This was certainly… a thing that happened.
Cheese Sandwich (no, seriously, Cheese Sandwich) was notable in large part for being voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic. And while I found the character funny at times, it didn’t all work for me. The wackiness during the first half of the episode went a bit off the deep-end a few times. Some of the antics might simply have been lost on me – I’m someone who has generally found Weird Al decently funny but was never a huge fan; I don’t know how big a role that played, i.e. if a lot of the humor was very signature Weird Al stuff, or if it had little to do with him specifically and was just about the particular brand of wacky humor they chose for this ep simply not working for me. Either way, it didn’t – not entirely, anyway. There were times where it just felt like a bit TOO much. Not in the usual “Pinkie Pie you are so random!” way, but in more of a pure “uh… ok O_o” kind of way. A great example of this: were the momentary live-action shots of Gummy and Boneless a reference to something specific? If so, then I have no idea what it was. If not, then… what. That didn’t make me laugh, it just made me raise one eyebrow and stare at my screen in bewilderment.
And on top of that, I also frowned when Rainbow Dash plainly said “Yeah, Pinkie’s parties are good, but…” That kind of rubbed me the wrong way, because it seemed like a very un-Dash thing to do. Yes, she was contemplating abandoning her friends to fly with the Wonderbolts in “Rainbow Falls”, but she didn’t in the end, and that whole episode was about her having to come to terms with another instance of her dream clashing with her loyalty, and she ended up teaching the ‘bolts a valuable lesson in the process. Yes, she took off when Discord invaded her personal space just a bit too much in “Three’s a Crowd”, but really, he wasn’t posing a threat anymore, he was just being a nuisance. If he started causing real trouble, she’d be back in a flash. Here, there was nothing at stake, nothing bad happening, no Discord trying to hug her or temptations of Wonderbolt hang-outs. She just got caught up in the hype of this new face and thoughtlessly blew off Pinkie’s party-throwing prowess.
Also, the way the remaining members of the mane 6 spent several scenes just following him around and gushing about how awesome he was… I dunno. It was odd. Rarity tittering after a comment about how impressive he is, and AJ responding by saying “they don’t call him the super-duper party planner for nothin!”… I cringed at that sequence. It felt like it was there to fill time. They didn’t sell it enough, at least for me. Felt very forced, and I kept saying “Why is everyone so enamored with this weirdo?” It was one thing to have them acknowledge – once, back near the beginning after his song-and-dance routine – that he seemed like a fun guy, and that he was going to throw Dash this great party. It was another for them to spend half the episode following him around for no discernible reason and randomly complimenting him.
At this point, with everything noted above, I was starting to wonder if this would end up being season 4’s first real dud.
All was not lost!
The episode continued, with Cheese being given carte blanche to create an epic party for Rainbow by himself, and Pinkie now starting to doubt herself, which – this being Pinkie Pie – means she starts to act just a bit… weird. Weider.
This is where things began to improve in terms of my enjoyment of the episode. The song that follows starts off sad, and then moves into uplifting territory, and I have to say, I really liked this one. It was, in a way, a nicely done ode to the general nature of Pinkie’s character – both sides of her, the happy, bouncy, crazy, party-girl side (especially with that lovely montage-via-photo), and the less often seen, emotionally fragile side that comes out when she has doubts about the strength of her relationships with the others. And you just had to root for her after the tone changes and she decides to try to make a comeback! While she’s never been one of my favorites among the mane 6, she still is a likeable character who brings something special to this ensemble, and she was never more endearing than she is here.
Then we come to “the goof-off”, and to a moment that made me laugh more than most of the Cheese shenanigans did:
Really, most of the dialog that occurred from the moment that Pinkie first challenged Cheese to the moment the goof-off actually began was pretty funny, probably more so than the goof-off itself for the most part. As for said goof-off: it was, somehow, a bit more entertaining than Cheese’s earlier wacko stuff – maybe it’s partly because Pinkie is more involved, and it just works better for her? I’m not sure. Trying to articulate any kind of substantive difference between one set of wacky hijinks and another, in terms of why one was more entertaining than the other, would be futile (and entirely subjective anyway), so I wont’ try. Regardless, I still thought this sequence dragged on too long and was one of the weaker parts of the episode, but it was overall better than the earlier sequence (though this one is where the bizarre “cut to actual rubber chicken and alligator” moment I mentioned above comes in).
I wonder if, for me at least, the completely insane, over-the-top party-pony goofiness just doesn’t work for me in general, and it’s only Pinkie Pie that’s able to make it work due to a combination of selling it in just the right way, using it to play off the other characters, having fun long-running gags like the party cannon, and excellent voice work by Andrea Libman. It all comes together to turn something that I’d normally find kind of grating into something entertaining. Thus, when a guest character shows up and tries to essentially do the same thing, it just falls flat.
Anyway, partway into the goof-off, things get really interesting when Pinkie abruptly halts the singing and calls the whole thing off, after dropping a giant pinata on a none-too-pleased Rainbow Dash.
And then, the episode really redeems itself by hitting right on its head the issue I raised way back at the top (the “Dash blows off Pinkie” thing, not the Weird Al thing), and shifting the focus from wacky antics to actual character development, with Dashie outright admitting that she’d gotten caught up in the hype and said something hurtful. I liked that a lot. We also find out that Pinkie had inspired Cheese in the first place – this was a great moment that added some depth to both characters, and made his competitiveness make more sense. Plus, we’ve seen the various members of the mane 6 all have positive impacts on the lives of other (non-main) ponies quite often, except for Pinkie, who tends to mostly stay in the “she’s just being Pinkie Pie” box, so this was a nice moment for her.
Also, during Cheese’s flashback, filly background ponies. Filly background ponies. Easily one of the greatest moments of the episode, and really, of the season so far. Beloved background pony cameos included Cherilee, Cloudchaser and Flitter, Lyra and a glasses-wearing Bon-Bon, and Derpy, among others.
Finally, the fact that they gave Pinkie some serious character development (especially the moment where she sees past all the antics and silliness that she’s usually all about and realizes that if someone isn’t enjoying what’s happening, then it’s not worth it), was very much appreciated. She is generally, obviously, the wacky comic relief character, and for the most part, I don’t have a problem with that. But she is one of the mane 6, and its nice to see that they are capable of giving her some more depth, at least at times.
Before the credits roll, we see that Cheese is leaving Boneless (a Boneless, apparently) behind for Pinkie, and we get that rainbow glow again. So Pinkie now has her “key”. Presumably, these things are all related to THE BOX from the season premiere, but anything beyond that remains a mystery.
So, in the end, I still give the episode high marks. Even though it came perilously close to losing me during the early-to-middle portion of the ep, the song and post-goof-off section were just THAT good. It may be a bit odd that, for me, the guest appearance by Weird Al did very little to truly help the episode in any way, and the over-the-top antics that they lead with did nothing for me, either, and instead, all of the strength of the episode is concentrated in the latter portions involving more serious scenes. I feel like this isn’t exactly what the creators had in mind, and I’m also not sure how many other fans of the show would agree, either!
Overall score for “Pinkie Pride”: 8.