Might as well start by addressing the elephant in the room... was this episode rushed and should it have been two episodes? Most fans would probably say yes without hesitation. I've even heard claims that the cutie mark switch-up on it's own was worth two episodes. Just... no. Maybe it could have been one episode on it's own, and then another for the whole transformation of Twilight into an alicorn. It would certainly have been a great cliff-hanger to end the episode when Twilight has just been vaped (read it again, I said vaped) by the Elements of Harmony.
However, I'm not so sure in my own mind that the alicorn thing could have filled up an episode on it's own. My guess is that the writers had enough plot for more than episode, but not quite enough for two without significantly padding it out. So instead of padding, they went the other route, and compressed what they had into a single episode. Would I (and others) have been happier with the padding? Perhaps, but it's not really possible to tell without having something to compare...
One way they used to speed up the episode was to use songs in place of longer scenes with talking and exposition. Despite the fact that I get annoyed when there are too many songs, I found that they worked here, because they conveyed the emotion that the characters were going through in finding their destinies (I use the term loosely) mixed up. The first song also provides a great mood whiplash... from Twilight singing happily to being made rudely aware that something major had gone wrong.
Where do all these domestic pachyderms come from? And one of them seems to be wearing my pajamas...
Yeah, you'd better run... anyway: one of the criticisms was that there is a general confusion in this episode about exactly what the cutie mark of a pony represents. Does it represent the pony's destiny, or the job they do? Rainbow Dash got her cutie mark when she discovered a "serious need for speed", not when she became the weather pony for Ponyville. Sticking it on Rarity should speed up her dressmaking rather than setting her up as weather pony. There is no real answer to this one, it is indeed a glaring flaw. But what is the alternative? If Rarity is too fast, you could have it that she rushes her dresses and therefore they wouldn't be as professional. My imagination fails me in providing similar scenarios for all of the Mane 6, but it's pretty clear that the way they went is more dramatic in its effects, so maybe that's why.
So Twilight finds out that her friends' "job-destiny-thingthatmakesthemspecialthingies" are mixed up, and then (via flashback) realizes that she is to blame for it, by reading Starswirl's half-completed spell while in the presence of the Elements of Harmony, mixing them up. Maybe because the wording of the spell makes it clear that it was focused on one pony, while the EoH are by nature a power that requires multiple ponies, I dunno. One criticism is that Call of the Cutie established that cutie marks cannot be affected by magic, so this is a contradiction of that, and is therefore a plothole. That’s wrong. At no point in that episode was it stated that cutie marks cannot be affected by magic, only that magic cannot force a cutie mark to appear prematurely. That’s not a plothole, that’s a disproven assumption.
The realization that she herself is to blame for ruining her friends’ lives sends Twilight into a (very) temporary HBSoD, which she shakes off by realizing that she can fix the situation by reminding her friends of their friendships. She makes it work, and her friends, along with the entire population of Ponyville, sing another song, A True, True Friend, which is awesome.
Many critics have highlighted the fact that everything up to this point has taken only 7 minutes of airtime. They also complain that there is no villain to overcome, and no Equestria-wide threat to resolve. The point of this argument, as I understand it, is that Twilight becoming an alicorn is bad because the event that triggered it was not large or long-lived enough. For me, it is not the event itself that is the focus, it is Twilight’s realization that she had the answer all along. Some will bring up Return of Harmony and say that this is a repeat of what happened in that episode. In a way, it is, but there is a very big difference. The last time, Twilight’s realization was made possible by Celestia sending back all her letters, and Twilight reading them all again. In other words, she had to be shown the answer. In Magical Mystery Cure, the answer comes to her in the absence of any external input because she is finally at the point where she has internalized the lesson. She now has a deep understanding of her relationship with her friends that she didn’t have before this. This is what lets her complete Starswirl’s spell, his great unfinished work, and this is what enables her ascension to an alicorn state. This is her World of Cardboard moment. The specifics of the conflict of the episode are rendered ultimately irrelevant. For me, at least.
Another criticism: Twilight creates new magic, becomes an alicorn. Starswirl completed many spells, but didn’t become an alicorn. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps, but the explanation was not entirely clear. Is every new spell a new kind of magic? We don’t know enough yet to say if it contradicts or not. Perhaps one could say that’s just as bad, but I hope there will be clarification in Season IV.
So our heroine finds herself in… the Twilight Zone (YEEEEAAAAHHH!), where Celestia is there to meet her. She shows Twilight how she has been stalking her all this time (closing the gap in Return of Harmony) sings a lovely little ballad, and watches while Twilight transforms into an alicorn. The magic clearly comes from Twilight herself, so it’s not that Celestia is turning her into an alicorn. Returning to the real world, Twilight is greeted by her friends, who go gaga over her new wings, and Celestia comes to explain that she is now a princess. Twilight immediately asks if there is a book she can read, just to show she’s still the same adorkable Twilie. For the moment, at least. Then everyone bows, which people don’t like for some reason.
Next comes the coronation, and a speech by Twilight, in which she immediately thanks her friends and credits them all with helping her reach this point, which was really nice of her. Then they sing the final song of the Season, and Twilight flies out on her new wings to tell us everything is going to be all right. Why did this need its own episode again? Talking about her wings, it seems she was just so happy that she flew perfectly for her first time. Beginner’s luck, or a terrible plothole that we will all regret? Time will tell.
So, that’s Magical Mystery Cure. A lot happens in this episode, by the standards of the show. Does it have its problems? Of course. Some things don’t make a whole lot of sense, and the episode rushes by at an accelerated pace that for some people (maybe most) is simply too fast to satisfy. But it does have a good deal of emotion, a greatly intriguing in medias res opening, many good songs, and it shakes up the status quo with alicorn Twilight, which can be a blessing or a curse, and we don’t know which it is yet. As I’ve said before, the events of the finale for Season III were hinted at much more than for Season II, so I find it less surprising than the existence of Twilight’s brother, and former foalsitter and sister-in-law. Talk about alicorns coming out of left field. Overall, I think it works fine as a finale and an introduction to Twilicorn.
Pros: Celestia singing, good opening, other good songs.
Cons: Somewhat confused, very fast pacing that not everyone can appreciate.
And here ends the Bookend Diaries. It expanded from the planned one entry per finale (five) to ten separate parts and a few supplementals. Those of who have been reading these, and those who commented in the past, thank you for the support. This isn't the end of this blog, however. My original plan of reviewing all the episodes will not be abandoned. I also have some fan fiction ideas going on, so that might make its way onto here. More personal entries are a distinct possibility. At any rate, watch this space for details, and of course, keep on chasing those rainbows. Til we meet again…