Saturday, 5 October 2013

Classic episode review: "Boast Busters" (S1E06)

Trixie showing off, as ever
"They'll pay for picking that stupid tiger over me. I'm the one who's grrreat!"
Gosh, it's been a while, hasn't it? The last CER I posted was back in early July, but it really does seem time to do something about that. With "Boast Busters" we come to an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that has huge popularity among a large slice of the fandom. This is, of course, because it's the ep that introduces The Great and Powerful Trixie. It's also one of only two episodes to have been written by Chris Savino ("Stare Master" being the other) and after the jump I'll let you know whether I think that's a good thing or not.

Let's get this out of the way straight away: I am not much of a Trixie fan. I don't actively dislike her in the way I do Gilda, but I certainly wouldn't class her as one of my Best Ponies. I really can't see why the likes of Sethisto of EqD infamy are quite so obsessed with her. (Mind you, Luna isn't among my very favourites either...) This is an episode that I watch for fun only rather rarely, although it does have its moments. It probably doesn't help that E7 is a real favourite of mine, and so rather overshadows this one.

Spike helps Twilight practise her magic
"I'll wear this moustache!"
This episode feels slightly different now to how it did before "Magic Duel" appeared. For one thing, the popular fanon that Trixie became a laughing stock after the events of "Boast Busters" has now been canonised, which does tend to elicit a little more sympathy for her. Nevertheless, she's still a boastful show-off, and while that fits with her on-stage act I really don't think she needed to stay like that when not performing. Without the Alicorn Amulet she's not as nasty as she becomes in "Magic Duel", but then she's probably not as bitter and twisted, either.

As far as the Mane Six are concerned, this is a Twilight episode. The other ponies are relegated to cameos (Rarity's green hair moment) or not used at all (Pinkie and Fluttershy) and instead it's Spike who plays a useful supporting role. His slightly clunky conversation with Twilight early on fills in a little more detail about "special talents" — although cutie marks won't be explained for six more episodes — and also makes it very clear that Twi is something a bit out of the ordinary when it comes to magical power.

Rarity contemplates her new green manestyle
The pony everypony should grow
That's actually something that I don't see discussed too much with "Boast Busters": the relative strengths of protagonist and antagonist. Twilight, as we'll see as the series goes on, certainly has more power... but at this stage, Trixie is much more experienced at using magic, and it's that that allows her to triumph, at least for a while. By the time "Magic Duel" rolls around, Trixie surely wouldn't have had a prayer of beating Twilight without the help of the Alicorn Amulet.

In fact, I think we see Twi grow in confidence in that regard even during the course of this episode. At the start, she's giving Spike moustaches. Later, she's single-hoofedly defeating an Ursa Minor, with some very impressive spells. The Ursa is a well done monster, with a nice design, and I'm actually a little disappointed that it (or the Gruffalo-like Major) haven't been seen since. The fact that Trixie boasts about defeating one and expects nopony to call her out on it does suggest that they're rare creatures, though.

Twilight battles the Ursa Minor
This scene has a rather Zelda-esque feel to it
This episode also marks the first appearance of those irritating colts, Snips and Snails. I've never been a particular fan of theirs, since they don't seem particularly well developed characters. What in the wide, wide world of Equestria do those cutie marks actually represent, anyway? And freely going into the Everfree Forest seems unlikely, given that they're hardly the bravest ponies around. Maybe it's just another case of teething pains for the series, much like Spike's jarring "Fu Manchu" reference right at the end. How would he know?

"Boast Busters" is not one of my favourite episodes, even when set against some of the others in the first half of S1. A great deal of that is because I don't much like Trixie: I really wouldn't miss her very much if she never returned. Snips and Snails don't help, either. I do appreciate the further development for Twilight and the good choice of monster, so it's certainly not all bad. But... I really don't agree with those who place this episode on a pedestal: I think Savino's later ep is considerably better.

Snips and Snails face the consequences
When Derpy is angry, you know you have a real problem
  • A good ep for Twilight's character development
  • We learn more about magic and special talents
  • The Ursa Minor is a striking and effective monster
  • I just don't find Trixie as interesting as some
  • Snips and Snails annoy me for much of the time
  • Spike's weird reference to a human character

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