Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Classic episode review: "Applebuck Season" (S1E04)

Applejack yawning
Who's a sleepy pony? You're a sleepy pony!
Okay, I think it's time for another classic episode review. "Applebuck Season" is the first episode not to carry a writer's credit for Lauren Faust. Nevertheless, some continuity is maintained by having the previous ep's co-writer, Amy Keating Rogers, handling this one. This is seen by many fans as the first good example of the slice-of-life episodes which the show does so often. After the jump, I'll talk about how I see things.

Boring it may be, but I go along with mainstream opinion where this episode is concerned. I think it's pretty solid all round and quite enjoyable on the whole. It doesn't surprise me that some fans cite this as the point at which they fell in love with MLP:FiM, but neither does it surprise me that many (including me) weren't entirely sold until a few episodes further on. It's not bad in any major way; it just hasn't quite got the brilliance of some later eps.

This is that rarest of beasts, an Applejack episode, even if she does come across rather poorly for much of the time. (Winona makes up for some of it.) We already knew from the previous three eps that AJ was honest but also somewhat materialistic, but now we also discover that she's remarkably stubborn. (As a mule, in fact; something lampshaded by Twilight and the animators.) Applejack does eventually learn her lesson, but phew, it takes a while!

Rainbow Dash does the Why Wub Woo face
"Open wide, Ms Dash. I think you may have tonsillitis"
Twilight is the foil for AJ for most of the episode, and this is a good ep for her. She doesn't give up when trying to make her friend see sense, and mostly avoids getting too worked up. (Later in the season, we'll discover why Twi really shouldn't be permitted to get worked up!) Twilight does seem to have mastered self-teleportation now, although it does seem rather wasteful of magical energy to use it quite so much at Sweet Apple Acres.

For the first time, some of the Mane Six are relegated to lesser roles, with Rarity particularly diminished: she appears only at the civic ceremony. Fluttershy does get a more significant part thanks to the Bunny Census, and (naturally) she's quite adorable. Pinkie's main role is to be blissfully unaware of AJ's "helping" with what turn out to be the Baked Bads, but those muffins are probably more notable for resulting in the show's first classic Derpy scene.

Derpy and the "Muffins!" scene
I got plenty o' muffin, and muffins are plenty for me
Rainbow Dash has the best minor part in "Applebuck Season", though I really have no idea who put together that amazing contraption she intends to launch her into her Wonderbolts-impressing moves. However many times I see it, Rainbow being catapulted miles into the sky and landing on Twilight's balcony is hilarious — though the scene is only truly made by Twi's deadpan "Can I help you?" And, of course, there's the legendary Dashface!

We get some nice additional insight into Ponyville society in this episode. Big Mac's first major appearance is the most memorable example; my fancy mathematics suggest he has more lines here than in the rest of the season put together. However, we also get to see Lyra and Bon Bon in close proximity, Mr and Mrs Cake at SugarCube Corner and even Spike's attitude ("Awkward"). Add to that a passing mention of a local zoo and the town feels quite fleshed out.

The bunny stampede
A Lion King reference. With bunnies. Really, how can you go wrong?
So, all in all "Applebuck Season" is an enjoyable episode. It would be wrong to claim it as a classic, since it's still considerably below the standard we'd come to expect later on in this season, but it's certainly several notches above its predecessor. Applejack has been somewhat neglected through all three seasons in terms of getting a place in the limelight, and it's typical that when she does get a starring role she's being a pain for much of it! Still, pretty watchable.

  • Applejack gets some time in the spotlight
  • A solid, enjoyable storyline and a decent moral
  • Plenty of humour ("Can bees squawk?")
  • Muuffffiinns!
  • AJ's stubbornness becomes a bit wearying
  • Why couldn't RD have flown instead of falling?

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