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Sep
13th
2015

Season Five Episode Reviews: Canterlot Boutique · 4:54am Sep 13th, 2015

We return from a brief hiatus, just in time for Rarity to realize her dream. Yes, I said a “brief” hiatus. Two months really isn't much in the grand scheme of things, considering we went without pony for almost a year going into Seasons Four and Five. And as someone who's survived Gravity Falls and its many, many, many unexplained mini-hiatuses, two months before getting a whole lot of content is nothing compared to two months for one episode, and three months for the one after that.

At least we handle them better than the Steven Universe fandom. Whole thing collapses like a house of cards at the mere whisper of a hiatus.

Anyway, Rarity episodes all this month, so here's “Canterlot Boutique.”


TECHNICAL SPECS:

Season: 5
Episode: 14
Written By: Amy Keating Rogers
First Aired: 9/12/2015


SUMMARY:

At long last, Rarity's done it. After leveraging the extra money she made from working with Sapphire Shores, she has finally saved up enough to purchase a shop at a premium space in Canterlot itself. After receiving the news (and Pinkie poisons the mailpony and herself), the Mane 6 march off to celebrate the glorious grand opening of Canterlot Carousel. And that wouldn't be possible without the assistance of the store's new manager, Sassy Saddles. The mare has come up with a multi-point plan to boost the store's reputation and make it a huge success, and it all starts with a dress Rarity designed based off of the stained-glass window celebrating Twilight's coronation. Twilight is even willing to wear it as an endorsement.

The store's grand opening starts well, but it soon becomes evident that Rarity and Sassy Saddles are both competing for control. This almost turns nuclear when Rarity tries to call the Twilight-inspired dress “Reign in Satin,” but Sassy butts in and substitutes the far more generic “Princess Dress.” Even worse, she takes a hundred orders for the dress without letting Rarity know beforehand, and with no others to provide assistance (Sassy is running the front and she doesn't want to force her friends to work for her), Rarity is left making all of the gowns herself. She loves it at first, but as she keeps making the same dress over and over, the monotony of it all saps her enjoyment of the craft. The one time she tries to go outside of the established design and add some gemstones to the mix, both Sassy Saddles and the pony that placed the order chew her out for not sticking to the established design. Everypony wants the Princess Dress, and every Princess Dress must look the same.

After completing two hundred dresses, Rarity is all but dead inside. Sassy Saddles comes in with good news and bad news. The good news is that Rarity's store on the cover of a major fashion magazine, boosting her reputation even higher. The bad news is that this means even more Princess Dresses need to be made – a hundred more, in fact. Rarity finally admits that she's miserable and refuses to sew any more Princess Dresses, but that's fine, because the next step of Sassy's plan is to hire more workers to build the dresses in an assembly line, meaning Rarity will never have to sew again! The Princess Dress will put Sassy Saddles' boutique on the map!

Rarity's finally had all she can stands and can't stands no more. She angrily tells Sassy Saddles to print up fliers announcing Canterlot Carousel's “Going Out of Business” sale, leaving the manager begging her to reconsider before Sassy's stuck with another failed boutique on her resume. Rarity throws out all of the Princess Dresses and hangs the royalty-themed designs that she wanted to show off from the beginning. When the ponies come in to ask about the Princess Dress, they are instead confronted with new, more individualized outfits that speak to them as ponies. Their joy and approval of such designs fills Rarity with such joy and inspiration that she decides to not close the store (although she'll still honor the sale price). Instead, she'll head back to Ponyville to run the franchise's main office, and leaves the humbler and (hopefully) wiser Sassy Saddles in charge of her Canterlot store.

Oh, and a fat pony shows up at the end.


REVIEW:

Long, long ago, Lauren Faust was asked about her plans for the ponies had she remained on the show. One of the ideas outlined was that Rarity's end goal would be opening a shop in Canterlot. Indeed, this idea was referenced or merely mentioned multiple times in the first two seasons. Rarity's first scene in the show has her envious over Twilight being born and raised in Canterlot, she admits she's a Canterlot pony at heart in “Sweet and Elite,” and a good chunk of her episodes are dedicated to her expanding her business' standing in Equestria. The major change here is that her getting the shop isn't the end goal anymore; she's since become more comfortable in Ponyville, and her managing a franchise dodges the thorny question about her abandoning her customer base in her hometown and leaving all of her friends with so many episodes left to go. It's still allowed to be actual progress for her, however, and with a shop in Canterlot, who knows where she'll expand next?

The episode itself brushes up against previous Rarity episodes, particularly “Suited for Success,” but manages to keep things focused on the reality of the business end. Rarity essentially goes from a small businesspony in a relatively small town, to running a larger shop in the nation's capital. In Ponyville, she could take the time to know each individual pony, and create an outfit that matches their appearance and tastes. Here, she's surrounded by ponies who want the latest thing in fashion, and they will not wait around for the one person making the dresses to get to know each of them on a personal level.

Sad as it is to say, Sassy Saddles is kind of right. Rarity will eventually need to hire assistants to make orders for her. She will need some kind of established workforce to churn out her designs. The episode makes it clear how horrible it is, but I don't think it's the industrialization itself that's bad. It's not brought up in the episode, but Rarity could have gotten some labor in there and shifted herself into more of a designer role, which would allow her to both create new outfits and help guide the ponies working for her in how to best sew her designs.

The real issue is that Sassy Saddles is very short-sighted. She sees one thing that's really popular, and decides to reformat their entire business around promoting that one product. She refuses to accept any deviations (although to be fair, changing the design after the order has been placed is easy to see as a bad business practice), takes all of the glory, and goes so far as to call the shop her own. The implication that this has happened before to her might explain things a bit more. If Sassy Saddles has run other boutiques, and they have failed, then she might be trying so hard to keep this one successful that she started playing things too safe. Eventually, ponies were going to stop buying Princess Dresses and move on to other designers, and because there were no other designs on display at that time, Rarity's store would have likely shut down before she could promote a new product line.

As for the episode itself, it's...a Rarity episode. It's very basic as far as Rarity episodes go, as well. The overall message and feeling is good, but a lot of the first act is taken up with exposition, and the third act is very rushed in imparting its lesson on Sassy Saddles and resolving Rarity's dilemma. This leaves the second act, which is dominated by Rarity's song, and it's the highlight of the episode. The way the song goes from an upbeat little thing about Rarity loving her job to a dour and depressing tune about how the creativity and soul has been torn out of her dresses encapsulates the episode's entire story, and the (somewhat reasonable) rejection of her last-minute change reinforces the elusive “price” Rarity seemingly has to pay to have her dream: her creativity and passion.

There's really no laugh-out-loud moments, save perhaps for the sisters at the end. Yes, the goth pony and preppy pony were sisters, as AKR revealed on her twitter after the episode aired. It's a pretty blatant copy of the Pinkie/Maud dynamic, only this time with the ponies dressing in gowns inspired by Celestia/Luna. So it's kind of a shame that establishing line of dialogue was cut, because it creates a funny little meta joke about a pair of siblings who act like another pair of siblings dressing up like a third pair of siblings.

As for the fat pony...

I've said my piece on “fat shaming,” but after breaking myself out of the seething anger I am feeling for all of humanity at the moment (for reasons unrelated to this episode), the joke at the end really isn't one of those moments. The problem is that I can't figure out what the joke is. Is it just that fat ponies are funny? If so, it's not particularly amusing. Is the joke that she looks weird? Again, that's not amusing. Is she supposed to be conceited and self-interested? Because while her Cutie Mark has her face, she just seems interested in shopping for a dress. Still, the ponies aren't laughing at her, but instead about the Princess Dress being discontinued, so there's that little bit of happiness.

Also, as many have pointed out, she does bare a resemblance to the picture on the inside of the locker door in “Tanks for the Memories.” She's a unicorn, so it's probably not her locker, but she may be related somehow to the pony it belongs to.


CONCLUSION:

I didn't dislike this episode, but I found it rather middle-of-the-road as far as Rarity's adventures go. The pacing is all over the place, and the piece is lacking in real funny or charming moments, but it's still an enjoyable peek into the basic realities of the business world, and it still advances Rarity's ambitions. Now for the next stop on her plans for global conquest...


Next week, Rarity must save Rainbow Dash when she is accused of a crime she didn't commit. Unlike, you know, the many crimes she has committed and gotten away with.

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Comments ( 14 )

I've heard people say that the curious pony at the end was a reference to fakies.

Unlike, you know, the many crimes she has committed and gotten away with.

Wasn't accused! So it doesn't count. It's not a crime until you're charged with something.

With "fakies" being an Old-School Pony Fandom (G1 through G3.5) term for the knock-off ponies available at discount stores.

As far as the pony at the end, Amy Keating Rogers said this:

derpicdn.net/img/2015/9/12/978196/medium.jpg

My impression was the laughter was more about Sassy Saddles finally understanding Rarity enough that they both answered about the Princess Dress in the same way at the same time. Given the above tweet, I doubt the script even mentioned the customers weight.

--arcum42

The real issue is that Sassy Saddles is very short-sighted. She sees one thing that's really popular, and decides to reformat their entire business around promoting that one product. She refuses to accept any deviations (although to be fair, changing the design after the order has been placed is easy to see as a bad business practice), takes all of the glory, and goes so far as to call the shop her own.

This is where the episode lost me: the whole reason Sassy Saddles is pushing Rarity to focus on making Princess Dresses at the expense of all else is because Rarity insists on making everything herself, which is the easiest thing in the world to fix. Just get some more ponies in there! I mean, I understand that Rarity wants everything she sells to be a unique piece which she personally produced, but I can't imagine that being a viable business plan when she's got two different boutiques in two different cities. I mean, maybe she's just planning on both stores getting so little traffic that she can personally stock both? Doesn't seem like a sustainable solution. If the lesson here was supposed to be about learning how to be successful (or just generally business-related), then Rarity needed to learn how to delegate as she expanded. If it was supposed to be about the importance of independence and doing only what you love, then I don't think Rarity's views on those matters can be reconciled with multiple stores; for the episode to work then, she really ought to have just gone through with the going out of business sale and returned to Ponyville.

And since she was planning to live in Ponyville and maybe check in on the Canterlot Boutique every now and then, I was really confused by Rarity's disappointment with Sassy taking ownership. I mean, isn't that what a manager is supposed to do? This may be Rarity's brand, but it's Sassy's store. Don't get me wrong, I understand Rarity feeling disrespected with a couple of the camera grab moments, but when the climax has Sassy celebrating how "Sassy Saddles' boutique will succeed!" before Rarity angrily puts her in her place... well, this is her boutique.

Of course, Sassy seemed shocked at the end that Rarity wasn't going to be staying in Canterlot, so maybe Rarity's original plan really was to just up and leave Ponyville forever? I don't even know anymore. Point is, I'm not altogether convinced that Sassy did anything wrong besides be a bit of a diva. Which, admittedly, can be super annoying in a manager... but since that wasn't what Rarity was actually upset about, there was an odd disconnect for me between character and story.

3389182

That's the feeling I get from that tweet, too.

3389184

I agree. It's an inevitability that, in order to sustain both shops, Rarity is going to have to give up some of her creativity and the individuality of her dresses. That is not, in itself, a bad thing. Rarity is already a skilled designer, so it would be easy for her to move into more of that kind of role while she brought on other ponies to help produce her outfits. She would still be able to sew dresses and create product lines, and could easily continue to interact with customers and take custom orders, only now she'd have ponies working under her to make those designs a reality. A single dressmaker is fine for Ponyville, but when you've expanded into a major metropolitan city like Canterlot, you need to give up a little of that spark to get your product out.

It's an avenue the episode should have explored. (We could have cut the "Pinkie makes cupcakes that taste of death" joke for it.) The difference between it and, say, "Princess Spike" raising, "Why didn't Spike just close the window?" is that Rarity having more help wouldn't have solved the underlying issue of her not being able to express herself as freely as she could in the past. The latter would have resolved the entire episode and spared us twenty-one joyless minutes.

Point is, I'm not altogether convinced that Sassy did anything wrong besides be a bit of a diva. Which, admittedly, can be super annoying in a manager... but since that wasn't what Rarity was actually upset about, there was an odd disconnect for me between character and story.

The issue with Sassy is that she only promoted the one dress at the exclusion of all the others. Canterlot Carousel sold nothing but Princess Dresses, and the ending implies this was largely because customers didn't know the other designs even existed. This would generate a lot of money in the short term, but fashion is an industry that changes completely in a short amount of time, and when the next fad hit, Rarity and Sassy would have nothing to fall back on.

3389184 Hopefully Rarity can learn to delegate later on. There's no shame in having an chain produced line, while also offering hoof-made design at a higher price as well as custom orders. Really the big problem was that Sassy was basically stepping all over Rarity's hoof. They clearly didn't spend enough time consulting each other on the buisness plan, and as mentionned the focus on a single dress was just a bad buisness idea.

Honestly I'm kinda curious what was going on in the minds of those character designers when they made that really obese pony. Was there some sort of inside joke or what?

And to be fair, I wasn't very offended by her design but seeing so many people making this an issue makes me wanna shake my head.

3389305
There's always gonna be stuff that pisses other people off that does not bother you. If it's tiring for you to deal with, I'd avoid the ones expressing it until they calm down. That's what I do.
--
Good review. It makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, Rarity episodes all this month, so here's “Canterlot Boutique.”

Heh... and in September know less. It's almost as if somepony was giving me a month-long birthday party. :raritystarry:

As for the episode itself, it's...a Rarity episode. It's very basic as far as Rarity episodes go, as well.

Meh... We're just all spoiled when it comes to best-pony always having best-episode. More seriously, at least it's "middle" of the road, rather than taking the low-road the way Rarity Takes Manehattan did. The episode is never really bad, it mostly just has some pacing issues that make it difficult to focus on the main plot. Speaking of which...

(We could have cut the "Pinkie makes cupcakes that taste of death" joke for it.)

True, this is actually a problem that many episode has have. Sometimes I think just a bit tom much focus gets taking up with "establishing" the plot that it instead sort derails the episode before it even gets started, or in this case mostly just eats up time and messes with the pacing. There something of an old saying when it comes to crafting media fiction, "Is this the most interesting period in time for the characters?". Which is not to say episodes can't have asides, but especially in the opening scene (and only doubly so for a media with a strict time limit like a 22-minute children's cartoons) it can be important to establish key plot points as quickly.

The only thing this intro really establishes, however, is that Rarity will be opening a boutique in Canterlot. While amusing, her nervously pacing around followed by random Pinkie shenanigans just drags things out without really adding anything that maters later on. It might have been better to open with Rarity already in Canterlot, perhaps with her searching for a location to buy, or conducting a chain of interviews for a manager, the later would also have been away to introduce Sassy more organically into the plot. Or may even combine them With Sassy already being the struggling manager of the shop before Rarity shows up and proposes they partner up to rebrand the store, which could have provided an earlier opportunity to establish their opposing ideologies while also making Sassy look like less of a jerk for regarding the shop as HERS.

Alternatively, if the episode was going to open up in Ponyville it might have been better to focus less on Rarity nervously waiting around, and more on establishing how she works in her natural element. She could be sewing dresses, maybe get to exposit on her TLC philosophy, all with little more than the occasional nervous glance at the mail slot in her front door to hint at her waiting for something. Or again, perhaps it could provide an earlier opportunity to introduce Sassy into the plot, by having her come to Ponyville initial as a customer or something, who Rarity can exposit to, only to be so inspired by Rarity's success that she propose the partnership.

In either scenario we could maybe even still have Pinkie show up for some random shenanigans, but as more of a background side element, rather than seemingly the entire focus of intro. Of course there's really little point in lamenting what could have been. Although this particular problem can be a bit of a pet peeve of mine sometimes, which is probably why I just wasted so much text talking about it... :facehoof:


3389244
Agreed, but I think that was more or less all always meant to be implied by the setup in act 1. After all, Rarity did intend to open her shop with a lineup of premade dresses inspired by the architecture and celebrities of Canterlot. We've also seen in past episodes that she's seemingly quite willing to replicate designs, such as when Hoity Toity order copies of all the Mane-Six dresses for his shop.

...Actually, come to think of it, this episode could have maybe worked better if instead of introducing a new character in the form of Sassy Saddles, it had just reused Hoity Toity. It could maybe even have followed up on up on that previous order by having the hot dress in town be Twilight's gala dress. That might have allowed the episode to save some time on needing to actually show case the celebrity endorsement scene itself.


3389305
I'm at least somewhat inclined to doubt anyone was giving the design much thought at all consider how briefly the character appears on screen. I think it was mostly just an artists having fun with a goofy offbeat design. Sort of like how similar instances have given us many a highly recognizable Background pony, such as Bulk Biceps. Although this was I think a comparatively lazy try at that. I mean, even if this pony where to hypothetically slim down she'd still have very awkwardly sized proportion due to her implied skeletal frame.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

but she may be related somehow to the pony it belongs to.

She is obviously that locker-owner's earthbound paramour. They had a whirlwind penpal romance, and had only just exchanged photos. The pegasus was working up the courage (and bits) to finally go to Canterlot and meet her when an act of domestic terrorism deep-sixed his plans.

I think the joke at the end might be that the Princess Dress would never be able to fit the fat pony if Canterlot Carousel kept its "every Princess Dress must be the exactly same" rule, and Rarity and Sassy are laughing at how terrible that idea was. Probably.

Fakies (Also possibly a Adventure time reference i mean she kinda looks just like that horse costume from that show.)

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-tcaqWzuQMW0/TqKL7ImSo0I/AAAAAAAAPJQ/FwqLlqniM2M/s1600/kate-beaton-pony-adventure-time.jpg

also a friend pointed this out and quoting them

We should remember here that Rarity is young. In my world, she's 23 years old at this point; in vanilla canon, probably even younger than that. She is superficially sophisticated, but she's still rather naive about a lot of things, simply because she hasn't had a lot of time to learn. She's a very intelligent mare, and makes up for a lot of her inexperience with her brilliance and drive, but there are some things one only learns by doing, some mistakes one must make before one knows better, and it's obvious that Rarity needed to take a firmer hoof with Sassy from the beginning. (Notably, when Rarity does get tough, Sassy backs down immediately).

As for Sassy, her main flaw is that she is domineering. She is so domineering (and enthusiastic to try to make the business succeed) that she makes and tries to carry out her plans without regard for what her boss is trying to accomplish, which means that she is being a poor subordinate. Yes, following orders can require almost as much discernment and will as do making decisions and issuing orders, and Sassy signally fails this test. (One suspects, parenthetically, that she has a rotten personal life -- how can she pursue Love or Friendship with this attitude? Sassy, too, has much to learn).

The resolution of the personal conflict between Rarity and Sassy is satisfying. The easy way out here would have been for Rarity to recognize Sassy as evil and fire her. But the path the episode chose was far better -- Rarity establishes her dominance, shows Sassy the error of her ways, and wins her as a loyal subordinate and friend in the future. This was perfect, because Sassy wasn't evil, just misguided, and it is the nature of Generosity to be merciful to a vanquished foe. What's more, Rarity is playing to her Element's strength in her decision to keep Sassy on, because Rarity is a diplomat who can convert foes into friends.

you must admit he makes a good point.

Finally i greatly enjoy you're review, good work.

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