Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Episode review: S5E18: "Crusaders of the Lost Mark"

CMC flanks with cutie marks
The cutie marks we wondered if we would ever see
Apologies for the lateness of this review, but trying to post about an episode from my phone in the middle of a convention would not have been a great idea. Especially this episode. It was an excellent con anyway, but this was the icing on the cake. I know there are those (including a significant number in the fanfic community) who were underwhelmed. Well, sorry, guys, but I'm not going to join you for this one. I'll go with my fellow con-goers, who were overwhelmingly thrilled. An emotional rather than a rational response? Absolutely, and proud of it!

As you will have realised by now, this review isn't quite following the usual pattern. There seems no point in avoiding spoilers four days on, hence my choice of opening screenshot. Still, I'd better use a break anyway to keep things reasonably tidy – so follow me past it to see me gush embarrassingly about how much I loved this, Amy Keating Rogers' penultimate My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode – which went out five years to the day after the very first ep of FiM did.

Let's get some of the criticisms out of the way first. Diamond Tiara's mother is irritating, and perhaps cheapens DT's character by allowing us to blame her upbringing. The music is a tad on the Equestria Girls side, and only one of the songs are really "con singable", one and a half if you're generous. The story was rushed, in a way reminiscent of the S3 finale. Cheerilee just stood by and let bullying happen. Oh, and Twist didn't talk. Again. I don't mind if they change the VA; just let her speak, dammit!

The "Vote for Pip!" sequence
If Pipsqueak gets any smaller, he'll give Appletini a run for her money
But. But. But. You know what? I don't care. I just don't care. I've never made any secret of the fact that I rate things (whether fics or episodes) on how much I enjoy them, not whether they're objectively finely crafted pieces of the storyteller's art. And on my central criterion, this episode is a triumph. It brings a five-year plot arc to a conclusion, and it not only gives us The Cutie Mark Moment, but it does so without (so far, anyway) much Twilicorn-style base breaking.

The songs, then. Daniel Ingram does seem to be avoiding the simple, easy-to-sing numbers he used to write, and I do think that's a shame. That said, after a few more watches of this episode, I'm warming to them a little bit. "We'll Make Our Mark" is the standout here, and I can absolutely see that one being sung by fans in the future. The others... well, DT's sad song was done, better, in "Pinkie Pride" (by the same writer) and "The Vote" is fairly uninspiring. "Light of Your Cutie Mark" could go either way at this point.

So, then, Diamond Tiara. For most of the episode, we're misdirected into thinking it will actually be a DT redemption tale. And it is, though there must be considerable doubt as to how well that will stick. Is a good DT even that interesting a character, given that she's rarely shown any other side to her? Seeing Silver Spoon finally crack and stand up to her "best friend" is nice, and I've seen a more nuanced version of something similar happen in real life, so I can buy it happening in this particular way.

Silver Spoon finally shuts up Diamond Tiara
"A true, true friend... isn't you, Diamond Tiara"
Oh, stuff it. Nobody really cares that much about DT (or, indeed, poor old still-blank-flanked Pip) at this point. The CMC are where it's at, and I'm so happy for them. I did think, before, that I'd have liked to have seen one of them get their mark before the others – but I'll take this! The actual cutie mark symbols look a bit "corporate" (okay, hardly surprising) but they're also growing on me with repeated viewings. And the alicornification-like light'n'floating as the fillies got them? I think there is something special and magical about the CMC, so it's fine by me.

Which leads me on to the question of where the Cutie Marked Crusaders go from here. We know from the show staff that there will be more CMC episodes, but will they all be about helping others find their talents? And are we looking at the effective start of G4.5, even if it doesn't actually happen for a couple of years yet? Babs Seed and her two Manehattan friends could make up a group of six – and that's a number with some resonance. Not to mention the fact that this isn't the season finale. Surely the CMC have to play a part in that?

How do you explain to people outside the fandom (and, yes, some within it) that seeing three cartoon horses get garish symbols on their flanks made so many people tear up? (As, yes, did Applejack's touching comment to her little sister about their absent parents. Not to mention Rainbow with Scootaloo and Rarity with Sweetie.) Well... you don't, do you? You really had to be there. Fifth birthday of FiM; shown in the middle of a pony convention; so many other people there to share it with. "Amending Fences" remains the best episode of S5, but this ep is still making me smile now.

The CMC's sisters congratulate them
You know what? I think this might just work...
Best quote: Applejack to Apple Bloom: "Oh, sugar cube. If mom and dad were here, they'd be so proud of you."

  • Almost 100 episodes since they met, the CMC get their marks!
  • Some of the music is really growing on me
  • Silver Spoon standing up to Diamond Tiara
  • DT's redemption – though will it last?
  • The montage of previous CMC episodes
  • Applejack's mention of the Apple parents
  • Pipsqueak's "peggy-bank"
  • Mailmare Derpy is finally canon!
  • DT's mother is a really annoying character
  • Cheerilee, weakest anti-bullying teacher ever


  1. Totally agree with everything you said. One I did noticed about their new cutie marks is that the shield colour is the same colour as their manes.

    1. Yes, that's a nice touch. :) And the small variations in their marks are interesting. Sweetie's musical note sort-of confirms what the fandom has thought for so long!

  2. Ahh, yes. The Applejack quote. Yes, I'm sure that Apple Bloom's parents would be very proud of that thing that happens to absolutely everypony. In fact, the very idea of being proud after she gets her cutie mark is the kind of backwards-ass thinking that explains why Apple Bloom was so insecure about not having her mark in the first place.

    That family is a damned train wreck.

    1. I don't know... plenty of human parents tell their children they're proud of them when they first go to school, and that happens to (almost) everybody too.

    2. That "happens to absolutely everypony" bit made me wonder, might we ever see an adult pony who somehow actually never got one?

    3. I've wondered that as well. I know there are fanfics on that topic, and it's also noticeable that mules don't seem to get them. It might actually work better as a story now that the CMC have their new "mission", though it would be tricky to make the story different enough from the Troubleshoes one.