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

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Episode 156: "The Perfect Pear"

Aired 8/5/2017, written by Joanna Lewis & Kristine Songco (their ninth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Apple Bloom buys pear jam from an elderly vendor who has recently returned to Ponyville. At home, Applejack panics upon seeing the jam and hurries to hide it from Granny Smith.
  • Act 1: AJ tells Apple Bloom that Granny is still upset over a feud with the Pear family. Unable to explain why, they and Big Mac visit Goldie Delicious. Goldie recounts how Granny Smith and Grand Pear were rivals; it turns out Granny's son Bright Mac and Grand's daughter Pear Butter (aka Buttercup) were the Apple siblings' parents.
  • Act 2: Longtime residents Burnt Oak and Mrs. Cake share their memories of a secret romance between Bright Mac and Buttercup, carried on over their parents' objections. Eventually, Grand Pear announces the Pears are moving to far-away Vanhoover.
  • Act 3: Mayor Mare reveals that the young couple married immediately to avoid being separated, only for Grand Pear to disown his daughter. The Apple siblings go to the remorseful Grand Pear, reunite him with Granny Smith, and show them a pair of trees the parents planted on the night of their wedding.

Character: This episode continues season 7's theme of family by introducing the last set of Mane Six parents. With only scarce references until now, viewers have long speculated about the Apples' father and mother. Here we discover that Applejack and Big Mac themselves knew very little about how their parents got together, and nothing about their mother's family. The reason for that is revealed along with the backstory itself. While the show doesn't (and might never) outright state that Bright Mac and Buttercup died some time before the series, their loss is implied by the tense and tone of the storytellers, most obviously Burnt Oak. His scene reminds me of a time after my grandfather's funeral a couple years ago, where I listened to my dad and his brother tell some childhood stories I hadn't heard before.

This episode is about the beginning of the parents' story, not the end, and it's an uplifting tale of perseverance through trial, with the titular couple victorious over the spite that surrounded them. First, a few observations about the Apples we're familiar with. We've seen before how quick Apple Bloom is to offer friendship to outsiders. Big Mac's softer side comes through once again as he asks to return for more stories. And Applejack's curiosity for the truth behind the Pear feud is aroused when AB mentions that Grand Pear was nice to her. AJ's assumptions about the Pears have been challenged and now she must get to the bottom of it. Granny, for all her established stubbornness, is quick to accept Buttercup after witnessing her loyalty decision, and is equally understanding toward Grand Pear. It shows Granny's good heart, and it's touching to see long-standing bitterness dissolve like that. Also, I have to mention that Goldie Delicious describes the lovers as "star-kissed," rather than star-crossed, as we might expect. This is, in the end, a tearfully happy story.

The siblings point out how various key traits of theirs are reflections of their parents; other such traits (such as Buttercup's "Eeyup") crop up but pass without comment. Vocal deliveries from all the characters are fantastic: The way Mrs. Cake says, "These things are never easy" speaks volumes. The humor, youthful energy, and understated eagerness of Bright Mac comes through thanks to newcomer VA Bill Newton. (And yes, a newton is a unit of gravitational force equal to that of one apple, which I find hilarious.) We get to hear Felicia Day's golden singing voice at length, and it's the song that tells us the most about her character. And I'm very impressed with what William Shatner does with Grand Pear's brief role. Typically with celebrity guests in a cartoon, we just get a cartoon version of the celebrity. Even John de Lancie basically uses his natural speaking voice for Discord because, well, Discord is supposed to sound like John de Lancie. But Shatner gives a believable, nuanced performance that distinguishes the arrogant younger Grand Pear from the older, broken one, and you would only know it's Shatner by looking at the credits.

I'm keeping the review short to avoid raving too much, but this is a good spot to make a couple clarifications about the timeline. If Diamond Tiara and Apple Bloom are the same age, then AB is evidently born some time after the flashback in Where the Apple Lies, where Filthy Rich and Spoiled Milk are still dating, and Big Mac is in his adolescence there. Whatever happens to remove the Apple parents from the story happens after that, which means their marriage lasted seventeen years or more. So there's still plenty of their story yet to be told. Finally, I wouldn't assume that Grand Pear never saw his daughter again after the wedding. I imagine she would have visited him at least once to try to make amends, even if they never reconciled. Though if you prefer to make the story as tragic as possible, feel free.


Lesson: The explicit moral is delivered by Grand Pear: not to let bitterness and resentment keep you from your family. The silliness of feuding, the importance of family, the issue of right loyalty, and the determination wrought by love are all amply demonstrated in the story. More subtle is that knowing where you come from, in terms of family history, can help you better understand yourself. It's also the primary way that people are remembered long after they're gone, as great- or great-great or even great-great-great-grandparents. But knowing your history can also help you correct the mistakes of the past and set your family on a brighter course.

Resonance: Long ago it was decided that MLP would keep its focus on the friendship of the main characters, which leaves us with fewer opportunites to display the happy sweetness and serious intensity of romantic love. We get a truckload of that here, and it's wonderful. Yet it's a bittersweet story with equal amounts of drama above and beneath the surface. Buttercup's lyrics stand out to me: How sad that she describes her life as "a prickly path that goes on for miles," and the only one who makes her life worthwhile is Bright Mac. As much as she may have loved her father (and any family members we don't meet here), he presumably takes that prickliness with him to Vanhoover, leaving her able to continue with the one who makes her life happy.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: A nice touch of continuity is present as flashback Ponyville seems to be populated entirely by earth ponies.

I've looked over the best MLP stories and found that what sets them apart is that not only are they tremendously entertaining with healthy doses of feeling, but they also expertly handle some of life's most important relational issues. The very best tend also to address long-awaited topics–the return of Luna, Scootaloo bonding with Rainbow Dash, Twilight's role as a princess, the appearance of cutie marks–or fill in gaps such as main character backstories. The Perfect Pear has all the ingredients of an ultra-top-tier episode. It's a whirlwind look at fifteen years of history from meeting to wedding, sort of stopping in the middle of the parents' story, so it leaves us wanting more. Nevertheless, I rank it my seventh favorite episode so far, just under The Cutie Mark Chronicles..

 

Not Asking for Trouble armor rating: Genji Armor
Ranked 1st of 26 season-seven episodes
Ranked 7th of 175 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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