One of the best parts about watching a TV show is discussing it with your friends, week to week, anticipating the next episode, theorising, all that stuff. In the age of box sets and international release dates, that’s on the decline for me, but the internet came up with a solution. And by “came up with” I mean “stole” the ancient concept of a diary, and renamed it blogging. This is going to be a blog ass blog feature, where I post my responses to the episodes of the shows I’m watching. If I fall in love, you’ll know why. If I taper off, you’ll know why. But it’s to mark down my response, and get some writing out of shows I perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in.
And what show are we starting with? My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Recommended by none other than jackanderson, who’s fallen hard. Also recommended by the worst fandom portmanteau this side of Avatards. And I must admit, the weird reaction to the show has intrigued me, but that intrigue has been largely separate from the show itself. This ends now, when I take a dive and see just what is up with the opening two parter: “Friendship Is Magic.”
Yup, that is most definitely the old Pony jing-HOT DAMN THAT BASSLINE. It’s reminding me of one of my favourite They Might Be Giants songs, which is a big plus. Let’s just take a second to briefly mention the importance of a theme song. Their importance has perhaps been overlooked in recent years, but I find them integral. All great shows have great theme songs, that fit the mood just right (that’s a whole blog post in itself right there). We’re at least off on the right foot.
Okay, okay, the episode itself. I enjoyed it. It didn’t set my world on fire, but I enjoyed it. The first part was touch and go, with it basically being a collection of a few scenes, bookended by this legend, to introduce the main characters. The way it introduced them was uneven – the cowgirl pony made no positive impression whatsoever, but Fluttershy’s scene was just great writing, the shy comedy, and then the instantaneous shift for the baby dragon. That’s good characterisation right there. As was Rainbow Dashes, actually, accompanied by a soundtrack that sounded ripped from Sonic Heroes. (I, unlike most people, see that comparison as a positive. Musically.)
The real meat came in the second half, when the show got into some actual a) friendship and b) magic, but it was again just a series of events which were all there to make a very obvious point about being a good friend. The whole show built up to an obvious and expected finale, and everything happened just as you’d think, and Friendship isn’t just “magic” it’s literally magic. Like, it destroys demons. Which, you may harrumph at such a show in concept, but then when I got to this predictable finale, I was still affected by it. It still emotionally connected.
Now, the whole “power of friendship” trope isn’t new, and it holds a soft spot within my heart. The reason I love Kung Fu Panda 2 so much is that it nails this trope to a T and a half, and I’m cheering right there with Po in that slow motion shot of awesome. There’s nothing better than the feeling of coming together, whether that be in fiction or real life. And this pilot episode was that with literally every other element stripped out. It works not in spite of it’s obvious intent, but because of it. It’s sincere on a level most adult-focused shows don’t find the time for, often focusing on the layer of snark, rather than the sincere core that makes the good snarky shows work.
If I had to guess, and I don’t (but I will), I’d say that’s why it’s caught on just so much. Because these two episodes are emotional manipulation laid bare, designed to make you feel good. Which isn’t something you stop wanting to do after you pass the age of 10, and also isn’t a bad thing, for the show aspires to be nothing more, and is honest about exactly what it is. It’s right there in the title.
I’ll dig a little deeper into this MLP hole and see what else lurks down there, but from my first foray into this territory, I’m glad it exists.
The points of the bullet variety that go on the end for fun:
- I have no idea what to think about that random song in the middle. It just came out of nowhere, but hey, song was catchy.
- Show’s got some smart gags. As I mentioned in the text, Fluttershy’s introduction was damn well written, and comedic timing was strong throughout, that handshake gag was pretty great.
- Ponies being knocked out of frame: also funny. Just like Norse Gods.