Monday, 11 April 2016

Episode review: S6E04: "On Your Marks"

So, BUCK is no more, and the UK no longer has an all-out brony convention to call its own. It's a sad moment in many ways, but it was immensely pleasing that it went out on a high, with what by all accounts was a very successful con. I'll probably give some more thoughts on this in a future post, but for now I have an episode to review!

Depressed Apple Bloom in the clubhouse
"Six hundred Tyrantlestia fics, and I still haven't found a good one!"
Ever since "Crusaders of the Lost Mark" went out, most of us have been wondering "What now for the Cutie Mark Crusaders?" – and it would seem that the CMC themselves have had similar thoughts. This week's episode sees the return of Dave Polsky, who I think is now the only S1 writer remaining on the team. This time around, he's working with Josh Haber; seriously, are we going to get any one-writer eps? Past the break for more thoughts.

I enjoyed this one, although it isn't perfect. We get a reasonably good look at the question of how the three CMC members (though mostly Apple Bloom) cope when they're not with the other two. In AB's case, things don't go terribly well for a while, to the extent of her verging on a "Lesson Zero"-style breakdown at one point. (If she can't find a friendship problem, she'll make a friendship problem...)

Tender Taps, the colt who Apple Bloom (eventually) helps to get his cutie mark, is a moderately engaging character, though I can already see the avalanche of cutesy shipping of the SweetieMash variety that their scenes are likely to produce. It does feel a little forced when AB fails to realise what he needs the first time, but at least we end up getting another Tabitha St. Germain voice acting masterclass (as the dance tutor)!

Treehugger the art model
Nude models in a TV-Y show? It's an outrage, I tell you!
Another interesting thing about this episode is that I think it's the first in the series' entire history to feature no appearance by any of the Mane Six, even as a background pony. Rarity is name-checked a few times, but that's all. (Related: where are her and Sweetie's parents these days?) Some people have already speculated that this may be the germ of a CMC spin-off series. I'm not convinced... yet. Hopefully Bulk Biceps isn't in it.

This episode also sees the first (real) song of S6, and it's also significant for being Apple Bloom's first full solo. "Out On My Own" is a pretty solid song, and although I don't think AB's accent is ever going to sound quite right for laments like this, Michelle Creber has a damn good try at making it so. At this point in the narrative, if this weren't MLP:FiM, you'd be fearing that there was going to be a full-on downer ending to the episode.

The main problem with "On Your Marks" is its somewhat up-and-down pacing. As has been the case with quite a few eps, it takes a while to get going but resolves its central conflict a little too quickly and easily. Yes, this is (ostensibly) a show for kids, so perhaps I shouldn't be too harsh, but it did feel as though Tender Taps had had his cutie mark epiphany excessively delayed for the sake of the big musical scene near the end.

Tender Taps looking nervous
"Pinkie! You didn't tell me about 4chan!"
This is another solid episode, and may just about be my favourite of S6 so far – not entirely surprising as I'm often a fan of CMC stories. It's not a great episode, partly because of the pacing issue and partly because it doesn't hit us with anything really major, but it's the sort of character-based story that the series does particularly well. Perhaps Polsky wouldn't have been my first choice to write an ep like this, but he did a solid job with it in the end.

Also, episode-specific outro music seems to be a thing now.

Best quote: Apple Bloom: "Oh, hello, girls."

  • Addresses a subject that we've all wondered about
  • Takes on the subject of how growing up changes friendship dynamics
  • Apple Bloom's first solo song is a good one
  • Tender Taps is a pleasant enough support
  • Some funny visual jokes and references
    • The pacing was a bit inconsistent
    • You could see the ending a mile off
    • I'm just not a big fan of Bulk Biceps


    1. Not a bad episode, but it's a unique one as this is the first episode that doesn't have the mane six to appear in it. Unfortunately it's also the second episode in a row that didn't have Dash feature at all! Boo!

    2. You could get round that by having Rainbow resign as a Mane Sixer and nominating Scoots in her place. ;)