Pony Get iPad: Checking in on My Little Pony’s 5th generation

Bobby Schroeder
27 min readOct 9, 2022

I’ve been asked a few times about my thoughts on the new My Little Pony series on Netflix, Make Your Mark — the flagship series for Generation 5. I previously shared more casual thoughts on the preceding movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation, which I thought was cute but bogged down by having the entire story revolve around a very trite and overly simplistic political allegory. I said at the time that I did like the new characters, though, and that they had potential.

Well now Make Your Mark is here, it gives the cast more to talk about than Horse Racism, and it’s… all right! Hit or miss. Sometimes fun, sometimes really bland. It’s slowly improving, but the ways in which it stumbles over itself are interesting to me. So here I am, once again writing too many words about a cartoon and also the ways in which adults online talk about cartoons for kids.

But first, context

Part of me feels kind of bad for complaining that a show for little kids doesn’t totally speak to me. Like. I’m 28. It’s not made for me. But I don’t expect it to be! Much of the initial charm of Friendship is Magic is that it was so unapologetically a cute and nice show for little girls at a time when cartoons about girls were harder to get off the ground. But because the target audience is so young, it’s easy to fall into the critical pitfall where you’re one step removed from going “Why isn’t the writing in Peppa Pig cathartic for me, an adult?” or “Why am I still hungry after eating this Kid Cuisine?” It’s not immune to criticism, but it’s important not to lose sight of what reading level it’s aiming for.

(Side note: I’ve seen claims that Make Your Mark is a preschool show, which FiM wasn’t, but I don’t buy it. Its style feels in the same ballpark as FiM’s, and both shows’ movies are rated PG, not G. I’ll touch on this more later.)

I also know I’m extremely biased because Friendship is Magic was my fucking LIFE. I met a lot of close friends through that fandom, and even my boyfriend of eight years. My drive to make MLP fanart as a teen was what pushed me to start posting art online and improving my skills after years of insecurity. And, yes, I am one of countless trans women online who started to figure some shit out because of this cartoon about how there’s no single right or wrong way to be a girl. (The girls in question just happen to be horses.)

At the same time, I don’t think every new generation of My Little Pony now needs to emulate Generation 4 directly. The entire point of a reboot is to do something new. But FiM was also never a perfect show.

The most common critique is the increase in pandering to bronies over time. And, yes, episode 100 being 22 minutes of “do you recognize this background pony meme?” was torture; Discord’s “redemption arc,” where he went from showstopping villain to insufferable backstabbing “friend” so fan favorite Star Trek actor John de Lancie could become a series regular, sucked ass; and the fifth season finale in which Twilight was thrust into various grimdark bad timelines, including a war-torn Equestria in which a battle-scarred Rainbow Dash seemed to be dressed like a Fallout character, was bizarre. The shift was an issue. But I also think lapsed fans tended to latch onto random things like a nameless extra wearing a fedora (as a resident of a pony city modeled after early 20th century New York) as “proof” that the show had abandoned little girls altogether and shifted its focus exclusively to the most toxic and entitled parts of the brony fandom, which was never quite true, even at its worst.

No, there was always more to critique than that. There were some bad episodes in every season, even before creator Lauren Faust left, thanks in part to the way characters’ personalities and relationships could fluctuate wildly based on the writer and whose turn it was to learn a lesson on not being an asshole that week. After Faust left, seasonal arcs and the big Event Episodes became a mixed bag, based largely on needing to make up more macguffins and conflicts (and toys) to keep the show going every year they got renewed. And attempts at depicting other cultures through the non-pony races like the zebras, the buffalo, and the yaks often devolved into crude stereotypes, with WAY too many storylines about the ponies needing to introduce these primitive cultures to the concept of friendship. There’s always been tons of room to improve on FiM.

But in spite of all that, it’s still one of my favorite things ever, and a show that continues to be very dear to me. Yes, even the later seasons. (They have Starlight and Trixie.) So it makes me a little sad that this new show is having trouble either recapturing that magic or making a compelling argument for itself as a proper new take on the franchise.

yes I chose a screenshot that looks gay on purpose

Okay let’s actually talk about Make Your Mark now

The first thing everyone notices is the new 3D art style. Opinions have been mixed, but I think it looks good by TV standards. The 44-minute premiere felt rougher, with characters seeming like they’d been chroma keyed in over the environments at times, but newer episodes feel more polished. The new pony models with their Disney-like faces and finely groomed eyebrows might be a hard sell for some, but I got used to it quickly, and I like new details like the visibly separate hooves, additional accessories, and multicolored wings.

The shift to 3D clearly has its limitations, though, and I think it’s one of the main things that hurts the show. For one, the over-the-top cartoony expressiveness that gave FiM so much of its charm is basically impossible to recreate here. You can push 3D animation super far into exaggerated cartoon territory when your assets are being built for that (see: The Bad Guys and The Mitchells vs. the Machines, but I also can’t resist a chance to plug Battle Kitty), but that wasn’t the goal here. This alone isn’t a dealbreaker to me, though. Also not a dealbreaker, but something I keep noticing: they constantly use the animation cheat of just having the ponies magnetically pick up props with their hooves. FiM tried to avoid this, and it looks even weirder in high-fidelity 3D. (Their phone cases are all designed to slot over their hooves, though, and I think that’s a cute touch.)

What’s worse is that the fantasy adventure elements that defined G1 and G4 are now almost entirely gone, at least in these episodes, and I personally suspect the shift to 3D is the culprit here as well.

FiM would frequently insert fantasy monsters into even its slice of life comedy episodes, or have the gang explore different parts of Equestria. The crew just had to draw the new creatures and backgrounds, which is the kind of thing built into the expected workload of a 2D cartoon. But now we have stricter 3D modeling budgets and asset pipelines to worry about, which here means the cast can rarely leave a very small set of locations within Maretime Bay (they don’t even visit the other locations from the movie) and all of the non-pony species have been removed from the series, with the sole exceptions of the obligatory baby dragon and a few critters. Having more foreign, non-equine characters (hippogryphs, dragons, changelings, griffons, etc.) join the cast was also a focal point of FiM’s last few seasons, so their exclusion in the new show that’s all about embracing diversity really stands out. You could argue that this is intentionally a back-to-basics reboot, which is probably true to some extent, but removing the other fantasy creatures that have been an element since 1986 makes the world feel so small and empty. Ironic, since this is probably the most expensive MLP show ever made.

I feel like these restrictions on character animation, locations, and creature variety are why so many are interpreting Make Your Mark as more of a low-key preschool show. Which would be fine, but given the Lore and Plot stuff, I don’t necessarily think they’re trying to make Bluey. (We’ll get to the Lore, believe me.) Maybe that vibe will make it speak more to fans of things like My Little Pony Tales and G3, though? If that applies to you, fan complaints that this show is “more girly” instead of being “serious fantasy” might be a sign that the pool’s open again. Why yes I did make the mistake of looking at the MLP subreddit why do you ask

Regardless, this is a character-driven show. Nothing else matters if they can carry it. So, how are the characters?

The Mane Five

I’ll admit that I have yet to start watching Tell Your Tale, the series of 2D shorts on YouTube, because the animation looks… well, bad. But I hear it’s cute. I also haven’t been keeping up with the comics, or played the video game. It’s possible that those use the cast better, but I don’t think it should be necessary to do homework to watch a cartoon for kids. So I’m judging this as its own thing.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to judge the characters in Make Your Mark as their own characters, because they so frequently feel like watered down versions of FiM’s Mane Six.

I’ve tried so very hard to not just view them as that. That criticism can be such a cheap dig. And even if the Mane Six are some of my favorite fictional characters ever, after nine seasons of them it was clear that the franchise was ready for something new. I was excited to give this new cast a chance! But it’s so hard to not see the gears turning in the writers’ heads. It all maps too directly.


Let’s take Izzy as an example, because I thought for sure she was gonna be my favorite. And I do like her, but in Make Your Mark Izzy Moonbow is Pinkie Pie if she was a unicorn who was into crafts instead of an Earth pony who was into baking and parties. Moment to moment they‘re identical. Cheerful, easily excitable, superstitious, seemingly airheaded because they operate on logic no one else fully understands. The thing is, Pinkie had more to her than that! She wanted to make everyone happy and for everyone to like her, and conflicts arose from her tying her self-worth to that. She would sometimes struggle with feeling replaceable to her friends, thinking she was only worth having around if she could entertain them. She was often reduced to just a zany goofball as a supporting player, sure, but those extra layers were there when they zoomed in. Izzy just doesn’t have that yet. She’s just a goofball. (But without Pinkie’s cartoony visual gags, because, again, animation limitations.) Like most of the cast, she might be rendered in three dimensions, but she tends to be written in one, and it makes the whole show more boring to follow.

See, FiM was a great example of one of my favorite character writing tools, which is giving them apparent “contradictions.” Pinkie was an upbeat goober, BUT there was also this inner layer of sadness and self-doubt to her sometimes. This doesn’t just include flaws and insecurities, though — take, for example, the fact that Pinkie was the party animal of the group, but she actually grew up with a very dour Amish family (who she still loves). She’s not just one thing or the other all the time, and these contrasting sides of her character make her more interesting. For something more comedic, see how the normally wise and regal Princess Celestia also liked to be a prankster sometimes, such as when she revealed she invited the Mane Six to the gala because she thought it’d be more fun if they trashed the party. This is character writing 101 stuff, but the cast of FiM felt more engaging on both a dramatic and a comedic level because of these added wrinkles beyond their moment to moment personality archetypes. It’s why people still love them so damn much.

Zipp and Pipp

Zipp Storm and Pipp Petals are also great examples of how much flatter the characters tend to be. Zipp is very clearly the new Rainbow Dash, the cool and confident tomboy pegasus with a multicolored mane and a lightning bolt cutie mark who’s great at flying. The problem is that Zipp is rarely anything but “the cool one.” She’s just kind of confident and chill. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash had a lot of traits that contradicted her “cool” image. She was a total fangirl with her idols like the Wonderbolts, and she tended to judge herself extremely harshly in comparison to them despite seemingly having such a massive ego. Her selfish and competitive tendencies could make her kind of an insensitive jerk at times, but this was balanced out with plenty of sweet moments where she’s supportive of her friends. Zipp doesn’t really have many wrinkles like that. And it’s clear that the writers knew they needed to give her something else, because Make Your Mark also decides that she’s a detective. Her natural inquisitiveness is something, I guess, but in practice it usually means she’s the character who mutters to herself about plot clues while everyone else is distracted by the episode’s main problems.

Pipp, meanwhile, is the new fashionable girly girl to replace Rarity. But Rarity bucked (ha ha) the tropes that would have made her the generic snob in so many other shows by also being a passionate, workaholic fashion designer who was generous to a fault and wanted to help bring out the beauty in everyone, AND being confident enough to stand up to all sorts of monsters. Pipp, meanwhile… is a vain valley girl pop star princess (who seemingly only has three fans in town?) obsessed with her phone and social media. She’s mostly presented as a stock character in ways that Rarity never was.

On the subject of Pipp and Zipp, though, the first episode that really stood out to me as a sign that the writers could do more with this cast was “Portrait of a Princess,” which focuses on them. As we learn in this episode, they were extremely close as kids, but as they’ve grown up their differing personalities have led to them bickering more and growing apart. They reach a breaking point when Zipp reveals that the events of the episode were just her trying to get out of their family portrait day, and the normally upbeat and vain Pipp is left heartbroken by her sister seemingly not wanting to be around her anymore. It’s a brief, quiet scene, but Zipp realizing how much she’s hurt her sister is moving, as is the heartfelt duet she initiates to apologize and make it clear that she does still love her. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s an effective little bit of storytelling that made me feel more emotion than the three preceding episodes combined.

And as the season progressed? Pipp unexpectedly became my favorite. She’s absolutely still a stock character, but her lively performance and solid comedic timing made a lot of the jokes about her being vain and obsessed with her online popularity land better for me than other jokes, which tended to whiff in that trademark mid-tier Canadian cartoon fashion. This performance also made her moments of genuine kindness work better for me, perhaps because they’re contrasted against that comical vanity. And I think it’s cute that they made the fashionable popular girl the short and stocky one.

I’ll also admit that it’s still early in Make Your Mark, with only nine of the currently planned 27 episodes released. It’s not really fair to judge that against characters who had over 200 episodes to make themselves interesting. But by this point in its run FiM had already given us some all-timer character spotlight episodes like “Applebuck Season” and “Dragonshy,” and 1-on-1 dynamics within the group were starting to develop with episodes like “Griffon the Brush-Off” and “Look Before You Sleep.” My hope is that Make Your Mark is just off to a slow start, and that we’ll get more standout moments like that scene with Zipp and Pipp in future episodes. But they aren’t giving me much to latch onto.

Seriously though they hold props like this all the time. Although I guess it wouldn’t exactly be practical for Sunny to hold a microphone in her mouth


I have yet to mention the actual main character, Sunny Starscout, and that’s because I find her so… bland. In press releases her core personality trait has been identified as “activist,” apparently in an effort to appeal to the “higher emotional intelligence of Generation Alpha.” With the only major societal problem in her world (Horse Racism) basically solved by the end of the movie, Sunny’s no longer portrayed as the last sane person fighting for justice in a dystopian world, currently leaving her the most boring character in the show. She’s just kind of broadly preachy about how everyone else should live their lives, but not to the extent that it’s funny or a character flaw, because she’s also pretty much always right, and the things she’s right about aren’t particularly high stakes. (There is at least a good joke where the villain does a double take at Sunny’s loftiest goal, the one she would achieve if given unlimited power, being to open up a small community garden so everyone can eat less junk food.) Beyond that, her role is often just to serenely place a hoof on her friend’s shoulder whenever they’re having a problem and tell them that everything’s gonna be okay.

In other words, yes, Sunny tends to feel almost identical to late era Twilight. The version of Twilight whose rough edges were all sanded away in an effort to make her THE expert on friendship — her know-it-all attitude, her poor social skills, her extreme bookishness, her tendency to solve problems with magic even when it’s a bad idea, her obsessive nature, her ability to just get fed up with all the nonsense going on around her and explode. The most boring version of Twilight that downplayed all those quirks that made her fun and relatable in the first couple seasons. She’s back, and she’s orange now.


Hitch is also there. It’s admittedly not a great look to define the protagonist primarily as a social justice activist and have her lifelong best friend be the town cop, but aside from that he’s fine. He’s roughly the equivalent of Applejack, and he has the least traits in common with his predecessor because AJ was always the least popular. (He does wear a cowboy hat in one episode, though.) He becomes the adopted father to a horrible little dragon baby he dubs Sparky Sparkeroni that feels like it was inserted to make the show more marketable to the kids addicted to Cocomelon, or perhaps to give the show its own Baby Yoda copycat, or both. Vile beast.

Ugh, the beast is demonic in nature. Very icky, no good

(I did think the instructional video Hitch made for babysitting Sparky was funny, though. A parent definitely wrote that.)

New ideas

A lot of this sounds like it could just be a new season of FiM with new characters, but Make Your Mark does introduce some new ideas of its own here and there.

The big one is that Earth ponies develop their own form of magic dubbed “Flora Magic,” or the ability to make plants grow at their hooves. This and Hitch’s newfound ability to understand animals (which, yes, is lifted wholesale from Fluttershy) show that they’re trying to more clearly emphasize Earth ponies tending to the land.

I’m of two minds about this. I do think it makes a lot of sense to try and “spice up” Earth ponies, given all the claims that nobody would want to be an Earth pony because they’re “boring.” It’s also a genuine new idea, which I like! But Earth pony culture was always about doing things the old-fashioned way, working with their hands — sorry, hooves, instead of relying on magic, perhaps illustrated best in “Winter Wrap-Up.” Being able to stomp their hooves a few times and grow a giant tomato is the exact opposite of that ethos. BUT it’s at least a type of magic that otherwise fits, and it’s specific and limited enough that it doesn’t feel like they’re suddenly “overpowered.” As the seasons went on the Apple Family’s episodes about doing manual labor down on the farm also tended to land with a thud, so I can’t really blame them for removing full-blown farming from the show in favor of magic community gardens.

The other big new idea I’d draw attention to is really just a structural change. I’ve wondered many times what FiM would’ve been like if its first season had been structured like more recent fantasy adventure cartoons. You know, slowly building towards Nightmare Moon and the Elements of Harmony through an overarching narrative, rather than covering it in the first two episodes. Well, now Make Your Mark is doing pretty much exactly that, with every episode touching on the looming threat of the mysterious Queen Opaline and the questions surrounding her past.

Let’s talk about her!


One of my criticisms of the movie was that Sunny being karmically rewarded with the ability to manifest wings and a horn felt weird in a movie where the Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns were distinct cultures in a blunt racism allegory. I was also just excited to see a humble Earth pony protagonist after six seasons of Princess Twilight, and I was disappointed they made her an alicorn in under 90 minutes. This is thankfully downplayed a bit in the show — Sunny’s usually in Earth pony mode — but they also try to do something interesting with it through Opaline.

Queen Opaline is, herself, a powerful and power-hungry alicorn who believes that being an alicorn automatically puts her in a position of power over every other pony. (She also claims at one point that alicorns are immortal, something I’m pretty sure they’ve dodged confirming before? If she’s telling the truth… where are all the princesses?) A few episodes in we get a story where Opaline tries to manipulate Sunny into believing this ideology herself, saying that she’s uniquely special and important now that she’s an alicorn and that everyone else should be serving her. Sunny rejects this because she doesn’t think she’s better than anyone else just for being an alicorn. In a bubble, this is an interesting dynamic for the main hero and villain to have, and the most interesting thing to happen with Sunny so far.

The problem, of course, is that according to the rules of the world established in Friendship is Magic, Opaline’s claims are all basically true.

Alicorns ARE inherently special! They ARE more magical than everyone else! They DO get to call all the shots! On paper, yes, having your hero fight against the idea that you’re better than everyone else for any innate reason is a great message, but it’s undermined by the worldbuilding established from the very first scene of the previous show. Opaline is a hateful extremist, but she’s also a product of her environment. If this was some kind of deconstruction of FiM trying to say that hey, maybe it is a little fucked up that there’s a special type of pony that automatically gets treated like gods by all the others, that might be an interesting story. One questioning the fact that a show about the power of friendship and working together still ends up rewarding Twilight above her friends, because Celestia has deemed her worthy of some special destiny. It’s hard to say where exactly this storyline is going, but I don’t think this show has a nuanced criticism of Celestia and Twilight and the pony monarchy up its sleeve given how much it, like Sunny herself, worships the ground FiM walked on.

And really, it’s those attempts to tie it all back to Friendship is Magic that might perplex me the most.

They put Lore in this

Early on, Twilight makes a cameo in hologram form to begin to explain how events in her era led to current events, a question that’s been on every returning fan’s mind. But this connection highlights one of the central hurdles “next generation” sequels face, which is that they often disrupt the “happily ever after” endings of their predecessors. For there to be more story after the ending, you probably need more conflict, and for characters to make more mistakes and deal with the repercussions. Fandoms tend to hate this on principle, but it isn’t an inherently bad thing. I’m a known The Last Jedi liker in part because I think saying that Luke continued to struggle with balancing his light and dark sides and that rebuilding the Jedi Order meant repeating many of their mistakes, causing him to question the whole system, is way more interesting than saying that he was just the bestest Jedi ever and nothing bad happened. And sometimes really leaning into that darker “everything’s gone to shit since you last saw these characters” angle gets you a hit like Logan.

The problem is that we’re talking about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, an extremely schmaltzy cartoon where the power of friendship is the ultimate magical force in the universe that can solve any problem (and also lets you shoot rainbow beams). That’s the appeal! The ending to FiM was bittersweet, with Twilight tearfully moving back to Canterlot so she can rule as Celestia’s heir, but the feel-good flash forward shows that the Mane Six are all still best friends who make time to hang out as a group as often as they can, even years later. The villains have been defeated, peace reigns, and everyone’s greatest dreams have come true. The book from the first episode closes to bring it all full circle. The end.

…EXCEPT according to this show after that Opaline showed up and started making ponies racist against each other as part of some grand scheme to steal their magic and a unicorn hurt an Earth pony so Twilight decided she had to take away her whole species’ magic by sealing it in the three Unity Crystals so they couldn’t use it against each other and then she also put all of Equestria in an “invisibubble” that somehow obscures the locations of the three crystals from Opaline. The entire country was put in time out, and they weren’t allowed to have magic again unless they played nice. The comics make it sound like this plan restored normalcy for a while before ponykind started fighting again at an unknown point (perhaps after Twilight’s era), but in the show Sunny frames Twilight creating the Unity Crystals and taking everyone’s magic as the last straw before the ponies fully segregated themselves. Ultimately Twilight’s reign ends like this, with everyone isolated, hateful, and without magic, and the world remains this way for centuries. That’s the Mane Six’s legacy now according to the new incarnation of the franchise. That’s their fate. Bleak.

I’m not gonna say that this “ruins FiM” or whatever. It’s its own story, and this is a new one. You can always ignore parts of a franchise you don’t like. (Lord knows there are some episodes of FiM that I pretend didn’t happen — looking at you, “Brotherhooves Social.”) It’s fiction, not a literal window into the history of a real parallel universe with immutable events. It’s just… this is a huge downer ending to establish for the heroes of your sappy power-of-friendship cartoon within the lore of your next sappy power-of-friendship cartoon. And it really sticks out when the new show generally has even lower stakes and less danger, to the point that people are wondering if it’s supposed to be a preschool show. It’s not like it’s even led to any interesting character work for Twilight either, like how cranky old man Luke was fun. Because she’s not a character in this! So far she’s just a hologram here to exposit lore.

It feels like connecting this new series to FiM was a move to appease and intrigue older fans, seeing as how the target audience of this show wasn’t alive when FiM premiered in 2010. A four-year-old whose first introduction to MLP is G5 won’t really know who Twilight Sparkle is. And as one of those returning fans I’m just getting caught up on how fucked up everything apparently went for Twilight and co. as soon as the cameras stopped rolling, instead of enjoying this cute little cartoon. If this was an unrelated show then this backstory would be totally fine in the allegorical mode G5 is operating in. Everyone started fighting each other and their ruler put them in time out on a grand scale! Sure! That works for a show for little kids. But tying these events so explicitly to the characters of FiM and their fates just gives it all this unnecessary baggage.

You know what the real kicker is, though?

They already did this story!!!

Twilight and friends already stopped the three main pony races from being manipulated into turning on each other in “The Ending of the End.” It’s literally the last threat the Mane Six stopped in the whole show! The grand finale! They had everyone see through the deception and the entire extended cast of the show came together to defeat Chrysalis, Tirek, and Darla Dimple — sorry, Cozy Glow for good. The allegory wasn’t great then either, but Twilight’s final test as a hero was overcoming her feelings of powerlessness in the face of this very problem with the help of her friends! And then years later a new villain just… tried it again! But it actually worked that time, and Twilight couldn’t fix it, so she took away everyone’s magic and pony segregation happened.

I can’t even really argue all this benefits the themes, because the movie’s story about overcoming prejudice becomes even more shallow when it’s revealed that the problem was all just the result of one Rita Repulsa-ass villain manipulating everyone into deciding they don’t like each other anymore after one inciting incident so she could get more magic. Yeah, there are countless power-hungry people who incite bigotry as a tool for their own personal gain in real life. They’re called conservatives. But Donald Trump did not invent racism, and you can’t end it instantly with magic macguffins. I know the truth about these issues is complicated, and I know the writers’ hearts were in the right place, but I think we do kids a disservice when we water it down this much. Kids can handle a lot more nuance than adults give them credit for, and they latch onto the stories that don’t speak down to them. Just look at how many of my peers grew up religiously reading Animorphs.

Do I think that My Little Pony should be telling a morally complex and grounded story about systemic issues? Not really, no. I think they should’ve looked in the mirror and realized that maybe the cartoon that said the cowboys and the Native Americans should’ve just learned to share wasn’t equipped for this.

So wait if all this “Equestria suddenly becomes Divided and we must learn to come together again” shit is very obviously inspired by Trump era America then does that mean they see Twilight as pony Obama


Make Your Mark does have a secret weapon, though. Something that feels genuinely new while also building on FiM’s ideas, that makes great use of the serialized format to create an actual arc. And her name is Misty.

Misty is introduced as Opaline’s underling. This poor little ball of anxiety in the shape of a unicorn is constantly belittled and berated in an effort to keep her under control. Any brief moment of happiness is immediately squashed to keep her focused on serving her Queen. But Opaline strings Misty along through lies (Opaline naturally paints Twilight as the villain of the story) and by claiming that regaining her magic will let her give Misty a cutie mark, which she lacks even as an adult.

After a few episodes, Misty starts getting sent out to Maretime Bay to spy on the Mane Five. This escalates to the point where Misty is actively infiltrating the group to try to steal a macguffin. But then…

She actually starts to make friends with them.

The main cast is genuinely nice to Misty in a way she’s never experienced, and she has the time of her life at a sleepover Izzy throws for her. She’s actually… happy. But then she inevitably has to report back to Opaline, who wants her to just focus on the mission and continues to dangle the promise of a cutie mark (and, by extension, a purpose in life) over her head.

Misty actually makes the fact that the cast consists of obvious FiM stand-ins slightly more interesting, because once you see her start to hang out with the group, you realize she’s the missing member. She’s the Fluttershy. It’s like she was cosmically destined to be a part of this friend group by this universe’s rule of six, but all the lies and manipulation from Opaline have done a number on her, so she’s torn between the two sides. She longs for friendship, but she squashes that part of her and redoubles her efforts to be a villain and serve Opaline… which only gets her more verbal abuse back at the lair when she inevitably makes mistakes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that in a show like this, Misty’s gonna eventually stand up for herself against Opaline and become one of the good guys. But I want to see that happen! Wanting to see how Misty’s story plays out is maybe the main thing that has me looking forward to more of this show.

But it’s still not quite there yet. Misty’s role as a spy leads to an episode that I thought was shaping up to be my favorite… until they flubbed it. Episode 8, “Hoof Done It?”, has Zipp investigating the disappearance of a macguffin after Misty tries and fails to steal it from the Brighthouse. (Hey, something interesting with the detective angle!) What ensues seems to be a comedy of errors where the main cast are all getting in each others’ way and making the hunt for the macguffin more complicated than it needs to be, beginning with Pipp finding it almost immediately and deciding to hide it better so as to not spoil her sister’s fun playing detective. But then, as Zipp has Misty cornered, having suspected her all along… Pipp confesses and gives Zipp the macguffin. With like eight minutes left in the episode. What happens next is some of the most bizarre episode pacing I’ve ever seen, with multiple things happening after the resolution of the plot that clearly should have been part of the escalating action. First we get a (really good!!) song from Pipp about Zipp’s investigation, which, instead of playing as part of a montage of Zipp on the case, is just shown to us as a music video on Pipp’s phone? After the mystery is already solved??? Then they run into Sunny and Hitch, who had been starting to work on their own search for the macguffin, but because the plot is over Zipp and Pipp just tell them that they can abort that subplot before they actually do anything. I have no idea why they did it like this.

Closing thoughts

That episode is really a great encapsulation of where the show’s at right now. After a rough start they’re so, so close to having something good on their hands, and it really seemed like they’d finally figured it out, but they just keep tripping over themselves in odd ways — usually on a very basic writing level.

I don’t envy the crew behind Generation 5. The brony fandom has perhaps deified those first two seasons and Lauren Faust’s original vision to an unreasonable degree, but despite its flaws Friendship is Magic really was a cultural phenomenon. It took the foundation laid by the first three generations of the franchise and ran with it, recontextualizing established elements like the different kinds of pony and the little symbols on their rumps into an imaginative new fairy tale world with its own mythos and culture and endless opportunities for adventure. More importantly, though, it was made out of a drive to give young girls a cartoon with a highly varied and multifaceted cast of female characters, ones who defied common stereotypes without feeling the need to go all “not like other girls” mode, ones who were flawed and sympathetic and funny and heroic, and it focused squarely on the ups and downs of the heartfelt friendships between them. For all its many flaws as a series, it resonated, and continues to resonate, because of that.

Make Your Mark, as it currently standsis more My Little Pony.

It has yet to escape the shadow of its predecessor, but it also seems too comfortable living there. Its characters frequently struggle to be more than slight remixes of Faust’s. Its world is a smaller, less interesting version of Faust’s. Its central conflict is largely a retread of the final season of Faust’s. Its protagonist openly idolizes Faust’s protagonist, who keeps coming up in fanservicey lore dumps for better or worse. It’s scared to venture out from that shadow, seemingly worried it’ll be unloved if it tries to truly be its own thing, like how Misty is scared she wouldn’t be able to make it on her own if she stopped unquestioningly mimicking Queen Opaline’s villainous ways. But I’m rooting for both Misty and Make Your Mark to find their own voices. I’ve more or less enjoyed my time with it so far, and there are glimpses of a better series peeking through the cracks more and more with each passing episode. A joke that actually makes me laugh, a catchy song, hints at storylines that are slowly coming together, small moments that make me really like some of these characters.

But hey, even if this is as good as it gets? There are worse things for a cartoon to be than just more My Little Pony, I suppose. It’s still decently cute and fun. And I hope it resonates with its actual target audience, and that in 15 years those Generation Alpha kids with their higher emotional intelligence will be all grown up and writing their own overly-wordy articles about how actually Make Your Mark was the best one.


Hi, thanks for reading this! You’re now in the shameless plug zone. As of writing, I’ve got a video game coming out in December (Super Lesbian Animal RPG), which you can go wishlist on Steam right now. Right now!



Bobby Schroeder

Transgender indie game developer, artist, and cartoon enthusiast. Creator of Super Lesbian Animal RPG, the world’s premiere RPG about lesbian animals.