I remember when the season started with “The Cutie Map.” It’s been a fun road, and 25 episodes later we have arrived at the finale. Looking back, I think there have been two singular highlights. We had “Slice of Life,” which was an episode dedicated solely to the fans. It was cool because while we know the staff has listened to messages and comments, this went beyond like no other show has done in the past. The second highlight would definitely be “Crusaders of the Lost Mark,” which not only celebrated the show’s 5th anniversary, but after so many adventures the Cutie Mark Crusaders finally acquired their Marks. As a whole though, I would probably say this season is the weakest. But an article comparing seasons is for another day, it’s time we looked at the “The Cutie Re-Mark.”
Here’s the official description from Discovery Family:
Starlight Glimmer returns to seek vengeance on Twilight and her friends and has acquired a spell that could change the past, present, and future of Equestria forever.
Starlight Glimmer was a fascinating antagonist in the season premiere. Unlike previous villains, she wasn’t some evil monster or tyrannical ruler, she was just a normal pony. She used words of power, which made her always a blast to watch as she manipulated those around her. (It’s why villains like her and Lotso from Toy Story 3 are truly fantastic.) The fact she lived on at the end of “The Cute Map” meant the show planned to bring her back at some point. And here we are, with the entire plot of the finale being centered on her revenge against Twilight. I was at first disappointed with Starlight’s appearance here. Things happened extremely fast, and she was reduced to being just another cackling generic villain. But things picked up in the middle act of the first part as the episode finally decided to take some time and explain her purpose in wanting to rewrite history. The way she uses her magic and her dialogue makes her of an interesting anti-Twilight, which is why it’s extra interesting to watch the two go back and fourth in the final act.
Interestingly, when looked at in retrospect this entire two-parter is really Starlight’s story. We get interesting backstory about why she’s so obsessed with equality. I didn’t have a problem with the backstory too much, until I realized something: it doesn’t make sense. So Starlight had this friend, and when this friend acquired his Cutie Mark for the first time, he was ecstatic, running to his family. I could understand this scene, he being so excited that this is finally happening that he forgets about Starlight at the moment. What about afterward? Surely just because this happened he wouldn’t completely abandon his friend. He moved away? So what? That shouldn’t be enough to transform her into a criminal mastermind. When you’re watching you don’t think too much about it. But in retrospect, it doesn’t really add up realistically. And then, we get into perhaps the most controversial part of the story: Starlight’s redemption.
MLP has a reputation, which is often labeled negatively, of turning bad guys good. It started in the very first two-parter five years ago, when Nightmare Moon was redeemed and from then on out she was Princess Luna. I don’t think anyone had a problem with that, but it started happening to other major players. Discord is the obvious example, and if his recent appearances this season are any indication, it’s still a mistake to this day. Now we have Starlight Glimmer, one of the show’s finest antagonists, getting this treatment. The actual redemption part is done well. The climax is a great sendoff for the show until next season, talking about the impact of friendships. So really her redemption was used for this, for better or worst. On one hand it’s done well. On the other hand, the show sacrifices one of its best villains, again. I look at it like this: it works for the episode as a season finale. In the long run, it’s ultimately disappointing because there’s so much that could be done with her as a villain. (Does jail not exist in this world, because I think most would agree her being arrested would have been better than another redemption.) It’s very similar to Sunset Shimmer’s character arc in Equestria Girls. The only difference is that there’s things for Sunset to do in that world as a good guy.
With time travel, there’s of course a lot of interesting things the story plays around with. It was fun looking at alternate futures for Equestria. With the time allocated, it’s understandable that there couldn’t be too much time dedicated to exploring these things. Still, that’s why this could have benefited from being a four-parter, because the concept of a war against King Sombra and resistance against Queen Chrysalis is too cool to never be explored again. Really, I think what would have been better is instead of going back and fourth between alternate futures was for Starlight to change the past once, and then focus the story on one of those alternate paths. (It would get slightly annoying after visiting Cloudsdale for like the 7th time.) Perhaps the biggest complaint is Twilight, at least for about the first half. She seemed uncharacteristically afraid of Starlight, and was completely oblivious to her plan. It takes her way too long to realize what was happening. Still, once she did she started to pick up. The battle between her and Starlight was great. It was also fascinating how the story made her admit that she couldn’t overpower Starlight, rather Twilight had to get her to change her mind in order to stop her. It’s an interesting take on how power isn’t always the way to win.
Overall, “The Cutie Re-Mark” is truly an event. It’s probably the weakest of the season finale two-parters, which is due to some questionable writing and the almost running gag nature of this time travel story. Still, Josh Haber delivers a climax detailing the power and impact of friendships, which is truly an accomplishment. This is sadly done at the expense of Starlight Glimmer’s role as a villain. In the context of the finale, it does work. Fans will have a blast looking at the various alternate histories which I’m sure fan-fic writers will be elaborating on in the coming weeks. I also really liked how it’s one big call back to “The Cutie Mark Chronicles,” which as we all know talks about how the Mane 6 became connected in the first place. So while not perfect, this is still a very good holdover until Season 6.