Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 2 Episode 3

Lesson Zero
When you hear of a new season for a television series, what's the first thing that comes to mind?  That's right.  Change.  Now even though the previous two episodes were technically the start of Season 2, this episode has what I call an official transition between the two seasons due to what happens at the very end.
And by transition, I don't just mean the slighty modified intro, though it too marks the beginning of TV season differences.  New season, slightly different intro, ya know?  But I'm talking about what happens at the end of this episode, so I'm gonna discuss my way to it.

We start with Twilight Sparkle being like Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, always organized and armed with a checklist, or least Rabbit as seen in the episode "Party Poohper" from the Winnie the Pooh Playtime series.  But then something different happens that is supposed to catch our eye.
Twilight had ordered a dozen cupcakes for a picnic planned with her friends, except that Mrs. Cake ended up with one extra.  She notices the frosting is a bit out of place and tries to re-sort it so that each of the thirteen cupcakes have the exact same amount of frosting.
Well, that didn't turn out so well.  Either that or thirteen really is a superstitious number, but I doubt it.  Anyways, the whole point of Twilight doing a frosting rearrangement is meant to be an ominous foreshadowing of signs in this episode.  That is to say, signs of Twilight's descent into insanity.
And then it picks up the pace when Spike mentions he might not be able to write a letter to Princess Celestia for the week. Wait, before we get into this...  Did he just say that these friendship lesson letters come every week?  Now does that mean I'm supposed to believe that with each and every event so far has been happening weekly?  More specifically, a letter is sent every Tuesday?


Okay, supposing this is canon, a reason otherwise would be mean that this is all a setup for a tense episode plot and the eventual transition between Seasons 1 and 2, that means that with Season 1 having 26 episodes, though a few number of times can be subtracted owing to bigger circumstances such as major antagonists and reporting to Celestia in person, all the events so far have been spanned over the course of at least a good half a year, 26 weeks.  But here's a question.  I do recall quite clearly that Celestia assigned Twilight the mission to deliver reports on the magic of friendship ever since the end of Episode 2 from Season 1, but I don't remember her saying anything about a weekly basis.  Did anyone catch this something that I might have missed?

Yeah, that's what I thought.  So when did this weekly basis come in?  This can only mean that this is all pretty much just a setup to set an episode plot in motion, and a most unusual one at that.  It kinda twists up the continuity a bit, not terribly like in the Season 2 finale, but at least it ought to be noticeable to say the least.

Anyways, Twilight starts to get into a panic for not having anything worth writing to Celestia about, much to Spike's chagrin.  Hell, she even envisions a worst-case scenario, to which Spike responds...

Spike: That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!

Yeah, I'll say.  Though, for the record, I can't say I haven't panicked needlessly or had irrational fears myself, but at least I never went insane over them.  And that's exactly what happens to Twilight.  Seeing as Spike isn't able to help her out much, she decides to ask each of her friends, that is to say the other main characters (minus Pinkie Pie for some reason), if they have problems worth solving.  It turns out they don't either.
Rarity finds her missing ribbon...
...Rainbow Dash is helping Applejack take down her old barn so a new one can be built (assuming the Apple family has the money for it of course, though they could always ask the talented Apple Bloom)...
...and Fluttershy is helping give a big bear a big massage, which looks she's wrestling with the rowdy animal.

Spike points out his obvious concern for Twilight at this point, as in he sees her acting like Gollum, and suggests that she should relax at the picnic with her friends.
Now we don't know this, but at some point after this conversation, Spike had secretly made contact with Celestia to inform her of Twilight's anxiety and it pretty much takes the remainder of the episode for her to arrive.
So Twilight goes to her friends' picnic and addresses her problem directly, but they pass it off as nothing more than a minor setback.
But look at this.  They're laughing.
At that level, they're really going too far, so Twilight surmises that her friends refuse to help and she ditches them.  Geez, girls, couldn't you tell that Twilight was starting to lose it?  Her mane was messed up and she was getting those weird looks on her face.
Back in her room, her insanity builds up gradually to the point where she decides to make some happen so she can solve it.  Now who else can sense that this is not going to end well?  Put your hand down, Ferb.  I mean, it's obvious, isn't it?  Let's compare this to another scenario.

Remember the Winnie the Pooh Playtime series I brought up earlier?  In the episode "Tigger, Private Ear", Tigger decides to take on a job as a detective inspired by one of Owl's mystery novels, but because the Hundred Acre Wood is devoid of problems, which for some reason he interprets as others not coming to him because he's not all that hot, he decides to make a mystery and solve it.  He gets away with it the first time, but chews himself out the second time when he inadvertently gets Piglet in trouble with Rabbit.  Of course, in the very next episode, "Sham Pooh", he is able to solve a case for real and even gets commended for it.

But back to the episode "Lesson Zero".  We now see that Twilight is in a state of pure madness.  The animation at this point is certainly no coincidence.  Notice that the bird's nest looks fine one minute as if Rarity made it, and then it gets wrecked when Twilight shows her ugly mug, as if she made the nest.  This is definitely some kind of direct reference out of the episode "Winter Wrap Up" from Season 1.
I have to admit, I did actually kinda like Twilight's evil laugh at that point, or least the animation of it.
So she freaks out the Cutie Mark Crusaders due to her condition and shows them her old doll, which for no surprise reason is named Smarty Pants, and tries to give it away to either of them.  When they don't want it, probably because it doesn't look so good, she casts a "want it, need it" spell on the derelict doll, and the three fillies fight over it.  Where did she learn that spell?
Evidently, Twilight's plan was to create this problem and then fix it for her would-be letter.  Now even if this worked, which it doesn't of course, what are the chances that Twilight's letter would be successful, given her mental state that she's in?  The reason this plan doesn't work is because she can't get a clear shot at the doll in an attempt to remove the spell.  It turns out, the spell causes anyone who makes eye contact with the victim or object want it so badly that said someone will resolve to any means to get it.
Big Macintosh steps in to help Twilight, but he too falls under the spell, which subsequently leads to everyone in Ponyville, save Twilight's friends, getting into the most massive almighty free-for-all in the entire series.
Celestia eventually arrives and removes the spell, but Big Mac makes off with the doll anyway.  She then sternly tells Twilight to meet her in the library and her friends realize their mistake they made.

Twilight tries to explain to Celestia that she seemingly missed the deadline of writing to her week, which as it turns out Celestia points it out as an irrational fear.  And that's when Twilight's friends burst in on the scene and beg Celestia not to take Twilight back with her to Canterlot, mentioning that they are to blame for not taking Twilight seriously when they should have.  Yeah, I could have told them that because they laughed at the ridicule of her problem.
So she agrees and no one gets punished, but on one condition.

Princess Celestia: From this day forth, I would like you all to report to me your findings on the magic of friendship, when, and only when, you happen to discover them.

And there's the transition!  So it's not just Twilight who will be doing the letters, it will be all of her friends.  This is what I call the official transition between Seasons 1 and 2 because of the change.  That change being that there will be more than one main character reporting to Celestia.  But I get the impression that if this change fails to keep up, there's a high chance Celestia won't think twice about reconsidering this whole thing.  After all, Twilight did bring this whole mess upon herself.
Obviously, had she not resorted to this, Celestia might have been able to to calm her down and things would have been different.  She does point out that of all her friends, Spike was the intelligent one who took Twilight's feelings seriously and had sent for her in the first place.  Any wonder why he's her number one assistant?

So, in personal opinion, besides being relatively mediocre like most of the others, this episode officially marks the change between Seasons 1 and 2, simply because Celestia has now assigned all six of the main characters to deliver friendship lessons to her.  One interesting thing to note is that as of this episode, now half of the main cast has gone into insanity.  Do we expect to see more of this?  I'm not sure, but probably not for the remainder of this season.  To be honest, I sure as hell hope not because this is supposed to be a kids' show with a demographic targeting young girls.  Wouldn't this sort of stuff freak them out?  Are the episodes now being made as if bronies are the targeted audience?  I can only imagine how the rest of this season is gonna play out.  Some of the episodes I'm not looking forward to discussing that much, but... has to be done.  So if anyone's gonna suffer through this, it's gonna be me.  The Thunder, over and out.

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