Welcome back to another episode of The Ponyville Hill-Ponies! This time around we take a trip to whatever the heck is the Equestrian equivalent of the Deep South for yet another mission doled out by the all-knowing and all-seeing map of friendship! The map, like the rest of the season, has had its ups and downs in terms of quality episodes, but it’s easily the most interesting concept they came up with this season and definitely gives the writers some creative freedom to explore the world. Will they manage to live up to the potential that the map provides them with, or will this be another safe and predictable episode in a season that had just a bit too much of that already? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Fluttershy hosting a book club for all her animal friends where they are reading Wuthering Hooves. Wow. There’s uh… there’s a lot to cover already. First of all, I’m pretty sure they’re taking MY shtick right now considering how many bad literary horse and animal puns I’ve already done in these recaps.
Second, how is it that these animals know how to read, yet they can’t speak… uh… English I guess? My point is that these animals seem to have a pretty high degree of intelligence if they can get through Emily Bronco novels. If that’s the case, why are THESE animals relegated to woodland critter status without homes, jobs, or a role in Pony society when Griffins, Donkeys, and buffalo get to participate in everyday pony life!? And third… Wuthering Hooves? Really? They’re reading a ponified version of a novel that contains no less than TWO deaths by child birth? A story with the kind of sadistic and controlling jerk wad that gave inspiration to Edward Cullen from Twilight? THAT’S what Fluttershy and her animal friends are reading? What kid is going to get that reference and how many people that DO get it are gonna think it makes sense!? Does Fluttershy have some dark desires we don’t know about? Come to think of it… she DOES live with Angel bunny…
Thankfully, this meeting of the minds gets cut short when Fluttershy’s rear starts-a-rumbling which indicates that the Cutie Map has chosen her for a friendship mission of some sort. Oddly enough though, it seems that her cutie mark (or at least some sort of projection of it) detaches itself from Fluttershy’s flank and leads her to Twilight’s Doom Fortress. I checked in the previous episodes and their marks have NEVER done that when summoned to the Friendship Command Center, so why did they add it for this one especially considering how unnecessary it is? Wouldn’t Fluttershy know to head for the castle without that extra bit of help? Well she does eventually make it there and finds Twilight excitedly waiting for her because she has been summoned as well. Wait WHAT!? THEY’RE ACTUALLY SENDING TWILIGHT OUT ON ONE OF THESE FRIENDSHIP QUESTS!? NO!!! For a while now, my prevailing theory for this season was that the Cutie Map was either a test or a game set up by someone with a lot of power (Discord and Celestia being the two obvious choices) to see what Twilight would do if she started to feel jealous and inadequate due to everyone else getting summoned and her being left out. The previous episodes with the map made a point of showing Twilight’s frustration about not being called to duty, and they even managed to touch on this subject to an extent in the last episode. That all kind of goes by the wayside now that they’ve pulled the trigger on her having a quest, and unless this episode has a HUGE twist at the end it seems like a complete waste of a season long build up.
Alright, well what is it that they decided to blow that opportunity on? The title seems to be somewhat of a giveaway, but maybe they’ll come up with a unique angle! After some shtick back home about Twilight trying way too hard to be prepared for her first Friendship Quest, they head to the Smokey Mountains (which actually was close to where the Hatfield and McCoy feud took place) to find out who it is in need of their particular brand of friendship counseling.
Anyone else think they went a bit overboard here with the Hee-Haw caricatures? If these ponies were any more redneck, you’d need Jeff Foxworthy to come in and make unfunny comments about their qualifications. These are the Hooffields who spend most their time pumpkin bombing the McColt’s estate from their hill on one side of the river for whatever slight it is they’ve committed this time. Speaking which, the McColts who seem to be led by this guy who looks like a cross between Yosemite Sam and an Underpants Gnome.
They spend most their time bitching about the Hooffields’ constant transgressions while performing micro-aggressions of their own which only continues to perpetuate this cycle of hatred and vegetable based warfare. I guess in the broadest of possible broad strokes they managed to get the Hatfield and McCoy conflict across, but only in the sense that… they had a feud. It REALLY annoys me that they bothered to name this after them, and yet didn’t incorporate any aspect of that sotyr into this. Granted, I’m not sure how you’d include a scene of three McColts stabbing a Hooffield to death or the subsequent death of those three by getting shot over fifty times in an act of vigilante justice from the Hooffields, but they could have at least TRIED!! Hell, they could have introduced a pig character at some point or even the sort of Romeo Juliet thing between two of the ponies similar to what happened with Johnse and Roseanna (even though that ended kinda poorly). All I’m saying is that they could have done more with the premise instead of just rehashing what many other cartoons have already done by simply name checking the two families. This also wouldn’t be bothering me so much if they didn’t name the damn episode after the feud which would have put focus AWAY from how little they have to do with the real families and maybe if they’d also put a bit more focus on Twilight and Fluttershy instead if the redneck shenanigans. I will give them credit one thing though. The variety of character models here is impressive, considering how easy it is to fill crowds in this show with rainbow colored clones. Each member of these two families has such a unique look that it seems like a waste that we’ll only see them this one time and you really want to get to know them more.
The entire second act here is filled with tom foolery as Twilight tries to solve the problem (with her book learnin’ but we’ll get back to that in a minute) despite the families continuing to fuck with each other. She tries f o get them on a meeting on neutral ground, but they won’t stop flinging things at each other. She tries to find some common ground for them to bond over, but the only thing they share is a deep seated resentment for the other. She tries to find out what the feud is even about, but these dumbasses forgot what it was a long time ago. Hell, they even manage to throw in a Trojan Horse scene for the hell of it! More of a Trojan Cake, but horses are involved so I’m counting it!!
Since this is a kid’s show, Twilight can’t suggest a bare knuckle boxing match to hash out their differences, so she’s out of ideas and is ready to give up. If only the map had sent someone else along to be the vital linchpin in solving this issue!
Fluttershy, now armed with the knowledge of the animals, is ready to end this conflict with Twilight’s help! The fighting between the two families has escalated to the valley between the peaks and they are having a knock down drag out fight because Cleary they have nothing better to do with their sad and miserable lives. Twilight jumps into the fray and acted an area effect [petrification] spell on the unsuspecting hicks so that Fluttershy can tell the story of their ancestors who settled here long ago. Grub Hooffield and Piles McColl were best friends who discovered this valley and all the natural splendor it had it offer. They made it their mission to preserve these lands and protect the animals, but tensions rise as Hooffield tries to go start a garden and McColt starts to build a house right on top of it. This leads to Hooffield knocking down the house and as you can imagine things escalate over generations to what it is today. Therefore, they should stop fighting because they’re fucking with the animals’ home. Okay… two things. First, I call bullshit. These animals made this up so that they could get these dumbass pony folk to cut down on the constant warfare and even get free food and shelter out of it. Second, the story makes it VERY clear that McColt started it! HE’S the first one to fuck with the other! Case closed, right? I guess, but for some reason they are all now too mature to hold a grudge and both sides agree to a truce. Well sort of. These two have to use their disapproving stares to keep them in line.
Oh, but they aren’t the only ones who learned a lesson! Twilight as well has learned that the secret to solving friendship problems is not in a book but is in her friends! Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the BOOK tell you to find common ground between the two warring parties to try to end the feud? This whole animal thing sounds like common ground to me! This is the kind of moral that ONLY works if you don’t think about it for more than a second which is exactly the kind of thing I don’t expect from this series! This series shouldn’t be looking for the easy way out damn it! This show is better than EVERYTHING WILL BE SOLVED CUZ FRIENDS, and yet that’s basically the point their pushing here as well as a healthy dose of anti-intellectualism. Anyone who talks shit about learning from a book obviously doesn’t read enough books, and it’s hardly Twilight’s (or the book’s) fault that they’re initial plans didn’t work! Well… Twilight WAS acting a bit like an idiot here in that she simply regurgitated what she read instead of applying it to the situation appropriately, but then that feels completely out of character considering she learned that lesson at the very beginning of the series! Why is she sliding back into that routine now, especially when she’s proven herself to quite competent in situations like this? Well at least this means that we’re at the end of the episode and can now hope that the next one will be a lot better!!
This wasn’t one of the good episodes of the season, but I think it’s one of the more INTERESTING bad episodes. The shameless use of the Hatfield and McCoy set up, the bewildering reference to Wuthering Heights, the inexplicably over the top caricatures they use for the hicks, and the general animosity and violence that the two sides show toward each other make this at least memorable! On top of that, it’s nice to see Twilight perform some of her Princess duties once again and I liked the design of pretty much all the new characters here. On the less than positive side though, the story is weak and doesn’t take advantage of its premise all that much, the solution at the end was WAY too easy for everyone involved (it really would have made more sense if they went the same route Avatar the Last Airbender went and admitted the story was fake) and I personally feel a bit let down that Twilight’s mini arc this season was cut short. I really thought they were building towards something what with her being overlooked by the map! Why else would they spend the beginning of every other map episode showing that Twilight feels left out by not getting to go on these journeys? Did they really have no plan for her, or did something happen that forced them to cut it short? I’m sure they have something big planned for the season finale (the beginning and ending to each season always tends to be the highlights), so hopefully this is just a small bump in the road as we get closer to the last few episodes.
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