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Mike Cartoon Pony

Nintendo gamer and animation lover. Also likes pastel cartoon ponies. They do that to people. And ghosts.

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Episode Review: "The Last Crusade" - Season 9 Episode 12 · 4:19pm Jun 15th, 2019

Right as rain, it's another Season 9 episode, and yet another episode fulfilling something fans have wanted to see for a long time at that.

This time, though, the stakes were different. It wasn't an episode focusing purely on the villains, a setup for a proper seasonal arc, or even just a celebration of the voice actors that have done so much to define our 7 main leads. No, here we were uncovering the parentage of one character who has always had a question mark regarding that hanging about. The last time this angle was tackled, the result was 'The Perfect Pear' (still the show's highest-rated episode on IMDb), and while I don't know that I can call that rightfully the show's best episode, it is pretty fantastic and almost lives up to the hype. The episode this one is most closely related to is not that, though, but the coveted 'Crusaders of the Lost Mark'. Heck, this one is even called 'The Last Crusade'. Personally I'm still waiting on 'Temple of Crusaders' or 'Kingdom of the Crystal Crusader' myself.

The character in question is, of course, Scootaloo. Though there had been hints/kind-of confirmation before in non-show sources, here the show finally tackles the facts. Scoots' parents are basically adventuresome nature documenters, studying rare wildlife in the far corners of Equestria. In their absence, her Aunts Holiday and Lofty mind Scoots. Not permanently, they seem to divide time between staying at Scoots' parents-owned home in Ponyville and their own home in another town, letting others mind her briefly during their absence (Mrs. Cake, Rarity and Rainbow Dash are mentioned here). While they're gone in this episode, Scoots' parents come home. Since you've read the title, it probably comes as little surprise that Scoots' parents want to spend more time with their daughter after barely seeing her in ages (the implication is that this is the first time they're seeing her since she got her Cutie Mark). The catch is that comes with Scoots moving with them to their new job somewhere that a train only goes once a month. From there, the rest of the episode follows the CMC's attempts to get Scoots' parents to change their minds about forcing their daughter to come with them.

In a sense, what you would guess is this episode's thematic focus - what right parents have to control their child's future when they're barely been around - isn't its eventual focus. No, I would say that, much like how 'Going to Seed' was likely our final Apple-centric episode, and as such carried a slight air of importance even as it was merely reaffirming what we like about that family, so to does 'The Last Crusade' feel like a swansong to the CMC. Except this is something the episode itself is consciously doing - the last five minutes pay tribute directly and indirectly to just how many ponies and other creatures the CMC have helped over the seasons, even with problems not directly related to Cutie Marks. Now, I'm not certain that this is our last CMC episode - the norm tends to be 2 a season - but it is certainly celebrating them and their legacy as though it is.

All the same, most of the episode lets that theme lie dormant, in favour of two other threads, which are, to be sure, entirely satisfying. The first is, of course, the one that seems to be the main focus, about whether Scoots' parents should even be allowed to take her away. Let's be frank and admit that Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood are not presented in the most positive light - not until the end do they truly understand just how much Scoots' friends mean to her and how important the CMC is. Not to say they're presented badly - in fact, they are presented exactly as you'd expect parents who love their child very much, but hardly ever see her, to the point that they don't truly comprehend the life she's build up for herself, to be like. They understand the break will be tough, but not nearly as much as it is.
Of course, much hullabaloo could be made that the ending is unrealistic, allowing Scoots to stay, and that it's setting unrealistic expectations for children (Inside Out would be a more important and realistic depiction of coping with this situation). Personally, I don't think it's that troublesome, for the fact that the whole episode (and indeed the show for a while now), has acted like the CMC are teenagers; even if it can't physically age them, the gradual shift of them into a leadership role, helped by the characters' maturing voices over time (personally, I still find it amazing to compare the Michelle Creber from the series' start to now), marks them as not really kids any more. The ending ceremony even tackles the matter as though they are approaching adulthood. This would all be simpler if the CMC WERE ageing physically, but I can live with it.

The final thread has to basically do with unusual group dynamics. Its not spelt out clearly until, with her Aunts' help, Scoots hits upon the notion that the way to convince her parents she should stay is by showing them everything only the CMC can do, much as her folks have an important job unique to them. It's not a theme that gets a lot of workout throughout the episode, mostly content to lie under the action, but Scoots’ aunts, who reinforce the unusual group dynamic, help it immeasurably. The show doesn't go any further then them simply living together, never openly mentioning that they're a gay couple, but it still plays it straight without mentioning it in dialogue, which is probably about as well as it could portray it, presenting it as normal and not having characters commenting on it. The show wouldn't be able to tackle this issue to nearly the extent Steven Universe could, not even as much as The Loud House did. It helps that Holiday and Lofty are wonderful characters, absolute sweethearts, presented as effective minders of Scootaloo and understanding without needing it to be explained how important the CMC's job is.

How does this episode fare as a whole? Strongly, if not near top-tier - compared to 'Crusaders of the Lost Mark', it last the sheer entertainment value that makes that episode so fun to rewatch, not helped by the sequences here that are mostly surface-level shenanigans, primarily the CMC's failed attempts to change Scoots' parents minds that takes up most of the episode's second act. While the only cringe-worthy part is the failed rare creature Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle pretend to be, the rest is formed of entertaining attempts that are mostly just pushing the plot on autopilot. They work plenty fine, but I wonder how well that will be after a few rewatches. And story-wise, it is basically a story about a kid wanting to stay while their parents want to move away, not an uncommon set of stakes for a kid’s cartoon to pick for itself. It’s just given lift above the norm through having an ending of them going their separate ways, rather then the parents changing their minds. The biggest thing that holds the episode back is the lack of pizazz and variety in the structure and writing style - if this is Nicole Dubuc's best solo episode, it's mostly down to the scenario then any particular standouts in the writing itself.

Still, though it is a plainer take on the concept then a different writer, especially from the earlier seasons, might have produced, that's not to take away from what we do have. It works very well, delivers on what it promises, and doesn't really stumble along the way. While I think it may get remembered more for revealing more about Scootaloo's family and aunts then the facts of what actually happens in the episode, that's a minor quibble. All things considered, Season 9 just scored another minor hit, folks, and after three episodes that ranged from “meh” to “decent enough”, that’s worth taking. In a sense, the final result is like 'Magical Mystery Cure', except whereas that is still really spectacular despite being weakened by executive meddling, this has to settle for being "good" rather then the show masterpiece it might have been.

- I wonder to what degree Scoots' parents being an Earth Pony and a Pegasus had an effect on her underdeveloped wings? That's prime fanfiction material right there - I can even see pegasi being encouraged to mate with other pegasi on the grounds of pegasi offspring of only one pegasi parent being more likely to have underdeveloped wings. Get cracking, writers!
- Snap Shutter's Australian accent was over the top, though, wasn't it? Crikey, they held nothing back on either echoing Crocodile Dundee/Crocodile Hunter or him tossing out as many Australian phrases as was possible ("Well I'll be a three-tailed bandicoot"). Kind of unnecessary, his older sister Aunt Holiday has a more natural Australian accent, perfectly suited to someone who grew up there but hasn't lived there in ages. Having Australian cousins, aunt and uncles myself, I can vouch for this.
- The episode was very good at making Holiday and Lofty feel like a natural lesbian couple, to the point where Holiday was the more "feminine" and Loftie the more "masculine" of the two. Also, the differing accents cluing us into them not being sisters was a clever touch.
- It was kind of strange Mane Allgood was so tall and lanky. I mean, it fits, jungle explorer and all, but outside of the Princesses I don't think I've ever seen a female pony that tall.

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Comments ( 2 )

outside of the Princesses I don't think I've ever seen a female pony that tall.

Tempest Shadow:

TGee, Tempest, Why Are You So Tall?
Twilight's been meaning to ask.
Super Trampoline · 3.4k words  ·  517  65 · 7.3k views

Literally what inspired me to start this feghoot contest.

Ah, but Tempest isn't as tall as Mane Allgood, who is taller then both Luna and Cadence, whereas Tempest is about the height of those two Princesses.

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