Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 63: No Second Prances

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Season 6, Episode 6

My first MLP post written inside my new house that I own is a MASSIVE doozy. Are you prepared for lots of words about a love/hate triangle between three magically oriented mares? You better be.

Season 6 Episode 6: No Second Prances

In five words: Twilight Sparkle demonstrates double standards.

Premise: Twilight Sparkle wants Starlight Glimmer to make a new friend, and she’s shocked and infuriated when that new friend turns out to be Trixie, even though she’s forgiven Starlight Glimmer for much worse actions than anything Trixie ever did.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with a low-stakes slice of life scene between Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer, which is possibly my favorite way to begin Starlight’s episodes. I should clarify here that I’m not just OK with Starlight Glimmer being reformed, or tolerant of how much screen time she gets in this season. I massively enjoy her as a character, both before and after reformation, and she’s one of my favorite characters in the entire show. She’s a character whose name I’d eagerly put between the phrases “I love” and “so much”. Or put more concisely: I love Starlight Glimmer so much.

Twilight Sparkle: First lesson of the day: we very carefully set the table without using magic. So that—YIKES!
Twilight Sparkle: Did you— how— when— WHAT?!
Starlight Glimmer: What?
Twilight Sparkle: I said, no magic. You were supposed to do it by hoof so I could work in a friendship lesson.
Starlight Glimmer: Oh. I heard “set the table” and just kind of went for it.

Part of making a good reformed villain is to make them frequently miss the point when someone tries to teach them a friendship lesson, and no character does this better than Starlight Glimmer. She might be even more impulsive after reformation, because she wants to impress her mentor at all costs. Sounds like another purple unicorn well-versed in magic, doesn’t it?

Twilight Sparkle: I just want to make sure you’re ready for this dinner. Princess Celestia will be joining us tomorrow night to see how the friendship lessons are going.
Starlight Glimmer: If it’s just you, me, and Princess Celestia, why are there four seats?

Notice that Starlight Glimmer didn’t ask something like “so who’s the fourth guest?” Though she’s super smart in most respects, she’s slow to put pieces together about friendship. Starlight needs it spelled out that she has to pick her own fourth guest, and that it can’t be one of the Mane 6 or Spike.

Twilight Sparkle: Well, the whole point is for you to bring a new friend. That way, the princess will see for herself just how far you’ve come. And how good a teacher you have.

After becoming a princess and getting her own student, Twilight Sparkle’s desire to impress Celestia hasn’t gone away. She wants her mentor to see how good she is at being a mentor, and Twilight’s main intent behind this meeting is to impress Celestia, as will soon be clear. (Also, do you know how much it hurts me not to end the line I quoted with a wink emote?)

Next up comes the classic “each Mane 6 member provides their own suggestion to a predicament that doesn’t work” sequence, which works especially well this time because it shows how Starlight plays off the rest of Twilight’s friends. To start, Pinkie Pie’s idea is to make friends with Mrs. Cake. Starlight Glimmer uses a combination of magic spells to bake an elaborate cake, and Mrs. Cake interprets this as a threat to take her out of business. Now, what is the most logical reason Mrs. Cake wouldn’t be impressed? My best guess is that Mrs. Cake mistook the creation of this cake for some sort of nefarious villain magic, since most unicorns can’t whip up a pastry so quickly.

Pinkie Pie claims the cake is delicious, but that’s not a high bar coming from her. I imagine that magically generated cakes have an extremely samey taste, like something straight out of a factory rather than the loving craft of homemade baking.

Starlight Glimmer had said earlier that she would force other ponies to be her friends through magic.
She claimed that was a joke immediately afterwards, but now I’m not so sure.

Applejack’s idea is for Starlight Glimmer to befriend Big Macintosh, and this is a really good scene. After getting the usual “eyup” and “nope”, Starlight Glimmer tries skipping to the end and uses a magic spell to make Big Mac extra talkative, causing him to freak out and run away. While it’s clear that ponies don’t respond well to forced magic spells, there’s a secondary takeaway from these scenes: the best way for someone to make a new friend is to naturally find one, not by following someone else’s idea.

Applejack knows something we’ll learn later this season: Big Macintosh used to be very talkative, and he actively chooses to keep his mouth shut.

Applejack: (grunt)
Starlight Glimmer: I can’t be friends with somepony who doesn’t talk.
Applejack: (grunts louder)
Starlight Glimmer: … And I guess my first instinct shouldn’t be to magically command ponies to act the way I want them to?
Applejack: (grunts even louder)
Starlight Glimmer: Alright! I’ll change him back.

Applejack’s protective instinct towards her brother is fierce, but in a sweet way. She knows more about Big Mac than her new friend does, and she isn’t happy that someone is making surface level assumptions about her family member. Starlight Glimmer has an insensitive side that strongly resembles Twilight’s, and unlike what some fans may think, I consider it an integral trait of both characters.

Rarity’s idea is to make an outfit for Starlight Glimmer that will let her give whatever friend she makes just the right impression. Her estimated time is three weeks, and I doubt it would take that long to make a dress. I think Rarity’s time estimate was more because it would take about three weeks for her to know Starlight Glimmer well enough to figure out what kind of dress would suit her, but let’s be real here. Rarity is much more interested in making Starlight a cute dress than introducing her to a new friend.

Rarity hides behind a cover while changing into a dress, which is yet another instance of her unnecessarily acting like a human. The first time Rarity did this, back in The Best Night Ever, it was explicitly pointed out, but now it’s an endearing running gag.

Rainbow Dash’s idea is for Starlight Glimmer to meet Spitfire, supposedly the Wonderboltiest Wonderbolt of all time, to which Starlight replies: “what’s a Wonderbolt?” Rainbow Dash reacts in shock, and I can relate to Starlight Glimmer here. There are way too many pop culture things that are common knowledge to most people but I know absolutely nothing about, and even if Starlight hadn’t spent the past several years running an isolated cult, it says something that she never knew who the Wonderbolts were as a filly. She was way too absorbed in books and magic spells.

Starlight Glimmer: You’re adorable, but… probably not what Twilight had in mind.
Fluttershy: (sigh)

Fluttershy’s scene is short and to the point, because her idea is exactly what you’d expect: Starlight Glimmer befriending her animals. In “each Mane 6 member presents an idea” sequences, that’s what Fluttershy’s ideas always are. The brevity of this scene helps its humor value.

Looks like we have some extra spa ponies besides the usual duo!

Starlight Glimmer monologues to herself about the difficulties of friendship and screams out loud in stress, then she heads over to the spa for some relaxation.

Starlight Glimmer: (sigh) This is just what I needed.
Trixie: (sigh) Tell me about it.

This episode cleverly takes advantage of the fact that we haven’t seen Trixie since season 3 by making her first appearance mysterious. Her popularity among fans means a return to the spotlight needs to have some buildup.

Starlight Glimmer: You ever have one of those days?
Trixie: For me, they’re all one of those days.
Starlight Glimmer: (laughs)
Trixie: I’m gonna start coming here every time I visit Ponyville.
Starlight Glimmer: I’m not from here either. I’ve been trying to make friends, but it’s not easy. They’re not saying it, but I think everypony knows about my past.
Starlight Glimmer: I… may have been… a tiny bit… completely and utterly evil?
Trixie: Ponies judge me on my past too.
Starlight Glimmer: Finally, a pony I can relate to.

I love the way Starlight Glimmer and Trixie immediately click without seeing each other’s faces—an especially common pattern when making friends online. The absolute best way for a friendship to begin is to meet someone accidentally and immediately realize you have tons of things in common, especially in contrast to other people who you don’t have much to relate to. It’s such a wondrous and thrilling feeling, and it normally happens by total accident.

Starlight Glimmer excitedly introduces her new friend, who turns out to be none other than Trixie. I love how uncomfortable Twilight looks here. You might have thought she and Trixie made up at the end of Magic Duel, but no, their rivalry is still intact. And I have a very good explanation for why.

When these three are in a room together, only Starlight behaves like a responsible adult.
Twilight and Trixie spend the entire time hate flirting with each other.

Twilight’s smug smile comes first, and Trixie returns it.

Starlight Glimmer: You know each other?
Twilight Sparkle: You could say that.
Trixie: We’ve had our differences. What matters is, Twilight gave me a second chance. And I appreciate it.

The explanation is that Twilight Sparkle and Trixie have massive hate crushes on each other. While rivalry with romantic undertones is a common trope in media—think of Batman and the Joker, or Doofenshmirtz and Perry the Platypus—there is no way I can deny that the main reason I know it’s a thing is because of the quadrants in Homestuck. If you look at the smug smiles they briefly exchange, Twilight and Trixie are a perfect example of black romance. It’s represented by a spade in Homestuck, just like regular romance is represented by a heart and called red romance. The other two quadrants aren’t relevant to this post… well, OK, maybe clubs is, if you think Starlight can mediate between the other two. But that’s beside the point.

Twilight Sparkle finds Trixie obnoxiously self-absorbed, but she also has some level of rivalrous admiration for Trixie. She finds her duels against Trixie to be a great way to show what she’s made of, but she would never admit that to anyone. She acts pleasant and friendly one moment, but right when her hate crush enters the room, she becomes extremely smug and haughty, because she doesn’t want to express weakness in front of her crush. She also would never admit to herself that she has feelings for Trixie, because going by the explanation of black romance in Homestuck, hate crushes are supposed to feel messed up and weird. If pressed about her crush, I can imagine her screaming, “I do NOT have a crush on Trixie!”

Trixie finds Twilight Sparkle obnoxiously goody two shoes, but she admires Twilight Sparkle’s magical skills beneath her jealousy. While Twilight always gets prestigious positions and a positive reputation handed to her, Trixie made a fool of herself at her first magic show and has been dealt a much worse fate since. One of Trixie’s main sources of joy is to get under Twilight’s skin and expose her haughty side, and she knows exactly how to annoy this purple goober. But she doesn’t completely hate Twilight, because if a black romance consisted only of hatred, it wouldn’t work at all. While she would easily admit she enjoys making Twilight squirm, I can imagine her screaming, “but that doesn’t mean I have a crush on her!”

And I can imagine Starlight Glimmer responding to both characters with “Uh-huh. Sure you don’t.”

Trixie overheard Twilight say something incredibly dorky about silverware placement.
Now she’s playing with it for seemingly no reason.

Trixie reveals that she’s going to perform a show called “The Humble and Penitent Trixie’s Equestrian Apology Tour”, and immediately after that, she and Starlight whisper to each other. It just feels so real how quickly they have hit it off, because they really do have a lot in common.

Twilight Sparkle: I know I said “make friends with anypony”, but, well… Trixie’s past and your past… I’m not sure she’s the best… first friend.
Starlight Glimmer: But whatever she did, you’ve forgiven her. Right?
Twilight Sparkle: Of course. It’s just… she wasn’t the nicest pony.
Starlight Glimmer: Well, you did say anypony, and I just assumed that you trust me to make my own friends the way Princess Celestia trusted you.
Twilight Sparkle: (sigh) You’re right. I trust you. Just be back in time for the dinner.
Starlight Glimmer: Thanks, Twilight! You won’t regret it!
(Starlight and Trixie walk out the door)
Twilight Sparkle: I hope not.

Some people might criticize this scene for Twilight Sparkle having an unfair double standard—she forgives Starlight Glimmer for brainwashing dozens of innocent ponies into a cult and nearly destroying Equestria, but she doesn’t forgive Trixie for briefly taking over Ponyville while her brain was corrupted. To which I respond: That’s exactly the point. Double standards are a real thing that happens to real people. Have you ever seen anyone forgive one person for doing something wrong, but harshly punish another person for doing the same thing? Or discriminate against a particular category of LGBT people, except for one person in that group who they’re friends with? Or talk about how great MLP:FiM is while thinking a different kids’ show having an adult fanbase is the stupidest thing ever? Double standards are real, and friendship is a big part of what causes them to happen, but also the best way to overcome them.

It turns out Trixie made a sculpture of herself out of silverware, and Twilight Sparkle rolls her eyes in response. Annoyance is an important part of any hate-based relationship, and Trixie is very good at annoying Twilight.

Now that Starlight Glimmer and Trixie are alone together again, let me say that they make SUCH a cute couple. In fact, they’re my favorite ship in the entire show. I just love everything about their dynamic so much, and unlike Twilight and Trixie’s rivalry, I think of them as a plain old red romance. Plus, I think it’s really funny to imagine a wacky animated quadrant diagram from Homestuck with the faces of Twilight, Starlight, and Trixie.

Anyway, as Trixie and Starlight set up the stage together, the residents of Ponyville mutter to each other and back away in fear of Trixie.

Trixie: Everypony always says they’ll give you a second chance, but deep down, they never forget.
Starlight Glimmer: That’s what I’m worried about.
Trixie: (sigh)
Starlight Glimmer: What is it?
Trixie: I heard what Twilight said about me. And she’s right. I wasn’t very nice. So, I’d understand if you didn’t want to be friends.
Starlight Glimmer: Are you kidding? You’re the first pony I’ve met who has any idea how I feel.

Here’s something important about Starlight Glimmer’s character that the show gradually realizes from this episode. Because she had a villainous, friendless past, she could never click that well with most of the main cast—only Twilight Sparkle and Spike. She needed a friend who truly understands the difficulties she’s been through, and Trixie is a perfect fit. If Starlight Glimmer only ever interacted with the Mane 6 like she was their newest member, I would have been pretty critical of her character. But instead, she becomes the leader of her own little group of supporting characters, and the show makes some excellent picks from its existing cast to add to that group.

Trixie: Can you keep a secret?
Starlight Glimmer: What are… friends for?
Trixie: The things I’ve done, I did them because I was jealous of Twilight. She’s just the best at everything, and I wanted to beat her at something.
Starlight Glimmer: Your secret’s safe with me.
Trixie: Thanks. Wanna help me unpack my wagon?

Do you ever have that feeling where you extensively interacted with someone for the first time and already feel that you can tell them all sorts of deep, personal secrets? Trixie has that feeling right now, and given the difficulties she’s dealt with, I can’t blame her. She looks around to make sure no one is listening before telling this secret to Starlight.

Starlight and Trixie walk together and share a laugh over Starlight’s villainous past, then Twilight Sparkle appears from inside a bush. Apparently, she was spying on her student and her nemesis the whole time.

Twilight Sparkle: So, how’s it going with your new friend?
Starlight Glimmer: Great. Thanks for asking in a completely not creepy way.
Twilight Sparkle: Because you know, if it isn’t working out for any reason, I can introduce you to my friend here.

A common debate topic about this episode is whether Twilight Sparkle or Trixie was in the wrong. My answer is “slightly Trixie but mostly Twilight”, which may surprise you considering I’ve been a massive fan of Twilight Sparkle ever since 2013. I think part of the fun of Twilight’s character is that she can be a jerk sometimes, and she’s definitely being a jerk in this episode. If she had trusted Starlight to pick her own friend, then Starlight and Trixie would have quickly realized they can learn lessons from each other’s pasts, and the conflict where Trixie reveals she was manipulating Starlight might have never happened. And plus, Twilight’s reason for hosting the dinner was mainly to show off her mentoring skills to Celestia, which is pretty self-centered.

Fun fact: the music playing out of Vinyl Scratch’s headphones is the cello dubstep improv tune from Slice of Life.

What follows is a sequence where Twilight suggests random background characters to be Starlight’s new friend. These fanservicey callbacks show that Twilight Sparkle is desperate for Starlight Glimmer to befriend anyone other than Trixie, no matter how ridiculous the choice.

Starlight Glimmer: So, back at your castle when you said “I trust you”, you meant “I don’t trust you”.
Twilight Sparkle: Who can really say? Who said what? I know I can’t. (to Vinyl Scratch) Can you?
Twilight Sparkle: Starlight, I’m just trying to look out for you.
Starlight Glimmer: (sigh) I appreciate it, but you’re wrong about Trixie. She’s just like me. We have a real connection.
Twilight Sparkle: That’s kind of what I’m afraid of.

Twilight and Starlight’s relationship in this episode feels almost as much like a parent and child as Celestia and Twilight’s relationship does. When Twilight worries that Trixie could return Starlight to her villainous old ways, there’s a hidden implication that she thinks Starlight isn’t smart enough to think for herself. This is a very common worry among helicopter parents, which especially causes friction if their children are young adults. It’s difficult for many parents to accept when their kids are old enough to make their own choices, and Twilight forgets that her pupil is an adult just like her.

How convenient that Twilight doesn’t seem to know Derpy’s name.

Twilight Sparkle’s next idea for a friend is Derpy, who kindly provides us some goofy slapstick to ease the pace before the next heavy conversation. Please give a round of applause to Derpy for this critical pace smoothing moment.

Starlight Glimmer: Please, Twilight. I know you’re trying to help, but… I need to make friends on my own if I’m going to become a better pony.
Twilight Sparkle: But do you really think Trixie’s the one to help you with that?
Starlight Glimmer: Wow. Trixie was right. You’re not really giving her a second chance. I wonder what that says about how you feel about me.

Another common pattern in this type of parent and child interaction is that the parent is a complete brick wall who refuses to back down from their views. The parent thinks that with enough convincing, the child will have a change of heart, which just makes the child want to rebel more.

Does this indirectly count as an appearance of Steven Magnet?
(Cranky’s wig is a part of Steven’s mustache.)

After this heavy moment, Twilight Sparkle completely misses Starlight’s point and gives another ridiculous idea for a friend. While typically known for her humility, Twilight can be full of herself when she wants to be, which is an important part of her character.

The piano music from this segment is used in the credits.

Trixie alternates between smugness and insecurity in her classic endearing Trixie fashion, and she reveals that there is one magic trick she hasn’t been able to perfect: one where she fires herself into the mouth of a manticore and comes out of a box unharmed. The trick had only ever been performed by Hoofdini, a ponified version of Houdini who is Trixie’s number one hero. I like this exposition sequence because it gives a small nerdy side to Trixie, showing she’s knowledgeable on a lot of stage magic history.

The joyful expressions on these two ponies warm my heart.

Starlight Glimmer: That sounds very…
Trixie: Dangerous?
Starlight Glimmer: I was gonna say cool!
Trixie: I knew I liked you for a reason.
(hoof bump)

Starlight Glimmer’s friendship with Trixie is wonderful and adorable and I love it so much. It’s also one of the biggest ways Starlight Glimmer remains an interesting character after reformation. By hanging out with Trixie, Starlight gets to retain her mischievous and rebellious side, which is one of her biggest differences from Twilight Sparkle.

Spell check doesn’t recognize the word “showhelper”, but the way Starlight says the word, it would feel weird to transcribe it as “show helper”.

Starlight Glimmer offers to help Trixie with her magic trick using a teleportation spell, and demonstrates it to prove she isn’t bluffing.

Starlight Glimmer: Maybe I could be your… magic showhelper pony.
Trixie: We call it “assistant” in magician biz. And… nopony’s ever offered to help before.
Starlight Glimmer: Well, I’d be honored.

Trixie looks genuinely touched when Starlight Glimmer offers to be her assistant, which makes me wonder how much she meant her later statement about why she befriended Starlight. I’m starting to have a good theory in mind, and while it might be totally different from your interpretation, I think it’s incredibly fun to interpret characters’ actions in ways you wouldn’t expect.

The mangled Greek letters in the poster’s title are a fun touch.

Trixie: We’re gonna blow them away tonight!
Starlight Glimmer: Ugh, I can’t. Tonight’s this incredibly important dinner with Twilight.
Trixie: Oh.

You might think that Starlight Glimmer totally forgot she was supposed to bring her new friend to the dinner, but I think she’s deliberately omitting this information. She wouldn’t want to bring Trixie because if she did, Trixie and Twilight would explode at each other and ruin the dinner. And then they would probably kiss.

It’s also notable how begrudging Starlight sounds when bringing up the dinner. The excitement of having a new cool friend makes her not want to do anything else but have long, engaging conversations with Trixie.

Starlight Glimmer: Can I vent for a minute?
Trixie: What are friends for?
Starlight Glimmer: Even after Twilight says she trusts me, she clearly doesn’t trust me enough to choose my own friends.
Starlight Glimmer: (sigh) I guess you were right. No second chances.
Trixie: (huffs) I wish I could say I was surprised. Well, lucky for Princess Twilight, I have my magic show tonight.
Trixie: If you have to go to the dinner, I completely understand. I just hope I find a way to survive the Moonshot Manticore Mouth Dive without my new assistant.

Instead of politely asking Starlight if she can skip out on the dinner, Trixie goes overdramatic guilt trip mode because she’s not the best at communicating with friends. And given her rough history in Ponyville, who can blame her? I don’t want to say Trixie is completely innocent here, but it’s far easier to defend her in this episode than to defend Twilight.

Celestia has arrived at the dinner, and her face shows that she’s known Twilight Sparkle long enough to easily detect when she’s dodging an awkward situation. She’s silent because she’s seen Twilight act like this dozens of times, and this isn’t anything new for her. In a forced, stilted tone, Twilight claims that Starlight Glimmer has made three new friends.

These truly are some wonderful friends Starlight has made.

And these three new friends are none other than Cranky Doodle Donkey, Vinyl Scratch, and Derpy Hooves! Everything about the image above is hilarious. Cranky looking bored, Vinyl Scratch jamming to music, and Derpy waving hi while munching on muffins. All three have absolutely no idea what’s going on, and all three know each other through their involvement in a wedding from last season.

Celestia didn’t say a word in this scene, but her face says everything.

Trixie: This is gonna be the greatest night of my life! Excuse me, our lives.
Starlight Glimmer: Ah, I’m so glad we’re not at that boring dinner.

Starlight doesn’t say it, but I bet her happiness about not being at the dinner is less because it’s boring and more because Twilight and Trixie can’t be in the same room without arguing.

Before you know it, Twilight and Trixie are in the same room, and guess what happens?

That’s right. They argue.

Twilight Sparkle: Ahem.
Twilight Sparkle: You just decided to skip our dinner without telling me? Are you aware that at this very moment, Princess Celestia is waiting for you at a table… with exquisite silverware placement?
Starlight Glimmer: Yes, but—
Twilight Sparkle: This is exactly why I didn’t want you to make friends with Trixie.
Trixie: A-HA! You still don’t trust me. But guess what, Princess. It doesn’t matter if you want to give me a second chance or not. Starlight had to choose between you and me, and she chose me! Your pupil chose me, so, HA! I win.
Starlight Glimmer: You win? That sounds like you just made friends with me to beat Twilight.
Trixie: Exactly!

This is the most controversial part of the episode: Trixie’s statement that she befriended Starlight Glimmer just to one-up Twilight Sparkle, and her awkward backpedaling that follows. But remember what I said about her hate crush on Twilight Sparkle? Trixie would never want to appear weak and sensitive in front of Twilight, so she greatly increases her smug attitude and momentarily forgets how much Starlight’s friendship means to her. In the heat of the moment, she’s so focused on one-upping Twilight that she accidentally says something hurtful to Starlight.

Man, look how heartbroken Starlight is.

Trixie: Wait! I mean, no. I got caught up in the moment. I like you. Beating Twilight is just a bonus. (facehoof) Oh, saying that didn’t help, did it?
Starlight Glimmer: I should have known. Nopony else in Ponyville wanted to be my friend. Why would you? (runs off crying)

Is it weird that I fully believe Trixie’s statement that she got caught up in the moment? I don’t think Trixie initially intended to befriend Starlight just to beat her rival. She and Starlight Glimmer immediately clicked when they first talked at the spa, and only later did Trixie learn that Starlight is Twilight’s pupil. Conflicts are an inevitable part of friendship, and the fact that Starlight and Trixie got into a friendship conflict so quickly indicates how easily they became friends.

Twilight Sparkle: Well, you won. I hope you’re happy!
Trixie: (sigh) Looks like the Great and Powerful Trixie is back to a solo show.
Twilight Sparkle: Trixie?

Though Twilight Sparkle starts off genuinely angry at Trixie, her face switches to a look of concern when she says “Trixie?” She is starting to realize for the first time in her life that Trixie has feelings too.

Trixie: Which is exactly the way she likes it! Thank you, Princess Twilight, for getting rid of that annoying pony who wanted to be my first friend. I am not sad at all. I definitely don’t feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces.

But Trixie does not want her rivalry with Twilight Sparkle to end, so she backpedals and displays a trait she shares with Twilight: being extremely bad at denying her feelings. The line “I definitely don’t feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces” carries a LOT more weight than “I feel like my heart is breaking into a million pieces” would. Describing feelings in media is frowned upon compared to displaying them, so by denying a common description of what it feels like to lose a friend, Trixie is displaying how heartbroken she is that she ruined her new friendship.

Trixie: Come one, come all. Come and see the Pathetic and Friendless Trixie’s Way to Go Dum Dum You Really Messed It Up This Time Repentance Tour.
(crowd mutters in confusion)

Because Trixie is naturally so overdramatic, I think the crowd has trouble telling whether her forced, unenthusiastic tone is an act or not. They, too, aren’t used to the idea that the pony who briefly took over their town while under control by a magic amulet could have feelings.

To many viewers, it comes off as strange that Fluttershy is so scared of the manticore, given that she has a good track record dealing with scary-looking animals. She fearlessly dealt with a manticore in Friendship Is Magic, Part 2, so why would she be scared here? Luckily, there are several easy explanations. She could be scared that the manticore is chained against his will (the explanation Jim Miller gave), or that the manticore could swallow a pony whole, or both. It’s always convenient when a continuity error has an alternate explanation, both for the show’s staff and for me.

Content warning: The next few paragraphs contain discussion of suicide. Specifically, a scene that could be interpreted as a suicide attempt.

Trixie’s show has only attracted a small audience, which shows how much her name in Ponyville has been tarnished.

Trixie continues sounding forced as she explains her magic trick, but her emotions increase as she says she was supposed to do it with a friend. She walks toward a cannon and gets ready to fire herself in the manticore’s mouth, which many fans interpret as a suicide attempt. While it’s possible to think of something less depressing—perhaps the manticore would have spat Trixie out, causing her embarrassment on stage instead of ending her life—there’s no denying that this is a valid interpretation, and it weighs down this episode for some fans. Perhaps the episode could have conveyed that someone who fails this magic trick will be spat out, but that would have dampened the fear factor, so I don’t know how I feel about this topic.

Wait, here’s another more innocent explanation. Perhaps Trixie can see Starlight Glimmer in the distance, and she’s using this magic trick as a trust exercise to prove to the world (and to herself) that Starlight truly is her friend. Actually, I like this explanation a lot more than the suicide one.

Twilight Sparkle’s lines are interspersed with Trixie preparing to fire the cannon.

Twilight Sparkle: Starlight, when I first moved to Ponyville, Princess Celestia gave me room to make my own decisions, and my own friends. I need to give you the same freedom. I shouldn’t have tried to choose your friends for you.
Twilight Sparkle: Just like me, you have to make your own decisions, and your own friends.
Starlight Glimmer: But… what if Trixie really was using me just to one-up people?
Twilight Sparkle: From what I’ve seen, she’s the real thing.
Twilight Sparkle: But it’s not my place to judge. It’s all up to you.

This is a really sweet scene. It feels like a parent having a change of heart about restricting their child’s freedom, but the child now thinks that maybe the parent was right. It’s a common pattern in such interactions, even between the same parent and child. Twilight first learned to give her student some freedom in The Crystalling, but it takes multiple conflicts for a parent to truly let their child be independent. This case is tricky because the child is doing something that the parent doesn’t personally like, and the parent has to recognize that this may be healthy for the child.

Trixie: Starlight, if you’re out there, and you still want to be friends, let’s be great and powerful together. Please?

This line, especially with Trixie’s fearful tone, sounds like it’s meant to indicate that this is not a suicide attempt, but clearly it didn’t get through to everyone. While Trixie really doesn’t want to end her life over losing a friendship, it also feels like she thinks life isn’t worth living without Starlight Glimmer as a friend. For Trixie, Starlight is the kind of friend that makes you constantly think “oh WOW, being friends with this person is the best thing that’s ever happened to me”, and Starlight is going to show she feels the same.

“Hoofdini made it seem so easy”, I can imagine Trixie thinking.

And so, the magic trick is performed successfully, though Trixie comes out feeling hazy. Then she proudly reveals her great and powerful assistant and best friend Starlight Glimmer, giving this episode a heartwarming ending.

Twilight Sparkle: Trixie!
Trixie: What do you want?
Twilight Sparkle: I was wrong. I’m sorry. And I have to hand it to you, I could never have pulled off a trick like that.
Trixie: Thank you, Princess. (bows her head)

I find it amusing that every time Twilight Sparkle and Trixie reconcile, they’re back to smugly hating each other the next time they meet, as we’re going to see in this season’s finale. This is a perfectly natural part of not just hate-based romance, but any comedic rivalry between two characters.

Trixie puts on some fireworks, seemingly ending this episode on a cheesy happy note…

Twilight Sparkle clearly wasn’t that interested in the dinner either. She just wanted to show herself off to Celestia.

And instead, she made a total fool of herself.

Cranky Doodle Donkey: How do you get your hair to do that all the time?
Celestia: (sigh)

… but instead, it ends on a comedic note, with the classic “here’s what everyone we left behind is up to”. I love how Celestia’s only line in this episode is a sigh, and I love how not until now has anyone pointed out the unusual flowing properties of Celestia’s mane. She’s clearly tired of explaining this, and it’s something left for fans to decide.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is filled with controversial scenes, ranging from Twilight Sparkle’s double standard to Trixie’s statement about one-upping Twilight to Celestia’s boredom at the dinner, but that’s part of why I enjoy it so much. It shows a lot of characters’ negative traits by putting them in tough situations to see how they react. And it all culminates in one of my favorite dynamics of the entire show: Starlight Glimmer’s friendship with Trixie. They are just so heart-meltingly cute together.

The other main thing I like about this episode is that the character interactions all feel incredibly believable and real. Starlight and Trixie are the strongest case of this, with their joyful enthusiasm that’s common when you’ve made a new friend and are wowed by how cool they are—a situation I’m very familiar with—and the similarly familiar heartbreak when you and your friend got into a nasty conflict. Twilight and Starlight behave very much like a parent and child; the parent is well-meaning but pushy, and the child badly wants the parent to see them as an adult, which is a feeling I know all too well. Even Trixie and Twilight’s love-hate relationship has some degree of realism—plenty of people have someone who drives them crazy but they also subtly admire.

I knew my review of this episode was going to be huge, but I did not expect it to have so much earnest discussion on the thrill of making a new friend or the difficulties of pushy authority figures. Even the overall thoughts turned out longer than expected! On the other hand, the extensive comparison of Twilight Sparkle and Trixie’s relationship to troll romance had been in my mind for almost two years, ever since I reviewed Boast Busters, and it feels wonderful to have finally written it. I had been thinking about Homestuck the whole time, hence the mystery.

Grade: A

Hooray for four A’s in a row! The rest of season 6 is more of a mixed bag.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • It wouldn’t be right to analyze episodes featuring Trixie without at least once mentioning the popular headcanon that she’s transgender, but discussing it in this review would be too tangential. For that reason, I made a side post discussing this headcanon, if you’re interested.
  • To expand on my hypothetical criticism of Starlight Glimmer’s character if she were just treated as the newest Mane 6 member, imagine how much cooler CJ from Regular Show would have been if she regularly interacted with other supporting characters, instead of serving just as a second love interest to Mordecai. Or Thomas, for that matter—perhaps he could have joined supporting characters in their escapades, but at least in his case, the twist made him a much more interesting character. This just makes me admire even more how successfully MLP added a prominent character midway through its run.
  • This episode is the first time DJ PON-3 is namedropped, and Twilight Sparkle interestingly pronounces it as “DJ pone-three” instead of “DJ pony”. I’m guessing that’s to make it extra clear that one of her fanon names has been canonized. I’m still calling her Vinyl Scratch because it’s faster to type.
  • At the dinner with Celestia and the three randomly selected guests, Twilight Sparkle notably says “everyone” instead of “everypony”. I genuinely wonder if she did that to be inclusive to Cranky Doodle Donkey, who is not a pony.

The next character to be viciously denied a second chance is Rainbow Dash, after gaining an embarrassing nickname.

See you next week for my first two-episode post of the year: an episode where Rainbow Dash achieves her dreams at a sharp cost, and an oddball Christmas episode. Hopefully, neither of these two reviews will be as huge as this one.

>> Part 64: Newbie Dash + A Hearth’s Warming Tail

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