WARNING: EPISODE REVIEWS AND PLOT SUMMARIES WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS!
Episode 1 and 2: Friendship is Magic, parts 1 and 2
When I first got introduced to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a friend I met in an art class recommended it. I had never liked MLP before, nor had I ever been much for the toys as a kid (I had toy horses but I preferred the more realistic-looking ones). For me, MLP was something too sugary for me even as a kid, so I wondered how could I possibly get into it now?
However, eventually I gave in and gave My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic a chance, starting with this epic two-part episode. It was amazing to me, and very unlike what I'd expected based on my previously prejudiced perception of the franchise.
This episode starts off following Twilight Sparkle, a dedicated student who reads a book foretelling the return of a 1000-year dormant evil named Nightmare Moon. Legend has it that Princess Celestia, the mare who currently rules Equestria and the sun, had a sister who once ruled over the moon. Initially the sisters worked together in harmony to create day and night. But Princess Luna, the princess of the night, became jealous that ponies played during the day but slept during her night. This resentment became bitter hatred, turning Luna into an evil mare known as Nightmare Moon. When she became evil, she was banished to the moon by Princess Celestia, who used artifacts of great power called the Elements of Harmony to accomplish this.
Twilight reads to her horror that today is the day Nightmare Moon is said to return. She has her baby dragon assistant, Spike, send a letter to the Princess to warn her. Celestia returns with an unexpected response: There is more to a young ponies life than studying, and she tells Twilight to make some friends.
Twilight travels from the opulent, sophisticated capital of Equestria, Canterlot, to Ponyville, a kind of quaint small town, to check on the preparations for the summer sun festival. That's how she becomes acquainted with five ponies who are destined to become her friends, even though at first she isn't interested in befriending anypony, being still more than a little freaked out by the whole prophesy thing.
A rundown of the friends she meets in Ponyville: First, she meets Apple Jack, an apple farmer earth pony who is supposed to be in charge of food. Apple Jack, it turns out, is having a big family reunion, so Twilight is begged to stay and eat with them even though she really just wants to check off everything on her list and go home and study more about Nightmare Moon and the Elements of Harmony.
She then bumps into Rainbow Dash, the pegasus pony in charge of keeping the sky clear. Rainbow Dash is an impressive flyer, but some of the wind she kicks up to dry twilight off when she knocked her accidentally into a mud puddle messes up her mane. But Twilight, diligent as ever, moves on to see a unicorn named Rarity who will be in charge of decorations.
At once, the fashionista Rarity demands that Twilight let her fix her mane, and Twilight obliges reluctantly. Rarity seems to delight in dressing Twilight up in a variety of outfits while listening to her talk about Canterlot. Spike develops an obvious crush on Rarity. Twilight flees "before she decides to dye my coat a new color!".
And then she's off to check on a pegasus named Fluttershy, who is training a choir of birds to sing for the celebration. At first, Fluttershy is well, shy, too shy to even introduce herself. But as an animal lover, she goes totally gaga over Spike, since she's never seen a baby dragon before, much less one that could talk.
However, once again Twilight cuts the time spent with her new acquaintance short rather rudely, returning to the sanctuary of her quiet library to study. FInally.
Except it's anything but quiet, since a pink earth pony named Pinkie Pie decided to throw Twilight a party to welcome her to Ponyville. Pinkie Pie says she knows everyone in Ponyville, so she knew right away that Twilight was new and didn't have any friends. So every pony in Ponyville is whooping it up in Twilight's house, but her focus is still only on studying. She considers "friend-making" a ridiculous distraction, considering she's sure that she must learn more about the prophesied return of Nightmare Moon to know how to stop it.
However, at Spike's insistence, she rejoins the party and goes to the Sunset Sun celebration. Except Princess Celestia isn't there, and Nightmare Moon has returned! Twilight is the only one in Ponyville who knows the legend and understands who Nightmare Moon is.
The "mane 5" show up at Twilight's house, and when Pinkie finds the book she was looking for on the Elements of Harmony, Twilight finds out that she has to venture into the dark, spooky Everfree Forest to find and confront Nightmare Moon. Even though she wants to go it alone, the other five insist on accompanying her on this mission.
They venture through the spooky forest, and each of the "mane 5" go help the others out in ways that demonstrate that they represent one of the 6 elements of harmony (the sixth being a mystery). Pinkie Pie is Laughter, Rarity is Generosity, Fluttershy is Kindness, Apple Jack is Loyalty, and Rainbow Dash is Loyalty. When Twilight realizes that the elements are inside each and every one of them, the 6th awakens within her, the element of Magic. Using the 6 Elements, they defeat Nightmare Moon, turning her into an apologetic, good Princess Luna.
It's less like previous editions of MLP and more like a fantasy story. It introduces the main character's personalities and relationships with each other. It also gives a plausible reason for six ponies who are so unalike to become friends.
I also like that they have a bookish, introverted main character as a protagonist. Twilight Sparkle is really interesting from the start, because she's more interested in studying than friends and reluctant to socialize. Being able to relate to her, even if I thought she was a bit rude in the first episode, was something that drew me in initially.
This two-parter episode was dramatic and manages to get the viewer emotionally invested right from the start.
A youtube user by the name of bronycurious pointed out a few minor problems with the Nightmare Moon story arc. For one, why does Twilight act surprised to learn at the end that Princess Luna and Princess Celestia are sisters, when the first episode begins with her reading a book that explicitly states as much? Bronycurious also thinks that the adventures in the Everfree forest are unnecessary because when Twilight checks off the five elements, it becomes obvious to the viewer that the five friends assembled each represent an element. It's foreshadowing, but I don't think that makes the bulk of episode 2 unnecessary. I liked seeing how the five girls proved that they represented the elements by overcoming a test of character. Simply being designated as such would have not gone far enough.
Episode 3: The Ticket Master
Twilight Sparkle receives two tickets to a formal dance in Canterlot called the Grand Galloping Gala. All of her new-found friends want the extra ticket badly, and Twilight just can't decide who to take. This is taken up to eleven when every pony in Ponyville finds out about the ticket and hounds Twilight relentlessly. However, her friends eventually apologize for making her feel bad. She tells Celestia that if all six of her friends can't go, she won't go, and so she sends back the tickets. Celestia sends back six tickets to the Gala, plus one for Spike, so they can all go.
This episode basically continues teaching the audience about the main characters. When it comes to the Gala, each one's reason for wanting to go says a lot about their personality and what motivates them in life. Apple Jack wants to go to sell apples and raise money for the Apple Farm, Pinkie Pie wants to party, Rarity wants to meet Prince Blueblood, Celestia's nephew, Rainbow Dash wants to meet her idols The Wonderbolts, and Fluttershy wants to see the gardens and the birds. This is a great episode when it comes to being able to quickly introduce the main characters in more depth than we've had from the first two episodes.
Considering that Celestia was friggin' there and saw that Twilight made FIVE friends, the whole plot of this could have been easily avoided. However, I think that Celestia did this deliberately to test the mane six's friendship. Celestia is just that kind of mentor.
Episode 4: Applebuck Season
Ah an episode about the dangers of alcohol. Tiredness! THIS EPISODE IS NOT ABOUT APPLEJACK BEING DRUNK BUT RATHER TIRED FROM SELF-IMPOSED OVERWORK!
Yeah, and because of said tiredness, she kind of ends up acting... a little funny.
Apple Jack is a hard-working farmer. When her brother, Big Macintosh, is injured and can't work, she realizes it's up to her to harvest all the apples on her family orchard, Sweet Apple Acres, herself. This proves to be a bigger job than she can handle, but she refuses to accept help from Twilight. Eventually, tiredness forces her to give in though, and all her friends are happy to help her out.
Sometimes, as a kid, I had problems with this myself. I was very independent, and I did tend to hate asking others for help. However, growing up means learning that that's what friends are for, and sometimes you really will need to be able to ask for someone to help instead of driving yourself crazy trying to do too much yourself.
Apple Jack also, despite the harvest, agrees to help her friends with a lot of things. This carries with it the message that you shouldn't be afraid to say 'no' if you're taking on more responsibility than you can handle just because you just want to not disappoint anyone.
Couldn't think of anything, so just enjoy this video:
Episode 5: Griffon the Brush-Off
This episode introduces Gilda, a Griffon, who used to be friends with Rainbow Dash back in Cloudsdale, a pegasus city. Pinkie Pie wants to spend time playing pranks on other ponies with Rainbow Dash but Gilda wants to get away from her and have Rainbow all to herself. Gilda is a typical bully.
At first, Pinkie Pie wonders if her anger towards Gilda is just jealousy, and thinks maybe it's ok for Rainbow Dash to want to spend time with someone else. However, she witnesses Gilda stealing from an applecart and yelling at Fluttershy, making her cry.
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie then throw a party for Gilda, and she stumbles onto prank after prank. She accuses Pinkie Pie of setting this up to bully her, but then Rainbow Dash admits that she set up all the pranks, and that it wasn't her intention for Gilda to walk into all of them. Due to Gilda's angry, aggressive nature though, she is still incredibly insulted, and tells Rainbow Dash to leave with her, making her choose between her pony friends and GIlda.
Unsurprisingly, Rainbow Dash remains loyal to her Ponyville friends and stands up for them even when Gilda calls them names.
It's a lesson about knowing when a prank is all in good fun and when your jokes could be mean and hurtful. It's also about deciding where your loyalty lies between two friends who don't get along, which is a real problem a lot of people face.
Gilda, is, in my opinion, at least a little sympathetic, since she was humiliated at the party. This is part of the complexity and subtlety with which the writers of the show work. She could have been a less sympathetic bully character, but the writers also made sure that her side of the story was explained as well. But that almost makes Pinkie and Rainbow look kind of like jerks. However, I think that the realistic complexity of this conflict makes it still a good episode.
Episode 6: Boast Busters
Twilight is explaining to Spike that most unicorns have magic that matches their special talent, but some exceptional unicorns might have magic as their talent.
Then they stumble into a crowd that's gathered to see one such performing magical unicorn, who styles herself as the Great and Powerful Trixie. When the mane five challenge her onstage, she is capable of putting them in their place. However, her boast that she vanquished a beast known as an Ursa Major comes back to bite her when two of her admirers, Snips and Snails, go to the Everfree Forest and let one loose in Ponyville.
Twilight, who was reluctant to show off at Trixie's show, steps up to the plate to save the town. She says that it's not an Ursa Major, but an Ursa Minor, and points out that it's simply cranky because it was woken up. She then uses her magic to levitate it, give it a gigantic baby bottle, and send it back to bed.
Trixie is humiliated and doesn't show her face (or her magic) in Ponyville for a couple of seasons.
Trixie is an interesting, complex character. This is probably why she's inspired so much fan-made content despite being in only two episodes. How sympathetic she is is the subject of much debate. However, she's basically a performer who dreams of fame, and that's something some people relate to. I also like that it wasn't her that brought the Ursa to Ponyville, it was just two dumb kids who basically were too naïve to know that traveling magicians lie about as much as politicians.
So the real moral of this story isn't necessarily that boasting is wrong, but that you should take some people's boasting at a grain of salt. I like how they had this topic that shows up in many kid's shows and handled it more subtly, with a more multifaceted villain character, than other shows have.
I also liked that Twilight vanquishes the Ursa Minor using her strength; information. Ultimately the town is saved because of Twilight's knowledge.
The main problem here is obviously having a villain that is so sympathetic. Again, it kind of makes the mane 6 look like jerks for heckling Trixie and interrupting her show by showing off their own tricks, when if they were offended by her they could have simply walked away. I liked Twilight's reluctance to show off, since Twilight realizes that two wrongs don't make a right. And basically, Trixie by herself wasn't actually harming anyone, her arrogance was just annoying to the mane 6.
Episode 7: Dragonshy
I LOVE this episode!
A dragon decides to nap in a cave on a mountain near Ponyville, and Twilight and her friends are tasked with convincing him to go nap somewhere else. Fluttershy is the most reluctant member of the group, and the others have to drag her along. However, it proves to be her knack with animals that makes her the only one who can actually get the dragon to listen.
A very defining episode for Fluttershy's character, like "Apple Bucking Season" was for Apple Jack. It reveals her biggest flaws as well as her greatest strength. For me, Fluttershy is endearing in this episode. It reminds me of when I was 12 and I went on a group trip to Six Flags, and was the only one who was afraid to go on the roller coasters.
As much as this episode is about facing fear, it's also about the other five realizing that they needed to value Fluttershy for her strengths, even if her weaknesses held them back a bit. It's about realizing that everyone can contribute something meaningful despite appearing to be too timid or useless.
I don't know. It is kind of weird in the beginning that only Fluttershy and Twilight noticed or cared about the smoke. Is every pony on drugs?
Episode 8: Look Before You Sleep
Caught in a rainstorm, Apple Jack and Rarity flee to Twilight's house,and their host intends for them to do slumber party activities "by the book". The main conflict in this episode is due to the personality differences between Apple Jack and Rarity. It also deals with Twilight's insistence that following instructions in a book is the key to fun.
The conflict escalates when Apple Jack accidentally wrangles the top of a tree into Twilight's window. Apple Jack and Rarity have to resolve their differences and work together to remove the tree, and doing so brings them closer together.
At least it shows maturity by showing that diametrically opposed personalities don't necessarily warm up to each other right away. Rarity and Apple Jack have very different backgrounds and interests, and I think this episode does a good job showing how that can create tension.
This is ultimately what good friendship, and every good relationship, is about, not being the same in every way, but learning to appreciate and care about the other person despite personality differences.
When I first watched the series, this episode made me absolutely hate Rarity. Her main character-establishing episode is about what a fussy, neat-freak, elitist snob she is. It isn't until later episodes, especially "A Dog and Pony Show", showcase her strengths that I begun to see her as less of a one-dimensional snobby bitch queen character.
Twilight isn't all that sympathetic in this episode either, it comes off as downright weird that she insists of following this stupid book, and this episode really highlights/exaggerates her social awkwardness.
Thank goodness this is just a parody, not from the actual episode. Visit www.sherclop.com for more.
Episode 9: Bridle Gossip
This episode introduces Zecora, a zebra. Pinkie Pie is paranoid and has convinced all the other ponies that Zecora is evil, and Twilight finds all the ponies hiding out at her house, including Apple Bloom, Apple Jack's little sister.
Mostly, ponies are afraid of her because she lives in the Everfree Forest and only comes into Ponyville once a month, but all she does when she's there is dig in the ground. No pony trusts her, but Twilight and Apple Bloom want to investigate to find out more about her.
When Apple Bloom ventures out into the Everfree Forest, the mane 6 go there and force her to come back. Zecora says "beware, beware"
And the next day, sure enough, all of them appear to be afflicted with some sort of curse. Rarity's hair is all dreadlock-y, Apple Jack is tiny, Twilight's horn is floppy, Pinkie Pie has an enlarged tongue, Rainbow Dash's wings are backwards, and Fluttershy has a hilariously deep voice. So they go to confront Zecora, convinced that she's evil.
It turns out, the "curses" are simply the result of the fact that they all trod on a plant called "poison joke". The "evil brew" she appeared to making was an herbal brew that was supposed to be a remedy for the "poison joke".
Twilight and the others learn an important lesson about judging a book by it's cover.
Zecora is a cool character. Plus, they were able to use the "don't judge people by how they look", a common Aesop especially in children's entertainment, in a new and creative way. That's not something a lot of cartoons can do well.
I wish Zecora had been in more episodes. It's especially funny because she speaks in rhyme.
Episode 10: Swarm of the Century
Fluttershy is just bopping along when she encounters a cute fly-like creature called a Parasprite, but they turn out to be ridiculously fertile creatures. They soon multiply beyond all control and wreck Ponyville. Pinkie Pie knows how to stop them, but no one listens to her. She gathers up loads of musical instruments and puts together a one-pony band, creating music that lures them all away.
Definitely a lesson about how the others should have listened to Pinkie Pie. I liked that it showed that Pinkie Pie is occasionally very capable and knowledgeable, even when she's often dismissed as clownish.
It's also a lesson about good communication.
The whole plot could have been avoided by simply Pinkie explaining herself better, so this isn't really my favorite episode.
Episode 11: Winter Wrap-Up
Winter is over, and this is accomplished in Ponyville not by the Earth's revolutions around the Sun or anything silly like that. Instead, teams of ponies clear the snow, plant seeds, welcome home the summer birds, and clear the skies to bring in the sun. All in a day, called "winter wrap-up". Since Ponyville was founded by earth ponies, the use of magic by unicorns is forbidden (but for some reason the pegasus are allowed to fly anyway).
So Twilight, as a newcomer whose primary talent is magic, has no idea how to help out. She tries to help all her friends with their various assigned tasks, but isn't very useful for anything. However, when ponies start arguing in the town square, she realizes she can be useful in coordinating the activities of others and helping solve conflicts.
So, kids, if you're not good at anything else, be a bureaucrat!
I thought it was interesting at first to see what Twilight would do in a situation where she wasn't allowed to use her magic. It also shows some of the difficulty adjusting that happens whenever someone moves to a new town. And I liked the "Winter Wrap-Up" song, which is included below.
The thing is, Twilight can't do much without magic. Also, from a cynical adult standpoint, this is basically saying "those who can't do, manage".
Winter Wrap Up Song
Episode 12: Call of the Cutie
The first episode featuring the Cutie Mark Crusaders, consisting of Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle (Rarity's little sister) and Scootaloo, a pegasus filly.
A "cutie mark" is a mark that appears on the flank of a young pony when they discover their special talent, what it is that makes them unique and what they're meant to do with their lives. When it seems like she's the only filly in her class without a cutie mark, Apple Bloom is disheartened. However, she finds friendship with two other girls who also don't have their cutie marks yet, and they form a club dedicated to trying to discover their talents, called the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
They have trouble finding their special talents, but Twilight Sparkle helps remind them that it's ok and they don't have to rush to prove themselves, finding out who you are takes time.
These characters are great, and the school bullying stuff they deal with was something I could relate to.
You're left wondering if they'd stop being friends once one of them got her cutie mark. Plus, they don't exactly remember the moral of this episode in later ones, and letting these things just unfold naturally is not how they want to do it, even though that is how the cutie mark thing is supposed to happen.
Episode 13: Fall Weather Friends
Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash get into a series of contests to see who between them is the better athlete. They ask Twilight to be the judge. Lots of earth ponies and pegasi show up to root for Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash respectively.
Who will win, racehorse or workhorse?
However, to win several events, Rainbow ends up using her wings, which isn't fair to Apple Jack. Apple Jack calls her out on this, and they agree to go head to head (without the unfair advantage of pegasus wings) the next day in an annual marathon-like race called the Running of the Leaves. The idea being that the ponies run in order to shake up the ground enough to make the fall leaves fall. (Yeah, but it was just spring two episodes ago?)
So Rainbow Dash, wings tied, prepares to race Apple Jack. Twilight enters the race too, just for fun. What I like is that her race number happens to be 42. Pinkie Pie and Spike announce the race from Pinkie's balloon.
The race becomes heated as the two top competitors try various cartoony ways to sabotage each other. It ends with the two of them fighting each other in the final dash to the finish line. Their fighting lets all the other racers get ahead of them though, so they end up tying for last. Twilight comes in 5th, saying that she paced herself instead of being so competitively driven, and that 5th is pretty good considering it was her first race.
A lot of kids, and adults, like to be competitive, so the story is relate-able to many people.
I personally thought this episode was a bit predictable and dull. At least, maybe I thought it was dull because I'm not an athlete. And when it comes to figuring out the characters, I care more about personality issues than about which ones would beat the others in a race. There's not much at stake in the race, it's just about them wanting to be better than the other. That's why I felt like this episode kind of falls flat.
Episode 14: Suited For Success
Rarity agrees to make dresses for the mane 5 for the Grand Galloping Gala, but their unreasonable demands lead her to create them in a way that makes them end up very different from her original vision. When an important fashion designer, Hoity Toity, shows up, she decides to showcase her gowns for him in a fashion show, using her friends as models. Of course this ends badly, because the new versions of the gowns are terrible, since they were made with too much consideration given to the friends' suggestions. But when she gets a second chance and is able to showcase her original designs to Hoity, he loves them.
This episode has a great, great, great song, "The Art of the Dress", which is really a metaphor for all creative work, with deadlines, pressure, and demanding clients. Rarity's singing voice is also quite amazing, even though I have mixed feelings about Rarity as a character. This is also the first appearance of famous background pony DJ Pon3, also known as VInyl Scratch, a DJ unicorn with sunglasses and spiked blue hair. This is also the origin of Rainbow Dash uttering the famous phrase "it needs to be about 20% cooler". This episode is well-written, interesting, and has great lines, like:
Rarity: Leave me alone! I vant to be alone! I want to wallow in... whatever it is that ponies are supposed to wallow in! ...Do ponies wallow in pity?... Oh, listen to me! I don't even know what I'm supposed to wallow in! I'm so pathetiiic!
Other than being an episode where Rarity is right and everyone else is a jerk because that is demanded by the plot, not much.
"The Art of the Dress"
Episode 15: Feeling Pinkie Keen
Twilight Sparkle is testing a new spell on Spike whe n she observes Pinkie Pie acting strangely. More strangely than usual. Pinkie explains that her twitching tail means her "Pinkie sense" is telling her that stuff is about to fall. And then a frog falls on Twilight's head. Turns out, Fluttershy was flying over with a cartload of them.
Twilight Sparkle, of course, dismisses this whole "Pinkie sense" thing as a mere coincidence. But then, Pinkie Pie's tail twitches again, and again something falls, Twilight, into a ditch. Then Twilight comes across Apple Jack and finds out she also believes in Pinkie sense. And Pinkie sense predicts, again accurately, that Twilight is going to get splattered with mud. So then Pinkie gets a bath for Twilight going at her place.
That's when this episode introduces, Gummy, Pinkie Pie's toothless pet alligator. Pinkie also explains more about how "Pinkie sense" works, she gets various sensations in different body parts that predict different things. Twilight, echoing my reaction to this episode, yells "It makes no sense at all!"
Pinkie's reply (oy) "You don't believe because you don't understand."
At this point, I'd like to say, belief in Pinkie sense, since it is something real, is not the same as belief in any areas of the supernatural in the real world. At this point, enough observations can be made that point to Pinkie sense being able to predict things with 100% accuracy. The fact that it happens doesn't require belief, it happens anyway. Sit down with any New Ager, or Bible thumper, and what do they have in common? They will both admit that no one knows the future with 100% accuracy when measured by a disinterested, rational observer. They will also both tell you that in order for their crystals, tarot cards, runes, or magical crackers and juice to work, some modicum of faith, commitment, or belief is required. So this "Pinkie sense", if it's meant to be an analogy to some lesson about faith/belief in the real world, is already a false one.
So back to the episode. The conflict between Twilight's observation-based rationality and Pinkie Pie's belief in superstitious sooth-saying escalates when Twilight gets a bafflingly insane idea to study Pinkie sense by strapping Pinkie to a scary looking brain scanner machine that sort of looks like a perm machine you'd find at a hair-dresser's. This is a very stupid misrepresentation of science, in my opinion. The side of rationality isn't exactly treated fairly in this episode.
So, Pinkie's strapped into this torture-y science contraption, but doesn't get any Pinkie sense twitches. This frustrates Twilight, and Pinkie responds "sometimes, you just have to believe in things, even when you can't figure them out!" Ok, let's apply that to everything. Buddhism, the Loch Ness Monster, Astrology, Psychics, Alien conspiracies, Islam, etc.?!?! IF I CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT I JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE IN IT THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION ok, ok, I'm cooling down. Did I mention I didn't want to review this episode?
Anyway, the lab experiment failed (mostly because, well the things observed by Pinkie sense aren't things that can happen when Pinkie is strapped down in a basement, such as having a door slam on someone). Twilight is still determined to understand the phenomenon of "Pinkie sense". But if she were any kind of scientist at all she would have known that the best place to study it was in field observations, not lab experiments, in the first place. But I digress.
She gets to where she follows Pinkie around in the bushes with binoculars. Because simply asking "hey Pinkie can I observe you with this clip board" is not how field anthropologists (or pony-ologists?) operate in Equestria, or Twilight, for the purposes of cramming a message of faith down our throats for this episode, is actually a terrible scientist. Or people who make cartoons don't know much about how scientific research is conducted. IDK. Anyway, they're once again portraying science not just as bad or wrong, but showing an inaccurate representation of it to prove a point. Basically, we've established that this episode exists to knock down a straw Vulcan, namely, Twilight.
So she goes on doing bad "scientific research", and get attacked when Pinkie's itchy nose predicts a swarm of bees coming. Then she falls in a basement when Pinkie's "combo" predicts "beware opening doors", and Twilight falls down a set of cellar stairs. Then, despite bad injuries, she persists, but then a pegasi-powered moving truck accidentally drops an anvil, some hay, and a piano on her, stuff that should kill most any pony (but obviously this is just Looney-Tunes style physical comedy). Then she finds out that Pinkie Pie knew Twilight Sparkle was following her all day all along.
And then Pinkie Pie gets a new "Pinkie sense" twitch she's never experienced before, her entire body shuddering. Ok, and Twilight remains skeptical when Pinkie Pie says this means something's about to happen at Froggy Bottom Bog, where Fluttershy was transporting some frogs. WHY THE HELL IS TWILIGHT STILL SKEPTICAL AFTER GETTING PUMMELED ALMOST TO DEATH WITH OBJECTS FROM ABOVE well because this episode makes absolutely no sense!
So anyway, she follows Pinkie and AJ to the pond, saying "I just want to see the look on Pinkie's face when she finds out nothing's wrong." Head desk. Anyway, of course they find Fluttershy unharmed, but then it turns out that a hydra monster in the bog was the real reason for the Pinkie sense.
So the four-headed monster scares the crap out of Pinkie, Twilight, Spike, AJ, and Fluttershy and they dash out of the bog, the hydra chasing them. As they run from the hydra, Pinkie gets another shudder.
Twilight ends up confronting the hydra to distract it so the others can jump to safety. Then Pinkie, who keeps having shudders as if they were hiccups, yells at her that she has to take an impossibly long-seeming jump to safety, and tells Twilight that she'll be ok. So ugh, Twilight has to take a, dare I say it, leap of faith. They even call it as much.
When Twilight gets across the chasm safely, albeit with yet more head trauma (which might explain the final "lesson" of this episode), Pinkie Pie explains that the hydra wasn't the thing that her shudders have been predicting, because she's still getting the shudders. Since there's still a few minutes left before they can end the episode, probably.
It turns out, Twilight Sparkle admitting that she believed in Pinkie sense turned out to be the "doozy" the shudders were predicting, because she stopped having them when Twilight gave up, probably from a combination of stress and head trauma, and said "just because I don't understand it doesn't mean it's not true!".
So then she gives the following as the lesson "I am happy to report that there are wonderful things in this world you just can't explain, but that doesn't necessarily make them any less true. It just means you have to choose to believe in them. And sometimes, it takes a friend to show you the way." I'm just glad to know she's not talking about Scientology or the 9/11 truth movement. Hear that kids? You must suspend all rational tendencies, critical thinking, and skepticism because this horse was psychic in a fictional universe! Checkmate, atheists!
Well the hydra is a cool monster, it introduces Gummy, and it has Derpy Hooves, a favorite background character among the fans. I also like that it shows more character depth for Pinkie Pie, who is often not taken seriously (like in Swarm of the Century) by other ponies. If it has a good message to it, it's that sometimes what your friends tell you might seem silly, but actually could be right, so you need to value input from people and listen to what they have to say.
I think I've pretty much said everything I wanted to say about why this is probably my least favorite of season 1, if not my least favorite MLP episode ever.
Episode 16: Sonic Rainboom
When she was a filly, Rainbow Dash was the only pegasus in Cloudsdale who could do her signature move, the sonic rainboom (A sonic boom that produces a rainbow effect in the sky, go figure). When she decides to compete in the Best Young Flyer competition back home, she wishes there was some way her non-pegasus friends could come see her (and be a better cheering section than the gentle, soft-spoken Fluttershy).
At first, Twilight devises a spell that gives Rarity butterfly wings. However, the animators must have thought that was too expensive, so they give all the other ponies in the group a hot air balloon and some kind of anti-gravity spell thing. So they tour Cloudsdale and all is going well, they even taste rainbow... fluid...stuff.
But of course, Rarity in her drag-queen-esque fabulosity flies too close to the sun, destroying her beautiful butterfly wings. So Rainbow Dash saves her, and wouldn't you know it, does the sonic rainboom trick she couldn't manage before that.
This is the first time the viewer gets to see much of Cloudsdale, and it is quite impressive. Plus it's very amazing when Rainbow Dash manages to save Rarity as she plummets to her doom. I wasn't rooting for the doom, or anything! *whistles*
Outfits like this. Ouch.
Episode 17: Stare Master
Fluttershy ends up babysitting the Cutie Mark Crusaders since they all want to have a sleepover and Rarity is too busy. Fluttershy realizes quickly that being good with animals is not the same as being good with kids.
When she tries to put them to bed, Sweetie Belle sings a loud, jazzie version of the lullaby Fluttershy is singing, which stirs up Fluttershy's chickens. They then sneak out after being tucked in to bed and decide to go adventuring in the Everfree forest, looking for one chicken who escaped.
When Fluttershy discovers the girls are missing, she follows them into the Everfree Forest. There, she discovers to her horror that Twilight has been turned into stone.
She flies ahead after the girls to warn them that this means there's a cockatrice on the loose. Fluttershy, in a crowning moment of awesome, is able to stare down and intimidate the petrifying monster into turning Twilight and the chicken back. Fluttershy thus earns the respect of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and they behave so well for her that her babysitting skills impress Rarity the next morning.
It's, like I said, a crowning moment of awesome for Fluttershy. It's also a good episode for the Cutie Mark Crusaders. It's the episode where Apple Bloom calls Scootaloo a chicken, a nickname for her that has stuck with the fandom and become memetic.
The spotlight seems contested in this episode. It's hard to tell if they wanted to make this a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode or a Fluttershy episode. It also seems weird that Fluttershy has varying levels of strength and assertiveness depending on the episode.
In this episode, she faces down a cockatrice, in Dragonshy, a dragon, and in the second episode of the series, dealing with a manticore was a character-establishing moment. However, in a later episode, she's so unassertive she still decides to take this assertiveness seminar. And in "Griphon the Brush-off", Gilda's bullying is able to make her cry. What gives?
My theory is that Fluttershy is strong when dealing with non-sapient creatures, but insecure when dealing with sapient ones, possibly because of a traumatic bullying period from her childhood.
Episode 18: The Show Stoppers
Apple Jack gives the Cutie Mark Crusaders a clubhouse that needs some work, since it was hers when she was little. Apple Bloom fixes it up and re-paints it.
Brief scenes in this episode seem to indicate the cutie mark talents the girls have; Sweetie Belle is a singer, Scootaloo is an extreme athlete, and Apple Bloom's talent is flipping houses.
Though these talents are obvious to the audience, they are not to the girls themselves. They try a series of silly things like doing pony's hair and trying to see if they have psychic powers. With no luck at anything they attempt, they decide to be in their school's talent show.
However, instead of performing based on their natural talents, they all chose duties that put them out of their element; Scootaloo singing instead of Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom doing the choreography, and Sweetie Belle doing the costumes and scenery because she wants to be like her big sister, a fashion designer.
Predictably, this turns into a bit of a mess. Apple Bloom is the one with the design flair, Sweetie Belle is the best with music, and Scootaloo is the best at choreography and dancing (but not necessarily writing song lyrics). So they learn a lesson that is basically what Twilight was telling them all along; to get a cutie mark you have to do what you already like to do or are good at.
But they turn out to be oblivious to the obvious lesson, instead thinking that since their performance made every pony laugh that their true talent must be comedy.
It's a cute episode, with a lot of good humor. Most people can relate, probably, to being just as overeager to grow up and just as clueless about how to do so, as the CMC's.
It's a somewhat dull episode. Another problem I have with the Cutie Mark Crusaders' episodes is that since humans obviously don't have cutie marks, they're something of a Space Whale Aesop. That is, they teach a lesson that doesn't make such a great transition into real life. This can often be a problem in many fantasy stories, so MLP is no exception.
Episode 19: A Dog and Pony Show
Rarity uses gems in her dress-making. When a very important client, Sapphire Shores, requests 6 gem-studded costumes for her concerts (she's apparently a famous singer), she wonders how she'll ever find enough to fill the star's order.
She enlists the help of Spike and goes out with a little red wagon to dig up gems. Luckily, finding them in rocks is one of her magical abilities. The dig is going well until some mean troll-like dogs called the Diamond dogs spot the pair from the bushes. They're able to make her gem-finding magical horn lead right to one of their collars.
Spike and Rarity end up in a tussle with the three of them, who grab Rarity. Spike then runs off to get the other mane ponies to help. However, the Diamond Dogs seem adept at thwarting attempts to enter their underground caverns. What's interesting here is that everyone imagines that Rarity is a typical damsel in distress whom they need to rescue, especially Spike.
The 5 plus Spike make their way into the tunnels, but they prove to be vast and labyrinthine. Spike figures that by Twilight imitating Rarity's gem-finding spell, they can find the path with the most gems, which should lead to the dogs.
Rarity, however, is not so helpless. She begins when they ask her to dig for gems. She starts digging in a comically girly fashion, digging just tiny amounts out of time. In doing so, she tricks them into making the Dogs' minions do the digging instead.
They then decide to put a harness on her to make her pull their gem cart. She responds by insulting them, which isn't exactly hard. She proceeds to do her job while complaining, making herself a huge nuisance. Eventually, the Dogs can't abide her whining anymore, and she's able to make them give her the royal treatment (or what passes for it in a dank cave) while they do the gem-digging themselves.
However, their leader soon gets fed up with this and goes back to making Rarity pull the wagon. He hits her on the behind and calls her a mule. She responds by crying, in that trademark Rarity over-the-top fashion. So when the girls and Spike bust in to save Rarity, the Dogs are actually begging for them to take her back.
And of course, Rarity gets to make off with all the gems she helped find.
It gives a good lesson about not assuming that someone is weak just because they're feminine. I like that this episode makes a bold stand against the traditional "damsel in distress" cliché.
It's also good because, while Rarity is seen acting like a stereotype in some previous episodes, here she is seen as defying the other ponies' preconceived ideas about her. That's awesome.
Seriously, I got nothing. I loved this episode.
Dog and Pony Show: Rarity's Whining
Episode 20: Green Isn't Your Color
When a fashion photographer named Photo Finish takes an interest in Rarity's dresses, it marks an important development in Rarity's career. She asks Fluttershy to model the dresses, and even though she's uncomfortable in the spotlight, she says yes because she knows how important this would be to Rarity.
Basically, what happens is that Fluttershy's popularity as a model takes off instantly. Rarity is supportive, but secretly very envious of her success. She's also very let down by being dismissed by Photo Finish. Fluttershy pretends to be happy being a model, but secretly hates modeling and is only doing it because she thinks it'll make Rarity happy. Twilight knows how both of them secretly feel, but has promised each she wouldn't tell the other. She's tempted to spill the beans but Pinkie Pie reminds her that a promise is a promise.
What this conflict basically deals with is the differences between how introverts and extroverts view popularity. For Rarity, popularity is everything, and being ignored sends her into melodramatic fits. For Fluttershy, it's just the opposite; gaining lots of attention, and not having any private time or space, is Fluttershy's personal hell.
This is why Fluttershy hates modeling, even though Rarity thinks Fluttershy loves it. When they finally get the courage to tell each other what they really think, Fluttershy also gets the courage to tell Photo Finish she's quitting modeling.
The story is very applicable to real life, since like I said it's about the differences between extroverts and introverts. It's a complicated lesson about what it's really like to have friends whose personality is different than yours, and how that can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.
What's mainly funny in this is how Spike thinks his crush on Rarity is a secret.
Episode 21: Over a Barrel
The mane 6 plus Spike visit Appleloosa, a town where Apple Jack's cousin Raeburn and a bunch of ponies are settling the land and growing an apple orchard. But the settler ponies are having a tough time since they're clashing with the native buffalo, who demand that the orchard land be cleared because it's part of their traditional stampeding grounds.
The mane 6 end up being caught in the conflict, and try to find a way to get the chief of the buffalo to come to a peaceful compromise with Raeburn, even as their hostility escalates.
I like that it showed Pinkie Pie's song not solving everything instantly, despite her good intentions. In many shows like this, kiddie songs about caring are what save the day, but in this, they deliberately chose not to take the easy way out when it came to resolving the conflict. That shows maturity on the part of the writers. It was also great in showing the conflict as balanced, with neither side being completely right or completely wrong.
I'm not sure about how I feel about historical racial conflicts being re-enacted by cute little ponies/buffalo...
Pinkie's silly song
Episode 22: A Bird in the Hoof
Celestia leaves her pet bird in Fluttershy's hands, er, hooves. However, Celestia didn't bother to tell Fluttershy that the bird was a phoenix, and so she freaks out as she's unable to nurse the sick bird to health. When it finally bursts into flames, she despairs, only to see it reborn from the ashes as an adorable baby.
I like that basically the same thing happened in Harry Potter.
Yet another episode about Celestia being a troll. Yay.
Episode 23: The Cutie Mark Chronicles
The Cutie Mark Crusaders want to ask adult ponies how they got their cutie marks. Scootaloo wants to ask her idol, Rainbow Dash. However, along the way, the CMC's get side-tracked and end up hearing the cutie mark acquisition stories from all of the mane 6. It turns out, all of them got their cutie marks at the same time, and all due to a related event; filly Rainbow Dash performing her first Sonic Rainboom during a race at flight camp.
Here are the stories (but not necessarily in the order they occur in the show):
When Pinkie Pie was a filly, she worked on a rock farm, pushing rocks all day. She lived a dull life, with no talking or laughter allowed. When she saw Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom, she was happy, and wanted to keep smiling like that forever. So she invented the party. Or at least, threw one, for her straight-laced farmer family. Who loved it.
When Twilight Sparkle was a filly, she showed talent for magic and a love of reading. She was all set up to go to Celestia's school for gifted unicorns, but she was incredibly nervous when taking her entrance exam. However, when the Sonic Rainboom hit, she had a crazy surge of magic which wowed the judging panel, and prompted Celestia herself to appear and see Twilight's potential for greatness.
When Rarity was a filly, she eventually got into fashion when she started making costumes for school plays. However, she felt like her costumes were missing a certain final touch. Then her horn started acting goofy and dragged her for hours to... a rock. However, the Sonic Rainboom knocked the rock open, revealing fabulous gemstones she could use for the costumes. She then became a fashion designer with the magical talent for finding gems to add flair to her designs.
When Apple Jack was a filly, she went off to stay with some relatives in Mane-hattan, to learn how to live as a sophisticated city pony. However, she wasn't content with their lifestyle or snobbery and found herself feeling very homesick. When she saw the Rainboom's rainbow pointing her back home, she knew her destiny was to stay back home and work on the Apple family farm, where she's been ever since.
When Fluttershy was a filly at flight camp, she got knocked off a cloud and became so startled she didn't remember to use her wings, plummeting to the earth. When she was rescued by a cloud of pink butterflies and landed in a beautiful forest, she saw the beauty of nature and knew her place was there, taking care of all of the animals.
Rainbow Dash's cutie mark came, of course, when she performed the Sonic Rainboom trick during a race between two colts at flight camp. That was how she developed her love of speed.
I loved this episode. It was a neat bit of background information for the mane 6, and is also noteworthy in establishing that they all shared some kind of magical connection before they even all met each other.
The main problem with this was that Fluttershy and RD were already friends before this happened. I thought that made Fluttershy stick out as the odd pony out, because she was the only one who knew Rainbow Dash before-hand. I felt like this would have been "20% cooler", as they say, if they had all completely not known each other before finding out years later that they all got their cutie marks at the same time.
Rainbow Dash's Cutie Mark Flashback
Episode 24: Owl's Well That Ends Well
Twilight gains a new pet/assistant, an owl she names Owlowicious. Spike becomes jealous of the owl, whom he sees as a rival for Twilight's praise, since he prides himself on being a good assistant. He attempts to sabotage Owlowicious but gets caught in the act.
When he gets yelled at, he thinks Twilight doesn't love him anymore, so he runs away. He ends up in the lair of a big, not so friendly fellow dragon. When Owlowicious and Twilight save the day, he learns that Owlowicious isn't so bad, and that Twilight still cares about him.
Spike getting his own episode is a cool thing, since so far he hasn't been the principal character in one. He's also often marginalized during adventures involving the mane 6 and other characters. This is also the first episode where someone other than Twilight writes to Celestia, which becomes the norm in season 2. I also really liked the action sequence when Spike encounters the big dragon.
I have mixed feelings about Spike as a character. For one, he's not just happy in slavery, but the Crystal Empire arc reveals that not being Twilight's assistant is actually his greatest fear. He's also a dragon, which raises questions about how dragon/pony relations work in-universe. When first meeting Spike in the pilot episode, Fluttershy says she's never seen a baby dragon, implying that it's not exactly common practice for ponies to raise them in captivity. I wonder what Celestia might be planning to do with it (if Spike's life is just part of some scheme of hers) and how Twilight got her hooves on a baby dragon in the first place.
I bet if she were the conquering type, she just needs to wait for Spike to get a little bigger... :D
Overall this is an ok, but somewhat dull, episode.
Episode 25: Party of One
Pinkie Pie plans a big party for Gummy, her pet alligator (introduced in Feeling Pinkie Keen). It's a successful party, and all five of Pinkie's friends have a great time.
However, Pinkie Pie isn't happy to have to end the partying, so she decides to throw one the following day. Her friends, all worn out from the previous night's festivities, decline her invitations with flimsy excuses.
She spies on her friends and finds out they're planning something, but won't let her know about it, so she questions Spike. When Spike is put on the spot, he leads her to believe her friends don't like her parties and don't want to be her friend anymore.
Pinkie Pie's hair deflates and she soon goes insane and has a fake party with various inanimate objects standing in as pretend guests.
In the meantime, it turns out that what was really going on was that Pinkie's friends were planning to throw a surprise birthday party for her, to return the favor of the party she threw for them. But it takes Rainbow Dash dragging her to the Apple farm to get her to go, because by this point she's become depressed and thinks that none of her friends want to spend time with her. She's also become suspicious because she knows they're planning something behind her back.
So when Rainbow Dash finally does force her to show up, she thinks her surprise party is a goodbye party, celebrating that they're kicking her out of their group. Or something.
She realizes she had been so crazy she forgot her own birthday.
With plenty of good classic cartoon-style humor, this is one of the funniest episodes of MLP; FiM ever. It's also interesting because it explores Pinkie Pie's psychological complexity. Exploring deeper psychological issues in the characters is one thing I really like about this show. I like how this show can be complicated and interesting and still really funny while teaching children an important lesson.
I could relate to this episode. Although I can't say I was ever as crazy as Pinkie, there have been times when I thought people were being mean to me when they weren't, because being bullied can cause people to be hypersensitive in social situations.
I think at this point, the writers of the show had realized that a lot of the people tuning in were adults, so they made an episode that's great because it has humor for both kids and adults to enjoy.
Not sure if I can think of anything for this one. Except to say that Pinkie's craziness is a little unsettling at times.
Pinkie's Insanity, Behold:
Episode 26: The Best Night Ever
The Grand Galloping Gala has finally arrived. All the girls have high hopes for the evening, since they've been anticipating it for, well, most of this whole season.
They even have an epic song about everything they each hope the Gala will mean to them; Fluttershy wants to befriend all kinds of wonderful animals, Apple Jack wants to sell lots of apple treats and earn lots of money for her family, Rarity wants to meet, and hopefully marry, a prince, Rainbow Dash wants to perform with her idols the Wonder Bolts, Pinkie Pie wants to have lots of fun, Twilight wants to talk with the Princess. And Spike just wants them all to spend time together.
However, they all, as it turns out, had unrealistic expectations of the event. Twilight quickly finds that with Princess Celestia's duties such as greeting all her guests, she won't have time for Twilight. Rarity finds out that her prince, Prince Blueblood, is actually a bit of a jerk. Fluttershy has no luck with the animals. Apple Jack gets no sales because the ponies in attendance see her apple treats as junk food, preferring more sophisticated hors-d'oeuvres. Though Rainbow Dash gets to meet the Wonder Bolts, they don't have much time to spend with her because they're busy. Pinkie Pie's wild personality clashes with the cultured sensibilities of the elegant, well-to-do crowd at the Gala.
Fluttershy goes insane trying to catch an animal, and the others aren't much better off.
Eventually, all of their attempts to make their night fun anyway result in disaster. However, Trollestia says that she was hoping all along that Twilight and her friends would liven up the stuffy Gala with some shenanigans, so she wasn't all that displeased when they did. Think Dinner for Schmucks. Well played, Trollestia.
This episode's lesson is powerful and that is, sometimes things don't work out like you expected, but even a bad experience that you can laugh about later is great with friendship. It was an awesome ending to the first season. For a long time while watching season 1 I kept wondering when they would actually show the Grand Galloping Gala, since they mention it in Ticketmaster and Suited for Success but then you don't hear anything else about it. This episode was also beautiful, showing an array of background ponies and side characters.
I think the funniest moment in this one is Fluttershy going insane. But it's also funny when Celestia says "The Grand Galloping Gala is always awful!". I've made fun of her, but I actually kind of like that she's a free spirit despite being constrained by her royal obligations.
Well, it doesn't really compare well to other season finales, but that's only because the show gets even more awesome from here.
At the Gala Song
Each Episode Given a Grade:
Friendship is Magic, Parts 1 and 2
Suited For Success
A Dog and Pony Show
The Best Night Ever
Look Before You Sleep
Call of the Cutie
Green Isn't Your Color
Cutie Mark Chronicles
Party of One
Gryphon the Brush-off
Swarm of the Century
Fall Weather Friends
Over a Barrel
A Bird in the Hoof
Owl's Well That Ends Well
Feeling Pinkie Keen