Sunday, 26 January 2014

Episode review: "Three's a Crowd" (S4E11)

Twilight's "Spoiler Alert"
Spoiler alert: the next episode will have ponies in it!
I've been extremely short of time over the last few days, and that's continued into this weekend, so I hope you'll excuse me for writing a somewhat less thoughtful review than usual. Still, it's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and I surely can't ignore that, can I? The latest episode is another collaboration, this time between Admiral Lady Meghan McCarthy and Ed Valentine, who was responsible for the pretty enjoyable "Flight to the Finish". You know the form by now: past the break!

This episode saw the return of two significant characters. Right at the start, we found out that Princess Cadance would be making a trip to see Twilight in Ponyville. It would have been fun to have seen her actually doing the Royal Visit thing, but that doesn't seem to be the form in Equestria (apart from, sort of, in "Luna Eclipsed") so we got something else. Twilight had made plans for the two of them to visit the Star Swirl the Bearded Travelling Museum! Since Twi was cosplaying, though, personally I'd call it a con. :P

Things didn't go to plan (of course) because of the arrival of the other returnee: the one and only Discord. I actually have mixed feelings about the fact that he's already been in this season twice. He's a wonderful character, and John de Lancie is superb, but he's also a very intense one – and strong meat is best taken at widely spaced intervals. I'd go so far as to say that we might already have had enough of him for Season 4, though it wouldn't surprise me if he appeared in the finale.

Discord switches the princess's manes
The princesses actually don't look too bad with switched manes
Discord's Blue Flu "illness" (I think the quotes are justified!) was the centrepiece of the episode. Since Fluttershy wasn't around, which I'll touch on in a minute, he didn't have the automatic compassion he might have had. Instead, he relied to some extent on Applejack and Rarity, but to a larger extent on Twilight. The Draconequus's relationship with her is an interesting one, and I'm not sure either party really knows how to handle it just yet. I thought it was one of the more interesting secondary factors here.

References and background touches abounded, particularly in Discord's patter song: the Harry Potter one was easy enough to spot, but the pony with braces worried about the airport-style scanner needed really sharp eyes. Oh, and Hunter S. Thompson? Well then. While I'm on the subject of references: one of the guards aboard Cadance's Royal Train (which had a nice 1930s streamliner feel to it) was none other than Flash Sentry. This was just an animator's little touch, nothing more – even if he did give a little smile as he returned to the train.

Fluttershy was largely absent because she'd gone to observe Breezies. This was fascinating, since they're creatures from G3. Will we see her own experience in a future episode? Rainbow Dash did very little, apart from being just plain rude ("lame!") to Cadance and Twilight's enthusiasm for the Star Swirl show. That leaves Pinkie Pie, who was my least favourite thing in the episode by some way. Once more she was written as an airhead who can be distracted from her closest friends by a floating balloon. Writers: watch "Pinkie Apple Pie". That's how to do it.

The Tatzelwurm menaces Twilight and Cadance
I may be imagining this, but Twi's zaps seemed more powerful than Cadance's
Once Twi and Cadance had got to the "edge of Equestria" (so what's beyond it?) dragging Discord – nice nod to Cadance's lack of flight experience here – they found another problem to contend with, in the form of the Tatzelwurm. (That's an official, but "all there in the script", name, like Chrysalis.) I was pleased to see this: the show's been a bit light on mythological creatures recently, and our version of this one hails from the Alps. (I'd still like to see Greek mythology make a comeback, though, especially Tartarus.)

I felt that "Three's a Crowd" was a good, enjoyable episode with only one major flaw – Pinkie's characterisation. Again – and some extremely entertaining touches. The song was great fun, despite de Lancie's dodgy singing voice, and it was good to have a bit more world-building. Cadance had a decent episode with her admission that she craved a bit of adventure now and then, though a pure Twilight/Cadance episode would also have been nice. This wasn't a classic, but it kept up S4's generally high standards.

Best quote: A silent one! Applejack: *raised eyebrow*

  • Discord gave good value once again...
  • ...and his patter song was tremendous
  • Cadance got a little character development
  • Some more world-building going on
  • A brief mention of the Breezies!
  • The Crystal Train
  • Pinkie Pie was irritatingly characterised yet again
  • Discord is just teetering on the edge of overexposure
  • Rainbow, after criticising AJ's bluntness in E8, was just rude

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