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26 April 2011

"My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" Episodes 1 to 8 Review.

Hello there fans of My Little Pony and Bronies alike! I decided a while ago that I should start compiling an analysis of each and every episode from the First Season of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, but I wasn’t too sure about the structure of the articles. Should I make separated articles for each episode? Should I put them together in one single big article? Or in segments? I think if I do any of those things I will end up cluttering my own blog, and things will end up looking rather terribly. So I am going to edit the articles this way, in packs of eight episodes per article, with the final episode getting a review all for itself. Because that season finale better be the most epic thing since “Sonic Rainboom”.

Anyways! Onto the reviews.

· EPISODE 1 – Friendship is Magic – Part 1: Mare in the Moon.

- Writing: Lauren Faust.

Every series starts with a pilot, but few series start with a two parter pilot (24 doesn’t count). The story of how Equestria was created, the whole mythos and the entire main cast is introduced in this first part, leaving it unresolved in a very gripping, very well resolved and totally bullshit free cliffhanger.

I have to say though; the start gave me no hopes, which maybe it’s why the second part surprised me so much. Having this series start with the original “My Little Pony” tunes is no hope-giver, it pretty much sunk my heart inside my chest. For a moment I thought this show was going to be all cutesy wobbly characterization and no depth at all. That feeling lasted like 2 minutes, all the way up to the first time Twilight Sparkle steps into Ponyville. The first time I saw Applejack kicking trees to make apples fall I realized this show was different. Then Rainbow Dash showed up, and all I could think of was: “That’s a girl!? She sounds and looks like a boy!” I discovered the show’s great character design and construction, just with Dash alone. Then Rarity and Fluttershy came along, each of them with their adorable attitudes, and when Pinkie Pie threw that random party I was feeling sold already.

Lauren Faust knows how to grasp the audience’s interest, with really distinct, unique and well constructed characters, and what better way to keep knowing more of them than with a cliffhanger that takes us to the resolution of the story? So onto part 2 of the thrilling pilot.

· EPISODE 2 – Friendship is Magic – Part 2: The Elements of Harmony.

- Writing: Lauren Faust.

Right from the start I loved the “Previously on My Little Pony”. I don’t know you, but I think they made that as a joke. It made the show feel like an 80’s action series. These two episodes that form the pilot might well be what Lauren Faust wanted originally: An overarching story that develops in each episode. While this is obvious, it never feels rushed or trimmed. This second part exists just for one purpose only: Character AND mythos development.

We learn how each of the main ponies represent one of the ancient Elements of Harmony, that are supposed to finish the curse of Nightmare Moon, a dark presence that took over the young Princess Luna, former ruler of Equestria. While that sounds extremely cute and cheese, it is a very well written mythos and it has practically no cracks. You can’t fault Faust for making solid storylines.

The entire episode follows the structure of that Hercules myth about passing tests. The group of six ponies is put through six different tests and they pass through them thanks to the personality treats of each of them. Twilight manages to save her life thanks to Applejack’s honesty convinced her to trust her. Fluttershy managed to tame the dreadful Manticore thanks to her kindness. Pinkie Pie could take the entire group out of an Eternal-Darkness-Sanity-meter-depletion moment thanks to her laughter. Rarity calmed down the devastated camp gay sea serpent giving him her tail so he could fix his magnificent moustache (this one in particular caught me off guard, because the way I saw Rarity the first time I imagined she was a selfish fashion victim, not a kind hearted generous individual, who will sacrifice her beauty to give other people happiness.) And Rainbow Dash, who ignores her own interests to help her friends, being how she is loyal and always with her friends in her mind (even if sometimes she gets too, well you know, lightheaded about it). But of course, all these elements are nothing without the most important. What’s the most important? The element that Twilight discovers while fighting Nightmare Moon, the element of Friendship, AKA, Magic.

Making a statement for the show’s theme AND building the mythos about the universe they live in is quite a feat, and Lauren Faust pulled them both in the first two episodes. That’s not just rare, that’s a fucking miracle! It’s a fantastic two parter pilot that ends in a highly positive note and made me want to keep watching the show. It depends on the people, some may get into it, some not, and in my case I got into it, through it, and I basically swim inside this show every day since I first watched it. But we have many episodes left to review, so let’s keep moving forwards!

- Defining Moment: The ending of the second chapter, when Princess Luna and Princess Celestia re-unite after 1000 years of being separated. Celestia offers Luna her friendship as a token of peace. You can guess what happens next. Clue: You will most certainly cry tears of happiness.

- Moral: Don't let work get in the way of making new friends.

· EPISODE 3 – The ticket Master.

- Writing: Amy Keating Rogers and Lauren Faust.

This is where the show demonstrates its true origins. Still written by Lauren Faust, with the support of (in my opinion) the best writer for the show, Amy Keating Rogers, this episode is the classic story of “Choose one friend to go with to the ball”. This results in a conflict of interests, personalities and friendship.

It has to be hard being in Twilight’s position. Just think about this for a second. You just moved to a new town and had the fantastic good luck of meeting five new friends, very loyal and very kind; friends who love you and really appreciate you…and you can lose any of them at any moment because of one stupid ball ticket (where I say ball ticket you can say baseball card, videogame, comic book, etc.) It’s a place we all have been in. We want to please all of our friends with something we have, but we can’t please all of them, because they all mean a lot to me. That’s the moral of the story and it works really well. Especially for the target audience, since that age between 6 and 10 is the most difficult when understanding conflicts.

As for the episode itself, it is pretty funny. You have to cackle at the distances some of the ponies will go to try convince Twilight to give them her spare ticket, from punching a hole in the clouds to cook an entire cart full of apple related deserts. It has an amusing call back to Benny Hill (Jackety Sax chase scene included) and it establishes Spike, Twilight’s dragon helper, as the male voice in the show. He comes as being self aware pointing out the girliness of the entire thing and not being interested in any of it…just to heel turn by the end when he is invited to the ball with the other main six ponies. That point might nag some people, since in the end Twilight does get enough tickets to invite all her friends thus making everypony happy. But I see it like this: “You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more in life”. Like that, plain and simple. Great episode, and also very good episode to show to any of your friends, being genuinely funny and quite spare of girly moments (unless we count Rarity’s dream sequence).

- Defining Moment: Twilight finally losing it inside her library and confessing to all her friends that she doesn’t know who to choose.

- Moral: You shouldn’t try to make everybody happy in expenses of what you have, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more in life.

· EPISODE 4 – Applebuck season.

- Writing: Amy Keating Rogers.

This might be one of the most slapstick driven episodes of the show, but it works really well. It should also be used to show everybody what happens when you over work and you don’t accept the help of others. Short story shorter: Applejack has to harvest all the apples at her apple farm, all by herself, and refuses to get any help. This gets her in a worse position when she happens to be the pony everybody goes to ask for help. It’s actually quite disturbing seeing how Applejack’s physical and psychological state degrades as the episode goes. First she is well and healthy; then she is just sleepy and a bit dizzy; then she is practically drunk on sleep depravation; she knocks herself on the head leaving her half deaf; and by the end of the episode she is practically crazy to the point you think she escaped from Arkham Asylum.

The entire chapter is a big barrel of fun, with Applejack being responsible for the disgrace of many ponies. How much disgrace? Well: She propels Rainbow Dash into the air, poisons Pinkie Pie and a bunch of other ponies with some disgusting cupcakes, and causes a stampede of bush eating baby bunnies. She pretty much brings an entire series of plagues all because of her stubbornness. Thankfully, she realizes this and finally accepts her friends’ help, breaking through all that pride and being honest, not with her friends but with herself. Really good moral, another great writing from Amy Keating Rogers.

- Defining Moment: The baking of the dreadful cupcakes which ingredients are Potato chips, soda, lemon juice and earth worms. Have a bunch of ponies drooling over them and then cut to them face deep in buckets. “No. Not baked goods. Baked baaaaaaads…”

- Moral: Don’t be so stubborn and accept your friends’ help if you are in need and they are offering it to you.

· EPISODE 5 – Gryphon the Brush-off.

- Writing: Cindy Morrow.

This is a really interesting episode for the fact that it focuses more on two of the “supporting” ponies rather than following Twilight around like we were getting used to. In this episode Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie discover something they have in common: They love pranks. So they go around Ponyville pranking as many of their friends as possible. It’s good to note two things in this (maybe three): They always prank their friends, ponies they know and trust, because they know they will take it light heartedly, with a good giggle; and the ponies that get pranked do take it with a giggle and a smile, since it’s just a joke, and sometimes a very funny one. It’s a good lesson to teach the kids: If it’s a joke, don’t get angry, it’s nothing serious. I bet many fans didn’t expect Pinkie Pie to worry about Fluttershy’s feelings, refusing to prank her so they wouldn’t hurt her feelings.

That’s for the first 8 minutes or so, and this episode already shows a lot of character depth. But that aside, Pinkie and Rainbow Dash’s prank marathon gets to a sudden stop when a new character appears, and that’s none other than Gilda, an old friend of Dash, who happens to be a gryphon. I really don’t know if the fact that she is a gryphon represents something or not, but one thing we all agree with is that she represents the worst type of friend possible. She is the friend that arrives after years of never showing up, tries to hug all your free time, and shuns your new friends away. Gilda is mean spirited, rude, sets pranks to harm others, insults, and the bitch bullied Fluttershy to the point of making her cry. I don’t care how much the fandom loves her and sets an un-corresponded love relationship with Dash, I want her head on a silver plate! Thankfully the show is aware of her nature, and puts her in one of the funniest humiliation congas I have ever seen. The entire party Pinkie Pie prepares for Gilda reminds me of The Naked Gun and any time O.J. Simpson appeared in the scene. Gilda gets zapped, her throat roasted by a pepper-vanilla-lemon drop, soaked thanks to a dribble glass, exhausted with re-lighting candles, and leaves herself in shame not trusting Pinkie Pie with the “Pin the tail on the Pony” game. Her reaction to all this abuse is the meanest thing I saw in the show in the first five chapters, as she insults everyone, calls off Pinkie Pie for setting the traps and tries to drag Rainbow Dash out. The surprise of the entire chapter comes from the fact that the pranks were set by Rainbow Dash, not Pinkie. That was a genuine twist right there, and it did caught me off guard. I remember I gasped, and if a TV show about ponies and unicorns can make me gasp…it’s definitely doing something right.

Overall it’s one of the best episodes, it delves deeper into the characters of Pinkie and Dash, and it gave us a bunch of fanfics about how much is Gilda in love with Rainbow Dash (your mileage may vary with the last one).

- Defining Moment: The party that Pinkie throws to Gilda, a great collection of slapstick worthy of the Zucker brothers.

- Moral: Don’t try to hug your friends’ time and keep them for yourself, even if you don’t like their other friends. Stand by their side and don’t let envy turn you into a bitch. Respect others.

· EPISODE 6 – Boast busters.

- Writing: Chris Savino.

You know how every TV show has that chapter that makes you realize you are watching a very especial and meaningful TV show? It changes from person to person, so consider yourselves adverted. Firefly has “Out of Gas”. CSI had that episode with the dead baby, “Tender, tender”. Outlaw Star has “Cats, girls and Spaceships”. House MD has “Occam’s razor”. And My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has “Boast Busters”. Fantastically written by Chris Savino (who also wrote “Stare Master”) the episode tells the story of how a new unicorn shows up in town boasting to be the most powerful unicorn in all of Equestria. She, The Great and Powerful Trixie, is a massive show off, clamoring she vanquished a mythological creature known as Ursa Major (some sort of space bear) to then leave a good bunch of the main cast in ridicule with her silly tricks. Pretty much like Gilda, she is another character put in the show to be a temporary antagonist, but this one has an edge to her (keep reading to see why I say so).

What Trixie…oops! I mean, what The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn’t know is that all that boasting causes two of the clumsy ponies in the town to go into the Everfree Forest (ruled by an invisible Dungeons & Dragons nerd) and bring an Ursa Major into Ponyville. This puts Trixie in the awkward and dangerous position of defeating it. It humbles you to see Trixie at least trying to vanquish it, before admitting she made the whole story up just to make her look better. That detail makes her character more three dimensional and believable, making her quite a lot more likeable than Gilda.

But now we have an Ursa roaming in Ponyville! How to get rid of it? In this moment of despair, the town’s folk and the main cast turns to Twilight, who spent the entire episode worried over using her powers, afraid of being considered a show off like Trixie. Her vanquishing of the Ursa is one of the most epic and funny things I’ve seen in a Cartoon. I love stories where the main hero/heroine is forced to fight and use all his or her potential to save the day. You feel Twilight’s ordeal as she uses all of her magic energy to save the day, it grips you and drags you for the ride, and it’s fantastic. This is the episode that finally cemented my support and love for this show. This turned the show from Guilty pleasure to just plain, pure pleasure.

- Defining moment: Twilight vanquishing the Ursa Major, and everything until the end of the episode. It has to be seen, I won’t even spoil it.

- Moral: Be proud of your abilities and don’t be afraid of showing them off, especially if it’s to defend your friends.

· EPISODE 7 – Dragon shy.

- Writing: Meghan McCarthy.

I like episodes with simple plots: There’s a dragon on the top of a mountain next to Ponyville and his snoring is causing a massive cloud of smoke to cover the sky over the city, so the main heroes have to get to his lair and convince him to go away. Really good idea though it’s no surprise coming from Megan McCarthy (she wrote “Call of the Cutie” and “Green isn’t your color”, both very simple in the storyline but rich in the development).

The entire episode is built around Fluttershy, and how she deals with the perilous journey to the Dragon’s Lair. Her fearful nature and personal dread for Dragons is what fuels these 22 minutes of epic mini-fantasy. Consider this chapter “The Hobbit” with Ponies; even the music that plays when they climb up the mountain is a re-do of the Lord of the Rings movies’ music! It’s also really good how each pony has a big piece of protagonism and no one is more important than the other, but it’s clear that the star of the episode is Fluttershy. She is in/direct responsible of every single catastrophe they come across in the journey towards the mountain’s peak. She forces Applejack to carry her around the mountain, causes an avalanche with her scared shouting, and takes forever to jump a precipice gap the size of a tangerine’s diameter. All of this to chicken out at the end of the journey saying she is scared of Dragons.

This is another great part of this chapter, how the end of the journey is not the end of the adventure; they have yet to deal with that foul beast, and the way to do so is not all that good. Twilight tries to use persuasion and it fails. Rarity uses her charm but the jewels get the best of her and she fails at it. Pinkie Pie uses laughter, only to find out that dragons are not kin on smiling. Finally Rainbow Dash rushes inside and kicks him on the chin…which makes him angry enough to knock out all the ponies but Fluttershy with a burst of smoke. And then awesomeness happens. It’s an entire episode building up to Fluttershy verbally confronting and emotionally talking down a dragon that’s like 100 times bigger than her to the point of making him cry. The word is stronger than the sword.

- Defining moment: “Now listen here Mister! Just because you are big, doesn’t mean you get to be a bully! You may have sharp teeth, and sharp scales, and snore smoke, and breathe fire, but you do not- I repeat! You do not. Hurt. My! Friends! You got that?”

- Moral: Never lose hope in your friends, they will surprise you with their support when you least expect it. Also, don’t mess with Fluttershy. She made a huge dragon cry, you don’t want to know what she can do to you!

· EPISODE 8 – Look before you sleep.

- Writing: Charlotte Fullerton.

This is the bottle episode of the season. In case you don’t know what a “bottle episode” is, it’s an episode that takes place within one location and it stars a small amount of characters, usually from 3 to 6. Not many people are keen in this type of episodes, but I love them. I love these episodes for all the conflict and fight they bring to the table, the clashes of characters and personalities and the interesting developments and twists the story experiences.

I think this is one of the best bottle episodes I’ve watched, to be completely honest with you. The entire chapter takes place inside Twilight’s Library during her first attempt at making a slumber party with Applejack and Rarity, and it’s really interesting how they approached this one location. They put the library in pitch black lightened with an oil lamp, set different angles and places we’ve never seen like the fireplace, or during the chapter’s climax throw a giant tree branch inside Twilight’s bedroom. Very good use of art direction.

But the heart and soul of the episode are Applejack and Rarity and their endless conflict. One is a tough country girl who wants to get things done no matter what, and the other is a prissy delicate girl who likes to focus in every single detail and make things look better. Their conflict is what propels the plot forward and makes you want to keep watching to see if they will ever solve their differences. In the end, and after a massive amount of dickery towards each other (Matrix-y pillow fight and mane ruining included) they end up making up, set aside their differences and solve the real problem (that giant tree branch in Twilight’s bedroom). It’s also wonderful how they did keep this as a constant in the show. Never will you see Applejack and Rarity arguing over their differences in any other chapter. Well written, very well planed, really well acted, and consistent. I like them like that.

- Defining moment: The horror story-telling, with amusingly funny expressions from Applejack and Rarity, and a great punchline.

- Moral: It doesn’t matter how different people are, there’s always a way to leave the differences aside and be friends.


1 comment:

  1. That's odd, I figured this post would have some comments already on it but apparently I'm the first. Anyway I have been following your blog for quite a while and with season 2 finished and my desire to be more involved in the MLP: FiM community, I have decided to read and comment on each of these great reviews.

    Overall I like your style; you have a very informal, natural tone to your writing, and discuss the good points as they come up. Your defining moment and moral summary are always nice to see and my favourite part about your reviews is your summary graph at the end, always nice to see. Splitting the season into eight episodes per post was a decent way of doing a bulk review, enabling you to write a large amount of detail for each episode without it becoming cluttered.

    As for criticism, you didn't point out many negatives/ways to improve, which could just mean that you didn't feel there was ways to improve the episodes but reading just praise does feel...I'll say one-sided (can’t think of another word for it at the moment). I would have also added a defining moment to Mare in the Moon and not label only one defining moment for both parts.

    My opinion of the first eight episodes are mixed for me, most I felt were pretty average though the first episode kept me watching and showed promise. Such promise seemed to be confirmed with Applebuck Season, then went down again, and then skyrocketed with Look Before You Sleep which remains as my favourite Season 1 episode. The first eight episodes kept me watching and though I didn’t enjoy Griffon The Brush Off or Boast Busters a great deal, I do not consider them bad and had some enjoyment with them all the same. Great review and I’ll comment on more soon.