Welcome back to another edition of the TRS Round Table! We’re here to discuss the episode of Friendship is Magic, “Somepony To Watch Over Me,” which aired on the Hub on March 8, 2014. We’re ready to find out just how much we can get away with in talking about the episode. Joining the Round Table are Pocket, HuffyTheMagicDragon, KefkaFloyd, ComradeCosmobot, and drunkill. Read more and maybe you’ll get a bow from the hats and bows closet!
drunkill: This week we had another new writer for the show, Scott Sonneborn, who has delivered a solid episode in “Somepony To Watch Over Me” for his first outing. It has some similar qualities to season two’s “Sisterhooves Social”, given that it about the sibling relationship between Applejack and Apple Bloom.
Pocket: It’s been said before that Applejack episodes tend to fall flat because there aren’t many interesting directions to take her character. She’s hard-working, she’s family-minded, and she’s very concerned about being seen as dependable and self-sufficient; it’s all been done before in various combinations. So, kudos to Sonneborn for coming up with a new angle. And at the same time, we’ve seen hints of it before, mainly in “Bridle Gossip” where it wasn’t clear how much of it was due to Applejack being paranoid of Zecora in particular.
What I hadn’t considered until just now when I typed that out is that the two Apple sisters are a lot alike. They’re both stubborn and eager to prove their self-reliance. What parent, or parental figure, hasn’t had that moment where they realized “He/she’s just like me at that age”? So building off that was a good bit of character development for Apple Bloom as well, who (like her friends) hasn’t done a lot to distinguish herself so far.
HuffyTheMagicDragon: Another criticism of Applejack I’ve heard is that she’s a bit too perfect. She certainly comes off as the perfect big sister in the previous two sisterhood episodes, “Sisterhooves Social” and “Sleepless in Ponyville.” But this season has been revealing some cracks in that armor, first in “Pinkie Apple Pie” and now here. Considering how close the two sisters are, AJ being too protective of Apple Bloom and not allowing her independence seems like the logical flaw in their relationship to expand upon. So I was happy that an episode finally did that. I definitely feel this was one of the stronger Apple Bloom episodes too, in part because cutie marks never came up once. The sister episodes have all been good for their respective Cutie Mark Crusaders.
KefkaFloyd: Applejack wants what’s best for her sister, and sometimes she has to be “mom” instead of big sister. We’ve all bristled under overprotective parents at times and I wonder if this episode was aimed more at the parents watching than at the kids. Apple Bloom is smart and resourceful but like kids she gets in over her head. Instead of covering her in helmets, Applejack has to recognize when it’s best to let AB try something and knowing when to step in.
drunkill: Applejack is overprotective of Apple Bloom and becomes wary that she’ll be fine on her own. Despite finishing her chores without a hitch all the problems begin once a fretful Applejack returns to the farm.
Pocket: As enjoyable as the episode was to watch, I just couldn’t buy into it. It clearly took things to extreme levels for the sake of humor rather than trying to feel natural. Real life is often funny enough on its own, and this show has had no end of really funny moments that still feel perfectly natural (Polsky seems to be particularly good at it, including one moment where revealing why a nonsensical gag made sense was the punchline).
Perhaps an inevitable point of comparison is the movie Finding Nemo. In that movie, we saw the source of Marlin’s paranoia right at the start of the movie, which was necessary for the audience to sympathize with him and think “I’d probably be that way too, if that had happened to me”, even as we chuckled at how overprotective he was. Here, we knew from the get-go that Applejack was overreacting to a minor slip-up and had nothing left to do but laugh at what a silly pony she was being.
We’ve seen before that Apple Bloom is capable of looking after herself. “Bridle Gossip” was one obvious case, but there are also the many chores she’s been trusted to handle all this time. And on the flip side, we’ve also seen her get into plenty of scrapes that she couldn’t get out of on her own, like stealing Zecora’s potion and giving herself cutie pox, or venturing into the Everfree Forest and almost getting turned to stone by a cockatrice. I feel like if Applejack was liable to suddenly snap and decide her sister needs to be constantly supervised, it would have already happened by now.
Which just goes to show how significant the show and characters have evolved since the first season, even in ways that aren’t immediately evident. Continuity has a way of crossing lines of no return without ever realizing it. If this had been a season one episode, it probably would have worked out fine without any changes and maybe even been one of the fan favorites for its humor.
ComradeCosmobot: Yeah, Applejack’s supervision of Apple Bloom really did stretch credulity, and it slightly soured the episode for me, although I can hardly say that it made for a bad episode for all that. But it does feel more like something that a mother figure (not really present in FiM) would do, rather than Applejack, per se. I’ve never really felt like Applejack was exactly the coddling type…
KefkaFloyd: Sometimes episodes are a little more stand-alone than others, and this one felt like it had a point to make, damn the torpedoes. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, but I felt that—as funny as the individual jokes are—there were one too many of them. I knew the point: that you can go too far in the name of safety. But it wore out what were some otherwise really funny jokes.
HuffyTheMagicDragon: I agree the episode would have benefitted if they had dialed the jokes back just a notch. Still, it’s always fun to see ponies go over-the-top crazy. It’s a proud tradition in this show. And perhaps we don’t see it quite often enough with Applejack.
drunkill: There were a plethora of visual gags this episode, it became particularly absurd when AJ was baby proofing the farm, annoying Apple Bloom immensely
Pocket: My personal favorite was the second helmet. It’s a style of gag that shows up a lot in modern cartoons, but I can’t recall ever seeing on this show before. Much more subtle was the crib bars on Apple Bloom’s bed, which some people (myself included) didn’t even notice until it was pointed out later. I wonder if that one was even in the script, or if it was yet another touch added by the storyboarders.
KefkaFloyd: I love the logic. If one helmet works, two would be twice as effective! I loved the more subtle ones, like Sweeite Belle settling into bed. She really is just like a little Rarity.
HuffyTheMagicDragon: A couple of the best jokes in this episode are fairly standard self-aware cartoon gags – particularly the “hats and bows closet” (cartoon characters wearing the same clothes all the time) and “no time for a song!” – but they executed them well. I certainly laughed. I feel like this show has been just aching to make those jokes for quite a while now.
ComradeCosmobot: No doubt. Those are the sorts of jokes you can only tell when you’ve been on the air for four seasons. Two seasons just isn’t enough to be able to lampshade yourself. And while putting the helmet on, repeatedly, is something of a cliche in these sorts of episodes, it’s still a nice spot of humor all things considered.
drunkill: The fear of being coddled forever caused Apple Bloom to sneak away with the help of Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo to prove herself to Applejack that she doesn’t need constant supervision. Whilst alone in a misty flame-filled swamp Apple Bloom encounters another of Equestria’s sinister mythical creatures, a Chimera.
ComradeCosmobot: Yet another example of the writers bringing in mythological creatures as need be. It’s nice to see that, even with a tatzlwurm out mucking things up for Twilight, there are plenty of new old favorites out there waiting to be found, like this Chimera (and the Homeric lion-lamb-snake form, to boot).
KefkaFloyd: Modeled a bit after the three-headed soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I thought it was one of the better mythological bits we’ve gotten lately. It’s true to the original conception of a Chimera but it has its own pony spin to it.
HuffyTheMagicDragon: Always good to meet another mythological beast in Pony. I prefer those to the pun-monsters, and I’ve been hoping to see a chimera for a while now. Though when the heads started speaking, I strongly suspected it might turn out to be friendly, especially after the line about having a sister looking over your shoulder. I’m not sure if that might have led to a better or worse resolution, but I won’t complain about getting another Applejack action scene. I liked how she ended up using all of the nonsensical-sounding equipment she listed earlier.
drunkill: Applejack has accepted that Apple Bloom is growing up and can look after herself without the need to be uncharacteristically overbearing. (plus final thoughts for the episode)
Pocket: The resolution, where Applejack points out that what Apple Bloom did was reckless and will probably get her in trouble with Granny when they get home, before acknowledging that her sis is growing up and deserves to be trusted more, struck a perfect balance for me. Too many shows either have their kid characters never face any consequences for their actions (or portray the authority figures who dole them out as harsh and unsympathetic) or make them out to be incapable of ever doing anything right.
KefkaFloyd: I thought it was a good moral with some cartoon exaggeration thrown in for good measure. It’s not the greatest of episodes, but it was still entertaining. It was definitely more of a parents episode than a kids episode, but shows like these tend to have one of those now and then. I like ti when the CMCs progress, and hopefully some day, we’ll actually see them take the next step, or the Pepsi Challenge, or whatever to get their marks.
HuffyTheMagicDragon: I enjoyed the episode a lot, but the resolution was a bit confusing. Applejack fears for Apple Bloom’s life when she’s accidentally spilling food on her head, but then feels she’s ready for independence when she nearly gets eaten by a chimera? It’s a good thing Apple Bloom didn’t narrate the moral, because “run away from home into mortal danger to prove yourself” would have been an… odd message for the target age group. But the lesson was a good one from Applejack’s point of view: AJ realizes that Apple Bloom was forced to take drastic action in order to prove her independence, because she would never have been able to prove it otherwise while under Applejack’s smothering care.
drunkill: Thanks again everyone for joining the Round Table, and we’ll be here next week for more discussion on everyone’s favorite horse show! ■