Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 3 Episode 5

I'm not gonna lie.  The last episode left me in a pretty bad mood for a couple of days.  And I really didn't even see it, just the ending mostly.  Although, it should be noted that the character Babs Seed did gain quite a bit of popularity and the song from the episode was remixed countless times.  Even Daniel Ingram himself did a remix.  Also, according to Cindy Morrow, Babs will return at some point in the series, but it just hasn't been specified when.

Now this episode more than holds its own against "One Bad Apple" by a long shot.  It's somewhat mediocre, but there's one thing at the end of the episode that turns this season around.  It still doesn't make up for the disastrous Season 2 finale, mind you, but it leaves behind a little something that makes friendship somehow prevail over black and white characters, turning them into a shade of lovely gray.  And gray is something that a close friend of mine and I will always believe in.  So let's push on through and you'll see what I mean.  It's quite a surprise.

Before we begin, as we all know, this episode features the highly anticipated of the "great and powerful" Trixie, who was last seen running for cover at the end of the episode "Boast Busters".  Since the episode came and went, fans have been posting stuff up and down the Internet that make her into a redeemable character and even having a lesbian relationship with Twilight Sparkle.  Hey, love is love, right?
Anyways, with all the fan art, fan fiction, songs, and shipping long before this episode was announced, it is said that some fans were afraid that fanon Trixie would be destroyed entirely because when Trixie does make a comeback in this episode, she's more evil and dangerous than ever before, which in turn would have thrown everything fans ever did for her completely out of whack.  However, the aftermath of the episode proves that fanon Trixie might just be saved.  Let's find out how.

Magic Duel
We begin with a hooded pony, who we all is none other than Trixie, thanks to some leaked artwork and sneak previews of the episode, coming into a shop probably somewhere in Canterlot and requesting this weird artifact known as the Alicorn Amulet.  Now the term 'alicorn' according to fans and storyboard artist Sabrina Alberghetti refers to ponies such as Celestia, Luna, and Cadance, in other words, a unicorn with Pegasus wings.  With the mentioning of the term 'alicorn' used for this bizarre amulet, it appears it has now become canon to the series, so fans are now gonna safely refer to these Pegasus unicorns as alicorns from here on out.

Now just what exactly is this Alicorn Amulet?  Well, how many of you have seen the 2007 film Spiderman 3 starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker?  Remember the black suit created by the mysterious and parasitic Symbiote?  It all started when Peter was consumed by anger that Uncle Ben's killer was still alive and on the run and as a result, the Symbiote bonded with his Spiderman suit and formed a new and powerful black suit.  While it gave Peter enhanced powers, it also gradually brought out his dark side and under its influence, he gave in to doing terrible things, but eventually came to his senses and freed himself.

This Alicorn Amulet pretty much does the same thing to anyone who wears it.  While it increases a unicorn's magic power by tenfold, it steadily corrupts the user each time it is activated and like with Peter and the black suit, the only way out is for the user to remove the Alicorn Amulet by choice.  Yeah, easier said than done.

So while Twilight is off practicing juggling magic for an upcoming audience of actual horses from Saddle Arabia, using Fluttershy's animals to her chagrin, Rainbow Dash bursts in on the scene and informs Twilight of an apparent emergency.

Trixie hexes Rarity by putting her in clothing that apparently doesn't suit her well.  And when Twilight shows up, Trixie recognizes her and reveals herself as the new Sith Lord of Ponyville, having come to exact her revenge.  She challenges Twilight to a magic duel, which is pretty much a contest that we saw from this episode's predecessor, "Boast Busters" that involves two unicorns trying to outperform each other with powerful spells.
Twilight refuses at first because of the stakes that Trixie sets, in which the loser is banished from Ponyville forever, so Trixie starts casting spells left and right causing harm to Twilight's friends, during which Owlowiscious makes a cameo appearance.
She then reveals her motivation for revenge.  After Twilight bested that Ursa Minor, Trixie was never taken seriously as a magician and found herself making a living on the same rock farm that Pinkie's dad apparently still works at.
Pinkie back-talks to Trixie, only for her to have her muzzle removed and thrown away permanently.
Twilight eventually agrees to Trixie's challenge, so she undoes her evil magic, but Pinkie remains mute for the remainder of the episode, so we'll just have to make do with that.

Twilight Sparkle: Let's duel!

And off they go with 4000 Life Points apiece.

Trixie: Draw!

Trixie starts by tries to squash Shoeshine with a wagon and barrels, which Twilight stops in its track with her levitation magic.  Outperformed in that, Trixie's Life Points drop to 3000.
She then hurls several pies at Twilight, but she somehow conjures up a Parasprite to eat the pies and then after one becomes two, she makes them both vanish.  Trixie's Life Points go down to 1600.
That's when she summon storm clouds that drop huge piles of snow on top of Twilight, knocking her Life Points down to 2000.
After melting the snow, Twilight fights back with a spell that gives Trixie a mustache, sending her Life Points down to 600, but she conjures up scissors to clip the hair off, outperforming Twilight and reducing her Life Points to 900.
File:Baby Snips and old Snails S3E05.png
That's when Trixie calls forth Snips and Snails and performs an aging spell on them, turning Snips into a baby and Snails into an old geezer.  Twilight points out that only the highest level unicorns are capable of this powerful magic, so at this point, she doesn't stand a chance.  Failing to return Snips and Snails to normal, her Life Points drop to zero and she loses the duel.

Trixie: Trixie is the highest level unicorn!

Her friends try to stand up for her, but Trixie's new-found magic is far too powerful, as in her power level is over 9000.  As a result, Trixie throws Twilight out and conjures up a solid shield, preventing her from returning and imprisoning her friends inside.

While Twilight consults with her old friend Zecora, who offers to train her in the ways of magic, Trixie steadily begins to enslave Ponyville, using the magic of the Alicorn Amulet, which now corrupts her beyond control.  Eventually, Twilight's friends go digging through her library and although Fluttershy finds a book that holds the answers, no thanks to her unchanging personality, we have to listen to the most awkward, drawn-out, and overly redundant conversation ever endured.
Fluttershy: Um, I think I may have found something?
Rarity: Yes, it is time for us to consider our futures in this new Trixie-led Ponyville.
Fluttershy: Um, this sounds an awful lot like Trixie's magic-
Applejack: She wants me to grow apples with no peels! Now how the hay am I supposed to do that?
Fluttershy: Um, there's a picture here of that necklace-
Pinkie Pie: [muffled noises]
Fluttershy: It's called the Alicorn Amulet, and whoever wears it is blessed with untold-
Spike: Hey, everypony, look! This book has a picture of Trixie's necklace! It's called the Alicorn Amulet, and whoever wears it is blessed with untold powers!
Fluttershy: If you read a little further you'll see-
Rarity: Even though it provides great power, it also corrupts the user!
Fluttershy: Yes, but, um, you can't-
Spike: You can't just take the Alicorn Amulet off her neck, it has a magical lock! Trixie's the only pony who can take it off!
Fluttershy: Maybe we could-
Applejack: We need to get this information to Twilight. She'll know what to do.
Fluttershy: But, how- how-
Rarity: If any of us try to leave, Trixie's magical forcefield will tell her!
Fluttershy: Maybe we should-
Rainbow Dash: I've got it!
Rainbow Dash: Trying to sneak past the forcefield would be impossible without help, but I know who's got the goods to get into those woods!
Fluttershy: It- it must be-
Rainbow Dash: Fluttershy!
Fluttershy: Whaaat?!
Applejack: What do you say, Fluttershy? Can you handle the mission?
Fluttershy: No! I'll crack under the pressure, I'll snap like a twig!
Rainbow Dash: Perfect! Fluttershy'll sneak out of Ponyville and find Twilight.
Fluttershy: But- but I-
Fluttershy: Okay.
Oh.  My.  Frigging.  God.  The indignity!  The awkwardness!  The embarrassment!  There's no doubt in my mind.  This was absolute pain in the ass to listen to and it was going practically nowhere.  I mean, can you say...

Not to mention, no one was listening to Fluttershy.  Okay, so her voice was quiet, but you think the others would have known her by now and her voice wasn't that soft.  I mean, I still could hear her for Christ's sake.  This was extremely over the top in dullness and it goes to show that Twilight's five friends haven't changed a bit.  By now, you think they'd know each other than to just stop and listen even to Fluttershy or even notice that she's freaking out, but no.  It just doesn't happen.

Back with Twilight in exile, Zecora assumes the role of Yoda in an effort to teach Twilight the true importance of magic.  Try as she might, Twilight just can't seem to up her skills, seeing as she's been mainly racking her brain on how Trixie was able to perform the highest level of unicorn magic in existence.
So Fluttershy is smuggled out of Ponyville and dragged off to Zecora's place where she informs Twilight and Zecora that Trixie was using the powers of this Alicorn Amulet around her neck.  Now I'm confused as to why Twilight and her friends didn't take notice of it before.  I mean, it was around her neck.  How could they not notice?  Sure, they didn't have to know what it was, but they could have figured out that it was the cause behind Trixie's amplified magic.
So Twilight returns to Ponyville and persuades Trixie into lowering the shield so they can have a rematch, which works because Twilight makes her believe that her new amulet, which is actually one of Zecora's doorstops, is far more powerful than the Alicorn Amulet.

So they square off again with 4000 Life Points each and we see that Trixie has completely overtaken Ponyville, having imprisoned Mayor Mare in a cage.  This time, Trixie starts with an age spell, turning both Snips and Snails into infants.  Twilight also performs an age spell with Rarity and Applejack as subjects and it seemingly works.
But Trixie is ultimately undaunted, so Twilight does it multiple times, stunning Trixie and sending her Life Points down to 3000.
Twilight then uses a multiplying spell on Rainbow Dash, creating a perfect carbon copy of her.  Trixie is down to 2000 Life Points.
Twilight then makes Pinkie play ten instruments at once.  Trixie doesn't even try to counteract, so her Life Points drop to 1000.  And for the grand finale, Twilight turns Applejack into a stallion.

Male Applejack: Eeyup.

So Trixie's Life Points hit zero, and she loses the duel, but not before she confiscates Zecora's charm and replacing her Alicorn Amulet for it.  Rainbow Dash jumps at the chance and steals the amulet and Trixie attempts to inflict a Cruiatus Curse on her, but all it really does is tickle her.  Twilight then explains it all.

Twilight Sparkle: Zecora taught me so much about magic while I was in exile. She even taught me when not to use it. My magic alone wasn't powerful enough to take on the Alicorn Amulet head to head, so I needed to use a different kind of magic – the magic of friendship.

Apparently, Twilight conjured up some smokescreen, allowing stand-ins to take the places of Twilight's friends to make it look like she actually outperformed Trixie.  So in actuality, Twilight had set her up in order to convince her to remove the Alicorn Amulet herself.
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle posed as the younger Applejack and Rarity respectively, Granny Smith posed as old Applejack, Fluttershy posed as Rainbow Dash, and Big Macintosh posed as Applejack in stallion form.  Despite this, Ashleigh Ball is credited under the guest voice list as the voice of 'Male Applejack', so by technicality, this is the one time Ashleigh Ball voiced Big Macintosh.  And as fans might have guessed, Pinkie is able to play ten instruments at once on her own without magic because she can.

So Celestia arrives with the ambassadors from Saddle Arabia and they watch in awe as Twilight juggles woodland animals in a figure eight.
Despite the animals trusting Twilight and loving being tossed around, Fluttershy is still spooked, so Spike has to give her a shoulder to cry on.  That's when fireworks are suddenly conjured up and we all there's only one unicorn capable of doing that.
That's right, it's Trixie.  Apparently, she knew the Alicorn Amulet was seizing control of her and changing her for the worst, so she thought to be nice by throwing in a little razzle dazzle to Twilight's performance.  Wow, guess Trixie actually has a good heart underneath her boasting exterior.

So Trixie then changes her ways by asking Twilight to forgive her, which she does after thinking long and hard.  I mean, Trixie certainly did look sorry.  Relieved, Trixie then "boasts" about being humble and takes off in yet another epic fail smokescreen disappearing act.  Perhaps one day, she'll return to show business.  So even though the boasting part about Trixie may not change, like Rainbow Dash, at least it can be surmised that when these two unicorns cross paths again, it will be as friends and not enemies.

Well, this is ironic.  I can only imagine that some of us were expecting fanon Trixie to slip down the drain due to Trixie's heinous behavior in this episode, but it turns out Mitch Larson wrote for Trixie to actually reform and learn a little lesson about a time and place to brag.  This in turn could actually save fanon Trixie, so now we can assume that Jayson Thiessen knew what he was doing the entire time.  Maybe he did know about the existence of fanon Trixie after all.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The episode ends with Pinkie finally getting her muzzle back thanks to Twilight's magic.

I honestly think that the ending of this episode must have surprised a shitload of fans, especially if they lost faith in Trixie seeking redemption what with her taking over Ponyville and banishing Twilight.  But it turns out, fanon Trixie might just bounce back, maybe even better than before.  While it seemed that Trixie was destined to become Twilight's nemesis and all that, clearly that's not gonna happen anytime soon now that Trixie is her old self.

So, yeah...  What a surprise.

Oh, what did I think?  Uh, I'd say this episode was somewhat mediocre at most, but it really wasn't better than the episode "Too Many Pinkie Pies".  I'd say it's possibly on par with the "Crystal Empire" episodes.  But at least it wasn't "Boast Busters" all over again.  Well, this makes five episodes covered.  Eight more to go.  And I think the next episode ought to be a little more interesting.
[Pinkie Pie]
'Cause I love to make you smile, smile, smile
Yes I do
It fills my heart with sunshine all the while
Yes it does
'Cause all I really need's a smile, smile, smile
From these happy friends of mine


  1. For the most part I did like this episode, but I agree with someone who (in a chat during a livestream of this episode last Saturday) said that this episode played out a lot like a fanfic. Trixie, many references to past episodes, the term "alicorn" now being canon... basically a big mix designed to please just about anyone.

    This has to be the episode that Tara Strong said would "make the bronies go wild", because it was pure fan-service from start to finish (not *that* kind!). I did like the "Trixie's sorry" ending but felt it was kind of rushed, to be honest. Also, she must have had some sort of public apology before that because she wouldn't even be allowed there otherwise, especially with Celestia and the two horse ambassadors there. Plus I get the feeling that this was Trixie's send-off by the writers and that she probably won't be appearing again. It's basically "You want Trixie? Here she is, now shut up and be satisfied!". I'd like to see her again, not as an antagonist, but having legitimately grown much stronger with her magic down the line. Or even in a cameo in the season finale, who knows.

    Some things about the episode:

    - The amulet had nothing to do with Sombra at all, despite what almost everyone guessed.
    - Snips and Snails were still fawning over Trixie, despite knowing she was a fraud. They even say later that they liked her better as a fraud, so what I'm seeing is that they just genuinely liked her despite her (lack of) talent. Aww.
    - Still not even a background appearance of Derpy, and this is five episodes in. I think they're trying to play it a bit too safe here.
    - It could be due to background character reuse, but during Trixie's flashback it really looks like Carrot Top / Golden Harvest deliberately followed Trixie from place to place just to torment her and vandalize her stuff.
    - Nice to see Zecora again, *and* in her intended mentor role instead of just being the Problem Solver Of The Week (usually caused by the Cutie Mark Crusaders).
    - EVERYONE freaked out at the mare-to-stallion "spell". It was funny. The livestream chat I was in all went NO! at the same time. Also, I was expecting "the six" to have been the Elements of Harmony but was surprised that Twilight used Trixie's own game against her.
    - This isn't about this episode, but indeed a lot have taken a liking to Babs. That tends to happen to one-episode wonders (though Babs will probably appear again, and even in this season). I just hope she doesn't fall into the same pattern / trap that the Ponyville CMCs have been in, if she appears again as a main episode character.

    I'm hoping next week's Scootaloo episode will finally give some info about her life and family. I mean, "One Bad Apple" finally showed Sweetie Belle's house, so even a few seconds of something would make me happy. And out of all the CMCs Scootaloo is the most underdeveloped (even over Babs!), due to having less screen time than and no mane six sister like Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. And, of course, she's the furthest of them all by far from "getting it" when it comes to cutie marks... I said it before but it'd be very ironic if in the future she'd be the first one of them to come to the realization, but that's a long way off if ever (for any of them).

    1. At least the episode wasn't "Boast Busters" all over again. But the important thing is that Twilight and Trixie have made peace.

      All "Trixie" gets is background character appearances, such as her design scheme appearing in previous episodes.

      I think the amulet having nothing to do with Sombra was well established when Season 3 first aired because King Sombra is a unicorn and Trixie didn't show up. Character reusing is why Fancypants appeared in "Too Many Pinkie Pies" despite being a Canterlot denizen. Not having Ditzy Doo is a funny thing because Season 3 started production months before the Derpy controversy. She must have been edited out or something. And Babs WILL appear again because Cindy Morrow said so.

      We'll just have to wait and see what goes on in Scootaloo's "sleeping world". We can thank Rainbow Dash for opening the door, although it seems she likes to tell spooky stuff since she purposely spooked her friends into believing any denizen who sets foot in the Everfree Forest ne'er returns. But yeah, Babs is coming back, but we don't know when.

      Oh, and one more thing. There's a chance of MLP:FiM getting a Season 4, so any rumors might be more than just rumors.

    2. Season 4 was confirmed in the Hub's Q1 2013 financial report. They spent $910K on seasons 2-4, it says.

    3. Well, it's just gonna get worse, then.

  2. Meghan McCarthy posted on Twitter that the premise of this episode was submitted in January 2011, so it's unlikely the Trixie fanon had much of a role in any of the basic plot.