Saturday, 13 June 2015

Episode review: Slice of Life

(or, how I learned to stop caring and love the nonsense)
Yeah, I've got nothing.

You still reading? Well, here's the thing. After watching an episode, I usually know how to react to it. There have been some exceptions, but even in those cases I generally have SOME understanding of what I watched.

I have no idea what I just watched this weekend. "Slice of Life", the 100th episode, is nothing like anything else the show has given us. The closest comparison I can think of is the similarly befuddling "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3", only without that episode's connective tissue and thematic depth. Oh, this is certainly a love letter to the fans, so it's not wholly shallow, but the two episodes are saying very different sorts of things. The thing is, even if it had to be by way of gibberish, I'm really glad that this show still has the ability to surprise for a whole episode. I happen to believe that My Little Pony has started to stagnate severely in the past few years, reaching its worst in the latter half of season 4 and still not entirely escaped. "Slice of Life" is not what the show should be going forward. That's to be sure. And yet, if this is what it takes to inject some life back into the show... then I'm happy this exists.

Much of "Slice of Life" seems to be based around references to the fandom, and though that runs the risk of making the episode incomprehensible and unengaging for those who don't understand the references, quite a few of the major set pieces in this episode actually do make some sense without the fandom as context. Or, at least, they make almost as much sense without understanding the references as if you do. I think. Really, the structure of the episode is really just a string of non-sequiturs, but there's sort of an internal logic in the absence of logic. Maybe. Or maybe I'm wrong and just didn't recognize myself grinning at the references. I know for sure that I saw a few things that I wanted to see for a while.

What I do know is that this episode had a lot more energy than much of S5. I haven't had this much fun with My Little Pony since, what, early S4? I mean, if you're in the small, small group that won't get the references and won't find the energy appealing enough to sell the episode, then maybe you won't have much fun with it, but I can't imagine that audience is particularly large. I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing that should take the place of a regularly-airing MLP episode, but hey, I had more fun with it than the previous episode, so that's a plus. I'm sure kids will like it even if they don't understand the references, because it's strange and fast-paced and energetic.

Um... It has shipping hints. Lyra and Bon Bon keep saying that they're "best friends" but I think it's clear they're in love... Vinyl and Octavia share a house that they've modified enough that they clearly intend to stay there permanently, so maybe they're in love... I guess... Oh, it had Cadance! And Shining Armour! In the same room together! Something that NEVER HAPPENED in season four! Thank you, Hasbro! It's also probably the closest I'll get to a Luna/Celestia episode.

Does it jump the shark? Um... maybe? I don't think so? I mean, it's the 100th episode, so I think it has permission to be an explosion of fanservice, but I do kinda wish it celebrated the show itself a bit more. Jumping the shark is supposed to prove that the show has run out of ideas, but I honestly don't think this is something that would have been any different even if the past several episodes had been better. I don't even know whether or not I want to watch it again. Is it too strange? Or is it wonderfully strange? I can't tell. However, I do think it keeps the show's spirit. I... can't really explain that, but it doesn't feel wrong to me. I guess that's what it comes down to. I guess it worked for me, but I'm not sure if this thing even CAN be reviewed. Maybe it would have been easier if I disliked it, but... I didn't. I actually liked it a fair bit. Good episode? I guess. I think I'll go with yes. Certainly, it accomplished what it set out to do, and I really like that it's something really weird and unexpected. I want to see more things than the same handful of storylines repeated ad nauseam in this show.

I... don't really think this counts as a proper review. Well, I tried, okay?


  1. I think this episode is good here and now, and won't hold up at all over time. Right now, I'm thrilled they finally, truly acknowledged both the crazy enthusiasm of the fandom and the way that enthusiasm has shaped the show, so I think it's a really good episode. 15-20 years from now someone who stumbles across the show knowing nothing about the fandom is probably going to be completely lost by it, so in that context it's going to be not so good.

    I agree that the show is getting dangerously stagnant, and this was a desperately needed breath of fresh air. I don't want this much fan service again for another hundred episodes, but I think it really showed that the background characters could be brought to the foreground in interesting ways that would allow the main cast to take a much needed rest every now and then. If they run with the whole Secret Agent Sweetie Drops thing, that could be a major plot point that could really let them do something new in a big adventure episode (or even season finale).

    So yeah, right now, I like this episode a lot. In the probably won't feel so special.

    1. Yeah, that makes sense. I actually didn't understand all the references (for example, most of the Doctor Who ones flew over my head), but I still enjoyed how weird this thing was. From the premiere I really thought that secondary characters would play a much greater role in the season, but then the rest was... a slightly more ambitious version of the previous one. Kinda hoping they finally follow through with that.