MLP - "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" - Review

Once again this review will contain spoilers. Those of you who haven't seen this episode yet, you have been warned.

So the episode starts with Mr and Mrs Cakes showing Pinkie Pie the cake they've made for an upcoming desert competition. Pinkie has volunteered to transport the cake to Canterlot for them, which starts with a rather stressful moving of the cake from the shop to the train. While the trip to the train is successful, they find that getting it onto the train will be more tricky, leading into today's title sequence.

When the episode begins proper, we find that the ponies have managed to get the cake on without incident. All of the six main ponies are on the train and are looking forward to the desert competition at Canterlot, which will be some time away. It's here that three new characters, a griffin, a unicorn and a donkey, all come aboard and declare their intent to win the contest with their own respective deserts. The train soon sets off and the passengers all settle in for the overnight trip to the capital. But Pinkie is worried that someone might sabotage the Cake's cake and vows to guard it during the trip. As the night passes, she does her best to keep a lookout on the cake, but a mysterious intruder manages to find their way into the cart. Pinkie tries to catch them, but they elude her. Fortunately, it looks like no harm was done to the cake, that is until the following morning when Twilight points out that several bights were taken out of the cake's hidden side.

The rest of the passengers join them as this discovery is made and Pinkie declares that she, with Twilight's help, will find out who the culprit is. Twilight suggests finding clues but Pinkie says she already knows who did the deed. She then accuses the griffin of having done it. Through a black and white silent film, Pinkie explains how he could have done it, but Twilight points out that the marks on the cake don't match up with Pinkie's description of how he could have pulled it off. She then accuses the unicorn baker and, by way of a James Bond parody clip, says he must be some sort of secret agent charged with ruining the cake. Twilight then points out the flaw in this second accusation and Pinkie lets him off the hook. And so her attention is drawn to the final baker, the donkey. We get another clip, this time a parody of ninja movies, as Pinkie explains what happened, but Twilight once again shoots down her accusation.

Its here that Pinkie questions that, if the culprit wasn't one of the rival bakers, why was the cake bitten into and not one of the other competing desserts? Just then, they pass into a tunnel and everything goes dark, When light returns they all find that the other desserts have now been similarly defiled. Twilight instruct everyone else to return to their cabins while she and Pinkie continue their investigation. Twilight suggests that Pinkie re-trace her steps from the previous night. As Pinkie describes what she did the previous night, Twilight says she has an idea who did the crime, but needs more evidence first. When Pinkie has finished her description of the events of last night, Twilight declares that she knows who did it.

Everyone gathers to hear what Twilight has learned and it's here that Twilight reveals that she had a piece of evidence that point to the true culprit, a blue feather. Rainbow Dash now seems to be the criminal in question but Twilight insists that there's more to it. Further evidence shows a strand of pink hair in one of the other cars, which points to Fluttershy being the culprit. Twilight then reveals a third piece of evidence, an eyelash matching Rarity's. The three of them apologise to Pinkie for having done it and Pinkie now says that the case must be solved. But Twilight says that it isn't as there's still the issue of who ate the other deserts. After a brief discovery of clues, Pinkie declares that the other deserts were eaten by the three rival bakers. They all apologise to each other for having done it as Pinkie had described them so well that they simply could not help but eat them.

And so our episode ends with Pinkie narrating her letter to Princess Celestia as the ponies solve the issue of what to present at the dessert competition by simply combining all four into a join entry.

So then, how does this episode hold up?

Well, as you can probably tell by both the name of the episode and the synopsis I gave, that this episode is, for all intents and purposes, a loose adaptation of the classic Agatha Christies novel, "Murder on the Orient Express". A rather odd choice of story to pick for a kid's show but then I've always been a fan of giving kids decent literature so I guess I can't complain too much. The story is, of course, mostly a mystery one, with Pinkie acting as the de facto detective trying to figure it out. As a genre, I will admit that mystery stories like this have never been "my thing". Oh to be sure I've seen plenty of stories that had mysteries in them that managed to keep my interest, but it's just never been a genre that I've gone out of my way to try and watch. Having said that thought I felt that this episode did a pretty good job of showcasing the genre. I was honestly unsure throughout most of this episode about who the culprit would ultimately be, so I guess that's a fairly sizeable victory on the part of the episode's writers. But then again, I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised at their skill in this field. After all, if you remember back to my review of "Last Roundup" I mentioned how impressed I was at how my interest was kept regarding the mystery surrounding Applejack's actions in that episode. Mystery, it seems, is something these writers really know how to pull off. And bravo for keeping a sense of uncertainty throughout the whole thing. I really did not see the final revelation coming.

This at first seemed a rather odd choice to do for the episode. After all, the last time Pinkie tried to solve a mystery she had a mental breakdown. But then again, I suppose that past experience has show that whenever Pinkie has set her mind to something, very little can come between her and her goals, so in hindsight she was probably the best choice for a story like this. Her character, being the focus of the episode, provides many interesting moments. I admit to being fairly invested in her investigation throughout this episode, seeing her apply her, for lack of a better word, "logic" to all the clues and turns the mystery gave her. It was a fairly interesting sequence of events to watch so on the basis of being something to hold my interest, the episode works.

In-keeping with the mystery element of the story the characters, of course, taken on the personas of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in order to try and figure out who took the bit out of the cake. Now, I'm of two minds on this particular choice. One the one hand I've made it very clear in the past hat I typically don't like it when pop-culture references are included into fantasy stories like My Little Pony. And even though the stories of Sherlock Holmes are well over a century old at this point, the effects remain the same, and that effect is a break from the immersion of the world it's trying to create. I can't stand here and think this is some self-contained world that has nothing to do with real-life or other franchises if characters are running around dressed as other fictional characters from those franchises. However, on the other hand I did find the whole role-playing aspect of it rather amusing, especially since the roles are reversed, with Twilight, the smart one, being reduced to the sidekick role of Watson and Pinkie, the silly one, taking on the role of Holmes. Now before anyone jumps down my throat on this one let me say that I don't think Pinkie is an unintelligent person. Far from it. But when you literally have the smartest character in the show standing next to you then having her just follow you around as you make your investigation is rather odd thinking. But then again that would be in-keeping with Pinkie's character so I guess I can't fault the writers on that one.

Also I'd like to talk about originality for a moment. Now I've seen many stories in the past that have tried to emulate the tales of Sherlock Holmes, but I don't think I've ever come across ne where the roles were reversed like this. Now maybe this is just me and this reversal is a common joke in cartoons. But like I said, I don't know so I can't really say whether or not it really is an original idea to do this. But from my standpoint it was an interesting take on the whole angle so I'll just say right now that I appreciated the turn it took. But then i suppose, since it ended up having Twilight become the Holmes in the end anyway, it doesn't really matter if it's a common joke or not.

As this episode features a number of new character I'd like to take a moment top discuss them. All three of them didn't really seem that strong to me. They were all pretty much one-joke characters that probably won't get used again any time soon. However, what makes them work is how they were implemented into the episode. The mystery surrounding whether or not they did the deed of eating the cake was well done. When they were introduced I was sure that one of them must have done it, and indeed they had the greatest motivation for having done it as they stood the most to gain. But what really helped these characters for me was Pinkie's brief descriptions about how they could have done it. Each gets their own little parody of a particular genre of films, from silent to ninja. I absolutely adored these moments in the episode and found them to be incredible entertaining. I'm not a big viewer of these types of movies so I can't really say how close or not they are to their source material, but they were funny enough to stick out in my mind even when compared to other Pinkie moments.

As for the other characters, I'm afraid we have a bit of a hit-and-miss situation here. The hit in question is Twilight. Here she behaves very in-character, both as the voice of reason and as a, for lack of a better word, "straight man" to the silliness of Pinkie. Whenevr Twilight's gained a look of exasperation on her face during Pinkie's moments, I really felt how irritated she must have been. Because believe me, I've been there. As for the miss, that would be Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying that they were terrible. They all acted within their established character traits and all did well in their respective scenes. However, their decision to eat out of the cake just boggles me. I know it's established that Pinkie's description made the cake sound delicious, but they knew full-well how important it was for this cake to remain intact throughout, and they did it anyway. Also, I'm not quite sure why it was that these three in particular were chosen to be the culprit in the end, or why the writers didn't just go all the way and have the whole cast be involved in some way. Having just these three be the eaters just doesn't make sense.

Also, and this is purely a bit of fan-interpretation on my part, but I really liked the inclusion of Mr and Mrs Cake in this episode. Here, they show an extraordinary amount of trust in Pinkie's ability to get the cake to the capital in one piece. This is just me thinking out loud here but it seems very much an extension from Pinkie proving herself to be a responsible person back in "Baby Cakes", so the Cakes know she's someone you can count on. But that's just a theory on my part, I have no idea if that was the intent on the part of the writers, so don't quote me on this.

Humour now and, as you'd probably expect from an episode starring Pinkie Pie, the episode was utterly pack with many funny moments, from her typical random behaviour and dialogue to her four-wall-breaking moments. The episode was littered from top to bottom with moment that had me in absolute stitches throughout. One of the most notable was Pinkie's constant misunderstanding of proper grammar when discussing "who did it". Now normally I'm not one for recurring jokes, especially when they come across as the kind of jokes the writers are trying to force us to like. But here it felt very natural to the character to be involved in a string of jokes like this. Pinkie has, in the past, often shown something of an obliviousness about her surroundings and the things other people say to her. So it makes sense that she wouldn't get it into her head to say the words right. On top of that, Andrea Libman's delivery of the lines was just spot-on and had me laughing every time.

No song this week so I won't be talking about one.

Time to talk about the moral-of-the-day now and this week it seems to be that you should not jump to conclusion about other people. Sometimes you need to go a bit deeper before you can say that someone did something when there's a chance that they might not have done. I'm not really sure what to make of this one. On the one hand it's certainly a good lesson as it's never good to be accused of something you didn't do. But on the other hand it doesn't really seem like a moral so much as just general good behaviour. But I suppose that's no real criticism so I guess it's fine as a lesson. In fact there's an element that mirrored myself during this episode. As I said earlier, I, like Pinkie, was sure that one of the competing bakers was responsible for eating the cake. Like Pinkie I jumped to conclusions about them and was wrong, so this moral lesson really hit home for me.

Overall I thought this was a very good episode. The humour, the well-written story and the inter-play between all of the various character made this, in my opinion at least, a vast improvement over the last few episodes I've watched. In many ways it seems to be following a pattern that started with the first season, with a funny Pinkie Pie-based episode coming immediately before the season finale and being one of the highlights of the whole season. I don't know if this was an intentional move on the part of the show's creators, but if it was then it's an interesting step for them to take. All-in-all the episode has good character moments, lost of laugh-out-loud jokes and provided buckets of entertainment from start to finish. I heartily reccommend this one.

Join me next week when I'll be discussing the season two finale, "A Canterlot Wedding".

Somehow, it took me about two or three views before I finally noticed how they actually got the cake into the train. For a brief moment, you can see Big Macintosh putting the walls of one of the train cars back up.

I find it rather odd that Twilight doesn't seem to know the word "Whodunit", despite reading many mystery novels.

And, no. Pinkie Pie never broke the fourth wall in this episode, nor any episode. This garglemesh has to stop. Even the writers pointing this fact out gets ignored. The problem, as I've observed from discussing this, is that a lot of people don't even seem to know what "Breaking the Fourth Wall" even is. They get it confused with "doing weird stuff". Seriously, they say stuff like her stretching, floating, and pulling random objects out of nowhere amounts to 4th-wall-breakage.

Review needs more pictures!

I have a short attention span so...

What's this post about?

OT: It's a mix of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, hence the train, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, hence the deer stalker hat and pipe.

Well I suppose the reason why most of the mane 6 were the culprits at the end is because I read that the casts in Agatha Christies book "Murder on the Orient Express" were also the culprit (I don't know who exactly since I haven't read the book, I just read some trivial info on that episode).
Heck I even read that in the original script, Applejack was also a culprit. She was so sneaky that not even Twilight found evidents from her until Applejack honesty force her to confess.

Gustave was funny. The french accent was overdone and made his personality amusing. But ashamed on Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity for eating the cake. Damn dweebs, can't keep there claws... I mean, hooves, off the damn sweets. Bunch of fatty little losers. Hahaha!

 

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