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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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Mini Re-Reviews: "Sweet and Elite" - Season 2 Episode 9 · 11:17pm Feb 19th, 2020

REMANE 5: "Surprise!"
RARITY: "Wha...! But, I... what are you all doing here? You're cutting into valuable screentime for me to chew the scenery! I was saving all that for the episode's last third!"
PINKIE: "Oh, silly Rarity! Only Discord and I can go around making fourth-wall-breaking comments like that! We're special that way."
APPLEJACK: "Pinkie's right, sugarcube. Stick to pitch fluctuations and opera-dramatic statements. I stick to countryisms and fading into the background, and look how that fares for me!"

I'd mentioned a couple of reviews ago, for "Sisterhooves Social", how the reveal of Rarity's parents threw so much about her character not implied before into the limelight, namely that she likely sought out a life of high society among the elite ahead of the ruffian beginnings of the rest of her family. With "Sweet and Elite" we get to see that path of her ingraining herself into that area come into the limelight. For that reason, if nothing else, this would occupy an important step for Rarity's characters, but because this is a Season 1 episode, it doesn't stop there. No, it's also the first, and still one of the best, episodes revolving around the Canterlot elite, a side of the Pony Capital not really seen expect by light proxy in "The Best Night Ever" to this point. It also gives us a posh yet gentlecolt of a new character in Fancy Pants, along with a pair of stuck-up ponies, Jet Set and Upper Crust, I'd sooner just forget about (and not just because of those names either). But much like "Suited For Success", the true standout of this episode is, once again, the Rarity song it gives up, one of the catchiest earworms Daniel Ingram ever cooked up. Hopefully you can bear discussing the episode's first third before that point.

The episode devotes barely any attention to why Rarity is in Canterlot in the first place (I think it was to get fabrics for her shop, though I honestly can't be sure the episode even mentions it), a decision that, due to skilful writing craft, doesn't register as an annoyance, as the opening scenes move at enough of a clip that Rarity's already decided to make Twilight a dress as thank-you for getting Celestia to provide her with a suite in the castle for her stay. Well, that, and the recurring gag of the valor pony struggling under the weight of Rarity's suitcases never gets old (and given his age, looking not much older then Snails, it's reasonable he can't levitate them all, horn or no horn).
Alas, the snobbish couple mentioned from before ask her where she got her hat just as a construction redneck from Ponyville falls into their midst, and they promptly dismiss her. This gives Rarity a fire in the belly to prove herself, and while carrying her fabric purchases back the next day for her brilliant design for Twilight's dress, she runs right into Fancy Pants and her mistress - sorry, supermodel girlfriend/wife, Fleur de Lis. The delight in this scene comes from Fleur, who keeps striking poses to get Fancy's attention and laying across his back, and huge credit goes to the layout artists and animators for all this implying the underlying adult tones of Fleur's relationship with Fancy without ever souring the tone of the scene or the show; this one scene gives Fleur more personality then the snobbish couple get all episode. Anyway, Fancy is impressed with Rarity staying at the castle that he invites her to a Wonderbolt Derby later. Her dilemma becomes clear when she weights going or starting on Twilight's dress right away. She chooses the former, and her Wonderbolt knowledge by proxy allows her to predict the winner, but also results in the first (reluctant) lie of the day, declaring Rainbow Dash to be their coach. After a mildly tedious scene of three unnamed socialites begging the now-important Rarity to attend their events, we have our song: "Becoming Popular (The Pony Everypony Should Know)" - yes, that's its title.

For a Rarity song, which tend to be full on Disney/Broadway musical numbers, it's on the shorter side, clocking in at a little under 2 minutes. As all songs of that genre should, it serves a definitive purpose is clocking through all the events Rarity's getting swept up in, and summing up the dream's she getting to live. The visuals go to town with all the Easter Eggs and character cameos. Also, Rarity in a French casual ensemble complete with beret. Course, it all comes back to Daniel Ingram's simple but delightfully poppy and catchy tunes (go ahead, I bet the tune to "I’m the type of pony every pony, every pony should know” just leapt into your head right there. This was another early song from the show that I remembered super-vividly (even more then "The Best Night Ever" shockingly), so take that as you will.

Right as Rarity's about to head back for Twilight's birthday, she gets an invitation to a social gathering in the Canterlot Gardens. Poor fashion horse makes the good-at-the-time decision to send a letter explaining her absence for the party due to Opal being too ill to travel, and expectantly, it backfires horribly when they relocate the party there instead. It hit me at this point when I was watching the episode that this is actually another show about a pony's ego taking over their decisions and dictating the lengths they go to for self-image. Yet this does everything right that "The Msyterious Mare Do Well", and to a much lesser extent, "May the Best Pet Win!" did not, by being so graceful about this element of the plot and it's theme. Firstly, Rarity's ego, when it shows, is of a much more charming flavour and not nearly as repetitive then the prismatic-maned pegasus. Secondly, the problems Rarity sets up for herself are communicated efficiently and with minimal screentime waste. But most importantly, she's trying to balance both her old friends and her new ways all episode, rather then letting the new override the old in a snap (as a lesser show, or indeed, a later season, would have likely done). Long before anyone holds up a mirror to her on this, she's paying for and struggling with her actions, which makes the payoff to her owning up to them that much more satisfying. Finally, that Rarity stood up for her friends without first swaying to the dark side at the end does wonders, as the episode is thus able to have its character dilemma cake and eat it without forgoing character too.

The episode's last third is something of a delightful caper, alternating between the birthday bash indoors and the posh party in the gardens, with yet another memorable tune from William Anderson that piled up even more once the Mane 6 let Rarity off there but decide to join her. This section does contain the one true objection I have to the episode - Applejack's 'Why aren't you gardening?' bit is painful and speaks poorly even for her level of judgment in these situations. But it also gives us Pinkie's Party Cannon and Twilight's adorkable dance, with the episode's indirect implication that Twilight being a shut-in during her earlier years perfectly excusing her lack of social grace around these ponies. There's also Rarity's getting more frazzled to the point of holding a mallet in her mouth and muffling "What croquet mallet?". When the secrets are eventually slipped, I dig how Fancy Pants is honestly interested in and respectful of the simple dress Rarity hadn't finished for Twilight, and his comment about the ponies being "charmingly rustic" has just the right flavour, and vocal delivery, to explain how he became so important within the community while still being a gentlecolt on his own terms. God, what did his later appearances do to him? Another time, Mike, another time...

There are a few gripes I have with the episode. The end Friendship Report is a bit clumsy as Rarity never actually tried to deny her roots, and probably made things more difficult for herself by holding them so true to her heart. We have here more of a lesson about the danger of lying to one's friends, but I digress. As mentioned before, anytime the focus is on the elite other then Fancy and Fleur, it drags slightly due to being an unfun cliché that doesn't leave much to be done with, even if none of those individual scenes ever last. But those are minor gripes. After last week's stumble, Season 2 is back with, if not quite the masterpieces it largely began with, a truly great episode for Rarity and the show, containing an effective dilemma without ever sacrificing character integrity by using that same integrity as the instigator for the conflict. Oh, and another stellar Rarity song, we can never have enough of those. An 8.5/10 here.

- Yes, the header image caption is true: there's barely any Rarity chewing-the-scenery in this one, which works to highlight further how stuck-up most of the Canterlot elite truly are. Besides which, Tabitha St. Germain doesn't keep to hamm it up to be the show's best voice actor, though it certainly doesn't hurt.
- Truth be told, Rarity hobnobbing isn't very interesting on its own, so good thing the episode is so good at never focusing on it directly longer then needed. Thus that boring aspect of the plot goes from an active problem to a minor irritant, not worth dwelling on.
- I barely even mentioned Opal, but the odd decision to have barely any antics from her for most of the episode only makes Rarity's bath dunking of her to cover up her white lie all the funnier, since the furball didn't deserve it this time! At least she has Fluttershy to look after her. We could all do with a bit of that.
- No Spike at all here, but I honestly barely noticed, even if him missing Twilight's birthday party should, in theory, be a major issue. That's the strength of good writing, making you completely forget about otherwise major issues. Besides which, he and Rarity get their own showing next time around, so it's all good.

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