FimFiction Link - Short ID: 352115/the-friendship-test
Published: Oct '16
The Friendship Test is a one-shot grimdark story written by Magpiepony, said to be a homage to a few horror stories. The premise of the story (which is an excuse for torture) lies in Starlight, not truly being reformed, but vengeful, putting the Mane Six through some trials to test them, sometime after the S6 premiere.
The story starts with them being trapped in six different circles, magic disabled, etc. If they leave without her arranging for such, they die, etc. Starlight doubts that the "magic of friendship" is truly what it is cracked up to be, put that to the test.
>“I DID try! I did EVERYTHING you stupid little ponies said would bring my life fulfillment. But you can’t erase a lifetime of emptiness and disappointment. You can’t mend a friendship that was so easily destroyed just because you assign it to me like it’s another part of a school-filly’s homework! He didn’t want to be my friend… no pony WANTS to be my friend! You ponies would have sent me to tartarus had Twilight not stopped you. Friendship is a LIE!” Starlight screamed, the vengeance seeping from the last word. She cleared her throat and replaced her tears with the mask of unfeeling, pretending the lapse of emotion hadn’t happened.
Right off the bat, I think that dialogue on Starlight's part, aside from caps to emphasize often not being a good choice, feels somewhat like the author trying to contrive the mindset, reiterate a headcanon/somewhat desire of what "should be," feels stilted.
So Starlight proceeds with explaining her plan, and her test starts with Kindness... and the story begins falling apart almost instantly, and it only gets worse.
The test is "get branded, or you brand another pony," starting with Fluttershy making the first choice, and she has thirty seconds to decide before it's "both." Pinkie pleads with Fluttershy to brand her, but Fluttershy... does choose to brand Pinkie, after the time's up.
This is a big strike against the story. Fluttershy probably wouldn't fold like that (she was the pony Discord had to cheat with). She'd likely choose (at least at first), to endure the pain, to live with the mark. To have her do this is an insult to her.
This is then compounded when Pinkie then gets the next choice, to choose to brand Rarity, as opposed to getting branded again, who then when it happens to her, instantly, without ANY hesitation whatsoever (or even Starlight telling her who'd be next), chooses to brand Twilight, who is actually fine with this happening to her, because she'd be willing to (and she gets branded twice by her own choice).
So, you have the first three characters who get tested, and they all choose to sell someone else out, but only because all three of them act OOC. Yes, I'd argue Rarity.
Rainbow Dash pretends to choose to brand Applejack, but her attempt at attacking Starlight gets Applejack killed. The test is over after her body is branded.
Starlight notes that Fluttershy lucked out, because Applejack couldn't make the choice on if to brand her or not, seeing as she died, and that the Element of Kindness wasn't so Kind.
For the next test, she goes to Loyalty since Rainbow made that choice. The choice is "get lashed three times," or "stab this pony anywhere, to the hilt, with a dagger." Rainbow chooses to get lashed instead of stabbing Twilight. Twilight then gets the choice of lashing Rainbow or stabbing Rarity. If she doesn't comply, it's a 1/5 random chance of who dies. Twilight reasons (incorrectly) that there is no way to safely stab a knife to the hilt, which ignores the obvious method of "stab through their ear," since it can fulfill it without threatening their life, so she chooses to lash Rainbow.
When it's Rarity's turn, she chooses to stab Pinkie, who chooses to stab Fluttershy, who then chooses to whip Rainbow, because she can't bring herself to stab someone. This proves fatal for Rainbow.
For Laughter, the test is "you're in rooms which the gas mixed with laughing powder won't kill you if you breathe through the nose, but if you scream or laugh, you die." It has nothing to do with friendship, there's nothing poetic about it, so it's stupid.
Pinkie (predictably) dies from this.
For Generosity, it lies in them being tested with oxygen. Survive five minutes after the water stops flowing, and the water flow can be altered. Twilight chose to sacrifice herself; Fluttershy has animals to look after, and Rarity has Sweetie and the other two CMC.
Starlight claims before it's not meant to kill one each, being "pass or fail." The last test is now Honesty.
Chance: both pick, it's random who dies
Choice: both pick, both die, one picks this, one Chance, Chance dies.
Drink out of mugs when they're provided after touching the apples, two minutes of discussion up. Truth? Lie to save yourself?
Rarity chose "Choice," Fluttershy "Chance," and it was revealed to one another via their mug saying, just before Fluttershy died, with Rarity lying to Fluttershy.
She can go home to plan a punishment she thinks is appropriate, though Starlight warns her it's unwise, considering her power. Rarity is the only survivor. Starlight lets her go under the condition she says "Friendship isn't magic," which she does say, and it ends there.
This is stupid, because absent Twilight, that's three powerful alicorns out there to talk to, to say nothing of Discord.
The story, in the end, only "works" because the characters act OOC to set off the chain of events. Among other things (her reasoning is questionable at best), you'd think Starlight would try to contrive Twilight's survival to gloat about it, considering she fixated on her, and I think her being smug about how bad an attempt at revenge would be is... yeah.
2-3/10. OOC for at least 3/7 to advance the plot in such a manner shows how broken it is. Not particularly good torture porn, not plausible enough.
(afternotes, I guess)
Thematically, and regarding "tension," I've considered a reason this story completely fails: when the Element of Kindness betrays its own virtue on the first choice, willfully chooses to inflict pain on another, even when the victim says to do it beforehand, then it's obvious that the story is contriving itself to have the villain gain a "philosophical victory." By doing this so early, it's immediately clear, without pretending otherwise for a nanosecond, that Starlight is going to "win." It need not ask itself if the actions are truly fitting of the characters, only to make it happen, from its perspective. I feel like none of them would be that unscrupulous, but the story felt it worthy to try to pass it off as believable by default. It would've been more in-character if the last survivor lived through random Chance, or a consensual Choice, as opposed to the shock value twist. Twilight and Rainbow Dash were the only ones who felt truly passable, there. Applejack gets a special note, because she literally DIED before she became truly relevant, so she couldn't be that OOC. Then again, she didn't say a damn thing in protest or outrage when Rarity instantly chose to inflict the brand upon Twilight, or comment on literally any of the choices (hell, she didn't react to literally ANYTHING after Starlight explained the test, that it'd involve branding).
>“Brandin’?! Brandin’ what!?” Applejack demanded, stamping her hoof angrily.
Literally her last line of dialogue. Applejack was a background pony in a torture fic. The first to die (and in a way which was seemingly just so fast she didn't scream), with little characterization.
I'd also say that being cold-bloodedly sadistic in such a manner is more befitting of Chrysalis, if anything, but eh, Starlight's hit-or-miss behavior was the least of that story's problems. Maybe change it to a "4/7 OOC," because of Applejack not doing or saying anything.
comments that also sum it up well:
(note about "possibly before S6 finale" aside, good points)
(on why "Laughter" makes no sense)