Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 32: Bats! + Rarity Takes Manehattan

Introduction

< Part 31 | Part 32 | Part 33 >

Season 4, Episodes 7-8


Season 4 Episode 7: Bats!

In five words: Fluttershy becomes one-off vampire.

(Arguably I could have squeezed one more word in, but if I were to count two words connected by a hyphen as one word, I would be able to cheat very easily.)

Premise: Sweet Apple Acres has been run with an infestation of a certain animal species—I bet you can’t guess which one. Applejack wants to get rid of the bats, but Fluttershy doesn’t. An agreed-upon solution leads to surprising consequences.

Detailed run-through:

She was so excited and proud, and THIS is what she’s met with.

This episode starts with Applejack confidently waiting for apple bucking day to begin. The moment the sun rises, she gets right to it and bucks some apples, basking in their delight for a few seconds until they turn out to all be rotten and mushy. It turns out that the nasty vampire fruit bats have returned. The intro to this episode sets Applejack as the proud traditionalist who likes things the way they are, in contrast to Fluttershy who she gets into a moral debate with.

Applejack rings the bell at her barn, saying this is a code red at Sweet Apple Acres, so the rest of the Mane 6 and Spike come aboard. It’s weird that Applejack’s immediate family aren’t the ones who come, but the episode gives a justification for that later on—a justification that allows this episode to focus on the Mane 6’s dynamics instead of the Apple family.

Applejack tells her friends that these aren’t ordinary fruit bats, but vampire fruit bats. Then she reveals an enormous, juicy apple she grew for the Appleoosa state fair’s produce competition. Unfortunately, this reveal guarantees on a meta level that the apple is doomed to be destroyed. Why else would she reveal it so soon?

As the idealist to contrast against Applejack’s traditionalist, Fluttershy suggests to reason with the bats. She tries to politely ask them not to touch the big apple, and gets this in response:

Fluttershy probably thinks the seeds are something gross like bat poop. She’s an animal expert, not a plant expert.

Applejack: Well, what’d he say?
Fluttershy: Um, yes.
Applejack: (happily) Huh?
Fluttershy: But… it could have been a no.
Applejack: Ugh.
Fluttershy: This is the first vampire fruit bat I’ve ever met, and… well… it might take some time to understand their language.
Applejack: Uh-huh. And in the mean time, this pest and his vermin friends are gonna go after my prized apple. And while they’re at it, every other apple in the orchard!

The way Applejack says “uh-huh” here shows that she doesn’t think it’s a fair excuse for Fluttershy not to understand the bats’ language right away. Perhaps this is an example of her overestimating her friends’ abilities? It never feels good to have your skills overestimated and be asked to do something that you simply can’t deliver on, and Fluttershy is clearly feeling this way. But Applejack’s pride in her apple farming means she isn’t willing to make compromises.

When Applejack calls the bats “monsters”, Fluttershy thinks she’s being harsh, which leads to a musical number that shares its name with this episode: Bats! Applejack’s sections of the song show that she thinks the bats are nothing but trouble, which I view as the result of her pride and traditionalism rather than regular old obstinacy. Stubbornness was a big trait of Applejack’s in the early seasons, but by now, it’s evolved to staying true to her longtime family values—honest to them, you could say.

“Bats!” is another musical number themed upon contrast, both through music and visuals. While Applejack’s sections have a dark, gloomy color scheme, Fluttershy’s sections look bright and sunny, representing Fluttershy’s optimism and sympathy towards the bats. As for music, Applejack’s sections are in a minor key, while Fluttershy’s divert more into major key territory, or rather a key purgatory that’s harder to pin down. The instrumentation sounds lighter and freer in Fluttershy’s sections too.

I feel bad for Fluttershy here. Being outvoted is a very unpleasant feeling.

The rest of the Mane 6 side with Applejack, as evidenced by the dark color scheme shown when two of them take turns singing, then they all sing as a chorus. This musical number does a good job conveying the characters’ opinions through music and visuals instead of just words, which is exactly what musical numbers are supposed to do.

Near the end, the Mane 6’s faces besides Fluttershy are shown one by one, all looking serious against a black background except for Pinkie Pie as shown above. Maybe this shows that Pinkie Pie has a firmly neutral stance on this debate? That would make some amount of sense, considering that she’s a reality warper who could probably resolve this entire situation in one fell swoop if she chose to. It wouldn’t make sense for a pony as omnipotent as her to have a stance on this issue.

(Hey, don’t look at me like that! Thoroughly analyzing one-off gags is fun.)

Fluttershy tries to convince her friends that letting the bats stay in the orchard will be beneficial in the long run, but Applejack doesn’t buy it. You could argue that a practical-minded pony like her shouldn’t be so short-sighted, but I can see what’s going through her head. She liked the farm just the way it was, and besides, she vividly remembers a story Granny Smith told her about a prior farm infestation.

Applejack: Granny says we lost a huge section of orchard that year. They had to ration out apples all winter.
Rainbow Dash: What about the cider? There was still cider, what?
Applejack: Not. A. Drop.
Rainbow Dash: No cider? NO CIDER?! We need to round up these monsters and we need to do it now!

Unless Applejack fabricated her family cancelling cider season that year, which would be highly unlikely given her element of harmony, I take from this passage that Granny Smith knows the difficult skill of making sacrifices; giving up things you love because they just aren’t feasible. She’s lucky Rainbow Dash wasn’t around back then, because otherwise she would have thrown a huge fit.

Fluttershy’s facial expressions help show how uncomfortable she is with this idea.

While Fluttershy continues being outvoted, Twilight Sparkle presents her own idea for how to deal with the fruit bats: using magic to prevent them from sucking the juice out of the apples. This idea needs a bit of help from Fluttershy: she must use the Stare to keep the bats’ attention. Fluttershy doesn’t like this idea very much and had vowed to use the Stare only in the most dire circumstances. Her qualms with the idea can be compared to someone not liking an idea that uses technology to interfere with nature, especially interfering with the minds of animals. Humans do that stuff plenty already, and in this sense, Fluttershy might be likened to a staunch environmentalist. It’s interesting that magic, an ability built into one-third of all ponies, is so often analogous to manmade technology. But it makes sense because—say it with me—unicorns are over…

um…

overly capable of performing monumental tasks compared to the other two types of ponies. That’s what I meant to say.

Poor Fluttershy still has room for improvement in standing up for herself. Upon pressure from her friends, she reluctantly agrees to use the Stare on the bats. I can tell this doesn’t feel good for her; she probably feels like her opinion doesn’t matter, or that it doesn’t matter as much the others combined. This is an incredibly easy situation to fall into, and eventually Fluttershy will become better at arguing for her case.

After a few scenes where the Mane 6 gather the fruit bats, including some mishaps that occur from Rarity wearing a thick protective suit, Fluttershy uses the stare on the bats, allowing Twilight Sparkle to do her magic spell. I trust that you won’t mind if I compare her against a character who doesn’t exist yet: namely, Starlight Glimmer.

This show consistently portrays Twilight Sparkle as highly adept in magic. Very often, she will use magic to solve her problems; it usually works out fine, but sometimes in episodes like this one, it leads to a storm of mishaps. Those mishaps feel like a metaphor for what happens if you try to cheat your way out of tough situations. When the Mane 6 get acquainted with Starlight Glimmer, we learn that one of her strongest traits is that she tries to use crazy magic spells to solve her problems, only for them to backfire. As Twilight Sparkle grows and progresses, Starlight Glimmer expands on various traits of hers that had since subsided, making for a character who I expect will be a joy to analyze.

Everyone thinks the spell worked perfectly, but we then get a hint of what’s to follow: Fluttershy sniffs out the enticing, juicy smell of an apple. It turns out that Twilight Sparkle’s magic spell didn’t erase the fruit bats’ thirst for apples, but rather transferred it over to Fluttershy. This ends the moral debate over what to do with the bats, and begins the exploration of the spell’s nasty consequences.

The next day, Applejack is once more met with rotten apples when she tries bucking some from a tree. It evidently isn’t the bats’ fault this time, leading to a new mystery the Mane 6 must solve.

All three ponies who use pony signals have the shape of their cutie marks in the light.

As the Mane 6 get to the bottom of the mystery and the spook factor increases, Pinkie Pie proves that she’s the only non-unicorn pony who can come close to the power level of unicorn magic, and here’s how. Twilight Sparkle and Rarity generate beacons of light with their horns, and Pinkie Pie achieves the same effect by pulling a flashlight out of thin air and holding it up with her mane, which are also impressive feats. But all my talk about Pinkie Pie bending reality is probably getting old by now.

Eventually, we get the grand reveal of Fluttershy in vampire bat form, or as her friends call her, “Flutterbat”. This nickname is an homage to the many nicknames fans have given different forms of Fluttershy by following “Flutter” with a (sometimes profane) word that describes her present state. This time, the episode is outright giving us the nickname fans would have given her regardless. Flutterbat has a fun design that balances fear factor and cuteness to just the right degree that she inspired a MASSIVE storm of fanart and other such fanworks.

This scene reminds me of Trixie similarly using her magic to make an exposition sequence in Magic Duel.

Twilight Sparkle uses unicorn magic to create a sci-fi style exposition sequence that the other ponies can see, which is accompanied by sci-fi sounding music to make for a mild genre shift. This usage of unicorn magic isn’t often seen, but it provides a fun alternative way to do exposition from the usual flashbacks. Soon enough, the Mane 6 come up with a plan to bring Fluttershy back to normal: she must use the Stare on herself by looking in a mirror.

Just noticed that Flutterbat’s cutie mark is three bats instead of three butterflies.

Just like her grandma, Applejack knows how to make sacrifices; she probably views it as a natural part of being in the Apple family. She cuts a slice in her gigantic apple to lure Flutterbat, then knocks the apple aside to reveal mirrors in every direction Fluttershy looks.

After a magic spell from Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy is back to normal. She learns that she turned into a vampire pony and assumes that means she tried to eat ponies, which is also an assumption Pinkie Pie made. Pinkie Pie tries to assure her that she didn’t eat ponies, but due to the nature of yes/no questions, particularly with the ambiguity that rises from answering “yes” to a question about whether you didn’t do something, she ends up confused.

Weird, I thought for sure the bats sucked the juice out of the big apple at the end of this episode. Guess I misremembered.

To wrap up this episode, Applejack learns that the fruit bats are beneficial after all: after sucking the juice out of apples, they spit out seeds to grow new apple trees, making them a necessary part of the trees’ life cycle. That’s often how it is in nature: a seemingly foul and unpleasant species has a perfectly valid reason to do what it does, and things go wrong when humans try to disrupt that cycle. Fluttershy narrates the episode’s moral, saying that you shouldn’t let others pressure you into doing something you don’t think is right, even if they’re your close friends. This is a good moral for this episode, and it fits Fluttershy’s character nicely.

This episode ends with a zoom-in to Fluttershy’s teeth, hinting that this might not be the last we see of Flutterbat. This teaser got fans hyped up, but for whatever reason, it was never delivered on through the rest of the show. Flutterbat remained a one-off, and I think it’s fine that way, even though it makes the teaser pointless.

Overall thoughts:

This episode tries to be multiple things at once—a moral dilemma, a surprise vampire nightmare, a lesson about disrupting nature—and surprisingly, it succeeds in doing so. Some people may criticize this episode for diverting from its initial dilemma when Fluttershy becomes a vampire, but I think it all flows well and nicely ties back into the original problem at the end. I’d say its plot is a lot easier to analogize to the real world than a people give credit. Sure, vampires aren’t real, but negative side effects from getting in the way of nature are very much real. Plus, Flutterbat’s design is well worth the praise.

Grade: B

The biggest criticism I have with this episode is that the teaser at the end is pointless, and that’s not even this episode’s fault.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I’m obligated to mention that Pinkie Pie sings “fruit bat roundup” to the tune of Winter Wrap Up. This makes for season 4’s second callback to that iconic song, and both callbacks feel like a shoutout to fans and all the fun things they have done with the show’s music.
  • Very shortly after that, Fluttershy mentions an idea of building a sanctuary for the bats, which Applejack rejects. In retrospect, I feel like this ties in with the episode Fluttershy Leans In, where Fluttershy reveals an ambitious animal sanctuary plan that she’s been excitedly holding in for a long time and only now is confident enough to bring to action. Maybe that scene gives firsthand evidence of that idea budding in her head.
  • I don’t think the existence of Starlight Glimmer counts as much of a spoiler, which is why I didn’t mark this review as one that has spoilers. I should really shut my lid on her until I get to episodes where she appears, which begins with the season 5 premiere.

After this episode that I always found memorable, next up is an episode that I originally didn’t care for, but now am incredibly excited to analyze.


Season 4 Episode 8: Rarity Takes Manehattan

In five words: Generosity nastily bites Rarity back.

Premise: On a trip to Manehattan with her friends, Rarity enters a fashion design contest and meets a pony who takes advantage of her generosity.

Extremely detailed run-through:

This isn’t even Rarity’s last pile of suitcases!

This episode begins with the running gag that Rarity packs way too many suitcases for her trips. She gets Spike to do all the busy work because she knows he can’t say no to his crush. I bet that internally, Rarity believes it’s completely normal to pack such a whopping pile of luggage for a week-long trip, or to make a kid smitten with her carry them all. This is an early reminder of Rarity’s naive side, which will bite her hard in this episode.

The demonstration of Rarity’s naive side is followed by a reminder of her strong generosity. She reveals that she bought tickets for her and all her friends to a musical that they thought was sold out long ago, which makes her friends all extremely excited. The best part is that she has not six, but seven tickets, which means she even accounted for Spike! Yes, the very same Spike who tends to get left out of the Mane 6’s activities. It’s appropriate for the opening of this episode to remind us of Rarity’s strongest traits, since this is the first full-out Rarity episode we’ve gotten since season 2’s Sweet and Elite. And let me tell you, I’m more excited than ever to dive right in and pick apart as many details as I can.

Just like the last Rarity episode, this one doesn’t hold back with worldbuilding. We haven’t seen Manehattan since Applejack’s flashback in the Cutie Mark Chronicles, and now we’re looking at it in much more depth. We get no shortage of references to landmarks of the real-life New York City, or custom background pony designs for that matter. This episode puts a lot of effort into designing background ponies, giving them looks that suit the atmosphere of this fancy city very well. Unlike the residents of Ponyville, most of them wear at least one article of clothing.

Fluttershy: Like get us in to see Hinny of the Hills!
Rainbow Dash: Which is only the best musical in all of Equestria!
Applejack: It must be good if Rainbow Dash is impressed. Normally she doesn’t even like musicals.
Rainbow Dash: I know. Ponies just bursting into song in random places at the drop of a hat… who does that?

You just had to tempt fate, Rainbow Dash.
(I love her shocked face here.)

Before I talk about this episode’s musical number, titled Generosity, I’d like to talk about the leadup to it, because there’s a lot to unpack. First off, Rainbow Dash’s enthusiastic reaction to a genre of media she ordinarily doesn’t care for is extremely brony-esque. Many of the show’s fans normally couldn’t care less for cartoons aimed at little kids. I don’t just mean kids’ shows, but particularly the flavor of kids’ show that pretty much no adult would even think of watching, which My Little Pony was before this show came along. But here, Rainbow Dash doesn’t hide her excitement about this one specific musical.

Rainbow Dash talking about why she normally doesn’t like musicals is the most humorous and fourth wall-breaking way to lead to a musical number yet. It won’t be the only time the show makes a joke like this; All Bottled Up is another example. Sometimes, MLP just needs a haphazard excuse for the ponies to burst into song, and here it’s owning up to that fact.

OK, now for the song itself. Rarity sings about what she loves about Manehattan: when you do someone a generous favor, they will always have something else to give in return. This musical number has plenty of live examples, with Rarity treating her friends to a luxurious boat ride that takes place entirely within the song. She didn’t need to do this at all, but that’s the kind of pony she is. She went on this trip to Manehattan because of a fashion competition, but she brought her best friends with her and treated them to all sorts of fun experiences.

Wait a minute… is this guy’s cutie mark Grumpy Cat? Like the Internet meme? That is a surprising meme reference that I honestly can’t complain much about. It shows that not only has this show’s actual audience evolved to include teenagers and adults who know Internet memes too well, but its intended audience has similarly evolved. I would say I never noticed this reference until now, but I’m sure I noticed it back in 2014 when this episode came out and forgot about it afterwards. It sounds like the kind of thing I would have easily noticed back then.

The song itself is still going on, just to be clear. Its topic has moved to Rarity’s mindset of treating strangers like friends, which she knows may sound questionable to some. But throughout this song, her form of generosity has been doing her nothing but good.

I love how even though Rainbow Dash complained about musicals at first, she ends up joining in on this song.

When the song changes its key, the rest of the Mane 6 take turns singing, and they catch on to Rarity’s flavor of generosity. Two of them work together to repair a broken wheel on a cart: Applejack lifts the cart with her back muscles, and Rarity fixes the wheel with her unicorn magic. It’s likely that Applejack lifting the cart couldn’t have been done without earth pony strength, which might suggest unicorns aren’t that overpowered.

I had to look up another transcript to get the exotic word “thoroughfare”. Yep, this is a show solely for little girls alright.
(Normally I transcribe the dialogue all by myself, even though I know I don’t have to.)

Rarity: (sighs) Do you think my dresses could soon be displayed in the most glamorous shopping thoroughfare of the most glamorous city in Equestria?
Rarity: (sighs again) It would be my dream come true!

Wait, I thought Rarity considered Canterlot the most glamorous city in Equestria. But knowing her, I can easily believe that she moved past her Canterlot phase and is now head over heels for Manehattan. People’s interests and favorite things are always in flux, and it would be silly to deem this a continuity error.

After all the fun she’s had with her friends, Rarity realizes that the fashion competition is in only ten minutes, so she must scramble to find a taxi, especially after it suddenly starts raining. This leads us to a live demonstration of the payoffs of generosity.

Due to the rain, Rarity is not alone in needing a taxi to go places; it turns out there’s a huge line of ponies waiting for a ride. Rainbow Dash tries using brute force to get Rarity on a taxi, but she’s told to wait in line like everyone else. But then, the same pony whose carriage had its wheel repaired by Rarity returns the favor in an incredibly sweet scene. This is a great way to demonstrate how generosity pays off. The returned favor happens quite some time after the initial favor, specifically when the one who did the first favor needs a helping hoof.

I should note that there’s a consistent pattern in how Rarity episodes portray the rest of the Mane 6. They’re portrayed as well-meaning but clumsy, often not understanding the nature of generosity. They tend to have the wrong ideas, but their hearts are in the right place, and typically they manage to do something genuinely nice for Rarity by the end. This portrayal of the rest of the Mane 6 fits with the friendly, lighthearted nature of the show, and it makes Rarity’s strengths shine through contrast without portraying her friends as brainless buffoons.

This episode is full of situations adults are much more likely than children to find themselves in.
It shows how much this show has grown.

The rest of the Mane 6 then realize Rarity forgot her dresses, which cleverly leads to another demonstration of why generosity pays off. In this episode’s musical number, a hotel employee offered to take Rarity’s enormous pile of suitcases to her room, and Rarity gave him a sizable gem in return. Now, the same employee is returning the favor by giving Rarity the dresses she needed, upon an urgent call from her friends. This scene and the last one hit the sweetness factor in just the right way.

This episode portrays the inhabitants of Manehattan as perpetually busy and often getting in the way of each other, which is quite believable for such a bustling city. It makes total sense that they’d be extremely grateful when someone goes out of their way to help them out. It takes a very selfless and generous soul to do something like that, and Rarity is one of the most selfless characters in the entire show. While Fluttershy tends to passively let others have their way, Rarity actively goes out of her way to make others happy, often to a fault.

(I’m having every bit as much fun analyzing this episode as I had imagined.)

I’ve been noticing tons of patterns in Rarity episodes. Here’s one: she often seems on top of things compared to her friends, but when meeting new faces in the places she travels to, she comes off as clumsy and not so above it all. In this case, Rarity barely makes it in time to the competition, and in uptight Manehattan fashion, Prim Hemline (the gray mare shown above) scolds Rarity for arriving so late and tells her to show her dresses last.

Here’s another Rarity episode pattern, one that this episode throws a wrench in. Rarity episodes tend to introduce quite a few new characters, and after some conflicts, Rarity will become friends with at least one of them, and they will continue to reappear in her later episodes. Suited for Success gave us Hoity Toity (who makes a cameo later in this episode), Sweet and Elite had her meet Fancy Pants (who made a cameo in this episode’s musical number), and this episode introduces us to an acquaintance of hers from her knitting club named Suri Polomare (the rightmost mare above). Except Suri Polomare turns out to be a nasty doublecrossing jerk, and at the end of this episode, Rarity instead befriends her meek and kind-hearted assistant named Coco Pommel. This is a fun way to change the pattern from the typical Rarity episode formula; this is the first Rarity episode to have a proper antagonist who she doesn’t reconcile with at the end. Well, technically A Dog and Pony Show was the first to do that, but it’s an oddball among Rarity episodes. And besides, in my mind, “Rarity episode” doesn’t refer to all episodes focused on Rarity, but a subset of those episodes focused on her generosity, which so far as included Suited for Success, Sweet and Elite, and this one.

Suri Polomare: I’m so glad you made it, Rarity.
Rarity: Me too. But everything just seems to keep working out.
Suri Polomare: Don’t you remember me? Suri Polomare from the Ponyville Knitters’ League?
Rarity: Oh, yes! Of course, of course. I thought you looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

There’s a lot to unpack in this exchange. It looks like Rarity left a big lasting impression on Suri Polomare in the knitting club, but Rarity barely remembers who she is, as indicated by her facial expressions and faltering tone of voice. I imagine that Suri Polomare viewed Rarity as a natural talent with knitting and sewing and badly wished she could be half as good. But instead of working her way up knitting skills through practice, Suri turned to more devious schemes.

Rarity: You haven’t been back in years!
Suri Polomare: Because I moved here to make it in the big city. (laughs) OK?
Rarity: OH! Good for you, Sur—

Look at that faux affection on Suri Polomare’s part.

Suri Polomare: Ooh, it’s so good to see you. And now here we are… competing (laughs), OK.

I get the feeling that Suri Polomare didn’t want to put in the effort to learn the art of dressmaking, even though the only way anyone can get good at any form of art is through tons of practice and dedication. It sounds like she has her own interpretation of Manehattan’s way of life that is far less optimistic than Rarity’s. While Rarity views Manehattan as a place where you’ll be rewarded for doing others favors, Suri Polomare views it as a place where you can win others’ trust through favors so you can stab them in the back and advance your own schemes.

Much like the Flim Flam Brothers and Lightning Dust, Suri Polomare is a villain who plays off a Mane 6 member through contrast. She and Rarity at first appear to be like-minded spirits, but Suri Polomare betrays others’ trust rather than returning their favors. Her supposed generosity is just a facade to hide her own selfish desires. But another thing Suri Polomare and Rarity have in common is that they’re characterized through nuance and subtle details, making them both immensely fun characters to analyze.

As the two catch up, Suri Polomare asks permission to use Rarity’s newly designed purple fabric to spice up her dresses. It might seem like a kind courtesy that Suri asks permission, but she probably knows that Rarity is the type of pony who would say yes no matter what. As such, she’s tricking Rarity and using her as a pawn for her own ploy.

Suri Polomare: Hey, would you mind terribly if I took a swatch?
Rarity: Oh, not at all! Here, I have loads extra.
Suri Polomare: You’re sure?
Rarity: Positive. Well, it’s been wonderful getting caught up, and I, I don’t wish to be rude, but I need to finish my preparations and I am a bit late as it… is?

Suri Polomare walking off while Rarity is in the middle of talking is a subtle demonstration of how selfish she is. Once Rarity has served her purpose in Suri’s schemes, Suri walks off without another word, showing that she didn’t want to catch up with Rarity at all and was merely using her.

Rarity arrives half an hour early this time, thinking it would please Prim Hemline, but she’s last in line once again. This is yet another example of Rarity not seeming so above it all in places outside of Ponyville, a pattern that I had talked about earlier in this review. She excitedly describes her purple fabric in detail…

Coco Pommel is so ridiculously adorable. It looks like Fluttershy has some competition!

… which transitions to Suri Polomare using the same words to describe her fabric to an impressed Prim Hemline. Rarity is set off at this.

Rarity: You STOLE my FABRIC!
Suri Polomare: (laughs) I didn’t steal it, OK? You gave it to me, ‘member?
Rarity: I gave you the fabric for accents! Not for your whole line.

Suri Polomare knows Rarity’s type incredibly well—a selfless pony who she can easily roll all over for her own self-interest, then get under her skin using the power of exact words. She makes a compelling rival to Rarity by rudely taking advantage of generosity, then bragging that she didn’t technically steal anything. It’s also worth noting that Suri was a step ahead of the others and seems to have arrived the earliest of all, to make sure it would seem like Rarity was copying her designs and not the other way around. This selfish bastard thinks of everything. Well, everything except the happiness of people who aren’t herself.

This girl is a complete and utter ball of fluff. She must be protected at all costs.

Rarity: And how could you possibly make all those outfits out of it so fast?
Suri Polomare: Fast? Ha! Coco Pommel here took practically forever. Nearly got me completely disqualified.
Coco Pommel: Well, I wanted to make sure you’d win, so I took the extra time to—
Suri Polomare: Quiet! I pay an assistant to sew and get coffee, not talk.

Rarity is surprised the dresses were made so quickly, which demonstrates that Coco Pommel has a lot of sewing talent that Suri Polomare wouldn’t ever acknowledge. The thing you have to understand about Coco Pommel is that she’s too nice for her own good. Suri Polomare treats her like garbage, but Coco can only ever see the best in her. She’s the type of person who can’t understand when someone is being mean to her, especially when they’re doing something as generous as giving her money. Either that, or she constantly tries to convince herself that Suri has a good reason for being the way she is, whether it be compensating for an abusive upbringing, or incessant strain and pressure. This makes Coco Pommel yet another type of pony who’s perfect for Suri Polomare to roll all over.

The other thing you have to understand about Coco Pommel is that she’s precious and lovable and deserves all the hugs in the world. But she also deserves a firm but gentle talking to about how to better stand up for herself.

Suri Polomare tells Rarity how she interprets Manehattan, a place where it’s “everypony for herself”, which is the opposite of what Rarity likes about the city. In response to that, Rarity storms off in tears, and Suri yells at Coco to get her some coffee.

Next up is some mood whiplash. The rest of the Mane 6 return to their hotel room in joy, talking about how much they’ve had the time of their life in Manehattan, and have plenty more fun times to come. While it’s incredibly sweet that Rarity treated them to such a joyful experience, the happiness factor is undermined by what we just saw Rarity go through. That’s the thing about Rarity: she makes others happy and satisfied at the cost of her own joy.

Soon enough, Rarity arrives at the hotel room in tears. In typical Rarity fashion, she blames herself for what just happened. She had sung earlier about how wonderful generosity is, but now her generosity has led her into this situation. As I said in my review of Suited for Success, other characters would be far more likely to blame others, but here Rarity is having a complete meltdown over her own flaws.

But this time, it doesn’t take long for Rarity to get back on her hooves. Desperate to one-up Suri Polomare with the little time she has left, she looks at the curtains and bedsheets of her hotel room, deciding those will serve as inspiration for her newest fashion line. She looks determined and even a little smug as she comes up with this idea.

If you analyze the next scene closely enough, like I’m about to do, it’s clear that Rarity is starting to believe that the only way to beat Suri Polomare is to be more like her. While Suri had one humble assistant do all her bidding, Rarity has five loyal friends to help get her next line of dresses done in time. And she treats her friends rudely in the process: she makes them skip the dinner they were going to have and instead orders food for them that won’t arrive for another hour, and then lashes out at them when Rainbow Dash brings up the musical she was so excited to see. Rarity’s outburst even has a sarcastic “isn’t friendship magic?” near the end, a title drop that shows how much she’s gone off the deep end. Some people may find the show’s title drops cheesy, but I find this one quite dramatic. It also demonstrates how thoroughly Suri Polomare spat in not just Rarity’s face, but also in the face of friendship.

The moment the rest of the Mane 6 finish making the last dress, Rarity grabs it in a hurry and storms out, forgetting to thank her friends. Twilight is not happy about this, as indicated by her angry “you’re welcome!” Rarity has decided to forgo her common courtesy and trademark generosity because she’s just that desperate to beat Suri Polomare instead of making a fool of herself all over again. Remember the last time she made a fool of herself at a fashion show? She’s determined not to let that happen again.

Look at Coco Pommel’s face.
She does not feel good about what Suri Polomare made her do, but she doesn’t have it in her to say as much.

I just remembered that A Dog and Pony Show introduced us to Sapphire Shores.
Looks like every Rarity episode so far has introduced her to a new friend after all.

When Rarity takes her turn in the fashion show, her line of dresses is met with praise, but it means nothing to her if her best friends aren’t here to see it, as is the case here. This is the breaking point where Rarity remembers how much her friends mean to her. She got so carried away with trying to beat Suri Polomare that she let herself forget how much she loves her friends.

Rarity then demonstrates that her extreme generosity is back in action when she gives the same hotel employee who had helped her earlier two gems, even though he didn’t really do anything besides tell her that her friends left the hotel. Due to her haste, Rarity committed an act of generosity without even thinking about whether she needed to.

Next up is a sadder reprise of the song Generosity, where Rarity sings about how her friends gave up a lot for her while she didn’t give anything in return. The reprise is quite short and has her stand all alone; a moment of bleakness before this episode’s conclusion.

Rarity rejoins the rest of her friends at the hotel, along with a smug Suri Polomare and an uneasy Coco Pommel. Twilight Sparkle tells her that she and her friends missed the fashion show because they overslept. Then she says that Suri Polomare told her Rarity lost the fashion show. It’s clear here that Rarity was the only Mane 6 member to see Suri’s true side; the others fell for her illusion of kindness.

Rarity: I lost?
Rarity: You know what? I don’t even care. I’m just happy you’re all still here after now I treated you. Taking advantage of your friendship the way I did… how could you ever see past it?
Applejack: Yeah, you were pretty rotten.
Rainbow Dash: Wow, Applejack. I know your thing is honesty, but come on!

This scene feels like the show is taking a criticism of Applejack’s character to heart and starting to fix it: specifically, that she isn’t as honest as her element of harmony would imply. From season 4 onwards, Applejack tends to portrayed as brutally honest, a trait that suits her strong-willed nature very well. She tends to blurt out exactly what’s on her mind, which can lead to surprisingly cold lines like the one above.

Tears well up in Rarity’s eyes as she and her friends share a group hug, and then she reveals how she made it up to her friends: she gave them all tickets to a special exclusive performance of Hinny of the Hills, the musical they had missed last time. The extreme lengths Rarity takes to make her friends happy are truly something to admire.

Suri Polomare: And that… is how it’s done. (laughs)
Suri Polomare: Pretty clever how I convinced her to stay away from Prim, wasn’t it. (laughs)
Suri Polomare: Wouldn’t have wanted her to find out the truth now, wold we.
(Suri glares at Coco Pommel)

Suri is such a smug jerk it’s unreal. She thought she could beat Rarity by stealing her fabric designs, and when Rarity won the competition anyway, she resorted to outright lying and told her friends she lost the competition. I can only guess what’s going through Coco Pommel’s mind right now. Do you think she’s starting to realize how mean her boss really is? Or is she still trapped in her mindset of seeing the best in Suri Polomare? Perhaps Coco is disappointed that her sewing skills couldn’t beat Rarity’s because she genuinely wanted Suri to win.

When the exclusive performance of the musical concludes, Rainbow Dash speaks for many bronies when she jumps out of her seat saying how much she loved it, then tries to downplay her reaction and says it was “aight”, leading Applejack and Pinkie Pie to laugh at her. Even though most would assume Rainbow Dash prefers action-oriented media above all else, we all know that she loves mushy and heartfelt scenes just as much. I can easily relate to how queasy Rainbow Dash feels about admitting that. Sometimes I’ve even found myself saying to people that I only like the show ironically, hoping that it whoever I’m talking to gets the underlying message that I love the show completely unironically but don’t have it in me to say so.

Rarity then reveals how she got this special performance to happen: she offered to make costumes for the next show of the male costume designer friend of hers who bought her the tickets. The next show happens to be in Manehattan, which means she’ll still be away from Ponyville for quite a while longer, but she was willing to go this far just for the sake of her friends, which is very heartwarming.

D’awww is all I can say whenever Coco Pommel says or does anything.

And then the heartwarming factor blasts through the roof the moment Coco Pommel walks in. She reveals that Rarity won the fashion contest after all and gives Rarity her trophy as proof. Coco then explains what Rarity made her realize about Manehattan:

Coco Pommel: I’ve worked for Suri for so long, I started to believe that it really is everypony for herself in this town. Until I saw how generous you were with your friends, and how generous they were with you.
Coco Pommel: It made me start believing, there is something better for me out there. So I… I quit.

Quitting a job does not sound like an easy decision. You need to come to terms with the fact that the job isn’t a good fit for you and you aren’t happy there, and with a pony as pure-hearted as Coco Pommel, it took external forces to make her realize how unhealthy her situation really was. It’s very believable that Coco was trapped in this abusive relationship for so long, it started to seem normal to her until she saw the light from outside. Plus, there’s the matter of needing to find a new job, and Rarity luckily has just the right job in mind. She offers for Coco to work for the fashion designer friend of hers, so that Coco is now the one designing the costumes for his next show. Given how much Rarity overworked herself during the trip to Manehattan, passing the duties to Coco sounds like a wise decision. It’s also good first opportunity for Coco to finally work for someone who treats her with respect.

Remember the pattern of Rarity making new friends at the end of her episodes? In Suited for Success, the friend she made at the end is an authority figure to her, and the same goes for Sweet and Elite. But in this episode, Rarity is an authority figure to the new friend she makes, which shows how she’s rising up the ranks in the world of fashion design.

Rarity gets home and narrates the moral of this episode: while there are people who might take advantage of your generosity, you can’t let that cause you to abandon your own generosity. While this is a fitting moral for a Rarity episode, I believe there’s also a moral to be taken from Coco Pommel’s arc in not letting yourself be stuck with an abusive boss or a job that doesn’t make you feel fulfilled. While it’s not outright stated, I strongly get the feeling that Coco Pommel kept trying to convince herself everything was fine while working with Suri Polomare, and that eventually came to an end.

The episode ends with revealing Coco Pommel’s gift to Rarity: a spool of rainbow-colored string, sitting next to spools of string with each of the Mane 6’s colors. The symbolism is obvious: the first six spools represent the Mane 6 individually, and the rainbow spool represents their friendships all coming together. The rainbow spool flashes at the very end, hinting at plot relevance to keep an eye on; this sort of thing will happen plenty more as we progress through season 4.

Overall thoughts:

When I watched this episode back when it first came out, I remember not liking it that much for whatever reason. Maybe it just didn’t stick out to me much, or maybe because I was a 14-year-old kid who couldn’t relate to or understand most situations in it? Whatever the case, my current opinion on this episode is the total opposite. It’s a delightful episode that does everything a Rarity episode should do—fun worldbuilding, cool new characters, spectacular screw-ups, a heartfelt catharsis, and shining moments both for Rarity and the rest of the Mane 6 that ultimately show how tight-knit their friendships are. Much like Sweet and Elite, this one is probably more relatable to adults than children because it focuses on going on a trip and doing things on your own without parental figures, and features tough situations like dealing with abusive bosses and people who exploit your trust. Suri Polomare is a surprisingly nasty villain with tons of nuance to her portrayal, and Coco Pommel is a lovely sweetheart who can do no wrong and is also highly nuanced.

This episode was an absolute blast to analyze, just like Suited for Success and Sweet and Elite. I knew my review of this episode would be long and detailed, but I’m still surprised that it ended up being my second longest episode review to date! The only one surpassing it is Magical Mystery Cure, and I’m not even sure if that one will be topped. Maybe Slice of Life has a chance of surpassing it? We’ll see.

Grade: A

Man, Rarity episodes are always such a treat.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • This episode is the first one to feature MLP’s version of hot dogs, where the sausage is replaced with a carrot. I hate hot dogs, and I’m willing to bet swapping the sausage with a carrot would be a genuine improvement.
  • In my review of the first episode, I said the show would eventually stop giving viewers simpler synonyms for esoteric words, especially with Rarity’s complex vocabulary. Given her usage of a word as obscure as “thoroughfare”, I’m glad I was proven right.
  • Eventually in the show, Coco Pommel doesn’t even get to be referred to by her full name anymore, only as Miss Pommel. I know it was for legal reasons, but I have to wonder if she was asked in-universe to relinquish part of her name and she didn’t have it in her to say no. That would be ridiculous, but it would also fit with her character.
  • In this image, Fluttershy and Coco Pommel briefly stand right next to each other, and I’m surprised it didn’t make the universe implode on itself due to sheer cuteness. I think these two would hit it off if they got to know each other. They are very like-minded, both being persistently kind and shy and seeing only the best in others, and they’d probably feel safe and comfy in each other’s presence. In my opinion, the cutest friendships in media are between characters who are either extremely similar, or extremely different like Fluttershy and Discord.

The next episode unfortunately won’t have Coco Pommel in it, but I’ll try to have fun analyzing it regardless.


See you next week as Derpy Hooves makes her long-awaited return to the spotlight.

>> Part 33: Pinkie Apple Pie + Rainbow Falls

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