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15 November 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. "The Cutie Pox" REVIEW

The root problem with animation nowadays is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be.  It wakes up every morning, scratching its head after a night fueled with rule-34-induced nightmares, looks at itself in the mirror and thinks “What dress do I put on today? The one appealing kids or the one appealing adults?” And nowadays the boundaries between those two dresses are getting fuzzier. I start the review like this because this week’s episode of My Little Pony might well be the episode that made me realize this show is definitely the closest thing we will ever get to a real TV equivalent of Pixar until Pixar decides to bank on my idea of a paranormal investigator investigating paranormal cases. But I digress, let’s focus on Ponies.

Is the episode good? Yes. Is it as good as the previous ones? No. Actually this might be the weakest episode of the entire season, but that’s like saying this Lego set is more boring because it has 250 pieces instead of 255 pieces. Also, I find it hilarious how there is always one guy in Equestria Daily saying “This is the weakest episode of the season so far” in all seriousness. I bet it’s the same guy, his text walls make mine look humble in comparison.

Anyways, episode starts and BAM, Big Lebowski ponies. Seriously guys, that alone makes this show the best thing in the surface of the planet at this moment. Yes, the episode might be weak and it has its flaws, but say this out loud for me: There is a Coen Brothers Easter egg in My Little Pony. That’s the most bizarre thing I have ever written in my life, and I wrote some weird stuff. Now I can’t watch this episode without going “MARK IT ZERO!!!”

Guest writers Joel and Ethan Cohen
Amy Keating Rogers is writing and you know that, when she is behind the writing helm, she always makes a great job with the slapstick. Also, lots of Zecora going on in this episode, and seeing her interact with Applebloom is adorable. It’s awesome to have more of our beloved secondary ponies and less of the Mane Cast. There’s no doubt that the creators wanted to expand on the universe of the show and they are doing it really well. It’s curious to see how much f the Apple Family we are seeing in this season as well. Applejack has been the only one of the Mane Six to appear in all episodes thus far, and in this particular one we get to see the inside of Sweet Apple Acres’ farm (completed with another Easter Egg in the shape of American Gothic, of course). I have the feeling that, while Season 1 focused and centered on Twilight Sparkle, Season 2 will be centered on Applejack and her family. Those little insights in her daily life give her a lot of character, and she’s slowly wining a lot of points in my book.

But of course, this isn’t so much about the characters than it is about the plot itself. Applebloom is frustrated for not getting her Cutie Mark and failing miserably at everything has clearly dented her determination. Angry and thinking more with her gut than with her head, she goes to see Zecora to find a remedy. Obviously, Zecora tells her that there is no possible way she can help, and then she proceeds to leave Applebloom alone in a room filed with drugs. What could possibly go wrong!? But anyways, as a result from that visit Applebloom gets her cutie mark on hula-hooping and everypony in school is blown away by her talent. I like how Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle actually stay true to their personalities. They don’t get envy or angry at Applebloom for getting her cutie mark, they are genuinely happy and proud of her. This goes for show that, when any of them get their own cutie mark, they will still be friends. That little touch made me happy.

These two will never be happy though.
Things seem to go okay for Applebloom, until she gets her second Cutie Mark. Then, strangely enough, things get even better for her. Everypony in town is amazed by her two talents instead of being freaked out. Maybe I am pushing this too much, but it could be possible that there were ponies in the past that had two talents and so, two cutie marks. We will have to see that in the future though. It’s not until night time when things start getting ugly for poor AB, and I got to say, that moment where Applebloom is tap-dancing and Applejack enters her room to see her sister saying “Heeelp meeee…” is quite…disturbing, to say the least. No kidding this episode is so close to “The Red Shoes” story.

Mother of God. It's full of Cutie.
As it happens, Applebloom contracted the Cutie Pox while at Zecora’s hut. This disease causes her to get a bunch of cutie marks that force her to perform all the talents they entail: Sculpting, Chimney Sweeping, Speaking French, Accordion Playing, Chess Master (with the old man from Pixar’s “Geri’s Game”), Lion Taming, Weight Lifting, and so and so forth. Thankfully, Zecora comes in town to do some shopping (with a nice reference to episode 8 from season 1) and brings on a cure for the Cutie Pox: The seeds of truth. Yeah, seriously. The only way that cure can work is to plant the seeds and make them grow saying the truth. So yes, they basically put the moral into the episode to shove it down Applebloom’s throat. Talk about getting your point through. I have to say, it’s humbling to see Applebloom telling the truth to the entire town of Ponyville. Specially after having it rough during the entire episode, that moment made me feel sorry for her.  

The episode ends with Applebloom learning that she shouldn’t have forced her heart to desire something based on a lie. Only by waiting she will find what her heart desires and so find her place. Then they throw that out the window as Applebloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle trot to the Everfree Forest screaming “Cutie Mark Crusaders Potion Brewers!"

Bowling Gals sounds better. A lot better.

So the episode is really well written, and well acted, full of Easter Eggs and all that, but there’s still something nagging at me that waters my enthusiasm. It’s certainly an awesome episode and I had a lot of fun with it, and there are a lot of moments which I will always remember, but it might be the most “slice of life” episode we have had this season. There is no evil to defeat, no feat to conquer, no relationship to save or no monarch to meet. The action is kept centered within the town of Ponyville and Zecora’s hut. And the background jokes are more effective than the intentional jokes. But, like I always say, the weakest MLP:FiM episode is always better than the best episode of many other animated shows. So take it for what it’s worth. I stick with the Big Lebowski ponies.

And Twilighty, even if she doesn't approve.
- Defining Moment: The Bowling Alley intro, with a perfect blend of slapstick, good dialogue and references only grown ups are going to get. Kids will watch this show when they are old and go “Ooooooh man, that totally slipped by!” Beautiful.

- Moral: Don’t lie to yourself about what your heart desires.

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