My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of I Love Trixie, starring MLP’s very own Lucy/Ethel besties Starlight Glimmer and THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE!! It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of any episode that puts these two together, and the fact that they are the subject of the season premiere’s second episode is certainly a good way to get me to overlook the fact that we’re starting the season off without a big two-parter to shake things up and start things off with a bang. Does this turn out to be yet another wonderful use of the two best characters the series has going for it right now, or has this particular team up managed to run its course already? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Trixie and Starlight in the kitchen of Twilight’s Doom Fortress where the former is getting some remedial lessons on magic. I don’t know why she needs magic when she’s already a master of MAGIC!, but I guess THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE will not be outdone in ANY field of study. At the very least, she’s still the master of adorable frustration which she proves to us once again after the fifth attempt to turn a pepper shaker into a teacup fails.
With some minor coaching from Starlight, Trixie manages to PERFECT the technique (see? She’s super talented!) and goes on a teacup generating rampage; unintentionally ruining Starlight’s tea cakes in the process and creating an untenable ratio of teacups to other silver wear in the castle. Trixie tries her darnedest to make things right by giving Starlight a bag of pretzels (she hasn’t gotten around to being a master of baking yet) but Starlight isn’t quite happy about all this and starts LITERALLY emitting clouds of hatred out of her horn. On the one hand, it’s kind of a clever idea to take a symbolic representation of anger (dark cloud over someone’s head) and turn it into a literal manifestation of her emotions, but it kinda comes out of nowhere as we’ve never seen ANY other pony do this (even ones with magic) and she plays it off like this is something COMPLETELY normal. At the very least, we now have an explanation for the title as she sucks it all back into her skull so she can let her resentment fester like a tumor!
From there we go to the train station where the Mane6 are heading out to go on some sort of Friendship Retreat; leaving Spike, Starlight, and Trixie behind to do their own thing and to snicker at the corniness of a Friendship Retreat while also trying to guess whether or not they’ll sing a song at one point. See, this is what I love about the whole Trixie/Starlight dynamic and why their episodes were the best part of season 6. Even though this updated version of My Little Pony is leaps and bounds better than the previous incarnations, there’s still a certain level sanitation to the material that keeps it from feeling entirely authentic. Sure, we’ve got some elements to counterbalance that like whenever Celestia drops her divine façade momentarily or whenever Discord is in the mood to rattle everyone’s cages, but nothing in this series feels more real than the friendship between Starlight and Trixie; not only because they share a lot in common but because they are deeply flawed and bond over that. The flaws for most ponies in this show are ones that have a clear solution that can be overcome by believing in yourself or trusting friends or whatever which is fine for a show that’s aimed at a very young audience, but with Trixie and Starlight there’s more nuance to it. Trixie may be obnoxious and over the top which are framed as BAD qualities, but it also shows that those are features that Starlight likes in Trixie, even if this is one of those days where she’s not prepared to deal with it. Speaking of which, once the two of them go back to the castle, Trixie insists on trying to learn a difficult teleportation spell right away (THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE IS NO SCRUB!!) and actually manages to pull it off… but misses the apple she was aiming for and instead sends the Cutie Map to Celestia knows where. Starlight’s gonna need to do a WHOLE lot more repressing after that one!
Trixie is trying to look on the bright side of this (did you SEE how good a job she did with that teleportation spell!?), but Starlight is having none of it and is clearly about to explode if she doesn’t find an outlet for her anger. Instead of screaming into a pillow or pumping demons full of hot lead in DOOM, she runs to the kitchen and finds a container to, you guessed it, LITERALLY BOTTLE UP HER EMOTIONS! That’s symbolism so on the nose that I’m surprised she doesn’t realize what a huge cliché she’s being right now, but nevertheless it gives her a moment’s reprieve from her dark thoughts to focus on the issue at hand. They need to find the table before Twilight and her friends get back from their Friendship Retreat, or else… I don’t know, Twilight’s gonna be mad? I mean, I get that THE BEST outcome is to fix the problem now, but even if Twilight finds out… well, Starlight ALREADY enslaved an entire village of ponies and then almost ripped the universe asunder by traveling through time. I doubt that THIS is the straw that’s gonna break the camel’s back… or pony’s back in this case. Since we’re on the topic, what’s going on with that retreat the Mane6 are on? It turns out that Twilight had reserved them an Escape Room so that they can build on their teamwork and puzzle solving skills. You know. Just in case…
We cut back and forth between the two stories as the episode goes on of which this is certainly the weaker one, but I’ll get more into that soon enough. For now, the most important thing is that we now know this is a DAY trip instead of an overnight or weekend thing which means that Starlight has a pretty oppressive ticking clock weighing over her head that Trixie is doing very little to alleviate. The two of them are going through all of Ponyville to wherever Trixie thinks she MIGHT have sent the table to and each location is basically another place for her to grab more snacks or to ogle expensive jewelry. Starlight meanwhile is still unable to deal with her anger directly, so she keeps stuffing more and more anger into her bottle which will certainly blow at some point if they don’t find the freaking map/table thingy. It gets to the point where Starlight’s exhaustion with the whole situation becomes apparent even to Trixie who’s still oblivious to her own involvement in this, and the two end up having a small tussle over it which leads to the bottle flying out of her bag and smashing in front of a few secondary characters; filling them with Starlight’s hate, and… possessing them I guess?
Unfortunately for Trixie who’s about to get her face ripped off by three SUPER angry ponies, Starlight is completely out of energy now and can’t do anything to stop them. Before we can find out if Trixie survives to fight another day, we cut back to the Mane6 storyline and I guess now is the best time to really dive into it. While I won’t go so far as to say it’s BAD… everything about this, including how its edited into the episode, feels like a missed opportunity and reflects many problems I sometimes have with the show that I think the Trixie/Starlight friendship tries to rectify. There’s just no conflict or even that much humor to what they’re doing inside the Escape Room, so it fails to be of any interest as a standalone subplot. Everyone is happy and they’re getting along exactly as you’d expect them to with the only source of any tension coming from Rainbow Dash who wants them to break the record for fastest team to complete the puzzle, but even THAT’S barely even an issue. They writers don’t even have anything to say about adapting an Escape Room to the land of Equestria with the closest thing approaching some sort of satire or insight being the somewhat disinterested employee monitoring their progress. Imagine what they COULD have done if this was the focus of the episode where they all start arguing with each other over how to solve the puzzles? Heck, that might have even worked as a subplot here to complement the Starlight/Trixie story with Starlight assuming that the Mane6 doesn’t have to deal with petty stuff like this since they’re so experienced at being friends. Now that said, it seems clear that that was never the intent for this part of the episode (as interesting as that would have been) and it’s simply here to provide a contrast between Starlight’s situation and one where friends are better able to communicate. I find that to be a much less interesting way for the story to go, but fine. Does it at least do THAT well? Kind of, I guess? The cutaways from Starlight losing her mind to Twilight and her friends having a great time do a decent job of presenting that contrast, and these scenes are short enough that they don’t interrupt the flow of the episode… until this point. Once Trixie becomes the target for Starlight’s rage zombies, we not only interrupt the flow by cutting back to the Mane6, but they also squeeze in a song for no reason which stops the episode dead in its tracks. This song, which isn’t helped by its awkward placement in the middle of a much better story, is kind of the perfect example of everything that many people perceive to be wrong with the show. The message of the song is superficial (friendship is AWESOME!!), the lyrics are rather inane, and the visual metaphors just feel lazy. This is everything that Friendship is Magic tries NOT to be as it’s a show aimed at a rather young audience that actually tries to engage them rather than talk down to them, but here it feels like everyone was on auto-pilot and were just trying to fill time.
The only moment of self-awareness here is that the time it took them to sing the song was just long enough to make them lose out on the record as they didn’t finish the Escape Room puzzle until right after it. It still doesn’t have much impact as the characters seem to barely care (apart from Rainbow Dash), but at least it’s SOMETHING that points out the absurdity of this little aside. Now we can go back to the more interesting story which involves Trixie dodging punches, kicks, and even food carts that are being thrown her way! Eventually Starlight manages to recover just enough energy to take all that magic anger back from those ponies and finally tells Trixie just how peeved she is about this entire day. Everything about this scene is perfect as Starlight finally tells her to check herself before she wrecks herself, and Trixie in turn assures Starlight that it’ll take more than some harsh criticism to get rid of her. See, this is how REAL friends act, and while the Mane6 have had moments like this in previous episodes, in this one they come off more as a facsimile when compared to these two. Trixie not only accepts Starlight for her flaws, but thinks those parts of her are just as awesome as everything else that makes her who she is!
Now that everyone has learned their lesson, the plot can kick back into gear and Trixie JUST SO HAPPENS to remember where she teleported the Cutie Map! It turns out she was thinking of the Ponyville Spa at the time because that is where they first met, so they head over there, somehow magic it back to Twilight’s Doom Fortress (presumably Starlight did it this time), and put it back in place just as the Mane6 walk through the door; none the wiser that anything suspicious had happened! And so the episode ends with the two bests friends in all of Equestria getting away with their screw up and already planning what dastardly misdeed they try to get away with next!
Other than possibly doing a Luna/Celestia episode, there’s nothing I want to see more from this series than Starlight and Trixie’s ongoing friendship, and this episode shows us once again why their dynamic is so compelling to watch. The show does a very good job of trying not to feel too predictable by mixing things up on a regular basis and indulging in several different genres, but there are times where the character interactions can feel a bit stale and one-dimensional due to how well everyone seems to get along. This is absolutely not the case with these two as they bicker, get in each other’s way, and take one another for granted, yet still remain great friends; not just despite their differences, but BECAUSE of them as they understand where the other is coming from. Both of them have done bad things in their past and are apologetic for it, but they also understand the bigger picture that got them to that point and have that kind of connection that simply can’t be forged with those who have ALWAYS been good and essentially try to see them now as REFORMED rather than a complex mixture of both their past choices and current circumstances. To me, this kind of friendship is much more compelling than whatever it was we got in the subplot with Twilight and her friends which SEEMS like it might have been satirical, but never really went far enough with the joke to come across as anything but sincerely bland, and it drags the episode down whenever it shows up. Because of that, I’d say that this episode is more FLAWED than Celestial Advice, but I absolutely enjoyed this one more and it will probably be one of my favorites of the season depending on how much more of these two we get to see going forward. That or you can just give them a spin-off! Heck, I’ll even take a four issue story arc in the comics all about their misadventures! Who do I need to call to make that happen!?