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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Season 2, Episodes 12 & 13

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM

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Followng up last week's Equestrian history lesson, we get an unexpected look at how Ponyville came to be.

Season 2, Episode 12: "Family Appreciation Day"

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The timber wolves are a-howlin'! And the zap apples are comin'! So goes the late-night holler of Granny Smith, who by all appearances is having what some families euphemistically refer to as "an episode."

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The coming of the mysterious, once-a-year zap apples to Sweet Apple Acres is a happy time, though it comes with an increase of eccentricity from Granny Smith, who's always been a few pecks short of a bushel to begin with. But Granny Smith claims to know all the steps to zap apple harvesting and subsequent jam production, so young Apple Bloom trusts her. For now.
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Even if she's, y'know, forgetful.
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Out in the orchard, a sudden thunderstorm (not created by pegasi, unlike most weather) zaps leaves on to barren trees. It's begun!
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Meaning, obviously, it's time to dress in bunny costumes and leap over watering cans while reciting the alphabet. Apple Bloom takes this in stride, at least until her school arch-nemesis Diamond Tiara arrives with her 1 percent-er father, Filthy Rich, who's looking forward to the impending zap apple harvest and subsequent zap apple jam.
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Diamond Tiara points out just how odd Granny Smith is, planting the seeds of embarrassment in Apple Bloom.
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Those seeds sprout pretty quickly, as Apple Bloom is newly self-conscious about Granny Smith's own Tom Bombadil-like lack of self-consciousness, like skipping and singing in public (which startles Doctor Whooves, among others) ...
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... biting pots and pans, consorting with bees before buying their honey, and other acts of randomness.
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Granny Smith also thwarts Apple Bloom's desire to not be seen by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, and in the most humiliating way possible.
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In school the next day, which is the titular / weekly Family Appreciation Day, Filthy Rich's tales of his economic acumen bore everypony to death -- with one of the only exceptions being Twist, who wants to make candy for a living, and thus would logically be interested in how to build a business. (It doesn't impact the story in any way, but it's the kind of consistent character detail that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic does so well.)
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Apple Bloom is the last student on the Family Appreciation Day list -- alphabetical privilege isn't an issue in a pictographic society -- and she tries to get a postponement, 'cuz next Monday is the zap apple harvest day, so Applejack and Big Mac won't be able to make it, meaning nopony from her family is available. But much to Apple Bloom's mortification, Diamond Tiara has a solution.
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On Sweet Apple Acres, after the zap apple flowers bloom, Applejack reiterates that no, she can't come to speak at school on Monday, but Granny Smith will do just fine.
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As the zap apples continue to develop, and Granny Smith continues to do very strange things, like speaking to empty jars like military recruits ...
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... and painting pink polka dots in the kitchen ...
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... while the Cutie Mark Crusaders devise increasingly slapsticky plans to keep Granny Smith from coming to Family Appreciation Day. None of them work, not even a less violent version of "Candygram for Mongo!", though it's a nice spin on the "series of painful misadventures" format that works so well with the Crusaders without it actually being about them trying to get their cutie marks.

And the zap apples themselves finally appear, reminiscent (but not litigiously so) of the best Apple Computer logo.

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Family Appreciation Day arrives, and Apple Bloom prepares for the worst, while Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon prepare for epic lulz.
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Granny Smith begins to speak about her sepia-toned, tastefully-irised life as a filly. (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has always played with the story-within-a-story format, but the back half of Season 2 takes it to a new level.) The Smith family were pilgrim ponies -- not the Apple family, as Applejack / Apple Bloom / Big Macintosh / Granny Smith are collectively known as, because that's a whole 'nother back story.
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Seed traders, to be exact.
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They found their way to the still-developing Canterlot ...
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... where their wares caught the attention of Princess Celestia.
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Celestia saw that the wandering pilgrims were growing tired of their wandering ...
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... and granted them an unsettled patch of land next to the Everfree Forest.
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They built a homestead and planted their crops, but they were low on food in the short term.
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Showing a certain fearlessness about the Everfree Forest that her granddaughter Apple Bloom would also exhibit, Filly Smith entered the spooky forest, reckoning that since there were animals, there had to be food.
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And indeed there was: Rainbow-colored apples ...
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... guarded by timber wolves, which she narrowly escaped (after picking the apples, of course).
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Filly Smith and her father planted the seeds, which resulted in instantaneous (regular) apple trees, solving their immediate food issues.

And as the years went on, Filly Smith began to figure out the secrets to growing the newly christened zap apples through trial and error -- like that the howling of timber wolves means the zap apples are coming, and the apples have to be harvested in one day or they'll disappear, zap! She also figured out through years of experimentation that making the profitable zap apple jam has its own set of seemingly nonsensical yet proven rules, such as being friendly to the bees, being bossy to the jars, and painting pink polka dots on the walls.

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Diamond Tiara's great-grandfather Stinking Rich started his own family dynasty by reselling the Smith family's zap apple jam ...
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... and the resulting economic prosperity resulting in the founding of a new town: Ponyville.
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Presently, the school-fillies are appropriately gobsmacked.
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The remaining story threads are tied up -- everypony learns to appreciate Granny Smith for all her weirdness, the zap apple harvest is successful, and Apple Bloom shows a knack for making the jam, though not enough of a knack to earn a cutie mark -- and, much like its immediate and spiritual predecessor "Hearth's Warming Eve," there is no Shoehorn.

For that matter, not only is ostensible series protagonist Twilight Sparkle absent, the only member of the Mane Six to appear (Applejack) is a little more than cameo. That's a sign of how confident the show has become about the world it's created, and deservedly so.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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