Monday, 31 March 2014

Episode review: "Leap of Faith" (S4E20)

Flim, Flam and their tonic
Flam's moustache looks suspiciously fake here...
"Leap of Faith" was an episode that I didn't have much feeling on, one way or the other, before it actually aired. So far, I don't think Josh Haber's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic eps have produced a cast-iron classic, but nor have they produced a complete disaster. They've tended to emphasise entertainment, perhaps slightly at the expense of nuanced characterisation, and for me at least that worked better in "Castle Mane-ia" than in "Simple Ways". Onward we go!

As had been widely speculated from the moment the short synopsis appeared, this turned out to be Applejack's "key" episode. To get there, she did have to sort-of lie: personally, I find that more convincing from AJ than if she'd told an outright falsehood. I thought it was a bit odd that her key turned out to be a bit (as in money) but then AJ's always been the most commercially-minded of the ponies so I suppose it does make sense. I still have no idea how these are going to fit together in the end.

The other Apples were present and correct (Big Mac's shark-fin scene was silly, in a good way) but they weren't all united this time: Flim and Flam had come to town and persuaded Granny Smith that their miracle tonic could cure anything – and let Granny perform athletic miracles. The fact that it seemed to work allowed the episode to do its most interesting stuff, related to the maxim that "correlation ain't causation" – Granny drank it and swam better, but the one didn't necessarily cause the other.

Applejack considers
"Ah jes' know ah left the gas on back home, y'all"
It was hardly a surprise that a Flim & Flam episode would contain some sort of a song, and this one didn't disappoint in that regard. As in "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", it was a patter song sung in front of Ponyville's apparently large resident population of gullible ponies. It was a decent song, but I don't think it matched up to the one in S2E15; it just didn't have the sheer verve and joie de vivre that the earlier number possessed. It was shorter, too – and to be honest, I was glad of that.

It was fun to watch the background ponies in this episode. The one with "a terrible cold" from "Hearts and Hooves Day" was at Flim and Flam's demonstration. We got a Derpy sighting, although she didn't do anything beyond sitting in the stands at the swimming competition. More notably, Lyra had a really nicely thought out cameo as a judge. The little scene where she held the "10" upside down, realised her mistake, and corrected it with her tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth as she concentrated was brilliant.

One thing that surprised and disappointed me this time round was that the dialogue sometimes felt rather flat. Applejack's conversations with Silver Shill came across as slightly forced at times, though you could explain that by saying that SS was uncomfortable with his dishonest role. But even between the Apples, there were very few truly memorable lines, something that's very rarely been the case this season. In that respect, it was reminiscent of the disappointing "Apple Family Reunion" last season.

The scorecards are produced
All those 10s. And which Doctor is that, hmm...?
Oh, and Silver Shill was okay. Just okay. Once again, Josh Haber has served up a decent episode without making the breakthrough to greatness. Perhaps some of my feeling is down to my preference for character studies, something Haber doesn't seem to be all that interested in. It's probably my least favourite of the five "key" episodes we've seen, although it's only just behind "Rainbow Falls" in that regard. More than good enough to pass the time, but it was one of those eps that you watch and then move on.

Best quote: Silver Shill (to AJ): "Thanks to you, I realised that sometimes, honesty isn't the best policy!"

  • An interesting, quite well explored moral message
  • The Flim Flam Brothers were in their element
  • Applejack finally got her key – even if it was a bit
  • Lyra's very funny cameo with the scorecard
  • A couple of nice Big Mac moments
  • The pacing seemed a little bit off, with a rushed end
  • Granny's past swimming ability came out of nowhere
  • The song was not as good as the "Cider" one.
  • Surprisingly little memorable dialogue

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