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Synopsis:

While coming up empty on new ideas to try and get their Cutie Marks, the Cutie Mark Crusaders are approached by Pipsqueak, who is running for class president against Diamond Tiara and wants them to be his campaign managers. They end up running him on the platform of getting the playground equipment repaired. Although Diamond Tiara attempts to use bullying and bribery to win, the CMCs get their classmates to finally rally against her. As a result, Pipsqueak wins by a landslide, and Diamond Tiara is shocked to discover she only got her own vote; her behavior managed to drive off her only friend, Silver Spoon, as well. She runs off in anguish and the CMCs, feeling concern in spite of her horrible treatment of them, follow after her. They discover that she’s been living under an unloving and authoritarian mother who’s been driving her to act the way she does, and she longs to be a better pony but doesn’t know how. Actually pitying her, the CMCs invite Diamond Tiara to their clubhouse where she accidentally reveals even though she has her Cutie Mark (which represents her talent for making others do what she wants), she still doesn’t understand why she has her Cutie Mark. During the exchange, Pipsqueak arrives and reveals the school board rejected his request for new playground equipment due to lack of funding, and Diamond Tiara sees this as her opportunity to expose Pipsqueak as unable to fulfill his campaign promise and get back the position of class president. As she runs back to school to expose him, the CMCs chase her, imploring her to make the “better” decision and gain the friendship she longs for. On arrival, she finds her mother there (as she’s president of the school board), who insults her association with the CMCs. However, Diamond ends up standing up to her; calling the CMCs her friends and telling her to stop looking down on them. She discovers she can use her talent to lead and direct others, and has her father donate the money for new playground equipment and directs and encourages her classmates to help put it together. When all is complete, the CMCs realize that they have an ability for helping others who don’t know the meaning of their Cutie Mark find their true purpose, and agree to devote their time to doing that from now on. The moment they agree, light envelops the three of them and gives them each a matching Cutie Mark Crusader Cutie Mark simultaneously, revealing they’ve discovered their true purpose. All of their friends and relatives rejoice, and the episode ends with a twist on the opening scene in the credits; having Spike sending a picture of the new CMCs to Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.

Review:

No one saw it coming.

Oh, there were a few fans throwing out the idle “maybe they’ll get their Cutie Marks in this episode”, but they said that for every Cutie Mark Crusader episode. No one really took it seriously. What few clues the show creators gave out about this episode were very vague and distracting. (For example, at one point a fan tweeted Chantal Strand asking if she was anything like Diamond Tiara in real life. She cryptically answered to keep watching; that they might see a different side of Diamond Tiara this season.) But what hints we got only indicated Diamond Tiara’s redemption. No one expected a landmark episode this far away from the end of the season.

This episode has been compared to “Magical Mystery Cure” and, in my opinion, it’s a decent comparison with one major exception. This is essentially “Magical Mystery Cure Done Right”. Almost everything that was a flaw in that landmark episode was fixed here.

The first thing is, as I pointed out, no one saw this coming. Everyone knew “Magical Mystery Cure” was coming. It had been teased in advance and Entertainment Weekly even ran a picture of Princess Twilight Sparkle in alicorn form over a week before the episode premiered.

This episode was a surprise. By the time we got to “The Vote”, we realized it was a musical episode, and we knew musical episodes are reserved for landmark episodes. But Diamond Tiara had been an established antagonist for four seasons. Simply doing her redemption would have been a landmark in and of itself. It really wasn’t until after the reprise of “The Pony I Want to Be” when there was still a good 4-5 minutes of episode left that people at home started saying: “Wait, the conflict is resolved, but…there’s still a good chunk of time left… Could it be…?”

I still don’t think 22 minute musicals are that good of an idea, and what I hated about “Magical Mystery Cure” was that in spite of filling the episode with music it still somehow seemed padded in the last third while rushed in the first third, and while the melodies were great the lyrics were subpar. Even from “A True, True Friend”, the most memorable song from that episode, here’s the first stanza:

“A true, true friend helps a friend in need.

A friend will be there to help them see.

A true, true friend helps a friend in need

To see the light that shines from a true, true friend.”

Exactly how much of that song is just “a true, true friend” repeated? Compare to the first stanza of “We’ll Make Our Mark”…

“We were searching for our Cutie Marks for a while there,

Trying to find out how we fit in.

So many ways we tried before,

But we kept on trying more,

‘Cause the Cutie Mark Crusaders don’t give in.”

See how much more complex that is in terms of lyrics? This is the first episode I recall in which I was singing more than one song at the end of it. In perfect honesty, it’s total bullsh’t that this episode wasn’t nominated for an Emmy for music. You’re not going to tell me differently.

As far as the pacing, yeah…it’s a bit rushed. But not incredibly rushed, and it’s the same pace throughout. This is an instance where it’s forgivable. The rushing in “Magical Mystery Cure” could have been split over two episodes as it was a finale. Here, if they split it in two, it immediately would have become obvious something big was going to happen in this episode. And like I said, it’s a bit rushed. It still logically flows.

Diamond Tiara’s redemption might appear a bit sudden, but it logically makes more sense than other rushed redemptions. The show writers had revealed Filthy Rich before who, while rich and maybe slightly stuck up, was never a “bad” pony. He even appeared to have a good relationship with the Apples. His biggest shortcoming was that he didn’t rein in Diamond Tiara, but now even that is explained because Spoiled Rich was telling her to act the opposite way. And now that we’ve actually seen Spoiled Rich for the first time, it makes sense. I’m as guilty of this as other fans, but sometimes some of us had a hard time recognizing that Diamond Tiara is just a filly, not an adult entirely responsible for her own decisions and choices. As horrible as she was, it might be because she had a horrible parent. And truth be told, I personally thought she was beyond redemption when she stooped low enough to insult a pony for a disability. I initially thought this was going to be a Silver Spoon redemption episode when she finally told her off. But when I, along with everyone else, heard “The Pony I Want to Be”, you can bet we started off shaking our fist at the TV screen saying: “Damnit, stop making me feel bad for her!” before we were practically sniffling by the end.

Rushed or not, the episode did the most important part of a redemption: it made the audience feel sympathy for Diamond Tiara. It made them want to see her redeemed in spite of four seasons of toxic vileness.

And, of course, the Cutie Marks. It was perfect. Until now, I wasn’t even sure how I wanted them done. I kept waiting that the writers would have them get their marks in something they had already tried so I could say:”Aha! They already did that back in ________ and didn’t get them!” Yet this made the most sense. It’s almost like some sort of Zen Philosophy about it. It wasn’t until the CMCs didn’t want to get their Cutie Marks anymore that they were “ready” to get them. It was when they did something out of a genuine desire to help somepony else find their true purpose that they found their own. That’s…a surprising bit of metaphysics for a Y-rated show, and with its youngest characters no less.

Oh boy, what else. The feels were tremendous. The characters were wonderful. The singing was great. Even the cameos at the end were adorable. It didn’t feel as if they had forced Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Applejack to be there but that they fit there perfectly. We get the first allusion to what happened to the Apple Parents with Applejack, and, as always, Rainbow Dash doing something like calling Scootaloo “little buddy” just makes me want to go “aww…”.

Seriously, the only way I can see anyone hating this episode is if you vehemently hate the Cutie Mark Crusaders. And there are people like that out there. (I pity them.) Conversely, if you have any love for them whatsoever or even an idle interest, you can see that this was easily the best episode of the entire season.

If there was one teeny, tiny bad thing I had to rag on in this episode, it’s something that actually has nothing to do with the episode. It’s that this was only the 18th episode of the season. Everyone at home was likely thinking: “WOW! If this episode came this far away from the finale and was that great, how great is the rest of the season going to be? How great is the season finale going to be?!” Though some would disagree with me, we were in for a sore, sore disappointment. This was the highest point of the season. While there would be other good episodes to come, in a sense it was downhill from here.

As I mention in the fun facts, it’s mutually agreed that this was the best episode of Season Five and one of the best of the entire series. For a while, it was rated the best episode of the entire series. And because of that, there’s only one rating I can give it.

Congratulations, episode. You earned it.

Fun Facts:

The highest rated episode of Season Five on IMDb and, for months, was the highest rated episode of the entire series.

I don’t really need to point out where the title came from, do I? “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Although they don’t have speaking roles, this is the first we’ve seen of Snips and Snails in a long time.

Callback to “Twilight’s Kingdom” with the mention that the playground equipment got ruined as a result of the fight with Tirek.

Diamond Tiara’s stain-glass window is a parody of all the stain-glass windows in Canterlot heralding the deeds of the Mane Six. 😛

Michele Creber, Claire Corlette, and Madeleine Peters really sound good when they sing together as one. They really need to write more songs for those three. 🙂

First appearance of Spoiled Rich, Diamond Tiara’s mother. She immediately became one of the more hated characters in the series, not only dismissing “blank flanks” and lower income ponies, but displaying the first act of pony racism since “Bridle Gossip” in calling Pipsqueak “that transplant from Trottingham”. Her nose is also naturally upturned. Chantal Strand, the voice of Diamond Tiara, also provides her voice…so she still gets to be hated even after this episode. 😛

Button Mash makes another appearance this season. 🙂

For some reason, a lot of rich ponies from Canterlot, including Fancy Pants and Fleur-de-Lis, are in Ponyville… O_o

Possibly the biggest meme from this season (that didn’t come from “The Cutie Re-Mark”), came after Apple Bloom asks Diamond Tiara: “Are ya’ sure about that?” The resulting face Diamond Tiara makes has been called many things. I’ll just leave it at…that chin. 😛

The second of three “former villain” redemptions this season.

When Diamond Tiara says: “These are the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and they are my friends.”, the look on their faces just screams: “…We are?”

The CMCs’ Cutie Marks are a combination of designs. The shield emblem is the same as the symbol for the CMCs. The three colors represent the mane colors of the three girls. Apple Bloom’s has an apple (naturally) with a heart inside. Sweetie Belle’s has a star with a musical note inside. Scootaloo’s has a wing with a lightning bolt inside. This may be indicative that each of the CMCs has a “triple purpose” of which they’ve only discovered the first that’s mutually shared among them. The other two may be yet to be discovered.

Derpy cameos. 😛

In one of the biggest mystery goofs made by the show, somehow the episode “Scare Master” got leaked an entire month early and went viral over YouTube before it could be stopped and before this episode aired. The Cutie Mark Crusaders appear in that episode but, through an act of luck, all three are wearing full-body costumes covering their flanks, so this episode remained un-spoiled. 🙂

Applejack says to Apple Bloom: “If mom and dad were here, they’d be so proud of you.” Although there’s a tiny chance she’s referring to them working overseas or somesuch, this line is considered by most of the fans to be the closest the Apple Family has ever come to admitting Applejack, Big Macintosh, and Apple Bloom’s parents are dead.

Rarity only has a singing line in this episode. As a result, this is the only episode in the entire series so far in which was can say Kazumi Evans provided the voice of Rarity. She even sounds like she’s trying to sound “more like Rarity” than usual. (She does, it’s just you can usually hear a certain tone from her that I usually take as Rarity adding “extra bravado” to her singing voice.)

The whole bit where the six Cutie Marks of the Mane Six are presented and the three new Cutie Marks of the CMCs added, to me, “cements” their position as official main characters of the show.

The closing song is not called a “Reprise”. Rather, the early version of “We’ll Make Our Mark” is called the “Prelude”.

Rating:

5 Stars out of 5

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