Review: "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Magical Mystery Cure:" You Say Why, I Say "I Don't Know"
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the Hub, it’s not going to be much of a surprise that the season finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, “Magical Mystery Cure,” promises a big change to the status quo of the show. Ads have been running for at least two weeks and My Little Pony fandom has been buzzing about it for even longer than that. However, I only follow the show on DVD and almost never watch live TV any more, and found out about the big twist of “Magical Mystery Cure” recently because of forum discussion on this site. If you’re like me with little concept of context and/or are trying to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that “Magical Mystery Cure” is a pretty good episode of the show but I’m afraid the show has done better with similar material in the past.
Like many episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the joys of “Magical Mystery Cure” are not to be found in where you’re going but in the trip to get there. Once the premise of the episode is established, it’s pretty clear how and where it’s going to go by the end, but if you’re serious about avoiding spoilers before the episode airs, I’d skip the rest until after you’ve seen it.
At the start of the episode, Twilight Sparkle learns that all her friends’ cutie marks and specialties have been switched around: Rarity is ruining the weather, Pinkie Pie is trying and failing to maintain Applejack’s orchards, and so on. Only Twilight Sparkle is unaffected, so it’s up to her to find out what caused the switcheroo and undo the damage. Body switching is a fine premise for a story, and “Magical Mystery Cure” does a pretty good job of telling that story. However, the real purpose of the episode is much bigger. The problem of the cutie mark switch turns out to have been caused by a long-unsolved magical spell, and Twilight Sparkle proves her mighty magical mettle by solving it. This leads to a transformation and a promotion, as she sprouts wings to become an alicorn (with both pegasus wings and a unicorn’s horn) and is named the newest Princess of Equestria.
Unfortunately, “Magical Mystery Cure” can’t quite support the weight of both these stories. There’s a bit too much going on to fit into one episode nicely, but not quite enough for a full two-parter. I can envision the show using the body-switch premise for a perfectly good full episode, but Twilight Sparkle’s coronation means the entire thing has to be packed into the first two acts of the show to leave the third for the big event. Opting for the one-episode alternative makes the main story feel a little rushed and perfunctory, which is very different from the usual peppy pacing and predictable story that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic usually has (and, in this case, “predictable” is definitely not intended as a derogatory adjective). Too many twists feel more like going through the motions, and while it’s fun to watch Twilight Sparkle gradually bring her friends back to their normal selves (in one of the episode’s better musical numbers), a bit too much of the stuff before it feels a little forced, such as Twilight Sparkle’s brief moment of despair before she bucks up and buckles down to solve the problem.
Speaking of the music, there are quite a few more musical numbers than normal in this episode, and while there are a few delights, almost as many have that same perfunctory feeling. I may be solidly in the minority for not adoring Disney’s The Lion King, but one reason why is that I feel like too many of just don’t add much to the proceedings, and exist only because someone decreed that it’d been too long since the last song. Unfortunately, I have the same feelings about some of the musical numbers here, which is unusual considering how often the show manages to score hits with its song-and-dance routines. The delays incurred by singing plot points rather than saying them may also contribute to the rushed overall sense of the episode.
Finally, I just didn’t find myself as bowled over by the big finish. It’s big and splashy, to be sure, but I didn’t find myself as emotionally gripped as I did during the climaxes of episodes like “Sonic Rainboom” or “Adventures in the Crystal Kingdom.” And again, I suspect the reason is that the setup of the first two acts wasn’t compelling enough to make the payoff of the third feel earned. Combining these two stories together has the unfortunate side-effect of slightly undermining both.
Don’t get me wrong: “Magical Mystery Cure” is not bad by any stretch and is a perfectly good episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The problem is that many of the other episodes of the show have led to much heightened expectations, and against those, “Magical Mystery Cure” falls just short. I have no strong feelings about the big change, other than a little disappointment that the uniform distribution of unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies in the Mane Six characters is now broken. In the end, the most serious criticism I can level against the episode is also inadvertent, because the episode didn’t manage to win me over wholeheartedly to the change. This might be a side-effect of a lack of context, but somehow I suspect many in brony-dom won’t feel much better about it.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic “Magical Mystery Cure” premieres on the Hub on February 16, 2013, at 10:30 AM (Eastern)/1:30 PM (Pacific). Check out the Hub’s official My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic website for more details.