more classic animated songs like “Yako’s World” from Animaniacs, or even Disney songs like “A Whole new World” from Aladdin. This is the first episode to feature a song so good, with such a good beat and so well composed that it could perfectly stand against its competitors, and even beat them. “Winter Wrap Up”, the song for this episode of the same title, tells the process of how all the Ponies in Ponyville clear up winter using their abilities and avoiding the use of magic as a tradition. It also tells how Twilight can’t decide what to do, since she can’t use her magic to help anyone. Somebody made a comment on YouTube that can describe this song’s biggest quality:
“I’ve listened to 5 heavy metal albums in a row, AND I CAN’T STOP HUMMING WINTER WRAP UP!!!
It’s an ear worm of a song, yes, and we’ve had many of those during the years, but this is the first one that actually feels satisfying to get infected with: Really basic tune, very well written lyrics, and the visuals are amazing. How good is this fucking show that I have an entire paragraph dedicated to just one song!?
Song wise aside, the episode is a real good deconstruction of Twilight Sparkle. You know how some shows have a really clear Mary Sue protagonist that solves everything and is loved by everybody? I can name a few, but I will avoid making you relive old memories by saying that in this episode Twilight is a disaster bigger than most of us. She tries to make a nest, but what she gets is a circular turd. She tries to melt the ice using ice skates, but she is worse than Bambi when ice-skating. She tries to wake up little animals only to get scared by snakes, bats, stung by a bee-hive and sprayed by a couple of skunks (all of that in a row). And things get worse when she tries using her magic and all she ends up doing is upsetting Applejack and ruining the entire’s morning work. It’s enjoyable because it’s hilarious, but you also feel sorry for poor Twilight. She just wants to belong. She’s trying, but she is getting nowhere, something that really got me.
But as it’s becoming a tradition, the episode’s ending is as satisfying as anything you could imagine, with a very powerful moral that should inspire young and old people alike. It’s certainly one of the best episodes of the entire season and for many, the best.
· Defining Moment: The Winter wrap-up music number. Spectacular.
· Moral: Never give up in life, if you haven’t found anything you are good at yet, keep looking, but don’t do it stepping over your friend’s work. Rely on them to teach you if you are in doubt.
· EPISODE 12 – Call of the Cutie.
- Writing: Meghan McCarthy.
Up until now…I keep starting every single episode with the same line, I better change that. Up until this moment (yeah, that’s better ¬.¬) I’ve been praising every single episode for keep making the show better and better as it kept going. I must say, right now I really appreciate this episode and I think it’s one of the best episodes of the season (if I was to make a Top 10, this might be number 11), but when I first watched it I didn’t like it all that much. An episode centered on Applejack’s sister Applebloom looking for her Cutie Mark so she can attend a party and not be ashamed is not what I imagined would follow such a candy eye (and ear) episode like Winter Wrap Up. With me, the most important aspect of anything (books, comics, TV shows, movies) is the first impression, and if the first impression is good then it’s likely that I will really love it. There are exceptions where I ended up hating it (like “24”) and where I ended up loving it (“TRON: Legacy”). In the case of this episode is the later, but my first contact with it was…unfortunate.
I know Lauren Faust wanted this to be the over-aching storyline of the show, and in hindsight it does work. It builds up rather well and it has a really good “Take that!” moment to the bullies, which actually makes me punch the air anytime I see it. But still, it’s a partially weak episode for a very simple reason: In this early stages of the show, the character of Applebloom has been barely introduced. We’ve only seen her in the Pilot and on “Briddle Gossip”. Granted, she is a very cute character and I can see people warming up to her for her “Dawwww” factor, but personality wise she isn’t much of a character (in this episode anyways). All we know is that she wants her Cutie Mark and she is Applejack’s sister. Okay, that’s one more trait than any other character from Gears of War, but still not enough.
But even with all this, we have to consider the following. If this show was originally going to be about Applebloom looking for her Cutie Mark, then we can consider this episode as the real “Episode 1” of Friendship is Magic, and we all know that the first episodes of every overarching storyline tend to be the weakest ones (and it’s not). Yeah, it has ups and downs, and we stay too much with Applebloom, but there’s a pulsing, strong message about self discovery and anti-fate statements that courses through every single dialogue line. This show proved me with this episode that even the most average episodes are still better than some of the best episodes of other series. That’s more than a first. That’s a fucking miracle.
· Defining Moment: The moment at the party where Applebloom is being humiliated…Only to be saved by Scootaloo and Rarity’s sister Sweetie Belle.
· Moral: I take three moral lessons from this. Don’t become a bitch to face other bitches. Don’t try to work too hard to learn what you will be when you grow up. And what you think will make you feel apart from other people is what really makes you find a place where you belong and find your true friends.
· EPISODE 13 – Fall Weather Friends.
- Writing: Amy Keating Rogers.
I love episodes where two of the main characters have a conflict. They are really interesting as they show their different personalities, colliding and clashing, and sometimes even getting to the slap-sticky physical violence. It’s great. Also, I noticed I used a similar intro for “Look before you Sleep”, but aside from that and the fact that Applejack is again wrapped in a conflict with another pony, there’s no more similarities. I love the idea of Applejack and Rainbow Dash (two of my favorite characters) fighting each other on a contest about physical abilities and physical tests. How many girls shows have that? It’s brilliant, this is like Animalympics, with Ponies! So just the premise for the episode alone works really well: Two pony girls engage in a series of athletic tests to prove who’s the strongest, and when things get even more conflictive, they decide to break their “tie” with a race.
Story wise is really simple but, like every other episode, visually and technically is striking. Let’s begin with the voice acting, alright? You know a voice actress is really good when she can do two voices, arguing and fighting between each other, and you forget they are done by the same person. Ashleigh Ball goes from the squeaky and raspy tones of Rainbow Dash to the sooth southern Applejack without losing momentum, pacing or slipping her accents. Okay, they are different takes, I know how dubbing works, but it’s so seamless! Real good work. The race through one of the least populated parts of Ponyville is beautiful, not just for the brown, orange and earthy tones of it all, but for all the effects we are presented like falling leafs, wind currents, swarms of bees, sun rays, and more. The music is really good too, catchy and never drowning the dialogue. The dialogue, oh the dialogue! When the race starts what’s between Applejack and Rainbow Dash is more slapstick than verbal, but it’s compensated thanks to Pinkie Pie and Spike dialoguing about the race on Twilight’s balloon. If you didn’t know what a funny dialogue is, watch this episode; any line Pinkie Pie says is solid random gold.
Overall it’s one of the best episodes of the season, and one of the most memorable for the obscure shout outs (Twilight’s racing number is 42), the old school slapstick and the voice acting. Outstanding.
· Defining Moment: This dialogue:
- Spike: Looks like these two ponies have a grudge between them
- Pinkie Pie: Yes, and grudge rhymes with fudge.
- Spike: Yes, it…does. What?
· Moral: Don’t take competition too seriously, especially when it’s just a game and you are amongst friends.
· EPISODE 14 – Suited for success.
- Writing: Charlotte Fullerton.
Oh boy, do I enjoy this episode. For those of you who don’t know me, and that’s a fuck-ton of people to be honest with you, I draw for hire whenever I have some free time. I am a furry artist (run away!) who does commissions now and then. Well, while I am one of the luckiest motherfuckers (this article has a lot of swearing so far, wow) on the planet in that I frequently work with very patient, very dedicated, and very, very, very good people, I also have had my share of douchebags to work with. You know the people who I am talking about. Those guys and gals that either don’t know what they really want or they know it too well, to the point that you think not even all the gold on Earth will be enough to pay you for this torture.
Well, this episode is exactly that. It is really satisfying to see, from the perspective of an artist like Rarity, how her friends start to nitpick the dresses she made for them, for free, as if they were paying a load of money. It’s certainly not just me who sees himself represented by Rarity in this episode. Pretty much the entire crew has admitted they felt like that sometimes. It’s a 22 minute stealth critique to all the executive suits that sit on their asses all day signing cheques and expecting some sort of profit while their only direction is “Make this 20% cooler”. But it’s not just as grim or negative as I seem to be portraying it. This episode leaves the door open for understanding. When Rarity fails at her second batch of dresses, her friends surround her and give her a reason to go back to what she originally intended, showing off her true talent. Anytime there’s a flop due to poor executive meddling, there’s always a chance to make it up with a good dose of creativity. That’s what I take from this episode. Sometimes people will ask you to do something you don’t like, but sometimes it’s necessary in order for you to show your true potential, whether with that or with something else.
And I didn’t even go into the brilliant song composition, the impeccable and award worthy work of Tabitha St. Germain as Rarity (she can ham it up at time, but goddamn is she acting!) and the visually striking and beautiful (and horrendous) dresses. This is one of the most well done, most popular episodes so far, and it’s all about making dresses for a fashion show. How many preconceptions were broken while watching this episode!? There’s not enough numbers to count them!
· Defining moment: Rarity whining in her room, throwing herself to the bed:
- Rarity: Leave me alone! I vant to be alone! I want to wallow in…whatever it is a Pony’s supposed to wallow in!!! (beat) Do Ponies wallow in pity? Oh! Listen to me! I don’t even know what I’m supposed to wallow in! I’m so pa-the-e-e-e-tic!!!
· Moral: Never try to please everybody at expenses of your own desires, because then you won’t please anyone, you first. Also, never be too critical with something that’s being generously given to you, like a beautiful dress (or picture).
· EPISODE 15 – Feeling Pinkie Keen.
- Writing: Dave Polsky.
There are episodes of this show that defy a lot of preconceptions, but there’s not enough that are actually a call back to original cartoony animation. You know how, so far, every episode has being outrageously original in its presentation of well know stories? Well, this is the episode that makes that go upside down. The presentation is totally known, but the situations are…well, chaotic. Let’s start with the fact that the writer for this episode, Dave Polsky, also worked on movies like Scary Movie 2 and shows like South Park. He is good with slapstick comedy, he knows that field quite well, and this episode shows that, so why don’t we see what do we have here? We have:
· Twilight making a tuxedo out of leafs, a stick and a rock.
· Stuff falling from the sky like Daffy Duck having a bad day.
· A secret super scientific mad scientist lab under Twilight’s library.
· Spike having a beeping signal anytime he walks in reverse.
· Slamming doors that flatten ponies like smoking paper.
· Twilight pursuing Pinkie Pie and giving her a scientific name ala Wile E. Coyote.
· Twilight getting: Stung by bees, falling downstairs and getting hit by a flower pot, an anvil, a piano and a cart.
· And Twilight evolving into Rapidash for a couple of seconds.
Yes, Dave Polsky does know slapstick comedy, and also dialogues are good too! You can pick any example and it surely will work. The whole premise of the episode, that Pinkie Pie has a sense that allows her to feel stuff around her is really clever, as it might represent the instincts of animals, or even our own. But this is where the episode kind of fails to achieve the same tone as the others, and that’s the moment the moral is delivered. Many people online discussed for days, for weeks, whether this was a “Religion VS Science” debate or not. That’s because the moral is very poorly delivered, and for a show which has its premise based around giving an Aesop at the end of each episode, that’s a big red glaring flaw. But really, are we going to judge something for how it ends? Of course not. And before it ends it’s a lot of fun, a really enjoyable time machine to a time when watching cartoons getting mauled was okay because all you needed to do is change scene so they could get better.
· Defining moment: I personally go for the moment where Twilight gets hit by an Anvil. It’s been years since I last saw that on stream animation!
· Moral: Well, hard to narrow this one down. Whether is “Science VS Religion” or not I will say nothing, but for me this is more an “Instinct VS Reason” debate than nothing else. Sometimes you have a good feeling about something. You can’t explain it, but you do.
· EPISODE 16 – Sonic Rainboom.
- Writing: M.A. Larson.
This is…This…This episode is…Can I have a “sigh”? Alright…This episode is…*sigh* the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I am dead serious Bronies and /co/lts. I tend to brag a lot about build up and pay off, about how so many movies have a massive build up but they never make it worth it. So many movies, so many shows, so many things have an incredible amount of build up that ends in the biggest disappointment you will ever imagine. This episode is a cure to all that. Hell, this episode is a cure to all things bad in current animation! This episode…you put this episode next to something bad and it’s bound to make it better! That’s how good this episode is!
The entire premise lies in that Rainbow Dash is going to take part in a competition to see who is the best young flier in all of Equestria, and for her finale she wants to make a Sonic Rainboom. A Sonic Rainboom happens when a Pony like Rainbow Dash, who has a Rainbow colored mane, realizes a Sonic Boom, creating a Rainbow as well. The science of it all is a bit broken though thanks to Rule of Cool is one of the most awesome concepts ever conceived. The only problem though is that, according to Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash has tried to do the Sonic Rainboom a thousand times and has failed every time. Things don’t get better when Rainbow Dash arrives to her home town, a city made of clouds called, well, Cloudsdale, and she is filled with doubts and insecurity thanks to some bullies. This affected me a lot. Not just because I was bullied at school, but because I do feel for Rainbow Dash, I feel her insecurity, her lack of confidence, and it just builds up more tension around the same question: Will she ever make a Sonic Rainboom? Will it happen? You don’t know, and you may never know, so better keep watching!
In the end it’s a combination of factors that lead to the (literally) explosive finally. Rarity, thanks to Twilight’s magic and her own insistence, manages to grow butterfly wings so she and the other ponies can go to Cloudsdale to cheer Rainbow Dash (due to Fluttershy’s inability to lift her voice). Sadly, Rarity’s beautiful wings get the worst of her and after the entire city adulates her she decides to present herself to the competition, eclipsing Rainbow Dash. At this point I was as nervous as Dash, and things don’t go well for her. She screws up in the first two routines, and by the time she has to do the titular move, she is a bunch of nervousness and insecurity. Then, it happens. Rarity’s wings vanish and she plummets to the ground. The Wonderbolts try to save her, but she knocks them cold with her panicky flailing. Rainbow Dash sees this, and she darts to save her friend. And then…what happens next is…Okay, enough with the ellipsis! I’ll say it! If you ever doubted about Rainbow Dash’s awesomeness, this tells you how awesome she is. When she is around, RAINBOWS FUCKING EXPLODE! Not only does she break the sound barrier. Not only does she make the titular Sonic Rainboom. And not only does her awesome move get the most hysterical, happy and honest to Celestia loud cheers Fluttershy has ever given. She also manages to save Rarity, the Wonderbolts, return them safe, make a beautiful rainbow arc over the stadium, and win the Best Young Fliers competition. That blows my mind. It blows my heart! Anytime I see the Sonic Rainboom, and every time I see Fluttershy jumping and bouncing like a crazy cheerleader, and I hear that inspirational music, I start weeping. It’s beautiful. No doubt, the highest point of the season (for me at least). It’s a fantastic pay off to a wonderful build up, and it feels great every single second of the way. My favorite episode by far, as if that wasn’t obvious enough.
· Defining Moment: Rainbow Dash pulling of the titular move. It’s a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Crowning Music of Awesome and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming all at the same time, combined with the awesomeness only Rainbow Dash can give.
· Moral: Never let your feet off the ground. If you are going to support your friends, then do so, don’t try to hug the spotlight or be the center of attention.