Monday, 15 August 2016

Episode review: S6E15: "28 Pranks Later"

The ponies pretend to be zombified
Was there a Cookie Monster joke in this ep? If not, why not?
In the last two weeks, we've had an episode I loved and an episode I... didn't love. This time around we had a brand new writer to My Little Pony in the shape of F. M. De Marco. They had previously worked on Littlest Pet Shop, however. With zombies having been canon since Pinkie mentioned them way back in "Bridle Gossip", I was rather hoping that we'd get a fun yet just slightly scary episode. What we actually got was...

...well, uneven. The episode certainly has its moments, and it's one of those that I've warmed to slightly after a second watch through and reconsideration of a few of my initial complaints. Pinkie Pie is good, for example. On the other hand, I still can't quite get past the fact that Rainbow Dash's characterisation is unsatisfying. She's back in about Season Two mode here in terms of being, frankly, a bit of a jerk. I'd have expected her to be kinder to Fluttershy – if not straight away, then at least after Dash realised she'd badly upset her best friend.

Harry warns Rainbow Dash
"Big Brother Bear is watching you"
That does at least lead to a nice touch: Flutters having the initiative to call a castle meeting. It also sets up one of the episode's best running gags in the shape of Harry the Bear's performance. Almost everything he does is golden, from his comforting of Fluttershy to his "I'm watching you" gesture to Rainbow much later on. Indeed, "nice touches" are where this episode shines. The sewing machine cake is fantastic, while Dash's scroll prank is genuinely hilarious (and a nice callback to "Griffon the Brush Off") and moving Applejack's bedroom into the pigsty is brilliant.

Not all the jokes work quite so well. I'm sad to see that Friendship is Magic has finally succumbed to the fart joke. I'll give it a point for allowing AJ to lampshade it in-show as a feeble gag, but I didn't even find fart gags funny when I was seven years old. Another prank that doesn't satisfy, for a different reason, is the one with Big Mac and the rock. There is simply no way that Rainbow could have got that rock into the cart – she's not that strong. If only there'd been a one-second cutaway of Maud doing a deadpan wink...

Twilight is unamused by the whoopie cushion
Dash and Pinkie: most of the fandom. Twilight: me
The second half of the episode, dealing with the whole "Cookies!" zombification thing, is surprisingly boring. The fact that it's predictable doesn't matter too much, but in (say) "Party of One" the route to the obvious ending was still full of interest. Here, it feels slow and pedestrian. There is the very welcome diversion of the CMC as Filly Guides (not Filly Scouts, interestingly); they look adorable in those uniforms. This part of the episode also has some fine lighting effects and a truly outstanding score from William Anderson. (The end credits music was good, too.)

This isn't a bad episode; this show has very few of those. But I think it passes up the chance to be a great one. For example, imagine if the reason Dash had pranked 'Shy at the start was that Rainbow believed her friend, having undeniably become braver over the seasons, was now tough enough to take a prank. But after going over the top, that was the lesson she learned in the episode – to be a little more subtle and nuanced, even though those aren't things that come naturally to Dash. I'd have found that a wonderfully satisfying plotline.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders as Filly Guides
So, why doesn't Apple Bloom have that tree badge?
Fundamentally, though, I think "28 Pranks Later"'s biggest problem is that it isn't really a S6 episode. Plonk it down in S2 and it would have fitted in a good deal more naturally. I'm all for the idea that ponies still have flaws in their characters, and that Rainbow hasn't fully appreciated the reasons why Fluttershy shouldn't be pranked too hard until now. But to make the episode work, Dash's development has to be regressed to a degree that I find a little hard to credit. This is a fun episode on the surface, but I rather wish there was more underneath.

Best quote: Pretty much everypony: "COOKIES!"

Yays
  • The CMC as Filly Guides are adorable
  • Pinkie has plenty of good stuff to do
  • Several very funny scenes
  • Another solid moral
  • Harry is excellent
  • Generally atmospherically lit
  • Excellent score and incidental music
Neighs
  • Feels a bit out of place this far into the show's run
  • Rainbow's character regression goes a bit too far
  • The second half drags quite a bit
  • Rarity's repeated use of "Dash" seems a little off
  • That rock scene makes no sense (without Maud)
  • Fart jokes Are. Not. Funny.
★★★

8 comments:

  1. I didn't even find fart gags funny when I was seven years old
    I'm sorry your childhood was dark and cruel. :(

    I seem to once again be the only person who liked this without caveat. The worst thing I can say about it is that I'd have rather had it than Mare-Do-Well.

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    1. Nah, my childhood was fine. I had Asterix books, and those kick-started my lifelong love of puns. :D

      Stick this in Mare Do Well's place and I'd have liked it a lot more, I think.

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  2. Fart jokes are more of hit and miss for me.

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  3. Hey there, Mr. Likes to Ignore Me, you didn't seem to mind the fart jokes in Magical Mystery Cure (altered Fluttershy failing to make other ponies laugh) and Testing Testing (the horn).

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    1. I'd ignore you a little less if you didn't seem to be trying to be rude.

      But to answer anyway: in "MMC" the whoopie cushion thing was intended as sad rather than funny. In "TT123" the horn was a very minor thing that I didn't even mention in my review here.

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  4. You should mention Pinkie in this ep, she's really good in this ep.

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    1. That's a fair point! I'll add a mention now.

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