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

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Episode 3: "The Ticket Master"

Aired 10/29/2010, written by Amy Keating Rogers (her first episode) & Lauren Faust (her third)
  • Intro: Twilight Sparkle receives an invitation and two tickets from Princess Celestia to attend the Grand Galloping Gala.
  • Act 1: Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy all share their fantasies of the gala, each pony seeing herself as the right one to accompany Twilight.
  • Act 2: Twilight's effort to work out her dilemma over lunch is interrupted by a rainstorm, followed by efforts by Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Applejack to do her special favors.
  • Act 3: Twilight returns home to find Fluttershy cleaning the library, then is greeted to a song by Pinkie that exposes her tickets to the public. Following a townwide chase, Twilight gives up and returns both tickets to the Princess, unable to decide whom to bring. Celestia replies with enough tickets for all the Mane Six, plus Spike.

Character: Twilight's characterization in this episode is (almost) entirely positive in contrast to the premiere. (Her stated concern is not leaving a friend disappointed but in light of later episodes she probably has an unstated insecurity about potentially losing friends over this.) The rest of the cast is self-centered here, including Pinkie. This is actually part of Pinkie's character arc as she initially approaches friendship as a means to her own fun and enjoyment but becomes more giving as the show goes on. As of season 3, I'd say she's most of the way there. The whole episode is a fun bit of character work, with more being revealed by the wish sequences than by the friends' antics.

The show's central dilemma is resolved through Twilight's outburst and her friends' repentance, both a function of their characters. The Princess's letter is not a Deus ex machina here. Rather, the crisis is over once Twilight returns the tickets, and Celestia's response serves as a reward for her actions (whether intended or unintended by the Princess is unclear, which is par for the course with her). We see a similar ending in the third season's "Wonderbolts Academy."

Lesson: This show sets the tone for how the show will teach its lesson. The moral on selflessness is handled well, spending equal time on Twilight as role model and the others as bad examples. When they finally come around, their apologies are sincere and unqualified.

Princess Celestia's reply to Twilight begins, "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" While this may be a casual or throw-away line, several episodes involve characters stubbornly trying to solve a problem themselves when they could have simply asked for help or advice. And although it's not elaborated on here, it would be just like Twilight to fear asking Celestia a question about what to do in a situation like this, worried that she would seem ignorant or overly dependent. I rather enjoy finding "hidden" morals in the episodes beyond the stated point. Whether they're placed there intentionally by the writers is anyone's guess, but most viewers will take from the episode whatever they find, regardless of the intention.

Logic: The main question I've heard for this episode is why Twilight initially received only two tickets. The simplest theories are either that two tickets are standard for everypony, that Spike was the intended guest, or that Princess Celestia intended this as a test for Twilight. They all work, so just pick your favorite. Body Count: Rainbow says, "I couldn't risk a goody-four-shoes like you giving that ticket away to just anybody." Spike asks, "Would it hurt anybody to offer some gemstones?"

Connections: So begins the "gala arc" cleverly inserted into an otherwise episodic season. Someone more observant than I has noticed the characters' visions of the gala are in keeping with what their own big-event experiences county fairs for Applejack, air shows for Rainbow, fairy-tale romance for Rarity, birthday parties for Pinkie, animal bonding for Fluttershy, and a one-on-one conversation for Twilight. None of them really knows what a high-society ball is like, and thus the stage is set for the eventual disappointment they encounter when the first-season finale comes around.


Resonance: Twilight's consistent focus on her friends' happiness is endearing. At this early point in the series, we might have expected her to focus on which pony she'd have the best time with, or which friend she considered her best. I'm happy to see the selfless quality she exhibits here. The apologies are another feel-good moment for me.

Light humor is sprinkled all over this episode, especially in the wish sequences. The running gag of Twilight's inability to get even a bite to eat is fun, as is Pinkie's "bats" moment and self-indulgent songs. The chase scene with its music reminiscent of Yakety Sax makes for a laugh-out-loud climax. But the funniest moment for me is Rainbow's ill-advised celebration when the others give up their claim to the extra ticket.


Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Despite the simple premise, the show faces the extreme challenge of fitting five characters' ticket discoveries, wish sequences, and favors, as well as a chase scene and a touching resolution, into a mere 22 minutes. If it seems a bit overwhelming, well, that's exactly how Twilight feels, which strengthens our bond with the perspective character. And if you can believe it, this story was first conceived during a brief period when the episodes were going to contain two 11-minute stories. (Faust wrote the 11-minute version, which Rogers then expanded.) This was, in fact, the first story written, so whereas Friendship Is Magic 1-2 is the premiere, this is the more proper episode to call a pilot.

I consider this a fine episode because of its work in further establishing the main characters and tone of the series and for setting the standard for the episodes to come. They all have this one to build on...and build they do, as about 80% of the episodes end up outranking it. That shouldn't cause us to think any less of this early entry, and it remains one of the best episodes to introduce a new viewer to MLP.


The Ticket Master armor rating: Iron Mail
Ranked 14th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 188th of 233 stories overall

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