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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this episode. After the previous episode blew my mind with an amazing and hilarious appearance from our favorite master of chaos, Discord, I was skeptical that there would be an episode in the near future that I would find as whole-heartedly entertaining. Luckily Hasbro did not disappoint.
The episode starts off with Applejack explaining to Rainbow Dash that she has to come up with a Ponyville buckball team to play against her cousins in Appleloosa . Buckball, as we find out, is a rather obscure sport in Equestria that neither Rainbow Dash nor Pinkie Pie had heard of. It’s basically a type of basketball where each team consists of a earth pony on offense, a pegasus on defense, and a unicorn levitating the goal bucket.
Rainbow Dash and Applejack enlist the help of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy when they hold tryouts for the unicorn position on the team. The story takes an unexpected turn by not using either Rarity or Twilight Sparkle as the team’s unicorn, but rather Snails ends up on the team. Through tryouts Rainbow Dash and Applejack realize how gifted both Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are at buckball that they both relinquish their spots on the team to the latter two for the sake of having the best chance against Appleloosa.
Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy agree, but Rainbow Dash’s and Applejack’s competitive natures soon suck the fun out of the game for them, to the point where they quit the team. Rainbow Dash and Applejack realize it was wrong to apply their own high-pressure tactics on their friends and apologize. They rebuild Pinkie Pie’s and Fluttershy’s confidence in the game until they resume their positions on the team and beat the Appleloosians.
I particularly enjoyed the pairing of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy as the two secretly talented buckball players. Within the Mane Six I feel there are some one-to-one interactions that are done too much (like pitting Rarity and Applejack against each other) and some that are done too little. This combo of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy was a nice touch. The development of Fluttershy’s assertiveness shines through in this episode when it is she, not Pinkie Pie, that screams at the other two that they are not going to play anymore. I also liked the vulnerability that Pinkie Pie shows when stressed by the pressure. Any episode showing Pinkie Pie as more than just her typical flamboyant self is always a plus.
The moral of the story is a relatable one, where your own approach to something might not be the same as someone else’s and that doesn’t make either approach necessarily bad or good, just different. The point is that you shouldn’t try to force your own methods or ideologies onto someone else. What I’ve always loved about My Little Pony is the show’s ability to showcase a moral without sacrificing character development. I hate TV shows that try to shove a moral so deeply down your throat that all characterization goes out the window. All characters here acted appropriately for their personalities and personal stages in their development.
If I have one knit-pick for this episode, I feel that the incorporation of Snails did nothing for me. He didn’t offer the kind of comic relief that I would have expected of him when it became clear that Pinkie Pie was not going to fulfill that role for the episode. He just seemed kind of…meh. Other than that, I was satisfied.