An Overthought Review of MLP:FIM S2E9
This whole thing is opinion. I'm not claiming any objectivity. Also, there will be spoilers.
0:00-1:03: Welcome to your suite.
The episode starts off in Canterlot, which is a good foot to start the story out on, for several reasons. The main one is that it gives the storyline, which is a pretty common one, a more interesting spin. I know that when we got the summary I was a bit skeptical; the whole "choosing between your dreams and your friends" is an old sitcom standby. Everyone I know was expecting a kind of "Rarity is considering moving to Canterlot" sort of plot, so starting off with establishing that she's in Canterlot for business is a good indication that the writers are doing something original with the plot rather than following the formula.
Specifically, it makes Rarity more proactive than the protagonists of these sorts of plots usually end up being; Rarity doesn't just have an opportunity dumped in her lap. She's actively pursuing her goals and just so happens to find an opportunity while she's working. It makes the setup of the plot a whole lot less contrived; it actually makes some sense for Rarity to end up in the situation that she does.
Another beneficial element in this scene is the interaction between Rarity and Celestia, and the resultant characterization. Before this, pretty much all the cast members beside Twilight and Spike were sort of a few steps removed from Celestia; all of their interactions with her were due to the fact that Twilight was her student. This scene is still kinda based in that, but the fact that Celestia is more than willing to provide lodging for Rarity shows that the other members of the cast are growing closer to her, if only a little bit. It's good to see Celestia interacting in a non-official capacity with a pony other than Twilight.
Of course, they haven't gotten too close, as demonstrated by Rarity's hoof-kissing, but still, it shows more interaction between characters who hadn't really had any meaningful interaction before this point. Celestia is also clearly a bit uncomfortable with Rarity going so far with the thanks, which is another indication of how the rest of the ponies have endeared themselves to her beyond being her subjects. It's a good followup to the end of Lesson Zero; she's obviously been interacting with the cast more. Celestia is simply doing Rarity a favor.
Also, the bellhop is totally Snails' cousin or something.
1:39-3:20: The Aristocrats!
This scene sets up Rarity's mild shame concerning her hometown, which is quite vital in getting the main conflict to work. You can almost see it starting already; Rarity's obviously having a bit of dilemma about hiding her hometown. There really isn't a whole lot else to say about that aspect of the scene; the goal here is simply to show that Rarity feels her ability to blend in is contingent on keeping her Ponyville origins under wraps. This notion is reinforced by the ponies that Rarity meets, and their reaction to finding out about where she's from. That's all well and good; there have been some complaints about all the Canterlot ponies being somewhat stuffy, but it's important that Rarity believes that about them, so naturally the first ones she runs into are going to be like that. The entire episode basically revolves on the assumption that the Canterlot ponies act that way, so it's only natural that they're going to be portrayed that way this early in the episode.
I was a bit miffed at the redneck pony, though. First of all, the whole redneck shtick is kinda played out as is, he really wasn't all that entertaining. That might just be me though; I tend to not find the "hick" character type to be all that interesting. The other problem is that he really doesn't add much to the scene, and actually causes a bit of a problem. Mainly, he partially validates the aristocrats negative view of Ponyville; if that's the sort of interaction they're used to, it's really no surprise that they'd turn up their noses at Rarity when they hear she's from that town. Yeah, it's obviously a huge misconception of what Ponyville is like, but it's a slightly more reasonable misconception due to his involvement in the scene. Given that the scene is obviously supposed to indicate that the Canterlot ponies are in the wrong, it shoots itself in the foot (well, in the toe, as it's not a big problem) by making their attitude more understandable. Without him, it would have been even more slanted against them by making their attitude more a matter of pure ego rather than a bad first impression. But still, it's not a huge problem with the episode or anything and he doesn't detract a whole lot. I just found him annoying.
This is a very brief scene, but it's rather important because it sets up half of Rarity's choice. Now that we know she's determined to make a dress for Twilight, she has a concrete choice to make. Without the dress, Rarity wouldn't really have a pressing decision to make in the first part of the episode. When her friends show up in the 2nd half it's rather obvious that she has to prioritize, but before that point, the dress serves as a stand-in because it represents her dedication to her friends. The choice of "friends vs. connections" is illustrated by her considerations of whether she's going to work on the dress or hang out with the upper classes. She's actually choosing between two things. If the dress was never introduced, the whole conflict would be less present in the first half of the episode because there's no indication that Rarity is deciding against her friends in any way; she's already in Canterlot with nothing else, so there would be no reason not to go with the fancy ponies.
Also, it's a good reminder of Rarity's element of generosity. She apparently decides to make the dress on a whim, and when one looks at the drawing, it's pretty evident that she doesn't intend to do it halfway. Yes, she ends up kinda blowing it off, but that's kinda the point of the episode. It's really indicative of her relationship with her friends that she chooses to do it.
3:37-4:57: Enter Fancypants
And now we get the other half of Rarity's decision. Fancypants is essentially her connection to the upper classes of Canterlot. So this is where she's basically forced to start choosing between that and her attempts to make Twilight's dress. There isn't a whole lot to note here, other than there are actually some pretty good hints that Fancypants isn't nearly as stuffy as he might appear at first glance. He's surprisingly good-natured after Rarity basically runs him over, which is quite a contrast to the other high-society ponies we've seen, who seemed to go out of their way to look down their noses at her.
It's true that Fancypants only displays interest in Rarity after he hears that she's staying in Canterlot courtesy of the Princess, but that doesn't change the fact that he was still quite nice to her before that point. Even before he invites her to the race, he seems to be one of the nice celebronies that we've seen so far in the show. And it's really only natural that we would be a bit curious that this pony he's never seen before is apparently saying with the princess. Given that he seems to be basically running the Canterlot culture, I doubt he's too concerned with making more connections. More likely than not, he's just being nice.
This is basically just Rarity starting to angst over whether she should work on the dress or go to the race. I've already covered the dress thing above, so all I really have to say about this scene is that it starts the conflict off small; Rarity doesn't jump straight to abandoning her project in favor of fraternizing with the upper crust. The conflict develops gradually over the course of the episode, and at this point, I don't think anyone would really fault Rarity for choosing to put the dress on hold. She still fully intends to finish it, so she's not really choosing Fancypants over the dress, and it's highly implied that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity anyway. Granted, as the episode progresses that's less and less the case, but that's kind a the point. It starts off with her able to have her cake and eat it too, but that becomes more and more impossible as the episode goes on. This scene does a good job of introducing it.
5:40-8:35: A day at the races
The whole conflict gets more developed this point, in a variety of ways. The most obvious is that Rarity starts getting dragged into more upper class shenanigans, and as a result she's going to have to shove the dress into the background. The other, only slightly less obvious one is that she's lying to maintain her dignified facade.
I'm a bit up in the air about that second one, as I don't think it was really necessary. Rarity never actually gets called on it, which is a bit odd given the genre of the show. As for the morality of it, I think it's fairly obvious that it's portrayed as something bad; the show obviously isn't encouraging it. The issue is more the fact that it doesn't really need to have happened. On a meta-level, it never gets mentioned again, which makes me kinda wonder why they added it in there. The primary conflict of the episode still works perfectly fine without it. On an in-story level, Rarity doesn't really have any reason to lie; Rainbow Dash was the winner of the Best Young Flier's competition, and she pulled off the first recorded Sonic Rainboom, so I can't really imagine why Rarity felt the need to make stuff up. It's not like RD was a hick or anything.
Anyway, Rarity is now integrated into the Canterlot culture, which means that she now feels pressure to maintain it, which is why she agrees to all the stuff her presence is requested at. It's obvious that she's a bit reluctant to do it, which means that she still has her friends in mind. One of the strong points of this episode Rarity is clearly conflicted over the whole thing, and it's perfectly understandable; she has good reasons for choosing either options. The fact that there's no obvious choice here makes Rarity a good deal more sympathetic.
It's rather odd that Rarity suddenly gets swamped with invitations, but I don't know jack about how high-society works, and Fancypants pretty much runs the Canterlot scene, so I guess it kinda makes sense. If everypony thinks that Rarity is the next big thing, of course they'd want to jump on the bandwagon early on. That's kinda the whole point of her song, after all. Speaking of which...
8:35-10:43: The Type of Pony Everypony Should Know
Yeah, the whole point is that now she's popular; all the other ponies are taking their cues from her, as the result of Fancypants' seal of approval. It's basically a montage showing everything that's tempting her into neglecting Twilight's dress. Plotwise, there actually isn't much going on here other than that, but it's still quite an interesting scene, if only because we get a sense of the type of stuff that happens in Canterlot.
It's also a treasure trove of cameos and little jokes; Photo Finish shows up in the art gallery, and Prince Blueblood is next to Rarity when she christens the airship. Kinda weird that she would be willing to interact with him after the events of "The Best Night Ever", but whatever. Maybe he mellowed out a little or something. Hoity Toity and Sapphire Shores both show up in the big mosaic thing (along with Derpy, wearing her paper bag hat). Not sure why Rarity never name dropped them, as they'd probably recognize her, but she seems to be doing okay on her own anyway. Also, the painting in the art gallery is pretty obviously inspired by Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory".
The song itself came pretty much out of nowhere; totally didn't know that there was one coming. Not that I mind. It's a lot more interesting to watch the montage than to actually see Rarity go through everything, and the song is pretty catchy.
Then at the end we get back to Rarity's suite, where we see that she's made no progress on the dress, which is a nice jolt after the relatively upbeat musical number. At least she makes an attempt to do something on it.
10:43-14:00: Garden Party!
This scene marks the point where Rarity's desire for reputation finally overtakes her dedication to Twilight's dress. Up to here, you can argue that Rarity didn't really do anything wrong other than procrastinate. After this, she has a lot less of an excuse. She's still sympathetic due to her clear struggle over what to do, and it's even understandable that she'd consider the garden part important, but brushing off a friend's birthday party and then lying about why is obviously a negative. Also, it quite clearly means that she's giving up on the dress; or at least actually getting it to Twilight on her birthday, so the internal conflict that Rarity has been experiencing throughout the episode thus far is resolved, with Rarity choosing in favor of her connections.
Of course, this also means that we need a conflict for the second half of the episode. The standard solution would be for Rarity to be guilt-stricken, and relent, going back to Ponyville. But that would be boring, and thankfully it isn't what the episode does. What it does is take the original conflict and ratchet it up so there's more at stake on both sides. There's a lot more riding on Rarity's choice now that her friends are actually around.
Also, the way Twilight and company pop up at the door is comedic gold. There hasn't been any indication in the episode thus far that they were coming to Canterlot, so it's just as much of a surprise for the audience as it is for Rarity. I know it caught me completely off guard. It's one of my favorite moments in the episode.
I also want to note that I really like the fact that Rarity is obviously never considering actually rejecting her friends entirely, as is quite common in this sort of plot. She's sort of happy to see them, but she has no idea how it's going to affect her plans. It's also a cool gesture on the part of the other ponies to relocate the party on such short notice just so Rarity could be a part of it.
14:00-20:55: Party time!
It's also a nice gesture of Celestia to let the ponies use the ballroom for their party. Again, it's good to see her interacting with the cast in a more friendly capacity, even if it is only implied. It totally figures that Pinkie Pie would have a party cannon.
Anyway, the meat of this scene is the classic "trying to be in two places at once" that Rarity tries to pull. It's a bit of a cliché plot, but I think that it's pulled off quite well here. The contrast between the two parties is played up a lot; the chaos her friends are causing is the polar opposite of the garden party, and it builds up really nicely as she gets more and more frazzled. It's a gold mine of comedic moments. Rarity obviously would love to be in both places, you can see that she's enjoying her time with her friends, but that she feels like she really needs to keep up appearances.
The main thing that keeps it from being more cliched is the way it ends; normally you'd see the attempt crumble in spectacular fashion and Rarity get utterly humiliated by it. Fortunately, that isn't the route this show goes; instead Rarity simply gets caught due to her sloppiness (forgetting she's holding a croquet mallet), and they don't make too big of a deal out of it. The fact that Twilight understands Rarity's desire to go the garden party makes the whole setup a lot less awkward and cringe-worthy than it might have been otherwise.
Which is good, because when the ponies unleash themselves on the garden party the awkwardness comes back with a vengeance. I've never been a big fan of cringe comedies, but I think in this case it works. The main reason is that it causes you to really feel embarrassed for Rarity in this scene, which again helps you to sympathize with her. When you realize just how awkward the other ponies are making everything, you can't help but understand why Rarity was so set on keeping her origins hidden.
Of course, the ponies' decision to crash the garden party seems a bit questionable, seeing as they're basically barging in to something they weren't really invited to. Despite that, it still kinda makes sense. First off, Rarity seems to indicate that nopony would care if she showed up; she never mentions that she's been invited and makes it sound like she's just going to drop in. And since Rarity is the pony who would know what's appropriate in that situation, the other ponies just sort of assume that they could do the same thing. Second, there's just a pretty big difference in culture between Ponyville and Canterlot; it wouldn't be a stretch to say that in Ponyville showing up at a party probably isn't as big a deal. Finally, Twilight and company aren't exactly thinking too hard; they're already partying, and getting into that mindset doesn't really help you make informed decisions. They're on a roll and that sort of energetic momentum carries over into the garden party.
It also explains why the more demure ponies, like Twilight and Fluttershy, are acting the way they are. I mean, I'm usually a pretty low-key, quiet person. However, when I'm with a lot of my friends in party mode, a lot of that stoicism can vanish, which is why when I was a groomsman at my friend's wedding, we spent the whole reception drunkenly singing and air-guitaring along with the DJ. Despite the fact that we weren't even drunk because there wasn't any alcohol. Anyway, my point is that Twilight and Fluttershy loosen up a lot when they're around their friends, so it really isn't out of character for them to act like they do at the party.
Which is good, because it means we get to see Twilight's hilariously awful dancing, which is quite possibly the most hilarious thing in the entire episode. She looks absolutely ridiculous, but she's just so into it that it cracks me up every time. It's obvious that she's having the time of her life.
Then we get to the breaking point. You have to give Rarity at least a little bit of credit; when the chips are down, she ultimately sides with her friends regardless of the damage it could do to her reputation. She's certainly hesitant to own up to creating Twilight's dress, but after the mess her friends have made of the party, you really can't be too hard on her for that. As I said, one of the strongest points of the episode is that you can easily see where Rarity is coming from.
To cap the scene off, we finally get a Canterlot pony who's basically a nice guy. I suppose one could technically interpret Fancypants' "charmingly rustic" comment as a backhanded compliment, but I think it's fairly obvious from the scene that he really does like the other ponies. Yes, he still sounds stuffy about it, but that's just another cultural difference between Canterlot and Ponyville. As far as Canterlot ponies go, he's quite nice; it doesn't faze him in the least that some random ponies crashed his party. And also, he's named "Fancypants". Of course he's going to act overly dignified all the time.
It's an interesting twist on the stock plot in that Rarity technically gets away with her lies; she never gets busted for lying about Rainbow Dash or about the fact that Opal didn't really get sick. But still, as I mentioned earlier, the show is clearly not encouraging this behavior, and she gets put through so much stress over the course of the episode that she basically ends up getting her punishment. In fact, I like the fact that there's no big "coming clean in front of everypony and listing off all the lies and whatnot" scene; pretty much every sitcom ever has had a scene like that, and it really wouldn't have been as interesting to watch as what ended up happening. It's an original twist on a common idea, and the episode is much stronger for the subversion. Besides, Rarity still has to come clean in regard to the big thing she's been hiding: that she's from Ponyville. She ended up learning her lesson perfectly well, and there's no reason for there to be a scene dedicated to basically breaking her when she's already learned what she needed to learn.
Similarly, Rarity actually gets to retain her Canterlot connections; a typical plot of this sort would result in her getting dumped back at square one due to her double-timing, but it's nice to see that she has something to show for all her effort. It helps that the conflict was really justified from either angle; there was nothing wrong with her desire to be with the in-crowd, the only issue was when it got in the way of her friendship. It's good to see that the alternative to her friends wasn't portrayed as inherently bad.
Also, it's rather weird that none of the ponies recognize the main cast members, given that they all saved the world twice. Granted, the Nightmare Moon incident was contained in Ponyville, but the Discord thing received a national celebration in Canterlot, so one would think that somepony would have remembered that. The only real explanation that I can think of is that chronologically the Discord episodes haven't happened yet, which is unlikely, but I guess it's possible. More likely, I think it's due to the fact that having the entire cast be famous would really muck up the tone of the entire show, so it's easier for the writers to ignore it.
Twilight and Fluttershy are special cases as well: Twilight is Celestia's personal student, and Fluttershy was a famous model for a brief period. But still, I don't think it's that weird that they weren't recognized. Knowing Celestia, she probably figured that Twilight would value her privacy and kept her out of the public eye. Which makes a lot of sense given that Twilight was just a filly when she entered the school. By the time she was old enough to handle the attention, she was pretty much antisocial and didn't exactly get out much. As for Fluttershy, yeah, she was famous, but it was for a pretty short period of time; after enough time passes, she goes out of public consciousness and isn't instantly recognizable. The other thing is that Fluttershy is pretty dolled up in most of her fashion photos, so now that she's just acting natural, she doesn't look much like she did when she modeling.
Really, there's not much to say that hasn't been said already. Rarity recites what she's learned to Celestia about not having to put up a facade to hide one's origins. Nothing else to see here.
I really liked this episode. It's a very good example of how you can write an episode where a character is obviously in the wrong, yet their actions are understandable. That was a major problem with the previous episode; RD wasn't nearly as sympathetic as Rarity was here. There wasn't anything that tempered her arrogance, no reason to explain why she was so desperate for attention. If she would have had more of a motive than "I like the praise". This episode also gets a huge number of bonus points for taking an incredibly trite plot and actually twisting it enough to be really interesting. Most expectations of what was going to happen (Rarity getting caught in a lie, losing her connections, ending up looking like an idiot, making her friends angry, etc) got flipped around, but she still managed to learn her lesson in a believable fashion. Add in a ton of good jokes, and you have one of the stronger episodes of the season. I don't think it's unseated Lesson Zero from my "favorite episode" position, but it's definitely up there.
- A very inventive take on a very played-out plotline
- The conflict is very well rounded, and Rarity remains sympathetic throughout
- There are a lot of good character interaction moments throughout
- Some of the best jokes so far this season
- Twilight's dancing
- That redneck pony at the beginning is annoying
- There are a few minor plot holes concerning why nopony recognizes the cast