We’re back with another episode of Game of Ponies, and after quite a few episodes we finally get another chance at high adventure and exploration! That’s right! We have another map episode and I can’t be more excited to hear it! The last time they were sent on a quest, they battled the evils of communism and fought back against a cult leader! Will this episode be just as good, or will the adventure this time around be a step down from what we saw in the season premiere? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Pinkie Pie clearly in her element as she’s backing a dessert that’s so good, it’ll give your mama a cavity!
While Pinkie Pie is in full on baking mode to the point of channeling Julia Childs, her butt stamp starts to glow which can only mean one thing. Wait, are we finally doing another map episode!? YES!!! I’ve been waiting six episodes for them to get back to that! Pinkie heads straight for the castle (leaving Gummy in charge of finishing up the recipe) and it turns out that the map’s mission for them this time is to go to the town of Griffonstone, the capital of the Griffon Kingdom. But wait, it’s only sending TWO of them there!? As it turns out, only Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie got the signal and none of the other’s did. Apparently the map is very picky about these kinds of things and it starts to raise some questions about exactly how this thing works. It would be one thing if the map could sense when there’s places lacking in friendship (presumably it’s a magic and can be detected), but the fact that it knows EXACTLY who to send as well is starting to sound like some form of predestination. What kind of power does this map have so that it knows ahead of time which characters will have the most impact on whatever situation it sends them to? Unless… it’s not a map at all! IT’S A SYNOPSIS OF THE ENTIRE FIFTH SEASON!! IT’S ALREADY READ THE SCRIPTS!! Okay, it’s probably not that but it’s still a bit disheartening that the map is THIS specific about things. It kind of robs the characters of agency if they already know ahead of time who is useful and who isn’t in whatever situation the map is throwing them in.
Anyway, Twilight explains to the two of them the history of the Griffon people which is basically like any unification story. Lots of warring tribes, someone decides to take everything over, then bam; Unification into a kingdom. The Shaka Zulu in this case was King Grover who “found” the Idol of Boreas and used it as a rallying point to get the Griffons to fall in line and form a proper kingdom. I’m SURE he just happened to FIND that somewhere. I’m sure NO ONE will be looking for that FOUND artifact sometime in the future (*wink* *wink*). Twilight finishes her story and we find out that she won’t be going due to the fact that the map is forbidding it (apparently). The other two try to convince her to go (she CLEALRY wants to) but she refuses because the map didn’t say she could go. Uh… can’t she just take a vacation? I mean she’s probably not gonna do much to HELP them solve whatever crisis is there, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be chilling on the sidelines! Also, why the hell is Twilight so deferential to the map anyway? She’s getting SUPER pissed about it and CLEARLY has nothing better to do, yet is deciding to still follow its vague commands like it was a direct order from Celestia.
Pinkie Pie is up for it but Rainbow Dash isn’t as psyched because she’s apparently racist against Griffons. No seriously, she’s still angry at the ENTIRE race because Gilda was a jerk that one time.
So Twilight hates blobs and Rainbow dash hates Griffons. Oh, and Applejack hates Fruit Bats. What else? Well I’m pretty sure Rarity has utter contempt for the poor. These ponies are HARDLY ones to talk about friendship when they harbor so much hate in their hearts!! The duo eventually gets on a train that’s headed straight for the Griffon Kingdom, and Rainbow Dash is bemoaning her plight along the way. She has a guide book from Twilight about Griffon culture (with some useful tips) but Rainbow Dash’s contempt shines through here as well.
The two eventually arrive at Griffonstone and find out that it’s one step above a failed state in terms of elegance. Something terrible must have happened, or the Griffons have a FANTASTIC PR team.
Yeah, apparently the distinguished kingdom of the Griffons is barely a refugee camp at this point. How the hell did Twilight not know about this sooner!? She said that her book on the Griffon culture is old, but you can’t tell me that the ENTIRE Pony Empire has no idea what’s going on outside of its boarders!! Twilight is fourth in command and yet she doesn’t know the Griffon Kingdom’s empire has gone the way of Greece!? Oh, and the fact that a couple of missionaries from a far wealthier country are there to show these poor creatures the PROPER way to make friends doesn’t smack of colonialism at all!
Oh yeah, Gilda is here because of course she is. Of all the Griffon cities in the kingdom, she HAD to be in this one. Then again, this might BE the entire kingdom. Sort of like the Republic of Molossia I guess. Just one crappy perch on the top of mountain that someone claims is a new country. After a tense stare off between Rainbow Dash and Gilda, Pinkie interjects with a question of where the hell the King and the precious Idol of Boreas is in this dump heap. This prompts a crazy old bastard (who I SWEAR is modeled off of Skarr from Evil Con Carne) to offer the sad tale for a couple of bits.
Alright, so after King Grover unified the kingdom around the Idol of Boreas, the Griffons thrived and were the envy of other nations. That is until the reign of King Guto (I have no idea how much after Grover this guy began his rule) who was the unfortunate bastard to be in charge when some sort of hellish goat cyclops bursts his ass into the throne room and snatches the Idol like he’s mother fuckin Deebo from Friday.
Oh gee. I wonder if there’s some reason why the demon goat (named Arimaspi) fought his way through the Griffon Kingdom to get the idol. Maybe to get it… back? Well we don’t know just yet, but we do find out that the Idol of Boreas was lost when Arimaspi fell down into some endless abyss thingy never to be seen again. You’re telling me they couldn’t fly down a hole and get it back? Okay, whatever you say old man. So this is probably the point where we should get into the mythology the show is building here. Most of the details are taken straight from Greek Mythology. The Idol of Boreas is a reference to the God of the North Winds of the same name, and the Arimaspi refer to a race of Cyclopes (Cyclopsi?) who were at constant war with the Griffons. I’m not finding many more details beyond that (was there an actual Idol that the Griffons stole? Did the Arimaspi eventually win the war so that the Griffons were barely a standing tribe?) but it’s interesting that they’re pulling from such obscure sources, at least when you compare it to the more well-known aspects of mythology. Once the story is over, Rainbow Dash decides that they are there in order to retrieve the lost artifact which will restore the Griffon Kingdom to its former glory! Pinkie though has some reservations and instead decides to bother Gilda for a bit while Rainbow heads off to get supplies for her perilous journey into the endless abyss (I’m PRETTY sure it’s just a big hole). It doesn’t take long for Pinkie to realize that the key to solving the Griffon’s problems is to spread the magic of friendship rather than get back some symbolic trinket of their former glory. I don’t know about that. A LOT of people can get swept up in symbolism and flags and what not. Sure it’s not going to solve their economic and infrastructure issues, but neither is friendship. If nothing else, they could at least hock the hunk of junk so that maybe they can rebuild the library or fix these dilapidated houses. Pinkie’s plans are stymied however when Gilda informs her that there’s no bakery, no party store, and that inspirational musical numbers have been outlawed in public places.
She still manages to find an outlet for her friendship when she discovers that Gilda is making money by selling Griffonstone Scones and apparently uses rocks and sticks in the formula. After a quick baking lesson, she ends up getting Gilda to open up a bit and reveals that the ONLY friend she ever had was Rainbow Dash. I was never a fan of Gilda in her original episode because they wanted her to be a bad teenager without giving her any teeth. When you compare Gilda with how well they pulled off Sunset Shimmer’s bad girl shtick, Gilda comes off as half assed and overly safe. Here though, they’re trying to redeem her a bit by giving her some dimensionality, what with the crappy world she seems to live in and how much Rainbow Dash was the bright spot in her life that has since gone missing. Now she’s back where she started only now with the torment of knowing what‘s it like to not be all by herself. I mean, sure this has been Gilda’s fan canon since about five minutes after the first episode aired, but it’s nice to finally have the show acknowledge this. Speaking of Rainbow Dash, she’s currently trying to conquer that whole endless abyss thingy which is probably not going to end too well for her. The Abyss in question looks to be a really large ravine that has gale force winds blowing through it constantly. This is another reference to Boreas being the God of the North Winds, and it also gives a reason why the Griffons didn’t fly down there to find the Idol. The winds were simply too powerful. Still though, they couldn’t find a place to walk around to the Ravine’s opening and search the bottom it to see if the Idol fell down there? Does Rainbow Dash HAVE to scale its walls instead of doing the same? She enlisted the aid of some exploring guide griffon (apparently Griffonstone doesn’t have a bakery but DOES have a Spelunking supply shop) and goes down the Ravine on a rope while the guide Griffon secures the rope on the other end. About forty-five seconds into her descent, Rainbow Dash’s rope breaks and the guide griffon leaves her to die on a narrow ledge in the abyss. The reason the guide is doing this is because Rainbow Dash doesn’t have enough bits to be saved, but I think that’s just an excuse. Sure it’s established that every Griffon in town is desperately seeking bits, but I get the feeling that the griffon here just hates ponies and is glad to let some dumbass tourist die for even attempting this crazy scheme.
Pinkie Pie eventually finds her and tells her that she’s figured out what the Griffons need. Spoiler alert: It’s friendship. Rainbow Dash can’t really appreciate the news though due to her circumstances, and Pinkie eventually realizes that she MIGHT need a little help. She goes back to Gilda and prays on her emotions to guilt her into helping Rainbow Dash not die, and so the two of them head for the abyss again with a long length of rope. Shenanigans ensue (Pinkie proves time and again she doesn’t understand how to tie off a rope) and Pinkie and Rainbow Dash end up dangling off yet another cliff with Gilda being the only one to support them. Oddly enough, the Idol is RIGHT in front of her as are the remains of poor Arimaspi who must have cracked his skull on the way down and bled out in this cold and lonely canyon. I did NOT expect something that dark in this show! Gilda has to decide whether to go for the Idol which could bring back the pride of her people or save the two ponies who represent the friendship the Griffons (and herself) need as well. Guess what she picks.
The Idol falls immediately after she rescues the ponies and the three of them head back up the mountain to Griffonstone. Why don’t you just come back with proper equipment and trained climbers? No? Just gonna leave that there forever? Okay. And so, Gilda has learned a lesson about friendship and may be able to spread this joy to the other Griffons who apparently have NO IDEA what the hell friends are! Not only that, but Rainbow Dash’s feud with Gilda has finally ended and they promise to see each other more often (which probably means once a season if we’re lucky). With Gilda around to spread the word of Friendship, it appears that the quest has been finished and our two pony heroes can go back home. The ponies have completed yet another quest which I guess means they’re getting closer to their goal of spreading Friendship throughout the world. Oh, and Gummy still needs to finish the dessert.
There’s a lot of really good stuff in this episode, but once again we have an episode that doesn’t feel complete. Considering how much time they spend on the Griffons’ backstory (there are TWO scenes of their history being told), it has almost zero bearing on the episode itself. I didn’t know anything about Griffon mythology until I looked stuff up after this episode, and was really hoping that this episode would be an actual adventure a la Indiana Jones in which they search for the Idol and maybe find out some uncomfortable truth’s about its origin. The show never says it outright, but I’m still convinced that King Grover stole that Idol and didn’t just find it somewhere. Instead, we once again learn that the most powerful magic of all is Friendship and that all we need to do is be nice to one another in order to make everything better. I’m glad we finally got some closure on Gilda’s story, but there’s so much more they could have done with this if they had wanted to go with another two part story like they did with the premiere. Are we ever going to get back to the Griffons and find out more about the Idol? I hope they do, and it might be why they gave so much information about it in this episode. If you recall from the season premiere they offhandedly mention the magical items of Mage Meadowbrook, so maybe this is season five’s version of the keys and it’s all building up to a great finale. For now though, we have another episode that’s still very enjoyable but is still lacking in terms of execution. Great setup, lots of possibilities, but we still keep circling back to the same conclusions each time. We’re about a third into the season and it still feels like a holding pattern, but maybe that’s to be expected. We can’t always get an Equestria Girls or season finale level event each week, so for now it’s still keeping its head above water. Still though; with everything that’s happened up to this point in the series, it’d be nice if they’d stretch themselves a bit and take a few more chances with what can happen in this vast world they’ve done such an amazing job of crafting over the years. The Season premiere did this wonderfully, and I’m still waiting for the rest of the season to catch up to that level of excellence and imagination.
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