Watch as Apple Bloom shows that some ponies have the best nightmares.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders are all about sweating the small stuff (themselves), but when Babs Seed sends a letter about receiving her cutie mark, they realize that once they get a cutie mark they can no longer be a Crusader. It’s the rule. This leads Apple Bloom to worry about the aftermath of her BIG EVENT. She gets herself so crazy-worked up at bedtime that her sister sings her a lullaby (!) so that she might sleep. Well, darn, if she doesn’t wake up with a surprise in the morning…
It is hard to put a point on how exquisitely the production team executed this episode. The pacing may be the best of any episode; event after event blasts through, punching out an emotional strike, before galloping onward. The first nightmare sequence is visceral in its impact. It’s delivered so deadpan that when the shock of seeing the pest-pony cutie mark wears off, it comes across as “yes, this is what happened to Apple Bloom.” You believe it’s happening, down to how perfectly Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon set up the real nightmare scenario. It is only when Ponyville comes under attack after Apple Bloom gives up her cutie mark (with Starlight Glimmer’s scheme from The Cutie Map pt 1 and 2 fresh in your mind), that you begin to hope that it is a nightmare, even dread it might not be. Certainly, Ponyville-destroyed would have changed everything, and for a moment there is a liminal frisson of a new reality setting in and you can’t but help but believe that Ponyville is gone. It’s a masterful use of the episodic nature of the show and the plot device, down to the lightning bolt that wakes Apple Bloom. Then follows the potion-apple cutie mark and the heads of many fans probably exploded. As the episode progresses, each cutie mark vignette expertly and progressively cloaks itself in the textures of a real nightmare, from sudden transportation between places without the change registering as weird, to the actual warping of reality when Apple’s Bloom’s home disappears through a door in a dark forest. Luna’s appearance bends reality completely, while keeping the story from stepping into the realm of full on horror. The writing and the animation, including the comedy that is sometimes dark and almost sadistic, is absolutely top-notch.
Once again, the CMC provide the writers with an approach to subject matter that seems too juvenile for the Mane 6 to tackle, but proves important for children and insightful to their parents and a wider audience. While worrying herself into a tizzy was formerly Twilight’s bailiwick, Apple Bloom plays the part naturally. Reaching goals can be a scary process for children. Graduating from primary school to secondary can you leave you wondering if you’ll lose your friends or whether it will turn you into someone you’d hate, like the obnoxious high-schoolers that once taunted you. In these exquisite set of nightmare scenarios, Apple Bloom plays out each of her fears: getting a cutie mark she doesn’t like (having a career you hate), no longer fitting in with the CMC because she has a cutie mark and they don’t (going to college while your friends get jobs instead), and being rejected by her family because her cutie mark isn’t an Apple (being rejected for something intrinsic, like announcing you’re gay).
Cutie mark magic: definitely a theme for this season.
What to watch for (and comment upon):
- What is Bab’s cutie mark?
- Is Twitter a thing? What other episode “mentions” it?
- Why does the term “moving on the greener pastures” work so well?
- Appreciate how the pest vacuum is ergonomically designed for use by a pony (verses, lets say, a chair).
- So, did you think it was Starlight Glimmer in the forest?
- One of AB’s cutie marks is a potion-apple. What are the chances this is actually her future cutie mark? Is that we don’t see a possible future cutie mark for Sweetie Bell or Scootaloo a clue?
- What happens when you scare a hen?
- Breakfast keeps changing each time Apple Bloom wakes up.
- This episode references many previous episodes. In which episodes did Apple Bloom first help with potions, make a potion, and learn about potion-making? In what Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle episodes did Luna appear in dreams? What episode dealt with parasprites?
- So… Scootaloo has a flying dream. Good for her to take advantage of it.
- (!) Did that cute lullaby count as a song? Check the credits.