My Little Pony Rewatch Project

Deconstruction is Magic

Episode [1.15] – “Feeling Pinkie Keen”

This week, on My Little Pony

“What’s she doing now?”

“Smelling a flower.”

“HOLY GUACAMOLE! I wonder what that means!”

“… Probably that the flower smells good.”

BUT... I DON'T... HOW... THAT SHOULDN'T...*broken spring sound*
Twilight is desperate to scientifically explain Pinkie Pie’s seemingly uncanny ability to determine future events based on combinations of her own body’s twitches and flutters. Many things go splat as a result.


Noel

This is probably the most straight up Looney Tunes episode we’ve had up to this point, complete with anvils dropping out of the sky, people slipping in and out from under boulders as though they were cardboard boxes, and someone continuing to bounce past the edge of a cliff until they look down and realize where they’re no longer standing. It’s fun, it’s zany, it moves at a great clip, and it helps that a good chunk of it is centered on Pinkie Pie, who’s pretty much that entire style of cartoon storytelling squished down into a single person with some stitching over the zippers to keep it tightly sealed within as it – nope, popped the seam again and she’s pouring cartoon all over the place. Get a mop.

While I do have a little hesitation with making Twilight so antagonistic in her scientific quest for explaining away Pinkie’s fortune-telling fidgets, she does make for a very interesting Wile E. Coyote to Pinkie’s Road Runner, with great bits like the constantly foretold sudden openings of doors, the whole traction scaffolding where Spike needs to crank her arms up so she can look through the binoculars, and her suddenly blazing into Dark Phoenix mode, which I’m hoping doesn’t result in her wiping out a planet and Cyclops spending the next 30 years shouting “Twiliiiiiiiiight!”

If I have one issue with the episode, I think they nailed the “you just need to have faith” aspect home just a little too heavily. As established earlier, Twilight is herself a devout follower of this world’s deific figure, opening the series with her study of creation myth. She’s a theologist. While she explores things in a very scientific manner, it’s in a manner supportive of her faith, so having an episode where she’s the one who just needs to learn to have a little faith feels just a bit out of place. Granted, that first episode is something we’ve seen the creators distance themselves from in many ways, so maybe this is just a further reworking of Twilight’s character into the more typical “bookworm” than the “scholarly monk just out of devotional university” she started as. This clearly hasn’t been that show anymore for a while now. As it is, a more natural theme to build the episode to is being able to accept the harmless beliefs and quirks of your friends, even if you don’t agree with them or find them strange. It shouldn’t be about making Twilight a believer, but about her being okay with Pinkie and the others having beliefs that differ from her own. Also, Twilight, you use magic, so shush about what special powers other ponies without horns can use. 🙂

But it’s still a very fun episode, certainly more than I expected from the guy who co-wrote Scary Movie 2. The story builds well, all of the silly shenanigans have good plot and character reasoning behind them, while I don’t entirely agree with the ending theme it’s nicely executed, good use of Fluttershy and Applejack, Spike is a butt but a fun butt, Gummy is adorable, and the hydra is exciting and entertaining. I especially like how they give one head a personality independent of the other three, leading to great little flourishes, like it laughing as the other three bungle or it being surprised when they break into a roar.

It’s a good one. Though there is one troubling element, a tiny glimpse of someone I know I’m going to have much more to say about when she becomes more prominently featured, but I’ll save it for when we get there. It probably won’t take three guesses for the others to figure out who I’m referring to.

Tessa

I really, really like this episode. It’s one of my favorites of the season. I’m also totally biased, as it’s hard for me to find really any Pinkie-centric episode that doesn’t land somewhere near the top of my list. That said, there’s an image I’ve been sitting on to tag certain episodes with that really hasn’t been appropriate to use for any of the previous episodes up until now.

This is one of the first episodes to really hit a split within the fandom, as a lot of people took issue with the lesson involved, pegging it as anti-intellectual and preachy (leading to Lauren Faust lamenting that it was taken that way as it wasn’t the message she was trying to push with this episode). I don’t quite agree, but I definitely see the side in which they’re coming from.

The things that make this episode such a hit for me are really twofold : firstly, Pinkie and Twilight make for one of if not the best comedic duos in the series. Twilight plays the perfect straight-man to Pinkie’s shenanigans, and that’s on display in this episode in spades (this is also far from the last time they’ll be paired up for that purpose). Secondly, as a Twilight-centric episode (which it is as much as it’s a Pinkie one), we get to see “old” Twilight rear her head again, and it’s a side of her that I really enjoy exploring early on.

Twilight really has two somewhat conflicting interests in this episode, and while one genuinely is a curiosity to figure out exactly how Pinkie-sense works, the more powerful of the two interests driving her actually gets in the way of her scientific investigation – she’s way more concerned about being right than about learning anything. People have pointed out that she’s flat out a bad scientist in this episode, rejecting evidence out of hand that doesn’t fit her preconceived notion, and they’re right – but I don’t think this is particularly out of character for her. I’ve mentioned before that Twilight is used to being right, and doesn’t quite know how to deal with something directly challenging her world view (ESPECIALLY when it comes to magic, which she considers herself an expert on. “No such thing as curses”, remember?). She’ll change her mind on her own based on her own studies, but if a contradiction slams itself down in her way, this early in the series she definitely has the potential to stubbornly ram her head against the wall insisting it isn’t there rather than figuring out how she can climb over it. By the end of the episode, she’s not following along to even remotely try to observe Pinkie-sense happening or to work towards understanding it anymore, she’s going along specifically so that she can gloat when she’s right and rub it in Pinkie’s face (which Pinkie doesn’t actually seem to care about in the least, which is probably egging Twilight on even more to try to get the reaction she wants). Is that really mean of her? Yes, absolutely, but keeping in mind that Twi is still very new to the friendship thing and how stand-offish she had been towards other ponies prior to coming to Ponyville, this is the behavior she’s been trying to break away from and change. It is a relapse into her old habits, but she’s more than likely been like this for longer than she hasn’t, and that kind of behavioral change doesn’t always come with a completely clean break. It’s part of why the parallel between her and Trixie (and eventually a certain other unicorn) is so interesting to me, the three of them from their starting points aren’t all that different, but all of them spun off in very different directions due to their surroundings and choices (to be fair, Trixie involves a lot of speculation on my part, but then I’m also obsessed).

And Pinkie. Oh man, Pinkie. Episodes like this are the reason I love her so much. She’s almost not really even involved with the conflict with Twilight, as she just takes everything in stride and cheerfully bounces along. Even the few points where it looks like she’s about to take offense at Twilight’s denial of her ability turn immediately around as she giddily admits that the whole thing is kinda kooky before going on to explain a part of it that’s even more bonkers. Pinkie-sense is basically the whole notion of aches predicting the weather turned up to 11 (it was the inspiration for the episode’s conception), and it’s a nifty bit of character development for Pinkie even if she’s having predictions happen at a FAR more rapid pace here than we’ll ever see again (although the ability doesn’t go away now that it’s been introduced). Pinkie’s in full-on troll mode here too, expertly getting reactions out of Twilight over and over again (somewhat fittingly as Twilight seems intent on getting a reaction out of her that never quite seems to come). I love that she lets Twilight follow her around for an entire day to observe her, letting her believe that she doesn’t know that she’s there, and her casual introduction of Gummy. Speaking of which, yay Gummy! Pinkie’s adorable pet gator will be showing up every so often, with his oblivious stare and tendency to snap his jaws on everything he can nearby (it’s a VERY good thing he doesn’t have teeth).

Of course, the whole thing turns a bit more serious when Pinkie gets a “doozy” of a sense that she can’t identify, which leads them to believe that Fluttershy is in danger. It turns out that she is, what with a hydra showing up in the bog she was dropping off a bunch of frogs at, but it turns out not to actually be what the prediction was for. The very literal “leap of faith” bit in the sequence might be just a bit too on the nose, but otherwise I like the rest of the sequence. I really love that Fluttershy goes back through Pinkie’s song from a handful of episodes back to get her over the chasm. Seems it stuck with her.

Speaking of doozies… on the background pony side we kind of have the big one this episode. We’ve made reference to her in passing prior to now without necessarily calling a ton of attention towards her, but this is the first episode that the fandom-fueled background character known most prominently as Derpy Hooves* shows up intentionally animated wall-eyed. There’s a now very well known shot of the character in the background all the way back in the first episode where this occured due to a layering error, and the fandom latched onto her in its infancy, with the character quickly hitting meme status so hard that the animators wound up taking notice mid-season, and decided to actually purposely animate the character that way from this episode onward, with her showing up in episodes in an almost “Where’s Waldo” way somewhere in the background, although other times she makes more direct appearances like in this one. Where Pinkie can more or less be called a Looney Tunes character stuck into the non-Looney Tunes world, Derpy could be likened very much to Goofy (specifically within his short cartoon incarnation, which people have swapped Derpy in for very effectively), namely being accident prone and clumsy, but well meaning. There’s definitely much more to say on her down the road (one episode in particular really can’t be discussed without having to talk about her in a more in depth way), but the crash course introduction on her will do for now.

*It’s worth pointing out that the character has gone by quite a few names both within the fandom and and writing staff, “Ditzy Doo” being the most prominent one behind Derpy (Bright Eyes and Bubbles are other names she’s gone by less frequently, and there are others besides that), and that the naming of the character is sort of a point of contention amongst parts of the fanbase. I’m going with Derpy in the writeups for really three reasons : first, it’s the name Lauren Faust more or less gave her stamp of approval on; second, it’s the name that the character has been given officially in merchandise when she’s been named at all; and third, it’s by far the most recognizable name for the character, and for better or worse, it’s also the most widely accepted one.

Gerf

There was recently a neat news story on CBS Sunday Morning that discussed coincidences and people’s reactions to them. On one end of the spectrum you have folks like Spike who see improbable coincidences and immediately and devoutly believe them to be omens, while on the other end you have killjoys folks like Twilight Sparkle who see such occurrences as probabilistic inevitabilities and who view alternative interpretations as complete and utter folly.

I dunno, that twitchy tail is doing a pretty good job, Twilight.

“Two coincidences in a row like this may be unlikely, but it’s still easier to believe than twitchy tails that predict the future.”

To Twilight, if something cannot be mathematically, scientifically, or look-here-it-is-meticulously-documented-in-this-trustworthy-book-ally verified, then she will not believe it. Yet here we have a case where Pinkie’s prescience is ostensibly scientifically verifiable (at least from the standpoint that her Pinkie Sense spazzes consistently and reliably result in the same outcome, though said outcome may take different forms each time), but Twilight continues to reject it on the grounds that she doesn’t understand how it actually works. This is admirable from a pragmatic standpoint but a bit short-sighted from a practical standpoint: it’s like like claiming gravity doesn’t exist because we don’t understand how it works, even though we can do a really really good job at predicting its impact on everything from apples falling from a bucked tree to landing robots on other planets (only one of these things actually happens in the show, by the way). In other words, rejecting something that is quite verifiable on the grounds that its inner workings have not yet been explained is at best silly and at worst catastrophic (such as in, “I don’t understand gravity, so it must not exist and I can walk off the edge of this cliff without fear of falling,” which only actually works if you’re a cartoon character and you don’t look down after walking off the cliff; hooray for Looney Tunes throwbacks!).

Exhibit A: SCIENCE!

After her initial attempt to SCIENCE! the fundamental mechanisms of the Pinkie Sense out of Pinkie’s body fails, she goes on to painstakingly (emphasis on “pain“) prove that the Pinkie Sense is a bunch of horseapples by trying to document an instance where it fails. But this is also quite short-sighted, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; or, in this case, not directly observing the effect of a Pinkie Sense prediction doesn’t mean it didn’t actually occur (say, right behind her). For someone who is all about science, Twilight sure is going about her scientific rejection of the Pinkie Sense in all the wrong ways!

In fact, coming up with a scientific method to prove the Pinkie Sense doesn’t actually exist would be quite a difficult challenge. She could perhaps set up an experiment whereby she hides and drops a flowerpot as Pinkie is walking by. Does Pinkie’s tail twitch before the flowerpot falls? It doesn’t? HA, disproved! Or is it? Pinkie never claimed that the Pinkie Sense always goes off each time some event is about to occur (if that were truly the case, she’d be vibrating uncontrollably 24/7), so one dropped flowerpot without a twitchy tail does not a sound conclusion make. To make the science more sound, Twilight could set up an equivalence test to show that the chance of Pinkie’s tail twitching before a flowerpot falls is no different than the chance chance that a hyperactive female earth pony’s tail will spontaneously twitch on its own, but setting that up statistically anyway would be a nightmare. (No, I’m not a statistics expert, so this explanation is probably not technically accurate, but roll with me here. 😛 ) And even if she did manage to put that experiment together, there’s still the unanswered question of “do volitionally-dropped flowerpots trigger the Pinkie Sense, or do the falling flowerpots need to be accidental?” Now it turns into a grueling observational study whereby Twilight would need to examine every falling object, note whether Pinkie’s tail twitched before it fell, and somehow verify that the reason said object fell was the result of an accident.

So, yeah, moral of the story: “Pinkie Pie, you are so random!” That and what Tessa mentioned previous about Twilight caring more about being right than doing good science (which is an incredibly weird twist that one probably wouldn’t initially expect from the adorkable as Twilight!). That, and, as Tessa also pointed out, Pinkie is in full-on troll mode this episode, and it’s glorious. I often say that Rarity is one of the most complex characters in the show (and in many fanfics, to boot), but here we see that Pinkie can be quite complex as well, if only because she operates in the higher dimensions that are tucked away in her mane.

As for the actual moral of the story, though, I’m going to also agree with both Noel and Tessa (and the rest of the Internet, as it were) that it’s very heavily delivered yet not entirely clear what it’s supposed to mean. Yes, you want to believe your friends, and yes, it’s okay to believe in things you don’t understand… but what is missed is that yes, you should ask questions about things you don’t understand or don’t believe to arrive at a level of understanding that is comfortable to you. Unfortunately, Twilight’s (arguably incorrect) questioning just led to pain and suffering throughout the entire episode, so on the surface it almost seems like the message is saying that asking questions is bad (hence the whole anti-intellectual argument). Not the right interpretation, I’m sure, but the delivery made it hard to tease that part out.

All that stuff aside, though, this episode does slide in a few bits of character development (something I absolutely love, as I absolutely love the characters). Aside from the very obvious (and flametastic) point where Twilight “learns to believe,” we also see Pinkie Pie as a sort of obtuse mentor of sorts, which suggests she really does go deep (if only into said mane-dimensions). We also see that Fluttershy now has the courage to “hop skip and jump” over the decidedly larger chasm than she had to deal with back in Dragonshy, and that Celestia is not so high and mighty so as not to drop in and personally visit her favorite student from time to time (and that she’s a jet).

Oh, and Gummy. Seriously, Gummy is so OP, but please don’t nerf him. I mean, he already has no teeth!

I... but... I... there are no words.

Finally: there are a lot of expressive faces in this show, most of them goofy and silly, but this one is such a perfect “…?!” face.

If you’re looking for a crazy and fun song to go along with this crazy and fun episode, check out at least this snippet of Techno Pinkie (The Underground Pinkiemix) by Pixeltripper. I’m convinced that Pinkie’s mind operates in this kind of trippy, rules-quite-optional fashion.

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