My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “28 Pranks Later” Review

I’ve been a My Little Pony fan for years now. I believe the first two seasons were the show’s prime. This is not to say it has been in decline since then, because if it’s one thing the show is good at, it’s that it had always been consistent with delivering quality. That’s why when more average episodes appear a review seems noticeably harsh, because at this point the show deserves to be held to a high standard. That’s why the previous couple of episodes, while not terrible (in comparison to what’s currently airing on television) got pretty low scores. There has never been a truly bad episode of MLP, but when you compare say the the previous episode to a Season 1 installment, the quality is noticeably lower. Season 6 has been definitely the worst season in this regard. Today’s episode continues this mediocrity, though at the very least it’s far more entertaining than the last one.

When Rainbow Dash’s pranking gets out of hand, everypony decides to give her a taste of her own medicine – zom-pony style!

So, what’s wrong with this episode? The show decides to tackle the message of pranks/jokes. Most of us know how to laugh at a well done surprise joke. Sometimes however they’re in bad taste or downright mean. It’s about balance and asking, “How would I feel if someone did this to me?” It’s definitely a pretty good message that the episode drives home at the end. Like “The Cart Before the Ponies” however, the message is at the expense of characterization. In this case, the victim is Rainbow Dash.

Rainbow has been established as a prankster in the past, mainly way back in the Season 1 episode “Griffon the Brush Off” and the Season 2 episode “Luna Eclipsed.” Since then however that part of her character hasn’t been touched upon all that much. Today we see it come back full force. The story doesn’t start out unreasonably. In fact, some of the pranks she pulls in the beginning are pretty funny. Plus, the banter between her and Pinkie Pie about them is great to watch. (Because the two are pretty similar in this regard.) Toward the middle act is where the main problem lies. Rainbow starts pranking all of Ponyville. She even disrupts a school lesson for the sake of a prank. Even for Rainbow, this is unrealistic and completely immature. There’s just no way she would go around doing this to all the citizens. If the school example wasn’t bad enough, she devises a plan to “infect” the girl scout cookies of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Rainbow was written pretty much like a villain most of the time here.

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The final act saves the episode from being just a mess of characterization. For pop culture fans, the title of this episode is of course a reference to the film 28 Days Later. The last 10 minutes parodies the plot of that movie in a very entertaining way. “(It’s also a tease, because the viewer now knows how awesome a real zombie apocalypse in Ponyville would be.) As started earlier, the message is delivered pretty well in the end. It’s a shame it was done with a villainous Rainbow Dash. Also, I believe it was a mistake to spoil the plan to make Dash understand the error of her ways in the description. It would have been far more entertaining to watch the events unfold without that prior knowledge.

Overall, 28 Pranks Later is a pretty fun episode, though the writing takes it way overboard with Rainbow Dash’s antics. At the very least, there’s some good dialogue between her and Pinkie. (F.M De Marco should write a team-up episode with the two.) There are other little annoying things not mentioned above, such as bringing back Fluttershy being scared of nothing for the sake of the story. While I greatly enjoy these slice of life adventures, Season 6 really needs an “important” episode to bring back its steam.

6/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Spice Up Your Life” Review

Today’s episode of MLP is a bit on the sad side. It’s not because it’s extra emotional, but that it marks the final one until later in the year. Mid-season breaks are always disappointing, but good in a way as well. (The wait between seasons are shortened.) So today is a farewell installment for now. Interestingly, the story brings back the Friendship Map, which hasn’t been seen since the Season 5 finale.  This time, the Brave and the Bold duo is Rarity and Pinkie Pie. Michael Vogel wrote the superb “A Hearth’s Warming Tail,” so “Spice Up Your Life” was in good hands. This episode was definitely a much better one than what we’ve seen these last few weeks.

Here’s the official description from Discovery Family:

Pinkie Pie and Rarity are called to Canterlot by the map to solve a friendship problem. They discover a father and daughter whose relationship is strained as they struggle to keep their restaurant open.

What’s interesting about the Friendship Map is that it picks two ponies for a specific job. It’s not random; rather it picks them knowing their specific traits will be the best way to help fix a problem. Rarity and Pinkie Pie have never really had the focus on them together, (besides “The Gift of the Maud Pie,” though Maud took away from that focus) so that alone is enough to be extra interested in “Spice.” The two play off each other well throughout. Rarity is more fancy, looking for 3 star review restaurants, while Pinkie doesn’t care about stuff like that and just wants to eat good food, even if the place has no reviews. Vogel has a solid handle on their personalities. The action gets really interesting when they journey into a restaurant on the verge of closing down since there’s no customers. (Sort of reminds me of Babu’s predicament in his debut episode in Seinfeld.)

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The last few seasons have done a solid job at introducing fun new side characters. It’s particularly pleasing to hear such an amount of attention to the voice acting, something MLP has always excelled in. Saffron Masala was a fun character to have around. The writing does a solid job showing the intense emotion she has because of the disagreement on the restaurant business with her father, Corlander Cumin. He wasn’t quite as fun, but it’s easy to see what the episode was aiming for: showing a disgruntled store owner. For the most part the story succeeds at doing that. What it falls short in however is the character of Zesty Gourmand. Again, it’s easy to see what the writing was going for: a reviewing snob whom thinks her word is law. She was however just a little too exaggerated to take seriously.

Perhaps the most interesting part was how the disagreement between Rarity and Pinkie came about. People have different opinions on how things should be done. In the episode’s context, Rarity believes that in order for the restaurant to get a good review it should try to mimic the ones which have the full three stars. Pinkie on the other hand believes the opposite: the restaurant needs its own unique flavor. The argument between the two was fun to watch. The resolution seemed pretty fast, but also shows that the two friends can move past a dispute and get back to the issue at hand pretty quickly. The song was fun, though it seems the budget may have ran out since it reuses the same scene three times over.

Overall, “Spice Up Your Life” was a fun team up adventure. At its core, it’s about Pinkie and Rarity helping out a struggling family business. There’s nothing particularity negative about it, other than Zesty. The other new characters, especially Saffron, are good. It’s not a masterpiece, but still a nice watch on a Saturday afternoon. These duo episodes are some of the most entertaining in MLP.

8/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Flutter Bruther” Review

“Flutter Brutter” might be the most anticipated episode of the season. Unlike a lot of other episodes, this one was announced way in advance. (It was first announced that we would see Fluttershy’s brother at last years’s MLP panel at Comic Con.) Why does this deserve hype? Interestingly, despite having six seasons, we know very little of the Mane 6’s parents/siblings/relatives. We’ve seen some of them briefly, but the show chooses not to bring them into the fold that much. (We still haven’t seen Rainbow Dash’s parents aside from a brief flashback.) There’s technically nothing wrong with this approach, and for the most part the show has done a solid job showing us bits and pieces of the ponies’ families. This week, we not only meet Fluttershy’s parents, but her younger brother as well. This was definitely a big improvement over the last installment. It’s not as great as it could have been, but still not bad.

Here’s the official description from Discovery Family:

When Fluttershy’s self-absorbed brother starts freeloading off their parents, she encourages him to move out, but he moves in with her instead, forcing Fluttershy to stand up to her brother and help him get over his fear of failure.

Fluttershy has had a criminally minimal presence this season, so another reason why this episode was hotly anticipated was that it would be her first starring role since “Scare Master” in Season 5. She isn’t a challenging character to write. What is challenging is not writing her off as some timid side character in a given story. This episode doesn’t go that route. This time we see another whole side to her: a sisterly side. But not just the nurturing sister, also as a frustrated big sister with her younger brother’s childish behavior. She literally spends almost the entire episode being annoyed. Dave Rapp in just one episode proves he can write a fantastic Fluttershy.

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One of the big highlights was when Fluttershy kicked her brother out after seeing he wasn’t going to change his ways. This was powerful. Here we have her brother, family, mooching off of her. As painful as it is to do it, if someone is blatantly taking your space and completely unwilling to work when they could, well, it’s unfortunately goodbye. I was worried the episode would have her brother walk over her before she finally does something. Instead, the episode from early on establishes that Fluttershy has been dealing with this since they were fillies.

One of the problems with the episode is that it attempts to shove all this unseen backstory in less than 10 minutes. It’s similar to how Shining Armor popped up out of nowhere in the Season 2 finale. Putting that to the side, how is the character of Zephyr Breeze? Obviously, he’s written as obnoxious and annoying. Even with that in mind however, he’s a little too unbelievable sometimes. I believe the writing could have found a more realistic way to portray him without going in your face with how awful of a family member he is. Fluttershy’s parents were hard to watch sometimes too. Zephyr throwing away years of Fluttershy’s dad collection out the window, and the latter just rolling with it was too unbelievable.

A song was unexpected, but certainly welcome. Fluttershy has been part of some great songs in the past, and this one (actually her second duet with Rainbow Dash) is no exception. Unlike the last episode, the message isn’t blatantly in your face. In fact, it’s one of the show’s best. The thought of failure can be an immense deterrent to attempting to do something. But ultimately quitting is far worse than giving it your all and not succeeding. Whether it be in a video game, a job, or almost anything really, the fear of failure should be put to the side. I’m happy the episode incorporated this message into the great climax, even if Zephyr was hard to watch for the majority of it.

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Overall, “Flutter Brutter” isn’t the masterpiece Fluttershy adventure I was expecting. That’s not to say it was totally disappointing however. It features one of Fluttershy’s best portrayals, which makes up for her lack of appearing this season. The concept of her having a brother the complete opposite of herself is an engaging concept, but Zephyr could have been handled better. The climax is very good. While this isn’t close to being the best Fluttershy episode, it’s still a pretty solid one.

7.5/10

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Gauntlet of Fire” Review

Spike-centered stories are usually on the lower tier of MLP episodes. It’s not because they’re all bad of course. (Though a good chunk of them are mediocre.) Very few are listed in anyone’s top ten because he just isn’t written as a great focus. As the main supporting character he’s usually fine, but when he takes center stage we long for scenes with the ponies. (Such as in “Spike at Your Service” and “Princess Spike.”) This season however started off strong with the little dragon. In “The Crystalling,” Spike was written extremely well, almost abnormally good. If the writing there could translate into his own starring adventure we would have a winner. “Gauntlet of Fire” is perhaps his biggest episode yet, and a fantastic culmination of all his prior character development. With this episode the show has succeeded in making Spike just about a great a focus as any of the Mane 6.

Here’s the official episode description from Discovery Family:

Spike is forced to compete in a dangerous Gauntlet for the title of Dragon Lord in order to save his friends.

This episode serves as a sequel to the Season 2 installment, “Dragon Quest.” That story was more on the mediocre side, but it did bring up one interesting plot element in Spike’s character: struggling with his dragon heritage when he was brought up with ponies. It’s definitely a complex aspect that episode does a pretty good job exploring. So in today’s episode we have Spike returning to the land of the dragons. First, the scenery is a nice change of pace. It’s been said that Season 6 is looking to explore areas outside the normal Ponyville and Canterlot. We have a Lord of the Rings-like setting, giving the story a rather dangerous, exciting look.

The Dragon Lord Torch is a great character, so it’s a little disappointing in retrospect that after this episode he probably won’t be doing anything. (With a design like that, he would have made for a great antagonist.) Princess Ember is another new character, being the daughter of Torch. She is a lot of fun to watch, for quite a few reasons. For one thing, she seems to be the only really reasonable and competent dragon. (I hope in the future there’s a better portrayal of the creatures because most of them act pretty much the same.) Her character arc was interesting to get through because an aspect of dragon culture is put at the focus: dragons don’t do friendships. Spike in all his years of living with Twilight and joining with her friends’ adventures has of course a great handle of friendship. So to have him and Ember team up means the latter gets to see what friendship means. Her slowly starting to open up, and then finally realizing what it means was fantastic and easily a highlight of the entire show.

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Like in “Dragon Quest,” Twilight and Rarity are in the background carefully following Spike, whether it be in grass or inside a tree. It’s still a funny concept to watch be played out. Most of the writing is great, although Garble is still an annoying character to watch. (But I suppose that’s the point.) I particularly liked Rarity’s snappy dialogue in defense of Spike: “Only saving your ungrateful scales!” when Ember rebukes him for rescuing her. Speaking of the princess, I find it bizarre that no one, not even Garble, makes mention when seeing her in the contest. Torch told her specifically not to enter, yet no dragon seems to be surprised when she’s there. (Unless they didn’t know Torch said that, the episode isn’t clear.) Later in the story we see Garble confronting Twilight and Rarity while smirking. The problem with this scene is that Twilight is backing away in fear. This doesn’t make any sense when she could literally obliterate probably a hundred Garbles at once.

Overall, “Gauntlet of Fire” was an excellent surprise. Spike has another stellar portrayal, so hats off to writers Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco. The story is exciting and always on the move given the “race to the finish” nature. (The background music, which has been absolutely fantastic this season, also adds to the excitement.) Princess Ember is a great character. Her arc with Spike was perhaps the episode’s best part. (Not to mention another part of her arc was showcasing that being small doesn’t equal weakness.)  Hopefully the two get to team up again in the future.

9/10