FiMpressions: Over a Barrel

The MLP episode “Over a Barrel” has some awesome dialog and one-liners, but the overall premise and lack of logic in our main cast’s actions leads to a conflict that feels forced and, at times, contrived.

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9 thoughts on “FiMpressions: Over a Barrel

  1. Everything you say here is precisely true, and you’ve perfectly summed up this episode. This episode is Polsky not quite getting the gist of the show. This episode for me is the “guilty pleasure” episode–It should be among the worst based on the *really* sloppy characterization, but secretly I love it and watch it all the time when nopony’s looking because it is absolutely hilarious. I submit that the entire train sequence is the funniest bit in the entire series, and one of the neater-looking when the lights go out.. The pinkie pie scandal you identify is funny in a cruel, akward way that, while being quite funny, is also totally out of place in equestria.

    To me, the real tragedy is that this could have been a totally epic 2-parter/tv movie-special-thing: I actually really like the concept behind all of the new characters, and their conflict, if handled a little differently (ie: properly) could have carried easily a longer format

  2. BC, I’m adding you to my blogroll, for ease’s sake if you don’t mind. I’d like to say I’d watch the Blip videos a lot, but I generally don’t watch many vids. I’ll watch each once at least, though, to put money in the pot or whatevs. Written stuff works well for me, in case you’re considering keeping this up.

    I’m really with you here, although I would stop short of the added suggestion that “Polsky didn’t get the gist.” We’d then have to say he never has. Break down “Too Many Pinkie Pies” and the phil is ridiculous—it really seems to come together—but it doesn’t follow the familiar model. Obviously the writers have significantly-greater-than-usual control over their texts in this show than they generally would in other shows, or say, anime. Polsky just has a different painting style, one less inclined to the style of characterization we recognize in many other episodes. He likes to see where things take him, he likes to explore, and be dark. He’s given leeway to do this. Sometimes his conceptual permutations work. Sometimes they don’t.

    It makes one wonder what this show “should” be. Seems there’s no real answer, but the different styles show (are in a little bit of tension) that maybe episodes can be understood more discretely. Each ep would be its own literary project, and this would possibly soften the harshness of continuity and characterization “errors” or accusations. That’s the reading that I tend to find most interesting, though I don’t get too much into comparing writers.

    Like you suggested, the main problem here (and I tend to think that no episode beyond, like, “Suited for Success,” is sublime in terms of rigorous demand for sharp, precise, meaningful characterization) is that Polsky’s style utilizes odd (possibly off-putting, for some) fluctuation. That’s why I’m so fond of your take on the weaknesses here. The constant gap between realism and cartoon, I concluded in my write-up, was all about irony. He’s trying to create a train crash, here, undermine your knowledge, get you to judge rashly, show that situations can—even comically—rush out of control (hence, of course, the title). If things get bad enough, it might take eucatastrophe to save you (which means, yeah, chances are you’re done for, so don’t be unwise or a fool, because change is part of reality and you have to be a dependable leader).

    But if he’s doing all this, how to balance with seriousness that isn’t mistaken for callous representation or caricature (I don’t buy those claims, because it’s obvious the bison don’t care about stuff that actual Plains Indians did, and the borrowing is from a genre)? I’m stumped. I think the suggestion might be for him to have gotten the audience more active in the reading of the plot as it goes on. Keep in mind what we know and don’t know, that the talk with the chieftain goes on for so long that the others fall asleep; it’s only after everyone puts in their own two cents that she wildly (maybe slightly embarrassedly, for still having trouble with the grudge, but let’s not extrapolate) “gives in.” There’s no such situation at Appleoosa, until the stampede is declared. actually happens. She made a mistake, a stupid, awful one.

    The Pinkie Pie thing was a massive form of irony, and kinda dense. You catch the shell thing, and the fact that she was held up by other people? Birth of Venus.

    So the ep’s really weird, different, and genuinely hard to care about depending on what matters to you. Basically, Polsky took everything we cared about, tweaked and questioned it, and said, “Watch yourselves.” Even the Friendship Report and it’s presentation are undermined. It’s heavily concept-based, which actually isn’t my cup of tea, either. Yikes.

    Is this your first WordPress blog? If so, glad to see you using this, too—if even for disappointing reasons.

    • I’d say Bridle Gossip was probably a better showing. I think the humor was a bit more consistent in that episode, and Apple Bloom, the most sympathetic character, had enough screen time relative to her thematic importance.

      Plus Zecora. I mean…come on…

      • I personally found Bridle Gossip to be worse, since Bridle Gossip was quite clumsy in it’s storytelling and, after the initial amusement at the concept presented (This was the second episode of the show that I had watched at the time, so I was still looking at it as a “girl’s show” when I started watching the show.), the only thing that I found funny was Flutterguy, though I still question why they decided on a deep voice as what would happen to Fluttershy after the poison yoke.

  3. Also, the conflict in Boast Busters would not only be resolved, but virtually non existent if mane six didn’t act so incompetent in THAT episode, yet you were not negative towards Boast Busters. So what is the difference here.

    • I think it’s because Boast Busters had one moment of character break, right in the beginning, and that was it. There weren’t moments continually throughout the episode that kept preventing things from moving forward. Once the opening scene is over we don’t really even see the Mane 6 at all anymore, the episode is dedicated to asking the question of what Trixie’s deal is, and reinforcing how her and Twilight are foils. The conflict, being a person vs self, is much smaller in scope, and as a result is much more focused. Sure, not a lot of flashy things happen in Boast Busters, but everything that does happen goes towards working up to the climax of the conflict. Whether it be exploring Trixie’s arrogance, showcasing how dense Snips and Snails are, or painting how meek Twilight is concerning showcasing her skills, they all serve to make the ending scene when Trixe’s persona breaks and Twilight steps up all the more potent.

      • The “moments continually throughout the episode that kept preventing things from moving forward” in Over A Barrel didn’t come into play until Applejack and Rainbow started fighting, and, even then, that didn’t happen until more than halfway into the episode. I do think that AJ and Rainbow were miscast as the two members bickering and I feel that it should’ve gone to the sheriff and Chief Thunderhooves, but still.

  4. There’s a lot here I really agree with. The night time train scene is one of the most “genuine” bits of the entire show to date, and I’m a huge sucker for stuff feeling genuine even in the midst of magic and mayhem. But, overall, that scene is a diamond in the rough. This is either my second or third least favorite episode of the season.

    I’m slightly surprised you didn’t mention Rainbow Dash’s mostly pointless concussion. It’s like, a reason was needed for Rainbow Dash to not just fly after the buffalo immediately, but then she kept having the woozies afterward as if it was foreshadowing or somehow important. It could have been a quick throwaway gag with her wobbling and seeing things floating around her head indicating she was too dazed in the moment to chase, and then she’d recover just before the commercial break: too late (by cartoon logic) to fly after them, but in time for the scene ending to have that “dire straits” feel they were shooting for. Instead, we got that ongoing concussion with no payoff (AND she flew after the buffalo during the commercial break, anyway!). Dave Polsky does the same thing in Too Many Pinkie Pies with the clones oddly saying names wrong without that plot point coming to any kind of fruition. Maybe just… too many ideas in the basket?

    (Incoming “argument” that is probably just apologist head-canon.) But, to defend one part of Over a Barrel a tiny bit, I don’t think Pinkie is actually being stupid when she pops up in the third act and re-performs: it’s her thinking everyone ELSE is being stupid and not listening. In HER mind, the lesson she’s providing in her song is pretty cut and dry, obvious and clear, and if they would just hear it then everything would be fine. Think back to Swarm of the Century, where she knows what to do and doesn’t take the time to use the words to quite explain herself fully, and things go awry.

    Well, here it’s the same thing: if everyone would just stop and listen, her song is actually all they need to take to heart. So, she’d think that if she just tries one more time hopefully everyone will finally absorb her teachings. And it’s definitely not like Pinkie Pie to think that anyone will actually get UPSET with her or get angry because of her singing and dancing. The last thing someone like Pinkie would want is to make people angry or to dislike her. Heck, with just a few extra lines in the script (inspired by Friend in Deed), her re-performance could be written as if she was trying to make Sheriff Silverstar and Chief Thunderhooves realize that she’s actually a super-talented and funfunfun pony to be around and she sang a song for them so why aren’t they friends with her and each other yet?!

    Obviously, this basically just head-canon, fed by events and characterizations in other episodes and a general “this is who Pinkie Pie is” kind of gut feeling after living and breathing this show for years. Nothing was actually on the screen in this episode to back up my thoughts, not really. But you have to admit, if there had been a “if they would only just listen! I have to try!” scenelet before her song and dance routine, it would mesh…

    Ooorrrrr, I’m giving Mr. Polsky too much credit for what is just a throwaway gag in an episode full of them. 😀

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