It's been a while, so a quick refresher: I don't comment on every episode, only the ones where I have at least a few things I want to say. By the time this goes up (two days after the episode premiered) we've hopefully gotten the hottest of the hot takes out of the way, which is nice. And note that this post isn't intended as an analysis of the episode (there are plenty of youtubers on the job already, I'm sure) so much as a collection of my thoughts and impressions, hopefully arranged into something approaching coherency. With that all said, click down below the break to see what I thought of Cutie Map.
-The two-parters have never been my favorites in MLP, so I wasn't expecting a lot going in. But I have to say: I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. And I think there are two primary reasons why this particular two-parter worked for me. First, I've always enjoyed the lower-stakes/slice-of-life episodes, and while this obviously isn't one, it's still small in scale. Previous "major" villains have pretty much all been of the "destroy the earth" variety, and while Starlight Glimmer has obviously got all sorts of potential to do harm... at the moment, she's just lording over her little backwater. Leaving aside how the villains might stack up morally, it was nice to see the show go less "WWIII" and more "Jonestown."
And second, the show addressed an actual issue! I get the feeling I'm in the minority among fans on this, but I like there to be some sort of clear moral (whether it comes with a friendship lesson/diary entry or not), and while other two-parters have had those lessons, they've tended to get lost; A Canterlot Wedding gave us "trust your friends," for example, but that was mostly discarded in the second half in favor of daring escapes, pitched battles, and love-shield-blasts, or Twilight's Kingdom had something about knowing who your real friends are, buried beneath the laser battles and artifact-ing. The S5 premier, though, stuck with its message: that friendship and cooperation aren't the same as absolute conformity. That's a good message, and I liked the fact that it didn't get lost along the way.
-Not so much a fan of Pinkie's muffin-faces, though; I'll take my ponies cute and on-model, not green and bloated, thanks. I also have to admit that the Fluttershy head-bobbing gif that everyone's in love with didn't do anything for me. I mean, it's not like I disliked it or anything, it was just... eh.
Looking at this, I feel nothing
-But you know what was great about Fluttershy? That she was finally used for something other than a lesson about learning to be assertive! I am so sick of her re-learning that lesson, and it was refreshing to see her take center stage for another reason. And one that fits her character, to boot! Her quick defense of everything about Our Town sometimes felt strained, but the idea that she'd feel comfortable there at least has basis, and it made for a nice turning point when everypony was being brainwashed.
-I found it interesting that AJ's "countryisms" went along with her cutie mark. I've seen a couple of people interpret this as "AJ being a southerner is her cutie mark," but I think it goes a little deeper than that. The "countryisms" she uses aren't real sayings, they're barely-sensical pastiches. And remember, she got her cutie mark when she realized that she didn't like being a socialite and wanted to go back to the farm, even though she fit in perfectly in Manehattan. I think the real lesson here is that AJ's cutie mark represents her ability to pretend to be a country girl, even though she's a poser at heart. Heck, that also explains why her accent doesn't seem tied to any particular region (drawing tonal hints and word choice from the deep south, Appalachia, the Ozarks, and probably more, at times): it's because it's all been an act, all this time!
-There were two big things that bugged me about the episode. The first was how Twilight got her cutie mark sucked off: Glimmer just straight-up zaps her and takes it? Why doesn't Twi teleport herself and her friends away? Why doesn't she put up a shield (you know, like she does at the end of the episode)? Why is Glimmer able to get away with this when she doesn't even have the element of surprise? It seems like it would have been really easy to have Twilight be caught unawares somehow... and yet, instead, we just get "one of the most powerful creatures in Equestria momentarily forgets she has magic" at a crucial point in the episode.
-The other thing I didn't really like was how Spike got left behind. Both the fact that he was ditched for no obvious reason, and because the hoofball jokes were so lazy. Why do writers have such a hard time writing decent-sounding sports jabber? People in real life jabber about sports constantly! They're all around you! Listen once in a while, take some notes, and get some hoofball dialogue going that sounds like something an actual hoofball fan might say!
-Semi-related: I really, really wish that, at the start of the second episode after the "Previously on" card flashed up, we'd just gotten thirty seconds of Spike and Big Mac talking sports. Then, when time's about up, Spike says "You know, it's been a while since we heard from the girls. Do you think they're doing all right?" To which Mac replies "Yup," and cue theme song.
I mean, come on; you don't need the recap if you're showing the episodes back to back. Might as well have a little fun with it, and show us that Ponyville's holding together with the girls gone.
-The song was a nice match for the episode, I thought. It wasn't the catchiest that MLP's put together, but it wasn't supposed to be; it was supposed to be creepy and, despite the upbeat tempo and style, feel distinctly wrong, and I thought it did that very well.
-All told, I was very happy with this episode. I'm totally okay with the Tree-Map of Harmony sending the girls off every once in a while this season (as long as we still get some lower-key stuff, too), and if the