Monday, March 17, 2014

Episode Talk: S4E18, Maud Pie

My Little Pony, huh?  Great shared universe, that.  There've been a lot of wonderful stories set in the milieu, and I've found a few nooks and crannies of the community that are worth frequenting.  Very nice setting to work in, all told.

...Say, wasn't there a TV show or something, too?

Head on down to see my thoughts on the newest episode, presented a good day or two after everyone else's because "timeliness" is not my strong suit.

-I don't actually have a lot to say about this episode, but I thought I'd better make a post about it because dang, that was the best one I've seen in a long time.  It might be up in my top-five episodes--definitely top-ten.  Let me count the ways it worked:

1) We finally got away (except for a little bit with Dash) from the super-exaggerated faces that this season keeps foisting upon me!  Okay, that's mostly a personal peeve, but I was still happy that the ponies' mostly exhibited recognizable expressions rather than comically(?) overdramatic theatre-club histrionics.

2)  It didn't hurt on that front that Maud herself was defined by her lack of expression--and I have to say, that joke never got old for me.  She made such a good contrast the the main six--to ponies, generally--that I was laughing all the way through the episode.  Her poetry was the sort of thing which, if I encountered it in a fanfic, I'd probably upvote the story based on that scene alone.  Like Discord tends to, she ended up taking over the episode... but I can't say I minded.  She was more than funny enough to justify the focus.

3)  I like how simple this episode was.  Pinkie wants all of her friends to be friends with each other, but they're not.  Clean, simple, relatable, and lends itself to the kind of uncloying sincerity which first attracted me to this show.

4)  But my favorite part: at the end, we didn't get a questionable "everypony magically learns to be friends" moral like I thought we were going to.  I mean, that would have been okay, but it doesn't jive well with real-life experience.  Instead, we got something more realistic, more nuanced, and all-around stronger.  Twilight and company realized that they didn't have to be best buddies with Maud; they and Maud both wanted Pinkie to be happy, and that was something they could bond over.  There are steps in between "standoffish semi-tolerance" and "BFF," and the fact that the show recognized that--that the ponies could learn to get along for Pinkie's sake without being complete kindred spirits--really elevated it, in my opinion.

5)  Plus, Maud holding on to all those necklaces over the years is exactly the right kind of sweet for me (nyuk nyuk nyuk).

-I could have done without Rarity suddenly being unable to design a hat which uses minerals (what, don't all those gemstones she loves count as rocks?), but that's a nitpick--it didn't stop me from enjoying the episode.

-Oh, and I'll give Rainbow back the points she lost for making stupid faces, on account of her "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an igneous" line.  Big fan of that one.  I wish they hadn't made her explain it, though--I guess the writers were afraid their target audience wouldn't get it, but I think the joy of getting the joke on one's own (for those that did) would've far outweighed the confusion of those who didn't (most or all of whom probably wouldn't have been familiar with the word "enigma" anyway, and so for whom the word change would have functionally made no difference to their enjoyment).

-Apparently, this is the scriptwriter's first MLP episode.  I went and looked up the name afterwords, anyway, and didn't find anything else on the show by Noelle Benvenuti.  If this episode is at all indicative of her ability, I hope we see a lot more out of her.

-In sum, this is by far my favorite episode of the season (assuming we don't count Three's a Crowd's "Reminded Chris of an awesome fanfic" bonus points--but even if we do, this one still tops it).  Heck, it's my favorite of last season, too.  This is the first new episode I've seen since sometime in season two which really nailed what first got me into ponies: small-scale drama portrayed with unaffected honesty, wrapped in a comically equine pastel palette.  I really hope we get a few more episodes like this one.


  1. Chris! Any comment on Filli Vanilli and the Ponytones?

    1. I reply to stuff a week late!

      Thoughts on Vanilli: nice to see some a capella; wish they'd had more than one song endlessly repeated; disappointed that there was basically no conflict in the episode once Fluttershy decided to become the behind-the-scenes bass; overall perfectly fine but not particularly memorable episode.

  2. 1) Oh hell yes.

    2) I didn't think it was particularly well played at all. I liked the concept, but the execution was a little flat. Mostly, I think it's because the usual Pinkie antics at the start overshadowed it. Now, if Pinkie had actually been unexpectedly normal about the whole thing, I think it would have been funny.

    3) It does harken back to the halcyon days or old--or a few of years ago, if you're counting...

    4) Actually, I thought this was the other bit that was overplayed. I'm all for a bit of sentimentality, but I thought the arbitrary excuse for bonding ruined the entire premise of the episode. I was really hoping for something along the lines of 'it's okay that not everyone is super-friends'. By comparison, this was disappointing in the 'I actively feel like this is a bad lesson' kind of way.

    5) Yep!

    As for Rarity, it seems to me that she's forgotten how to make dresses this season (unless it's plot-convenient, which is season four in a nutshell). In season one she was all about masterpieces that looked like masterpieces; this season she's all about gimmicky trash and outright eyesores. This irks me greatly.

    To be honest, this episode is certainly fairly high on my list of episodes, but that isn't saying much considering that there was only one episode in season three that I actually liked, and the post-season-two show has me disliking about half.


    P.S. Boo for explaining jokes!

  3. 4) Except that the symbolism stamped on making the rock candy necklaces means that, by the end, the takeaway is that they've all become best buddies, negating any value the moral could have had. That's a major reason I was disappointed in this episode, I think, along with Maud being great as a concept but rather less than that on screen.

    1. ...I thought it was pretty clear well before the end that the necklaces mean something very different to Pinkie than they do to Maud. Twi and the gang aren't making necklaces because they've all become besties with each other, but because they're all besties with Pinkie.

      Maybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, but I thought it was pretty clear that Maud and the main cast weren't super-close so much as "friendly acquaintances who share a strong mutual interest."

  4. From the moment she started speaking, Maud catapulted herself into my favorite ponies list. And then it just kept getting better. I adored this episode.

    I also love the twist of Maud keeping the necklaces in spite of not liking candy. I wonder if it's obliviousness on Pinkie's part that Maud puts up with, or if Pinkie knows and it's just a tradition that continues in spite of itself. That one little moment adds so much depth to their relationship. Now I have the image in my head of filly Maud showing Pinkie how to make candy necklaces, since she knew Pinkie loved candy, and Pinkie took it to mean Maud also liked candy and just never got that idea out of her head.

  5. As a mineral myself, I approve of this episode.

  6. One of my favourites too, but I don't think it beats Three's A Crowd for me. It comes close though, by gum.

  7. Certainly a great episode. I, too, hope for more from this writer. BTW, the animators did a great job of supporting the script: Maud even blinked slowly!


  8. Before Deft Funk gets here, I'm just going to go ahead and say that the word of the day is "histrionic".

    1. A pox on you and your kind!
      Even though there's no legitimate reason for me protective about selecting the Word of the Day first, nor is there any rule that there can only be one, I still say Blast! Curses! Fiddlesticks! AAAAH!

      Fine, "Histrionic" it is.
      I thought I knew that word, but upon looking it up, I find I was mistaken.

  9. People sure do seem to love this episode and the just looooooooove Maud.
    I personally don't see the appeal. Maybe it's because I spoiled it for myself before watching or something like that.
    I mean, it certainly was a good episode but, I would say there have been better in this season. Eh, that's just me.

    I'm surprised that no one talks about Pinkie Pie in this episode. She was in top form if you ask me.

    1. I think it's one of those "If they screw this up, we'll complain so hard, but if they get it right, we won't notice" things. Because you're totally right.

  10. I, the mysterious Nil, will agree that Maud was great. Her lack of enthusiasm had me laughing from the moment she appeared on screen. Especially when she appeared, actually. Watching her slowly walk over that hill with Pinkie Pie screaming in excitement really set the stage for what enjoyment was to come. Also that poetry; truly breathtaking. I'm just gonna leave this here:

  11. I don't get the appeal behind Maud Pie. What's the charm behind someone so charmless and deliberately uninteresting? You write a dull character and then make her a focus of the episode, you get a dull episode. She sucked the joy out of it.

    I understand why people find the contrast funny, granted; this deadpan, emotionless, grey character in the middle of a colourful cast who can't make heads of tails of her. But it's so blatant, it's like they explained the joke before it happened. And once you figured out the "joke", you realized the episode was a one trick pony.

    Also, I found it really distracting that she's seemingly superstrong. I know we've got superstrong earth ponies like Big Mac, but it's brought up so rarely, it feels out of left field.

    Didn't do it for me. "Meh", but not much else.