Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 29

For the first official episode of season two, Twilight fully descends into madness, and the opening theme gets redone.  Now there's a train!
Lesson Zero
Twilight Sparkle and Spike get an early start, as Twilight has a lot of things to accomplish, including checking her checklist for making a checklist.  After taking her cape to the cleaners, among other things, it's time to pick up a parcel of cupcakes from Sugar Cube Corners for a picnic later that day.  All seems to be going according to plan, except Mrs. Cake saw fit to give Twilight a baker's dozen, which means they don't quite fit in the box, and Twilight gets anal over the cupcakes all having the same amount of frosting.  Which they do once she gets through with them.  Not very much frosting, to be sure, but at least it's even.  Thanks to her frosting escapades, "washing Spike" almost makes the checklist, but Spike's tongue is apparently long enough that he's able to lick himself clean.  Kind of neat, but kind of disgusting, too.
Once all their tasks are complete, Twilight and Spike return to the library, and Spike comments he's glad they don't have a friendship report to write up this week, since all that checking gave him a cramp.  This comment fills Twilight with panic, as she had completely forgotten about the letter, and since she's supposed to send Princess Celestia a report every week, she only has until sundown to do so!  Spike gets a bit of "leaning on the fourth wall" bits here, as he moves the background out from behind Twilight, and otherwise removes her fantasies from the screen.  The purple unicorn freaks out about being late with an assignment, but Spike points out that the princess will most likely grant her an extension.  But Twilight can only imagine the worst, a scenario that ends with her back in Magic Kindergarten.  Spike tries to tell her she's being unrealistic, but Twilight misses his point, and instead decides to go in search of a situation that will result in a friendship report.  She turns to Spike for just such a problem, but he has none, so she takes off into to town as Spike predicts the end of the episode.

Out in Ponyville Square, Twilight is certain she'll find a pony who needs her help, and is elated when she hears Rarity's scream.  She makes her way toward the sound of the scream, kicking down the door of Rarity's boutique.  Rarity declares her problem to be the worst possible thing: losing her diamond-encrusted purple ribbon.  Though she has searched, she cannot find it, and conjures her chaise lounge to lie upon in anguish.  Twilight sees this as the perfect opportunity to procure a friendship lesson, but before she can finish pledging her help, Rarity spots the ribbon just lying on the floor.  With the ribbon problem solved, Twilight asks if there isn't something else Rarity needs help with, but when Rarity just asks for her measuring tape, Twilight moves on without even saying goodbye.
Twilight isn't discouraged, though, since she still has four other friends that might need help.  And indeed, it seems that she's hit the jackpot when she spots Rainbow Dash smashing up Applejack's barn.  Seeing a potential friendship in need of mending, Twilight stops the pegasus and goes all therapist on her, ready to root out a report.  But it turns out that Applejack, bunkered in a nearby ditch, actually asked Rainbow Dash to destroy the barn in order to make way for a new one.  With Twilight's misunderstanding cleared up, Dash goes in for the kill, demolishing the barn with a sonic rain-mushroom cloud.
A little worse for wear both from stress and Dash's destruction, Twilight chides herself for not visiting Fluttershy first.  The timid pony must surely have an issue to deal with, she assures herself, yet when she peeks behind Fluttershy's cottage, she spots Fluttershy going all kung-fu on a giant grizzly.  Panicking over her bad luck, Twilight leaves before the punchline of the scene: all that fighting was actually some kind of chiropractic technique.
Having failed at finding problems with her other friends, Twilight doesn't even bother visiting Pinkie Pie, and instead starts losing it on a park bench, which is where Spike finds her.  She doesn't even notice his presence, distracted by the sound of churlish laughter that she imagines is directed at her.  Spike manages to bring her out of her reverie, revealing the laughter was just from some nearby fillies.  He reminds her of the picnic, hoping that relaxing with her friends will bring her back to normal.  Twilight, however, sees this as the solution to all her problems.
As the others set up for the picnic, Rarity declares forgetting the plates to be the worst possible thing and conjures her chaise lounge again.  Her woe is forgotten when Twilight shows up, her dementia plain to see.  Tired of hoping for a problem to just fall in her lap, Twilight outright tells her friends about her problem.  They don't find "being late with a report" quite as terrible as she does, and invite her to just enjoy the picnic for a while.  But this Twilight cannot do, and she storms off.
Back at the library, Twilight's delirium continues to grow, and she soon sees the only way to find a problem to solve is to make that problem herself.  Venturing into the park, she spots the Cutie Mark Crusaders happily playing ball.  Dropping in on their game, she thoroughly creeps them all out before presenting them with her old doll, Smartypants (complete with play quill and notebook for doing her homework).  Her plan is for the one-doll-to-three-girls ratio to cause a rift in the girls' friendship, but as Smartypants has obviously seen better days, none of the CMC bite.  In her desperation, Twilight casts a "Want it, Need it" spell on the doll, which makes all three of the girls want it instantly.  Finally getting the results she wanted, Twilight pulls herself together to act as an authority figure, but her spell was too powerful, and the girls resist her attempts to wrest it away form them.
Luckily for her, Big Macintosh was passing by, so she asks him to help her out.  Big Macintosh is easily able to get the doll, but having seen it, he's affected by the spell, and takes off with it.  Soon almost the whole town has spotted the doll, and they all swarm on Big Macintosh to get it for themselves, leaving Twilight unable to get a clear shot to cast the counterspell.  The mayor manages to get the doll, and makes a mad dash across the field, heading toward where the rest of the mane cast is still picnicking.  As the town chases after the doll, Twilight warns her friends not to look, lest they, too, fall prey to her foolish spell.  She confesses to her insane plan as the day finally comes to an end, making her officially tardy.
With the setting of the sun, a regal voice calls for Twilight.  Princess Celestia has arrived, just as Twilight feared, and she isn't happy.  With a dose of royal magic, Celestia cancels the effects of Twilight's spell, leaving the townsfolk dazed and slightly embarrassed.  They all disperse, though Big Macintosh grabs Smartypants before he leaves.  Twilight and her friends cringe, waiting for Celestia's pronouncement, but the princess simply tells Twilight to meet her in the library.  Twilight bids her friends adieu, certain that it's Magic Kindergarten for her.  Realizing they may never see Twilight again, Rarity declares this the worst possible thing, for real this time.
At the library, Twilight attempts to justify her actions, but as the sun has set, she has no recourse but to declare herself a bad student.  As this wasn't what Celestia was planning to address, she has to reassure her most faithful student that a weekly letter is not actually a requirement.  Before she can get any further, Twilight's friends bust in to say that they were to blame for the craziness in town, not Twilight, since they knew she was upset, yet they discounted her feelings due to her worries not seeming worth worrying about.  They beg the princess not to send Twilight away from them, and Celestia makes a bargain with them: if they all report on friendship from now on (and only when there's actually something worth reporting), she'll let Twilight off the hook.  The ponies accept her proposition.
With her worries allayed, it occurs to Twilight that the princess showed up awfully quickly, and so she asks how the princess knew what was up.  Celestia reveals that Spike wrote to her, and commends him for doing the right thing.  And with that, she returns to Canterlot, eager to read the first of the group reports.  Before the girls can get down to business, though, Twilight takes a moment to thank Spike.  The letter is written round-robin style, with each girl adding a piece of the lesson they all learned: treat your friends' worries seriously, even if they sound stupid to you, and don't let your own worries grow out of control.  Spike tries to add his own post script, stating that since he's such an awesome friend already, he didn't have to learn this lesson, but Twilight nixes it.
It'll be interesting to see how this whole "everyone reports on friendship" bit plays out.  Will it always be round-robin style, or will only those who actually learned a lesson write the letter?  At least it gets rid of the "Twilight hijacks another pony's lesson" problem from season one.
I'll admit, my first time watching this episode, all of Twilight's craziness started to get old, but on the repeat viewings, I was able to appreciate it more.  I guess that knowing where the story would end up going helps.  That whole doll part was the best part of the episode, IMO, though I also loved Twilight getting starry-eyed every time she thought she'd be able to help a friend.  And Big Macintosh as a brony? Priceless.  I gotta ask, though, how come Twilight didn't decide to just fudge it?  Y'know, make up a friendship scenario to write about.  Then again, Princess Celestia can probably cast some kind of spell that would let her know whether what she was reading was true or not.
The animation really stood out in this one.  Not just all the Twilight crazy faces, though those were superb, but in lots of little things, too.  You can tell that the animators have really improved since season one.

Misc. Screenshots:
Taking cover
"You don't expect me to lay on the ground, do you?"
Stop looking at me like that, Twilight
You're in trouble now, Twilight
No, now you're really in trouble
That's not exactly a reassuring face, Celestia
Frustrated Spike

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