Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Apple(jack) a Day Kept the Locksmith Away...

... until the Element of Honesty finally got her "key" in "Leap of Faith," last week's new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  I'm not exactly going to beat my chest (or whack my withers, to coin a dubious equine phrase) about getting this guess right.  Once it became known that the ep was going to feature "a test of Applejack's honesty" and that it was going to guest-star the Flim-Flam brothers, a pair of traveling salesponies who nearly won Sweet Apple Acres from the Apple family during a cider-making contest in a second-season episode, the scenario pretty much wrote itself.  Well, up to a point.  I had expected that the characters who would be taught a lesson by Applejack and would give her a "key-riffic" token of thanks in return would be the Flim-Flam brothers themselves.  Not hardly.  In fact, the brothers cross the line into outright dishonesty, selling a fake health tonic to Ponyville's old, lame, halt, and blind (of which there suddenly seem to be a great many), and barely manage to slip out of town before the locals can beat a tattoo on their backsides.  Instead, it's the brothers' repentant shill who delivers the goods, giving Applejack the money that he'd earlier conned out of a credulous local before AJ's decision to break the "placebo effect spell" awakened his dormant conscience.  It was a pretty predictable plot, but pleasantly rendered for all that.

I greatly enjoyed the two eps that preceded "Leap of Faith," for diametrically opposite reasons.  "Maud Pie" introduced us to Pinkie Pie's deader-than-deadpan older sister, whose life revolves around... rocks.  Thankfully, "pebbular" puns in this ep are kept to a minimum, though the obligatory "pet rock" reference wastes little time in making an appearance.  Far more fun is had with Maud's monotonic line deliveries, free verse (about rocks, of course) recitals, and overall sense of low-key otherworldliness (e.g., she calmly eats a rock as the picnicking ponies watch in shock).  The contrast to sister Pinkie could not be more stark... or could it??  In her dull, gray way, Maud gradually reveals that she has just as much control over her environment as does the fourth-wall-breaking Pinkie.  In addition to eating rocks, she displays the ability to hurl giant boulders incredible distances, and she literally drills through a slab to save Pinkie from a rockslide.  Evidently, an inherited gene in the Pie family allows for this sort of where-the-hay-did-THAT-come-from activity. 

"For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" was an easy sell for me because it could be considered a follow-up of sorts of the marvelous "Sisterhooves Social," which I discussed during my article on Rarity.  Here, it's Sweetie who is more sinning than sinned against, as she takes umbrage at what she feels (and, apparently, has felt for some time) is her big sister's propensity for stealing the spotlight from her.  Full of resentment, she sabotages a piece of wardrobe that Rarity had made for a mega-important client... and we then segue seamlessly (heh) into a takeoff on Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL, as Princess Luna, who can invade ponies' dreams, helps the snoozing Sweetie explore the origins of her resentment and the possible impact that Sweetie's skullduggery may have on Rarity's career.  The visuals in this sequence are something to behold, and the use of Luna is an inspired (and context-specific) touch, since the Alicorn of the Night turned against her sister Celestia and became the evil Nightmare Moon for much the same reason that Sweetie turned against Rarity.  It's as if Jacob Marley wasn't simply the ghost who came to warn Ebenezer Scrooge against repeating Marley's mistakes, but also served as Scrooge's guide through the past, present, and future.

The "vision of future Rarity" here is particularly chilling; reduced to a paranoid wreck who can't stop checking and double-checking every last angstrom of her creations, she ultimately stops making dresses entirely and becomes a hermit.  I think it would have been an even creepier touch if, in the scene below, Rarity had still been holding the same dress that she had been literally "double-checking" forever.  Perhaps it was thought that actually depicting a case of completely-out-of-control OCD would have been taking things a little too far for "a kids' cartoon."

Needless to say, Sweetie manages to undo the bad that she has done (though not without the obligatory "last-minute rescue" shenanigans) and the sisters have another great bonding moment.  I think that Rarity-and-Sweetie stories are so good because the girls' relationship has more of the emotional ups and downs that are seen in real-world sibling relationships.  The conflicts in "Sisterhooves Social" and "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls" seem to arise fairly naturally from the girls' personalities.  By contrast, in "Somepony to Watch Over Me," Applejack had to be turned into a temporary control freak in order for the normally idyllic relationship between Applejack and Apple Bloom to throw a shoe.

The big question presently "at hoof" is when Twilight Sparkle will (1) get her "key" and (2) figure out the magical, mystical procedure whereby the infamous "lockbox" introduced in "Princess Twilight Sparkle."  I'd be shocked if both of these events didn't occur during the "Equestria Games" storyline that will wrap up season 4, but some have opined that (1) might happen during an upcoming ep in which the gang go to a trading post and have their friendship "tested" in some manner.  I don't know; said "test" may simply amount to one of them buying up all the (fill in the blank)s available and pissing the others off.  Besides, a season-long arc should, by all rights, be concluded at the same time that the season itself draws to a close.  So I'll stick with my "Equestria Games" theory for now.


Pan MiluĊ› said...

For me the Sweetie Belle episode is propably the strongest one in the season. Very emotional stuff. Maud was also a cool character.

I woudn't like if Flimflam brothers would reform. Not yet. The show had a nasty habit of reforming the villians in their second apperance (Trixie one was especialy lazy) and I wish they would play with them a bit beafore they turn good.

Maybe next season - and there will be one - they can make episode where Flam get's sick and Flim ask Granny Smith for cure only she knows but Applejack asumes it's another trick and refuse to belive them. Turns out not a single pony trust them after all previous scams (even their songs don't work any more) and they must start leaving honest to regain trust...

...ok, not the best idea but episode that gave the two some patos would be interesting one.

P.S. Two days ago I got the comic book with the last four "Pony Tales" stories (Crusaders + Celestia + Spike + Luna)They where all plesant read but Luna one was FANTASTIC! :D

Chris Barat said...


I think that today's ep ("Testing 123") was, if anything, even stronger, but "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls" was indeed first rate.

I suppose that Flim and Flam COULD be reformed at some point, but, in order for it to fit into the established pattern of the show's "redemption episodes," their new-leaf-over-turning would probably have to be a result of a new scam blowing up in their faces, forcing them to become more trustworthy.

Cook and Price never let me down, and the LUNA comic is just one more example of that. The new storyarc that began in MLP 17 doesn't look as if it's going to break the streak either. :-)