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Mike Cartoon Pony


Nintendo gamer and animation lover. Also likes pastel cartoon ponies. They do that to people. And ghosts.

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Jan
17th
2020

Mini Re-Reviews: "Party of One" & "The Best Night Ever" - Season 1 Episodes 25 & 26 · 11:20pm January 17th


PINKIE PIE: "...yeah, I don't really like looking back at this phase of mine either. Let me tell you, I was really wacko! If I saw any of my friends acting that way, I'd have them committed! Maybe let them out on weekends for a bit of fresh air."
[Rainbow pushes away with her foot a filled-out asylum form]

It would be so easy to jump to talking about that scene, so let's restrain ourselves and sit a bit on everything else. "Party of One" is interesting in that both previous Pinkie Pie episodes shared space with another featured pony, either shifting POVs a chunk into the episode ("Griffon the Brush Off") or largely staying with the other pony ("Feeling Pinkie Keen"). But no, this episode is pretty much The Pinkie Show the whole way through, with not a single scene deprived of both her presence and more importantly (this is what I always think of in my mind as a "POV Episode").

This is not just mere trivia, for this is the episode that really, really delves into Pinkie's psyche, all while providing onscreen screwball shenanigans. The comedy is to be appreciated, for this episode would be so unsettling without it as to feel like an offshoot from another, far more depressing show altogether. But thankfully, mix the two together and you have one of the most unique and beloved episodes in the series' run (at least I hope that remains the case today - as always, time means means these early episodes don't get discussed much these days, regardless of quality).

The first four minutes up until Twilight declines Pinkie's invitation, when everything is all hunky-dory, are still plenty important and funny themselves (the cutting between Pinkie's singing of the telegram does a good job of communicating she performed it five times without shoving it in our faces) and show an incredible level of restraint in not having any characters remark on Gummy's strangeness in a way that makes it clear they're just there for Pinkie (strains of this can be spotted in "Tanks For the Memories" down the road). Toss in a teleporting Gummy, and another display of Earth Pony strength in Pinkie unknowingly ramming Twilight and Fluttershy into a wall, and is a delightful opener that serves well in luring us into a false sense of security for what is to come.

That's another thing worth commending - the episode gradually ramps up the insanity factor so that by the time we reach the tea party, it's not such a big jump. Whether they be variations on things we've seen before - Pinkie's pursuit of Rainbow Dash here is creepy on top of comical as opposed to "Griffon the Brush Off") - or new ones altogether, the middle 10 minutes of the episode is a great example of avoiding mood/tonal whiplash. This escalation is present in other ways - moving from Twilight's plausible study devotion, to Applejack's redoubling on completed work, to Rarity dirtying herself to keep busy, to finally Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash straight-up lying - but that in particular stands out.

And good thing too, because it's crucial to understanding Pinkie's dilemma from her point of view. Obviously none of us are like Pinkie, even those of us so earnestly devoted to making our friends happy the way she is, but we are like her in so far as many of us, if not all of us, probably fear not being wanted around by others, at least on some level. It's a small root, but it helps give just enough underlying psychology to Pinkie's craziness. Oh, and she's determined too - her interrogation scene of Spike alone proves that, especially when coupled with her snarling interrogation face.

Of course, all bets are off with that party scene (small wonder that though the show largely kept to Pinkie's hair being straight being a signifier for her mood, and very sporadically at that, that many a fan creator jumped on it as a dark side of different personality altogether). Very little in the series since has matched it in terms of craziness, and Andrea Libman delivers Tabitha-worthy ham not only acting her socks out as Pinkie but as putting on voices while still playing Pinkie for all her "guests". Another thing that helps is the muted colours - Pinkie is less bright pink while like this except for those few shots with psychedelic background as she seems to snap between realities. Really, I don't have much more to add about this scene - the reasons why it remains so vivid all these years later are there to see. I do like the balance between Rainbow's tender side, her creeped-out side, and her "enough of this" side towards the end too.

The speed with which Pinkie snaps back once she realises her friends were throwing her a birthday party is also somewhat unsettling in its own way, and would remain so were it not for that brief scared and embarrassed expression she sports when Rainbow Dash refers to what she saw at Pinkie's place. Really the episode's ending almost doesn't register with the viewer, so intense is the after effect from that party scene (the denouement seems tailored to this, truth be told).

After all that, do I have much else to add? Not much, it's a brilliant episode for all the reasons you remember. The crazy party scene, Gummy being best pet, the crazy party scene, the devolving quality of the excuses the others make, the crazy party scene, and the complexity to Pinkie's emotional breakdown all-throughout, and much more, all contribute to a knock-it-out-of-the-park episode where the only reason it shouldn't land is for those haven't fully warmed to Pinkie (indeed, some hadn't by this episode but enjoyed it much more after being more fully on board with Pink Pony due to Season 2, so I've heard). 9.5/10 here.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS
- The episode is an excellent case of having a wobbly, rickety structure that should seriously undermine it, and yet it just doesn't matter because those story flaws are overcome through sheer filmmaking (television-making, I suppose) skill, for all the reasons outlined above.
- The early party scene (so, not the one the episode is known for) is also notable for another usage of the CMC Theme - you know, the one Daniel Ingram whipped-up last minute for the montage in 'The Show Stoppers' and which he allegedly (read: he has said so) thought very little of but was a huge fandom hit. I'm guessing its use here was in space of coming up with something there? Or maybe William Anderson felt it was great the way the rest of us do and used it until Ingram said it was off limits for the future. Who knows.
- I love that just about the only thing in this episode that rubbed me the wrong way - Rarity's continuing to use Spike to the point of insulting him for the stench he got from taking out her trash - ends up with her receiving just karma by dunking her head in the garbage as part of her outrageous lie to keep Pinkie at bay. Spike in general doesn't get a great treatment in this episode - we're firmly in Mane-6-not-Mane-7 territory with him not being in on the party planning and only showing up during the letter-reciting denouement - but this episode is far too fantastic, and that problem far too common this early in the show, for that to affect my enjoyment of it in the slightest.
- That gag where Rainbow draws a watch on her hoof before proclaiming "look at the time!", though. Gags that feel like they came out of nowhere, when they work, are gold.
- A slip of the physical cartooning of "Feeling Pinkie Keen" slips it with the shape Twilight's muzzle is squashed into by the can. Just love it.
- Apparently Rarity can pick up and hold onto a box of confectionaries with her tail. Thought that was a Pinkie-only skill. Strikes me as a bit unusual for her; she's be the sort to lift it with her horn rather then exert physical effort, even if it makes for a fun, coy visual.
- Proof of how much this fandom, or any fandom really, can prioritise what's new and now: Party of One was once a frequent contender for top ten episodes in UK of Equestria, but by the time I joined the show (late 2017) has slipped to sitting outside the top 50. Yeah... no.


MANE 6: "Chew your heart out, Cinderella! This is how you do a ball-focused segment without being cloyingly sappy!"
SPIKE: I'm just happy to be in this shot at this point.

To the surprise of none of the viewing audience, "The Best Night Ever" is not that for our main characters, at least not until the reflection they have at the end after escaping the party. Thankfully for the viewing audience it is, if not the best episode ever, certainly another truly top-tier episode that certainly succeeds at ending Season 1 on a more-then-satisfying note. By the time the show ended, this still remained as one of only two season finale's confined to a single episode (the other, for the 13-episode Season 3, caused no small end of controversy at the time even if it is generally really well liked - trust me, we'll get to it soon enough), and wouldn't you know it, that gives this episode plenty of unique energy all its own. It helps, perhaps, that it is actually paying off of something established early on this season, and which was the cornerstone of two episodes. "The Ticket Master" may have been one of the season's weakest episodes, but I can forgive its growing pains even ore for getting this.

As an episode that is all about, on one level, circumventing the girly stereotypes associated with Cinderella setups like these, it's somewhat fitting that we get a Cinderella allusion right in the opening scene that gets subverted immediately with how funky the mice-horse turn out. The following scene is played rather straight in the Mane 6 doing girly things alltogether, but it not only doesn't last long but also continues to show the bond the six have established. Oh, and Rarity wears false eyelashes. "MMmystery on the Friendship Express", you got beaten by nearly a whole year to the punch (that episode was also written by Amy Keating Rogers - hmm...).

Following by a grand sweeping shot of Canterlot showing DHX doing their best to show the visual ambition they harboured (say what you will about the 2017 film, but by god you can feel the artists delight at showing off far above and beyond what they normally can do on every frame), we get a song that is more-or-less straight Disney, just filtered through the MLP song engine. At the Gala nips at Winter Wrap Up's heels as far as being a catchy earworm with a hummable verse-that-is-the-title. It's also worth noting for how it nicely recaps exactly what it is that everyone wants to do here; even in 2010 (when this was written) serialisation was still creeping its way into animation, so this episode does it best to function just as well for those who never saw "The Ticket Master" - just as long as the viewer's seen enough previous episodes for the characters to grow on them is all (in the future, similar small recurring arcs like the Equestria Games would not devote as much effort to ensuring viewers were not left out of the loop). But yes, At the Gala remains a gem of an MLP song.

To the episode's credit, things don't instantly devolve into chaos, with everything initially going fine for all six ponies in their goals. Twilight's gets to hand out with Celestia, Applejack makes a sale as soon as she sets up shop, Fluttershy spies lots of animals in the gardens, Rarity spies a delightful-looking prince to make her own, Rainbow gets acquainted once again with the wonderbolts, and Pinkie is so delighted at the shiny and pretty and dancing that she goes to space (yes, that is now both a fandom reference and a show reference - thank you, "Sparkle's Seven").

Then it all goes to heck, from a busy princess to no other customers to hiding wildlife to the snottiest prince imaginable to distracted flying idols to disapproving gala guests. What's most interesting is the speed of this chunk of the episode, cutting between each of the Mane 6 with near-undue haste (clearly, this is the section where most of the 6 pages of Amy Keating Rogers' initial script hit the recycle bin). It's almost distressing, yet I find it gives the episode a shot-to-the-atm, not that it needed one. For six simultaneous and similar stories that are playing out, this is a welcome touch, as keeping the speed up allows us to focus on the gems in them - everything with Rarity and Fluttershy is gold, while Twilight and AJ don't do much but look sad at things not going great, with Pinkie and Rainbow being reasonably proactive in trying to turn things their way. The same principle of speed offsetting the effect of potential predictability applies to the Poney Pokey song, with the cuts between theirs attempts to make it work unravelling an even better touch. The last few minutes, as it all comes crashing down, as a hoot (we all know about "You're going to LOVE ME!", but Rarity's horror at her slipper falling off Cinderella style and hurrying back to smash it is very nearly as great). The ending is just right for the situation with the six drowning their sorrows with donuts as one does after a lame party (and Spike gets the good deal, enjoying all those stories with his friends) And hey, a nice character moment for Celestia in the reveal that she wanted things to go way off normal, to stave off her boredom, is another glorious addition to Trollestia.

But in a general sense, that the season's culmination turned out to be a (comical) botch is just a neat alternative to the "everything went perfectly!" story an outsider might expect from an episode like this. It'd be cute, but FiM has much better ambitions then that, and the ending showing that the best times sometimes come from things not working out the way you planned, though not something commented upon, adds a wonderful touch to the episode.

Small wonder M.A. Larson has said in multiple interviews that this is his favourite of the series: there is probably not another one in all 221 episodes that so skillfully subverts the old girly stereotypes it seems to be dabbling in all while remaining delightfully sincere entertainment. While I don't know I could call it the best episode, no Top Episode List is complete without giving this one some serious consideration, as far as I'm concerned. And for a stage in the show where the focus was still very much on our six ponies as a tightly-knit group, it's fitting and appropriate that the season ends, just as it started, on a story with all six of them in equal limelight (okay the Premiere has Twilight ahead, you know what I mean). Another 9.5/10 here, my friends!

STRAY OBSERVATIONS
- And that's a wrap on Season 1! Before Season 2 begins next week, I might do a wrap-up post concluding my thoughts on the season as a whole, with one-liners of my thoughts on each episode (with links to the originals) and revised scores (the revised scores will be updated in the original reviews too), just to reflect me figuring out what the different score thresholds actually mean.
- The contrast between Fluttershy acting like a Disney princess in trying to find the animals and mere minutes later whispering "my little pretties..." like a Disney villain is startling in how much quicker then Pinkie she slipped, and it is glorious.
- Comparing this episode to The Cutie Mark Chronicles is interesting, given both have separate stories for the Mane 6, this one just has them all taking place simultaneously, cutting back and forth.
- It's weird, but it had been so long since I had seen this episode that whenever Blueblood spoke I could only hear the characters Vincent Tong voiced more regularly, such as Flash Sentry. Not exactly the same voice, but close enough that once you've noticed it, you can't not notice it, I found.

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Comments ( 1 )

Now then...

The comedy is to be appreciated, for this episode would be so unsettling without it as to feel like an offshoot from another, far more depressing show altogether.

I wonder whether that's part of the reason I don't like this episode quite as much as I used to. I find myself appreciating the domestic, reassuring-despite-evil-monsters nature of the show's roots more than I did. In S1 especially, this one feels odd in that sense.

Pinkie's pursuit of Rainbow Dash here is creepy on top of comical

That scene in the school bell tower... *shudders*

Applejack

I really like her triple cart, something I'm not sure we see again. A nice, unobtrusively funny way to remind us of her extreme strength.

That gag where Rainbow draws a watch on her hoof

The very first mention of Harry the Bear, that scene. It'll be a while before he gets that name officially, but he's one of those minor characters who became a quiet fandom favourite. I even wrote a fic once that was more or less inspired by this scene.

once a frequent contender for top ten episodes in UK of Equestria, but by the time I joined the show (late 2017) has slipped to sitting outside the top 50.

It would be interesting to know where it might come now, but we don't really have the numbers these days. It was 60th or something in 2017, which did surprise me. I don't think most people on UK of E would put it Top 10 any more, but Top 25 is much more likely.

At the Gala remains a gem of an MLP song.

It does that. Rainbow's verse is, or at least used to be, a major part of its fandom popularity, back when ponies rocking out was still quite a novelty. (Of course, even as the S1/S2 hiatus was in progress there was a fairly active brony music scene, but it hadn't fully developed just yet.)

Rarity spies a delightful-looking prince

Blueblood is such a wonderfully awful character, and one many fine ponyfic writers have leapt on gleefully. He never again has more than a background role in the series, but the IDW comics were another story. It's been years, but I seem to remember rather liking his depiction in those.

Fluttershy acting like a Disney princess

She seems to be in Disney mode at the time, but I suppose that's not surprising after her "There's loons and toucans and bitterns, oh my!" in "The Ticket Master"!

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