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

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Episode 11: "Winter Wrap Up"

Aired 12/24/2010, written by Cindy Morrow (her second episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Twilight wakes up before dawn in her excitement to help clean up winter: without magic, as is traditional for Ponyville.
  • Act 1: Twilight finds that everypony is assigned to a team except her. As the town sings about Winter Wrap Up, she wonders where she will fit in. Lacking wings, she's obviously not cut out for clearing clouds.
  • Act 2: Twilight fails at building nests with Rarity, cutting ice with Pinkie Pie, or waking skunks and other animals with Fluttershy. One tomato bath later, she tries magic to help plow away snow but only makes things worse.
  • Act 3: As Twilight sulks, the other ponies argue about falling behind schedule. Twilight volunteers to organize the remaining work. The town works through the night and finishes on schedule.

Character: Rainbow, Rarity, Fluttershy, and AJ are all in their element for this project. Pinkie is somewhat of a surprise, but it's nice to see that all the Mane Six are recognized leaders for the town's activities. It's a nice call-back to their role in preparing for the Summer Sun Celebration and to the fact that they've saved Ponyville several times now. This makes Twilight's conundrum all the more frustrating.

We're nearing the midway point of the season, but we're still working through the "establishing" episodes. This one not only develops the idea of pony control of nature, it also lays out the positive side of Twilight's personality. As faux-Cadance might say, I love, love, love the fact that organizational abilities, critical problem-solving, and analysis are presented seriously as practical strengths in this and other episodes. Twilight sometimes takes this to excess for the purposes of comedy (such as in this episode's cold open), but even then we're seeing a central character with traits that tend to be neglected in children's shows even as they characterize many thousands of kids in the viewing audience. Also, "Did she say late?" is our first hint that Twilight's teachers must have been sticklers for punctuality.

I'm a little less happy with Spike in this episode. He tries to be encouraging, but he slips into laughing at Twilight a bit too easily. (We saw more of this back in Bridle Gossip.) It's only natural for a child, particularly with physical mishaps, but it's a departure from the almost sagely sidekick we saw in the first few episodes. We'll see more inconsistency with Spike for the next season and a half or so, since the writers seem to be juggling two or three different concepts of Spike that don't really go well together. Eventually he'll settle back into the capable, common sense assistant he was in the premiere.

I'm more concerned with a missed opportunity to deepen the Twilight-Spike relationship. At this point, he's a live-in assistant despite being a "baby dragon," and is in Twilight's custody for reasons unknown. On first viewing, then, Spike's "Mommy? / You're not mommy." moment is cute as it hints that he might have been dreaming of lost parents. But in a few episodes we'll learn that he was hatched by Twilight and presumably raised by her up to this point. With this established, the "Mommy?" line is greatly endearing, something he might say only with his guard down, but the "You're not mommy" follow-up must have been a real sting to Twilight if she ever thought of Spike as a son. (Lauren Faust's intention was that Spike had been raised by Celestia before being assigned back to Twilight, but this idea hasn't made it onto the show. If we assume this, then could Spike have been dreaming of the Princess? If so, I'd like to see a hint of warm feelings between the two on the few occasions they're together, such as in the next episode.)


Lesson: First of all, Twilight faces the familiar challenge of the newcomer, being the only one who doesn't have a place in the new town/school/neighborhood/church, etc. It's a common challenge for kids whose parents move around a lot, and they need to have some knowledge of their interests and abilities in order to fit in without making a lot of trial-and-error mistakes along the way. Patience and diligence in finding hidden talents is the stated lesson of the episode, but technically, Twilight's organized nature wasn't hidden, it just wasn't recognized as a talent relevant to the situation.

Logic: So how did Twilight miss getting on a team from the outset? Remember it's her first winter here; someone may have neglected to tell her how or when those choices are made, since everypony else probably occupies a traditional spot.

Just a little bit of headcanon: It seems every source out there says the Ditzy Doo mentioned in this episode is never seen or else is assumed to be Derpy. However, when the birds finally fly in they're escorted by a pegasus who's basically Derpy with a purple mane and tail, who isn't named or otherwise identified anywhere I've encountered. So I'm just going to say that one's Ditzy.

 

Connections: Parallels have been drawn between Twilight's efforts in this episode and the adventures of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. She has her cutie markómagicóbut that's specifically out-of-bounds for this exercise, so she's on their level for this one. (I wonder whether she's ever talked to the CMC about what she learned from this experience?)

 

Resonance: There's a little bit of everything here. Non-unicorns get some time in the awesomeness spotlight throughout the episode. This series treats magic as a serious concept, but here we see the other pony types showing what they're capable of. The immense amount of work done here is nothing short of amazing. Twilight's early failures (with Rarity, Pinkie, and Fluttershy) are played for laughs and are quite funny; the animal bits were particularly effective.

On the more serious side, as someone who's always had a hard time fitting in and was always the last one picked for teams, I really felt for Twilight during her solo near the end of the big musical number. Her tears after causing the avalanche were also an effective sad moment. I felt better when I saw Rarity's all-day determination to make something out of Twilight's nest; it brought me a warm smile even though the moment was meant to be comical. And once again, I'm over the moon about analytical thinking and organization as useful skills.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: I'm glad to see that even as big as this episode is, the animators still found time for the finer points, like the fact that the ponies working through the night actually look tired rather than just wearing their default grin.

This aired on Christmas Eve; no other episodes this season had a winter setting. (How rarely a TV series will ever set several episodes in a row in winter time! Come on, MLP, be the exception!) Obviously would take place after Fall Weather Friends, which aired a couple weeks later.

An excellent implementation of some of the show's basic concepts and the positive traits of the show's central character, another look at the town's population as a whole, and the first episode with a big musical number. Just about every major song in the series becomes a favorite moment for many of the fans, but especially this one; it was sung (somewhat spontaneously) at least three times during the first convention I attended. The crowd songs get even catchier and more refined later. I rank this episode just below the premiere as one of the indispensable episodes of the series.

 

Winter Wrap Up armor rating: Diamond Vest
Ranked 5th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 60th of 147 stories overall

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