Monday, 23 November 2015

Episode review: S5E24: "The Mane Attraction"

Pinkie Pie explains straws to Svengallop
There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright
With this final episode before the season five finale, it's time to say goodbye to one of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic's original writing team. After five seasons, Amy Keating Rogers is leaving for pastures new at Disney. and this is her very last episode. From the preview, it looked like being an Applejack ep, which seemed fitting as the first episode she wrote solo was "Applebuck Season". Late-season episodes are often less than stellar, but would this one buck that trend? After the break for more!

This isn't at all a bad sendoff for AKR. Not her best episode – that title is surely held by "Pinkie Pride" – and not my favourite – that's either "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" or "Filli Vanilli" – but it is a cut above the average for a late-season instalment. Certainly, it was a more satisfying effort than S4's "Equestria Games". "The Mane Attraction" does suffer a bit from trying to squash too much plot into a music-heavy episode, and therefore not developing everything too well, but it's enjoyable nevertheless.

As had been hyped for months and months, this was "the Lena Hall episode". She plays Applejack's childhood friend, "Rara" (take that, Rarity shippers!) – but something has gone horribly wrong since her and AJ's fillyhood days, and she's now rather less nice and known as "Countess Coloratura", I assume Hasbro's lawyers nixed the idea of her actually being known as "Lady Rara", but that's most definitely the impression they were going for.

Rara plays "The Magic Inside"
Am I really the only one who thinks she looks a bit like Littlepip here?
As a character, Rara herself isn't too bad, although she does seem to be a little dense not to manage her moment of realisation without help from Applejack and co. Her manager, the cleverly-named Svengallop, though, is one of this episode's disappointments. He doesn't really have a fully fleshed out character, perhaps due to lack of running time, and I can't say he's one of the most memorable antagonists FiM has ever had.

So let's talk about the music instead. Perhaps against the bulk of fandom opinion, I'm not a huge fan of "The Spectacle". It seems pretty much manufactured pop, although I suspect that was deliberate on the part of Daniel Ingram given the storyline. "The Magic Inside" is enormously better: perhaps not the best song the show has ever done, but certainly right up there and the highlight of the episode. I'm also fairly fond of "Equestria My Home", though it's perhaps a tad too twiddly for the national anthem it seems to be.

Pinkie Pie shows good support in this episode in her party planner guise. She has some excellent lines (her comment about her straw collection is priceless) and her gradual frazzling fits the story. Of the other Mane Sixers, Rarity seems to be a little too starstruck: with her experience of the harsh world of the fashion industry I'd have preferred her to be a bit more insightful as to what was going on with Svengallop; she must have encountered ponies like him before.

Fillies watching the Camp Friendship concert
Shining Armor's going to want his comic back, you know...
All in all, this episode just about manages to hold its own in the face of the inevitable hype caused by Discovery Family's release of a finale teaser trailer at the same time. Lena Hall's voice is undoubtedly the main reason to watch (and wasn't it good that they kept the odd slightly rough note in "The Magic Inside"?), and the wait for a truly classic Applejack episode goes on, but AKR has done enough to ensure that she departs Pony with the goodwill she deserves.

Best quote: Pinkie Pie: "I call this straw... Fernando."

  • Lena Hall's voice – well, obviously
  • Excellent animation touches, eg the horn-lights
  • Pinkie Pie has some very nice comic lines
  • Filly scenes are always adorable
  • Svengallop isn't the most interesting antagonist
  • A slightly lightweight plot once you strip out the songs
  • A little overshadowed by finale hype


  1. Daniel Ingram's shtick has always been imitation, and "The Spectacle" is good because it perfectly imitates manufactured pop while being a decent song. That's not easy to do.

    1. It's a good example of what it is. But I still don't particularly like it.

  2. I thought this episode was okay. It had moving music, which is a plus, but the main beats of the plot just moved too quickly. I mean, Applejack and Rara go from friendly to "You just don't understand how it really is" in about five seconds. The mood changes way too fast for me. Add to that the reveal of Svangallop's true nature. They come up with a plan, do a reveal, and have the fallout of that reveal happen in roughly a minute. This is a pony that Rara has a relationship with. They've presumably been partners for a while. It seems cheap to break down a relationship that quickly. I think it would have been better to have three or four little moments that Applejack could have pointed to first, but Rara tried to ignore, then presented the moment with Pinkie as irrefutable proof.

    People always tell me "Well, there's only so much they can do with twenty-two minutes. Of course it was rushed" and my response is always the same. It's the responsibility of a writer to create an episode that works within its time constrains. It's not up to the audience to make allowances because the writer was too ambitious. This was slightly too much story than the time allowed.

    And really? A giant magical projection? Couldn't Rara have just been in that little trailer or something? Surely they could have just followed Svengallop and hid behind it.

    But it delivered in other ways, so it wasn't a bad episode. Pinkie was good and the music was great. I'm still a little miffed at this insistence that the CMC have to be a unit. This could have been an awesome moment for Sweetie Belle to sing her heart out. It's kind of her thing.

    1. The more music you put into an episode, the less time there is for everything else -- at least, unless you pull off a "Pinkie Pride". The question therefore becomes what should have been dropped for a less ambitious but fuller episode. Perhaps some of Svengallop's less interesting complaints.

    2. I wonder what the episode would have been like without him. What if Coloratura had sort of developed two personalities? The Rara that Applejack knew and the Countess persona. What if the Countess was taking over with just a bit of the Rara coming through from time to time. Applejack could confront her and make a change all without Svengallop taking up screen time. Of course, it would depend on how efficiently that kind of thing could be laid out, but I can't help be feel like he's kind of a needless edition to the episode. I think the same "remember who you really are" message could be done more effectively without him.