Monday, June 19, 2017

Episode Talk: S7E11, Not Asking for Trouble

I debated doing one of these; I think everyone else watched this episode a month ago, and have probably forgotten it by now.  But dangit, I just got to see it for the first time this weekend, and I am gonna talk about it!  Get my thoughts, after the break.

     -I'll be straight: I loved this episode.  Maybe it shines a little brighter in my eyes, coming right on the heels of Princesses Have Trivial Jobs, Bitch About How Hard Their Lives Are While Acting Like Spoiled Toddlers (at least, I think that was the episode's name...).  Maybe it just caught me in a good mood.  But whatever; the point is, this is the clear high point of S7 so far for me, and it's not even close.

     -Based on the decidedly mixed reaction to the yaks last time they were on the show, I'm going to go ahead and assume that I'm about the only person who loved it, though :P  Seriously, why does nobody else think that SMASHING is funny?  They are pitch-perfect ponifications (yakifications?) of the way I play barbarians, ogres, and ogre barbarians, no less.  Violent, headstrong, unwilling/unable to admit fault, but still basically nice guys as long as you can handle them on their own terms.  I wouldn't want them in every episode, obviously, but I find them tremendously entertaining in principle.

    -Plus, the Mongolian-ish aesthetics, on both the decorations and the village itself, just look nice.  There's something to be said for a consistent, evocative aesthetic; Ponyville and Canterlot both had it in the show's early going, before they became more generified, as have places like Appleloosa, but in recent seasons the show's locals have tended away from that, I think.

     -For all that Twilight and the other girls felt entirely superfluous at the start (Pinkie asking Twilight to use her Princess-ness to make her the OFFICIAL friendship ambassador really just highlighted how little the show's managed to do with her ascension), it did give Pinkie the opportunity to start the show off on the right foot, showing that she's been written as "good Pinkie" rather than "insane ramblings Pinkie" or "lolrandom Pinkie."  A combination of cheery demeanor, physical humor, and earnest friendliness are her hallmarks in her best episodes, and all are on display here.

     -I don't have much to say about Pinkie's visit to the yak village, other than that I loved it.  It was cultural silliness with a heaping dash of machismo thrown in, and it kept me grinning throughout.  The main conflict didn't feel too ridiculous to me either, for that matter; I think we all know people who mistake pointless suffering for stoic virtue, and who see asking for help as a personal failure.  Heck, I am that person, a bit more often than I'd like to admit.  And as Pinkie finds out, pushing at someone who's in that mood will just make them dig in their heels all the harder.

     -The one thing I didn't like about the episode was the main six fixing the village by themselves in a single night.  Ponies are OP, nerf now plx.

     -Seriously though, this could have been an opportunity for Twilight to use her Princessness: either directly (alicorn magic!  Oh wait, for the last few seasons that's just meant "ineffective lasers"...) or indirectly (put those Winter Wrap-Up organizational skills to use, and mobilize all of Ponyville to come help!  The girls could still take the last balloon out together, and be the only ones who get caught, so you wouldn't need to change the ending otherwise; plus, then you'd have an excuse for a Carrot Top cameo!).  It really is jarringly implausible to me that ponies are so massively more powerful/effective than yaks as this would indicate, and doesn't match up well with any of what we saw in this or Party Pooped.

    -I did like the moral at the end, though it probably could have been spelled out a little more clearly.  I can see kids missing it entirely, or thinking that the lesson is "do what other people want without them asking."  But the actual lesson is a good one, and given that I have a bad habit of getting hung up on morals, I'll definitely take it.

     -And I'll say it again: the humor here was totally on-point.  Right through to Pinkie breaking the fourth wall at the end, there's just a steady stream of physical humor, sight gags, playful show-appropriate violence, and comic bellicosity that a absolutely loved.  Thank goodness for that!  Sometimes, when I'm in a bad stretch of episodes (i.e. a stretch of episodes I don't like; same thing, right?), I end up questioning whether I still even enjoy MLP, or if I just like what it used to be/the fandom/the fanwriting.  It's good to have confirmation that yes, I can still totally get down with a good episode!


  1. Dammit, Chris, you need to talk about A Royal Problem, because THAT was the best season 7 episode thus far and this one was hot garbage, or at least tedious as hell because the yaks remain a terrible one-note culture and a bad idea overall. c.c

    That said, Daedalus Aegle just last night posted a journal that posits a very believable explanation for their behavior, as well as a fitting moniker for them.

    1. Yaks very complicated society.

    2. Seconding demand for Royal Problem review, but mostly because I want to see Chris rip it apart.

    3. Gotta go with PP on this, though I suspect that these short and (necessarily) shallow episodes are more akin to Rorschach tests than solid narratives lending themselves to analysis. :/

      I also second the recommendation of Daedalus Aegle's blog on the episode. It elevates the yaks a fair ways in my estimation.

    4. Though the one thing it doesn't explain, re: DannyJ below, is why the entire of the yak nation is one shitty village with like twelve guys. :B

    5. I don't wanna review A Royal Problem, though! It was terrible, and contrary to popular belief, I don't particularly enjoy bitching about things for no benefit.

      And the reason Yakyakistan is "like twelve guys" is the same reason that the griffon nation has, like, fifteen buildings total :P

      Seriously though, based on the giant gates, I interpreted the town Pinkie was in as being a glorified guardpost. Presumably, there's an actual yak population somewhere further into Yakyakistan.

  2. Ehh... it was okay, I guess? I actually do like the yaks, or at least I did in their first appearance, but this episode... I dunno. I kind of don't like what they did with them. I know they were always joke characters, and that was fine for the SMASHING stuff, but in this episode, they're just generally pathetic.

    A culture that dwells in a snowy, mountainous region should not be this ignorant of how avalanches work, and they definitely shouldn't be so inept at recovering from one. The fact that the ponies can clear up their mess in a single night and the yaks can't is just embarassing. And I also really don't like how the entire yak nation that we were led to believe exists is boiled down to a single village where like twelve yaks live.

    Again, I know the yaks were already joke characters, but that just makes it even more unnecessary to do this. They're already idiots, so why make them even stupider? Just for empthasis? Unless the writers are intentionally trying to portray ponies as the master race, I don't get it. All this does is devalue the world-building that was already done with them. This plot could have easily been written without sacrificing versimilitude.

    All this isn't to say that the episode was terrible. There were bits I enjoyed. It's just that the bad points bring down the overall score for me. And that's been season seven in a nutshell, really. I think there's been good stuff in all the new episodes so far, but in my opinion, most of them have been mediocre at best, because they still have major flaws weighing them down.

  3. I really liked the episode, so you aren't alone. The jokes landed and Pinkie was her best Pinkie self. I was thoroughly entertained.

  4. In some ways, Pinkie was right for the episode, and I'll agree that she was in better form than is often the case. However, despite her prior connection with the yaks, I don't think that she's a good fit to deliver a--or at least this message on cross-cultural understanding and communication (at least for me). Fact is, for me the defining Pinkie episode is "A Friend in Deed"--and that's a bad thing. It solidified in my mind Pinkie as extremely intrusive and unreasonably unwilling to take no for an answer: she didn't respect others' desires or right to not have her inflict herself on them. To me, one of the better points of the episode was that she was showing growth in that area by refraining from aggressive unwanted dogooderism. As I recall, she made some offers, was told no, and she at least kind of and for a while respected what she was told.

    Also, there are two sides to the cultural divide, and yaks expecting Pinkie to pick up on mores that undermine what they are using specific direct speech to tell her is a problem on their part as well.

    Building on what DannyJ had to say, I also found it distasteful that the yaks were shown to be incompetent and ineffective at living in their own home, not just on an absolute scale but compared to the ponies as well. It's a bad look, and bearing in mind the other foreign example I can think of is Griffonstone... not a great pattern.

    Lastly, this is somewhat filtered through thoughts about not only interpersonal relations, but international. I'd be less inclined to look as poorly upon ignoring the plain sense of Prince Rutherford's rejection if it weren't for the fact that Pinkie was made an agent of the Equestrian state for the purpose of that mission, in addition to her general affiliation via the Elements of Harmony/Rainbow Power/Friendship Map, and if it didn't involve bringing one of Equestria's heads of state into foreign lands against the express wishes of the local government to do activities that government had said it didn't want happening.