Monday, February 18, 2013

Episode Talk: S3E13, Magical Mystery Cure

I had a really great Saturday, guys.  I went to a Scottish heritage festival with a couple of friends (one of whom was getting extra credit for a college class he's taking by going--ah, college), and we had a blast.  Lots of music, period weaponry from a number of different eras, an exhibition on woodworking... it all made for a nice day.

And that evening when I got home, I watched the season 3 finale.  I approached it with trepidation; would it spoil my mood, or would it prove to be the cherry on a sundae of a Saturday?  Click below for a few of my thoughts on the episode.  Because, you know, I'm sure you haven't read a dozen episode recaps already.

-It's an understatement to say that I viewed the alicornification of Twilight Sparkle (which would be a great name for a fanfic, by the way) with extreme skepticism.  However, I felt the same way about Trixie's return, and that turned out to be, while not one of the show's greatest episode, at least one that I was able to enjoy.  So ever since I found out that Twi was going to be sprouting wings, I've been making a concerted effort not to prejudge.

-Let's start with the good bits:
-HOLY SHAMOLY YOU GUYS CELESTIA CAN SING!  The song itself wasn't anything special, but her VA has a beautifully rich voice.  If she's got those kind of musical chops, how on earth did it take this long for Daniel Ingram and/or the scriptwriters to find a way to incorporate some singing into her role?
-I'm glad that Derpy seems to be 1) back, and 2) tucked securely into the background.  I missed her, but I didn't care for her one speaking appearance (in either dubbing); I just wanted to be able to play Where's Waldo with her again.  Hopefully that's something that continues/is picked up again in season four.
 -There was a beaver in this episode, so that's always a plus.  And squirrels!  I like squirrels, too.  Actually, I guess I just have a fixation on rodents.  The way they animate their chipmunks is way too cutesy for me, though--the squirrels and beavers seem, if not realistic, at least less dolled-up, but the way the chipmunk's doe eyes and bulging cheeks are done is just too much.
-The "liquid pride" line by Shining was a good one.  Also some of Pinkie and Dash's incompetence was pretty entertaining to watch.   There wasn't very much humor in this episode, but there were a few nice bits.
-Now the bad:
-There wasn't very much humor in this episode.  I'm not looking for wall-to-wall slapstick when I watch MLP, but this stood out as a very serious, straight-laced entry.  Since the goofy, lighthearted humor is a lot of what makes the show so enjoyable, I felt its absence keenly.
-Unfortunately, I'm going to have to say the entire plot was poorly conceived    FiM has always tread a delicate line as regards fate vs. free will: there are plenty of mystical bonds and magical connections that lean towards the former, but at its core, the show has always been about being yourself and not letting anyone else define you.  The friendship lessons mostly steer clear of the broken aesops of other children's cartoons which teach that friendship means mindless subservience or the unconditional subjugation of one's own wants and needs (teachings memorably parodied by the Buddy Bears, from the Garfield and Friends TV show), and instead show how two or more healthy, normal individuals can get along.  Any such morals hinge on self-determination, and thus are antithetical to any clearly defined destiny.  
In this episode, that uneasy balance between fate and free will was tossed aside in favor of an all-out embrace of the former.  From the opening minutes, where cutie marks are indelibly if incompletely tied to one's core personality (compare to Cutie Mark Chronicles, where the marks are clearly not this, but instead passively indicate a pony's passion in life), MMC relies heavily on the trappings of destiny and predetermination, which makes for some very uncomfortable viewing.  Twi's ascension to princesshood is presented in such a way that it's almost impossible to view it as something earned, or as a logical outcome of the show's events to date.  Instead, she apparently became a princess because Hasbro said so it was her destiny.  That's a terrible moral!  It dismisses her personal growth as a mere footnote in a greater cosmic inevitability, and reduces her friends to irrelevance.  After all, they've each learned just as much about friendship as Twi, but apparently AJ's fate is to live so close to subsistence-level that Pinkie's inability to perform her tasks for a single day can threaten her (AJ's) entire family's livelihood.  But that's okay, because it was her destiny.
-As much as I like songs, I didn't find this set terribly impressive.  I think music in FiM works best when done in the style of classic opera: recit (or for MLP, normal dialogue) moves the story forward, while aria (the songs) elaborates, establishes emotion or desire, and presents the audience with a grand spectacle.  My favorite songs from the show (Find a Pet, Winter Wrap-Up, At the Gala, etc.) follow this pattern.  Stuff like Morning in Ponyville (the opening song) and Celestia's Ballad aren't really spectacular; I'd describe them as uncomfortably brief and under-developed songlets, which I'd have been happier without (with a voice like that, Nicole Oliver deserved a show stopper, dangit!)
-I understand that the show is focused around the main six, but come on; we've seen other weather pegasi.  AJ's not the only pony who lives at Sweet Apple Acres.  Presumably there's something in town which keeps ponies from collapsing into violent anarchy other than Pinkie's cheerful goodwill.  What I'm trying to say is, it would have been no less funny, and much less grating, to simply show the ponies being comically inept at each others' jobs without suggesting that Ponyville literally couldn't survive one day without them. 
-And finally, the mixed or simply okay:
-While it definitely felt rushed in the last half, this was probably the least rushed "epic" storyline which the writers have attempted.  If the show had just ended with Twilight figuring out how to undo Star Swirl's spell, I suspect the entire story could've been snugly fit into 22 minutes.  Unfortunately, there also had to be an alicorning, but the pacing here's still better than it was for Discord's return, at least.
-My God, the princesses were wearing some hideous dresses at Twi's coronation.  And I'm sure I'm not the first to observe this, but that crystal pony hairdresser must have gotten healthy again between episodes.  Moreover, she must be amazing; how else do you explain Cadence's hairstyle change mere moments after the coronation?
-My overall thoughts?  I was extremely disappointed by this episode.  There was probably no way to make such a dramatic change smoothly and cleanly, but the wholesale embrace of destiny as a positive and immutable force really curdled any enjoyment I might have been able to take from the story.  In the end, Twi didn't become a princess because she learned the magic of friendship (again, the rest of the main cast could have become princesses too if that was all it took), or because she worked hard for it, or even because she was born into the role (which would at least have had the advantage of making her ascension a product of lucky birth and nothing more).  Instead, she became a princess because it was her fate--because that's what female protagonists do--and I'm profoundly distressed that a show that worked so hard to create independent, intelligent characters has been reduced to this kind of pablum.  "Everything's going to be just fine," eh?  It's going to be a long wait for season four--I only hope that this episode doesn't mark the direction the show will be going from here on.


  1. My thoughts are here.

    In addition, I think Chris and me have somehow developed a mind link. I hope its temporary.

    1. After reading your review, I can't help but recommend Dark City, which deals with the concept of having one's memories replaced



      Back to lurking.

  2. Yep, just as I predicted. Now I have to humiliate myself before everyone else here and say that I actually really liked this episode for the most part.

    The episode's big problem is that it's basically two episodes crammed together, and the pacing is rushed as hell. By structuring it as a musical, however, a lot of the rushing is covered up by the numbers. All of them are used to great effect, actually advancing the story rather than retreading old ground or wasting time like a lot of FiM songs do. And I actually enjoyed almost all of them, a first for this season.

    As for the whole "Twilight's Destiny" thing, it should be pointed out that Celestia's song and the whole astral plane scene showcase all the stuff Twilight's done to earn her new rank and title. Furthermore, we saw her responsibilities scaling up pretty rapidly this season, from her learning to delegate tasks and sacrifice her own prosperity (and possibly her life) for the greater good to finding alternative solutions to superpowered threats and then entertaining foreign delegates. Throw in everything else that happens over the series, and I'd say she's more than earned the position. (This might be why I don't see the horribleness of the moral that you are. FiM Princesses have already been shown as being very different from the Disney variety, as they do actual work, run their kingdoms, and are official heads of state rather than glorified trophy wives for the dashing princes.)

    The weird thing, though, is that the episode actually goes out of its way to show the downsides of just blindly believing in destiny. The other ponies follow their cutie marks blindly because that's what you're supposed to do, but when they get back in their actual element, they quickly start to love what they're doing to the point where they call it their destiny. In other words, it seems to imply that the show's concept of destiny is that it's a reflection of one's inner strengths funneled into something they both enjoy and are capable of doing, or a "special talent."

    So yes, I liked this episode...but that doesn't mean I'm completely on board with the change. All of this rests heavily on what happens in Season 4, and I do not envy them when that comes. If Twilight stays a princess, but noting else changes, then the whole thing was pointless. If Twilight stays a princess and her status in the show changes, then she pushes the others out of focus and ruins the show's dynamics. If Twilight loses her wings and princesshood, then this entire episode was rushed for nothing. This is ultimately a no-win situation.

    But at the same time, the show had to change up something. As much as we may look wistfully back on the season one episodes of yore, those plots would be incredibly difficult to pull off with the characters having progressed to where they are. Twilight can't keep being the total bookworm who throws slumber parties by the book, and there's only so far they can stretch her being a student. If they can successfully build on the change in the next season, then it could be a good breath of fresh air for the series as a whole. Either way, I plan to be here for the long run. Will you?

    I have said my piece. You may now feel free to ignore me or tear me apart, your choice.

  3. I'm still of the opinion that Twilicorn could open some interesting possibilities for world-building episodes in season four, and I'm all in favor of that. There's also some real potential for storytelling with the Mane Other Five coming to terms with the new status quo. Also, while the episode was kind of light on laughs, Rarity (as always) provided a couple, as did the critters going all Lilliputian on Dashie.

    That said... still kind of a lousy episode. I think it would have worked better as a two-parter that gave the two separate plots time to breathe. The switched cutie mark thing, troubling implications aside, could have been an interesting and entertaining idea to further explore, the songs wouldn't have seemed so overwhelmingly concentrated, and maybe they could have done some actual build-up for the alicornaning.

    Also, everypony's reaction to Twi's promotion seemed way too understated. I know they couldn't have aired the reaction I would have had--"Holy hell, Twi, did you just become a god?!"--but Applejack's mild-mannered bemusement and Rarity's pseudo-intellectual curiosity about the lack of alicorning precedence seemed just a touch underwhelmed.

    Still, it served its purpose. Twilight is an alicorn now. "Alicorn" is canon. Ditzy Derpy Doo Hooves is back. Onward, to season four!

  4. On fate: cutie marks are problematic. You magically get this symbol on your flank that has been established to remove all other paths for your life. What I liked about this episode is that it suggested that the magic chooses your destiny right, and that if something masses with that, you inevitably find your way back to what you're meant to do. We still have the problem of doing only one thing ever for the rest of your life, but it's still a children's show, now have evidence that it's the best possible thing to do with your life. I often wish I could have such clarity.

    Let's consider the special case of Twi getting Princessed. It's abundantly clear that this was contingent on Twilight doing something "that's never been done before, something even a great unicorn like Starswirl the Bearded was not able to do." And then we just had to have the line confirming that it was Twi's destiny. Darn. This suggests is that ponies choose their destiny, much like Harry chose to be sorted into Ravenclaw.

    I personally found the episode funny, but that's probably because I've watched enough rifftrax to warp my brain to find anything I watch funny. Other than that, I agree with all your criticisms.

    But, in the end, I enjoyed the episode. The music wasn't great, but it was good enough, and was perhaps the best mechanism for pushing through everything we needed to get through. I ultimately liked what was said about cutie marks. I found it funny. And there's going to be two more parts. Maybe we'll get Joss Whedon to write it as a Once More with Ponies or Princess Twilight's Sing-Along Guide to Princessing and everything will be good.

    But. My favorite part was the variations of Art of the Dress in What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me. This doesn't occur in a episode that stands by itself. Season 4 will show if it set up something to justify it.

    1. Wasn't Harry sorted into Gryffindor?

    2. Anonymous is referring to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, where Harry has a long, personal conversation with the Sorting Hat and chooses to be put into Ravenclaw rather than Gryffindor or Hufflepuff.

  5. Fair warning: I'm too lazy to organize my ideas like a sensible person, so be prepared to trudge through a spew of consciousness

    While the pacing of this episode, much like Return of Harmony and Canterlot Wedding, was skewed, I felt the decision to make it a musical made it more palpable. However, they failed to pull off the execution properly. Out of seven songs, only two were any good: What My Cutie Mark Is Telling Me and A True, True Friend, the latter of which suffered from retreading old ground (a serious flaw considering the 22-minute length). Morning in Ponyville was alright - I loved that line "My Ponyville is so gentle and still" - but I absolutely hated I've Got to Find a Way. It didn't fit with the show at all, sounding more like the dreck one might find on the Disney Channel. Behold, Princess Twilight Sparkle kinda creeped me out, giving off a Mass vibe. All bow to your new goddess! For whatever reason, I couldn't help comparing the whole thing to the Daria musical, which I felt was infinitely better.

    As far as destiny goes, I felt like there was this underlying idea that cutie marks don't actually determine one's fate, but the ponies believe they do. This actually sounds great, but the writers botched it with the memory loss. Imagine if Twilight's friends retained their old memories, but were convinced that their changed cutie marks meant they were destined to do something else, despite how horrible they were at their new jobs. Then, in helping each other, they realize the talents they've cultivated through years of passion never left and continue to offer them true joy. Fate be damned, they'll do what they love!

    I was actually excited when Twi's discovery resulted in her being zapped by the others. Had that directly transformed her (maybe keep the scorched floor, as that was pretty cool), rather than Celestia's intervention, I actually would've been perfectly fine with the alicornication. Instead of being deemed worthy of a promotion, Twilight would've claimed her new status through sheer ability! I love the idea of even Celestia being surprised by such a turn of events

    Back to the musical side of things, one of the biggest flaws was Twilight's singing voice. Not to say that it was bad, but it was very different from earlier examples like Winter Wrap Up. This wouldn't have been as big a deal in any other episode, though still annoying, but this being a musical I got the feeling I wasn't watching Twilight Sparkle at all, but rather some imposter

    I'll grant the Twilicorn this: she was pretty cute. That prance they all did at the end was adorable as well

    Oh, and as far as Twi's friends also learning about friendship and being just as deserving, I imagine Hasbro will use that to justify selling more alicorn toys in the future. Pretty Princess Little Ponies SuperS: The Six Pony Princesses Unite! Miracle of the Mirror Pool

  6. I absolutely loved this episode. It was surely pretty different from the normal show fare, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, and some of the parts were quite touching, without losing the lightheartedness that made me like the show in the first place. Also, I love musicals, and have been hoping that the show would do one eventually.

    The pacing was perfect, with just enough exposition to clarify the concepts without it becoming boring. I feel that while the first two acts could be expanded to 22-minutes with shenanigans it wouldn't make such a direct episode, and we would end up with something much more like the "cutie pox" episode, with a lot of filler before the conclusion.

    However, that isn't the main issue. The thing is, the core of this episode isn't Twilight helping her friends to rediscover themselves, but instead Twilight doing something new, and proving herself by doing so. Celestia may be the one to promote her, but it is done because of the things she has done. Removing the alicornification would cheapen what happened before, and the kind of thing Twilight had done (fixing and countering a spell that even the greatest magician in history couldn't fix) goes above and beyond the things she had done before.

    I for one am excited for season 4, and I hope that they keep Twilight as an Alicorn. There is no real reason why that must cause the other Mane 6 to fade out, and there is a lot of new things they can do now, such as making Dash a Wonderbolt, and overall allowing them all to progress. I really doubt the show will make Twilight leave her friends behind, and they could make interesting points about how Friendship can evolve.

  7. My initial reaction to the episode was along the lines of "OMFG BESTED EPPERSOD EVARRR", but I think that's cooled a bit. I still liked it despite its flaws, though part of that comes from refusing to watch the last four minutes of it ever again. (Note that Derpy's appearances are almost all (??) during the coronation. Sending a message?)

    Let's see, bad stuff... The coronation is overblown and sappy. A True, True Friend is severely overblown and I can't enjoy it. The reclamation of cutie marks ignored the hell out of Cutie Mark Chronicles vis-a-vis Rainbow Dash and Rarity. Pinkie got screwed in the reclamation gig.

    Good stuff? Pretty much everything else. As a rushed episode, it's probably the best balanced (compared to Best Night Ever). I disagree with you on the music; I've Got to Find a Way, Morning in Ponyville and Celestia's Ballad are my top three songs from this season. Flat-maned Pinkie with a Southern accent is adorable as shit. It's like seeing her in a saloon girl dress all over again. c.c

    Lastly, I'd like to address your major issue with the episode and hopefully give you another way to looking at it. Cutie marks, as we've been told, aren't a determiner of fate but a mark of recognizing one's true talents. They're damned metaphorical (Rarity's talent, for instance, was found through her gem-finding spell, but her job is dressmaking, and her talent can be interpreted a number of ways: finding beauty in unusual places, creativity, etc.) and thus hard to suss out. Hold that thought.

    I'll point you to the effects of that half-completed spell of Star Swirl's. What did it do? It didn't lash out and swap butt images on five pones; it scrambled the Elements of Harmony. What changed was not five destinies, but the guiding principals each pony possesses. Admittedly, this was not shown in the episode; what was shown was chaos resulting from five ponies being confused about who they are. My point from the paragraph above is that they don't really even understand cutie marks. Cutie marks are fickle things. So when they sing about what their marks are telling them to do, it's more than likely the only conclusion they can draw from a major change in personality linked to them being bonded to severely powerful magical artifacts.

    Does that help at all? :B

  8. "Twi's ascension to princesshood is presented in such a way that it's almost impossible to view it as something earned, or as a logical outcome of the show's events to date"

    Others have already said this before me, so I'll be brief: it was made rather clear that Twilight's realizations about friendship (and possibly her incredible efforts finishing a very high level spell - after all, magic IS friendship and vice versa) were what resulted in her ascension.

    My real question is about the nature of Star Swirl's spell. Was it a real alicornifying spell, or was it a straightforward (although immensely difficult) spell that just messed with the Elements of Harmony and their cutie marks/destiny? In the latter case, Twilight's ascension didn't originate directly from the results of the spell, but from her understanding of magic (and, consequently, friendship). Do note that it wasn't Celestia who transformed her into an alicorn, but the power came out of Twilight herself (from her heart, or at least her chest).

    Also, I'm the only one who smirked at Morning in Ponyville? I thought it was a reference to the old cliché fanfiction beginning "It was a beautiful day in Ponyville."

    Finally, I think G4 should end right here and right now. Not that I really oppose more pony in S4, but if this episode was the closing chord, we would have a beautiful coming of age-story. I mean, when Twilight Sparkle first arrived in Ponyville, she lived in her own world of books, she was an unsociable deadpan snarker, and, while I wouldn't call her downright neurotic per se, she was more than prone to panic and breakdowns whenever the topic of exams or Celestia came up.

    But as corny as it sounds, during S1 and S2 she gradually learned the meaning of friendship and how to integrate into society. One could say she learned to accept the outside world. And during S3, she learned to trust herself and act responsible (e. g. she isn't anxious anymore in Celestia's presence, or see how she surprises even herself when she doesn't panic, but acts as a leader in Games Ponies Play). One could say she learned to accept her inside "word," nature. This culminates in the season closing episode, where she, and she alone saves her friends (ironically, from the harm that admittedly she herself brought upon them).

    Instead of the nervous breakdowns that characterized her in the earlier seasons ("MONITOR! EVERYTHING!") she acts calmly and responsibly. Not much later, she ascends to alicornity - one could easily see this a metaphor for becoming an adult. Thus, as a new chapter is opening in her life, this would be a perfect point to end Twilight Sparkle's coming of age story and think back to MLP:FiM as a quality cartoon series.

    But hey, more pony in season 4, you say? Let them come, Froustmourne hungers!

  9. After watching the episode and reading many, many reviews, I am beginning to suspect that Magical Mystery Cure may be the perfect Rorschach test for bronies.

    The switching of cutie marks and the reasons for Twilight's alicornification are painted with such broad strokes that they are open to a wide variety of interpretations and retconning. I think most reactions to the episode say much more about the reviewer than about the episode itself.

    As for me? More ponies, please!


  10. I pretty much agree with you, Chris. My biggest issues (some are nit-picks) were:

    - I'll use Rainbow Dash as an example. She sees Twilight's new wings, jumps to hug her, and rejoices that she's got a flying buddy. Shortly after, she's bowing down to Twilight. There's a huge fundamental change to their relationship, but it gets swept under the rug. It remains to be seen whether Twilight gets an attendant boost in magical power, but still... if your best childhood friend abruptly became your sovereign, you're not going to relate to him the same way anymore. Same here. Things would get awkward. And Twilight, for her part, accepted the bowing without a flinch. It would have been much more tolerable with a "No, no! Please get up!" It's the relationships that make this show fun for me, and their credibility has been hurt.

    - It feels more like a toss-in joke at the very end, but Twilight's soaring around was also weird. Pegasi take weeks, if not months, of flight camp to learn how to fly, but Twilight knows instantly? That also burns what could have made an interesting episode. Not to say that they still can't do it, but it loses something, since they'd have to backtrack that bit.

    - There's some debate over exactly what caused her to become an alicorn. Creating a new spell? Or specifically creating some new class of spell? Or just learning the ultimate lessons of friendship? In my mind, it's clear that at least some origination of magic is required, so it's more than a little odd to me that Starswirl never achieved that, in addition to all the "high level unicorns" that Twilight referred to in "Magic Duel." If Starswirl is so legendary, what did he do? Just catalog and organize existing magic? He was at least in the process of trying to create a new spell, so it's unclear. And if only alicorns (or those destined to be them) can create magic, then known spells were created by alicorns who have since died or the princesses, who couldn't find time to write them down in over 1,000 years.

    - The heavy implication that only unicorns can aspire to becoming alicorns really speaks to class inequities. Even though the chance would be slim in any case, two thirds of the population now know that they have no upward mobility. I can see the letter to the new princess:

    Dear Princess Twilight,

    Today I learned just how far beneath you I really am. Since I know my destiny is never to be any more than I am now, I'll just keep on doin' what I can for Equestria in my own little corner o' the world. I remember when I thought we were equals...


    1. And continuing on...

      - Yet another message for the little girls that princesshood should be their aspiration. People appreciated the message contained in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog." Becoming a princess accomplished nothing. No riches, no fame, no cushy lifestyle. She had to make her own fate through hard work, and that's exactly what she did. Granted, this could still play out differently in the next season. I'd hope they'd go for a more constructive message.

      - I agree there was somewhat of a disconnect in the nature of cutie marks. Just a symbol that's representative of a destiny that you'd discovered on your own? Or something hardwired that doesn't show up until you happen upon it? Free will versus predetermination. There can be some disturbing implications, and MLP seems to have played both sides of it to some degree.

      - And to the cutie mark switching. I thought it was enjoyable enough for what it was, but it did require some leaps of logic. Somehow, everyone's memories were altered? It was more than just feeling a compulsion to do some different activity. The townsponies didn't remember that it was Pinkie who cheered them up? The Apple family didn't think it odd that their own kin went into town to make dresses while someone from the bakery bucked apples? Or did it even go so far as to make them think Pinkie actually was one of their family?

      - It's more than just a little disturbing that Celestia appears to have manipulated events to this end, risking quite a bit in the process, and over Luna's objections.

      The music wasn't bad for me. A couple of tunes were catchy, and the only ones I didn't think much of were Celestia's song (though she sang it well) and the one Twilight sang while lamenting in her bedroom. The only one that stood out for me was the cutie mark song, because it told the story instead of being thrown in for the sake of having a song. Even so, it wasn't necessary to go into that much detail here, as it was pretty much just everyone predictably screwing up their new vocations, with the exception of Rarity; she was the one that still put some of her personal flair into her altered job. The music, while pleasant enough, just didn't do anything to impress, though. Nothing was particularly difficult, grandiose, or unusual.

      I'll give the writers a mulligan for now and see how this plays out next season, but I'm not very optimistic.

    2. The whole "aspiration for princesshood" thing, especially Meghan McCarthy's comment, really irked me. I have two sisters, and even the girly one has never said she wanted to be a princess

  11. Yeah . . . I think I’m going to come down from the balcony for this one. ;-)

    I feel inclined to throw a crackpot theory out for the masses to mull over, expanding on something folks have gently touched upon in varying places above. Were one able to take the episode down from its shelf and scrutinize it under a decent amount of light, perhaps turning it 15 to 30 degrees under close magnification, one might discover the faint shadow of a label which had been removed; a label that read “SERIES FINALE.” While we all now know this isn’t the case, re-watching the episode (3 times now) gives me an ever-increasing sense that it was when production on the season first started and there was some uncertainty about whether or not the show would continue (and I mean from the perspective of the creative team’s working timeline, and not from the dates when info was made public). If you consider Twilight’s ascension to be an event of high significance to the series, the screen-time it was granted and way it was presented failed to carry an appropriate level of impact for something so important, which lends to this here crackpot theory o’ mine. I understand that there’s no genuine credence to this (and, more to the point, there will never be any confirmation offered from the powers that be), but it is the impression Magical Mystery Cure left upon me.

    Something could also be said about the rest of this season. Now, it may have been because it was only half-length and it’s been the norm to get a few lackluster ep’s, but overall, for me, S3 has had an unpleasant “throwaway” undertone to it: From what I believe to be a very poorly executed opening two-parter, to the B-grade episodes we’ve received (TMPP, AFR, and SaYS to name a few—sorry for the acronym soup), and even the better ones which managed to fall flat in their conclusions (specifically Magic Duel and Wonderbolts Academy), it seemed more like an unpleasant chore that was plowed through to be quickly done with it, rather than a genuine effort from a creative team we know can do better.

    Heh. . . . Rereading the previous two paragraphs makes me wonder if anyone reading this (or simply looking at my scowling “inner editor” avatar) might view me as frothing, fist-waving angry with the whole affair. I can assure you I’m not. In fact, I have a great deal of hope for S4, and consider the concepts introduced in S3 to be the root of that hope, even if those same concepts were poorly expanded upon in the beginning. There’s a number of good directions that can be taken with Twilight learning what it means to be a princess, and having her, her friends, and even the whole of Equestria struggling with the idea. And of course, we’ll be getting a full season’s-worth of screen time for the creatives to work with, and Amy Keating Rogers (my favorite writer for the series thus far) is coming back on board. So, yeah, I’m waiting with bated breath to see what S4 brings.

    1. I agree with you on the general quality level of season 3. Looking back and knowing full well that this season was intended to be the final season of the show, it seems to me that Hasbro was more interested in simply pushing the season out to reach the syndication-ready mark, and as a result, corners were cut in the production. The animation was as good as ever, if not better. The voice actors were still great. No, for whatever reason, it was the third leg of the stool that was cut short: the writing. This season had a lot of "meh" episodes, episodes that were poorly-plotted and lacked the character-driven punch of so many of the earlier episodes.

      Fortunately, reports are that season four will be fully-funded again, and that fact coupled with Amy Keating Rogers' return bodes well for a return to form with S4.

    2. While I agree that this episode was written with the possibility of being a series finale, I don't think this was a throwaway season by any stretch of the imagination. The ratio of good-to-bad episodes is not significantly different from any other 13-episode stretch of the show, and there are improvements animation wise. Most episodes contained significantly different locations or character models (Crystal Kingdom, Trixie controlled Pony-ville, shady back-alleys, Wonderbolt academy, 3D Timberwolves, etc.)

      My only complaint on this would be about the songs, since none of the songs of this season had impressed me before the finale, but considering what they did on MMC, I can understand why.

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  14. Sorry, there was some mistakes in my first comment. Let me try that again...

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, and while I didn't go in with any solid expectations, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I was getting into it.

    I have to disagree with the idea that the episode threw out the idea of free will. I know they're throwing out the word "destiny" a lot in this episode, but I don't think it was intended to imply that free will doesn't exist. Now, the cutie mark stuff has always been a troublesome area in this regard, but I don't think this episode crossed any lines that haven't been crossed before, and I did not at all get the sense that Twilight was pre-destined to become a princess. In fact, it was strongly implied during the Celestia scene that Twilight had earned that role - that's why they're walking past all those clips from earlier episodes. Frankly, I think the Cutie Mark Chronicles got way more into pre-destiny stuff than this episode did, given that six ponies who are linked by this event just happen to become friends later in life. Here, it was more like "Look at all the stuff you did! Now you're ready to become a princess!"

    Interestingly, I too at first was perplexed at how Ponyville couldn't last a day without the mane six. But after discussing it with RTStephens, I realized that actually, maybe Ponyville isn't that unique. Think about it: what if the people you relied on in your town (your police officers, your fire fighters, your doctors, your clerks at the grocery store, etc.) suddenly had no idea how to do their jobs? Even just a few of these going wrong could have a major impact. We're more dependent on people preforming these roles correctly than we may like to believe. While I concede that it's odd no other weather pegasi show up, I don't find it too hard to believe that a town that had grown accustomed to Pinkie lightening up the day and then suddenly not having her would have to go through a period of adjustment where everypony is grouchy.

    And I HAVE to disagree on the songs. I'm not saying they're the best ones the show has ever produced, but I found Morning in Ponyville irresistibly catchy.

    As for pacing... this has been the biggest critique of the episode, but even this didn't trouble me. Maybe it was just the choice to make it a musical, but I never felt rushed watching this. Compared to the Discord episodes (all of them) or the Crystal Empire episode, I never had the moment watching this where I went "wait...WHAT happened?" Now there was a lot that wasn't explained, but I didn't feel like the lack of that explanation harmed my viewing experience.

    Now, would this have been better as a two-parter? Probably. But I don't think spreading it out over two episodes would have automatically made it better paced (see Discord and Crystal Empire episodes). While I would have liked to see more, I think they did a remarkably fine job fitting what they did into one episode.

    Man... I don't think an episode has so evenly divided the fandom like this one. This truly was a love-it-or-hate-it episode. Anyway, I was skeptical of the Twilicorn stuff beforehand but willing to give it a shot, but after this episode I now am fully on board and eagerly awaiting season four.

    1. Morning in Ponyville was definitely catchy, but it added exactly zero to the episode except that. They could have done the same things in about ten seconds without it, so to me it just felt irritatingly 'because I can'.

    2. On contrary, it added a lot. It showed Twilight interacting with the town ponies, including them partaking in her impromptu dance routines. No longer the exclusive domain of Pinkie Pie, but now also an ability bestowed upon the exalted Princess.

    3. None of which has anything to do with the plot in an episode that was already hugely squashed down. As has been mentioned above, the big songs in S1 were not only plot relevant but also served to advance that plot. This song was neither, and impromptu dance routines are generally not taken as factually accurate in a musical, that's merely a visual connotation how plot (or lack of) is presented.

    4. I saw the song not so much as a plot devise, but as establishing a cheerful mood to mark a strong contrast with the problems that immediately follow (start off happy, to show how bad things get), as well as establishing a thematic link with the song at the very end. So even if it wasn't strictly necessary, I thought it set an important tone for the episode.

    5. I saw the song as a Cold Opening, more than an important set piece. Also, it establishes Ponyville as a place of importance to Twilight, as well as a good place (before the events of the episode), something important for first time viewers.

    6. @InquisitorM:

      Not plot-relevant? Like every Disney song, ever? It was setting a mood and actually giving us a clue as to how Twilight's attitude had changed over time.

      "My Ponyville..." Oh, what a give-away!


  15. John Perry nails it. I was upon my initial viewing blown away by this episode, and I have seen it many times since. My enthusiasm has not dwindled. It is the apotheosis of the show, and it could easily have been the final episode. In effect, it does for MLP:FiM what Toy Story 3 did for the Toy Story franchise. A fitting capstone, stating succinctly what has been learned.

    I really cannot agree with the episode being rushed - on the contrary, it is tight, wasting no time on unnecessary exposition. M. A. Larson and Daniel Ingram delivered in spades.

    As for destiny, there has been clues all the time. A universe with a Day princess, a Night princess, and a main protagonist named Twilight? I had thought it would occur later in the show, but the episodes in S3 have been leading nicely up to this moment, Twilight has continued to grow and mature. I don’t think that all ponies can ascend, but this is no more class inequality than non-pegasi being unable to fly. For destiny, read potential, and it unfolds nicely. There was potential for ascension in Twilight, but she had to work for it. This also goes some way to clarify why Celestia has been so hooves-off in many crises - she sensed the potential in the filly, and recognized that Twilight had to earn her wings herself.

    I think it is right to see the cutie marks as manifestations of something more profound than mere signs on flanks, and it is this more profound aspect that was scrambled by Starswirl's unfinished spell. Spells have previously been seen to have mass effects (see Discord), and presumably the effect of the spell extended to all in the Ponyville vicinity with (or with the potential for) cutie marks. Thus, the town ponies (and the other Elements, and the Apple family) did not realize that something was very, very wrong, but the caster, being the locus of the spell, and Spike, being forever cutie mark less, were unaffected. (That, or 7 hour long bubble baths are excellent magic shields - would explain why this is not the first time, Spike has soaked for a long time).

    It was not Twilight’s magic that caused the unscrambling of the Elements, but her leadership and friendship that directed them to help one another regain what was rightfully theirs. Once they grasped their true potential, the outwards manifestation corrected itself, simultaneously readjusting the associated Element. The ponies’ helping one another was one of the many, many high points of this episode. Nicole can sing, but by Luna so can Kazumi Evans [shivers].

    Starswirl was one of the most powerful unicorns in history, and it is not a stretch to suppose that he would have held ambition of ascending to alicornhood, and that that was the purpose of his last, unfinished spell. As Twilight grokked what had occurred with her friends, she had the epiphany that enabled her to complete the spell. In other words, she ascended through her own doing. Could another unicorn do the same? Seems doubtful - the way the spell unfolded suggested strongly that the Elements of Harmony was a key ingredient. (Were the Elements even known to Starswirl? I doubt it, but we don’t know - we know he existed before the coming of the princesses, but not whether he was still around when they came into being. Luna knowing of him may only show she is well-read). Celestia had an opportunity to speak to and sing for (that song was worth waiting 65 episodes for!) Twilight before the final transformation. This does not indicate that Celestia was the one initiating the transformation, just that she showed impeccable timing, which we know she has. The magic itself had Twilight’s color, and manifested itself from her.

  16. [part 2]

    What Celestia DID do however, was granting Twilight the title of Princess. That is entirely within the remit of a sovereign, and not unexpected. As an aside - note that Princess Twilight has grown in size as well as in number of wings. She is the smallest (and arguably cutest) of the alicorns, but she is still bigger than her friends now.

    Celestia and the other five Elements bowing before Princess Twilight was a thing of beauty. A bow need not be a sign of submission, it can easily be of respect for accomplishment. Princess Twilight's cutie mark is altered, containing now six smaller stars rather than five. I see this is a confirmation that the relationship between Celestia and Twilight is now one between equals. No longer student and mentor, but friends, just as with the Mane 5.

    I believe that the coronation is not held the next day - the "later" of Celestia in Ponyville is indeed somewhat later. Even the impressive Equestrian state apparatus would need a bit of lead time on staging the festivities. So when Celestia says “today” during her speech, she cannot mean that literally, because the events she is referring to took place the day before. If we are given a greater interval, Twilight is also given more time to learn to fly. We know she is a fast learner, and she is not too proud to read the manual, either.

    So where does this lead us? Twilight has ascended, and will have to take on responsibilities befitting her exalted rank. This can mean several things going forward. Perhaps we will see more adventures, and perhaps we will see episodes without HRH Princess Twilight. That is not worrisome - some of the best episodes in the entire series (e.g., Sisterhooves Social and Sleepless in Ponyville) demonstrated that the rest of the Elements can easily field episodes on their own.

    Everything is going to be just fine.

    1. I notice one great flaw in all your arguments: They are YOUR interpretations of what the episode is saying, NOT WHAT THE EPISODE EXPLAINS!!

      And that it why it utterly fails. It requires the viewer to MAKE UP EXPLANATIONS FOR EVERYTHING!

      When a story forces the reader to do that, it is a very poor story indeed.

  17. Replies
    1. A fan work that directly contradicts the events and the tone of episode itself? How is a river in Egypt relevant?