Doing it Right

“I’ve gotten through a lot of bad movies by imagining a better movie. This is the first time I’ve seen a bad movie imagine a better version of itself.” – MovieBob, Escape to the Movies; Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two

It seems to me that most writers don’t know how to accept criticism. Specifically writers for animated series based on Hasbro franchises.

I remember once getting into a short discussion on Twitter with Amy Keating Rogers, one of My Little Pony’s better writers.

She was working as story editor on another series at the time, Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, and tweeted a clip from one of the episodes. I found the dialogue from the clip to be lacking, and a bit awkward. So I mentioned that to her. Her response? No, you’re wrong, fuck off (I’m paraphrasing).

Now, it’s not like I expected her to say: Oh shit, you’re right, it is terrible, you caught us! But something along the lines of: ‘One man’s opinion,’ or ‘well, you can’t please everyone,’ would have been fine. Ideally she would have said, ‘really? How so?’ and I would’ve explained that I found it to be a bit stilted and off. I could’ve even pointed to particular moments. Instead she, more or less, dismissed it.

Not that I’m saying anyone’s required to listen to the opinions of random douchebags on the internet, but to dismiss it in such a fashion is just… well… rude!

Then there was Magical Mystery Cure. I still think it’s the worst episode of the series, and most of the problems I found occurred in the first 12 minutes, before Twilight’s transformation. But it was also from one of the series’ best writers, so I think disappointment and disbelief are what fuelled my desire to see an actual response from him. I was desperate to hear someone prove me wrong and give a proper rebuttal to my criticism of the episode, and who better than the man who wrote it!?

But I understand why he didn’t respond to my tweets. There were hundreds of people criticizing the episode, and most of them were just irritating fanboys upset that something, or anything, had changed.

Their opinions can be dismissed outright. So my criticisms likely just faded into the douche noise. If everyone criticized my work for a stupid reason, I’d probably do the same thing. It’s basically the Man Covered in Shit problem.

Then there’s a more recent episode: Daring Don’t, where they took a character previously established to be nothing more than a character in a book, and made her a real character in the context of the show. It is of my humble opinion that that was a stupid fucking episode. Primarily because it was a stupid fucking premise that wasn’t even handled well.

But more recently, that episode got me to realize something. It got me to realize that despite everything I said earlier, even the writers on the show know when they’ve pumped out a bad episode. I say this because a more recent episode, Power Ponies, has a similar premise to Daring Don’t, except done well! Except done in a way that makes me think it was just written with the intent to say to David Polsky, “You idiot! This is how you do it!”

Not to say the episode is without its faults, and I honestly think this premise would’ve worked better in the Daring Do episode, and I’ll explain why. But since these reviews always end up doubling as episode summaries as well, might as well jump in with both feet.

The episode begins with Spike reading a compelling comic book, and telling Twilight all about it. But her expression makes me think of a condescending mother who does nothing more than humour him, and is not actually trying to get interested in it, or is even paying attention.

The next morning, the entire gang is at the old castle from Castle Mane-ia on a mission of restoration. I guess so it can be Twilight’s royal palace or something. Stay humble, princess.

But Spike is left with nothing to do, despite his best efforts to stay useful. So at Twilight’s urging, he goes off to a hidden room to finish reading.

Eventually, he reaches a mysterious blank page, instead of a proper ending. Confusing the hell out of him.

But he spots a tiny bit of text, and under a magnifying glass, sees that it says, “You can return to where you started, when the Mane-iac is defeated. Take a closer look, to join the adventure in this book.”

Now what could that mean!?

Oh…

Yes the book is some magical portal, and it pulls Spike in. And since the ponies just happen to enter the room at the same time, their attempts to pull him out just cause them to get sucked in as well.

But where’d they go!?

Gotham City? Well, they call it Maretropolis. But yeah, it’s Gotham City. Our heroes have been transported into the world illustrated by the comic. Which means that they have become…

The Power Ponies, superheroes of legend!

Now, I sort of had the same idea a while back. Giving the main characters superpowers would’ve been an interesting concept to toy with, but I never knew where exactly to take it, so I never started writing it. But I did concept it out and the first problem I ran into was this: They all already have superpowers! Rarity and Twilight have telekinesis, Spike can breathe fire, Rainbow and Fluttershy can fly, Rainbow Dash has super speed, Applejack has amazing strength, and Pinkie Pie… well, she’s something else. And that’s not even mentioning the multitude of spells Twilight’s come up with. So what would be the point in giving them any other powers?

Eventually, I came up with this: Twilight has phase shifting (this was before Pumpkin Cake demonstrated the same power), Rainbow can read minds, Pinkie Pie is super smart, Rarity can shape shift, Fluttershy has invulnerability and super strength, and Applejack has healing factor. The most interesting plot thread I could have pursued with this idea involved Scootaloo, as her and her friends find out, and the others acted as sidekicks to their sisters. As for Scootaloo, she would start acting as a sidekick to Fluttershy, annoying the hell out of Rainbow Dash. “What? Why would you!? But I’m awesome!”

Anyway, the point is, I worked hard to come up with those powers, and trying to come up with more powers for them to face off against, would’ve been harder. They’d have to be unique, they’d have to be powers no one else has, to justify the idea that only our heroes can fight against them. What could they do? As I said, super speed is redundant, Rainbow can already do that. Weather control? Same thing.

So in this comic, what powers do these new heroes have?

Twilight plays the Masked Matterhorn! Who can shoot energy beams out of her horn! Wasn’t that a power Twilight already had?

Pinkie Pie plays Fillisecond! Who has super speed! As I said, Rainbow already had that.

Rainbow Dash plays Zap! Who can control the weather. Again, that’s a power Rainbow already had.

Rarity plays Radiance! Who can temporarily conjure any object she desires on a whim.

Applejack plays Mistress Marevellous! Who is psychically connected to her lasso. Again, a power Twilight already had… more or less.

And Fluttershy plays Saddle Rager! Who, under extreme anger, can transform into a bulked-up monster.

Well, that’s a bit on the nose.

So, to summarize: We have Twilight, The Flash, Thor, Green Lantern, Twilight with a rope, and the Hulk.

You know, back when I wrote my Avengers review, I wasn’t trying to predict the future. I was just comparing character archetypes. The attitudes and general personalities of Thor and Banner were quite similar to Rainbow and Fluttershy, I just felt obliged to point it out. And when you think about it, it’s almost as if Captain America is psychically linked to his shield, isn’t it? It always comes back to him, even though it’s not boomerang-shaped! Halkeye’s arrows are so versatile they could stand in for energy beams. And Stark flies around the world at Mach 10! This is nuts!

Anyway, on to the matter at hand, the Avenger-ponies have to stop the Mane-iac from building her doomsday device. Who is the Mane-iac?

This pile of fuck! She’s like Doctor Octopus, only with her hair!

You’ll notice I keep comparing these characters to actual comic book superheroes, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. I actually don’t mind that they copied well-known comic book characters, because it basically acts as an homage, rather than a rip-off.

Anyway, what’s the point of this!? It’s just a comic book! Our heroes have to get home, not worry about some fictional land! Well, turns out the only way to get home is by saving this fictional land.

So, it’s time to defeat the villain. Spike coaches them on their powers, but since they never used them before, they have no idea how, and end up face-planting one-by-one.

So the villain gets away, and after Spike’s solo attempt to stop her, he realizes who he is: Humdrum! The bumbling comic-relief sidekick.

Aw, fuck.

Once they recover from that misstep. It’s time for round two. But first, these characters have to learn how to use their powers!

Oh, no, ten seconds of messing around in the background, and they’re all experts. The only ones who took to them naturally were Pinkie Pie, who ran off to the furthest bakery, and Applejack, who was instantly able to disperse Rainbow’s tornado once she was told how the rope worked. Fluttershy seems averse to turning into a giant monster, still a bit on the nose. And as for the other three? Yeah, they’re just apparently much better at using them ten seconds later.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got some type of montage showing them learning to use their powers under Spike’s direction? Probably! But I understand why they didn’t. Limited time, and even in the context of the episode, our heroes likely want to get home as soon as possible.

Regardless, it’s time for the second boss battle. Spike leads them to the big bad’s hideout, which he knows of because he was in the audience, and Twilight begins to explain her plan. Then Rainbow blows their cover.

“That’s not a plan!” – Twilight Sparkle

Cue standard fight with the big bad’s minions, just like every Batman film ever. So, of course they win.

Now time for the boss battle. Mane-iac arrives on the scene, but before our heroes can do anything, she attacks them with her Hairspray Ray of Doom! It de-powers, and freezes it’s targets instantly.

So, once Rainbow is neutralized, the others realize shit’s gotten serious, and decide the most rational and levelheaded thing to do would be to rush at the villain and get taken down in one swoop. Yeah, might as well get the ass-kicking over with.

Even Fluttershy gets hit, who wasn’t even using her powers! I was expecting both her and Spike to be the only ones left, both finding themselves useless.

That would’ve been nice. But no it’s just Spike. And after the others are taken captive, he’s left alone to go all Bruce Willis on the Mane-iac.

Meanwhile, Twilight begins to find that the hairspray is wearing off! Just as the team gets sprayed again. You see, super villains, if you’re gonna use a weapon that wears off over time, you should remember to reapply! Most of the time, they’d forget to do that. And Twilight’s expression, by the way, is subtle, but priceless. Come on, I can break free of this! Spray! Oh, dammit.

Though I have to say, since it wears off after only a minute or so, it’s a pretty shitty weapon.

So Mane-iac gives her pointless braggart monologue, as you do when you’re a comic book villain, and as far as I can tell, her doomsday device spreads whatever happened to her mane to the entire city. Or it causes crazy hair growth. Or the city has a mane, I have no idea. This scene could’ve probably done with a rewrite or two.

But anyway, the team takes this opportunity to do what they’ve needed to do for a while: Give Spike a pep talk. In response, he quickly forms a plan, and it works. After set up, it only takes two quick moves to neutralize the majority of the henchmen, and the stallion who was in charge of reapplying the hairspray. And thanks to good timing, the hairspray wears off, and the Power Ponies break out!

Cue one final battle, which reminds me of the final battle in the Avengers, only slightly less epic. We see multiple fights happening at the same time. Sometimes one hero will be kicking ass in the foreground, while another is kicking ass in the background. They work together, they work alone, and they basically kick ass. Everyone except Fluttershy, who just isn’t angry. That is until Mane-iac hurts a firefly.

HOLY SHIT! THAT HAPPENED!

Then Mane-iac decides to use her doomsday device on Flutterhulk, which is just stupid! You don’t fight the Hulk! You fucking run! The only one who ever stood a chance against him was freaking Thor! And he’s a god! You’re not a god!

But all she ends up doing is deflecting the beam back in Mane-iac’s face before smashing the shit out the machine.

Meanwhile, this happens:

Yeah, I don’t know either. But on the plus side, she’s finally defeated! So the gang is spat back out into reality.

WOO!

And with that, the episode closes.

But one question: Where did that comic come from!? Oh, from a store in Canterlot called The House of Enchanted Comics.

For those of you who don’t know, that’s their are-you-fucking-shitting-us!? face.

And I have to concur. Are you shitting us? That’s the only problem I can find with this episode. There are hints of a bigger story here, since the comic just appears out of nowhere, and then disappears into nowhere. But given the franchise’s history with this kind of stuff, I highly doubt it’s ever gonna pay off.

Remember, earlier this season, we were given hints of an arc? Well, so far, we haven’t gotten anything! Are they saving it for the end of the season? All the plot threads created by the mysterious box will be covered in the season finale? That’s not an arc, that’s two episodes, spaced six months apart! Why haven’t we seen even one of the mysterious keys yet?

But whatever, let’s just take it in stride. How was this episode? Fantastic! Comic book fans should love it! Pony fans should love it! And fans of comic book ponies should love it even more!

It feels like an homage to the Avengers, in actuality. I made the comparison earlier, and I still think it’s apt. And their powers match who they are. Rarity is so fabulous, of course she’s have a piece of jewellery as a weapon. Pinkie can never slow the fuck down, and as for Fluttershy… Well, her anger problems aren’t exactly news.

Even the groan-worthy tropes make sense in context, since they are actually in a comic book. Of course the villain would make an unprovoked gloat-monologue, she’s a comic book character.

This is also one of Spike’s finest episodes, but I don’t think they took full advantage of it. This is his comic, which means that if anyone knows their way around, it’s him. He would also know exactly how they can use and train their powers. Which is why I suggested the montage, so he could train them all in the ways of the superhero. Even having Twilight and Rainbow pulling him aside to ask for advice on how to use their powers would’ve added a lot.

It’s also worth noting that he’s pretty much the one who saves the day, and he’s the only one without superpowers. Props, little guy.

But going back to how I opened this little piece. The framework of this episode is exactly the same framework that would’ve made Daring Don’t work as an episode. The fangirl debate between Rainbow and Twilight, Daring Do’s dismissal of Rainbow Dash, as well as the line, “My work always involves secrets,” would’ve all made a lot more sense if this was the episode’s framework.

The reason for this is because they would’ve known exactly how accurate the books were, one hundred per cent, which would’ve given their debate a hundred per cent more weight; Rainbow wouldn’t have saved the world multiple times in Daring Do’s universe, meaning she wouldn’t have had any clout in the world-saving industry; and finally Daring’s secrets wouldn’t have been freely available in every major bookstore in the country, which would turn her into not a moronic twat.

So this episode was great, not only on its own, but as proof that an earlier episode wasn’t. You can’t get much better than that.

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