Not As It Seems: “Appleoosa’s Most Wanted” review

During the series one finale of Broadchurch (which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should), we learned who killed Daniel Latimer. We also learned that it was unintentional. The killer (whom I will not name here) didn’t mean to kill the kid, just scare him, but got a bit carried away. But obviously, that doesn’t excuse it.

Though it begs the question: What exactly was going through the minds of the writers when they came up with that? Not to say it was a bad idea. I actually liked it. But what is the reasoning, thematically, behind framing the big murder as unintentional, rather than deliberate?

Well, let’s analyse this carefully. If the murderer deliberately killed Danny, and was thinking: “I want this little prick dead!” It would’ve made it much harder to handle. Because the idea that a complete sociopath could live a life in a small town without anyone noticing, is a bit beyond the pale, and probably more appropriate for something like Dexter.

It’s also the reason I think Gracepoint completely screwed that up. Sure, it’s even easier to believe that Danny’s death could’ve been a complete accident, but a major theme of the series was the idea that even though there’s a shell of sweetness and joy, this small town has a dark centre that’ll slowly get exposed. But Gracepoint didn’t really have a dark centre, because Danny’s death was a complete accident. The moral equivalent of a brick falling on his head. Terrible, but not intentional.

Ending what is ostensibly a thriller by revealing it was all just a horrible accident isn’t really appropriate for a dark character drama. It’s more appropriate for an episode of My Little Pony!

Oh by the way: spoiler warning. I’m going to talk about My Little Pony again.

This time, our story features the enigmatic Cutie Mark Crusaders, who find themselves in Appleoosa, for the Appleoosa Rodeo, which I don’t see the appeal of. But one of the events just happens to be the steeplechase, which we see two mares running, and I like that, because it gives me an excuse to pull out this old clip again.

And I doubt there are many geldings in Equestria.

Anyway, the Crusaders are excited, because they now have the opportunity to earn a rodeo cutie mark! Though I honestly don’t see Sweetie Belle being even remotely interested in rodeos.

But, nonetheless, the trio are excited to participate, and go ask Applejack to help them out.

She’s here, covering for Braeburn, who’s broken a foreleg, and can’t compete in the rodeo himself, so Applejack needs to compete in his stead because he’s… um… I don’t know. I mean, was he supposed to represent Appleoosa? Given that it’s the Appleoosa rodeo, I doubt that. It’s possible he was supposed to represent the Apple family, but that’s based on the assumption that he’s the only Apple in Appleoosa. Which, given that the town’s called ‘Appleoosa,’ I doubt.

So the Crusaders ask if they can compete, and Applejack considers it for a moment, until a stack of hay, five stories tall, nearly falls on their heads.

I’d explain why they had a five-story tall stack of hay, but I honestly have no idea, and it’s quite irrelevant, since the real question is: Why’d it fall over!?

I’m guessing it’s because it was highly unstable.

Actually, it seems it’s the fault of notorious rodeo-terrorist, and fugitive, Troubleshoes!

Apparently this motherhoofer has been going around Equestria, sabotaging rodeos everywhere. As a result, most of them have shut down, because that’s how you respond to terrorism!

Okay, legitimately, what is wrong with the ponies of Equestria!? The moment any little threat approaches, you decide to give in and give up!? Oh, he’s attacking rodeos. Shut down the rodeo! That’s not the way to do things! Mainly because, if you respond to threats of violence by giving in, you send the message that that shit works, therefore they should keep doing it. And really, you don’t want them to keep doing it! It’s the reason the US government never negotiates with terrorists.

And I’m glad Sheriff Silverstar agrees. He refuses to give in, and insists that they continue the rodeo, with increased security, because that worked out so well at American airports. It’s a great idea! Instead of cancelling the rodeo, they could make it too irritating for anyone to participate.

So now that everything fixed, the Crusaders can get to work. They have a rodeo to join!

Actually, since there’s an outlaw somewhere in the town, Applejack wants to send them home, because that’s a rational reaction. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be an outlaw somewhere, everywhere. No matter what town you go to, you’ll find a few bad ponies. You going to keep these three away from all of them!? Yes, lock them in the house all day. That’ll help them grow into well-adjusted adults.

Of course, I’m being sarcastic.

And what about the other children, still in Appleoosa!? I mean, are there any? Well, assuming there are, you just going to assume they can handle the risk, and these three can’t?

I’m just saying, it’s a bit of an overreaction here. Then again, this isn’t exactly new. Applejack’s always been insanely overprotective. I’m guessing there’s some mental trauma behind this. But I would’ve figured she learned something the last time she tried this shit. I guess not.

Then, for some stupid reason which I don’t understand, instead of actually going through with the plan to send them home, Braeburn decides to lock them in the house all night while Applejack continues to train for the rodeo. And this might’ve been effective if Braeburn didn’t need sleep at some stage.

So of course, they make a break for it, because they’re not idiots.

Their plan? To find Troubleshoes, and lead the sheriff to him, so he gets arrested and they can compete in the rodeo. And that’s assuming you can find him before he finds you. But whatever, I’ve heard of worse ideas. Many of them on this show!

Anyway, to make a long story short (which is something I should be doing more frequently on this site), they wander into the dark wood, it starts raining, they end up getting lost, fall into a river, get more lost, Applejack is informed of their absence, more rain, more lost, then they end up here:

An abandoned caravan in the middle of the wood, which isn’t suspicious at all.

Meanwhile, Applejack and Braeburn run off to the sheriff’s office, where his colts are hard at work tracking down this outlaw!

… Well, it’s official, Silverstar is shit at his job. Lazy prick. But once they’re informed of the Crusader’s disappearance, they pop into action, because Applejack suspects Troubleshoes is behind it.

Wait… why? Seriously, why does she suspect Troubleshoes? Why doesn’t she just assume the three made a break for it? It’s not like it would be the first time! Did Applejack have her memory wiped at some stage!? It’s more within their M.O. than Troubleshoes’.

Anyway, back to the Crusaders themselves, they find the caravan unlocked and empty, and a perfect shelter from the rain. Then, shortly after they arrive, so does the caravan’s owner. The Crusaders scream in terror, then 15 seconds later, this is his condition:

No, they didn’t pull out their MMA skills, he’s just a clutz. And that is when everything comes together. All those ‘attacks’ were accidents. The hay tower falling over? He probably just lost his balance and tumbled into it! And Apple Bloom quickly figures this out!

He shares his story. Apparently he had a dream of being a rodeo star, but was shit at it. Regardless, he never gave up, and one day, while at a tryout for ‘rodeo school’ (which I have a hard time believing is an actual thing), he gains his cutie mark of an upside-down horseshoe.

Upside-down? I didn’t realize a horseshoe could be upside-down. I don’t think it’s upside-down. I think it just is. But in Troubleshoes’ mind, the fact that it’s upside-down means he’s cursed with bad luck.

Now that is disturbing. If a cutie mark can do that, what other evils is it capable of!? And the fact that he feels trapped by his cutie mark just shows how problematic the whole concept is. Ideally, a cutie mark will remind you of what you enjoy doing. Instead, all it does is remind him that he’s shit at everything! It’s what his cutie mark is telling him! And that is making me flash back to the season three finale; Which, in case you forget, I judged as the worst episode ever for this very reason. Where everyone thinks their cutie mark should dictate their lives, and not the other way around!

But then, the trio realize something. His talent wasn’t bad luck, it was being a part of the rodeo, just as he wanted. But instead of being good at running or rope skills, his talent involved accidental slapstick! It’s his destiny to be a rodeo clown!

Oh Higgs, that is depressing. Being a rodeo clown has to be the lowest cultural bar. After all, clowns tend to be the most hated performers in any venue.

And I’m sure a rodeo clown is even worse. But I guess one can appreciate the performance of a clown if it involves a lot of slapstick. And by slapstick, I mean severe injuries, a lot of blood, and death. And given Troubleshoes’ size and clumsiness, it’s likely to happen. So, yay! Now he can contribute to society without being classed as a dangerous criminal.

Then this happens:

Oh well, all the girls have to do is explain that Troubleshoes is not a real threat, and everything would be alright. That is unless every single pony decides to just ignore the kids since that worked out so well in the past!

Yeah, they just ignore them, because they’re idiots.

The next day, as the rodeo begins, with everyone distracted, the Crusaders stage a jailbreak, and a plan to get him in the rodeo.

Fully disguised under makeup and baggy clothes, no one will recognise him. And once the clowns start performing, Troubleshoes joins in, causing chaos and… well… trouble.

Haha! It’s funny because it’s clowns that got injured and they’re not real people!

So he blows the crowd away, but in the process, his cover is blown, and the torches and pitchforks come out.

Yeah, I wasn’t joking. Because after all, he did something horrible! He… um… made ponies laugh? They say he ruined the rodeo, but I don’t get it. If anything he improved it by a factor of 50.

But of course, the Crusaders step forward, and explain everything, and everyone finally starts to listen. And once they learn it was just a series of unfortunate accidents, they decide to let it all go.

But how does he explain kidnapping the Crusaders?

Yeah, they still think he kidnapped them. Which makes less sense now than it did before he was caught. Because when they found the four, Troubleshoes was several yards ahead of the Crusaders, and they were in no way restrained. It should’ve been quite apparent that they were there voluntarily.

So once the Crusaders explain that they ran off, they’re assigned to clean up all Troubleshoes’ chaos as punishment.

And so our story ends with a pony we’ve never met before learning a lesson about perseverance, and Applejack being as dumb as ever.

Part of me wants to really hate this episode. We have a stubborn ponce causing all sorts of trouble, all because he misinterpreted his cutie mark, which feels like a callback to the worst episode ever, which I thought had been retconned, but apparently not. Meanwhile Applejack is participating in a rodeo for no adequately explained reason. And the sheriff, while disciplined, is a lazy prat, who is too busy playing cards to do his job!

But I really can’t hate it, because all of that can be easily overlooked. It’s a great episode, with only a few characters acting stupid, and the Crusaders, while acting a bit reckless, are appropriately the true heroes of the tale.

I’m not kidding when I say these three are my favourite characters; particularly Sweetie Belle, who can be defined as the sanest one in the cast. And here, she does a great job of proving it.

She’s the only one who thinks going after a known fugitive might be a bad idea. Meanwhile, Apple Bloom is the first one to notice that Troubleshoes isn’t in any way malevolent.

This shows her analytical intelligence, which no one else in the episode seemed to possess. And Scootaloo…

… moving on.

So to sum it all up, this episode is just really fun. It’s not amazing or spectacular. Mid-range, but pretty good. I liked it.

But to bring it all full circle, I’d like to end as I began by pointing out that I find it a bit strange that the one time a character gets arrested, it’s for a crime they didn’t commit. They are entirely innocent. I don’t remember Trixie facing jail time for assault and forced confinement, or the Dip-Shit brothers getting charged for fraud and reckless endangerment. Yet now, when a pony is wholly innocent, only then do we see an active law enforcement.

It’s quite perplexing. But now, all is right, and Troubleshoes is free, and nothing horrible will happen to him again… unless he loses his balance and nearly crushes someone…

“The person who bumbles his way into committing atrocities is, in many ways, even more dangerous than the one who commits them out of malevolence. Because the one who is malevolent could at least be, you know, perhaps reasoned with and turned away from malevolence. But the person who’s just accident prone, you just gotta kill them! You can’t trust them to be alone in a room!” – ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw

Let’s just assume he’ll learn to train his clumsiness, and target it at his performances, so he doesn’t kill anyone. And it brings back the question of whether an accidental death really would result in a lighter tone. Regardless, I think I’ll leave it at that, because I really have no idea.

It’s a mystery that’ll span the ages… GOODNIGHT!


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