Sunday, November 5, 2017

MLP Episode 708: Hard to Say Anything

I'll be completely honest here; I was dreading this episode before it aired, and the fact that Legend of Everfree had similar themes didn't really improve my judgement. But could Hard to Say Anything prove me wrong, and most importantly, be better than Everfree?

Well, there's quite a lot of similarities between the episode and movie, so I'll get those out of the way first before talking about the episode proper.

First of all, Big Macintosh actually has a well-defined character than just being a one-dimensional crybaby. Not only that, he is almost willing to have the Crusaders help him out, even if their methods are ridiculously over the top, and his "No love potions!" line is absolutely hilarious; it seems he still hasn't gotten over the incident with Cheerilee...!

Secondly, his crush on Sugar Belle seemingly doesn't come from nowhere. You might disagree, but think about her presence in Celestial Advice. Perhaps she and Big Mac ran into each other at some point after Starlight's party and then he showed her around Sweet Apple Acres leading to... well, I'll let you figure out the rest for yourselves. Timber just gives Sci-Twi the "I want you" look the moment they meet... because of course he does.

Which leads me onto Feather Bangs. No, I don't care for the similarities to a certain musician that shall remain nameless. To keep it short, he's a better Timber than Timber himself, and perhaps it's no irony that Vincent Tong voices him. Yes, he comes off as a horse's ass (ha!), but the ending showed genuine growth for his character, unlike the Flash and Sunset "subplot" that comes off as a pointless distraction.

The fourth comparison is the pacing; Hard to Say Anything has a simple plot that worked surprisingly well within 22 minutes. Meanwhile, Legend of Everfree, with a longer run time of 73 minutes, had a multitude of plots that either A) led to nothing, B) come out of nowhere, C) send toxic messages to an impressionable audience, or D) all of the above. (In case you hadn't noticed, the answer to the Flash and Sunset "subplot" is D.) Because of the ten or so subplots taking place at once in Everfree, they're all thrown into a blender to the point you don't know what the main plot is supposed to be. Also, the cold open to Hard to Say Anything is a very good set up to the main conflict.

Lastly, there's the themes. Those in Everfree were either non-existent or send toxic messages. Meanwhile, Hard to Say Anything showed that there was a difference between fantasy and reality, which is something a lot of people - kids especially - can relate to.

That being said, it does reveal a huge problem with the Equestria Girls series as of late; the themes it displays are far too idealistic, cuddly, and just come off as shallow. Case in point, what's ironically titled Good Vibes. I get the message it wants to show, but it's made obvious within the first thirty seconds with its lyrics and the over-reliance of "good deeds" being done. On top of that, it's way too broad and may come off as slightly toxic. Doing good deeds for someone doesn't always mean you'll be rewarded; there's this theory called reward and punishment, something that the writers will gleefully ignore and would rather sugarcoat their "themes".

Oh, and did I mention that the "relationship" between Flash and Sunset needs to die a sad, pitiful, lonely death?

Back to the episode proper, and what else does it do on its own merits? Well, there's the relationship between Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh continuing the development from Brotherhooves Social. It's really nice to see them bond after all this time, and his expressions are funny. Well, except for when he tries to kiss Sugar Belle whilst she's sleeping. Not so funny.

Which brings me, awkwardly, to the song. It starts off okay, but then it starts to go over the top bad. That said, it may be what they were going for, and it gets the message across not just to Big Mac, but the Crusaders as well that they screwed up, so it wasn't entirely pointless.

And now, I get to what I wanted to talk about most in regards to the episode (and the show in general, in fact) - romance. Like bad guy redemptions, writing for romance in MLP is a two-edged sword; yes, it's a nice idea to try and add a few subtle mature themes (or at least, as subtle as you can get) in the show, but you have to consider that there are fans out there who aren't a fan of romance being in the show. There's a reason the show is called Friendship is Magic.

Also, if you do end up creating a pairing that fans were not hoping for - especially if it involves a new character - that may lead to, at worst, the character getting crap piled on them by the fans or, at best, outright shipping wars. Why do you think Flash became an outright butt monkey from Friendship Games onward, especially when he did nothing wrong, of his own volition?

Much as I'm a FlutterMac shipper, I'll say this outright when it comes to him being with either Cheerilee or (as of this episode) Sugar Belle. I, frankly, don't care about this whiny "NOT WHAT I WANTED" crap. And I know some of you out there are gonna comment that, as a TwiSentry defender, I'm being hypocritical in my statements, so let me explain.

When Twilight (that is, Princess Twilight, not that whiny bespectacled brat) first runs into Flash, he simply helps her up and moves on to whatever he was planning; they just interact like strangers and that's very much it. Later, she bumps into him again at the cafe, and he shrugs it off like it's no big deal, but it's when Twilight gets framed for wrecking the gymnasium that he proves himself worthy of being her date by proving she's innocent. (Try topping that, you green-haired loser! What have you done to prove yourself worthy of "your" Twilight?)

And then in the next film, Flash is wondering about Twilight's presence, implying that his feelings for her have grown a little more and vice-verse. My point here is that even though the romance between Princess Twilight and Flash is obvious, it's handled with subtlety and it's just an innocent crush. Between Sci-Twi and Timber, meanwhile, there was no subtlety or innocence; it just happened for no reason other than to serve as a distraction from their respective problems.

On top of that, Timber could've ended up in jail for his reckless behavior. Think about it; he knew what Gloriosa was doing was stupid, and yet he chose to sweep it under the rug whenever Sci-Twi is around him (she even does the same with the issue with Midnight Sparkle). Seriously, he's supposed to be a camp counselor, and hitting on a student younger than him makes him look extremely irresponsible. As well as that, Gloriosa could've also ended up being in jail for endangering the students.

Digression aside, the bottom line is, I'm not that bothered about Big Mac and Sugar Belle being together. Like Flash and Twilight, they started off having an innocent crush on each other (more so from his end, but still), but unlike Flash with either Twilight (sadly), they actually end up in a relationship, leaving Feather Bangs the third wheel, but I'm sure he'll find his special somepony one day.

Oh, and that Sci-Twi finally realizes how shallow Timber is...

Final Thoughts
Well, that was quite a lot to say about this episode and the things surrounding it...! Despite a couple of issues I have, I still enjoyed it, and would gladly take this over Legend of Everfree any day of the week. That being said, it does expose a genuine problem with how the actual show handles romance, so this is my advice to the writers - leave the romance to the fandom.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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