Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 1 Episode 4

Ever since we've been introduced to the main characters, we've probably been expecting to have some episodes revolve around them individually, besides Twilight Sparkle.  Take this episode for instance.  We can tell right from the beginning that this is gonna be all about Applejack, who happens to be my favorite character in the series.  Now I found this episode to be among the most tolerable in the whole series, but I also noticed quite a few snags that at the same time raised a couple of questions for me.


Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  Big Macintosh returns in this episode and he has a speaking role.  Well, I did say he's one of three others among the Apple family who lives at Sweet Apple Acres with Applejack.  Of course, it isn't long before we can figure out what his catchphrase is, that is to say, the word he most frequently uses above all else.


And you'll be hearing that a lot from him, I guarantee it, even more so in upcoming episodes where his speaking roles aren't quite so big.

Applebuck Season
Now let's get on with this episode.  Big Macintosh has somehow obtained an injury prior to the events and harvesting time has come, which apparently the Apple family calls Applebuck Season.  So Applejack brings it upon herself to harvest the entire orchard on her own, which anyone watching the show can tell is next to impossible, seeing as there are massive quantities of apple trees to be kicked, despite her being able to knock down every single apple off one tree with one swift kick.  Big Macintosh even points this out, hinting that she should request some backup to help with the work, but she refuses.  Now here's where I had those questions.

First of all, as we all know in the previous episode, "The Ticket Master", Applejack had allowed Twilight to help her with her chores, never mind the fact that it wasn't apple bucking and that she made a bet with Big Mac.  So what caused her to get all gung-ho and prideful about this task, even when she realizes she could be in over her head?  Okay, so the continuity starts to dwindle off track just a bit, but it isn't too big of a deal just yet.  But what we do need to worry about, starting with this episode, is repetitiveness.  And here it is.

Applejack: I said I could handle this harvest and I'm gonna prove it to you.
Applejack: Well, I'm gonna prove to you that I can do it!
Applejack: I'm gonna prove to you, t'everypony, that I can do this on my own.
Applejack: I'll prove that this apple can handle these apples.

Yeah, if I had a dollar for every time she says "I'm gonna prove to you"...  Well, I guess I could buy at least a candy bar or something.  Also, Applejack says this:

Applejack: The loyalest of friends and the most dependable of ponies?

And following these words are several instances throughout the series that prove this to be true.  So here's the question.  Regarding the Elements of Harmony from the series premiere, why doesn't Applejack represent the element of loyalty instead of Rainbow Dash?  I know we see cases where Rainbow Dash proves to be loyal, but it's roughly about the number of times Applejack shows honesty, which is not that many times.  I mean, her part in the opening theme song even includes the words: 

Faithful and strong
So... why doesn't she represent loyalty?  Why pick Rainbow Dash instead of her?  In this episode, we see that Applejack puts herself and her own well being at the bottom of the line and helping her friends up at the top.  So we probably have an inkling as to what the traditional friendship lesson at the end of the episode will be.  Now I like to think that Big Macintosh is saying her reliability and unwavering willingness is never in question, but taking on an entire orchard is something no one can do as an individual and that team work is essential.  Isn't that right, Big Mac?


Anyways, Applejack's loyalty is a recurrence throughout the episode.  See, before she even begins apple bucking, a stampede of cows heads straight for Ponyville.
The ground starts shaking, and Pinkie Pie seems to be oblivious to the possible impending danger, to which Twilight Sparkle has to point out. 
Oh, and now we're introduced to a dog named Winona, who is Applejack's work dog, and she helps her round up all the cows and steer them away from Ponyville's borderline.
You know, it's almost funny how ditzy Pinkie Pie can be sometimes.  And at this early stage in the series, Twilight is still not used to Pinkie's rather lightheaded personality.
After the stampede is averted, one of the cows (named Daisy Jo) explains what happened.  Apparently, one of them was spooked by a snake and set off a chain reaction.  The Mayor of Ponyville declares Applejack a hero for stopping the cows and Pinkie Pie decides to (you guessed it) throw a party to celebrate.

About a week later, everything's all set up, but the main characters take notice that Applejack is absent and no one has seen her all week since the stampede ended.  Twilight starts up a speech and although it is consistently interrupted, her words include that Applejack's loyalty is unwavering and can be counted on when needed.  Speaking of interruptions, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy all mention things that Applejack agreed to help them with, which come up later in the episode.

After Twilight screws her speech, Applejack finally shows up, but seems to be in somewhat of a sleep-deprived state... and maybe even slightly mental.  It turns out, she's been apple bucking all week 24/7 trying to harvest the whole orchard on her own.
And it isn't long before Twilight figures this out and asks her if she can lend a hand... or hoof, for that matter.  Oh, and it seems that she's now mastered her teleporting magic spell.  But as expected, Applejack refuses any help whatsoever and insists on harvesting the crop herself.  And that leads us to seeing just how she helps out Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy, in that order.  Let's see how it goes, shall we?

First up is Rainbow Dash, who has built a contraption to propel herself into the air so she can get a head start on practicing her stunning aerial moves in an attempt to impress her idols, the Wonderbolts.  Yeah, I'm sure she will because the Wonderbolts are not in Ponyville.  So how is she gonna impress them?  Well, we don't need to worry about that because there's one real question about this scene.  Here's the deal.  Rainbow Dash wants Applejack to jump down from from a high altitude in order to launch her into the air.  The question is, how in the hell does Applejack get up on top of that tall structure?  I don't see any ladders or anything and she's a pony!  She walks on four legs!  So how did she get up there?  Well apparently, we're not meant to find out because it's not shown.  In any case, due to her condition, Applejack keeps missing the target and when she finally does, Rainbow Dash is completely unprepared, so when she gets catapulted, she's unable to fly and crash-lands on the library's balcony.

So Twilight confronts Applejack again, and as expected, she still refuses to have any help.

Next, at Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie Pie is in charge for the first time as the owners, Carrot Cake and his wife Cup Cake (I get the joke names, haha), are away for the afternoon.  Applejack helps Pinkie Pie to make what probably would have been chocolate chip muffins, but since her lack of sleep keeps getting progressively worse, she mishears all the directions and of course screws up her baking skills entirely.  Now, am I seriously the only person who believes Pinkie Pie was actually too oblivious to even realize that Applejack was messing up? 

Well, as a result of these baked bads, every single pony who ate the free samples ended up at Ponyville Urgent Care, where we meet Nurse Redheart who has Twilight help her with the sick patients, including Pinkie, and presumably get all their stomachs pumped.

Again, Twilight confronts Applejack, and again yields no better results.

Oh, and this mule suddenly appears when Twilight annoyingly states that old phrase regarding Applejack.  I don't know why the creators just tossed him in there randomly, they just did.

Now Applejack goes to help Fluttershy.  This is actually bad timing because Applejack's condition is now starting to make her grumpy.  In fact, she even refuses to take in Fluttershy's directions on how to handle her newborn bunnies.  So already we can see how this is gonna endApplejack and Winona use their traditional herding skills and spook the living hell out of the baby bunnies, sending them straight into Ponyville!
And once they start eating all the gardens, not even Fluttershy can get them under control.

Twilight now decides that she's gonna get right to the point with Applejack, who believes she's finished her job.  But then Big Macintosh returns and reminds her that in spite of all her endeavors, she only did half of the work.
In sheer shock doubled up with exhaustion, she passes out and when she wakes up, she finally accepts Twilight's offer for help.  And the episode ends with Twilight narrating her letter to Princess Celestia, stating that being a good friend is not only about helping others, but also accepting help in return.

Hey, you know what?  This is actually quite a good episode, not just because Applejack is the central focus most of the time.  The animation is terrific and even funny and appropriate at times, the story is better than mediocre at most, the pacing is acceptable (third time's the charm, if you know what I mean), and the friendship lesson to be learned is a pretty darn good one.
I have to be honest with this one.  There's nothing potentially bad about this episode.  I mean there are a few issues here and there, but they don't completely ruin the continuity or anything.  I'm sure the average audience can keep up with it and not throw out a bunch of questions saying "Why wasn't this done?" or so and so.  Well, this makes four episodes.  Not a bad series so far, but... it's the next episode I'm worried about.

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