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

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Episode 26: "The Best Night Ever"

Aired 5/6/2011, written by Amy Keating Rogers (her sixth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Twilight attempts to turn mice into horses to take a coach to the gala, with mixed with results.
  • Act 1: The Mane Six dress for the gala, mostly dismissive of Spike's hopes that they'll spend the evening together. They arrive at the gala each with her own ideas of what the night will bring.
  • Act 2: The ponies go their separate ways, initially meeting success but are soon disappointed. They each resolve to turn things around.
  • Act 3: The friends' efforts to turn the gala become more and more desperate, and eventually calamity ensues. They and Princess Celestia take refuge at the donut shop where Spike has been sulking, and Celestia reveals that she had been hoping the Mane Six would ruin the boring high-society event for the sake of shaking things up.

Character: The wish sequences, told here as part of a big musical showpiece but essentially the same as in The Ticket Master, match each character perfectly, specifically with regard to what they would generally expect from a social event. None of those fit with a stuffy high-class snootfest. Everything's in place here, even Fluttershy's frustration. (We've already seen hints that there's a "monster" under the surface, which comes out next season in Putting Your Hoof Down.) Pinkie's antics work perfectly here; if she alone had come to the gala, Celestia's goal would have been achieved.

Let's not forget about Spike here. He has an important scene in the salon, expressing his wish that all the friends would spend lots of time together. Recall (1) that the Mane Six all fashioned their fantasies of the gala when their friendship was very new, and each involved time spent alone or with ponies outside the Mane Six, and (2) that it was Spike who urged Twilight to make friends in the premiere episode and who immediately got on well with each one. In this episode, his expectations are the first to crumble, which explains his anger in the donut shop, but he's the one main character who gets his wish in the end. This is one of my favorite episodes for Spike, even though he's absent from the large middle portion of it.

This is an important episode for Princess Celestia's development, as she enlists some fish-out-of-water ponies to "liven things up" at the gala out of disdain for the boring and stuffy side of Canterlot. The capital city's society really does not come off well in the series, and it may be that Celestia's been looking forward to shaking up the status quo for a long time. Her joining the Mane Six afterward at a lowly donut shop and explaining her intentions is endearing.

Two of the Wonderbolts, a team seen before in Sonic Rainboom and appearing (in a fantasy sequence) as early as The Ticket Master, get significant appearances here, and ten of them can be seen in this episode. They look as out of place as the Mane Six and seem genuinely friendly, but with nearly as many pulls on their attention as Princess Celestia. It's heartwarming that they remember Rainbow from the Young Fliers' Competition.


Lesson: The season premieres and finales are usually pretty light when it comes to moral lessons. They tend to be more adventure-oriented, and the message is usually the importance of friendship itself. The moral as given here is, "Friends have a way of making even the worst of times into something pretty great." That's true, but it's sort of subtle: The ponies run into problems alone, and only once they're spending time together as Spike suggested do they brighten up. To make the message more clear, the third act could have involved the Mane Six joining up to enjoy the gala together instead of each pursuing their own ends. Not a problem necessarily, but I didn't catch it on the first viewing because I was so focused on each character's dilemma.

It's uplifting at the end of the second act to see the characters' response to the disappointment. They all determine to MAKE it "the best night ever," which is often good advice to someone having a bad day. None of these characters are passive or willing to be controlled by their circumstances—even if their efforts to bend the event to their liking are misguided. While it's not specifically related to friendship, I would enjoy an episode (perhaps from the CMC?) putting a more explicit focus on this as its lesson.


Connections: This is a sequel to Amy's first episode, The Ticket Master, which laid out the characters' expectations for the gala at the very beginning of the season. Also, at the end of the second season premiere (i.e., two episodes from now), these same ponies will be honored in a Canterlot ceremony for saving Equestria. One wonders how many of the elite will notice they're the ones who "ruined" this event.

 

Resonance: This one's a real roller coaster. We start off with some light fun with the first of many fairy tale shout-outs and Twilight apparently forgetting that she lives in a world of horses. The "EXCUSE ME?" bit in the coach scene is funnier, and the crowd song is pure awesome (particularly for first-time viewers who realize the writers remembered all the set-ups established in The Ticket Master). Once everypony is in her place at the gala, the story gets powerfully sad: writing, voice work, music, and context all combine to make us feel like our own dreams have been crushed. Things turn around mood-wise as Rarity tells off the prince and we begin cheering as the whole event goes off the rails. We're laughing again from the time Fluttershy charges in and Celestia whispers "Run," through the stomping of Rarity's glass slipper and into the donut shop. We close with Princess Celestia and her voice that can warm a universe of hearts, joining the Mane Six and Spike for some bonding.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: At the Gala manages to outdo every other song this season, and the Pony Pokey has some clever rhymes that fit nicely with each pony's plight. The sheer skill in telling such a big story, with three or four rounds of all the Mane Six intercut together, several guest characters, and immense fun all the way through, shows just how far the show has come in this first season. The lesson element is more subtle than most other first-season episodes, but the sheer enjoyment of this episode is enough to propel it to a level at least equal to the premiere, and the drama pushes it over the top. It currently defines the boundary between the excellent Diamond episodes and the superb Crystal tier.

 

The Best Night Ever armor rating: Diamond Armor
Ranked 2nd of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 52nd of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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