Sunday, August 21, 2016

Another episode wrapup

Upfront confessions and tl:dr:

1. I had some problems with this episode
2. This may be partly "my stuff" and the fact that I have trust issues.

So, this week's episode is The Return of (a) Changeling. (Was it Kevin that the fans dubbed the changeling who showed up to Cranky and Matilda's wedding? However, I'm headcanoning that this week's changeling - named Thorax* - is that very same changeling)

(* "I'm Thorax. This is my brother Cephalo, and my other brother Abdomen.")

The set-up is that Twilight can't stay away long from seeing her niece, and because she is a Professor of One (namely, GlimGlam), she can pick up and take off whenever she wants. So the episode opens on the train.

Joke sequence with Spike having disguised himself because he "doesn't want to be mobbed" by his adoring fans in the Crystal Empire. (Really, Spike? Really?)

We also see that if Starlight Glimmer ascends to Alicorn status, she will be the Princess of Snark.

But when they one is there.

As it turns out, there's fear in the Crystal Empire. A Changeling has been sighted, and so no one is quite willing to believe anypony is who he or she says he or she is. (Wouldn't there be a unicorn spell that would reveal a changeling? I mean, they can travel through TIME using a spell, for Celestia's sake....).

But Cadence (standard disclaimer: I cannot bring myself to use the Hasbro-trademarked misspelling of the word there) has a secret any good spy movie, she offers up the first part of a code (No, not "The alpaca flies at midnight") and Twilight is able to complete it. I guess this means changelings can only mimic the outer form and cannot access thoughts or memories of those they impersonate....

Anyway, it proves Twilight and friends are who they say they are.

We also see Sunburst again. He's essentially a glorified stroller here, as he is magically levitating Flurry Heart's carry-cot here. I'm hoping as she matures he at least gets to be her tutor....

Another observation: my, but the palace guard are rather....thick, aren't they? You'd think they'd want the best and brightest for that job, not guys that are essentially the Equestrian version of Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Then again, Shining Armor, even in his new-father-sleep-deprived state, looks like Einstein next to them.

(I kept expecting a "the only good Changeling is a dead Changeling" line somewhere, but then again, this is a kids' show that doesn't promote violence....)

Through a series of machinations, Spike winds off alone. And he winds up finding the Changeling. Who in fact, saves his life and claims to be a "good" changeling: he wants to share love rather than merely consume it, but because of what he is, all of the Ponies are Changelingphobic and won't give him the time of day.

So, okay. Here's the set up for (one of) the morals. It's a "don't be racist" episode effectively. I will say I think "Bridle Gossip" did it better, but then again I have very fond feelings for that episode: it was one of the first I saw (the first summer of re-runs of the show - I was doing field research but not teaching so I'd get home around noon, take a shower, and sit down and watch something while eating my peanut-butter sandwich. I happened to hit on the show one day and was at first like, "Let's see how blatant a half-hour commercial this is" but by the end of Bridle Gossip I was hooked.) Also, I think the moral there was *clearer* - Zecora was just different, nopony knew for SURE whether any of her kind were evil. It was mostly Applejack's xenophobia that got the other ponies scared....

With changelings....well, this was an invading army, a species that tried to destroy. And granted, I know, we're not supposed to be xenophobic and we have a long history of those kinds of things (I knew someone when I was growing up who grew up Japanese-American on the West Coast in the 1940s....and he was in an internment camp for a time. He was less-bitter about it than some accounts I've read, but still). But I do think it complicates the message for children to have the one you should not be prejudiced against as being a former member of an enemy army....even if he explained himself.)

Anyway. Thorax just wants to be loved, but nopony is willing to give him the time of day, because his kin pretty much tried to destroy Canterlot and ruin the royal wedding.

(And changeling larva.....ew.)

Anyway. Spike decides to give him a chance, and tells him that because he, Spike, is ponyfamous in the Crystal Empire, he can convince them to accept Thorax. But first, maybe Thorax needs to disguise his true form?

And so he does....Does he mimic an actual pony somewhere in the Crystal Empire, or make up his own OC? It seems the second.....and Spike has to do the standard cartoon "look at two unrelated things and make up an implausible name" but because this is Equestria, "Crystal Hoof" is actually an entirely plausible name for a pony, so....(And Crystal Hoof is a really cute character design, with a mock-ancient-Greek urn as his cutie mark). Crystal Hoof is passed off as an "old" friend of Spike's that nopony else had ever happened to meet....

However, Thorax has a little problem. He can't quite control himself when he gets close to love and does this freaky tongue thing that freaks out the other ponies. (I'd make a joke that I once dated a guy like that, except I actually didn't....). And so when he approaches Flurry Heart, there's so much love surrounding her, he can't control himself and winds up revealing his true form. And the other ponies freak out and assume that Spike was fooled by the changeling in the form of his pony friend.

And Spike....well, here's the secondary moral of the story. Spike doesn't stand up for Thorax, and as a result is a bad friend at that point in time. So Thorax takes off to save his own life (Presumably? I wonder what the punishment would be for something like a changeling showing up? I don't like to imagine there's anything like "death to enemies" in Equestria, though. Maybe banishment?)

Spike realizes what he did - that he lied in order to protect his pony-famous status and....

Okay. This is where "my stuff" comes in, though it's probably not JUST "my stuff," based on discussions with other former kids. I had experience as a kid growing up where a friend would not back me up on something....or where they joined in on the teasing that others were handing out....because they saw it as a way to be more popular (And okay, on a couple of occasions, I did it myself, to a kid below me in the pecking order. Kids are AWFUL.)

Another "my stuff" thing that makes the whole "make friends with the changeling" thing a little bit less clear-cut for me than the "make friends with the zebra" of "Bridle Gossip" - if my first experience with someone is negative, if they are mean to me or make some dismissive joke about me (it's happened), it's VERY hard for me to trust them, like, ever. That's the fastest way to not become my friend: on our first meeting, play a humiliating joke on me or make me feel like I'm weird. And yes, I know: we are supposed to be fast to forgive but this is one area where I really struggle with it. Oh, I can forgive someone snapping at me or even teasing me if we are ALREADY friends, because I can do the "oh, they're having an off day" thing. But if my FIRST experience with someone is "they're being a jerk to me," they've lost my trust and it's very hard for them to get that back. (That may be a strategy unpopular kids learn to protect themselves. I once had a girl pretend to be my friend solely so she could learn stuff about me she and her friends could use to tease me over later on....)

And I felt the same discomfort with "Keep Calm and Flutter On" where Fluttershy was asked to reform Discord. And I really do think it's related to the fact that I had enough experiences in my younger life that told me when someone is unpleasant on first meeting it won't get much better....fortunately Equestria is better than the human world in that aspect.

Anyway. Spike goes to apologize. Thorax is, understandably, angry, but he saves Spike's life again (I suppose that's the proof that Thorax is actually an OK guy and is not like other changelings). So eventually, after a Spike-song (his only one of the series? I don't remember another) the conclusion is that Thorax will be accepted. And that maybe, someday, he will take this knowledge to all the Changelings and reform them. And both Twilight and Starlight realize that they were kinda wrong, and that maybe even Twilight still has some stuff to learn about friendship.

(And no, I don't think this is going to come back to bite the ponies later. I don't think the universe the writers has created is that cruel....Thorax won't "turn" on them. Oh, maybe he'll mistakenly lead the changelings back and we'll have another Epic Changeling Battle (which I am assuming, based on some of the "Heroes of Equestria" toys coming out, will be a thing). But I can't see Thorax turning out to be a spy or a mole, not after he was given trust.)

(Okay. I just read the EqD followup to see if there was anything I missed I wanted to mention. "Can I Thorax you a question?" LOL. LOL. LOL.)

Also: how soon before we see Thorax plushies? Not long, I am betting.

(No, I'm not gonna make one. I already made one Critter chock full of holes and that's not something I want to do again. That said: the voice-actor gave Thorax a cute voice, and one that seems appropriate to the character.)

1 comment:

CGHill said...

That previous changeling was indeed "Kevin," though I think that was M. A. Larson's idea.