Episode [2.25] – “A Canterlot Wedding – Part 1”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“But… I don’t understand. Who’s getting married?”
“Oh, wait! Uh, I was probably supposed to give you this one first.”
“Princess Celestia cordially invites you to the wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and… *gasp* My brother?!
Apologies for the brief hiatus there. We had a convention to attend and recover from (omg Bronycon 2015 was awesome) and the recovery time wound up being a bit more than I expected for me.
Anyways! Season finale time. Back to the books, down to business, and all that.
A Canterlot Wedding is, for many reasons, an important finale for the series in general and for me in particular. It’s not my favorite season-ender (that goes to Best Night Ever from last season, which I covered already back then), but while I’m sure those attached to S4’s finale would disagree, I think it might be the best one (as of this writing, at least, we’ve yet to see S5’s finale and anything beyond). That is, of course, assuming we’re just counting episodes proper, if we include the movies as stand in “finales”, then my answer to both “best” and “favorite” changes, but we’ll get to that eventually (commence angry mob for my even suggesting that). But in any case, my overall point – A Canterlot Wedding is a really good season finale. I’d even argue that the two parts taken together come the closest to feeling like a proper “pony” movie than anything else we’ll get until the 2017 movie. It’s definitely the most “Disney” feeling the series has ever gotten.
On the other hand, this finale does represent a bit of a shift in the series itself, and requires us to sort of give a nod to the toyetic nature of the series. This isn’t anything particularly new – My Little Pony was born out of the era of cartoons that existed more to be lengthy commercials than they did to be a storytelling medium, and while bits of this had always been present in G4 up to now, none of what the show included felt particularly guided by marketing decisions (say what you want about Lauren Faust, she did a fantastic job at keeping that aspect in check). The first real chip in the armor for this kind of thing was the Friendship Express (the train engine that replaced the concept of ponies pulling the train on their own from last season), but Princess Mi Amore Cadenza (aka Cadance) is the first major shift towards design-by-marketing, and it winds up taking a torpedo to one of the early established pillars of the lore – namely the status of alicorns, what they are, and what they do. Prior to this it was fairly cut and dried – Celestia and Luna were the only two pegasus-unicorns who filled very specific deity-like roles, responsible for the day/night cycle and the ruling of ponykind in general. Cadance’s introduction muddies things up a bit, as it called all of that into question, and raised a bunch more. The behind-the-scenes answer is pretty straightforward – Hasbro wanted another princess pony toy to sell, and with the pressure to de-pinkify the Celestia toys, they wanted a replacement pink unicorn-pegasus hybrid to put on shelves. Cadance existed as a concept prior to this episode and was going to be used in a similar way – but she was originally going to just be a unicorn, related to Celestia presumably in a similar way to Prince Blueblood. After Faust left the show, Cadance was re-purposed as an alicorn for that purpose.
That said, the whole thing does wind up shaking out to something that worked out just fine in the end, and I absolutely love Cadance as a character. But it was sort of a head-scratcher at the time and made for a slightly troubling precedent that would effect the series in major ways in the future (whether in good or bad ways depending entirely on who you ask, but the two major fandom-rocking controversial story decisions yet to come down the line would arguably not have been possible without setting this first precedent).
As to the episode itself. Twilight and the others get invited to Canterlot for a major wedding between the aforementioned Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and… Twilight’s brother. You know, the captain of the Canterlot guard that she’s soooo close to, the one we’ve seen every time we’ve been to Canterlot because he totally was around the whole time and this isn’t the first time we’re even hearing about him? This, almost moreso than the appearance of a third alicorn, is one of the major storytelling sins of this finale, as they basically try to sneak it past us that we’ve never even heard of this guy before. Granted, outside of the Apple family the relatives of the Mane 6 are somewhat scarce in the series, but with how close Twilight claims she is with her brother combined with the importance of the position he was supposed to have, it sticks out like a sore thumb that he’s never come up before now, particularly with how often the cast has gone to Canterlot, you’d have thought there would have been some appearance or mention of the dude. It’s something that I’m willing to swallow and move on with in the end for the sake of running with the story (and Shining Armor makes for a fun character both here and in the future anyways), but it still bothers me how out of nowhere this whole thing is.
And then Big Brother Best Friend Forever starts playing and I suddenly don’t care anymore. Here’s where this starts to get a little bit personal for me – this episode first aired on the day one of my best friends (who, incidentally, I always considered something of an older brother figure) moved out of the apartment we shared for several years together, in order to move in to a new apartment with his soon-to-be wife. It was an emotional departure on its own, but I literally got home from helping him with the move, turned on this episode, and the song hit, and I was suddenly a blubbering mess. BBBFF still makes me tear up whenever I watch or listen to it. It was a massive coincidence that this episode had the themes it did at the time it aired for me, and admittedly I think that plays a not-insignificant role in why I feel so attached to it.
I do really like that the protective force field (that should look a bit familiar as we’ve seen smaller versions of the same spell the past two episodes) surrounding Canterlot is visible from Ponyville in the shots that we get prior to the group arriving. The reason why it’s up is a bit weirdly vague, with the explanation being that an outside threat towards Canterlot has been made, leading to Celestia pouring resources into preemptive defense. Exactly what said “threat” entails isn’t really ever explained, and to be honest it makes for a bit of an awkward set up (including questions like why whoever wants to take aggressive action against the city would make their intentions known ahead of time). I sort of tend to hand-wave it a bit as less of a direct intentional declaration of hostile intent being made from an unknown source (which is odd no matter how you look at it) and more that Celestia’s sources picked up on something being wrong and having reason to believe that there are hostile forces preparing for something without really knowing too many details. Regardless of how you slice it, it’s an awkward set up, but another one I’m willing to swallow for the story that grows from it.
And then we’re introduced to Cadance herself. Twilight’s recollection of her is one of a fun-loving, caring foal-sitter, who’s specialty in magic (and more or less her “role” as a princess) is concerning the nurturing of love between ponies. Exactly how that works is a little vague (there have been all kinds of jokes poking fun at the one scene we get of seeing her magic in action and it’s potentially unsettling implications, also hi Sibsy), but at the very least she seems to be able to help smooth out bumps in relationships between ponies by reminding them of their love for one another (we’ve yet to see anything full-on cupid’s arrow from her so it’s not super clear whether or not she’s able or willing to make ponies fall in love with each other). The older Cadance that shows up, however, doesn’t quite match up to Twilight’s memory. She’s a bit more cold, and is far more formal than the much more humble mare from Twilight’s past, insisting on being called by her full name and title. She’s also a bit of a Bridezilla, being hyper-critical of everything Twilight’s friends are doing in preparation for the wedding. All of this rubs Twilight the wrong way, and her opinion on her brother’s fiance sours incredibly fast, and she quickly comes to the conclusion that Cadance isn’t the right mare for her brother. Her friends don’t quite see it the same way, as all of the things Twilight points out are actually fairly reasonable ways for a bride-to-be to be acting. Rarity points out that there’s nothing wrong with her wanting something specific for her wedding dress (and, to be absolutely fair, it’s not like Twilight and her friends were any less picky in a similar situation), Applejack brushes off Cadance’s obvious dishonesty of her feelings on the baked goods as trying to be polite, and Pinkie is… well, completely oblivious to the fact that her style of party might not be taken as the most appropriate for a wedding reception.
Twilight attempts to confront her brother on the matter, but Cadance gets his attention first. Twilight tries to listen in on their discussion (presumably as she overhears Cadance’s mentioning of needing to talk to Shining about her), which escalates into a minor argument over Shining Armor’s wedding attire. The argument is cut short by a migraine, which Shining Armor has been getting due to the stress and effort of keeping the force field intact, and Cadance casts some kind of spell on him in response… which Twilight immediately takes to be something hostile, and decides her future sister-in-law isn’t just a bad match for her brother, but that she’s straight up evil. Running back to tell her friends, she’s greeted instead with the news that they’ve been chosen as replacement bridesmaids for Cadenza, as something happened to the previous ones. They’re too excited over the whole thing for Twilight to consider them to be on her side, and the whole thing builds up as just more evidence that her brother’s fiance is eeeevil.
The following day is the rehearsal, but rather than take part, Twilight makes her stand, announcing that she wants the wedding called off, and makes her accusations against Cadance, who leaves the room in tears. Shining Armor angrily has answers for every issue Twilight raises. Her bridesmaids were replaced because they were more concerned with hobnobbing with Canterlot royalty than with being a part of the wedding. The spell Cadance cast on him was to help ease the pain of his migraines. And overall, Cadance was super stressed over the wedding preparations, and any quirks in her behavior were coming from the pressure to make everything perfect on her own as Shining Armor had been too busy to help with any of it. Shining Armor revokes his offer to have Twilight as his Best Mare, her friends awkwardly leave to help check on the princess, and Celestia sternly suggests that Twilight think hard about how much she overreacted to her feelings of possessiveness towards her brother. The entire thing is a lesson to Twilight about assuming the worst in others, and being overprotective and hostile to the changes coming in her brother’s life. As Cadance re-enters the room alone, it looks as though the next course of action is for Twilight to apologize and hope to be able to make amends…
…except, whoops, nope, turns out Cadance really was evil all along, as she casts a spell that sends Twilight… somewhere. Uh… bye, Twilight!
As one final shout out, something that I had no idea about prior to learning about it in reading up on it but I think is amazingly cool : The reprise of “Big Brother Best Friend Forever” ends in B Minor as opposed to the non-reprisal’s D Major. What is that called when that kind of shift is made? A Deceptive Cadence.
Overt toyification wasn’t the only thing on Hasbro’s mind with this season finale: they also pulled out all the stops by placing a wedding announcement in the New York Times (yes, this actually happened, and it’s awesome). Yes, it was a marketing tactic, but it was also a nod (overt admission?) that this whole “brony thing” was quite real and was actually making an impact. Heck, that may have been some folks’ first view of G4 My Little Pony, though to be honest I can’t say I’ve ever met a fellow brony who joined the fandom as a result of seeing that ad. I’m sure there are a few of you out there… let us know if you’re one of them!
Anyway, out of real life and into the show (you mean the show’s not real life..?). I share Tessa’s concerns about the hugely massive quantities of hand-waving going on to introduce all the plot elements of this episode, but I too generally forgive the writers and show staff for them since… well, they really had a lot they were building up to, even if it doesn’t necessarily seem that way for the entire first half of the finale (well, up to the last few seconds of the episode, anyway; more on that in the last few seconds of this writeup). Even with all those sins absolved, though, the one thorn that is perpetually lodged in my side is the line in the B.B.B.F.F. song that goes “He taught me how to fly a kite.” The song as a whole is wonderful, but this one line is an absolute and total whiff. Unless flying a kite held some kind of intense significance to Twilight’s childhood (spoiler alert: it didn’t), there’s seriously no reason at all to have that line in the song except as a desperate attempt to find something to rhyme with “We never had a single fight” (which, spoiler alert, actually was significant to this episode). Much better would have been lyrics that emphasized Twilight’s and Shining Armor’s close relationship and upbringing together, such as “He helped to show me wrong from right.” That would have pulled double duty from the standpoint of sharing emotional depth with the rest of the song as well as being relevant to the events of the episode (namely, when Twilight and Shining Armor arrive at different conclusions to Cadance’s behavior).
Anyway, that nit having been picked, what a great song… and what a great opportunity to toss in a scene of everypony (sans Twilight) being totally stoked and giddy with excitement. Every now and then you get some scenes that either make you blush in embarrassment or giggle with glee on account of how, er, whatever this scene is. But it’s cute, and cute ponies doing cute things is certainly smile-worthy.
To be honest, I can’t quite recall what my initial thoughts were regarding the introduction of another alicorn into the canon the first time I saw Cadance appear on-screen. In fact, my opinion on the whole matter is somewhere between neutral and apathetic. On the surface it does seem that adding more princesses to the mix causes Princesses Celestia’s and Luna’s significance to take a huge dump, but at the same time it adds all sorts of potential: are there greater and lesser alicorns? Are all alicorns immortal? Are they born or do they ascend? It is quite apropos that just before doing this writeup I read (well, listened to the audiobook version of) the fanfic A Moment in the Sun, which pointedly addresses this latter question in what I found to be a rather well-written (and spoken) way. While I’d recommend it on its own merit, I’d also recommend it as something that ties in well with this particular episode (as it does involve a certain pretty pink princess). The story does contain a character that doesn’t get introduced until later in the series (well, okay, not the series per se), but I’d say it doesn’t actually contain any real spoilers. If anything, it provides some context and background to both this episode and future canon, both of which could have benefited from some additional context and background. If you’re a fanfic kind of person I’d recommend it, even if you’re not yet all caught up on the series by this point.
The rest of the episode plays out more or less like a pretty decent slice-of-life episode where Twilight is freaking out over something that’s surely just a misunderstanding, but by and large it seems rather unremarkable. One could be forgiven for feeling a bit let down as the seconds left in the episode dwindled away: I mean, yeah, decent episode, and there’s definitely something fishy going on, but did it all warrant that NY Times ad and all the hype on TV and everything?
And then this happened…
…and… so, there was a time many years ago back in college when I was watching 24 with my friends. That series was pretty much made of cliffhangers, sure, but there was one particular cliffhanger that was so abrupt and intense that in one fluid motion I jumped up off the couch, pulled out the cushion I had been sitting on, and chucked said cushion at the television in exasperation and incredulity while shouting “WHAAAAAT??!!!” at the top of my lungs. Had I been sitting on a couch while watching the last few seconds of this MLP episode under present deconstruction, I probably would have done the same thing. This ending doesn’t necessarily make up for the entirety of the enjoyable but otherwise so-so episode that preceded it, but it does quite forcefully thrust you into your seat and demand that you buckle up… because things are about to get crazy-go-nuts.
To calm you down enough that you don’t chuck your chair into your computer monitor due to the suspense My music recommendation for this episode is BBBFF (Evening Star DnB Remix) by Evening Star, a super-chill remix of (surprise) BBBFF. Perhaps not the very best remix of that song out there, but dang it Evening Star makes some fantastic music that one can listen to for hours on end before realizing said hours have slipped away. I may or may not have listened to his music for hours on end. Mostly may.
If you caught this review Saturday afternoon, you may have noticed that my part wasn’t so much finished. I will direct any questions on the matter to this green unicorn horn over here which totally won’t mess with your perceptions or memory.
So, okay, wait, hold up. Twilight has a brother that she hasn’t talked about for two seasons? And Celestia has a niece? Who is another alicorn? Does this mean that Celestia has another sibling somewhere? How did Celestia not notice that Princess Demandypants was acting strangely? Are she and Luna too focused on the anonymous external threat to pay attention to internal matters? Or, heaven forbid, does Princess Mi Amore Cadenza always act like that? Twilight has an uncle? And is there something… narrow about Cadance’s dimensions? Like unhealthy body image skinny? Who in their right mind would put a baby dragon in charge of a bachelor party?
Eh. I’m sure that at least 20% of these questions will be answered. Eventually.
This episode has all the hallmarks of being another “Twilight is being obsessive and negatively detail-oriented” story until the last twenty seconds. There have been enough of them over the last fifty episodes. Twilight being defensive about her friends is pretty normal by now; having fought so hard to gain them, she’s now more than willing to go to bat when someone insults or belittles them. Add the stress of her brother’s sudden wedding and a vague yet credible threat to Canterlot, and she’s bought a one-way ticket to Conspiracytheoryville.
And then Cadence imprisons her in a green bubble and drops her through the floor. Her actions to this point have been fishy but credible. General haughtiness, rude behavior, eyerolling the second someone turns around; these are fairly common among Canterlot unicorns. Green mojo? Unusual, but everyone’s magic has a different color. I’ve associated green as a healing color since early Final Fantasy games. Replacing her fillies in waiting? More Canterlot politicking and backbiting. Green fire, imprisonment, and melting into the floor? Whoa, hey now, this is some Maleficent-level villainy. As long as she doesn’t turn into a giant black dragon and start breathing fire at Shining Armor, I’ll be fine.
Side note: If she does turn into a giant black dragon I need to see Spike turn into a giant purple dragon, followed by some Power Rangers-esque city battling.
All told? It doesn’t feel like a particularly solid episode. Lots of set up, not much payoff. It definitely feels like the first part of a two-parter, but each part does have to stand on its own (unless you’re airing them back to back).