Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 1 Episode 21

I'm gonna be brutally honest with this one.  I really hate this episode.  In fact, I almost don't wanna discuss it.  But, since I signed myself up for critiquing this series, I have to put up with this mess I got myself into.  So here we go.  I'm gonna get this over with.

"I'd compare this episode to one bite from a buffalo wing.  Why are they called buffalo wings anyway?  They're just chicken wings with ten times the spice.  Eh, there are no real buffaloes in this episode anyway."

Over a Barrel

For one, in many ways, this episode reminded me of an episode from the cartoon series Avatar:  The Last Airbender known as "The Great Divide".  While the episode itself is named for the world's largest canyon in the series, there are two Earth Kingdom tribes named Gan Jin and Zhang, which had apparently been feuding for a hundred years.  Their stories involve this sacred crystal orb of some kind, but when two of the main characters of the series, Katara and Sokka, stick with the respective tribes to get their stories, they end up turning against each other as well.
The main protagonist of the series, Aang, eventually ceases the fighting and makes up a story in order to bring peace between the two tribes.  Even though he lied, it did work and... hey, he was the Avatar.  It was his duty to bring peace using any necessary means.  Now how is this similar to this awful episode that I'm about to nearly destroy myself over?  Let's find out, shall we?

The episode begins with a train ride pulled by Earth ponies and in the caboose, Applejack is preparing to transplant a tree she calls 'Bloomberg' on the grounds of their destination, Appleloosa, where her cousin Braeburn and her relatives reside.  Now, as I recall, the Apple family got together for a reunion in the first episode, so assuming Braeburn is part of the family, why wasn't he there?

Braeburn: ...A-a-pplelooosa!

Braeburn: ...A-a-a-pplelooosa!

Braeburn: ...A-a-a-pplelooosa!

Okay, that's a start.

But never mind that.  We've got bigger things to worry about.  Because the train gets attacked by a group of stampeding buffaloes and we're introduced to this little gal named Little Strongheart who leads a heist which results in the caboose with Spike and Bloomberg getting detached from the train and subsequently kidnapped by the buffaloes.
Rainbow Dash parts from the group to get Spike back while the others arrive at Appleloosa.  But once they get there, and Braeburn is introduced, he goes into a welcome overdrive for a good whole minute and a half before Applejack manages to shut him up.
Braeburn: Hey there! Welcome ta A-a-pplelooosa!
Applejack: Braeburn, listen –
Braeburn: Cousin Applejack, mind yer manners, you have yet ta introduce me to your compadres! Shame on you!
Applejack: Braeburn, listen, something terrible has happened –
Braeburn: Terrible is right, your train is full seven minutes late! That's seven minutes less for you to delight in the pleasures and wonders of... A-a-a-pplelooosa!
Braeburn: Boggles the mind, we settler ponies built all this in just the past year, don't it?! And as you can see, we have all of the finest comforts.  Like horse-drawn carriages!
Carriage Puller: Okay, you pull now.
Noteworthy: Aww, we just switched.
Braeburn: And those there are horse-drawn, horse-drawn carriages.
Applejack: … Listen, Braeburn, I – Oof!
Braeburn: And here's are local waterin' hole, the Salt Block.
Saloon Keeper Pony: That's enough salt for you!
Salted Pony: Can't I at least... Get a glass of water?
Braeburn: Over there's the office of Sheriff Silverstar.
Braeburn: And here's where we have out wild west dances!
Braeburn: And here's where we have out mild west dances!
Applejack: But, Braeburn, we –
Braeburn: And here's the most wonderful sight in all of... A-a-a-pplelooosa! Our apple orchard
Applejack: Braeburn!
Braeburn: First harvest should be any day now.
Applejack: Braebu –
Braeburn: Good thing too!
Applejack: Brae –
Braeburn: 'cause we need that grub to live on.
Applejack: BRAEBURN!
Oh.  My.  God.  The dude just can't keep his pie hole shut for one minute and he pushes others around as if they can't walk on their own.  This guy is seriously already one of the most annoying characters in the whole series.  How can anyone stand him?  I sure as hell can't.

"Gah!  No wonder this blowhard wasn't at that family reunion!  He never shuts up!  My eye is twitching."

Once he does, Applejack addresses the problem.  It turns out according to Braeburn, everyone in town is having the same problem with the buffaloes.  The town thrives on their apple orchard, but for some odd reason, the buffaloes don't like the trees because we learn that the orchard itself apparently exists on what was once their land.  Now this sounds a bit odd because normally when animals lose their territory, they just move on and find another settlement, and there are still plenty to go around, I'm sure of that.  So, what's so special about where this orchard exists?

Well, we find out when Rainbow Dash meets up with Pinkie Pie and they attempt to launch a daring rescue, only to get busted, but to their surprise, Spike bails them out.
And that's when Little Strongheart shows up and tells her side of the story that the denizens of Appleloosa are the bad guys having planted trees on their... stampeding grounds?  Wait a minute!  Stampeding grounds?!  Does that mean what I think it does?!  That these buffaloes just go stampeding wherever and whenever they please?!  Oh, for crying out loud!  I know this is a cartoon and all that, but seriously, there are two things wrong with this.
First of all, real buffaloes, which over here we call American bison, don't do freelance stampeding of any kind.  They only go wild if they're agitated, and only then would a pack of bison have an incentive to launch a stampede.  This series has so far had animals doing animal things.  Remember what Twilight ordered for lunch in Episode 3?  And Zecora dug at the ground in Episode 9.
Bison are generally laid-back with their lives, so they don't just go stampeding recklessly unless something comes up.  Second, how big is the orchard?  Well, that doesn't matter because we saw these bison galloping alongside the train in what appeared to be plenty of territory to run around freely.  So why couldn't these bison just pick another place to do their stomping around?  Okay, so according to Braeburn, the town of Appleloosa is only a year old in existence and apparently these bison have a much longer history and just don't take settlements lightly.  But still, come on.  They've got plenty of ground.  So if you ask me, they sound rather stingy and stubborn.
That's when we're introduced to Chief Thunderhooves, who from my point of view is one of the dullest characters in the series.  I'm glad he only appears in this one episode so far, because his opening lines also get boring in a quick matter of seconds.  Just listen.

Chief Thunderhooves: We have a long and winding stampeding trail, that we have run upon for many generations. My father stampeded upon these grounds...
...and his father before him, and his father before him, and his father before him. And his father before him. And –

See?  He even bores his own herd.  Little Strongheart had to tell him to stop.

Now this is the point where the episode picks up on similarity to the episode "The Great Divide", never mind that the Gan Jin tribe and Zhang tribe have been at each other's throats for a hundred times longer than the bison and the denizens of Appleloosa.  Once Thunderhooves explains the situation, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Spike decide to take sides with these so-called bison and devise a way to get their land back.  Okay, let's just slow things down here, because this isn't making any sense.  I mean for one, did these Appleloosians even know that these bison existed?  Also, did they really just happen to plant their orchard right where the bison just happen to stampede freely like a bunch of crazed bulls?  Either way, the bison still have plenty of territory to go around and upholding a tradition of freelance stampeding is just too bizarre and uncharacteristic for bison in general.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes, I am going to refer to the buffaloes as bison for the sake of clarity.

So the characters all meet up and discuss the situation, in which apparently the bison and the Appleloosians are competing for the only flat land for miles (no, really?), but all that really happens is that Rainbow Dash turns against Applejack having sided with the bison.  This is similar to how Katara and Sokka fought against each other in "The Great Divide", never mind that they argued about their campsite prior to siding with the tribes.  So once again, the whole friendship thing is in question.  And Applejack and Rainbow Dash were supposed to be good friends since the episode "Fall Weather Friends".  Every time something drastic happens, the friendship continuity completely screws over.  Now Twilight Sparkle, being the main character, suggests that the bison tribe and the Appleloosians work something out.  That's when Pinkie Pie suggests sharing the land equally and performs a little song and dance routine about it.
 [Pinkie Pie]
You gotta share
You gotta care
It's the right thing to do
You gotta share
You gotta care
And there'll always be a way through
But wouldn't you know it?  Only Spike actually liked the performance and Pinkie's friends were exasperated.  To top it off, Thunderhooves and the sheriff of Appleloosa, named Silverstar, only make an agreement to one thing.
Chief Thunderhooves: That was the worst performance we've ever seen...
Sheriff Silverstar: Teh... Abso-tively!
Really?  Worst performance ever seen?  Not at least "that could have been a whole lot better, but you made a point" or even "We get what your saying, but we're still not entirely convinced"?  Do you know what this means?  It means that those two didn't even get the message one bit but were only fixated on the song and dance itself.  And do you know what else that means?  It means that neither of them are peace-mongers of any kind.  And let me tell you, I despise anyone who isn't a peace-monger.  So therefore, for this reason, I despise Thunderhooves and he's one of the worst characters in the show.  Ever.

They just didn't get it.  I mean, come on!  Pinkie's show wasn't that bad.  It wasn't even awful.  In fact, I saw nothing wrong with it.  She even managed to get a few ponies to dance with her, never mind how.  If anyone disliked her performance, it's because anyone who did has a serious problem.  Therefore, that means all the other main characters have problems and of course are embarrassed by Pinkie's behavior when you think that even Twilight would have been used to it by now, as in six episodes ago.
Now we've also learned that Little Strongheart and Braeburn are against the idea of an all-out war and are the only ones willing to talk to each other peacefully, but look at this.  War is always to answer to everything, isn't it?

Twilight Sparkle: Why won't anybody be rational and reasonable?!

She's right.  This is disgusting.  Is it any wonder why I despise this episode?

"Remind me again, what audience was this series intended to be directed towards?  Kids?!  Young girls?!  And they put this in a kids' show?!"

Even a showdown at a high noon is too much of a cliche, but once the clock strikes, Little Strongheart somehow manages to get Thunderhooves to have second thoughts, but then Pinkie Pie breaks out into song again.

[Pinkie Pie]
–whaddaya say?
You got to share
You got to care
It's the right thing to do
Chief Thunderhooves: Grrr...
You got to share
Chief Thunderhooves: CHAAARGE!
You got to care
Uh, I have a question.  It looks to me like there's still plenty of flat terrain to go around, so why was this one spot picked for this orchard and the bison anyway?  From what I see, an overhead shot of Appleloosa showed the orchard on a hill instead.  Besides, why?  Why do these bison insist on stampeding through so-called sacred grounds without a good reason?  Does something come along and agitate them into it each year?  Nothing is specified in this episode.  It's just an excuse to pit two tribes against one another for absolutely ridiculous reasonsAnd there's not even any compromise or anything!

Well, during the war, in which apple pies are used for weapons (puh-lease, am I supposed to believe that they actually work?), Thunderhooves gets struck by one of the pies and is somehow knocked out for the count.
The blubbering coming from the onlookers is one of the most pathetic parts of the whole series because obviously there's no such thing as death by apple pie, unless it somehow causes suffocation.  When Thunderhooves comes to, he ends up swallowing a bit of the pie on his face and he likes it, saying...

Chief Thunderhooves: Hey, I've got a much better idea!

*sigh* Finally, a compromise.  Of course, there didn't have to be any damage what with the clock tower getting destroyed, but I guess at this point all things are good.  Well, given mostly everything else in this episode, it could have been a whole lot better.  Simply put, the fact that two sides of a something are always willing to go to war before coming to a successful compromise really irritates the hell out of me.  No one was willing to take peace as an answer and that's just about one of the worst things you can hear from just about anyone in this world.  If everyone was willing to reason first, no one would have to suffer and I wouldn't have had to suffer quite so much sitting through this episode.  I sure as hell hope the series gets better, because its terrific animation deserves better.  You know, I kinda wanna eat some buffalo wings myself.

"You know, apple pies are meant to be eaten, not thrown.  Who do these civilians think they are?  Clowns?"

So in the end, a pathway is made traveling right through the orchard so the bison can trespass freely, provided they get a fair share of apple pie at their newly-made drive-thru.  Oh, and Bloomberg gets transplanted successfully.  But there's just one final irony to this episode.

Twilight Sparkle: You've got to share. You've got to care –
Pinkie Pie: HEY! That's what I said!
So, they just didn't like the way Pinkie did it, did they?

"I didn't."

I knew you wouldn't, the Chazz, so I wasn't asking you.

"Look, I got the message, I got what she was trying to say, but..."

But what?

"She's just crazy, that's all."

Deal with it.

"Ugh...  'Over a Barrel'...  More like 'over the edge' as in driven over the edge."

True dat.  This episode sucked.

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