Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 52: Made in Manehattan


< Part 51 | Part 52 | Part 53 >

Season 5, Episode 16

Season 5 Episode 16: Made in Manehattan

In five words: Coco Pommel revitalizes theater play.

Premise: The Cutie Map sends Rarity and Applejack to Manehattan, where they have to help our old friend Coco Pommel garner interest to host a stage play.

Detailed run-through:

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you that Manehattan is NOT spelled “Manehatten”. Maybe it’s because I’m American, but I don’t understand how so many people could possibly make such a simple spelling mistake. And if you think it doesn’t matter how you spell this fictional town name, then clearly you don’t know that every time someone spells Manehattan as Manehatten, Coco Pommel cries. You don’t want to make Coco Pommel cry, do you?

The placement of the ladder on the left makes no sense.
It starts a shelf above the top of the other ladder, so how is Spike supposed to get up there?

This episode starts with Twilight Sparkle being bored out of her mind, until Rarity and Applejack both arrive revealing that their cutie marks are flashing. Twilight is briefly excited to have something to do, then sighs when she realizes hers isn’t flashing. This is the third time an episode has started with Mane 6 members’ cutie marks flashing, and three is the minimum number of times needed to recognize a pattern. As such, it makes sense that this episode starts off in the castle once again, even if it means the only role Twilight serves is as the brunt of boredom.

Rarity is insanely excited to be sent to Manehattan, whereas Applejack is confused. Some people criticize this episode for not bringing up that in her childhood Applejack ran off to Manehattan before getting her cutie mark, but I don’t think a mention of that would have added much to the episode. Since being a filly, Applejack has worked her way up to knowing how to be true to herself. She knows what she likes and stands for, and a huge, bustling city simply isn’t her cup of tea.

Applejack and Rarity then realize they’ll have to miss the Sisterhooves Social, and they hope their sisters aren’t too bummed out about this. This makes for the show’s second instance of concurrent episodes—like last time, one in a big city with Mane 6 members, and one in Ponyville with supporting characters. I’ll talk more about this in Brotherhooves Social, the next episode.

After Rarity recites the first line of the song Generosity (which is a cute callback), we see a surprisingly nervous and jittery side of Applejack. She isn’t sure what to do while everyone is hustling around like crazy, which may be weird for some considering she lived in Manehattan for a while as a filly. It’s not clear how long it was, but I don’t think it was more than a day or two: when you’re a little kid, it doesn’t take long to get homesick. She wasn’t similarly nervous her last time in Manehattan because she was accompanied by six friends instead of just one, which made her a lot more comfortable.

Applejack even struggles to cross a street in this town, something Rarity does with grace. Like most episodes that pair Rarity and Applejack, this one makes their contrast loud and clear so that it’s satisfying when they accomplish something together. These two are just the right degree of different to play off each other well, and while Rarity and Rainbow Dash might seem even more different at first, they do have the common traits of dreaming big and wanting to be in the spotlight. (Sorry, I know last episode would have been a better time to say this.)

Rarity screams in peril when she sees a pony about to purchase an ugly hat and knocks the coin out of her hoof at the last second. Then she provides the pony a fresh new hat from the box Applejack’s been carrying, and insists she doesn’t want any money in return. While this may seem like a gag poking at Rarity’s bizarre priorities, it’s also a reminder of how she gets around the perpetually busy city of Manehattan. By doing favors for others, they’re sure to do something in return to help her out; if you haven’t mastered that skill, Manehattan is a chaotic mess. I am imagining Coco Pommel trying to remember what Rarity taught her while having a busy day in Manehattan, and doing a sweet little favor for another pony while apologizing for interrupting that pony’s day—perhaps picking up a bag of groceries they just dropped?—and my heart gets just the slightest bit warmer.

Rarity does her “pff, kh” thing a lot in this episode, and my brain keeps processing it as beatboxing.

Once the pony walks off happily with her new chapeau, Rarity thinks she’s solved her friendship problem, but Applejack tells her otherwise.

Rarity: And you thought we wouldn’t discover our purpose here. Pff, kh!
Applejack: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it.
Rarity: What?! We just saved that poor pony from committing a terrible crime of fashion. (smiles awkwardly)
(Applejack raises an eyebrow)
Rarity: Well, she could have been… meeting a friend who would have laughed at her new hat, and then… their friendship could have been ruined forever! And… mm…
Rarity: It’s possible!
Applejack: Did your cutie mark glow, signifying a job well done?
Rarity: Y… no. I suppose it didn’t. Still, a disaster was averted!

Here’s where Applejack’s purpose in this episode becomes clear: as an anchor to reel Rarity in from her wild fantasies and keep her grounded in reality. Rarity nervously smiles when she realizes Applejack might be right, because she doesn’t want to be wrong when the mission concerns a city she loves so dearly. If Rarity was sent here alone, she would have immediately gotten lost in the delight of Manehattan, which is why Applejack was sent with her. She’s the best possible pony to keep Rarity from going off the rails, and the Cutie Map unfortunately doesn’t care about events like the Sisterhooves Social. Or maybe it does care, and it deliberately sent Applejack away on the day of the social to force Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh to spend time together?

OK, now I’m getting too meta. Let’s dial it back some.

The hat vendor tells Rarity he lost a paying customer, and Applejack further demonstrates her purpose in this episode when she drags Rarity away from the scene even as Rarity keeps talking. This guy may have missed out on a potential reconciliation, but Applejack knows this isn’t why the map sent them here.

Applejack tries to get attention by asking passers-by for help about a friendship problem, which might work in Ponyville but not in Manehattan. Everyone ignores her, probably seeing her like a street beggar who asks for money or screams about religious views (both types of people I have seen plenty of, especially in the outskirts of my college campus).

I have to admit, whenever any work of media pays homage to Charlie Brown, my brain screams “this is what the refrance”.

Rarity, on the other hand, hosts a Charlie Brown-style booth complete with Charlie Brown-style jazzy music and a stallion dressed as Chorlie—er, Charlie Brown seen above. As indicated by her Charlie Brown-style “good grief”, this doesn’t go well for her either…

… until a letter hits her in the face, advertising an event called the Midsummer Theater Revival hosted by Coco Pommel. I can’t blame Rarity for being so excited to read that name again. I bet she wants to run up to Coco Pommel and give her a tight, warm hug while protecting her from anything that could harm her, plus knit her a cozy scarf in case it gets cold out. You would do the same thing to Coco Pommel, right? Of course you would, don’t pretend otherwise. Anyway, it’s nice to see that Applejack recognizes this name too—their last time in Manehattan must have been a striking memory for her too.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Coco Pommel had a secret stare ability locked inside her, like Fluttershy.
She’s basically what you get when you combine Fluttershy’s personality with Rarity’s interests, and I love that.

Note that this scrapbook has Coco Pommel’s cutie mark on it.

You can gather a lot about a character by seeing the room they live in, and Coco Pommel is no exception. Besides being just as sweet as the first time we met her, the insides of Coco’s apartment show us that she’s as passionate about sewing and costume design as Rarity, but less organized and a lot more shy about it. While she’s doing better than when she was bossed around by Suri Polomare, she has yet to truly share her inner talents to the world, but eventually she figures it out.

Shout-outs to The Wizard of Oz also make my brain go “this is what the refrance”.

Coco Pommel is too good for this world.

If Coco Pommel wasn’t precious enough, she shows us a scrapbook with pictures of herself as a filly participating in stage plays. She’s adorable as a filly, and equally adorable as a full-grown mare. While part of the charm of minor characters is that fans can fill in the blanks and come up with their own wild stories, it’s also nice to learn more about her within the show itself.

Coco Pommel: Many moons ago, local theater troops would perform, and ponies in the neighborhood would help make and design set pieces… prepare food to share during the performance.
Applejack: Y’all do look like you’re enjoying each other’s company. Kind of reminds me of Ponyville.

Does Applejack think ponies being friendly and warm is exclusive to Ponyville and doesn’t happen much elsewhere? Given that she doesn’t seem to willingly travel on her own except to Appleoosa, that would make sense knowing her character. It’s common to have less-than-positive conceptions about places you’re not familiar with, but Applejack’s eyes have been opened to seeing the same friendly spirit occur in Manehattan.

It looks like Coco Pommel started wearing that little flower thing every day once Charity Kindheart gave it to her.
That’s so sweet, I don’t even know what to say.

Coco Pommel: That’s Charity Kindheart. She was a well-known costume designer on Bridleway. She started the Midsummer Theater Revival as a way to share her passion for theater with the neighborhood. No matter how busy she was, she always made time for the revival.
Coco Pommel: But when she moved away to be closer to her grandfillies, the neighborhood lost the special tradition she had started. And worse, the sense of community it fostered.

When Coco Pommel looks down from her balcony, she sees ponies on the street being hasty and rude as ever. She may be kind and innocent and see the best in others, but she knows full well that her neighborhood isn’t the friendliest place around. And while so many ponies have been hardened by their lives in Manehattan, Coco Pommel remains a kind soul, and I bet that’s caused her to feel lonely and out of place here. But it’s also why she so badly wants to pick up the torch from Charity Kindheart.

Going by its name, I feel like the Midsummer Theater Revival was itself a reimagining of a long-lost tradition.
Maybe Charity Kindheart when she was young was in the same panicked situation as Coco Pommel.

Applejack: Nopony else stepped up to take over for Charity?
Coco Pommel: I’ve been trying to, but I’ve just gotten a last-minute request to alter costumes for the cast of My Fair Filly, and I’m afraid I haven’t made much progress.
Coco Pommel: Oh, there’s just so much to do to bring back the Midsummer Theater Revival, and my flyers haven’t attracted a single volunteer.

Coco Pommel’s flyer did bring Applejack and Rarity over, but her humble and meek brain still thinks her flyers haven’t attracted any volunteers. Maybe she just assumes these two won’t be interested in helping and are busy solving all these ludicrous friendship missions, much like how the background ponies perceive the Mane 6 in Slice of Life.

I love Coco Pommel so much.

Rarity: Say no more! You finish up your work, and by this time tomorrow, you’ll be up to your mane in ponies who want to lend a hoof. Applejack and I will make sure of it.
Coco Pommel: You will?
Applejack: You bet your boots I will.
Coco Pommel: Oh, I don’t wear boots. I find they chafe my calves when I walk.
Applejack: It’s just an expression.
(Coco Pommel blushes)

Coco Pommel being literal-minded is the cutest thing ever, and it fits her character SO perfectly. If she wasn’t adorably innocent enough, we now see her being unfamiliar with slang and idioms in a way that suggests she has trouble putting herself out in the world—something I can easily understand and relate to. Also, her dislike of boots shows that she prefers feeling comfortable over looking stylish, which works out for her because she’s naturally cute without even trying.

This sequence has some fun worldbuilding, with scenes that might correspond to locations in the real-life New York City.

Rarity and Applejack go around Manehattan asking other ponies to help out with the theater show, but they all have their own things to worry about and aren’t keen on lending a hoof. One guy they encounter says he can’t spare a single moment, then hops on a raft to relax in the river. This shows us how unique Coco Pommel is among the residents of Manehattan: the hectic nature of the city can’t put a dent on her pure kindness.

Rarity offers to help prepare the costumes for the play, and Applejack offers to help clean the park up and fix the stage. They insist that the map wouldn’t have sent just them here if it was more than they could handle, but Coco Pommel has her doubts.

Did no one think to repurpose this land instead of letting it get overgrown with weeds?
Or was Coco Pommel’s neighborhood procrastinating on doing so this entire time?

Rarity: Perhaps I spoke too soon.
Coco Pommel: Oh, dear. You’re right. Are you sure you can manage this by yourself?
Applejack: Well, there’s a lot to do… but Rarity’s right. The map wouldn’t have called us here if we weren’t up to the challenge. You two go on and take care of the costumes. I’ll see with the dress rehearsal.

To Coco Pommel, Rarity and Applejack probably come off as superstitious with all this map talk. I imagine that she admires how confident the Mane 6 are in themselves, but also worries that they sign themselves up for more than they can handle. She doesn’t get exposed much to this brash, confident energy in Manehattan, nor does she witness the results of their surreal adventures as much as she would if she lived in Ponyville or Canterlot. She’s just an ordinary nice girl who finds herself surrounded by ponies who do crazy or shady things, and that’s a big part of why her character appeals to me.

Some fans may think Applejack ruined a precious keepsake from her parents, but I’ve said before that I prefer to imagine her dad had just as many backup hats as she does.

In a montage scored with country music, Applejack starts to get sleepy and weary as she fixes up the park much like she did in Applebuck Season. She bumps into things and rips up her hat with her lawnmower, then damages it further by accidentally knocking down a statue. You could argue Applejack forgot her lesson from that episode, but I think this is more a result of her superstitions surrounding the Cutie Map: she thought that since the map called her here, she was fated to successfully clean up the park on her own. I find it believable how selective she is regarding what wacky theories she believes. She likes coming off as rational-minded and dismissive of superstition, but there’s still a lot of supernatural stuff she internally buys into.

Coco Pommel makes this adorable smile when you correctly spell the name of her hometown.

Rarity and Coco Pommel enter the scene with costumes they worked on together—unlike Applejack, they embraced the power of teamwork, and it looks like they had a blast designing these dresses. Something tells me Coco Pommel doesn’t get the chance to talk with others much about the joys of dressmaking, so this must have been a real delight for her. How many hoof bumps do you think Rarity and Coco Pommel exchanged as they made the dresses? I’d say at least five. I bet Coco Pommel was clumsy with the hoof bumps at first since she doesn’t normally do them, but she got the hang of it quickly enough.

The performers then arrive to the scene, and despite Applejack’s warning, one of them walks onto the stage, causing it to collapse. I think the stage should have been Applejack’s first priority—at least, reinforcing the stage should have totally come before painting it—but maybe it makes sense that she didn’t think that far ahead. Her brain was getting fried from all this physical labor.

It’s not just that Coco Pommel has a cute design.
I also find it adorable how earnest she is.

Man, look at Coco Pommel lamenting what all went wrong, saying it’s “hopeless, just hopeless”. Don’t you want to give her a hug right now? Much like Fluttershy, her expressions of distress contrast against Rarity’s dramatic meltdowns and are much easier to take seriously.

Applejack and Rarity ponder why the map sent them to Manehattan rather than Twilight Sparkle, who could have solved the problem more quickly with her magic. Applejack argues it makes sense to send Rarity but is stumped over her own presence, but right afterwards she demonstrates her important role through this whole episode: keeping Rarity in check. She shushes Rarity right when she starts a dramatic meltdown, and this sort of thing is why Rarity and Applejack’s dynamic works so well. It’s common for one to pull the other out of a rut, whether it be Applejack talking Rarity out of her flamboyant country girl act, or Rarity teaching Applejack what constructive criticism means.

Applejack then has an idea of her own: for the three of them to stop worrying about what they can’t do and start doing what they can. It’s important to know how to keep a positive attitude while working on a difficult project, and this is something Coco Pommel needs to hear. But she isn’t cheered up just yet until she can see the results of their modest attempt at a play.

On a stage built by Applejack, the play begins, and though its production value isn’t as top-notch as what Coco Pommel had in mind, it draws in quite a crowd regardless. It’s clear that Coco Pommel has a ton of nostalgic attachment to Charity Kindheart’s plays and felt they would take a huge professional crew to even remotely live up to, but doing what she can is more than enough.

The contents of the play itself are worth noting: it’s a dramatization of how Charity Kindheart began the Midsummer Theater Revival, where she expresses the very same doubts and worries that Coco Pommel expressed today. It’s very common when writing fiction to base events and characters on your own experiences, and that’s exactly what Coco Pommel is doing with this play. It’s nice to see she realizes that others when doing creative projects can face doubt and uncertainty like her.

When the play ends, Coco Pommel alternates between looking delighted and nervous as she’s taken crowd surfing. This shows that as shy and modest as she is, as with most creative types, there’s a part of her that loves getting attention for her work.

It looks like Applejack is still embarrassed about the old stage falling apart.

Coco Pommel: (clears throat) Thank you all so much for coming. The Midsummer Theater Revival was always something that meant so much to me, and it seems it means quite a lot to all of you as well.
Coco Pommel: I really can’t take all the credit, though. My dear friends Rarity and Applejack helped me ever so much.
Rarity: Oh, darling, please, it was just a few costumes.
Applejack: Aw, shucks. I just happen to be good with a hammer, is all.
Applejack: To be honest, we had much bigger plans to start. When those fell through, we decided to simplify. This here was the result.

This scene is a major turning point in Coco Pommel’s life: with a little boost from Rarity and Applejack, she’s now ready to live out her creative visions for the world to see. While she doesn’t appear much after this episode, it’s clear that she’s swamped in projects but enjoys what she does, all the while continuing to be adorably humble.

Rarity: Oh, don’t be so modest. Coco and I were lost.
Coco Pommel: You bet your boots we were! (winks)
(Applejack winks)

Coco Pommel winking when using an idiom for the first time is the most precious thing ever. Please appreciate it before moving on.

Two of the ponies who Rarity and Applejack had previously asked for help return to praise the show, then say they thought they wouldn’t be able to do something big enough to make a difference. This cements this episode’s theme as how little things can make a big difference, which is a valuable thing to know that’s been demonstrated plenty in this show—arguably even by the fact that this show exists.

After Rarity and Applejack’s cutie marks glow once again, and Rarity redeems her prior mishap by buying Applejack a new hat from the previously seen vendor, Rarity has a few words to say that teeter on the fourth wall.

Rarity: I know why the map called you here.
Applejack: You do?
Rarity: If Twilight had used her magic to fix the park, it wouldn’t have fixed the real problem. Which is that these Manehattan ponies didn’t think they had time to do something for their community.
Rarity: But by building that stage and making sure the play went on, you showed them that just by doing something small, you can make a big difference!

Rarity is explaining something that fans would have otherwise debated about, and if you think about it, the episode could have easily made Twilight Sparkle busy with princess affairs or what have you. But I get why this passage is here: Rarity is telling us that magic can’t solve all problems, a theme that’s explored much further when we see more of Starlight Glimmer.

Rarity and Applejack get ready to go back home and check on their siblings, but not before Rarity freaks out and notices a pony about to purchase a hideous scarf. This time, Applejack lets Rarity have it, which I find sweet. The credits play the same country music we heard in the montage of Applejack cleaning up the park.

Overall thoughts:

What’s not to enjoy about this episode? It’s got some fun worldbuilding, a heartwarming resolution, and most of all, tons of adorable Coco Pommel moments. Unlike most of season 5, this one doesn’t have that many callbacks or wacky moments, and I think that serves the episode well. Sure, it could have included cameos from tons of different characters we previously saw in Manehattan, but without doing so, it gives more time to focus on three well-established characters so they can accomplish something heartfelt without fanciful magic. Coco Pommel is an incredibly fun character to project myself onto—wait, I mean analyze, and this episode is a nice step forward in her character arc.

Besides the presence of Coco Pommel, I really enjoy how seasons 5 and 6 explore the dynamics between Mane 6 members by taking two of them outside of Ponyville; sometimes brand-new unexplored pairs, but also more familiar ones like Rarity and Applejack. Way back in Look Before You Sleep, they were emphasized to be pretty much polar opposites, but since then, we’ve learned what they can accomplish with their shared drive for getting work done, and how one will often talk some sense into the other. I’ve come to be a major fan of Rarity and Applejack’s dynamic through picking apart all the episodes that involve it.

Grade: A

This episode would get a B if it weren’t for my Coco Pommel bias.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • One thing some fans wish this episode had brought up or shown is Applejack’s relatives who live in Manehattan, including Babs Seed. While that would have made for a fun cameo, I think the fact that Applejack didn’t bring up her family in Manehattan shows how huge the Apple family is—there’s bound to be an Apple somewhere in any corner of Equestria, and Applejack doesn’t think having family in this random huge city is all that special.
  • I’m not sure if “chapeau” in English is a catch-all synonym for “hat” or is only used for a specific type of hat like the word “sombrero”. Either way, Rarity is known to throw French words into her speech so I felt that word would fit this post.
  • On Rarity’s booth, I think a diamond would have made more sense to put between her and Applejack’s faces than a heart. If you have even the slightest clue what that means, then God have mercy on your soul.

The next episode takes place at the same time as this one, showing us what the rest of Applejack’s family has been up to with her and Rarity away.

See you next time as Big Macintosh gets the spotlight in a whole episode for the first time ever.

>> Part 53: Brotherhooves Social

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