Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Friendship is Magic season 4 blogs: Trade Ya

Saw Trade Ya earlier today.  I definitely had a lot to nitpick about while watching it, but I don't think it's that bad...  from a neutral perspective.  The ending definitely felt way too corny and wishy-washy for my tastes.  It's not like I don't expect the series to be like that, but...  there's a difference between genuine emotion in writing and half-hearted, ham-handed corny stuff that don't feel believable.  Family Guy falls into this trap quite frequently, it pulls the rug from under the audience so frequently, and the characters act so horrible to one-another that I can't be invested when they try to act nice once in a while.  Obviously this episode doesn't got that far, and I can't put my finger on why I don't like it...  Hell, I'm not even sure if I like it or not, I just know that the nitpick train's in town and I'm the conductor this time.

So the mane 6 head to the Rainbow Falls Traders Exchange.  I know this because Pinkie Pie said it out loud during the train ride there.  It felt very out of place, similar to the dreaded "As you know" lines of dialogue, where characters are telling eat other stuff they should already know.  PROBABLY why they had Pinkie Pie say it since she's stand-offish I guess, but it didn't help make the line sound any better.  She also throws in that they're accompanying a princess on royal duty.  And I really have to bring something up.

I feel like this should have been consistent from the beginning.  Some people would say "hey, they're acknowledging Twilight's princesshood, yay!" or" at least they're doing this at all", but I'm not one of those people who congratulations writers for something they're SUPPOSED to be doing.  They fact that the second half of this season actually does something with the princess-thing the writers set themselves up for while the first half either ignored it or outright spat in the face of it, it makes the season feel lop-sided and, yes, inconsistent.  Inconsistency has always been a major problem with this series and me, and it's not like I demand that ALL my shows follow a strict continuity.  Wander Over Yonder is pretty much just a cartoon filled with zany antics and doesn't have an on-going story (though it DOES have some continuity, thank you very much Craig & Lauren).  The problem is that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic started out by having a defined universe and continuity and didn't bother keeping to it is what ticks me off.  Really, that's how I feel ANY time Twilight's princesshood is acknowledged these days, that they should have been doing this from the beginning, and there's nothing that can be done to fix this problem because those episodes already happened.

I also have to say, the way the episode is written, it feels like it wants to make a big deal out of Twilight's princesshood, but at the same time, it doesn't.  Twilight downplays her princesshood, saying doing this is no big deal since Cadance did it last year (speaking of which, has Celestia been doing this kind of thing before Cadance?  I mean, I would THINK it would be a big deal, even if Twilight doesn't want to make a big deal about it...  besides, doesn't she normally make a big deal out of what Princess Celestia does?  Just what is the hierarchy of the four princesses?  Anyway...).  She then is immediately swamped by adoring fans, and again, I take issue with this!  I literally can't accept that there are this many people who go ga-ga over Twilight when earlier this season barely anyone cared no matter where she went.  FYI, I DON'T want some kind of justification for how this can work, because I don't freaking care, this should have been a consistent thing throughout the season, and in that regard, the writers have FAILED!  Not to mention, this doesn't feel important to the plot at all, and I'll get to why that is as we go through this.

We get an explanation of what this Traders Exchange thing is and what Twilight has anything to do with this; basically, people trade stuff for things they want, and Twilight's there in case someone made an unfair trade (which she says is rarely the case).  We also see that Spike brought a mint-condition issue of Power Ponies, and this sub-plot goes absolutely nowhere and can be easily removed from the episode.  In fact, a LOT of things in this episode can be removed and nothing would have changed.  Well, at least he doesn't get shat on by the writer...  which as it turns out is Scott Sonneborn, who also wrote Somepony to Watch Over Me, aka one of the worst episodes this season.  Just out of curiosity, I checked this guy's IMDb, and as it turns out, he has a fairly decent record from what I can tell.  He's written for some good shows, though I don't know for sure if the episodes he specifically wrote were all that good.  Regardless, I get the feeling he's going to be another Dave Polsky for me...  let's just hope he doesn't get as many episodes as Dave Polsky gets (seriously, what the HELL is up with that?!).  Anyway, Twilight then gets someone to sign her autograph, hammering in the point that Twilight's a celebrity in a season where that barely feels like the case, and no, I'm not letting this go, and I'll keep bringing it up every time we talk about season 4.

Then we get to the episode's main focus: Rainbow Dash just found somepony with a signed first edition copy of Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Statue.  She desperately wants it to complete the collection of first editions she has, and apparently there's only one first edition of the first book...  which doesn't make sense, to me anyway.  This is a minor point, but a "first edition" is a set of copies of an initially published book/card set/what have you.  Are you trying to tell me that A.K. Yearling (who's actually Daring Do) only released ONE initial book when trying to sell her books?  Again, I'm sure there's some BS about how Daring Do wasn't sure about selling a book of her stories or whatever, but again, I don't give a shit.  If she was going to publish this book (and the book does, indeed, look like a printed copy of a set of books), the publisher would have asked for multiple copies of this first set, right?  I mean, how much were they honestly planning to make with just one freaking copy?  Unless she's referring to the fact that it's the only one signed by the author herself, in which case, how is that a big deal?  She's personal friends with Daring Do herself?  Can't she just get another first edition and have her sign that one?  Apparently not since this is "the only one in all Equestria".  What a freaking load...

Anyway, Fluttershy offers to trader her...  bear whistle?  ...Okay, another minor point, who would need a freaking bear whistle?  Who would want to lure a bear to them?  Equestria doesn't seem like the type of place where ponies would hunt for sport, not to mention, I find it unlikely that a trainer would use one of those, given that we saw a trainer in this episode and he just used a whip with his animal.  Whatever possible use this thing could have, I highly doubt someone would go to the trouble to make one...  unless Fluttershy made it herself...  But if she did, why wouldn't she make a bird whistle, like she said she intended to trade for?

...You know, I'm starting to notice a pattern with Scott Sonneborn; he has a bunch of throw-away lines that only serve to confuse anyone who actually pays attention to this crap.  Really, it's not to an insulting degree, it just really bugs me.

Meanwhile, Applejack and Rarity plan to trade all the stuff they brought to the exchange to get a special vintage item.  They decide to pool their good together so that they can each get what they both really want!  This is another sub-plot that doesn't go anyway, though not to the extent of Spike's "sub-plot", if it can even be called that.  Twilight, meanwhile, intends to forgo sitting in a lonely booth all by herself (Isn't Pinkie there with her?  She didn't appear to bring anything to trade), and instead, trade away books that she apparently doesn't want to read anymore, since Celestia has apparently been sending her lots of new books...  I FEEL like that should be an important detail, like Twilight getting books from Celestia should be important, but it's not.

Rainbow Dash finds the pony with the Daring Do book, and plans to trade her lucky horseshoe for it.  The trader says she doesn't want it, in a very flat and off-putting way.  Like, seriously, the wording is very odd; she says: "It's just a rusty old horseshoe. That's not worth anything to me."  If someone were to offer you a rusty horseshoe to trade for a valuable collector's item, would you use those exact words?  I'd probably end it at "It's just a rusty old horseshoe."  Another one of my pet peeves with this show is dialogue that sounds obviously scripted.  To me, dialogue that sounds natural, or something like an actual living person would say, or at least what the character would say, really matters at lot to me.  This just doesn't sound "real" to, and it sets me off a bit...  Regardless, she says she'll trade it for a two-headed dog an "ancient beast" owner across the way happens to have...  Apparently it's called an "Orthros".  More mythology, how nice...

We cut back to Rarity and Applejack, who both have found something that they can only get if they trade everything each other has for it!  Applejack wants a "dented" pit tin...  seriously, that's how Rarity described it, despite it looking more rusted then dented, quite frankly.  Might want to work together more, the writers and the animators.  Meanwhile, Rarity wants a brooch that looks identical to the one she already owns.  Applejack TAKES the vintage brooch somehow (seriously, I'd be hesitant on letting ANYONE have it, even if it's just for a minute), and tries to swap them around to prove that Rarity wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  She does, but Applejack is CONVINCED that they look the same, and thus, it's not worth trading everything they have for.  Rarity takes her and they both leave the vintage one completely unattended.  I half expected that Rarity accidentally look the vintage one by mistake, or that someone took it and the owner of the brooch through Rarity took it...  but NOPE, that's pretty much all we get from Applejack and Rarity's story, other then some cutaway gags to them at various points in the episode.  In said points, each one keeps insisting that the other take all their things to get what they want, insisting that they're the better "friend" while being passive aggressive about what they want.  I'd say something negative about this to keep my trend of discontent going, but honestly, I've been known for making unintentional passive aggressive comments...  plus I actually found these moments to be the funniest points of the episode, so there's that.

Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy go pick up the Orthros, which was previously shown as vicious (to the point where it tore apart a chain...  which makes me wonder how the Hell it could stay tied down; seriously, what kind of material is that leash made of?!) but Fluttershy pacifies it in her unique Fluttershy way, as the orthros starts slobbering everywhere as it gets more friendly.  The ancient beast owner, who has a really weird voice I might add, doesn't want to trade the beast (not for the horseshoe or anything), but when the orthros knocks down a lamp, he offers a trade for a new one.  Then we cut to...

Fluttershy's Discord lamp in a shop filled with Discord lamps?  Okay, time-out.  I know I've nitpicked this episode to death a lot already, but this is the point in the episode where I just, out loud, said "STOP!  HOLD EVERYTHING!!"  What the Hell is a shop full of lamps that look like Discord doing here?!  And no, that throw-away "They really do have everything at the Traders Exchange" line does NOT cut it?!  Who would make these lamps?!  ...Okay, dumb question, but seriously, who would want them, let alone collect them?!  Who would want lamps shaped like the Spirit of Chaos who once ruled over Equestria under a cloud of misery for all except himself?!  What kind of pony would actively collect stuff like that?!

...Well, apparently, there's a story behind the pony that does.  According to this here Equestria Daily article:

Equestria Daily: Trade Ya Story Behind Wheelchair Pony

The pony is actually a fan-made pony (looks fan-made, I might add), created AND voiced by one Sylvain Levasseuer Portelance, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy type III.  He and the Make a Wish Foundation worked with DHX to include his character in the show.  Kind of makes it hard to critique this character, knowing that the guy who created him is terminally ill...  Still, he DOES act a bit douchey later on, and I'm still flummoxed about the whole Discord lamp thing...  ESPECIALLY considering that one of those lamps belonged to Fluttershy at one point!  Why is it there?  You'd THINK Discord would have wanted Fluttershy to keep it, given that they're SUPPOSED to be friends...  It's another one of those jokes that messes with the canon and continuity that this series is practically known for by this point.  Or maybe it's just me, and it's yet ANOTHER pet peeve of mine with this show...  Either way, the pony won't trade for Rainbow Dash's rusty horseshoe but he will for an antique chicken.  There just so happens to be an antique chicken salesmen there, but he doesn't want the horseshoe either, and by now (actually before then, like when the tamer wanted a lantern), I realized what this is: it's one of those "trading games" you'd see in a bunch of The Legend of Zelda games and other TV shows.  For me, I specifically remember this one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, where the Eds wanted an egg from Rolf (so it could grow into a chicken and lay a bunch of eggs for them...  yeah, it was that kind of show), and they needed to give him sawdust; Kevin has sawdust, but insists on trading for painting his shed.  They try to get paint from Jimmy, who insists on getting clams.  Johnny has clams but wants a tennis racket.  Sarah has a racket but demands a giant teddy bear.  They got back to Jimmy, who this time demands plums.  They end up going back to Rolf who is still waiting for his sawdust and is confused as to why the Eds want plums when they said they wanted the egg.  Rolf eventually gives them plums in exchange for a yo-yo Ed was messing around with the entire episode.  They end up completing the trade and getting the egg...  which Ed proceeds to break in order to "set the chicken free".

I bring up this episode because it's strange how an 11-minute episode ended up having a much longer trade sequence then this, an episode twice it's length.  Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy go to get a crystal chalice for the antique chicken statue pony...  and find one willing to trade for a rusty horseshoe!  So Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy take the chalice...  which promptly breaks in front of them...  Okay, I call shenanigans here!  That chalice didn't even leave the stand, and Rainbow Dash barely touched it before it freaking broke!  That lady KNEW that one was bound to break and ripped Rainbow Dash off!  I'm seriously surprised Rainbow Dash didn't immediately go to Twilight complaining about an unfair trade (one of the many problems I got from this episode).  ...SPEAKING OF WHOM...

Twilight is about to trade her ENTIRE collection to a young filly (or colt, I couldn't tell), when Pinkie Pie comes in and scares the pony away with her antics, and I have to say, while I'm not about to argue about if she's in character or not, or if she's gone too far, I'm just going to say by now, I'm completely sick of it...   Twilight wants to know why she stopped the trade, to which Pinkie restated that, as a princess in charge of this event, she should know that a trade is only fair if BOTH parties end up with what they wanted, apparently going under the assumption that Twilight didn't really want what the young filly/colt was trading...  which was a broken pen.  Really, I get the feeling she just wanted to get rid of the books.  Unfortunately, Pinkie Pie dons a hat and mustache that would shame the Flim Flam Brothers and starts hyping up Twilight's princesshood in an attempt to get a really good trade for Twilight's books, much to Twilight's chargin.  Will get back to this in a moment.

In the meantime, instead of complaining about a bum chalice to the trader, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy try to glue the thing together and give it to the antique chicken statue pony...  who proceeds to break it, since he planned to use it for a broken chalice mosaic he's making.  OHHHHH, so THAT'S why Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy didn't bother complaining, since the guy was going to break it anyway!  ...Except it still doesn't make sense, seeing as there's no way Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy would have known about that.  Regardless, Rainbow Dash realizes they don't know what kind of statue "Stellar Eclipse" (official name for the Make a Wish pony) wanted and tries to go off and as him, but Fluttershy doesn't do a good job at keeping other ponies away, so they decide to switch positions.  Not only can you cut these scene completely from the episode (seriously, isn't anyone else sick of jokes made at the expense of Fluttershy's timid nature?), but it also makes the next segment more infuriating.

Apparently, Stellar Eclipse was there when Fluttershy asked for what statue he wanted...  but decided to leave before she and Rainbow Dash returned with the statue.  He KNEW they were coming, but decided to just screw them over and go on break, since he was hungry form trading all day.  Okay, first of all, how many ponies are actually interested in getting a lamp that looks like Discord, in all honesty?  He can't be THAT exhausted!  Second of all, this guy KNEW they were coming, and even after they pleaded with him, he still refused to do anything but stand in line for "oatburgers".  Seriously, what a freaking asshole!  But I don't blame Mr. Portelance for that...  I blame     Scott Sonneborn's shitty writing.

Undeterred, however, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy both fly into the burger stand and start cooking burgers at a fast rate.  Surprised the cook/proprietor (who looks a lot like "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski previously seen in The Cutie Pox) doesn't say or do anything about this, but then again, given that it sped up the process, I suppose he'd be okay with it.  Also, watching the process of making oatburgers is nice...  I have to wonder if either Fluttershy or Rainbow Dash are good cooks.

So they get the lamp, give it to the ancient beat owner, who gives them the orthros, who slobbers and drools everywhere which is gross, and they try to get to the Daring Do pony but huge crowds are blocking their path.  I would think that the orthros would have been enough to scare some ponies out of the way, but instead, Fluttershy uses her bear whistle to scare everypony out of the way.  Rainbow Dash starts dragging both the orthros and Fluttershy, which causes her to lose her bear whistle.  Fluttershy seems upset by this, but presses on for Rainbow Dash...  this feels incredibly depressing, but not as depressing as what's to come.  They reach the trader, who no longer wants to orthros.  Apparently she saw how vicious it was and now doesn't want anything to do with it.  Fluttershy then says it's not bad, so long as you have a slobber mop and a little patience and training, it could make a great pet.  The trader changes her mind and agrees to the trade...  provided that Fluttershy comes to her home in Manehatten and helps trains it.  Fluttershy, like before, is upset that she'll have to live away from Ponyville for a long while, but does it for Rainbow Dash, and Rainbow Dash...  doesn't notice this in the slightest.

...Ugh.  You know, if there was one thing I could have said about this season, it's that Rainbow Dash's character has made huge leaps and bounds from where she started.  From not letting her admiration for Daring Do not overshadow her talents, to giving Scootaloo the pep talk she needed, to yes, even her "element realization" in the otherwise awkwardly constructed and not all that good in retrospect Rainbow Falls, this season has (or rather had) been really good towards Rainbow Dash...  which is why this moment feels like such a fucking downgrade and regression to her character.  She literally doesn't react at all as she trades her friend away, until she actually SEES it happening and realizes "Oh Celestia, I traded away my friend for a fucking book, what have I done?!"  I don't care HOW much of a Daring Do fan she is, I would think that the Element of Loyalty would be a bit more considerate then that, ESPECIALLY by this point!

Meanwhile, back with Twilight, Pinkie Pie keeps building up how Twilight's a princess, much to her (and my) annoyance!  To make things worse (for me), Pinkie fully realizes Twilight wants to be considered as nothing special but presses onward with this schtick, adding that these books were ALSO from Celestia!  ...Wait, they are?  ALL of them?  Then why the Hell is Twilight trading them away!?  Given how she holds her mentor in such high regard, you'd THINK she'd be a BIT more attached to those books, and didn't need Pinkie being completely careless to be reminded of that!  ...Oh yeah, she ends up changing her mind BTW.  Yeah, as it turns out, Pinkie did TOO good of a job making the books appealing, now thinking that nopony had anything good enough to trade for that.  Twilight tend realizes that, while the books didn't necessarily help to make her a princess (or rather, that's what I got out of it...  you can't really learn about friendship from a book), the books still helped make her who she is today.  She names off a book she was reading with Spike did that whole "life debt" thing with Applejack (yeah, quick word to the writers: callbacks are cool, but callbacks to BAD episodes, not so much), while another was a book she got when she first met Pinkie Pie...  which I assume is one of the many books she got with the library she moved into.  Though I get the mentality of not wanting to give away stuff you have no further use for, I typically have to be convinced to give away ANYTHING I have...  nor that I'm a hoarder or anything.

Just then, Rainbow Dash comes crashing in, saying she needs Twilight to call and unfair trade.  It's here that Rainbow Dash gives us our moral, in, like I said, a very ham-fisted and wishy-washy way.  What gets me, though, is that the Daring Do trader says "Oh, come on, that's...  ...the sweetest thing I've ever heard!"  Yeah, Scott, here's another bit of advice: when you do a fake-out like that, try to have it make sense in context.  Why would the trader say "oh come on" if she was going to say it was the sweetest thing she ever heard?  Seriously?  If feels like that like was there specifically to make us think she was going to say the opposite, and that's never a good thing.  Catching your audience off-guard can be a good thing, but only if makes sense upon rewatching and thinking about it.

Oh, and Spike finally managed to trade his mint-condition comic book for another mint-condition comic book.  Aren't you glad you got resolution to that?!  I remember people complaining about Spike not doing anything, but here's the thing, only include him if you have something USEFUL for him to do.  You don't want to be like Applejack with some of her episodes, and shoehorn them into something that would have worked fine either without them or with someone else.  Oh, and apparently, Rarity traded all of her things to get Applejack "the rustiest piece of junk she could fine", while Applejack traded all her stuff for a pin that looks identical to a bunch of pins she already has.  Both of them are still very passive aggressive about this whole thing, to the point where I think they forgot why they were so angry at each other in the first place...  or at the very least, didn't seem to realize they did each other a kindness without realizing it...  I honestly don't know what to think of this...

What I DID like was that Rainbow Dash managed to find someone willing to take the orthros in exchange for the bird whistle Fluttershy wanted!  And Twilight gives Rainbow Dash her copy of Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone...  which doesn't make sense to me.  Rainbow Dash specifically wanted a first edition of the book.  She didn't say she was looking for the book in general.  Hell, since she's such a huge fan, it wouldn't make sense for her NOT to have that book and just wanting a first edition for her collection!  I mean, can't she read THAT book instead of taking Twilight's copy?  But it's okay, because THIS is a copy that Rainbow Dash can read with her friends...  gag me with a spoon.

Seriously, this episode, coupled with Sompony to Watch Over Me, makes me think that Scott Sonneborn is the new Dave Polsky, in the sense that neither of them are very good writers.  That being said, I don't hate this episode.  I don't think I particularly like it, but I definitely found a lot to complain and critique about it, leading me to think he's not a very good writing, given all the trappings he's fallen into with his episodes.  What's weird though is that, unlike Dave Polsky, he's never written anything that's made me angry, not to mention, while Scott's writing can be very nonsensical a lot of the time, it's not nearly as nonsensical as Dave's episodes (or at least his early episodes).  Not to mention, while I found a lot to complain about and some of Scott's mistakes can get pretty stupid, it's not stupid to the point of either being insulting or enraging as Dave's episodes.  It's ironic, while many people find Dave Polsky's episodes hilarious despite his poor writing style, I find his attempts at humor make me angrier and make me notice his shortcomings even more!  By contrast, Scott doesn't got THAT extreme, and thus, is mostly safe from my scorn.

I DO think that, just like Dave Polsky, he can improve with new episodes.  I just hope that, unlike Dave Polsky, he's given a ton of episodes to write.  I don't care if it's more practice, give the episodes to writers who've proven to be good or more competent!

...So yeah, those were my thoughts on Scott Sonneburn and Trade Ya.  I'm starting to feel like watching these episodes and writing these write-ups are becoming a chore, despite me getting some kind of primal joy in tearing into crap that either doesn't make sense to me or is something I don't like.  I think it's a good thing this season's almost over, that way I can focus on the bajillion other things I've been meaning to get around to.

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