Archive for March, 2014

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Ding Ding

Again, I don’t have too much to say about an episode like this. Just a standard run-of-the mill installment of the show. It plays around with a few interesting concepts, such as Luna’s love to enter children’s dreams (creepy?), but generally borders on the safe weekly installment that this season has been keen on ditching.

So what’s this episode got going for it? Firstly, the pacing is pretty much spot on. It has this three-act play-like theme to it which propels this episode forward. Also, there is a thoroughly long and entertaining dream sequence; and just like ever dream sequence in ever cartoon ever, it is filled with completely random (or seemingly so) things, floating about in space or water. I thought the fact that they tied in dolphins to be a neat aspect… but still somewhat out of the blue. Sweetie bell knows Sapphire shore’s favorite animal and good luck charm… yet ISN’T a fan of her? It’s somewhat illogical.

What’s also illogical and often un-immersive is the dialogue that get used in some crucial scenes within the episode. For example, the dialogue that gets used whilst Rarity is entertaining Sweetie Belle’s birthday guests. What also rubbed me the wrong way was the odd villianization of Sweetie Belle. The writers in this show seem to have this knack at villianizing characters with a flip of a switch. A character like Sweetie Belle, literally one that is morally just in A LOT of these things, would go so far as to sabotage her big sister’s big moment is just… it’s too hard to believe in my eyes.

However, the episode is generally on top of it’s game in most other aspects. It’s interesting, and has a solid sense of entertainment throughout. The comedy value is indeed quite low… but that doesn’t signify failure as much as it does lack of entertainment for the people such as myself, who value comedy over various other developments in the show. This is for the simple fact that a show like this simply cannot delve too in depth or become mature enough to sustain my interest if a less-than-abundant amount of comedy is present. That’s nothing against the show, but it’s just the honest truth.

Overall it was a solid installment of the show that has enough good to outweigh the bad any day. I’m not sure how much it does in the realm of character development… but I really don’t care. As long as it keeps staying solid, and hopefully somewhat refreshing like the previous weeks episode, i’ll be completely content.

Grade: B

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The angst is above 9000

Well that certainly is an improvement! Wow! I think this really is one of the best installments this show has done thus far, not only this season. I say that for a few reasons, the lesson was more valuable, all the characters were fantastic, and Maud (Pinkie’s sister) was brilliant. It truly is a statement to just how fantastic the animated medium can be when the effort is put into it.

The fact that this is a NEW writer doing this episode makes it all the more impressive. Noelle Benvenuti, you did an absolutely fantastic job making an incredibly convincing and sweet story between Pinkie and her sister. Because truly, that’s what this episode was surrounded around. Pinkie’s (at first) hard to understand relationship with her sister, Maud. The fact that Maud is so emotionless plays a big factor in this. She juxtaposes Pinkie’s personality to a truly incredible amount, a true polar opposite.

I say this because Maud isn’t just a downright grump, not at all. Unlike the donkey from A Friend in Deed, Maud isn’t a grumpy pony, she doesn’t hate the world, and she ISN’T down on her luck. She simply doesn’t express herself, which makes her different from the rest of the ponies, and that makes the entire concept of this episode to be somewhat more poignant, intentional or not.

Pinkie has always been someone who can overlook a fault that someone may have, and it’s very present here. She loves her sister, and the tradition they have is incredibly heart warming. The main issue is that her sister doesn’t seem to be getting along with Pinkie’s friends all to well, and instead of her friends pretending, they instead, are honest. They can’t make the friendship necklaces because they aren’t best friends, and it’s only natural for Pinkie to have a rough time accepting that, since she’s so used to getting along with everyone.

The way this is handled, to my surprise, is very mature. Maud comes right out and says that they don’t get along, and she shouldn’t be around… and the fact that this isn’t danced around and undercut with some joke makes it all the more shocking to hear from a show like this. It’s definitely one of the strongest third acts this show has ever done, mainly because it revolves around a sisterly relationship, one you distinctly have with your family members and ONLY your family members.

Now of course it ended with the others coming to terms and bonding over their friendship with Pinkie, and if this happened any other way with almost any other story I would have been somewhat angered that they cheaped out of a very poignant message. But the fact is, this WORKS here. Bonding over a friendship with someone else DOES work, and I speak from a place where I’ve seen it work. They took a shot, and it payed off.

It just makes me happy that this episode didn’t end with all of them laughing at some less-than-smart joke and hugging each other, like an episode of this show usually ends. It ends on yet ANOTHER fantastic note. The fact that Maud DOESN’T like candy. She found a rock (that happens to taste like candy) and it made Pinkie really happy. She found something for her sister, they bonded over it, and it’s been a tradition ever since. Pinkie loves eating candy, so she does, while Maud appreciates the message behind it, the sisterly love that goes behind creating these necklaces. She collects all of them, as a token.

Which is just… well it’s something you’d admire from a show that doesn’t generally go for something like this. Looking back, it’s a writer trying her own method of writing, and it worked incredibly well. Here’s hoping she doesn’t slouch into “filler” habits in seasons to come (if she gets hired again). Because what i got out of this episode is some development for Pinkie (who was at her best), her back story, and her family.

Maud Pie didn’t need some over-the-top goofiness to make it a standout, like Pinkie Pride, it needed some good ol’ fashion script writing, and a very heartwarming story that was told in a brief twenty minutes. It’s only a bonus that this episode has some of the best joke delivery I’ve ever seen from this show. Maud is just brilliant.

Grade: A

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Shirley v. Jeff (Round 2)

I was really disappointed to see that some reviewers didn’t enjoy this episode as much as I did, simply, because it was somewhat messy… which sucks because i’d think something like this is up there with Community’s finest parodies. Grading it simply on the “Parody” scale, it’d get an automatic “A” for the fantastic representation of a future dystopia.

However, when you garner in some of the other parts of the episode, I can perhaps see where it stumbles. For example, the fact that Jeff and Shirley seem to have a conflict that should have been resolved… and the general jumping between plot points. Put simply, I would have loved to see this as a two parter, rather than an episode confined to a mere twenty two minutes.

However, in those twenty two, it accomplished so much. Specifically, it did wonders in progressing the initial chaotic nature of the school slumping into “Future Dystopia”-ness. In fact, most of the laughs came from the downright absurdity of the situation, yet it’s that signature Community absurdity that works on every level.

But for all the fun that I had, I still can’t say as much as I would like about the episode. It was really entertaining, Mitchell Hurwitz did an epic cameo, we saw Jeff act like a frat brother. There wasn’t much to hate about the episode, and thankfully, it was fairly deep towards the end as well. I guess i’m just a huge sucker for a fantastic concept episode, and when Community does it, it’s even better.

Lets see what journey this show takes next!

Grade: A-

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…And it loops around

I find that I can write the most when an episode is generally pretty memorable… but that’s a double edged sword. Something can be terrible, yet memorable (last weeks episode), but it can also be memorable and be absolutely fantastic (see Pinkie Pride). So when the show comes with an installment like this, I feel as though my mouth is dry. I don’t, and can’t have much to say.

I don’t see any deeper meaning, as this episodes entire structure was based around sisterly bonding. I suppose I can go out of my way to criticize it for characterizing Applejack and Applebloom as obviously really close and trustworthy of each other (as seen in season two), and in this episode they are a little… less so, I suppose. But I can also bring out the fact that these familial bonding sessions go on in the public, while in private a family can be all sorts of chaos (as seen in Pinkie Apple Pie)

So… i guess I looped around. All this episodes visible issues (except one) are very easily explained, so they aren’t really issues after all, are they? The one error I mentioned is that Applejack felt as though she was noticeable dumbed down to fit the plot. And although you may argue that it’s because she loves her sister… it still doesn’t explain the way she acted, as she’s shown before to still be level headed even in really difficult situations to handle.

So yeah… a solid episode, with solid entertainment, perhaps slightly low on laughs, but that’s not an issue. I’m just happy it’s back from the slight funk we’ve seen in the past two episodes, especially with such a downer like Breezies. Lets hope that the next installment is a little more… spunky? Is that the right word? Spunky? I just want to be shocked and entertained, and while the chimera was a welcome sight for the mythological background of the show, it still was a more “Slice of life” installment that this show does so well. However, recently, i’ve been noticing that the entire idea of  a “slice of life” has been getting ignored. Or at least… MY own idea of a slice of life.

One that revolves around main characters being explored in a deep and meaningful way…but once again, this lack of exploration may be explained by the fact that these are cartoon characters, they can only be so deep in a show like this. I just need to shut up and be entertained.

Grade: B

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Mixology

It really isn’t often I get to compare an episode of Community to another episode of Community unless they are blatant sequels or even prequels… so when i can say that this episode relates to the Season two Mixology Certification,  I don’t want to come off as if i’m trying to stretch it. This episode IS, structurally, very similar. It is played out like a play, with the main characters divided into two’s, and utilized for their strengths and unknown emotions.

For example, Britta is the focus on what is arguably the episodes A-plot, where she has quite literally hit an existential crisis, in which she questions what she has done with her life. While the two male leads, Duncan and Jeff, start off playing the cliche “Male character handing off a women to another male character” trope. However, this soon disintegrates in a very Mixology kind of way. One character is taking another, more broken, perhaps even crushed, character, home.

In this case, Duncan stars. Not only is he perhaps one of the most stunningly hilarious (re)-additions to the show, but he does pack a surprising emotional punch to a show that is often overlooked as broodingly cold. Right when you think his story is rapped up, another aspect is brought up. Friendship. Something I have forgotten is that the fact that Duncan has known Jeff for a longer period of time, longer than any other of Jeff’s best friends, yet they aren’t particularly kind to each other. Everything they do for each other comes off as a hesitant favor rather than a friendly assist.

I loved how this was yet another way this show could address, if not rekindle, the flame that was brewing when it was in it’s second season, arguably it’s creative peak. Season five definitely seems as though it has sprouted into it’s own, skyrocketing once more to the sorrow lows that were season four, and we are only half way through this unfortunately short season.

Before I delve into my favorite aspect of this episode, I want to touch on Kevin (Chang’s) small C-plot. Man… this show can hit so many different notes at once, it is almost disorientating. Chang, gets systematically driven crazy. The only thing that bugged me (and perhaps will never stop bugging me) is how it is never explained how, or why, he is driven crazy. We know the show is always realistic at root, not matter how wacky and ridiculous the situation is, they will never delve into the paranormal for any reason. It’s understandable that Chang gets a hilarious venture in the C-plot, I only wish it was explained more… however, it can indeed be argued that it is yet another point made within this episodes theme, crisis.

Here it is, the B-plot was my favorite. After the departure of his best friend Troy (Donald Glover), Abed (Danny Pudi) is understandably broken up. It’s almost as if his every action is made just to show the lone gap, not only in his life, but in our eyes as well. He marches down the hallway in a cheesy cyborg-costume and yet you can’t help but think that wide hallway is missing one person. It’s a slightly harrowing experience, and thankfully it did not overstay it’s welcome.

He ends up accidentally (right?) destroying Buzz Hickey’s (Played wonderfully by Jonathan Banks) sketches. Which gets him handcuffed to a filing cabinet, which in turn makes him miss the premier of the new kickpuncher… which if you cannot guess is a slight at Robocop (Even the change in the cyborgs outfit color is mentioned in a clever offhand jab). But where this episode shines is within the interaction between Hickey and Abed, both of whom are creators in crisis.

One is lacking substance, while the other is lacking material, and by the end, they both come to terms with each other. While it’s not as profound as the A-plot with Britta and Duncan, it is not only heartwarming but even more realistic (if I dare say so). These characters aren’t best friends now, they aren’t blood brothers, they simply understand each other more. In this time of crisis for Abed, I think he needs a friend.

Grade: A-

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Even the name…

I tend to go into each episode with an open mind, because for someone who watches a show that is generally marketed for little girls I still get that silly voice at the back of my head saying “What the hell are you doing, man? Why are you watching this garbage?” And after this episode, it has a valid point, thanks Mr.Voice, how about you come over for a nice cup of tea and tell me how I should stop liking Finding Nemo, UP,The Incredibles, and Toy Story too!

In this episode we saw Fluttershy being shy, we saw her being strict, and then we saw her being  cute. So… we saw her be what she is in every single episode surrounded around her. The only thing that changed is the fact that she’s teaching someone else this, instead of waddling about and learning the same exact lesson she did in EVERY episode that has her staring as the main character. So yes, the most unique and interesting thing i can say about this episode is that “Someone else learned the lesson”. Which has been an ongoing theme within the “Rainbow vision” nonsense that this show has been forcing down our throats.

Collectively, this episode was incredibly sub-par, and on the second watch-through it was… just the same,actually. The same nonsense, the same “go here, do this, this happens, yay,”Schlock that can plague a show like this until the moment the producers go “Well maybe giving the writers a chance to be creative will garner better results because most of our merchandise is being bought by lonely middle aged men anyway?”

If you couldn’t tell, Breezy rubbed me the wrong way, in a way, it was like an awkward handjob in the back of the school, it’s fine while your watching, although you find yourself checking your wrist for an imaginary watch, but the more you think about the more you want to smash your head into a beehive. How the hell did these stupid Breezies get into Equestria if they need some magical portal to get out? Why the hell are they so dependent on the other ponies? Why can’t they do ANYTHING by themselves?

All of these questions were never answered, and worst of all, the lesson seemed slapped together, as if a half-literate baboon tried to edit it into the script using his shit-covered finger as a writing utensil. The character (Seabreeze, I think his name was) seemed to be the head Breezy, as he called all of them “losers” for being lazy fuck-wits that mooch off Fluttershy. Yes, he was right, they were being pathetic jerks and the fact that they were being treated like that? MADE SENSE! Thankfully this show isn’t so far up it’s ass that the lesson of “be kind to everything!” wasn’t used. At least tough love is applicable to the situation.

Let me put it this way, this slice of life episode was garbage. Why was it garbage? Because it did nothing, it explored nothing. Fluttershy is two dimensional and it seems like it will never change. So having the entire episode be surrounded around her and her doing cute stuff for not-so-cute small animals makes it just about as engaging as watching an anime about a group of underage girls sitting around a table drinking tea and chatting about their small hand-bags.

This episode did nothing unique, and worst of all, it hardly had any jokes! Apart from Pinkie jumping in every so often and saying something like “WOW!” in an incredibly annoying shrill voice, the only excuse for humor was the physical gags that this show did. And physical gags are almost never enough to sustain a cartoon, because yes, for a cartoon, physical jokes are often the easiest!

What i’m trying to say is that the more I re-watch this episode, the more it rubs me the wrong way. The Breezies are useless characters, they have no depth, no meaning, just some stupid contrivance that made an already boring episode even more facepalm-worthy. The fact that the way the main issue of the episode was solved was because Twilight had some Deus Ex machina revelation was even MORE upsetting. Did the writer seriously just give up and go “Hmm… what if we made the characters into Breezies so the corporate shit-stains can sell more toys? BINGO!”

Lets hope this show never goes this low again, because for a season that is in my opinion the best, this second half has been oddly underwhelming.

Grade: D+