Super Recaps: My Little Pony season 5 (Canterlot Boutique)

Well it took them long enough!!  After a mid-season hiatus that felt like an eternity, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic is finally back to finish out its fifth season.  With all that extra time to work on the season (that or they had to allocate resources for Friendship Games) do they bring us something special to start off the second half, or are we going to get another example of the fifth season being somewhat uneven in terms of quality?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Rarity waiting patiently for the mail to arrive which is expected to bring her some very good news.  It’s well past when the Mail Pony is supposed to show up at her address though, so she’s wondering what malevolent force has been keeping them from fulfilling their sacred duty.

“You rang?”

“You rang?”

Rarity is finally able to get the letter (hoof delivered by Pinkie Pie who incapacitated the Mail Pony with her cilantro cupcakes) and it turns out that she just passed the rigorous background and credit card checks required to lease a location in Canterlot!  I bet that despite her saving the world from utter destruction on at least three ocasions, she still had trouble getting a spot in the capital city.  I can’t even imagine what the monthly cost is for whatever place she ended up getting.  The Mane 6 head to the new location where Rarity will PRESUMABLY have to move to in order to run her new successful business venture in the big city.  Then again, she did hire a manager who I guess is in charge of the new place?  It’s a bit unclear what her responsibilities are considering she seems to be planning strategies instead of running the store herself.  Is she a manager like an actor has a manager?  Not sure, but her name is Sassy Saddles.  Rarity was very impressed with her resume which says that she worked at EVERY BOUTIQUE IN CANTERLOT, and hired her right away.  Okay… did she bother to check and see if she was FIRED from every boutique?  Seriously, she doesn’t look any older than the Mane 6, so how else did she work at every place already?  Did Rarity even bother to check her references!?  Well hopefully she knows what she’s doing because she has a nice big flow chart with lots of graphics!

“Step one, we open a boutique.  Step two…  And then step three, profit!!”

“Step one, we open a boutique.  Step two…  And then step three, profit!!”

Okay, that’s a bit unfair.  She actually DOES have a plan, and that’s to beg to Twilight to market the shit out of the place by wearing the fashion pieces in public.  It turns out that opinion polls show that Twilight is the favorite princess now (*cough*bullshit*cough*) and that she can be a powerful marketing tool for Rarity’s new venture.  Wait, why not the rest of the Mane 6?  Aren’t they famous yet?  Forget about that, what about Fluttershy who as actually a successful spokesperson at one point!?  Oh well.  I guess using the political influence of just one of your friends to sell dresses is gauche enough as it is.  Twilight agrees and Rarity is finally ready to throw open the doors to here new shop when Sassy lives up to her namesake and undercuts her opening!  Oh no…  I guess that makes her a villain.  I mean it’s kind of a jerk move but I’m pretty sure Pinkie Pie has done similar things before, and yet Rainbow Dash and Applejack seem REALLY pissed about this for some reason.

“I’m gonna kick her ass.”     “Oh really?  Well not if I kick her ass first.”     “I will totally kick your ass if you kick her ass before I do.”

“I’m gonna kick her ass.”     “Oh really?  Well not if I kick her ass first.”     “I will totally kick your ass if you kick her ass before I do.”

Despite getting off to a shaky start, the opening ceremony seems to be going well as Rarity and Sassy start to show off the new line of dresses.  The fashion press is in attendance with this one dude from Cos-Mare Magazine (ha ha) who HAS to be based off of someone but for the life of me I can’t figure out who.  I like him though because he’s VERY excited about the dresses!

“Someone call the cops, because this ensemble is KILLING IT!!!!!!!”

“Someone call the cops, because this ensemble is KILLING IT!!!!!!!”

While I guess Sassy Saddles is sort of overstepping her responsibilities in this scene, I’m still not getting much of a bad guy vibe from her.  Sure she’s occasionally pulling attention away from Rarity and also renamed the signature dress (her name IS much better by the way), but I’m still not seeing how she’s doing anything SIGNIFICANTLY wrong.  In fact, she seems to have brought a lot of attention to this place simply due to her involvement which means I was wrong in thinking she was incompetent at her previous places of employment.  The big point of contention between the two comes up when Sassy Saddles comes back with ONE HUNDRED orders for the signature dress (the one that Twilight is wearing), and Rarity isn’t happy about that.  Wait, seriously?

“Who the hell told you to sell THAT many dresses!?”     “Oh I’m sorry.  Did you hire me because you thought I was SORT OF good at what I do?”

“Who the hell told you to sell THAT many dresses!?”     “Oh I’m sorry.  Did you hire me because you thought I was SORT OF good at what I do?”

Was she not expecting to get that many sales?  I mean sure that’s a lot and Sassy DOES start the manipulative guilt trip on her right away, but she should frankly be hiring other ponies at this point to assist in the dress making process!  She can still design outfits and even make then herself, but she just had a big showy opening in one of the biggest cities in the Empire and still thinks she should be doing this all by her lonesome.  You can’t half ass your jump to the big leagues is all I’m saying!  So we get a musical montage of Rarity lamenting the troubles of success, and becoming a sellout.  If only her design wasn’t so popular!  If only she could be less successful in her line of work!!

“You need any help Rarity?”     “NO!!  SUCCESS IS MY CROSS TO BEAR!!”     “Okay… whatever.”

“You need any help Rarity?”     “NO!!  SUCCESS IS MY CROSS TO BEAR!!”     “Okay… whatever.”

She gets so sick of making this specific dress for all those willing customers that she decides to alter one of them and gets chewed out by a customer who was, you know… expecting what they paid for.  Sorry, but I’m just not connecting to Rarity’s plight here.  Sassy Saddle even floats the idea of having an automated system for making the dress, and Rarity is hearing none of it!  Why!?  Anyone would love to be in her position where they have some financial security and reliable income!  She should let that be the seed money for even BETTER ideas instead of just whining about her success!  Okay fine.  ONE pony didn’t love her alterations, but then it’s also not fair to spring that on a customer who was expecting what they ordered.  It’s not always about what Rarity wants, it should be about the ponies who want her work, and sometimes those ponies have very bland taste.  You want to know why Michael Bay has four Transformers movies under his belt?  Because proving yourself as a money magnet gets you a lot of clout in Hollywood and it was enough for a studio to green light Pain and Gain which is his best work to date.  This Princess dress is opening doors for her, but she can’t see it due to her own stubborn pride, and it’s going to lead to a lot of roads being cut off for her.

“I decree that from now on there will be no more than five outfits made per design!  THEY MUST ALL BE SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES!!”

“I decree that from now on there will be no more than five outfits made per design!  THEY MUST ALL BE SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES!!”

Well after getting even more orders for the dress and despite the fact that she’s now on the cover of Cos-Mare (when did they take that photo?), she finally does something proactive and decides to shut down her brand new dress shop (and break her lease which I’m SURE is going to do wondrous things for her credit) and have one last sale to get rid of her remaining inventory which includes all the other dresses in her new line and some dresses that had just been collecting dust from before.  You know what?  I’m on board with this.  She PROBABLY should have thought of this before opening the store, but it’s better to stop doing what makes you miserable than to keep going and whine about it.  I still think her misery is her own making and that this situation can be EASILY salvaged, but if we’re not exploring those avenues than by all means, let her take a stand and do what she thinks is right.  Sassy Saddles is just beside herself at this point though shouting out to the heavens that she can’t be responsible for another failed boutique.  Wait, what?  She’s been responsible for lots of failures, yet still has the respect of others for no clear reason?  Doesn’t that make her Donald Trump?

“WHY ARE YOU DESTROYING ALL MY HARD WORK!?  ARE YOU A SPY FOR THE CHINESE!?!?”

“WHY ARE YOU DESTROYING ALL MY HARD WORK!?  ARE YOU A SPY FOR THE CHINESE!?!?”

Of course, Rarity is saved from having to make a tough decision when it turn out that everyone who rushed in the store is delighted to buy stuff other than the Princess Dress.  Okay… I mean I guess this isn’t all that strange considering that people tend to have different taste in clothes but then they spent the last ten minutes telling us that the ladies of Canterlot only care about that one dress.  Also, what about this new situation isn’t going to cause burnout as well?  So instead of making one dress a couple hundred times, she gets to make eight dresses a couple hundred times?  Oh well!  The shop is brimming with business, Rarity finally has a reason to keep the shop going, and we get these two ponies that look like they were ripped out of a high school anime.  I’m not sure why, but I’ll give them points for it.

“LET’S DO KAWAII THINGS!!”     “How about we brood instead?”

“LET’S DO KAWAII THINGS!!”     “How about we brood instead?”

The success of the other merchandise seems to come as a complete shock to Sassy Saddles who decides that bringing great shame to the boutique must be repaid with her own dismissal from the premises.  Rarity though will have none of that and lets Sassy know that she will still need someone (it should be more like fifteen someones) to continue running the show while she goes back to Ponyville.  And so the episode ends with the two of them making up and

“So who’s going to make the dresses for this store while you’re in Ponyville?”     “Hey, YOU’RE the one who wanted to run this place, right?”

“So who’s going to make the dresses for this store while you’re in Ponyville?”     “Hey, YOU’RE the one who wanted to run this place, right?”

This would have been a pretty good episode if it weren’t for the oddly simplistic moral it was trying to teach kids that ignores so much in an effort to twist this scenario into something it really isn’t.  Anytime time Rarity gets a chance to shine is always a joy and I like the idea that these characters continue to grow and change as the series goes forward.  With Twilight becoming a Princess, Rainbow Dash getting to be a Wonderbolt, and Rarity’s continued success with her business, it’s clear that the writers are consciously trying to not let the series rest on its laurels and just make the same episode every week (with the exception of the CMC of course).  I just thought it was odd that someone who is as business savvy as Rarity is (Twilight even mentions that in the episode) doesn’t seem to have figured out how to expand her business properly.  Maybe I’m focusing too much on her exhaustion with the production process rather than being creatively stymied at every turn by Sassy Saddles.  There are some scenes in the montage where she puts the Princess Dress prominently while letting the others sit on the outskirts of the store, but if that’s the case then what is the show trying to say here?  Is it that artistic integrity and general worth goes down as the size of the audience increases?  You’re only cool as long as no one knows about you?  Well take it just one degree further and you have to figure that Rarity’s success (with one dress or with more than one dress) is eventually going to hit the saturation point considering how much business she gets.  Is she still at risk of being a sellout even if she’s creating new dresses all the time simply because it is her brand?  They could have given Sassy Saddles just a little bit of a point here about how massive successes can lead to new opportunities, but the show doesn’t even go into how much money Rarity is getting out of this.  I guess the fact that she made it on a magazine cover is supposed to symbolize that, but the show never acknowledges any benefits from her success.  She’s still working all alone on the dresses and therefore doesn’t have chance to enjoy her newfound success that came from this design that so many people love.  I guess if you don’t have the same reaction to the moral here, then it’s definitely a very enjoyable episode.  New locations and characters give it something to distinguish it from other episodes, and Tabitha St. Germain still brings her A-game with every line spoken by the fashionista.  I didn’t care for it as much which is a shame because of how much I really like Rarity, but I can’t ignore what I think are huge missteps in the way they decided to tell this story.  It’s not the pointless pabulum of something like Castle Sweet Castle, but it ultimately did not work for me.

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My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Season 5

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2 thoughts on “Super Recaps: My Little Pony season 5 (Canterlot Boutique)

  1. ArthurCrane

    Short version: The more I think about it, the more I seem to like it.
    Longer Version:
    -I always commend the series when it finds a way to tell it’s lesson without having to pause the episode just when things are wrapping up. My takeaway from this is that you shouldn’t sacrifice what makes you artistically fulfilled for the sake of success, and if you have to, you need to change. For Rarity, she’s not into fashion just because she wants to make dresses, but because she uses it as an avenue for her artistic abilities and lending a service to other ponies. For a long time, it’s been established that part of her drive is making other ponies happy through her work. While she was doing just that by mass-producing the Princess Dress, she felt like she was losing her love for what she does and that her work didn’t have that Rarity touch that makes it special. That’s what the Rules of Rarity are all about.
    -I like how even though we’re supposed to side with Rarity, Sassy Saddles and her methods are never made out to be evil. If it feels like Sassy is trying to zuckerberg Rarity (at one point more or less saying it out loud, intentionally or not), it’s less because she wants Rarity to fail and more because she’s too wrapped up in her own ambitions and methods (and not wanting to fail again). It’s clear that she and Rarity have very different visions on how to run a business, one is more corporate-oriented and the other is more artistically-oriented; and while the boutique would’ve been successful either way, this is a story that’s all about Rarity’s fulfillment as an artist and businesswoman in her own way. Still, in a series that has very little moral grey, I like that we get a character like Sassy, who is an antagonist for most of the runtime, but isn’t evil or actively looking to screw over other ponies because of malicious intent. I’m glad she’s still in business with her by the end because I would love to explore more of her life before this boutique and those other alleged failures in the future.
    -Rarity leaving the boutique and going back to Ponyville by the end of the episode was kind of innevitable, but I’m glad they found a way of doing that in a clever, satisfying way. For one thing, when Rarity announces her going-out-of-business sale, we never stop to see what her intentions really are. Is she really planning on cutting her losses and gong back home or is she trying to pull off one last gamble to prove to Sassy that the Rules of Rarity, in fact, work? Either way, it’s a very savvy, risky move by her and proves that she’s in control of her own destiny. Sassy’s remorse at the end, as well as her glee for being given another chance, feel genuine. It definitely helped that she got to experience Rarity’s methods firsthand. Voluntarily attempting to resign was also a nice touch that helps her feel like a more rounded character, someone willing to admit that they messed up. I can’t help but contrast her with Spitfire in Wonderbolt Academy, where Rainbow Dash tells her that her entire methodology is wrong and she’s just like “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll still let you be a Wonderbolt” and that’s it. It also doesn’t help how in that episode Rainbow gets to continue her Wonderbolt career not by setting the example she needed to be, but rather because her boss bent-over backwards just because she got called out by her. It makes it feel like she’s always at the whim of Spitfire (and to a lesser extent, Lightning Dust) until she calls them out on their shitty behavior and everything gets fixed just like that.

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  2. Alex Throndson (@AlexanderThrond)

    I had the same issues with the moral as you did. I feel like they made a character with surprising nuance, then went on to treat her as if she’s just some villain. I really wish this episode weren’t as black-and-white as it is, but I ultimately enjoyed it despite finding it REALLY rushed. I just appreciate that a character’s own personal story is moving forward for once and it’s not Twilight Sparkle. I presume the fashion scene moves so quickly that “Green Isn’t Your Colour” is long forgotten, and Rainbow Dash hasn’t quite gotten into the limelight with the Wonderbolts as of this episode, but they HAVE saved the world on numerous occasions, so surely that accounts for something. I liked it, but I do wish it was better than it is.

    Also, I see nothing wrong with best pony being most popular princess.

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