I’ll be honest, I love winter. And I doubt it’s for the reasons you think it is.
It’s not because of winter sports. Mainly because I hate sports. Although, I say that, but just this past winter, I got back into skiing, which is something I hadn’t done in over a decade, and I genuinely had a lot of fun. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get another chance this coming winter. But it’s not really something I’d go out of my way for. It was fun, but expensive, and also very uncomfortable trying to fit my freakishly large feet into those tiny metal braces. (They’re not actually metal, but they might as well be.) And then there’s the cold weather trying to bite my face off. So, honestly, I can take or leave it.
So what about Christmas? Well, let me put it this way: I’m an atheist, and I don’t like my family, and I never get any gifts unless you count cash, which I don’t. So no, I can’t say I like Christmas.
So why do I like winter? The atmosphere. The world around you becomes soft and white, like a pure cotton blanket has been delicately placed atop it. And as the outside, cold and frightful, bares down on your home, you can remain inside, with a cup of tea, and good book, next to a warm fire (or space heater, depending on the fire code), safe, cozy, and content.
Basically, I like to hibernate during the winter. In fact, there’s this island in Lake Huron called Mackinac that I visited a few times as a child. The only way on or off the island is by ferry, so once winter hits, the entire place is locked down. Because of this, I have this secret fantasy. I want to spend a winter there. Actually, I want to spend a whole year, but winter would be part of it. At home, isolated, little contact with the outside, I’d only have to leave to replenish my food reserves, which would be relatively easy since it’s a small island. To me, that would be perfect. They have a newspaper! The Town Crier! I could work as a reporter there! Or possibly manage the local digital infrastructure, or be the go-to computer repair guy. I assure you, I can pay my way in even the most isolated of communities, and I would love it! However, this fantasy is slightly kicked in the head by the fact that there’s an airport and internet connection. But cut me some slack, I’m slightly dependant on the web at this stage. Without Google, I’d probably snap. And without regular shipments from the mainland, I don’t see how I could manage a computer repair business anyway.
But you get my point, right? I love winter. It’s the only time I have an excuse to never leave the house. And I’m sure many share my perspective.
But not Rainbow Dash.
No, she hates the idea of staying inside where one won’t freeze their nipples off, which is where she comes into conflict with Tank, her pet turtle/tortoise/who-gives-a-shit!? Because apparently, he’s planning to hibernate for the winter. And she does not like it.
In fact, for much of the episode, she’s in denial.
The whole thing starts when she notices Tank acting more lethargic than usual, just as Cloudsdale’s approaching (which apparently heralds winter), and she starts telling the ponies doing the Running of the Leaves they need to run, so they knock the leaves off the trees, as if they didn’t already know that.
But anyway, Tank’s lethargic, and Rainbow’s the only one to notice that something’s wrong. So she brings him to her local Fluttershy to get checked out.
Her diagnosis is simple: He’s getting ready to hibernate for the winter, as I already mentioned. And Rainbow Dash refuses to believe it because… well… she doesn’t actually give a reason up front. She just tells Fluttershy that tortoises don’t hibernate, and flies off to get a second opinion from ‘a real reptile expert.’
Just because he is a reptile, doesn’t mean he’s an expert on them. It’s like saying Rarity’s an expert on whales.
Anyway, he just says Rainbow should listen to Fluttershy, so Rainbow yells at him and flies off.
The episode continues like this, with Rainbow being stupid, and reaches its crescendo with her yelling at everyone.
So once her mental breakdown is complete, for some reason she realizes that Tank really is going to hibernate unless she does something. And since he’s only hibernating because it’s winter, she’s going to have to stop winter.
At least her plan isn’t purely out of spite for her fellow pony.
This leads us into one of the most haunting musical numbers the series has ever had, and I’m counting much of Rainbow Rocks in that. It’s basically a pop ballad, themed around a terrorist act, as Rainbow Dash flies around the town, sabotaging all attempts by all other pegasi to start winter.
All right, perhaps ‘terrorist’ is a little extreme… so far. But it is quite chilling that we have this pop music beat as Rainbow does something that is essentially evil and selfish. Obviously, they have winter for a reason, and whatever that reason is, Rainbow is fucking it up; and the only reason she’s doing this is because she doesn’t want to say goodbye to her pet tortoise. In fact, that’s one of the lines in the song! Actually, it’s the chorus!
“So I’ll be the one who doesn’t have to say goodbye.” – Rainbow the twit
Selfish git! You’re gonna melt the town-I’m guessing!
You know, it might help to know why they have winter at this stage.
But of course, her efforts are futile, since the snow clouds keep coming, straight out of the Cloudsdale weather factory. Which leads her to the conclusion that the only way to stop winter is at Cloudsdale.
She sneaks into the factory, with a style that combines the works of Solid Snake and Bruce Willis.
I feel the need to point out that the entire city of Cloudsdale is ostensibly made entirely of clouds. Yet they have ventilation shafts, lockers, and industrial fans… these clouds are weird.
Anyway, she ends up finding the winter labs, containing a large water tank, which she empties.
Of course, the tank doesn’t really look big enough to supply enough water to winterize an entire town, which makes me think there are others. Also, wouldn’t someone notice the flooding? You’d think it would leak through the cloud! These aren’t clouds, are they?
However, none of that’s relevant, because this is followed by a series of bizarre slapstick incidents with Rainbow and Tank (whom she decided to bring with her for some reason), which causes all the machinery in the entire weather-making system to be kicked into overdrive. Resulting in some type of winter-bomb being launched from the city.
So much for stopping winter, eh?
The last quarter of the episode ends up being devoted to Rainbow learning to accept the fact that she’s going to be without Tank this winter. First by moping, and then by crying, which is where everyone joins in.
And after letting all her pain out, Rainbow’s finally willing to accept the truth: She’s going to lose her beloved pet tortoise for the winter. Allowing us to close the episode with her leading him into his own little hibernation den.
I guess a cardboard box was a bit too fancy for him.
And so, as Rainbow reads tank a hibernation-time story, it’s time to summarize my thoughts with the following statement: Damn good.
This episode was good for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its handling of grief.
I’m sure this is commonly known, but I’ll go over it anyway. When one loses something they care deeply for, they begin to go through five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. However, I’m not sure is accurate, because when my mother’s friend died I didn’t see her go through any of those stages, except maybe the last two. Maybe they weren’t that close.
But regardless, we see Rainbow go through all five throughout the course of the episode. First, she refuses to listen to anyone who tells her Tank’s going to hibernate; Then she starts yelling at her friends; Then she looks for a way out by sabotaging the local weather team (which I thought she was in charge of, but nonetheless); Then she starts crying in bed; And finally we see her leading Tank into a hibernation hole. All five stages covered!
But this is a staple of pop-psychology, so a lot of shows do this, which means it’s really not that special. No, what’s special is that this is possibly the first time I’ve ever seen a TV show devote an entire episode to the five stages of grief, without opening the episode by telling us what those five stages are. Because I’ve seen this a few times before, like that one episode of Frasier (of all shows), and the episode of the Simpsons where Homer thinks he was poisoned by sushi. Both shows open with a character mentioning the five stages, saying a character is going to go through them, and then we see them go through them. It’s incredibly heavy-handed, however at least in the Simpsons they used it as a joke.
Here, in My Little Pony, they cleverly go through this old trope, showing us that they know a thing or two about psychology, without pointing it out, and bothering to say, “Look how clever we are, and how much we know about psychology! LOVE US!” And I like that. Besides, it’s much more effective to show-off subtly rather than desperately. Like me! Yes, I’m amazing but I don’t make a big deal out of it.
Another great point about the episode is the relationship between Rainbow and Tank; since this is the first episode since the character was introduced back in season two, that actually showed them interacting to any great degree. In fact, I forgot he was introduced that long ago, since they used him so little! I thought it was last year! Nope, turns out it was the second season, four years ago!
Anyway, this episode got us to learn a few things about how these characters interact. For a start, Rainbow appears to be in denial about her pet’s personality; thinking Tank would be able to keep up with her at a game of hockey when he’s a bloody tortoise! And thinking he needs to do some hard work in order to knock him out of his daze when again, he’s a bloody tortoise! Tortoises aren’t known for their speed, or physical activity; they’re mainly known for being durable and delicious, but I wouldn’t say that last point’s particularly relevant. Though I’m guessing that despite being a tortoise, he’s still relatively active when he’s not about to hibernate. Though it’s impossible to tell, since we’ve seen so little of him in the past.
But Rainbow’s denial is probably just a symptom of how much she loves him. She has this idealized image of Tank that she can’t see past. I was actually there with my first girlfriend. It wasn’t until after she dumped me that I realized she was never the right girl for me anyways. Not because anything changed, but because you don’t notice that stuff when you’re in that emotional bubble.
And these two do care about each other, and this is shown not just by Rainbow, but by Tank as well. In one crucial scene, as Rainbow is stressed out by the idea of losing Tank for the winter, she lists all the plans she had for the coming season, all of which would be destroyed by Tank’s hibernation. And in her frustration, she just screams:
“Don’t you want to do those things with me!?” – Rainbow
And Tank responds with a simple nod.
He does want to spend the winter with her, but he can’t, because he’s a tortoise who must hibernate. And I’m sure he feels a bit of heartache himself over this. Though it would be nice if the writers showed this in more than one or two scenes.
Nevertheless my point is, this episode was really good, and it dealt with all the emotional ramifications of a long-term separation such as this. But it was also really fun. I especially liked the Abbott and Costello homage.
This is basically a compressed version of Who’s on First, and if you’ve never seen Who’s on First, it’s a classic, you need to watch it. And the great thing is, it’s on YouTube, so there is no excuse!
I personally love that bit. No matter how many times I watch it, it’s still hilarious! You don’t get that with a lot of modern-day comedy, that’s for sure.
So, with this homage to a classic comedy bit, is that enough to get this episode on the best ever list? Well, it would be, if they didn’t cut out the best parts. But it is a contender, mainly because I think it’s proof that this show can give us sophisticated story lines, despite the fact that it is a kid’s show about magical talking horses. With a proper examination of love and grief, it’s certainly a standout. But will that make this the best episode ever?
I don’t know.