Games Ponies Play is a really mediocre episode of MLP, sprinkled with the kind of gold nuggets that the show is usually good for and, I suspect, wouldn’t hold up under episodes of this quality without.
Even though the plot was’t remotely engaging, I still smiled and laughed through most of the episode because the show is almost predisposed to providing great character-based comedy. The ongoing joke about Rainbow Dash’s childhood disappointment is good, and some of Pinkie Pie’s jokes are really good, though also some of them are stupid as shit. The scene wherein this season’s mane five put on a cheer is excellent and very well animated, though other parts of the episodes feature awkward animation and weird camera angles.
That comment about the mane five, by the way, was out of spite for this STILL not being a FUCKING Rarity episode. A thirteen-episode season, and we got TWO fucking Spike episodes, but no Rarity episode. At least Rarity already has two of the best episodes of the show, so she’s still in a better boat than Applejack.
The biggest problem with this episode is that the plot is fundamentally uninteresting and poorly done. The stakes are set up that if the games inspector doesn’t like what she sees, then the Crystal Empire won’t get to host the Equestria games. But the games inspector ends up relegated to a practically nonexistent role, while we instead follow some other random mare whom the ponies mistake for the games inspector and give a tour instead.
The only source of tension, then, is that we know they’ve got the wrong pony. The minute we saw the inspector on the platform, that bit of tension was established, but the entire time they’re giving a tour to the wrong pony, the tension isn’t expanded on at all. What was even the point of this plot thread? What did it add to the episode?
Even the tension over Rarity not being able to get Cadence’s hair right is botched because there’s never any close call with the inspector seeing it all wrong. It was just a way to tie up Cadence for the rest of the episode, and it resulted in also taking Rarity out of the group antics as well, cementing her into a season-long role of being largely inconsequential.
The resolution of the episode is incomprehensible. Harshwhinney claims that she’s now heard an unbiased opinion of the place, which makes no fucking sense, because in reality, she was the one receiving unbiased treatment. She’s admitting that her judgement of what town is deserving is based on how well they can pamper her, considering that the way the town treated what it thought was a regular-ass visitor was actually terrible.
So yeah, the plot is basically Swiss cheese, and impossible to care about. Nevertheless, Dave Polsky works in some of his unique brand of fun dialog. This episode isn’t going to make anyone start liking Polsky, nor make me feel good about defending his episodes in the past, but at least he gave me a reference to Neo-Gothic architecture out of nowhere. Also, Rarity said auspicious, which my fifteen year-old brother had to ask me the meaning of.
No but really, there’s genuinely excellent parts of this episode that deserve to be looked at.
Most prominent among these is the sub-plot of Princess Cadence teaching Twilight how to calm herself down. I adore that this entire sub-plot unfolded wordlessly throughout the episode. First, Cadence shows Twilight the technique, and Twilight picks up on its purpose just by feeling it. Twilight sees Cadence use it to calm herself when she gets the bad news, and is intrigued at the sight of it.
Twilight actually uses this technique to calm herself at all of the points where we’d expect her to start yelling in an ordinary episode. This is a brilliant use of her character, and the scene where she starts basically hyperventilating the technique is hilarious. It even ties in well with Just For Sidekicks, because when I watched that episode, I thought it was strange that Twilight expected Spike to have done a great job, even though she’d been suspicious about him. This episode reveals that she was only expecting as much because of her new found calming technique.
While I’m on the subject of subtle characterization, I should also mention how the unnamed earth pony is ultra-claustrophobic for some reason. Also I kept expecting that she was going to turn out to be one of the athletes or something, after watching her outrun Shining Armor’s entire track team.
And that’s about it. No, I’m joking, you know I wouldn’t have ended this video without metnioning Rainbow Dash’s PARENTS. That’s parents with an S by the way.
Now before I go for real, I know someone’s gonna ask if I’ve heard about Fighting is Magic, which I have. I will talk about it later in a video I have planned as a follow-up to the end of season three. In the meantime, check out AnY Pony’s video about the subject. And whatever you do, just keep calm and brony on.