Nov 10, 2014

Ponies Through The Ages: Day 10

Update: I’m going to be making a change to my schedule of PTTA. The first 26 days will still go as planned, but then on Day 27, it will be Equestria Girls, then Day 28 will be the Rainbow Rocks shorts (rather than the film), then Day 29 will be Rainbow Rocks (rather than Season 5), and then Day 30 will be Season 5. My overall conclusion will be posted on December 1st instead of November 30th. This will give me the opportunity to talk about the Rainbow Rocks shorts as well, as I do feel that they are worth talking about. So you get more content from me than I originally promised. I apologize if that offends any of you. (Hey, on the Internet, you never know.)

Welcome to the tenth day of PTTA. Do you enjoy reading these little snippets up top before the episode reviews themselves? If so, I’ve got some bad news for you. This is the last one. Unfortunately, it’s hard to talk about what the job of the tenth episode is without talking about eleven, twelve, and thirteen. And after thirteen, episodes are pretty much free to do whatever they want. So I’m just going to sum up the rest of it here. Episode 13, in most shows, is the season finale. MLP is unique in that it gets 26 episodes per season (usually) instead of 13, but for most shows, 13 is where you end. So you want your season finale to be epic. Just in case your show doesn’t come back for another season, you want to end on a high note. And if it does come back, then this will get people wanting it more. You ensure that you keep your audience. Of course, the best way to do an epic season finale is with a two-parter, so episode 12 often has this job as well. That means that episode 11 needs to be good enough to get the viewer to want to see episodes 12 and 13, so it’s going to be hard doing three really good episodes in a row. Of course, if you want to forego the two-part season finale, you can just make 11 and 12 good, and then 11 can be average, but for the most part, you want 11, 12, and 13 to all be good episodes. This means that Episode 10 is your last chance to create a below-average episode. After this, you’re gonna be blazing through the rest of your season with non-stop adrenaline. So, for that reason, it is okay to make Episode 10 a bad episode if you are doing a 13-episode season.

Of course, with MLP, a season is (usually) 26 episodes long, so how does it work with that? Well, at that point, you have a lot of freedom. With so many episodes, it really doesn’t matter as much which episodes are good and which are bad. Especially so if your series is episodic, like MLP is. After all, the average viewer isn’t going to keep track of which episode is which. Trivia question for you bronies: which came first? “Call of the Cutie” or “Winter Wrap Up”? You’re not allowed to look it up first. If you don’t know, that’s fine. (The answer was WWU.) That just proves my point. The episodes don’t really make as big of an impact here. Even if you do have a couple of bad ones in a row, you’re going to get some good ones later. People generally don’t give up on a show that easily if it has proven itself good enough to get long seasons. Even non-bronies watching the show for the first time typically aren’t put off by Season 1’s bad episodes, because they acknowledge that the show MUST get better or else no one would like it. (That is, the non-bronies who have enough reason not to just say “Oh, it’s My Little Pony,” and then think of G3 and then jump to conclusions.)

So, at this point, episode 10 doesn’t have to be a bad episode, or even a below-average episode. MLP is basically free to do whatever it wants at this point. So long as the last two to three episodes of each season are high quality, it doesn’t matter what the other ones are. That’s not to say that you can just lump all of the bad ones together. That would be a mistake. But it does mean that if you happen to put two bad ones together, it’s not so bad. It should still be avoided, but as long as you don’t go too overboard with it, you really have nothing to worry about.

So let’s see what MLP gives us with “Swarm of the Century”, “Secret of My Excess”, “Keep Calm and Flutter On”, and “Rainbow Falls”.

---500 WORD COUNT STARTS NOW---

“The Trouble With Tribbles”- I mean, “Swarm of the Century” is an episode of Star Trek- I mean, My Little Pony, in which Uhura- I mean, Fluttershy, finds an adorable little creature on Space Station K7- I mean, the Everfree Forest, called a Tribble- I mean, a Parasprite and so she takes it back to her crewmates- I mean, friends, on the USS Enterprise- I mean, in Ponyville. She finds that it has produced offspring, and then everyone wants one. But soon, they discover that all these things do is eat and breed, and things get out of control. I can’t put my finger on it, but this feels like they very obviously copied something. Oh well, must be my imagination. I do like that they brought Zecora back, after JUST ONE EPISODE. And the Parasprites are actually a really good threat. Hell, they succeeded. By the end of this episode, Ponyville is completely destroyed. And it’s just magically back to normal in the next episode for no reason. They’re awesome.

“Secret of My Excess” is bad. There’s absolutely no reason why Spike would be so grabby and try to hoard things. Yes, he’s a dragon. No, that’s not a good enough reason. He was raised by ponies and has never even seen another dragon before this point (other than briefly during “Owl’s Well That Ends Well”). He has no reason to act like a dragon. While it could be just the way his brain works, I’m really not buying that. After years of being taught that greed is wrong, the neurons of that part of his brain would have just gone somewhere else since they weren’t getting any activity, and then that part of his brain would have shut down. So yeah, this makes no sense.

“Keep Calm and Flutter On” is good. It’s great to see Discord and Fluttershy interact, because they really didn’t in “The Return of Harmony”, and they make such an odd pairing that it’s enjoyable. At first, I didn’t like the fact that Discord, spirit of chaos and disharmony, and the greatest villain that the series has ever had, turned into a good guy. But the fact that he gets a character arc in Season 4 that shows that he was pretty much faking it the whole time made me love him even more.

“Rainbow Falls” sucks. I’m sorry, but I do not believe for even one nanosecond that Rainbow Dash would consider performing with the Wonderbolts over Ponyville in the Equestria Games. In “Friendship Is Magic”, we saw that she chose her friends over the Shadowbolts. 3.5 seasons of character development later, after she has grown even closer to her friends, you mean to tell me that this is a hard decision for her? Bullshit. Also, Spitfire treating Soarin’ like crap. What was up with that? I understand being hard on the students in “Wonderbolts Academy” (you need to demonstrate that you're the authoritative figure), but this just made no sense.

---500 WORD COUNT ENDS NOW---

“What? You can’t just end your word count prematurely. If you have something else to say, it should count for your 500 words. You’re just cheating!”

Nope. I have 500 words to talk about the episodes. But I want to talk about something besides the episodes now: the Season 4 story arc with the box. It makes sense to talk about it during “Rainbow Falls”, because that is the episode that showed off the problem with this story arc for the first time. But as my problem is with the story as a whole and not just this one particular aspect, I consider it to be outside of the episode.

Now, to recap the story arc:

In “Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 2”, the Main Six had to give up their Elements of Harmony. In exchange, they got a magic box containing six locks, and they had to go find the keys, somehow. In “Castle Mane-ia”, Twilight looked through a bunch of books to see if she could find anything about the box, but to no avail. She did find an old journal, though, and that sparked an idea to get her friends to create a journal to share with each other. They would do this throughout the rest of the season. We later see in “Twilight Time” that there are some blueprints of the box in Twilight’s library, indicating that she is still studying it.

Also over the course of the season, the Main Six each received a gift from someone, and, in “Twilight’s Kingdom”, the gifts turned into the keys to the box. They opened the box, got a magic Rainbow Power that they used to defeat Tirek, and save the day. Also Twilight got a castle.

Now, here’s the problem. The keys were obtained in the following episodes:

Episode 8 - Rarity Takes Manehattan
Episode 10 - Rainbow Falls
Episode 12 - Pinkie Pride
Episode 16 - It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies
Episode 20 - Leap of Faith
Episode 26 - Twilight’s Kingdom, Part 2

So, Rainbow Falls is only the SECOND key episode of the season. Despite that, already off of this, bronies saw the pattern. They saw the “character wasn’t following their element, because it was too difficult to do so, but then got rainbow-colored eyes, made the right decision at the end, thus convincing someone else to follow that element of harmony as well, and then received a gift from that character, and then wrote a journal entry, and then that object got a rainbow shine, and then the episode ended with an iris out on that gift” pattern.

Mainly because THAT IS A RIDICULOUSLY OBVIOUS PATTERN. Seriously. I kinda wonder if even a little kid picked up on that. (Actually, now that I think about it, I wouldn’t mind watching a five-year-old girl watch through the show and review it, kinda giving her perspective on it. Any bronies out there with little siblings who have YouTube channels: make this happen.)

Now, I get why they did the story arc this way. Rarity didn’t have an episode at all in Season 3, and that was a huge mistake. So, to ensure that every member of the Main Six got an episode this season, they FORCED themselves to write an episode for each member of the Main Six this season. And, honestly, if the story arc helped to ensure that each character would get an episode, then I support it.

What I don’t support, though, is the fact that the story arc was so obvious. Seriously. You don’t need to animate the rainbow eyes or rainbow shine on the gift, or the iris out. If you didn’t show it, then it would not have been obvious. (After all, episodes with similar themes never connected together in the past, so why would we think that they connected now?)

Now, of course, it is always fun to have a mystery to see if you can figure it out before the characters do. But the problem is that if you figure it out SIXTEEN EPISODES before the characters do, then it doesn’t make you look smart as much as it makes the characters look stupid. This whole thing could have been avoided if you just didn’t animate the rainbow eyes and do all that other stuff.

But noooo, you HAD to do it this way, and thus rob the whole story arc of any suspense. What a disappointment.

2 comments:

  1. S1 - To be fair this plot has been in a bunch of shows at this point, so it's not just MLP copying it.

    S2 - Yep, the nurture on Spike should have dominated the nature. Also why would he just go crazy when getting more stuff, sure being a bit greedy is one thing but actually turning evil is another. Also magically growing bigger then smaller makes "total sense" and the fact he destroyed half the town is just glazed over.

    S3 - Discord is always good, and come on, even when he's "good" his main goal is just to have fun, so nothing really changes.

    S4 - I remember everyone shitting on me because I said Spitfire having a completely different personality was nonsense in Wonderbolt Academy, but when she shows up again with the same completely different personality, well there's a bit of vindication in that.

    Yeah if they didn't put a giant spotlight on the items and go, "yep this is going to be the key... did you get that.. did you!?!" then it wouldn't have been as blazingly obvious. It's still utter nonsense that the mystery of what was in the box was just freaking magic. What object is in there? ....uh.... magic.... and Twilight just get's a castle because reasons. Man, screw this plotline.

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    1. I wouldn't necessarily say "screw this plotline". Like I said, I think the plotline was good, as it guarantees that each character gets their own episode. I will just say "screw the way that this plotline was handled".

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