My Little Pony Friendship is Magic S3 Ep3: Too Many Pinkie Pies

This week’s MLP is among the funniest episodes of the show, and one of the tightest in terms of pacing and presentation, which makes it top tier for me. As much as I enjoyed the premiere, this episode is the more brilliant kick-off of the new season.

What makes it so tight? The concept is nothing new to cartoons—Pinkie Pie clones herself a bunch of times, quickly realizes why this was a bad idea, and then it’s up to her friends to figure out which one is the real Pinkie and destroy the fakes. It’s been done many times, including on Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends, which was another Lauren Faust show (though I realize she’s no longer involved in MLP).

This episode succeeds because Pinkie Pie is the perfect character to have this happen to. It’s hardly surprising that she’d come up with the plan to clone herself, and it’s hard to doubt that she could do it. The idea even works as a character exploration, because Pinkie initiates this whole plan out of her inability to make choices. The result is exactly what the viewer expects from having too many Pinkie Pies, and rather than dwell on the chaos of the situation, the fun comes more from Pinkie’s one-of-a-kind reaction (doubting if she even is the real Pinkie Pie), and the reaction of her friends.

Over-arching statements out of the way, I feel the need to run through this episode chronologically and point out all the totally neat stuff in it.

It opens with Twilight training in magic. Whether or not this is involved in her new studies is unknown, but it certainly sounds like an advanced spell. Twilight is trying to turn an apple into an orange, but as we soon learn, her ability is actually, “turning things into oranges.” Most amazing, though, is that the two things which she turns into oranges in the episode are living creatures. This does not kill them, though. A bird turns into an orange with wings, and a frog turns into an orange with limbs, and when it croaks the orange splits open like a mouth. That this doesn’t stand out as the most bizarre moment in the episode is a testament to how much goes on in it.

We don’t need to spend much time thinking about this to realize the implications. The oranges are now sentient creatures, presumably living out the lives of a bird and a frog, only now they’re oranges. They never get changed back, so these things are just running around in the wild. I wonder if Fluttershy can still talk to them, maybe help them get their lives together. Does the frog orange still have a tongue to catch flies? Can they spawn?

These transformations actually fit in with the Pinkie Pie cloning theme, since both are about fucking around with transforming creatures and shit. The animals being transformed and never turned back reminds me of how the new Pinkie Pies are brutally destroyed in an instant later on.

Before I continue to the next scene, let me stop to say what I always say: the attention to detail in this show is insane. I can’t possibly get into every single noteworthy piece of animation and scene in the episode, because it’s a constant flood of greatness. This is why I spend so much time on the MLP reddit, just basking in every little moment of the episode with everyone, taking it apart .gif by .jpeg. But you should know all of this—that’s why you’re watching the show. ISN’T IT GREAT?!?!

So anyway, Pinkie Pie is presented with a choice. We’ve seen plenty of choice-making throughout the show. Twilight wracked her brain trying to decide who to give her Gala tickets to in The Ticket Master; Rainbow Dash spent a whole episode making up her mind about what pet to choose in May the Best Pet Win, etc.

Pinkie Pie doesn’t bother giving the choices any thought, or even consider the idea of “making a decision.” She wants to do EVERYTHING, and funnily enough, this character flaw is never resolved. She writes to Princess Celestia that it’s important to make choices, and resolves to do so, but at the end of the episode, when confronted with a choice, Pinkie just says, “fuck it I’m tired,” and goes to bed. This is one more way in which I relate to Pinkie. I can’t ever make decisions, so I end up sleeping all day.

Actually, I relate to Pinkie’s initial solution as well, which is attempting to do everything by way of pushing herself to the physical limit of possibility. I love that Pinkie’s vision of how she’ll manage to be in two places at once is like a classic cartoon two-timing scenario, similar to how Rarity handled being at two parties in Sweet and Elite.

Now, skipping forward a bit, onto the subject of Pinkie’s clones. What they are exactly is highly questionable, but it’s clear that the clones are not quite the real Pinkie Pie. They seem to have carried over her personality and desires, but not her memories. This is displayed not just by making them mindless fun-zombies (which they almost are), but by the fact that Pinkie actually has to teach them who her friends are, and the clones can’t even get their names right.

This is interesting because Pinkie’s memory seems to be her most cherished possession. She’s got a lot of pride in her knowledge of everyone in Ponyville, and this was the entire point of A Friend in Deed. In fact, the backbone of Pinkie’s plan is that she can have her clones be in multiple places at once, and then regale Pinkie with an account of what happened to them, allowing her to experience the fun memories vicariously.

The primary difference between Pinkie and her clones is this different approach to memories and fun. Pinkie seems to view fun with her friends and the memories of said fun as the building blocks of who she is, whereas the clones just care about instant gratification and having fun in the moment. This is how Pinkie wins the “watching paint dry” gambit. She’s thinking about the future with her friends and all the fun times that are to come, while the clones are just concerned with having fun at all times.

Random Aside: At one point, Rainbow Dash remarks that she’s actually pretty tired after work and just wants to relax. It’s like she’s speaking straight to my heart…

Pinkie’s first clone is the only one who gets to talk at some length, and I think it was a brilliant idea to start with just one clone and explore enough about its personality  before unleashing the whole army and causing havoc. This clone displays enough sentience and similarity to Pinkie’s own desires to show that she has many similarities to the real Pinkie and isn’t totally mindless. I think it’s hilarious, though, that Pinkie almost immediately seems sagely calm compared to her newborn clone. One of the first things she says to the clone is, “settle down, now.”

When the clone is faced with her inability to make decisions, she has a breakdown. Here’s another way that this episode is better than it could’ve been: Pinkie herself is the one who suggests making more clones. They could’ve had the clone decide itself to go clone more Pinkie Pies, and thus the situation would’ve gotten out of hand without Pinkie’s control. Instead, Pinkie is aware of what’s going on each step of the way, which puts the weight of her decisions more squarely on her shoulders. It also shows that the clone wasn’t intelligent enough to come up with an idea like that herself. Again, I think the clones are driven by nothing but instant gratification.

After that, things get out of hand immediately when the clones decide to make a whole army of themselves, just because it seems like fun. Note again that Pinkie is aware of this, and she almost panics, but when faced with an army of herself, she can’t help but love them all and decides that this can still work out. In fact, she quickly turns it into a plan to launch an unprecedented fun operation on Ponyville.

Amusingly, if these Pinkie clones had actually carried the memories and concerns of the real Pinkie Pie, then there’s no reason this plan wouldn’t have worked. Pinkie doesn’t seem to fully grasp how different her clones are from herself, and only sees the positive possibilities of the situation. Unfortunately, the clones aren’t interested in memories of fun.

Pinkie’s ideal might’ve been spending each evening with her army of Pinkies discussing all the fun events of the day over cake at a giant round table. The clones, however, just wanna go wreck shit, and they do.

Pinkie is the first to realize that the situation is out of hand, but she has no idea what to do. She panics and becomes depressed, and this is how we are meant to know that she’s not like the other Pinkies. The idea is that she cares about her friends and feels regret for her decisions, whereas the other Pinkies don’t know or care, but the reason Pinkie feels the way she does is because of the way she thinks, as described above.

Pinkie is not aware of this. She seems to see herself in the same way that her friends do, which is as a machine that knows nothing besides fun. The only thing that she knows for sure is how badly she wants to be with her friends, and she bases her gambit around this fact. Presumably, if she lost the test, she would’ve found herself unworthy of being the real Pinkie Pie. She is afraid of her potential to fail, but suggests the test anyways.

Hilarity soon follows. Spike locates the deus ex bookina and Twilight knows that she can send the Pinkies back to the pond, but there’s the potential to send back the real one. We won’t say anything about the fact that Twilight apparently has the ability to instantly vaporize anypony and trap them in an underground pond.

When faced with the prospect of determining which Pinkie is the real one, Twilight instantly gives up. Her friends, more terrified than they were of Parasprites and a dragon, have gone into hiding, “until the Pinkie storm dies down.” (Best line ever.)

When faced with the real Pinkie, who is sitting around depressed, Twilight is unconvinced, stating that the real Pinkie has never sat still for so long in her life. It’s understandable that Twilight wouldn’t immediately assume that the one Pinkie doing something different is the real one, since the properties of these Pinkie clones are totally unknown. Presumably, given enough time to study them, Twilight could’ve reached a conclusion, although it’s also possible that the stress would’ve driven her insane and caused some kind of reckless Pinkie genocide. Thankfully the real Pinkie comes up with the paint drying gambit.

The presentation of the paint-drying scene is nothing short of brilliant. It leaves just enough ambiguity to raise the possibility of the wrong Pinkie having survived. We don’t see exactly where Rainbow deposits the real Pinkie in the crowd—but it does look to be around the same general area that the last Pinkie ends up sitting. It’s not that it looks like the wrong Pinkie survived, nor is it likely, but there’s *just* enough ambiguity to leave it up to the viewer’s faith in Pinkie to decide if the right one survived.

Her friends have enough faith to believe that they made the right choice, and most viewers will have no real doubts about it. The point is that they didn’t make it easy. We don’t believe that the real Pinkie survived because we saw where she was sitting, we believe it because we trust that the real Pinkie is the one who cares about her friends and isn’t just a mindless fun-seeking machine. That’s what makes the resolution so satisfying and cool.

Two more weeks till Trixie returns. More Trixie THAN MY BODY HAS ROOM FOR.

8 thoughts on “My Little Pony Friendship is Magic S3 Ep3: Too Many Pinkie Pies

  1. one of the tightest

    God, yeah. More so ‘n a loli’s…hell, I’m supposed to be finished with those jokes.

    Loved this ep, and your post. The humor was on a different level. Unreal.

    I think the Report challenges itself here, too. Like you said, a focal element of the plot is that the duplicates view fun in this equidistant, self-absorbed sense; it’s all the same to them, sort of (though if something seems slightly cooler, they’ll gravitate toward that). Pinkie’s Report suggests, “You’ll make memories, anyway, so no worries!” Subtle undermining, but a sort that rings remarkably true.

    Her memories, understandably, are what she prizes most; she really seems to believe she has no other “friendship assets.” Pinkie’s unfortunate habit is “imagining” what’s fun for others. Off in her own world, she assumes everyone loves her antics; something we viewers constantly doubt. Sure, they tolerate and care about her, but they don’t exactly enjoy her tendencies.

    Which is a fact of life.

    The uncomfortable truth is that we can manipulate/obsess over memories, in much the same way that we do over what people might call “fun opportunities.” We “build” and “reconstruct” fun, for relative good or ill, in a sort of self-centered sense. Here’s an example: my gran and I have always been cool. But when I visit these days, we barely talk—and it works for us. There’s TV-watching together; she might suddenly nap for a minute, then suddenly wake up and be like, “Hold on—lemme ask you a question.” It’s a little weird, I guess; but I like her, and well…she’s old. There’s that, too.

    The fraying of the idea, right? Among other things, one’s perception of fun involves drive for personal memory-making (one way or another reflected upon the self), plus faith. FiM doesn’t forget to point out the faith part. Unlike Twilight, Pinkie already knows how to seek out pleasure, and how to assert herself. Absurdly, she’s even given cosmic power (I really only mean, vague power to break the rules of limitation). But here, she gets a chance to evaluate her ties to her friends: they’re tightened by the presence of many memories, but ultimately dependent on personal faith, not the inevitability of “events” or “chances.”

    Ever heard Trixie in French? So classy.

    • I love French Trixie. Her voice is even tolerable in that language.

      My dad considers watching TV with people to be “spending time with them.” And this isn’t to make them happy—this is what he values about being home. Just having people float in and out of the room with the TV on is his idea of time spent together. He always shushes people instinctively because he gets so into what he watches, so we don’t end up talking much, and when we do, he railroads with epic speeches that often I can flip on their head, if I’d just get a chance. I’ve got nothing at all against my dad, though. Love him to death.

  2. Pingback: Digibro’s Media Journal (November 2012) | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

  3. Was I the only one that thought the entire mechanism for divining the true Pinkie Pie was incredibly weak? Other than the fact that it plays off of an extremely cheap joke that really isn’t funny, does it really have a place in the story? Was there some dramatic buildup or foreshadowing which was meant to lead us here that I missed? My own lack of ability to pay attention to detail aside, there’s the fact that this incredibly shallow plan of theirs was the first thing everyone jumped to. From a completely logical standpoint, there’s no reason to assume the true Pinkie Pie could be found using this method, her personality is almost entirely opposed to this working correctly. In fact, this methodology appears so poor to me that it makes it almost a mathematical guarantee that the real Pinkie Pie won’t be found. This really isn’t a real method for finding the real Pinkie, it’s a method for finding one Pinkie, or even the best Pinkie.

    This of course raises the question: is the real Pinkie the best Pinkie? Which I guess is debatable in the context of this one episode. You raise good points about the quality level of the Pinkie clones, and I could see arguments working here on either side of the issue. Though the better question raised here is this one: Is the real Pinkie the best Pinkie at accomplishing this task? That said I think the rest of the show, in its entirety, pretty much paints the real Pinkie Pie as being the last pony capable of accomplishing such a task. The stakes don’t seem to factor into it either, we’ve seen Pinkie lose her focus on pretty much everything at one point or another regardless of how important Pinkie thinks a task to be. She is purposefully written as the most bubbly and random character in the show, and assuming she can watch paint dry is difficult for us to do considering how amazingly out of character that would be for her.

    In fact, all of the ponies are out of character here, to the point of being cold. None of them can identify the real Pinkie despite how amazingly obvious she was, and Rainbow Dash seems to be the most cruel in this regard. The way she just casually drops the real Pinkie Pie into the sea of her clearly different counterparts as if she were just another leaf in the pile was exceptionally cold for a character focused around loyalty. Further, Twilight’s willingness to be judge,jury, and executioner was appalling regardless of the true fates of the clones. Overall the vibe this episode gives off leads towards elimination. It was almost as if the main six had finally had enough of Pinkie and were purposefully getting rid of her, replacing her with one of her more tame clones as need be. “Spike you’re the new Rainbow Dash” anyone? There’s no overtly conclusive or final methodology to prove the remaining Pinkie is the real Pinkie. All the ponies appeared much more relieved about the fact that there was only one Pinkie left over and didn’t seem to care about whether the final Pinkie was truly the real one.

    The resolution here is left open, as you said, but not to its benefit. This episode comes across as unbelievably dark, promoting a strategy that claims; any means to an ends is acceptable. It also seems to encourage blindly making difficult decisions, treating sentient creatures like fodder of the cannon variety, and having a strict disregard for the importance of friendship as long as you aren’t being personally annoyed anymore. All of which is wrapped up, poorly, and loosely tied up under the guise of being about Pinkie overcoming her shortcomings for the sake of her friends.

    Maybe it’s just me, but this episode started out making me laugh and ended up leaving me oh so slightly horrified. It’s easily my least favorite episode out of the entire show, and strikes me as a deeply disturbing outlier in an otherwise mostly cheerful and colorful series. The dystopian overtones, dramatic pacing shift, cold character logic, and unsettling conclusion made this episode both unsatisfying and offputting to me.

    I really haven’t had even the slightest desire to look at it again since it came out, and it honestly surprised me that you thought so much of this particular episode. In fact it really surprised me that almost everyone thought so much about this particular episode. Though, I do tend to approach these things like a young kid approaches free ice cream, which is to say, with reckless abandon. So maybe my rampant desire to watch a new episode blinded me to a few cripplingly important details that allowed me to totally and utterly misread what was going on.

    So, I guess this all boils down to being a question: Did I miss something here? Is this nowhere near as dark as I thought it was on first look?

    Also PS: This may not be the right spot to post this, and if that’s true then I apologize. I just couldn’t fit even the bare minimum of my thoughts into the comment box on YouTube. I do love your videos though, and I like how much thought you put into them in general. This may sound weird but I never even thought to put a lot of actual thought into analyzing MLP episodes until fairly recently, I tend to just watch the show to enjoy the ride. So I thought I’d start with one where I tend to have the strongest minority opinion in comparison to the rest of the pony fandom, just so I can be sure I have my facts straight if nothing else.

  4. (I know this thread is dead but not like… three years dead so I’m going to comment anyway)

    You suggested that Pinkie didn’t learn the lesson of how to make reasoned decisions because she goes home for a nap at the end instead of picking one of her friends’ activities. I think you’re missing a nuance; her choosing to opt-out of friend activities for once and do something by herself and for herself is actually a huge breakthrough. The lesson isn’t “how to make reasoned decisions”, it’s how to prioritize choices without feeling guilty or anxious.

    Pinkie Pie had hilariously massive FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out): she literally cloned herself so she never had to prioritize one friend or activity over any other. This is obviously unsustainable and identity-effacing: the distracted and uninformed Pinky clones are a pretty good visual metaphor for ‘being spread too thin’, and it’s hard to ground yourself or define yourself if you’re always outwardly focused.

    But she comes up with an elegant solution for finding herself again, which is forcing herself to focus on a goal that’s in line with her most deeply held values. If she can soldier on through an unpleasant task, then she’ll solidify her identity and also be able to be with her friends in the future. That’s not decision-making, that’s prioritizing. She judges which of the options explicitly presented (and not explicitly presented, but nevertheless implied- Rainbow Dash mentioning that she just wanted to relax after working hard might actually be significant here!) is most in keeping with her goal of having fun with her friends. If she’s tired when she hangs out with her friends, she’s not going to be having as much fun as when she’s hanging out with them fully rested.

    Basically, I strongly identify with Pinkie Pie and I think that the “how to prioritize” lesson is super-important for anyone who’s ever had FOMO or habitually puts ‘self-care’ super-low on their to-do list.

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