The Cart Before the Ponies
SPOILER ALERT! Those of you who have not seen the show, be warned. This review is going to contain spoilers about the episode. If you have not seen it yet, watch it right now and read my review in 20 minutes, or prepare to have some of the critical plot mentioned before you view it. I am assuming many of you are bronies, or fans of the show, and you are reading this review for an interesting insight on an episode you have seen countless times already (as have I), in which case, continue reading, and enjoy!
The title of this episode is clearly a play on words involving the common phrase “Put the cart before the horse.” In addition to being clever, it foreshadows the episode. Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity are so busy building the carts they want, that they ignore the needs of the ponies. But more on that later.
First, I need to discuss the beginning of the episode, in which Miss Cheerilee is teaching her class physics. I almost turned the episode off there (not really). I took physics in high school, and even though I was pretty good at it, I couldn’t stand it. I really did not need to be reminded of such dark times, especially in a children’s show. Thankfully, the flashback to the horrors of physics was over soon and the reason the class needed to learn physics in the first place was revealed: they needed to build carts for the derby race.
There are three awards to be given at the end of the race. One for the fastest cart, another for the most traditional, and the final for most creative. The Cutie Mark Crusaders decide on what ribbon they want to win. Apple Bloom wants the fastest one, Sweetie Belle wants the most traditional, and Scootaloo wants the most creative. This was not what I had in mind. The older ponies the CMC chose to work with were who I had in mind, though. Each wanted to work with their older sister. (“Sister” in Scootaloo’s case)
When Scootaloo asks Rainbow Dash to help her build her cart for the derby, Rainbow Dash reminisces about when she raced in the Cloudsdale Derby. Rainbow Dash won for being the fastest, and she had a great time. Even though Scootaloo tell Rainbow that she has her own ideas, Rainbow still wants to do it her way. Scootaloo is certain that Rainbow’s expertise will ensure things go perfectly with the cart making.
Meanwhile, Applejack is honored to help her sister take the prize for most traditional. A more modern, fast car is “Not Apple” enough. In order to keep the family tradition going, Apple Bloom needs a slow and traditional cart.
Sweetie Belle isn’t having much luck with Rarity, either. Rarity sees helping her sister as a chance to get the first prize creativity award she never won. She came in second place (behind Derpy) and wants a chance at revenge. Honestly, holding such a petty grudge does seem like something Rarity would do, but kicking high-class potential customers out of her boutique to work on cart designs seemed a little bit much, even for her. Rarity gets so caught up in having her creativity award that she tells Sweetie Belle “to leave tradition to the Apples”and says the prize for most creative will be in her own hooves.
The CMC and their derby partners wake up before sunrise to get to work on the carts. The older ponies want the carts to win for their own sake, and don’t care about the prizes the Crusaders want. Apple Bloom mentions the possibility of the older ponies doing all the work, and not letting her or her friends have a say in the carts. The other Crusaders reassure her, saying the older ponies know best.
The older ponies are so gung-ho on building the carts they want, that they become helicopter sisters and take the projects over. I assumed that the Crusaders would switch partners so each pair would want to win the same prize, but this never happened. They continue to go back and forth about what they want in the cart and the older ponies simply build what they have in mind.
There’s a montage of the older sisters going back and forth with the younger ones. While the Crusaders try to make the carts the way they want them, the older ponies undo their work and keep things their way.
Race time arrives, and Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom can’t even drive the carts like their classmates can. Cheerilee reminds the older ponies that the younger ones usually drive, yet the CMC are stuck in the passenger seats. We get to see a great shot of some awesome derby cars as well as schoolponies with their family members.
We get a decent song during the race scene. The Crusaders are miserable and the race ends in a massive crash. Rainbow Dash, still concerned with winning the race, asks if pushing her cart across the finish line still counts as a win. This is where the Crusaders draw the line and shout that the carts are supposed to be theirs and they they were supposed to design and drive them.
This is where the moral of the story comes in: Although it may be hard to speak up to older ponies, they do not always know what is best, and speaking up is sometimes necessary. Older ponies should also listen to younger ponies, who may have good ideas. Miss Cheerilee gives everyone a chance to build new carts and race again.
The second time around, older ponies are allowed to help build the cart, but can’t be in them for the race. The CMC all make the kind of cart that they want to make and have a blast driving them. While they race, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity lounge on the side, relaxing. It seems as though they should be cheering the CMC on. Other ponies were doing so, and when I did competitive sports in middle and high school, it always felt amazing to see my family and friends root for me. Rainbow Dash does cheer for a moment but just goes back to relaxing. The episode ends there.
The ending was a major disappointment. The winners of the race and ribbons were not shown, so I have no idea if the Crusaders won the ribbons they wanted to win. Also, why the heck were the older sisters not cheering for the Crusaders? They obviously care about them a lot, and it seems like they would normally put higher priority on supporting loved ones. Even Rarity, who was willing to get filthy to help build her sister’s cart, would not cheer Sweetie Belle on.
The lesson was important, though boring, and the song was a bit boring as well. It wasn’t a bad song, but it wasn’t the kind of catchy thing that gets stuck in my head. (Give me a day or two on this, since even boring songs tend to grow on me to the point where I can’t stop singing them.) The humor wasn’t all over the place, but some scenes were funny, such as Rarity losing to Derpy, which I thought was ironically hilarious. It was a decent episode, despite being a dull at times.