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

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Episode 147: "Rock Solid Friendship"

Aired 4/29/2017, written by Nick Confalone (his fifth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: The Pie family attends Maud's graduation.
  • Act 1: Maud accompanies Pinkie back to Ponyville to decide whether to live there or in Ghastly Gorge. Maud is unimpressed with Ponyville's gem cave and Twilight's castle, but she recognizes Starlight Glimmer, and Pinkie determines to make them best friends.
  • Act 2: Maud and Starlight enjoy kites and discover a beautiful cavern, but their bonding is hampered by Pinkie's smothering attempts to track their feelings. That night, Maud leaves for Ghastly Gorge.
  • Act 3: Pinkie alerts Starlight, who explains what Pinkie did wrong. Pinkie retrieves Maud from Ghastly Gorge, and Maud moves into the cavern and renews her friendship with Starlight.

Character: Maudalina Daisy Pie is as we've come to know her. New to her character is something that perhaps was not apparent before: her desire for a friend. Of course, the need for companionship is universal; even loners get lonely. (Note: That doesn't mean they don't require time to themselves, but they also need someone to be with on some sort of regular basis.) And we see a hint of her wish to make friends in her interaction with Apple Bloom in Hearthbreakers. But what's extraordinary here is that Maud takes the initiative in disclosing that desire to Pinkie, even knowing how over-the-top her sister can be, and that Maud's little sighs, scoffs, and smiles throughout the episode are remarkably expressive coming from her. Also, as much as Maud puts up with from Pinkie, the pink pony can "melt her heart," and she's wearing her Pinkie slippers in the final scene.

Pinkie Pie is our lesson learner here, and her behavior prompts the question: Has she regressed to an oblivious Pinkie who doesn't understand friendship? Has she forgotten the lesson from A Friend in Deed? I believe we get our answer from how Pinkie is set up in her first two scenes, and Maud later spells it out for us: "There's no half-excited with her." Pinkie, the pony most devoted to making friends, has the opportunity to see her sister Maud make a close friend for the first time. And whereas the rest of the Mane Six didn't connect with Maud, she and Starlight seem to have some real chemistry. We can understand the urge to micromanage things to make sure they go just right. Pinkie is now a train that won't stop, and she's only not listening because she's already determined the next seventeen things that need to happen. Once Maud leaves, Pinkie's brought down to a point where she can hear advice, and when Starlight calls her out exactly as plainly as she needs to, Pinkie gets it right away. She understands just what Starlight is saying and is horrified at what she's done in nearly spoiling Maud's chance for friendship. For Pinkie, love means wanting to see her loved ones happy together, but that desire needs to be coupled with trust that they can find their own way to friendship.

What draws Starlight to Maud is the same thing that drew her to Trixie: here is a pony who accepts and understands. Starlight is still weighed down by her past, yet Maud recognizes from the start that that's not who Starlight is anymore. Starlight finds Maud's offbeat perspective refreshing. Reading between the lines, I wonder if the sometimes-gushy friendliness of the Mane Six reminds Starlight a little too much of her always-smiling village, so that she prefers Maud's understated disposition.

We also get hints of Starlight's personal timeline in this episode. Maud is introduced only eight episodes before the Map sends the Mane Six to Starlight's village. Pinkie says Maud is "heading out to get her rocktorate in rock science," and later Maud says she'll be away on a "rock research trip." I take this to mean Maud's going off to do field studies right away, with classwork to be done later. Most likely, Maud meets Starlight at the beginning of that field work, shortly after her episode and therefore only a few months before The Cutie Map. At that point, the village has only about half its bulidings. The ponies have their equal signs, thanks to Starlight's own magic, but it's Maud's help that allows her to construct the vault. I'm guessing she has all the cutie marks in jars or something. To me, this suggests the village is still in an early stage of operation but really takes off in the months leading up to the Mane Six's visit.

One thing I find appealing about Starlight Glimmer is her relatable, conversational voice, enhanced by a lot of little subtleties and eccentricities that her VA Kelly Sheridan puts into her performance. That same talent for careful performance is shared by Trixie's Kathleen Barr and Maud's Ingrid Nilson, so that Starlight's friendship episodes feature some of the series' finest voice work.

We learn a bit more about Boulder here, whom Starlight Glimmer addresses directly at one point. Boulder is an igneous rock, specifically magnesium-rich basalt, which sounds to me like boninite, and he may be older than the kindgom of Equestria itself. As a bonus, Boulder is in the plagioclase feldspar series and is therefore a close cousin to the sodium-rich rock Maud compares Pinkie to at the end of this episode. It's Maud's way of saying Pinkie is closer to her than Boulder.


Lesson: First off, Rock Solid Friendship gives us a positive example of how to make friends. It's about caring more than compatibility. Starlight and Maud are very different on the surface, but they're not seeking somepony with already common interests or a list of traits they find desirable. As Maud says, "It isn't hard to meet somepony I like. It's finding somepony who gets me." That desire is embedded in our natures. Negatively, it's the force that drives us toward "birds of a feather" and away from people different from us; we're afraid they won't get us. But more constructively, we recognize a need to have someone to confide in, someone to share our burdens. To break away from that "birds of a feather" pattern we must learn that what matters is not surface similarity, but acceptance and the willingness to understand and trust. One of the ways Starlight demonstrates that willingness is that she asks a lot of questions. That's hard for me, personally, because I sometimes feel like I'm interrogating the other person. But the alternative is talking about one's self too much, as I did just now. What questions really do is show genuine interest and that desire to understand. In my review for the episode Maud Pie, I wished for an exploration of what the necessary common ground is for a friendship to work, and I believe this story comes closest to answering that question.

Pinkie shows us the negative example of caring without understanding. There's no question she loves Maud more than the whole world. But her smothering kills the chance for Maud and Starlight's friendship to develop naturally. I like the fact that the episode only briefly spells out the lesson and instead spends most of its time demonstrating it. Dominating conversations, interrupting, and being generally overbearing are flaws easy to see in someone else but hard to notice in ourselves. Pinkie's predicament invites us to examine how we come across in our desire to help friends who might be hindered by the way we're trying to help.


Resonance: This is one of the series' great feel-good episodes. A lot of the best comedy regards Boulder: being waved to at commencement, breaking out of the cavern, wearing a little lumberjack hat. I'm not so keen on Pinkie doing a manestyle transformation; that's supposed to be Rainbow Dash's thing. The bit with Lyra and Bon Bon is hilarious, though, and I loved Starlight and Maud's previous encounter. Maud's deadpan supplies plenty of humor and could work just fine as standup. (See Steven Wright's material, for example.) Starlight gets laughs with her kite lingo and her effort at gentle criticism with Pinkie. Derpy's cameo is superlatively funny. And I like the mockery of the tired trapped-in-an-enclosed-space plot device. And I've rarely been a fan of the old The Exit Is That Way joke, but it works like a charm here as the final gag of the episode.

This story also gives a lot of warm fuzzies—most subtly, Iggy giving Cloudy Quartz a comforting pat on the shoulder. Maud is heartwarming from the time she expresses her desire for a friend, through all her interactions with both Pinkie and Starlight. Maud's smiles are always adorable. I love Starlight's definition of weird, a reminder that "other" does not mean "less than." Maud and Pinkie's exchange of affection near the end is very touching, as are the BSFF slippers in the final shot. Finally, we get some beautiful locations, most notably the cavern, and some awesome moments with the return of the Quarray eels.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: There's not much more I have to say about the episode; I just enjoy the whole package. I wish we could have given a moment each to Limestone and Marble, but this is a very tightly plotted episode; some bits may have been cut for time. Seeing Miss Glimmer share the spotlight like this is refreshing. The characters drive the story by being true to themselves, and the episode makes all its points deftly. This is one of those ideal slice-of-life episodes, outdoing even Maud Pie's introductory episode and definitely in Crystal territory. I rank it between Celestial Advice and Every Little Thing She Does.

 

Rock Solid Friendship armor rating: Crystal Mail
Ranked 6th of 14 season-seven episodes
Ranked 29th of 161 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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