Sunday, 16 March 2014

Episode review: "Maud Pie" (S4E18)

Maud Pie and her pet rock
Shall I compare thee to a summer's rock?
The new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, "Maud Pie" (that's "Maud", not "Maude" as quite a few people rather oddly seem to think) was written by yet another new writer: Noelle Benvenuti. I can't find out anything about her online, so I'm actually wondering whether it might be a pseudonym. I'm not sure why someone would want to hide her involvement with a show as good as this, but perhaps she has her reasons. Should she be proud of her work? After the break, we'll see!

Yes, she most certainly should. In my view, this episode was a near-classic, missing outright Celestia-tier status on only one or two relatively minor counts. It ranks with the likes of "Rarity Takes Manehattan". Perhaps more to the point, it also continues Season 4's streak of good Pinkie Pie episodes. As we saw with both "Pinkie Apple Pie" and "Pinkie Pride", where Pinkie is a major part of an episode's plot, things seem to work out a lot better than they do when she's just a side character.

One thing this series has often done well is to bring in a debuting character and make them an instant fan favourite; Trixie is perhaps the most famous early example. Maud is definitely another success: you can see that by the number of fanfics starring her that already litter FIMFiction. As for her character, well... Maud is grey. Very grey. And slow. But smooth. Like a smooth rock. Ahem, sorry. Vogon poetry has nothing on Ms Pie's. You see, though? It's so easy to get caught up in her character, and that's a great sign.

Rarity's bizarre rock hat
"Rarity's hot new hat"
I want to give a special mention to Maud's VA, Ingrid Nilsson. Okay, brilliant voice acting is hardly something new for FiM, but this was an absolute masterclass. There wasn't a word out of place in the entire episode, and in particular the timing was immaculate. She even managed to give immense humour to her utterly deadpan lines: "it's like hide-and-seek, but way more intense" is just one that comes to mind. And at the end, inevitably but heart-warmingly, we got to see just how much she truly loves Pinkie.

Pinkie had another good episode, as I've mentioned. Benvenuti has understood, as all the good Pinkie writers do, that the party pony is about much more than just pranks and eating. The early, hoof-drawn flashback scene is lovely, and as well as being a heartfelt reminder of Pinkie's rock farm days, it's a nice semi-callback to the felt scenes in "A Friend in Deed". (Note that Pinkie is happy in the flashback, implying that she did stay at the rock farm after seeing Rainbow's rainboom.) And, later, it was heartbreaking when we saw her hiding away so that her friends wouldn't see how unhappy she was.

The rest of the Mane Six play their supporting roles quite nicely – though shame on you, Fluttershy, for pointing at an arachnid and then talking about "other insects"! The brick rock joke of Rarity's hat isn't quite as funny as it was probably meant to be; after those Equestria Games uniforms, she seems to be making some odd fashion designs this season. Twilight, I thought, might have been a little more interested in the idea of a scientist coming to visit. And Applejack's look after seeing the rock-smashed apple was priceless.

Maud explains that she threw the rock
Wet Mane Maud. This is strangely disturbing...
Though not as priceless as some of the expressions we get from Rainbow Dash, who is easily the winner of this episode's Best Supporting Pony award. She adds to the "Oh, come on!" count, for one thing. Her whinges give Rarity's a run for their money. And she even comes up with a rather nice rock joke of her own – and an allusion to Winston Churchill for good measure! But the best is when Maud beats her in the rock-throwing: she doesn't exactly like losing, but Maud's comment about not being into winning... well, she can't process that at all.

So, why was this only a near-classic in my eyes? The main reason was that the show didn't quite have the nerve to stick with the moral that seemed to be coming: that A can be friends with both B and C without B having to be friends with C. That would have been a superb, brave path to go down, and I'm mildly disappointed they didn't. I also found Maud's "superhero" scene, rescuing Pinkie when she got her hoof stuck (hello, "Spike at Your Service") a little jarring: yes, her sister has that sort of ability, but I prefer to think of Pinkie as a one-off.

But these are relatively minor quibbles, and the good parts of this episode certainly outweigh them considerably. As usual for MLP, a character piece worked very well, and a new star was born in Maud Pie. It was an episode that not many little kids' cartoons would have put out, because it's not immediately hilarious and it does need a little work to fully appreciate. That, though, is exactly why I do appreciate it. Whoever Benvenuti might be behind the mask, it looks as though the stable has acquired another fine writer. You, er, rock. Woo-hoo.

Pinkie Pie in the kitchen
The big rock candy mountains
Best quote: Maud: "It doesn't talk. It's a dress."

  • Maud was an absolutely fantastic guest pony, brilliantly VA'd
  • Rainbow Dash's reactions to... well, everything
  • Good depth to Pinkie Pie's character
  • A very solid, decent moral...
  • ...though not quite the truly awesome one it briefly looked like being
  • One or two minor hiccups with the Mane Six
  • The "superhero scene" jarred slightly


  1. another great review :D that 'summer's rock' line at the start!

    I agree with all the analysis and it was great as usual :3 your points about the other ponies were spot on

    only difference is opinion about the moral/character of Maud- we both loved it, but I wanted less friendship-realism :P mainly I wanted Pinkie to be a bit less oblivious to how Maud would come off to her friends, and to struggle but ultimately succeed to get them to understand her quirky sister, as she had struggled in the past to get them to understand her. There were points at the ep in which Pinkie seemed helpless to achieve a reconciliation between her friends and her sister which is just such a powerfully sad message *misty eyes*. Of course - it all comes good in the end, but that slightly increased the 'edge factor' in this pinkie ep. To compare with Pinkie's Pride - that definitely had some edge when it seemed like PP would fail and her friends were being oblivious, but it also had a moment when Pinkie reaaly tried to address that problem and take control.

    1. I await with interest the review I make that you absolutely despise. It has to come one day, surely! ;)

      Fair point about Pinkie. I think that aspect worked okay, but it's definitely not an opinion that's (wait for it...) set in stone. :D Pinkie is a really interesting character, which is why I've been so frustrated with her portrayal in much of S4, but one result of that is that there are a lot of interpretations of her role.