For those who are new to this blog, I will warn you of this conveniently placed TL;DR paragraph that will serve you all as a mean to measure my opinion on the episode in case you don't want to swim through my wall of text. Is the episode good in Friendship is Magic standards? Yes. Did I like it? Well...Yes and no. And if you want to find out which one wins, you better keep reading.
|I was hoping so hard for one of them to go "I. Drink. Your. Cider!"|
However, not everything they have is good. They bring a product that all the ponies in Ponyville are crazy for, at the same price, and in bigger amounts, which puts the Apple Family in a very spiky situation. If they join the Flim Flam brothers and their unfair share of benefits, they will lose Sweet Apple Acres; if they fight against them for the rights to sell the cider, they will lose the rights to sell and so lose Sweet Apple Acres too. The Apple family, being stubborn as a family of mules, decides to fight against the Flim Flam brothers in a contest to see which one of them produces more cider. At the start things seem to be really bad for the Apple family. Their traditional methods give slow results, while the Brothers produce a lot more cider faster than them. This motivates Twilight to take action and use a loop-hole to help Applejack. She presents her and her four friends as "Honorary Members" of the Apple family, to which the Flim Flam brothers agree, stating that even with all the help on Canterlot they will still lose. What they don't count with is that these six friends know how to work as a team, and for once Applejack allows them to help. It's good that she learnt how to swallow her pride after season 1. Working together, they manage to raise the productivity from one barrel per three, to five barrels per three. The Brothers see this and they also take action, eliminating the quality control and throwing in their cider every single thing their machine catches. Rainbow Dash sees this and encourages the Apple Family to do the same. But Applejack sticks to her standards and keeps making cider, faster, forcing their friends to the edge of exhaustion, but without sacrificing quality for it.
|So basically, The Apple Family is BioWare, and the Flim Flam Brothers are EA.|
"Go ahead everypony, enjoy your cider. Isn't that what you wanted?"
The looks on the background ponies' faces are priceless. They look at each other, mouths hang open, brows held low, aggravated and reluctant. You can see how bad they feel for what they just did. They basically forced the Apple Family out of business because of their greed and their gluttony for cider. I could see how that guilt broke them. It doesn't matter if the Brothers did the best cider in the world; to the Ponyvillians, it would've tasted like vile refuse. That was a great touch, as I actually prefer a subtle scene before an over the top one.
But of course, the Ponyvillians drink the Brothers' cider and it's filled with rotten apples, twigs, rocks, branches, and it overall tastes terrible, something caused by their elimination of the quality control. Seeing as their business and their machine has been ruined, they leave the scene to never come back again, banished to that limbo where Trixie and Gilda live in now. With them gone, the rights to selling in Ponyville return to the Apple Family who, thanks to this competition, now have enough cider to provide the entire town. The episode ends with probably the best lesson on friendship ever written in the show's history.
"Dear Princess Celestia, I would like to share my thoughts with you. *Ahem*. I didn't learn anything! I was right all along!"
Now, regardless of how helpful or unhelpful that is for the target audience, that is a genius reversal. Sometimes there is no need to teach a lesson at the end, as it's been taught throughout the entire episode. We see Applejack and her family stick to their guns and aim to provide the best quality for their product. Working hard on something without rushing through to make it the best possible. This is something she knew from the very start, so why bothering sending a lesson about it? There is the whole "Sending a letter to Celestia" part mostly to clarify the moral to the kids who watch this, but also to laugh at the way they deliver the Aesop with every episode. It was a great ending after such an odd conclusion, something I really appreciated.
|Dash in the other hoof, doesn't.|
I will start with those I didn't like first, so I can get to the good parts faster. Allow me to repeat myself: I didn't like the Flim Flam brothers. Well no, let's be fair. From an antagonist point of view, they are not as charismatic as Prince Blueblood, but they still have some meat to their characters; they are definitely not one dimensional. It's how they were dispatched what pissed me off. I was hoping for them to be chased out of Ponyville with pitchforks and torches, but what happens in the end is that they just leave and that's it. I am quite angry that they didn't got what they deserved, but I think I know why: It's because I'm a man.
Let me explain.
These two brothers are not different from The Great and Powerful Trixie. They are two show offs who relish on vanquishing the competition through ridicule. The reason why Trixie is so loved however is because she is a female character, and most of the men like bitches like her. So her popularity in a fanbase that is mostly male was quite understandable. I guess I am going through what many other female fans went through when they saw Trixie for the first time, which worries me as now it's my turn to suffer through fanart after fanart of these two assholes. To the fans of them reading this, I just have this to say: I'm sorry. I'm a man. And I am asexual. I don't like dicks.
I also didn't like how overly melodramatic that whole thing felt towards the end. Seriously, watching the HD version of the episode was, I mean, wow. I literally uttered "Jesus..." when Twilight starts crying. Twilight starts crying! I mean yeah, you worked your ass, you are tired, you are exhausted, and you basically went through hell to get the cider in place, but does that warrant crying? But it's not just her. When the brothers win, everypony cries. Pinkie Pie is the most obvious one of course, but Applejack cries too, the background ponies cry, Granny Smith cries! Oh God, it's too much. And it's all pointless, since they are all happy and cheerful in the end. Twilight goes from "solitary tear, sniff" to "This is awesome, let's celebrate!" Personality disorder much? I'm sorry, I'm just being mean. I like being mean at Twilight, that makes me love her even more. However, this scene comes from the guy who pulled my strings with Sonic Rainboom and Secret of my Excess, which leads me to the next disappointing point.
M.A. Larson, master of build up and rushed up conclusions. Yes, I love his work, and he wrote my favourite episode of all time, but he is quite keen on doing the conclusions in medias res. Let me put you examples of all the episodes he wrote, with the exception The Return of Harmony Season 2 premiere.
- Swarm of the Century: Pinkie Pie drives the Parasprites away, the town is destroyed, the end.
- Sonic Rainboom: Rainbow Dash wins the competition, she flies away with the Wonderbolts, the end.
- The Cutie Mark Chronicles: The six friends find out they have been connected forever, Twilight sends a sappy letter to Celestia, the end.
- Luna Eclipsed: Luna scares some kids, she brings Nightmare Night back, the end.
- Secret of my Excess: Spike reverts back, the town is destroyed, however everything is fine, the end.
I am leaving the Season 2 premiere episodes out because M.A. Larson had enough time on his hands to give a long conclusion, satisfying and in tone, but that was only because he had two episodes to work with. So as you can see, he is awesome at doing build ups and giving pay offs to such build ups, but when it comes to the ending it does feel rushed. This never was an issue, as his build up to pay off ratio masked the whole rushed ending problem. But with this episode, it's different. The pay off this time wasn't that satisfying. In fact, there was no build up at all! Every episode he wrote does have a build up and a pay off, here, let me show you again.
- Swarm of the Century: Pinkie Pie needs instruments, so once she find them all she is able to drive the parasprites away.
- Sonic Rainboom: Rainbow Dash has to create the legendary move, but it's not until her friend is in danger she can do it.
- The Cutie Mark Chronicles: All six stories converge with Rainbow Dash's, connecting the six friends after years of being separated.
- The Return of Harmony: After 26 episodes, the lessons of Friendship bring the Mane Six back to defeat Discord.
- Luna Eclipsed: Luna finally confronts her own fears as she transforms into Nightmare Moon to prove that she definitely changed.
- Secret of my Excess: Find a way to put Rarity and Spike in a situation where Spike confesses his love to Rarity.
See? Brilliant! However there was no build up in this episode. There was a conflict, they solved it, and they moved on. Applejack learnt anything, the Apple family learnt anything, so for them nothing was accomplished. If anything, the ones who learn something were the background ponies and the audience itself, but for the Mane Six, there was no lesson to learn whatsoever. Without lesson there is no pay off. This doesn't make the episode bad, far from it, it just makes it weird.
So now you see the things that I didn't like. How about what I did like? Well, besides all the things I already said I liked, I really liked the competition. I liked seeing the Mane Six working as a team, that was really satisfying and I was totally invested on them. These are characters I do care for, so seeing them work together and hard for a common goal is something I really enjoy. When they all collapse on the ground, breathless, I was feeling exhausted too I was so into it. Or maybe I just like to watch them suffer and getting their flanks kicked, either option is good for me. I liked Granny Smith, who keeps gaining points to become part of my badass tier, and Tabitha St. Germain surely had quite a meta moment when Granny Smith and Rarity had to work together. Did I say I really liked the Brothers' Machine? I retract myself. I frigging LOVED their machine! I am of those who accepts new technology appearing in Equestria and this device is just wonderful. Seriously, go take a look at it carefully. Try to fool yourself on not wanting to drive it and see if it can time travel.
However, coming from M.A. Larson, and from Friendship is Magic, this episode is good but it's fairly weak. Even with "The Mysterious Mare-do-Well" I had some guilty pleasure out of it, with this episode I didn't got all that much. It might be the one I enjoyed the least out of Season 2, but that's like saying I didn't like one cake because the one I had before was served by a topless girl and this one is served by my high school teacher. I still enjoyed the cake and ignored her piercing, error finding eyes, so overall I enjoyed this episode. It was simple, silly and it had a funny ending. If you want something edgier go read one of the many sad fics that end with Applejack setting her barn on fire to cash in the money for the insurance company. Wait, nobody wrote that yet? I CALL DIBS!
|I also called dibs on Rarity! Get your filthy hooves off of her you damn dirty pony!!!|
- Defining moment: The whole competition, especially when the Mane Six join in. The moral materialises as it progresses. Sadly, what comes afterwards, is not that good.
- Moral: The keys to a good work are patience, hard work, and dedication. If you get sloppy on what you are doing you will end up regretting it. Rushing things through doesn't lead you anywhere but to failure.