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

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Episode 5: "Griffon the Brush Off"

Aired 11/12/2010, written by Cindy Morrow (her first episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Pinkie calls out to Rainbow Dash, but she ignores her until crashing into the side of the mountain, which is what Pinkie was hollering about.
  • Act 1: Rainbow Dash tries to avoid Pinkie Pie, to no avail, but finally joins her in what turns out to be a prank on Spike. The two proceed to pull pranks on Rarity, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, and (almost) Fluttershy. When Pinkie goes to find Rainbow the next day, she meets the pegasus's old friend Gilda, a griffon.
  • Act 2: Gilda makes increasingly gruff attempts to get Pinkie to go away, but Twilight dismisses Pinkie's concerns about Rainbow's "mean" friend, believing that Pinkie is just jealous. Pinkie then observes Gilda mistreating ponies in the marketplace and decides to teach Gilda a lesson.
  • Act 3: Pinkie throws a welcome party for Gilda, and Gilda falls prey to one prank after another during the event. Suspicious all the while, Gilda finally chews out Pinkie and the other ponies. Rainbow Dash reveals she planted the pranks herself and rebukes Gilda for her bad attitude. Gilda publicly disowns Rainbow and leaves, and the Mane Six continue the party without her.

Character: Required viewing for understanding Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. The best qualities of the focus characters come through well here, to the point that I really don't feel the need to elaborate if you've seen the episode. Rainbow may seem oblivious to Gilda's flaws, but pay attention to her closing speech.

I am...surprised that social sophisticate Rarity's favorite game is pin-the-tail. If we take this seriously, however, it could indicate the influence "little ol' Ponyville" has had on Rarity and that by Canterlot standards she is a bit of a rube. If that is the case, then her aspirations to living in Canterlot (imagined in fairy tale terms in The Ticket Master) are dreams of escape. It also helps if we imagine her and the others as right on the cusp of adolescence, only just now moving into young adulthood. In any case, there's plenty of time for her to develop between here and next season's Sweet and Elite, by which time she's better able to fit in with the Canterlot crowd.


Lesson: Pranking (a morally complex idea in itself) is handled sensitively. Some fun bait-and-switch is done with the moral as we're not sure what lesson is being taught until the reveal at the end of the show. Note to writers: The trick to making this work is ensuring what we end up with is better or at least more clever than what we thought we were getting. At first we think it'll be about pranks getting out of hand, then it's about jealousy, then revenge, and then perhaps about being a jerk, taking the story from Gilda's perspective. But in fact the lesson is demonstrated by Rainbow Dash in her loyalty to her new friends after an old one goes bad. After Luna was so easily forgiven (and, it would seem, forgotten until next season), the show leaves Gilda still a jerk; redeeming every "bad" character would ring false enough to undermine the series' lessons. This is one of the ways the show sets itself apart from more "saccharine" kids' shows.

Pinkie teaches a secondary lesson once the twist is revealed. Let's call it creative conflict resolution. "Extreme measures, Pinkie Pie style" is using kindness to change a bad attitude. As noted above, the attempt fails, but within the episode it's clearly the more noble path.


Body Count: Granny Smith says, "Run for the hills! Everybody forsake yourselves!" (or something like that). Connections: Gilda hasn't returned, but we see another griffon in MMMystery on the Friendship Express.

 

Resonance: Pinkie gets the bulk of the attention here, particularly with the laughs: her "Pepe le Pew" chase; her costume when she meets Gilda; the flying contraption; and the hoof squeaks as Pinkie storms out of the library. Other fun moments include Celestia's deluge of scrolls and several moments with Fluttershy. This is one of the first episodes to show that Pinkie's not just a laugh factory. Her sensitivity to Fluttershy, her self-doubt and reserving judgment about Gilda, and her attempt to redeem her with a party are all heartwarming, as is Rainbow's siding with her pony friends without a second thought. No divided loyalties here. Also, Pinkie's ability to outpace Rainbow Dash through her violations of reality is frighteningly powerful if you think about it.

On first viewing, I was reserving judgment along with Pinkie, waiting for some explanation for Gilda's actions. (At that point I was expecting the lesson to be accepting a friend's other friends.) When I saw Gilda drive off Fluttershy, I was angry. It's rare for me to feel upset at a fictional character, but I had my own "how dare you!" moment here.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Not a mind-bending stand-out episode, about the same as Ticket Master, due to its pacing, comic relief, and lighter touch, maybe a hair better for its creativity with the lesson. Its playing with the point of the episode makes it seem less heavy-handed than your average "message" story. Some nice background moments, too, such as the return of Fluttershy's bird choir. Note that the entire third act is one long scene but still moves quickly as Gilda goes from one prank to the next.

 

Griffon the Brush Off armor rating: Iron Mail
Ranked 15th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 114th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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