Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 9: A Bird in the Hoof + The Cutie Mark Chronicles + Owl’s Well That Ends Well

Introduction

< Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 >

Season 1, Episodes 22-24

NOTE: I accidentally published an unfinished version of this post on April 21. Sorry about that!


Season 1 Episode 22: A Bird in the Hoof

In five words: Fluttershy babysits bird without permission.

Premise: After a party in Ponyville where Princess Celestia came over, Fluttershy notices that Celestia’s pet bird Philomena looks ill and thus attempts to resuscitate her. Frustration ensues, as does the daunting realization that she didn’t even ask for permission.

Detailed run-through:

Oh look, it’s the dresses for the Grand Galloping Gala!
(That’s the only reason why I’m including this image.)

This episode starts with Fluttershy at home tending to her animals, until Angel reminds her of an imminently upcoming brunch party at Sugarcube Corner, where Celestia has come to visit. After Fluttershy leaves in a hurry, Angel locks himself inside the house, finally ready for some peace and quiet. Angel is one mischievous bunny—his name is far more indicative of Fluttershy’s personality than his own. Not because Fluttershy is an angel (even though she is), rather because she thinks of every single animal she knows as an angel.

At the party’s outskirts, Rainbow Dash speculates to a pair of silent royal guards about what it’s like to be a royal guard and what it takes to get in. I guess at this point, Rainbow Dash views getting into the Wonderbolts as a faraway daydream and is taking a moment to aspire for something more realistic? This scene clearly hints at some self-doubt in Rainbow Dash’s character arc, which leads to a massive swath of nuances most people don’t appreciate… or maybe it’s just early installment weirdness. It would be a weird case thereof, because we’ve already had multiple episodes featuring Rainbow Dash’s Wonderbolt fantasies.

Rainbow Dash makes a few funny faces at the guards and then gets bored, showing she’s not one to dilly-dally too much. The royal guards then refuse to let Fluttershy in until Twilight sees her and confirms she’s on the waiting list, indicating the tight levels of royal security that Equestria has in place.

At the party, Spike uses his fire breath to quickly cook pastries for Mr. Cake. I’m pretty sure the Cakes normally have an oven for such matters; the fact that they got Spike to help expedite the process implies that they were in a hurry to get this party set up. Yes, I know it’s probably just a humorous usage of Spike’s dragon abilities, but come on, overanalyzing media is fun.

Rarity is probably so insistent to keep this dress tidy because she’ll be wearing it to the Gala.

Twilight Sparkle expresses concern about her friends all making a good impression on Celestia, with her typical overestimation of Celestia’s uptightness. What she doesn’t realize is that Celestia set up their friendship and many of their adventures in the first place. All the Mane 6 ponies demonstrate their negative aspects at the party, including Twilight with her tendency to panic over nothing, and Celestia is simply happy to see these six varied personalities becoming friends.

Celestia: I understand from Twilight Sparkle’s letters that you enjoy tending to the needs of woodland creatures.
Fluttershy: Yes, I love to take care of animals.
Celestia: As do I. As princess, I care deeply about all creatures great and small.
(Philomena starts coughing)
Celestia: Nothing means more to me than the well-being of all my subjects.

I think Twilight Sparkle’s perception of Celestia has started to rub off on her friends. Twilight sees Celestia as a strict teacher whose assignments she must dutifully complete, and Fluttershy likely sees her the same way. As such, she seems to treat it as an assignment or obligation to take care of Philomena, the bird who doesn’t appear to be feeling well.

Celestia’s time at the party is cut short by royal duties, causing everyone to exit the party except for Twilight Sparkle and Spike. Fluttershy takes Philomena with her, assuming it’s her duty to take care of this ill-looking bird.

I guess Angel unlocked the house upon Fluttershy’s polite request?

Much of the rest of the episode consists of Fluttershy struggling to nurse Philomena back to health. When Fluttershy takes Philomena’s temperature, the bird rapidly cycles between scalding hot and freezing cold until the thermometer breaks. Since we don’t know yet that Philomena is merely trolling Fluttershy, viewers are led to assume she has an adverse reaction to thermometers.

Fluttershy and a friendly bird who was previously sick named Humingway take turns singing the show’s theme song. She the tries the same with Philomena, but the bird vomits in her face. Earlier in this episode, Philomena chowed down a whole bunch of bird food while avoiding the pill surrounding it; clearly she intended to save the bird food for this very moment, to play a rather mean prank on Fluttershy.

Only Fluttershy would still maintain even a sliver of her patience after being vomited in the face.

Instead of being driven crazy, Fluttershy continues trying everything she can to nurse Philomena until she runs out of ideas. She’s frustrated about this in a very Fluttershy way.

Then Twilight Sparkle comes in and rants at Fluttershy for taking Celestia’s pet without permission. Though she initially across as the logical one, she soon constructs a scheme for them to return Philomena without the princess even noticing. This is a mild instance of Twilight’s insistence not to disappoint Celestia; for her, perfectionism trumps honesty.

Twilight Sparkle’s plan is intercepted by a pair of royal guards, who come in to inquire about the royal pet. Philomena starts coughing from within the basket she’s in, so Twilight starts coughing herself to mislead the guards and gets Fluttershy to join in. The guards don’t seem convinced, so Twilight slams the door on them before they can say anything more. Her neurotic attempts not to disappoint Celestia never fail to be hilarious.

Twilight Sparkle: What are you doing?!
Fluttershy: Going to return Philomena, remember?
Twilight Sparkle: We can’t now!!
Fluttershy: Why not?
Twilight Sparkle: You have no idea what the princess is gonna do if she finds you’re the one who took her pet, do you?!
Fluttershy: Do you?
Twilight Sparkle: Well… no. But it can’t be anything good!

Where does Twilight Sparkle even get her perception of Celestia from?? Did she get it from the various stories she’s read about Celestia (and sometimes also Luna) banishing villains? Now that I think about it, that’s probably it. She’s aware of how powerful the princess is, and thus she describes potential scenarios where Fluttershy is banished, imprisoned, or both.

Twilight Sparkle tries to help Fluttershy with nursing Philomena, doing what Fluttershy attempted in a more forceful way but with just as little success.

Philomena takes clever advantage of the cartoon trope where mustaches are an impenetrable disguise.

Philomena escapes Fluttershy’s house, and the two ponies chase the bird with plenty of cartoon humor and deception on the bird’s part. I’ve said plenty that the prevalence of cartoon humor does wonders to this show—it feels like the people involved in the My Little Pony franchise went, “wow, I can’t believe we didn’t try this sooner” with a lot of things this show does. I don’t really know anything about the prior My Little Pony shows, so I could be wrong about the cartoon humor part, but there’s clearly a reason that this one was by far the most successful.

When Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy rejoin most of their friends, Philomena seems to be on her very last living legs and burns into ashes. This soon turns out to be a Disney death, which is a term I’ve mentioned in a few blog posts that I admittedly stole from TV Tropes. It’s interesting how the show touches on the subject of death without being too grim about it, especially since the death in this case turns out to be fake.

Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy argue about whose fault this whole situation is; Twilight thinks Celestia will go easier on her than on Fluttershy, but Fluttershy knows it’s her fault and owns up to it.

But then Philomena resurrects herself, much to everyone’s shock. Celestia reveals her to be a phoenix and provides an explanation ripped straight from Greek mythology. I find it pretty neat that this show borrows from Greek mythology (and other mythology) here and there, very reminiscent of the Percy Jackson books. It’s a fun way to teach viewers about mythology in a modernized fashion. Those tales may be millennia old, but people continue to find ways to adapt them and keep them digestible as humanity evolves. The symbolism of a phoenix periodically resurrecting itself from ashes is quite clear (and melodramatic as Celestia humorously remarks); it’s a metaphor for coming back stronger than before after a seeming collapse. Or a metaphor for refreshing yourself and taking a break, rather than always doing things at full blast? There are lots of ways you can interpret mythology.

Fluttershy: So… aren’t you going to banish me? Or throw me in a dungeon? Or banish me then throw me in a dungeon in the place that you banished me to?
Celestia: Of course not, my little pony.
Celestia: Where on earth would you get such an idea?
Fluttershy: I guess I have some imagination.

Here, Fluttershy returns the favor of Twilight Sparkle making her friends seem less crazy than they really are. Even though this episode is about asking for permission, this bit of dialogue demonstrates a subtle moral about returning favors, which several episodes focus on. Fluttershy narrates the moral about asking for permission and realizes that she could have just asked Celestia and avoided all this trouble; Celestia confirms that there’s no need for a letter this week. She’s a lot more lenient than Twilight Sparkle thinks when it comes to following rules.

Rainbow Dash lets Philomena have a bit more fun and suggests that she tickle the royal guards’ faces, leading everyone in the scene to laugh. With that, the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

This episode does an excellent job executing the moral of asking permission before jumping to conclusions. The viewer is put in Fluttershy’s shoes and is led to assume it’s her duty to resuscitate Philomena, rather than ask Celestia what’s up with that bird. The references to Greek mythology are also a fun touch. The party scene at the beginning is a little weird, but I wouldn’t say it detracts from the episode. It’s also nice to have a Fluttershy episode where she stays regular old Fluttershy throughout.

Grade: B

I can’t find any significant flaws in this one, so a B grade is only fair.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I tried hard to think of something interesting to put in the miscellaneous notes section, but my mind drew a total blank every time. I’ve said all I wanted to say about this episode anyway.

Season 1 Episode 23: The Cutie Mark Chronicles

In five words: The show’s first backstory episode.

Premise: The Cutie Mark Crusaders learn how the Mane 6 ponies got their cutie marks; the Mane 6 end up learning something too.

Detailed run-through:

Scootaloo implies they’ve gotten covered in tree sap many times before.

To start this episode, the Cutie Mark Crusaders attempt to get their marks in ziplining, which quickly proves a failure when they fall off and get covered in tree sap. Although the Crusaders are misguided in their attempts to do as many things as they can to earn their marks, they do seem certain that they will earn their cutie marks together, which is smart of them.

The Crusaders then get the idea to ask other ponies how they got their cutie marks, which is a pretty smart idea for once. This exchange occurs:

Scootaloo: Yeah, and we can start with the coolest pony in Ponyville!
Apple Bloom: Applejack!
Sweetie Belle: Rarity!
Scootaloo: Come on, guys, I said cool. You know who I’m talking about. She’s fast. She’s tough. She’s not afraid of anything!
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle: Pinkie Pie?
Scootaloo: No! The greatest flier ever to come out of Cloudsdale!
Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle: Fluttershy?
Scootaloo: No, Rainbow Dash!

First off, it’s very endearing that Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s first guesses as to who the coolest pony in Ponyville is are their big sisters. Scootaloo thinks she’s alone in looking up to her sister figure, but it turns out the other two Crusaders think the same. Second, here are Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s faces when they guess Fluttershy:

Apple Bloom is eagerly guessing like when she guessed Pinkie Pie. On the other hand, Sweetie Belle has the foresight and intelligence to know that Fluttershy probably isn’t the right answer but has no idea who else it would be. She’s befuddled as to who Scootaloo is talking about until she states it outright, and then it seems obvious.

Although Scootaloo is set on finding Rainbow Dash to learn her cutie mark story, the Crusaders run into all the other Mane 6 ponies before her, and each of them tell how they got their cutie marks. First off is Applejack, who tells a story of how she didn’t want to live on a farm all her life and set out to live with her Aunt and Uncle Orange in Manehattan. While most of the Mane 6 ponies tend to be their same usual selves in flashbacks, Applejack in flashbacks contrasts against the honest and hard-working farm pony we know today. This contrast shows that people typically aren’t born with the traits they’re known for but rather learn them from experience.

As Applejack starts to pick up a Babs Seed-esque accent, she feels out of place in Manehattan, especially through the common trope of fancy cuisine being underwhelmingly tiny. That trope, or at least its usage in this show, may be intended to teach viewers not to blow every ounce of money on expensive food. Or it’s a way for the people working on the show to vent about how fancy food isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Whatever the case, this scene has a clear intention of teaching that not everyone is obligated to be fancy.

On an especially homesick night, young Applejack notices a rainbow pointing her right back to home, and after she follows the rainbow and rejoins her family, she earns her cutie mark. Note that earning her mark didn’t come after an especially remarkable apple bucking or whatever, but rather an honest realization that she simply isn’t a fancy high-strung city pony. Through realizing who she isn’t, she finally realizes who she is. This starts a theme where the Mane 6 ponies earn all their cutie marks after demonstrating their Elements of Harmony, which is much more special than the usual stories of ponies getting their marks.

Sweetie Belle remarks that this was a very sweet story, but Scootaloo is bored of it and wants to find Rainbow Dash already. Both are understandable reactions to Applejack’s story; Sweetie Belle represents those who enjoy the sweet, heartfelt messages the show provides, while Scootaloo is like those who prefer the action scenes. These contrasting reactions are perhaps meant to tell viewers that it’s OK if they don’t care for the sappy parts of the show (but being completely honest, I do care for the sappy parts).

Unfortunately for Scootaloo, Fluttershy is next in line to tell her cutie mark story.

“You’d never guess, but when I was little, I was very shy.”

Fluttershy’s story starts off with her in flight camp, where she was one of the worst fliers and Rainbow Dash one of the best. The sports bullies we saw as grown-ups in Sonic Rainboom pick on young Fluttershy and challenge Rainbow Dash to a race; Fluttershy is knocked down when the race starts. She ends up on land for the first time and immediately falls in love with all the sweet little animals there, even doing a musical number about them. A rainbow explosion shortly after causes all the animals to cower in fear, but Fluttershy politely assures them that nothing is wrong. With that, she realizes her unique ability to communicate with animals and earns her cutie mark.

I must say, Fluttershy is very quick to realize that taking care of animals is what she’s meant for. It’s surely a distinct feeling of euphoria for her, since she seemed completely lost before then. The stories of each of the ponies earning their cutie marks feel somewhat like a second shot at the trials in their elements of harmony in Friendship Is Magic, Part 2, and they feel quite a bit more fluid and less methodical than last time. Next up: Rarity.

Rarity’s story has her doubt her skills in fashion design until her horn leads her someplace mysterious, which turns out to be merely a big dumb rock. But then a rainbow explosion makes the “dumb rock” shatter, revealing a whole bunch of jewels inside. If Maud Pie had existed then, she’d have something deadpan but oddly beautiful to say about that rock, but alas, it’ll be three more seasons until she’s introduced. For Rarity, it’s not even a question that the right thing to do with the jewels is not to keep them for herself, but to use those on her filly friends’ dresses to help them shine in their play. While her classmates do a well-received stage performance wearing dresses decorated with gems, Rarity stands away from the audience’s view and doesn’t show herself off. This act of generosity gives Rarity her cutie mark and perfectly demonstrates how much she insists on putting her friends’ happiness above her own.

Sweetie Belle’s face shows stern disappointment in Scootaloo for not appreciating Rarity’s story.

Scootaloo: UGH! These namby-pamby stories aren’t getting us any closer to our cutie marks. They’re all about “finding who you really are” and boring stuff like that!
Rarity: Yes, Scootaloo, that’s exactly—
Scootaloo: Come on, girls. We need action. We need Rainbow Dash!

Scootaloo once again represents viewers who aren’t enthused about the whole idea of magically discovering your special talent. It’s clear that the people making this episode recognized that some viewers are struggling to find their purpose in life, and thus they used Scootaloo’s skepticism to help drive in the point that yes, you really do need to find out one way or another who you really are. It just happens differently for different people.

And right after this, the scene cuts to Twilight Sparkle telling the Crusaders her cutie mark story. I love that the scene switches so abruptly; there’s no explanation for how they got into this situation, nor does they need to be. It’s a great example of comically abrupt scene transitions.

There’s lots of juicy worldbuiling in this episode, such as what a usual Summer Sun Celebration looks like.

Let me get something out of the way right now: filly Twilight Sparkle is adorable. She’s ridiculously adorable, probably the most out of any of the filly versions of the Mane 6, even Fluttershy. Just look at her face in the image above and tell me she isn’t the most adorable thing in existence.

Anyway, as young Twilight attends a Summer Sun Celebration, Celestia puts on a stunning display of her raising the sun. While most of the audience is clopping their hooves in the pony equivalent of applause, Twilight merely watches in utter aww… wait, I mean utter awe. This reaction sets her apart from other ponies and shows her utter idolization of Celestia.

“You’d never guess, but when I was little, I loved reading books.”
(not a real quote)

I love how while some of the Mane 6 were quite different as fillies, Twilight Sparkle was the exact same bookworm we know today, only without friends. She’s very quick to figure out the workings of magic, much quicker than any other pony seems to be, or at least Sweetie Belle who is the only other pony we see learning magic onscreen. Twilight learning magic demonstrates that there are many things you can learn from books; it’s just that friendship is better learned through firsthand (or in the ponies’ case, firsthoof) experience.

I love, love, love, love, LOVE this joyful dance little Twilight Sparkle makes when her parents reveal they’ve enrolled her in Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. When Twilight is excited about something, it’s already pretty adorable, but turn her into a filly and it becomes the most adorable thing in the world.

Twilight Sparkle has to take an entrance exam to get into Celestia’s school, which involves using magic to hatch a dragon’s egg. She fails at first, but then a shocking rainbow wave incites her to do the magic spell successfully to hatch newborn Spike, then the spell goes out of control. Celestia fixes the spell and accepts Twilight Sparkle not just as her student, but as her personal protege. I highly doubt every entrance exam for Celestia’s school involves hatching a dragon egg; it’s not the kindest thing in the world to snatch a whole bunch of eggs from dragons to use for ponies’ magic trials. It’s clear in light of later episodes that Celestia set up this predestined event, which includes getting Spike’s egg from mysterious sources so that Twilight can have a loyal dragon assistant to send Celestia letters whenever she pleases.

Anyway, as a reward for this act of magic, as Celestia points out, Twilight Sparkle has gotten her cutie mark.

Filly Twilight Sparkle gallops around in circles with a never-ending stream of yeses… or yesses? According to my browser spell check, it’s “yeses”, apparently, which reads to me like “yeezes”, but I’m getting off topic here. Anyway, filly Twilight’s galloping transitions to present-day Twilight doing the exact same adorable galloping with the exact same stream of yesses (who cares about some silly old spell check?). It’s clear that Twilight remembers her acceptance into Celestia’s school like it was yesterday, which shows that her childlike enthusiasm hasn’t gone away one bit. The Crusaders are all weirded out and decide to leave while they still can. Twilight runs into the same pony who delivered her Spike’s baby egg, who she no doubt remembers; she responds to his question about whether she is OK with yet another “yes”. I must say, I know exactly what it’s like to have the events of one specific day long ago absurdly ingrained in my head so that I remember every detail of it.

As the Crusaders set off to finally find Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie appears out of nowhere in their wagon, subtly reminding us that she’s a reality warper who can freely break the fourth wall and bend reality to her will but merely chooses to be a goofy party pony. Her story starts in the most ridiculous setting imaginable:

I’ll talk more about straight-haired Pinkie Pie when I get to Party of One in the next post.

Pinkie Pie begins her story by revealing that she grew up in the absolute last setting one would have expected from her: a rock farm. It’s a perfect fit with her whimsical personality for her childhood and family to be so far removed from what she’s like now, not to mention that farming rocks doesn’t even make any sense, and Pinkie Pie is all about not making sense. But the fact that she never begrudges her family or loves them any less for raising her on a rock farm is a great demonstration of her incredibly bubbly and easygoing personality. Take this line, for instance:

Pinkie Pie: There was no talking. There was no smiling. (sighs) There were only rocks.
Pinkie Pie: We were in the south field preparing to rotate the rocks to the east field, when all of a sudden…

Note that Pinkie clearly remembers the status of her rock farming operations on the day she got her cutie mark. This demonstrates that just like all her siblings, she was raised as a dutiful rock farmer, probably helped by her freakishly sharp memory and Pinkie Sense.

Not shown: the rainbow getting Pinkie Pie’s mane all frazzled up.

The same rainbow involved in all the other cutie mark stories makes Pinkie Pie experience joy for the very first time. She realized that she needed to come up with her own way to spread this feeling to others, since rainbows don’t come very often, so like a caveman rubbing two rocks together and figuring out how to make fire, she decides to throw a party and makes her entire family smile, and thus she earns her cutie mark. This scene is a perfect demonstration of Pinkie Pie’s unique skill in making others smile, especially those one would least expect to smile—befitting of the element of laughter.

Oh yeah, Pinkie Pie’s mother addresses her by her full name, Pinkamena Diane Pie. From this scene, it’s clear how Pinkie Pie got her name: after they gave birth to Maud Pie, her parents weren’t expecting their next child to be colored pink, so they decided it was an appropriate choice to name their new daughter after her color. Fans commonly use the name “Pinkamena” to refer specifically to Pinkie Pie when her mane is straight rather than poofy, especially in nightmarish scenes; I’ll again discuss that in the next post.

Pinkie Pie: And that’s how Equestria was made!
Scootaloo: (brakes her scooter) Whuh—huh?
Apple Bloom: Look, we’re here!
Pinkie Pie: Maybe on the way home I can tell you the story of how I got my cutie mark! It’s a gem.

Pinkie Pie’s last statement calls her entire story into question for new viewers, but later seasons make it clear that yes, she really did grow up on a rock farm and has a family of extremely traditionalist rock farmers who know everything there is to know about rocks. It’s really cool to see her family fleshed out without compromising their dedication to rock farming, especially considering that Maud Pie (who doesn’t appear in this episode) later becomes a recurring character.

And finally, Rainbow Dash’s story is where it all comes together. At flight camp, she challenged the sports bullies to a race in defense of Fluttershy’s honor. In a true act of loyalty (and a true act of awesome), she created a Sonic Rainboom for the first time in her life, after which she earned her cutie mark. As Rainbow Dash herself says, she made the impossible happen. Can you think of something more awesome than making the impossible happen? I don’t know about you, but I think that doing something that no one thought was possible is the definition of awesome.

And so, the Mane 6 ponies all come to the realization that the rainbow explosions that played a part in their cutie marks were all the same rainbow explosion, brought about by none other than Rainbow Dash herself, demonstrating that they had a special connection before they even knew each other. I must say, it’s a great choice for Rainbow Dash to be the one responsible for them all getting their cutie marks. It gives her a unique bragging right that you wouldn’t get from just any character. The Mane 6 all engage in a group hug; Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle find it sweet, but Scootaloo is grossed out by all the sweetness, which demonstrates once again that you don’t need on enjoy the sappy parts to enjoy this show. Scootaloo is wrapped into a hug with her fellow Crusaders regardless. Twilight Sparkle narrates her letter to Celestia reflecting on what she learned, and after a snide remark from Spike about her being cheesy, the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is an awesome way to begin the Mane 6’s backstory. While there is some early installment weirdness to go around, like Maud Pie not existing and the popular background ponies not having filly versions, it’s still a great introduction to character backstories, which we’ll only get more of in later seasons. These backstories culminate in a grandiose revelation that gives Rainbow Dash a major bragging right and suggests that the Mane 6 are some very special ponies.

Grade: B

I’m a sucker for episodes of any show that give characters backstories, and this episode succeeds in doing so. It’s easily one of the episodes that stuck out the most to me when I first watched the show.

Miscellaneous notes:

Where do I even begin here? The flashback scenes have so many interesting details, parts that are weird in retrospect, and background shenanigans. I’m just going to bring up a few of the highlights.

  • Applejack’s flashback isn’t the only time we see that she wasn’t always this true to herself (or to others). The season 6 episode Where the Apple Lies tells an enthralling story of how different she and Big Macintosh used to be when they were younger, which I view as expanding on that flashback.
  • In Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash’s flashbacks, the orange sports bully has his basketball cutie mark, but the brown one doesn’t have his yet. This disparity shows that while the sports trio from Cloudsdale may seem inseparable, the Mane 6 have a far more resounding connection than the sports trio could dream of having.
  • In Rarity’s flashback, one of the fillies on the stage appears to be a young version of Cheerilee, which I guess implies that she’s about the same age as the Mane 6, not as old as her pseudo-80’s picture would imply? Later episodes similarly feature young Cheerilee in flashback scenes, sometimes even alongside young versions of well-known background ponies, so maybe that one picture of her was just early installment weirdness.
    • The two ponies surrounding young Cheerilee are just recolored versions of young Applejack and young Pinkie Pie post-hair frazzling. A little lazy if you ask me!
    • Also in Rarity’s flashback, the audience features the usual grown-up versions of the common background ponies, including Derpy Hooves (minus the googly eyes). That isn’t too special—it WAS before the background ponies were fleshed out.
  • At the start of Twilight Sparkle’s flashback, she is the only filly in the audience for the Summer Sun Celebration. Is that event normally geared towards grown-up ponies and Twilight has just been enthralled by Celestia since a young age, or is it merely animation laziness?
    • While Rarity was already in the pony equivalent of elementary school in her flashback, Twilight Sparkle was taking an entrance exam for a special magic elementary school. This may raise some implications regarding Twilight Sparkle’s sheltered upbringing compared to her friends.
    • Have I mentioned yet that filly Twilight Sparkle is adorable? I don’t think I have.
  • I like to imagine that Pinkie Pie figured out how to make a party cannon the very next day after getting her cutie mark, so that she could set up parties more efficiently from here on out.
  • As for Rainbow Dash’s flashback, it’s weird that the sports bullies are still mean to her and Fluttershy years later in the episode Sonic Rainboom. Or maybe it’s not weird at all and they’re just (understandably) jealous of Rainbow Dash’s rainboom… wow, I just raised a mystery and immediately answered it.

Season 1 Episode 24: Owl’s Well That Ends Well

In five words: Spike thinks he’s been replaced.

Premise: Twilight Sparkle gets a pet owl named Owlowiscious, and Spike is convinced that the owl is replacing him as her number one assistant.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Twilight Sparkle and Spike preparing for a meteor shower that occurs once in a century. Twilight compliments Spike on being her number one assistant and then asks him to get an astronomy book, which he accidentally burns and then hides, setting up yet another honesty-related moral.

Spike tells Twilight Sparkle that someone must have borrowed the astronomy book but assures her she doesn’t need it, which leads Twilight and all her friends to praise Spike for all the hard work he does. It’s clear that they’re genuinely grateful to have Spike around, but he thinks that means he can do anything and they’ll still appreciate him—a mindset that bites him hard in this episode.

At night, Twilight Sparkle writes an essay about comets that reads a lot like a Wikipedia article and almost loses her scroll until an owl pops in and retrieves it. She allows the owl to keep her company, finally giving Twilight a pet like most of her friends already have.

An animal turning its head 180 degrees? Now that’s a true freaky villain!
… or so Spike thinks.

When Spike wakes up late the next morning, Twilight Sparkle assures him that Owlowiscious, her new junior assistant, has done all his chores for him. Spike immediately views the owl as a nemesis, which is a common pattern with him—he tends to have completely wrong ideas of when someone is antagonizing him and when he must step up and be a noble hero. In this case, he thinks Owlowiscious has rudely taken his place and brainwashed all his pony friends into directing the same praise they gave Spike at the owl instead. He comes to this conclusion after seeing all his friends outside praise the owl and goes back inside before he can hear them say he isn’t being replaced.

This guy’s cutie mark is a quill and a sofa. Talk about a two-trick pony!
(sorry that was a terrible pun)

Owlowiscious beats Spike to the punch of retrieving books for Twilight Sparkle. Twilight’s quill then breaks, and Spike goes through a whole bunch of trouble to get a new quill. He digs through the house to no avail, goes to a store selling quills and sofas only for it to be all out of quills, asks Pinkie Pie for a quill only for her to provide him a bunch of other things that start with Q, and then wrestles with a chicken until he finally gets a tiny white feather. But then it turns out Owlowiscious has let Twilight use one of his feathers as a quill. I know exactly how irritating it feels to go through a bunch of trouble to do someone a favor, only for someone else to have completed the task much more quickly—it feels like that person is simply more competent than you. This naturally strengthens Spike’s rivalrous perception of the owl, especially after the owl discovers that Spike burnt the astronomy book and Twilight chews him out for it.

Spike is convinced that Owlowiscious, uh… secretly poked him and made him sneeze, causing the astronomy book to be destroyed? Well, really just that Owlowiscious was behind the book’s burning somehow. The way he jumps to this ridiculous conclusion and decides to take revenge clearly shows he isn’t thinking straight. He’s gotten carried away in self-image and probably thinks his framing will fool Twilight because the owl has “brainwashed” her. Because of this mindset, he thinks Twilight will fall for a torn-apart plush mouse covered in ketchup and surrounded by pillow feathers. I find it interesting that even though this show obviously can’t show any real blood, fake blood is totally OK. This allusion to blood effectively shows how carried away Spike has gotten in his vengeful scheme and is far too silly for any viewers to find terrifying.

Twilight Sparkle barges in on Spike in the middle of his framing, indicating how much he did not think this through. She gives him a cold speech on how disappointed she is, and Spike decides to leave this home in favor of the Everfree Forest.

Spike settles in a cave filled with gems, which turns out to be occupied by a gigantic dragon. Owlowiscious comes in just in time to save the day, then leads him and Twilight Sparkle back home. Twilight seems to have forgotten she can use her horn as a light, perhaps because she’s in such a haste.

Twilight Sparkle: Spike, we were so worried about you! I was so worried about you. Why did you run away?
Spike: I thought you didn’t need me anymore. And that you didn’t love me anymore.
Twilight Sparkle: Spike, sure I was disappointed. But you are my number one assistant! And friend. And you always will be!
Twilight Sparkle: It’s just that sometimes, I need some help at night. I can’t ask you to stay up late. You’re a baby dragon! And you need your rest.
Twilight Sparkle: Owls are nocturnal, so I asked Owlowiscious to help. But not to take your place!
Twilight Sparkle: No one could ever replace you, Spike. Not even when you are being a jealous numbskull.

This reconciliation makes it clear that Spike could have avoided all this trouble if he asked Twilight why she needed a new assistant. This isn’t the only time an episode focuses on jealousy through misconceptions; it seems like such episodes intend to tell viewers that jealousy often doesn’t have a good reason behind it.

Spike: Hey… how did you guys know where I was?
Twilight Sparkle: It was your ketchup-covered feet. Owlowiscious discovered your footprints, and we followed them all the way to the cave.
Spike: Oh yeah, the ketchup. It looked pretty real though, didn’t it?
Twilight Sparkle: (makes annoyed face)

Spike endearingly still thinks his scheme was a little clever and is somewhat proud of coming up with it all by himself. This demonstrates his lingering mischievous side quite well.

Spike takes a turn to write a letter to Celestia about how little it helps to be jealous and tell lies, but then he suddenly falls asleep; it’s a refreshing change for Spike to write the letter himself rather than transcribing Twilight’s words. Owlowiscious ends the episode by winking at the camera, suggesting that he has some of the same fourth wall breaking powers as Pinkie Pie.

Overall thoughts:

This is the first episode that I’d say counts as a Spike episode. Though many of Spike’s episodes are contentious among fans, this is a decent one to start things off with. I can easily understand why Spike would get jealous of Owlowiscious and devise a scheme to earn back his status as Twilight Sparkle’s number one assistant, but in some Spike episodes, his motives make no sense.

Grade: C

Not a very memorable episode, but by no means a bad one either. Gets the neutral grade.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I find it weird that Rarity makes the exact same bow tie for Owlowiscious that she made for Spike, given how much she normally varies her creative designs. Could this be Spike’s warped perception of his friends?
  • Owlowiscious’ name is such a pain to type, probably more than any other MLP character.

This post ended up a lot longer than I expected, especially my review of The Cutie Mark Chronicles! I probably could have made this a two-episode post, but it’s no matter. See you next week as I review the two extremely memorable episodes that end season 1. Be warned: my review of The Best Night Ever will be a doozy.

>> Part 10: Party of One + The Best Night Ever

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