Episode Review: My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic (Season 6, Episodes 4) – On Your Marks
“A lot of people said, ‘congratulations, you guys did what you said you were gonna do, and you spent your whole careers doing it.’ So there was this great feeling of elation, and then, when it was done it was like: ‘…now what?'” – Ed Catmull, from The PIXAR Story
That quote by PIXAR co-founder Ed Catmull, has been one of my favorites since I first saw The PIXAR Story.
Ed’s dream and goal, would take him almost 2 decades to become reality, as computer technology got better, and he met other creative people, until finally, in 1995, PIXAR released Toy Story on the public, and changed how many thought about computers and animation.
Of course, once the goal had been accomplished, as Ed said, he and his cohorts at PIXAR needed to figure out, what would be their next step.
Goal-setting has often been that way, and as we’ve seen in six seasons of Friendship is Magic, a few goals have been achieved, with a few major ones that took place last season.
Now that Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo have gotten their cutie marks, they are now faced with the big question of what to do next.
While the girls have accepted that their marks mean they are to help other ponies with cutie mark problems, there doesn’t seem to be a big demand for their services.
They also realize that while they are good friends, they don’t share a lot of the same interests, and decide to split up to pursue some of their own, individual interests.
This sits well with Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo who are eager to try a few things on their own, but Applebloom finds herself uncertain about this decision.
The aftermath of the Crusaders getting their marks, has been up for discussion for some time. Once that bridge was crossed in Season 5’s Crusaders of the Lost Mark episode, the three little fillies just melded into the background.
Going forward, it was a given that some things were bound to change for the girls, and this episode attempts to bring that to light…if a bit clumsily.
Parts of the episode feel like a callback to their earlier episodes, wherein they tried to find their talents, only here, it’s a roundabout way of finding cutie mark “problems,” and trying to figure out what they do, and do not need to do anymore as part of the Crusaders group.
The episode’s writer Dave Polsky has averaged a few CMC-related episodes per season over the last few seasons, and he almost seems to be the go-to writer for them. However, he does have a hit-or-miss track record when it comes to their stories.
It feels like there is a stronger, more cohesive story within On Your Marks, but the episode, like the Crusaders, feels like it’s stuck in a bit of an identity crisis.
The first part of the story is almost like an ‘autopsy’ of what the CMC once stood for, as we see the girls going over charts and other bits of paperwork on the walls of the clubhouse, trying to decide what worked, and what doesn’t work now.
The second part of the story, quickly begins by having the girls go off and exploring their own individual interests. It does seem a little odd that this episode would bring to light that the girls might explore things on their own, as one would assume they would already be exploring individual interests outside of their inner circle (Sweetie Belle’s costume-designing and preference for showtunes in the episode For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils seemed to hint at this).
Of the three, this decision to explore individual talents hits Applebloom a bit harder than the others, and the episode then turns our attention to following her for the majority of the second act.
Applebloom’s unsure feelings about exploring things on her own, is almost a callback to her feelings of being isolated in Season 1’s Call of the Cutie, though as we’ve seen in some of her more glum moments, Applebloom can sometimes emotionally blow things out of proportion in a big way.
Michelle Creber gets to sing a song as Applebloom in this part of the episode too, and though it has the emotional twang of a heartfelt country song, it doesn’t feel like it works as well as Pinkie’s Lament from Pinkie Pride, or Diamond Tiara’s The Pony I Want To Be from Crusaders of the Lost Mark.
There’s a small addition of more fillies and colts in the episode, with a colt named Tender Taps (who looks like a gender-bent Scootaloo with his coloration), adding something we haven’t heard in a long time: a new, vocal young colt to the show in a small-yet-supporting role (and his appearance has most likely started to find its way into fanfiction and fanshipping regarding a few of the CMC’s as I write this). Of course, I’m not expecting that he’ll return down the line, but you never know.
There are a few little gags that made me chuckle, such as Bulk Biceps having one of his more prominent cameos since the episode, Castle Sweet Castle. There are also a few other little cameos to be had, and much like last week’s episode, a few more pop-culture references are to be found.
Following the more entertaining Gift of the Maud Pie episode from last week, On Your Marks reminded me a bit of the rather befuddled story feel of the 2-part Crystalling Season 6 Premiere.
The focus and emotional heft of the episode feels a bit too scattershot, and much like The Crystalling, might have worked better if certain story elements had been given more room to breathe.
Final Grade: B- (Final Thoughts: “On Your Marks” attempts to push the Cutie Mark Crusaders into a new realm of exploration, though does so at the expense of a rather bumpy episode. Almost acting as a bridge between their past and future, the episode seems to suffer an identity crisis of its own, not quite able to figure out just what it is. Applebloom becomes the focal point of the episode halfway through, and her chance to help another young colt is one of the minor highlights that could have possibly led to a stronger episode of the CMC’s future plans and ideals. )