Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Friendship is Magic season 4 blogs: For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils

So I saw For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils earlier today...  Incidentally, many say it's a reference to the Ernest Hemmingway novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, but THAT was originally a line from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, by poet John Donne in 1624!

Anyway, the episode...  *sigh*, I just don't know...  I don't want to hate this episode, nor do I think there's anything wrong with it, but it makes me depressed.  It's mostly based on the beginning of it, and also that it kind of gets personal for me.  Not that it's anything specific from the episode, but that the concept in general is not only a cliche I've seen dozens of times, but also something I just dealt with and I'm still a bit shaken from.  As a whole, the episode made me feel depressed, and I feel bad because I want to like the good bits, but...

...Well, I guess I should probably start explaining myself.

The episode opens up with Sweetie Belle eagerly helping Rarity with some outfits she's making for Sapphire Shores.  Not first off, it's interesting that we see Sapphire Shores of all ponies again in this episode, she really did feel like a one-off character in every sense of the word in A Dog and Pony Show, a means of kick-starting the actual plot of that episode, so it's nice to see her back again and as a continued costumer of Rarity.  And I suppose this also introduces the first kind of problem I have or had with this episode...  See, going into it, I knew how things would turn out, seeing as I saw a few preview clips of the episode, so I "knew" that Sweetie Belle would get angry at Rarity for having the dresses she made overshadow her role in the play or whatever...  Seeing her so willingly leap at the chance to help Rarity here, it's like a completely 180 compared to what we see of her after the commercial break.  What I find even more insulting is that Sweetie Belle asked Rarity to help with her dresses, so it's pretty much her own fault all of this happened.  Yeah, EVERYTHING in this is all Sweetie Belle's fault, and the fact that she KNEW how important Rarity's current project was, and that she actually took time from cutting it REALLY close to finishing it JUST to help out Sweetie Belle is-!

Um, okay, I think I'm getting ahead of myself, let's move to the next bit...

So it turns out, this isn't just any play, it's a play Sweetie Belle made herself; she writer it, she directed it, she made the background stuff, and she pretty much stars in it.  Then it's revealed that she didn't tell Rarity about this...  this is where it gets a little confusing and irritating for me...

Actually, a brief aside, this episode was written by Dave Polsky, and I have to say none of the Dave Polsky episodes this season feel like Dave Polsky episodes at all.  I would say I'm impressed, but I'm actually rather annoyed, because if there's one consistent thing I felt from these episodes, is incredibly small, minor, INCREDIBLY annoying bits, plus small shades of shabby writing.  Whether it be including all of the mane 6 (and Daring Do's broken leg that's instantly healed) in Daring Don't, the wonky timeframe and nopony noticing their in the presence of a princess in Rarity Takes Manehatten, Diamond Tiara and the CMC's motivation, plus doing a complete 180 on Princess Twilight and that confusing ending, in Twilight Time, and now this episode.  I'd like to say he's improving, but it also feels like something is lost.  See, while I've said that I don't find Dave Polsky's episode funny in the slightest, because his episodes were stupid and enraging and every time the episode tries to attempt humor I end up getting angry at it, but the thing is, if Dave Polsky wrote for a completely different show, one where he didn't have to shoehorn in morals or the lapses in logic are more acceptable then in MLP:FiM, he actaully wouldn't be that bad, and I probably wouldn't hate him that much.  Like I said, these episodes don't feel like Dave Polsky episode, and that's mostly because that essential signature part of his episodes are not present in any of them.  It feels really weird, and I'm not sure I like it.  Sure, I never laughed at any of his episodes because they're already so dumb and rage-inducing, but then again, there are still minor writing problems that still bug me, so not only does he still need to improve but he's also lost a bit of himself in the process.  ...That wasn't very brief at all.  Oh well.

Okay, so apparently, Sweetie Belle hasn't told Rarity about the play, or at the very least she hasn't "known about it for weeks", because this is her thing and she wanted it to be her thing, so that she could finally stand out on her own and not live in Rarity's shadow or something.  Here's the problem, when Rarity comes in, she says she knew this was Sweetie Belle's play.  So much for not telling her, right?  Not to mention, if she just wanted this to be her thing, why did she even bother to ask Rarity to help out at all?  ESPECIALLY when she hasn't been telling her that this was supposed to be her thing?!  And on top of that, just because she didn't want Rarity to steal the spotlight, that doesn't mean she can't tell her about it so that she can see it and be proud, right?  How is not telling her about the play at all, not even a vague invitation if I recall correctly, going to prevent her from stealing the spotlight, ESPECIALLY after you asked her for help on something!?

So yeah, these are these minor bit's of sloppy writing that tick me off about Dave Polsky, but honestly, it's not so much his writing this time, since this episode is actually very well written...  for him.  It's more about the main conflict, something I correctly assumed about the episode and wasn't all that pleased to to see here: Poor Communication Kills.  This is a recurring instigator of conflict since the beginning of the series, though admittedly I don't think I've been seeing it as much lately, and it's not one I'm particularly fond of, since after all, conflict could be resolved if a character or two could just sit down and explain themselves further in these sorts of plotlines.  It also doesn't help that I hate misunderstandings in general, especially ones where a party doesn't understand why the other party is upset like Rarity in this episode.  Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to reach an understanding whenever I talk to someone, so misunderstandings like this really bother me.  But it doesn't stop there.

Okay, this is about to get pretty personal, so sorry for bogging people down with my life issues, but I think it affected how I viewed this episode so I'll get it out there.  Lately, I've been having an...  awkward relationship with my younger sister, who's currently living at home with me and my parents.  For several days, she's been giving me harsh responses to things I've said, and I'm completely oblivious to why she's so upset with me.  What's even worse is that when I try to talk things out with her, and understand WHY she's upset, she ends up getting angrier with me because apparently I was the one acting like a jackass, so she was just giving my a jackass response to me in return, and I just didn't get it.  There were also a bunch of minor things that apparently leading up towards my sister interpreting what I say the wrong way, but honestly, all of these times felt like they came out of nowhere, and I was completely helpless to make amends with my sister since apparently she doesn't want to make amends.  Apparently, she's the type of person to just leave things as they are, whereas I'm the kind of person who dwells on negative feelings, even if she's already past it.

So yeah, communication and trying to express myself properly has always been an issue with me, and since this aspect of my has been recently brought up, plotlines like this where the conflict hinges on bad communication and jumping to conclusions, are a lot more sensitive to me.

Well, anyway, Sweetie Belle glares at the dresses Rarity made, but doesn't think much of it.  I watched the preview clip of this episode where we actually saw part of Sweetie Belle's play, and...  I didn't really notice it then, but...  I GUESS we're supposed to think the play's bad?  I mean, we didn't see much acting or hear much of the dialogue, so it's not much to go on.  Point is, everyone only seemed to remark on the dresses they wore because nothing else about the play stood out.  Also, the rest of the mane 6 couldn't stay because they had to help Rarity.  Sweetie Belle is upset, but honestly, she has no one else to blame but herself her, as she pretty much set herself up for failure.  I know someone will tell me that she's a kid, emotions cloud judgement, whatever, I don't care here, I just can't bring myself to sympathize with Sweetie Belle in this episode.  On the one hand, one could say we we're meant to sympathize with her, but at the same time, we want to see why she'd do what she did later in the episode, right?  I guess I can understand her frustrations, but honestly, again, I can't help but see it as her own dang fault since she didn't bother to tell Rarity that much about the play and THEN ask her to help with the dresses WHILE SHE WAS WORKING ON A VERY IMPORTANT DEADLINE that she's ALREADY way behind on!

I remember saying to myself before this episode aired that this episode seems to be a reversal of Sisterhooves Social because this time it's Sweetie Belle who's clearly in the wrong this time and Rarity is just trying to be a good sister.  I remember someone telling me it's not quite like that, but having seen the episode now, I can safely say, it is, point-for-point.  Well, maybe not point-for-point but still, can't help but draw parallels.

We see Rarity and the mane 6 working and Rarity puts the finishing touches on this particular headdress (people have pointed out that it's the Eye of Providence, in which case, I can't help but think Bill Cipher) and mentions a key part of the headdress that will have it fall apart if not there.  Sweetie Belle comes in, angry, and the mane 6 decide to leave.  I'm conflicted about this since they don't really do that much of anything in the episode, but they explain why they're in it and it makes sense so whatever.  This is the other scene I saw a preview of, and it's where I got the impression that this was a "Poor Communication Kills" plotline since you can clearly see that Rarity doesn't know what Sweetie Belle is so upset about, while Sweetie Belle is CLEARLY very upset with her and isn't doing a good job at explaining why, since she assumes she's totally aware of what she's doing.  Honestly, I didn't think it was THAT bad until I saw the set-up for this situation, and now I just feel it's so much worse...  personally. I don't think it's technically all that bad, but it just makes me feel awful.

Sweetie Belle is mad in her room while Rarity is concerned outside her room.  She thinks about talking it out, but then walks away when she sees that clearly Sweetie Belle is too mad an unreasonable to talk.  Incidentally, doesn't Sweetie Belle live with her parents?  I guess she must have her own room since she's clearly seen sleeping over there from time to time, but why is she staying at Rarity's tonight?  Are her parents away this time around as well?  Yet another parallel between this and Sisterhooves Social.  Sweetie Belle is so upset she can't even sleep.  I can relate, though not out of angry, more out of...  just being upset.  She then gets the devious idea to  "take back all the work she put up with" or something (seriously, Sweetie Belle seemed more then willing to help before, so...  eh, I guess she's viewing her actions through a different lens since she's so angry right now) by removing the key thread from that headdress Rarity made.  It's strange to see her looking so malicious then going back to sleep all clue-like...  guess that's a juxtaposition or something.  Also, Sweetie Belle's magic lessons have really been coming along, I'd say.

Sweetie Belle has a dream, or rather nightmare, in which she wins an aware and an evil Rarity cloud literally rains on her parade.  Then Luna shows up.  Okay, I'm just going to say it's really weird to see Luna like this after all the synopsis's I've read.  This feels very similar to her role in Sleepless in Ponyville, yet in almost all the synopsis's I've read, it's treating this as a major thing.  I mean, I guess it IS a major thing, it's what convinces Sweetie Belle that what she did was wrong, but at the same time, it feels like this part of the episode is better left unsaid or as a surprised.  It also feels weird that a lot of the synopsis's treat this very casually, whereas I feel like this would be more of a big thing, but whatever.

Oh, and you know that connection to Sweetie Belle that Luna has?  You know, the fact that she, too, has an older sister and got jealous of her outshining herself?  It's brought up only once (twice if you're being generous), as a small aside that can easily be missed.  ...Oh well, missed potential but whatever.

Then the plot goes all Christmas Carol on us as Luna acts as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future/Yet to Come, showing visions of the past, the present, and...  somehow the future.  Um, yeah, I GUESS you can say that she's using the power of dreams to create some of these visions, but I have to wonder how she accessed certain things that Sweetie Belle wasn't there for...  through Rarity's memories?  Are all the pony minds connected?  I find it weird that she has these kinds of powers when...  you know that, I'll save that for a later complaint I have.

Anyway, we see what Sweetie Belle was referring to when she was complaining about Rarity on her fifth birthday.  As a brief aside, I have to say, those fillies and colts that are at an interesting in-between of the fillies and colts we see in the CMC and the baby ponies we see in the Cake Twins.  Their faces also remind me greatly of the Breezies, which is probably why I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not they're cute.  Anyway, Sweetie Belle wanted to be the center of attention on her big day, but found that Rarity was giving all the ponies things she made, and all the kids were praising her, just as Sweetie Belle came downstairs...  Luna shows her that Sweetie Belle was taking so long to get ready that all the kids were getting bored and were about to leave, and Rarity, wanting to make sure they didn't leave, made them stay by giving them the things that were supposed to be for after the party, and as soon as Sweetie Belle left, Rarity said that the party things were Sweetie Belle's idea and that they should be taking her for them instead of Rarity.  We then see Rarity fretting one last time over her date with Sapphire Shores, and Sweetie Belle hopes that it goes over fine, now seeing that Rarity isn't as selfish as Sweetie Belle assumed...  only for Luna to remind her of what she did, and we see what the future will supposedly look like...  I get that this is supposed to make Sweetie Belle realize what a terrible thing she's done, but somehow, I feel like it's a wee bit to exaggerated to be that affective.  Everypony laughing at Rarity when the headdress falls apart, Sapphire Shores making a bit deal about her "ex-outfit designer", I feel were REALLY pushing it, like I just can't see that actually happening.  That scene were Fluttershy asks for a dress feels weird, because it almost feels like the way she's asking it is deliberately taunting Rarity, and again, I feel like Fluttershy wouldn't act like that, or be so oblivious to Rarity's problems.  That being said, Rarity acting crazy and getting progressively worse as her career goes down the gutter, I could totally see that happening.

It's from here on out that the episode gets better, though I'm not sure if I like it, and unfortunately, I can't really explain why...  I guess it's because I'm still bitter about the beginning and there are certain moments that just don't feel right, but whatever.  Sweetie Belle wakes up, dashes to Rarity's room, only to find out she's already left.  Sweetie Belle gets Apple Bloom and Scootaloo and takes a train to Canterlot (again, this feels so weird coming off of Somepony to Watch Over Me, where even though the lesson was somehow learned that Applejack shouldn't be so overprotective of Apple Bloom, a situation like this feels like something AB would do normally with the other CMC and Applejack wouldn't bat and eye about.  Finding more reasons to not like that episode as time goes on... almost makes me feel better.  Anyway...).  Interesting aside, they take this time to further establish who and what Sapphire Shores is; a pop star apparently, one with a number of albums.  I feel like I know what she's supposed to be a reference to, but I can't think of it.  The thing that keeps coming to mind is Lady Gaga, but Sapphire Shores isn't THAT out-there.  Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are so excited about seeing Sapphire Shores, despite Sweetie Belle reminding them that that's NOT why they're going on this trip; kind of like how the CMC were excited to go to the Crystal Empire, despite Spike wanting to get Angel back.  At least Sweetie Belle now knows what it's like to have the shoe on the other foot...  Also, Sweetie Belle apparently doesn't like Sapphire Shores, instead, she listens to...  Showtunes or Ponytunes, I forget which.  Given how Apple Bloom and Scootaloo react, I'm guessing it's not that popular.

There are scenes of Rarity watching Sapphire Shores and her back-up dancers rehearse and I'm not sure what to think of it all.  Literally I got nothing.  The CMC get there, but the guard is keeping them out, assuming their just fans wanting to see Sapphire Shores.  They managed to get in through the window, just in the nick of time, and the CMC play keep away with Rarity, who I'm sure is incredibly flustered by all of this.  Again, I can't help but deeply sympathize with Rarity throughout all of this, given how she didn't realize she's done anything wrong and now is having this very important moment messed up by her sister.  Then Sweetie Belle runs into Luna, and assumes it's a dream...  to which Luna says it's not.

Okay, rant time: what is Luna doing there?  I know she technically lives in Canterlot, but why is she in that one specific building?  Is she really there to help out this one random filly she met in her dreams?  Really, if she's willing to go THAT far for one random subject of hers, you have to wonder how the Hell she got so upset at her subjects enough to transform into Nightmare Moon!  Seriously, the whole concept of Luna going into ponies dreams poked holes into the logic that went into the original origin story of Nightmare Moon, and the conflict therein, but this is just taking it to ridiculous levels with out much she's going out of her way just to help one of her subjects.  Hell, this whole season just keeps finding ways to weaken the original conflict between Luna and Celestia, starting with the season premiere, where the weight and gravity of Luna's transformation and banishment is squished into a single 5-mintue action sequence that had almost nothing to do with the rest of the two-parter, and NO, I DON'T by the idea that it was meant to emphasis the importance of being a princess for Twilight or whatever shit I heard a certain someone try to explain to me when I complained about this before, because it all just feels like a bait-and-switch, making part one end on Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon and having part two barely be about it!  It's stupid and I hate it, they totally ruined Luna'Nightmare Moon's backstory with that one five-minute sequence, and it wasn't even THAT impressive of an action scene, because all I can think of was "Why did Celestia immediately jump into banishing her instead of trying to revert her?" or "Why the Hell did TWILIGHT say they were going to banish her again, did she forget that she and her friends reverted her?!"  Fuck you Meghan McCarthy, fuck you for messing this shit up-

Whoa...  God damn, I got way too heated with that...  What I'm getting at is, Luna's role in this story and in the modern story in general is confusing and contradictory.  At least she helps out Sweetie Belle with a suggestion for going above and beyond.

Rarity angrily confronts Sweetie Belle about this, and Sweetie Belle immediately apologizes and explains what she did.  Rarity is naturally upset with this, and is even more upset/confused when she sees what Sweetie Belle did with her headdress, but Sweetie Belle assures her that it'll be fine.  Of course, Sapphire Shores isn't impressed with what just happened...  really, I guess I'm so used to celebrity ponies being lenient and more willing to accept mishaps like this, that this just comes off as, well, snobbish, on Sapphire's part.  Not that it matters, as Rarity shows her the headdress, and while she wasn't too impressed at first, Sweetie Belle points out the stitching in the center of it...  stitching done in pink thread so it sticks out like a sore thumb, since everything else is blue or at leas darker shades of certain colors.  Hell, I'd say that sticking really clashes, not just because of the color, but because it's so simple and not nearly as showy as everything else, but, since the stitching is in the shape of a dolphin, Sapphire's lucky animal, she loves it.  She makes a passing aside about seeing it in her dreams, and that's supposed to explain where Sweetie Belle got the idea from.  Can't help but feel REALLY creeped out by Luna's dream powers, in addition to being annoyed by how...  well, I already ranted about that.  So Sweetie Belle apologizes again, Rarity accepts their apology, and they hug, and it's cute.

Hell, a lot of this episode is really cute, which makes sense, seeing as Sweetie Belle is cute.  this whole season has been cuter, cuter then any previous season, actually.  Season one was kind of stilted, the characters being more static in their movements, which makes sense, seeing as Lauren Faust said they didn't have much to work with; season 2 feels a lot more while with the animation, but not really "cute", as I feel a lot of the time, the pupils are a bit too small, plus the mouth shapes got really weird a lot of the time.  Season 3 was basically an extension of season 2 as I see it, but season 4, it's really adorable!  Really the best the series has gotten so far in terms of looks!  ...BTW, I have no comment on the dream sequence, other then "yeah...  that's what I'd expect out of a dream sequence".

So I guess those are my thoughts on For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils...  I'm really depressed right now...  Probably because...  okay, you know what, I don't want to get any more personal then I already did, so I'll save that, though I think I know why I'm so depressed at the moment, or why I can't get over what I didn't like about the episode...  Which sucks because I'm more inclined to being forgiving this season, and with this episode, but part of me doesn't want to get over my negative feelings.  Maybe I'll watch it again, when I'm in a better mood.  I doubt it'll do any good, since my feelings rarely change when I view something I didn't really like a second time.  Anyway, that's it, so I'm out...

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