Saturday, November 29, 2014

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 4 Episode 19

WARNING!  From this point onward, the following reviews will consist of using heavy profanity.  It is advised not to proceed past this point unless you are 18 years of age or older.  Profanity will be used to express personal opinions only, so there can be no one responsible if anyone is greatly offended because you have been warned.  If you can handle profanity and you're ready to proceed, by all means do so.

"I used to wonder what friendship could be; until I surpassed those who first showed it to me."

- Russet Burbanks,

We've seen the somewhat strenuous relationship between Rarity and Sweetie Belle.  In "Sisterhooves Social", Sweetie Belle would go on and on about Rarity being engrossed in cleanliness, high class, and all that shit I don't care for.  Well, in this episode, Sweetie Belle now complains about perfectionism.  It's a feat that's next to impossible to achieve, and when it is, who'd have thought you could complain about it?  Well, Sweetie Belle does and it becomes a problem that she has to solve by learning the hard way just what exactly is the difference between hogging the limelight and maintaining a solidified reputation.  And given what it all amounts to in the end, it's still worth coming back to and complaining about.  So I'm gonna take a trip down memory lane and recall everything I ever learned about survival in art school.  This is "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils".  Fuck it.

We start with Sweetie Belle pleading with Rarity to spruce up some costumes for a school play.  And to make a long story short, we don't see the play for ourselves (just the opening lines) and we learn that the audience seems to have trouble recalling anything interesting about the play aside from the costumes.  And for some reason, this pisses Sweetie Belle off, so she confronts Rarity for making the dresses too outstanding... because no one remembered anything else.

So... the impression we're trying to get is that Sweetie Belle initially thinks Rarity has stolen her thunder.  But let's go back to the audience again.  Did any of the ponies specifically say "Praise Rarity for the costumes because they were so awesome and they're the only things we can remember"?  Did anyone say "Rarity's a wonder" because of the play?  No.  No one did.  From what I gathered, no one knew that Rarity designed the costumes... except Cheerilee, maybe.  And we don't know if Cheerilee went and told the audience after the play.  And yet, Sweetie Belle just assumes she's basking in her fame and maybe intends to go tell the audience to make the costumes instead of interpreting what the audience said as "You looked great in those costumes".
Spike: Wow, you guys! I think your sisters would have loved it!

Apple Bloom: Would have?
Spike: They're sorry, but they had to go help Rarity get Sapphire Shores' wardrobe ready to take to Canterlot in the morning.

Scootaloo: Even Rainbow Dash?
Spike: Yeah. Rarity fell way behind.
Now to be fair, I get the impression that Sweetie Belle didn't appreciate that her older sister had to bend over backwards to make things work and she specifically wanted those costumes to be the cream of the crop or whatever.  And now she goes into a fit of frustration because they were?  What is she playing at anyway?  This makes no sense!  Rarity only did what Sweetie Belle asked for her to do!  Maybe she didn't ask to gain attention for making those dresses and I don't think the audience even knew that she made them.  Ungrateful little whiner.  I'm sure a parent wouldn't stand for that kind of talk.

So Sweetie Belle decides to pay Rarity back in spades... by messing up her big order for Canterlot.  Without us asking how she's now proficient in magic four episodes after "Twilight Time" when she was struggling, Sweetie Belle removes a single stitch from Rarity's prize headdress, which is apparently the thing that holds it together.  Satisfied with her sweet revenge, she drops off to sleep and starts lollygagging in Dreamland.

So for some reason, this Rarity-cloud apparition tries to kill Sweetie Belle with a bolt of lightning, but is saved by Princess Luna because...  Let's face it.  Our brains really don't let us die in our dreams.

Sweetie Belle takes her sweetie time applying all kinds of strange makeup and her guests get bored waiting for her.  So by the time she gets downstairs, Rarity was already entertaining them with streamers and cake.

But Princess Luna gives Sweetie Belle the whole scoop, which of course makes no sense because we don't see if Rarity ever comforted her little sister afterwards or even tried to tell her the truth.  Come to think of it, how come their bond as sisters never stayed severed because of this?  Or maybe this is why Sweetie Belle and her parents live separately from Rarity.  Now that would really be called holding a grudge.  And I can only imagine what you're probably thinking here.  If Sweetie Belle had probably just shouted, she likely would have been noticed... and maybe made fun of for having lipstick smeared over her mouth.

Sweetie Belle: I guess Rarity wasn't trying to steal the spotlight. She was trying to save my party.

Rarity: Ooh... Sapphire Shores is such a big star and such a stickler for details. What if everything's not perfect enough?
Sweetie Belle: Funny, I thought I was the only one who got worried about stuff like that.

It's like Sweetie Belle must have thought that the world revolved around her... like any kid her age, I suppose.  But seriously, worrying about even the tiniest of things happens to all of us, not just kids.  Even she should know this.  Hell, it's like Sweetie Belle doesn't know Rarity at all!  Did she or did she not print that "drama queen" article about her?  Filler indeed.

Luna shows Sweetie Belle a vision of Rarity's future yet to come.  Because she removed that stitch, the headdress falls apart after Sapphire Shores tries it on.  And after that, things go over-the-top downhill.

This happens to be one of Princess Luna's poorer performances.  She just keeps leaving, prompting Sweetie Belle to follow her, she ignores Sweetie Belle calling her, and she forces her to see images that leave her with psychological trauma that no child should have to sit through.  How come no kid who saw this episode was freaked out by that disturbing scene?  And this is the second time Dave Polsky tea-bags the Cutie Mark Crusaders from writing these episodes.

We also learn in this episode that Sapphires Shores from Season 1 is also a pop singer, but like the play, we see little to nothing of her performances.  Come on, you can't even give us even a short musical number with one of her songs?

Hell, we even saw more of Hinny of the Hills in "Rarity Takes Manehattan"!

So Sweetie Belle rallies her friends in an attempt to change Rarity's disturbing future, but all they seem to do is hold her back.  Eventually, they zip line into the room where Rarity is about to present her masterpiece, soon to be master pieces, and they steal the headdress just in time.  So with no time to explain the situation, we have a chase scene because Rarity apparently doesn't just use her magic to get the box back easily for some reason.

Sweetie Belle meets up with Princess Luna, who offers to not only help patch up the headdress, but also improve it as well.  After that fiasco, Rarity confronts her.

Hmm... let's try another one.

Yeah, that sounds a bit better.

So they return the headdress to Sapphire Shores and she loves the... dolphin design.  Why?

Rarity: Wherever did you come up with the idea for a dolphin?
Sweetie Belle: Oh, it just came to me... in a dream.
You know, I still don't know how Sweetie Belle connected seeing dolphins in her dream to Sapphire Shores.  I can understand how Luna knows because it's her "duty", so she maybe she told Sweetie Belle while they were repairing the headdress.  But anyways, Rarity and Sweetie Belle make up in the end...
Rarity: Oh, Sweetie, I forgive you! But I never did get to see your play. Any chance I could catch an encore performance?
Sweetie Belle: Uh, I don't think the play went all that good. To be honest, the costumes were the best part.
Rarity: Awww!

While it's not as bad as "Twilight Time", come to think of it, or nowhere near as God-awful as "Flight to the Finish" and it does give us an interesting new spin on Sweetie Belle and Rarity's relationship, this episode still doesn't hold out in terms of learning lessons or having given something to the series.  And that bad future scene was quite dark, so I don't get why it didn't make any kids shit their pants.  As much as Rarity loves her little sister, we still see that she doesn't seem to be much of a character who is capable of giving condolences when they are needed.  And of course the ending makes no sense whatsoever.  Sweetie Belle should have known from the start that Rarity was only helping and she was just being ungrateful from stewing in her jealousy and we didn't see the play for ourselves, so we don't know if it really sucked or not.  And if it did, I would blame the writers for deliberately humping the CMC in that case for the umpteenth time.  Seriously, what do these people have against little kids?  Do they really think they're stupid?  I sure as fuck don't think that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 4 Episode 18

WARNING!  From this point onward, the following reviews will consist of using heavy profanity.  It is advised not to proceed past this point unless you are 18 years of age or older.  Profanity will be used to express personal opinions only, so there can be no one responsible if anyone is greatly offended because you have been warned.  If you can handle profanity and you're ready to proceed, by all means do so.

"I used to wonder what friendship could be; until I surpassed those who first showed it to me."

- Russet Burbanks,

Let's say you're interested in making a friend... or a few, maybe.  Well, what if this someone you want to be friends with just doesn't see things the same way you do?  And I mean humor, opinions, emotions, sports, motivations... all kinds of stuff like that.  But maybe deep down, that someone would still be interested in forming a friendship or two.  This episode is smothered in that.  So what do you do?  Do you say "Fuck it, I'm sure this person is probably interested in being friends and I think we can at least hang out and do stuff together"?  Or do you say "Fuck it, this person just doesn't seem all that interesting, so I'll just move on and try to pretend I never met this someone"?  Now, if you know me and the way I've been seeing how these episodes have been done, probably to death, what do you think is the option that gets presented to us?

If you think it was the former option, go read more of my reviews on this series.  If you think it was the latter option...

I mean, anyone with a brain can figure out that based on past episodes, the Mane 6 just don't exemplify the best of friendships.  And considering that it was supposed to be the intention of this series and what it was going for, that's saying a lot.  Isn't the idea of friendship to open yourself up to other people regardless of personalities or whatever?  It's fine by me, but it just doesn't seem to be that way for the Mane 6.  Look how badly they've treated Discord!  Well... except Fluttershy, obviously.  So if you want more proof from me on this subject matter, just follow along with this review.  This is "Maud Pie".

So the episode is named for a titular character whom I introduced six episodes ago.  Her name is Maud Pie and she's Pinkie's third sister that we never knew she had until the writers decided to toss her in for Season 4.  But hey, at least it's not gonna give us nearly as many problems as Shining Armor in "A Canterlot Wedding".  God, that son of a bitch, I hate him so much.

So Pinkie asks her friends to do some rock candy taste-testing so she can make good necklaces for her sister Maud when she arrives in Ponyville for a visit.

Rainbow Dash: Ugh. My teeth hurt.

Newsflash.  Rock candy is extremely bad for your teeth.  I'm not eating that shit ever again.

Pinkie Pie: It's part of a very important, super-duper special tradition that only the closest and bestest of friends can share. We're going to make rock candy necklaces together! [squeals]
It all started when Maud and I were fillies on the rock farm. She taught me the Pie family rock candy recipe! It adds a secret ingredient – [whispering] It's rocks! [speaking normally] – And she showed me how to string the pieces to make them into a necklace! And once we were done, we'd trade! Maud and I have been trading necklaces back and forth since I moved to Ponyville.
They're a sign that we'll always be best friends! [squee]

Pinkie also claims that Maud has a bit of something in common with the Mane 6 such as fashion, honesty, reading, nature, and awesomeness, but I think to be fair, she might have built up their hopes a little too much, seeing as they want to hit it off exactly right.  You'll see what I mean, but I'll get to that in a bit.

The first thing I should point out is that the Mane 6 agree to meet Maud for a picnic and all six of them bring their pets, but notice that Spike didn't come.  Normally, I don't think even a fan of the series would pay it much heed, except I did hear that it became an issue on worthy of making fan fiction out of.  Or rather, a certain writer who loves making Disney crossovers thinks that Spike just doesn't get enough love.  Well, I'm glad that Spike being excluded would ever be considered a bad thing, but now that I look back on it, all I see is just another excuse for Spike to whine and moan about being neglected.  Surely we all know that Spike has had his fair share of story involvement and even his own day in the sun.  The only episode that really made him the butt-monkey to my knowledge is "Just For Sidekicks".  So for all we know, there could have been a legitimate reason as to why Spike didn't join the Mane 6.

Perhaps it was the fact that this episode was written by another newcomer to the staff, Noelle Benvenuti, and possibly wasn't filled in on everything about the series or just for one reason or another didn't include Spike.  Sure, she did a great job with this episode.  I think it's not too shabby for her first, especially given previous Season 4 episodes done by new writers.  Or maybe the reason Spike was absent is because for all we know, he could have been away on another Canterlot business trip like in the episode "Look Before You Sleep".  Surely something like that is a more plausible reason because one... actually two scenes in this episode take place at the Golden Oaks Library and even then, Spike is still a no-show!  So really, given these possibilities, why make a big deal over his absence?

Anyways, Pinkie brings her friends to meet Maud and have a picnic together.  And here's the very first sign that the Mane 6 aren't going to see Maud in the same way that Pinkie described her.

Maud Pie, voiced by Ingrid Nilson, seems to have a... very interesting personality, actually.  I know that being deadpan and stoic may not be terribly exciting, but in a way, it's also interesting.  Besides, despite her talking like a female Ben Stein...
...she's surprisingly earned her place in the fandom along with these other characters who have appeared in just one episode so far.  After all, I hear fans still want more of Coco Pommel.
But I've already picked up one problem so far.  And by problem, I mean Pinkie's friends.  They just tried to give Maud the benefit of the doubt when she identified a type of rock by smelling it.  So what's the problem?  Pinkie did say that they grew up together on a rock farm!  Of course Maud will identify with rocks!  Hell, maybe this is why she might have a deadpan personality!  Did Pinkie's friends ever think about that?  Well, let's see how they react to it.

Yeah, I think you can see the problem here.  And from my point of view, it's not Maud.  Maybe it's just me, but I personally happen to like female characters who have exteriors that aren't stereotypical for girls.  There are the ones with attitude, the ones who just look serious, and of course, the ones who kick ass.  I would be deadpan and stoic myself if that's what it meant for me to show that I'm serious about what I want to do with my life, so in a way, I can almost relate to Maud.

So because Pinkie's friends didn't count on Maud not having much of a facial expression, they all have their picnic together.
And Maud... eats a rock.  Apparently, Rarity tried a mite too hard to wear the right outfit for their first impression and one of the polished rocks from her hat just happened to fall off and land in the picnic basket, so Maud eats it.

My God, she must have fucking strong teeth!  And did she secretly develop a taste for rocks from working on her dad's rock farm the same way that Garfield secretly developed a taste for bricks?

Okay, so maybe you'll argue and say that she ate a gem, so in light of Spike's absence, which sparks some controversy, I guess, how about I toss in this comic?

So after their hearty picnic, the Mane 6 and Maud play this game called 'Camouflage'.

You know, it's amazing how old and outdated hide-and-seek has become nowadays.  I'm sure the kids still play it.

But since 'Boulder' is the one who's supposed to be hiding, the Mane 6 aren't having too much luck finding... it.

Hey, I thought that was clever!  Even in a game as simple as hide-and-seek, you have to think of everything as a hiding place including the last places anyone would think to look.  Rainbow's just being a poor sport because she dances with ego.

So Twilight thinks that because Maud is nothing like what Pinkie described, they should try a new tactic to help her warm up to them.

Twilight Sparkle: Maybe if we spend some time with her one-on-one to try to get to know her better, I'm sure we'll be making those best friend rock candy necklaces in no time.

Newsflash.  Maud Pie grew up on a fucking rock farm.  Trying to get her exterior to show more than dullness would be like pulling teeth.
Besides, Maud doesn't always have that deadpan look on her face.  She gave Rarity a rather awkward look when she told her that a dress doesn't talk.  *sigh* Well, let's see what happens.

You know, I'm sure there's a deeper meaning of Maud Pie's rock poetry.  If you listen to it the right way, you just might understand how it works.  And shit, she's written thousands all about rocks and seems to have them all committed to memory!  That's impressive in my book.  And furthermore, Maud grew up on a rock farm!  Why would she not read and write about rocks?!  How come Pinkie's friends don't get that?!  She told them this!  They should know this!

But things get a bit more interesting with Rainbow Dash...

*sigh*  Really, Rainbow Dash?  Not into winning horrifies you?  Modesty horrifies you?!  What, you think life itself is a contest?!  Or you take life being a game when you sometimes win or lose too literally?!

So Pinkie's friends idiotically decide that they're not cut out to befriend Maud for whatever reason and they have to break the news to Pinkie.  And being Pinkie Pie, she takes it well.

God, I just don't get it!  Okay, I can understand that Maud appears to be dull and unmotivated and turns out not to meet the expectations of Pinkie's friends.  And it seems normal that only Pinkie is really happy in Maud's presence, though it's obviously a sisterly love.  But why did Pinkie's friends have to be horrible about it?  No, really!  I want an answer!  There's no reason they had to break it to her that way!  For the record, I don't really think they gave Maud a chance!  I don't think they ever considered that while on the outside, she identifies only with rocks because she worked on a fucking rock farm all her life, but on the inside, she's probably interested in being friends yet just doesn't outwardly show her emotions.  There are people like that in this world and friendship means being able to be willing to bond and identify with all kinds of people, not just the ones you call your closest friends.  Sometimes friendship doesn't necessarily mean having to have at least one or two things in common.  It's more about being there for each other, hanging out together, and having fun.

So Twilight was originally sent to Ponyville to learn about friendship to help save Equestria from certain doom, she makes five friends who become her so-called best friends, and they have their ups and downs as the series progresses.  But this is Season 4 and Twilight's a fucking princess now, so you think she and the others would have learned enough about friendship to at least consider making those rock candy necklaces even if their time with Maud wasn't the best they had because it would at least show that they're making conscious efforts and surely Maud would understand that they were at least trying.

So shit, forget Spike's absence being a problem with this episode, this is one of those episodes in which the Mane 6 themselves are the problem.  Come to think of it, this is actually the second time in Season 4 that Pinkie's friends gave her the once-over.  I just can't imagine why...

Wait a minute...  I think I got it...

I got it!  Yes!  I got it!  I understand now!  It all makes sense!  I know why Pinkie's friends weren't willing to befriend Maud Pie at first!  I figured it out!

They couldn't bond with Maud because they never fully understood Pinkie Pie.  Think about it!  In Season 1, there were three episodes alone in which Pinkie's friends never took her seriously until the lessons were learned.  You know, 'because it was Pinkie Pie who said it'.  So she was practically dissed when she tried to point out that she's not stupid and has her so-called best friends' interests at heart.  So if her 'so-called best friends' couldn't fully adapt to her lively, bubbly, cheery, yet goddamn sweet and lovable personality, there's no way in hell they thought they could be friends with her older sister, especially if her personality is practically a polar opposite of Pinkie.

I swear there are other western animated movies and TV shows that can pull off friendships better than the Mane 6 can ever hope to accomplish, and I mean besides the obvious Disney films.  Hell, I might just go back to The Land Before Time series because even though the main characters have a sort of bland way of showing their friendships with each other, at least it somehow comes out stronger and feels more built to last.

*sigh* So Pinkie's friends berate themselves for hurting Pinkie's feelings and understandably so...

As well you should.

...but Pinkie has one last trick up her sleeve.  She creates some kind of obstacle course from Double Dare that I guess is supposed to represent the group of seven, which is topped off with a large pile of rocks.  Pinkie says it's intended for sliding down, but I think the term 'rock slide' applies to rocks falling down.
So of course, Pinkie gets her hoof caught in the rocks and a large one is about to fall right on top of her.

Le gasp!  Pinkie Pie is trapped in a rock pile and a large boulder is about to crush her to death?!  And her logic-defying antics can't get her out of this one?!  It's a denizen in need!  This is a job for... Supermare!

So with Pinkie about to be steamrolled, since her friends do nothing but look at her, it's up to the gallant Maud Pie to save her.  But instead of racing right to the rock pile, she goes through the entire obstacle course first and then reaches the rock pile and saves Pinkie in her most epic performance in the entire episode.

Sweet Jesus, that was awesome!  Maud may be mostly stoic, but look at that physical strength!  First she heaves a rock and it goes flying for miles and then she cuts a giant boulder down to size!  She is without a doubt one awesome gal!  My God... I'm in love...  Let's see that again!

Unbelievable!  Fuck yeah... unbelievable!

Well certainly not that way, that's for sure.  Maud saw right through them all along and she could tell they just weren't getting emotionally invested.  Maybe Pinkie wouldn't have acted irrationally if certain friends of hers didn't warm up to her sister to begin with!  I swear, it should not have been hard!

So Pinkie and Maud decide to return to the rock farm for the rest of the week, but her good-for-nothing friends somehow show up before they do, despite probably not having even taken the train, and reveal that they made those rock candy necklaces after all, claiming that the one thing they have in common with Maud is their love for Pinkie.  I swear, this shit is all just made up to give these episodes goddamn plots that just keep forcing down our throats that no friendship is perfect and amends are always being made.  These plots can be made without giving us the impression that the Mane 6 keep forgetting their own friendship lessons time and time again!  How in the blazes could Pinkie's friends not notice that her happiness was what should have counted for something instead of thinking about themselves?!  What, was it because Maud doesn't show her enthusiasm for things quite in the same way her sister does?

Bunch of suck-ups...

And finally, we learn that Maud never eats any of Pinkie's necklaces, which I'm sure Pinkie knows, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right?
It's like making something out of candy and then not eating it, so the candy becomes inedible eventually.  And shit, how the hell do they trade necklaces as part of their tradition if they get eaten?  But there's a good reason Maud doesn't eat the necklaces.

My God...  Did Maud just... smile?

Wow...  And that, my friends, is another fictional character to add to the list of those who say "I don't always smile, but when I do, it's a fucking nice smile!"

And that was "Maud Pie".  It was somewhat good, I guess, but Pinkie's friends were just disappointing on so many levels.  Last I checked, this isn't a series of standalone episodes, so you think the staff could at least try to keep track of everything they've ever done so far.  I know that would just make it harder to come up with new plots, but as I pointed out in my "Pinkie Pride" review, it is doable without having to make these characters complete doofuses.  Phineas and Ferb pulls it off well enough with only a few flaws.  Granted the two most awesome moments in the episode were when Maud Pie demonstrated her remarkable physical strength by throwing a rock and chopping through rocks, you think that even if only Pinkie is happy that her sister is visiting, that alone would have been good enough for her friends.  But no, they just had to turn her down flat because they felt that they couldn't bond with Maud because she was somewhat... stoic.

Again, friendship is magic, people.  Friendship is magic.

Oh well.  With that said, it's on to the next episode.  These reviews sure as hell won't get done by themselves.