A Chance for Success: “The Expo Factor” review

A season finale is a chance to do something big, something epic, something amazing! Just like season premieres, or holiday specials, or mid-season two-parters.

This is opposed to the filler episodes that are produced because you’ve been commissioned for 26 episodes, and have to put something out.

Most shows operate in this vein. You have a few big event-based episodes, where most of the effort and budget goes, and other episodes are produced on smaller budgets so one has enough money to pay for the bigger episodes. Star Trek did this all the time. They were called ‘bottle shows,’ where old sets and props were reused, no major visual effects were added, and no major guest-stars were hired. The prime example might be Twisted, where the main cast was trapped on the holodeck and surrounding corridors, as a spacial distortion ran through the ship. Not much happened, and not much had to be built. I think the hardest part of production was the Photoshop filters they had to include.

It’s just the nature of the beast in live-action television. A low-budget episode has to use already-existing sets, and can’t do anything spectacular. Animation, on the other hand, can already be done on-the-cheap quite easily, even with new backgrounds, effects, and animation assets. Let’s be honest, I doubt it takes the animators more than an hour or two to knock out a brand new location. Especially with modern animation software. Draw a few dozen vectors and you’re done! Alright, I’m probably over simplifying. The point is, animation is cheap. You don’t need to hire an army of contractors to build a set, when you can hire three guys to draw stuff on computers.

Because of this, every episode can be big and epic. But you don’t want to devalue awesomeness. And one of the reasons I like My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop, is that the episodes rarely adhere to any kind of formula. It runs the gamut from charming slice-of-life, to balls-to-the-wall adventure. Because I remember watching Power Rangers when I was a kid, and after a while, it all gets kinda samey.

But when all is said and done, you want to end with a bang. Which is why I think a season finale should feature something big. The first season of My Little Pony, for instance, ended with the Grand Galloping Gala, which certainly fit the bill. Sure, there were no epic fight sequences, but it was a big event where a lot happened, and the anticipation was built up over several preceding episodes.

Much like the recent season finale of Littlest Pet Shop, where Blythe finally participates in the International Pet Fashion Expo!

This is something that we’ve been waiting on for months, since Blythe sold her scooter so she could enter the thing. References have been dropped since then, and one could assume it would be a large-scale adventure, much like the Grand Galloping Gala was.

Unfortunately, that really didn’t happen.

The episode opened with Blythe, anxious as hell over the expo. As she should be. If anything went wrong, it could spell the end of her entire career… before it even began! But the risk is obviously worth the exposure. And she’s about to get even more exposure, as a familiar face gives her a call.

Yes, it’s Mona Autumn, the well-meaning bully from earlier in the season, and she wants to do a story on Blythe and her designs. Naturally, there’ll be a photo shoot, where Blythe can do whatever she wants, and include whichever models she wants. So of course, she decides to include the entire main cast, and they’re all excited!

Well, everyone except Russell, who hates the spotlight, as was apparent during the let’s-make-a-commercial episode, when he curled into a ball, just because a camera was on him.

And what about the Biskits? If you’ll remember, they showed an interest in the expo as well! And when she catches them spying on her, Blythe decides to brag about how successful she’s going to be, and how awesome her kiosk is, and that she’s going to be in a major fashion magazine. Though why she decides to tell them this is beyond me. But it’s nothing on what the Biskits have, which is…

… they completely forgot… Which makes sense, since they never had any reason to be interested in the first place! But now they do, since their father has some big news that mustn’t be overshadowed by Blythe.

What big news? Well apparently Fisher is going to open a second store.

And because of this, Twombly is quite worried. Though, I don’t see why, exactly. Is Littlest Pet Shop conveniently located? And is Fisher’s new store going to open right next door? If not, then it couldn’t make things any worse. I thought people loved Littlest Pet Shop because they can buy awesome pet fashions. Largest Ever Pet Shop isn’t going to siphon that away, no matter how many stores they open.

Regardless, Twombly says this new threat means Blythe’s success at the expo, and her upcoming photo shoot, is much more vital, since the added publicity would equal added business.

So, no pressure.

Speaking of photo shoots, Blythe receives another call from Mona, explaining that they’re going for a ‘city girl in the jungle’ theme (which throws Blythe for a loop, since she was told she could pick her own theme), and they’re going to limit the photo shoot to just one pet. So it appears that they recharacterized Mona from a bitchy-like-a-fox character, to a crazy-and-possibly-senile character.

But regardless, Blythe told the pets they could all be in the shoot. So now what?

Well, the solution is simple. Zoe!

She has the most modelling experience. What else would you do?

Pick a name from a hat? Well, sure, that works too.

And the name she picks out? Russell!

Da hell!? Sod’s law I guess. But obviously, he protests. So he suggests a redraw, and thankfully, Blythe decided to wear the hat, with the names still in it. That must’ve been awkward to wear.

And the redraw winner? Russell!

Okay, that’s fucked. Let’s try again…

… Russell… What?

Yes, redraw after redraw, every pet pulls out Russell’s name. In all honesty, given that Russell’s the only one who doesn’t want to do it, one should probably take his name out. It’s the only possible name that results in everyone not getting what they want.

But seriously, what are the odds!? Well, one in 282,475,249, actually. Not as slim as winning the lottery, but still!

Whatever, it’s a nice gag.

So Russell just decides to give in. He’ll participate in the photo shoot, even though he doesn’t want to.

Meanwhile, a new visitor to the day camp:

Meet Delilah, the cockney cat! Ain’t dat raight den?

For those not in the know, the cockney accent is one common to the working-class of London, England. Which makes one wonder why a fashion diva would have a working-class dialect, she’d probably have trouble being accepted by the snooty middle-class snobs of the British fashion industry. Or at least, that would be an issue, if any human could understand her. Though I doubt her owners have a cockney dialect, so where’d she get it?

Anyway, cockney cat, whose dialect is so heavy the pets can barely understand her. I think she even indulges in a bit of rhyming slang, and if you know anything about rhyming slang, you know that it’s an entirely different language, and most of it makes no sense. Basically, dog means telephone. Though she doesn’t go that far. In fact, I can’t even tell.

Anyway, guess who finds himself smitten!

Yes, Sunil. And I find this adorable. I’ve already said these shows need more romance-based plotlines. And this one isn’t heavy-handed, and treated more as a running gag. Which is a great way to handle it. Can’t wait to see where it goes.

So Delilah has plenty of experience on the fashion circuit, and decides to tell all the pets exactly what the world of pet fashion, and more specifically, the International Pet Fashion Expo, is like. And she does it through a electro-pop musical number.

“I have consequently concluded that music is shit.” – David Mitchell

In all honesty, it’s not a bad piece of satire on the fashion industry… At least, I hope it’s satire.

The next day, it’s time for the expo and the photo shoot… and Blythe sleeps in. She apparently forgot to set her alarm accordingly.

But Twombly assures her she has plenty of time, all she has to do is hook her kiosk up to her scooter and… the hitch is missing. No big deal, Twombly has a vehicle, she can certainly… and someone slashed her tires.

Alright, seriously, who would do that?

Really? So, now they’ve upgraded from general bitchiness, to proper crime; theft and vandalism. This is not on.

So the episode ends with Blythe, finally defeated, having to retire from fashion in humiliation, and Littlest Pet Shop closing down.

Alright, no, that was just a cliffhanger, we have another episode to take care of.

Now, of course we all know the natural, and logical solution to this problem: Change the tire. Every car has a spare tire, just install it!

Well, no, instead Twombly turns one of her antique doorknobs into a makeshift trailer hitch.

Well, that wasn’t much of a crisis was it?

They arrive, set up, and have a pointless musical number/montage/flashback.

And after they’ve settled in, an announcement calls Blythe to the African pavilion. Which confuses her since she thought the photo shoot would be at the Moscow pavilion. But given the other unexpected changes, she decides to roll with it.

So Russell and Blythe head off, and the others rest inside the kiosk, which Blythe equipped with pillows.

And at the photo shoot, Blythe meets the photographer, who…

Okay, that’s a terrible disguise. It’s obviously Francois, the Biskits’ butler, in a wig. His facial hair is a different colour! That’s a dead giveaway! Blythe isn’t going to fall for this. Is she?

Actually yes. She does question where Mona is, and is suspicious of his excuse that she’s late, but doesn’t think to call her and ask. Instead Mona calls her to tell her off for being late.

Then she clues in that something was screwy. But it’s too late. Mona already has other appointments to deal with. And if only Blythe thought to explain to Mona that someone said he was her photographer, instead of just yammering like an idiot, she might have been able to get a second chance.

Instead, she loses the magazine article. But she still has her kiosk on the vendor’s floor.

Okay, is this girl cursed or something!?

Of course the Biskits took it, because they don’t have enough of a criminal record.

Oh, and the pets are still inside.

Well, except for Vinnie and Sunil, who were messing around outside. They spot the Biskits annexing the kiosk, and follow it to a storage locker. And with no way to get in, realize they have to find Blythe. But in such a large exhibition hall, where do they even start? Well, the answer is obvious, but it’s up to Zoe to shout it at them through the door: The public address system. And since they can’t ask someone to make the announcement for them, they have to make it themselves. But where do they go for that?

Thankfully, in their attempts to find the announcement office, they run across the cockney cat.

“Come on, we can all have a good flirt later!” – Vinnie’s face

And yes, thanks to her experiences at the expo, she knows exactly where to go. And I can only wonder, ‘How?’

They arrive, Delilah pulls an expert diversion, and Vinnie annexes the microphone, telling Blythe where to go. And I wouldn’t be surprised at this being some type of catalyzing event for a future Blythe’s-not-the-only-one storyline.

So they rendezvous at the storage locker, only to find the Biskits moved the kiosk once again, to a space on the exhibition floor. A space, I’ll add, one would likely have to pay for. And if they didn’t pay for it, it’s likely someone else did. So what would they do if the actual owner of the space arrived?

Well, that doesn’t happen. Instead, after they relabel it with one of the shittiest labels I’ve ever seen…

… they are able to hock it off as their own work, and end up getting displayed on the jumbotron.

Which is enough for Blythe to track them down, and confront them, in front of everyone, including Mona Autumn.

She explains that all of her designs were inspired by the various foreign trip episodes we’ve had this season, which is somehow proof the kiosk is hers. But Blythe’s key piece of evidence against them? The fact that the pets are stored inside, including one very agitated monkey.

Yeah, while she was trapped in the kiosk, Minka’s claustrophobia made her very anxious, and once she was released, she decided to let it all out on the idiots.

But Mona’s confused. What’s going on?

Uh… The two idiots were trying to pass Blythe’s work off as their own. What’s so hard to get about that?

Regardless, Francois arrives on the scene, removes his disguise, and explains exactly what everyone else got ten minutes earlier; That the Biskits told him to stage a fake photo shoot, so they could steal her kiosk.

So, of course he’s fired, but I doubt the Biskits realize how little impact that has, given that he more or less quit. Telling off your employer is generally the universal sign of quitting.

Then, Mona examines the photos he took, and decides to buy them off him. Well, close a door, open a window.

And given the circumstances, Mona decides to go ahead with the article. So all is well. And we also learn that the announcement of Largest Ever Pet Shop opening another store was bullshit. Fisher just says that any time he thinks another store is getting too much attention. And somehow, the idiots didn’t know. Though why Mona would is beyond me.

So Blythe wins best kiosk (which I’m pretty sure isn’t really a thing), and as the episode ends, everyone is happy.

Well, everyone that matters.

So what did I think?

The problem with this season’s finale is that nothing really happens in it. It just feels like a holding pattern. We get the Biskits scheming, which adds some drama, but not enough to make it interesting.

The cockney cat was fun, I hope to see more of her, and more flirting with Sunil. What would be really nice is a future episode where they go to London, and meet up with her, and we see her talking in full rhyming slang.

“Oi, Sunni, you wanna go pope and we can heavenly on the kangaroo, and bendy on the liza!?”

You might be better off not translating that, by the way.

“You’ll have to buy me chips first-” Wait, that’s Newcastle, nevermind.

The Biskits obviously provided the antagonistic role, but their motivation was pretty feeble. Little reason was given for them to be acting this way. The part about Blythe being in a magazine overshadowing their father’s announcement makes so little sense I doubt even they’d believe it. And I’m putting aside the fact that it was fake news. Then again, they didn’t really need any reason other than their continual, and slightly irrational, grudge against Blythe. Though I am glad Francois finally stood up to them. It’s a nice continuation from the time he took the piss in their music video.

But I’m suddenly reminded of the time Roger became the Biskits’ personal assistant. It feels like that episode should’ve taken place after this one. Since in every other episode, Francois took over the role of personal assistant, even though he was their butler. He also operated as chef and chauffeur, even though, in his role as butler, that should be beneath him.

Then we have the interactions between Zoe and Russell, where we continue the tales of Zoe’s envy. Of course she starts off quite annoyed that she’s not the designated model, but once Pepper tells her off, she quickly decides to try to encourage him.

This obviously builds off the earlier episode, since Zoe’s jealousy goes away pretty quickly. But it might be due to the fact that she can actively encourage him in this case. When Sunil was internet-famous, all she could do was sit in the corner, stewing in her own envy. Now, she actually has something to do.

But the main problem is, not enough effort is devoted to this plot thread. They could’ve certainly devoted more time to Zoe’s mentoring. Instead, it’s relegated to two scenes, one of which plays out during the musical number. It’s almost as if they included it as an afterthought, and that disappoints me.

If anything, this episode feels like it does little more than set up future plot threads. I assume we’ll see more of Delilah, Blythe’s work will probably increase in popularity, and I assume Russell is going to get into modelling.

Shake it, dude.

But on its own, it’s pretty underwhelming. Not bad, it’s just… kinda empty. There’s not much holding it together. I can’t really think of anything one can take away from it. And I really don’t think it’s the best way to cap a season. You want to cap a season with something bigger, more interesting. And this wasn’t that.

And so, with all that said, the season has ended. So can we get a final verdict on the season as a whole? Well, better than the first season, let me tell you. This season things were much more interesting. They did new things, and gave us some great new characterization. There were a few bumps in the road, but that always happens. Our one new recurring character, Emma, ended up being way too irritating, and I kinda wish they’d kill her off. But overall, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I really think this season superseded the last by miles.

And with the second season drawing to a close, all that’s left to do is wait for season three, which’ll probably première sometime in the fall. So until then… What do you mean ‘last Saturday’?

They’re not wasting any time, are they?

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One response to “A Chance for Success: “The Expo Factor” review

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt Season 2 is far superior to Season 1. Everyone else seems to think Season 2 was pretty damn lackluster….. That is such BS it hurts, IMHO….. There were only 3 episodes that gave me that “lackluster” feeling, compared to the 7 or 8 of Season 1. Definitely a step up.

    I’m sorry this finale didn’t do a lot of good for you, though – and even if this show isn’t as good as Friendship Is Magic, there’s no excuse not to try your damn hardest to keep one interested and entertained in what you’re trying to do. Noted for victory, m8.

    Hopefully, Season 3, however, will step up its game if this show’s runners know ay better… I’d hate for this new season to be the last – I’ve been liking this show more than Friendship Is Magic, despite not being as good, but for simply giving me something else to look forward to.

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