Thursday, 23 April 2020

My Little Repeats 37: "Hearth's Warming Eve"

This glorious scene provided me with a ponyfic chapter title!
S2E11: "Hearth's Warming Eve"
Written by Merriwether Williams
17 Dec 2011

My original rating: N/A
IMDB score: 8.5

The one with Rarity's tree hat.

Thoughts: A festive episode premiering in December? What is this madness? I'll admit to a raised eyebrow when I saw this episode's 8.5 IMDb rating. Is it that good? For me, not quite, though it's more than decent. This is the ep that introduces the Windigoes, not much used hereafter but certainly an interesting concept. We're told that Starswirl was Clover's personal mentor, and I think it's the first time we see the Equestrian flag. The pageant approach is an interesting and unusual one, and I think it works well. All the Mane Six are fun (Spike gets a bit less to work with), though less so away from the pageant, where for example Rainbow continues her run of being rather annoying in S2. In the play, Applejack as Smart Cookie is probably my favourite with her deadpan asides to the audience. I'm amused that Princess Platinum dubs the land she finds "Unicornia" – a canon G3 place. Daniel Ingram wanted "The Heart Carol" to become a sort of brony anthem. It never quite achieved that, though I like it more than most fans seem to, and I really like the extended version. There are Hearth's Warming episodes I enjoy more than this one, but it's very watchable all the same. A highish three, and perhaps almost a four when I'm in the right mood.

Choice quote: Chancellor Puddinghead: "Can you think inside a chimney?"

New rating: ★★★

Next up is "Family Appreciation Day", which I had little time for initially but gradually grew warmer towards – a bit like "Look Before You Sleep" in some ways. We'll see whether that's continued.


  1. I always felt like the lore in the play was the highlight, and everything that was not in the play was dull to bad. The song in particular is one of my least favorite of the whole show, down there with "Behold the Princess Twilight Cometh". :|

    1. I used to find it a very meh song, but the extended version changed that considerably. I mean, it's not going to challenge "A True, True Friend" and the like. But it is one I listen to by choice from time to time.

    2. I agree with Logan that the extended version works better, but I still think it's comparatively weak compared to all the great reworkings of carols on the Christmas album (and indeed the Starlight Christmas Carol episode whose name I've temporarily forgotten).

      For me it's what I call the Moulin Rouge problem: in that movie, there are lots of covers of well known showttunes and pop and rock hits throughout, but the plot culminates in an original song which (in-story) is recognised as a new classic. The problem is that if you're going to set the bar super high like that, then the song you're proposing to add to the daytime radio canon has to actually be good enough to hold its own in that company, or else the informed attribute nature of it becomes really clunkingly obvious.

      So it is with the Heart Carol; slightly different in that Ingram had written several excellent songs for the show already, but - crucially - this is also being compared to actual existing carols and Christmas songs, and that's a *really* tough club to get into. The pop Xmas canon admits maybe one or two new entries a decade, and carols (even secular ones) have had more than a century to be whittled down and polished up. Overwhelmingly, songwriters and composers across the world who make it their life's work to try and join that roster don't succeed,nor do bona fide pop stars trying their hands. And so, even if in-story it's THE Equestrian carol, it's impossible for me to hear it and not compare it to any number of real-world carols and find it lacking.

      Good episode, though.

  2. Looking at the lore of the play through my eyes, I often imagine how coincidental it is that Twilight and her friends would portray the three rulers of their nations (And their servants), as if it's a subtle way of acknowledging those figures were possibly their ancestors. I'll admit, those years before Equestria got it's name and the princesses came into fruition, I don't know if I'd ever have wanted to live during that time. Three nations always fighting, not even trying to compromise on their situation, and all the while this hatred builds up the presence of the Windigoes (Who'd make an additional appearance during the sixth and ninth season). And truly the only logical ponies are their own servants, Clover the Clever being among them, yet as usual their head figures are too stubborn to listen to anyone's words but their own (Kind of relatable to some viewers).

    As a Heartswarming episode, I wouldn't necessarily say it's 'the' best but I am a sucker for theatrical productions. The history of Equestria is rather educational and even the song at the end is rather catchy. Overall, I'd say it's a pretty decent episode.

  3. Ooh, I like this one! A simple enough fable with some fun Main Six shenanigans (I personally like Rainbow's hyper-militaristic take on Hurricane, and the implied dynamic between AJ-Smart Cookie and Pinkie-Chancellor Puddinghead). Also includes a fantastic monster reimagining (I was delighted to find the real-world Canadian inspiration for the windigoes as cannibalistic horrors; oddly fitting, given their role here).

    It's a mystery to me why the Founders don't receive more attention in the fandom; after all, they are Equestria's equivalent of the Founding Fathers and have very distinctive and fanfic-ready personalities. Then again, they weren't repeatedly mentioned in the following seasons the same way Star Swirl was.

    I also love the historical representation - similar to how the Pillars would later on be influenced by real-world ancient history. It's one of the reasons I've repeatedly gone back to Commander Hurricane and Private Pansy in my fiction.

    Between this and "Family Appreciation Day", I always valued how this season fleshed out some of the history and setting in Equestria. These two are pretty much my cornerstone episodes. A solid four out of five from me.

    Minor point, though:

    "I think this is also the first time we're told that Starswirl was Twilight's personal mentor"

    You mean Clover the Clever, don't you? Twilight has no actual connection to Star Swirl (Starswirl?) here beyond playing Clover.

    1. It's a mystery to me why the Founders don't receive more attention in the fandom

      It is odd. I've read several fine fics starring one or more of them (Clover seems to be the most popular) but you would think there'd be a few more.

      And I do indeed mean Clover. Gah. Silly mistake! Thank you for the correction.

    2. It's only just now struck me from this discussion how much more sense it would have made to have the founders take the place of the Pillars. I mean, I love the Pillars, especially in the comics, with their allusions to mythology and just general awesomeness (comic Somnambula is a genuine unexpected late contender for best pony), but... Yeah. The resonance of something like Shadow Play, to have these six pairing up with the Mane 6 who played them on stage, would maybe have been even better.

  4. I like this episode a bit more then you, for a lot of the same reasons as Impossible Numbers. Yet already it's not sticking with me as much as my rating at the time indicated. May have to drop it by 0.5 when I re-evaluate my scores thus far after I've concluded re-reviewing Season 3.

    Not a lot I can add - the episode's format alleviates much of Merriweather Williams' ticks that seem to pop up in most of her episodes, though there's still some of that meanness observed in the Prelude to the play. The ending song is kind of weak, as most of everyone has observed. The play format gives it some unique flavour (helped, much like The Cutie Mark Chronicles, by the fact that it was never repeated in a future episode). And yes, Applejack's deadpan responses are gold here, and I'm so glad they're in a format where they can happen without reflecting badly on her character.

    As a side note, I'm kind of surprised an episode with a "characters playing the part of other characters" type episode came this early in the show. Normally it's the sort of thing you see later in a show's run, when writers are struggling to come up with new ideas. Granted, those episode tend to have no in-series context as to the alternate story being told, whereas this very much does, so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

    Be interesting to see your take on the next one. I don't remember where (might have been a really old review of yours?) but I seem to recall reading you thought rather poorly of "Apple Family Reunion". I didn't much either prior to to rewatch, but it surprised me. Curious to see how you find it.

  5. I'm with PP. I enjoyed the ep much morre for the world building than anything that actually happened in it, and I didn't care much for the song at all. It does have one of my favorite Derpy appearances though, and one I used as a jumping off point for an entire story. Why was she waving at the audience through the curtain?