And that evening when I got home, I watched the season 3 finale. I approached it with trepidation; would it spoil my mood, or would it prove to be the cherry on a sundae of a Saturday? Click below for a few of my thoughts on the episode. Because, you know, I'm sure you haven't read a dozen episode recaps already.
-It's an understatement to say that I viewed the alicornification of Twilight Sparkle (which would be a great name for a fanfic, by the way) with extreme skepticism. However, I felt the same way about Trixie's return, and that turned out to be, while not one of the show's greatest episode, at least one that I was able to enjoy. So ever since I found out that Twi was going to be sprouting wings, I've been making a concerted effort not to prejudge.
-Let's start with the good bits:
-HOLY SHAMOLY YOU GUYS CELESTIA CAN SING! The song itself wasn't anything special, but her VA has a beautifully rich voice. If she's got those kind of musical chops, how on earth did it take this long for Daniel Ingram and/or the scriptwriters to find a way to incorporate some singing into her role?
-I'm glad that Derpy seems to be 1) back, and 2) tucked securely into the background. I missed her, but I didn't care for her one speaking appearance (in either dubbing); I just wanted to be able to play Where's Waldo with her again. Hopefully that's something that continues/is picked up again in season four.
-There was a beaver in this episode, so that's always a plus. And squirrels! I like squirrels, too. Actually, I guess I just have a fixation on rodents. The way they animate their chipmunks is way too cutesy for me, though--the squirrels and beavers seem, if not realistic, at least less dolled-up, but the way the chipmunk's doe eyes and bulging cheeks are done is just too much.
-The "liquid pride" line by Shining was a good one. Also some of Pinkie and Dash's incompetence was pretty entertaining to watch. There wasn't very much humor in this episode, but there were a few nice bits.-Now the bad:
-There wasn't very much humor in this episode. I'm not looking for wall-to-wall slapstick when I watch MLP, but this stood out as a very serious, straight-laced entry. Since the goofy, lighthearted humor is a lot of what makes the show so enjoyable, I felt its absence keenly.
-Unfortunately, I'm going to have to say the entire plot was poorly conceived FiM has always tread a delicate line as regards fate vs. free will: there are plenty of mystical bonds and magical connections that lean towards the former, but at its core, the show has always been about being yourself and not letting anyone else define you. The friendship lessons mostly steer clear of the broken aesops of other children's cartoons which teach that friendship means mindless subservience or the unconditional subjugation of one's own wants and needs (teachings memorably parodied by the Buddy Bears, from the Garfield and Friends TV show), and instead show how two or more healthy, normal individuals can get along. Any such morals hinge on self-determination, and thus are antithetical to any clearly defined destiny.
In this episode, that uneasy balance between fate and free will was tossed aside in favor of an all-out embrace of the former. From the opening minutes, where cutie marks are indelibly if incompletely tied to one's core personality (compare to Cutie Mark Chronicles, where the marks are clearly not this, but instead passively indicate a pony's passion in life), MMC relies heavily on the trappings of destiny and predetermination, which makes for some very uncomfortable viewing. Twi's ascension to princesshood is presented in such a way that it's almost impossible to view it as something earned, or as a logical outcome of the show's events to date. Instead, she apparently became a princess because
Hasbro said soit was her destiny. That's a terrible moral! It dismisses her personal growth as a mere footnote in a greater cosmic inevitability, and reduces her friends to irrelevance. After all, they've each learned just as much about friendship as Twi, but apparently AJ's fate is to live so close to subsistence-level that Pinkie's inability to perform her tasks for a single day can threaten her (AJ's) entire family's livelihood. But that's okay, because it was her destiny.
-As much as I like songs, I didn't find this set terribly impressive. I think music in FiM works best when done in the style of classic opera: recit (or for MLP, normal dialogue) moves the story forward, while aria (the songs) elaborates, establishes emotion or desire, and presents the audience with a grand spectacle. My favorite songs from the show (Find a Pet, Winter Wrap-Up, At the Gala, etc.) follow this pattern. Stuff like Morning in Ponyville (the opening song) and Celestia's Ballad aren't really spectacular; I'd describe them as uncomfortably brief and under-developed songlets, which I'd have been happier without (with a voice like that, Nicole Oliver deserved a show stopper, dangit!)
-I understand that the show is focused around the main six, but come on; we've seen other weather pegasi. AJ's not the only pony who lives at Sweet Apple Acres. Presumably there's something in town which keeps ponies from collapsing into violent anarchy other than Pinkie's cheerful goodwill. What I'm trying to say is, it would have been no less funny, and much less grating, to simply show the ponies being comically inept at each others' jobs without suggesting that Ponyville literally couldn't survive one day without them.-And finally, the mixed or simply okay:
-While it definitely felt rushed in the last half, this was probably the least rushed "epic" storyline which the writers have attempted. If the show had just ended with Twilight figuring out how to undo Star Swirl's spell, I suspect the entire story could've been snugly fit into 22 minutes. Unfortunately, there also had to be an alicorning, but the pacing here's still better than it was for Discord's return, at least.
-My God, the princesses were wearing some hideous dresses at Twi's coronation. And I'm sure I'm not the first to observe this, but that crystal pony hairdresser must have gotten healthy again between episodes. Moreover, she must be amazing; how else do you explain Cadence's hairstyle change mere moments after the coronation?-My overall thoughts? I was extremely disappointed by this episode. There was probably no way to make such a dramatic change smoothly and cleanly, but the wholesale embrace of destiny as a positive and immutable force really curdled any enjoyment I might have been able to take from the story. In the end, Twi didn't become a princess because she learned the magic of friendship (again, the rest of the main cast could have become princesses too if that was all it took), or because she worked hard for it, or even because she was born into the role (which would at least have had the advantage of making her ascension a product of lucky birth and nothing more). Instead, she became a princess because it was her fate--because that's what female protagonists do--and I'm profoundly distressed that a show that worked so hard to create independent, intelligent characters has been reduced to this kind of pablum. "Everything's going to be just fine," eh? It's going to be a long wait for season four--I only hope that this episode doesn't mark the direction the show will be going from here on.