Warning: Contains Spoilers and Possibly Some Very Bad Jokes! Read At Your Own Peril!
Episodes 1 and 2: The Return of Harmony: Parts 1 and 2
A new villain, Discord, kicks off the series by creating chaos in Ponyville. He is a "draconequus", a mix-and-match critter resembling a dragon, and is basically a living embodiment of chaos (I thought that title was taken by Pinkie Pie).
He steals the Elements of Harmony and sends the mane 6 through a crazy labyrinth while Celestia hangs back uselessly as usual. In the labyrinth, he's able to separate the characters and mess with them psychologically. He tricks everyone but Twilight into acting like the opposite of their respective elements. That way, even when they find where he's hidden the Elements of Harmony, they won't work because the group isn't, well, harmonious.
Twilight tries to motivate her friends, but gives up hope. Eventually though, she's motivated by Celestia actually doing something, that is, sending all the letters on friendship Twilight's sent her so far back to Twilight. This is a big reminder for Twilight that her friends are important, even when they've turned brainwashed and crazy. So she ends up reversing her friends' desaturated bitterness, bringing the group together, and using the Elements of Harmony to turn Discord into stone.
Discord is probably my favorite villain of the series, mostly because he's not evil as much as chaotic, and also because he's witty, hilarious, and deft at psychologically manipulating the protagonists. He's great for the same reason that Batman villains are great, he plays psychological games with the mane 6. Compared to other villains in the show, he's not a humorless ball of hatred like Sombra or Nightmare Moon, and unlike Queen Chrysalis of the changelings, he doesn't have a convoluted plan for world domination that makes no sense. He's just a god of chaos, there to create chaos because that's what he considers fun.
And in a sense, he's right, insofar as the polar opposite of Discord-style chaos would be to have a Borg-like hive-mind. I think that, for Celestia, it's good that she revives Discord in later episodes. Because "chaos" is necessary for creativity, which is necessary for the growth of new ideas and the improvement of society. The peace in Equestria depends not on vanquishing Discord for good, but in tempering his destructive capabilities and focusing his energy in a positive direction. I'm really glad that that is what ended up happening with Discord in season 3.
In addition, this episode gives us the entertainment value of the chaotic background elements created by Discord as well as the fun of seeing all the mane 6 at their worst. It's especially funny to see Rarity hauling around a gigantic rock because she thinks it's a diamond, and to see her start acting a bit like Gollum because of it. In short, this 2-part episode, in addition to being interesting in dramatic moments, also contains some excellent humor.
This is just the second in a long list of villains that the main six have to whoop in the absence of Celestia, and now Luna also, doing jack about the problem themselves. At least they kind of give an explanation in this one: Celestia is no longer connected to the Elements of Harmony, Equestria's greatest defense weapon, so the mane 6 are the ones who have to use the elements. However, this episode makes you think that Celestia is weak or incompetent, and later dramatic villain show-downs don't do anything to make her look any better. I mean, if the only reason she was in power was because she had the Elements of Harmony, then not being connected to them should make Twilight and company the new rulers of Equestria by default. When Twilight became a princess at the end of season 3, I wasn't shocked as much as wondering when the other 5 victorious champions of Equestria would get their turns, considering that they're really the ones always saving Equestria.
I understand that it's needed for her to step back and let the mane 6 be awesome for the purposes of the show, but it makes me wonder if Celestia on her own would be able to stop a coup led by Twilight if the mane 6 decided to rebel. I know that won't actually happen, but when rulers in real history have proven to be too weak to defend their kingdoms, relying on their right-hand man or woman too much, that leads to all sorts of problems. And also, like in many of these villain battles, you wonder about where the royal guard or other military in Equestria is and what they're doing about the problem. I mean, they don't introduce Shining Armor or Cadence until later, at the wedding episode, but you wonder retro-actively what the heck they were doing as Canterlot defenders when Discord popped up.
Episode 3: Lesson Zero
Not one to let her friends hog all the crazy, Twilight has her own insanity episode where, when faced with nothing happening to report in her letter to the Princess, completely snaps. She decides that if there isn't any conflict, she's going to create one. So she puts a "want it, need it spell" on a childhood stuffed toy of hers and makes the Cutie Mark Crusaders fight over it.
This backfires spectacularly when most of Ponyville ends up clamoring over each other to try to grab the doll. Twilight has to fight though the crowds to get a shot in so she can break the spell. She can't, and just after the sun goes down, Celestia herself steps in to stop the spell. So that there is like, one thing Celestia actually does with her powers.
Twilight fears the worst. But Celestia realizes that all of the mane six learned important lessons. And this is when Celestia says all of them can send her findings on the magic of friendship when they find them. This establishes that in future episodes, Spike or any of the mane six can be the one writing the episode's Aesop in the form of a letter to the Princess.
It's good to show that Twilight has her own flaws. She can come off as a bit of a Mary Sue (overly perfect author avatar figure) at times. This is because she's the main character, almost always right even when it's a crazy-sounding hunch, the leader, often the voice of reason, and also happens to be the most powerful unicorn in Equestria.
However, this episode really shows the downside to diligence; self-imposed stress about deadlines. In Twilight's case it goes into extreme territory, and I think that's because her power can amplify her personality, for better or worse. (Most unicorn magic seems to work as an extension of the individual's personality.)
In addition to showing Twilight's self-imposed anxiety and stress, it also highlights her lack of social skills. It definitely shows that she needs to learn a little more about friendship, seeing as her idea of learning a lesson about it involved casting a love spell on a doll just to observe ponies' reactions, as if ponies were merely variables in an experiment to be manipulated.
I talked before in the Season 1 Review about unsettling insanity in MLP (That time with Party of One, Pinkie Pie's insanity episode). I have a feeling it's going to come up again...
Episode 4: Luna Eclipsed
In Ponyville, everyone is really excited for a Halloween-like festival called Nightmare Night, but no pony is prepared to face the (now good) appearance of Princess Luna. To say that she has some trouble fitting in is an understatement. Her loud voice scares every pony.
Twilight, the only one who's apparently smart enough to remember that Luna is now good, seeks Fluttershy's help in giving Princess Luna some voice lessons. See, having been exiled to the moon for 1000 years, she still speaks in the "royal Canterlot voice", which includes shouting everything and using the "royal We" tense. Apparently, Celestia couldn't have bothered to explain these two basic concepts about how expected royal behavior has changed in a millennium.
Anyway, eventually, Luna ends the night in what appears to be a total disaster, and she thinks it's hopeless to think that the townspeople will like her. But then a little colt comes up to her and tells her that it's ok to be scary because being scared is fun. So I guess that's the true spirit of Halloween. Nightmare Night. Something.
I liked having a Luna episode. I also liked Zecora making a come-back, and overall, it was fun to have a Halloween (sorry, Nightmare Night) themed episode. Halloween is one of my ultimate favorite holidays, maybe because I love costuming so much.
The whole thing focused on how bad Luna was at fitting in, so you really just felt sorry for her, or at least, I did. It's not much of a story. And Luna fails miserably at being liked, so they settle for ending it with her accepting being "scary, but fun". Poor Luna...
And, they never do anything with Luna really after this episode. Which makes me sad because I love Luna.
And Pinkie Pie is, as usual, an annoying sack of ADD in this episode. I mean, it's her acting scared just for fun that causes the kids and townsponies to panic at Luna's appearances! And then you find out that she wasn't even really scared! Talk about irksome.
Episode 5: Sisterhooves Social
This episode explores the relationship between Rarity and her sister, Sweetie Belle. Sweetie Belle is causing some trouble for Rarity, who yells at her sister. Sweetie Belle runs off to the Apple family farm and notices that Apple Bloom is treated better by Apple Jack than she herself is by Rarity, so she becomes envious and wants to adopt Apple Jack as her sister. Apple Jack and Apple Bloom tell Sweetie Belle that they will agree to let her compete in an Apple farm event called the "Sisterhooves social", a big sister-little sister relay race. So Apple Jack races with Sweetie Belle instead of Apple Bloom, to make her feel better for the way Rarity treated her. However, Apple Jack hides early on in the race, and it's revealed that Rarity was the one racing with Sweetie Belle the whole time, covered in mud so that Sweetie wouldn't recognize her. So Rarity learns to treat Sweetie Belle better, and Sweetie Belle learns that her sister really does care after all.
The pony who learned the most from this experience was Rarity, and Apple Jack's role as a friend who could offer her some sage advice was important too. I like that, unlike many episodes where Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and the other fillies mainly only interact with their teacher and other foals, in this one the writers spent a lot of time showing how they interact with adults and what various adults think about them. This was also an episode that I felt resonated with my own personal experience since I have two sisters who are much younger than me and this episode stresses the importance of considering things from their perspective and not getting angry or impatient.
I find Rarity's personality irritating and this is no exception. Although, I think it shows that Rarity is capable of maturity and character development given the right circumstances to cause her to learn. I also think this episode shows that Apple Jack is an important friend for Rarity to learn from. It shows that her friendships have been beneficial, since she's certainly come a long way since her prissy attitude made it's debut in "Look Before You Sleep" back in Season 1.
Episode 6: The Cutie Pox
Desperate to get her period er, cutie mark, Apple Bloom messes with one of Zecora's potions. Of course, dabbling in that kind of stuff when uninitiated and ignorant of how it works backfires horribly.
What happens is basically several cutie marks appear all over her body and, unlike normal cutie marks, they also magically compel her to perform the tasks they symbolize without rest. Zecora is the one who saves the day in this episode, by planting a "seed of truth" that can grow only if and when Apple Bloom admits what she did to the whole town. So she learned a lesson that I have a slight hunch will be immediately ditched the next time we get a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode. Because children are dense.
An interesting moment of character development for Apple Bloom and interesting in that it involves Zecora. I think it'll be interesting to see if future episodes develop the budding godmother/mentor-like relationship she's developing with Apple Bloom. Apple Bloom is a really cute and likeable character, also.
Meh, I dislike these half-pint episodes a bit. I mean, they always have the plot of "CMC's do something foolish and learn how not to" but you know in the next episode featuring them, they'll probably be screwing things up again because that's what children are like. But to the adult viewers of the show, these antics might get a little tiresome. I mean, are any of these kids capable of remembering anything from previous episodes, or is it like a "50 First Dates" short-term memory problem they've never discussed explicitly yet?
Episode 7: May the Best Pet Win!
Rainbow Dash comes to Fluttershy to look for a pet since she realizes that the others have one and she wants to be part of the toy line too. Fluttershy and RD sing an adorable duet about animals (video below, but be warned, it might be too cute for some viewers with certain heart conditions), but by the end of it, she still doesn't know what she wants.
So, like the ultra-competitive, slightly douchy jock that she is, she decides to pit all the flying animals against each other in a race. Against her. The fastest pegasus in ever. One adorable little tortoise really likes Rainbow Dash and wants to be accepted as her pet, even though she's cruelly turned him down on account of he can't fly and isn't very fast.
However, a few contrived plot coincidences later, and it turns out that the tortoise is the only pet who rescues her from a rock that was pinning her wing down in a canyon. Being the only animal that actually cared about RD in her time of need while the others simply sped past meant enough to Rainbow Dash that she adopted the tortoise, naming him Tank. And then she gave him a weird helicopter-thingy-on-his-head so he could fly alongside her. Feels.
A good episode for me because I love animals. It's also about not judging a book by it's cover, and about valuing people for love, not just if they come in first place or not.
I thought the race idea was bad, I mean, what? You can't pick a pet so you put them in some kind of dangerous obstacle course just so they can win your friendship and respect? That's just Paris Hilton levels of ego-centrism. It is probably the most obnoxious Rainbow Dash behavior I'd ever seen. That is, until the episode immediately after this one...
May the Best Pet Win! Song With Lyrics
Episode 8: The Mysterious Mare Do Well
When Rainbow Dash starts doing some heroic stuff, she kind of becomes addicted to the limelight and becomes a glory hound. And not just a little bit.
This prompts all of her friends to conspire behind her back to dress in a costume and pretend to be a new hero, whom the mayor of Ponyville refers to as "The Mysterious Mare Do Well". Mare Do Well becomes a big hit, eclipsing Rainbow Dash as Ponyville's most talked about and most liked superhero. Rainbow Dash gets ticked and decides to hunt down Mare Do Well, and a painfully long chase ensues, after which she finally unmasks Mare Do Well and finds out she's Twilight and also Pinkie, Apple Jack, Rarity, and Fluttershy.
Eh. This is probably one of my least favorite episodes. At least my least favorite in Season 2.
I wasn't a fan of this episode because 1) it's Rainbow Dash at her worst, for the sake of the plot, and 2) the moral doesn't teach anything considering that it still took at least 5 regular ponies to be as cool as 1 Rainbow Dash.
And, it's kind of saying it's ok to go behind your friends' backs and publicly humiliate them just because you don't like their attitude. Aren't there more mature ways to deal with RD's behavior than dressing up like a female pony Batman ripoff?
Also, when real people do the "costumed vigilante" thing, they usually end up doing stupid things and getting arrested.
Plus, they could have just talked to Rainbow Dash and shared their feelings openly, and avoided this whole mess. I mean, not one of them chose to confront her directly. Apple Jack made a half-assed attempt, but didn't really tell her that her behavior was bugging her friends to the point where they were all willing to throw themselves personally into dangerous situations to become badass superheroes, just to make her eat some humble pie.
Episode 9: Sweet and Elite
Rarity gets to vacation in Canterlot, and Twilight gets her a suite at the palace to stay in. Although she keeps in mind that she's making a dress for Twilight's up-coming birthday, she soon gets caught up in the sophisticated and glamorous world of the upper-crust Canterlot society. She sees this as not only fun, but also a good way to attract clients for her sewing business. However, when eventually forced to make a decision between her snobby new Canterlot friends and her Ponyville friends, she does defend her Ponyville friends.
I think this episode is pretty easy to relate to, because we've all been caught between two groups of friends who are very different at times. It also helps if you think of this not just as frivolous socialization, but also important to Rarity for business networking.
It's a good moment for Rarity's character development. It also has an amazing song. In addition, the setting in Canterlot is awesome, with many places shown that simply look stunning. Also, many new background characters are introduced.
And... most of those characters are horrible caricatures of wealthy snobs. And,
Ugh... Rarity in this episode... just... *sigh*
I mean, she's not really my favorite character, but in other episodes, such as "Suited for Success" or "Green is Not Your Color", she's given the redeeming quality of caring very deeply about her friends' feelings. But in this episode, she's almost on the verge of abandoning them, even to the point of faking her cat Opal being sick to get out of seeing them.
And yeah, she comes around at the end, but it's only until her real friends show her how much more fun they are to be around than those uptight boors she was bending over backwards to fit in with just a scene ago. And, it's also when the two simultaneous parties are in direct conflict, giving her an ultimatum that all but forces her to choose to do the right thing.
Sweet and Elite Song: Becoming Popular
Episode 10: Secret of My Excess
When Spike receives a lot of nice presents for his birthday, he quickly succumbs to greed, taking advantage of ponies' kindness to a birthday boy. Eventually he hauls up in Twilight's house with a hoard of miscellaneous odds and ends, and becomes a bigger, more ferocious dragon with each thing he steals. He turns into a rampaging Godzilla-like monster, but eventually is able to be reminded to be good because of his love for Rarity. This heartwarming moment turns him back into the cute baby Spike everyone loves.
Yay, Spike episode!
The question on my mind is, can Spike mature and grow up in some safer way that won't, you know, cause him to become a greedy bastard who wrecks the whole town?
Episode 11: Family Appreciation Day
A special event called the Zap-apple harvest comes to Ponyville, and Apple Bloom is super excited to help her grandma, Granny Smith, make her famous Zap-apple jam. However, Granny's methods seem eccentric, and her odd behavior is harshly mocked by Diamond Tiara, the school's Alpha Bitch.
Apple Bloom tries everything to stop her embarrassing granny from giving a presentation at her school for Family Appreciation Day, afraid that Granny Smith's antics will make her the laughing-stock of Ponyville. So of course she's mortified when all her tricks fail to stop Granny Smith. However, Granny Smith's presentation reveals that her special method for making Zap-apple jam was actually integral to the founding and early settlement of Ponyville. Seeing the look on the bully's faces is priceless.
This one certainly raises questions about how long a pony can live, because in the episode "Winter Wrap Up", it's established that Ponyville is hundreds of years old, and yet, Granny Smith remembers being a filly before it was founded. And what happened to Diamond Tiara's grandfather? Why isn't he still alive? And where is Apple Jack, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh's parents? WILL THIS SHOW EVER MAKE SENSE........?
Episode 12: Baby Cakes
When Mr. and Mrs. Cake have twin foals named Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake, Pinkie Pie gushes over the cute infants. She agrees to babysit them but realizes quickly that babies aren't just toys, they're a lot of hard work.
It's basically a lesson most older kids go through at some point, whether it's when their parents have babies or when someone they know has one. Also, the babies are adorable.
Where are Pinkie Pie's parents? For a while I thought that Mr. and Mrs. Cake were her parents because well, she's always hanging out at their bakery and doesn't seem to have any other residence. Now, I think that, since she left the rock farm, as revealed by her cutie mark flashback, she must not be on good terms with her biological family anymore. Are the Cakes her adopted family? If so, why does she address them formally? HOW DOES AN EARTH PONY GIVE BIRTH TO TWINS WHO ARE A UNICORN AND A PEGASUS? (Mrs. Cake got around, that's how!)
Episode 13: Hearth's Warming Eve
The mane six (plus Spike) perform a play in Canterlot on the pony equivalent of Christmas, Hearth's Warming Eve. The pageant showcases the early history of Equestria. According to the play, before Equestria was founded, the unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasuses were separate tribes with separate leaders. During one particularly harsh winter, the three faction leaders ended up at each other's throats and each one decided independently to leave and try to find a new land for their kind of pony to rule, alone.
When they migrate to a warmer land, they all argue over the new-found territory, with each leader insisting that their tribe was the first to discover it. Then, the blizzard picks up again, causing the three leaders and their subordinates to flee into a cave together. See, the arguing is empowering these evil ice-horse creatures in the sky who feed on hate, and they're what's causing the blizzard. Eventually, the three leaders get frozen mid-bicker, but their three seconds in command realize to put aside their differences and stop the hate. Their goodwill and friendship melts the icy hearts of the leaders and beats back the ice demon... things. And that's why Christmas carols.
Yay Christmas episode! Also, this was awesome, brought out the best and worst traits of each of the mane six, and also showed a good deal of interesting background information on Equestria's early history. It also had some brilliantly funny moments, such as Rarity getting tired and whining about walking... about ten feet, or pretty much every moment with Pinkie Pie.
No seriously, I think this episode was awesome!
Episode 14: The Last Roundup
Applejack is ashamed that she didn't win any blue ribbons in a Canterlot rodeo contest. She was planning to use the prize money she'd won at the rodeo to help the mayor fix a building, but she didn't win any. So instead of coming home directly, she runs off to Dodge Junction to work on a cherry orchard, with the hopes of earning some money to send home. However, since she didn't tell much in her letter, the mane 6 and Apple family assume something bad has happened, and the mane 6 begin a frantic search for Apple Jack. It takes them a while to track down AJ, and even longer to force her to spill the beans. They, of course, talk some sense into her and convince her to come back to Ponyville.
I guess I can relate to this episode because, a lot of times, when I'm not doing as well as I think I should be doing, I've wanted to hide that. And I'm also a very competitive person (but not in rodeo) and I can't stand not winning at some things. Sometimes you can make yourself think that getting third or second place is losing and be discouraged. As a kid, I found that in many competitions I tried, from cheer-leading to choir to chess tournaments. When I lost, I felt horrible, and no, Baby Boomers, though I was of the "participation ribbon" generation, it didn't do anything for me or curb my competitive (and sometimes sore losing) nature.
Apple Jack's spotlight in this episode was stolen by Derpy. And, to a lesser extent, Pinkie Pie. I like AJ and I think she deserves better from the fandom. Also, why do ponies do rodeo sports? Is it a sex thing?
Episode 15: Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000
Apple cider season has come to Ponyville, and large crowds of ponies have started camping out by the Apple family farm in anticipation of it. However, the Apple family has a hard time producing enough cider to meet demand.
That's when the Flim Flam brothers, two traveling salesponies, show up with a machine that's supposed to make cider faster than the Apple family can. The family enters a contest, racing against the machine with the farm at stake.
While Twilight and the others help the Apple family increase their output, the machine wins, but to keep up, Flim and Flam had quit thinking about quality control, and so they made cider no pony wanted to drink. Thus, the brothers get run out of town and the Apples get to keep their family farm. And everyone else gets to enjoy the bountiful cider the Apples made during the contest.
The episode contains a message that's important to modern living, with our reliance on industrial automation. However, it avoids coming across as overly preachy. It's ultimately about the power of friendship, family, and perseverance. And also about how a quality product is worth a little patience.
It's also a funny episode, and I liked that it parodies the Broadway musical genre with Flim and Flam's introductory song.
I never felt like Flim and Flam were unsympathetic. They're just two hard-working brothers with a revolutionary invention, and their only problem was that in their arrogance and haste they disregarded quality control. If they learned their lesson by this experience, there's no reason to think that they can't do better in some other community. I like My Little Pony in that often the lesser antagonist characters are treated this way. They're not outright evil or cruel just for the sake of it, they're simply trying to do something big and going about it the wrong way, and have the potential to grow into better characters.
But there's also this problem with the episode: if the Flim Flam brothers hadn't came to Ponyville, and hadn't started that competition with the Apple family, every-pony would have been worse off because they would have had less cider to go around. So I guess Flim and Flam are actually pretty cool.
In fact, since Ponyville seems to have medieval levels of agricultural technology, with almost everything requiring manual labor, innovators like them are a good thing. It's a bad episode when you end up siding with the bad guys, or at least sympathizing with them. (Looking at you, Boast Busters!)
Episode 16: Read It and Weep
A broken wing lands Rainbow Dash in the hospital for a few days. Since she has nothing to do, Twilight offers her a book. Despite her initial objections, saying that reading is for "eggheads", she comes to love the book, Daring Do, which is about the exploits of an archaeologist/adventurer very similar to Indiana Jones.
The "Daring Do" scenes are amazing, and when this episode was over, I was definitely left wanting to see more episodes about her adventures. It's also an episode about the love of reading, so it's a message I can strongly get behind. It's also about not dismissing your friends' interests just because they're things that they like that you've never given a chance.
I really want to see a Daring Do spinoff.
Episode 17: Hearts and Hooves Day
The pony version of Valentine's Day, called Hearts and Hooves Day, approaches. When the Cutie Mark Crusaders find out that their teacher, Miss Cherilee, doesn't have a date, they decide to fix her up with a stallion. They settle on Big Mac, Apple Bloom's big brother, and try to get the two together.
However, they end up dabbling in the forbidden arts and create a "love poison", a potion that magically makes them sickeningly sweethearts and unable to leave each other's presence. In order to break the spell, they have to separate the two lovebirds for one hour. They manage to do that very narrowly, and like, learn a lesson about how it's not okay to use mind-altering voodoo drugs on your teacher and big brother just because you think your teacher needs a man in her life. What a shocker!
It's a cute episode, really, because a lot of little kids have probably been in this position of wanting to cheer someone up and having their methods backfire.
How Cherilee and Big Mac act under the influence of the love poison... yuck!
Episode 18: A Friend In Deed
Pinkie Pie loves to make ponies smile, but she finds a grumpy newcomer, a donkey aptly named Cranky Doodle, and she's unable to cheer him up. I mean, she's tried following him around, making fun of his name, following him, pestering him with questions, tying his ears in a knot, covering him in cake batter, blowing off his toupee and stomping on it and then publicly announcing to the whole town that he's bald ... I mean, how could this stuff not make someone instantly best friends with you? It's almost like he just wants to be left alone because he's obviously pulling a heavy cart and has been for some kind of long journey, and is probably tired. Nooo....
The real reason he's "cranky" isn't because Pinkie is being an ass, (no pun intended) but because he has a void in his heart because he can't find the long lost love of his life. So Pinkie Pie is able to mend the hurt feelings she's caused Cranky by re-uniting him with her, another donkey named Matilda. They met at the Gala, and he described it as "the most magical night of my life". Awww. So Pinkie is forgiven, and she finally gets Cranky to smile.
The ending of it is definitely a crowning moment of heartwarming. The episode is also really funny because it's a Pinkie-centered episode and she's a friggin maniac.
It also features a cool song "Smile, Smile, Smile", which manages to make Pinkie seem genuinely warm and caring, not just the one-dimensional gag character she sometimes is in other episodes. And the fact that every character in this show is more complicated than they appear on the surface is one of the best things about this show.
Also, I find it funny that Pinkie Pie is in this episode where the other character is a donkey, and she's acting like the donkey from Shrek. Lulz.
No matter how many times you yell at your TV screen or computer monitor "Just leave him alone already you stalker/harasser!" She um, doesn't. Isn't it great how main characters can get away not only with jerk-ish behavior, but also with petty crimes? Yay. Friendship.
Also, Cranky Doodle is just Eeyore. Why does every cartoon assume donkeys are depressed all the time? That's so racist, man.
Episode 19: Putting Your Hoof Down
Fluttershy episode time! Fluttershy has problems with Angel Bunny smacking her around, despite the fact that she can face a roaring manticore, yell at a dragon, stare down a cockatrice, and wrestle a bear to the ground. It seems like the writers don't know whether to make Fluttershy a fragile flower or Wonder Woman. But in this episode, it's the fragile flower. *sigh* Yet again.
Fluttershy is shopping and gets pushed around by everyone at the asparagus stand pushing in front of her (asparagus must be all the rage in Ponyville), and basically, she's subjected to Black Friday levels of bad shopper behavior.
Rarity and Pinkie Pie come to her rescue by uh, telling her that she has mental problems (being a doormat) and pushing her into social confrontation. That is, after Rarity takes some asparagus by flirting with some nerd. Morals! And then Pinkie Pie gets in an argument about the price of a tomato and ends up running away with paying only one bit for it with trickery. Again with the teaching great lessons for little kids. It kind of says something that Pinkie Pie and Rarity don't get what they want through direct confrontation either, with Rarity using sex appeal and Pinkie Pie using insane troll logic, insane amounts of perseverance in arguments, and if that doesn't work, good old Gypsy cunning. Doesn't that say something about women? I mean, there we have the three arguably most feminine characters of the mane 6, and they get what they want by either sexiness, immaturity, lying, or they don't, and they let others treat them like crap.
Ok, stop thinking about it. Moving on with the plot.
She goes home, and gets her bear-wrangling, manticore-taming ass kicked by a bunny, because she wasn't able to buy the cherry to put on top of his dessert. Yes. By a bunny. Yells at a dragon, gets knocked into mailbox by bunny. Ok I'll just hold off further comments about this until the "bad" part. This is still the plot summary part. Ok, plot summary. Here we go.
So she finds out about an assertiveness seminar led by a minotaur named Iron Will. He's basically a big, muscular, male version of Trixie, with the talking about himself in third person using his name and using cheap pyrotechnics to punctuate sentences and everything.
She ends up taking his talking points to heart and starts acting like a colossal jerk. At first I was thinking "Good for her, she learned to stand up for herself" but of course, she takes it to an extreme. She also picks up the third person thing, referring to herself as "New Fluttershy".
When she insults Pinkie Pie and Rarity to the extent of making them cry, however, she knows she's gone too far with the whole "assertiveness" thing. She bars her doors and windows for dramatic effect and refuses to come out, ashamed of herself and afraid that "nasty Fluttershy" will strike again. She even has Angel bunny tie her to a chair.
Then Iron Will shows up to collect his fee for the seminar. Rarity and Pinkie Pie try to stall him using their trademark strategies of flattery and lying, respectively, but it doesn't work. Fluttershy is able to stand up for herself, reminding him of his "100% satisfaction or you don't have to pay promise", and asserting that she won't pay because she wasn't satisfied.
Surprisingly, this makes Iron Will back down, and his two freaky goat minions cart him away. That's how Fluttershy finally learned from that how to assert herself without acting like a jerk.
It's a very good lesson to teach in an episode. I struggled with this problem myself, when I was bullied a lot throughout 5th and 6th grade, I became pushy, mean, and violent just because I thought that's what it took to earn respect. The thing I probably regret the most was the incident when I was doing badly at a bowling event for Builder's club (the junior high version of a community-service club called Kiwanis club) and cried while threatening another kid with a bowling ball because I thought she was laughing at me. Looking back on that and similar incidents like fights I started or weaker kids I picked on just because I was afraid of associating with anyone weak, made me totally ashamed of myself, but for a while that only made my social anxiety, depression, and anger issues worse.
What actually helped me was studying Zen Buddhism and learning Buddhist meditation techniques. Buddhism puts a lot of emphasis on controlling the mind and calming the emotions, so I found those techniques very beneficial to my situation. Instead of teaching us that external powers like angels and demons influence us, Buddhism says that we control our own emotions and thoughts. It also teaches you how to deal with other people compassionately but also while properly asserting yourself when they hurt your feelings.
The way I had gotten in such bad shape in the first place was by following Christianity-based counsel from a pastor that basically told me to act like a doormat (turn the other cheek, blessed are the meek, and all the sexist things about women being naturally docile!). So when that just made all the other kids see me as weak and target me for massive abuse, it made me feel terrible. So of course, looking for answers to the problem led me to seek out a new way of looking at it. It helped me learn the lesson that Fluttershy learns in this episode; how to stand up for yourself when bullied or you're not being listened to, without becoming a bully yourself. And I think that many children and some adults need to learn this lesson.
Like I said before, I don't like the way Rarity and Pinkie Pie are the ones trying to teach FLuttershy how to speak up for herself, because they themselves don't cope with bad treatment in healthy ways, even if they are less afraid of direct confrontation than Fluttershy. The plot of this episode also seems to demand the absence of Apple Jack, Twilight Sparkle, or Rainbow Dash, mostly because they've got the assertiveness without meanness thing down already, and any one of them could have helped her learn what she needed to learn in this episode in about 30 seconds. So basically, this episode only works because they're not there, and Rarity and Pinkie Pie are no good at assertiveness themselves.
Also, it took me several years to fully understand the balancing act between assertiveness and aggressiveness, it's not something that's solved with just one conversation. But then again, this is a show that has to try to resolve everything in one or two episodes.
But the main issue I have is also that introverts don't need to be "fixed". They had to exaggerate Fluttershy's doormat qualities, as well as the rudeness of the normally polite citizens of Ponyville, to make it look like she even had a problem in the first place. If every-pony had been as nice to her as she was to them, which is what happens in literally every other episode (except for characters who are mean to everyone, such as Gilda and Trixie) she doesn't appear to have a problem. Why did they just make up a psychological problem for Fluttershy to cope with? She's proven her ability to master fear numerous times in the show leading up to this, so it just sort of comes out of left field, and it's inconsistent writing.
Episode 20: It's About Time
Twilight receives a vague warning from her future self and thinks there's going to be a catastrophe before next Tuesday. So she goes crazy in typical Twilight fashion. First, she gathers up her friends and tries to "disaster-proof" Ponyville. Then, she tries not doing anything, but can't because she's worried too much. So then she stays up for several days and nights trying to monitor everything.
She eventually gives up on that and decides that, as Tuesday looms closer, she has to sneak into the Canterlot archives and find the time spells future Twilight was talking about. To stop time. Yes. She's going to stop time. For some reason, she takes Spike and Pinkie Pie. Because nothing says "cat-like stealth" like Pinkie Pie.
And what's funny is that they didn't need to sneak in, because the guard recognizes Twilight right away when he sees her, and lets her into the room she was trying to break into. Paranoid Twilight was paranoid. For some reason, there's a full-length mirror in there, and she can see that she looks just like her future self did, so she's sure doomsday approaches.
So, when Twilight sees the sun rise, she flips out, huddles on the ground shaking. Then Princess Celestia walks in, but just to say "Hi" and "Happy Tuesday!". That's funny Celestia, Tuesdays are never happy.
So Twilight realizes she was silly to worry so much when there was no impending danger. When pinkie Pie digs up a spell that lets you go back in time, she decides to go back in time to... warn herself... not to panic. Which is what she did to cause her past self to panic in the first place.
So of course, since she only has a few moments to talk to herself and herself keeps interrupting her, she doesn't get across what she wanted to say. Infinite time loop of Twilight worrying herself like crazy!
I really liked this episode when it came out because it's not expected that a show like this would do time travel. And it works out pretty cool, because the time travel she can do now is extremely limited, and the first time she's used it it was a bit traumatizing for her, so that explains why they don't use it in future episodes. Other series (*cough* Harry Potter) don't fully explain why they don't use their time travel devices in the future when they've used them once over a relatively minor problem. There's also not a major tragedy that happens in the future that would really prompt Twilight to try a time spell, so far anyway.
I also thought that future Twilight looked kind of badass, like a cyberpunk version of herself. Overall, I thought this episode was pretty cool.
Meh. Time travel is something I kind of dislike (it's why I can't get into Dr. Who) because of the paradoxical nature of it. And why do people go back in time to do things like stalk their future wife or something when they could be doing something meaningful or important, like giving plague sufferers a vaccine or stopping the Holocaust? Why are most time-travelers in movies so darn self-serving about it all? Don't they think about the bigger implications?
But this episode really doesn't have these kinds of time travel problems, like I've said. Especially since it doesn't take place in this world, but a much more utopian one, with very little of the social inequality, oppression, intolerance, poverty, war, corruption, disease, hunger, and greed that our world has.
Episode 21: Dragon Quest
The mane 6 get a chance to go see a great dragon migration, and Fluttershy is scared, so she doesn't go. (Fluttershy, didn't you learn to be assertive like, just two episodes ago? And learn to face dragons last season? Wth?)
So the five of them go and hide in a trench while watching the dragons fly overhead. This leads to Spike having an identity crisis, because he realizes that, being raised by ponies means he doesn't act like other dragons. (Except he did, and it was horrible, and he should remember that.) Twilight does some research and finds... nothing. Turns out, ponies have never studied dragons or talked to them much, and Twilight has no idea where Spike came from, only that she got him as an egg. (Celestia probably knows, I'm guessing, but she ain't talking.) So Spike decides to go out to join the other dragons to discover for himself what being a dragon is all about. (Didn't we already do this? I mean, it's about greed and rampaging and hoarding treasure and being scary. And he doesn't want to do any of those things.)
But of course, the other dragons are much bigger and meaner and make fun of him for being a baby. Three ponies (RD, Rarity, and Twilight) follow after to watch over him, hidden cleverly... in a kind of obvious dragon costume.
The lead jerk-big-dragon-guy challenges Spike to a series of tough physical competitions, all of which he's unfairly competing against teenaged dragons many times his size. But when he's able to dive in the lava, it proves to the big, stupid jerk that he actually is a dragon, not a pony. I don't know, maybe the guy's vision is impaired or something. Or he just doesn't know what a pony looks like. At any rate, Spike begins to feel comfortable once he's accepted among other dragons, and the girls overhear him say he could stay forever.
But then when the other dragons decide to go on a raid and steal some phoenix eggs, Spike pretends to be on board, but doesn't feel that stealing is right. When the dragon-bros find out the eggs have already hatched, they get outsmarted by the hatch-lings as they try to chase them, to no avail, but Spike ends up happening upon the one remaining egg.
When the other dragons tell him to smash it, he refuses, starting a fight with the dragon leader. However, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Twilight leap out of the costume and come to his defense.
I liked the episode for coolness, I'm a big fan of dragons, even if most of these dragons were more like ugly, thuggish teenagers than the majestic creatures I see in trading card games. It was still pretty cool with the flying and the breathing fire and the lava and all.
I also like the episode's moral, that family is who really cares about you, and it's not always your biological family that will end up being the most important influence on your life.
I think it's great because this is an episode about exploring Spike's identity and origin, and showing how out of place he is as a dragon among ponies, and I felt like this episode handled that well. And it was an issue that I wanted to know more about.
I can't help but thinking that this episode kind of attacks masculinity. It's one of few, if not the only, episodes where most of the characters with lines are male. And they're terrible people (or dragons). And the end conflict over the phoenix egg seemed clearly like one between masculine destruction vs. feminine nurturing. I guess how you feel about that depends on your personal views.
Also, in episodes like Bridle Gossip, the lesson has been consistently that there's more to people than their appearance, and yet here are these dragons, who are basically just jerks with a heart of jerk.
Finally, I'd love to see an episode in the future where Spike is re-united with his biological parents and learns about how he ended up in Canterlot as an egg. I was kind of hoping for that in this episode, and I was somewhat disappointed.
Episode 22: Hurricane Fluttershy
Fluttershy is asked/forced to help a group of pegasus led by Rainbow Dash who have to generate a powerful storm, not because it just looks cool, but because something something weather something rain.
Why Rainbow recruits Fluttershy for her team of elite pegasus flyers, which Fluttershy clearly isn't, is a bit of a mystery. But my theory is that she simply wanted Fluttershy to feel important. All the pegasus have to train hard, and Rainbow will not let Fluttershy back out of it.
Fluttershy finally admits that the reason that she doesn't want to do "tornado duty" is because she has performance anxiety due to trauma she suffered from being bullied. And her friend's sensitive, thoughtful advice...? Yelling at her to suck it up, because Rainbow is not a pony to let some crybaby ruin her chance to shine. But when she tries a softer approach, she is able to get Fluttershy to be there for her sake.
So, Dashie ends up coaching the team as they get ready to fly, measuring all of their "wing power" (which is measured based on their speeds in a short, flying sprint). As is to be expected, Fluttershy's is behind all the others, mostly because she has a bullying trauma flashback mid-test. She runs off, crying.
However, she gets a pep talk from her animal friends and montages her butt off.
Sadly, her montage only raises her speed from .5 whatevers to 2.3 whatevers, which is still behind most of the other pegasus in the group, who are all close to or above 10. So she cries and walks away, again, disappointed in herself, leaving Rainbow feeling awful.
Then, to make matters worse, as the big day approaches, 8 members of the group have emergency cancellations. So she has to deal with not having enough wing power to create a tornado that can lift the water to Cloudsdale. So their first attempt fails, predictably.
Fluttershy shows up, but just to offer Rainbow Dash moral support. When they try again, Fluttershy is convinced by Twilight to go into it, and she saves the day by overcoming her fears. Again.
"Stop horsing around, Fluttershy!" hehehe...
It's an episode that revolves around the friendship between Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, and explores how Fluttershy's past experiences with bullying present a big psychological hurdle for her as an adult/older teenager or whatever (?). It also shows the tension in their friendship, Fluttershy being timid and nervous under pressure, while Rainbow Dash loves the spotlight and the thrill of competition. It's another episode, like "Look Before You Sleep", that shows how, realistically, ponies with very opposite natures end up being friends and sticking by each other regardless of their differences.
It also shows that bullying can have long-reaching psychological consequences, which is something most shows, even kid's shows where bullying exists, don't talk about. Plus, it talks about bullying and self-confidence, but not in an overly preachy, "very special episode" kind of way. It still makes the story light-hearted and enjoyable overall, while acknowledging the hurtful impact of bullying at the same time.
Yet another episode along the lines of "Fluttershy was weak before, then she's stronger/more confident at the end of the episode". Seriously?
"I need every ounce of wing power I can get"... and other things will make anyone who's taken even a basic high school physics class scream in fury. Although, I'm more forgiving about such things in this show, since it is a cartoon about magical, talking ponies who can somehow do most things people can do without hands. So, not a definite deal-breaker for me.
Episode 23: Ponyville Confidential
The Cutie Mark Crusaders decide to go after their cutie marks in journalism. (Hey, we all toy with the idea of picking a different major now and then.)
It starts out innocently enough, with them writing boring, but cute and harmless, pieces. However, royal brat Diamond Tiara, the queen bee of the school paper, demands that they write stuff that's more interesting. This leads them to the glorious derailment of journalism known as the gossip column. (And of course, the lower they sink, the higher their popularity soars.) They end up exposing every pony's bad side, which makes them insanely popular and widely read, but causes everyone to hate them at the same time. (Just like how everyone buys paparazzi magazines and pretends they hate that kind of thing, because paparazzi are widely hated.)
They end up feeling guilty, and that prompts them to quit their column, ending it with an apology letter to Ponyville.
I like this episode, because it focuses less on the mere "cutie mark acquisition" quest, which is kind of pointless and futile because you can't rush nature, and instead shows the cutie mark crusaders having typical little kid misadventures. They also learn something in this episode that's more than the usual "trying to hurry to grow up isn't good or even possible, things happen in time" lesson.
What they learn is that sometimes, being popular isn't the same, or even as valuable, as being a good person (or pony). It's kind of a lesson about responsible journalism, but it's also about standing up to people like Diamond Tiara who value numbers and results over human (or pony) lives.
I like how this isn't a problem for the mane six until they themselves end up featured in Gabby Gums' (the journalist persona of the CMC's) embarrassing exposés. Twilight is concerned at first, about other pony's feelings. Good for Twilight, but the others tend to dismiss it as harmless fun... until they themselves get featured in her column. All at once, which seems strange. Especially Rarity. Ugh. Rarity. She's the pony vehemently defending Gabby Gums, right up until she sees her own private diary printed in the paper, which is when she reacts with her trademark melodrama.
Episode 24: MMMystery on the Friendship Express
Pinkie Pie and the others are entrusted with taking a cake made by the Cakes to be judged at a dessert contest in Canterlot. Aboard the train, disaster strikes. Ok, mild problem strikes. Someone was sneaking bites the cake under cover of darkness! Pinkie Pie and Twilight do some sleuthing to get to the bottom of the problem, but while interrogating the ponies (and griffon and mule) on the train, they run through a tunnel... and the other desserts on the train for the competition get nibbled too! The plot thickens as Twilight and Pinkie race around, retracing Pinkie's steps from the night before, trying to find clues as to who the malicious treat gobbler is.
So, uh, spoiler alert: it turns out that Rarity, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash all snuck a bite of the Cake's Cake, called the MMM, the night before. But then, when Pinkie described the other bakers' treats in a way that made them sound to-die-for, in the tunnel, each of the three bakers sampled one another's desserts.
The three bakers and Pinkie Pie fix the problem of all their treats being partially gobbled by creating a crazy, Frankenstein-ish concoction of all the remaining parts of their desserts. So, I guess Canterlot's health inspectors aren't very picky.
A pretty funny episode, especially if you're wont to enjoy the whole "mystery novel spoof" aspect of it.
I thought it was kind of boring. I mean, there's not much tension in this. I mean, it's kind of an interesting twist that the cake was nommed by not one, but three ponies. But it's not like many other episodes where something of greater importance, or a friendship itself, is at stake. To me, this is a meh episode, which is almost worse than being a really bad episode. Because at least a bad episode can provoke discussion. This one provokes... food lust? I don't know.
Episodes 25 and 26: A Canterlot Wedding Parts 1 and 2
Twilight and her friends are baffled when Twilight receives an invitation to the wedding of some "Princess Mi Amore Cadenza" and her never-mentioned-before-this brother, Shining Armor. Furious that Shining Armor decided to get married without telling her, she storms into the castle. However, she realizes Shining Armor, as captain of the royal guard in Canterlot, is in a perilous position. There's a new threat to Canterlot. He has been using his magic to create a force-field around the entire city.
Twilight is also re-assured when she finds out that she does know "Princess Mi Amore Cadenza" as Cadence, a pink alicorn who used to baby-sit, er, "foal-sit", for Twilight as a filly. Twilight remembers Cadence as a sweet, loving pony who was able to magically spread loving vibes wherever she went. Awesome, right?
Well, Twilight at first suspects that something's wrong when Cadence doesn't seem to recognize or remember her. Cadence also acts cold and aloof, which Twilight knows isn't anything like the Cadence she remembers. Her suspicions about Cadence seem to be confirmed when she spies her performing some kind of mind-control spell on Shining Armor.
However, when she finally confronts Cadence and accuses her of being evil, no one believes her and Shining Armor says she can't be their "best mare" anymore. In fact, he tells her not to even come to the wedding. Heartbroken, a teary Twilight apologizes sincerely to Cadence. Since they're alone, she reveals her truly evil nature and the first episode ends as Twilight is enveloped in magical green flames.
It turns out "Cadence" is an imposter, a creature known as a changeling, who pretended to be someone important to Shining Armor, Cadence, in order to get stronger by feeding off of his love. Chrysalis is her real name, and she is the queen of an army of changelings. Using her power over Shining Armor, she hopes to destroy his magical barrier and allow her army to attack Canterlot, feeding on the emotions of every pony and making them all into her drones.
The real Princess Cadence meets Twilight Sparkle when both are imprisoned by Chrysalis in underground caves beneath Canterlot. Cadence and Twilight escape just in time for her to crash her own wedding, but it's too late to prevent the changelings from swarming in to take over. Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and the royal guard prove shockingly inept, so of course it's up to the mane 6, plus Shining Armor and Cadence, to save the day. After which they have their real wedding, with Twilight as best mare. Buy the toy! Buyyy it! Buy it!
It's a powerful, stunning, episode. It's full of mystery, action, suspense, and of course, romance. It has, in my opinion, one of the coolest villains, and also introduces two characters who are pretty amazing.
It also has a song, the This Day Aria, that knocks my socks off. I wouldn't say this was my favorite episode, but it's definitely in the top ten. And it's definitely a stunning finale to top off an amazing second season for the show.
Ok, I don't exactly like the idea of this show. I mean, it's as if they said hey, see this feminist show about how there's more than one way to be a girl? IT NEEDS MORE PINK PRINCESS WEDDING and an ANOREXIC DOLL CHARACTER. Bam.
But the truth is, while I'm pretty sure they put a pink princess and a royal wedding in the show just to have those in the show, they still made it an awesome episode. The final fight with Chrysalis' changeling army was pretty cool, reminding me a bit of Samurai Jack's fight with an army of robot insects. Except for an extra creepy bonus, the changelings all have the ability to, well, change, so they can look like any pony.
There are several holes in Chrysalis' plan. Bronycurious, a YouTube MLP reviewer, mentioned a few things. For example, when did Chrysalis impersonate Cadence? Was it before or after Shining Armor put up the barrier? If she did it before the barrier was put up, why was he able to put it there in the first place? If she did it after, how did she get through the barrier, imprison the real Cadence, and assume her identity? None of that is shown.
Chrysalis is also kind of dumb in that she simply lets the mane 6 escape. I'm sure she thinks they won't be able to fight her minions.
It's also kind of jarring that Twilight happened to be right about suspecting Cadence, when, in any alternate universe where she didn't happen to be the main character, she would have simply looked paranoid, jealous, and crazy. Not to mention the whole thing seems to reek of her having a crush on her brother and being jealous of Cadence as a romantic rival, which is just ew. But that didn't stop the fans from jumping on the "Twilight/Shining Armor" thing, especially in fan-made parodies of the show.
Basically, it's an episode where Twilight doesn't learn anything, because she was right all along. So I guess what the other ponies learned was, listen to Twilight even if she sounds like she's insane? No great lesson was learned in this episode.
There's also the issue with the fact that, up until now, Shining Armor and Cadence were never mentioned and weren't a part of the show. It seemed weird to me for them also to introduce Cadence as a third alicorn pony, because at first there were two, Luna and Celestia, who had this nice yin-and-yang equilibrium thing happening, that Cadence basically wrecks just by existing.