MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Episode 50: "MMMystery on the Friendship Express"

Aired 4/7/2012, written by Amy Keating Rogers (her tenth episode)
  • Intro: Pinkie Pie enlists help to transport a cake onto a train to enter a dessert contest. Remarkably, it does not fall.
  • Act 1: Three bakers join the Mane Six, each with their own dessert. They retire to their rooms, but Pinkie stays to guard her cake. That night Pinkie pursues multiple suspicious movements, and in the morning she finds the cake has been partially eaten.
  • Act 2: Pinkie accuses each of the bakers in turn, but Twilight Sparkle insists on looking for clues before making accusations. As the train goes through a tunnel, all goes dark, and on the other side, the bakers' three desserts lie in pieces.
  • Act 3: Twilight and Pinkie collect clues, and Twilight gives the summation, concluding that Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity ate from the cake. Pinkie likewise finds evidence that the bakers sabotaged one another's desserts. As the train reaches Canterlot, the contestants combine the remains of their entries to create an award-winning dessert, which Pinkie then consumes in one gulp.

Character: Reportedly Applejack was one of the culprits in an early draft but because of cuts for time, she's the only character besides Pinkie and Twilight who doesn't touch the cake, even though she initially has to be swatted away from it and is literally panting over it a few seconds later. But it's for the good of the show that AJ doesn't go out of character here. We could definitely use more examples of her demonstrating more honesty than the other main characters. I do, however, think Rule of Funny is enough to justify Fluttershy's ruse.

Twilight and Pinkie are a natural comic duo, with Twilight even stealing the scene through her reactions on occasion. It works in a way that Pinkie-Applejack or Pinkie-Rarity would not. Nothing new is really introduced here, so there's not much more to say, except that the lesson of the show is one that the impulsive Pinkie Pie is not likely to have learned, and Twilight is the perfect pony to teach it.

Lesson: By the wording at the end, and the fact that the culprits include the Mane Six, this is a relational lesson, a friendship lesson: Don't throw around accusations without evidence. Pinkie at first assumes jealousy, then cheating, on the part of her fellow passengers when the evidence ultimately shows a loss of self-control. Mind you, it's a self-control that Pinkie herself loses during the contest at the end. (Don't fault her assault; that's the punch line of the episode.) After the walk-of-sadness lesson the CMC got in the previous episode, it was nice to have this lesson presented in a non-stop fun way.

Resonance: Of all the comedy episodes of MLP, this one comes closest to being a non-stop laugh fest. Aside from all the alliteration, my favorite moments include the fact that the cake survives the cold open, Pinkie waking up like a dog, her motion-picture summation, the mousse moose being mistaken for a character twice, every time Twilight blows on the bubble pipe, Rarity's confession, and "sprinkles in her wrinkles." All this merely scratches the surface.


Other Impressions and Final Assessment: This episode is similar to It's About Time in many respects: It's a Twilight-Pinkie show and an absolute blast because of the way they play off each other's personalities, it's light on drama but has some adventure (in the fantasy scenes), it has a cameo from Celestia, etc. But this episode ups the ante with tons of word play, some fun art shifts, and a multitude of shout-outs, including the "everyone did it" twist of the Murder on the Orient Express story from which it takes its name. One little detail I picked up while listening with headphones: the doppler effect on the rooster's crow to take into account the train's motion. Easily the best pure-fun MLP episode to date. I still hold it below The Return of Harmony and a few other superb episodes because those have more serious emotion resonance on top of all the fun. But this is undeniably superb.


MMMystery on the Friendship Express armor rating: Diamond Armor
Ranked 9th of 26 season-two episodes
Ranked 77th of 233 stories overall

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Previous: Ponyville Confidential MMMystery on the Friendship Express Next: A Canterlot Wedding Part 1