It’s always interesting when a new writer tackles the characters. Jennifer Skelly makes her debut with today’s episode, “Buckball Season.” This one continues the slice of life-centric storytelling Season 6 has been doing. Sadly, as stated in previous reviews, the writing has been more on the average side. The previous two had finally broken that slump. Today’s installment has a few notable aspects. For one thing, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie have rarely starred together in a team-up, so this was a treat. Another is the sports backdrop, which is a fun take on basketball & volleyball. It’s not a great episode, but these parts make it pretty fun.
When Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy turn out to be Ponyville’s best Buckball players, Applejack and Rainbow Dash agree to coach them against Appleoosa. But when the pressure’s on and the players stop having fun, Ponyville’s newest star athletes lose their competitive edge and quite possibly the biggest Buckball game in history!
So, one has to ask why this episode isn’t particularly great. “Buckball Season” suffers from a rather mean portrayal of Applejack and Rainbow Dash. (Which interestingly enough happened also in “The Cart Before the Ponies.”) Their portrayal wasn’t as extreme as in Cart thankfully, but they still seemed rather unreasonable. This was for the sake of the message, which was about why pushing someone too hard can/will suck the fun out of a game. This isn’t a bad message (we’ll address that momentarily) but character development should never be sacrificed for the sake of the lesson. Another negative with the writing is Applejack and Rainbow deciding that Pinkie & Fluttershy should compete instead of the former two. This just didn’t flow properly and it’s hard to picture Rainbow letting another pony take her place in a competition.
The actual ‘Buckball’ was pretty fun to watch. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie make for an excellent team, both on the court and just as friends walking around. The different personalities play off each other well. A surprising highlight was Snails. He’s typically seen with Snips and together they’re usually nothing more than the comic relief duo of the show. Today’s episode actually gave Snails some personality, which was certainly welcome.
Now, the message is a simple one. Aligning with the idea of overdoing it as coaches, there’s this concept of “having fun is what’s important.” This is definitely true in some senses, but one must be careful not to overdo that message and make it seem like fun is the only important thing. In real competition, winning is important and one should train hard to win. The other extreme is of course when the idea of winning consumes a person and makes them miserable when he/she loses. The episode’s message doesn’t go to either extreme. It does scratch the surface of the former, but only barely. The lesson is for the most part good.
Overall, “Buckball Season” has some writing problems stopping it from being a great episode. Applejack’s and Rainbow Dash’s portrayals were off during the second act, and them deciding not to play was completely unnatural. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie make for an excellent focus. It was also good seeing Snails have an actual role outside of the comic relief realm. The message is a solid one that the episode thankfully doesn’t overdo.