• "The Big Mac Question": Episode Followup

    Love is in the air and in the apples! Big Mac and Sugar Belle have been an item for several seasons now, and we get to witness the start of a new adventure.

    Of course, a misadventure suits this cast a little better. Check out the full followup after the break!

    Whoa, whoa! Those are not the faces one should be making at episode's start! We're here to have a good time, ponies!

    Actually, what we have here is a frame narrative where various characters recount events in anticipation of a current event. 

    A story within the story.

    Now this is a happy Spike! Enchanted, even. Has he laid eyes upon the new Kotobukiya Rarity figure?

    Nope, it's some sweet bling. And while one might call specisism for yanking it away, that drool says otherwise.

    "I'm not gonna eat it!"

    Methinks you protest too much, dear Spike. 

    We're in for some freaky sights. But the most frightening thing is here. Eyes should not move like that. We're not at Halloween yet, but Discord is giving me nightmare fuel.

    "I keep tons of secrets! Like Fluttershy's secret fear of clowns. Or that time I caught Twilight sleep-trotting through town. Oh! And did you know that Octavia went on a date with Bulk Biceps?"

    Let's tackle these piecemeal:

    1. Fluttershy is afraid of clowns? That's... not at all surprising.

    2. Twilight sleep-trots? The Royal Guard is going to have to keep an eye on that.

    3. Octavia dates Bulk Biceps? Okay, but is there going to be a second date?

    This is but the tip of the pop culture references. Yet watching these three in such get-ups makes me nostalgic. While I miss the singing bush, I do appreciate that they included the Invisible Swordsman as well.

    What a rock! How much did Big Mac save up for that? Or... heck... did he just ask Rarity for a spare?

    I don't blame him at all for keeping that away from Spike. I'd be afraid to show it to anyone but the truly intended!

    And Discord's big mouth wakes the neighborhood. Though I gotta say Shoeshine really takes it in stride. 

    If anything... she looks a little disappointed?

    Probably because the last disturbance meant free pie. Sorry, Shoeshine. That's a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

    "It really is a curse having infinite powers. Everypony is always asking you to move a couch or help with a proposal."

    As much as this is Discord trying to present himself as the victim, I can't help but feel Josh Haber and Mike Vogel are expressing some of their own frustration. How do you create a conflict when one character can solve everything with the snap of a finger? 

    Though it's worth noting that Discord isn't as selfish as he might sound. Upon learning that his friend intends to be wed, he's actually enthusiastic. There's no "Our trio's down to two" or cynicism towards the concept of love.

    " I don't talk much, so I want to show Sugar Belle how committed I am."

    I don't know if there's a pony in Equestria who could surpass Big MacIntosh for commitment. He's seen Sweet Apple Acres through a lot, even while his sister was away saving the larger world. Sure, he's not going to win any awards or go down in history, but he's part of the home giving Applejack a reason to return.

    I do love the game of "guess the expression". Spike dominates because Discord may be neigh-omnipotent, but he's far from omniscient. Though Discord's rhino guess has one benefit...

    How many can say they've broken Big Mac's brain? Only Discord!

    Spike, put that down. You have no idea where it's been.

    Who is responsible for these animals? They are taking money from their neighbors' livelihood.

    Worst part is it's probably Fluttershy.

    In fairness, Spike volunteered Discord. Whatever happens next is in part due to Spike taking a chaos spirit's help for granted.

    "I've precipitated liquid cocoa on Equestria and herded long-limbed Leporidae."

    (Leporidae: noun, plural le-por-i-dae [li-pawr-i-dee, -por-]
    1. An animal of the family Lepoirdae, comprising the rabbits and hares.)

    I am genuinely impressed by Discord's vocabulary and animal knowledge. Maybe he's learned something from Fluttershy?

    Well, that's not at all suspicious!

    Well now, it's rare to see Mrs. Cake in over her head. At least when the twins aren't involved. Honestly, it looks like there's been an unbaked food fight.

    "Who needs twenty-one desserts?"

    Spike, you live in the same town as Pinkie Pie. Some questions answer themselves. 

    Anybody else see a slightly frowning face over the oven? Just me?

    Whatever the case, Mrs. Cake isn't known for baked bads. There's something fishy going on. Though that might just be the taste of the latest creations.

    Okay, we've now seen Discord detach both limbs. Believe it or not, there is a thematic reason for this.

    Discord is a Trickster archetype. The kind of being that is known for shape-shifting, calculated cruelty, being damaged while inflicting damage upon others, and having an animalistic nature. One of the most important aspects of a Trickster, however, is the theme of death and rebirth. They tear your life apart so you can put it back together.

    Dismemberment is a classical theme in many stories as it ties in with the concept of death and rebirth. If you'd like to learn more, I recommend trying to acquire a copy of Carl Jung's On the Psychology of the Trickster Figure.

    That is as high-brow as I'm going to get for this followup.

    Wow, both those mares are focused on the task at hoof. They don't even see a random, ripe apple.

    We know from the opening that several parties involved are going to somehow mess this up. Yet because Discord has the greatest control over the environment, his mistakes are also going to garner the most attention.

    They're also going to create the greatest spectacle.

    The return of General Discord from Twilight's Kingdom. I especially appreciate the military gruffness he puts into his voice. Tricksters are meant to be theatrical, after all. Oh, dang. I gotta keep that in check.

    Okay, time for someone else to start messing things up. Spike's intentions are noble, but he's so focused on one goal that he's not considering his actions.

    Thus we have him sabotaging Mrs. Cake's efforts. Between this and the goat, I'm starting to wonder if property damage is this episode's theme.

    As crisis go, this is pretty tame. It's odd-mouthed apples spouting random clues at passing ponies. Compared to parasprites, Pinkie Pie clones, and Tirek, this should only be about a 4 on the Ponyville scale.

    Then again, Applebloom did say, "You'd think we would be used to stuff like this in Ponyville." I guess it would be more troubling if ponies treated this as an everyday event.

    Whoa! Blink and you'll miss it! A dual proposal between Lyra and Bon Bon Sweetie Drops.

    Not even mobile produce is enough to distract them–or us–from this moment.

    I don't want to derail this episode about Big Macintosh and Sugar Belle, but this deserves some attention. Though this was not an intended outcome at series' start, it is something that's evolved with the fandom. And it means a lot because we've gotten to witness these two, even as background characters, investing time with one another.

    I'm of the mind that a good romance is a journey. For the audience as well as the characters. It's why we balk at rushed romances where it seems a cliché. The more time given to the idea of two characters being together, the greater a stake we feel in the outcome.

    If you see fans making a bigger deal of this than Big Mac and Sugar Belle, it's because we've been on a journey with these two for longer.

    Speaking of revisiting others on a journey: hi, Grand Pear!

    And hello to you, Burnt Oak! Sorry about your stall.

    We're 3 for 3 on the property damage theme.

    "Apples are terrible at taking directions. Couldn't even manage to stay in one location."

    I feel like Applejack would be offended by this. 

    Bananas? Seriously, Discord? You're going to invoke bananas with this fandom?

    Do you even like mmmbananas?

    Shoot. Now I'm doing it!

    "To be honest, I tasted some, and burning them might have been an improvement."

    Wow. That was uncalled for. And please don't give me any "He's telling the truth" defense.

    The fact that the food tasted odd due to bad mixture is a part of the truth, but so are the reasons behind that mixture. Spike doesn't know that, so he's speaking from only a partial truth in a very disrespectful way.

    There is an art to offering a critique, and I don't buy it when people hold up a half-truth to excuse half-hearted effort.

    This is coming together not-so-nicely. If someone showed up with someone I cared about blindfolded, I'd probably be less restrained than Big Mac.

    Though that's another achievement for Discord: getting Big Mac to raise his voice. I would fear that face.

    "I guess this can't get any worse"
    "As the Lord of Chaos, I'd advise against saying things like that."

    Lord of Genre Savvy. 

    Hi girls (and Granny)! I'd almost forgotten.

    I do appreciate that when danger looms, Big Macintosh's first thought is to defend Sugar Belle. That is indeed showing commitment.

    This is the fun part of a frame narrative. We can experience the same events from multiple perspectives. Thus you get more mileage out of shorter time-frame. 

    "We have a bit of a reputation for gettin' carried away"

    The citizens of Appleloose and Ponyville can attest to this!

    I think I just figured out why Mrs. Cake's kitchen looks so poorly. I call it "The Cutie Mark Crusader Effect".

    That said, it is nice to see them working with Sugar Belle. Despite a very rocky introduction, she seems to have built a bond with all three. Much like witnessing Lyra and Sweetie Drops, seeing bonds form over time makes us more invested in the characters. We won't get to see more this final season, but I consider this quality.

    I also think this is somewhat karmic for Mrs. Cake. Back in "The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows", her carelessness led to Pinkie having to hold a secret. Now she seems doubly committed to both keeping the secret while fulfilling a goal.

    Plus this is an important portrayal for Sugar Belle. Up until now, we've been seeing Big Macintosh perform acts of service and affection towards her. His efforts to court her. His efforts to set up Hearts and Hooves Day.

    This is a chance to see Sugar Belle taking the initiative to show her feelings for Big Mac. She's setting up a personalized message with a callback to the Hearts and Hooves mishap. As a fan of continuity, I applaud this romantic gesture.

    That face belongs on Twilight Sparkle. As much as I appreciate that Mrs. Cake is taking all this on, she could use some help. Maybe it's time to leg go of old grudges and ask Starlight Glimmer.

    No, wait. I forgot. There's at least five non-edible items that mysteriously disappeared into that cake. No matter how bad the mixture, at least I know Mrs. Cake's works are edible. Kinda.

    Maybe there was simply no time to ask for more help or Mrs. Cake isn't sure who to trust with a secret. Ponies are notoriously unreliable in both planning and zipping the lip.

    Whoa. Déjà vu.

    Since I've brought up past dynamics, let's talk CMC. Back in Surf And/Or Turf, Applebloom was the more reasonable party while Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo's passions interfered with their mission and friendship.

    While AB might not be stressing their friendship, it's not a reversal where they have to keep her excitement in check. That includes her screaming aloud about her new sister-in-law.

    "Am I getting free desert or not?"

    I refuse to consider what happens when sentient fruit merges. I think the implications would make me cry.

    I am very impressed by Scootaloo's ability to recognize designs just from blueprints. I thought that was Applebloom's talent!

    But Applebloom's not in the right headspace. Much like Spike, she's too eager for the outcome to think things through. Thus she takes Granny Smith's advice a bit too far.

    "Granny says it's best to check the least likely place". Least likely isn't the same as "absolutely impossible."

    Donny Pony! You're not dead! When I saw that coffee can in "Slice of Life" I feared the worst!

    I got my Fluttershy fix for the week. I'm good.

    You think Applebloom has to practice in the mirror to achieve that level of awkward regret?

    I have nothing to add. This scene speaks for itself.

    "Granny says it's best to just stay in one place."

    "Girl, you're lucky you're cute."

    There is something so innocent about Big Mac in this scene. He has no idea of what's unfolding.

    Girls, we want Granny to live long enough to celebrate the wedding. Stop trying to startle her into an early grave!

    "It was about Grand Pear... We were in outer space on some kinda mission to explore a strange new world... And Mudbriar was there, bein' as logical as ever, but his ears was all pointy-like. And then Discord showed up and... well, you know, he was pretty much the same."

    Is it wrong that I would pay money to see this?

    Excuse me! We were in the middle of a Star Trek reference. Jurassic Park references will need to wait their turn!

    Huh. Getting another sense of déjà vu.

    The giant apple monster in the IDW comics wasn't the same, yet storytellers seem to love to turn Sweet Apple Acres into a source of apple-themed destruction. It's reminds me of Game of Thrones. "It is the things we love that destroy us."

    "Why does everypony immediately assume that this has something to do with me?"

    To be fair, being the lord of chaos doesn't mean you control what happens. In fact, that would defeat the point. And we've seen what happens when Discord tries to deny himself. Still, a little contrition would go a long way.

    Another Discord triumph: the Big Mac facehoof. Second only to the Picard Facepalm.

    They invoked Star Trek. I'm just running with it.

    I do love how they made this so grotesque yet funny. The seed eyes are a great touch.

    But I can barely understand it. Sounds like it's doing a bad Sylvester Stallone impersonation.

    Well... that was easy. Just goes to show how quickly things can be resolved if the lord of chaos is at full strength.

    Now come the excuses and deflection. Especially Discord, whose self confidence is not as iron-clad as one might think. He's very eager to deflect the blame, which in turn only comes back on him twofold.

    Gotta give props to Mrs. Cake. She tends to go with offended dignity more than blaming someone else.

    "Yes, but you all expect that of me."

    True, but would it kill you to offer an apology?

    Some adorable expressions from the storytellers. Strange reflections, insights, meandering thoughts...

    But I still want that Pony Trek spinoff, dang it.

    "Today was... interesting."

    That is the single-most polite way one could put it.

    Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes! All my yes! This is the perfect setting for these two.

    It calls back to one of the best episodes in the entire show and helps us get some insight into Big Macintosh.

    "I wanted our love to be as perfect as my parents' was when they planted these two trees together."

    Aw, Big Mac. You're over-romanticizing your parents' history. They planted these trees in a rushed wedding where their families threatened to split them apart. It wasn't perfect for them, but they were perfect for each other.

    No romance is without difficulty. We never got to see Bright Mac and Pear Butter disagree or argue, but it'd be impossible for them to get along that well. If that were the case, they'd have no personalities.

    "No matter how hard I try, I always seem to mess up when it comes to you."

    And yet no matter how messy things get, you keep trying for her. That's commitment. 

    Now it's Sugar Belle's time to shine! Some quiet insight and a hint that Big Mac shared a lot of his family's history with her. Given how tight-lipped he often behaves, that really shows how much she means to him.

    "This apple tree and pear tree are stronger together. They'll survive whatever comes because they don't have to do it alone. They belong together. Like your parents. And like us."

    Well, that does it. I'm not going to be able to snark for at least ten minutes. I don't know how I'll survive!

    What a marvelous image. My hat's off to the design and animation staff for composing this shot. 

    It sums up the entire relationship while calling to our memory.

    And these two are wonderful together. Their relationship was very sudden but this episode really sells it.

    "Will you marry me? Eeyup!"

    And now I cannot snark for half an hour. Curse your perfect proposal!

    I did wonder how earth ponies handled proposals. Unicorns can put the rings on their horns, so a necklace makes sense. 

    I wonder how pegasi propose?

    Thus our frame narrative comes to a close in anticipation of the biggest event.

    And we're not the only audience to this tale. I imagine Applejack had a lot of explaining to do to Ponyville's residents. Knowing all this now, I'm sure she'd say, "Worth it."

    Another great callback to "The Perfect Pear". I especially love the two lanterns hanging in the center. They symbolize Big Mac's parents, who are there in spirit no matter what.

    I get why Big Mac stuck to family and Burnt Oak. They have a special connection to all this. A shame other family members like Braeburn or Babs couldn't be there, but Golden Delicious was a big part of learning about his parents. And where she goes, so too go to the Gold Horseshoe Gals.

    Though I am surprised that Starlight isn't present as part of Sugar Belle's friends. I get that she might not be as close to Belle as the others, but let's consider a theme in this episode besides property damage.

    If not for Starlight, Big Mac and Sugar Belle might never have met. That doesn't justify or excuse her actions but it's a reminder of how good things can come even from bad situations. If the theme of this episode is things going wrong can lead to something perfect, then I think Starlight would be a good symbol.

    I'm just going to assume the School of Friendship demanded her time. Or Big Mac didn't want her magicing his voice again.

    There's a bit of humor and Discord's unique support after this, but I'd rather close out on these images. The Apple family just grew and while Big Mac and Sugar Belle's dating storyline has drawn to a close we get to witness the start of something new.

    That was "The Big Mac Question". Do you want feels with that? 

    I loved this episode. It's funny, it's heartfelt, and I love the final scene. Discord's powers set him apart from the cast and thus it's easy to see his apple monsters overshadow the other ponies' misadventures. But on a second and even third viewing I came to appreciate the others' efforts more.

    What did you all think? Looking forward to seeing folks' comments.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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