Sunday, 22 December 2013

Episode review: "Power Ponies" (S4E06)

The Power Ponies
Where's Humdrum? Well, someone has to press the shutter
And so another week passes, and that means another episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to review. This one has been eagerly anticipated ever since its earliest preview (in the SDCC animatic sequence), though some fans felt it would either be amazing or terrible with little middle ground. This was the first episode whose writing credits were shared between three writers: Meghan McCarthy, Charlotte Fullerton and a newcomer in Betsy McGowen. I had reservations about that, but did the result allay my fears? After the break, Power Readers!

For a change, I'll start off with my biggest problem from this episode, which was quite simply: pacing. The excessive amount of advertising on US television doesn't help – this would have fitted much better into 25 minutes than the 22 it actually had – but I still think it could have been better. The main problem was the, to my mind, unnecessary sequence in the castle. That took up a couple of minutes that would have been better spent in the wild and wacky comic-book world of Maretropolis.

Talking of which... this, as one or two of my fellow UK of Equestria posters have mentioned, was something of a concept episode. Apart from the start and finish, it all took place in an imaginary world. I'd say a bit like "Read It and Weep" – but of course we know now that Daring Do is very real! I can't see that happening with Maretropolis, though, as it was a place completely and utterly divorced in style from the places we've been in Equestria. It had more echoes, in fact, of Townsville from Powerpuff Girls.

The Mane-iac
She was top of her supervillain class in Mane-iacal Laughter, you know
In their superhero guise, the Mane Six were quite fun, though again more time would have helped. I liked that Twilight was the pony who learned from experience as the episode went on, and that Rainbow Dash was the overconfident one. It was Rarity, though, who seemed the best realised of the Power Ponies; her Green Lantern-ish style worked brilliantly. Applejack and Pinkie, meanwhile, weren't a million miles away from how they are in their normal forms.

And then there's Fluttershy... well, now, what on Earth do I say about her? I didn't think her portrayal was perfect, mainly because we've known for a long time (as far back as "Dragonshy", in fact) that she will get mad if her friends are hurt. So it seemed a bit silly for her to stay calm when they were being threatened, but suddenly go into Hulk mode when the Mane-iac zapped a teensy little firefly. On the plus side, Flutterhulk was a hilarious creation. A one-off, I hope, but a tremendously amusing one-off for all that.

I mentioned the Mane-iac just now, and she was a real highlight of the episode. I don't know who voiced her, but whoever it was clearly enjoyed herself enormously, and all the best supervillains have fun in their roles. (I'm not a fan of revisionist, grim-and-brooding villains.) She was a genuine threat to the Mane Six too: I was startled when she used the phrase "You shall live just long enough..." which I think may have been the first direct death threat made against our ponies.

Like Iron Will said: you slap flies down, I WRECK YOUR TOWN!
Oh, and then there was Humdrum. Poor Spike: he never really gets a break, and he's never had an out-and-out classic episode to star in. This one didn't break that streak, and like several others in which he's played a central role ("Secret of My Excess", for example) it was entertaining but significantly flawed. I felt the "House of Enchanted Comics" gag at the end was rather clumsy, and I hope the lack of a diary entry was simply down to lack of time, rather than dragons being barred for non-ponyishness.

Returning to the pacing problem, though: as has happened before in MLP:FiM, too much time was spent on setting the scene, leaving too little for the fun stuff. I mentioned the castle scenes earlier: yes, it was nice to see some continuity – though it's depressingly clear already that there's going to be a "Princess Twilight's Castle" toy before long – but we didn't need it this time around. Maybe the use of three writers led to a "too many cooks" situation and they just tried to squeeze too much into one episode.

Time to sum up, then – and if you've read all of the above, you won't be surprised to hear that I felt this was the least impressive episode of Season Four so far. It certainly wasn't poor, and some of the Maretropolis stuff was extremely entertaining. I just felt that it seemed a little disjointed and off-track at times. Before this ep went out, a lot of people felt it would be either fantastic or appalling. In the event, I don't think it was either. It was a mixed episode with parts that left me grinning inanely and other parts that bored me.

Helping to restore the Castle
Pinkie Pie. Being Pinkie Pie.
Best quote: Saddle Rager!Fluttershy: "Oh gosh, that wouldn't... be very... polite!"

  • Tried to do something a bit different
  • The Mane-iac was an entertaining villain
  • Nice superhero inspirations/costumes
  • Flutterhulk: utterly ridiculous but fun
  • Touching opening scene with Twi and Spike
  • Uneven pacing throughout
  • Fluttershy should have got mad earlier
  • Suffered from Spike Episode Syndrome
  • The castle scenes were rather pointless
  • Uninspired ending


  1. :D love the fluttershy quote

    as always I agree with your reviews; in fact, this time I agree to the extent where I've nothing to add :P

    1. This is starting to worry me! There'll be a wait for next week's episode as I'll be away until the New Year... but it will get a write-up when I have the chance.

  2. I'll be honest, this was the first episode that I pretty much struggled to finish. I'd imagine the episode does have its fans, but the big problem where I *personally* was concerned is that I'm just not a big fan of superheroes. So an episode centered around a) superheroes and b) mostly Spike was pretty much doomed for me. Even Hulkershy, silly as that scene was, only raised a slight smile.

    I just felt that the episode seemed extremely forced, as if they'd been told "we need a superhero episode" and they didn't especially want to do it. So much of what happened seemed shoehorned in, and cliched as it is, I'd almost have preferred it to have all been a Spike Dream(tm) rather than it actually happened.

    I don't know... maybe it caught me at the wrong time, but I just can't raise the enthusiasm to watch this one again any time soon! :P

    1. I think you have a point with the "forced" comment. I rather got the feeling that someone said to themselves, "Hey, the fans will love a superhero episode!" and assumed that it would instantly be a huge hit. Actually, a lot of the most popular episodes in the series have been those which have had fairly ordinary-seeming storylines: "Sleepless in Ponyville" is a good example.