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

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Episode 15: "Feeling Pinkie Keen"

Aired 2/11/2011, written by Dave Polsky (his first episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Twilight Sparkle's practice with a transformation spell is interrupted by Pinkie Pie's twitchy tail indicating that something is about to fall from the sky. It turns out to be a frog.
  • Act 1: Fluttershy apologizes for the frog, which she is transporting along with others to a nearby swamp. Twilight doubts Pinkie's uncontrolled and random clairvoyance and follows her to her home and through town and even analyzes Pinkie in her underground laboratory.
  • Act 2: As Fluttershy arrives at the bog, Twilight does "field research" on Pinkie and becomes the victim of numerous accidents, each one predicted by Pinkie's sensations. Pinkie indicates a "doozy" will occur at the bog, and when the characters arrive there, a hydra appears.
  • Act 3: The hydra chases the characters through the bog, and Twilight ultimately must trust Pinkie's sense-based assurances to make a literal leap of faith. She does, and once safe, admits the Pinkie sense is real. Pinkie then informs her that Twilight's belief was the doozy all along.

Character: The flip-side of Twilight's personality and thus a nice foil to Winter Wrap-Up: the analyst easily becomes the skeptic or even the cynic. There's really nothing scientific about Twilight's investigation—she's already made up her mind and is looking for any excuse to prove she's right while filtering everything else out. It's a true weakness, and it's in character for her. A couple of her mocking lines to Pinkie are a little on the mean side, but we all get like that sometimes. We saw a hint of her self-assuredness in the premiere (not needing to make friends) and we'll see it again in the first half of A Canterlot Wedding (where she turned out to be right). For what it's worth, this is the last Twilight-centered episode of the season, and it's also the first episode to make almost zero use of background ponies: just Mr. Greenhooves and the moving truck pegasi.

Spike is the voice of reason once again, and it's a nice touch for Applejack to note that long-time Ponyvillians have learned to trust the Pinkie sense. As the most level-headed of the group and one of the pillars of the community, she's the best character to deliver that line, even though she spends less time with Pinkie than the other characters do.


Lesson: Hoo boy. Fans have jumped all over this episode as a faith-over-reason or pro-religion moral. I can sort of understand that interpretation, but some viewers have tied the show to a debate between creationism and evolution, which I don't see as related to this AT ALL. A couple of the writers have even joked that controversial story ideas automatically go to Polsky. What does the lesson have to do with friendship, and is it just too preachy?

Taking the last objection first, it's really no more anvilicious than some of the highly celebrated episodes—except that it does feature a literal anvil. To be fair, we tend to give the MESSAGE! episodes a self-satisfied nod when we agree with the message.

So what's the lesson? The wording of Twilight's letter has friendship as an afterthought. ("Sometimes it takes a friend to show you the way.") But I see the lesson as follows: Not "there are wonderful things that have no explanation," but "there are wonderful things that YOU can't explain," but that your friends perhaps can, and part of having faith in your friends means accepting the possibility that they may have some knowledge or wisdom that you don't. Regardless, the messaging in the episode is a tad clumsy, and it's honestly complicated by the fact that we are dealing in a magical world and the skeptic is a talking purple unicorn. But I certainly don't think the writer's intention was to promote religion or run down naturalism.

From the standpoint of a children's show, it's a good reminder to kids that there are many things about our adult-run world that don't make any sense to them, and it's necessary for them to learn trust in parents, teachers, adult friends, and older siblings as they try to guide them along the best path. That's somewhat tangential to this episode, but any parents who like to discuss the program after watching it with their kids might want to make that application.


Logic: The writers fall into the trap of giving a major character a new trait that's supposedly always been there. We see the Pinkie sense demonstrated a couple times in later episodes, but it takes little effort to find moments in previous episodes (and later ones) where we should have seen it at work. Connections: Fluttershy remembers her hop-skip-jump lesson from Dragonshy. As the Mane Six's fourth pet, Gummy will be a recurring character. Derpy has been one of the main background ponies since the premiere, but the intentional use of her as clumsy, strabismic, and prone to appear in unlikely places begins here. Also, Pinkie's catch phrase "okey dokey lokey" comes from this episode and Party of One; it doesn't occur elsewhere in the series.

 

Resonance: Quick, make me an episode about a toothless alligator. And make it snappy. (I am so sorry for that.) Anyway, there are naturally a lot of laughs in this episode, but Pinkie doesn't get all of them. Gummy, for one, gets the best of all pet introduction scenes. Twilight's mad scientist's lab in the library basement is a hilarious idea, and she is probably the best of the Mane Six to be the victim of slapstick. Twilight's leap to safety ends with the series' best use of the rubber duck sound effect, and her fiery frustration toward the end is a funny cartoonish moment. I did think Twilight's Latinate name for Pinkie was a little out-of-place, since Twilight seemed to be taking herself so seriously at that moment, but it ties in with the coyote-style abuse she suffers for the next several minutes. Gummy is especially fun in his first scene, and Spike beeping as he backs up is another fun moment.

The hydra is by far the most fearsome monster we've seen on the show—the first time I ever felt like the Mane Six were in serious danger. This made the third act pure adventure, and I found myself cheering when Twilight charged the creature.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: With rare exceptions, the writers try to restrict cartoonish gags to Pinkie Pie. The disasters that befall Twilight here suggest that when you enter Pinkie's world, you're subjected to her rules and thus become a magnet for all sorts of craziness. Fortunately for Twilight, cartoon physics seems to apply equally well to her ability to recover from those disasters.

The adventure portion of this episode is gripping, and the first half is hilarious on first viewing. Later viewings dull some of the effect, since many of the gags rely on the element of surprise. That and a muddled message force me to grade this one down a bit. It lands just below Fall Weather Friends but is the better of Polsky's two season-one episodes (the other being Over a Barrel).

(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.)

 

Feeling Pinkie Keen armor rating: Leather Armor
Ranked 20th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 133rd of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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