Monday, 23 May 2016

Episode review: S6E09: "The Saddle Row Review"

The Sweep song
Yes, I'm weak, okay?
All right then; it's time for another episode review. This is the episode that was called "Saddle Row & Rec" in a number of places – but, in the end... wasn't. Nick Confalone's writing record on My Little Pony hasn't been too bad: he brought us the reasonable "Party Pooped" (in partnership with Jim Miller and Jaysson Thiessen), the decent "Hearthbreakers" and the enjoyable "No Second Prances". What could Mr Confalone bring to the party this time? Let's see after the break!

Well, this was unexpected! Season Six's first out-and-out comedy episode, and it's one that – after a couple of viewings – I've come to really like. The structure is a first for the show: it's told in flashback as the Mane Six explain what happened in the run-up to the opening of Rarity's new store in Manehattan. (Come on, guys, can't Canterlot get a little love again? Manehattan isn't that interesting.) It's almost a mockumentary, which I suppose is why the unused title references Parks & Rec.

Note that I say "Mane Six". Not only is Spike absent (either at home or at a comic shop) but so is Starlight. This does actually matter, since a fair bit of the humour in "The Saddle Row Review" revolves around the non-Rarity principals making good-natured jabs at each other's little foibles and quirks. That sort of thing only works with very good friends, and reformed as she is, Starlight doesn't quite qualify on that score just yet. It'll be interesting if the show goes on long enough to let her do so.

Fluttershy hides among the Gala dresses
As we saw back in S1, Fluttershy feels at home with fabric
There is some truly hilarious comedy in this episode, and a lot of it is in the little touches of dialogue and behaviour we see. One of my favourite's is Pinkie receiving the bill for her enormous meal and trying to hoof it off on the interviewer. And on the subject of journalists, I'm interested to see that Equestria has a J. Jonah Jameson analogue. Some fanfic writer cleverer than me may well end up doing a Power Ponies version of this episode on the strength of that!

There's so much comedy here that you really can just list scenes almost at random. Which is handy, as that's how I generally write these reviews anyway! One that amuses me greatly is the notion of Rainbow Dash as an HR manager (what? It clearly stands for Horse Resources), something so absurd as to be somehow absolutely perfect. Add on a couple of sweet touches, such as Fluttershy's scenes with the raccoons and the cameo from cold-afflicted Coco "Miss" Pommel.

Let's be honest, though, a good deal of this episode is basically a big pile of memes. Now, normally when writers try to force in a big pile of memes, it doesn't work at all. This time round, most of them do actually come off. Clearly the queen of them all is Twilight's "Sweep" dance, which has inevitably already been remixed multiple times by the fandom. Rarity's "NO SPOILERS!" will certainly come in handy. The (slightly clichéd) mafia landlord's doll's-house furniture obsession is forgotten about, but his (annoying) daughter's love of spoons is not.

Fluttershy and the Rarity angel/devil figures
"You mustn't listen to that ghastly red one. Please, darling, don't read 'Cupcakes'"
There are several callbacks to earlier episodes in "The Saddle Row Review". We briefly see the Gala dresses Rarity made way back in S1, for example – but more intriguingly, there's a brief glimpse of a second Pinkie Pie. As our Pinkie has been talking about the Mirror Pool, we're clearly supposed to believe that the other one evaded Twilight's zapping, but I just wonder – we did see a changeling at the very end of the season premiere, after all...

A few things do miss the mark. Plaid Stripes is easily the most irritating character in the episode, and is only intermittently funny to balance that out. We really don't need to be told DJ Pon-3's officially sanctioned name three times. (Why not just "DJ" after the first one, à la Big Mac?) "Car horns" is a real stretch, considering the FlimFlamMobile is the only car seen in the series so far. And nopony seems to address the question of why the preparation work for "Rarity For You" was left so late in the first place.

None of those problems hole the episode below the waterline, however. Crucially, the humour remains intact and the mockumentary feel is maintained right up until the final scenes. This is Confalone's best episode to date, and although it's not as comprehensively satisfying as the show's very best instalments (like last week's!) the comedy is generally strong enough that that doesn't matter too much. S6 still hasn't produced an episode I actively dislike, and long may that continue!

Rarity and Fluttershy with the raccoons
Rarity's audition for King Kong was not an unmitigated success

Best quote: What else? Twilight: "Sweep sweep sweep..."

  • Very funny for most of the time
  • Clever, original (for this show) structure
  • Forced memes that work? What is this madness?
  • Some hilarious facial expressions 
  • The Rarity shoulder angel/devil
  • Twilight's epic slo-mo dive
  • That intriguing glimpse of Other!Pinkie
  • Plaid Stripes was sometimes more annoying than amusing
  • The whole "DJ Pon-3" thing really grates by the end
  • Rarity's lack of planning would have been a problem in a more serious episode


  1. An fantastic episode, which had me grinning from ear to ear all the way through (even if Dash has been hit the idiot stick again!) Would have to say this is my favourite episode of season six so far.

    1. Probably second for me. I wasn't sure about it first time round, but found it much funnier on a rewatch. As for Rainbow... it's AJ's influence, clearly. :P