My Little Pony Rewatch Project

Deconstruction is Magic

Episode [2.24] – “Mmmystery on the Friendship Express”

This week, on My Little Pony

“That’s it, Big Mac, nice and slow. This is precious cargo you’re carrying!”
“Yes, it took months of planning and testing!”
“I would hate for it to-”
*WOBBLE*

NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING
The Cakes design a magnificent massive monster of a cake, and entrust Pinkie Pie with transporting it to an Equestria-wide competition. Somepony sneaks a bite, and she hunts down the perpetrator with gusto.


Weston

I think this episode is super fantastic, but I don’t know how well that will carry over to younger viewers. Now, this is a bit complicated, but if you’ll follow along with me for just a few moments I think I can explain why.

The references in this episode are layered fairly deep. Rather like a cake, you might say. Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”, the classic mustache-twirling villain tying someone to the railroad tracks (literally as old as railroad tracks), James Bond infiltrating a web of lasers, a ninja slashing the cake to pieces in a single stroke, Sherlock Holmes in a deerstalker and Dr. Watson in a bowler, gathering all the witnesses and suspects in one room to conclude the investigation and reveal the results. The tropes are in full force on this one; anyone who is familiar with them will be delighted, and anyone who is unfamiliar with them will be introduced.

That there’s the concern. Are the tropes too thick for new viewers? Does the episode stand well enough on its own to support callbacks to shows that were old when I was a kid? For me, the answer is yes. The references are there, but they don’t outweigh or overwhelm the focus of the action. Possible exception in Pinkie Pie’s flashbacks to the various chefs destroying the cake, but that’s a quick sequence that both makes sense in context (that’s just how her brain works [oh no she’s a troper {that explains so much about the TVTropes site}]) and is over swiftly.

The Cakes have produced the most wonderful cake ever known to pony-kind: The Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness, or “MMMMmmmmmm”. It takes great effort by Big Macintosh, with the assistance of every one of the Mane 6, to move it to the Canterlot Express, and even more effort to get it onto the train. Once the train is reassembled, we meet the other sweet geniuses entering the competition: The griffon Gustave le Grand with his well-illuminated eclairs, the pony Donut Joe with a city built entirely of donuts, and Mulia Mild with her mousse moose.

I am now imagining Julia Child as a ninja and it is amazing.

Competition between the chefs (or their designated cake-mover) is intense from the first moments. Each is certain that their masterpiece is certain to win first prize, and deeply offended at the suggestion that any of the others could possibly beat it. But it’s late, and everypony (and griffin and donkey) needs to get a solid night’s sleep before the big day. Pinkie Pie is the only one present who feels it necessary to defend the delicacy from the dastardly machinations of the others, so she stands watch all night to insure its integrity.

Three incidents occur that justify her steadfast watch: A speedster zips through the car, a quiet sneaker successfully gives her the slip, and the the lights go out long enough for a mysteeerious third party to run into a wall. The cake seems unharmed, though, and Pinkie Pie naturally falls asleep while staring directly at it. The remainder of the night passed without incident. Twilight Sparkle rose early, and was the first to discover THE CRIME.

Whodunnit?

“It’s the Marzipan Mascarpone Madness! It’s been ruined!”

At this point, I naturally assumed that Pinkie Pie had taken a bite of the cake in her sleep. I mean, come on, it’s cake, she’s Pinkie Pie, case closed! But Pinkie and Twilight resolve to get to the bottom of the mystery. Pinkie’s memory of the night before guides perspicacious Twilight to the various locations where the perpetrator(s) was(were) known to have been, and together they figure out whodunnit. It’s mostly Twilight. Okay, it’s entirely Twilight, because she keeps the clues hidden from Pinkie until the denouement.

But then, the twist! The train passes through a tunnel, and the remaining confections are viciously attacked! Who could have committed this new act of desecration?!

Turns, out, it’s almost everyone. Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity each chomped the MMMMmmmmm, Gustave munched the mousse moose, Donut Joe eated the eclairs, and Mulia dominated the donuts. A good time was had by all! …except Twilight, Pinkie, Applejack, and the engineer who didn’t eat anything, and also that whole competition thing coming up that everyone was going to. Now all of the confections are ruined, and no one has a chance to win first prize.

Unless.

GPOY

This, right here, is the series in one nutshell. The confectioneers use the remaining parts of their masterpieces to create a single giant mousseclairdonutcake to win and share first prize. And Pinkie Pie eating it in a single massive bite, I suppose that is also representative of the series. And also I suppose Princess Celestia delighting in a slice of super-rich sweets. Really, that whole scene, especially the laughter at the end. They find so much joy in each other, and that’s fantastic.

My favorite part of any crime drama / heist movie is the reveal. That moment when everything comes together, whether being explained by the investigator or showing the missing parts of the action in the heist montage. The “ah ha!” moment when everything falls into place, except that one thing that never quite gets revealed because you need to leave some mystery and/or it’s just a plot hole that would prevent the thing from working. Either way, it’s a ton of fun.

Oh, one last thing before I go. Lieutenant Columbo made a huge impression on me while I was growing up. His dogged persistence in pursuing the truth, his skill in spotting details and poking holes in inconsistent stories, his little mannerisms and quirks, and his willingness to bend rules or outright lie and steal to get what he needs. Maybe not the best hero, but certainly a memorable one.

Tessa

Mmmysteries are a genre I’m particularly fond of, and getting an episode that shouts out to it in force (not just through the references and the motif, but in its own genuine whodunnit itself) is wicked amounts of fun to me. I absolutely adore this episode for so many reasons.

First off, the mmmystery itself. While it’s true that Twilight hides the clues from Pinkie, making it near impossible for her to come to the proper conclusion herself (at least, once Twilight beat her to the clues, but to be fair it’s not exactly like Pinkie was looking particularly hard for them), it’s actually very possible for the viewers to reach the conclusion of the mystery before the reveal (or if not all of them, at least two of the culprits). The silhouette we see speeding through the train isn’t exactly vague, combined with the speed at which it’s zipping through and the question of how they disappeared once Pinkie hit the end of the train car, a particular pegasus pony can perhaps presently be pinned down as the pastry pilferer peculiarly plainly. Once Pinkie starts chasing the silhouette back the other direction, it’s notably slower and different looking… but still rather familiar if you actually pay attention, although aside from the shadow there’s no definitive dead giveaway. And, of course, as Twilight mentions, the sudden shutting of the blinds can be explained away with unicorn magic… and there are an awful lot of shots both before and after of the portrait on the wall with the evidence hiding in plain sight. Which, combined with the fact that Rarity is rather consistently attempting to hide one of her eyes behind her hair the following morning, leads us to the inevitable conclusion… Rarity wears false eyelashes!

Wait, no, the other thing.

Whodunnit?

“Fine! I’m guilty! I WEAR FALSE EYELASHES! Oh, and I took a bite of the cake.”

The only sorta tricky one to nail out of the trio of the original cake chompers is Flutters, since if you’re not paying attention the silhouette isn’t on screen for super long and there’s nothing in particular that Pinkie or the viewers gets as a clue to point them in her direction. Twilight obviously finds the dead giveaway, but we aren’t shown that until the reveal. My first time watching through, I had assumed the silhouette was the same pony both times and already thought it was Rainbow Dash just looping back around, and so it took me by surprise when Flutters was named as one of the culprits also. So… yeah, take that, me. Guess I needed the moral too.

But regardless, I do really like that just about everything is laid out for the viewer to piece things together on their own, separately from Pinkie and Twilight, and that the clues that are findable at a glance are consistent (Rarity, of course, being the one that we can actually find definite evidence for because the clues are right there in the open before Twilight gets there). I also love the call-outs to the mystery genre as a whole, with the title and the setting referencing Agatha Christie (granted, the “closed room” nature of a train sort of loses its meaning when several of the passengers can fly and another can teleport), and Pinkie and Twilight donning (and swapping) the roles of Holmes and Watson throughout the second half of the episode.

And oh my god Pinkie’s imagination running completely wild and concocting completely ludicrous scenarios as she makes her accusations against the others is just amazing. On that note, getting to see another griffon for the first time since way back at the beginning of last season is pretty great, as well as a mule that actually has something to do with the plot of the episode. And it’s fun seeing Pony Joe again. Here’s hoping his totally reasonable but maniacally delivered plan to drum up business worked out for him.

Whodunnit?

“Pinkie! There is no laser beam security system! And Joe is not sleek, stealthy Con Mane! He’s big, gruff, and messy!”
“Hey!”
“Although, you would look rather dapper in a tuxedo.”

On top of all that, I really like the moral and how it’s delivered. Pinkie starts out the trip convinced that the others are looking to sabotage the Cakes’ cake, and so when something happens to it she’s all too ready to pounce and toss accusations out at all three of them… that wind up being completely baseless. The sheer silliness of what she comes up with takes a bit of the potential nastiness of how something like that could go, but the issue there is still pretty clear. I also do like that with a small handful of exceptions, they pretty much all wind up guilty of something by the end, making it much easier for everyone to come back together, forgive each other, and come up with something great out of the would-be disaster that their actions left them with. On the flip side, I also really like that Twilight very pointedly doesn’t stop at the first bit of evidence she finds, even though she’s pretty sure she’s come to the right conclusion, she still wants to build a bigger picture. Granted, she doesn’t have much at stake in this personally, so it remains to be seen how she’d perform if the issue at hand were intensely important to her on a personal level. Hmm.

Also, we’ve seen two examples in back to back episodes of a force-field protection spell. Wonder if we can go three for three next episode?

Gerf

Weston and Tessa totally nailed it with their deconstructions, I must say. I’d say they “killed it,” but that wouldn’t be thematically appropriate: “murdered it” would be much better, but that doesn’t read well. So, nailed it is.

Only after taking this screenshot did I realize the producer's last name was "Wall," and here we have Big Mac lifting a wall. Lol.

True fact: earth ponies make great bakers. True fact: earth ponies don’t have the best foresight when it comes to certain logistical issues, such as transporting fragile bakery long distances. Or short distances, for that matter. Guess they can brute force their way through the wall though, so that counts for something.

It’s interesting watching this episode so soon after S5E09, aka Episode 100, aka “Every Fandom Meme is Hereby Canon-ized” (well, except a few… but they got those a couple episodes later so that’s cool). MLP was still young enough at this point to not have had the entire show staff swamped with the brony fandom, so rather than draw on the community for shout-outs they drew on quite a few other well-known tropes (as described above) to put together a fun ride. I guess the fact that they were such well-known tropes meant they never really registered with me as anything particularly memorable the first several times I watched the episode. Truth be told, this episode ranks quite low on my list for Season 2 partly due to my inability to really latch onto anything particularly memorable, but watching it again I see the writers and animators really made a strong effort to faithfully portray all these different tropes in a way that those old enough to recognize them would truly appreciate. And that certainly deserves some applause.

Also, ninja Julia Child for the win.

YES™

I think the other (or at least another) reason I have trouble really latching onto this episode is because its messages are… well, sort of all over the place. Yes, the moral that Pinkie spells out at the end is pretty solid, and yes, she did look pretty foolish making those ridiculous accusations. But why was she making accusations in the first place? Because somepony (okay, several folks) desecrated the desserts. And that’s the stickler: they did so “because they looked so good.” Don’t mind the fact that these were contest entries, don’t mind the fact they were others’ property, don’t mind the fact the perpetrators thought they could pretend they were innocent and everything would be okay. They looked tasty, and so they were fair game. You know what else is tasty? Candy bars. Maybe if I stick a few in my pocket when nobody’s looking that’ll be okay. You know what else is tasty? That purse sitting there unattended. Maybe I’ll sneak a few valuables out of it and pretend I wasn’t even there. Oh, and those corporate funds that just so happened to pass by my desk? A little embezzlement never hurt anyone, right? I know full well that I’m making a “slippery slope” argument here and that that’s silly, but for some reason the fact that nobody seems even slightly perturbed with the rampant disrespect for others’ hard work that was going on throughout the episode irked me just enough to be troublesome.

Also, the way Pinkie treated everyone during her accusations was not just foolish but downright cruel. Didn’t we just get done with an episode all about the dangers of making up outright lies for one’s personal benefit? I’m quite surprised Twilight didn’t lock Pinkie up in that force field bubble after her first accusatory outburst.

Also, this.

That moment when you realize what you thought was a harmless gesture might instead result in excruciating pain.

Just… ouch. Kudos to Gustave for not pecking out Pinkie’s eyes after that. Good to see a griffon again, though. I’ve missed those guys.

So yeah, lots of mixed feelings about this episode. Don’t want to be too much of a downer, though, so I’ll leave you with a peppy song that this episode inspired. Wait, I don’t think there are any. Guess one about the Friendship Express, then? How about (All Aboard) The Friendship Express by Dalken Starbyne; that one’s pretty fun.

One thought on “Episode [2.24] – “Mmmystery on the Friendship Express”

  • Noel says:

    I do agree with Gerf on the mixed message of the episode, especially since scarfing down someone else’s hard work just because it looks tasty is a long-established quirk of Pinkie’s, and even after everything discovered and learned this episode, and how everyone pooled their resources together, there’s Pinkie, doing her thing again, having learned nothing. I was really disappointed that was the laugh they decided to go out on as she once again robbed everyone else of getting to share in this delicious thing they made together. Otherwise, wildly fun and inventive episode. Really enjoyed it.

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