Monday, October 12, 2015

Episode Talk: S5E18, Crusaders of the Lost Mark

I don't normally do this in back-to-back weeks... but then, MLP doesn't usually have two episodes in a row that I have a bunch of opinions about.  As always, this isn't a comprehensive review; think of it as "a bunch of Chris's opinions on what he watched."  So go get some slightly-late opinions, below the break!

-So, let's start with the big thing: the CMC have their cutie marks!

And... it's nothing.  In terms of "how will MLP look going forward," I mean; the execution here changed absolutely nothing about the CMC, by design.  They're going to serve exactly the same narrative purpose in future episodes as they did in previous ones, which is to be the "kids" relative to the main six's older teen/young adult roles.  There may be aesthetic differences, of course; they'll be doing stupid things not to get cutie marks, but because they're trying to help some other blank flanks/they're playing games/they're still in the kid role on a cartoon show... but the actual things they'll be doing aren't liable to change significantly.  Given that, this whole episode felt like a conspicuous non-event to me.  For all the talking-up going on around the fandom, those cutie marks don't change the status quo in any meaningful way.

-Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's stuff, though, does alter the dynamic, at least for the foal-centric episodes (at least, it does if the new characterizations stick--we've seen plenty of times before, most notably with seasons 2 and 3 of Fluttershy, that the show writers have no problem reverting characters to their original archetypes when they're feeling lazy for the sake of a moral, and although I don't expect it, necessarily, I wouldn't be shocked if DT went right back to being a bully in some future episode).  Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with either.

-To start, Silver Spoon: she's been DT's lapdog since season one, and now they're no longer friends because Diamond got mad at her for telling everypony something Diamond told her not to reveal yet?  That doesn't make Silver a compelling character; all it does is retroactively weaken the previous episodes showing the two of them joined at the hip.  Silver standing up to Diamond would have been a great B-plot, or even a main plot, for an episode, but as something tacked on to the setup?  All it does is render their characterization less interesting by rewriting their friendship (co-bullying, whatever) as something almost accidental, a triviality that can't weather even a marginal shake-up.

-And of course, there's the matter of Diamond's new characterization.  Turns out she's an innocent victim!  I can't stress how frustrated I was by this revelation.  Not that her mother's a bad pony, mind; if DT was a bully because she had bad role models and/or insufficient attention at home, that'd make sense.  But no, the reason she acts the way she does is because her mother literally tells her specifically what slurs to use against the other ponies at school.  This takes away Diamond's agency in an important way, because she's not just imitating her mom; she's following her mom's orders.  It also short-circuits any possibility of a meaningful redemption angle (what does she have to be sorry for?  This is firmly in "just following orders" territory, and nobody should expect young children to be able to defy their parents on matters like this).  This really bothered me about the episode.

-I suppose this is as good a place as any to talk about the music.  I was not a fan.  Most of the episode sounded like it came off of a High School Musical soundtrack--this is an issue I've had with individual songs before, that they adopt the banalities of teen pop, but I don't think I've ever had that issue with an entire episode.  The awkward, mid-sentence breaks to accomodate the genre's need for off-beats are a never-ending source of frustration to me; a good song melds the cadence of the libretto and tune, it doesnt' subjegate one to the other, and yet throughout the episode, we're constantly watching ponies stare silently at one another for a beat or two while waiting for their entrance.  That's without even getting into the libretto itself ("Stop! Diamond Tiara, this is not the way / You know you're better than this hostility")   I'm honestly not sure how much of this is Daniel Ingram's fault; Diamond's "woe is me" song felt like it could have been a decent ballad, if the the musical VA (apparently the same one who sings Pinkie's lines; I try not to notice when there are different speaking and singing VAs, but the switch in DT's voice on this one was really, distractingly obvious) hadn't been slurrily, scoopily crooning all over it.  The songs have slowly but surely been moving in a new direction over the past few years, and I think it's safe to say it's not a direction I enjoy (I'm trying to remember the last song I really enjoyed; Our Town, from the S5 premier, maybe?).

-Good news: more Carrot Top!  Bad news:
...she doesn't seem to have been any more impressed with the songs than I was, judging from her reaction to the singing fillies charging past her.

(will I keep including Carrot Top screenshots in all of these posts?  Maybe!)

-Cheerilee's decent into bad-teacher purgatory continues unabated.  In this episode, she watches silently, with a passive grin on her face, while her students go out of their ways to say hurtful things to one another!  I mean, "Cheerilee the terrible teacher" could be a thing, I guess, but I kind of liked it better in the early seasons when she seemed to be... well, I don't know if we ever saw her being terribly competent, but we didn't see this kind of incompetence.  Plus, she tended to seem a little more engaged in the whole "teaching" thing.

-Who's that buck-toothed colt with the carrot cutie mark?  Is he related to Carrot Top?  Is he a brother, maybe?  A cousin?  Or maybe he's related to that green-haired Carrot Top from Boast Busters?  I always assumed that was just regular CT with her hair dyed green for a one-off joke, but what if she is a different pony?

-Too many reviews of this episode that I've read have tried to read something into the election, and to compare it somehow to the US presidential elections.  Sure, you can compare DT to Trump if you want to (they both insult the opposition!), but let's not pretend that that's anything other than projecting; this episode made the obvious election jokes using its chosen characters.  That's it.

-If you want to project, though... I think it's worth noting that Pipsqueak promised the world (well, the playground), but couldn't actually do anything when push came to shove.  Diamond's promises were less exciting to the crowd (I'd rather have a new playground than a new statue too), but she only promised what she could actually follow through on.  The moral of the story?  If you want to know why politicians lie, look in a mirror: it's because the electorate rewards clearly fantastical promises over realistic projections!

-What was up with the ending?  Did the animators realize they were half a minute short when they finished, and need to come up with some filler?  Because although I didn't think it was awful or anything, reusing the opening animation (and writing to Celestia in the first place...) was pretty random.  Speaking of random: why did the CMC glowsplode when they got their marks?  Were the animators afraid we wouldn't notice?  Did they forget how literally ever other cutie mark we've seen appear on the show came on without those kinds of magic-flying-pyrotechnics?

-On the subject of the marks: Scootaloo gets a wing when she still can't really fly?  Damn, fate has a cruel sense of humor.

-Although I didn't enjoy it, this episode didn't actually anger me the way a few of the worst ones have; it's got disappointing music and it wastes a lot of potential with Diamond and Silver, but they probably handled the Cutie Marks about as well as they could, if we accept the premise that 1) they needed to give the CMC marks, and 2) they didn't want to write the CMC out of the show or lose their ability to be young child-analogues.  What really baffles me is how much praise the episode seems to be getting.  Are people still just excited about the marks themselves?  Am I the only one who's not enjoying the musical direction the show's taken?  I'm pretty sure I haven't turned into a nostalgia-goggled grump just yet; Amending Fences was on of my favorite episodes to date, and there've been plenty of other S5 episodes I liked.  But the fandom reaction to this, compared to my own, makes me wonder if I just don't like the same things as everyone else who watches the show.


  1. "But the fandom reaction to this, compared to my own, makes me wonder if I just don't like the same things as everyone else who watches the show."

    Don't worry about it, I've long accepted the fact that a lot of my opinions are utterly contrary to a lot of the fandom's (for example, The Crystal Empire is probably my favorite out of all the two-parters, but I think Twilight's Kingdom was a dreadfully dull episode with almost no redeeming value), but that doesn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the parts of the show I like, regardless of what other people like.

    Anyway, I loved the episode. I also really like the Crusaders' cutie marks. It actually redeems earlier episodes where they searched for their cutie marks for me. Before, it seemed like the Crusaders were just being idiots in their episodes, searching in all the wrong places even though the answer was right in front of them. But this episode revealed that that wasn't the case—they were working toward their marks all along. Their talent is helping other people figure out what to do with their lives, and they've had a lot of practice at it because they've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with their own lives!

    It's glorious.

  2. Thank you! I was starting to think I was the only one who didn't care for this episode

    I've been complaining for awhile about the musical direction this show's taken since Season 2. Light of Your Cutie Mark felt more Backyardigans than High School Musical. And what was the deal with The Pony I Want to Be? Shouldn't she have been shown there was a better way before she started singing about it? They could've moved her little hangout with the CMC to before the song, she could actually do stuff with them and then realize how lucky they were, and after she sees what AB's family's like, she'd finally sing

    What's with Spoiled Rich and blank flanks? That's always struck me as more of a child's prejudice than an adult's. I have a hard time seeing anyone else in Equestria judging Diamond for associating with them, seeing as literally everyone was markless at some point. Her whole character was just weird

    That ending bugged me too. My best guess is that the "glowsplode" was because they simultaneously got similar marks

    Oh, and Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle! They've become this tag-team, authorial voice just breaking the flow of the episode. "Hey, kids! We've got a lesson to impart!" Ugh...

    There were still some good aspects. Music-wise, I enjoyed the lines "He's it, vote for Pip!" and "Would you believe... to be the pony I wanna be." And some of those facial expressions! I'm still not over DT's face (yeah, I don't know how to 'shop)

    I don't know if anyone else here follows the HaxMega streams, but what was up with those Kermits?

    1. Juggy, thesecret1, and I were all distinctly unimpressed with the episode. Damned lazy storytelling from end to end, even for a kid's show.

    2. You're the first other person I think I've seen who seemed to think Spoiled's distaste for blank flanks was weird. They couldn't come up with other reasons? It's not as if the CMC are likely NOT to have given the more pillars-of-the-community type reason to dislike them.

    3. Right? It's like a human adult not wanting their kid exposed to cooties

    4. It also needlessly makes a hash of canon. "Call of the Cutie" had Cheerilee accidentally coin the term, which Diamond Tiara picked up and used against Apple Bloom and, later, the CMC. It was outright established as a childish insult.

      How do you get from that to DT's mother using it as if it were a common Canterlot insult? If she picked it up from DT, then it runs against the grain of the whole "DT's mother pushed her into the dark side" story. If DT is supposed to have picked it up from her, then it contradicts what we saw in the earlier episode. I daresay you could come up with an explanation, but the season doesn't seem particularly bothered about offering one, so why should we?

      "Juggy, thesecret1, and I were all distinctly unimpressed with the episode."

      That makes four of us, then. See my post below.

  3. Look out, we're dealing with some badasses here.

    I can't say I know anything about High School Musical, but I feel like that's a level criticism. As the show (and movies) progresses, it seems more and more like Ingram's running out of ideas. Everything's samey. I liked The Pony I Wanna Be for content more than anything, and the CMC song, whatever it's called, is catchy, but otherwise, this is only a step above Friendship Games in terms of "will I actually remember these songs?"

  4. This episode is a lot like Magical Mystery Cure: it satisfies on an emotional level and makes you feel happy, but if you think about the story for more than a few seconds, it falls flat on its face. Overall, it's not one of the season's best episodes by any stretch, but it was fun for what it was.

    1. Cutie Mark Career Counselors, yay!

      But seriously, you've hit the nail on the head: This is a purely emotional episode. Good episodes are a blend of logic and emotion, and bad episodes are only one or the other... but mostly emotion, 'cause logic is hard. But it seems that the majority of viewers are more than happy with emotional fireworks that make little to no sense.

      What bothered me the most about this episode was the dialogue. It was often painfully obvious that an adult with an agenda was using the CMC, DT, and SS as puppets to communicate the "lesson" with no regard as to how children actually speak. This is why none of the CMC had much in the way of individual personality in this episode.

      As for the music, I think it suffers from the same problem: Its primary purpose was to communicate the "lesson," and all other considerations were secondary, resulting in awkward stuff with no memorable tunes.

      I don't think the lesson or the outcome was bad, but the delivery was so forced and unnatural, that I came away with a very bad taste in my mouth.

    2. I can see some real similarities there, but I still think MMC was on a whole other level of awful than this. There were real, meaningful bumps here, but not to the extent that I think you could say that the whole thing just didn't make sense. And the preparation for it was leagues beyond what went into MMC (or the addition of Cadence and Shining Armor, for that matter). While I certainly prefer the implied arc from season one, where they'd find their own, independent talents and paths in life, presumably finding that it need not separate them, making the journey the destination does have a certain . . . fittingness to it.

    3. "It was often painfully obvious that an adult with an agenda was using the CMC, DT, and SS as puppets to communicate the "lesson" with no regard as to how children actually speak."

      That's what I was trying to get at earlier when I complained about AB and Sweetie (don't recall Scoots being too bad), but I think you put it better. Glad someone like-minded can be more articulate

  5. Dangit, I really need to get round to watching everything I missed. You head to New Mexico for a weekend, and something that was built up for five years happens. On a side note, I do think that, given what the crusaders tend to be used for, giving them cutie marks that barely change the status quo was probably a good decision.

  6. Eh, I dunno. I rather liked it, but I don't feel compelled to itemize why.

  7. I loved everything about this episode. Except the ending, I'll agree that was really weird. But honestly? This was like Magical Mystery Cure 2.0: better in every way. I adored the singing. My heart melted for Diamond Tiara, something I never thought I'd ever be able to say. Seeing how mature the CMC have grown made me all fuzzy inside.

    Now, I've never been super-critical of the show. Certainly not to the level that I'm critical of fanfics, that's for sure. I think the key difference there is that fics are generally aimed at a relatively mature-aged fanbase. The show is not. So it's harder for me to find faults in the animation than the words.

    Then again, perhaps I'm just not as perceptive as people who've actually gone on to have tertiary education, or who at least did better than just barely scrape through high school. So I suppose I fit right in with, oh, I dunno – the target demographic, perhaps?

    That it takes such a deep and educated level of thinking to find flaws in a show that's geared toward children half my age I think is actually testament to the writing's strength.

  8. "But the fandom reaction to this, compared to my own, makes me wonder if I just don't like the same things as everyone else who watches the show."

    The huge positive reaction to the episode is a purely emotional one. The episode was forced and awkward but delivered several things that most of the audience desperately wanted... with magical fireworks as icing on the cake. The majority of people are perfectly happy with appetite satisfaction even if the vector is ghod-awful junk food.

    1. >The huge positive reaction to the episode is a purely emotional one

      I'm actually inclined to agree with this, thinking about it some more. But you know what?

      >I adored the singing. My heart melted for Diamond Tiara, something I never thought I'd ever be able to say. Seeing how mature the CMC have grown made me all fuzzy inside.

      ^This is why I watch the show. It does for me what very few other shows can, have done before, will ever do. So, in my eyes, the episode succeeded 100% with its intent.
      FiM pulled me back from a very dangerous brink four years ago, and so I have an incredibly emotional connection with the show to this day. It feels as magical as anything can feel to watch.

      >But the fandom reaction to this, compared to my own, makes me wonder if I just don't like the same things as everyone else who watches the show

      I guess that's really the only way to explain it. We all watch it for different reasons.

  9. I do want to respond to the points you've made, though, and say why very few of them bothered me.

    Yes, how the CMCs act going forward will not be that much different, and if you're totally results-oriented, then I guess you could call that a non-event, but for me, it crystallizes a purpose for them. They actually know what they're doing now instead of casting about blindly. Whether you liked their role in the story before will probably have a big effect on whether their new focus is an improvement or not, but I felt like it showed some important character growth for them that shows they'll be far more effective now, particularly the reasoning they used to go help Diamond Tiara. It was a very mature choice.

    I only agree on a technicality about Silver Spoon. It was a poor choice for her to cite the sticking point as DT hassling her about the statue reveal, because DT is actually in the right there. If SS had instead cited the part where her lyric about DT needing to care got cut off, then she'd have a much more valid argument about the exact same point. For me, it didn't weaken their past relationship at all, since I always took SS as someone along for the ride, and when she saw all that falling down around her, decided to bail out. She had a limit and reached it, and if she'd continued to be a blind follower, it would have made her far less interesting.

    I don't agree at all that DT has to be an innicent victim here. I know it's become a fandom trope (see: Nightmare Anypony) to make this argument, but most of the time, it's not in the face of clear evidence either way. DT never looked like she had the least bit of doubt about what she was doing before. Spoiled Rich is certainly the insitgator here, but that doesn't mean that DT didn't buy into it herself. She really seems the same as SS in this regard: she finally reevaluates it when it makes everything come crashing down. It cost her the election, so she starts to question it, then when her mother is completely unsympathetic and inflexible, she sees it for the sham it is, but she doesn't really know what to do about it yet.

    I can't really seak to the music, because there are absolutely no grounds to celebrate or condemn anyone's tastes to that. Just because it doesn't suit mine doesn't mean I can call it bad. I liked the campaign song and how it changed styles back and forth. I liked DT's lament, more for the content than the actual music. So no, I didn't find the music particularly memorable, but I'm not going to stomp on anyone else for liking it, because I have no standing to call it bad. Inasmuch as you didn't like the pauses, I think they fit with the musical style you said you don't like, so I'd call it consistent with the genre. Whether or not that's to my taste is immaterial to any objective measure of quality.

    Cheerilee... well, I know you're going to be sensitive to anything about teachers, but this didn't bother me in the least. No, a real teacher probably wouldn't do this. But there are a lot of instances in the show that make various people say "A real X wouldn't do that!" It's just not something that bothers me. Spoiled Rich has probably been on the school board for a long time now, and I have to think this isn't the first time Cheerilee's heard something like this from her. I'd readily chalk it up to "here we go again" apathy where she knows nobody's going to take it seriously than having a lapse in judgment.

    1. I do like the election choice: outlandish promises that he can't deliver on, or useless things that she can. He shold have just said he'd try to get new playground equipment.

      I just took the fireworks as the three getting linked cutie marks, which is pretty unprecedented. I could take it or leave it.

      The music appeals to me less and less these days as well, but it doesn't leave me exasperated. It's playing to the audience, which largely has different tastes than I do, so... it's pretty inevitable and not something that's prompted me to expend any time caring about.

      In the end, you're either going to like an episode or not, and no amount of verbalizing it is going to change someone's opinion that it was enjoyable or not. You just seem to be getting hung up on a lot of personal taste issues and latching onto one of several possible interpretations of things, which is perfectly fine, though I don't see very many of them as a real indictment of the episode's quality.

    2. And I really hope Sweetie Belle's parents were already inside Sugarcube Corner. It seems really odd for them not to be present when she got her cutie mark.

    3. On the subject of the music: you're right, of course, that teen pop isn't inherently "better" or "worse" than any other genre. I thought I was pretty clear when I wrote this up that I was talking about my enjoyment of the music (and throughout, of the episode itself), rather than its objective merits... but looking back at that paragraph, it seems I wasn't as clear as I'd have liked to be.

      I wonder if real-life farmers have equivalent issues with the Apple family to mine with Cheerilee? Or real-life bakers with the Cakes? Now I'm kind of curious how much one's IRL job changes one's perception of a character as relates to their job.

      For the most part, I think you're spot on in the last paragraph; this post was about my personal issues and perceptions, rather than the objective quality of the episode. The one point I'd specifically defend as being a weakness of the episode, rather than just something that doesn't appeal to Chris, is Diamond Tiara's victimization. But honestly, bookplayer wrote up a post that expresses my issues with DT far more coherently than I could have:

  10. This was one of those episodes that I saw plenty of flaws in and still loved to pieces. "Bats!" is the other one that comes to mind, but this one is even more so. It's not just because something I really wanted to see actually happened -- after all, I really wanted to see Coco Pommel return, and I wasn't a huge fan of "Made in Manehattan". I still think "Amending Fences" is the best episode of S5, but I enjoyed this one just about as much.

    The music... yes, I prefer the earlier stuff, too; I think "Apples to the Core" was the last song that really felt like a "classic FiM song" to me. I don't mean I dislike everything since; I love "Shine Like Rainbows" and "My Past is Not Today", among others. But they're not FiM, and for the show my test is simple: is it singable without heaps of practice? Apart from "In Our Town", nothing in S5 has been -- though "We'll Make Our Mark" has a shot.

  11. The only problem I had:

    With the episode was Tiara's song. It starts with its ending, so it doesn't have any themes to develop.

    I would've had her start the song rhetorically asking why everything's gone wrong. She's been doing everything she's supposed to do, everything she's been told to do, and yet her friend has left her and she's lost her position at school. She should be a diamond shining brightly for all the world to see, but instead she's come to realize that she's as plain and invisible as glass.

    That's when the idea of not being the pony she wants to be should enter into it as well as the first inkling of an idea that there's got to be another way to get where she wants to go.

    That would then feed into the Crusaders' song offering her that other way and would lead to Tiara making the choice to follow their advice.


    1. That's brilliant! But, of course, you're coming from a storyteller's perspective.

      I've often noticed that songs mostly come in two flavors: Ones that advance the story, and ones that amplify the emotion of the moment. (That's not to say a song couldn't do both... as you've pointed out above.)

      Since Disney's songs are almost always emotional amplification, that's become the default for most of the industry... which is a shame.

  12. Chris, you're pretty knowledgeable about music, right? You should take a short break from fanfiction to do an Alan W. Pollack-style analysis of the show's songs so we can figure out what went wrong. I want to know how we went from Winter Wrap Up and Becoming Popular to I've Got to Find a Way and Pinkie's Lament

  13. "What was up with the ending? Did the animators realize they were half a minute short when they finished, and need to come up with some filler? Because although I didn't think it was awful or anything, reusing the opening animation (and writing to Celestia in the first place...) was pretty random. Speaking of random: why did the CMC glowsplode when they got their marks? Were the animators afraid we wouldn't notice? Did they forget how literally ever other cutie mark we've seen appear on the show came on without those kinds of magic-flying-pyrotechnics?"

    Okay, let's place the blame in the right place. That was not the fault of the animators. The writer (Rogers), the storyboarders (Tooemy and Weibe), or the director (Liu) are the people most likely at fault here given that they're the ones who decided what ends on the screen in the first place. Animators just follow their instructions.

    " I'm pretty sure I haven't turned into a [...] grump just yet"

    Oh but you will. Come on Chris, join us on the curmudgeon side. Give into your inner sourpuss, and let it reveal the truth to you.

  14. Purely emotional? I think I missed something, then, because the only emotions I felt during this episode were embarrassment, disappointment, and resignation.

    The whole thing was rushed, rushed, rushed. Even if they'd hit some good story notes, the discordant pace ruins it anyway. We barely have time to settle on the election story before we're focusing on Diamond Tiara's mommy issues, and then suddenly we're thrust into the "Diamond Tiara and the CMC are OK hanging out in the clubhouse" angle before we get an equally sudden mommy-defying scene, topped off with the last-minute cutie mark bomb. Any one of these really needed its own episode to breathe and get us adjusted to the premise it's trying to establish, but the whole thing's hurled together in a way that makes it mountingly difficult to keep a straight face about any one of them.

    The characters are so badly handled that I feel cheated. Four seasons' worth of Diamond Tiara being a one-dimensional bully with occasional flashes of other dimensions (Ponyville Confidential, Twilight Time)... and the first major complexity is saying "It's all her mum's fault she's bad". Never mind that it undermines one of the few helpful things about the bully character - the harsh lesson that some people are just jerks and you can't win with everybody - it's tacked-on and lazy to pin all her atrocious behaviour on a never-seen-in-four-seasons-and-probably-will-never-be-seen-again-stereotype mother. A move that's supposed to add a bit of depth to a character ends up flattening her to a cookie cutter cliche.

    And the songs! Like the "teen pop" genre or not, the battery of them here is MMC all over again: sabotages the story, sabotages the impact of said story, and goes from mediocre to cringe-worthy (for me, at least). The show used to wow us with songs all over the map in seasons one and two. What happened?

    As for the CMC getting their garish cutie marks the moment they stop trying to look for them... what a cop-out. What's wrong with giving them "normal" cutie marks like the ones shown on every other character? It's mental gymnastics that takes a weird potshot at the mere act of wanting something ("Kids, if you want something very much, then don't! Stop wanting it, and you'll get it, even though by then you won't want it anyway... um... LIFE LESSONS!") and it sticks the kids in the same place rather than reflects them growing up or encourages them to progress to a more mature outlook where they find individual callings that don't have to be carbon copies of their friends'. Give me the original, "predictable" cutie marks the fandom was falling back on any day.

    Even Magical Mystery Cure wasn't this disappointing: at least Twilight becoming a big princess had little to no clear foreshadowing and was just something dropped out of the blue. This is the CMC getting their marks, the event they've been teasing us with since the show began... and THIS is what they give us?

    Well, I hope the target demographic liked it, at least.

  15. "It's all her mum's fault she's bad"

    For someone decrying a cop-out, that's an awfully big one to make. There are completely viable interpretations where that's not the case, yet people are settling on the most superficial one, assuming it's true, and not bothering to look for any others. I don't know when the fandom got so unimaginative.

    1. The episode heavily suggests if not outright says that her mother's unpleasant standard-setting is what influences Diamond Tiara to act the way she does i.e. selfishly, manipulatively, and even sadistically, to the point that defying her mother's snobbish tendencies is THE turning point and major factor in her behaving more amicably towards others. If it's superficial and unimaginative to point out the obvious, then at least it's justifiable. By contrast, it seems you'd have to start twisting or adding headcanon to make most of the "completely viable interpretations" I've seen so far.

    2. Also, how is what I said a "cop-out"? Diamond Tiara's problems being traceable to a heavy parental influence is a cop-out because it provides a clumsy explanation for how to reconcile a redemption story with her deeply unpleasant behaviour thus far, akin to how Babs Seed's bullying tactics were not addressed simply because she's been bullied in turn.

      By contrast, and according to your own lights, I'm simply unimaginative and superficial. That's not a "cop-out" in that case, so apart from some obvious "no you" value, why use the word?

    3. I call that a cop-out, because it does the same thing you're accusing the show of doing: it takes the easy way out without exploring the issue. You've preemptively called any such alternative explanations unworkable, sight unseen.

  16. I appear to be late to the party. A lot of stuff has been said, so I'll try to make this brief.

    Agreed with everything Chris said, except perhaps music. I didn't disagree with the music point; I just don't know music, and don't usually pay a song much attention unless it stands out to me. For what it matters, nothing in CotLM stood out to me musically.

    DT's mindset made no sense as shown by her song after seeing her mother. It looked to me like this: she is bad because she got her morally questionable view of the world from her mother. She wants to be a better pony than that, implying she has another set of morals as well, and they tell her that she should be better (and roughly what better is). So she believes that bullying blank flanks (and other bad - form the viewer's perspective - actions) is her right and lead to her being a proper, respectable, powerful, and/or praise-worthy pony, and she believes that bullying blank flanks (and other bad - form the viewer's perspective - actions) are mean-spirited and unacceptable ways to behave. And how long are we supposed to believe these mindsets have coincided in her head? Cognitive dissonance doesn't work that way. Forget not thinking like a child, she didn't think like a human (and don't you dare pipe up that she's a pony and so of course she's not human).

    Also, is no one else getting fridge horror that DT's special talent is "getting other ponies to do what I want?" Now watch her teacher sit back and let her bully other students and lead the class off to do whatever she feels like. Now watch her mother meekly accept a note from her daughter, whom she was very angry with only a moment ago, and walk off to deliver it to her father. Now watch that mere note from her convince her father to purchase a presumably expensive piece of equipment for the school and generally be the spoils-his-brat-rotten stereotype we've long assumed him to be for an entirely different reason. DT's talent is a disturbing affront to a free willed society. She would make a fantastic apprentice for Starlight Glimmer, but, as a perfectly nothing-wrong-with-this-picture normal filly, she has some scary ramifications.

    Now, about the extra-flashy cutie mark reveal. I'm not religious in real life, but it's plainly obvious that in mlp some sort of intelligent fate is manipulating events in friendship's favour (*cough* authors *cough*). I mean, from the predestination of the tree of harmony's engraving to the existence of cutie marks, everything works to a plan. Except Troubleshoes. He messed up. And I can only imagine FATE ITSELF reacted something like this after watching that episode:
    "Oh, no! I didn't make it clear enough. Some ponies are not receiving the specific, pre-determined lives I've decided that they deserve! I need a way to enforce my vision of what each cutie mark means on the world at large. Hmm. What about those fillies I just saw? The CMC? They seem to think more along relentlessly positive lines of interpreting cutie marks, just how I want ponies to see them. I've got it! I'll declare them THE OFFICIAL CUTIE MARK ISPECTORS OF DESTINY! I'll replace their once-talents-to-be with a knack for seeing my vision, and I'll make their cutie mark reveals extra-sparkly just to let all of the ponies know how important they are and how seriously they should be taken! Now, I'm going to need a contrived event to make this reveal believable. I'll need a pony that doesn't understand their mark. Ehh! Whatever. I can just use my obscene power to "edit" a pony that already exists. May as well pick one I regret having made in the first place...Oh DIAMOND TIAARAAA!!"

    Overall, I didn't enjoy this episode. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't enjoy it.