We’re back with another episode of the Cutie Mark Crusader Chronicles! It’s actually been quite some time since the last CMC centric episode with Apleloosa’s Most Wanted being the last one I can recall that had all three of them in it in significant roles. Now that they have another episode to continue their never ending quest to find out what their good at, will this be another example of the show recycling ideas it’s already done like the competent but derivative Made in Manehattan, or will they do something new with these characters who’ve been working toward s a single goal for five seasons now? Let’s find out!!
The episode starts with the CMC in their clubhouse trying to decide what to do next to get their Cutie Marks and break out into song. What, this early in the episode? Don’t wear Daniel Ingram out too quickly! Actually, they do cut the song short because little ol’ Pip Squeak (who has the worst name to give a grade schooler other than Stupid Face) comes bursting into the CMC headquarters to ask for their assistance in winning the Student Council presidential election. Wait, so the CMC are basically a temp agency now? People just come up to them to do random chores with the promise that they might earn their Cutie Marks?
The CMC head down to the school house where the election is to take place in like an hour (how did they not know about this and why is Pip-Squeak coming to them now) and it turns out that he’s running against Diamond Tiara. Seriously, who else would it have been? Also, why is this turning into “Our Brand is Crisis” all of a sudden? Does this mean we get three Sandra Bullocks (You can NEVER have enough Sandra Bullock) and that Silver Spoon is Billy Bob Thorton? I don’t know who’s actually the candidates in that movie so I’m gonna say that Pip Squeak is Barrack Obama (he talks about change all the time) and Diamond Tiara is Donald Trump.
I should probably get back to the episode before I slip even further into my crossover fan fic ideas. The CMC are either surprisingly adept at this or are up against the worst possible candidate because they seem to win over the crowd very easily. Pip Squeak promised to get the School Board to fix the playground which was destroyed after Tirek’s attack (CONTINUITY!!) while Diamond Tiara’s response is lash out, blackmail, and bribe anyone she can (in song no less) to the point that even Silver Spoon is sick of her drama and dumps her like a ton of bricks. Oh good! Maybe she can get a personality now! After the votes are tallied, it’s clear that Pipsqueak wins the election by a landslide which doesn’t sit well with you know who.
Despite their ability to win him the election, the CMC still don’t manage to get their Cutie Marks. I guess saving the school from a tyrant isn’t good enough! At least they’re doing better than Diamond Tiara who storms off in a rage like an effete crybaby. The CMC for once actually seem worried about her (or at least afraid of what destruction she may bring with her neigh unlimited resources) so they become Cutie Mark Crusader Stalkers and start following her around. What do they find out? That she has an overbearing mother of course! Her name is Spoiled Rich by the way. SUBTLY!!!!
Then she starts to sing her sadness song about how lousy it is being her and how much she hates being a jerk but apparently can’t do anything about it. Not to toot my own horn (oh who am I kidding? I LOVE DOING THAT) but when I wrote about this character before, I had discussed how the show had always portrayed her as one dimensional so that the CMC could have an effective foil and how I always hoped that they would do something to give her some depth without losing her as a villain. Well I’m glad they finally decided to get to the bottom of her pathos, but it’s disappointingly shallow. Not only can all of her bad behavior be traced back to a single source, but now all of a sudden they’re portraying it like she’s never at ANY POINT wanted to be mean or nasty or had an entitled attitude. That ALL of this for the last five seasons was just a front forced upon her. It’s a bit too simple here, with Diamond’s mother showing no redemptive qualities and the REAL Diamond being nothing like the one we’ve seen up until now. It undercuts what should be about self-improvement and realizing ones faults when ALL the blame can be put on the parents who have either never shown up or have never been portrayed to be overbearing or controlling.
Still, whether or not this is how I would wanted this to be addressed, it does give her a chance at a redemption arc which I really wanted to see for a while now and the CMC finally have a reason to not treat her like a one-dimensional jerk. Now that they know someone is in trouble, they don their Friendship Guardians In Training hats to brainstorm a solution. What’s the answer? Be nice to her of course! They invite her to their clubhouse the next day after school and she’s surprisingly receptive to the idea despite her mean mugging them the entire time.
Once again, facial expressions seem to be where the animators are working the hardest to update and improve. Diamond Tiara in particular has some really good ones in here that show her frustration and bitterness. Her attitude doesn’t seem to improve much once she gets to the CMC clubhouse, but then again I would be baffled by their charts too.
Diamond Tiara softens up a bit though and has ALMOST a heart to heart with Diamond Tiara who is clearly not certain about what it is her Cutie Mark means which is something the CMC have helped with in Appleloosa’s Most Wanted where they helped Trouble Shoes figure out he should be a circus clown. Chances are they can’t solve this with funny clothes and gaudy makeup but we won’t find out right now because Pip Squeak is back at the treehouse to see if the CMC can bail him out once again. Apparently the School Board won’t approve the playground reconstruction project so Pip won’t be able to keep his promise. Diamond Tiara overhears this and apparently thinks that this is an opportunity to get Pip Squeak impeached and put herself in charge… though I don’t know why. How is anything he did so far worthy of getting kicked out? Sure he can’t keep his promise, but there are others way to get a new playground and not keeping a campaign promise is hardly an impeachable offense. Even if he was kicked out, would the position go to the one who lost the election? Isn’t there a VICE President of the Student Council? I don’t know, but the scene we get where Diamond Tiara is racing to the school house with the CMC in hot pursuit makes up for the whole thing not making a lot of sense. This actually helps with a lot of my problems with the previous song because Diamond Tiara’s song is one of the best the show has written. This is the No Turning Back song that a lot of very memorable villains have where they explain themselves to the audience and make the fateful decision to go one way instead of the other. Think Hellfire from The Hunchback of Notre Dame where Frollo’s sexual frustration and oppressive understanding of his religion leads him to come to the conclusion to murder the object of his obsession. Hell, look at Let It Go from Frozen. We love that song because it’s about escaping from the an oppressive environment, but it also causes problems for so many people and her chosen exile even leads to her sister getting hurt. Here, she’s determined to take this opportunity to prove herself to everyone that she’s not just a spoiled brat but better than everyone else. We’ve all felt that where we want to prove to everyone else that we aren’t losers and can let that get away from us (just watch me play an RTS to see how quickly I can lose my mind trying to win) so it’s very sympathetic here with great lines like “I’m a Diamond, that means you never break” to get across her determination. The song also matches the intensity of the chase sequence which is very well animated with her literally racing to her own downfall and the CMC trying to cut her off at every turn. There are only two things about this that I can criticize and even though they are fairly small, I might as well point them out. For the life of me I can’t put my finger on it, but the run cycles here look odd. I don’t know why. MAYBE the filly bodies are too small for the legs to move properly at the angles they chose for this sequence, but I can’t think of anything more specific than that.
The other thing that’s odd is that the CMC get to a point where they point out two specific paths for her to take. First, it’s about as subtle as a crowbar to the face, but the bigger thing is that I don’t know what the good path means! There’s just a gazebo under a rainbow which signifies… not evil?
She ends up choosing to go to the school (reaffirming her path to the dark side) and finds that not only is every student there with Cheerilee, but her mother is here too because she is head of the School Board. After publicly dressing down her daughter for… standing there (is she afraid of poor people germs or something?) Diamond stand up to her and swears to no longer use her powers for evil. Needless to say that Ms. Rich-Pants is quite flabbergasted.
I should be happy that Diamond Tiara is finally standing up to her mother and making an honest effort to change our ways, but I feel that there’s something missing. Think about what we just saw and the songs I compared it to. Now admittedly this one has a somewhat different context with the CMC there trying to push her in a different direction, but it still feels like we need her to actually fall from grace before we can buy her redemption. In the typical three act structure, the end of the second act (which is when the song takes place) is when things get to their worst before we can get to the rise. Here, it feels like we skipped the fall and went straight from the high point in the middle of act two (the CMC helping her) to the highest point at the end of act three (Diamond’s redemption). Having her turn around so quickly to the good side once again feels a bit shallow and it also undercuts what was so effectively set up in the song we just heard. Now I guess you could argue that her wanting to get Pip Squeak impeached is the end of second act fall, but then it’s not like this action she’s taking leads to consequences that make her change. She just has a pep talk along the way and is now a better person.
Even if the ending to Diamond’s story is a bit rushed, it’s still a satisfying ending for a character who’s always been an interesting one for me. The CMC are happy once again about a job well done and ruminate on how good they are at helping others find out their place in the world. Maybe they shouldn’t be working so hard on their own cutie marks when they could be helping others… wait a minute.
After five seasons of waiting, the show is finally ready to move forward with these characters and gave them their Cutie Marks which are matching multi-colored shield with an emblem depicting a unique talent on each of them signifying that whatever they are meant to do, they’re meant to do it together. I also love the fact that it was all brought around to Diamond Tiara. It was her that in some ways brought the three of them together and it was by helping her that they discovered their place in the world. They start to sing a song about it and the show just starts pouring on the feels.
Like… REALLY pouring on the feels.
Like… REALLY REALLY SUPER REALLY FEELS!!!!
Now because I am the MASTER of nitpicking, I do have a problem with this. The creators have said OVER and OVER that Scootaloo has parents even though we’ve never seen them. Why aren’t they here now? Furthermore, why aren’t Sweetie Belle’s parents here? I know that Apple Bloom’s parents aren’t around (in fact, this episode actually confirms that they died) but the fact that the other two’s parents aren’t here for their Cute-ceañera is just strange and a HUGELY missed opportunity. Wait, are they doing a montage? THAT’S NOT FAIR!! I HAVE LEGITIMATE PROBLEMS THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED AND… aw screw it. Despite that issue I mentioned, this ending is probably the biggest emotional gut punch the entire series has had. The scenes with them welling with pride as their families (related to them or not) heap on praise are perfectly executed and the song itself carries the triumphant tone. And so the episode ends with these three moving on to the next stage of their lives and endless possibilities that come with that.
The season has been up and down for the most part but this is definitely one of the best of the season and will definitely be a one of the most remembered episode of the series, not just for its quality but also for its significance to the characters who’ve been so important to this show over the last five years. The only consistent problem with the episode is that it feels like too much happened here. Diamond Tiara’s redemptive arc could have used a lot more time to explore and the CMC’s triumphant moment could have been just a bit more substantial. What’s here is as good as it could be with the limitations, but those limitations do hurt it and means that we don’t get as much as we wanted from these two stories that we’ve wanted to see play out for some time. Then again, I don’t think there’s enough her for a two-parter which would have been the only way to extend this, and doing so might have actually hurt the significance of this moment. If it was a two-parter with all the hype surrounding it, the ending might not have had the same impact than it does just having it happen in another episode of the series. I certainly wasn’t expecting them to actually get their Cutie Marks at this point, and a week long wait for the hype to build between episodes would have dampened the big moment. Besides, I don’t think there’s even enough material for Diamond Tiara’s redemption to fill two episodes. So yeah, while I do have problems they are understandable and are direct results of the limitations of the twenty two minute episode format. For the choices that had to be made, the writers made the right ones. There’s no such thing as a perfect series with this one being no exception. Season three was a mess overall and the last two seasons have definitely had their ups and downs. Every once in a while though, this show will remind us what made the series about technicolored ponies such a game changer in the first place. The show that was created by Lauren Faust and flourished under Meghan McCarthy is one of the most significant cartoons in quite some time and while the fans have their own problems that need to be worked out (I was no exception when I first watched the show) I think that this show has been a force for good in an animation landscape that’s slowly evolving to show kids more respect than ever in what they should be accepting from their entertainment. So what’s next for the CMC? Well they’ll probably continue to be important fixtures in the series and if you think about it, only a small portion of their episodes were primarily about their Cutie Marks and were instead about them being friends and solving problems. The show will continue to use them in this capacity and may now have opportunities to go beyond what they were able to do so far. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
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