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MLP G5 Make Your Mark: A Re-Assessment of the Pilot


Misty Shadow

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This was already posted in the Make Your Mark pilot thread, but it's been a long time since I last posted a review in a blog post, so here you go. 

https://www.deviantart.com/mistybrightshadow/art/Make-Your-Mark-Chapter-1-Review-970891594

The pilot special to the MLP G5 series, Make Your Mark, deserves more credit than what it’s generally given. I don’t believe that to be a particularly controversial statement, given the evidence that shows this special is actually generally regarded by the majority of MLP fans to be good, just not great.

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I was in this apparent majority at the time when this special was brand new. However, it has always been common for me to come across some bizarre and questionable criticisms for this special coming from fans who would definitely be shocked by the subject of this writing. Usually, people who don’t like this special, which is their right, just say they find it boring, that the oddities in the animation were a turn-off, and that they felt the story had pacing issues. Those are the normal criticisms I usually see. The outlandish stuff I’ve come across is people saying that it’s “proof G5 has already failed”, viewing it as worse than the worst specials of Friendship is Magic, worse than Tell Your Tale, and a “return to the pandering, substance-lacking, girly mushiness” that the worst of pre-G4 My Little Pony is notorious for.

Remarks like this have been given a fair share of reproval. However, the stigma surrounding this pilot remains. Why? Even with its flaws, the writing, animation, world-building, and humor are still clearly competent at worst. I can admittedly say the same for Tell Your Tale too, but that series, despite being something I generally enjoyed more than the pilot when I first watched it, very clearly has far less effort put into its production. My theory as to why this special has the stigma it does, however, has to do with just that. It’s because this special had a higher production value that people held it to a higher standard. Not only did people who don’t like the Tell Your Tale shorts want this special to make up for them, they also wanted the special to make up for flaws in the G5 movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation, giving them more lore explaining why Equestria changed.

MLP content in general is too often held to an unreachably high standard of quality. It’s even worse in this case too once you consider this pilot’s true role. It’s not to “clean up a mess”. It’s to get the audience settled into the world of a TV show, and that is a job that takes any show time. It already is “making up for Tell Your Tale”, not just by having higher production value, but a much more intricate plot than several of the Tell Your Tale shorts put together. That plot is also not about Equestria’s past and why it changed. This pilot’s plot is about Equestria’s present. Trying to squeeze in a subplot about what happened in the past, something that was already planned for the comics, would’ve been jarring, especially to viewers unfamiliar with the full story of Friendship is Magic.

Long story short, this pilot needs to be judged on its own merits. I admit that I had my own personal biases too on what it “should’ve been” my first time viewing, which caused me to not like it very much. I wanted a story focusing on Sunny, not Zipp. I quickly dismissed Posey as a “less entertaining” Sprout. Having been spoiled by Tell Your Tale’s fast-paced shorts, slower-paced scenes felt like they were dragging on. But when I re-watched the special after putting those sentiments past me, it was far more entertaining than I remembered.

The big contributing factor to me enjoying it much more upon re-watch was realizing that there were no true flaws with the plot’s structure. The world-building aspect of the story picks up right where the movie left off, providing essential development about how the magic works, there are no filler scenes, and every main character plays a role that contributes to the story. I’ve heard criticism of how this special gives every main character a role to play, saying "their stories don’t come together", calling their plot points “random detours that aren’t connected to the main story”.

I believe this critique to be bunk. First of all, of course the stories of the main characters come together, the entire plot is about the ponies uniting to create new magic while discovering how it works, the actions of the main characters are vital to that development of the series' world. Second, nothing about their plot points is random or meandering at all. Sunny needs to learn to control her powers in order to save the ponies who fall into the void, she needs Izzy’s lamp to light the way, Zipp does not randomly become a detective with her progression as one being a staple of the series, Pipp’s scene at the salon is important buildup to the scene where the characters discover what causes the magic to glitch, and Hitch’s plot is necessary for adding a new character to the series. Even if Hitch's plot point might not appear necessary to one's idea of this opener’s plot, it is necessary to the series’ overarching plot. Writers for a series like this can not just write with no semblance of a plot. This special is part of a series with lore that has been planned in advance and impacts all of G5’s media.

A more understandable criticism I’ve heard of this special is the lack of elaboration on what the holiday, Maretime Bay Day, meant to the earth ponies. It is explained as a celebration of their traditions, but doesn’t go in-depth. This is for the special’s benefit though, as focusing on giving every main character a role to play in a character-driven plot is far more important that giving a holiday an extensive background. However, since this is my own personal re-assessment of the special, I need to move onto deconstructing past opinions of my own.

A criticism of the plot of my own I am honestly contemplating retracting now is how the story focuses on Zipp instead of the main character, Sunny, even as the subplot surrounding her is predictable, having an easily foreseeable conclusion. I realize now that since the plot is about figuring out how the magic works, it makes perfect sense for “Detective Zipp” to be put in the spotlight. As for the subplot, of course we all know Zipp is not going back to Zephyr Heights. But is it really so needless if you look at it as progress for Zipp’s character, choosing where she feels she really belongs?

More on my own criticisms, I still don’t find Posey as amusing as Sprout…but I appreciate her character more now. Despite the fact that she’s a jerk, much of her frustration is easy to empathize with and I enjoy how that seems to be the writer’s intent. In real life, people are not the way Posey is for no reason. They generally just want to be left alone, like Posey, so when you see Posey face obstruction and the destruction of her property, you feel a sense of understanding. You can also understand why she and the other earth ponies would feel a sense of inferiority to the other pony breeds for not having magic like them, driving them to bad behavior. When she and all the other earth ponies get their own magic, you feel happy for them even after the way they act. This is also crucial for the world-building this special provides, since now, Posey and the earth ponies are less justified in feeling that their behavior is acceptable.

Finally, while I am still more partial to stories with faster pacing, I did not find any flaws with the flow of this special’s storytelling after viewing it again. I already mentioned how there’s no filler, every scene is important to the plot, and every character plays an important role. Animation oddities can still be a distraction from the viewing experience, most notable to me upon rewatch was color shading around the eyes of the characters that made them look tired at certain parts. It was still easy for me to be invested in the plot though as I appreciated more how elaborate and colorful the animation was and noticed how much humor sprinkled throughout the scenes there actually was. Izzy’s reaction to Pipp singing her very unfinished song in the kitchen, for example, is priceless. Other great moments include Izzy’s explanation of the secret ingredient, Hitch’s “It’s not not allowed!” line, and Zipp’s timeless “I can zip it.” pun. Some of the humor is stupidly amusing, definitely, but it’s the good kind of corny humor Friendship is Magic gave us plenty of too.

Overall, this pilot is nowhere near as mundane or poorly done as some have framed it to be. This is another high-quality MLP special that you may have been led to believe is far worse than it actually is because of biased criticisms from fans trying to only focus on its shortcomings while ignoring its accomplishments. It’s still up to you to make up your own mind, but I hope my re-assessment will encourage you to go back to the special and re-assess it for yourself.

Edited by Misty Shadow
Updated link.

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