» TRS Round Table 012: Games Ponies Play

Welcome back to another rousing edition of TRS Round Table! This edition examines “Games Ponies Play,” the episode of Friendship is Magic that first aired on February 9, 2013. TRS Round Table is our group analysis and chat about the episode, and maybe you’ll learn something new or look at it in a different light. Joining the Round Table today are Wayoshi, ComradeCosmobot, drunkill, fenster, BartonFunk, and KefkaFloyd. Find out our thoughts beyond the cut.

KefkaFloyd: Now the reason why “Just for Sidekicks” was delayed is very clear—”Games Ponies Play” is a simultaneous affair, showing what goes on to the Mane Six while Spike is at home minding all the pets in the prior episode.

Wayoshi: First of all, the continuity with “Just For Sidekicks” was covered in the very bookends of this episode. While I was fine with the start, I think ending the entire episode with all the pets hiding just felt too unresolved. How does this episode really stand alone leaving that open? Just leave the tummy rumbling with AJ shrugging it off, laugh to credits. Maybe the oddest ending since “Mare-Do Well.”

BartonFink: In a lot of ways I think this ending would’ve worked better if it was the first episode. It built up tension for the previous episode pretty well, while last week didn’t flow much into this week. An… odd combination.

ComradeCosmobot: I’m not going to fault them for starting off with some repeated footage, but I kinda wish they’d set up the plot with the “message from Cadance” hinted at in “Just For Sidekicks.” It really forces this episode to depend on “Just For Sidekicks” more than it should for the first few minutes, even though, logically speaking, “Just For Sidekicks” depends on this one.

The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat! The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat! The equine drama of athletic competition!

drunkill: It’s a nice little bonus and worked out quite well overall. As Barton and Cosmo said it probably would have been fun to have Just for Sidekicks appear after this episode, as to give a hint to these events, rather than a few small nods. There was an edited 40 minute episode someone made with the two episodes spliced together, that worked out quite well and as a single episode with multiple stories makes for a nice effect.

KefkaFloyd: We saw a lot of today’s unnamed special guest pony, in a sort of role I’d think they’d stunt-cast for if this was a live action show.

Wayoshi: So, what are we going to call Ms. Chicken Mark? Unfortunately we didn’t get a name in the script.

ComradeCosmobot: Apparently, MLP Wikia’s been running with Ms. Peachbottom, although that was actually the original name for Ms. Harshwhinny.

KefkaFloyd: I’ve decided that she shall be known henceforth as Mustang Sally. My rule is law!

drunkill: While it was obvious she wasn’t the games inspector when we first saw her at the station, the character was quite pleasant and unique to most one off characters in the show. She had a bright enough personality and some interesting character ticks, such as the claustrophobia which resulted in some fantastic vocal work in the pot-on-head gag.

fenster: To be frank, I was really surprised by this character and what the writers pulled for her. Making a story with the “Oh, we have the wrong person!” has surely been done many times before, so it was a breath of fresh air when this new character was introduced with some new quirks that we haven’t seen for the show. We see a true phobia (as opposed to Fluttershy’s normal tendencies tied to shyness), but yet it goes undefined in the show so it avoids becoming a children’s lesson about Phobias. It’s this sort of writing that seems to avoid dumbing down the material for the young audience that makes the show feel refreshing from expectations, and it’s great to see it in play in this episode again. In a way, I feel that leaving the phobia undefined in that natural way doubles back and makes the character feel a tiny bit more relatable or realistic; once again this show continues to impress in little ways that I honestly never expected!

Mustang Sally... you better slow your Mustang down. Mustang Sally… you better slow your Mustang down.

But the other trait that I found to be curious was how she flirted with Prince Shining Armor after the chase scene. Romance and the like seems to be used with caution in this show, where typically we’ve only seen Rarity on this front (Not including A Canterlot Wedding). I suspect that it’s a careful ground to tread due to the progressive nature of the show for female characters, and so when it does appear I feel like it’s important to pay attention to the way the writing handles the situation. In this week’s episode, the flirting is shown in a comedic light since Shining Armor is already married, so the Romance angle continues to be fairly tame in the show overall and not tread any new ground. But like I said before, this little quirk being worked into Ms. Peachbottom’s character was interesting to digest in a brand new character out of the blue; in the short time she was introduced on screen she’s had some interesting definition as a side character but avoids feeling like a “gimmick” who adheres to a single trait.

All in all, I’m impressed that they gave these traits to this new character out of the blue. Now I want to see her return later on!

KefkaFloyd: There was a lot going on in this episode, and this seems like a frequent refrain for us this season. You don’t just have Twilight’s plot as playing the role of leader; you also have Rainbow trying to make up for her previous disappointments too. Plus, the whole main story of the mistaken identity is mixed in. There’s a lot to do here.

Wayoshi: This episode simply comes down to trying to do way too much, and then failing to develop enough to any plot thread – which is surprising since the plot setup was once again another by-the-numbers setup. Twilight picking up on calming down was done very well at the start, it’s acknowledged again audibly with Shining Armor, and it looks like she was going to have to apply it big-time once the truth is known. But then she’s completely fine coming out of the final commercial break – a complete jump from literally hyperventilating going into break. That’s just too much of a disconnect for me.

As for Rainbow Dash, I really dug her putting out an overaggressive hoof trying to get back at a disappointing event in her past. But there’s not really much of a moral to this plot… just an interesting characterization for some side motivation. But then she’s taking the fall and making the big speech in the climax, when Twilight should be doing it instead, as she has the real moral coming out of this episode.

Rainbow Dash and Rainbow Dad Watch out! Here comes the Rainbow Dad!

And for the rest… we spend quite a bit of time with Ms. Chicken and her antics, much of which I did enjoy (and led to Shining Armor having a lot of cool lines and reactions). But looking back, the fact it sparked from the Mane 5 being braindumb with flower-printed luggage → must be inspector is as much of a plot stretch as Ms. Harshwhinny ignoring the fact the Mane 5 thought Ms. Chicken was the inspector at the end. Cadance’s bad hair day didn’t go anywhere too spectacular either.

In the end, there were many strands of good potential, but they didn’t mesh together too well.

ComradeCosmobot: I’m going to agree with everything that you said, Wayoshi. I’ll grant that as a kid’s television show, there’s going to need to be some suspension of disbelief, but there were a few too many leaps of faith. The resolution of the episode relies on a bizarre leap of faith on Ms. Harshwhinny’s part (“I was treated like crap because no one thought I was the inspector, but when they thought someone else was the inspector they treated her like royalty. The latter isn’t actually buttering the officials and is therefore more genuine than if they’d done so for me.”) It really just felt like it was trying to get out of a hole that Polsky wrote himself into with so many plot threads dangling at once.

drunkill: While Mrs. Harshwhinny takes the word of the mistaken inspector in an almost too scripted manner, a hidden moral for kids which could have been a letter or statement directed towards Cadence is to treat others with respect and manners even if they are ‘not worthy’ of it.

BartonFink: If there was a strong point to the episode, it was no doubt in the quality of the gag writing and humor. Polsky episodes seem to have a real knack for this, and good bits of humor were spread out amongst the whole cast. The great comedic timing of Rainbow Dash’s landing on the glass ceiling comes to mind, and while Pinkie’s initial “Noooo” struck me as a lame gag, it was hilarious when it popped up later.

It’s also kind of interesting to me that the gag writing was widely appreciated while the general consensus was that the episode was par at best. Shows that while the show’s first priority is comedy, a lot of people look for a bit more.

KefkaFloyd: With this being the second go-around in the Crystal Empire, it means another visit from Twi’s family.

Wayoshi: One of my distant hopes coming into this episode was that Shining Armor or Cadance might get some more characterization. While Shining does get a bit with his dialogue, Cadance goes nowhere yet again, and the plot didn’t really try to use the Crystal Empire as a setting to do anything unique.

BartonFink: This is Cadance’s fifth episode – the other four being two-parters with major plot implications – and there’s little more to her than being vaguely nice and pleasant and being a good person. For a show that takes so much deserved pride in the care they give to characterization, it’s kind of surprising.

Shining Armor strikes me as different, though. Without going into much backstory, he seems to have Twilight’s “let’s get things done” drive but with more of a laid-back, straight-forward ‘dude’ attitude. I’d love for them to explore it more, but his personality has come out in more subtle ways.

Rarity and Cadance What has science done!?

ComradeCosmobot: Five episodes and Cadance still doesn’t pass the Plinkett Test. I’m really not sure which is to blame: Hasbro mandates or poor writing on the part of the writers of her episodes. Maybe Cadance’s presence indicates that adding her is “one character too many”? Yet, it seems to me that even Ms. Peachbottom seems to have gotten more characterization than Cadance, so I’m not sure what to think.

KefkaFloyd: And that’s it for this edition of TRS Round Table! Join us next time for more discussion about miniature colored equines. 

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