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The Magic Duel

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Dec. 2nd, 2012 | 10:19 pm

Might as well make my thoughts on the new MLP:FiM episode public, right? They're gonna be reposted in a comment in broniesaremagic (join! now!) anyway, after all. :)

Very good episode overall.

I very much liked that Trixie is not fundamentally a bad pony. She may be vain, and she may be weak-minded, prone to charging ahead without considering the consequences, and easily swayed into casting caution into the wind, but ultimately, she is only seeking validation; she wants to belong, and she wants to be respected (and adored, the way that the Great and Powerful Trixie obviously deserves). Trixie's biggest mistake was using the alicorn amulet (I sort of wonder where she got the bits to pay for it! And apparently so do others); I would imagine that she overestimated her own ability to control it and resist its effects, and that she was blinded to its dangers by her desire to get back at Twilight. Her truly villainous behavior was due to the amulet, when she was not of sound mind. About the only thing I didn't like about Trixie's portrayal was her falling over as she galloped away in the end. She's not a clutz, and it doesn't fit in with her being a stage magician and illusionist of at least moderate talent, either.

I liked the nods to fanon in the back story that Trixie told, how she fell on hard times, how she had to endure ridicule and lost her travelling magic show, her business and her home (her cart); I also liked the reference to Pinkie's family when she mentioned having to work on a rock farm (that WAS Pinkie's father that Trixie was seen working for, wasn't it?). The shop that sold the amulet reminded me of the shop from Gremlins 2, too, but that may not have been a deliberate nod; chances are it was already a trope when it appeared in that movie.

Snips and Snails? They didn't change, did they. :) Maybe they'll learn something from the whole thing now, too: and Snails (IIRC) at least already seemed to have to done so when he remarked that he liked Trixie better when she was just a fraud. At least he's realizing that now!

Zecora's appearance was good, too; she's always an interesting character. I liked her mannerisms and appearance a lot (except for when there were animation errors with her eyes that made them go beyond the edge of her face — how was that not caught?), the way she drank her... whatever she was drinking, the poses she assumed in her hut and at the pond outside, and all that; and her training Twilight sort of reminded me of Yoda.

Care should be taken to not have her turn into a deus ex machina, of course, conveniently invoked when the main characters are stuck, with someone running into the Everfree Forest to receive a dose of cryptic wisdom, or magical help of an alien and powerful kind that only Zecora can provide. But as long as she's used carefully, I think she can provide a good outsider's perspective, allowing the characters to take a step back and look at the problems they're trying to tackle from a different angle, gaining new insights and coming to new conclusions. I'd also love to see a Zecora episode some time, one that defines her as a character in a way that goes beyond the above.

Fluttershy didn't really shine in this episode, I think. Previous episodes have established that while she may be easily scared, she will nevertheless do the right thing when she has to; for her to have to be physically dragged into the Everfree Forest to find Twilight didn't really fit that. It's said that the difference between a hero and a coward isn't that a hero is unafraid, but rather that a hero will do what needs to be done despite being afraid: in that sense, Fluttershy is a hero, but in this episode, sh ewas a coward.

Similarly, while Fluttershy's shown an ability to use The Stare when her friends are threatened, for her to threaten Twilight the way she did because her animal wards MIGHT get hurt seemed out of character for her as well. Nothing had happened yet, there was no reason to believe anything would happen, and Twilight was one of her best friends to boot — not that I think Fluttershy would've acted like this even towards somepony else unless she had good reason to suspect her animals WOULD get hurt, and then she would've acted to protect them, not just left it at a threat.

The rest of the Mane Six didn't have big parts, but they did their thing and did it well. I was rather surprised to see what was basically an R63 version of Applejack; 'course, after Tara Strong's fun with "Twilightlicious", it shouldn't be too much of a surprise to see that sort of nod, perhaps. :)

The ending, with Pinkie blatantly acknowleding her nature as a cartoon character by messing with the iris wipe again and Twilight then entering the twilight zone (no pun intended) as well to fix Pinkie up for good, was rather cute. :) I predict that far too many people will take this far too seriously and try to shoehorn in an in-world explanation for this that both acknowledges this effect and preserves the MLP universe's internal consistency, as opposed to taking it as what it is: a funny moment that has no bearing on the show's world as such and is not part of its universe.

I also see that the tradition of pun-based names is going as strong as ever. Saddle Arabia, eh? :) It was nice to see a positive (if extremely brief) nod towards Arabian culture, though: these days, Arabic culture is so often conflated with islam, and reduced to extremism. OTOH, it does raise questions about what Equestria represents, of course: does it represent anything at all, and if so, is it basically the USA, perhaps with the UK tacked on? I'd prefer it if it weren't that: let the world stand on its own, and do not let the real world get in the way of creativity by dictating what Equestria SHOULD look like.

What else? Friendship is Moustache, apparently. :) And the bit about unicorns having "levels" was interesting: I've said previously that the way magic works in Equestria seems have been influenced by AD&D, especially the Forgotten Realms, and aging spells being of the highest level fits right in with that.

Plot-wise, BTW, I fully expected Celestia to make an appearance in this episode, what with her upcoming visit having been mentioned right in the beginning and the "alicorn amulet" (which I initially thought would've given Trixie wings under that cloak, too, serving as a visual indicator of her change - and hence the amulet's name). Later on, after Zecora mentioned "the six", I also thought that Twilight would somehow draw upon the Elements of Harmony to power her own magic; having her friends help her defeat Trixie with tricks instead was as unexpected as it was neat, and a clever twist to boot. In a very literal sense, friendship was magic.

And that's why I liked this episode a lot.

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