Oh, why, look, there’s our friend Rarity, going down in FLAMES! Isn't Friendship MAGIC?! – Rarity
After waiting over two years, we finally have another Rarity focus episode. The summary is going to pretty brief, since the nitty-gritty of this bloggy ditty will be what is revealed about the characters.
It's Fashion Week, a fashion designer competition to be held in Manehatten. Rarity is off to the big city to show off her new design of clothes, using her very own patented cloth. The Mane Six and Spike have decided to come along to support Rarity, and to show her gratitude, Rarity announces that she has tickets for everypony to see Hinny of the Hills, a long-sold-out Bridleway show.
After they arrive in Manehatten, Rarity explains how she came by the tickets... she had given some of her designs to the costume designer of the show, who in turn got her the tickets. She goes on to say that Manehatten is a place where going good deeds can result in others reciprocating in kind.
At this point, Rarity sings about how she likes to be generous and kind to others, inspiring the rest of the Mane Six to join in as they do good things for various ponies around the city, including the bellhop of the hotel, a grumpy stallion with a grumpy cat cutie mark (and I hereby dub him Sourpuss. He had cruel parents, alright?) and a taxi driver who needs a wheel fixed. They spend so much time singing and helping other ponies, that Rarity finds she has only 10 minutes left to get all the across town, or she will be disqualified from the competition!
Trying to find a taxi at that time of day seems impossible, but luckily, the taxi driver whose wheel they fixed earlier arrives to give Rarity an exclusive ride. Off she goes... leaving Spike to wonder aloud why he feels they're forgetting something. Our heroines realise exactly what it is... Rarity's dresses!
Arriving in time, Rarity break down in tears when she realises the mistake, but fortunately for her, the bellhop arrives with the dresses, which the Mane Six asked him to rush over. (Never mind the Fridge Logic of how he could arrive less than ten seconds flat after Rarity, while carrying a rack of dresses, considering the Mane Six would have to have gotten back to the hotel, fetched the dresses, found the bellhop, and then have him go after her with them.)
Getting in line with her fellow fashionistas, her friendly greetings are interrupted by the host of the event, Prim Hemline, who is not very impressed with Rarity's tardiness (Twilight could relate). After she dismisses them, Rarity is approached by a pony who introduces herself as Suri Polomare, who she has met before. She goes backstage with Rarity, and admires her line of clothes. She asks for a bit of Rarity's special cloth for "accents", and Rarity generously gives her an entire bolt of the stuff.
Arriving in good time the next day, Rarity is shocked to discover Suri's duplicity: she has created an entire wardrobe out of Rarity's cloth, and is taking credit for making it! Rarity confronts her, but Suri simply tells her it's "every mare for herself" in Manehatten. It turns out that she didn't even make the dresses, but instead left them to her beleaguered assistant, Coco Pommel. Distraught as only Rarity can manage to be, she goes back to the hotel and tearfully tells the others what has happened. They pledge to help her "no matter what it takes". Hmm. Looking around the room, Rarity is inspired to create an entirely new line of clothes with their help.
A few hours later, however, and the enthusiasm has waned considerably. Rarity is acting very impatient and short with them. When they hear that dinner will be delayed by an hour, Rainbow Dash points out that they had hoped to be watching Hinny of the Hills by that time, which the others are also clearly thinking. This "betrayal" pushes Rarity over the edge again, and she rants about how she's glad they know it's "everypony for herself" and storms out. The Mane Five dejectedly return to their sewing, spending all night on the dresses. The next morning, Rarity rushes out without a word of thanks, much to Twilight's annoyance.
At the fashion show, Rarity's new line "Hotel Chic", is a big hit with the crowds. Happily Rarity looks for her friends... to find the section of stands where they should be is empty. Realising her victory at the fashion show might have come at the cost of her friendships, she bolts out, leaving a flabbergasted Prim Hemline in her wake.
Back at the hotel, she learns from the bellhop that her friends have already checked out. Assuming they went back to Ponyville without her, she sings a dark reprise of her earlier song, as she wanders disconsolately through another sudden shower.
Rarity goes to thank Prim for her time, but runs into Suri and Coco, who tell her she should stay away from the furious Prim. But there are also some more ponies here to meet her: her friends, who haven't gone back to Ponyville, after all! They said that they simply overslept and missed the fashion show, which Rarity apparently lost. Rarity declares she doesn't care about losing, and apologises for her behaviour. Her friends forgive her, but not without Applejack getting in perhaps her snarkiest line ever: "Yeah, you were pretty rotten!" Twilight assures Rarity that a little bad behaviour on her part is not going to make them abandon her, and they leave as friends. Rarity has even managed to get an exclusive performance of Hinny of the Hills for them all. Meanwhile, Suri is very satisfied... she has been lying all along about Rarity losing the competition!
After the show, which everypony loved, Rarity explains that she managed to wrangle an additional performance by agreeing to do ALL the costumes for the next show. This will leave her stuck for a while in Manehatten, which the others are sad about. They are interrupted by Coco, who gives Rarity the trophy that she actually won as first place in the competition, and apologises for agreeing to lie about it for Suri, and a present. She also says that Rarity and her friends inspired her to refuse to believe that it's "everypony for herself" through their willingness to forgive, and that she has quit as Suri's assistant. Rarity offers her the job of designing the costumes, freeing her to go back to Ponyville, and probably launching Coco's own career as a fashion designer.
Rarity writes her entry into the Journal, "Don't let those who take advantage of your generosity stop you from doing it, and don't take advantage of the generosity of your friends." She then unwraps Coco's present: a spool of rainbow coloured thread.
Ah, Rarity. Yet more of your glorious HAM have you bestowed upon this episode. Seeing as she is the focus, let's look at what this episode tells us about her.
First, the opening, where Rarity asks Spike to carry her enormous pile of bags. Some fans suggest that she is abusing Spike's crush on her, by getting him to do things for her. It's a weakness of the writing that often comes up when Spike is being the buttmonkey. It's worth noticing that apart from a slight frown from Twilight, which vanishes a few scenes later, none of the Mane Six seem to notice. And later on, she rewards him for his efforts by getting him a carrot-dog. Personally, I'd like to see the whole unrequited crush thing dealt with in an upcoming episode. It hasn't been brought up since early Season 2.
"That is what makes Manehatten so splendid and amazing... you do something nice for somepony, and then you never know when they'll do something nice for you!"
This line in particular could possibly be misunderstood or taken out of context. Rarity is not saying she is only generous because of what she can get out of other ponies. She is making an observation that the good fortune of getting tickets for her friends came about because she did something generous for someone else, and that incident is typical of Manehatten. And then she shared that blessing with her friends. Besides which, it's really just a restatement of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's not quid pro quo. She certainly couldn't have foreseen that she would need a taxi, and decided to help the cabbie because he would help her later. She didn't even need to ask for help, it was offered.
As for the song, it shows a number of ponies whom she helped, who never returned the favour. So she isn't going around being generous to get things in return, but she acknowledges that it's nice when it happens. As Rarity sings, it's her way of life to give freely to others.
Let's examine her bad behaviour in the second act. Here, she treats her friends a bit callously, there's no doubt about that. But it's really quite justified. She's been on a emotional rollercoaster ride. First, from her happiness at being in Manehatten, to almost missing her appointment, arriving just on time, only to realise she forgot her dresses, to getting them back, to being given a bit of a talking to by Prim for being late, to being befriended by Suri, to finding out Suri has betrayed her... give the poor mare a break. Who wouldn't want to snap after all that stress? Running out without thanking the others is also understandable, since she's very stressed, and has to get to the show ASAP.
The Mane Six also shouldn't escape criticism for their behaviour in complaining about missing the show, that they never would even have had a chance to see if Rarity hadn't organised it in the first place. First of all, Twilight had said they would do "whatever it took" to help her. Apparently, being willing to miss the show doesn't fall under that category. To Rarity, in the state she was in, it was another betrayal, on top of the one she'd been dealt by Suri.
But let's talk about Suri Polomare. She is two-faced enough to put Discord to shame. Let's list her sins... approaches Rarity with false friendship, flatters her shamelessly (Rarity has done this in the past too) and then when offered the hoof, takes the whole foreleg, and uses the material she said she would use for accents and makes an entire line, probably in the same style as Rarity did, since she's seen all of Rarity's designs. Then she claims the cloth was her own creation, so add plagiarism and fraud to the list, and takes the credit rightly due to her assistant Coco. Then when she still loses, she lies through her teeth and is smug about it when it works. Hello, new least favourite pony! At least DT is honest in her dislike of the CMC, she doesn't pretend to be their friend and then back-stab them. Still, Suri gets her karmic retribution in the end, losing her presumably much-more-talented assistant. I could foresee her coming back as a villain a la Trixie, blaming Rarity for her losing the true source of her talent.
Coco Pommel herself is an obvious reference to Coco Chanel, which implies that Rarity giving her the job as her friend's costume designer could well end up making her career.
Thoughts on the rest of the episode:
The song is the second "I Am" song for Rarity, and it's wonderful to hear Rarity singing on her own again. The lyrics are quite pleasant, all about how generosity is part of her life, and she suits word to deed. It's also good to see that her spirit is contagious, when the other start helping out too. The dark reprise also includes wet-maned Rarity, back for the first time since Sisterhooves Social, and really just makes you feel so bad for her. (Edit: @@Sunlight just reminded me that she had a wet mane in Magical Mystery Cure too. How could I have forgotten? )
I'm not sure exactly what was up with that shimmering rainbow that Rarity kept seeing. I hope that this is building up to something, because I have to admit, Twilight's alicorn/princess status is being really underplayed, to the point where I have to reevaluate my position that it needed to happen at all. In fact, this season as a whole has not yet delivered on the story arc that has been promised. A possibility is that this episode's mysterious shimmer and last episode's bat-fang are deliberately being left as hanging threads to tie up later, which I certainly hope is the case.
A quick word on the animation... they continue adding a larger repertoire of subtle expressions on the pony's faces, little touches that continue to show an evolution of the art style. In particular, the look of Rarity's cloth, despite clearly being animated differently, didn't look out of place and artificial as has been the case in a few episodes. And the lighting and shadows when Coco enters the theatre are also very smooth and good-looking.
The episode is for the most part well written and well paced. The bad behaviour exhibited by the characters is generally understandable and justified, and the resolution didn't seem forced. Rarity having her bad behaviour acknowledged and forgiven is a definite step forward from her Karma Houdini act in Sweet and Elite.
Pros: It. Is. A. RARITY. Episode. Natural plot progression, a good song.
Cons: Still not seeing any kind of story arc in these episodes, Spike-abuse is in full force in this episode. Villain may have been a little bit too villainous.
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, forum members. Forum, you just stay up, mmkay?