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

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Episode 25: "Party of One"

Aired 4/29/2011, written by Meghan McCarthy (her fourth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Pinkie Pie wears herself out giving singing invitations for Gummy's birthday party.
  • Act 1: The Mane Six enjoy Gummy's party, and the next day Pinkie invites her friends for another party that afternoon. They are all thrown by the invitations and beg off with obvious excuses.
  • Act 2: Pinkie sees Twilight pick up a package at Sugarcube Corner and follows as it is passed from friend to friend, all of them intent on keeping a secret from Pinkie. She eventually chases Rainbow Dash to Applejack's barn, where she is roughly shut out. She interrogates Spike, forcing him to "confess" that her friends no longer like her.
  • Act 3: A depressed Pinkie throws a lone party with inanimate objects until Rainbow literally drags her back to Applejack's barn. There she is treated to the surprise birthday party the Mane Six had been planning. She apologizes for doubting her friends and joins the fun.

Character: While so much of this episode is a comedy, it delves into deeper, usually unseen, layers of Pinkie's character and serves as a fitting follow-up to her backstory as revealed in The Cutie Mark Chronicles. She throws her whole self into promoting her parties so she can spend time with her friends, and her expression as her last friend departs Gummy's party gives the impression she's really not happy alone. That doesn't necessarily mean she's a sad pony at heart, but that as an extrovert she gets her energy from being around others, and it depletes when she's by herself.

Pinkie's condition at the beginning of the third act has inspired literally hundreds of fanfics and much speculation about an alter ego or split personality, usually identified by her full name Pinkamena Diane Pie. Staying within the confines of the show, we can at least see this as an inner dialogue that has spilled over into reality as she defends her friends to inanimate objects whom she personalizes and uses to voice an anger with her friends that she cannot otherwise express. Whereas another character might simply talk to herself to reason through an issue, Pinkie needs someone to interact with, and "deserted" by her friends, this is the closest thing she has. Rainbow's interruption of the quirky session brings that anger out into the open.

The scheming in this episode is forgivable since this is endemic to surprise parties as a social construct, and something Pinkie would be well familiar with. But I've seen them backfire before. I don't mind surprise parties, but I'm not a fan of the put-someone-through-trauma-beforehand variety. Also, our Equestria-saving heroes should be a little more competent at this sort of thing. But in their defense, Pinkie puts the ponies in an awkward position by her invitations, and at the barn she pushes things farther than they would otherwise need to go. Too, the others have no idea that Pinkie's getting truly upset. (I'm assuming Spike wasn't in on the preparations or else he would have talked.) And Applejack is handled well here since as bearer of the Element of Honesty she should be the least comfortable with lying. She's scared out of her wits to be put on the spot like this.


Lesson: Some fun bait-and-switch with the moral here. On first viewing I thought it would be a lesson on monopolizing our friends' time (as also played with in Griffon the Brush Off, which has numerous parallels with this story). You can't have a party every day. I thus assumed the friends were just trying to beg off the invitation because they were tired of constant partying. The issue of assuming the worst of our friends enters the picture just before Pinkie interrogates Spike, and the lesson as stated is a good one. Too often we get paranoid about what our friends are thinking, and learning to suspend judgment is a hard lesson for kids to learn.

I was initially bothered by the lack of a spoken apology from the other friends at the end. (We sort of get one from Pinkie.) But on repeated viewings, it's clear they're communicating that to Pinkie on the level best fit for her, through affection and fun. This is after all a party honoring her. Extroverts often don't go for serious, heart-to-heart talks but instead bond, forgive, and build understanding by working or playing together. That could be an episode all its own.

(One other observation here: Applejack calls Pinkie "sugar cube" in the apology scene, an expression she usually reserves to comfort somepony or to soften a correction, and almost exclusively uses with Twilight and Apple Bloom. Its inclusion here suggests special endearment.)


Connections: This is probably a coincidence, but Spike puts Pinkie Pie in basically the same situation he was in last episode.

 

Resonance: There's more than enough funny here to compensate for any concerns, and it's highly regarded by most of the fans for its combination of drama and comedy. The most obvious humor comes from Gummy, then from Pinkie's overexertion in the cold open and her human/hay bale disguise. The fact that Pinkie is convinced by the lamest excuse while doubting the most reasonable ones is a nice bit of irony. The thought of Pinkie snapping like this is a mix of fun and sadness, but it's played for creepy rather than for laughs or drama. The animation and music for this scene are masterfully done.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: It's amazing how Gummy is able to steal nearly every scene, even from Pinkie, by just sitting there and blinking. I'm impressed by the depth of this episode from a psychological standpoint. The animators seem to give special attention to Pinkie's facial expressions, mannerisms, and wild takes that make her ripe for analysis. All things considered, this episode is the best Pinkie-centered story of the season, and it's been a fan favorite since its initial airing because it takes Pinkie into territory most shows for girls wouldn't dare approach. By my personal criteria, I see most of the same strengths I saw in Griffon the Brush Off and Suited for Sucess, with better humor, but with strangely incompetent scheming, and I believe Suited for Success had stronger character work. It therefore falls between those two, just shy of the Gold tier. A very good episode.

 

Party of One armor rating: Iron Mail
Ranked 13th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 111th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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