Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 3: Boast Busters + Dragonshy + Look Before You Sleep


< Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 >

Season 1, Episodes 6-8

Season 1 Episode 6: Boast Busters

I’m going to analyze this one a bit differently from prior episodes. Specifically, I will be discussing spoilers for later seasons (up to season 6), where Trixie becomes a recurring character instead of a one-off (two-off, rather). If an episode’s title is colored red, that means my review will contain spoilers for later episodes!

In five words: Twilight begins irrational Trixie grudge.

Premise: A boastful magician named Trixie visits Ponyville to perform a magic show, and Twilight Sparkle develops a gnawing urge to one-up her and prove she’s full of nonsense, because clearly the entire point of magicians is to tell the truth and never deceive anyone, and also to never make up an exaggerated fictional backstory to immerse the audience.

Detailed run-through:

The episode begins with Twilight Sparkle practicing her magic skills by giving Spike a mustache, which she gets rid of once he starts thinking about impressing Rarity. This scene makes it clear that magic is a skill that Twilight is very proud of and holds in high regard, setting up her rivalry with Trixie, who is more skilled in the illusory kind of magic.

Spike: 25, Twilight. 25 different kinds of tricks and counting! I thought unicorns were only supposed to have a little magic that matches their special talents.
Twilight Sparkle: True, for ponies whose talents are for things like cooking or singing or math. But what if a unicorn’s special talent is magic?
Spike: Like you, Twilight! And you know a ton of magic.

This passage comparing Twilight Sparkle against your usual unicorn suggests to me that she’s probably a magic elitist who makes a sharp distinction between true magic and bogus magic and is aggravated when people conflate the two. Even though Twilight responds with modesty, her passion for the field of magic is undeniable, and she always gets annoyed when people misunderstand things she’s passionate about.

From Twilight Sparkle’s perspective, this is hate at first sight.
You know, like love at first sight, but with hate instead of love.

Then upon introduction by a duo of trouble-making colts named Snips and Snails, Trixie (or The Great and Powerful Trixie as she calls herself) makes her debut. Let’s talk about Trixie, and I mean her role in the entire show, not just in this episode.

Trixie is first featured in this episode and then in the season 3 episode Magic Duel—those are her only voiced appearances in the first five seasons. Although she has the advantage of being one of the first voiced characters to appear aside from the Mane 6, making her memorable from the get-go, the show didn’t give her much screen time for quite a while. However, in the season 6 episode No Second Prances she returns to the spotlight when Starlight Glimmer (if you don’t know who she is, then skip this review!!! spoilers!!!) befriends her, much to Twilight Sparkle’s chagrin. From that point on, Starlight and Trixie develop a friendship and bond based on their mutual troubled pasts, which has its ups and downs and testy moments throughout the rest of the show. Trixie even gets to play a major role in To Where and Back Again (the season 6 finale), which is unique among the season finales because the Mane 6 are taken out of the picture and it falls upon a different team of characters to save Equestria. Meanwhile, Twilight and Trixie still either don’t get along or don’t want to talk to each other.

The thing that interests me most about Trixie is how quick Twilight Sparkle is to develop a grudge against her. Earlier I talked about how Twilight is a massive savant in the field of magic; to her, Trixie seems like the perfect choice for a pony she can chew out and one-up so she can showcase her true magic. She tries resisting the temptation to do so throughout the first half of the episode because she doesn’t want to crack open her humble facade. Even though Trixie apologizes to Twilight at the end of Magic Duel, Twilight’s grudge against Trixie is as sharp as ever when season 6 rolls around. No Second Prances shows off Twilight Sparkle’s condescending side very well, with how bossy she sometimes treats Starlight Glimmer (who is a fantastic character, people only complain about her because they don’t like change). Even though Twilight is promoted to the Princess of Friendship, she still isn’t perfect because nobody is perfect. She still has a lustful rivalry with Trixie that comes off almost like a twisted, hate-fueled romantic crush.

As for Trixie herself, in her first two episodes I find it hard to think of her as anything more than a magical performer who does her tricks primarily to entertain others. However, later episodes make it clear that she’s passionate about performing magic tricks—it is her cutie mark after all. Those later episodes do a good job at showing a sympathetic side of her character without compromising her show-off personality. She also fully reciprocates Twilight’s rivalrous feelings for her; wanting a worthy rival is only natural given her standoffish nature. This rivalry is a humorous dynamic that demonstrates both of their rude sides.

I would say I’m sorry for the huge wall of text up there, but let’s be real, did you expect anything less from me?

Twilight Sparkle’s friends are eager to challenge Trixie for… some reason. With Twilight, I can see why she immediately sees Trixie as an adversary, but as for the others, I’m not sure why they’re doing this. Maybe to provide backup support for Twilight, who they know has a weird fixation on Trixie? Definitely not because this episode is a bit lazily written and other episodes featuring Trixie pull her character off a lot better. Coming up with in-universe justifications for things is a lot more fun than acknowledging the truth that the creators never totally know what they’re doing in the first season of a show.

Maybe the real reason Twilight Sparkle hates Trixie is because she mixed up the Ursa Major with the Ursa Minor.

In response to Rainbow Dash challenging her, Trixie fabricates a story about how she defeated an Ursa Major. Thinking about it, it’s very silly that this fake story incites Twilight Sparkle to prove it wrong. Isn’t the entire point of magicians to share stories and tricks that are blatantly false to play the role of a fake magician character and enthrall the audience? A magician in the MLP universe, where about a third of ponies are capable of actual magic, is a pretty amusing concept—props to Trixie for doing something that most unicorns wouldn’t even think of doing. Even though Trixie is supposed to be the antagonist of this episode, Twilight Sparkle’s grudge against Trixie says more about Twilight than it does about Trixie.

Look at Twilight Sparkle’s expression. She’s secretly stunned at Trixie’s magical skills (some of which are real magic!) in a love-hate sort of way.

Trixie calls Twilight Sparkle up to the stage, clearly desperate for someone to challenge her skills. She sees Twilight as a rival at first sight just as much as Twilight sees her. However, Twilight would rather stay modest and let her other friends compete against Trixie, because she’s not comfortable with admitting to her newfound rival. Several of them go on the stage and show off their powers against Trixie only to be defeated using actual non-illusory magic: first Applejack, then Rainbow Dash, then Rarity. When called up to the stage one more time, Twilight Sparkle runs away in fear, or as I like to think of it, embarrassment at the prospect of admitting her feelings towards Trixie.

There is no logical reason for Snips and Snails to worship Trixie, nor does there need to be. These two don’t care about making sense.
Well, Snails doesn’t care about anything at all.

Spike encounters Snips and Snails and claims there’s no way Trixie’s stories (i.e. her one story about defeating an Ursa Major) could be real. He’s seen Trixie’s respectable magic skills, but I guess he just has enough faith in Twilight, which makes sense because he’s her lifelong sidekick and all. Spike accidentally inspires the two to bring an Ursa Major over for Trixie to defeat, which they eagerly do because of their unexplained idolization of Trixie. Then he tries and fails to convince Twilight Sparkle to one-up Trixie; I had already discussed her relationship with Trixie plenty and I don’t have much more to say about that.

Not shown: the bear destroying Trixie’s stage.

Trixie struggles to leave a dent on the Ursa Major (or at least what we’re led to believe is an Ursa Major) and admits she made the story up to look better. We’re supposed to think Trixie is in the wrong for making this story up, but I think Snips and Snails are at fault for believing her story. There’s a lesson to take here about not taking crazy things people say literally, especially if they’re performing illusory tricks on stage.

Then Twilight Sparkle comes in and exerts every ounce of her magic energy to put the bear to sleep using spells and return it to its home. She’s supposedly doing this out of heroism, but I imagine that to her it doubles as a way to one-up Trixie like she so secretly craved to. She’s probably holding back smug thoughts the entire time.

The crowd of ponies outside, including all of Twilight’s friends, congratulate her, and reassure her worries about being a boastful loudmouth like Trixie. With those worries quelled, Twilight can go back to her smug attitude towards Trixie. She then reveals that the creature she defeated was merely an Ursa Minor who didn’t take kindly to being woken up.

Spike: Well, if that was an Ursa Minor… then what’s an Ursa Major like?
[cut to image shown below]
Twilight Sparkle: You don’t want to know.

How sweet.

This little scene may seem like just a gag, but I think it nicely demonstrates a pattern with the show’s villains that’s especially common starting from season 5. Often, a supposed villain isn’t as vicious and scary as they may first appear, and their actions could easily turn out to be the result of a misunderstanding. This pattern of redemption happens to many villains throughout the show’s course, including Trixie herself. I think it’s one of the coolest things about the show’s later seasons.

Trixie gloats at Twilight Sparkle one last time about her supposedly superior magic skills, then leaves the scene with a botched attempt at a dust cloud disappearance trick. Rainbow Dash chases after Trixie, but Twilight stops her and lets Trixie go. Clearly Twilight Sparkle wants to pick up this rivalry another time with a worthy showdown, giving both her and Trixie time to sharpen the tricks up their sleeves.

Twilight Sparkle gives Spike, Snips, and Snails mustaches, then writes her letter to Celestia about when to show off your skills, which is the episode’s official moral. With that, the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is weird and not the fun kind of weird. We’re supposed to believe Trixie is an obnoxious jerk, but all she does that’s arguably bad is tell a story about defeating an Ursa Major that’s believable enough for Snips and Snails to fall for. This episode is meant to be about when is and isn’t appropriate to brag, but in the long run I view it as the start of Twilight Sparkle’s rivalry with Trixie; a rivalry that demonstrates Twilight’s oft-overlooked haughty side.

Grade: D

The Ursa Major’s peaceful defeat is cool, but the rest of the episode feels contrived and forced, hence the low rating.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • In the picture above, you can tell that Snips and Snails royally screwed up because even the normally goofy and spacey Derpy Hooves is angrily staring them down. Yes, I know this was before Derpy was a scripted character, but come on, where’s the fun in acknowledging that? Derpy is such a hilarious character, I love her so much.
  • When Twilight Sparkle fills a barrel with milk using a magic spell, we hear a few cows in Applejack’s barn talking. I guess I was wrong about them talking only in Applebuck Season, but the whole theme of farm animals talking still feels incredibly jarring and I’m glad it was phased out in favor of giving voiced species their own different cultures.

Till next time, Trixie. Won’t be hearing from you again until season 3. Now on to episode 7!

Season 1 Episode 7: Dragonshy

In five words: Fluttershy reveals her inner awesomeness.

Premise: A cloud of smoke is fogging up Ponyville and the Mane 6 must track down the dragon who has been snoring and making all that smoke. Fluttershy is forced to come along because of her skills in animal communication.

Detailed run-through:

I can go through this one pretty quickly because the cool stuff is all at the end. I already described the premise with the cloud of smoke. Fluttershy tries to tell everyone in Ponyville about the smoke, but nobody pays attention to her because she’s just too soft-spoken. This sort of scene is a typical way to start a Fluttershy episode. Fluttershy’s episodes usually come in two types: (1) she brings out her inner awesome side or (2) she undergoes a temporary personality overhaul. The former type of Fluttershy episode tends to work spectacularly; the latter type tends to come off as weird and forced, like an episode where a character’s signature trait is inverted for the sake of laughs.

Then Twilight Sparkle comes in and announces the same thing Fluttershy was trying to say. She reveals that the smoke is coming from a dragon, much to Fluttershy’s fear. Having her spotlight stolen is another common occurrence in Fluttershy episodes, usually near the episode’s beginning.

After a briefing from Twilight Sparkle on what they must do, the other Mane 6 ponies pose one by one in a sequence reminiscent of the intro of a superhero movie, which is quite charming. Fluttershy of course subverts the pattern, demonstrating the last three letters of her name. These shifts into different genres and homages to different media always put a smile on my face—just the fact that a My Little Pony show would even dare to do something as cool as this.

Might as well say here that Spike is left behind to take care of Fluttershy’s animals.
What could possibly go wrong?

And so, the ponies start their mission, with Fluttershy forcibly dragged in because of her way with animals. Most of the episode from here on out consists of the ponies scaling the mountain while dragged down by Fluttershy’s timidity.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash stole each others’ elements of harmony… again.
That’s season 1 for you.

Right before Applejack finishes carrying Fluttershy up the mountain, we see that Rarity and Pinkie Pie have been playing games of tic-tac-toe in the dirt, the latter always winning. Pinkie Pie’s nose is covered in dirt from all the markings, but Rarity’s is as clean as ever—why is that? My guess is that Rarity doesn’t want to get any part of herself dirty, so she instead tells Pinkie which of the squares in the grid to put X’s in. I’m also going to guess that during this landslide of Pinkie victories, Twilight Sparkle has been passing the time by thinking about some of her favorite books, while Rainbow Dash has been grumbling the entire time about how much of a wimp Fluttershy is. I’m doing very important speculation here, guys. Like who even CARES about Fluttershy’s arc of conquering fears??? Tic-tac-toe games are so much more important.

EDIT: A simpler explanation is that Rarity just used magic to write X’s using rocks. Why didn’t I think of that first?

The ponies start making progress up the mountain until a tiny leaf falls onto Fluttershy, making her scream which triggers an avalanche. Pinkie Pie says that was lots of fun, but everyone else is terrified and relieved they made it out alive. Could this possibly be foreshadowing the reveal that Pinkie Pie grew up on a rock farm? Or is Pinkie just being the bottomless well of good cheer she always is? The former interpretation is less likely but far more interesting.

And then they all make it into the dragon’s lair. Fluttershy refuses to come in because she’s apparently afraid of dragons.

Twilight Sparkle: But Fluttershy, you have a wonderful talent dealing with all kinds of animals!
Fluttershy: Yes, because they’re not dragons.
Rainbow Dash: Oh, come on! We’ve seen you walk right up to a horrible manticore like it was nothing.
Fluttershy: Yes, because he wasn’t a dragon.
Pinkie Pie: Spike is a dragon! You’re not scared of him.
Fluttershy: Yes, because he’s not a huge, gigantic, terrifying, enormous, teeth-gnashing, sharp scale-having, horn-wearing, smoke-snoring, could eat a pony in one bite, all grown up dragon.

Fluttershy makes it clear through this passage that she’s not “scared of everything” like Rainbow Dash seems to think, but rather has an assortment of irrational fears like many other characters do; dragons are but one of those fears. She also makes it clear that this episode is about getting over irrational fears, a useful skill that tends to be easier said than done.

How did Pinkie Pie make this ridiculous outfit from up in the mountains with no supplies?
(Answer: because she’s Pinkie Pie.)

For now, Fluttershy refuses to confront the dragon, so the other ponies take a shot at it one by one: first Twilight Sparkle, then Rarity, then Pinkie Pie, and finally to the most disastrous results, Rainbow Dash. I’m a little surprised Applejack didn’t try giving the dragon an honest pep talk, but season 1 keeps forgetting that honesty is her element of harmony. Not that being brutally honest Applejack style would have worked well either.

And then Fluttershy gets her time to shine. She gives an aggressive, stone-cold rant to the dragon for disturbing her friends and then forces an apology out of the dragon and makes him cry, which is just plain awesome. No further words needed, it’s just awesome.

And then Fluttershy consoles the dragon in her usual soft-spoken tone. This isn’t her unique ability to talk to animals at play—dragons in MLP are a voiced species just like ponies. Rather, it’s her talent in pure, sheer kindness. Twilight Sparkle knew it was a good idea to bring Fluttershy along, but not because she’s good at dealing with animals, rather because she’s good at being kind.

That powerful scene transitions to a humorous scene that further demonstrates through contrast how secretly awesome Fluttershy is, with Spike miserably failing to keep all of her animals in check, especially the mischievous Angel. Twilight Sparkle narrates her letter to Celestia, with the moral being that you should never lose faith in your friends. I think getting over fears is a much cooler moral for this episode, which is demonstrates the problem with the letters all being from Twilight at first—it limits the takeaways from each episode in favor of whatever Twilight takes away from it. This problem is mitigated when all the Mane 6 start writing letters to Celestia, then fully solved when the letters are done away with, as I’ve said several times already.

Overall thoughts:

All the leadup and stagnation from Fluttershy in this episode is worth it for the ending alone, where Fluttershy demonstrates her special skill in kindness in a jaw-dropping scene. It’s a good introduction to the more adventurous style of episode, where the ponies travel to a faraway place and confront a fearsome creature or a foreign race. There’s something about the adventurous episodes that always makes me hyped up when I watch them. Why on earth does My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic have to be so wonderful?

Grade: B

This high grade is mostly because of the jaw-dropping ending. Fluttershy’s episodes get off to a strong start here, but they’re a bit of a mixed bag after this.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Throughout this episode, all Rarity does is gripe about fashion, clearly without the best priorities in mind, and fail to sweet-talk the dragon into finding somewhere else to sleep. In these early episodes Rarity is kind of a flat character, but that’s going to be flipped on its head in the glorious episode that is Suited for Success, the first of many great Rarity episodes to come. Rarity is such a great character with a lot of depth and nuance; she’s easily my favorite Mane 6 pony besides Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie, which I guess means she’s my third favorite. I didn’t to talk about Rarity in the run-through earlier so as not to detract the attention away from Fluttershy analysis.
  • This episode has a subplot at the beginning and end where Rainbow Dash tries to break Equestria’s (or presumably Equestria’s) ball bouncing record and gets interrupted at the worst time. Rainbow Dash is the brunt of a lot of bad luck like this, and there are several episodes focusing on her misfortune. But I should probably save discussion of Rainbow Dash episodes for when I get around to reviewing one.
  • Speaking of Rainbow Dash, here’s another face of hers that I humbly insist you appreciate:

Alright, now for episode 8.

Season 1 Episode 8: Look Before You Sleep

In five words: Uneventful but charming sleepover episode.

Premise: Twilight Sparkle hosts a sleepover for Applejack and Rarity on a rainy evening, but the two don’t get along well. Kind of weird listing this mundane premise after the much more action-oriented episodes that precede it.

Detailed run-through:

More of Derpy Hooves before she was a scripted character. I’ll talk about her in the miscellaneous notes, as usual.

This episode begins with the citizens of Ponyville setting up for a rainy day. I must say, the theme of ponies controlling the weather, seasons, and time of day is really cool and sets the world of Equestria apart from human civilization. It gives a sense of community and collaboration, fitting for a show about friendship.

Rarity: I simply cannot imagine why the pegasus ponies would schedule a dreadful downpour this evening and ruin what could have been a glorious sunny day.
Applejack: Think more practical-like, will ya? They accidentally skipped a scheduled sprinkle last week, so we need a doozy of a downpour to make up for it is all.

Applejack and Rarity’s conversation about the weather (wow, calling it a “conversation about the weather” makes it sound so mundane) provides some interesting worldbuilding but also raises questions as to whether the citizens of Ponyville all are equally aware of the natural duties they must perform together. Given the passage above and her shaping of leaves to look like ponies, Rarity doesn’t seem to fully understand how the weather system works, or at least not as well as Applejack does. Does Rarity just stay in her boutique making dresses every time the rest of Ponyville is setting up the weather, and Applejack just happened to drag her into it this one time? Not an unlikely explanation; Rarity is dedicated to her craft after all.

The two then descend into an argument as Rarity refuses to hide under a bench and get her hooves dirty until the storm gets worse and they huddle together. But then, Twilight Sparkle invites them over to her house so they can all have fun together while staying dry. She mentions that Spike is away in Canterlot on royal business, which is a weird way to take him out of the picture for this episode, but works well to make it focus more on the ponies’ dynamic. This is a very character-driven episode, one of the most character-driven in the entire show as opposed to story-driven.

Twilight Sparkle clops her hooves in excitement when she realizes this could make for a fun slumber party, which is apparently something she’s never done before. This raises strong implications about her antisocial upbringing in Canterlot, which makes for some cool implicit worldbuilding. She pulls out a book on how to host a slumber party, corroborating those implications about her upbringing. While Twilight is excited, Rarity is nervous and reluctant to spend a night with the much less prim and proper Applejack, who displays the exact same sentiment towards Rarity.

And the rest of the episode basically builds off this, with Applejack and Rarity’s heavily contrasting interests and ways of life interspersed with Twilight Sparkle’s enthusiasm over doing ordinary things that ordinary ponies (well, at least ordinary ponies in this show) do that at times comes off as Pinkie Pie-esque. Applejack and Rarity even fall into a stereotypical girly pillow fight upon the book’s instruction, which is really funny.

Applejack and Rarity then struggle to share a bed, which Twilight Sparkle somehow manages to completely sleep through until the argument reaches its climax. Twilight Sparkle wakes up and asks if there’s anything else that could possibly go wrong—exactly the kind of statement that awakens Equestria’s cosmic forces, which starts being lampshaded in later seasons.

Imagine how much ruckus the ponies could avoid if they didn’t say things like “at least it couldn’t get any worse”.

Yes, I know the window is swung here even though Applejack slides it shut, but it really doesn’t matter.
I’m reviewing these episodes, not nitpicking them. There’s a big difference!

And so, the two must work together to get rid of the big branch that got stuck in the Golden Oak Library. Rarity sculpts the leaves into little ponies and symbols and gets herself dirty in the process, and then Applejack gently drops the last piece of wood out and slides the window closed upon Rarity’s nonverbal instruction. It’s like Equestria’s cosmic forces purposefully brought the tree branch over to teach these ponies a lesson about friendship. Or maybe it’s just that following statements like “it can’t get any worse” with things getting even worse is a common narrative trope… nah, that can’t be it. It’s totally cosmic forces at play.

Sometimes it’s nice not to excessively nitpick for a change.

And so, all three ponies share good cheer as the sun comes out, with Applejack and Rarity arguing about which of them is more sorry about what they’ve done until they both break into laughter. Twilight Sparkle writes her letter to Celestia about friends embracing differences, which for once is a takeaway that I don’t think overshadows other ones. And with that, the episode ends. I guess she just has to wait until the next day for Spike to deliver the letter.

Overall thoughts:

This episode may not be the most exciting one, but it does what it needs to quite well, with a well-set tone that perfectly captures what it’s like to have a sleepover while it’s raining outside. Sometimes it’s nice not to have a crazy adventurous episode for a change. That said, this episode is still somewhat repetitive and undeveloped compared to later ones, but that’s season 1 for you.

Grade: C

I considered giving this one a D, but then I figured that the atmosphere and tone are conveyed well enough that it deserves a better grade, so I gave it a C.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Right at the start of the episode, Derpy snaps a branch off a tree and then we hear a pulling noise. My brain told me that it was the tree collapsing due to Derpy’s clumsiness, but nope, it’s just Applejack pulling on a rope.
    • On the topic of Derpy, I wonder what name fans would have given her if she didn’t have googly eyes due to an animation error. Bubble Bath perhaps? Or how about Bubble Wrap? It would definitely be something starting with “bubble”. I also wonder what memes fans would have made about her in such a scenario—maybe a bunch of SpongeBob jokes, since that show is itself a fountain of memes? Her muffin obsession probably wouldn’t have been a thing, since she wouldn’t have stuck out in fans’ minds so early on.
  • I have to wonder what Spike’s supposed royal business is in this episode. Maybe Twilight Sparkle just made that up so that he doesn’t spend the episode swooning over Rarity, and he’s really just locked in her basement or something? Nah, Twilight isn’t that cruel, it’s just something the episode’s writer didn’t think too hard about. It would have been cool having an episode where Spike performs those royal duties without his pony friends around, but Spike does have plenty of (rather polarizing) episodes to his name in later seasons.

That’s all for this week! Next time I’ll go over another batch of probably three episodes that I won’t have an enormous amount to say about, but next time after that will be a way different story.

>> Part 4: Bridle Gossip + Swarm of the Century + Winter Wrap Up

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