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Season 5, Episodes 7-8
Make New Friends but Keep Discord is another season 5 review that turned out much longer than I expected! It ended up being my second longest episode review so far, surpassed only by Magical Mystery Cure but surely soon to be beaten by Slice of Life. On the other hand, my review of The Lost Treasure of Grifffonstone is short enough that I felt comfortable having both episodes share a post.
Season 5 Episode 7: Make New Friends but Keep Discord
In five words: Jealousy leads to attempted banishment.
Premise: When Fluttershy invites a new friend of hers named Tree Hugger to the Grand Galloping Gala, Discord gets jealous and brings a dangerous creature of his own.
This review is going to be another hefty one. Just letting you know.
This episode starts on a very peaceful note, with Fluttershy and Discord in the middle of trading humorous stories while having tea together. While they became friends two seasons ago, this is the first episode since then where their friendship is the primary focus. This opening scene cements that their friendship has settled down, and we get about 20 seconds of cutesy fun times until the episode’s conflict is revealed.
Fluttershy: Oh, I do love our Tuesday teas. And I can’t wait for you to meet my friend Tree Hugger! She’s going to love you too.
Discord: Tree… Hugger? (laughs)
Discord looks shocked for a moment when Fluttershy brings up Tree Hugger, but he laughs it off when his brain chooses to assume it’s a joke. But given what Tree Hugger turns out to be like, Fluttershy has reason to believe she and Discord would get along well. Not everyone enjoys Discord’s wild antics and sense of humor, but Tree Hugger is spectacularly unfazed by freaky shenanigans. Though Fluttershy doesn’t mean any harm to Discord with this new friend, his simplistic understanding of friendship leads to immense jealousy.
Fluttershy: I met her on a trip to see the Breezies! She’s a member of the Equestrian Society for the Preservation of Rare Creatures.
Discord: (looks annoyed) How nice for you.
Fluttershy: We’re all going to have so much fun together at the Grand Galloping Gala!
Discord: Oh! I was wondering when you were going to ask me. I’d love to.
Fluttershy: Oh… Oh no. Um… I’m afraid I’ve already asked Tree Hugger.
Fluttershy: I’m sorry, Discord. I assumed you’d have your own ticket, since you and Princess Celestia are friends now.
When you think about it, it’s some cool character development for the resident “shy pony” to take her own initiative and make a new friend with a common interest. It’s also thoughtful of her to invite Tree Hugger to the Grand Galloping Gala, since this event isn’t easy for regular residents of Equestria to access. Remember how super-exclusive and sought after the gala’s tickets were back in The Ticket Master? The Mane 6 have come a long way since then, and now they get to invite other friends and family for a change.
Though he tries to downplay it, Discord feels excluded since he didn’t get a ticket to the gala, let alone one shared with Fluttershy. He lets his inner thoughts slip when he talks about excluding the tea cakes they didn’t get to eat from the party, cutting his weekly tea time short. This guy needs some time to reflect on what he sees as a heartless betrayal.
Putting aside how freaky this scene is, I’d say Twilight’s castle has started to feel like home by now.
Discord interrupts Spike’s nap by showing up in his bed, demanding to know where Twilight Sparkle is. This is incredibly creepy, and I think it’s only because Discord has a bizarre understanding of social norms that this scene was allowed in the show at all. If it was any other adult character in Spike’s bed, then… nah, let’s not go down that train of thought.
Spike says that Twilight is helping Celestia prepare for the Grand Galloping Gala, and here’s a train of thought that I do want to go down. Remember how big of a deal the gala seemed in season 1, with the Mane 6 each having their own reasons to go and dreams to fulfill there? The final episode of the season was even dedicated to the gala, instead of facing against a rampaging villain who plans to take over Equestria. But now, the Mane 6 are well-known across Equestria and are helping organize the gala for everyday folk who are lucky enough to attend. Unlike the last Grand Galloping Gala, this one takes place in a regular non-finale episode and serves mainly as a backdrop for Discord’s friendship conflict.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders, on the other hand, are as excited for the gala as the Mane 6 were last time. It brings back memories, doesn’t it? While MLP:FiM was always meant to be a massive departure from anything else in the My Little Pony franchise, it still was much less adventure-oriented at the start than at the point we are now; the overarching plot of season 1 focused on a fanciful gala, for one. While it’s natural for any show to evolve its tone as it progresses, it still really brings me back to see the Crusaders pumped about the gala.
Applejack tells Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo to cool off their excitement, but then she gets teary-eyed when she sees her own sister decked out in gala clothes. We’ve seen that Applejack often has trouble accepting when Apple Bloom is growing up, so this is on-brand for her.
I LOVE the lapse of humor when Applejack blows her nose using Rainbow Dash’s tail. It’s a scene that I distinctly remember laughing hard at when I first watched this episode. This incredibly silly scene makes it all the more haunting when Discord intrudes on the Crusaders’ fun times.
The Crusaders say that this is going to be the best night ever—an incredibly cheeky pun, but they’re wrong.
This is going to be Make New Friends but Keep Discord.
Discord: I don’t suppose that, uh… these adorable little cutie pies have their own tickets to the Gross Gruesome Gala, do they?
(Apple Bloom slaps Discord’s hand and blows a raspberry)
Rarity: Ahem. To answer your rather rude question, they’re going as our dates. Our plus ones.
Sweetie Belle: WE’RE PLUS ONES!
All three Crusaders: WE’RE PLUS ONES! WE’RE PLUS ONES!
If you see Fluttershy and Discord’s friendship in a romantic way, then it must sting extra hard for him to realize that bringing a “date” to the Grand Galloping Gala doesn’t necessarily mean a romantic interest. Perhaps Discord thought Tree Hugger was Fluttershy’s new love interest, but now that he knows three of the Mane 6 are inviting their little sisters as plus ones, he might think Fluttershy doesn’t even see him as a worthy friend to invite to the gala. Either way, the situation between Fluttershy, Tree Hugger, and Discord is very reminiscent of a love triangle.
Wait… do you think Discord knows that it’s possible to be gay? It might be in-character for him not to know that, given how much he doesn’t understand social cues. But that would also mean he couldn’t be jealous of Fluttershy in a romantic manner, so I’m not sure. Still, I can easily see him missing the point when seeing two stallions or two mares in love. I don’t think Discord would have a problem with homosexuality if he finds out it’s a thing; the question is just whether he knows.
Moving on, this episode is notable for having tons of references to other media, especially some that isn’t aimed at children. At Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie Pie somehow senses that Discord is hiding inside a box, and a red exclamation mark appears along with an alert sound effect. This is a reference to Metal Gear Solid, of all video game series, that I didn’t notice until today. I’ve never played any Metal Gear Solid games, but I do know that Snake likes to sneak inside boxes and I know the iconic sound effect that this scene imitates. This episode has a smorgasbord of surprising media references, and I know I won’t catch or recognize all of them. I’ll try to note at least a few though.
It’s fun seeing these two reality warpers interact for a little bit.
Discord may be an omnipotent lord of chaos, but he still has trouble doing such simple things as asking others about the Grand Galloping Gala. He can’t quite spit it out to Pinkie Pie, who asks him which of her cakes he wants to try, and then he says he wants all the cakes.
Pinkie Pie: All of them?!
Pinkie Pie: (shakes camera) He wants all of the cakes!
In case anyone was watching season 5 for the first time and had forgotten a lot of things about the show, this scene reminds viewers of all the reality-breaking powers Pinkie Pie normally holds back. She’s perfectly capable of breaking the fourth wall as shown here, but she only does so if she’s so excited about something that she wants to share it with the audience.
Due to her hipster design, Tree Hugger has become quite a memetic character.
Hmm… is this the same camera that Pinkie Pie had just shaken?
While Pinkie Pie packs all her cakes and talks about how she searched around Equestria for someone to invite until she settled on Maud Pie, Discord gets out a camera and spies on Fluttershy and Tree Hugger. The camera flashes red when he sees his target, as though he plans to murder Tree Hugger, or at least do the closest thing to killing someone that a kids’ show would allow. The parallels with love triangle stories where jealousy leads to attempted (or successful) murder are very clear here, making this another way the episode alludes to less kid-friendly media. Once Pinkie Pie’s story ends, Discord says he doesn’t want cakes after all and storms off to intrude on Fluttershy and Tree Hugger.
Discord’s teleportation serves as a convenient way to show us what each of the Mane 6 have planned for the gala this time.
Fluttershy: (laughs) Oh my. You are funny!
Discord: I guess every being in Equestria is funny today.
Fluttershy: Oh, how rude of me. Tree Hugger, this is Discord. Discord, Tree Hugger.
Tree Hugger: Radical to meet you. Really digging your vibe.
Discord: (eyes flash) My vibe?
Fluttershy: It’s a compliment.
Discord: Oh, well I’m sure it is. Well, I must be off. (teleports away and back)
Discord: It has nothing to do with seeing you or not seeing you, you can rest assured of that. (teleports away and back)
Discord: Have fun at the gala! (stretches his face and teleports away)
Tree Hugger: Righteous.
Though Fluttershy looks concerned as Discord keeps teleporting back to say some last words, Tree Hugger is unaffected by his shenanigans. Though it’s left for fans to decide whether Tree Hugger’s ultra-chill attitude is the result of any substance consumption, one thing’s for sure: this scene is just begging for Discord to do something crazy enough that Tree Hugger reaches her breaking point. Much like with Fluttershy, getting Tree Hugger to such a breaking point isn’t easy.
I love the design of Discord’s house. Glad this isn’t the only time we see inside it.
Since this is arguably the show’s first true Discord episode—an episode where he is the protagonist—it’s a suitable time for us to see where he lives. His house is in a bizarre alternate dimension that brims with his order-averse personality, and inside, he monologues about his frustration that Fluttershy seemingly ditched him while doing actions like washing clean dishes so they become dirty. He lets out his annoyance by imitating Fluttershy and Tree Hugger, a common thing to do when you’re frustrated with someone.
When Discord hears someone screaming outdoors, he sees a mailpony who was given the monumental task of delivering Discord his ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala. Discord is relieved he got this ticket, but angry that it took so long. We don’t know how this guy made it to Discord’s place other than that he mentions flying badgers and a bottomless pit, but we do know one thing: like many fictional mailmen, this guy will stop at nothing to deliver the mail. But unlike a more typical fictional mailman, his epic mail delivery saga is entirely offscreen.
Discord leaves the mail pony to find his own way home, then hatches a mischievous plan to bring another friend to the gala. Bringing a friend who isn’t Fluttershy isn’t easy for him—we just saw how rudely he still treats most ponies, including that poor mailman. But he has an idea, and it leads to a resurgence of his villainous side.
Oh wow, this is SUCH a throwback.
(Say… where’s Luna? Is she just not interested in the gala?)
The Grand Galloping Gala begins, and Twilight Sparkle reprises her role from last time: standing alongside Celestia as guests are greeted. The two have a short, friendly conversation where Celestia thanks Twilight for taking over some of the organization duties. Twilight Sparkle has grown a lot since her first gala: now, she’s willing to do some of the busywork for an event she isn’t even that fond of, owning up to her duties as a princess of Equestria. It’s such a nice and responsible adult thing to do. Celestia tempts fate when she says she’s looking forward to enjoying the gala for once.
Oh yeah, another thing worth noting: this is Celestia’s first appearance in season 5. She plays a prominent role in most season premieres and finales, but in the season 5 premiere she didn’t appear at all. Similarly, in the season 5 finale she only briefly appears in a few alternate timelines. In the show’s middle seasons, Celestia falls to the sidelines a lot as the Mane 6 start doing things without her guidance, but before her character gets fleshed out by showing things more from her point of view. I’m pointing this out because I specifically remember noting that Celestia didn’t appear in season 5 until now when I first watched this episode.
Another one of the many media references in this episode is a throwback to old-timey MLP, featured as the guest who Discord brings to the gala: a slimy creature called the Smooze. This guy originated from the 80’s MLP movie, and while I can’t say how the Smooze compares to his original incarnation, his appearance must have been a real treat to those who can. The Smooze proves himself a troublesome creature when he swallows a trumpet without warning. Discord’s hand gets slimy, and he demonstrates a strange lack of manners when he wipes it on someone else’s suit. However, given the Smooze’s immunity to even the most powerful magic, maybe Discord couldn’t poof the slime away with a snap of his fingers like he normally would, and thus he decided that wiping it was the next best option. Discord uses his powers so much in daily life that he doesn’t know how to properly get by without them; another example is that he grumbles when he’s forced to walk with his feet in the season 6 finale.
Unlike me, Twilight Sparkle didn’t pause the episode to think about why Discord wouldn’t just snap the slime away, so she sees it as mere bad manners and warns Discord not to mess anything up. Twilight wants the gala to go without any mishaps, but her thousand-year-old mentor’s expressions show that she doesn’t mind a little unpredictability.
The outfit designs in the episode are fun, and they have a different overall style from those in The Best Night Ever.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders arrive at the gala along with their big sisters, and I find it thematically fitting that most of the Crusaders’ excitement takes place offscreen. Going by their expressions, Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash didn’t even want to go to the gala; they used their free tickets to treat their sisters to a fun time, and they’re here to make sure the kids don’t get into any trouble. Luckily, they’re too psyched about the gala to have any issues with being watched over.
Discord feeds the Smooze a diamond, making it grow in size, then he intrudes on Fluttershy hanging out with Tree Hugger. They’re deep enough in conversation that it takes a lot of throat clearing for Discord to get their attention.
Fluttershy: Discord! I thought you weren’t coming.
Discord: No, I actually never said that. But funny how you remembered it that way.
Even after being reformed, Discord can’t help but deceive others through exact words and implying things that he never said. Fluttershy is the one thing keeping Discord from going on an insane rampage, and once he thinks Fluttershy has ditched him, his naughty side is back in action.
As for Tree Hugger… between her talk about seeing auras in waterfalls and her not remembering her first time meeting Discord while maintaining her relaxed attitude, it’s hard not to see her as a perpetually stoned hipster. But I can easily see why she and Fluttershy get along so well: both are very easygoing and can hardly ever see anything as weird or off-putting.
Discord: As I was saying, it’s just great to be here with my oldest, bestest friend.
Fluttershy: Am I really your oldest, bestest friend?
Discord: You? (laughs) Of course not. You think I don’t have other friends? I’m centuries old.
Discord: I was talking the Smooze. Smooze Face. The Smooze-inator. Well, I mean that’s what we called him back in college.
I can see what Discord wants to do here. He’s trying to teach Fluttershy an underhanded* friendship lesson by showing how jealous it makes others when they reveal they’ve made a new friend, and Discord’s attempts to indirectly teach others friendship lessons often have disastrous consequences. Here, it’s even worse because the lesson Discord is trying to teach is total bullshit: why would Fluttershy get jealous when Discord reveals his longtime friendship with the Smooze? She’s happy to learn that Discord has another friend, especially since she knows friendship doesn’t come easy for him.
* Since Discord has hands, I don’t need to devise a silly-sounding word like “underhooved”. What a relief!
Discord locks the Smooze outside so he can mingle with the ponies by himself, which proves to us that his friendship with the Smooze was all an act. This makes for another scene where he only thinks he’s a clever manipulator. When it comes to friendship, this guy has plenty of weak spots. He tries getting Fluttershy to tell a funny story about how they ended up buying two cakes instead of one, except she describes it as plainly as can be and Tree Hugger thinks it means he likes cakes.
As you can see, locking your friends outside when you need to go do something is a completely normal part of friendship.
While left behind by his purported friend, the Smooze has been wreaking havoc outside and absorbing more and more gems, especially from Rarity’s outfit.
Twilight Sparkle: Discord, I thought I told you to keep your friend under control.
Discord: Oh, please. I have better things to do than to watch that thing all night.
(Fluttershy and Tree Hugger give blank looks)
Discord: (laughs) What I mean… to say is… that thing is a dear, dear friend, and I’ll make sure that the ooze that he can’t help but secrete doesn’t get on anypony else.
Here’s where Discord lets it slip that he doesn’t view the Smooze as a friend; he only used that blob of slime in attempt to do a “now you know how I feel” thing to Fluttershy. Even after being reformed, he loves using others as pawns in his schemes, and he often forgets to factor in the importance of friendship.
Discord vacuums Rarity’s slimy outfit away, then Rarity walks away as though she’s a human woman caught naked. This isn’t the first time she displayed humanlike views towards walking around without clothes; remember when she didn’t want Spike to come in when they were all getting dressed for the last gala?
However, I have a much better theory of why Rarity is acting this way. Later in this episode, we see Discord opening a portal to an alternate dimension. This ability of Discord’s has a lot of implications for those who care about the parallel universe where Equestria Girls takes place—a universe whose entry ability normally depends on plot contrivances. Could it be that the human version of Rarity secretly entered the pony universe through one of Discord’s portals and swapped places with the real Rarity? Just like how Twilight Sparkle behaved like a pony when she first entered the human universe, this version of Rarity under my theory is accustomed to human social norms of which body parts women keep private. From here on, if Rarity ever does something unusually humanlike or forgets a lesson she learned in a prior episode, we can wave it off as being her undercover human self!
Yeah, I know. This is a stupid theory. But come on, you know I love to pick apart one-off gags.
Having ignored Twilight Sparkle’s statement that he needs to look after his “friend”, Discord locks the Smooze inside a closet for the rest of the gala… except the closet turns out to be filled with jewelry. Since his attempts at making Fluttershy jealous through the Smooze didn’t work, Discord has no more use for that thing and treats him in his typical hasty manner.
Discord with a glass of water… where have we seen that before?
When Fluttershy praises Tree Hugger’s sense of humor, Discord hosts a painfully bad stand-up comedy show in retaliation. There is quite a storm of existing stand-up comedy media references that I vaguely recognize, like the classic “what’s the deal with…” phrase from Seinfeld, a show that I have seen various bits of. While most of Discord’s jokes give blank stares from the audience, Celestia can’t help but chuckle at a jab at Twilight Sparkle’s flight. I can kind of see it: Celestia and Discord are among the few beings in Equestria who have been alive for this many centuries, and thus they may have similar senses of humor. Plus, a lot of fans imagine that Celestia got a little drunk at this year’s gala, showing a side of her that’s not so above it all.
Twilight Sparkle: What is he doing?
Rainbow Dash: I think they’re… jokes?
Pinkie Pie: Maud! Jokes!
Maud Pie: My favorite.
Maud Pie is back in action, appearing for the first time since her debut episode! While her first line in this episode is amusing enough, her next one is one of the most memorable parts of the entire episode:
Discord: Knock knock!
Discord: You’re supposed to say “who’s there”! This is the most basic of jokes. (smashes watermelon)
Maud Pie: You’re the most basic of jokes.
I laughed WAY too loudly at this scene when I first watched it.
I love this scene so much, and it’s such a glorious debut for Maud Pie as a regular recurring character. She’s going to drop a lot of incredible one-liners as the show progresses, and this is only the beginning. Maud Pie really went ahead and dunked on an ultra-powerful lord of chaos, a bragging right that not many other characters have.
I’m mostly sticking to pointing out references I can recognize on my own, but this one is too crazy not to mention. The nervous colt wearing a sweater watching the slime pour out the closet is a reference to a horror movie I haven’t seen called The Shining. Yes, a horror movie. I can’t help but compare this against The Best Night Ever, whose media references were confined to family-friendly cartoons and Disney movies. In contrast, the references in this episode include a surprising variety of media that isn’t family-friendly. I know everyone talks about the Rick and Morty cameo in Grannies Gone Wild, and the Walter White cameo that’s also in Grannies Gone Wild, but I guess people don’t get nearly as excited about references to 80’s horror movies. Then again, fans of the show have gotten distracted by background cameos since the first episode, and if they didn’t then Derpy Hooves wouldn’t be a thing. And who would want to live in a world without Derpy Hooves?
The slime is a tough problem for everyone in the gala. Rainbow Dash can’t get out of it, and it’s immune to both Twilight Sparkle and Celestia’s magic. This is a purpose Celestia finds herself serving a lot: failing to defeat an enemy so as to demonstrate how powerful it is.
As a pony known for having skewed priorities in dire situations, Rarity panics that her shoes will be ruined forever and… wait a minute, how did she get her dress back? I think it’s not unlike Rarity to bring an emergency backup copy of her dress; maybe after being caught “naked”, she went into a private closet to put on her second dress.
Wait, I have a better theory. Maybe this is the regular pony version of Rarity, in contrast to the human universe version of Rarity we saw earlier. Maybe human Rarity happened to be wearing a dress a lot like this one when she stepped into a portal, and her dress got converted to pony proportions. Or maybe there was both a backup dress and a backup Rarity? Surely this is the real reason Equestria Girls was created: to provide fans with an easy justification for oversights or for ponies forgetting things they previously learned. I mean, the first movie has a bonus scene where Pinkie Pie steps through the portal and high-fives her human self.
… This is starting to hurt my head. Let’s stick to the backup dress explanation and move on.
Discord revels in things being chaotic. Why would he WANT to clean up this crazy mess?
Tree Hugger: This is kind of a bummer.
Discord: Isn’t it, though? And to think it never would have happened had I come to the gala as somepony else’s plus one.
Seeing the disaster that the Smooze caused, Discord goes back to trying to make this into a friendship lesson. He wants to show Fluttershy what happens when you cheat on your best friend, and why he should get Fluttershy all to himself. But Tree Hugger knows a way to deal with the slime: even though Discord thinks she’s full of nonsense, Tree Hugger claims that she can calm down a dangerous creature with a little auditory therapy.
And wouldn’t you know it, Tree Hugger’s soothing singing actually works! Aside from being a surprising moment of awesome, this scene demonstrates a commonality between Tree Hugger and Fluttershy: both know a lot about exotic creatures and can deal with them in surprisingly nonviolent ways. Tree Hugger is praised for saving the day, but the conflict isn’t over yet.
Fluttershy: That was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen done with animals!
(Discord grinds his teeth)
Tree Hugger: Oh, thanks everypony. It makes perfect karmic sense your magic doesn’t work on him. He only responds to vibrations that peace out his energy fields.
Throughout the gala, Discord has heard Fluttershy praise Tree Hugger for doing things that he thought he was the best at. He refuses to get to know Tree Hugger beyond being a rival to his hand, because it’s not easy for him to befriend others, and that leads to the climax of his jealousy.
I wonder if Celestia knew Discord can do this?
Perhaps she’s excitedly thinking of potential uses for this power that don’t involve banishing innocent ponies.
Anyone writing crossover fanfiction with MLP is now free to use Discord’s portals as an excuse!
Fed up with Fluttershy’s new friend, Discord uses his claws to open a rift in reality so he can send Tree Hugger off to another dimension. This is a classic tale of jealousy leading someone to do something drastic: Discord thinks that once Tree Hugger is gone, he and Fluttershy can share a laugh over this situation and resume their Tuesday tea. He claims that he’s not hurting Tree Hugger by sending her away, showing that he views this hipster pony not as a living being with feelings, but as a soulless monster who wants to ruin his friendship with Fluttershy. Perhaps since Tree Hugger is so perpetually calm, Discord thinks she will be complacent living in a freaky puppet world.
The rest of the Mane 6 get ready to stop Discord, but then he conjures a disco ball for the Smooze to eat so that he also swallows the other ponies. With the help of another super-powerful creature, Discord has taken out all but one of the ponies who once defeated him, and it falls into Fluttershy to talk him out of this insane idea.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t even the first time MLP has parodied American Gothic.
It’s one of the most famous and most parodied paintings of all time.
Discord: I’m doing her a favor, Fluttershy. It’s a lovely dimension. White sand beaches, an attentive wait staff… I mean, okay, the humidity isn’t great, but where isn’t that the case these days?
Aside from being another bad attempt at stand-up comedy, Discord’s description of the dimension he wants to put Tree Hugger in shows that he thinks everyone’s brain operates the same way as his. This episode showed us that he lives in a wacky alternate dimension, and he thinks that others will similarly enjoy living in such chaotic realms. Much like how he thinks everyone has only one close friend and once they make a new one, they ditch the last one. He has experience with this; remember when he ditched Fluttershy in favor of Tirek until he himself got backstabbed? Perhaps he thought Tree Hugger would betray Fluttershy any minute, until eventually he decided to banish Tree Hugger himself.
Fluttershy: I don’t understand why you’re doing this! We were all getting along so well!
Discord: As well as we could, considering you’ve already stopped all of our friendship by inviting her to the biggest night of the year, as if I didn’t matter at all!
Fluttershy: Did you REALLY think I’d abandon you just because I have a new friend?!
Discord: Yes! Because that’s what you did.
Fluttershy: No, Discord! I invited a friend to a party. I didn’t abandon you. What if you had a friend that you could discuss chaos-based magic with? Would that mean we weren’t friends anymore?
Discord: (rubs his chin) Uh… no, I suppose not. It would just mean that I have different friends for different things.
Here we have it: through getting Discord to see things from her perspective, Fluttershy has talked him out of banishing Tree Hugger. She had to be as blunt as she possibly can, because Discord wouldn’t absorb the information any other way. I imagine that when she first saw Discord with the Smooze, she probably thought the two shared quite a few interests that she didn’t have. Through this, Discord realizes it’s perfectly possible for someone to have multiple friends for different interests, so he gets the Mane 6 out of the Smooze and lets Tree Hugger go.
I guess Spike wasn’t interested in the gala this time. Maybe he really did dismiss it as girly gala gunk.
Too bad, because boy did he miss out!
Discord expects to be immediately forgiven by Tree Hugger, even giving her a hug… would that make him Tree Hugger Hugger? Anyway, Tree Hugger says she needs a while to clear her chakras instead of accepting the hug. This show sometimes gets criticized for reconciliations happening too quickly, and it’s nice to not have that for a change. Discord then apologizes to the Smooze and gets a kiss on the cheek in return. After how much of a trainwreck the last gala was, the Mane 6 and quite a few others are now ready to enjoy the Grand Galloping Gala without any wrong ideas or delusional dreams. Just a bunch of friends partying together, which is what the Gala should always have been about.
Twilight Sparkle: I’m sorry, Princess Celestia. I thought I could give you a break tonight. But it turns out I was in over my head.
Celestia: You have nothing to apologize for. This has been the most fun gala in years!
Twilight Sparkle: I know. It was a—WHAT? But, there was ooze all over the place. And one of the guests threatened to send somepony to another dimension!
Celestia: I know. Can you imagine how dull it would have been if I hadn’t invited Discord?
Celestia: Come on, WHOO! The night is still young.
Just like the last Grand Galloping Gala, this episode ends with Celestia thrilled at how exciting it was. But this time, the gala is still ongoing and they’re ready to all have some good fun. Some fans find it strange that Celestia took enjoyment out of these dangerous circumstances, but given how long she’s endured dull gala after dull gala, this must be incredibly refreshing for her. I find her contrast against Twilight Sparkle amusing; Twilight wanted the gala to be extra perfect, and now her authority figure is the one who’s willing to goof around. Celestia’s popularity among fans increased the more we saw of her enthusiastic side, and there’s plenty more of that to come.
In many ways, this is a quintessential season 5 episode: unusual media references, a hefty amount of callbacks, a setting where things get hectic fast, a climax where we see something insanely crazy, and the spotlight put on a supporting character. As I talked about in a prior review, Discord’s episodes are often used for friendship lessons that the Mane 6, Spike, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders would already know: in this case, that it’s perfectly possible to have different friends for different interests.
This episode is full of off-the-wall media references that season 1 would have never done, and Tree Hugger is a fun character who we similarly would have never gotten in season 1. And yet, regardless of any crazy things this episode does, it all ultimately ties into a friendship lesson, which I find impressive and satisfying. While this isn’t my favorite episode of season 5, it still captures the essence of what makes this season great.
The main thing preventing this episode from getting an A is that Discord’s behavior can be overly painful at times.
- Since I always complain about incorrect spellings of characters’ names, I felt it was only right to consult the credits of this episode to check whether her name was spelled Treehugger or Tree Hugger. I know the credits sometimes get the names of characters wrong—for instance, I’m pretty sure the credits of some earlier episodes drop the last letter of Sweetie Belle’s name—but we’re in season 5 now, and the credits are thus a lot more trustworthy.
- On the topic of character name misspellings, it doesn’t grind my gears as much as “Sweetie Bell” but I do find it slightly annoying when people spell Apple Bloom’s name as “Applebloom”.
- Since four of the Mane 6 (counting Rainbow Dash) invited their siblings to the Grand Galloping Gala, Fluttershy could have easily invited Zephyr Breeze (who we meet in season 6) over. I assume the reason why she didn’t was because Zephyr would embarrass everyone with his narcissistic flirty antics. Or maybe Fluttershy simply felt her brother wasn’t ready yet, even though he’s much older than the Crusaders. I don’t know, it’s fun to retroactively think about characters who don’t exist yet.
- I wonder if the Cutie Mark Crusaders had an offscreen musical number in this episode, equivalent to At the Gala? Actually, are offscreen musical numbers a concept that makes any sort of sense?! It’s kind of like the whole “if a tree falls in a forest” argument, now that I think of it.
- There weren’t many mainstay background ponies in the gala this time; the only ones that I saw were Lyra Heartstrings and Twinkleshine. They arguably aren’t even background ponies anymore, since a few episodes from now we get a logical justification for why they spend so much time in Canterlot.
The throwbacks to season 1 episodes continue by reintroducing us to one of the first non-ponies we ever met: a griffon named Gilda.
Season 5 Episode 8: The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone
In five words: Episode sequel gives Gilda redemption.
Premise: The Cutie Map sends Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie to the griffon kingdom where they run into an old friend who they had a falling out with: Gilda.
This episode opens up with a silly little Pinkie Pie scene that doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the episode but makes for some fun slice-of-life* shenanigans, helped by our good friend Gummy. Pinkie Pie’s cutie mark flashes, telling her to go to the Cutie Map, and she takes some extra time to make all the cakes ready for Gummy to start baking.
* The hyphenation of the phrase “slice-of-life” should hopefully prevent any confusion with the fanservice episode that comes after this one.
Twilight Sparkle is being an adorable nerd again. My heart can barely take it.
Twilight Sparkle: This is so exciting. The map is summoning you to Griffonstone! The very heart of the griffon kingdom.
Twilight Sparkle: I don’t know if either of you have read Bygone Griffons of Greatness, but griffons were known to be—
Rainbow Dash: Rude, insensitive bullies?
Twilight Sparkle: You mean Gilda?
Rainbow Dash: Yeah, I mean Gilda! When she came to Ponyville, she was a total jerk to all my friends. Especially Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie: She was a bit of a party pooper.
Rainbow Dash: Mhm.
Rainbow Dash’s initial reaction to hearing about griffons comes off as akin to racism to me. I feel like a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions people have about other cultures stem from knowing only one person from them that they didn’t get along with, and that’s exactly why Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie have such a negative impression of griffons. By having them talk down the griffon species from just one example, this scene tells us that this episode will focus on getting to know another culture in earnest while recapping one of the earliest episodes of the show.
On this topic, it’s been SO long since we last heard from Gilda. She was a one-time character up until this point, but she does have the advantage of appearing as early as the show’s fifth episode. This means in the eyes of fans, she has a prominent place in the show’s cast, especially in the show’s early years. Trixie is a similar deal, though it took her only half as long to reappear and in season 6 she became a mainstay recurring character. As I’ve said before, season 5 loves its throwbacks to early seasons. I don’t view them as throwbacks just for the sake of throwbacks: now that the show has gotten the obvious episode ideas out of the way, a new thing it can do is revisit and flesh out things we learned about in earlier seasons. This episode is a perfect example because it takes one character we met in season 1 and shows us around the entire village she lives in, giving viewers a much better picture of what griffon society is like.
Twilight is jealous of the other two for getting to see the griffon kingdom in person, but she knows not to disobey the map’s calling.
This poor girl just has so much respect for authority.
Twilight Sparkle provides us an exposition sequence about griffon history, telling us about a golden trophy called the Idol of Boreas that supposedly caused the griffons to be mighty and powerful and turns out to be the episode’s MacGuffin. She then says that Gilda’s visit inspired her to get the book on griffons, and she’s been hooked ever since. She’s a lot like a fan who became intrigued by griffons after Gilda’s debut and started consulting (or writing) tons of fanfiction about griffon lore. I think every adult fan of the show can see some of themselves in Twilight Sparkle. Or at least the fans who write lengthy detailed reviews of every episode.
As the group’s plucky free spirit, Pinkie Pie is eager to go to Griffonstone, but Rainbow Dash is much more reluctant. I think these two are fitting choices to see Gilda again and bring some friendship to the griffons: Pinkie Pie because she’s naturally bouncy and happy, and Rainbow Dash because of her childhood history with Gilda. Plus, they’re the same ponies who interacted with Gilda last time, making this a great way to follow up on Griffon the Brush Off.
Rainbow Dash imitates Twilight Sparkle as she reads a passage from the book about Griffonstone that Twilight made for them. The tricky thing about animated characters imitating one another is that the voice actors need to be careful not to imitate the other character too well. Rainbow Dash is imitating Twilight Sparkle not through voice but through intonation, which is a good way to make the imitation believable.
I love how Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie’s journey to Griffonstone is narrated in Twilight Sparkle’s voice. It shows that while they were reading the book, every single word echoed to them in the excited tone Twilight Sparkle exhibits in her never-ending lectures about history, and she felt that giving her friends this book was the next best thing to coming along with them.
When Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie arrive in Griffonstone, the town turns out to be in much worse shape than expected. Rainbow Dash’s first remark is that the map maybe should have sent Rarity, which is a common pattern in friendship mission episodes like this: at first, the characters sent over remark someone else would be better suited to the job. In some cases, they may well be right—another character would solve the problem more efficiently than they could, BUT it wouldn’t make for as interesting of a story. The Cutie Map (the map, not the episode) is a convenient plot excuse to send characters off to certain locations, especially those they wouldn’t dare to visit otherwise. This simple excuse works well because it gives episodes more time to explore the location where a friendship problem awaits.
Rainbow Dash isn’t nearly as excited to see Gilda again as fans were.
Pinkie Pie: Maybe we should just find the palace so we can ask the king what’s going on!1
Gilda: We don’t have a king, losers.
Rainbow Dash: Hello, Gilda.
Pinkie Pie: Pinkie!
Rainbow Dash: What are you doing here?
Gilda: Uh, I’m a griffon? What’s your excuse, dweebs?
Right when she sees Gilda, Rainbow Dash changes her tone of voice to be much more confrontational, and for all we know, Gilda may have done the same. This is a relationship in need of repair, taking place in a town that’s also in need of repair.
Pinkie Pie: Hey! These dweebs are here to help Griffonstone.
Gilda: Help it what?
Pinkie Pie: Well… we’re not really sure. But it involves a map and cutie marks and problem and—
Gilda: Bored now.
Pinkie Pie: Well, if you don’t have a king, can you at least tell us where the Idol of Boreas is?
Gilda: Haha, don’t tell me you really believe in that thing.
I find it interesting that Gilda immediately waves off the importance of the Idol of Boreas, because in the end she’s right about it. While this show has a common theme of its in-universe mythology being real, this episode subverts the pattern by having the treasure turn out to be—say it with me—a MacGuffin. You know, an item that characters spend half of an episode or movie looking for but isn’t used in the end. But we don’t know this yet, and for now her dismissal of this object helps her come off as disillusioned.
Grandpa Gruff comes out of his house and, after being paid two bits, tells the story of the Idol of Boreas and how it supposedly united all the griffons. Rainbow Dash is visibly bored at this story, and Gilda imitates Grandpa Gruff’s extravagant gestures to show her similar disinterest. This subtly shows that Gilda and Rainbow Dash have traits in common that once made them friends; they just had an unfortunate falling out.
The story continues where Twilight Sparkle’s book about griffons left off: one day, a fierce creature named Arimaspi stole the idol after a bunch of fighting, and then fell into an abyss taking the treasure with him. After this event, Griffonstone lost all its pride and triumph, which led to its current shoddy state. Although the golden idol doesn’t have some magical power to bring everyone joy and friendship, Twilight Sparkle had told us that griffons take great pride in monetary possessions, so the older residents of Griffonstone surely see it as something special and powerful.
Likely reminded of Daring Do’s escapades, Rainbow Dash decides she needs to go find the treasure and bring glory to the griffons, but Gilda scoffs at her “pony heroic complex”. It sounds like Gilda has a lot of stereotypes about ponies too: that they’re always full of themselves and think they know better than any other species. Whether or not you think Gilda was treated unfairly in her debut episode, it’s clear that she and Rainbow Dash ended with similarly sour opinions on each other. I could compare this with Twilight Sparkle’s strained relationship with Trixie, but that’s a topic for next season.
This isn’t the first time where Pinkie Pie gave an inanimate object a voice—surely you remember her mental breakdown in Party of One.
It’s cute to see her do this outside of a nightmarish context.
While Rainbow Dash sets off to dive into the abyss and lands in a store to buy the necessary equipment, Pinkie Pie looks for the library Twilight Sparkle mentioned only to find it in shambles. Then she brainstorms what to do by pretending to talk to the statue of King Grover.
Pinkie Pie: It’s sad what happened to your town, king, but Rainbow Dash can’t be right. This can’t all be because of a missing hunk of gold.
Pinkie Pie: (imitating King Grover) You are right, Pinkie! And you’ve got amazing hair.
Pinkie Pie: Aw, King Grover. You old charmer.
This passage shows that it was smart of the Cutie Map to send Pinkie Pie along. While Rainbow Dash was friends with a griffon in her youth, she also gets carried away with the pursuit of adventure and will easily believe that this mission hinges on finding some coveted golden object. In contrast, Pinkie Pie feels that the solution to the problem must involve bringing about some smiles.
Do you think Pinkie Pie was going to sing the usual Smile Song, or a special version of it catered towards griffons?
She did say the song was sure to make any griffon smile, and it didn’t work on Cranky Doodle Donkey.
Pinkie Pie’s first idea for how to bring smiles is to do a musical number, which is shot down when Gilda reveals a sign that prohibits singing.
Pinkie Pie: But… how do you break into uplifting musical numbers with no singing?
Gilda: Yeah. That’s Griffonstone’s biggest problem. Lack of uplifting musical numbers.
Note that Gilda sarcastically states that the lack of uplifting musical numbers is Griffonstone’s biggest problem. This statement implies that Gilda thinks Griffonstone does have major problems, despite how dismissive she was about saving the town before. It shows that deep down she longs for a better life in this town, and she’s just trying to suppress it.
… Or maybe her statement about Griffonstone’s biggest problem was sincere? Maybe she really does think that the town has no bigger problems than a lack of musical numbers? The sarcastic interpretation obviously makes more sense, but you could logically read this statement as sincere too. Just saying. (Wait, actually, you can’t. Gilda later says she’s trying to save bits to move out of Griffonstone.)
Pinkie Pie is horrified to learn that she can’t throw a party or bake a cake for Gilda either. Normally singing, parties, or cakes are how she makes friends with others so easily, and if these options don’t work, she resorts to brute force. Gilda does at least have some griffon scones for Pinkie to try, but they are inedible and end up chipping her teeth. Nevertheless, Pinkie continues on her quest to befriend Gilda.
We’ve met a lot of different griffons in this episode. Tons of new characters for fans to obsess over!
Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash is taken to a cliff by a cranky griffon who demands money for every little task, even asking simple questions. In these scenes, I think there’s a lesson to take about how material wealth won’t automatically make you happy.
Pinkie Pie: Grandpa Gruff’s recipe is good, but it’s missing one important ingredient.
Gilda: Don’t tell me. Friendship?
Pinkie Pie: Uh, no. Baking powder. Lucky for you, I never leave home without it!
Another stereotype Gilda has about ponies is that they always talk about friendship, friendship, friendship, so much that the word is now meaningless to her. Typically, characters who stereotype ponies (or just the Mane 6) this way have had a previous falling out over friends, and Gilda is a good example. Season 5 features a lot of characters who feel disillusioned about friendship because of a bad experience in life, and such reveals often lead them to have redemption arcs.
Many fans surely thought Gilda had a sensitive side beneath her grumpy attitude, which must make the scene where she momentarily helps up another griffon named Greta rewarding for them. Just for a split second, we see that Gilda looks out for her friends, but immediately afterwards she’s back to denying it.
Pinkie Pie: A-HA! I saw that, Gilda! You may act like a gruff, grumbling griffon, but inside you’re gracious and great.
Gilda: What are you talking about?
Pinkie Pie: You just helped your friend up when she got knocked down.
Gilda: What, her? Greta’s just some griffon I know. We don’t have friends here.
Gilda: (sigh) I did have a friend once. But you saw how that turned out.
Through friendliness and perseverance, Pinkie Pie has gotten this cranky griffon to open up to her just a little bit! Enough to admit at least that she once had a friend. There’s an end in sight for her hard feelings with Rainbow Dash, but before Gilda can elaborate on their backstory, Pinkie Pie heads off to find her friend.
Unable to fly right down due to the wind, Rainbow Dash dives into the abyss with a rope, but then the rope snaps and she’s stranded inside. Rainbow Dash’s hero complex has bitten her back; she thinks Griffonstone needs a big brave hero to save the day, unaware that many prior griffons have tried and failed to get that artifact out.
Pinkie Pie’s literal-mindedness proves unhelpful in this situation: when asked to throw a rope, she doesn’t realize that the rope is supposed to be attached to something, so Rainbow Dash ends up with a useless string of rope. What Rainbow Dash needs is a fellow brash and adventurous type to get her out; a dire situation like this is the only way Gilda can reveal her inner warm heart. The cliff of stone cracks further, and Rainbow Dash panics.
The flight camp seen in this flashback was first mentioned back in Gilda’s debut.
Same goes for the flight camp catchphrase, which they both recited with enthusiasm here.
Pinkie Pie goes back to Gilda, who finally reveals her backstory with Rainbow Dash. It turns out that back at Junior Speedster Flight Camp, a camp populated almost entirely by ponies, Gilda was a lonely outcast until she became friends with Rainbow Dash. I have to admit that ultra-shy Gilda comes off as excessively sugary to me, but the point of the flashback is clear: to confirm that she and Rainbow Dash really were friends back in the day. Her eyes get watery as she sets off to help Rainbow Dash, but then she denies that this makes them friends.
This is the skull of the Arimaspi. It’s rare for the show to get this explicit with deaths!
Gilda finally comes in to rescue Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie joins them so that the three land in a life-threatening situation. This is quite an enticing sight: the Idol of Boreas is in plain sight, and Gilda almost manages to grab it!
But she doesn’t do it after all, and I really like the way this scene is executed. We don’t see some predictable cheesy nonsense like Gilda flipping her eyes back and forth trying to decide whether to save the idol or her friends. Instead, after she loses grasp of the idol, the scene cuts to Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash in peril until they’re pulled up by Gilda, and the pointless MacGuffin falls into the pit. It’s a perfect way to confirm that Gilda cares about her friends (and sees them as friends) after all. While she tried to grab the chunk of gold at first, when she realized her friends were in grave danger, she saved them without a second thought.
Gilda apologizes to Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash for how she treated them, and I must say that was a very elegant and natural redemption arc. From season 5 onwards, the show has a lot of episodes where villains or rude one-off characters are given redemption arcs, and while some are highly contested, this one works well because we had initially only known Gilda on a surface level. While we already knew she was childhood friends with Rainbow Dash, she had never before been put into a situation where she must demonstrate whether she cares about her friends. She proves that she does after all, and the one remaining question is how Griffonstone will get by without that lost treasure.
Not shown: Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash’s cutie marks flashing.
The answer is of course friendship, and Gilda is finally willing to give it a shot. She gives a scone enhanced with Pinkie Pie’s baking powder to another griffon, who is at first weirded out but then says it tastes good, and Gilda says that’s the first nice thing any griffon (not anypony!) has said to her.
Wild gag sequences like this have made Pinkie Pie’s character grow on me.
(But no other Mane 6 member can surpass Twilight Sparkle. She will always be my favorite.)
The touching ending where Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie confirm they’re Gilda’s friends, and Gilda pleads for them to stay in touch with her, is interspersed with a few gags from Pinkie Pie like a short commercial parody segment advertising baking powder as something that can save any friendship. Clearly, this was the secret bonus moral of this episode: when you’re baking scones or cookies or anything of that sort, don’t EVER forget about baking powder.
The episode ends with a dual reminder of Pinkie Pie’s quirks: she says goodbye to the statue of King Grover and awkwardly says “nopony” when Rainbow Dash asks who she’s talking to, then she wonders how Gummy has been with his baking recipe and we see that he still hasn’t started. When she’s not having a mental breakdown, Pinkie Pie knows that most people don’t talk to inanimate objects and endearingly feels a little embarrassed about doing so.
I love when an episode of this show brings back an old one-time character in a follow-up episode that blows the original to shreds and this episode goes the extra mile by giving Gilda a redemption arc. Given Gilda’s longtime popularity among fans, it would be injustice to bring her back without giving her a sympathetic side. This episode puts Gilda in a dramatic situation with characters she’s previously interacted with to bring out a new side of her, mixed with the right amount of worldbuilding and goofy humor to not distract from the heartfelt conclusion. The ending is a little sappy but in a self-aware way, and it sets the stage for future appearances of griffons to come.
Technically this grade is only one level higher than Griffon the Brush Off, but don’t be misled: that episode only barely managed to get a C.
- Pinkie Pie’s fake voice for King Grover is pretty far removed from her regular voice, which makes it obvious she’s played by a skilled voice actress. But in all fairness, her voices for the inanimate objects in Party of One were similarly outlandish, so this does have precedence. Besides, I feel like if any character in this show should be allowed to deviate from her regular voice, it’s Pinkie Pie.
After this episode brought back a longtime fan favorite character, the next one consists entirely of juicy fanservice. Can you believe Slice of Life is right on the horizon?! It feels unreal to me.
See you next week as I shamelessly gush about the cool fanservice and lovely details and off-the-wall jokes in the 100th episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Remember, that episode will get a post all to itself.