Nuggets of Wisdom

Friday, November 9, 2012

Top 5 Best/Worst MLP:FiM Season 2 Episodes

In my last list, I listed my top five favorite and least favorite episodes in the first season. In this list, I will be listing the same thing for season two. As with the first list, I won’t be mentioning the two-part episodes because they tend to be del facto great. Also, as with last time, this is all my opinion, so feel free to disagree with me. And I would like to hear what your favorite/least favorite episodes are in the comments section below.

Top 5 Worst Episodes

MLP Wiki

#5: Heart And Hooves Day

Season Two brought holiday-themed episodes for Halloween (“Luna Night”), Christmas (“Hearth Warming Eve”), and Valentine’s Day (“Heart and Hooves Day”). Once the Halloween and Christmas episodes had aired, I knew the next holiday-themed episode was going to be Valentine’s Day, and that it would feature one of the ponies falling in love. Already my mind was racing with the endless possibilities of which pony was going to fall in love and with whom. I wanted to keep myself in suspense as to whom the lucky filly would be, and decided not to read the episode synopsis ahead of time as I normally do.

In a stroke of dumb luck, the episode was leaked to the internet the day before it aired. So obviously I was ecstatic about watching it early and learning how it was about—the Cutie Mark Crusaders—setting up their teacher—with Big Macintosh?!

Well considering that he’s one of the few male characters on the show, I guess it was an inevitable choice. But as most of you know, I’m a big FlutterMac fan. So you can only imagine how I felt watching this episode.

I know Macintosh only fell in love with Cheerilee because of the love poison, and in the end, they manage to just become friends, thus preserving the slim chance of him hooking up with Fluttershy, but having an entire episode that single-handedly crushes (or potentially crushes) a favorite fan shipping of mine made watching it all the more painful—that and having to listen to Big Mac speak baby talk. (I swear I puked more than once duing that episode.)

Other than that, it was a decent episode. It featured a catchy song (“The Perfect Stallion”), fleshed out Cheerilee’s character, and even had a good moral about not interfering with other people’s relationships. But I just didn’t enjoy watching it the first time around.

I know this episode is on the list for subjective reasons rather than objective ones, which is why I have it ranked rather low on this list. Rest assure, the other four episodes are treated much more objectively.

MLP Wiki

#4: The Last Roundup

Derpy Hooves talks. That’s the only good thing about this episode. (Well, it was the only good thing up until the folks at Hasbro became giant cowards and censored the scene. Seriously, WTF Hasbro?!) Other than that, it just wasn’t that great, or at least as great as many fans said it was. It wasn’t bad, just not great; overall, lackluster.

The main problem I have with this episode is that it’s trying so hard to build up to a big reveal at the end that really isn’t that big of a reveal—in fact, anyone can see it coming a mile away. To show you what I mean, allow me to explain the premise: the episode begins with Apple Jack showing off her rodeo skills and all the awards she won because of it. Later she brags before the entire town about how she’s going to win first place at the rodeo and use the prize money to repair city hall. But on the day she’s supposed to return, she sends a telegram explaining she isn’t coming back. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be because she didn’t win the rodeo and is embarrassed about it? Oh, what do you know: that’s exactly the reason why! What a twist!

Yeah, the mystery about Apple Jack not returning to Ponyville isn’t that big of a mystery. It’s rather obvious. We already know why Apple Jack didn’t return to Ponyville and why she’s avoiding the other ponies. We all know how it’s all going to end: Apple Jack is going to admit that she lost the rodeo and was embarrassed to come back, and her friends are going to assure her that losing the rodeo doesn’t matter to them and that they love her regardless of it. And knowing all of this ahead of time, it makes waiting until the end of the episode all the more tedious. Oh sure, there is plenty of good material to keep us entertained until then—the “I Love Lucy” reference, Pinkie Pie going insane, the epic chase scene—but it all comes across as nothing more than empty filler for an empty ending. Why bother trying to keep us in suspense when there is nothing to keep us in suspense about?

This is also the episode where Pinkie Pie is at her most annoying, particularly with “Cherry Chimichanga!” The fact the others use her to torture Apple Jack into fessing up proves just how annoying she can be. It comes across as more irritating than funny. Seriously, having to hear her act like this makes me want to punch through the screen and strangle her to death. She’s just that annoying! And I only feel sorry for Rarity for having to put up with her at the end. But to be fair, this is not Pinkie at her worst. There’s actually an episode later in the season where she’s worse—far worse! (But we’ll get to that later!)

MLP Wiki

#3: Read It And Weep

One of the things I enjoy about this show is how it manages to be subtle with its moral lessons rather than preachy. The show may be aimed at little children but it never treats them as such. It doesn’t talk down to them nor does it force feed them whatever lesson it’s trying to teach. Instead, it focuses on providing an entertaining story while subtlety weaving a moral throughout. Sometimes the moral is so subtle that you don’t even know what it is until Twilight Sparkle writes to Princess Celestia about it. You know a children’s show is good when it’s able to make you forget that it’s trying to educate you. This is why I love episodes like “Lesson Zero.” (More on that later!) It’s also why I hate this one.

In this episode, Rainbow Dash is sent to the hospital following an accident and is stuck there until her injuries heal. Twilight suggests that she read a book to pass the time, but Rainbow Dash refuses, claiming that reading is “uncool” and for “eggheads.”

And it’s right here that I lose interest. I would stop watching the episode at this point if not for the fact that I have to review it.

While the moral in other episodes tend to be subtle, the moral in this episode is as subtle as a cinderblock to the head, and it doesn’t help that the episode beats you with it constantly. It also doesn’t help that the character’s two-dimension delivery of it makes it all the more contrived. This is essentially how the episode  breaks down:
Twilight: You should read this book, Rainbow Dash.

Dash: No. I hate books. Reading is boring.

Everyone: No it’s not. Reading is super fun. You should try it.

Dash: Okay, I love reading now. It's super special awesome!
This episode is the exact opposite of what made the series great. It preaches the moral to us, presents it as weakly as possible, forces it down our throats, and all the while treats us like children. (Granted, this cartoon is meant for children, but at least it attempted to be somewhat intelligent.)

One thing that never made sense to me is why Rainbow Dash felt compelled to keep her new love of reading a secret. Her friends wanted her to read, so why would it embarrass her to let them know she was reading? And the lengths she goes just to keep it a secret is just ridiculous—funny, perhaps, but in context, ridiculous!

Some fans have interpreted this episode as a metaphor for being a Brony, how grown men have to keep their love of a little girls' cartoon secret from others. It’s an interesting interpretation, but quite frankly, I’m not buying it. This is an episode about the love of reading and nothing more. Any other interpretation is extemporaneous.

Other fans really enjoyed the Daring Doo segments, but for me, they were nothing more than your typical Indiana Jones parody. There was nothing special about them. I simply wasn’t impressed. (Okay, I was impressed by how the villain Ahuizotl was based on a real mythical Mayan creature, which shows that the show really delves in obscure references for their mythology, but other than that, the segments weren’t impressive enough to keep me invested in them or the episode.)

I admit there were some instances that I enjoyed, like the parallels between Rainbow Dash and Daring Doo, or the gags featuring the Chihuahua guard dog and the mental patient who thinks she’s a guard dog. And I sort of enjoyed the parallels between this episode and the Spongebob episode “Just One Bite,” but unlike other episodes with similarities to classic cartoons, this one does not make it any better.

In the end, this episode suffers from having its moral presented explicitly rather than subtlety. They might as well have a caption at the bottom of the screen telling us that “Reading Is Good.” The episode is just that preachy, and that’s something a children’s show should never be, especially one as good as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

MLP Wiki

#2: A Friend In Deed

I don’t want to hate this episode. It contains the best song in the season, if not the entire series. I can’t express how much I love Pinkie Pie’s Smile song. It’s the only Pony song I have downloaded on my I-Phone and which I listen to on a regular basis, especially when I’m feeling depressed. The song just has that special way of lifting you up when you’re feeling down. But unfortunately it’s the only good thing about this episode (save for the cute felt animated sequence).

Pinkie Pie is my least favorite character and this episode illustrates why. I get she’s supposed to be a comedic character, what with her being the Element of Laughter, but more often than not, she comes across as obnoxious rather than comedic, and this is apparent within this episode.

When a donkey named Cranky moves to town, Pinkie does everything within her power to befriend him, even if it means bugging the living crap out of him and destroying his prized possessions. (I’m serious. Pinkie not only destroys his wig but also burns an album filled with photos of his most cherished memories. There’s being clumsy and then there’s being a vandal!)

And despite Cranky clearly telling her that he has no interest in being her friend, and despite Twilight Sparkle suggesting that she should probably leave him alone, Pinkie Pie insists on trying to get Cranky to like her, even going so far as to chase him halfway across Equestria. (Sweet Celestia, Pinkie, learn to take a hint!) I know this is supposed to come across as funny, but I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy. It was funny when she chased Rainbow Dash in “Griffon the Brush-Off,” but at least in that she was chasing a young athletic pegasus, not an ancient, decrepit donkey!

And the worst part is that Pinkie manages to get her way. Even after harassing him and destroying his property, she ends up getting Cranky to like her. That’s right kids: if someone doesn’t like you, just keep harassing them until they do. What a good moral lesson for children!

Actually the moral given in this episode is that some friends act differently than others and that we should learn how they want to be treated. But as with “Sweet And Elite,” the episode seems to be expressing something completely different, and as such, it feels forced and contrived.

Speaking of forced and contrived, that’s how I felt about the ending. Pinkie learns that Cranky was looking for another donkey named Matilda (who conveniently happens to live in town) and she manages to reunite the two. Nowhere in this episode do we get any indicator that Cranky was looking for someone (save for a few vague clues, which Pinkie manages to piece together for herself, yet we never see) and that someone only appears at the beginning of the episode for a measly five seconds. As such, this ending comes completely without warning, and if anything, feels like it was tacked on at the last minute. This isn’t creative, just lazy writing!

This episode would have been much better had Pinkie respected Cranky’s wishes and learned that she doesn’t have to please everyone. Sure, it’s a lesson that has been taught many times before, but it would have worked out much better than the one we're given, and it would have been a far better moral to teach children rather than to act like an annoying douche.

MLP Wiki

#1: Sweet and Elite

Whenever grown men like myself have to defend watching a little girl’s cartoon like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, one of the reasons we give for doing so is that the characters are well-written with depth and complexity, something that is lacking with the flatter-than-cardboard stereotypes all too prevalent in other little girl cartoons. This is a good argument, but the example they often give to support it is Rarity.

(Rarity? That’s your example of a well-written, complex character?)

They argue that, rather than being a shallow, self-absorbed fashonista, she’s really a selfless soul who places her friend’s best interests before her own.

(We’re talking about the same character, right?)

The episode they often cite to support this claim is this one: "Sweet And Elite."

(I honestly don’t see it!)

I know I’m going to receive a lot of flak for this. Many fans consider this episode to be one of the best in season two, if not one of the best Rarity episodes. They claim this is Rarity at her best while I honestly believe the exact opposite is true. I know people are going to hate me for saying that, but if you kindly set aside your torches and pitchforks and hear me out, I’ll explain why I think that way.

In this episode, Rarity goes to Canterlot to make a dress for Twilight Sparkle, but finds herself getting distracted with the social life there. She eventually faces the dilemma of having to decide between attending a garden party or Twilight’s birthday party.

Now this plot has been played out countless times in other media, but that’s not the problem I have with this episode. The problem I have is that Rarity’s behavior concerning this dilemma, if not her behavior throughout this episode, goes against everything that fans say about her. If this is her acting selflessly and placing her friends before herself, I fail to see it.

Throughout the episode, Rarity finds herself having to twist the truth in order to impress the Canterlot elite, which is understandable, but in many instances, there really is no reason for her to lie. For example, at the race track, why did she have to lie about Rainbow Dash being the Wonderbolts’ personal trainer? If anything, she could have easily impressed them with the truth: that Rainbow Dash is an aspiring Wonderbolt—and the only pegasus in Equestria to perform a Sonic Rainboomtwice! Somehow I find that to be far more impressive than simply being their personal trainer.

While we’re on the subject, why is it that none of the Canterlot elite know anything about the Mane Six? These are the same six ponies who saved Equestria—twice! And they were commemorated with stain glass windows in the royal palace—twice! For a group of people who spend most of their free time attending social events, you think they would have attended the royal ceremonies commemorating these six for their heroic deeds. So why the hell are they so oblivious about them?

And then we have Rarity’s “dilemma.” I know we’re supposed to sympathize with her struggling to choose between attending the two parties, but if you really consider the two, you find there really is no weight between them. On one hand, you have a party that doesn’t seem to be any different from the other social events Rarity attended. (In fact, if you think about it, the Canterlot elite seem to attend a lot of social events. It makes you wonder if they actually do anything other than socialize, let alone if they would really care if Rarity didn’t attend this party.)

On the other hand, you have the birthday party of her best friend—the same friend who was the sole reason why she went to Canterlot in the first place (you know, to make the dress she never finished)—the same best friend who was kind enough to set her up with royal accommodations!

The right choice seems obvious: attend the party of the friend who bent over backwards to give you a room at the royal freaking palace. The fact she blows off her best friend by lying to her in order to attend some hoity-toity garden party just further cements my opinion that she’s a selfish prick in this episode.

To further complicate matters, her friends decide to surprise her at the palace by throwing the birthday party there, forcing her to maintain her charade with falsehoods that even a broken lie detector can see through. I don’t know what’s worse: that Rarity is trying to deceive her friends with blatantly obvious bullcrap, or that her friends are oblivious enough to fall for it.

“Oh! We catch you sneaking out of your room in a sundress, even though you wrote about how you had to stay and take care of your cat? That’s okay! We totally buy your story that you were dressing up to make your cat feel better.”

“Oh, you totally half-ass your best friend’s birthday dress? That’s okay! She just so happens to love simple designs.”

“Oh, we catch you sneaking back and forth between this party and the one next door? That’s okay. We totally understand.”

Rarity ultimately has to choose between her friends and her new social standing, and to her credit, she manages to make the right decision—albeit without any real consequence. Throughout the episode, she lies and makes selfish decisions, but in the end, she ends up losing nothing because of that. On the contrary, she manages to get everything that she wants. She maintains the respect of her friends and her standing with the Canterlot elite. She not only has her cake but eats it too.

The moral they give for this episode is that you shouldn’t forget where you come from. Personally, I feel the real moral is that you can lie and deceive and you will always get your way with no negative consequences whatsoever. (You know, the same moral that politicians live by.)

I really don’t want to hate this episode. It contained one of the best musical numbers of the season up until Pinkie Pie’s Smile song and the songs in "A Canterlot Wedding." It also contained a cool side character (Mr. Fancy Pants), interesting visuals (Hipster Rarity), plenty of cameos (Prince Blueblood, Hoity Toity, Photo Finish, and Sapphire Shores), and hilarious gags (“What Croquet Mallet?”). But overall, Rarity’s attitude and behavior ruined it for me and actually made me lose respect for her as a character. I think a better example of character development is “Sisterhooves Social” (which I’ll cover later). This episode, on the other hand, is neither sweet nor elite.

Top 5 Best Episodes

MLP Wiki

#5: Hearth’s Warming Eve

Of all the holiday-themed episodes in this season, this one was by far my favorite. I know many fans prefer “Luna Night,” and while I did enjoy it, I felt it contained too many plotholes for me to consider my favorite. And you all already know how I feel about “Hearts and Hooves Day.”

As with many other holiday-themed episodes, this one changed one of our holidays into a pony version of it. At first, I was skeptical as to how they would change Christmas for a world where Santa and Christ don’t exist (which is sort of depressing if you think about it), but the episode still managed to convey the Christmas spirit without it being Christmas.

The episode features the Mane Six putting on a holiday pageant about the founding of Equestria. Before Equestia was founded, the three pony races—Earth, Pegasi, and Unicorn—existed as separate tribes that constantly feuded with one another. When a blizzard devastates the land, each of the pony tribes blames the others for it, and despite attempts at diplomacy, fail to concede on a solution. Each of the tribes’ leaders set out with their servants in search for another land. They end up discovering Equestria—humorously, all at the exact same time! But the blizzard soon encroaches on them, forcing them to take shelter in a cave where the leaders continue to bicker with one another. When the leaders succumb to the cold and freeze into blocks of ice, the servants deduce that the blizzard is being caused by Windigos, creatures that are attracted to coldness and bitterness. They decide to ward them off by befriending one another. This causes the leaders to melt from their icy prisons, and forces them to set aside their differences, thus warding off the Windigos and the blizzard. The three pony tribes then unite and form Equestria, an occasion that is celebrated with their holiday Hearth Warming Eve.

As I said before, this episode managed to convey the Christmas spirit without it being Christmas. The holiday may have changed, but the spirit behind it remains the same. Most of this is partly due to the holiday decorations and atmosphere throughout the episode, but personally, I feel it’s mostly due to the message. The lesson of the pageant and the episode is learning to getting along with one another by setting aside your differences, and in the end, that’s exactly what Christmas is all about. It’s not about Santa or Jesus or gifts or commercialism: it’s about peace on earth and good will towards men. And this episode did an excellent job of portraying that.

I also loved how this episode expanded more on the history of Equestria. Despite being for little girls, this series manages to take its own back story seriously, and goes out of its way to provide a coherent mythology and history. In a way, that sort of sets it on par with other fantasy series like the Lord of the Rings. In fact, if you think about it, the entire conflict with the three pony tribes is almost Tolkien-esque. I guess that’s why older men like me like it so much.

The artwork in this episode was magnificent and helped add to the overall holiday spirit, from the decorations in Canterlot to small things like Rarity’s hat. The episode also had plenty of small fun details like Scootaloo getting her tounge stuck on a pole (an obvious reference to A Christmas Story).

I was a bit skeptical about the pageant, as the leaders and servants acted exactly as the Mane Six portraying them, like how Chancellor Pudding acted exactly as eccentric as Pinkie Pie. But personally, I felt this was merely the Mane Six’s interpretation of the characters rather than the characters themselves. In a way, it’s almost like watching a Christmas pageant held by the kids at school or church. And it provided for plenty of excellent moments, mostly on the part of Pinkie (“I can think outside the box and inside the chimney. Can you think inside a chimney?”) I also loved Spike as the narrator, which I felt was a fitting role for him, even if he did tend to be long-winded. (“We get it. Move on.”)

In the end, while this episode isn’t going to be considered one of the best holiday specials of all time, it still manages to be a fitting holiday special for the series.

MLP Wiki

#4: Sisterhooves Social

Most fans have mixed feelings about the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Some like them. Others hate them. And others want to inflict pain and suffering upon them (as was apparent in the ultra-disturbing Sweet Apple Massacre)!

I for one really enjoy them. I think they add another dimension to the show, another focus aside from the main characters. Most episodes focus on the Mane Six while some focus on these three, which in a way, sort of makes the series two-in-one.

But one critique I do have is that, aside from their pursuit for their cutie marks, their characters, if not their relationships with their older siblings, tend to be underdeveloped. Apple Bloom is the younger sister of Apple Jack. Sweetie Belle is the younger sister of Rarity. And Scoot-a-loo has a hero fetish for Rainbow Dash. Other than that, we don’t really know that much about these three or their familiar relations.

That changed in season two as more episodes were dedicated to them, and for the most part, they did a good job of developing their characters, especially with episodes like “Family Appreciation Day” and “Cutie Mark Confidential.” But as you could suspect, the best episode by far was “Sisterhooves Social,” as it developed not only the characters of Sweetie Belle and her sister Rarity, but also their relationship.

It also introduced us to their parents. Yeah. Rarity and Sweetie Belle have parents. I honestly swear that I had to rewind the episode the first time around just to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. But no, they were correct: Rarity has parents. I guess the only reason I’m surprised by this is that we don’t see their parents any other time in the series, other than through flashbacks, so we sort of assume that they don’t have any. Heck, the fact that we haven’t seen the parents for the Apple siblings is the subject of much speculation among the fan community. Are their parents dead? Were they abandoned by them? Do we simply not see them on-screen? Or…are Apple Jack and Big Macintosh really the parents of Apple Bloom? (I swear I’m not making that up. Fans have actually suggested that.) But little moments like this do assure that, yes, the Mane six do have parents.

But I digress…

The episode focuses on Rarity as she has to babysit Sweetie Belle while their parents are away on vacation. Sweetie Belle wants to spend time with her sister, but Rarity just wants her out of the way. Sweetie Belle tries to help her sister out but ends up messing up, causing massive friction between the two, even forcing them to wish that the other one didn’t exist.

Saddened, Sweetie Belle decides to hang out with Apple Bloom and Apple Jack, and sees a stark contrast between their relationship as sisters and that with her own sister. Rarity later drops by to apologize, but Sweetie Belle decides that she wants to be sisters with Apple Jack instead.

The entire episode is a buildup to an annual festival held by the Apple Family known as the Sisterhooves Social, where Sweetie Belle enters the completion with Apple Jack. I’m not going to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen the episode, but needless to say, it is quite unexpected. I was literally shocked by it and honestly didn’t see it coming. Rarely does a little kids show surprise me, which only proves how well the show manages to do with storytelling.

I really liked how in this episode Sweetie Belle was honestly trying to help her sister and not intentionally annoy her like most little siblings do. I also liked how her many mishaps actually helped Rarity, like how Sweetie Belle organized her room (yes, Rarity actually gets upset that Sweetie Belle “cleaned” her room—and of course I loved how Rarity described how it originally was “creative chaos”), which forces Rarity to reconsider her harsh attitude towards her little sister. And who didn’t have a lip quiver over seeing Sweetie Belle’s drawing?

I also loved many of the little gags and visuals within this episode, like Apple Jack explaining what uncouth is to Apple Bloom. (The definition of a redneck, after all, as defined by the great Jeff Foxworthy, is the glorious absence of sophistication.) and Rarity’s wet mane. (“I really like her mane!”) But the important part of this episode is how it’s the first to have a friendship report written by one of the other characters other than Twilight.

Overall this episode not only did an excellent job of developing Rarity’s character, but also her relationship with her sister Sweetie Belle. This is by far a better example of character development than “Sweet and Elite.”

MLP Wiki

#3: The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000

I love everything about this episode. The grandiose musical number. It’s obvious homage to The Music Man. The snake-oil salesmen villains. Their steampunk cider machine. The subplot of Rainbow Dash trying to get a pint of cider. Her failing to do so at every chance (“Oh for pete’s sake!”). Her drooling expression. Her eating dirt just to get a taste of cider (“Is this some kind of cruel joke?”). Her finally getting a pint at the end. The Mane Six teaming up with the Apple Family to compete against the Flim-Flam Brothers. Doctor Hooves being the one to tip the hourglass. Cheerilee’s cider face. Fluttershy shielding herself when Rainbow Dash rips away her covers. Applejack’s snarky letter to Princess Celestia (“I didn’t learn anything. I was right all along!”). Her prancing and balancing a pint of cider on her head. Her cute expression while doing so. Every. Little. Thing. There was not a single fault I found with this episode.

Well, I was slightly bothered by how the episode pitted the villain’s better technology against the main characters doing things “the old-fashioned way.” I don’t really care for these Paul Henry “man-versus-machine” stories as I feel they vilify technological progress. Mistrust of technology may have been understandable back in the 19th Century when new technology seemed intimidating, especially with the possibility of machines taking away jobs, but here in the 21st Century where technology has clearly made our lives better, it doesn’t seem like an appropriate message for children.

But compared to everything else in this episode, it’s a rather minor nitpick. Everything else is perfect, just like a pint of the Apple Family’s cider!

MLP Wiki

#2: Hurricane Fluttershy

This was a great season for Fluttershy, as she received, not one, but two episodes: “Putting Your Hoof Down” and “Hurricane Fluttershy.” Both are good in their own right, and both are highly-recommended watches. I was going to cheat and tie them both on this spot, but after thinking it through, I decided that the far superior episode was “Hurricane Fluttershy.”

The pegasi in Ponyville have been chosen to create a water devil to siphon water from their reservoir to Cloudsdale for Equestria's rainwater supply. All the pegasi are excited about this except Fluttershy. She doesn’t want to participate because the teasing she received as a child makes her nervous flying around others. Even when she reluctantly joins, the teasing she receives from her teammates forces her to quit. After being comforted by her friends, she is encouraged to train to improve her flying skills, and in the end, manages to help the other pegasi successfully complete their task.

While Fluttershy has had episodes before where she needed to overcome her fears, this one allowed us to better empathize with her, partly because it dealt with a subject most of us can relate with: teasing. Most of us have experienced teasing and bullying within our own life, and this episode perfectly illustrates the anxiety and insecurity one feels going through such an experience. This allows us to better emotionally-connect with Fluttershy and the struggles she faces in this episode. (Even if you don’t like Fluttershy as a character, you have to admit that you welled up seeing her cry. If you didn’t, then you have no heart!)

And while the ending is predictable enough, the build up to it was more realistic than in other media. Even after Fluttershy goes through an entire sports montage to improve herself, she only manages to improve by a small percent, but in the end, it’s this small percent that allows her and the other pegasi to succeed.

I also felt that this episode did a better job with Rainbow Dash’s character. In other episodes, she’s presented as cocky and pig-headed, but here, she acts more sympathetic. Even though she’s obsessed with breaking the record and impressing the Wonderbolts, she still manages to act supportive towards Fluttershy and her struggles.

There were many hilarious gags within this episode: the 1950s-style training film, the 1980s-style sports montage, Fluttershy disguising herself as a tree (“I always wanted to be a tree”), and of course, the overly-muscular pegasi screaming “Yeah!”

Overall, this was an excellent episode for Fluttershy, and one of her best in the season, if not the entire series.

MLP Wiki

#1: Lesson Zero

This season contained two hilarious episodes featuring my favorite character Twilight Sparkle: “It’s About Time” and “Lesson Zero.” Both of these episodes were laugh-out loud hilarious within they own right and I would highly recommend both as must watch episodes. I was going to cop-out here and set them both up as a tie for first place, but as with the Fluttershy episodes, I was forced to make a choice, and clearly the best episode hands down is “Lesson Zero.”

Twilight discovers that it’s been over a week since she sent a friendship report to Princess Celestia and worries that it could affect her grade for the worst—even sending her back to Magic Kindergarten! She searches for a friend she can help, but to her avail, none of them have any problems she can solve. With the day nearing the end and no problem to report on, Twilight resorts to creating conflict among the Cutie Mark Crusaders by giving them an enchanted doll to fight over—which they do, along with the rest of the town! Celestia arrives in the nick of time to restore everything back to normal and to assure Twilight that she doesn’t have to worry about the friendship report, ensuring her that she only has to send one when she actually manages to learn a lesson.

This episode was laugh-out loud hilarious from beginning to end. There wasn’t a moment where I didn’t find myself clenching my sides with gut-wrenching laughter or at least covering my mouth to muffle my chortles and giggles. And how could I not? Each of the gags in the episode were sheer comedy gold: The Magic Kindergarten nightmare, Rarity’s couch, the epic rainbow explosion, the whole town fighting over Smarty Pants, and of course, Fluttershy wrestling a bear? Fluttershy kicking the crap out of a bear! Do I even have to explain how epic that was?

But of course the funniest part of the episode was Twilight’s slow descent into madness. As the episode progresses and the deadline for the report draws ever nearer, we can see how Twilight’s anxiety over it is slowly chipping away at her sanity through her appearance and actions—perhaps the most telling being her Gollum-esque conversation with her own reflection. By the end of the episode, we see her as a disheveled mess, and we know she’s no longer all there. And seeing her pop out of the bushes? Yeah, screw Pinkamena Diane Pie! That is far creepier!

Perhaps what makes this episode all the more hilarious is just how relatable the situation is. Sure, we may laugh at how ridiculous it is for Twilight to go crazy over something as trivial as a late letter to the princess, but if we’re honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that there have been times when we became worked up over something that in hindsight was insignificant. There have been plenty of times during my college career when I became anxious over a project and assumed the worst over it, but in the end, everything managed to turn out for the best.

Many would argue that this episode, along with “It’s About Time,” portrays Twilight out-of-character, as allegedly someone as smart as her would not act this stupid. But I disagree. Just because someone is intelligent doesn’t mean they’re not susceptible to acting irrationally. Being intelligent is not the same as being rational, as even the most intelligent and well-read person can still experience lapses of judgment. This episode and others like it proves just that, and it shows that the creators are able to dynamically portray their characters.

Watching this episode the first time around, I assumed that it would similar to the Simpson’s episode where the moral of the story is sometimes there is no moral. But it actually managed to pull a moral out from the madness. The moral is that you should care about the concerns of your friends and not brush them off as not being a big deal. This is a decent moral, but I feel a better one would have been not to let the small things in life get to you. After all, most of the episode centers around Twilight fretting over her letter with only a little focusing on her friends not really caring.

Overall this was an excellent episode, and as I said before, it’s a must watch. What really pleases me about this episode is that it comes packaged in a few select toys. To me, this is a better choice to introduce people to the franchise than—bleh!—“The Ticket Master.”