Monday, 17 June 2019

Episode review: S9E12: "The Last Crusade"

Scootaloo and family. I don't think Derpy and co count!
Ah, finally! As most of the MLP-watching world will know, "The Last Crusade" made the mainstream news headlines last week. That made it bloody hard for me to avoid mentioning it until now! (Well, actually until yesterday evening, as I have a 24-hour blackout period on Twitter.) But at last I can post this review. The episode was written by Nicole Dubuc, whose record with me has been variable. Read on to discover my thoughts this time.

First up, Scootaloo's lesbian aunts. Yay. I thought Aunt Holiday and Auntie Lofty (not sure why the honorific varied) were very well portrayed. While there's an argument for saying that a full-on, unambiguous representation of an LGBT relationship might have been better, I felt that what Dubuc chose to do did work well. The aunts were just there, as a perfectly natural couple that didn't cause any special fuss. I wouldn't mind seeing them again in the show, though I doubt we will.

Scootaloo's parents were another matter. While I'm certainly not one of those people who wanted Scoot to be an orphan, the little snippet of backstory we got from her in "Parental Glideance" did suggest a slightly strained relationship. What we got in this ep was the revelation that mum and dad had simply been off doing adventurey things. (By the way, if they pull that one for AJ's parents I will go up the bloody wall.) Scoot was absolutely thrilled to see them. I'm not sure I can fully reconcile the two episodes on this.

This scene was overly convenient, even for FiM
As for those parents, Snap Shutter was inspired by Steve Irwin and Mane Allgood by Jane Goodall. For some reason, the dad was allowed to be Australian like Irwin, but the mum wasn't allowed to be English like Goodall. Discrimination! :P They were quite a fun couple, and for characters who'd had zero buildup they fitted into Equestria fairly well. (Side note: we saw continents and islands on the globe in Cheerilee's classroom. More for the world-builders there, I'm sure!) Also, Shire Lanka. Excellent terrible horse pun. :D

The actual plot of the episode was a little bit on the silly side. I mean, Scootaloo's parents come home after Celestia knows how long away, during which time we know Scoot has been writing to them – but only then tell their daughter that actually they'll be hauling her off halfway around the world in three days' time. Mind you, they didn't tell said daughter they were coming home until it was imminent, so who knows? Maybe they are useless parents after all, in which case it's a lucky escape for Scoot that everything falls into place in the end.

One thing I want to touch on here is the scene where the fillies take photos of their cutie marks and show Snap Shutter the similarities. Similarities being the key word: as Snap correctly points out, they're not identical. I liked that little observation. Though at the beginning Sweetie Belle says, "We're the only three ponies in Equestria with the same cutie mark." I'd have to go back and check, but I'd be surprised if that was actually true, given the regular reuse of background pony details in the early seasons!

Might have been nice to have a little acknowledgement of Rainbow's quasi-sibling status
Since fame in Equestria is something of a fluid concept (witness the Princess of Friendship unable to get a cab) Scootaloo's own parents apparently have no idea that their daughter and her best friends are so important to Ponyville and environs. (Mane's comment about the recent dangers meaning the family should stay together seems to have gone by the board by this point.) This gives the show an excuse to bring in a whole bunch of fan-favourite characters to stand in the background and do nothing, or at best leap around a little. Hi there Babs, Troubleshoes, DT, SS, Gabby, Tender Taps...

Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood now realise that the CMC are inseparable and let Scootaloo stay. To be honest, at this point I felt a little sorry for them. After all, they thought they'd be reunited with their daughter full-time, but are now in the same situation Scootaloo thought she'd be in. As with one or two other Dubuc episodes, there's a slight lack of coherence to this one. So, no classic but pretty watchable at least. Plus the aunts have annoyed a whole bunch of people who needed to be annoyed, and that counts for something! :D

Best line: Apple Bloom: "It's a potion I mixed up from Zecora's book. Prune is only one of the ingredients."
Best moment: CMC Appreciation Day. Sappy, but heart-warmingly sappy
Worst moment: The cragadile scene. Way too convenient

  • Scootaloo's aunts made a great couple
  • The Crusaders get to stay together
  • CMC Appreciation Day, complete with unnecessary but fun character cameos
  • Another speaking role for Cheerilee!
  • The episode structure was a tad rickety
  • Scoot's parents aren't entirely convincing
  • A bit too much crying from the fillies
  • Could someone please sort out Equestrian Railways?


  1. I.... think you've been quite rigid to this one. Sure Scootaloo's parents are not the best, but they had good intentions at heart, they were just doing it in the wrong way without realizing.

    Also this is supposed to be the CMCs finale (the celebration at the end basically tells it) so I respect it for that. Sure, I think some things in the middle act could have been done better, but I'm fine with what I got.

    IMO this was Dubuc's best solo episode by far.

    1. Well, "Newbie Dash" was supposed to be Rainbow's great Wonderbolt episode, and a lot of people disliked that. (I actually enjoyed it.) So you know, opinions.

      But I didn't hate "The Last Crusade" at all. I give an average, okay episode two stars. This got three, which means overall good. It's a fairly solid three, too, and probably is also my favourite solo Dubuc episode.

  2. I liked it, but I think the more I think about it, the more I realize that like stems from things about the episode rather than the episode itself. There's so many callbacks and exciting new things to latch on to.

  3. The Cloptimist17 June 2019 at 13:35

    I remember reading something - possibly by Jane Goodall herself! - about people constantly getting her mixed up with Dian Fossey after the release of Gorillas in the Mist, so maybe that was at play. Or maybe they just couldn't find any female VAs who could do a convincing non-Octavia British accent!

    (also Scootaloo's awesome aunt sounded like she was from New Zealand)

    ANYWAY. Less of an episode than a showcase celebration, complete with all the callback final bows of so many ponies of stories past... and if the actual plot wasn't up to much then I still loved this just as a chance to (a) tie up one of our most glaring loose ends, and (b) give Scootaloo a win.

    And Scootaloo's aunts were just awesome. I warmed to them straight away. The parents, well... They seemed nice, and if they'd been introduced back in season 2 I'd have liked them a lot, but it's just so hard to reconcile eight seasons of apparent neglect, or at least lack of support, with how nice they seemed. Still, seeing Scoots literally sobbing with happiness in their arms... I can't begrudge her that!

    1. One thing I love about the aunts, that I don't think I've seen anyone mention, is both their names come from previous gens. Lofty in particular was a G1 regular. :D

    2. @The Cloptimist: Mike Cartoon Pony, who has Aussie relatives, says in his review that Aunt Holiday's accent works for someone who comes from Australia but has been away a long time. I'll have to defer to his personal knowledge on that one!

      Still, seeing Scoots literally sobbing with happiness in their arms... I can't begrudge her that!

      I take the point... but would you feel the same way if she flew? I'm not sure I would, for all I'd be happy for her. This episode makes me fret a little that they just might take that easy way out, which I think would be a shame.

      @Present Perfect: Good spot! I should have caught that.

  4. The Cloptimist17 June 2019 at 13:40

    Oh, also, the Scootaparents are the second male earth-female pegasus couple we've seen in the space of a few weeks, following Quibble and Clear Sky. Perhaps that's a common pairing in Equestria, or perhaps, more encouragingly, nopony gives a stuff...

    1. The cloptimist17 June 2019 at 13:46

      Wait, scratch that, Clear was a unicorn, wasn't she? Ignore me.

  5. > Aunt Holiday and Auntie Lofty (not sure why the honorific varied)

    I had always assumed that it's because Holiday is Snap Shutter's sister so she gets the usual formula "Aunt", while Lofty is not blood-related so she gets the more affectionate "Auntie".

    I mentioned on EqD that I got some real Mr. Holland's Opus vibes from that ending, which seemed to me about as fitting and touching of a send-off as the series could really give the CMCs. (I was not, however, expecting two speaking parts for Terramar in as many weeks.)

    1. I suppose every family's different. I've generally just used names for my aunts and uncles, to the extent that it feels a bit odd if I refer to "Uncle X" rather than just "X"!

      I've never seen Mr. Holland's Opus. But then my film knowledge is lamentable, so that's hardly surprising.

  6. Scootaloo's parents are the worst parents so far, and this ep tried to sugarcoat their neglecting Scootaloo. They are not there to cheer Scootaloo up when she was down and they are non-existence in 8 seasons. Even in the end, they rather let her live with her aunts and friends to continue their adventure and it is too convenient. Scoot's aunts are her official caretakers now, and they don't have to worry about that anymore.
    The parents is my biggest problem with this ep, the root of this ep's problems.

    If the parents are really that cool, then why Scootaloo feel bad about herself and has to look up to Dash in the past 8 seasons?

    Scootaloo: [sighs] Me. Growing up, I never thought I'd be the best at anything, because nopony ever told me. But your parents told you over and over again.

    Those lines just contradicts this ep. This retcon doesn't work. An episode about neglecting & irresponsible parents would be better.

    1. Surely Rarity's parents are the worst? They dumped Sweetie Belle on Rarity years ago, and have barely been seen around Ponyville since! :P

      Those lines just contradicts this ep.

      I tend to think so, yes. "Parental Glideance" is a better episode (for me) by some distance. I don't want Scootaloo to be unhappy, but I think "The Last Crusade" is much too conveniently tidy in tying up the loose ends.

  7. I mostly felt the same sentiments, if a bit more positive (were I using your rating scale, this would be a low 4-star for me, I reckon). Some aspects are somewhat convenient, and in some ways it lacks the pizazz and non-linear storytelling that episodes in earlier seasons by different writers had - this is Dubuc's best solo episode (a track record consisting thus far of 'Marks for Effort', 'A Matter of Principles', 'School Raze: Part 1' and 'Uprooted' - not an inspiring resumé) largely because of what the scenario gives it then because of anything specific in the writing. If I'm being frank, this doesn't disguise the fact that a lot of her weaknesses - largely ignoring stuff in episodes prior to her tenure on the show, the little details that make a scene sparkle and linger in the memory, among others - are still quite present here. I can rag on Josh Haber sometimes, but even his "wacky cartoon antics" episodes usually still play in the same established wheelhouse as other writers.
    All that's enough to make this not the 'Crusaders of the Lost Mark'-level masterpiece it could have been, but frankly, the bones of the episode are just that solid and it doesn't have any major screwups that I'm more then satisfied enough, for now.

    Hm, I should rewatch Parental Glidence, you're all making me think about it...

    1. I must admit that I've been disappointed in Nicole Dubuc's efforts as a (solo) writer. I remember that when she joined the show's writing team, fandom reaction was largely positive. I wonder whether it would be the same now.

      By a quirk of fate, this review appeared on Amy Keating Rogers' birthday. I can't help wondering what AKR might have done with this episode's premise.

    2. @Logan So far, the only good Dubuc's solo episodes are The Last Crusade and Mark for Effort.

      "I can't help wondering what AKR might have done with this episode's premise."
      If AKR is the writer, this ep will have a song. xD Almost AKR's popular episodes have songs.

  8. I'd have to go back and check, but I'd be surprised if that was actually true, given the regular reuse of background pony details in the early seasons!

    I based a whole story off the fact that (at the time) there were 14 different ponies who had the same hourglass cutie mark.

    1. Ah, that's what was lurking at the back of my mind!

  9. I hated this episode so much, I'm actually surprised. Might post a blog about it later.

    1. Ooh, interesting. I've come across a couple of other people who really disliked it, but not as many as I was expecting. (Once you strip out the straightforward homophobes, that is.) On the other hand, I haven't found that many who adored it either. Text Review Roundup could be interesting this week.

  10. Scootoaloo’s parents are not just bad parents, they are bad writing, whether this comes from not having an in house writing staff and having to rely on spec free agents submitting scripts as and when the need arises depending on the whims of the shows exec, it's disappointing that one of the greatest undercurrent character arcs of the show can be dashed away in such a haphazard manner.
    I know the counter point is ‘well that's just head cannon’ but not all story is explicit, most of it is subtext (as noted in the aunt’s subtly) and over 8 and a half seasons you build a lot of show by subtext.
    Ripping scoots from her own backstory (and literary rip her out of ponyville, and apt parable for what the show staff are doing here)) is an awful thing to do to your own world building and fans of the show who identify with that part of the show.

    1. Hmm, I think we can chalk up another mark in the "really disliked the episode" column. More seriously, having thought about this a bit more, I have considerable sympathy for your point of view. It still doesn't make me hate the episode as a whole, but I do think Scoot's parents are inconsistent with established lore -- including, as you say, undercurrents and subtext.

      whether this comes from not having an in house writing staff

      I'm not sure it's just that. "Parental Glideance" was written by Josh Hamilton, who'd never written for MLP before, yet he did (IMO) a better job of adding to the lore in one small scene than Nicole Dubuc did in an entire episode here.