Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 20: Hurricane Fluttershy + Ponyville Confidential + MMMystery on the Friendship Express


< Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 >

Season 2, Episodes 22-24

The last six episodes, Read It and Weep through Dragon Quest, all got pretty enormous and detailed reviews. I think I’m ready to go a little lighter with the next three episodes, since those don’t stick out to me nearly as much. Also, 20 posts is a nice milestone! A bit of a modest one though, compared to certain other projects of mine.

By the way, my plan is to finish writing the reviews for all of season 2 by the end of this year, then take a break from writing MLP posts until the new year begins. I have plenty of other things I want to get done before 2021 ends! It’s been a real doozy of a year for me, both in real life and with my personal projects. Perhaps the biggest doozy of any year in my entire life.

Season 2 Episode 22: Hurricane Fluttershy

In five words: Fluttershy gradually conquers childhood trauma.

Premise: Rainbow Dash wants all the pegasi of Ponyville to make a record-breaking tornado to provide Cloudsdale with a fresh new water supply, but due to past traumatic experiences, Fluttershy is reluctant to participate.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Rainbow Dash admirably demonstrating how dutiful of a pegasus she is. She sends a bunch of letters to all the pegasi of Ponyville, gathering them for an important meeting at the Golden Oak Library. As much as she likes bragging about her own feats, she’s also a great team player, which matches with loyalty as her element of harmony. Fluttershy, on the other hand, is incredibly reluctant to join the meeting and tries to sneak away so she won’t have to join.

This is a cute callback to Fluttershy’s notorious line, “I’d like to be a tree”.

Rainbow Dash does a headcount at the library to determine that Fluttershy is absent, and she quickly finds Fluttershy disguised as a tree. Her speed at finding Fluttershy is believable because these two have known each other since childhood, and Rainbow Dash is probably well-versed in the ways Fluttershy tries to avoid attending an event. It’s worth bringing up the pegasi’s childhood friendship now because it’s fleshed out a lot more throughout this episode.

After the theme song, we’re treated to a cute little parody of old-timey educational videos from the early 20th century. The video clip provides some worldbuilding about what all pegasi do to keep Equestria’s weather steady, specifically giving an in-universe purpose of tornados. Instead of being unwanted natural disasters, tornados in MLP are necessary for Cloudsdale to maintain water resources, and are made by a big crowd of pegasi flying in a circular motion. It’s always a joy to see worldbuilding of the MLP universe, and this is a nice deviation from how it’s usually done. Unfortunately, the clip cuts short when the video tape malfunctions, and as usual, Spike is given the blame.

Rainbow Dash knows that Cloudsdale is in strong need of a new supply of water, so she decides to give the pegasi an exciting goal: beating Fillydelphia’s world record of the strongest tornado, measured by wing power. She’s quite an effective leader when she wants to be, and she takes clear inspiration from the leadership style of the Wonderbolts. While most of the pegasi cheer Rainbow Dash on, Fluttershy disappears the moment her friend turns her back. Since she’s the element of loyalty, I can easily see why specifically Rainbow Dash would get so irked at Fluttershy running off. It never feels good when your friend does something that goes against your personal values, and that’s what Fluttershy just did.

Oh yeah, this scene is the first appearance of the yet to be named Bulk Biceps, a semi-background character who appears in many gag scenes but never gets the spotlight to himself. Weirdly enough, before season 4’s Rainbow Falls gave him a name, I believe his most popular fan name was Snowflake, which is a much less fitting name in retrospect.

Fluttershy is so adorable when she’s pretending to be sick. Her faint sneezes and gentle coughs are truly something to behold.

While most of the pegasi loyally begin their training for the record-breaking hurricane, Fluttershy secludes herself at home. She pretends to be sick, and Rainbow Dash blows her cover easily. Again, it’s very believable that Rainbow Dash doesn’t fall for this fake sickness, given that she and Fluttershy are childhood friends and know each other very well.

After Fluttershy pretends she broke her wing, she and Rainbow Dash have an honest conversation about the former’s nervousness.

Rainbow Dash: Stop horsing around, Fluttershy. We’ve got a lot of training to do!
Rainbow Dash: Come on now. What’s going on?
Fluttershy: Well, you see… huh, well…
Fluttershy: Oh, Rainbow Dash, I just can’t do it! I can’t fly.
Rainbow Dash: What are you talking about? Just last week, you went into that wicked nosedive to save that falling baby bird right before it hit the ground!
Fluttershy: But that was different. That was an emergency! This whole tornado thing… it’s more like a performance. And you know how I hate performing in front of others.

I think there’s a lot of truth to Fluttershy’s words here. She knows this about herself: she’s always meek and gentle unless dire circumstances prompt her to unleash the brave hero inside her. I’m really starting to pick up patterns involving specific characters’ episodes, and that includes Fluttershy episodes.

A tragic flashback reveals why Fluttershy doesn’t want to join the rest of the pegasi in the record-breaking tornado: she was always picked on at flight camp, mocked with the phrase “Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Fluttershy can hardly fly!” There’s an important lesson to be had in picking on others here, considering that Fluttershy still is hurt by these bad memories today. Rainbow Dash tells Fluttershy to suck it up at first, but then remembers to be more gentle with her friend. This whole episode so far has had a subtly heartwarming portrayal of Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy’s longtime friendship; they really do come off as childhood friends. Fluttershy eventually agrees to participate.

I love this little scene where Twilight Sparkle gives a complicated scientific explanation of the device that measures wing power and the pegasi don’t understand it, so Spike gives a simple explanation and Twilight makes an annoyed face. There’s a message to be taken here about explaining scientific concepts in a way that a layperson can digest, but I feel bad for Twilight considering how excitedly and proudly she was explaining how the device works.

After a bunch of other pegasi practice flying and have their wing power measured, Fluttershy takes her turn and flies at a leisurely pace. When she hears a few ponies laughing at how slowly she’s flying, the flashbacks haunt her again and she slows to a crawl, leading to an embarrassingly low wingpower.

Twilight Sparkle: Tell her.
Rainbow Dash: No, you tell her.
Twilight Sparkle: No, you.
Rainbow Dash: Um… great job, Fluttershy! You measured, uh… point five, heh.
Spike: Point five? Isn’t that like… like, less than one?
(Twilight Sparkle hits Spike on the head)

Statistics are a powerful tool, but also a dangerous tool. They’re a great way for companies to distort the truth without technically lying, for instance in YouTube’s blatantly fake rationale for removing community captions last year. Rainbow Dash says “point five” instead of “zero point five” in the hopes that it would soften the blow a little, but Spike ruins the moment by reminding us how math works.

This haunting image is a great way to visually represent how it feels for traumatic memories of bullying to sneak up on you. Fluttershy keeps hearing “Fluttershy can hardly fly” in her head. For her, the line between reality and imagination is getting blurred to oblivion, and she can’t take it anymore so she storms off in tears. Rainbow Dash expresses genuine worry and compassion for her friend, and she seems lost as to what to do.

It’s nice to see Angel treat Fluttershy more kindly after the events of Putting Your Hoof Down.

Look, one of the bunnies is cosplaying Derpy!

Fluttershy sulks in the company of her animals, then realizes from a prior experience with a scared badger that she should believe in herself too. Given the bad memories that all the other pegasi are bringing back, it’s nice that Fluttershy has her animals to turn to, and they kindly help her in some flight training. She starts out horrendously clumsy in the training montage, but gradually improves her skills through enough practice and a bit of desensitization.

Fluttershy is now ready to take another shot at the pegasus training, and this time her wing power is measured as 2.3. While Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash sincerely congratulate her on the improvement, Fluttershy still feels she isn’t good enough, and I can’t blame her. Most other pegasi here have achieved wing powers around or well above ten, so it makes sense for Fluttershy to still feel stunted and greatly inferior to the other pegasi.

Rainbow Dash: So you won’t fly with 10.0 wingpower. Every bit counts!
Fluttershy: How would you feel if everypony else was flying with 10.0 wingpower, and you were flying with 2.5?
Spike: Actually, it was only 2.3 and—OW!
(Twilight Sparkle zips her lips)
Rainbow Dash: Well… uh… I’d feel… um…
Fluttershy: Exactly! Humiliated! I’m sorry, Rainbow Dash, I just can’t do it.

It’s only natural that Fluttershy sees right through Rainbow Dash’s stuttering attempt at politeness. She knows Rainbow Dash well enough that she wouldn’t take it well being so far behind everyone else, but she also knows that Rainbow Dash would clumsily try to ease her nerves instead of admitting how awful that would feel.

Also, as obnoxious as Spike can be in some episodes, I think his obliviousness to respecting Fluttershy’s feelings is done at just the right degree to be humorous and not grating. This is especially helped by Twilight Sparkle’s perpetually unamused reactions to his antics.

Upon the revelation that eight pegasi are sick on the day of the grand hurricane, I find myself mulling over something far more important: the question of how many of the show’s viewers have the slightest idea how an abacus works. I know I for one don’t. I see a bunch of beads you can move around on sticks, and I simply don’t understand how you can use them to perform anything more than addition or subtraction, or how it’s even close to being an efficient way to do calculations when a paper and pencil are right there. I don’t know what I’m getting at here, other than that an abacus is an amusingly dated device to show in a 21st-century cartoon.

You know, I could probably watch a video about how an abacus works, and that would explain everything and provide some fascinating history. But maybe another time.

The pegasi just barely fail to make a working tornado on their first attempt, due to the number of sick members who couldn’t show up. Shortly before the tornado falls apart, Fluttershy comes in for the sake of moral support, and she’s horrified to learn that some of the pegasi have caught a flu. While Twilight Sparkle says the pegasi should give it a rest, Rainbow Dash insists on taking a second shot no matter the risks. Given these dire circumstances, what happens next is easy to predict if you know Fluttershy’s episodes well enough.

The pegasi barely can’t make it to the minimum limit of 800 wing power, so upon a bit of encouragement from Twilight Sparkle, that’s when Fluttershy steps in. While she initially flies slowly and is haunted yet again by her bad childhood memories, once she banishes those memories, she vastly exceeds her measly record of 2.3, making the tornado successfully refill Cloudsdale’s water supply. There’s quite a lesson to be taken about how unhealthy it is to constantly wallow in your own sorrows, and how it gets in the way of moving forward in life. Twilight Sparkle told Fluttershy to do this not just for Equestria and for Rainbow Dash, but also for herself, making this another episode that partly focuses on being kind to yourself. Kindness to yourself is an important aspect of Fluttershy’s element of harmony, is it not?

Only about half of Fluttershy is visible in this picture, and none of her face.
But that’s what she would have wanted, right?

Rainbow Dash congratulates Fluttershy, and Spitfire (who was there by the tornado the whole time but I didn’t mention it before) congratulates Rainbow Dash. While normally Rainbow Dash would squee in excitement being complimented by a Wonderbolt, this time she humbly redirects the praise to Fluttershy, who waves shyly. I like that after this big moment of awesome, Fluttershy reminds us that she’s still the same old Fluttershy. This leads to a reversal of Fluttershy’s childhood memory chants, this time spoken in a proud tone instead of a taunting tone: “Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Fluttershy can really fly!”

Fluttershy narrates this episode’s moral about believing in yourself and doing your best, and I think she’s a very fitting character to give such a moral. But as with many episodes’ friendship lessons, this one has more subtleties to it: this episode also teaches viewers not to go in circles feeling sorry for themselves, and instead make a change.

Overall thoughts:

It’s nice to once again have an episode where the characters aren’t at all exaggerated, contrasting against Putting Your Hoof Down and Dragon Quest. It’s also nice to have an episode I can analyze in a more modest depth while still being positive, unlike how I dug extremely deep into It’s About Time. This was a pleasant episode for me to analyze, and the whole thing feels very smooth and natural. I’m especially fond of how Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy’s longtime friendship is portrayed; they’re very believable as childhood friends.

If you remember what I said at the start of Dragonshy, Fluttershy episodes come in two main types: those where she achieves a great heroic feat, and those where her entire character is temporarily overwritten. This episode falls firmly in the former category, and while her moment of awesome doesn’t hit quite as hard as some others, I’d still say I like this episode.

Grade: B

I came in to this episode review expecting I would give it a C, but nope, I’m giving it a B instead.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • In the initial training sequence, Rainbow Dash gives us the names of tons of different background pegasi, which is quite some generous fanservice considering I probably won’t have any reason to talk about those specific characters.
  • I mentioned YouTube removing community captions with the most painfully fake excuse imaginable (less than 0.1 percent of channels use it or something like that). YouTube always does this; they never admit the real reason for hated changes that they make and instead come up with an obviously fake reason to slightly soften the blow. It’s tragic that such a widespread website keeps shooting itself in the foot like that, but just barely enough not to drive its userbase away.
  • I’m not sure whether I should call it “wing power” or “wingpower”. My brain logically tells me to type “wing power”, but I often find myself unconsciously typing “wingpower” instead. It’s much like the pronunciation of “Hydrocity” if you’re at all familiar with Sonic. My brain says that I should pronounce it “Hydro City”, but I always read it as “Hydrossity” instead.
  • Wait, did I seriously just go on a tangent about Sonic the Hedgehog in my MLP posts? There truly is no hope left for me.

While this episode focused on getting over your embarrassing memories, the next one focuses on respecting others’ embarrassing memories.

Season 2 Episode 23: Ponyville Confidential

This review has spoilers for season 5, specifically an episode where something big happens to the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

In five words: Crusaders learn to respect privacy.

Premise: Upon instruction from Diamond Tiara, the Cutie Mark Crusaders run a rather invasive school newspaper column under the moniker “Gabby Gums”. The column gains traction at first, but it soon backfires.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo bummed out and annoyed that Featherweight, a random pegasus colt we hadn’t heard of until today, got his cutie mark before them. While Apple Bloom doesn’t have her cutie mark either, she excitedly presents a new idea for how they could get their cutie marks: the Foal Free Press, which is their school’s newspaper.

Aw, we probably missed out on a cute little song from Pinkie Pie about folding origami boats.
(I had a small origami phase as a kid.)

Next comes a montage where Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo do the classic Cutie Mark Crusaders route of trying a bunch of different ideas and moving on to the next thing after they fail to earn their cutie marks. In this case, they misunderstand what they’re supposed to do with newspapers until Apple Bloom tells them that they’re supposed to write for a newspaper. Since these three characters are still little kids, it’s only natural for incredibly obvious things to slip their minds sometimes, and that makes for good light humor. The Cutie Mark Crusaders’ episodes always have a noticeably different tone and sense of humor from the rest of the episodes, which makes them fun changes of pace when watching the show in order.

The next day in school, Cheerilee says that the Foal Free Press’s old editor-in-chief has graduated, and the new editor-in-chief is none other than Diamond Tiara. Either Cheerilee is completely oblivious to how Diamond Tiara treats all her classmates, or she can’t help but see the good in this bratty filly. Diamond Tiara uses her commandeering style of leadership to great lengths in this episode, proclaiming that she will make the Foal Free Press much more juicy and interesting than ever before. I’m noting her leadership style because in Crusaders of the Lost Mark, the episode where the Crusaders earn their cutie marks, we learn that leadership is the meaning of Diamond Tiara’s cutie mark, and she eventually comes to use that special skill for the benefit of her classmates. I find it interesting that her cutie mark never seemed to have much meaning to it until the episode that finally gives her a redemption arc, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Scootaloo: Let’s get out of here, girls. Maybe we can try packing boxes again.
Sweetie Belle: But this could be our last chance to earn our cutie marks! If we really are supposed to be journalists, isn’t it worth a little grief?
Scootaloo: I guess you’re right. We can take a little bit of Diamond Tiara for a lifetime of cutie marks.

I’m not sure if it’s forward-thinking or desperate of Sweetie Belle to insist that the Crusaders put up with Diamond Tiara if it means getting their cutie marks. Maybe it’s smart of her to say that when getting through life, they may have to put up with figures who they don’t like very much, and not everything will go perfectly. And yet, Sweetie Belle still has that childish desperation in her.

While Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom’s first attempts at newspaper stories are interviews with family members (Rarity and Granny Smith respectively), Scootaloo instead makes her debut writing about a bunch of birds, only to fall into the mud. Come to think of it, this scene probably supported fan theories that Scootaloo is an orphan who grew up without a true family, which is why she developed a sisterly relationship with Rainbow Dash. And the weird thing is, it takes until season 9’s The Last Crusade when this theory is finally proven wrong. Better late than never, right?

In any case, Diamond Tiara rejects all three stories, and asks the Crusaders to come up with something juicy by the end of today. They luckily chance upon Snips and Snails stuck to each other through bubblegum, spectacularly failing to get it off. This column ends up a massive success, and Diamond Tiara eagerly wants more stories like this. It’s quite fortunate that the first news report of this type is about Snips and Snails, since, well… let’s just say they aren’t like most ponies.

Diamond Tiara: Your column is a sensation! I don’t want you doing news anymore. I want more columns like this.
Diamond Tiara: Columns about ponies and their private lives… the things they do when they think they’re alone.
Diamond Tiara: You three are my new gossip columnists!
(Cutie Mark Crusaders’ faces light up)

This episode is quite clearly themed not just upon gossip, but how easily gossip can spread in the age of the Internet. While the Internet doesn’t exist in the MLP universe, a very similar effect is achieved through newspapers, much like how facts, misleading facts, or outright lies can easily be spread through online news articles. This show loves to make surreal fantasy metaphors for things that exist in real life, but this time it’s giving a mundane metaphor for the fanciful technology that we take for granted today—technology that a few decades ago only existed in science fiction.

Diamond Tiara: And I love the way you signed it.
Diamond Tiara: Gabby Gums? Hah! That was a stroke of genius!
Sweetie Belle: We couldn’t fit all of our names, so we decided to create one for all three of us.
Diamond Tiara: Well, I want more Gabby Gums! Nice work, girls.

Now that I think of it, “Gabby Gums” may well be a metaphor for having a made-up username on the Internet instead of going by your real name. Anonymity is incredibly commonplace on the Internet, which makes it all the more messed up when people spread nasty gossip about others. Though concealing their identity wasn’t the intent behind creating Gabby Gums, the idea ends up working in their favor… at first, anyway.

I take it from this image that Sweetie Belle likes drinking coffee? That’s surprisingly mature of her.
(More on that in the miscellaneous notes.)

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are at a roadblock with their newspaper, saying that nothing juicy ever happens at their school. Snips and Snails deliberately get bubblegum stuck to each other again, but the Crusaders know that you can’t just reuse the same story twice, and that the people reading the newspaper will have a craving for more.

After her watered down portrayal in Putting Your Hoof Down and Dragon Quest, it’s nice to have the real Rarity back.

Rarity trips on Sweetie Belle’s saddlebag and after a bit of deliberation through talking to herself (which is adorable and more than a little relatable), she reads the Foal Free Press and laughs loudly at the story about Snips and Snails. She laughs so loudly that it bothers Sweetie Belle, which is a situation I’ve been on Rarity’s side of far too many times. While Sweetie Belle is initially angry at Rarity snooping through her saddlebag (foreshadowing the episode’s moral), she ends up surprised and delighted that Rarity likes the school newspaper. This gives her the idea for the Crusaders to expand their horizons and gather stories from all of Ponyville.

Not shown: Spike relaxing at the spa, demonstrating that it’s ok for boys to like girly things.

And before you know it, the Foal Free Press has become popular all over Ponyville. The Mane 6 are at the Ponyville spa together talking about Gabby Gums’ stories. While most of them adore Gabby’s stories, Twilight Sparkle remarks Gabby can be a little mean when she sees a story making fun of Princess Celestia. This makes for an endearingly sweet demonstration of how wholeheartedly Twilight Sparkle respects Celestia, since the other ponies take much longer to be the slightest bit put off by these stories.

This spa scene has a clever and sneaky live demonstration of how the Foal Free Press’s stories are crafted. Upon pressure from Rarity, Rainbow Dash tries getting a hooficure at the spa but runs away the moment she’s touched. However, if you look closely, you’ll see Featherweight above, and he’s secretly captured the picture needed for the news column.

After Diamond Tiara shoots down a more innocuous news column where the Cutie Mark Crusaders interview Spike, and the Crusaders express guilt about making all these gossip stories, the Mane 6 realize firsthand how awful it feels to be the subject of scandalous gossip. While Twilight Sparkle realized something was amiss when Celestia was made fun of, the rest of the Mane 6 are only angered when they’re the subjects of controversy. And unsurprisingly, Rainbow Dash is the most mortified of all. As a pony known for taking extreme measures, she tried grabbing as many newspapers as she could with her story so others won’t see it, but it was still not enough.

I love the transition from “most lovely” to “most evil pony in Equestria”.

When Rarity finds out that Gabby Gums got a hold of her secret diaries, she is furious and demands to know who did it. While she at first denies the possibility that it could have been Sweetie Belle, she is doubly furious when she sees evidence in front of her, leading to an honest sister-to-sister discussion.

Rarity: What is important is that you understand how your column makes the ponies that you’re writing about feel!
Sweetie Belle: I do understand. And we’ve all been feeling guilty. But we just want our cutie marks so badly!
Rarity: Do you really think that writing nasty things and making everypony feel horrible is your destiny?
Sweetie Belle: Well, when you put it that way…

Rarity makes us realize the Cutie Mark Crusaders have gotten incredibly carried away with their determination to earn their cutie marks, and that it’s caused them to do some pretty nasty things. Throughout all these actions like diary theft, the Crusaders kept telling themselves this was all in the name of getting their cutie marks instead of facing the truth.

But Diamond Tiara refuses to let the Crusaders quit. She’s caught up in thirst for fame and recognition far worse than the Crusaders ever have had for anything, and she’s sadly been that way for the entire show. When the Crusaders say Diamond Tiara can’t force them to keep working, she reveals some incriminating pics of the Crusaders themselves, taken by our good friend Featherweight. This gambit presents an extra layer of difficulty for the Crusaders to get out of this mess.

Ouch, this cannot feel good for Scootaloo.

And here comes the big gut punch part. The Crusaders search Ponyville for ponies they can interview, but everyone there knows they’re behind Gabby Gums and aggressively shuns them. Some viewers think this these scenes are rather excessive, but I disagree. This part of the episode does a great job showing that people do not take it well if you don’t respect their privacy, and all the ponies let out their anger at the Crusaders in their own characteristic ways. For instance, Rainbow Dash conveys through her pegasus powers how the Crusaders made her feel with the rainy cloud shown above.

Fluttershy has become a blubbery mess of tears, and upon presumably her instruction, her animals fiercely protect her. Angel opens her door, sees the Crusaders, and promptly shuts it. Twilight Sparkle’s reaction is even more stern and cold, again using her unique powers. She doesn’t even show herself; instead, Spike tells the Crusaders that she made a force field around her house. Through not showing herself to the Crusaders, Twilight indirectly demonstrates how furious she is. I find that all these scenes of the Mane 6 shunning the Crusaders are done in unique, creative ways that make them extra uneasy and heartwrenching.

Apple Bloom: Oh, come on, Applejack! You’re not mad at us too, are you?
Applejack: Eeyup.
Apple Bloom: You’re not even gonna talk to us?
Applejack: Nope.
Big Macintosh: You should be ashamed of yourself. Humiliating your sister and me like that. We don’t want to talk to any of y’all right now, so take your little gossip column and your embarrassing photographs, and just go away!

In perhaps the most powerful scene of this episode, Applejack and Big Macintosh have swapped their ways of talking (or not talking). Since Big Mac normally says so little, this makes scenes where he talks at length extra powerful, especially here when he aggressively tells off his youngest sister and her two best friends. While most ponies refuse to even look at the Crusaders, Big Mac angrily goes off at them, which must be terrifying for those three.

I am including this group hug with Fluttershy because it is incredibly sweet.
(There are two types of bronies. Those who want to hug Fluttershy, and those who don’t exist.)

After some thought, the Crusaders one-up Diamond Tiara by writing an apology column on the Foal Free Press, where they come clean about Gabby Gums’ identity and promise to respect others’ privacy from here on out. The moral about respecting privacy is narrated by all three Crusaders taking turns, and it’s easily one of the best conveyed morals of season 2.

To end the episode, Cheerilee strips Diamond Tiara of her editor-in-chief title, and gives the title to Featherweight. Her reasoning is that she gave too much authority to a first-time editor, so Diamond Tiara is humorously baffled to see Featherweight become the new editor. While Featherweight is probably no more qualified for newspaper editing than she is, it’s evident that the reason he got the title is because the Foal Free Press is meant to be in good fun, not run by a filly who’s hungry for power. The episode concludes with Diamond Tiara photographed slipping on ink, and I suppose it’s left to the viewer’s imagination whether she ends up mocked on the Foal Free Press, or if the students decide that even she deserves to have her privacy respected.

Overall thoughts:

Probably the strongest Cutie Mark Crusaders episode yet, this episode has both one of the clearest conveyed most clearly conveyed morals of season 2, and one of the most valuable morals in today’s world. With how easily word spreads through technology, it’s incredibly easy to disrespect someone’s privacy or ruin their reputation through fabrications, and this episode does a good job telling viewers why they shouldn’t do that. It was quite evidently designed with the workings of the Internet in mind, but it doesn’t come off as too hammy or in-your-face with allusions to social media or online news feeds. The parallels with how human society works are just the right degree of indirect to suit this show, which isn’t something you can say about Fame and Misfortune, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Grade: B

Now that I think of it, this is easily one of my favorite episodes of season 2. Probably the only ones that surpass it are Lesson Zero, Sweet and Elite, Read It and Weep, and It’s About Time.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Sweetie Belle having a cup of coffee is incredibly cute. It’s also a little bizarre to me, because when I was a kid, I thought drinking caffeinated beverages was illegal until you turned 13, so I strayed from them for a long time and never really got in the habit of drinking coffee. I think I always thought coffee was one of those things I would automatically start liking when I become an adult. Of course, it’s very silly and misguided to think adulthood happens automatically, but that’s what a lot of kids are led to believe.
  • One of the newspaper stories reveals that Mayor Mare’s mane is naturally pink instead of gray. Though for now, this is a one-off gag, it gets a callback in season 7’s The Perfect Pear, making for some glorious attention to detail.
  • While Rainbow Dash at this point can’t stand being touched at the spa, she eventually secretly loves going to the spa, which is revealed in the season 6 episode Applejack’s “Day” Off. Her gradually starting to enjoy the spa treatment is some fun character development, though given that she tries to deny it when her friends find out, maybe “character development” isn’t the best phrase. Still though, her doing something extremely girly for a change is adorable.
  • Many fans have criticized this episode for letting Featherweight, the pony who photographed for all the newspaper columns, get away without any punishment. As with many other cases, that’s where Slice of Life eventually comes to the rescue.

We’re almost done with season 2 now! We’ll get to its memorable finale after we make it past, unfortunately, one of its weakest episodes.

Season 2 Episode 24: MMMystery on the Friendship Express

In five words: Somewhat clumsily handled mystery episode.

Premise: On a train ride to a baking competition in Canterlot, Pinkie Pie finds that part of the cake she brought over has been bitten off, and she insists on getting to the bottom of the mystery.

Detailed run-through:

This episode should really be called “MMMMystery on the Friendship Express”, with four M’s. I don’t know why it isn’t.

To start this episode, Mr. and Mrs. Cake present Pinkie Pie with their Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness, or MMMM for short, a cake they spent months perfecting and are going to having Pinkie Pie send to a cake competition in Canterlot. Since the cake is quite heavy, pegasi, unicorns, and earth ponies have to combine their powers to carry the cake onto the train, which is a rather fun sight, as well as a demonstration of how much hard work went into the cake. Even Big Macintosh, one of the physically strongest characters in the show, can barely hold it on his own.

This opening scene firmly sets the distinctly lighthearted tone of the episode, and while I normally love some lighthearted humor, in this episode it comes at a cost. I feel like this episode really doesn’t want to be taken all that seriously, which makes it a difficult one to analyze in earnest… but I’ll try anyway. I’ll analyze what I can.

Pinkie Pie goes at length about how delicious the MMMM is, with a description that is as full of alliteration as it is mouth-watering. It certainly gets her friends’ mouths watering, and I almost can’t blame three of them for taking a bite if the descriptions were this good. Maybe they didn’t expect the train ride to Canterlot to take this long, and they didn’t bring some food of their own? Maybe they were starving for food? Maybe the train took a wrong turn and caused the ride to take far longer than it should have? I’m asking real questions here—questions too real for this episode to even begin to ask.

We then meet the Cakes’ three competitors, each of whom presents a fanciful dessert of their own. You may remember Donut Joe from the The Best Night Ever, but the other two—Gustave le Grand and Mulia Mild—are new one-off characters. They’re unfortunately far too one-off for me to analyze, but it is cool at least to see the show’s non-pony cast increase. Makes for good variety.

While the rest of the Mane 6 go get some sleep. Pinkie Pie insists on staying up all night protecting the MMMM. She proclaims that “nothing and nopony will stop [her]” from protecting the cake, making it painfully obvious what’s going to happen next. She’s going to turn her back for one moment too long, and something bad will happen to the cake.

And so, Pinkie Pie closes her eyes one moment too long and notices a certain pony just zoomed by at lightning speed, presumably intending to sabotage the cake. She chases after that fast pony (who could it possibly be???) but can’t keep up. Then she chases after another pony zooming by and sees what looks to be the train’s conductor shoveling coal. I guess she doesn’t see any reason to press whoever this may be for evidence (which would blow Fluttershy’s cover), and I can only say this goes to show how gullible Pinkie Pie is.

After a few more hints of ponies attempting to eat the MMMM, even with the lights briefly going out, the cake is thankfully intact, but before we know it, this happens:

We all knew this was going to happen. It is so incredibly obvious that Pinkie Pie would fall asleep immediately after saying she will keep a close eye on the cake that it’s beyond being painfully predictable and loops around to being side-splitting.

The next morning, Pinkie Pie is proud to see the MMMM unscathed… except Twilight Sparkle proves her wrong by showing that Pinkie didn’t watch over the cake from all angles. This begins the motif of the middle third of the episode, where detective stories are parodied by having Twilight Sparkle serve as the John Watson to Pinkie Pie’s Sherlock Holmes.

I love the choice of having Pinkie Pie’s detective pipe blow bubbles instead of smoke. It’s a kid-friendly homage to detective stories that matches perfectly with her character.

Pinkie gets the cool hat, Twilight is stuck with the dull hat.

And instead of being a mystery story played straight, Sherlock Holmes is thoroughly satirized every step of the way. This becomes clear the moment Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle put on detective hats, and Twilight Sparkle expresses her typical snarky annoyance at Pinkie Pie’s antics.

The detective satire goes to high gear when Pinkie Pie gives a wacky theory that Gustave le Grand sawed off part of the cake and then tied Pinkie to the railroad. The theory is presented in the style of silent films, which is some amusing satire of old-timey media much like we had two episodes ago. When Twilight Sparkle proves her wrong, Pinkie comes up with another absurd theory, this time about Donut Joe.

The theory about Donut Joe is presented like a James Bond movie, and it’s filled with stand-ins for kid-unfriendly content that adult viewers are sure to pick up on. For instance, Joe’s ice cream float is a stand-in for an alcoholic beverage, and I find it weirdly charming when the show makes obvious substitutions for content you can’t have on a kids’ show. It’s one of many ways the show acknowledges it’s found such a big adult audience.

Joe’s imaginary spy shenanigans are quite a joy to watch, and here’s another scene that clearly substitutes adult content. Joe uses a ball that emits an unpleasant smell to knock Pinkie Pie out, though the direct cause doesn’t seem to be chemical effects of the smell, but rather Pinkie Pie tripping because she can’t handle the smell. This is almost like underhandedly feeding someone a drug or poison that puts them to sleep, which isn’t exactly kid-friendly.

This theory ends in Joe using mirrors to redirect the train’s (nonexistent) laser security system and slice the cake apart, which is another theory that holds no weight.

The final theory is that Mulia is secretly a ninja, and it’s presented in a style that loosely parodies anime. Supposedly, she used her ninja sword to slice apart the cake, which is yet again total nonsense.

With Twilight Sparkle having shot down all of Pinkie Pie’s theories, Pinkie goes on to give mouth-watering descriptions of the other three desserts, again full of alliteration and rhymes. Her descriptions are followed by this line:

Pinkie Pie: So why did this criminal devour the Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness while leaving this trio of tasty treats untouched?

Given what happened to the MMMM after she described that cake in detail, as well as what’s about to happen to the other three desserts, one thing is clear: if you give a detailed description of how scrumptious and mouth-watering a dish is, people will badly crave a bite. This line shows that Pinkie Pie endearingly has no idea how good she is making treats sound appetizing. Maybe she should get a side job as a food advertiser. Maybe she already has a side job as a food advertiser? You never know with Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie Pie’s descriptions of the desserts are so mouth-watering that the competitors take the very first chance they get to secretly eat some of each other’s dishes, specifically the moment the train passes through a dark tunnel. Maybe they think that thanks to Pinkie Pie’s outlandish theories, there is no way she would ever deduce who really ate the dishes.

Now it’s Twilight Sparkle’s turn to get to the bottom of the mystery using a groundbreaking, revolutionary technique called “searching for evidence”. It’s fun to see her solve the mystery the way mysteries are supposed to be solved, but also quite strange that we don’t see any of the evidence she collects. We do indirectly see her pick fake eyelashes off one of the paintings in the train, but that’s only if you look very closely.

And then Twilight Sparkle presents the evidence, showing the real stories behind who ate parts of the MMMM. A blue feather from Rainbow Dash, a piece of pink hair from Fluttershy, and a fake eyelash from Rarity (revealing that she wears fake eyelashes, clearly the most shocking reveal of this entire episode). As fun as it is to see the mystery come together, I unfortunately can’t say this reveal gives any meaningful insight into the Mane 6 members who ate parts of the cake.

Pinkie Pie then gets the hang of gathering proper evidence and in her speedy Pinkie Pie fashion figures out who ate the other three desserts. It was the bakers of each of the desserts, who couldn’t resist the chance to try each other’s dishes thanks to Pinkie Pie’s descriptions. Again, I have no character analysis to offer here; just appreciation for all the clever puns and rhymes. Mousse in his moustache, eclair in his hair, and my favorite rhyme of all: sprinkles in her wrinkles.

One problem remains now: since all the desserts have been mostly eaten, how can they still qualify for the competition?

I keep almost typing “deserts” instead of “desserts”.

The answer is to combine the desserts into one dish that wins first prize, so I guess that solves that. Pinkie Pie narrates the episode’s moral about not jumping to conclusions, which is an OK moral I guess, but also one that feels somewhat forced for the sake of giving this episode a friendship lesson. The very end cements this episode as one of season 2’s most lighthearted: Pinkie Pie takes a bite out of the cake, by which she means devouring the whole thing in one gulp, leading everyone to laugh as she eats the screen.

Overall thoughts:

This episode serves as a lighthearted breather between the storm of dramatic episodes before it and the memorable season 2 finale. It’s an episode that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes it good for humor but difficult to analyze. Much of the episode is spent parodying detective stories, and while the satire is humorous, it also gets in the way of the exciting, tense feel of the pieces coming together as the mystery is solved. Thankfully, this won’t be the last time MLP pays homage to mystery novels. Season 5’s “Rarity Investigates!” pulls off the detective style a lot better, with exciting leadup to a shocking and powerful reveal that with a valuable takeaway.

Grade: C

This episode gets a very, very tenuous C. I was almost going to give it a D, but I can’t be that brutal on an episode so incredibly rife with clever wordplay and puns. Puns are my one and only weakness. (Well, not my only weakness, but definitely one of my biggest.)

In this episode, the worst of anyone’s problems is a few cakes being eaten. The stakes of the next episode, on the other hand, are WAY higher.

Whew, this post was huge! My MLP episode reviews are getting long and detailed enough that I think it’s a wise decision to no longer have posts take up three episodes. From here on out, most posts will cover two episodes, but if an episode has especially many things I want to say about it, it’ll get a post all to itself. This will especially come in handy for Rarity episodes, which I tend to dissect in far greater depth than most others. This change will also make it easier for me to maintain a weekly post schedule.

See you next time for my final MLP post of the year, where I go through easily the most dramatic two-part episode yet.

>> Part 21: A Canterlot Wedding, Part 1 + 2

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