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

Previous: Griffon the Brush Off Boast Busters Next: Dragonshy

Episode 6: "Boast Busters"

Aired 11/19/2010, written by Chris Savino (his first episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Twilight achieves her 25th magic trick, growing a mustache on Spike.
  • Act 1: A large crowd turns out for a performance by the Great and Powerful Trixie, who claims to be the most powerful unicorn in all Equestria.
  • Act 2: Twilight's friends object to Trixie's boasting, but Trixie uses her magic to humiliate them. Afterward, fanboys Snips and Snails fawn over Trixie's tale of having bested an Ursa Major. As Twilight refuses Spike's pleas to show up Trixie, Snips and Snails wake up an Ursa for Trixie to vanquish.
  • Act 3: The Ursa attacks Ponyville, and Trixie is unable to affect it and admits making up her tale. Twilight successfully calms the creature, which she reveals to be only an Ursa Minor. Trixie departs unfazed by the encounter, but Twilight writes a letter on when and how to demonstrate one's abilities.

Character: This is the first episode to virtually leave out any of the Mane Six: Fluttershy and Pinkie get a few seconds in the crowd and that's it. And Spike actually has more time on screen than Twilight. After them and Trixie, the most prominent are new characters Snips and Snails, the first colts to appear in the series. Snips and Snails are difficult to watch, fools without a straight man. (The delivery of "I like pudding" brought a smile to my face the first time but grates on repeated viewings.) They don't get any smarter or funnier in later episodes, either; perhaps the show would have been better served by having one of Trixie's tricks awaken the Ursa.

On the positive side, we feel good watching the main characters we see in this one, and Twilight's lesson here is very well suited to her character—new to friendships and frequently insecure about disappointing those she cares about. One other minor gripe, mostly an afterthought: where were Twilight's friends as she faced down the Ursa alone? I just can't see Rainbow Dash sitting this one out.

Trixie doesn't seem like a truly bad pony, only one with a very pronounced flaw, but there's not much else realized for her in this episode. I found myself wanting them to present more depth to her, but the most we get is a slip of the mask when she panics during the Ursa attack and drops the third-person bit. This hint of more to the character actually makes the episode (and its sequel) all the more frustrating because we see the untapped potential. Fortunately, the fandom has stepped in to fill in the gaps in her personality and has made her a loveable character, focusing on her intention as a foil for Twilight. (Lauren Faust has stated that like Twilight, Trixie went to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Make of that what you will.)


Lesson: "Don't be a show-off" is a common lesson for kids' shows, and an overly simplistic one. Twilight's letter goes one step further to make a good point about talents: they are there for a purpose—to help others. Once we discover our gifts, we need to remind ourselves to use them to build up one another rather than ourselves. In fact, that would be a good lesson for the CMC once they get their cutie marks. This episode has its flaws, but I'm fond of it because this is one of my pet issues and I have to resist the urge to go on for pages about it.

Logic: Given the length of Twilight's studies and her abilities demonstrated in this episode and elsewhere, Spike's reference in the opening to "25 tricks so far" probably does not indicate the total number of spells she can perform. (It may also be that a mustache spell falls into the same category as the age spell said in "Magic Duel" to be possible only for the most powerful unicorns.) More likely, the two are tallying the number of tricks practiced in that session, or that "tricks" are novelties to be understood as distinct from practical spells. Connections: Introduces Trixie, an originally one-shot character who was wildly popular due to a combination of her flair for showmanship and incorrigibility, and her potential as a nemesis for Twilight. Calls for her return were eventually heard, resulting in the far superior "Magic Duel." Also, clips from this episode are prominent during Celestia's Ballad in the third season finale.

 

Resonance: Most of the humor comes from Snips and Snails and fails to hit, nor can I laugh along with the crowd at Trixie's stunts. The only real stand-out here is Spike's wrong-door slam and Twilight's deadpan reaction. I do get a sunny feeling from the ending as the friends give their assurances to Twilight, and as Twilight reveals she knows the exact extent of her abilities but shows no hint of a superiority or inferiority complex. Spike's protectiveness of Twilight also shines here; he's still being presented as a positive, level-headed character.

Applejack's, Rarity's, and especially Rainbow's tricks are awesome moments, to say nothing of Twilight's handling of the Ursa. To a lesser extent, Trixie's lightning bolt is impressive, though ineffective because of the Ursa's size. Up to this point we've only seen pegasi and alicorns affect weather. The Ursa Major also counts as an awesome and nightmarish creature during its few seconds on screen.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: The reveal of Twilight's magical power (which had perplexed citizens in The Ticket Master) to the town and to her friends places this before Applebuck Season, where her teleport spamming and orchard-at-a-time harvesting are on full display. The first act begins with a helpful distinction between common unicorn magic and what Twilight can do. However, the magic behind pegasus flight/weather control and earth ponies' connection to nature are not mentioned.

Another episode with a leisurely pace despite being an "adventure" episode; Trixie's performance takes up nearly half the episode, and the Ursa attack fills most of the rest. In fact, as thin as the plot is, I surmise that the story was laid out when the plan was to show two 11-minute stories per episode. I don't consider this a bad episode by any means, but there are enough flaws compared to the others that it falls near the bottom of the list.

Addendum: In light of later episode reviews, I realize I was a bit too hard on this episode since it comes so early in the series. It still ends up in the bottom ten, but that's only because there are so few truly troubled episodes. It's still not up to the MLP standard, but it does have a certain charm that other weak entries in the series don't possess.

(Note: As much as the show's creators care about their work and interact with fans, it's possible they may come across this review. If you helped make this episode and I'm offbase in my understanding of it or have overlooked its strengths, you're welcome to give me the "Marshall McLuhan from Annie Hall" treatment and show me the insights I've missed.)

 

Boast Busters armor rating: Leather Vest
Ranked 22nd of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 137th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

Previous: Griffon the Brush Off Boast Busters Next: Dragonshy