After making a hefty amount of royalties on an order for Sapphire Shores, Rarity has enough money to finally fulfill her dream of opening a franchise in Canterlot: “Canterlot Boutique”. Due to the amount of work needed as well as having less experience with the Canterlot business climate, she hires a trendy, business-orientated unicorn named Sassy Saddles with experience in the boutique industry to act as manager. Unfortunately, sparks almost immediately begin to fly when Sassy begins stepping on Rarity’s toes and going over her head in business decisions, but as she insists that all of her decisions are based on market research and for the good of Carousel Boutique, Rarity reluctantly lets her have her way. She soon gets further dismayed, however, when Sassy highlights only the signature item of her new Royal Regalia collection and renames it the “Princess Dress”; pushing everyone in Canterlot to buy one. Rarity, who thrives on inspiration and giving every pony something that is uniquely perfect to them, soon finds herself glumly making the exact same design over and over again. In spite of the resulting success of Canterlot Boutique, her cover story on Cosmare, and the apparent attainment of her dreams, Rarity confesses she’s miserable. When Sassy presents her newest idea, eliminating Rarity’s need to create dresses at all and simply getting a factory assembly line to mass-produce Princess Dresses, she finally blows up, puts her foot down, and announces the boutique is going out of business as soon as she has a sale run the way she wants to do it. However, the store is still a success when the dresses are tailored specifically to each customer and Rarity, remembering her inspiration, cancels the closing. Sassy admits her error, apologizes to Rarity, and sorrowfully packs up to leave, assuming she’s been fired; but Rarity ends up giving her a second chance so long as she runs the boutique according to the “Rules of Rarity”.
I’m not sure if it’s because there’s some pro-Rarity bias in me, but I really like this episode a lot. It has the feel of “Suited for Success” to it, in that almost the entire episode is set in Canterlot Boutique and, in spite of the presence of the song, it’s very dialogue-driven and has a progressive plot that fits well within the 22 minute time slot. The song itself, much like “Art of the Dress”, is catchy and great with wordplay, which is where most of the songs fall flat usually. It was my favorite so far this season. The plot also, surprisingly, gets me rather invested. As I’ve said before, I’m an amateur writer myself so I know a thing or two about artistic integrity. While I don’t plan on ever being a success, I know from experience that “selling out” often brings rewards. The one time I wrote something that appealed to a trend it became the most popular thing I had ever done, so the temptation is definitely there to cater to whatever is popular rather than make what you feel is high quality art. But I realized the same thing that Rarity did; when you make art that appeals to a trend or popular opinion, eventually the art degenerates to no longer be art at all but a product. There’s a reason trashy romance novels, for example, never win any awards or acclaim: they’re made to fill a need for a niche in the market that appeals to that sort of storyline rather than wants anything unique. When that happens, eventually your passion dies as does the whole reason you got into something in the first place, ending up like how Rarity did. Maybe it’s because I can identify with that idea that this episode resonated with me, but something about the plot really engrossed me. It’s been a while since a line of dialogue in the show gave me chills, but I got them when Rarity finally breaks and shouts: “This is not your boutique!”
I don’t really see Sassy Saddles as a “minor villain”. We’ve had minor villains before, to be true, but for all the times she ended up going over Rarity’s head and running things her way, eventually thinking of the boutique as more her store rather than Rarity’s, I still get the sense that she was trying to do what she thought was best for the success of the store. She was overzealous about it, yes, and definitely went too far…but I don’t feel she had any malicious intent behind it. So yeah, I did feel just a teeny bit happy that she didn’t end up canned.
After rewatching this episode a few times, however, I have to mark it down for doing the only other thing I hate as much as episodes with muddled morals. This episode had another Have-It-All Ending. The fact is Sassy’s marketing research wasn’t just a device to persuade Rarity to go with a “bad idea”; it was showing what actually would generate a profit. That’s why marketing research is done. And while I can pontificate about the need for artistic integrity, that’s because my art is done entirely on the side while I work a job that generates products. When your art is what you also have to feed yourself with, it’s much easier to start thinking of your work in product terms rather than beauty. All the well-made art in the world doesn’t really count for much if you can’t make a living off of it. For Canterlot Boutique to be even more successful when it did things that weren’t supported by market research than it did when it did things that were is…kind of convenient. I don’t want to admit it, but it is. Aside from that, the fact is this episode dealt with yet another theme that will go right over the heads of children. The best it can do is remind them to stick to creativity and their own decisions when they get older and try to make their own art or business. But for 7 years old and under, the most they can get is the different-looking ponies. There’s not even that much humor in most of it; just character drama. Again, that’s fine for the older audience, but little kids will be “huh?”. Ironically, the show creators may demonstrate what’s wrong with this episode by getting lower ratings as a result of making a good plot that appeals to older audiences instead of catering to children. 😛
This episode marked a period where the fans joked the show had been turned into “My Little Rarity” in that we had three episodes in a row in which Rarity was the focus. Technically, one of them was supposed to be shared with Applejack, but I’ll admit it’s unusual to have one member of the Mane Six highlighted in a streak of episodes like that.
Rarity’s Element of Harmony was originally supposed to be “Inspiration”, not “Generosity”, but that was discarded on the thought that inspiration would be too difficult a concept for little kids. With the audience being maturer, it looks as if they have no problem highlighting that now in the fifth season. 😛
Pinkie Pie’s mane deflates a bit after she eats one of her nasty Strawberry Cinnamon Cilantro Cupcakes. The name itself is a throwback to her “aliteration” dessert in “MMMystery on the Friendship Express”: Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness.
Sassy Saddles is voiced by Kelly Sheridan, the same voice actor who does Starlight Glimmer. The fact Sassy made more than one appearance this season along with Starlight leads me to believe Ms. Sheridan is a new “regular”.
Sassy has something of a unique design shape that’s only been seen in a few other background characters, like Fleur-de-Lis. I noticed that Pipsqueak also has a unique design among other fillies and colts, and both of them have British accents. This leads me to think that Trottingham ponies are shaped slightly different from Equestrian ponies, similar to how Saddle Arabia ponies look different.
What I find rather interesting about Sassy’s attire is it marks the return of incorporating saddles into pony fashion; something that had nearly vanished from the show early in the second season.
Rarity made something of a business goof in hiring Sassy by not looking more closely at her resume. She may have worked for all the finest boutiques in Canterlot, but did she leave, get let go, or get fired from all of them? 😛
“Stick a pin in it; it’s done” is a takeoff of the euphenism “stick a fork in it; it’s done”.
“Cosmare” is obviously a pony takeoff of “Cosmo”.
Fashion Plate’s reactions look similar to “excitement” memes.
“I think the Reign in Stain is too difficult to explain” is a knockoff of the phrase “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain” used in “My Fair Lady”.
While a number of songs on the show have had a reprise, “Rules of Rarity” splits its first version in two parts, making it feel like it’s a three-parter.
The “Goth Pony” (that’s her name in the credits, don’t blame me) bears a resemblance to Raven from “Teen Titans”. I thought it would have been a nice touch to have Tara Strong voice her, and she does sound similar…but, alas, she’s voiced by Andrea Libman. At one point, there was supposed to be a line in the episode indicating that she and Bright Pony were sisters, but considering the fact one picked Celestia’s dress and the other picked Luna’s, it was thought as too much of a rub-in.
The first “obese” pony on the show appeared in this episode at the end. Needless to say, eyebrows were raised. She’s listed in the credits, respectfully, as “Incidental Pony”.
3 Stars out of 5