Monday, 20 April 2015

Episode review: S5E04: "Bloom and Gloom"

Apple Bloom dreaming of a derelict clubhouse
"Prisoner in the dock, you are charged with having excessively cute eyes"
Season 5 has really pleased me so far. We've had a dark-tinged premiere that was like nothing Friendship is Magic has seen before, followed by a charming slice-of-life episode that felt like a S1 ep transported four years into the future. Now we have the season's first CMC story, and it's written by Josh Haber. He was responsible for "Castle-Mania", which was fun but not very Pony; "Simple Ways", which was meh apart from Tabitha St. Germain's voice work; and "Leap of Faith", which was the dullest key episode. So, can "Bloom and Gloom" keep S5's successes going? Read on!

I think this is my favourite Haber episode yet. It explores questions pretty much every fan has been wondering about since the early days: what happens if a pony doesn't like their cutie mark? What if one of the CMC gets hers before the others? And, perhaps most seriously of all: what if Apple Bloom's isn't apple-related? "Will I have to move out?" as she rather heart-rendingly asks her big sister in the early stages of the episode. Thankfully, Applejack is able to sing her little sister a very cute equivalent to "Hush Now, Quiet Now".

Vinyl, Octavia and Rarity at the talent contest
"Come on now, Rarity. No sympathy voting, please"
After which, things go downhill fast. Although it's fairly obvious that Apple Bloom is dreaming, what I wasn't prepared for when I watched this ep for the first time was just how dark some of AB's inner thoughts would get. The Twittermites (whose name I don't really like) were bad enough: even if it isn't real, I'm not particularly keen on seeing Apple Bloom electrocuted, at one point badly enough to be smouldering. Mind you, that's as nothing compared with the truly disturbing sequences we get later on...

...when, in various run-throughs of the dream sequence, we see Apple Bloom rejected by both her best friends (not just once, either!) and by her closest family. Of all the CMC, AB is the one that this sort of thing hits the hardest. Even the amusement of seeing Big Mac's voice come out of Applejack's mouth is tempered: for MLP, this is distinctly black comedy. And even knowing these bad thoughts are caused by AB's own "shadow" (voiced, impressively, by Michelle Creber herself) doesn't make it much easier to watch.

Big Mac taunting the new "Bloom" about her non-Apple cutie mark
Airbrushing clearly hasn't been invented. Starlight, get on it!
Oh, and of course there's Luna, since this episode rounds off the unofficial "Luna/CMC nightmare" trilogy that began with S3's outstanding "Sleepless in Ponyville" and continued with the very good "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" in S4. As is well known, I'm not as much of a Luna fancolt as some of the fandom, but I think she does a pretty good job here. Mind you, should she really be showing Apple Bloom other ponies' dreams, even AB's friends'? Finally: it would seem that the princess is exempt from any "Crusaders only" clubhouse door policy!

"Bloom and Gloom" does have a few problems beyond those I've already mentioned, most notably that the question of what happens to a newly-marked CMC with respect to her peers. Okay, they can stay friends, but the end of the episode reiterates that no, they can't be a Crusader any longer. What will happen to the clubhouse in the long run? What will Babs' two friends do? And talking of Babs, it's nice to have her mentioned and in a couple of photos (albeit in a scary scene), but it would be great to see her back for realsies.

Apple Bloom is confronted by her shadow
This was one of the least frightening parts of the ep
All in all, this is probably my least favourite episode of Season 5 so far, although that's really only because those that preceded it were so good. It's entertaining, it delves into something most fans have wanted to know more about, it gives us a further hint that the CMC will get their cutie marks this season... and it has a truly unbeatable Pinkie Pie moment. My three-star rating – and it's in the higher part of that band – reflects the fact that I well enjoyed it (remember, "meh" is two stars) but that I didn't find it quite as compelling as what had gone before.

Best quote: Apple Bloom: "What if it's not an apple? Will I have to move out? Where will I live?!"

  • Interesting exploration of the CMC's fears
  • After a slow start, pretty entertaining
  • Luna was fairly well used in her brief screen time
  • Full of "what the hay?" moments
  • Further hints that the CMC will get their marks this season
  • Pinkie's amazing chicken-costume cameo
  • Applejack's lullaby is adorable
  • The Twittermites scene goes on a little too long
  • Apple Bloom getting zapped was a bit hard to watch
  • A shame we don't see Babs again (except in photos)
  • Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon don't really do anything
  • Quite a few loose ends are left untied


  1. A half decent episode, but to be honest I think last week's episode was better. Did like the fact we get bit more speaking dialogue from Big Mac even if it was a dream sequence.

    1. I suppose they want to keep Peter New from getting too bored!

  2. Those are some criminally cute eyes...

  3. I Am really enjoying season 5. I liked last week's better despite the lack of books for Twilight.
    There was lots of unresolved rejection in this episode, from being kicked out of the Clubhouse when you get your cutie mark, No longer being allowed to be part of the CMC's (this was even endorsed at the end of the episode) to even being rejected by your family if you dont have the right cutie mark (I cant help thinking that this has other connotations).
    Even though this was revealed to be all Apple Bloom's own fears, I really don't think Luna resolved the problems in a satisfactory way by just showing Apple Bloom that her friends have the same fears. (the episode still ended with the resolution that once you have a cuite mark you can no longer be part of the group)

    Other observations.
    This seasons themes seems to be jokes about twitter and pancakes (I hope both do not get stale)

    Apple Bloom gets Hasbro disease

    Big Mac has lines! (finally! even if it was just a dream.)

    Applejack's singing was really cute.