An Overthought Review of MLP:FIM Season 2, Episode 13
Note: None of this is intended to be an objective statement of the quality of the episode.
0:00-1:45: Seriously, why would you let Pinkie into the Maternity ward?
Holy crap, there is a lot going on in this scene. First off, we finally get some sort of indication of how Pony genetics work, that being that apparently ponies of one race can have foals of other magical races. It doesn't really have any story relevance (pretty sure the only reason the foals are a pegasus and a unicorn is so they can make more trouble for Pinkie), but it's still an interesting bit of world building. The writers even seem to recognize how much of a long shot the idea is, as evidenced by Mr. Cake's hasty explanation; they're basically telling the viewers "yeah, we know it's a stretch, but just go with it."
(I'm just also going to note here that a lot of people are interpreting this as an implication that he's not sure of his children's paternity. I don't think that's the case. It's obviously a nod to that sort of plot; I admit that. If the showmakers are going to reference stuff like The Big Lebowski and Trainspotting, a joke like this isn't too surprising. But that's just it: It's only a joke. The reason I think this is because even if you take that assumption at face value, it still doesn't really explain why the children are different races; if Mrs. Cake was fooling around with a non-Earth pony, it still means that at least one of the babies isn't going to share a race with it's parent, so either way weird genetics come into play. Toss in the fact that the Cakes have been the very picture of "Happily Married Couple" and that this is My Little Pony, and I think it's pretty obvious that we're supposed to take Mr. Cake's statement at face value).
Anyway, there's a lot of foreshadowing in this scene. The biggest thing is the way that Pinkie reacts to the foals. Her first thought is to have fun with them. It's a pretty good indicator of the fact that she really doesn't understand the fact that babies require a lot of work. The fact that she basically teleports into the nursery without really thinking about how the babies are in a different room for a reason shows how she's not really taking the situation seriously. It's also a bit of a nice touch that all the other ponies seem to react appropriately to her wackiness; the nurse boots her out of the nursery and the rest of the cast roll their eyes at her. It's a great joke, but at the same time it establishes that Pinkie isn't going to get away with her standard "I can get away with anything as long as it's funny!" shenanigans; her inability to be serious is treated as an actual character flaw.
There are a few more little bits of foreshadowing as well, from Rarity and Twilight's thing about how unicorn foals have those weird magical power surges, to the fact that Pumpkin really really likes chewing on stuff.
2:20-5:10: At least they seem to like her
First off, Carrot Cake automatically gets his "Dad of the Year" award for changing the diapers with his mouth. That's hardcore.
The big thing in this scene is that it sort of shows the division between "entertaining the foals" and "taking care of the foals". Pinkie is great at the first one, there's no arguing that. They really like her and she totally knows how to keep them happy. The problem is that's as far as her skill goes. Unlike the Cakes, she has no clue when it comes to stuff like changing diapers or feeding the babies or keeping them from doing stuff that's bad for them. Her entire interaction with them is based on making them happy rather than giving them what they actually need. She has no practical experience. The fact that the only time on her watch is "Party Time" makes that pretty clear.
What's most important about how this is set up is that it establishes Pinkie as not being entirely incompetent, but at the same time makes it clear that she's rather out of her league if she wants to take on the twins by herself. It explains why she sees herself as capable of taking care of the babies, while pretty much everyone else thinks (not without reason) that it's beyond her. Basically, it sets up the "Pinkie is out of her league" feel of the episode.
Thusly, when the Cakes realize that they need a babysitter on short notice, they disregard Pinkie as a viable option, and it's totally understandable that they do so. And really, they would know, having Pinkie be around like all the time. So naturally, they go to the other ponies for the job.
5:10-6:38: Wanted: Babysitter, must be able to care for twins.
Fluttershy is the first stop, which makes perfect sense. I know if I needed a babysitter, Fluttershy would be the first pony I'd go to. At the very least, one would expect her to know what she was doing. So of course, that can't work out, and Fluttershy has other stuff to do, in this case, going on a picnic with Angel. Given that Angel sort of fills that kind of child role for Fluttershy, it makes sense that she'd be reluctant to drop it to babysit.
Same goes for Twilight and Applejack; Twilight would be meticulous about getting everything write and Applejack is one of the most responsible ponies in town, but they're occupied as well. Rainbow Dash...I don't know if I'd trust her with it, but she's busy as well. Rarity is totally unoccupied, but given that we know from her interaction with her sister that she's not very good with children, it makes sense that she'd decline. Many of the other ponies might come across as unhelpful (especially Rarity, given that she has no other excuse), but one must remember this whole thing is on incredibly short notice; the Cakes are basically just showing up and asking each pony to basically sacrifice the rest of their day. Even if they don't have any other pressing matters on schedule, that's a pretty big thing to ask of somepony.
On a final note, Pinkie's little spiel in the background of each scene sort of drives home the point that she's really not ready and is focused solely on the fun side of things. I mean, tossing a cloud baby to yourself (and then dropping it) isn't going to make them want to hire you.
6:38-7:46: Don't feed them after midnight.
The beginning of this scene spells out everything pretty well: the Cakes are skeptical of Pinkie's ability to actually take care of the babies, while Pinkie swears that she's totally responsible. Putting aside the fact that we know her middle name isn't actually "Responsibility" (it's "Diane"), it's pretty clear that Pinkie is just posturing. She definitely has a moment of hesitation when she sees the size of Mrs. Cake's list. The Cakes are also rather obviously nervous about leaving their babies, and I don't think it's entirely due to the fact that it's Pinkie. I'm not a parent, but I can totally sympathize with that anxiety, especially as they're new parents and likely haven't been apart from the babies for any notable length of time. Then there are the babies themselves...
7:46-8:15: Separation Anxiety
Yeah, babies tend to not be very happy when they get separated from their parents. Pinkie learns that the hard way, along with the fact that her regular antics aren't going to be enough to keep them happy. She promptly attempts something that was successful earlier on and it fails utterly this time around. It's the first time that it clicks that this isn't going to be as easy as she thought it was going to be.
8:15-9:42: I'm here all week
Okay, so the twins don't really grasp the subtleties of comedy. This scene is all about Pinkie's utter failure at keeping the foals happy. The whole thing has Pinkie at her wackiest, and it works. Unlike a lot of Pinkie's randomness, it actually fits into the plot. There's a good reason for her to be zany as all get out, so it doesn't distract from anything else. There's also a great moment where the foals react to Pinkie's "Oink Oink Oink" song and they have perfect "what am I watching?" faces.
What actually makes this scene relevant other than just laughing at Pinkie fail to keep the foals happy is the fact that it basically forces her to step her game up just to stay at the same level she started out at. She's pulling out all the stops just to keep Pound and Pumpkin laughing, something that she was able to manage without any effort earlier on. She only manages to get them to laugh again due to an accident. A hilarious accident, but an accident nonetheless.
9:42-12:20: At least it wasn't Twilight who left her the checklist
Now Pinkie hits the point where she must not only keep the babies entertained, but she has to actually do the more important caretaking stuff that might be mutually exclusive with keeping them happy. Case in point, getting them to eat stuff or cleaning them. If she can't even manage to keep them from crying when she puts all her effort into it, she doesn't stand much of a chance of keeping them calm when she's doing other stuff.
Other than that rather obvious development, this scene actually does a pretty good job of characterizing the foals. Pumpkin just really likes chewing on anything and everything except for food, and Pound is a bit more boisterous. The fact that the twins actually get differentiated a little in a way other than in their genders and abilities is a nice touch by the writers. It makes them something more than a plot device. They actually feel like characters.
This is rather important, because if they didn't seem like characters there would be a rather large potential problem of the foals being really really annoying. Let's face it, the sound of crying babies is generally considered far from pleasant, and this entire episode is basically based around a pair of unhappy babies. If they aren't likeable, the audience could easily get as aggravated with them as Pinkie is. And to the show's credit, they almost totally avoid that pitfall, in no small part because the foals are, to a degree, likeable. They aren't just a couple of annoying noises, they're just small characters. It also helps that the actual sound of the crying is quite toned down from what actual crying babies sound like, and even then it isn't incessant.
It's also cool that the writers even got to shuffle the running gag with the flour a little bit; it would have gotten old if they kept the exact formula the whole way through. The fact that she actually tries to talk them out of it before dumping the bag on herself makes it about a zillion times funnier than it would have been otherwise.
It also establishes, or at least implies, that the foals have the physical drop on Pinkie; they're able to run and hide from her pretty easily. Sure, their powers haven't kicked in yet, but it shows that Pinkie doesn't necessarily have even the physical advantage that usually comes with being an adult babysitter.
And as with the previous scene, this one utilizes Pinkie's craziness in a beautiful fashion. All of her absurd antic get worked in; stuff like the bubble beard that would have just been a throwaway joke fits in perfectly. It also plays really well on Pinkie's tendency to take something minor and run with it, like how she fills the tub with random junk when she realizes the foals like the rubber duckie, only to have it backfire. It takes Pinkie's "gag character" nature, actually incorporates it into the scene, and shows, to a degree, a realistic result. Turns out the foals don't like it when Pinkie dumps an inflatable raft on their heads. Pinkie's crazy schemes are actually relevant to the matter at hand rather than just being a series of jokes that just happen to follow the character.
12:20-14:25: NO! ANYTHING BUT THAT!
This is always, without fail the worst part of babysitting. I have to give the writers kudos for actually being willing to go there, as well as to Pinkie for not immediately throwing up her hooves and going "Yup, going to hire a professional sitter with my own money". If nothing else, it shows that Pinkie is definitely taking this seriously, which is some solid character development all on it's own. Pinkie has never been good at buckling down and doing things seriously, so it's nice to see that she's at least capable of being serious if she has to, even if she's kinda terrible at it.
The point gets kinda driven home when Twilight shows up. It's easy to see Twilight as being a bit condescending when she talks about how some ponies can't handle that kind of responsibility, but you have to keep it in mind that she pretty much hits the nail right on the head: Pinkie isn't really cut out for it. The other thing is that Twilight being Twilight, she probably doesn't even realize how what she's saying sounded; she'd probably just take it as a matter of fact statement that some ponies are just better with that sort of thing than others. Not to mention that the fact that she showed up on her own just to help Pinkie is a nice gesture.
It doesn't hurt that Pinkie ends up agreeing with Twilight's assessment, which is a pretty big character moment for her. It gives her a sort of renewed determination to not just fulfill to duties, but to improve at them. It's not just "I'm going to do this", she's realizing a flaw in herself and resolving to fix it. Sure, it's a pretty minor scene, but it's a big step forward from her "I got this" attitude.
Lastly, the bit of animation where Pinkie kicks the diaper off of her leg is hilarious to me for some reason, as is the fact that Twilight doesn't even see fit to mention that Pinkie has a diaper on her head.
12:45-15:42: Maybe you could sing them a lullaby.
Okay, we don't get to see Pinkie actually being serious very often, so this is pretty interesting. Of course, she's still not entirely serious (as evidenced by her awesome "old timey western fort" line), but this is about as close we've ever gotten to seeing Pinkie's no-nonsense mode in a context where she isn't losing her mind. That, and the whole scene of her tucking the twins in and kissing them goodnight is just adorable. You can tell that despite her attempts at self-validation, she still really cares about the twins.
15:42-21:28: Oh bugger.
Then everything takes a turn for the terrifying. Seriously, out of the entire series, I think this scene probably freaked me out the most. The first part of it gives off such a strong "every parent's worst nightmare" vibe that I could feel it, and I don't even have kids. You can practically feel the blood draining out of Pinkie's face when she sees the empty crib, and her mood switches gears so fast that it's almost painful. You can just tell that she's absolutely terrified, desperate, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown as she basically tears apart the room. The fact that it's Pinkie just makes it hit harder; seeing the happiest most carefree character being dead serious is just bizarre. But the worst thing is that the setup is so realistic. All the other creepy things in the show tend to be way more fantastic; being attacked by monsters or weird magic or something. But this is something that could (and almost certainly does) actually happen. And that just makes it so much worse.
The second half of the scene after Pinkie finds Pumpkin is also terrifying, but for entirely different reasons. The music is the main contributor; it's so distorted, minimal, and screechy that there's just something off about it. It's incredibly disconcerting (even moreso that the music from Pinkie's infamous "Party of One" breakdown); it makes you a bit uneasy just listening to it. The composition of the scene itself doesn't help at all; a lot of the shots are deliberately uneven and unbalanced. Toss in the weirdly twisted squeaky chicken sounds and it just adds up to one freaky horror movie-esque sequence. (The squeaking thing makes it even worse if you've read Homestuck, which can make honking noises pretty dang freaky.) I've also been told that the "baby on the ceiling" thing is a shout out to a drug induced hallucination in Trainspotting, which explains a lot of the weirdness.
Fortunately for the sanity of all involved, as soon as Pinkie turns the lights back on things swing back in the direction of the humorous, especially when she pulls out the suction cups. Not to mention Pinkie's face when Pumpkin starts moving stuff around. I'm pretty cool with the idea of the babies being able to at least temporarily use their special abilities, although I think this scene stretches it a tiny bit. I mean, it isn't totally without basis; Twilight and Rarity brought up the power surge thing at the beginning, so it doesn't come out of left field. It's also a good way of keeping Pinkie from getting complete control of the situation.
Although even so, I think the last section of the sequence stretches their powers pretty much to the limit, and makes them a bit overpowered in the interest in keeping them ahead of Pinkie when it really wasn't necessary. All that's really need is that Pound can fly and Pumpkin can move her objects around; they're perfectly capable of staying ahead of Pinkie without being Twilight and Rainbow Dash tier. I mean, we get a great moment of Pumpkin repeatedly shoving objects into her mouth, and Pound tricks Pinkie into landing in a laundry hamper, bother without really being incredibly strong.
Pound doesn't need to be able to tow Pinkie around the entire house, and Pumpkin doesn't really need to be able to phase through solid objects and bust through the chains Pinkie put on the toy chest. I get that ponies physically mature quicker than human babies, but their catapulted way past where they should be capable of. I can buy the babies momentarily being able to do stuff that adults can do, but basically giving them superpowers (phasing through solid objects? Self-levitation? Even a prodigy like Twilight can't pull stuff like that) makes them broken. The problem is that it hits a point where you really can't fault Pinkie for being in over her head, this is way more than you'd expect a babysitter to deal with. Of course, it's a minor issue at best, as pretty much the entire rest of the episode shows that Pinkie is out of her element anyway, so it really isn't much of a problem.
Then Pinkie snaps, which is totally understandable. She finally realizes that she's bitten off more than she can chew, and that she isn't as responsible as she thought she was. It's one of the few times in the show that we see her weaker side, which is good, because it makes her a lot more sympathetic. It's especially good because the only other time we saw this side of her was her psychotic break in "Party of One", and this shows that she can reach the end of her rope without completely losing it. It's a much more mundane breakdown, one that brings her down to earth a bit and shows that despite her insanity she's still a regular pony with her own set of limits.
Then the twins see the breakdown, and here's where the episode's main problem comes in: the fact that the foals willingly stop their rampage just seems like a bit of a cop out. The first problem is that babies don't do that. If you've ever spent any time around a baby, you know that they have zero empathy. The other thing is that on a more meta level it kinda undermines the moral. The whole point of the episode is a sort of "know your limits and don't bite off more than you can chew" message, which is perfectly fine. The problem is that Pinkie did just that...and totally got away with it because the babies decided to go easy on her. So what actually happened is that she took on a problem that she couldn't handle, only for the problem to solve itself. What would have worked a bit better is if Pinkie had swallowed her pride, admitted that she was in over her head, and accepted Twilight's offer of help. It would have kept the moral intact (plus a bonus message of "it's okay to ask for help"), and we'd get a bit more interaction. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the episode, but it's another entry in the "one pony stews in their own juices for an episode" list, and tossing in some help for Pinkie at the end would have greatly alleviated it.
That aside, the very end is still adorable, and it does show that Pinkie has grown a bit when she actually thinks over whether she should babysit again, and the fact that the foals really do like her is very sweet. I still think it would have been better if Pinkie had still needed some help, but the fact that she learned her own limits and that she can't solve everything with parties is more than enough character growth to make everything fit together well in the end.
Okay, I think that the writers did a really good job with Pinkie in this episode. One of the character's biggest issues is that she tends to get away with a lot of stuff the other cast members wouldn't be able to, pretty much solely because "Hey, it's Pinkie Pie!" She's usually just treated as a gag character that isn't really subject to the same standards as everypony else. This episode remedies that by showing all her shortcomings.
For once, the other characters react appropriately to her "all parties all the time" mindset. A good example is how she gets booted from the nursery when she won't stop singing or bringing cakes in. In most other episodes, no one would comment on it; it would be glossed over as just a joke. There's nothing particularly wrong with that in and of itself, but it means that Pinkie gets treated differently from the other characters; she's treated as just a joke and not as an actual character. This episode subjects her to the same consequences that the other ponies would receive.
The best part is that the episode does this without removing Pinkie's trademark zaniness; she acts just as crazy as ever; the difference is all in how the rest of the characters react to it. The fact that Pinkie's antics finally get some reaction other than "Oh, it's just Pinkie being Pinkie" is great. The other thing is that Pinkie is actually being crazy for a reason rather than just for the heck of it, so it actually fits into the episode. Even if you don't mind Pinkie being a gag more than as a character, it's still nice to have some variety with the character. Personally, I love the fact that she gets more well rounded instead of just being a joke. It's the best part of the episode.
- Pinkie finally gets some much needed characterization
- Pinkie's craziness is actually relevant to the plot of the episode rather than just being there for the sake of humor
- The baby pony design has been very much improved since "The Mysterious Mare Do Well"; the foals are amazingly expressive
- In general, the humor in this episode is top notch
- When the foals manifest their abilities, they're a bit too powerful and over the top
- The moral is a bit undercut by the fact that the babies decide to go easy on Pinkie at the end rather than forcing her to get more help