The case in question is episode 50 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic – “MMMystery on the Friendship Express“
Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries with countless remakes and homages over the years. But one of the most unexpected places to see such a tribute is My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. While Twilight Sparkle is not investigating the brutal stabbing of criminal Pegasus who previously was caught up in a tragic kidnapping, the story is fairly faithful to original. Over all it is a clever little episode that manages to take a classic mystery and make it accessible to a younger audience. It even manages to reference several other famous mysteries and spy stories in the process.
Pinkie Pie and several of her friends are escorting a cake for a contest in Canterlot. On the train there are several rival bakers who have equally lavish deserts for the competition as well. Worried that one of the other bakers might try to sabotage the Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness the faithful Pinkie Pie pledges to guard the cake all night to prevent foul play. But during the night a mysterious assailant manages to east a good deal of the cake. Pinkie and Twilight must get their little grey cells working to discover the culprit.
The story itself is an obvious homage to Murder on the Orient Express by the title alone. But as it is set on train and recreates the legendary twist of the original novel it makes it a surprisingly faithful redesign. Just like with the source material the culprit turns out to be all the passengers besides the two detectives. Everyone except Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle had covertly stolen a taste of at least one of the deserts to be judged.
But the episode is more than just a tribute to Agatha Christie. When they are investigating the eat and run Pinkie and Twilight are dressed like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. But much like Without a Clue the Sherlock in this investigation is the bumbling assistant and Watson is the true detective. Also when Pinkie Pie is throwing out her preposterous theories they are in the style of a Snidely Whiplash stylized silent movie, a James Bond thriller, and a Japanese chanbara film. They even make reference to the 1943 MGM musical-comedy I Dood It.
But clever references aside the real question is how well executed is the mystery. Does it follow Knox’s Rules? It does in all but one vital place. Rules one, three, four, five, six, and ten are all followed without a doubt. While Rarity uses a bit of magic to steal her piece of cake it turns out that her spell-casting is a non factor is discovering she was a culprit. While Pinkie’s wild theories may seem to break rule nine when Twilight pushes her for what actually happened she plainly lays out the events of the night. The only rule that is actually broken is eight. Twilight only reveals the incriminating clues she found during her investigation when she is making her final denouncement.
While the episodes breaks Knox’s either rule is actually easier to solve the mystery using Pinkie Pie’s recollection and knowing the personalities of the players involved and how they would commit the crime. It also does not hurt that the episode was made for children and therefore is not that hard to figure out regardless of anything else. In the end the homage is the critical focus of the episode rather than creating a solvable mystery. In that regard it succeeds brilliantly. Will we see an episode invoking And Then There Were None or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd in season three? Only time will tell.