» Writer Appreciation Day 2: Merriwether Williams

Merriwether Williams is a relative newcomer to the show, having entered in season 2, long after viewers were introduced to the characters and the setting. But who is Merriwether anyway? Well, if you’ve watched any cartoons in the past 20 years, you’ll be surprised to learn that you may have seen her work, even if the name doesn’t ring a bell. She might have been new to ponies, but she was not new to the world of animation writing. Read more to discover a little more about Merry.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea…

Of all the writers in this show, Merriwether Williams is the most prolific in the animation field. Ms. Williams began her professional career in the mid-1990s, working as a story editor on behalf of Nickelodeon for early Nicktoons such as Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Rugrats, and The Angry Beavers. “It was my job to put the Nickelodeon stamp on it, especially the kid point of view,” recalled Williams in an interview. ¹

Faster, Merriwether. Go! Go!

Her big break came when Stephen Hillenburg needed a new story editor for his hit show SpongeBob SquarePants. Vince Calandra, who worked with Hillenburg on Rocko’s Modern Life, recommended Williams for the job.¹

“Steve [Hillenburg] came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you go read a bunch of books about writing.’ or something like that. He wanted to keep the enthusiasm up in the room, because sometimes it can be a slog. So I went off and I read a bunch of books. And the one that really captured my imagination was a story called Zen in the Art of Writing, by Raymond Bradbury. He told a story about how he would tape to the wall certain nouns that he liked or wanted to work into the story at some point. And a word he used was ‘gusto’ – write with gusto. And the way I interpreted those two things was that maybe we should stop editing ourselves so much.”

Williams is evidently a fast writer. She described in an interview that she and Doug Lawrence would write a draft for an episode of SpongeBob in an afternoon and be done at 4 o’clock. “Other staff members who weren’t on the writing team didn’t necessarily love the fact that we were done by four o’clock, but we came in and we got our work done. They resented that we were done and there wasn’t much for us to do, whereas they had a ton of work. But that kind of stuff goes on every show.” ²

He's READY!...to go home, because it's after four.

Williams was on SpongeBob for five years. After that, she became a show runner and executive producer for a short-lived adult cartoon called Free for All, based on a newspaper comic strip by Brett Merhar. Seven episodes were produced, which aired on Showtime in 2003.

"How much money did he make?" "I'm not sure, but Clay likes to use the term 'assload'."

She was later given a job as story editor on Camp Lazlo, a Cartoon Network series created by Joe Murray (Rocko). Lazlo employed many former SpongeBob writers, whom she worked with before. Williams served as a story editor on Lazlo for its entire five-season run. She then went on to become a story editor for Adventure Time during its first two seasons.

Merriwether wearing a Finn hat during an "Adventure Time" story session.

One thing that SpongeBob, Lazlo, and Adventure Time all have in common is that they never utilized scripts. The way the writing worked is that they would put together story outlines, a two-page paper that would describe the story’s setting, character motivations, and how the action moves. These are then given to storyboard artists, who would then write the dialogues and come up with gags. It was Merriwether’s job to go through the story outlines and make sure that they meet the proper structure and setting to the show’s style.

This is not to say that Merriwether never scripted for animation before. She has written episodes of The Angry Beavers (credited as Merry Williams) and co-wrote all seven episodes of Free for All, which she developed for television. In addition, she has written screenplays for live-action films on the side.

After Adventure Time, Merriwether’s next known credit is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Realism and Cynicism

One way that FiM stands out from other cartoons on-air is that it’s sincere, a strong contrast from cynicism present in other shows. The characters are idealistic, they have dreams. That is not to say that FiM has never been cynical; in fact, out of all the writers, Merriwether Williams loves to throw in cynicism whenever she writes the episode. One of her traits is to take a character who coasts happily down the street in their uniquely idealized worldview and jam a broom handle into its spokes.

Sometimes the cynicism works in this show, but in other times it falls flat. Her first episode as a writer is the divisive The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well, in which Rainbow Dash lets her ego get the better of her after being declared a hero after succeeding in several rescues in a short span of time. While in other cartoons this story might be okay, people expected something different when teased with the idea of a pony superhero. Instead of directly confronting Dash with her behavior, the rest of the Mane Six take a passive-aggressive action in creating the Mare-Do-Well persona. The episode also misses the mark with character interaction, a good chunk of the middle being Dash by herself. Despite the cold opening featuring Scootaloo running a Rainbow Dash fan club, their relationship is never explored in the main story, which disappointed many viewers.

Due to her mixed first impressions, fans have been wary of any future episodes that have Merriwether’s name in the credits, but fortunately she has found perfect balance in her other three outings.

The idea of Equestria being a utopia is deconstructed in Putting Your Hoof Down. Though based on Charlotte Fullerton’s idea, this is still Merriwether’s episode as far as cynicism is concerned. The story focuses on Fluttershy trying to be assertive after being pushed around by everyone, from greedy merchants to her pet bunny, who has slapped the poor pegasus around and even forcefully kicked her out of the house when she didn’t add cherry to the complex salad he forced her to make.

This episode is, quite possibly, the most realistic to date. Throughout the episode Fluttershy encounters rude ponies who cut in line, block the bridge (even though she could have flown over), overcharged for her groceries, and takes the taxi she herself called, which is the kind of thing most people have experienced in their day to day life. This is not to discredit this episode; in fact, this may be her best episode yet. It brings down the message that the world is not fair and one needs to stand up to themselves, without becoming the kind of person that brings you down.

Don't get in her way...

Better not get in her way...

Her final episode for season two, Dragon Quest, features Spike having an existential crisis after the other girls point out that he doesn’t act like a normal dragon. Wanting to learn what it means to be one, Spike decides to join the Great Dragon Migration. There he meets up with a gang of teenage dragons, who put him to task with activities like a belching contest, king of the hill, and tail wrestling. Even though the show is targeted to girls, this episode is possibly the closest it tackles a “boy’s issue,” with Spike having trouble fitting in with (boy) dragons after a lifetime of being friends with (girl) ponies. Although the boy/girl dynamic is never explicitly stated, it is strongly hinted in both dialogue and visuals. From Spike wearing a feminine apron (that he states he enjoys wearing) to Garble recoiling in disgust when he discovers that he lived with ponies, similar to how a little boy might react to girls.

Merriwether uses her cynicism to explore the characters in this show. They are, in essence, an aspect of the characters. But sometimes it can be played for comedy, such as the Holiday-themed Hearth’s Warming Eve, where the main cast take part in a play that tells the story of how Equestria was founded. Within the play it is revealed that the three tribes, Earth Ponies, Pegasi, and the Unicorns, hated each other. Merriwether cheekily pokes at the idea that the world the Ponies inhabit is always a peaceful utopia by having Spike say “I know, can you believe it?” when the Ponies gasp at the revelation.

They don't believe it.

Characters making snarky comments on another is a common theme in Merriwether’s episodes. In Hearth’s Warming Eve, when Pinkie Pie, in character as Chancellor Pudding Head, says she has an idea, Applejack, as Smart Cookie, mutters under her breath “This’ll be a first,” although one can argue that she was only being in character to the play. In Dragon Quest, when Rainbow Dash tells Spike that she has done stupid things, all the characters present yell “We know!” For the most part this is shown off as playful banter between friends, but in Putting Your Hoof Down this becomes a serious moment when Fluttershy, in her bullying mode, deliberately insults Pinkie Pie and Rarity, driving them to tears.

Merriwether’s episodes are divisive among fans because she tends to portray the world of Equestria more like our unfair and tough real world compared to other writers. In her best, however, she does her job well, showing how the characters would react when faced with real situations.

Blending In

It is unknown exactly how the writing went down in terms of teamwork. Merriwether came well after the first round of episodes, right before creator Lauren Faust departed the show. That said, it is clear that she is an expert on story structures.

As mentioned before, Merriwether spent a good chunk of her career working on storyboard-driven shows, where structure is extremely important. Animator Joe Murray, who worked with Merriwether on his Camp Lazlo show, gave her the highest regards in his book³:

“I hired story editor Merriwether Williams, who was a much better writer than I am. She oversaw the writing room and approved and helped hire all of the writers. She was extremely good with structure, which is what I needed. I never moved forward with a story that she wasn’t happy with.”

Her experience in proper structure is put to good use in this show. In Putting Your Hoof Down, for example, we have a clear exposition (Fluttershy, tired of getting pushed around, takes Iron Will’s assertiveness), rising action (she starts asserting herself by being hostile to anyone who gets in her way), climax (she hurts her friends’ feelings), and resolution (she refuses to pay Iron Will by calmly explaining that she wasn’t satisfied).

While the show has been emotional before, it was around this time that the writers started exploring dramatic character confrontations into the show, and Merriwether’s grasp on balancing comedy and realistic drama fit this niche like a glove. For most of the episode we were amused by the ‘New’ Fluttershy going on her newfound assertiveness, right down to Pinkie twisting her head when trying to get ‘New Fluttershy’ and ‘Old Fluttershy’, only for the tone to change when the yellow pegasus insults Pinkie and Rarity.

Not even Pinkie can stop the drama from appearing in this show.

Merriwether Williams has only written four episodes in season two, with more to come in season three according to one of the writers. In addition to Ponies, she has also written on Hasbro Studios/DHX Media’s other series, Pound Puppies. Despite her impressive list of credits, little is known about Merriwether Williams other than what is given here. Her only known interview is in a 2011 article about SpongeBob SquarePants, but based on her credentials she has a proven track record of writing in animation. We expect great things from her in season three.

Citation

1 – Heintjes, Tom. “What About SpongeBob?: An Oral History of SpongeBob SquarePants.” Hogan’s Alley No. 17, 2011, 112.
2 – Heintjes, 114
3 – Murray, Joe. Crafting a Cartoon. La Crescenta, CA: Garden Box, 2008, 112. 

Share your thoughts


  1. It’s easy for me to put down Merriwether Williams, until I remember that she wrote Putting Your Hoof Down, one of my favorites of Season 2. I hope she has more good episodes in Season 3 and not more stinkers like Mare-Do-Well…

  2. This is a very good article. I always feel kind of bad when talking about Merriweather Williams, because her episodes are usually the weakest of season 2, not to mention, there are a lot of consistent things in the episodes she writes that I really don’t like. Even the ones I DO like are held back because of her style, and it’s a shame, because I don’t want to say she’s a bad writer, and yet I can go on and on about how her episodes aren’t on par with the rest, and how they really stick out, but not in a good way…

  3. Really, I only partially enjoy Merriweather’s episodes because her odd writing style brings them down.

    All of her episodes have a strong theme of negativity and negative character interaction, making them stick out in a bad way, when compared to the rest of the season. HWE was a free pass for her because the entire premise of the episode was “characters hating each other”.

    Not to mention the fact that she blatantly flanderizes characters and environments just to make plots work better, making the episodes feel really contrived at times. MMDW and PYHD are examples of this; how all of a sudden Ponyville was a death trap, or how all of a sudden tons of Ponyville’s residents were total assholes that readily abuse Fluttershy’s shyness. (When in the PREVIOUS episode, Ponyville was depicted as being full of happy, friendly individuals! What the hell.)

    I mean, her episodes aren’t BAD, they’re just…riddled with writing issues and bad characterization. I really, really hope she can break out of these bad writing habits. This isn’t Spongebob, this isn’t Angry Beavers. FIM has no place for characters being edgy and snarky and asshole-ish toward each other for no reason.

    • Absolutely agreed. You summed up my feelings on her work clearly, and I know plenty of others who share this opinion.

    • I think her biggest problem when writing for MLP: FiM is that she doesn’t have so much experience keeping a show’s canon in mind when writing. Rugrats, Angry Beavers, and Spongebob were all shows where the characters almost never learned anything by the end of the episode, and if they did, they promptly forget the lesson by the next episode. All of the characters in those shows are static; to keep things interesting, it’s usually the settings that change.

      The style of writing she’s used to just doesn’t jive well with Pony though, where there’s actually a sense of the characters learning about “the magic of friendship” and sticking with it through the episodes. This is why MMDW doesn’t feel right: in the episodes before it, we’ve already seen RD be humbled by her friends (in just the previous episode, RD learned quite a lot from Tank.)

      It’s not only the character progression though: it’s the fact that she tends to greatly augment the setting in a way that just feels off. In MMDW, there are a bunch of odd cliffs around Ponyville, a large office-building-esque structure was being built, a bunch of twisting back alleyways, and even a [hydroelectric?] dam; in PYHD she includes a large market bazaar. If I’m not mistaken, she’s the only writer to augment existing places like this: most of the other writers reuse familiar settings and introduce entirely new places when necessary instead, and it makes everything feel more consistent.

      I do feel like she’s getting the hang of it. MMDW was her first episode, so she probably didn’t quite have a handle on the characters the way the other writers do. By PYHD, she did seem to have a better feel for Fluttershy than she did with Rainbow Dash in MMDW. Hearth’s Warming Eve and Dragonquest show that she’s moved away from adding out-of-place areas to Ponyville, instead opting to make up entirely new locations.

      I do have to appreciate what she’s done to expand the world though especially where it involves characters and places outside of Ponyville. She introduced minotaurs, gave us some Equestrian history, and elaborated on dragons and phoenixes: it’s some pretty neat material to have available, for both the other writers of the show and for the fans.

      • Well, in terms of characterization, she still has it a little wonky.

        IE, in PYHD, Fluttershy’s “doormat-ness” was cranked up to 11, seemingly just to make the plot work better. And of course, the townsfolk suddenly being assholes for no given reason.

        Or in Dragon Quest, how Rarity seems to be displaying her flashy side a lot more gratuitously than usual.

        Plus, the teen dragons in Dragon Quest were…very flat, if you ask me. They had very, very little character to them. It was just like…”asshole” was their only character trait. Blegh.

        And yeah, like we both said with the environments, she seems to change environments however she wants, just to help plots work better. Since when is Ponyville a death trap full of roads that go off of cliffs, faulty construction and inexperienced construction workers? Like…ugh.

        Perhaps by the next time she writes (is she on staff for S3? I don’t know for sure) she’ll have a better grasp on the characters and general tone of the show. I hope for her sake she does, because the poor girl’s gotten so much hatred over MMDW already, I’d hate to see her get flamed even more.

    • well if you were an asshole would you go around the town singing about how you like to make people smile? no. assholes are always around, it’s just when the opportunity arises that they take advantage of people.

      About the environment, what about It’s About Time? or does it get a free pass since M.A. Larson wrote it? We see that the very same damn from MMDW is damaged again, there’s a bridge that needed repair, and a whole huge list of other things.

      Then there’s One Bad Apple. Or is the perilous cliff Babs was supposed to be careen off of given a free pass to?

      As for assholes: what is Trixie also given a free pass? Boast Busters, she was there for the sole purpose to antagonize Ponyville and to be shown up by Twilight. A strawman.
      Or how about The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy, another M.A. Larson episode. Flim and Flam are con assholes, Granny is flanderized to the point of not thinking ahead to the consequences of her bet, Applejack does not step in to stop Granny and talk her down. Oh and lets not forget the townspeople who were being assholes to the Apple Family; not caring if they’d get kicked of their farm just so they could have a drink of cider. Gee whiz this town needs to get their priorities strait.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of the episodes and writers I mentioned (except Boast Busters) but I feel like when people see Merriwether’s name in the opening credits they’re on the look out now for mistakes and her “cliches”. Other writers make these same mistakes sometimes, we just don’t notice as quickly because we’re not looking for them on the first watch through.

  4. Wait, someone else actually has a copy of Hogan’s Alley with the extensive SpongeBob interview, or was there somewhere else you found that quote??? I’ve never seen it up on the internet before.

    Anyways, Merriwether is an AMAZING writer, and I’ve been a fan of her stuff for years now, because of course – SpongeBob. I was extremely excited to see her name pop up in the opening credits that first time on Ponies. I’ve LOVED all of her Pony stuff so far, and I still don’t really get why people think “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well” was bad. I think some people just tend to forget this is a CARTOON, and they shouldn’t take certain things too seriously.

    “Williams is evidently a fast writer. She described in an interview that she and Doug Lawrence would write a draft for an episode of SpongeBob in an afternoon and be done at 4 o’clock” – This was due to the fact that her and Doug only wrote the OUTLINES of each episode. SpongeBob was not, and is not, a script-driven show. Rather, the board artists write most of the dialogue, gags, etc.

    Looking forward to whatever Ms. Williams has in store for season 3! :D

    • I have a copy of that Hogan’s Alley magazine. I’m freelancing for them right now.

      And yeah, I’m aware that she only did outlines on SpongeBob (something I pointed out in this post)

      • Sweet! :)

        Yeah, I saw that mentioned later in the post, but just thought I’d point it out, as the beginning part that I quoted seemed to be contradictory. I guess it wasn’t, but it seemed a bit confusing at the time. Still, even to write outlines at that pace, you have to be pretty darn fast!

    • “I think some people just tend to forget this is a CARTOON, and they shouldn’t take certain things too seriously.”

      This…this is an infuriating ‘argument’. WHY should we not take it too seriously? As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.

      The problem people had with MMDW is that most of the characters (mainly the other 5 of the main 6) were really out of character, and the whole superhero character was handled very badly.

      Instead of deciding to just talk to RD about her bragging, what do the other 5 do? Conspire against her behind her back with a superhero character and crush her spirit and make her feel terrible. Friendship is magic!

      Not to mention the weird changes to Ponyville. Since when is it a death trap full of roads that lead off of cliffs, and badly-built buildings? The episode feels VERY contrived because of this.

      Overall, MMDW was a clusterfuck of bad writing. That’s why people don’t like it.

  5. Good article. I’m actually going to stick up for Merriwether on this one – Hearth’s Warming Eve and Putting Your Hoof Down were so funny they bought tears to my eyes. Sometimes a little juxtaposition works extremely well – Ponyville’s darker side doesn’t sour the spirit of the show, it simply opens the window to a more overt and biting sense of humour. I’d also argue it makes those happy endings all the more satisfying. I personally look forward to what she’s offering in the third season.

  6. You mentioned how Merriwether likes to throw in cynicism on occasion. I feel that would actually go against one of the reasons that people love the show as most cite the lack of cynicism. The world of MLP is quite different from that of Spongebob and Angry Beavers.

    Have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of either “Mysterious Mare-do-Well” or “Dragon Quest.” However, I thought “Hearth’s Warming Eve” and “Putting Your Hoof Down” were better efforts.

    • I was just going to make a comment like this. The lack of cynicism is one of the big reasons this show is so unique, and it’s a big part of why I was drawn into it. For 22 minutes I can have a little taste of a better world- and perhaps, inspiration to bring a little of that world in this one. I don’t *want* reality, I already get plenty of that from reality.

  7. I have to agree with most of the commenters here, Merriwether Williams is without a doubt the worst writer when it comes to MLP. She is great for SpongeBob and Angry Beavers where her sense of humour fits, but it does not fit at all for ponies. Cynicism has no place in Equestria, and she doesn’t seem to be able to get a point or joke across without going into snarkiness, something the other writers have shown great ability to do.

    • It would be harsh to say that she is the “worst” writer, but like I and many others have implies, MLP has a different dynamic to it than Spongebob and Angry Beavers. Unfortunately, stuff used on those shows will not necessarily fit well with MLP.

  8. I’ve warmed up to Merriweather. I pretty much agree with everyone else in that Mare Do Well was a stinker. And it’s for more reason than just “Dash was a jerk.” (Though that certainly didn’t help.) The entire thing just felt sloppy. Her friends went behind her back to create this superhero to teach her a lesson? I don’t buy it. Not to mention Dash didn’t actually learn anything, she had to have the lesson spelled out and explained to her by her friends.

    She has since shown some noticeable improvement, though. Hurricane Fluttershy was a great episode. It went into some pretty “dark” territory when Fluttershy insulted Pinkie and Rarity, but it worked. And the way Fluttershy learned the lesson, on her own, was very well done. Dragon Quest was also a good episode for Spike.

    I think my only real beef with her is that she tends to make the characters come off as parodies of themselves sometimes. Take the beginning of Dragon Quest, for example, when Rarity shows up. Rolling out the carpet, fanfare playing, confetti, and that ridiculous outfit when they’re supposed to be in camo? Come on, I know Rarity likes to look fabulous, but even for her that entire scene felt really out of place.

    But I do look forward to see what she has in store for season three.

  9. Pingback: The Round Stable’s Writer Appreciation – Merriweather Williams | The Daily Oat

  10. While far from my favorite writer, I really like her episodes portraying Ponyville/etc. as jerk-ish to the Mane Six. I love how she kinda slaps you in the head to tell you: “Hey, this ain’t Utopia! There’s actual jerks too!”

    I dont really mind the inconsistencies with characters. I mean, Season 1 and 2 were each 26 episodes long with no real story arc (‘cept the Gala) so I really dont expect a lasting consistency in terms of character traits (often like in most cartoons). Now if the seasons were tighter (like S3), then I’d expect character consistency in relation to the main story arc. And also, she comes from shows like Spongebob, Lazlo, and etc. so I’m not surprised by her cynicism/inconsistent characters to create a story of hers.

    My only real gripes with her was the Mare Do Well episode. Again, not a bad episode (more mediocre), but it didn’t feel like a MLP episode. It felt more like a short that was needlessly dragged out to 22 minutes, or some story that would be done in a short comic or something. This is one moment I think the characters are really inconsistent, which would be Rainbow Dash thanks to her hammy dialogue. I didn’t mind the other friends, it wasn’t that mean of them to toy with Rainbow Dash

    Gonna get a lot of flak for this, but regardless, I like her mostly because I like the aspect of cynicism and asshole-ness in her stories. Life ain’t that perfect and happy, y’know. And regarding inconsistencies: Personally, I usually keep the other episodes out of my head when judging a particular episode (consistencies) and I was thoroughly entertained with the conflicts like in Putting Your Hoof Down, having the whole world against you is a fun concept, especially when it comes to Fluttershy.

  11. Since my long comment wasn’t saved:

    Yay:

    Cynicism- fun conflicts and destroys the utopia feel to the universe, making it feel ‘slightly’ more ‘realistic’. Plus, I like how the characters behave, mostly how they should in those situations.

    World Building- Phoenix, Dragons, more places in Ponyville/Equestria

    Nay:

    Mare Do Well- bad hammy dialogue by Rainbow Dash (REALLY out of character) and doesn’t feel like an actual episode. Feels more like a TV short you see during Commercials that was needlessly dragged out to 22 minutes, or some comic or something.

    Not enough episodes- I dunno, I think she’s done too few episodes to properly judge her. Especially since she’s done four while others have done much more.

    Overall- She’s okay. Her main appeal to me is the cynicism in the world and characters. They pretty much make the episodes for me.

  12. Personally I enjoy Merriwether Williams episodes. I think people who complain about them are overreacting, Yeah she had a rough start with Mare-Do Well, But I personally found Hearthwarming’s Eve, PYHD, & Dragon Quest all to be pretty enjoyable episodes. And heck people, if you want Equestria to be a utopia with no conflict at all, you might as well stick with G3, lol. I for one look foward to seeing more Williams episodes in future seasons!

    • There’s a big difference between “utopia with no conflict” and “suddenly the entire town is full of assholes with no given explanation” or “suddenly the main6 are jerks to each other for no given reason”.

      • Referring to the friends who pretty much toyed with RD in Mare Do Well,

        I know what some of you may be thinking. You’re thinking that RD’s friends should have told her about how bad her arrogance and pride is in being a hero, but given how much glory RD has received, she probably wouldn’t bother to listen.
        Mare Do Well was a wake up call for Rainbow Dash to show what a real hero is, not caring about reward and still helping out others. I must say I knew it would take a while before RD’s wanting attention caught on later and it greatly affected her reputation.

          • Because?

            I mean, there jave been pther episodes that werent written by MW where the Mane Six were jerks to each other. Rainbow Dash flying into AJ’s back (probably causing back injury in real life), Twilight shutting AJ up with her hat, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie pranking others, Rainbow Dash scaring people on ‘Halloween’ by starting up a lightning (heart attack, deafness, 3rd degree burns) and so on.
            The point is that I don’t really understand why people pick on MW regarding jerkiness. And who cares if it’s mean of her friends, Regardless of if it was ‘childish’ of her friends to do what they did, what matters was the end result that probably wouldn’t have worked if they told RD in the beginning. Plus, we got an action packed episode that further expanded the town of ponyville and the nod to Dark Wing Duck’s uniform was welcomed

            • Okay. I’m going to start by saying that “they got what they wanted” is never a justification for anything. People frequently do bad things that get them what they want; there would be no point otherwise.

              What the five friends do to Rainbow Dash differs from what they do in other episodes in that:

              It is SUSTAINED: The Mare-do-well campaign takes place over several days, possibly as long as a week.

              It is COVERT: Rainbow Dash has no idea what is happening to her or why. In particular she has no idea that her friends are behind it, only that they seem rather indifferent to her problem.

              It is PREMEDITATED: In fact it took considerable planning. It can’t be dismissed as a moment of thoughtlessness, anger, or poor impulse control.

              It is MALICIOUS: It’s clear from the scene in which the others mock Dash and laugh at her that her misery is not some unforeseen side effect.

              And it is COERCIVE: The entire point of the shenanigan is to force Rainbow Dash to submit to their will.

              All of this would have been fine had the episode been honest about what it was portraying. An episode that examines why good friends can descend into petty cruelty could be a great episode. But instead, it tries to pretend they were justified, and Dash is okay with it, and don’t worry.

  13. I agree with pretty much everything in this article. I do feel that she is still getting the hang of MLP’s style. Her own style that she developed when working with shows like Angry Beavers and Spongebob, doesn’t really work for MLP. But I can certainly tell that she is getting the hang of the style of MLP from episode 21, Dragon Quest, which is one of my favorites. I can’t wait to see more episodes by her in the next season. :)

  14. Well guys, if I can give you my opinion on her, I think that she is a bit underated. Yes, it’s true, her first episode, The Mysteryous Mare do Well is the worst episode in the series so far (even for me, I don’t hate it, but is my least favourite), but I really really really loved her next 3 episodes. Personal opinion, please don’t mess up with me….

  15. I feel Williams has a bit of a problem in not always understanding the characters, at least at this early stage. The bit about Fluttershy in Putting Your Hoof Down is a particularly glaring example of this when Flutters insults Rarity and Pinkie. Based on what we have seen of Fluttershy before is to know she is shy, meek, and insecure about her own strengths, but when it becomes truly necessary to get over this (defending her friends from a dragon, protecting the CMCs from a cockatrice, finding inner strength to combat Discord’s hurting her friends) she has tremendous inner strength coming straight from her deep love and care of her friends. But her attack against the very same close friends had such calculated, intentional malice completely alien to anything Fluttershy stands for. For her to say Rarity and Pinkie’s lives are basically worthless is too intense and hateful that it is simply psychologically out-of-character in the most crass way possible. It’s as if saying that deep down she truly and utterly loathes her friends, basically being on the same level as if Rainbow Dash suddenly was shown enjoying reading books on magical theory. It just isn’t something the character embodies and thus comes off feeling wrong when simply thrown in there in such an insensitive way.

    Or then there are those weird twists in episodes like the Mare-Do-Well one, where I find the main issue is actually that RD never really learns a lesson. This is strangely usually bypassed entirely by people criticising the episode, but it is the one truly major issue I have with the episode. Rainbow never learns anything (the very purpose of this series really to teach life lessons to the audience), is never given an impetus to learn the necessary humility, and is ultimately never redeemed in the end. It leaves Rainbow being an egotistical jerk even after the whole episode is over and which ultimately leaves the character – and audience – with no true sense of resolution.

    Putting Your Hoof Down also suffers from various pacing issues. half of the episode is used in showing Fluttershy being a doormat, and then there’s a sudden haste to fit everything else into the last ten (or so) minutes, instead of cutting off material from the first half to give to the true meat of the episode without having to forcefully squeeze it all in there.

    I don’t know if a lot of these issues is based on her induction to the writing staff at such a late date with possibly not enough knowledge on the series content and character personalities, but there does at times seem to be problems that stem directly from trying to do certain things that clash with the series ethos and lack of verisimilitude to established character personalities. Then again, even veteran writers like Amy Keating Rogers in MMMystery on the Friendship Express has succumbed to this in basically character assassinating half of the main cast and writing a very odd lesson at the end that seems to say as long as you don’t jump to conclusions, it’s okay for your friends to commit a crime and blatant acts of vandalism (how that episode managed to turn PINKIE as being the guilty one in the end still confounds me). Oh well, Williams’ episodes aren’t the worst, but they’re far from perfect either in many ways.

    • Late answer, but Rainbow Dash did learn to “Act with humility when others outshine her”; at least that’s what she said after the others told her about not being all over others faces about her bragging.

  16. OK you know what I think i’m going to go on a little rant here as well. You know what, all this pointless negativity , nitpicking, and over analyzing of Merry Weather episodes, HAS GOT TO STOP! You know why people are so negative, just because her premiere episode was a weak one, if Mare-Do-Well had been stronger, people would be raving about how much they love Ms. Williams. Quite frankly this whole comment string under the article, (for the most part) DISGUSTS ME.

    The things people are complaining about, are things you could arguably complain about in ANY episodes of ANY television series, pacing issues? really? Now I admit, theres times I see pacing issues in MLP and other shows as well, I for one despite my love of Trixie, can’t stand how short Boast Busters feels (and thats not even a Merry weather ep)

    Also I find it a bit hypocritical to say that its OK for her to write/have written for Adventure Time, Angry Beavers, or Spongebob, but “her style’ just doesn’t fit MLP, seriously people, its not that much different then what other writers in toons over the decades have done, and its not like Merriwether is the only person to put a bit of cynicism in a episode.

    And I hope people do realize, that part of character developments showing ALL the sides of a characters personality, I mean if you guys want the mane six to be one trick ponies, fine, while were at it, why not cut back on the world building as well, I mean obviously any negative or dark tone is going to be something to complain about, heck why not just get Hasbro to go back to G3’s formula, that would solve all of our problems, right!?

    And yeah, OK I know i’m being a bit extreme here, but you know, if your going to basically tear apart every writer that has a weak start on a series, and say she “Doesn’t understand the characters” because she doesn’t write them in a as positive light as some others on the MLP:FIM team, or because she came in at season 2, c’mon. I for one enjoy her episodes, and can’t wait to see more of her work in season 3. So go ahead, laugh at me if you will, say this foal obviously doesn’t understand the show or how its supposed to be written, or what good animation is like, say any bad thing about me or Ms. WIlliams you want, but frankly, I gotta say, all this negativity, not very Brony like, thought we were a fanbase that tried to look at the positive, guess I was wrong.

    And again yeah, I can admit i’m being a bit jerky here, but you know, can yea blame me, considering 99.9% of the people here really couldn’t write anything better, or even as close to as good (even though i’m sure theres some pompous fanfic writers that think they could, lol)

    So yeah I realize entertainment media is basically about bias, preference, etc, and sometimes people won’t always enjoy certain aspects of something, thats fine. I just find it kind of silly that and maybe this is me misinterpreting things, but I find it kind of silly that you want the characters to only be able to act certain ways, I mean, what makes this show appealing to me is seeing the different sides of the characters both the good and the bad. But hey, thats just me.

    Any who. I for one will be eagerly awaiting more Merriwether Williams episodes come season 3, no matter what the rest of you Neighsayers say.

    Thank, and good night.

    • This is a really late comment, but can I give you a virtual hug?

      I think the hatred for her is dying down. When the season 4 writers were announced, more people jumped to the defense of Ms. Williams involvement in Season 4 when someone left a nasty comment about her, than people hating on her.
      Personally I think it speaks a lot of her that she’s decided to continue writing for MLP despite all the hatred she’s given and how every episode she writes is looked at with extreme bias.

      I look forward to any episodes Merriwether Williams will gives us this Season.

  17. Part of me is surprised, after reading that Williams article (which is definitely more concise and thorough than most of us could make it, including me), that she hasn’t written any Pinkie-centric episodes yet.

    The fun thing about cynicism isn’t the cynicism itself, but the way it is played off of the rest of the world. Cynicism in a cynical setting is boring; it doesn’t show much for the character using it, and becomes lifeless and droll when used a lot. Putting cynicism against a cheerful backdrop is what brings the humor out of it. When it completely sails overhead of the happy-go-lucky characters who take no notice of it, we feel a twisted sense of compassion for the cynicism that we recognize and laugh at its absurdity. Conversely, when cynicism clashes with the worldview of the most happy-go-lucky character, it creates a friction that often results in absurd, humorous situations. And this is pretty much how all PInkie-centric episodes from S2 have been.

    Pinkie Pie, arguably the most happy-go-lucky one of the mane 6, has had her world flipped upside down by cynicism time and time again in the second season. Whether it’s by an actual cynic butting heads with her (Friend In Deed), or being in a situation that everyone (including the other characters) is cynical of (Baby Cakes),the humor has come from the clash between Pinkie’s idealistic views and the cynical reality usually seen by everyone else.* This is perfect fodder for a writer
    likely to “take a character who coasts happily down the street in their uniquely idealized worldview and jam a broom handle into its spokes.” It’s evident she uses it to great effect when writing for Spongebob Squarepants: Valentine’s Day, Band Geeks, Fools In April, The Camping Episode, Idiot Box, Squidville (ironically turning the series cynic Squidward into the idealist), and the pinnacle of the concept, Mermaid Man And Barnacle Boy 3, 4, and 5.

    Granted, these episodes were produced when Rodgers, a writer lauded as one of the writers best in touch with Pinkie’s essence as a character, was still working on the show. In fact, Rodgers happened to write two of the three Pinkie-centric episodes (Charlotte Fullerton being the writer for Baby Cakes) in S2, and write them well she did. Perhaps, now that she’s moved on from FIM, Williams will step in to become the new standard for Pinkie’s world.

    *This can be applied to Pinkie episodes from S1, but Williams wasn’t a writer then so there’s no need to mention them.

    • Thanks to this article, I’ve been looking closely at Williams’ episodes, and I’m finding the more I look the less I like them. She wrote episodes of the second season of ponies like they were out of the 20th season of the Simpsons. Everything happens because the script says so, and no other reason. Instead of the characters’ actions and the setting developing into a conflict, it jumps out of a bush on cue.

      I used to just think I didn’t like the unfitting ZANINESS of the episodes, but it looks more and more to me like a much deeper, crappier issue.

      I can’t really enjoy Williams’ episodes anymore. I know a lot of us are worried about the show marching on into a zombie shadow of its former self, and MMDW, DQ, even PYHD and HWE really feel like a window into that grim feared future.

      • Really? Most of the episodes she wrote make perfect sense to me. Maybe except the mare do well episode, but I’ll let that one slide because it was her very first episode writing for MLP. Could you give me some examples of moments in the episodes she wrote that didn’t have a reason for happening, as well as why you think the character’s actions didn’t make sense?

  18. I would play devil’s advocate and defend “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well” any day. There is an aspect I think tends to be awfully ignored when discussing the episode, and that is that it is made painfully clear that Rainbow Dash’s bragging and ego actually ended up preventing her from saving ponies. She was too busy making a good entrance and finishing her catchphrase to just get the job done, until it was too late.

    I mean seriously. What if the carriage wasn’t stopped, the workers (minus one) weren’t saved and the dam wasn’t repaired? Rainbow Dash was unable to do all this and it was her own fault, and it was then (After she couldn’t) that Mare Do Well appeared. Rainbow Dash (And many people) took it as the vigilante stalking her and wanting to humilliate her and destroy her, when actually “she” saved Rainbow Dash from having to face the consequences (And certain humilliation) of ponies being hurt (Or worse) all because she was getting distracted. I see the costumes as her friends not wanting to overshadow her as themselves, but just give her a good example so she can put her priorities straight already.

    I could go on, but the point is that I think many fans are just being over-protective towards Rainbow Dash. The episode made me feel for her, wich isn’t incompatible with her being the one in the wrong. Like Twilight in “Lesson Zero” or Applejack in “Applebuck Season”, I liked that we could see things from her perspective and way of reasoning, without her not being allowed to make mistakes; she still brought it all on herself (Her friends aren’t fortune-tellers, they are clearly surprised when Rainbow Dash reacts badly). There are other far more liked episodes that have things I find questionable and unresolved (Pinkie Pie not giving her friends a break from her parties in “Party of One”, Twilight being rejected by her friends and teacher in the second season finale, to name a few), and I doubt the series will benefit on fans attacking episodes out of playing favourites (Seriously, some people actually want to believe that the other five caused the accidents…).

    • About “Putting Your Hoof Down”, I don’t get the complaint about “everypony suddendly being mean and then suddendly being nice”, Fluttershy simply got in the way of ponies who took advantage of her shyness, especially the ones at the market. You can say the countless ponies she didn’t interact with where nice or not necessarily mean, as only the mean ones would stand out in that situation, the ones that interacted with her. Remember how Bon Bon demanded all the apples for free in “Call of the Cutie”? Or how rude she was to Rarity when looking for Fluttershy in “Green Isn’t Your Color”? For a background character, she has been consistently characterized as a jerk; having her refusing to let Fluttershy pass before finishing talking didn’t seem unusual to me; and even if Fluttershy could fly, if she used that as an excuse to not face them then, she may also look for an excuse later when facing any other problem.

      Iron Will has to be one of my favourite side characters. The idea of using mythological creatures (A minotaur in this case) and making them fill roles in society as they seem fitting in a funny and entertaining way (A travelling assertiveness guru in this case) instead of being just antagonist monsters, sound perfectly right to me (I liked the idea of young dragons being idiotic teenagers, even if they didn’t turn out that memorable). I’m sure he is supposed to be a contrast to the ponies in the market, accepting Fluttershy’s reasons to not pay him. Too bad some people seem to assume he is a “villain”. It’s because he’s a minotaur, isn’t it?

      I will admit though, it was uncomfortable to see Fluttershy insulting her friends out of nowhere, let alone having Angel slap Fluttershy in the face… I still can’t believe they went that far (Though it did make the ending, with Fluttershy prevailing without any kind of violence, the more satisfactory).

      “Heart Watming’s Eve” has to be one of my favourite episodes, with the Windigoes being my favorite villains so far. As much as I love Nightmare Moon, Discord and Crysalis, I’m worried that the series may be doing the typical “Make the good beautiful and shiny and make the evil dark and ugly” route. The Windigoes are as white as the snow and very elegant and majestic, yet they are also terrifying and clearly evil. It’s nice to have them in the series.

      Now, I’m surprised about her coming back for season three; I read somewhere that she was going to stick to “Adventure Time2. Is there any confirmation somewhere?

      • Forgot to say, it wasn’t that everypony was suddendly nice later in “Putting Your Hoof Down”, it was that Fluttershy started attacking everypony indiscriminately, obviously affecting both nice and mean ponies.

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