Sunday, 27 April 2014

Episode review: "Inspiration Manifestation" (S4E23)

Rarity losing it once again
TV-Y shows are "not expected to frighten younger children". Clearly terrifying adults is fine
We're now getting very close to the end of Season 4 now, and what a ride this latest season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has been! For this episode, we see another writing collaboration, this time between Corey Powell and showrunner Meghan McCarthy. Both these women have come up with some classics over the years, so I had high hopes for this episode. Did it live up to expectations? You know what to do by now: read on and find out!

This was a Rarity/Spike episode, which rather divided the fandom when that fact became known. Rarity's eps are rather unpredictable: they can be superb (see "Rarity Takes Manehattan") and they can be disappointing (see "Simple Ways"), but Spike's are consistently... well, "not classics" may be the kindest way of putting it. Even so, the pairing – if I dare use that loaded word – haven't had much extended time together, so this was still something new.

As usual, the show was stolen by Tabitha St. Germain. I have pretty much boundless admiration for the way she plays Rarity, and I'm sure it's part of the reason that the elegant unicorn has gained more supporters recently. She was absolutely convincing in portraying the ice-cream-munching Rarity's descent into darkness as the book (dubbed, inevitably, the Necronomicon by the fandom) got its metaphorical claws increasingly deeply into her.

Rarity turns on the charm with Claude
Remember: the last puppetmaster we saw was Discord...
The consensus among the fandom seems to be that unicorns' magic auras are not actually visible, and are only put in to aid we puny human viewers. If so, that would explain one of the biggest complaints I would otherwise have had about this episode: that no-one, including Spike, noticed that Rarity's aura had gone that eerie shade of green that has always denoted dark magic. (There was no black or purple, as in "The Crystal Empire", though.)

This was a decent episode for Spike, and although I don't think he's managed to change his "no real classics" score, he did okay. Unfortunately for him, the most memorable scenes didn't do him many favours: his blithe ignorance of the castle stairway collapsing, his swallowing of the Necronomicon (isn't that going to have... consequences?) and the horrific gem-encrusted suit of... something that Rarity inflicted on her "Precious Scales" later on.

I thought it was a good idea to bring back Owlowiscious as a supporting character, as he and Spike played quite well off each other. Early on, I feared that the run-into-the-ground "Hoo?" joke would be dug up so it could be run into the ground again, but thankfully things moved on and the owl was a bit more interesting later on. I actually wouldn't mind seeing an actual Owlowisicious-centric episode at some point, just to see if it could work. Probably not, sadly.

Spike's suit of gems
But isn't that just like giving Pinkie a suit made of cake?
Twilight's appearance later on was necessary, though her clear-up operation (largely off-screen, apart from rescuing the two trapped ponies) was perhaps rather rushed. I was amused by Spike taking the otherwise good episode moral too far and telling her she looked terrible, though! The other Mane Sixers seemed a little bit shoe-horned in: for example, I didn't think Fluttershy's scene really had any point to it. This didn't need to have an ensemble cast.

The most memorable supporting character was without doubt the puppet master, for some reason named Claude. He was very reminiscent of a (slightly) less sinister Stromboli from Disney's version of Pinnochio, and I'm sure that was deliberate. It's a shame we didn't see slightly more of him: I wouldn't have minded a short sequence of his actual puppet show. Perhaps some other time. And I can hardly end this paragraph without noting that, at last, we got to see Octavia again.

"Inspiration Manifestation" felt like what it was: an episode where everyone is holding their breath and waiting for the S4 finale. Considering the pedigree of its writers, I was a little underwhelmed. It was by no means bad, but apart from the genuine Nightmare Fuel of dark magic-influenced Rarity (some of those faces will live with me for a long time!) it wasn't really up there with the best. Maybe we're just going to have to accept that Spike is best as Humdrum a supporting dragon, not as a true (co-)star.

Octavia (and a couple of other ponies) playing music
"I'm resonant, won't stop for you, playing away, playing away..."
Best quote: Rarity: "I'm so excited!" Spike: "I'm so scared..."

  • Tabitha St. Germain turns in another masterclass as Rarity
  • A solid moral about being honest with your friends
  • "Claude" the puppetmaster – more of him, please!
  • Another little glimpse inside the Castle of the Two Sisters
  • The return of Octavia
  • Spike just doesn't seem to be strong enough to star in an episode
  • The Necronomicon's spell seemed a bit... weird
  • The pacing was slightly off, with a rather rushed ending
  • Apart from Twilight, the other Mane Sixers were basically filler

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