MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Episode 44: "A Friend in Deed"

Aired 2/18/2012, written by Amy Keating Rogers (her ninth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Pinkie Pie does her morning mouth exercises and entertains the Cake twins.
  • Act 1: Pinkie greets friends around town and sings The Smile Song. She meets newcomer Cranky, an acerbic donkey who rejects her offer of friendship. She forms a plan to make him her friend.
  • Act 2: Pinkie introduces herself to Cranky again with a literal welcome wagon, whose malfunction dirties him and leads to the loss of his toupee. Pinkie sends Cranky to the spa and buys him a new hairpiece, then goes to his new home to help him unpack. As he grows more annoyed with her antics, she accidentally destroys his album full of memories of a lost love.
  • Act 3: Twilight advises Pinkie to accept that Cranky doesn't like her, but she is determined to get him to accept her apology. In the end, she realizes Cranky's lost love is her donkey friend Matilda, and she reunites them. Cranky then accepts her friendship.

Character: Cranky is, in my judgment, one of the most expertly developed one-shot characters in the series. The obvious first impression is true enough but only partial, and we see glimmers of the good nature beneath throughout the episode. At the end when all is revealed, a fuller Cranky comes to light but his basic personality remains intact.

We saw many aspects of Pinkie recently in Baby Cakes, but this episode gives her her signature song, establishes her role in the community, and gives her a more interesting character to play off of. She's come a long way from the self-absorbed appearance of her character in the early first season. She doesn't just entertain for her own pleasure or to be the center of attention; she sacrificially delights in others' happiness.

The library scene (which would have been a good place for Spike to appear, by the way) is short and probably mundane to some, but it lets us in on Pinkie's grasp of the situation so we know she's not just oblivious (very important to the point of this episode), and keeps Twilight and Rainbow in character by having Twi give the wise but diplomatic counsel, letting Rainbow say more bluntly what needs to be said. This is a more skillful setup than the well-intended insult Twilight gave Pinkie in Baby Cakes. It also works as a call-back to Twilight's advice to Pinkie way back in Griffon the Brush Off, whose jerk-with-a-heart-of-jerk character Gilda is a fascinating foil to the good-natured but crusty Cranky.


Lesson: Pinkie lives to spread happiness. Her challenge lies in the fact that not everypony receives happiness and love the same way, as Rarity learned in Sisterhooves Social. In a show about friendship, it's important to show that friendship can take different forms depending on the personalities of the friends involved. That's demonstrated every episode as we have a diverse cast, but none of the Mane Six has the "crusty loner" persona that Cranky exhibits and it's important to show that a case like this can have friends, too. However, they require a special approach and are easily driven away by the usual tactics of a bubbly extrovert.

Connections: Cranky shows up again a few episodes from now in Dragon Quest.

 

Resonance: Silliness galore, with a fun fourth-wall fakeout in the opening, endless sight gags (I especially like Pinkie eating the Pinkie-shaped mound of fallen batter), and reality bending such as holding up six hooves. That and the song are what we watch this episode for.

There's seriousness here as well, if the viewer takes time to reflect on how far out of her way Pinkie will go to cheer someone up, and what we learn about Cranky's dramatic backstory. In all likelihood, only someone as dogged as Pinkie would ever have made Cranky smile again. And for me the dramatic climax of the episode is the burning of the album. Sadness and anger unite with shock as we see Pinkie doing actual damage that's devastating to Cranky, however inadvertent the mishap. Even before we know its full significance, albums and scrapbooks always contain irreplaceables of great sentimental value. There's not much worse she could have done to him...which is why she can't just drop it and move on. It's an error she has to correct in order to receive not only Cranky's forgiveness, but ours as well.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: For those keeping track of the timeline, Pinkie had a birthday back in Party of One, and here her next birthday is 75 days away. That's a difference of 290 days if Equestria's years are the same length as ours.

The animation of faces is absolutely vital to the effectiveness of MLP in selling its characters and situations. Look at the way expressions play across Pinkie's face in her scenes, especially in the reunion scene. The intricacy and variety of looks are astonishing, and they give us a glimpse of the thoughts and feelings behind her words. The same is normally true of the other characters as well, but it's especially noticeable with Pinkie because of the rapid-fire pace of everything about her. Coupled with the wild antics, you can tell the storyboard artists and animators worked very hard on this episode. It would have been nice to work in the other main characters a little more, but this stands as the first truly great Pinkie episode, with even better ones to come. For those who don't care for Pinkie (and I know a couple), there's not much else here and they'll probably find her as tiresome as Cranky did. (She's on screen almost 70% of the running time!) For the rest of us, there's a little bit of everything and it's all done very well. An excellent episode.

 

A Friend in Deed armor rating: Golden Vest
Ranked 13th of 26 season-two episodes
Ranked 85th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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