Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trig Rant #5 The Apple's Curse

Applejack is epic here. Read this fic.
CRISIS: Applejack by *StarlightSpark
Few characters in Friendship is Magic have been as underwhelming as Applejack on an individual basis. From Applebuck Season to The last Roundup, AJ has become more and more obsolete as a "mane" character.

Fortunately, I'm here to offer some advice on how to tackle her story in addition to my criticism  From the direction I think the writers will take to my personal envisionment of her star episode, I'm here to talk everything Applejack. 

Head past the break to read about everyone's favorite orange pony. Unless your name is Radio. Then you probably worship an orange filly that hasn't even gotten an episode. Maybe I should touch on her soon *wink wink, nudge nudge*

Oh yeah... Applejack. Let's begin!

I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point with the picking on Applejack, but I felt it necessary to compile my thoughts about her. It's what the rants for, right? Anyway, just trust me on this. It'll help you understand where I'm coming from for my episode ideas later on.

Applejack. by =fantazyme
Let's take a brief look at what the writers tried to do with AJ's character. Being the first pony besides Twilight to be featured in their own episode, Applejack had a lot to prove in Applebuck Season. Here, Applejack's stubbornness and strive for independence inhibit productivity and she ultimately has to seek out help from her friends. Personally  I actually thought this episode was done rather well, but not in highlighting AJ's character per se, but rather shows the potential power of a relationship with you friends. I've preached before the season one was much more centric on friendship in contrast to season two that tried to focus on specific characters. The story of Applebuck Season is not a bad one by any means, but I think it showed that Applejack is a difficult character to tackle, seeing that even though it's season one, other ponies seem to get their "own" episode (e.g. Party of One, Dog and a Pony Show, Sonic Rainboom). 

Fall Weather Friends is a little bit of a repeat of episode four's situation, exploring her athletic and competitive attitude, but mainly how it clashes with Rainbow Dash instead of on her own. Again, solid episode, but a little two dimensional on an individual basis.

Where things start taking a turn for the worst is when The Last Roundup hit sin season two.  (Fun fact: I became a brony the day The Last Roundup aired. I had literally no idea what was going on with Derpy gate). Now, admittedly, the premiss seems like it's going in the right direction and is promising. What Amy was attempting to do was challenging Applejack's element, something I've been preaching since Day one (even though this was my day one...). Where the Amy went wrong was with the story's execution, namely Applejack's actions at Dodge Junction. How I would describe the situation would be there was a disconnect between the idea of telling the truth and skewing the truth to pretend like it wasn't really a lie. Frankly, I was appalled that the latter was not only utilized by Applejack, but accepted by her friends. This wasn't the genuineness I'd coem to expect from AJ, EVEN in the face of humiliation. I don't think this was the proper way to "play" with Applejack's element. 

Sad Eyed Apple Bloom by *Creshosk
Another very important element of The Last Roundup I'd like to address is Apple Bloom. If you haven't noticed, the three siblings' parents have been absent from the farm for the entirety of the series so far. Whether this be because they are deceased or left their children prematurely (let the wild speculation begin), it's apparent that Granny Smith's days are numbered. Either AJ or Big Mac, or maybe even both, will have to step up and become the true figurehead of the family. With all that being said, Applejack carries a lot of weight when Apple Bloom insists that she will return from the rodeo successful, but ends up seemingly disappointing her family and town anyway. The problem is, the episode never alludes back to the initial scene with Apple Bloom, the brief pony-pile scene near the end being the exception. Applejack lamenting to her friends about not being the capable mother that Apple Bloom never had would've been powerful. But unfortunately, following the theme of AJ's appearances, it was a missed opportunity. 

Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 was pretty much the nail in the coffin at this point. The way I see it, the episode was originally meant to be an actual Applejack episode, but at some point that direction just completely fell apart. Any development for AJ's character was too hard to implement with the story they were trying to tell, so the team switched the episode to the idea of teamwork and preservation of quality. And again, the whole Apple family is present, but not a single aspect of their relationships are explored. That's when you know you've hit a new low, when a whole episode basically ignores the character it is ideal to feature. Flim Flam Brothers are still flippin' awesome though. 

A summary of my criticisms would be that the writing featuring Applejack in the first two seasons hasn't been hitting the right notes of her character and her relationship with her family.

Now that I've finished whining (or maybe it was just complaining, do you want to hear whining?!?), I'll give a basic layout of what I believe would be the ideal Applejack episode that strikes all the right chords and gets to the essence of her character. Literally (you'll see what I mean). And keep in mind season three's writing has been completed for some time now, so if something I suggest appears, I swear I'm not secretly M.A. Larson! (Maybe...)

Applejack by *atryl
The episode would begin with Applejack carrying out her normal chores of the farm. Big Mac is also there helping out. Apple Bloom is doing her best to tackle a tough job, but it becomes apparent that she needs help from her big sis'. This is to illustrate how much the family members depend on each other, but mainly AJ. 

After the work is all finished, Applejack privately receives a letter (not from Derpy for obvious reasons) that she reads to herself. The letter states that the Apple family's ownership of Sweet Apple Acres will soon be terminated because as of late the family hasn't been able to keep up with the costs of the farm's upkeep. AJ is shocked at the message and cries out in agony. End of the intro. 

And now... the moment you've all been waiting for... Applejack's song!

It would be a banjo focused country tune that Applejack solos in. I won't be writing any lyrics, but it would be all about AJ's memories of the farm and her family's past. Think BBBFF, but faster and country. Probably around two and a half to three minutes long. The scene  would be designed to pull at the viewers heartstrings and get a sense of how important her family is to her.

Applejack realizes she can't bring herself to tell the rest of the Apples the terrible news, essentially lying to them. Torn between her her stubbornness and her family's well being and her honesty, AJ decides that she can secretly work back the money the farm has lost in time. But job after job, AJ isn't getting any closer to garnering enough funds to save the family. I want little to no interaction with Applejack and the mane six.

Applejack - Honesty by *AtomicGreymon
In the end, Applejack realizes by herself she has to tell the rest of the family about the letter and admit her failure to provide for the family, something Apple Bloom has come to expect from her big sis' in the past. She expects to receive scorn from Big Mac and Apple Bloom, but instead is met with comfort from her siblings (plenty of hugs will be had). They all promise that they'll stick together as a family through the good and the bad, no matter what. You should be in tears at this point if I actually wrote some dialogue. 

Just when you might think all is lost for the Apples, Granny Smith produces an emergency jar with extra bits she's collected and saved her entire life. The money would last them for one to two years and they determined they'd be able to bounce back at this point. 

The moral in the end is to keep honest with your friends, and especially with your family, as you can find comfort in their support, no matter if you've failed them. I think this semi-script addresses Applejack's premiere qualities simultaneously:  her loyalty to her family and her ultimate honesty. 

...but more importantly gives that mare a damn song!

So what did you guys think of my episode outline? God-tier? Spike-tier? Comment below, let me know! (totally not stealing from Jeremy Jahns) Applejack is a character that deserves her moment to shine after all this time, and I think it's coming soon to a season three near you. 

Applejack's Art by ~JustDayside