The Cutie Mark Crusaders hold their latest meeting and Apple Bloom reveals Babs Seed has gotten her own Cutie Mark, but this leads to a greater discussion about what would happen if somepony ended up with a “subpar” Cutie Mark. Apple Bloom begins to obsess over it, in spite of Applejack’s attempts to reassure her, and goes to bed still brooding about it. The next morning, she awakens to discover she has her Cutie Mark, but it’s for pest control. After she feels she’ll be stuck doing a terrible occupation, a shadowy figure appears and offers to remove it. Yet after doing so, twittermite pests annihilate Ponyville and she’s powerless to stop it. Abruptly, she wakes up from this, realizing it was a nightmare, but gets another surprise when she sees she has her Cutie Mark again. Yet this time, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo refuse to associate with her as she’s no longer a CMC. Again, the shadowy figure appears and offers to remove it, but as soon as it’s gone Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo claim they received theirs and won’t hang out with her anymore anyway. Again she wakes up from this nightmare, only to find she has a Cutie Mark that isn’t apple-related. This causes her family to disown her. Realizing she’s stuck in an endless chain of nightmares, she yells at the shadow figure to leave her alone, only for Princess Luna to appear and reveal the shadow figure is literally her own shadow; representing her own doubts and fears. She tells Apple Bloom a Cutie Mark is simply a reflection of who she is, and what she’s truly afraid of is a Cutie Mark changing her. She further reveals she’s not the only pony having this fear; many others in Equestria have the same nightmare, including Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. She connects the three together in their dreams, and Apple Bloom realizes that if she accepts herself for who she is, then whatever Cutie Mark she gets is irrelevant. The rest of the CMCs do as well and decide to encourage Babs Seed when they wake up. Soon after, Luna wakes them up, and a much more cheerful Apple Bloom greets her family, but also confuses them on saying that a good night’s sleep is exhausting.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: episodes are better on the second viewing. I didn’t really care for this episode when it first came out. I began to realize that it “completed the set”. In Season Three, Scootaloo had a personal problem that Princess Luna helped her with. In Season Four, Sweetie Belle had a personal problem that Princess Luna helped her with. Now it’s Apple Bloom’s turn. While the third dream was animated very well and in the surreal style that dreams normally take, however, most of the dream sequences in this one were relatively lackluster compared to those two.
Yet what really seemed to fall flat on this one compared to the first two was what I thought, at the time, was a shameless attempt to try and extend the “quest for a Cutie Mark” plotline. I had no idea that “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” was coming but, like most people, I wasn’t really expecting it would be coming this season. Instead, I thought that they were trying to give the tired old routine more life by now having the CMCs afraid of getting their Cutie Marks. And after having to deal with the turmoil of Cutie Marks for four seasons, I was tired of hearing about it.
Only in retrospect can I have more respect for this episode. The truth is there are chains of episodes in the series that are building to something, but they had stopped being subtle after “Magical Mystery Cure”, when it was revealed the first three seasons were building to Twilight Sparkle’s ascension. In this case, we didn’t know we were building to “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”, although a few fans suspected it. After mindlessly pursuing Cutie Marks for four seasons as simply a rite of passage, the CMCs were finally starting to appreciate what that symbol really meant. It’s not just something to guard you from playground insults; it’s a reflection of who you are. This episode, which would have its theme continued in “Appleloosa’s Most Wanted”, marked the beginning of the CMCs finally discovering their purpose that would lead to the big episode of the season.
I have to mark it higher for that, but even so…this episode was a bit lackluster. Episodes like “Flight to the Finish” had such punch in them that the audience almost expected the Cutie Marks to appear. Here we didn’t. So…another above average one.
Michelle Creber in real life is fantastic. She’s the sort of voice actor who drops everything to do something with a fan. So…don’t think I’m in any way slamming her when I say in Season Five her younger-sounding voice for Apple Bloom started to fall apart.
Pretty much every one of Apple Bloom’s fears she goes over when being put to bed follows the order of the nightmares she gets.
I appreciate how the dreams only slowly become more and more surreal, although it’s pretty obvious after the first one Apple Bloom’s having a recurring dream at the onset. By the time we hit the third dream, it’s starting to behave the way a normal dream does, with people saying things that don’t truly match what’s being said to them and objects constantly changing.
The “twittermite” vacuum is somewhat similar to the device Luigi uses in “Luigi’s Mansion” to catch ghosts.
The “mysterious voice” is pretty well distorted, but if you listen really closely…you can just make out Apple Bloom’s voice in a few lines.
Another Wilhelm Scream when Apple Bloom returns to the twittermite-infested town.
The destruction of Sweet Apple Acres is similar to the White House being destroyed in “Independence Day”.
When Princess Luna makes lines of doors appear, it’s similar to a scene in “The Matrix”, which also dealt with the idea of everyone in the world “having the same dream”.
In Sweetie Belle’s dream, Rarity gives her a 1 out of mercy. 🙂
3 Stars out of 5