Analyzing “Magical Mystery Cure” (Pt. 1)

Text version:

MMMMMMG. FUCK. YES. Guys. Seriously.

Sorry, I’m having trouble formulating complete sentences about this episode because MMMMMM

Okay, so. For starters, this is pretty much my favorite episode. No not of season three, not of MLP, just my favorite episode… period. I know, it’s too early to be saying that, but I truly do not care. This episode is, in my eyes, utterly perfect, and I’m going to try my best to articulate why that is over the course of at least two videos. Anything which I don’t address in this video, you can expect to see in the next one, which will take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to make, depending on how hard it is for me to calm down and really take my time to work through every little aspect of this episode.

Because it is SERIOUSLY dense. I think I mentioned in my Applebuck Season video that density is a big deal for me, and this episode is possibly the most dense of the entire show, in terms of attention to detail, entertainment, and emotion.

A few people have told me that they didn’t like the pacing of this episode, and if you feel that way, I’m going to first ask you to watch the episode again; and once you’ve done that, if you still feel that way, then if you could explain to me what’s wrong with the pacing, I’m curious to know, because I thought it was flawless.

Then again, pacing has always been my biggest issue with MLP two-parters in the past. Two-parters usually have to introduce a lot of new concepts, which means a lot of exposition, and when there’s a lot of exposition, it means there’s also a lot of filler jokes thrown in to balance out the dialog. Because of this, it always takes longer than it should to introduce the concepts, leaving each part feeling either over-long, or rushed.

Magical Mystery Cure does not fuck around. It establishes the point IMMEDIATELY, using a musical montage to show us that five of the mane six have had their cutie marks mixed up, leading them to switch lifestyles. There seems to be some kind of memory problem involved in all of it, and tying this whole thing into my previous destiny video is going to deserve a video all on its own, though for now let me just say that I fist-pumped every time the word “destiny” was used in this episode.

Once it’s been established that the mane six have the wrong jobs, we get a sad song (awesome) which shows us that living the wrong destinies has left them all depressed; their lives in shambles.

Then Twilight realizes that if she gets her friends to help one-another out, then each of them will realize what they were meant to do all along. This takes form in a fucking EPIC music montage that has so far made me cry twice; and the whole situation is sorted out.

So I ask, why does this need more time? What was not fleshed out here? If anything, we got the point twice over that the ponies were leading the wrong lives, and then Twilight fixes it by getting her friends to help one-another. It’s an incredibly simple concept for an episode, and probably would’ve been just a normal episode if not for what was going to come afterwards. Because of what was to come, the writers decided to be succinct, and cut out the usual antics and slower pacing, replacing it with musicals that could communicate a large amount of emotion in a short amount of time. During the sad song, we don’t even need dialog to get the message loud and clear that this has gotten to be a really dark time.

After the true friends song, we go right into Twilight meeting Celestia in this fucking AMAZING ethereal plane area, where Celestia tells her that Twilight’s understanding of friendship has reached the level where she can surpass even the most powerful unicorn and become an alicorn princess.

Um… yes?!

You may have noticed that I was fairly tight-lipped about the whole alicorn thing ever since it was leaked two weeks ago, even though people asked me about it constantly. The reason was that my first impression was that it sounded fucking awesome. I had no reason to doubt that it would be awesome, so I just wanted to look forward to the episode and see what happened.

And, uh, IT WAS AWESOME. Seriously, what could possibly not be awesome about this? Twilight fulfilled her character arc and the purpose which she came to Ponyville for. All of her deeds up until now prepared her for her role as a master, no longer a student. The scene where Celestia and Twilight’s friends bow to Twi was like the “you bow to no man” scene from the Lord of the Rings, and equally tear-inducing on my part. Er, I mean, liquid pride inducing.

But Digibrony! Doesn’t this mean the end of Twilight’s character arc? Yes, it means the end of ONE character arc. But now this show gets to do what only a few amazing shows ever get to do: start a whole new arc. Yeah, if MLP had ended right here, it would’ve been pretty satisfying, but you know what’s even more satisfying? Fucking GETTING TO SEE MORE, DUH. Of course I want to see the adventures of Princess Fucking Sparkle and friends! THAT IS THE BEST POSSIBLE THING. Just think about how many new doors this opens up for plot and character development! There are so many new possibilities to explore!

This episode, probably would have been one of my favorites even if the plot had just been a throw-away deal. If you took out the whole princess thing and just had a musical episode about the friends all switching destinies, that would’ve been enough for me. I am a giant fan of musical episodes in shows, and while I’ve loved all the musical numbers in MLP, I’ve always wanted there to be a full-on musical episode.

Even more than that though, there was so much going on visually that my eyes melted out of my skull. This episode had the kind of epic imagery that made me love A Canterlot Wedding so much, but it had even bigger moments and even more unexpected areas.

On the level of sheer visceral entertainment, this is god tier stuff. But it’s not only that. It’s also a damn great episode of MLP. It utilizes the show’s continuity more beautifully than any other episode, which we can thank M.A.Larson for since, as I proved in my Magic Duel video, he’s pretty much the biggest driving force towards a unified storyline in MLP. Yeah, I know it all springs from Lauren, but as sad as it is to say, Lauren isn’t around anymore. And as long as writers like M.A. Larson are still holding the show together this brilliantly, I’m okay with that.

Tomorrow I’m going to be talking about this episode in the Crepuscular Bronies livestream led by AnY Pony, though I’m probably going to be a huge bastard and rant about how this is the best thing since sliced bread every time I open my mouth. So check that out. I’ll also be putting out an overview of season three some time in the next few days. Once that stuff is done, you’ll have my permission to start bugging me about making part two of this analysis. Until then, I’ll be continuing to torment everyone I know by incoherently screaming about how much I love this episode.

20 thoughts on “Analyzing “Magical Mystery Cure” (Pt. 1)

  1. Great analysis as always. I 100% agree that this is pretty much the best thing ever, with perfect pacing, great imagery, a very dense yet accessible plot, and incredibly beautiful songs. There was quite a few liquid pride during “A True, True Friend”.

    While I think the pacing was very good, I have seen two reasoning behind this being proposed:

    1-) There was a lot of music, with very little plot development – Some people seem to see music as filler, instead of a plot device that advances the plot in an expedient manner.

    2-) Not enough was explained about the mechanisms behind the spell – A lot of stuff was presented as subtext on this episode, especially the mechanics of the destiny changing spell. It was very clear to me that the spell didn’t simply change the ponies, but instead altered reality itself, so that the other ponies didn’t even think of themselves as changed. I don’t go to the camp that says that stories should explain every detail, and should indeed leave quite a bit to the viewer, so maybe this is another difference in opinion.

    Quite frankly, I feel that most of the naysayers simply don’t enjoy musicals.

    • Thing about the lack of explanation of the spell is that, this show never really explains things like that. It’s certainly even less confusing than Twilight say, picking up dark magic just from seeing Celestia use it once.

      • It actually isn’t less confusing than the dark crystal magic, because that magic was visually explained. Celestia said “If hatred and fear take over”, which implies that the spell is powered by hatred and fear, and the visual shows that the magic can corrupt crystals and cause them to change shape, which in itself is pretty straightforward. Later, we see that the magic can also be used to create illusionary magic which opened up the stairway, and this shows up again when Twilight uses dark magic on the door. However, when the door shows her fear, she backs off and uses her own magic on it to dispel it. Then, the magic is seen in its last use when it binds Twilight in a security trap. What’s more unexplained is how King Sombra gets his physical body back

        As for Twilight Sparkle learning the magic after seeing it once, there have been several instances in the past where she used magic after seeing or knowing about it once. Twilight teleported after being teleported by Nightmare Moon; she copied Rarity’s gem spell to a lesser degree, she copied her brother’s force field, and in the Crystal Empire, she copied it after seeing her teacher use it.

        Now tell me something. How did the spell alter the Mane 6?
        Was it a memory alteration? Did Twilight’s friends simply retain the memory of doing their respective jobs since they got their cutie marks?
        Was it a temporal alteration? Did it change history itself so that the Mane 6 minus Twilight and Spike really had been doing it since fillyhood?
        Was it a spiritual alteration? Did the spell take their spiritual elements and displace them?
        Was it just a visual alteration? Were their cutie marks the only things that changed, and they just genuinely believed in them enough?

  2. I agree completely! I don’t understand why so many ponies are getting flank hurt about it! I’ve liked the idea since it was leaked!

  3. The problem with the pacing is that it never gives the viewer time to take in any information. The jokes that slowed down the two parters do this well.

    For example: when we are introduced to crystal ponies Rarity breaks the exposition dump to reaffirm this new information.

    In contrast, when Twi first reappears as an alicorn her friends don’t even blink, as though they had know about this all along. They never talk about it. It just goes your a princess now, and end.

    I’d be more upset except that I’ve heard that it could be part one of three. In the other two episodes we might see the social difficulties that her new position creates for her and her friends. This may, unfortunately lead to a scenario where in she gives up her power. I do not wish to see this, as I’ve been waiting for this for over eightieth months.

  4. People talk about this huge point’s being in the episode. It’s there, yeah, but it’s…weird. And, admittedly, I like weird. The suggestion is that we’re better off thinking of our destinies as being tied together, rather than as separate entities. Collective rather than individual destiny. Or maybe individual destinies woven into a larger one (the question needs to be answered as to the precise philosophical nature/implications of this in various directions). The reasoning goes as follows: as we see in reality, our actions (however small) can have huge, cascading effects on those around us. It’s essentially, “Everyone can be nakama, just in various orbits.” If everyone’s your nakama, then energy spent pushing toward purpose and destiny isn’t “wasted.” Huh. Precarious, and a little fucked, but I think that may or may not actually be somewhat close to how society works (Margaret Mead once spoke of civilization and the healed femur). And, besides, we are all of us—to however small a degree—social beings.

    I should get out my biases, so that they can be dealt with straightforwardly. I cannot fucking stand musicals. I can’t stand showtunes. Yet I have to admit that I tolerated the songs here, if only because they articulated the themes scattered throughout the series.

    I remember watching Rent (for the first time) with someone who was rather fond of it. He laughed about the absurdity of bursting into song in real life, something that made me chuckle. We also discussed the possible social currency of that particular musical. He said, “Huh. Decent by the standards of the 80’s, maybe. Not useful, now.”

    My point is that musicals are tricky with me. And, essentially, this was a musical episode. The songs articulated themes, and the events lent themselves to musical numbers. For that reason alone, this ep occupies a weird place in my gut.

    Look, I don’t know if I loved it. Probably not. But I can respect, appreciate it on some kind of new level that seems different, somehow, because other episodes weren’t really like this. All of the other episodes relied on a basic, confined premise; this one steps beyond it. True, there’s no reason why they couldn’t do this. But it’s like a new act of a play, calling for a reassessment and reaffirmation of themes, and then catharsis. I feel like I can’t properly judge it until I see what this was all for, and that means watching new eps and aligning them with the themes we’ve encountered up until this point. This is probably supposed to be one of those moments where the “true” fan loves it for what it is. Since there’s always a context “memory” of the fandom to work from however, I can’t help but feel disconnected. Like, this should have happened sooner, after a clearly-delineated plotline. Or been an hour-long feature film.

    Mind you, this isn’t a pacing issue. I’ve only ever cared about pacing in Bee Train stuff and melodrama. I sat through all of Downton Abbey in a couple of days, despite the number of two-hour eps. I do get upset when stuff happens too quickly, but only when I feel there should be more thematic or moral exploration of the implications and complications. Or when I don’t care about the characters. I didn’t care about the characters here. At all. BUT! That’s NOT because of bad storytelling, necessarily—again, I think it’s just because I hate musicals. The medium’s my personal issue, that’s all.

    It’s more like, tone. Or theme. The story went to one end of the spectrum, and stretched it, then said, “See, it’s on the spectrum! Y’can’t prove otherwise.” And, truthfully, I can’t. The ep doesn’t feel right for the story or the continuity, even if in its very elements it’s a culmination of those themes and that story. I was distracted left and right. “So Celestia was manipulating everything? When did Twilight learn to fly? Where’s the line between what the writer thinks of destiny and what the characters say? SO MUCH MUSIC. Why is an unhappy destiny wrong? How the hell does changing Elements of Harmony mess with their true selves? “True selves?” Who the fuck knows if there IS a soul? So Star Swirl was a reclusive hermit, or didn’t value friendship? Orly.” It’s like the episode expects you not to think about it, or to read in “depth” where it may not exist or have been legitimately covered.

    An aside about Celestia and her damned tests: I actually don’t care too much about the fucked-up nobility/racism/sexism/bigotry throughout the story, as I’ve written in other comments, because it makes the world more complex. Luna’s bursting into Scootaloo’s dreams wouldn’t be acceptable by our philosophical frameworks. But it happened all of the time in Greek myth, and it’s understandable (though maybe still unacceptable). These sorts of things aren’t to be outright hated, but recognized, winked at, and contained.

    All this to say that becoming an alicorn, for all of its impending ups, downs, and risks, implies some kind of ascension. Is it clear that her perception of friendship will not change or have new trials and strains? That’s for the next episodes to make clear. And yet, I don’t appreciate the delay. I feel that every ep should be written as if it might truly be its last. “Everything will be just fine” refers not only to Twilight’s change, but the hope that she will be able to relate to them as friends, etc. But what if her relationship changes and becomes more like her relationship to Spike. Ah, we just don’t quite know.

    • I think to make Twilight’s relationship with her friends closer to her relationship with Spike would be a change in show and character dynamic that the writers wouldn’t really be bold enough for, or stupid enough. It’s not established what Twilight is princess of. (Yet! We still have a movie and a season premiere to lock those details in.) If I had to guess from context, she’s the princess of friendship. Making her friends subservient would undermine the very quality she’s just been celebrated for. But this is pure hypothesis on my part. What do I know? Still, I find it incredibly likely she’ll need their help as much as they’ll need hers in upcoming episodes.

      Gonna agree with you that this episode is unlike most other MLP episodes in how much it questions established formula. I’m most reminded of “Lesson Zero”, which first overturned the rule of season one that each episode much end with Twilight writing a letter. I also happen to think it transcended other episodes in production quality, i.e. visuals and lighting, similar to episodes like “A Canterlot Wedding”.

      As for the questions left wide open: Yeah. There are a lot of them. Specifically, who in Ponyville remembers the Mane Six’s original cutie marks, and who doesn’t? How much of history has been changed, if anything? And if their true selves have been changed, why CAN’T they accept it like Spike suggests? The implication seems to be that the ponies’ innate abilities haven’t been changed, just their cutie marks, which dictate what they are destined to do for the rest of their life. You might then ask what happened (or do they THINK happened) to keep them from realizing their true destiny? Maybe the ponies’ memories have been altered, too? (But that can’t be right, because Twilight ruled out Discord’s memory spell as a quick fix.) No, I think the implication is that history has been subtly changed, and only Twilight is aware of it. This puts the world, from the end of the prologue, in a very unreal state, like we’re in an alternate universe whose logic could fall apart at the slightest touch. (And indeed it does, because all it takes to set the friends’ cutie marks right is a little interaction with each other to help each other fix their problems.) But I think this unreal state is called attention to, and amplified, by the fact that this is a musical episode. Musical episodes do away with a certain amount of logic, even with the MLP-verse where musical numbers aren’t uncommon, because there’s no good in-universe reason for everyone to be singing and dancing in unison. The musical quality calls attention to the narrative’s inherent artificiality, allows the viewer to accept it, and moves on.

      • I’m not sure where I align on the cutie mark issue. A cutie mark is only one small piece of one’s destiny (since there actually appears to be a verifiably deterministic “force” in this fantasy world). I’ve written comments before noting how very subjective these “readings” can seem—for example, Cherilee’s explanation to her students of what her own mark means. It may truly be that ponies hear a mysteriously transcendent, divine whisper, and have some kind of metaphysical inkling, all of a sudden, some tiny awareness of what they are meant to do. Or it may be a guess.

        Still, I’m wary of the deterioration of the cutie mark entirely into “just a symbol, just a mark.” The story doesn’t seem to question the implications of the situation, except to insinuate passingly that people are now made miserable, and you shouldn’t make people miserable by inconveniencing them. If the cutie mark is “just a mark,” this makes sense. If this is “just an error,” I am forced to toss up my hands and to say, “Okay, fine.” If it’s anything more than this, however, there are implications.

        In the end, I felt no investment in the friends’ helping each other—or in anything that might have meant significant conflict to me—because I knew what the didacticism of the story and the wackiness of the medium were going to necessitate. I usually have this feeling watching musical theater, by the way. The medium allows us to slip directly into morals and resolutions when convenient, and slip the wrenching exploration of values under the rug. Such exploration is mostly left to us, as part of a semi-interactive audience. As if to say, “Yep, there are questions on your part. Zing! Medium shield!” You use the word “artificiality,” and I very much agree.

        In truth, I was never NOT aware of what the episode was going for. The animals dancing like imps around a bound Rainbow in a pot suggested Disney cartoon unreality. The absence of Applejack’s family tipped me off to unreality. The denizens suddenly absorbing the atmosphere and joining in tipped me off to unreality. Many episodes are strange this way (to a less obvious degree), such as Pinkie Pie’s psychological experiences in “Party of One,” where the Mane Six actually appears to be terrible, the events seem bizarre, and the narrative slips until you realize, “Why is Pinkie talking to a pile of rocks?”

        But the question of “what changed, for whom” seems arguably important. And I’m still with critics on that front. The only real reason it might not be “worth questioning” is “obvious”—because Twilight’s the one who changed it, not the cosmos (presumably), because she didn’t want/mean to, and because she may or may not have the power to change things back. In the end, she nudges her friends into changing things for themselves. I wished that there was resistance—that they had grown to find small meanings in their failures, for instance, or were getting better at things. Or opportunities engagement and consideration with Spike’s question. Or an assessment of the wider social implications of the change, not just the occupational. Or narrative delay, so that helping your friends doesn’t automatically fix things (of course, magic is the didactic or metaphysical ace in this world, so one can’t get too upset about this).

        And yet, that sort of thing wasn’t what this was going for. It’s an entertaining and thought-out musical. It’s a recollection of everything good about the series. In that sense, it’s less of a specific instance of fiction and more of an amalgam given fantastic form. Works for some, I’d guess, and not for others.

        • There’s a lot of issues you bring up that I don’t have answers for. Maybe I’m not supposed to? You’re right: it’s a completely different kind of episode, and because of this, it’s probably not going to work for a significant percentage of viewers.

          One thing I would like to address is investment in the second act – that is, Twilight getting her friends to help each other, which subsequently fixes their cutie marks. I did feel investment here, and not necessarily because I wanted the ponies to get their cutie marks back – not exclusively, anyway. The Mane Six are shown to be completely isolated in the sad song immediately preceding it; Twilight’s revelation after that song is that whatever happens, she and her friends need to be there for each other. Half of the hope, for me, is that Twilight and her friends will get back together and find solace in each other, no matter what their cutie marks, which isn’t unlike the “Return of Harmony Part 2” plot.

          Still ruminating on the Cutie Marks thing because it’s interesting. What if they’re a record of history? Say something happened in Rainbow’s past, for example, that she never discovered her love of racing, ended up settling in Fluttershy’s cottage in Ponyville, and contented herself with animal care. A “good enough” destiny, if you will. I think that would imply a mix of conscious choice on the characters’ parts, innate ability that matches up to the “right” destiny that their cutie marks reflect, and cosmic accidents like Fluttershy’s fall to Ponyville in “Cutie Mark Chronicles” failing to happen or happening differently.

          • I’m not saying you—or anyone—is supposed to have “answers,” but that the trepid or bold stepping out into hazy webs of value weighing and assessment is, in large part, the fictional process. Chekhov himself said that the force of fiction wasn’t really answers, but the more precise articulation of questions; it’s fine to throw up your hands and saying, “I don’t know why, but I’ve weighed the choices on the part of characters, and this is what the story has to be.”

            There’s a fictional element to every story. I’m just saying that rather than realizing those elements within this individual arc, the musical medium emphasizes wowing. It’s about explicitly using song, dance, and spectacle to drag in the audience into empathy. Whether to elevate or to berate this episode, we shouldn’t hold the work to the standards of traditional film or traditional theater, because we’re being both disingenuous and unfair. Are the standards of musical “lower?” Only in terms of the fictional process, and even then only usually—not inherently or necessarily.

            Oh, yes, it’s quite clear from that second-act scene that there’s meant to be some sort of statement: even when you have “little” to give, you can still offer your friendship and hard work. But that’s precisely my point—there’s little assessment of the risks and the resistance involved. We understand what the story’s trying to say, or the lyrics, and we see a bit of action, and feelings and associations swell within us, primarily because a) the stories have always been encouraging this, and b) we are reminded (either through set design/choreography or allusion) that this sort of thing has happened before. We aren’t seeing the immediate possibility of the Mane Six finding purpose or even happiness despite their predicament, or of the characters successfully resisting the notion of helping each other.

            Lo and behold, friendship trumps solitude—or needs to—and so these issues would never arise in the first place. To this end, the story isn’t “bad” (whatever that word means), but its social currency is a little, I would venture to say, weaker or less poignant than what we get in a strong episode functioning by traditional modes of storytelling.

            And the question of whether elaborating those specifics is necessary inherently depends on what we understand the episode to be. Because it is a) a musical, and b) a culmination or celebration of ideas, we say, “No, not much more than what was given (if anything) was necessary to reach its goals.”

            Your cutie mark theory is interesting, but then it’s a little strange because some of their talents were honed. Pinkie got “better” at being funny (or more “tactful”). Fluttershy learned to care for animals. Rainbow improved her speed. Applejack learned to care for the farm. To say, “Well, the skills and consequences of their “true history” were in the backs of their minds and part of their bodies; they just didn’t remember them” kind of fakens or cheapens the experience because we’re substituting our outside-the-sphere knowledge for the in-world needs and logical demands for verisimilitude. It *may* be nonetheless the truth of how this was written; I really hope it isn’t.

  5. Pingback: [Pony Ep. Quips] “Magical Mystery Cure” as Musical Theatre | Things in the Fridge

  6. Pingback: Digibro’s Media Journal (February 2013) | My Sword Is Unbelievably Dull

  7. Now….I’m not a normally text savvy person, I can’t write so impressively as the others who have commented on this web page. So, to fill this post in a bit and get my point across without rambling on for some time, and quite possibly repeating myself. I give you a converstion I had with a fellow brony on a different site:

    watergod159 February 27th, 13 02:32 PM
    Okay, who else was pissed at the final episode of season 3?

    blind2d February 27th, 13 02:42 PM
    Hmm… pissed how?

    watergod159 February 27th, 13 02:49 PM
    how about how sudden the ending was? how rushed the whole episode was? or how about twilight making ONE spell and becoming an alicorn, did that mean the star-swirled the bearded, the pony that essentially MADE unicorn magic books and founded magic schooling, was an alicorn? and if that’s the case, why didn’t twilight know that? she’s read every book she could get her hooves on, in which case wouldn’t she have known that all a unicorn needs to do is write down a magic spell?

    blind2d February 27th, 13 02:56 PM
    I agree that the episode would have been better served as a two-parter, and so if that had been the case, I predict you wouldn’t have had your problems with the pacing. That said, I believe in the episode it’s explained that Starswirl didn’t complete the spell because he did not know the magic of friendship, or some such. This would mean that he would be unable to become an alicorn, and that without the other Mane Six, Twilight would never have either. To be fair, it was probably more difficult to complete the spell in Starswirl’s day because at least as far as we know, they didn’t really have the Elements of Harmony embodied in ponies back then.

    watergod159 February 27th, 13 03:12 PM
    True, but they could have gone even further and made it lat 7 episodes, one to mess everything up and another to put each pony back to normal, tack on one for celestia to tell her what she has done, and a two part finally with a dark part of twilight from the discord fiasco that could mimic a nightmare moon corruption and you have a 3 episodes shy of a full season, they could have put a CMC episode before the final set there….and a couple filler and precursor episodes of twilight going to canterlot and talking about the next stage of training and getting the book that Calestia gave her before that episode

    in response to SStB, so anly unicorns who make a spell based in friendship can become alicorns? then why didn’t she write down that spell that she made to remind her friends who they were in season 2?

    Maybe I’m just picky, maybe I wanted a longer season, but still….that last episode was ludicrously short

    blind2d February 27th, 13 03:16 PM
    Whoa, good ideas there!

    That… That could all work, and make for a great season…
    And really I/we/the world don’t/doesn’t know enough about the unicorn magic in this universe or how alicorns really work yet. A lot of it is conjecture. Good questions to ponder though.

    I did feel the same, but I was still happy with it, in at least where the music was concerned (even if there was a bit much for my liking, at least it didn’t suck)

    sorry about cheating my way to a long post, but I didn’t want to take it out of context nor change the context to speak it anew

  8. So, I’ve been watching your individual-episode reviews out of order, but I come back here now with confusion. You celebrated Applebuck Season’s density, yet bashed Keep Calm for rushing/forcing the Discoshy friendship. When this episode got reviewed, you praise the density and shrug in confusion at attacks on the pacing. And I’m just as confused by your reaction here, so let me try to clarify my viewpoint.

    Applebuck Season, as you said, was a straightforward episode. AJ overextended herself repeatedly, and she grew sleepy and stubborn. In the end, she had to be confronted so as to be taught that it’s okay to ask for help.

    What happened in MMC? Well, see, in another case of Celestia troll-testing Twilight, Celestia sent a book of Starswirl’s spells to Twilight. While it seems unlikely that Celestia would know _exactly_ what would result, the fact that she placed both the book and the Elements in the library, then Twilight just happened to ascend shortly thereafter, seem to hint at her casting a deliberate hoof into this scenario (not to mention her history of crafting these scenarios, as present in several episodes). But we’re getting off-topic! The spell inadvertently swaps the cutie marks of Twilight’s friends, which also apparently alters their destinies, their self-perception, and their perception by others, but there’s no time to explore the “why” of any of this. We see everypony, including the townsponies and Twilight, being miserable as a result. Then immediately after the sad song induces pathos, Twilight crafts a solution involving her friends each showing each other their true passion and helping them recall their old lives. You with me so far? Because that’s only the first 13 minutes, and the remaining 9 is reserved to changing a core foundation of the show or two.

    I do think that some things are handled well here, in the first half. The musical frame does help convey information more densely, as we’re getting background montages and musical motifs to portray information faster than normal dialogue scenes could. While I acknowledge these songs and scenes to be a bit emotionally manipulative, I don’t hate them for that reason, possibly because the whole package is still so aesthetically pleasing. I also, somewhat hypocritically, think that there is something satisfying in how decisively Twilight is able to fix the problem. She quickly (in episode time; in-world time is debatable) creates a solution, _coaches her friends_ through the situation, and then fixes a spell that even the likes of Starswirl couldn’t perfect. This kind of slam-dunk victory does do a good job of showing that Twilight has grown, graduated, and is ready for this next new phase being introduced.

    However? Sweet Luna’s Headset-Mic, that is a complex episode. It would be intense (but probably well-received) in 22 minutes. Time could be added to the middle section, showcasing the symptoms of the bad spell. This is probably the most displaced that the ponies have been in all three seasons. I do not feel that additional hijinks would be a waste or redundant; rather, they would serve to strengthen the sense of unease, as well as probably being some fairly memorable comedic moments. Not to mention more time to explore what Starswirl’s spell was even meant to accomplish, clarifying what swapping cutie marks actually means and how it meshes with previously established lore (which has been debated more in other comments here), and so on. It wouldn’t take much to give the analytical types enough to derive from; a simple clarification line here or there could provide huge contextual clues, but there was simply no time in 13min. As such, it feels like a cool concept had to suffer an unsatisfying portrayal, for the sake of the second half.

    The second part? In less than half an episode, let’s take one of the most popular characters and alter her physiology, occupation, social standing, and her relationship with those around her. Confused? Frightened? Well, wait until Season 4.

    That’s unfair, but fair or not, a lot of us came in with heightened concerns, due to teh spoilarz. A big change was coming and we didn’t know why. We feared Hasbro wanting to sell toys. We feared loss of Faust’s influence. We feared shark-jumping. So, even those who were cautiously optimistic (and I, and I suspect most fans, have finally come to embrace the idea that this ascension was well-deserved and thematically appropriate), we were still looking for our fears to be assuaged. Instead, we got a lot of razzle-dazzle (in fairness, Celestia’s Ballad was awesome and an integral part of How I Would Have Done It; it’s just not a substitute for explanation) and Twilight flying into the camera, assuring us that “everything [in Season 4] is going to be just fine.” Even discrediting the spoiler-induced apprehensive buildup prior to the episode, that’s a terrible way to treat shock for a large change. There are plenty of young and old bronies alike for whom change is innately scary, and who are going to have questions, and these questions are dismissed over a season break.

    In rewatching this scene now, here’s a few questions and concerns that spring to mind, in order. Did Starswirl’s modified spell play a direct or indirect role in her ascension? (It didn’t help that we never know what the spell is originally intended for) What of Celestia’s role? Did she simply guide Twilight to this stage, and her role in the ballad was simply watching the magic unfold as a bystander, or was she actively responsible for the ascension magic? Will this drastically alter Twilight? The brief “is there a book” joke hints that no, Twi is still the Twi we love, but that’s a quick reference in a rush of a scene. What of Twilight’s relationship to her friends and mentor? You could debate either way with the friends, but Celestia’s dialogue unambiguously states that her dynamic with Twilight will change. As Celestia’s approval is so pivotal to Twilight’s psyche, that’s a _really huge_ shake-up. What is Twilight now the princess of? I suppose that question could realistically wait until S4, but it’s such a basic question… Will Twilight move to Canterlot? The episode itself gives every indication of “yes”! Sure, interviews by M.A. Larsen and Tara Strong cite otherwise, but shouldn’t the episode itself have covered this instead? As in the first half, there were a few moments where a few spoken lines in between choruses could have done much to illuminate these gaps not covered by the songs, but again, no time.

    Here’s a big one: considering that this process gave her new body parts, possibly made her immortal, increased her responsibilities and function several-fold, and a whole bunch of other drastic changes, why is she not allowed to enter the journey willingly and knowingly? Her initial reaction is genuine surprise, with a panic that she is not learned enough for such a role. Since Celestia had been grooming her for this role since she was a filly, was their no appropriate time to broach the subject, least of all before the point of no return? I guess this type of rejection of destiny would be uncharacteristic in the show so far, and luckily Twilight embraces the idea wholeheartedly, but imagine the drama had she refused the call. The transformation loses some effect and power when it is pushed onto her, rather than embraced and accepted willingly.

    That’s why, weeks later, my opinion is still that the concept of both halves were independently great, but that the cutie-mark-switching could have benefited from—and the ascension scene had _desperate need_ of—just slowing down and taking its time in justifying itself and in crystallizing its vision. Rather than feeling overly hyped and mystified about the potential of Twilicorn, I’m left with a sense of quiet unease and a number of niggling questions that mar my potential for excitement for the next eight months or so.

    • Bro I gotta say, you’ve got the most well-reasoned and worded opinion on this that I’ve read yet. I’ve heard these angles before, but I’m glad you’ve taken the time to flesh out the argument enough that I can say this: I see where you’re coming from.

      Your anxiety and unease is understandable. I don’t feel it myself because the shortening of the cutie mark swapping plot doesn’t really bother me. Could it have used a whole episode? Sure, probably. A *lot* of stuff in MLP could use expanding on, but I try not to dwell on it unless it really gets on my nerves, and so far Keep Calm was the only time that ever happened. In this case, I enjoyed the presentation so much that I’m willing to turn off thinking about it too much as I’ve done in other episodes where I enjoyed them too much to nitpick as others have done (the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy ep comes to mind).

      As for the second half, I explained in my Twilicorn video why I’m good with it. Again, I totally see where you’re coming from, and I respect it, but I just don’t feel it myself. We’ve both reached a very realized conclusion on our feelings, and those feelings happen to be different.

      • Why thank you! I like to pretend that I know how to write fanfiction, so while I do carry an innate liking of these kinds of analysis, I come to the issue first and foremost with the idea of “reverse engineering” the show, especially the mindsets of the characters. As such, I get involved in a lot of discussion and analysis of episode and character, with the goal of more accurately portraying the characters in my own work. (You brought up that point in some other video, about how it helped your immersion as a reader if your headcanon of Twilight aligned with the version that I wrote.) Also I only just discovered the Pony Hypnosis project via your shoutout and started playing around with that, only to discover a number of my other writer friends had been experimenting as well, as a means of attaining closer character empathy.

        Anyway, I agree that my issues with the first half are comparatively minor. If the second half was omitted, and the first half was presented in its original format, I’d still have my concerns, yet I’d admittedly see it as a strong S3 episode, possibly even falling into my top 10 list of S1-S3 episodes. So I can certainly appreciate the differences of opinions and the “how much does element X hurt the episode for me personally” angle.

        I forgot to mention your Alicorn Princess Twilight Sparkle video. Rewatching it this morning, I think I might actually agree with all of the points you excitedly raise. The important caveat is that the episode by itself did not take me there, as was the immediate case for yourself. It took lots of reflection, time apart, numerous discussions with friends, and yes even watching some countering viewpoints like your own, to reach the conclusion that this change was not only acceptable, but entirely appropriate. At the present, I still feel this to be a failing of the episode, since I’m obviously capable of feeling hype for Twilicorn, and other fans such as yourself had no trouble with the transition, yet the episode did not impart this feeling for a large group of people (myself included).

        Still, I’ve been in the middle of a S1-S3 rewatching, which also helped. The thematic appropriateness is now so obvious when the previous events are watched in this mindset. We even start to see clearer signs of Celestia’s true personality, and that the whole “Trollestia” meme and her crazy Batman Gambit from the pilot is probably a lot closer to her canon personality that we’d originally legitimately believed. So, when I finally come full circle in my marathon and rewatch Magical Mystery Cure, I’ll be interested to see if having reviewed the entire journey changes my opinions in any way.

        • Have you seen the extended Lauren Faust interview from the documentary? In it, Lauren Faust states clearly that she planned for the characters to grow and change, with Dash becoming a Wonderbolt, Rarity becoming a recognized Fashion Designer in Canterlot, the CMC getting their Cutie Marks and, most importantly, that Twilight would become Celestia’s successor. I think that is the best possible argument against the idea that she became an Alicorn merely to “sell toys” (differently from Cadence, that started as an unicorn). With that mindset, there is a lot that becomes clearer in retrospect. Quite frankly, the arguments about “why doesn’t Celestia simply solved X problem” seem to me about as valid as arguing about the eagles in Lord of the Rings.

          Also, bear in mind that it has been heavily implied by Meghan McCarthy that this was just the first of three parts dealing with Alicorn Twilight. Maybe those episodes would work better as a follow up to this one, even meant to be seem that way, but I guess that, if they are making the new season about dealing with those changes, then it makes sense that a lot of stuff would be unresolved. I think that it is fairer to think of it more as a cliffhanger than they forgetting about how this change would affect the group dynamics.

          • >Interviews
            Aye, those interviews, especially the one with Faust, were all very enlightening.

            >S3 as a cliffhanger
            I can (and pretty much have) somewhat-begrudgingly taken this vantage point. I personally think that Twilight becoming an alicorn in-and-of-itself is suspenseful and exciting enough of a development, that it was completely unnecessary to leave some of the more basic questions that I listed out unanswered, instead of leaving only the more advanced discussions for S4. But you’re absolutely right, that omission at this stage does not mean the issue won’t appear at some point in S4, perhaps even getting its own episode.

            >This episode as the opener of a three-parter
            Obligatorily, this does mean that we can’t honestly give anything a final judgment until all three episodes have been seen. Which is particularly frustrating over an extended summer break, but it is what it is. Nevertheless, speaking as an individual who had pacing concerns over the first part, and seeing that the staff are working with a 66min block for the first time, you might understand that this increases my worry. After all, having such a long time block ought to theoretically _prevent_ concern for pacing issues, rather than justify their existence. The best reassurance I’ve come up with is that they wanted to devote Part 2 and 3 to tackling issues as an alicorn, thus requiring the ascension to take place solely in Part 1. I suppose I can understand this, though I also feel that there could’ve been ways around this. Regardless, as I admitted, I am basically forced to “wait and see” at this moment regarding the finale as an episode, but I’ve at least made peace with the concept of Twilicorn. (aside from the fact that it hampered my OTP but whatever I can be a big boy about that)

  9. Ok, I won’t lie: I really didn’t like “Magical Mystery Cure” when I watched this video. I thought, as many people apparently did, that the pacing was bad. I intended to write about how rushed it felt, and how much I didn’t like it. However, I try to keep an open mind, and so I took your advice and watched the episode again.

    I was wrong. After watching the episode again, my opinion was totally inverted, and I now agree with you on pretty much every level. Well, except that it didn’t make me cry… Well… Ok, so I teared up a could times…….. XD

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