Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 4 blog: Pinkie's Pride

And so we continue my journey into season 4 with Pinkie's Pride!

Well, um...  not sure what to say about this episode...  I mean, I have a lot to say, but it's hard to explain...  I mean, I'm going to explain myself, but so much happens, it's hard to even know where to start or what to talk about, like holy cow, so much happens...

So, here's the thing; when I heard "Weird Al" Yankovic was guest starring in this episode, I was hyped to living Hell, saying this will be the best season ever and this will be the best episode ever.  As the days got closer to the premiere, I started to calm down a bit, and I got worried.  For one thing, Amy Keating Rogers was not only writing the episode, but also the songs.  Amy Keating Rogers isn't the worst writer of the show, not by a long-shot, but last time she wrote a Pinkie Pie episode (A Friend in Deed), It made me really frustrated and REALLY angry...  like Dave Polsky's Feeling Pinkie Keen levels of anger.  And her other episodes that season, specifically The Last Roundup and MMMystery on the Friendship Express, I hated those episodes, too!  Which, again, doesn't mean I hate her as a writer, Hell I liked The Cutie Pox, as well as The Best Night Ever in season 1 (thought then again, her other episodes that season didn't do much for me, either), but it still made me nervous all the same.  And then there's the songs.  I only heard bits and pieces of them before I saw the episode, and while they were okay, I wasn't TOO impressed by them, nor was I all that impressed with A.K.R.'s original version of the Smile song.  This wouldn't have made me THAT nervous if Weird Al wasn't guest starring, and I felt it would be a travesty among travesties to have him guest star in an episode and NOT have him write at least one song!  Daniel Ingram's comments about working with him also made it sound like he mostly supervised and didn't actually write songs.  So again, I was worried this was going to backfire, but did it meet expectations?  Well, let's go through the episode from the start to finish, to show you my progression and my thoughts as it went.

So the episode opens up on...  Appleloosa?  ...Huh, interesting choice.  And then we get Cheese Sandwich, Weird Al's character, who is essentially a male version of Pinkie Pie.  I don't mean that as a positive or negative thing, it's just an observation, from his wacky demeanor to his poofy curly hair.  He apparently has a rubber chicken named "Boneless" (lol), and then starts getting the shivers, and feels his next party will be in...  Ponyville!

Then we get our first song, and I have to say, I tried to pay attention to what was going on and what was being sung, but much like Discord's "Glass of Water" song, it's going to take repeat viewings to absorb what's been said.  Basically, Pinkie is getting stuff to prepare for a party, and that's cute I guess, but the song itself?  Well...  it's like Generosity, in that it's good...  but I don't find it that interesting.  Maybe it's how they break up the song for some extended dialogue (which didn't bother me with songs like "Find a Pet" or the aforementioned "Glass of Water" song, since they were in short bursts and didn't interrupt the flow that badly), but I couldn't get THAT into it.  I also felt like this was trying a bit too hard to be the next "Smile" song, with the town joining in and it building up and all that.  Again, it's not bad, it just didn't grab me, and thus I was starting to worry a bit...

Something I noticed, though, was that this was apparently a collaboration.  Amy Keating Rogers may have written it, but Jayson Thiessen, the show's director and co-showrunner, was credited for the "story".  I thought it was weird that he said he'd be doing a live Tweet when the episode aired, along with A.K.R., but now it makes sense...  though I have to wonder what he contributed to this...  after all, he never "wrote" for the show, and was just the director, so it's hard to tell what was his doing vs. what A.K.R. was doing.  Honestly, though, I get the feeling that, since I usually don't care for A.K.R. episodes, part of me keeps saying that Jayson was the one keeping her in line and making sure not to go TOO crazy, because that was pretty much my biggest issue with A Friend in Deed.  Then again, she WAS allowed to go crazy, though only when it made sense...  if that makes any sense.

Anyway, Pinkie Pie pins Rainbow Dash down and tells her she's going to give her the best part ever, and goes on to say how "parties are serious business"...  Well, okay, she didn't use those exact words, but still, couldn't resist!  Also, what's wrong with a picnic party?

Then Cheese Sandwich shows up, like some kind of mysterious wanderer out of a western, and delivers things all serious-like.  On the on hand, this is kind of funny, considering what he's talking about, but on the other hand, it made me feel a little awkward...  though that might be because my dad was there with me (doing work on his laptop), and I have the feeling he wasn't impressed with what was happening.  Cheese Sandwich tells them that his "Cheesy sense" told him to come there, to which Pinkie said that's like her Pinkie sense...  which I don't think is the case at all.  I mean, Cheese Sandwich's "Cheesy Sense" just gives him the shivers and tells him where a party needs planning.  I don't see how that's similar to a twitchy tail telling you that something's going to fall, or ears flopping telling you someone's going to need a bath, or combos that tell all sorts of random-ass stuff that happens.  I mean, you don't really need to explain why Cheese shivers whenever a party needs planning, one could file that under instinct or, considering he's all about parties, just part of who he is, but with the Pinkie Sense, so much of the stuff is so out-there and random, and they don't even TRY to make sense of it, and punish anyone who questions it-no, no, calm down...  We're not talking about that episode, we're talking about this, no need to get angry...  *sigh*  Okay, that aside, why did Cheese Sandwich come now?  Didn't he sense that there were other parties that needed planning in Ponyville?  Why now?  ...Perhaps it was destiny?  I'll get to that in a moment.  So anyway, after that, Rainbow Dash tells them that this is not only her birthday, it's also the anniversary of when she moved to Ponyville.

Okay, this next bit is the minorest of minor nitpicks, but having seen the very first preview of this episode via USA Today dozens of times, it just became all the more noticeable to me as time went on.  Rarity comments on Rainbow Dash's anniversary, gives a glance at Applejack complete with a sound effect, then says it's her "birth-iversary"...  And I just find these few seconds incredibly dumb.  Yes, I know, this feels incredibly petty to complain about this, but if I don't get this out of my way, I'll never get over it.  First off, why is Rarity acting surprised?  It was established in Princess Twilight Sparkle that at least one year has passed since the series began, meaning they had to have celebrated Rainbow Dash's birthday before, not to mention it's implied that Rainbow Dash has lived in Ponyville for at least a little while longer then that.  Has she never brought up the fact that it was her anniversary to her friends?  Not to mention, why would Rainbow Dash move from Cloudsdale to Ponyville on her birthday of all days?  Shouldn't she be celebrating with her friends in Cloudsdales instead of using that day to move to a completely new location AWAY from her friends?  Second, that glance and that noise...  why did they include that?  This bothers me so much and I have no idea why.  It just seems to stupid, and pointless, but mostly I feel it's...  well, juvenile is the best word I can think of for this brief moment.  Sound effects for stuff like this can go both ways with me, sometimes I think it's funny, other times I find it annoying, it just depends on the context and the series/movie it's in.  Here, I find it annoying.  Third, "birth-iversary"?  Really, Rarity?  ...Then again, this is the same pony who declared Fluttershy to be "Flutterbat" in Bats!, so I guess it's at least in character with her...  but it still sounds kind of dumb.  Ugh, even this rant doesn't to justice to how I feel about this completely pointless scene, and I feel even worse for wasting this much time bitching about it...

Either way, after this comes Weird Al's first song.  Much like Glass of Water, a lot of stuff goes by really quickly and it's really insane.  Because Weird Al sings it, I love it, but at the same time...  I'm not THAT into it.  Maybe I just need to hear it more times, kind of like the song from Bats!  But the thing that bothers me is how random it gets...  Now I love random humor, Hell that's part of the reason why I watch Adventure Time, but the thing about the random humor here, and this is why I find Pinkie Pie annoying a lot of the time...  it's that the randomness feels...  "superficial".  That is, it's random fro the sake of being random.  The thing about Adventure Time is that it can make it's randomness sound natural coming from the characters, and from writers and people who have a logic that defies conventional wisdom.  The randomness in this song, and also from Pinkie Pie in general, feels very forced, like someone who's trying to be one of those really quirky people but is just too "normal" to pull it off.  Now you may be wondering why I have an issue with the randomness in this song when I loved the Glass of Water song from the previous episode.  After all, Discord can be just as random as Pinkie can, perhaps even more so.  Well, the thing about that is, unlike Pinkie, who the writers just force randomness into, Discord's randomness comes in the form of more surreal and mind-bending antics, and feels a lot more natural in comparison.  Not to mention, in the case of the song, the things Discord is singing about have a visual representation, and thus comes off as all the funnier.  With this song, it feels like only half the time do the visuals have anything to do with what Cheese Sandwich is singing about.  The part that sticks out to me the most is when there's no signing at all, and Cheese Sandwich ends up giving a young colt a hippo...  and the colt rides off with it...  Um...  what?  I was literally saying "what the Hell?" at the screen (which again, didn't feel good while my dad was there).  It had nothing to do with anything, and I didn't find it funny at all, it was just arbitrarily random!  So yeah, things weren't looking that good for me and this episode...  Then the song ended, and things started to change.

Everypony in Ponyville, including Pinkie Pie's own friends, started to gather 'round Cheese Sandwich, singing him praises of how much of a "super duper party pony" he is.  Rainbow Dash even outright says he sounds better then Pinkie Pie...  WHILE PINKIE IS IN EARSHOT!  Pinkie's reaction to this is INCREDIBLY sad, especially when her mane starts to droop...  On a side note, I find it strange that her mane and tail still remain poofy, despite going completely flat in Party of One, wherein she thinks her friends don't like her parties and they don't want to be her friends anymore.  I would think that, since this is ACTUALLY happening, she would be just as upset.  Then again, her friends don't want to be her friends, they just seem to be more interested in Cheese Sandwich's party...  Which really sucks, especially considering that the whole town was just singing her praises (literally) about how much of a "super duper party pony" she was.  It definitely makes you feel bad for Pinkie Pie...

What I find strange, though, is that when Twilight shows up at Sugercube Corner and talks to Pinkie Pie, Pinkie acts like there's nothing wrong...  Now, maybe I'm the kind of guy who wants to talk things out when there's something bothering me, but I'm not seeing why Pinkie would want to be dishonest about this, especially when Twilight seems concerned.  Again, maybe I need to watch this episode again, but I don't know what Pinkie's trying to hide here...  Then we get another song, and I have to say, this song actually grabbed me.  Since I was genuinely sympathizing (or maybe empathizing) with Pinkie's sadness, of how she was essentially forgotten as soon as Cheese Sandwich came into town, the song had a lot more weight to it...  Plus, I really do like Shannon Chan-Kent's singing voice.  There were things that caught my attention here, though, such as Pinkie crying into a river, and the ripple created the mane 6-colored rainbow (confirming that this episode is, indeed, just as I predicted, the episode where she gets her "key" for the locked chest from the season premiere), and the pictures from all the other parties she's thrown.  They're all nice call-backs to previous seasons, except...  Well, I didn't say this out loud, because my dad was there, but when I saw the picture of Pinkie's first party with her family, as shown in The Cutie Mark Chronicles, all I could think of was...

...WHO THE HELL IS THAT?!  In the lower right-hand corner?  that purple filly with the rest of Pinkie's family?!  Is she Pinkie's sister?  Where they Hell did SHE come from?!  Why did they throw her in there when she wasn't there in The Cutie Mark Chronicles?  This has me thinking that we're likely going to see her this season, along with the rest of Pinkie's sisters...  Hell, Meghan McCarthy said as such at a convention (I forget which), so this would make the most sense.  After all, a lot of people complained when Shining Armor showed up out of nowhere in A Canterlot Wedding, and they've been trying to have better continuity this season, so perhaps this was their way of setting us up so they don't pull a "Shining Armor" like last time.  This, coupled with the updated eyes on one of Pinkie's other sisters, leads me to think that they will, indeed, show up later, and that this is the case.  So bravo for that!

So Pinkie challenges Cheese Sandwich to a "goof-off" (my dad literally laughed/groaned when he heard that), and everyone seems shocked...  despite not knowing what a goof-off was.  Pinkie says the winner gets to plan Rainbow Dash's "birth-iversary" while the loser...  doesn't.  They don't leave town, or are banished or anything, they just don't plan RD's party.  O-kay, then...  Cheese Sandwich, of course, takes this very seriously (and puts on a fez for some reason), and accepts.  They square off in town, as Twilight pulls out a rulebook for a "goof-off"...  Spike points out that she'll have a rulebook on anything, but again, I find it hard to believe that a pony who constantly has trouble finding the right book and typically relies on Spike to get the right book for her, not to mention can't find a book on dragons or the Mirror Pool/Mirror Pond would happen to have a rulebook for a goof-off.  Also, Matilda cameo (where's Cranky?).

And the goof-off commences with Rainbow Dash as the judge!  Just an FYI, I tried to pay close attention to credits to see who wrote what music, and as far as I can tell, this is the only song in which Weird Al had any involvement in...  Specifically, the "W.A.Y. Moby Polka portion".  Actually, the melodies of this song sounded familiar...  I'm guessing this is one big should-out to all of Weird All's polka mixes, and I find it awesome!  Yeah, this is definitely the best song of the episode, and perhaps the best part of the episode, too, because here, the randomness has a point: as being part of the goof-off.  Again, a lot of things went by quickly and didn't register with me, though I remember Pinkie Pie getting upset with Cheese Sandwich singing "her" song, which took me a moment to realize it was the Smile song!  Not to mention, HOLY SHIT, a real-ass rubber chicken and a real-ass alligator representing Boneless and Gummy!  That caught my so off guard I was laughing the whole time!  I'm starting to get the feeling this was Jayson Thiessen's choice, given that he came  up with the idea to use stop-motion felt in A Friend in Deed, and boy-oh-boy, what a pay-off that was!  So the goof-off continues on until this big float thing crashes on Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie immediately takes notice, and realizes, in trying to outdo Cheese Sandwich, she ended up not only hurting one of her friends, but the whole reason she's having a goof-off in the first place!  What I like about this is that Pinkie has her "rainbow realization" moment here, and that you can say it was either the rainbow-colored float thing or Rainbow Dash herself that made it happen.  What's interesting though is that, unlike Rarity or Rainbow Dash, Pinkie's "rainbow realization" comes closer to the middle of the episode, and at first, it doesn't seem like a good thing.  Not only does she forfeit the goof-off, but in the next scene, she starts packing up!  Now wait a minute, there was nothing about leaving Ponyville in the deal, she doesn't have to go and do this?  But then again, she felt so bad about letting her pride get to her that she probably feels she's a disgrace as a "party pony" regardless.  Thankfully, her friends are there, apologize for getting all worked up about Cheese Sandwich, and say that he might be a guest party pony, but Pinkie's their permanent party pony!

Then comes the second best part of the episode...  for me, anyway.  Cheese Sandwich shows up and admits that he didn't mean to steal the spotlight from Pinkie Pie.  This was such a relief, because I was so worried he'd come off as an antagonist, like Suri Polomare of the Wonderbolts (yeah, still can't get over that, especially in Spitfire's case), but here, it's just a misunderstanding.  It gets especially bad when we hear Cheese Sandwich's backstory.  When he was a young colt (BTW, I love how young Cheese Sandwich wears glasses, a nice nod to the fact that Weird Al used to wear glasses), he was awkward and unsociable, until he came to Ponyville, first came across his rubber chicken Boneless, and saw everypony happy, thus inspiring him to become the pony he was...  and that it was all thanks to Pinkie Pie!  That's right, to so-called "super duper party pony" owes his party-planning lifestyle to Pinkie Pie!  It's a beautiful realization...  before Rainbow Dash ruins it by butting in and reminding everyone about HER party...  yeah...  But then Pinkie and Cheese work together to create the most epic party that Ponyville has every known, and we get our last song, which is also really good.  Cheese Sandwich, his work done, leaves his prized rubber chicken Boneless with Pinkie (he has another one, Boneless II), and departs to plan parties all over Equestria.

Then the episode ends with a bad joke.  Yeah, I'm sorry, I don't find Pinkie Pie not realizing Cheese Sandwich's name funny at all, especially after Cheese reveals he is who he is because of Pinkie Pie.  It just comes of a wee bit inconsiderate, and much like Scootaloo's cutie mark fake-out in Flight to the Finish, leaves a sour taste in an otherwise awesome episode.

Oh yeah, that's right, this episode rocks!  I love it, and it continues to support my assumption that his is, indeed, the best season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic so far!  There are other minor things I kind of want to mention, though, such as how the songs tend to awkwardly transition back to the story...  whenever a song ends, it feels like a good time for a commercial break or something, the way it ends just makes it feel weird to suddenly get back to the story.  In the previous musical episode, Magical Mystery Cure, the songs managed to transition nicely between ending the song back to the story, but here, when a song ends, it's usually on a slow note, making the sudden jump back to the story really abrupt, it almost gives me a mood whiplash whenever it happens.  Also, I noticed that Bonless didn't "shine" the same way the rainbow thread or Spitfire's badge did.

But that aside, REALLY good episode, so relieved it turned out as good as it did!  Bravo to Amy Keating Rogers and Jayson Thiessen for writing THE best Pinkie Pie episode, and not having it so that Weird Al didn't overshadow the episode, like so many other shows that have a guest star do.

So...  next week is "Simple Ways", but Josh Haber, and it supposedly has an unbelievable performance by Rarity...  Sound good!  Again, part of me doesn't want to be TOO hyped for this, but really, the way this season's going, I wouldn't be surprised if it really DID turn out awesome!  Still, perhaps not being that hyped is the best way to go about these things. 

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