Ms. Harshwhinny, along with Rainbow Dash, make an announcement to the fillies in Ms. Cheerilee’s class that the time has come to choose a team of fillies to act as the flag-carriers representing Ponyville. The Cutie Mark Crusaders end up devising an excellent routine that brings out the most defining characteristic for Ponyville: the friendship between the three “races” of Equestria. When it turns out even their trial run for Rainbow Dash is fantastic, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, wanting to ensure their own victory, attempt to mess them up by first insulting their “blank flanks”, but then end up making fun of Scootaloo’s disability. Fearful she’ll not be able to represent Ponyville unless she’s “a pegasus who can fly”, Scootaloo changes the routine to feature her flying…ending up in disaster as she’s unable to get more than an inch off the ground and tires out Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle. The day where they’re set to go to the Crystal Empire to have their routine compete, Scootaloo refuses to go due to embarrassment, and the girls let her go out of “not wanting a quitter”. However, Rainbow Dash confronts the two girls on the train and has them head back and apologize for leaving Scootaloo behind, and also reminds Scootaloo that she has value even if she can’t fly and that the point of the routine was to show off the friendship of the three races rather than what “stood out” for all three races. Now encouraged, Scootaloo ends up going with the CMCs to the Crystal Empire, performs the original routine, and wins the right to carry the Ponyville flag. The episode closes with the CMCs anticipating getting their Cutie Marks for flag carrying.
The first CMC episode of Season Four and, in spite of what I said in an earlier review this season, was starting to show the “quality” of Season Four, although I’ll still say most fans were standoffish because this only showed the CMC episodes were “on track”. The Mane Six ones were still in dispute.
Much like “Sleepless in Ponyville”, this episode featuring Scootaloo is very well done. While you can tell they’re “stretching” certain parts, I think they manage to mask the padding better than any other episode thus far. This episode finally made it explicit that Scootaloo has a disability and can’t fly, and while they still “danced around it” at points, it’s also very endearing at times. The episode even avoids the issue of the “have it all” that plagues so many other episodes during the part where Scootaloo wonders if she’ll ever be able to fly, and Rainbow Dash admits…yeah, you may never be able to fly…but it doesn’t diminish your worth as a person or even doesn’t mean you “stand out” more than others. Rainbow Dash doesn’t seem quite as close to Scootaloo as she was after “Sleepless in Ponyville”, but her scenes are still good. The song works well. The plot is, once again, in true fashion of CMC episodes, “realistic enough” to hit home…all in all, it’s a very good episode. The best of Season Four so far.
Still, it suffers from a few complaints. The biggest one is, by now, the expression on the fans’ faces in regards to the CMCs getting their Cutie Marks sort of matches Rainbow Dash’s at the end. It’s getting very old. The fact of the matter was this episode was good enough to be the one where Scootaloo would get hers. She learned to appreciate herself and her own talents even if they didn’t match all other pegasi, and when she looked to her flank toward the end…even the background music seemed to be “wanting a Cutie Mark to appear”. In this episode, it wouldn’t have been “have it all”…it would have been “the icing on the cake”. Yet it’s still gone and the CMCs revert more or less back into their Season One behavior. It actually made this episode end on a “flat” note…so much so that some fans hated the episode just for that.
My own complaint is Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon…well, it would be inaccurate to say that they crossed the Moral Event Horizon, I suppose. I’m still upset that Silver Spoon’s character “retarded” after that one episode in Season Two, and I know their main purpose is to be bullies…but this episode crossed a line to me. The Cutie Marks were one thing…but they’re making fun of someone’s disability. That’s lower than low. In real life, that’s the sort of thing I’d want to punch a stranger out for hearing come out of them. In most episodes it’s “good enough” to see those two humiliated or “lose out” as a result of their bullying…but that’s not good enough here. After this, I wanted them to actually be put into physical pain for that. In a way, they’re “more evil than Tirek”. Tirek, for all of his pomp and circumstance, is a generic evil villain who’s greedy for power and all that. Something so one-dimensional and shallow that there’s not much to him. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, on the other hand, are probably the worst kind of “evil” a little kid will encounter in their young lives. As I mentioned in an earlier review, some bullied kids nowadays change schools, undergo plastic surgery, or even commit suicide over stuff like this. The fact that the worst those two get at the end of the episode is some disappointment at not winning the position is not equitable. Not by a damn mile. If they had an episode devoted to nothing more than something horrible happening to them, I doubt it would manage to elicit some sympathy at this point.
Other than that, a nice episode that showed the series was at least “half on track”. The other half still needed more time.
Similar to episodes like “The Ticket Master” and “Dressed for Success” in Season One, this episode helps provide the season-long buildup to the Equestria Games, which ended up being the “second” overarching plot of Season Four. It also seems Ponyville is considered it’s own “country” or “district”.
In four seasons, this is only the second Scootaloo-themed episode.
Nicole Oliver really seems to be making Ms. Cheerilee sound “different” from Princess Celestia now, which I think is good.
Episodes like this are the reason, strangely enough, Ms. Harshwhinny is one of the most frequently-occurring side characters. Granted, she kind of has to as Season Three and Season Four had a lot of “Equestria Games” episodes in them and she’s essentially the “face” of the games, but I find it kind of funny she appears and has speaking lines so often compared to other fan-favorite characters who appear once every two seasons or so. That said, I compliment the animators on making her so “rubber-faced” in this episode.
I know Snips and Snails are supposed to be dimwitted, but…sheesh, the reaction they get at the start of the episode is kinda harsh.
In terms of the “universe”, the interesting part about this episode is the idea that Ponyville is a “species neutral” part of Equestria. Obviously only pegasi can live in Cloudsdale, and it had been suggested that Canterlot was mostly unicorns, but this is the episode that drove home that Ponyville was unusual for featuring earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns living together on more-or-less “equal footing” in terms of how much they dominate the society.
“Hearts as Strong as Horses” isn’t a bad little song, and the reprise is “well-placed”, but, like many of the post Season Two songs, it wasn’t terribly noteworthy.
If there was any remaining doubt, this episode finally confirmed what had been hinted for a couple seasons: Scootaloo has a “disability” in the form of underdeveloped wings that can’t carry her around. I actually think it’s a great stroke that it didn’t become “pointed out” until Season Four, because in most animated shows the disability kind of “defines the character”. In this show’s case, you barely noticed it.
Scootaloo can actually pull Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle all the way to the Crystal Empire. Not bad for a pony with underdeveloped wings.
3.5 Stars out of 5