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Episode 23. “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”: In Which the CMC Got a History Lesson

Sunny Fox

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These namby-pamby stories aren’t getting us any closer to earning our cutie marks. They’re all about “finding out who you really are” and boring stuff like that! – Scootaloo

The Cutie Mark Crusaders are trying to get their marks in zip lining, despite Sweetie Belle’s uncertainty. Unfortunately, the friction from the three sliding fillies burns through the rope, dropping them through the trees and onto the ground. As they clean off the tree sap and pine needles, they lament their continual lack of success. Apple Bloom suggests they ask some of the ponies who already have their cutie marks how they earned them. Scootaloo, typically, thinks Rainbow Dash should be their first port of call.

They start off on Scoots’ scooter and trailer, and come across some “varmints” who have been stealing from the farm and are being chased by Applejack, who collides with the three. Apple Bloom asks her sister to tell them her cutie mark story, despite Scootaloo’s protests, since more help is better help.

When she was a filly, Applejack decided she wanted to leave the farm and live the sophisticated life. She makes her way to Manehatten, where her Aunt and Uncle Orange live. Quickly adapting to the high life, she seems to be fitting right in… until she mentions the farm and the roosters who used to wake her up. This baffles the other guests, and makes her aunt look rather embarrassed. She also finds the fancy food fails to fulfil. Later in her room, she really feels homesick. Suddenly, a rainbow appears that seems to point back to Ponyville. She finally realizes that she really does want to live and work at Sweet Apple Acres. She runs home to Granny Smith and Young Big MacIntosh, and as she gets there, her cutie mark appears.

Her story told, Applejack sees the varmints have come back to taunt her, and runs off after them. Scootaloo, unsatisfied with such a “sappy” story, reiterates her determination to hear Rainbow’s cool cutie mark story. The CMC almost crash into Fluttershy, who is leading a family of ducks across the path. Hearing that they are looking for RD, she mentions that she got her cutie mark thanks to her.

When Fluttershy was a lanky little filly, she was shy and a poor flier. Believe it or not! After being taunted by the young stallions (from “Sonic Rainboom”) for her lack of ability, she is saved by filly Dash, who tells the bullies to knock it off. To prove her toughness, filly Dash agrees to race the two, and Fluttershy is the flag waver. The three speedsters accidentally knock Flutters off her cloud, and she plummets to the ground. Luckily, there is a low flying cloud of butterflies to catch her. Amazed at her first experience of the world near the ground, she sings a happy song as various woodland creatures surround her. A sudden loud boom and rainbow startle the animals, sending them running and hiding. Fluttershy manages to talk to them and assuage their fears, discovering her special talent and gaining her cutie mark.

Despite having gotten a bit of RD’s story, Scootaloo wants to know more about the race itself, but Fluttershy is unable to give her any more information. Sweetie Belle suggests that maybe Rarity will know where Rainbow is. Not one to let an opportunity go by, Rarity enlists their help in making some dresses, as she tells her own story.

Rarity always wanted to be a fashionista, but was unhappy with the costumes she had made for the school play. With time running out, filly Rarity gets despondent. Suddenly, her horn activates on its own (suck on that, Twilight! Unicorn magic only happens when you decide to make it happen, is it?) and drags her out of town and over the hills for an entire night. Despite fighting it for a bit, she decides to let her horn have its way, hoping that it will have something to do with her love of fashion, and maybe even her cutie mark.

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I used to wonder what my destiny was…
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And then it hit me!

Filly Rarity angrily demands to know why her horn brought her all this way for a “dumb rock”. A sudden rainbow shockwave passes by, splitting open the rock and revealing a horde of jewels hidden inside. Using the jewels to spruce up her costumes, she makes the play a great success, and finally achieves her cutie mark.

An exasperated Scootaloo delivers the quote at the top of the page, and despite Rarity trying to point out that “finding out who you really are” IS the way to earn a cutie mark, she pushes the others out, declaring “We need action! We need Rainbow Dash!”

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...you got Twilight.

Filly Twilight was awestruck by Princess Celestia raising the sun, and decided to devote herself to the study of magic. She commenced a comprehensive course of voraciously devouring various treatises on prestidigitation, mysticism and enchantment. Her parents decided to enroll her in Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, to her delight. Not so delightful, though, was her entrance exam. Bringing in a purple spotted egg, the examiners watched with stony expressions as she tried to do… something to it.

Too nervous to concentrate, Twilight resigned herself to failure, when a sudden loud noise startled her. This unleashed her magic, which caused the egg to hatch out into a familiar little baby dragon. However, unable to control her power, she proceeded to turn her parents into plants, levitated the examination panel, and cast a forced aging spell on the newly hatched Spike, sending his head crashing through the roof and into the open. Seeing this from outside, Princess Celestia herself came in to calm Twilight down with a touch.

Coming back to herself, and undoing all the effects of the uncontrolled magic burst, Twilight tries to apologize, but Princess Celestia tells her that she has a very special gift for magic, and that the Princess wants her to study and learn to control it: as her protégé. Not only that, but her cutie mark has also appeared in the meantime. An ecstatic filly Twilight jumps around yelling “Yes!” continually…

…and turns out also to be doing so as a full grown mare in the present. The CMC take the chance to escape, and once Twilight realizes what she’s doing, she sheepishly assures the bystanders that she’s fine.

Scootaloo is wondering why they are running into everypony except Rainbow Dash, when Pinkie appears in the trailer too, saying that if she were Rainbow Dash, she’d be at Sugarcube Corner. She promises to take them there as long as they listen to her cutie mark story too…

Filly Pinkie lived with her family on a rock farm. They were serious and dour folk; they never had a smile or a reason to pretend; their world had flat backgrounds, and little need to sleep. (And that, little ones, is how you quote an R.E.M. song) One day, as Pinkie was delaying her return to the house, a sudden rainbow and shockwave appeared, causing her straight mane to turn poofy, her coat colour to become more saturated, and her face to smile. She wanted everyone to feel that joy, but since rainbows aren’t that common, she needed to find another way.

So she spent the night preparing a party, and in the morning, brought her family in to see it. Although it seemed at first as if they couldn’t handle it, they all found the joy that Pinkie had found, and as they danced, her cutie mark appeared…

Pinkie ends her story with probably the strangest non sequitur she’s provided yet (see quotes below) Following Pinkie into Sugarcube Corner, Scootaloo finally finds the idol she’s been looking for this whole time, along with the rest of the Mane Six. Already aware that they want to hear her cutie mark story, Dash looks modestly pleased, and then jumps right in.

Filly Dash flew as fast as she could for the sake of Fluttershy but she found that her opponents were also pretty fast. Refusing to lose to the bullies, Filly Dash pulled out all the stops, flying faster than she ever had before, sending them both into a tailspin. And then, it happened! For the first time since the days of legend, Filly Dash reached the rarified heights of Pegasus potential, and caused a sonic rainboom. Realizing that she made the impossible happen, Rainbow won the race, and at the same time earned her cutie mark…

Apparently hearing the story for the first time, the rest of the Mane Six one by one realize that that sonic rainboom was the cause of each of them being able to discover their special talent and earn their cutie mark. The Mane Six have a heart-warming group hug, to Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle’s delight, and Scootaloo’s disgust. Unperturbed, the two fillies catch their compatriot, gal pal, confidant, bosom buddy, etc in their own group hug. Fluttershy suggests singing another song, eliciting a big NO! from poor Scootaloo.

Back in the library, Twilight writes a letter to Celestia, saying that some ponies may have a mystical connection to their friends, even those who they haven’t made yet. Spike, like Scootaloo, isn’t so impressed with the more saccharine aspects of the day’s lesson…

 

Thoughts on the Episode

I love backstory and world building, so this episode is delightful, if a little bit diabetes inducing. The filly versions of the Mane Six are adorable. Let’s look at each of the stories in turn:

Applejack’s Story:

Special mention should be made of Applejack’s freckles, which were more numerous back then. I also found it quite funny that Applejack harboured thoughts of the high society life, which is something usually more associated with Rarity. Her time in Manehatten seems to have stood her in good stead, considering her stint as Apple Jewel in Simple Ways.

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Caption? This don't need no caption! Enjoy the awesome!

There’s a delightful little visual treat in the story. At the party, her mane is elegantly styled, but when she mentions the roosters, a few strands suddenly stick out, marring the perfection and showing that her more rustic side is making itself known. And to cement the message, her aunt then tries to smooth the stray strands back into place. Although I have to question how the Manehatten socialites can be so ignorant as to not even know what a rooster is.

There’s also the question mark of Applejack’s parents. They don’t appear, and neither does Apple Bloom. Was she even born yet? Although I suppose they could have been on the farm, and they just didn’t see her off for some reason. Or maybe I’m overthinking it.

Fluttershy’s Story:

Fluttershy definitely looks taller and slimmer than any of the other fillies. This ties in well to her statement that she is a year older than Pinkie Pie. Since the rest of the Mane Six fillies are the same shape, it’s possible that they are all the same age, and Fluttershy is just one year older for some reason. We also get to see Filly Dash here, and hear her voice breaking, which is just awesome.

The major problem here is that despite Filly Dash racing for Fillyshy’s sake, she seems rather unconcerned that she might just have killed her by knocking her off the cloud. Perhaps she just didn’t see her falling.

Speaking of, I have to wonder just how a flock of butterflies could safely stop her fall… maybe just one more example of Pegasus magic at work? Her “I love the ground” song is sweet, and the way she really belts it out is an indication of just how happy she is. Overall, just a really sweet little story.

Rarity’s Story:

I spy Filly Cheerilee among the costumed performers! I guess she must be the same age as the Mane Six. It seems there was also another teacher in Ponyville before her. Is it just me, or does the teacher’s mane look like a tennis ball?

Filly Rarity doesn’t yet have her trademark accent, but her mane and eyes are just as beautiful as ever. She also seems to have quite a lot of potential magical strength herself, since her horn is powerful enough to tug her along, and to detect a cache of jewels from over the hills and far away… literally. Someone needs to make a neverending gif of Rarity going up and down the hills.

I find it funny to look for parallels between Rarity and Sweetie Belle, and one makes itself known here. Rarity says “dumb rock” in much the same way Sweetie said “dumb fabric” in The Showstoppers.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that, since I’ve pointed out the contradiction of what Twilight believes versus what happened to Rarity often enough. Speaking of Twilight, let’s move on to…

Twilight’s Story:

It starts with Twilight attending one of the Summer Sun Celebrations. Distractingly, many of the background ponies of the present are shown in the flashback, giving the impression that some ponies are either unaging, or have identical clones in later generations. I know it’s just for convenience, but still. Twilight’s mom and dad are shown, and as a point of trivia, the mother shares the appearance of the G1 Twilight. I feel like they missed an opportunity to introduce her brother here, but possibly he wasn’t even thought of at this point. Come to think of it, Pinkie’s story didn’t show Maud either, so that’s probably the reason.

I wonder what the test for other applicants was. Surely they don’t have a ready supply of dragon eggs with which to test every potential student? Or maybe they do. At least Twilight’s insistence on the importance of tests and being prepared for them now has an explanation. This also introduces Spike, although he described his egg as “purple and green”, while this one is “purple and pink”. A minor inconsistency. I’d also like to point out that the dragon shown on the cart clearly has no wings, even though it appears to represent a fully grown dragon. For this reason, I think Spike is one of a species of dragon that is wingless by nature.

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Her little jump for joy session is quite funny, especially the way it brings us back to the present time.

Pinkie’s Story:

Although at the time, fans were uncertain as to whether or not Pinkie was actually telling the truth about her cutie mark, given the rather unusual setting of a rock farm, and with the way she ended by saying the “how Equestria was made” line, season 3 confirms the existence of the rock farm in Magic Duel, and of course, in Season 4’s Maud Pie. As I mentioned above, Maud seems to have been a later addition, since she isn’t shown (and no, she’s not one of the other sisters.)

This story is notable for providing the first true middle name for a pony with “Pinkamena Diane Pie”. Pinkamena has since become the name for depressed Pinkie in fanon, which annoys me a little, since I don’t see depressed Pinkie as a separate personality. Sad or angry or whatever, it’s still Pinkie. Besides, wouldn't Diane make more sense as the sobriquet for the alternate persona? (Whom I don't think exists.)

A good continuity nod is the music that Pinkie has playing during her party. It’s the same as the music she played in Swarm of the Century to lure the parasprites back into the Everfree Forest. We also see three balloons that end up being her cutie mark, which is a nice touch.

Rainbow Dash’s Story:

Pretty much the simplest story, as it does little more than tie up the other stories. And be awesome, of course! One thing to mention: since the bullies are clearly two of the same ones we saw in Sonic Rainboom, it seems a little odd that they don’t know about Rainbow Dash doing the sonic rainboom. Even if they were knocked out when it happened, surely the word of all the other ponies who saw it happen and were cheering would have confirmed it for them. A slight nitpick, though.

There isn’t that much to say for the main story, being little more than a link between all the flashbacks and backstory.

 

Highlights/Quotes

Each flashback forms its own highlight.

Pinkie tells her story:
Pinkie: “…and that’s how Equestria was made!”
Scootaloo: “Wha... huh?"
Apple Bloom: "Look! Here we are!"
Pinkie: “Maybe on the way home, I can tell you the story of how I got my cutie mark! It’s a gem!”

 

Pros: Backstory and more backstory. Seeing the Mane Six as fillies was fun too.

Cons: Some question marks are left. We still don’t see most of the family members of the Mane Six. Background ponies are repeated in the flashbacks.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Stay sunny side up!

  • Brohoof 2


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