» TRS Round Table 043: Maud Pie Review

Hi. We’re here to review Maud Pie. We’re glad you’re here. The episode Maud Pie aired on March 15, 2014, and discussing it are Wylie, drunkill, The Doctor, acksed, ComradeCosmobot, and KefkaFloyd. Read more to see it.

KefkaFloyd: Maud Pie was written by yet another first time writer, Noelle Benvenuti. Luckily for Noelle, the reaction to the debut episode has been overwhelmingly positive.

Wylie: We’ve had a really good run of new talent this season. Noelle was something of a cipher prior to this episode, but she seems to have a really good handle on what makes this show tick.

drunkill: I originally thought the writer could have a connection to Leo Benvenuti who penned Space Jam. It could be a penname for somebody who wishes to not be associated with the show. Think M. A. Larson instead of Mitch Larson, although he has started using the former name in other recent credits.
New talent is always welcome and it seems all the new writers this season have had wonderful instruction from Meghan Mccarthy to help bring them up to speed with the world of Pony.

Rocks! God I love Rocks... Ow, my pancreas!

The Doctor: I don’t think I was as big a fan of this episode as others. I don’t think it was one of the best. I think there was a bit of an abundance of gags and a lack of story. But please don’t think I disliked this episode. For me this episode ranks as a completely enjoyable episode of the show, and I will give praise for Noelle’s first outing on the show.

KefkaFloyd: Maud’s deadpan humor seems to be a big hit.

Wylie: She’s such a change of pace! The world of Equestria is such a positive, optimistic place that just placing a deadpan character like Maud in it is funny on its face.

The Doctor: It was a nice change of pace from the bubbly personalities we usually see. I also liked the fine line they walked with Maud not being a jerk, or ignorant of others feelings or concerns. As she says at the end of the episode, she just doesn’t express herself like others.

ComradeCosmobot: And that self-aware otherness has, of course, led to people drawing certain conclusions about her character that may or may not be true. I guess it’s possible, but does it matter?

Wylie: It would’ve been easy to make Maud full of snark, hating things just because they’re not rocks and not caringabout anything or anyone. But they didn’t go that way – she’s just really focused on rocks, and even though she’s not demonstrative, she cares for her family.

Pinkie and Maud on the Train Pinkie, are you pondering what I’m pondering?

While we’re here, let’s talk about Maud for a minute. My first reaction to Maud, the moment I heard her voice, was “Hey, they made a pony Daria Morgendorffer! This is going to be great!” (As an aside: If you don’t know who Daria Morgendorffer is, you should. As far as I’m concerned, that show was the last good thing that came from MTV before they committed fully to their current strategy of not ever playing music videos.) And the comparison holds, at first glance- both Maud and Daria share an emotional range that goes all the way from A to B, along with the driest of wit. But they differ in an important way: Daria used sarcasm and detachment as a defense mechanism against the slings and arrows of high school life, while Maud seems to just naturally be a quiet, calm pony who doesn’t get excited about things. Maud’s not mad at the world for being dumber than she is, she’s just content to study her rocks and let everything else wash over her. And most importantly, Daria had less than no use for her sister, while Maud obviously cares for Pinkie in her own way.

acksed: Having never seen Daria, all I could think of was Father Ted’s, “Entertaining Father Stone”. If Maud had replied, “No, I’m fine.” I would have died laughing. Thankfully, she’s not quite as boring, just… focused. On rocks.

KefkaFloyd: The episode’s flow is certainly different, relying on a pacing of jokes that plays with Maud’s stoic nature.

The Doctor: For me they went a bit too far with the jokes. While Maud was a really nice change of pace from other characters, I would have liked a bit more substance, rather than moving from gag to gag.

Wylie: Maud’s nature naturally lends itself to letting the comedy beats breathe in a way we’re just not used to seeing. We complained long and loud that many of the season 3 episodes suffered from feeling rushed, almost like they were packing too much into each one. This episode seems to be a direct answer to that – it took its sweet time lingering over jokes, and just letting the characters react to Maud.

Maud's idea of a game It’s WAY more intense.

acksed: It was a refreshing change of pace. For instance, they reused the ‘long shot of someone slooowly approaching’ gag, but this time, they stretched it out as long as they dared and it was all the funnier for it.

drunkill: I think some of the timing and the visual gags worked very well in this episode, that long shot on the hill for example and how Pinkie Pie throws the others around inside Sugar Cube Corner in the opening of the episode. RD getting more and more frustrated by rocks throughout the episode was quite amusing to see.

ComradeCosmobot: You know, I have to wonder if this is a factor of Benvenuti’s writing style. It’s certainly refreshing in its own way, and it makes me interested to see what else she might end up writing.

KefkaFloyd: I think my favorite bit in the “Maud meets Pinkie’s Friends” montage was with Rainbow. She completely owned Dash and didn’t think anything of it.

Wylie: Her poetry reading with Twilight was my highlight. “It’s about rocks. They’re all about rocks.” If you like awkward humor – and boy howdy do I love some awkward humor – then Twilight Sparkle, Princess Of Books, trapped into an extended reading of what amounts to Vogon poetry is just perfect.

The Doctor: The Rainbow Dash scene really didn’t work for me. I thought it was one of the more “overboard” gags of the episode. My favorite was the nature walk with Fluttershy and Maud only caring about the rocks. I get the feeling that she fully appreciated the tour by Fluttershy, but was clearly there for different reasons.

Crayon Flashback Thousands of years ago, before the dawn of mare as we knew her…

acksed: I didn’t quite get what Maud was doing with Rarity. If she was simply not interested but being polite in her own weird way, by picking up the first thing she saw so she could leave, I could buy it. If she genuinely liked it, I could also buy it, because Pie family. If she wanted to make her sister happy, that also works. Trouble is, I don’t know which is which, though it was funny either way.

The Doctor: I agree that there was a very blurry line between if Maud was being serious or just screwing with them that I think could have been better addressed.

ComradeCosmobot: Yeah, but that wasn’t really germane to the lesson, so I can see why that might be dropped. It was more about getting along with someone you don’t really gel with, which doesn’t really matter with why Maud does what she does. And let’s be honest, if Maud was screwing with them, this would be a lot more like Griffon the Brush-Off than this really was.

KefkaFloyd: To be fair, the rest of the Mane Six were putting in genuine efforts to make friends with Maud, but things just weren’t clicking.

The Doctor: I kind of wish they hadn’t made it so cut and dry as that. I would have liked to see Maud and Rarity hit it off as they both have an interest in rocks. More than that, I think the omission of Spike this episode was a lost opportunity as they both apparently like to eat rocks. I was kind of hoping this would be a stealth Spike episode with Spike hitting it off with Maud immediately and confused as to why the others are having a hard time of it.

Wylie: I get what you’re saying, I really do. Rarity’s love for gems would have found some purchase with Maud, certainly- if they chose to go that way. But that’s not the story we’re being told here, unfortunately. For this story to work, everyone has to come to the same conclusion – that Maud’s just too different for them to make a friendship connection with.

ComradeCosmobot: Rarity’s love for gems (if not rocks in general) is not exactly an unknown. As forums poster Swift pointed out, the comics have spelled this out about as clearly as possible. But I agree with Wylie that the story really wouldn’t have worked any other way. If even one of the Mane Six actually got Maud (besides Pinkie of course), it just wouldn’t be as strong a story.

Meeting Maud Well, hello there.

The Doctor: I think Maud hitting it off with Spike would have worked. Have Spike wonder why everyone else doesn’t get it. I think it also would have helped show that it’s all just Maud being a person who doesn’t show her emotions, and really close the book on the “is she screwing with them” question, by having one character “get” Maud.

KefkaFloyd: The lesson of the story has a few layers to it. On the surface, “you don’t have to be friends with people to be friendly with them” is the takeaway, but I thought the more meaningful lesson is that two people who are not outwardly similar can have a deep and understanding relationship that rewards each other. Maud’s bit about how “she doesn’t express her enthusiasm like her sister” explains a lot.

ComradeCosmobot: I’d hesitate to say that that surface moral was even presented. While the plot certainly would have lent itself to such a moral, it pretty clearly indicated that the only solution to not really getting along with someone is to find some weak justification for what you have in common (e.g. “well we’re both friends of Pinkie Pie therefore we should be friends!”). That’s a positive take on the “being friendly to everyone” moral I suppose, but it’s also a little too strong on the “everyone should be friends with everyone” vibe for my tastes. Such a moral, being one of the Five Geek Social Fallacies first noted by Michael Suileabhain-Wilson, is actually a bit more harmful a moral than I would like to see touted to young girls.

The Doctor: While I think the episode went overboard in the gags department, I absolutely loved the resolution and payoff. While the “I don’t express myself like my Sister” line was pretty obvious without being said, the next bit with the candy is what stuck with me. “I don’t really like candy. But I do love Pinkie Pie” was just a wonderful moment. All this time she has just been humoring Pinkie because she loves her, cares for her, and does want to spend time with her, even if they don’t really share many interests. I’d argue it might make for one of the strongest family bonds we’ve seen in the show thus far.

Spider Flowers I will grant this spider an exception and spare her life.

Wylie: And let’s give Pinkie some well-deserved credit here as well. She obviously loves her family – heck, Pinkie loves everybody! But what do we know about Pinkie, if we know her at all? She loves seeing ponies smile, that’s what. So imagine how much seeing Maud smile meant to her. No wonder she was so worked up about getting everyone to like Maud – if a smile from anyone means the world to Pinkie, imagine what seeing Maud smile (as infrequently as it happens) means to her.

acksed: I thought it was also a nice way to point out that if someone doesn’t say much, whether it be from shyness or reticence, you might want to try talking to them and listening sometimes. You might have something in common, even if it’s just a mutual friend. That said, I also know of a few friends of friends I’d rather gnaw my own arm off to escape talking to… which this episode also acknowledges. Something for everyone!

KefkaFloyd: My favorite visual gag in the episode was the crayon flashback. I love bits like that, even though it’s not the first time I’ve seen it done (The Powerpuff Girls and InuYasha both had great takes on the crayon flashback).

The Doctor: While I did not notice it the first time, once it was pointed out on the forums that Maud fed half her sandwich to Boulder, and that Boulder apparently ate it off screen, my favorite gag in this episode was sealed. Just the implication of Boulder being alive is hilarious to me.

Maud Saves Pinkie SUPER PUNCHING PONY, MAUD PIE

Wylie: Seeing Maud treat Boulder as an actual pet like she did (pulling him out to pet him on the train, feeding him the sandwich) was a nice little touch that let us know that there was an actual, functioning personality inside Maud — she truly, unironically had a pet rock that she cared for and treated just as well as any of the other ponies treated their pets. And yes, getting back to Pinkie’s crayon flashback — any time we get to see things through Pinkie’s eyes is a treat, whether we see them through felt cutouts or crayon drawings.

acksed: I always like it when the show goes extra cartoony and I got more than enough here — Pinkie wobbling like a dropped jelly and chugging down the cider was straight out of Ren and Stimpy. A subtler one was everyone enthusiastically assuming Maud will have the best time — and she stone-facedly blinks.

drunkill: Little moments like those that allow the staff of the show to be creative are fantastic, it is something you normally wouldn’t see in the show due to the visual style but they’ve done some nice things in the past by making them instructional films, drawings and even inside Pinkie’s imagination.

ComradeCosmobot: It’s actually a little interesting that three of the four style-breaking moments in the animation have to do with Pinkie Pie’s own internal thoughts. Not that that should be surprising, given that Pinkie Pie is the most likely to break the fourth wall. She’s really the easiest pony to get away with that sort of thing.

KefkaFloyd: Well, I have no strong feelings one way or another after all that. Thanks for stopping by and come back again for the next TRS Round Table! 

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