Sunday, May 4, 2014

Friendship is Magic season 4 blog: Equestria Games

So my mom encouraged me to watch yesterday's new MLP:FiM episode, Equestria Games, this morning so it could be removed from the recorded stuff to make room for other recorded stuff.  things got a bit hairy when my dad came in and started goofing around, interrupting us, but I did see the full episode, which is good, since I tend to procrastinate on these things.

...It was okay.  Which is weird, because I FELL like I should like this more, given how the moral speaks out to me and my own personal problems in particular, the same way Hurricane Fluttershy's morals speak out to me in particular...  though that might be part of why I didn't ultimately care for it...  among other things.  Really, though, the whole episode just felt incredibly awkward, and even though I'm certain that was the point of a lot of the jokes and moments in this episode, I still detest awkward moments.  Not because of any logical or story-purpose reasons, I just literally can't watch/sit through them, because they make me feel so uncomfortable (I actually had to walk out of a showing of The Graduate because I couldn't take how uncomfortable the movie made me feel).  But...  on to this episode...

You know, it's funny, even before the episode began, I was wondering what the Hell they were going to do with this episode.  See, the Equestria Games were hyped up as a big deal, not just by The Hub and My Little Pony's Facebook and Twitter pages/feeds, but even by the staff themselves.  I recall the dozens of times Meghan McCarthy kept reminding us about the Equestria Games and to "keep them in mind" whenever an episode focused on the preparation for them...  Yet the synopsis seemed to focus on Spike...  and so did the episode.  Hell, the Equestria Games, you know, the second major season-long story arc on this season that both the staff and The Hub continuously hyped up, was pretty much an afterthought.  May I ask WHY this was the case?  May I ask WHY this episode decided to focus on Spike instead of, you know, the thing that had at leas THREE episodes dedicated to setting it up?  You know, when season 1 set up the Grand Galloping Gala with The Ticket Master and Suited for Success, when it came time to actually go to the gala, it didn't suddenly decide to focus on what the Spike did while everyone else was enjoying (or more accurately trying to enjoy) the gala.  It's like you're being promised a massive cake, and when you finally get it, you see that the cake is tiny, and the only big parts are the frosting and the decorations.

Also...  why did Dave Polsky write this episode?  Okay, yes, I know, I've been giving Dave Polsky an INCREDIBLY hard time this season, and I've been called out on such numerous times...  But, doesn't anyone else feel the same way?  Nobody?  I mean, here's the way I see it: here we have an episode that's supposed to deliver on the promise of the Equestria Games, and also for some reason by a Spike episode (because why the eff not?).  Why would you god to Dave Polsky for this?  Yes, he has a lot of "experience" writing the show, and yes, I KNOW he's made improvements, thank you very much for continuously reminding me of that...  but here's the thing, his "experience" would be a clear indicator for me that he would NOT be best suited for this episode.  I'VE SEEN him handle "big episodes", and more often then not, they don't turn out that good; Games Ponies Play and ESPECIALLY Keep Calm and Flutter On stick out in my mind.  Hell, in the case of the former, he was tasked with setting up the Equestria Games, and he ended up giving us a convoluted, nonsensical excuse to set the games in the Crystal Empire.  The fact that he's improved in his writing doesn't change the fact that he's still improving, and thus, hasn't earned the right to handle something like this.  Hell, while people argue that going with him is a safer bet then going with one of the new writers, I would actually rather take my chances with one of the new writers, since a lot of them have proven to be pretty capable (not all of them, to be sure, but still).  Seriously, there has to be someone out there who understands how I feel about this, I can't be the only one!  Do you think I like saying all of this, after seeing how many people disagree with me on it?  I really don't think Dave Polsky is that good of a writer, regardless of how well-received some of his newer episodes are, and I KNOW he's try to turn around and not be known as "the controversial one", please for the love of God, you don't need to freaking bring THAT up again!  I KNOW all of this, but that doesn't change my opinion on his writing in the slightest!

...Going back to the whole Spike thing, is there any particular reason this needed to be a Spike episode?  I think I get the thought-process to this, in that the writers realized that Spike both a.) has yet to return to the Cyrstal Empire since the season 3 premiere and b.) is technically the "hero" of that story for delivering the Crystal Heart.  I guess they were thinking that, since they don't want fans to complain that Spike wasn't there again, they include him this time, and also play up the whole "Spike's a hero" thing while there (I honestly think they went over-board with it in some cases, but that's Dave effing Polsky for you).  Technically, this isn't a bad idea, and on it's own, it could have been a lot better; however, because it comes at the expense of actually showing us the Equestria Games we were continuously promised, hopefully you can forgive me for being at least a little disappointed as a result.  The episode does a really awkward balancing act between trying to give a character arc for Spike and give us our promised, and this is why I take issue with Dave Polsky being chosen for this episode; if there's one thing he's not good at, it's finding a proper balance to things, and despite what he said in interviews (specifically referring to how, during the whole writing process of Feeling Pinkie Keen, he nor anyone else ever considered the possibility that the episode could be taken religiously), he really can be quite thoughtless when it comes to the episodes he writes, overlooking quite a few unfortunate implications (that "Reformation Spell from Keep Calm and Flutter On still unnerves me).  Yes, he's gotten better, but not to the point where that's no longer a problem.

Also, I feel like this episode's sister episode is Power Ponies.  Yeah, an episode that had a hyped up gimmick that tried to be all about Spike, superheroes and comic books with Power Ponies, the Equestria Games with...  well, Equestria Games.  Both are similar, in that both have a rather...  botched execution.  Sort of...  Power Ponies was botched, in the sense that the whole episode is botched, tons of exposition (most of it unnecessary), the mane 6 acting like idiots (including at things they SHOULD be good at), out of character moments (this is mostly in regards to Fluttershy, though), confusing playing comic book cliches straight for being "parodies", and Spike's "arc" being so ham-fisted and repetitive to the point of ridiculous...  plus the implication that Spike's only useful when everyone else is rendered useless...  which actually seems to be a recurring theme, the more I think about it, even in this episode.  But yeah, despite that, this episode doesn't have that problem, in that the only thing botched about it is that they try to give Spike a(n otherwise good) character arc at the expense of an arc we were promised since last year in season 3!

And actually, that's another thing about Spike episodes, especially this season; most of them seem to be about Spike feeling useful and not being a disappointment or embarassment, while everyone else around him tries to reassure him otherwise...  and I'm sorry, but that kind of comes off as insincere, given how the reason of season 4 seems content with Spike being the ass of jokes, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the mane 6 who are almost ALWAYS dismissive or ignorant of Spike's issues/problems/pain. *still remembers in Castle Mane-ia, when a springboard tosses Spike like a mile and only Applejack seems to notice or care...  grrr*

...You know what, maybe I should stop giving general overviews and start talking about the actual episode.

So, it starts in the "Friendship Express" (which I guess is what it's called), and we see three things: Rainbow Dash prepping Ponyville for the games, the CMC excited about waving the Ponyville flag, and Spike apparently taking inventory.  And...  you know, I'm probably one of the few people who actually likes Rainbow Falls.  Yeah, I will admit, it is a bad episode in a LOT of regards, though I at least like what it was attempting to do and it genuinely made me laugh, which is more then I can say about the "flawed but absolutely HILARIOUS Dave Polsky episodes", or the rest of the series for that matter.  Having said that, even when I saw the episodes, I'm still bothered by the fact that Bulk Biceps and especially Fluttershy are on the team at all.  I don't like how Bulk is now retconned to now suck at flying despite having no problems before (amazing how an episode call call-back to yet completely ignore what happened in an episode), and I ESPECIALLY don't like how Fluttershy got over her intense shyness to participate in the BIGGEST event in Equestria, where hundreds of THOUSANDS, if not MILLIONS of ponies will be watching her!  And don't even freaking start with me about Hurricane Fluttershy!  If Filli Vanilli (which happened THIS SAME SEASON) proved ANYTHING is that shyness is not overcome as simple as that!  For that matter, her fear in that episode was that raising the water would be like a performance, even though it wasn't, not to mention no one seemed to be that bothered with Fluttershy's weak flying!  NOW we're talking about an even that's ALL ABOUT judging your, where top flying performance is key, and even MORE ponies will be watching, yet not once, not even ONCE is Fluttershy nervous in the slightest about this!  I mean, seriously, are you that willing to accept that "Ponyville pride" can easily overcome such a deeply-rooted problem with Fluttershy, one that's been a continuous problem in every single episode EXCEPT that one?!  JEEEE-SUS!!! 

...Yeah, this is directed at a specific someone, who apparently took issue with Fluttershy's lack of shyness for the Equestria Games as a criticism, and this is my incredibly ranty, long overdue response to that.  Probably unnecessary, but this person really brings a lot out of me.

...BACK ON TRACK, literally, Rainbow Dash seems to acknowledge that her team isn't going to win, but still wants everypony to win as many medals as they can...  You know, this episode really makes me think of Rainbow Falls in a worse light then it originally did.  When they finally arrive, the CMC talk to Spike about how nervous they are, and Spike tells them his calming technique before he's immediately carried off by a bunch of crystal guards.  They carry Spike to Twilight and Cadance, where they inform him that in the Crystal Empire, he's a hero, and referred to as "Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious", and they have a statue being made out of him...  Okay, I can buy being revered as a hero, being pampered and getting a statue and all of that, but what the Hell is up with that stupid title?  That feels like too much of a mouthful to be thought up naturally...  it's like they went with the most overblown, hard to say title instead of a more sensible title to get the point across.  If that's the joke then congrats Dave Polsky, you managed to make me not laugh once again.

The opening ceremony is about to begin, and we see Twilight sitting down with the other princesses...  It's kind of cute that Twilight and Cadance wave at each other, but it all still feels...  awkward...  I guess for all my ranting about this season not paying that much attention to the fact that Twilight's a princess now, even I have a hard time getting used to it.  Also, apparently the Saddle Arabia ponies are there, too!  I also caught Prince Blueblood, which...  eh.  I wonder who I missed...

Meanwhile, Ms. Harshwhinny is going over what Spike's supposed to to with Spike, who immediately buckles up upon seeing such a huge audience...  Again, Spike gets nervous over a crowd like this, and he's usually not shy about these kinds of things...  AND YET FLUTTERSHY HAS NO FUCKING PROBLEM ABOUT THIS-okay, sorry, I'm going to have to bring this up again with this certain someone just so I can get it off my chest...  not that it'll matter, since my past interactions usually end in disaster with this persona anyway.  Ms. Harshwhinny refers to Spike as "Mr. the Dragon"...  which sounds weird, honestly.  I'd say it makes sense, but really, does Spike even have a last name?  Spike gets so nervous that even his "count to 10" technique doesn't work, since he starts messing up the numbers (in a really obvious and forced way, I should add...  honestly, I'd of had it if Spike just forgot what comes after five or something, that would have been funnier).  Spike gets so nervous he can't conjure fire, and everypony begins to notice.  Twilight secretly casts a spell that lights the torch, and the opening ceremony continues, much to Spike's confusion.

Some time after that, Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash congratulate the CMC for a job well done (my dad kept interrupting with his stupid impressions of Applejack), and then Twilight comes down and informs them that she lit the torch instead of Spike...  now what really sticks out to me in this scene is that Fluttershy's not here...  yet Pinkie Pie is...  and yet Pinkie Pie does NOTHING throughout this scene...

Okay, another minor rant incoming: what is it with this season and getting confused who they need and who they don't need.  It's almost like they're trying to fix the whole "don't include characters who don't need to be there thing" but gave up half-way and left Pinkie Pie there.  If Fluttershy was with the rest of the team, then why wasn't Rainbow Dash?  I mean, sure, she's there to support Scootaloo, but it just feels weird that only 5 out of the mane 6 are there, especially when Pinkie Pie has zero reason to be there other then hop around.  Not sure whether to blame Dave Polsky or the animators/storyboard artists for this, though...

Anyway, Spike shows up and now suddenly thinks he can start fires with his mind.  A Crystal Pony asks for an autograph and Spike tries to set the photograph on fire.  I didn't count, but I'm almost certain that it felt like a sold 20 seconds of nothing but Spike trying to start a fire with his mind, and God-DAMN is it hard to watch.  I'm not laughing, I'm just waiting for it to be over, because I know Spike isn't going to set the photo on fire, and, well, this isn't funny, it's just awkward!  I know people "laugh awkwardly" at certain situations, but whenever I laugh awkwardly, it's not out of finding it funny, it's out of nervousness or impulse, and I have NEVER laughed at an awkward situation in fiction (mostly because I'm not there, and I can look away, whereas in real life, I can't really do that).  Twilight drags Spike aside, and while Spike rants about how now he can read minds in addition to setting stuff on fire, she finally informs him that she set the torch ablaze to avoid embarrassment on Spike's behalf.  This...  takes him down a peg, and not because he can't set stuff on fire with his mind.  And here comes the really strange part of this episode: half the time I can relate, yet half the time I can't.  Whenever I can't relate, it's because I'm reminded that this is Spike we're talking about, and the writers only seem to care about Spike whenever an episode is focused on hims specifically, and he's the worlds chew toy every other time.  But when I can relate, like at this point here, it really gets to me.

You see, I understand what kind of message this episode is trying to produce; basically Spike has doubts about himself and doesn't feel that special compared to the friends he knows, and the problem here is that he pays more attention to his failings then the accomplishments everyone keeps reminding him of.  It's an interesting kind of self-depreciation that I suffer from a lot.  for all the stuff I complain about, sometimes almost appearing as entitlement, it might be hard for you to see, but I have extremely low self-esteem about myself, what I do, and the things I say.  I means a lot to hear praise or someone actually likes what I do, but I can never shake off my negative feelings about myself.  This is probably the real reason why this certain someone I mentioned before bothers me, not because of what they say or that I disagree with them, but because they keep reminding my of my own failings and it makes me depressed...  Maybe that's why I'm so critical of everything?  I always think of myself as a relatively positive guy, in a realistic sense, but with so many people telling me to stop being so critical or analytical and to just "enjoy the show for what it is", I keep thinking that my over-analytical nature is wrong-headed, and thus there something wrong with me.  I mean, I keep trying to justify or explain myself and why I feel what I say shouldn't be so easily dismissed, especially since I'm CLEARLY not enjoying the show and I'm trying to explain why I'm not enjoying it...  I mean, if I can't enjoy it for what it is, am I wrong?  This is why I'm so resentful about Equestria Girls and anyone who likes it; it's not like I don't want to be in on the fun, but...

God dammit...  I made myself sad... :'(  I think I'll just try to quickly get this over with.

We see the relay race, and Rainbow Dash has to pick up the slack for Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy, neither of which should be there, especially Fluttershy, which I stated before.  Because of that, they come in second.  Pinkie Pie also mentions medals, and this seems to be a recurring thing in this episode, that they want Ponyville to win the most medals, but it never amounts to everything, and when they inevitably do medal most, nothing is made out of it.  There's not celebration and literally no one cares because it was never made to be a big thing to begin with.  Regardless, Spike tries to take with Ms. Harshwhinny, and that gives him the idea to sing the anthem of the winning team...  only to realize he only knows Ponyville's anthem, and not the anthem of Cloudsdale, the actual winners.  What follows is a song that I plugged my hears for so I couldn't hear Spike's terrible singing or his botched version of the Cloudsdale anthem.  I DID see the entire crowd's reactions to it, so...  yeah.  I did give a small "heh" when Pinkie Pie said "NAILED IT!" at the end, though only because it reminded me of Danny Sexbang on Game Grumps, and how that's one of the many MANY phrases he says on the show (along with "Totally", "Son of a bitch!" and "YAAAAY!" whenever they lose or fail at something).

So Spike completely embarrassed himself when he tried to make up for his own personal failure, so he skips out on the rest of the games and instead decides to pack for when they leave.  We cut to the final game, "Ice Archery" (interesting idea, and interesting even, if I do say so myself).  No one in Ponyville is competing in this event, but it has two Cloudsdale reps, and Pinkie makes a big deal that if they both win medals, they'll beat Ponyville in terms of earning medals, and no one cares, so why even bring this up...  Twilight is looking for Spike, Pinkie tells her there's an empty seat for her (which is pointless, considering that she already has a seat next Celestia...  although maybe that seat was meant for Spike and Pinkie's just offering it to Twilight, so yeah, way to save Spike's seat Pinkie...  maybe she heard from the CMC that Spike's not coming, but I'd still save it on the off-chance he did come).  Regardless, Twilight comes to Spike, and drags him out of his room, after Spike wears a disguise...  highly doubt it'll do any good, given that this event is populated with quadrupeds and he's the only creature there standing on two legs.

Twilight and Spike talk, and I have to admit, I'm a bit more bothered by it now then when I saw it.  Spike says that Twilight never let anypony down, and I immediately called bullshit when I saw this.  I mean, I get that Spike is in a depressed mood, and that he's so focused on all of his shortcomings in comparison to what Twilight's done, but it's not like Twilight never came short in terms of expectations, or when overboard worrying about those expectations.  I mean, I guess I can relate, since I do similar things when I'm in a really down mood, but all I can think of with this scene is all the times Twilight's failed to meet expectations, both her own and everypony else's, and it just really bothered me...  though not as much as what Twilight said in response.  "The torch got lit, the aerial relay teams got their medals -- no harm, no foul."  Seriously, Twilight?  This coming from the pony who thought that turning in one assignment late meant getting sent to magic kindergarten?  And for fuck's sake, at least TRY to acknowledge that Spike singing a botched version of Cloudsdale's anthem was one of the most awkward moments Equestria has had to sit through, not everyone can brush off something like that, ESPECIALLY when you're at the certain of it all!  No, seriously, this really upsets me, fuck you Twilight, fuck you're unsympathetic ass to Tartaros and back!  Maybe I'm letting my emotions get in the way of this, I don't fucking care, this really bothers me, and I'm...  starting to feel depressed again.

Suddenly, one of the ice archers accidentally shoots a cloud, which hardens into ice and starts falling on some nearby ponies.  We get a quick glance at Celestia and Luna, perhaps in an attempt to fix the problem that Sonic Rainboom had, in that a princess was there but did nothing during a disaster...  yet doesn't actually bother to try and fix said problem.  Yes, we see the princesses reacting, but they still didn't do anything.  We see them get up, almost like they're going to do something, but they never seem to follow through on it.  We DO see a bucnh of pegasi from the audience trying to slow the cloud down, but it still seems to fall.  Then Spike, without hesitation, calls out to the pegasi to get out of his way, hopes on various pegasi in the air and uses his fire breath to melt the cloud into rain.

...Oh, and I guess I should also mention that we see at one point that all unicorns must go through a "disabling spell", which keeps unicorns from using magic to avoid cheating during the games, hence why none of the unicorns did anything during this...  Thought that bets the question of the princesses also went through such a spell.  I mean, Twilight performed a spell at the beginning, though maybe since the games haven't started yet...  Do they go through just to be sure, or does everyone expect that the princess will adhere to the rules and thus not interfere?  It would explain why Celestia, Luna, or Cadance didn't do anything, but...  I don't know, it seems to far-fetched for me.

So the mane 6, plus the princesses, all congratulate Spike, who honestly doesn't see it as that big a deal.  They tell him that it is, since he saved those ponies, but he retorts saying that he only did it because no one else could, and if they could, they would have done it instead of him...  and just now, I realize that this episode feels like almost a direct response to the criticisms of Power Ponies.  I realize that that's probably NOT the case, as I'm willing to bet the scripts for all the episodes were all finalized before the season premiered even aired, but that does seem to be a problem most people brought up that is seemingly "addressed" in this episode.  What I don't get is how Applejack said he's not making sense (also, Applejack apologizes for being blunt here but not in Rarity Takes Manehatten...  which was ALSO written by Dave Polsky?  Again, it just feels like addresses issues that were brought up in this season alone, it feels really awkward and strange); I mean, isn't it obvious that Spike doesn't feel like what he did was that special compared to what anyone else can do?  I mean, sure, he's the one who did it, and he should deserve the credit for that, but just because you keep telling him that...  you know, I don't even know what I'm saying anymore.  I feel like how I am when I try to explain my feelings to the certain someone I keep mentioning in this; my feelings are so hard to describe and articulate, it can't really be summed up in a way most people can understand...  which makes it frustrating to both sympathize with Spike here and watch as no one's understanding how he feels.

Then Twilight steps in and gives us our moral; that Spike feels more disappointed in himself then anyone else  Again, this is frequently how I feel, though I always feel like I disappointed everyone involved then I do in myself, despite everyone I know saying otherwise.  This is also another awkward "half empathize/half don't" situations, where I feel like I'm in Spike position and thus I understand how he feels, and then I'm reminded that this is Spike we're talking about, and the case, or more accurately the writers, only seem to care about Spike's feelings and characterization a select few times, whereas all the other times, he's either unlikable, unsympathetic, ruder, or the writers play-thing, and thus given free-license to put Spike through all kinds of abuse.  So part of me wants to feel the moral they're trying to get all, but the other half of me feels the moral is disingenuous.  Even if it was meant to be written with genuine emotions like it is, I can't help but feel like Spike will immediately go back to being a blank slate for the writers to fill in either as a brat or a "Megward the Wizard" (Mr. Enter reference...  watch his review of the Fanyboy & Chum-Chum episode "Cold Wars" to see what I mean).

Twilight asks if there's anything Spike can do to give him a boost in moral, and he asks if he can turn back time and light the torch again.  This reminds me of me, and how almost every time I think of this certain someone, I keep wishing that I never met them; despite the person in question being almost impossibly nice and really trying not to make me unhappy again, it just feels like I can't get over what they say, more importantly the things I get upset over is ultimately meaningless, mostly about certain points in episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and also whether a certain movie meant "this" or is any good, and especially over how I come off to them (apparently they once took what I said as trying to start an argument, despite I distinctly saying to them that I don't like arguments...  making me wonder if there really is nothing I can do to escape them...  Even though they say they won't argue with me, even if it looks like I'm trying to start something, I'm STILL upset because they saw it as a "wanna fight about it?" to begin with, and that there's something wrong with me for even saying anything!)

...God damn, I think I'm about to cry now...  that's now messed up I've gotten over interacting with this person...  And it's all my fault...

...Getting back to the episode, I DID like how when Spike asks if he can turn back time, Twilight has a sudden look of thought on her face, presumable remembering It's About Time and the fact that she DID go into the past once.  See, THAT'S the kind of callback this episode needs, not the "this thing existed" thing that this season did, but the more subtle kind of acknowledgements, and more important, the kind that doesn't both reference and episode but also forgets what happened in that episode (Rainbow Falls).  Cadance offers Spike to light the closing ceremony fireworks, and Spike decides to give it a shot.  The episode ends with the pointless subplot of Ponyville winning the most medals, no doubt in a vain attempt to make us think the Equestria Games had a point other then to focus on Spike's character, and Spike gives us an inner monologue about the moral of this episode while lighting up the fireworks.

...Holy crap, I did not expect to be that negative or depressed in this write-up as I was...  Really, I said this episode is okay, and it is...  in the sense that there's nothing "objectively" wrong with it, I just don't really care for it.  I almost hate my deeper-thinking side, and some might tell me to stop because of how depressed it makes me, but the thing is it never made me depressed before; in fact, I used to derive a lot of joy from looking into thinks on a deeper, more meaningful level, both the bad stuff and the good stuff.  But now, with what's happened to be recently, I don't think I can ever think too deeply about something without thinking of...  that...  Again, really sorry for dumping all this baggage on all of you.  In the end, I thought the episode was okay, and I guess that's all I wanted to say...

...I'm just gonna...  do something...  now...  Maybe get my mind off this, maybe have a talk to someone about it.  Just...  whatever.

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