Episode [3.13] – “Magical Mystery Cure”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“A mark of one’s destiny, singled out alone, fulfilled. From all of us together, together we’re friends. With the marks of our destinies made one, there is magic without end!”
Twilight Sparkle wakes to find that not only have her friends’ Cutie Marks have been swapped, but their entire sense of self and destiny have also been altered as well. Worse still, they are completely and utterly incapable of fulfilling the destinies they think they’ve always own, which leads to the precipitous erosion of Ponyville and its surroundings. In what can only be considered My Little Pony: the Musical, Twilight rushes to put her dear friends’ destinies back on track… and unknowingly moves to fulfill her own destiny in the process.
Within the first three seconds of starting this episode, you know this one’s going to be huge. Sure, it’s the season finale, but pretend for a moment that you didn’t know there were only 13 episodes this season: even then, the extra sparkles and shine of the opening shots and the swelling music provide a clear giveaway that there’s something magical about this one. Something mysterious. Something… curative? Okay, the episode title is a little, erm, weird, but if that’s the price for My Little Pony: the Musical, I’m fine with that.
Twilight wakes up to another perfectly normal day in Ponyville where everything is just fine. The weather is wonderful, ponies are all doing their thing, everypony is happy… and then a patchwork quilt of stormclouds comes and rains on Twilight’s parade. What gives? Are the weather ponies smoking poison joke? Turns out something even stranger is going on: Rarity has Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark and is taking on her duties. A tip from the weatherfashionista leads Twilight to Rainbow Dash’s, née Fluttershy’s, cottage to find Dashie with Fluttershy’s cutie mark and doing a pretty wretched job of taking care of the woodland critters. Fluttershy’s doing a pathetic job at keeping a crowd entertained at Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie Pie is breaking her ankles trying to take care of Applejack’s farm (seriously, her legs twist in the most grotesque of ways when she tries applebucking), and Applejack is back at Carousel Boutique making dresses… or rather, not-very-close estimations thereof. What’s going on?
Back at the library, Twilight recounts having received a special delivery from Princess Celestia containing Star Swirl’s most powerful yet unfinished spell (in a book that looks exceptionally familiar… hay, foreshadowing!) and casting it in hopes of seeing what it would do. As it turns out, the spell interacted with the Elements of Harmony and caused their powers to jumble together, which had the superficial effect of changing the colors of their respective gemstones and the much more profound effect of altering the bearers’ destinies, which in turn manifested in the form of swapped cutie marks. At the time, Twilight thought nothing of it; now, she realizes she may have permanently corrupted her friends’ lives, and sinks into arguably the saddest song of the entire series thus far. And by arguably, I mean… there’s no argument here: this is sad.
Now, let me pause for a moment and state the obvious: this episode is zipping by at warp speed. The series is notorious for having rather egregious pacing issues during premieres and finales, but this one really takes the cake. We’ve introduced a crazy problem, discerned the cause, lamented the realization that it was the result of a careless mistake, seen its catastrophic consequences, and have determined to find a way to fix it, all while somehow managing to go through three feature songs… and we’re not even 30% of the way through the episode. To the episode’s credit, though, it is trying to do something completely new (for the series, anyway) by making a musical out of the entire episode, and all things considered it’s actually not doing that bad of a job at it. I do feel a bit miffed that the whole bit about Twilight inadvertently munging her friends’ lives was literally crammed into the span of about sixty seconds such that the gravitas doesn’t have time to sink in before we are whisked away to the next song. I’ve always felt a strange fascination with the concept of cutie marks, and while this episode illustrates that there are very powerful forces at play with those butt tattoos (a factor that makes the events of several future episodes all that more impactful), to have such an epic opportunity for exploration apparently go to waste is just disappointing.
All that said, all these ideas and events do end up sticking with you by virtue of them being all rolled up into catchy songs. As a result, they kind of operate in a delayed-release fashion: you barrel through the episode at breakneck speed, wonder what happened (and we haven’t even gotten anywhere close to the end yet, oh ho), and then hours, days, or in my case years later find yourself humming the songs and reliving and re-exploring those ideas. The music sticks with you far beyond the 22-minute hurricane, and what at first seems rushed and compressed gradually stretches out into something more beautiful.
Or something like that. Enough waxing philosophical. Time for more ponies!
In true “dude, we’ve only got 22 minutes here, hurry up!” fashion, Twilight quickly goes from despair to hope as she realizes what can help her friends: her friends! This is, admittedly, drawing from a very similar well to that used in the Season 2 finale to release everypony from Discord’s discordination, but this time it’s less about Twilight forcing memories back into everypony’s head and more about each one rediscovering her talents through their mutual friendship. Tied together with a fun musical score, the entire sequence is very heartwarming and beautiful. It’s songs like this that seem hokey and juvenile when taken at face value, but when reflected against personal experiences demonstrate mastery of a much deeper meaning. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always been there for my friends in their time of need, and recalling those times makes me feel awful; on the other hoof, those times I was there for my friends when they really needed a friend were some of the greatest moments of growth for me. Everyone benefits from friendship, and getting that message out there sooner rather than later (read: to the show’s target demographic) can only be a good thing.
Also, I absolutely love watching everypony transition from hopelessly crushed (or, in Dashie’s case, lunch) to grateful and happy. There’s only so much sad pony you can take at once; happy pony is why I love this show, and I’m glad the happy returns with such a flourish.
With her friends’ destinies now back in order, Twilight is struck with the final words of Star Swirl’s spell; upon completing it in the spellbook, she is rewarded for her efforts by getting
vaporized by her friends transported to an ethereal plane inhabited by Princess Celestia. One touching ballad set among a field of memories quite reminiscent of the Architect scene from The Matrix Reloaded, the Sun Goddess of Equestria bestows upon Twilight a new life of learning and a new body to go with it: Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, is now an alicorn. All these years later, that scene where Twilight is encased in magical energies and transcends into alicorndom (and perhaps immortality, though this has yet to be confirmed or denied) still chokes me up a bit. That moment in one’s life where things permanently and profoundly change and there is no going back is a powerful one, and I think the writers, animators, and sound artists really nailed it in that scene. Liquid pride.
Right about here is where most reviewers inevitably go off on a tirade about Twilacorn and how it did or did not ruin the show for them, so I’m going to buck that tradition and instead focus on the real stars of the episode:
The only reason Twilight is where she is now is because of her five wonderful friends who taught her the virtues of charity, compassion, devotion, integrity, and optimism (which, by the way, was a brilliant choice of words to use over the usual!). Without them, she’d still be stuffed away in Canterlot somewhere doing an insane amount of research that, while probably intellectually fulfilling, would surely leave her empty on the inside. I’d elaborate more on this, but best to let the show speak for itself in a couple seasons. 😉 In any case, I’m very happy that Twilight’s ascension was in no small part the result of the efforts of Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash. Had the series ended here, as many have surmised was a possibility way back when, I think I would have been satisfied. Sad to see the show end so suddenly, but glad to see it go on such a high note.
But it didn’t end… and that’s even better!
After the winds stirred up by this hurricane of an episode died down a bit and I was able to watch it again with fresher eyes (not to mention yet again many years later for this writeup), I think my opinion of this episode went from “good” to “excellent.” Pacing issues abound, to be sure, but give the messages some time to sink in and they begin to feel more impactful. That, and the episode is just plain fun to listen to: I once washed my car while listening to the episode play on my phone in the background. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has surely grown up and its new life has begun. It’s time to watch Twilight fulfill her destiny!
My listening/watching recommendations for this episode come in on opposite ends of the energy spectrum. First, we have Got to find a way (chillstep remix) by Krele, a fantastic remix of the song of the same name from this episode that is so chill and easy to listen to I could (and have) let it go on loop for long stretches without getting tired of it. I had been following this guy on YouTube for some time for his chiptune compilations (which I’d also highly recommend if you’re at all into chiptunes; you can literally go for days on this guy’s selections!) and one day decided to check out the other videos on his channel… and was pleasantly surprised to find this there! Talk about a chance find!
On the other end of the spectrum is A True, True Friend [SFM/MLP Re-creation] by Nutrafin, a startlingly accurate Source Filmmaker re-creation of the episode during that song (also recommended: the side-by-side comparison with the original episode video… sweet Celestia that’s spot-on!). The fandom that has embraced this show truly puts out some of the best fan-works I’ve ever seen, and all these years later it’s still going strong. Proud to be a brony!