When it comes to TV shows, Movies, books, comics, videogames, and every type of entertainment out there one of the most important things is setting. The world that the stories and characters are contained in is really important and it might be a key factor that can either keep the viewer’s immersion intact or it can shatter it like a sledgehammer. There have been many TV shows that ended up going down the drain almost exclusive because of poorly constructed and even worse developed setting. One of the biggest offenders when it comes to that is the TV series “24” which, during the first six seasons of its 8 seasons run, tried to sell us that Los Angeles was the international hub for terrorist activities in the whole World. It was always under the threat of president assassination attempts, nuclear bombs, viruses, nuclear bombs, nerve gas and nuclear bombs (one would think the writers for this fucking show were still shell-shocked after the Cold War or something). With such a poor setting filled with even more pauper stories and characters what we got was an insipid pile of unbearable bullshit that falls apart after a second viewing. Nowadays “24” is regarded as one of the most ridiculous TV series ever put together due to its repetitive nature and worthless socio-political commentary. Setting is the factor that differentiates a good TV show from a bad TV show, because with a good setting you can get away with pretty much anything to the point that you can allow yourself to write stories about nothing. TV series like “Scrubs”, “Arrested Development”, “Community” or “The Office” can get away with any kind of story, because their setting it really creative and their characters are really good. When you have very well developed and very likable characters and a very well developed world with an established set of rules, you can allow yourself to come up with ridiculous or simplistic stories that break these rules. Let’s take for example (and to segue into Ponies) the IDW MLP Comics Issues #9 and #10, also known as “Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair” where Big Macintosh ventures himself in the perilous quest for a box of nails. It’s probably one of the most original, non-pretentious, downright funny and narratively artistic exercises I have ever read in a comic. I was wondering if My Little Pony (the TV Show) was ever going to be so brave as to do something like this. Did they do it in this week’s episode? Let’s find out.
I was originally going to write my TL; DR in verse, but fuck it. I’m not Zecora, I am not Discord, and I don’t even dare to even hold a candle to the talent of Daniel Ingram and Meghan McCarthy. This episode is unbelievable, and if you want to find out why keep on reading.
So the episode starts with Twilight Sparkle receiving a letter from Cadance, who is taking a day off from ruling over the Crystal Empire to visit her sister in law, which is wonderful since the fate of Equestria is not hanging in the balance and there is a fair in Ponyville that celebrates Starswirl the Bearded and his history, so it’s the perfect scenario for them to rekindle their bonding. On the other hoof, we have Fluttershy leaving Ponyville for a day to attend a request from the Equestrian Society for the Preservation of Rare Creatures (holycrap, I had no idea that Equestria had something like that, which is pretty cool) and she will be looking after, and I quote, the tiniest, rarest, most adorable creatures in all of Equestria: The Breezies (the foreshadowing is strong in this one).
|Are we expecting another "Just for Sidekicks" / "Games Ponies Play" crossover? I hope so!|
As the Mane Six bid a warm “See you later” to Fluttershy at the train station, Princess Cadance arrives in the most badass train I have ever seen. Seriously, little segue here, but have you guys seen that thing? It’s like the train at the end of “Back to the Future, Part III”, it’s so cool! It feels like Slayer is about to start playing in the background, even when it breaks it sounds fucking metal. We need a toy of that, screw the Friendship Express. But anyways, Cadance steps out of the train and goes along with Twilight to the fair, and right when everything seems to be calm and normal something falls from the sky spinning like a tornado startling the four of the Mane Six that are left. Who’s this tornado of blue and sneezes? None other than Discord himself!
|Seriously, this thing is fucking metal! Iron Maiden levels right here!!!|
As it turns out, Discord has caught a strange disease known as the blue flu, and there seems to be no cure but to keep him at bay before he sends all of Ponyville into absurdity and chaos with his snot. Anywhere he sneezes he either spreads the flu or turns inanimate objects into living things (or sends houses flying). Discord doesn’t seem to be in no condition to fool around too much and begs to know where is Fluttershy so she can nurse him back to health. Right away Rainbow Dash refuses to help and darts away, especially when Discord becomes too huggy. Pinkie Pie manages to irk Discord away so he gets rid of her via red balloon, and his inconvenient sneezing puts Applejack and Rarity down with the flu, so all that he has left is go ruin Twilight’s day of bonding with Cadance. It doesn’t take him long before he interrupts their visit of the Starswirl the Bearded fair, and just for good measure Cadance casts a magic health bubble around Twilight and herself to keep them safe from whatever it is Discord has. He then forces them to go back to Twilight’s house only to start fucking around with them in the form of a song (which will be thoroughly discussed later on, trust me it will). Tired of Discord’s antics and him wrecking her place, Twilight decides to look for a cure, which apparently Discord knows where it is. This cure is in a flower that grows in the farthest regions of Equestria. Since only Discord knows how to get there, the three of them are stuck for an adventure in the third act of the episode.
|What time is it!? Adventure Time!|
We then see Cadance and Twilight carrying Discord via that carriage that Xerxes had in “300” as they arrive to the one place that has this flower, which is big enough to be confused for a tree, but as soon as they pull it out of the ground they get attacked by the little brother of those giant sandworms from “Dune”. After a fairly exciting and very well shot fight scene Cadance and Twi put the worm to rest under a pile of rocks, and then carry the flower to Discord. But, what a twist! Discord happens to be okay, and no signs of the Blue Flu appear in his body! That’s because he was faking the whole time, just to put Twilight to the test to see if their friendship really means something to her, since she doesn’t write, or talk, or call, or show even the smallest hint of concern about him. He was also trying to ruin the day between Cadance and Twilight, of course.
|Congratulations! I will now introduce you to my friend, the Nigerian Prince!|
This guy is devious.
But right when Twilight is about to confront Discord about it, Cadance says that the day wasn’t ruined at all. In fact, a little bit of excitement and action is exactly what she needed, as she is bored of how predictable life in the Crystal Empire has become. Facing the threat of a miniature Thresher Maw was exactly what she needed to remember how lucky she is to count with Twilight, and how she will always be there for her, the same way she was there for Discord. But right during this heartwarming realization, the sand worm pops up again and sneezes all over them before sliding back into his hole leaving a trail of snot. Thanks to Cadance’s Health Bubble, she and Twilight don’t get sick, but Discord quickly turns green and spots appear all over his body.
|If I was smart enough, I'd made an epidemiology joke right here.|
Now that Discord is really sick, they return him to Fluttershy’s cottage and put him in one of those isolation bubbles for Fluttershy to take care of him. Twilight then writes in the diary how even the most chaotic days can turn into really bonding experiences when you are with a good friend. They then leave Discord to recover, but not before he closes the episode by proving to be a complete and absolute asshole (and loving every single second of it).
|We'll meet again, Mister Bond.|
So that was “Three’s a Crowd”, probably one of the most enjoyable and fun episodes of the entire series. I know I have been saying a lot this season, and perhaps I will keep saying it for episodes to come, but this one is a case apart. Unlike last week’s episode, where I had quite a lot of things to nitpick and complain about, this episode doesn’t have all that many, if anything it has but one, and in the benefit of the review I think it’s better if we get it out of the way right now.
|That smugness gave me blue flu.|
In my own personal opinion I think the tone of the episode is all over the place. It’s very weird because at the start it seems to go really well in how it drifts from slice of life to oddball comedy then back to slice of life again, but towards the end and around the time the giant sandworm appears I just gave up in trying to tag the genre of this episode. It’s a mish-mash of slice of life, adventure, oddball comedy and friendship-bonding experience, and I can’t tell which one is which with so much stuff going on. This is what happens when you have Discord around though, but it’s still something that shouldn't be affected by external factors. The tone of “Keep Calm and Flutter On” or “Princess Twilight Sparkle” wasn’t all that bumpy, so I really don’t understand why this one is like this. Maybe I should blame Ed Valentine, because he had the same problems in “Flight to theFinish”, so perhaps having a messy tone is part of his trade-craft.
That’s pretty much the worst thing of the episode, and it’s rendered minute by the overwhelming cascade of awesome. Let’s get to it.
|Weeeee! The good things are coming!|
I think the character writing in this episode is really tight. With this I mean that every character not only is written in character but they all have great moments, they share the spotlight equally and they are as compelling and likeable as always.
|Cue angry fanboys screaming their heads off...because of that horrible carpet, yuk!|
It was kind of sad to see Fluttershy exit the episode so quickly, which is weird because two years ago I would have been happy with her having such a small role. What little we got of her was pretty good though, and it was adorable to see her nursing Discord back to health towards the end of the episode. Pinkie Pie was funny in her short appearance, showing a clear attention deficit disorder when being distracted by red balloons, outraged when Discord refuses her help, and even kind when offering him a pile of luggage and suitcases when he demands a faint couch that never arrives. Rarity herself has probably the absolute best brick joke the series has ever had. For those of us who love her faint couch summoning skills from “Lesson Zero” here they get referenced in the funniest way possible. The way everypony turns to her when Discord asks for the couch is outrageously funny, and it all gets crowned by her confused “What?”. Applejack too was really funny and along with Rainbow Dash they both served as a good front of mistrust for Discord, and not for granted. Applejack knows something’s up with the guy, and doesn’t hold back her lack of trust on the lord of Chaos. She was correct.
|Yah tellin' me to buy actions from thu Leyman Bruthers? That seems awful suspicious, partner.|
Even though the Mane Six could have been used a lot more this only benefits the episode as it doesn’t lose its focus, which is the interaction and conflict between Cadance, Discord and Twilight Sparkle, as well as their respective personalities. For starters, I really liked Twilight in this episode. I thought she is everything she has to be in the brave and caring department, as well as the annoyed and angry ones. It’s weird for me to say this, yes, but it finally feels like they are doing something with her! She shows her geeky side when going to the Starswirl the Bearded fair dressed in her costume from Nightmare Night, and she is so excited about it like an otaku fangirl is when going to an Anime convention. She also has that distraught side of her, the one that holds back all that animosity towards Discord and does her best to help this nuisance of a friend that Celestia stuck her with. She is doing the best she can in a situation where she has little to no control over, and all this doesn’t diminish from her interaction with Cadance.
|Synchronized screaming is the new sports in the Equestria Games.|
Cadance, by the way, is as awesome as ever in this episode. This is all personal preference and, in case you didn’t know already, I am a big fan of the toyetic pretty pink pony Princess. I wrote an entire article about it, go there to check out my reasons to like her. But, I have to admit, I’m really happy to see what they did with her in this episode. I like how she actually enjoys having a bit of danger in her life, how her staying in the Crystal Empire bores her, and how blasting a giant worm in its tentacles gives her an adrenaline boost. I also liked to see she is still as gentle and kind as ever, she has a good heart and she doesn’t shy it away. However, is this good enough to make her detractors stop hating her? Sadly, I doubt it. I don’t see people who hated Cadance coming out of this episode loving her, though you have to admit that after this episode it’s a little harder. She needs a bit more of edge and then I will see no reason for somebody to hate her. Also, her chemistry with Twilight is perfect. It feels like these two have been friends for the longest time.
|Speaking of chemistry...|
But, without a hint of a doubt, the real star of this episode was Discord. I will say right away that in here he was more “Aladdin’s” Genie and less Q, but that’s like saying that instead of getting a chocolate cake you got a chocolate cake though with a different shape. He was like the Genie’s evil twin, and he was loving every single second of it. He was funny, he was mischievous, and he was loaded with pop culture references that the target audience are not going to get, maybe never. Having him around also gave the guys at DHX the chance to do crazy stuff with the visuals and the animation too! That’s the good thing of having Discord around, the fact he is a walking talking sandbox of creativity. His sneezes can cause houses to fly, tissues to flap like bats, and lampposts to grow legs and walk away. He can grow extra arms for extra hugs, make his waist disappear like Rob Liefeld, summon hospital gowns out of nowhere (with a joke about asses and butts that will make kids turn to their parents when they laugh their asses off), turn into bubbles or make wizard hats come to life.
|And then we have the song.|
Yes, this song deserves a paragraph of its own. I was considering making an article alone just for this song, and I probably might, because the only way I can describe it is with this term: eye candy. This song is the type of animation segment that you have to pause at each cut to appreciate all the detail, work and attention that went into making this a memorable and unique experience. Out of all the characters in this show that need a song, the villains are right on top. Chrysalis had her really cerebral and delicious evil “This Day Aria”, and now Discord has his rambunctious “A Little Glass of Water”. It’s a song that develops as randomly as the subject matter is. It’s all a combination of lyrics that make no sense whatsoever but that when combined with visuals that go along with them results in something that I can only describe as pure art. It’s the most artistic thing Friendship is Magic has done, and I don’t say that just because walking through this song feels like stepping inside Dali’s mindscape. It goes from Discord simply asking for a glass of water to him posing for a Boris Vallejo poster, skiing goats, Swiss cough drops, even fucking airport security checks! There is an airport security check joke in My Little Pony, including luggage inspection and going under the metal detector.
|Seriously, this is in My Little Pony. My mind is blown beyond all repair!|
And let’s not forget, the Tango.
You know, probably the most passionate and physical of all dances in the World, and here it is, in a children's show called "My Little Pony: Friendship is Close Contact Dancing". Discord takes Twilight and pretty much forgets what’s the personal space as he proceeds to spin her around and pretty get very…touchy with her. And I loved every single second of it. Can we have an episode that’s just Discord and Twilight dancing a Tango?
|Can the episode be called "Twilight and Discord dance a Tango"?|
|It will be a story of love and tragedy.|
|One of the chapters will be dedicated to Yoga postures.|
|It will also feature many other dances that involve a lot of unnecessary physical contact.|
|And a lot of very heartfelt scenes.|
|Dialogue written by Stephany Meyers though, not everything will be good.|
|"Shall we seal our love with a kiss?"|
|"How about no, and get away from be before I empty the pepper spray on you?"|
|Discover the Brony Fandom's levels of Spaghetti after this episode aired?|
No. None of that.
This song is here because Discord wanted to ask for a glass of water. If this is how he asks for a glass of water I think one rave at his place will end up in a crater.
Another thing this episode did great, which was present not just during the song but throughout the whole episode, were the pop-culture references. It’s very easy to get very crazy when making references to other media and other famous people, and Friendship is Magic has had this from the very first season, but this episode was crowded with them. Most of them came from Discord of course, but there were a few that were pretty nifty, like Pinkie Pie and the red balloon, like that one short film called “The Red Balloon” about a kid who is followed by the titular toy, to the Tatzlwurm being a reference to either “Dune” or “Tremors”. I like to think it was “Tremors” because I like it a lot more, and the sizes even match. But of course, almost everything else came from Discord himself, and this is where I thought he was more Genie than he was Q, because for a moment it felt like he was speaking in Robin Williams.
He’d dress as Hunter S. Thompson from “Fear and Loathin in Las Vegas”,
|Or put Cadance and Twilight in Harry Potter clothes as he dresses like Snape.|
|Or maybe he'll drop a shower of water over himself like in "Flashdance".|
|He'll wish upon a Star.|
|Or even rub a magic lamp.|
I have to admit, it was a bit too much towards the end, to be perfectly honest. As soon as I saw Discord dressed as Tom Cruise in “Risky Business” I actually muttered “Fuck off”. It does get to a point where I got overloaded with references, but it stopped right when it was about to get annoying. This is not as bad as those direct to video sequels Disney puts together that are just crammed with pop-culture references and no substance. As weird as it may sound, these references do have weight in how the story is being told, and they make sense within the context they are contained. That’s why I think going “Risky Business” in the middle of Equestria’s outskirts after fighting against a giant Tatzlwurm is perhaps too much. But every other reference was brilliant, spot on, made sense within their own context which is something so many bad comedies nowadays can’t get a grasp of.
Just to name two, it's unhealthy to name more than that in a single internet article.
One thing that I really enjoyed in this episode was how three-dimensional the world felt. This show has always made an emphasis in building stories that happen outside of the episode that it’s focused on, either by making references to things that have happened before or that are about to happen. I think giving the upcoming reveal of the Breezies a line’s worth of foreshadowing is an ingenious idea to bring back these characters from the unfairly hated Generation 3. Having Pinkie Pie attending a yard sale on patio furniture is very funny and very in character. The Starswirl the Bearded fair shows us the fascination that seems to float around this character and his origins. And bringing Cadance and have her talk about the tedium of the Crystal Empire gives us a quick insight on how peaceful that place has become after the threat it was under on the previous season. All these details make the world of Equestria feel alive, organic, and realistic even in a fiction filled with tiny pastel colored talking horses.
|Doesn't Cadance feel naked in a convention where every other pony is dressed?|
Finally I’ll say that the action and the rhythm are great. The episode starts fairly slow, sets up the characters and then it throws us into a rollercoaster. It’s the build up before the pay off, and this pay off starts right after Discord’s song starts catching momentum and just goes insane, and the rest of the episode with it. It carries enough inertia to keep the adrenaline pumping in every scene until it’s over. But not only was it intense, it also was funny and very enjoyable. When the episode felt like it was slowing down, it caught up and filled in the gaps with enough comedy to keep the interest peeked. As for the action, it’s wonderful to see Twilight and Cadance tagging together and fighting side by side to put the Tatlzwurm down once and for all. I personally liked Cadance’s touch of blocking the entrance with a pile of boulders after shouting “And just for good measure!” and then rocks. Awesome! That pink pony Princess is a machine, and so is her sister in law! They both kicked ass.
|Stay on target!|
It doesn’t carry the emotional punch of other episodes, but this one doesn’t aim to make us cry and it doesn’t need to be super dramatic to engage us. It’s engaging because of the likable characters, the really funny comedy, the spot-on pop culture references, and the bizarre atmosphere of the whole thing. It’s not my favorite episode of the Season so far (that’s still a tie between “Power Ponies” and “Rarity Takes Manehattan”) but it will easily make it into my top ten, maybe even top five. It’s a really funny, really enjoyable, memorable, weird, engaging, and overall great episode that continues Friendship is Magic’s fourth seasonal run of successful and doing right high quality episodes. To say that we are already into the eleventh episode of twenty six and we have yet to come across a legit bad episode is worth mentioning.
|You'll find an episode worth hating, I guarantee it.|
And now we all better get ready for the next episode. If the season has been good until now, I think we are going to break the levels of the Predicted Interest Curve from all the previews and promos I’ve been seeing.
- Defining Moment: Discord’s song. A perfect cornucopia of oddities crowned with the most interesting visuals in this show thus far.