Monday, 25 May 2015

Episode review: S5E08: "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone"

Rainbow Dash impersonates Twilight Sparkle
It's almost like one of those creepy Pop sets...
Episode 99 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic broke the record for the longest-running Hasbro toy-based cartoon series. (Only the US record, I'm told: apparently a Japan-only G1 series ran for much longer.) It's probably fitting, therefore, that this ep was written by Amy Keating Rogers, who was on the show back in Season 1. Given that a) many fans have wanted more griffons and b) there's another mini-hiatus coming up, expectations were high...

...and I don't think most people will be too disappointed with this one. The big potential sticking point for many fans was the presence of Gilda, something that had been widely expected and that does indeed come to pass. I've never been a huge Gilda fan (and no, not just because she made Fluttershy cry!) but I think she is used fairly well in this episode. Not amazingly well – nothing amazes me with its audacity – but it could have been a lot worse.

Of course, the Flight Camp flashback doesn't harm things. The animators maybe missed a trick by not having filly Fluttershy as one of the background ponies in that scene, but chick(?) Gilda is suitably cute and we finally get to see the start of her and Dash's friendship. Maybe she and Rainbow hit it off a little too quickly, though. (Overly fast resolution is also a problem at the end of the episode; I'm not sure I can really buy a complete reformation in quite that short a timescale.)

Gilda mocks Grandpa Gruff
"And then this pony said, 'Why? Can't you watch me like a griffon?'"
The best aspect of this episode may well be the mythology, complete with a striking storybook sequence which uses a brand new art style. I really like the inclusion of the Arimaspi – even if that creature's design may make one or two old-gen fans raise half an eyebrow... Griffonstone's own later history oddly reminds me just a tad of the last days of somewhere like Byzantium: a once-great empire reduced to a pathetic remnant of its former glory.

It's nice to see the Cutie Map being used again, and interesting that it can summon only certain ponies if it sees the need. That's good, because some stories just don't work as well if the whole Mane Six need to be present. I'm sure we're being set up for something there, as with Starlight Glimmer, but I can't think yet of what that something might be. Before I forget, though: poor Twilight. Snubbed by the map, then (later) by the entire episode!

Unsurprisingly, the solution to Griffonstone's (and Gilda's) woes turns out to be... the magic of friendship. Once they turn away from their love of gold, whether that be bits or idols, and turn towards each other, things start to get better. This is lampshaded as sappy, but what the hay; it's MLP. I'm intrigued by the Abysmal Abyss, though – is this a standard deep chasm à la Ghastly Gorge, or something darker and door-to-Tartarus-like?

A scene from "Bygone Griffons of Greatness"
He used to be called Prince Yendor, but protocol demanded a "G" name...
Although not quite as funny as last week's effort, "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone" is still entertaining: Rainbow Dash's hilarious impression of Twilight (mane and all!) is the highlight, but there's also Pinkie talking to King Grover's statue, Pinkie's obsession with hugs, Pinkie's... well, Pinkie. It's not really surprising that an Amy Keating Rogers episode would be strong there, but it shows how we'll miss AKR when she's gone.

One thing I've seen several people say about S5 is that it's lost a little of the innocent charm that previous seasons (yes, even S4) had in abundance. Some have theorised that M. A. Larson's increased role has something to do with this, though I couldn't say for sure. I do think FiM should be careful there, though: things like Pinkie's closing baking soda advert are fun in small doses – but not all the time. Still, a good, fun episode overall.

Best quote: Rainbow Dash's Twilight impression

  • Some really good Pinkie moments
  • Gilda's character was put in some perspective
  • World-building and mythology ahoy!
  • Plenty of amusement and silliness
  • A couple of rather rushed aspects
  • Twilight isn't really treated all that well
  • Is the show becoming a little too knowing?

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