My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro.
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of CMC: After Story! The CMC have had their Cutie Marks for some time now, but since they’re the only other group that episodes in this series can focus on (something I’d like to change at some point, but whatever), there has to be new justifications for them to go on their wacky adventures. Not really a tall order considering the Mane6 have episodes that don’t tie directly into their duties as Warriors of Friendship or whatever, but so far there hasn’t been enough episodes post crusade to get a sense of how they’ll work without that specific goal to get things started. Will this be a sign of things to come for the CMC, or are we going to get more of the same only now it’s less interesting? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins in the Ponyville Schoolhouse (it’s a good thing all the kids are the same age) where everything is… fine. The CMC aren’t blowing up the playground, Diamond Tiara isn’t spreading anti-Cutie Mark propaganda, and Pip’s reign as Student Body President hasn’t ended in catastrophic failure! Things are just… okay. Cheerilee must have realized how boring this is (either consciously or subconsciously) and has decided to have the class do the most dangerously stupid (and lawsuit inducing) thing she could imagine!
What Cheerilee has planned for the class is something called the Applewood Derby (gee… I wonder who’s hosting it…) where each kid gets one giant block of wood, one adult to help them, and one day to build a cart to race. There will be three winners based on three distinct categories (rather than race placement) which are fastest cart, most traditional, and most creative. Uh… huh…
Geez, right off the bat the episode has no sense of subtlety or authenticity. Sure, the plot can go in wildly different directions (maybe the CMC won’t choose their sister/counterpart! Maybe the episode will have them NOT win their predetermined trophies but they end up learning a more important lesson!) but this setup is so unbelievably stagey that I’m having trouble investing in the story already. Sure enough, each of them goes to their predetermined partner, but the twist here is that they don’t want to win the trophy that was assigned to them at birth; rather they want to break convention and win one of the other trophies. Apple Bloom wants the fast car, Scootaloo wants the creative one, and Sweetie Belle wants the traditional one. Naturally this is gonna rub them all the older ponies the wrong way.
So I guess we’ll be getting a lesson about adults not trying to force their childhood memories and values onto the next generation. I got. I got most of it at the three minute mark and I got ALL of it at four. Well we might as well go through the motions here. Why exactly are the older ponies so gung ho in making carts for categories that fit their predetermined personality types? Well Rainbow Dash won the Cloudsdale fastest trophy when she was a kid, Applejack’s family has ALWAYS won the traditional trophy (sounds like a rigged system if you ask me), and poor Rarity got only the SECOND place creativity trophy all those years ago and it’s been eating away at her self-esteem since then.
Trying to relive glory days, scared of change, and thirst for revenge. Got it. Now since we have another fifteen minutes to fill, the CMC are unable to bring their clear grievances to their sisters (or approximation of such) and we get a bunch of scenes of them confirming to each other that their sisters know best but then not-so-subtly try to convince them to go against their initial plans for the cart. Honestly, I’m not sure why the three of them don’t just go off and do something else while their sisters do all the work. If they ACTUALLY wanted to make the cart, then they should either do something about it or cut their losses now and accept a free grade from the teacher.
Things don’t get much better once the carts are finished and the race is about to begin. The older ponies are the ones who will be driving the carts which is a CLEAR VIOLATION OF THE DERBY RULES (I’m sure they ALREADY broke the rules by making the carts themselves, but this is a rule break that’s really easy to prove), yet Cherilee doesn’t do anything about it.
The CMC continue not to do anything or say anything of importance, so rather than advance the story NOW (to be clear, the story hasn’t ACTUALLY advanced since the five minute mark and we’re at the fifteen), they just clamber into the carts they hate and sit miserably while the older ponies continue to act like assholes. Oh what fun this is! Worse yet, they turn the race into a song, so there’s no sense of drama or tension about the race itself as it’s just a visual backdrop for the song that reiterates what already know.
On top of that, the race itself makes no sense. I would have guessed that this was going to be a life sized version of the Boy Scout’s pinewood derby where the carts are shot down a large hill like track (therefore being propelled by gravity). Not here though as it’s an actual racetrack (a needlessly complicated one at that) which means that there HAS to be a motor of some kind powering the carts! Are they all just powered by magic, even the ones built by non-unicorn ponies? Even the traditional one that Applejack built uses an internal combustion engine!? I get that this is a secondary element to the generational drama, but by that very token there’s no reason they couldn’t have had this make sense! Hell, even when we saw a flashback to Rainbow Dash’s derby, it was more like a bobsled slalom than a race track! The only reason that it’s done as a race rather than a series of heats (and the reason the track is so convoluted) is because they needed a way to stop the race. One of Rainbow Dash’s wheels falls off their cart and they skid out in the middle of a four way intersection that FOR SOME REASON IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A RACETRACK!! There’s no stop signs, there’s no signal light, just fifteen or so carts going as fast as possible through this poorly designed track from hell, and I don’t blame Rainbow Dash one bit for crashing here! ANYONE could have crashed at any time.
After the multiple car pileup (thankfully no one gets hurt), the CMC finally have the guts to tell their sisters to piss off and that they shouldn’t have taken over their project the wat they had. The older ponies realize their mistakes and apologize, and the younger ones learn not to trust adults! Yay! Everyone there decides that it’s probably best to go ahead and restart the race in a few hours which gives the CMC just enough to get their vehicles done properly rather than to the whims of the older ponies who for some reason now look like grease monkeys which I guess means there really is a motor inside these vehicles that they built from scratch in just a couple of hours. That or the animators just wanted them to wear silly outfits.
It looks like everything is going to be just fine! The Cutie Marks have their cart of choice for the race and the adults basically learned the lesson Mila Kunis learned in Bad Moms! And so the episode ends with the CMC out there having the time of their lives while their older sisters are chillaxing on the sidelines and feeling a sense of accomplishment for a job well done. Well… a job well done the SECOND time around.
You know, The Simpsons did a cart racing episode all the way back in season three (Saturdays of Thunder), and while it may not be fair compare this to the most influential animated series of all time that was also initially aimed at adults, it’s a perfect example of everything that this episode COULD have done right, but instead took a simplistic approach. The mechanics of the cart races are established just enough so that they make sense, and yet still don’t get in the way of the primary story which is about Homer trying to be a good father and learning to still want that even when things aren’t going his way. On top of the moral being simplistic and cliché, there feels like there’s a middle act completely absent here. There needed to be some sort of crisis point (maybe the crash) by the end of the second act so as to set up the redemption in the third act and maybe even get into what was driving the older ponies to act the way that they did. Instead, it feels like an overlong first act with a crammed in third act and none of it feels satisfying or all that interesting. This episode is filler; plain and simple. When you think of episodes from season six of the show, this is not going to be one of them, but I guess it’s inoffensive enough so as not to be a bad one either. You’ll probably watch it once and then forget it twenty minutes later which is probably for the best when an episode is this mediocre.