I've been doing these episode reviews for such a long time, that I was starting to fear not knowing how to start an intro to the next one without making it sound forced or cheesy. As the season progressed I was running out of themes and things to talk about that would later on segue seamlessly into the actual review of the episode. I talked about politics, health, education, entertainment, but I never had the chance to talk about job situation. As I am typing this right now I am feeling super tired after a hard day at work and by the time you are reading these lines for the first time I will be working the night shift. so you can see I totally sympathise with poor Pinkie Pie in this episode. Sadly for me, the place where I work is not nearly as interesting as a train full of sweet desserts. But then again, that's why we watch ponies, to evade into a fantasy land where cities made out of doughnuts exist. Into the review!
Oh this TL;DR. It's just so, so delicious. Just look at it. It has three layers of chocolate creme, with spongy cake and frosting, crowned by a mousse made out of apples and shaped like little ponies. There are cherries on the top, and the icing is shaped like letters. The letters say that this episode is fantastic in Friendship is Magic standards, and that it's without a doubt one of the best of the season. Huh, I wonder how could they cram so much into one cake. If you want to find out you better start eating-uhm, I mean reading.
So the episode starts (how many times have I said this already? Forty?) with Pinkie Pie witnessing what the Cakes have created for the dessert baking competition in Canterlot. A three stories cake made out of marzipan, mascarpone and meringue. I had to look on Wikipedia what some of those ingredients are. Even though I love my desserts consistent I am not cooking savvy. Regardless of ingredients the cake looks delicious worthy of the nightmares of diabetics all over the world, and more unstable than the Tower of Pisa. So when it comes to transporting it to the train things get complicated. At first Big Macintosh is the only one carrying the cake, but things get too unstable and so they call Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash for some pegassistance (insert rim-shot here). Even their help is not enough to make the Cakes feel safe about their creation, so they call Twilight to cast a shield spell around it. This is the third time we've seen Twilight cast a spell of this nature in the show (the first one being Return of Harmony part 2, and the second Ponyville Confidential). But the Mane Six is a team, and there is no team without some help from AJ and Rarity, who hold a trampoline right beside the cake in case it falls. Yeah, because there is nothing better to save a cake that is falling than an elastic surface that will send it into the opposite direction with a splat on the floor. Whatever, it does look hilarious, especially when they cut to Mister Cake having a panic attack and hyperventilating.
After that, and now inside the Orient-I mean Canterlot Express, we are presented to the three one shot characters of the episode, who are all chefs that carry their own desserts to the Canterlot Dessert Competition. The first one is a griffin with a thick french accent called Gustav Le Grand who might as well have a banner over his head saying "I'm the villain, ssshhh". His dessert is a mountain of the most delicious eclairs (again, I had to wiki that one, we don't call them like that in Spain). The second one is a returning character from Season 1, Pony Joe! Wait, in this episode he is called Doughnut Joe, so now he is called like his store. That is weird, especially considering that Amy Keating Rogers wrote both episodes with this character, but who cares!? It's Doughnut Joe and I am so happy to see him coming back. His dessert is the most awesome thing in the surface of the planet and I am so not kidding here. He made an entire city model with doughnuts and called it "Doughnutopia". That is sweet, and I don't even care about the pun I just made. The third and last one is a mule called Mulia Mild who doesn't really have much to herself. Yeah, I mean we can say a couple of things about Gustav the Griffin and Doughnut "Pony" Joe, but Mulia Mild's character only seems to have her dessert entry for a character trait. She has a chocolate mousse shaped like a moose, and it doesn't matter how many times I slap myself, that pun is still more painful. Get used to it folks because this episode is full of them. I am not complaining, I love puns! After we are introduced to the players it's time to set up the conflict as Pinkie Pie confronts the other three and overdoes her forwardness. Being the paranoid that she naturally is she sets up a night watch over the cake to make sure nothing happens to it. What follows is probably one hell of a difficult night for Pinkie. She thinks she sees a shadow running away from her, but when she chases it, it's gone. She runs away after another shadow but when she finally gets to it, it's just the train's conductor. When she gets back to the car where the cake is all the curtains fall sinking the place into darkness, but when she pulls them back up there doesn't seem to be anyone there. After such a night of literal zig-zagging from one side to another, Pinkie Pie finally falls asleep, only to wake up to a terrible realisation.
|The filling is crème brûlée. Crème brûlée!!!|
Wow, actually just typing that sentence is rather disturbing. How can you mutilate a cake? That's sick! I will never be able to cut a slice of cake again without thinking on the agonising silent shrieks it makes. Those poor cakes. But they are not important to Pinkie, the only important cake to her is the one that just got maimed (I keep making it worse) and she is determined to find who did it. Or more like "Who done it". It's at this point of the episode when all the characters put on their lampshades and start to mock and parody mystery novels tropes and cliches. As much as this is fun to watch, the best chunk of this episode happens during the next two minutes when we dive again into Pinkie's mind as we are presented to her impossible theories about the assault. You know how she thinks in felt? Well, she can also think in movies too. When accusing Gustav the Griffin she warps us into an old timey silent film where Gustav is Dick Dastardly, ties her to a train track and the old grainy filter is up to eleven. But it doesn't end there, oh no. When accusing Doughnut Joe we are transported into-JAMES BOND!? James Bond. It's James Bond! Oh sorry I mean, the name is Joe, Pony Joe. I don't know how loud I screamed when I saw that parody, because James Bond is one of my favourite things in the World and I loved this. From the jam instead of blood part to the ending with him surrounded by mares. If there needs to be a spin-off of something from Friendship is Magic it must be that. Forget about Daring Do, there needs to be a "Pony Joe: Mysterious Spy Stallion". But wait! It doesn't end there! When accusing Mulia Mild, the forgettable mule, we warp into Samurai Jack! No, seriously, it is Samurai Jack, from the camera angles to the music and the editing. It was at this part when I decided that I didn't care how good or bad was the rest of the episode. That segment made it stand out above the average bar.
Of course, none of Pinkie's accusations are useful in finding the culprit. Pinkie is baffled because she doesn't understand why the food thief ate just from the big cake and left the other desserts unscathed. It's mere seconds after she finishes talking when the train enters in a tunnel, a pointless shriek of terror is heard followed by munching noises, and when they come out of the other end all the other desserts have been devoured. With her hooves full, Pinkie Pie gives up and passes the investigating duties to Twilight, who has a much better and more analytical mind about the whole thing and so sets up to discover who did it the CSI way-sunglasses not included. She asks Pinkie to remember everything that happened yesterday night and to go over her steps. As they go car through car Twilight starts collecting evidences, traces of the thief that she neatly saves inside envelopes. That was a good detail, since that's how real investigators work. After she has gathered enough evidence she asks all of the passengers to meet up at the diner car where she will unfold who did it. It turns out that it wasn't just one thief, it was three of them. Rainbow Dash was the shadow that crossed through the train at first, as she left a blue feather behind in the last car. Fluttershy was the second one, who disguised herself as the conductor and has left a hair in the hat. Rarity was the last one, who pulled down the curtains of the car to make everything dark, and left one of her eyelashes on the painting. The three of them bit off a piece of the cake, and with regretful looks in their faces they apologise to Pinkie. However that doesn't explain who ate the other desserts. Pinkie grabs her hat and a magnifying glass, and so starts searching for clues. In a rather impromptu conclusion she finds out that the other bakers ate the other desserts! Doughnut Joe ate the eclairs; Gustav the Griffin ate the mousse; and Mulia ate the doughnuts. And why would they do that? To ruin each others' desserts and then cash in the money of the insurance company? Nope, they just looked so delicious they couldn't resist the temptation.
|No time to waste! Somebody play me out with a pianola!|
So that was "MMMystery at the Friendship Express", and what do I think of it? Well, there are things I loved of it and there are things I didn't really like of it at all. Let's start with the things I didn't like at all, and even though they are not big ones they really nag at me quite a bit. If you know me you might already know what it is that I didn't like at all, and that is the way Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity act in this episode. I am not going to call out of character behaviour because they are not my characters and so I really don't have anything to do with what they can do and what they can't do, but their behavior was a bit left field. Well okay, I take it back, Rainbow Dash would have totally done that, and she did. She can be as loyal as she can, but she will eat your cake if she finds it tasty. I bet she stole the chocolate milk out of other fillies when she was in high school. Fluttershy struck me as bizarre. I was suspecting her the most when I saw the shadow, but then again it's Fluttershy. Why would she do such a thing? I guess this is a side effect of that whole indoctrination-I mean, assertiveness training she's been going through lately. But the one that really gets to me is Rarity. I mean, why would she do that? And to top it all off, her eyelashes aren't natural. This isn't really a surprise, but I was looking at her like a disappointed father. What a let down Rarity, what a let down. I expected better from you, young filly. Now go to your bedroom and think on what you've done. But really, put yourself in their place. I put myself in their place and I would've eaten the whole thing, not just one miserable bite! Even though all turns out well and they apologise I can't shake off the feeling that this is the last we will see of them in a slice of life episode before the season finale. If we were to judge their characters based on this episode I would say they are a bunch of jerks for ruining Pinkie's cake. Okay, what else didn't I like? I didn't like how the episode handled Applejack. Yeah, I bet you forgot she was in it as well, didn't you? Twilight and Pinkie carry most of the weight, and when the culprits are uncovered they also get a lot of the spotlight, but besides a couple of lines at the very beginning Applejack is basically absent the rest of the episode. You could write her character off and it would've been the same. As a character I grew fond to like, it felt like a waste from the writing staff not to use her more. However, think about what could have happened if Applejack was one of the ponies who ate from the cake. The episode would've lasted five minutes. She would be confessing she did it within seconds. It's hard to be the element of honesty. Finally, I already mentioned how much I find the character of Mulia Mild boring, and if I had to use a better name for her she would be Mulia Dull. She's nothing but a blank slate and doesn't seem to have any charisma whatsoever. I really don't know what happened there, but at least to me she leaves no impact at all; unless we count those jaggy wrinkles. I do not want. I do not want at all.
Okay, I bitched and moaned enough about this episode. What did I like? Well, that whole parody segment is just perfect. It's genius beyond belief and it totally sells me on the episode. I think it's a really great idea to provide the audience with the means to understand how Pinkie Pie's mind works. She is as random in her thoughts as she is in her behaviour. She lives in her fantasy world where griffins happen to be moustache twirling evil boogie men, where laser grids exist and where mules can pull out a katana and slice a cake in the blink of an eye. I love the three segments but out of all of them my favourite one is the James Bond one. I mean, it's James Bond! There is nothing more awesome than that. The doughnut as the sight of the cannon, the jam instead of blood, the Q-watch, the sleeping gas, the mares, how cool he looks in a tuxedo; there are just too many things not to like. I also really liked the character of Gustav. It's been literally forty five episodes since the last time we saw a griffin in the show, and seeing one again makes me happy, especially such a good and well written one. He does look like Dick Dastardly, but then he turns out to be a good guy. Awesome trope, uhm, subversion? Inversion? Played with? I don't know, I don't speak TvTropeian. Having Doughnut Joe returning was a big surprise. I really like this character, and seeing more of him in an episode that stars him in a James Bond parody is just too much. Regardless of the things I didn't like, I really liked the writing in here. Yeah, yeah, that scene at the end didn't make much sense and the character of Mulia is hollow, but those are not strong enough to break the great writing. Amy Keating Rogers plays a rather compelling Agatha Christie in here with classic set ups and narrative structure that works really well. Her distinctive style between the slapstick and the preachy comedy fits the episode's theme like a glove. I wonder if she is a fan of Poirot herself. I should ask her if somebody hasn't already. Also, I think it begs to mention this before ending the review, and this is a shout out to what my friend said when we were watching the episode. This is food heaven. Okay, he didn't say it that way, but this episode made him hungry with a vengeance. He said it was starting to feel like a chapter of "Redwall", and I can totally see why. I went to the kitchen and had some milk and chocolate cookies after the episode finished. If you are going to watch this make sure you have something to eat next to you. Or at least money to go to the bakery to buy a cake. I loved Rarity with her hair over her face. She looked so classy, well let me rephrase that, classier than usual. When she confesses that her eyelashes are fake it's both hilarious and sad. I find it very funny that Pinkie and Twilight kept exchanging hats the entire time, with a constant lamp shading of investigator and assistant. The constant playing this show makes on already established cliches is further proof that it wants to treat its target audience like intelligent people. When a show for kids does that, you gotta respect that.
|Mmmh, just as I thought. This is a cake.|
- Defining Moment: Pinkie Pie's theories about how the other three bakers ruined her cake. Three different types of movies in three minutes. This isn't just defining of the episode, it's defining of the entire series.
- Do-not-want Moment: Mulia's wrinkly wrinkles. No, just...just no, ew, no.
- Moral: Never jump to conclusions until you have enough evidence, since it can hurt other people's feelings and it will make you look like an ass.