Sunday, 2 February 2014

Episode review: "Pinkie Pride" (S4E12)

Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich lead Rainbow's birthday parade
"Makes sense in context"? Well... no. Not really. Or at all
Here we are again with another episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to consider. This week's edition, "Pinkie Pride", unfortunately slipped out in advance, but I waited until the Saturday anyway. There was a lot of hype about this ep because of the presence of a guest VA: one "Weird Al" Yankovic. Some other interesting points: it was the first Amy Keating Rogers episode since "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" way back in S2, the story was by Jason Thiessen, and the score was written by Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews, not William Anderson. After the break: more reviewing!

I was quite uncertain about this episode when it was announced. I'm not a fan of Weird Al – I'm not not a fan either; I just haven't paid much attention to him. The last thing I want is for MLP to descend into "guest VA of the week" and end up like latter-day Simpsons. John de Lancie set the standard, and it's a high bar to clear. It was also clear before transmission that this was going to be a musical episode. "Magical Mystery Cure", despite its rushed nature, had superb songs throughout, so "Pinkie Pride" was going to have a lot to live up to in that respect, too.

I'm going to come right out and say it: this worked. It was a very fast-paced episode, bordering on the manic at times, but it didn't feel rushed. A large part of the credit for that goes to Weird Al: his character, Cheese Sandwich, really did feel right for the show. I do wonder how he managed to be so famous across Equestria without Pinkie ever having heard of him, but still... the big danger for a celebrity VA is that he becomes the focus. He avoided that, I think, though there were one or two moments when I thought he might slip over the edge.

The other Mane Sixers and Spike, shocked at the Goof-Off announcement
"Congratulations, Spike: you're the new Pinkie Pie!"
As for Pinkie Pie... where have you been, Amy Keating Rogers? Pinkie was written wonderfully well this time, with really only "Pinkie Apple Pie" being this ep's rival in those terms. One of the hardest things for a writer to get right is the other side of Pinkie, and that was an integral part of this episode's plot. "Pinkie's Lament" was sad, but actually it was her forced smile in the "watering can" scene with Twilight that I found absolutely heartbreaking. (Especially given how badly she and the other Mane Sixers had treated Pinkie.)

I mentioned "Pinkie's Lament" – this was the show's second all-out musical episode. (And, I hope, the last for a while. You can have too much of a good thing.) I was a little surprised that, if the end credits are to be believed, Weird Al didn't actually write any of them from scratch, even though Daniel Ingram did collaborate with him. I suspect he had some influence in the polka medley stuff, though! The opening number was another favourite, but really they were all very good – except, perhaps for the very last one, which was a little too close to "This Is Our Big Night" from EqG for comfort.

We've had a good deal of world-building and backstory this season, and we got some more here, albeit not till near the end. Cheese's explanation of how he came to be a super-duper party pony was fitting and satisfying, and it also gave the animators an excuse to show us some of the ponies as fillies. Bon Bon in Twist-style glasses, Lyra bouncing up and down even at that age... and even a blink-and-you'll-miss-it filly Derpy. Okay guys, if every other ep of S4 is terrible I can never now hate it. We have had filly Derpy. (There was quite a bit of mare Derpy, too: chocolate fountains ahoy!)

Filly Bon Bon, Lyra and Derpy!
Derpy looks even derpier than usual with her eyes half-closed!
This was, as had been widely speculated, Pinkie Pie's "key" episode. I'd been wondering exactly how she might face a "test of laughter", but this ep answered that question pretty nicely. I did feel the "rainbow eyes" scene was a tad on the rushed side, but somehow the rubber chicken gift at the end was fitting. As, indeed, was Rainbow Dash's climactic, wildly over-the-top birthiversary party: I don't think the number of candles on the cake has any significance, but Twilight does seem to have learned to dance at some point!

As for the references... oh sweet Celestia, the references. Even if we leave aside the direct Weird Al stuff (apparently mayonnaise is a thing for him) this was almost as packed with refs as some of the comics! Cheese Sandwich has a "doozy" (remember "Feeling Pinkie Keen"?), we start off in Appleloosa, Matilda is in the Ponyville crowd – and Pinkie has three sisters in her family photo. G. M. Berrow got there first! We also got some nice Western references, especially 3:10 to Goof-Off and Cheese's "Man with No Name" get-up.

There wasn't a great deal I didn't like about this episode, but I wasn't keen on how quickly Pinkie's friends forgot her when Cheese arrived. Also, the short live-action clips of the chicken and alligator during the Goof-Off. I absolutely hated these: I imagine they were intended to come as a bit of a jolt, but in the event they just came over as annoyingly distracting. I'd have preferred a different animation style, à la Double Rainboom's Townsville segment. There were also one or two points where the episode teetered on the edge of becoming The Weird Al Show, and that would have been bad.

Rainbow Dash demolishes a huge pizza
Rainbow is out-eating Pinkie Pie. Is that even possible?
All in all, "Pinkie Pride" came as a pleasant surprise. Weird Al's personality was all over it, but (mostly) didn't threaten to overwhelm it. That was partly because Pinkie was written very well: she put in one of her strongest performances of S4 and was a world away from her annoyingly flanderised alternative depiction. Rainbow Dash didn't do badly as the birthiversary recipient, either. I still wonder where in Equestria Celestia has got to, but that's for later. This would have been an 8, but Filly Derpy adds half a point. S4 maintains its high quality.

Post-season update: I'm upping this episode's score to 9/10 with immediate effect. I feel I undervalued it when I first saw it. The live action doesn't bother me as much now (though I'm still not a huge fan of it) and the whole thing just has such an infectious energy about it. This, I now feel, was a Tier A episode, one of the real stand-outs of S4.

Best quote: Cheese Sandwich's polkafied "Smile" snippet

  • Fast-paced but rarely felt rushed
  • Frequently absolutely hilarious
  • Pinkie's characterisation was very well done
  • Several very good songs, especially "Pinkie's Lament"
  • Diamond Tiara sings – and quite well, too!
  • Cheese Sandwich was generally convincing
  • Really nice animation almost throughout
  • Some nice flashbacks, including...
  • Filly Derpy. Filly... Derpy!
  • The live-action clips: they just didn't work for me
  • If Cheese was so famous, how come the Ponyvillians didn't know who he was?
  • The other Mane Sixers were a little too quick to abandon Pinkie
  • The final song wasn't quite up to the standard of the others
8.5/10 9/10


  1. First thing I need to say is sorry for not actually adding any comments for these reviews for quite a while. I *have* been reading them each time, but things had been so hectic that I'd got further and further behind with actually commenting on them. Obviously I know nobody is obliged to do so, but I do like adding a comment where possible. I can't really comment on the 2 episodes before this one because it's only the latest 3 that are still clear in my noggin, but I'll make sure to comment on these latest 3 at least! Anyway...

    I absotootily loved this episode. Although #14 has since topped it, for me, this was definitely my favourite of the episodes when it was first shown, and is definitely still in second place. I remember we nattered a while ago about whether they'd make an episode that was just songs from start to finish. This wasn't quite it, but I think it probably worked better anyway, with breaks between the songs. And the songs were really good too, especially (as you said) the sad Pinkie song. I wasn't quite so keen on the final song, which I noticed you'd also mentioned above, but the one during the actual contest between Pinkie and Cheese Sandwich was a work of genius - utterly mad and very inventive, especially with all the things going on at that point. And somehow it's not really any less than you'd expect from those two loons. ;)

    With that sad Pinkie song in mnd, that was a real lump-in-the-throat moment. It was done really well without being too mawkish, and I wasn't too impressed by the way the others so quickly abandoned her for the alternative that Cheese offered. You *might* expect it from Rainbow, since she's so hot headed, but I did expect better from Twilight, for instance. Still... I very much liked the way it was written, so that Cheese Sandwich wasn't actually competing with the plan to take over. He was actually inspired by Pinkie all those years ago and was effectively trying to show her what he'd learned and become, thanks to her. I thought that was a very nice touch.

    And... Aaaaand Filly Derpy! What more need be said. Sorry, but I must insist that they make a Filly Derpy TY Beanie with immediate effect. ;)

    1. All comments are welcome, whenever they appear! :) Yes, it was a little surprising that Twilight of all ponies got carried away. I suppose she still has a way to go to emulate Celestia's level-headedness under pressure.

      Also Filly Derpy. Because Filly Derpy. ;)

  2. Until now this is my favorite FiM episode.