Six seasons have gone by, and every single one brings with it a host of both good and bad interactions between these characters we all cling to. When something weird or awkward happens in the show, it sends ripples throughout the community. With a fan base is as attached to it's material as we are, everything tends to have a huge impact.
I was recommended this editorial with a topic via the Patreon requests, and honestly have been pretty stumped on how to go about doing it. This is a topic I usually don't think too much about in pony, or at least the negative side of it.
And so, time for a challenge! What makes a good character interaction vs a bad one? What are some examples of each? Lets dive on in!
I'll warn you, this one is pretty opinionated and sometimes critical. The topic requires it.
There are a few things I've always looked for when judging an interaction between two characters in this show:
Chemistry - How well their personalities bounce off each other. Are the interactions fun? Some ponies just don't work well with one another unless written spectacularly. I feel like Starlight Glimmer is a good example of a pony that doesn't exactly fit with a few of the mane 6. The last episode made me question a few times why some of ponies would ever make a good friend for her. That being said, opposites can and do attract incredibly well in MLP. It's more a personality quirk that either breaks or strengthens an interaction.
Awkwardness - It's alright to throw in a bit of cringy awkwardness in there for realism, but sometimes it's done in a way that just doesn't work or leads to the next point...
Does it make sense? - Something I see a lot of you complain about in the comments regularly during any given episode is how in or out of character a pony tends to be. While a few of these are just "in the eye of the beholder" problems, there are quite a few points in the series where a character does something so beyond the realm of what we've come to understand about them, that it just doesn't make any sense.
Character building - Does this scene do anything to improve upon either of the interacting ponies' character? It's less important considering many a conversation in this show is just fun for the sake of fun, but some of the best episodes have added essays worth of character to a pony simply based on how they interact with their peers throughout a scene or two.
Lets start this off with one of my personal favorite, dialogue focused episodes. "Testing Testing 1, 2, 3" is a good example of a script that keeps me coming back for more pony each season. Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle are almost polar opposites in just about every way, yet their accidental synergy is almost always grounds for entertaining character interactions.
The way Twilight really had to dig to learn more about how Rainbow learns was spectacular from a character building front, and loads of fun as a viewer. It's a celebration of why opposites attract and how wonderfully they can build off of each other. Dashie had a few "dumb" moments, but overall it was the pinnacle of a Slice of Life episode. There weren't any volcanoes exploding, dragons invading, or beasts from the Everfree forest rampaging; just two completely in-character ponies getting to know one another through excellent dialogue, and building their relationship further.
For a good example of two opposites who don't necessarily start off liking each other, I'm borrowing Twilight once again for her excellent interactions with Discord. No one brings out the sarcastic snark that us oldschool Twi fans love more than the god of chaos himself. It's almost a battle of wills every time they communicate, with Discord constantly throwing out the madness while Ms. Lawful Purple Princess tries to sift through it while failing horribly. They clash in the most glorious of ways.
Yet at the same time, you almost get a sense of mutual respect between the two, like a mental game amidst two genius arch-rivals. Both could easily eliminate the other, but neither want to out of fear of losing such a good intellectual equal.
I admit, that could all be me reading way too into things with admittedly little evidence, but I really do just love the way they bounce off each other.
Taking a break from the Twilight for a bit, lets dive into some wishful thinking. The argument between Celestia and Luna at Cranky Doodle's wedding beyond refreshing. It's something I've wanted to see since Nightmare Moon's defeat way back during the pilot. In those short few seconds, we got more characterization out of Celestia than the entirety of the last few seasons. For once, she's not this benevolent perfection that calls upon Twilight in time of need. The god queens of Equestria have cute little sisterly interactions, and it really need to happen more!
Fingers crossed for season 7.
If you want some feels, Amending Fences absolutely dominates in pretty much every point I made up there. Moondancer is the perfect image of what Twilight Sparkle could have become had she not broken free of her libraries and made a few friends. The piles of emotion woven into the script between the two as Moony deals with her greatest of demons and Twi realizes she is the cause of them really helps tell in incredible story.
And finally, for the sake of shifting away from opposites, lets explore some good duos between like-minded ponies! Applejack and Rainbow Dash have had several duo episodes and moments throughout the seasons. Their competitive personalities makes them both the best of buddies as well as friendly rivals.
My favorite part of these two is how well Applejack seems to "improve" Rainbow Dash when they are teamed up. Dashie is hot headed and somewhat oblivious a lot of the time, and you rarely expect her to pick up on the tiny nuances of any given situation. This is where Applejack trots in and get her back on track! How many times has she chomped down on a charging Rainbow's tail for some 1-on-1 reality talk? It was honestly really surprising when they dropped their places on the Buckball team in favor of giving Pinkie and Fluttershy the chance to represent Ponyville instead. It's something I don't think Rainbow Dash ever would have done on her own. Sure they both completely missed the damage they were causing with their "pep talks", but no one said they were perfect!
The requester actually brought up Pinkie Pie's interaction with Luna in "Luna Eclipsed" as a good example, surprising everyone with how she was playing around the entire episode and that "It's fun to be scared!". I'm going to have to disagree on that one though.
I'll be honest, this was one of my least favorite moments of season two. We watched poor Luna spend an entire episode confused and alone as she tries desperately to get the citizens of Ponyville to love her. Throughout the entire thing, Pinkie Pie and her foal army are torturing the poor girl with their screams and calls of being eaten by big bad Nightmare Moon. Can you imagine how that felt for Luna? Follow it up with a big old "Hey moony, we were just screwin' with yah! It's fun to pretend to be terrified of you" at the end and it rubbed me the wrong way.
I guess it could have been chocked up to a misunderstanding, but Pinkie Pie isn't a moron. She had to have realized at some point that the super depressed moon princess wandering away wasn't enjoying it.
Another interaction that threw me off was one of the more recent ones. Spike and Thorax became buddies down in the ice caves, and you kind of expected Spike to instantly vouch for him after inviting him to join in on a tour of the Crystal Empire. It annoyed me that their first run-in with the the Shining and Cadance ended up with Thorax being chased off and Spike not saying a thing. That just seemed backwards to me, and out of character for the usually loyal dragon. This falls into that "Made no sense" list up there. Why invite him if you aren't going to defend him when the disguise inevitably fails? Wasn't that the point to begin with?
In some situations it would have made sense, but Spike already knew how Thorax would react around love magic, and also spent all afternoon building up his confidence that he could fit in. You would think it might be a good idea to go ahead and quickly vouch for him.
The end was pretty much the same scene repeated the correct way, but that initial reaction really hurt the episode for me. I feel like there was a missed opportunity at some excellent character and world building, but instead we had to redo the last five minutes the right way and quickly end the episode with very little interaction to end on. We only get 22 minutes! Repeats are not a great way to spend them.
The third one I'm going to draw from is Celestia's reaction at the dinner Twilight planned for her and Starlight Glimmer in "No Second Prances". After all these years of tutoring and forming her pupil into the princess she has become, and thousands of years of social experiences with no doubt a good share of failed parties, you would think the sun goddess would be a little less moody and more open to cheering poor Twilight up. Who goes to a failed party and acts like a douchebag to the already disappointed host? Especially if she is as important as Twilight is to her?
This is another example of something that triggers the "makes no sense" point above. We don't know a ton about Celestia, but there are certain expectations from what we do know that make this seem completely out of character. I can't really think of any reason why she would interact with Twilight in this way.
I don't like picking on this one, but it's hard not to mention it here. While I didn't really dislike the episode, The Mysterious Mare Do Well has one of the most out-of-bounds interactions in the show. Sure, Rainbow Dash was being a dick. Rainbow Dash does that a lot. Shes full of herself, confident, and does need to be taken down a notch or two every once in a while, but she was genuinely doing good even if her celebrations were a little over the top.
This is where Applejack would usually step in and get her to chillax, but instead, we end up with a giant grand plan that blows a simple conversation way out of proportion to stop Rainbow Dash from being... heroic. They essentially baiting her into making a fool of herself when all she was doing was helping ponies with some boasting on the side. It's almost mean-spirited in a way, and not what we had come to expect out of this group of friends.
28 Pranks Later was justified due to her being a destructive little "it's just a prank bro!" monster, but the Dashie in Mare do Well was simply being helpful. Obnoxious, but saving lives! Why punish that?
In the End, It's Just Ponies
I'm actually surprised at how much I could write on this topic. One thing is for sure after collecting research on the topic, this show really does do an excellent job of portraying excellent interactions between it's characters. It's one of it's greatest strengths, and why I can't stop watching it.
I want to mention once again that I usually dislike doing negative types of editorials, but I felt like this topic really couldn't be explored the way it should be without some compare and contrast. Please don't take anything personally if I complained about one of your favorite episodes. We all see this show differently, and no one should tell you what you should and should not enjoy.
In the end, I'm here for the ponies. Character reactions will always be a tough subject to tackle. The ponies have their flaws, and the people writing them have theirs, but I wouldn't be here if It wasn't still largely a positive experience every week.
Thanks to Bill for the idea!