We’re back with another episode of Ponies of our Lives!! In this week’s episode, we get the television tradition of a Holiday episode two months before December. It’s been a while since the last Hearth’s Warming Eve adventure so hopefully they’re pulling out all the stops if we’re going to revisit that well! Will this be a celebration of all that’s good about the holiday season, or will we all end up grinning through fake smiles while begging for this to be over as soon as possible like most family gatherings? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins in Twilight’s Doom Fortress where she’s getting things ready for Hearth’s Warming Eve… when all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter. Twilight looked around anxiously to see what was the matter! She powered up her horn and was expecting something spooky, but the intruder was nothing more than pony that’s kooky!
After nearly blowing up the pink haired prowler, Twilight asks what exactly brings her here at this hour. And… I’m out of rhymes. Screw it! Back to normal talk! It turns out that Pinkie Pie is breaking and entering so she can say goodbye as she and the Apples will be traveling to the Pie’s rock farm to spend the holidays. Applejack arrives at the Friendship Palace (through the front door because she’s courteous) to say her goodbyes as well but then the conversation turns judgement as Applejack raise a metaphorical (sadly not literal) eyebrow to one of Twilight and Spike’s Hearth’s Warming Eve traditions that doesn’t match up with hers. Well, it looks like we have a theme for the episode! Good old traditionalist Applejack is gonna get all indignant about how the Pie’s celebrate Hearth’s Warming Eve, which I’m guessing will include an uncomfortable amount of rocks. Still, their Hearth’s Warming Eve traditions can’t be that much worse than everyone else’s which apparently includes some REALLY creepy looking dolls who I guess stand watch over the presents and murders anyone who tries to open them early.
The tradition which Twilight and Spike share which seems to have gotten Applejack mildly riled up is that the two of them open their gifts on Hearth’s Warming Eve instead of Day. She doesn’t put up much of a fuss (probably because she won’t be sticking around to celebrate with the two of them) and once Applejack and Pinkie Pie say their goodbyes and make their leave, Spike does indeed open one of his gifts which turns out to be… a book. Not any SPECIFIC book. Just, as Spike says, a book. Well screw that! I’m gonna decide exactly what book she would have gotten him!
Back to the ACTUAL plot, this episode seems to be a continuation of Pinkie Apple Pie from last season where it was revealed that Pinkie Pie may have a distant relation to the Apples. This is a chance for the two families to get together for the first time in who knows how long and everyone is super-duper excited for it, possibly to the chagrin of the other passengers on board the train.
Once they get to the farm, we also get to see the rest of the unfittingly named Pie family (do they made rock pies at least?) which is composed of Mr. and Mrs. Amish (Igneous Rock and Cloudy Quartz), Season Four Cameo (Maud Pie), The Butch (Limestone Pie), and The Dandere (Marble Pie). Now there’s some potential here early on where we not only see the Pie’s interact with the Apples, but also see how they get along with Pinkie Pie. Limestone in particular is IMMEDIATELY hostile to everyone around her and the ways these sisters talk to each other (and the fight they have) do a great job of filling in the backstory for characters we’ve just met without having to resort to that much exposition.
Things get off to a rocky (heh heh) start however as we get into the meat of the episode which is Applejack not warming up to their Hearth’s Warming Eve traditions. What kind of traditions? EATING ROCKS!!
Now I get that they can’t get TOO realistic with the traditions that Applejack and the Apples find off putting, lest they risk alienating some of their audience who may have similar traditions. However, I think they went too far in the opposite direction because it’s hard to imagine ANYONE who would come around to eating rocks. THEY’RE ROCKS! Okay fine, there was ROCK CANDY in that one episode from season four (Maud Pie) but they made it clear those were special rocks and the ones in this episode certainly aren’t those. They’re just rocks.
Things do pick up after that though as the other traditions aren’t nearly as incomprehensible while still being contradictory to what Applejack was expecting. This is a MUCH better way to get across her frustration without forcing her to eat gravel. One of the other changes is that they have a scavenger hunt to determine who get to raise the Equestrian Flag. No wait, the winner gets to drape the flag on top of Holder’s Boulder which is a Pie Family landmark. Well that’s not TOO different and the rock clearly means a lot to them! I’m sure Applejack will handle this appropriately!! Actually… probably not. I guess I can’t blame her ENTIRELY. She’s searching in a freaking rock mine which can’t be safe at all!! Still, she is being quite the sour puss about it. Is there something more interesting going on besides her being a Negative Nancy?
Clearly the other Apple family members are having an easier time hitting it off with the other Pies (a little TOO well for some) and this is as close as we get to characterization for the other members of the family. They’ve honestly been background decoration for the most part so any moment they have to actually be part of the scene. The episode has been focusing more on what they do instead of who they are which I guess is necessary for the message they’re trying to get across this episode, but it seems like a waste to introduce these characters and not flesh them out. The day’s festivities come to a close as Pinkie Pie wins the scavenger hunt, but Applejack has a few things up her (metaphorical) sleeves to turn this into a PROPER Hearth’s Warming celebration. Everyone wakes up the next day to find the fruit of Applejack’s labor and EVERYONE is pissed at her.
Was it presumptuous for Applejack to do this without asking? Sure, but it doesn’t have to interfere with how the Pie’s celebrate the holiday, and there has been ZERO concessions made to the Apples since they got here. Not only that, but whatever conflict can arise from this situation is instead replaced by a completely unintended (and unbelievable) bit of property damage to paint Applejack’s decision to decorate as much worse than it actually was. FOR SOME REASON the Pie house is sitting right on top of a fault line and by putting a flag pole in the ground, the fault line shifted, caused a small earthquake, and knocked Holder’s Boulder down into the Pie’s rock quarry below. Never mind that a pole that small would probably only have to be about a meter into the ground (the hole she dug would only have to have been about four times the diameter of the pole), why is there a fault line THAT close to their house and why do they have a rock mind not forty five feet away which would be causing MUCH more disturbances to the fault line than one flagpole would? The consequences for Applejack’s actions do not fit the crime and the two feel so disconnected that it doesn’t feel like a natural repercussion for Applejack’s flaw in this episode. Something like that was bound to happen and Applejack was just unlucky enough to be working nearby when it did.
With the holiday season now in ruins, the Apple family heads back home with their tails between their legs as Applejack contemplates how things could have turned out so badly. Granny Smith comes to the rescue by telling Applejack about the history of Holder’s Boulder which is that Pinkie Pie’s ancestor stole it from a Dragon’s Hoard and it now brings good luck to the farm. I guess this fixes Applejack’s problem because now she knows that they had traditions for a reason. I don’t know, was it really that hard to figure out that traditions are borne from personal experiences and family history? I don’t even think her contention was that their traditions were fake, just that they weren’t as enjoyable as her own. They still have to eat rocks, search for a picture of a rock, and don’t get presents on Hearth’s Warming Day. That’s not going to change if, like in Maud Pie, you realize the best solution is to just grit your teeth and bear it for someone else’s sake. Oh well, that’s enough for the Apples to presumably hop off the train and hoof it back to the rock farm where the pies are trying REALLY hard to push Holder’s Boulder back up the mountain. They just aren’t strong enough though! If only their family was bigger so that they can overcome this massive challenge together!!
And so the holiday is saved because Applejack learned to not be a stick in the mud! Not only that but we get some ADORABLE moments with all these characters!!!
Some… are less adorable in context.
As the night (and the episode) comes to a close, we get a reading of Maud’s Hearth’s Warming carols… which sound more like poetry but whatever. All’s well that ends well here in the Pie house!!
This episode feels like wasted potential. Instead of focusing on the family dynamics and personal moments between the characters, we have to instead focus on a moral that feels like a retread and just isn’t as interesting as it should be. Instead of Igneous Rock and Cloudy Quartz telling the audience what it was like growing up with Pinkie Pie, we get like two Amish jokes and then push them to the background. Instead of finding out more about why Limestone is so pissed all the time, she just becomes an over the top comic relief which may have been effective in this episode, but still feels like a missed opportunity. This is only the second time we’ve gotten a Hearth’s Warming episode, and yet the occasion didn’t seem to inspire them to do all that much with it beyond having yet another bland moral. Speaking of which, this episode did something that really pisses me of about these kinds of stories. BEFORE Applejack accepts their traditions, the traditions are stupid like eating rocks and searching through what had to be a pretty dangerous mine (especially for those who’ve never been there before) just to search for a rock. AFTER Applejack accepts their traditions? Oh hey! They now get to eat pastries that AREN’T rocks! They aren’t doing back breaking manual labor! Everything got MUCH better once Applejack accepted them which is something that ends up being pretty antithetical to the message they want to say. Applejack’s acceptance didn’t cost her anything because things got better after she accepted them. Not in a “now I understand their traditions” sort of way, but in a “oh, so they DO know how to have a more proper holiday celebration” sort of way. I can get SOME bit of improvement here as everyone starts to warm up to each other, but it ultimately feels like a cheap way to remove ambiguity from the moral here. Similar to my problem with last week’s episode, this one felt like they had focused on the wrong thing entirely and both just left me wanting more. I don’t know why they keep putting distractions in these episodes that end up sucking time away from what’s REALLY interesting (the pregnancy in the last episode and the Pie family in this one), but it’s getting to be pretty annoying and somewhat worrisome for the rest of the season. We don’t have that many more episodes to go, so hopefully things will pick up again once we start heading to the season finale. Until then, this one is somewhat enjoyable but not nearly as much as it should be.
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