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The Batbrony's Thoughts And Musings When He's Not Fighting Crime

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Batbrony

Good afternoon, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  This week, we've got a flawed but still solid addition to Season 7, starring Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash in a fun little romp where the insanity and hilarity that unfolds (and the entertainment we derive from it) is probably more important than the lesson itself.  It's a curious episode, not because what it does is particularly unique, because it isn't; in fact, this episode seems to quite deliberately lift from a number of past Pinkie Pie episodes (down to the name title itself if it can be believed, considering the episode is called, after all, "Secrets and Pies" and "Secrets and lies, it's all secrets and lies!" was something Pinkie was quite fond of proclaiming in "Party of One") to the point that it could accurately be described as a spiritual successor of not one, but TWO past Pinkie Pie episodes (and oddly enough, an improvement of one of them).  It's also strange in that most of its execution in its first two acts (and the first half of the third act) are far more satisfying than its actual resolution, which leaves something to be desired.  In any case, while it's hardly one of the more exceptional episodes we've gotten so far in the stellar seventh season of MLP, it is a very fun and likable one all the same, and fun romps involving Pinkie Pie going crazy are always a lot of fun if executed well, which this one is for the most part.  Without further ado, this is "Secrets and Pies"!

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Hey now, I'm the one who makes Batman references around these parts!

OK, in all seriousness, this Adam West Batman reference is as delicious as Pinkie Pie's pies look :lol:

So, starting with Pinkie Pie herself, just what two past episodes of hers does this episode draw from, if not act as a continuation of?  Strangely enough, her best Season 1 episode and her worst Season 2 episodes (the latter being my least favorite episode of MLP until "Hard to Say Anything" came out this season): "Party of One" and "Mmmmystery on the Friendship Express."  The "Party of One" similarities are fairly blatant right from the start; while her ire in that episode was directed at most of her friends, Rainbow Dash in particular had a hard time avoiding her near the end of the episode, and here we have Pinkie Pie, what else, freaking out as a result of something involving Rainbow Dash.  Her freakout also stems from a supposed betrayal, the difference between the two episodes being that in "Party of One" the betrayal was in Pinkie Pie's imagination and her friends were really just planning a surprise birthday party for her, whereas here, the betrayal was actually real and not something she concocted, even if some of what Pinkie Pie imagined about it was exaggerated.  Hell, even the fact that Gummy acts as Pinkie's confidant during many of her scenes is similar to "Party of One."  As far as similarities to "Mmmmystery on the Friendship Express" go, as in that episode, Pinkie Pie has a mystery to solve, and she has to apply logic and sound detective work to figure it out.  The differences between these two episodes is that (1) in "Mmmmystery on the Friendship Express" the mystery itself and the fact that it couldn't get solved quicker than it did all stemmed from Pinkie Pie and most other characters in the episode either acting like idiots or stupid, selfish jackasses without any self-control for the simplest of things, and (2) Pinkie Pie didn't need Twilight or anypony else holding her hoof as she solved the mystery, nor did she present idiotic theories about what actually happened to large groups of ponies as though that was what actually happened.  She may have at one point come up with the notion that Rainbow Dash was turning into some kind of demonic entity and blasting her pies with laser eyes, but the only character she shared that with was Gummy, and it was just a part of her bigger theory that Rainbow Dash (based on her findings) really didn't like pies, and had been lying to Pinkie Pie that she liked pies and finding ways to get rid of hers for years (which was actually true).  She may still have been silly and over the top, but oddly enough, Pinkie Pie solved this mystery completely on her own, showing she'd actually learned a lot about applying logic and reason in solving something like this since the idiocy of "Mmmmystery on the Friendship Express."

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So yes, as should be clear by now, the episode revolves around Pinkie Pie's discovery that Rainbow Dash doesn't like pies (including hers) and has been lying to Pinkie Pie about this for years, and her subsequent reaction to that.  Basically things unfold as you'd think they would if you've been watching this show long enough: Pinkie Pie freaks out when Rainbow Dash throws out a pie she baked for her behind her back, starts digging a little deeper and finds enough solid evidence to suggest she's done this with every pie Pinkie's ever given her, and subsequently freaks out and starts trying to get Rainbow Dash to either eat one of her pies in front of her or admit that she's been lying to her this whole time.  As you can imagine, this involves a lot of hilarious and crazy antics, but strangely enough you quickly realize that Pinkie Pie's not really the antagonist here, nor does she have to learn a lesson.  If anything, I found myself quite anticipating Rainbow Dash getting her comeuppance when she was finally exposed as a liar in this regard (one reason the resolution actually felt a little unsatisfactory), and the fact that the writers showed what started years ago for Rainbow Dash as a white lie/fib spiraling out of control into something neither she nor Pinkie Pie had any control over from the point of view NOT of the one who was telling the lies (RD) but rather from the pony directly affected by the lies (Pinkie Pie) was interesting.  When I think about it, it's a little more unusual for the character lied to to be at the center of a story like this about the negative effects of white lies/fibs that grow out of control than it is for the character doing the lying to be front and center, but I liked how they did it here, especially considering it was Pinkie Pie front and center.  The way she reacts to betrayals, just how crazy and emotional she can become when something like this happens, drove home the fact that, even if Rainbow Dash had good intentions, it still didn't mean that her lying to Pinkie Pie was overall a good thing.  Her lying to her friend hurt Pinkie Pie very much, and made her question the trust she had in RD.  The fact that this was Pinkie Pie being lied to (about whether or not someone was eating her pies, no less) also meant that the episode didn't have to get too serious in its content while still condemning the lie itself.  Overall, I really enjoyed Pinkie Pie here and don't really have anything bad to say about her.  She was fun, her crazy moments were great but the fact that she was right kind of made them even funnier, and at the same time, you couldn't help but understand why she was as distressed by RD's lying as she was; not only is RD one of her dearest friends, but baking in general is one of her favorite things to do and something she takes great pride in.  To find out one of her closest friends has been lying to her for years about eating her pies, one of her favorite things to bake for anyone, was clearly devastating to her, and knowing Pinkie Pie as we know her by now, it's not hard to see why.  Great showing from Pinkie Pie all around, she was the heart of this episode and it was better off for it.

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This episode did a great job of bringing out some of Pinkie Pie's more Looney Toon-esque characteristics, especially in some of the cartoony faces she was pulling off

Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, I have words for.  Now, having the lie present for the sake of the episode working at all is fine, it made sense.  But at the same time, the lengths she went to throughout this episode to dispose of pies without Pinkie noticing were RIDICULOUS!!!!  I know that oftentimes (even before Pinkie Pie thought she wasn't eating her pies) Pinkie wanted her to eat them in front of her so she had to usually get rid of them right away, but even she herself pointed out later on in the episode that it was a hassle doing that for years.  Hell, she even put her tortoise Tank's health at risk doing so, that ain't cool!  She did this after already taking him to the vet previously for, wouldn't ya know it, getting him sick from feeding him pies she didn't want, so she knew in doing so that she was risking his health... AGAIN!!!  Don't get me wrong, some of the ways she got rid of pies were hilarious (I particularly enjoyed when she tossed her "It's Not Your Birthday But Here's a Pie Anyway" Day custard pie up to a balcony and Shoeshine, upon finding it, gleefully exclaims "Huh!  It's not even my birthday!"), but when you think about it from both a moral and logical POV, there's really no good reason RD kept this up for years.  The only excuse I can really think of is that Rainbow Dash, like Pinkie Pie, is more prone to extreme behavior even for little things, and combine that with the fact that she HATES disappointing anypony, especially her closest friends, I can actually buy that it makes sense that RD would do such extreme behavior over such a little thing as not telling Pinkie Pie that she doesn't like pies for years.  However, the episode made it a little harder to sympathize with RD's reasoning by emphasizing, in its end, a little too much that her heart was in the right place.  The ideal lesson for this episode (and I think this is even what they were going for) is that while many white lies may come from genuinely good places, that still doesn't mean they're good things, and they can still hurt those we love; the problem is that by the end of the episode, the focus is less on the fact that what Rainbow Dash did was wrong, and more on the idea that it's easy for Pinkie Pie to forgive her because her motivations for lying to Pinkie Pie came from a good place and she just didn't want to hurt Pinkie Pie's feelings and wanted to keep seeing her happy at the thought of RD eating her pies.  Even AJ points out that RD failed in that regard in that she still ended up hurting Pinkie's feelings anyway.  But again, the episode focuses a little too much on the "good place" that white lies often come from, to the point that it almost felt like they were straight up exonerating RD for her behavior and even suggesting that there are instances where it's OK to tell a white lie.  Now don't get me wrong, I know that life is grey enough that almost all of us will tell a white lie at some point in order to not hurt another, but the reason I really am not OK with how this lesson was delivered here is because this went from being a white lie to being something that RD was lying about for YEARS.  Lies that are carried on for years are usually over really bad shit that you don't want anyone to know about, so for the episode to even accidentally suggest that that might be OK depending on what the lie is over is, in my opinion, not a good thing at all.  Also, I'm sorry, but the gross out humor that was in the episode's final scene as RD was pledging to Pinkie Pie to eat a disgusting monstrosity of a pie that she'd somehow made was the low point of the entire episode.  It felt completely out of place in a show that largely doesn't very often engage in gross out humor of any kind, it wasn't funny, the pie itself was genuinely distasteful to look at, and it felt like something you'd encounter in, say, Spongebob or The Fairly Oddparents during their later, far inferior seasons when they started delving into really bad, low brow humor aimed at the lowest common denominator.  Overall, while RD was pretty entertaining throughout this episode, especially when Pinkie Pie was trying to get her to crack and admit she didn't like pie, I'm not sure she learned the right lesson (or any lesson at all), and even if she did, the resolution she and Pinkie Pie came to was just... not very satisfying.

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Well that's certainly... terrifying.  But not quite as terrifying as...

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Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... seriously, what is this even doing in MLP?  This kind of humor, at least at this kind of level, feels SO out of place in this show! :dry:

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How they kept themselves from throwing in something about Soarin and pies I have NO idea, the writers really missed a golden opportunity to make a great joke there!  I'm sure it was just an oversight, but still, too bad they missed out on that one

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OK, it may be bad for his health, but in all seriousness that's bucking adorable and I want more :wub:

The second best member of the Mane 6 here was, surprisingly enough (considering she wasn't in that much of the episode), Applejack!  She was only in about four scenes (only two of which she contributed much to) but they were quite funny appearances.  I think what made her really work here is that in most of her scenes she was playing opposite Pinkie Pie, and that afforded the writers the opportunity to have her whip out some really dry, sardonic humor, which really contrasted Pinkie's over-the-top, erratic behavior.  Her stumbling into Pinkie's party cave and onto a slowly-going-crazy Pinkie Pie was quite hilarious in and of itself, especially in her reactions to Pinkie Pie's interrogation as to whether or not she'd ever seen Rainbow Dash eat any of her pies, and later in the episode, she seemed to be the pony most aware (besides Pinkie Pie herself) as to how much RD had bucked the pooch by just not telling the truth in the first place (glad to see that AJ is still very much the Element of Honesty).  She even seemed unsatisfied to some extent by how everything resolved, sardonically exclaiming that she could've told RD in the first place just to tell Pinkie Pie the truth.  Overall, it was just fun seeing AJ in a fun supporting role that really relied on her drier sense of humor.  Twilight was present a little bit too, but mostly just to tow along with AJ, and if anything her presence with Applejack for most of the episode (especially towards the end) seemed mostly to reinforce that these two are still probably the most mature (emotionally at least) members of the Mane 6.  Twilight's still the center of the group that holds it together and Applejack is the best member of the group for helping the rest stay grounded and level-headed, which Twilight herself often needs the most if she's starting to panic when things start getting out of control.  When they're both acting grounded and mature, you just get the sense that both of them get this and really appreciate that aspect of the other's behavior, the fact that they are the least likely of their friends to lose their heads over something.  That's not to say they both haven't lost it at times (especially Twilight), but when they're grounded, boy oh boy are those two levelheaded.

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Applejack: she has no time for anypony's bull shit :bedeyes:

Finally, this episode went to a surprisingly large amount of locations, and we got to see a lot of major or minor supporting characters (mostly during Pinkie Pie's investigation) including the Wonderbolts, Dr. Fauna, Cheerilee, and many, many more.  As far as another way in which this episode contrasts "Mmmmystery on the Friendship Express" for the better, the sheer number of locations made Pinkie's investigation far more fun and interesting to follow than the one in that dreadful episode.  That episode has, after they board the train, ONE SINGLE LOCATION, and it's not a particularly interesting one to even look at.  In contrast, this episode went to (1) Sugarcube Corner, (2) the Wonderbolt Academy and Training Grounds, (3) Pinkie Pie's Party Cave, (4) Dr. Fauna's Vet Clinic, (5) the Ponyville Schoolhouse, (6) Rainbow Dash's Cloud House, and (7) various locales and streets throughout Ponyville!  Yeah, not hard to see which was more fun to follow, especially when some locations were visited multiple times.  There was also a wide variety of humor dotted throughout, from Pinkie Pie's insane brand of humor when she starts breaking down and going crazy, to Applejack's drier sense of humor, and even a whole lot of physical humor, most of which worked (aside from anything having to do with that ridiculous pie at the end of the episode).  All in all, what did we get?  Just a really fun episode which, while hardly perfect, was still very entertaining.  The most interesting thing about it wasn't its flawed lesson, but rather simply the fact that it not only had so many callbacks to "Party of One" and "Mmmmystery on the Friendship Express," but actually improved on that second episode as well, fixing a ton of flaws from it.  It's hardly one of the best episodes we've gotten this season, but as far as breaks from the litany of exceptional episodes we've gotten this season go, this was one of the more entertaining ones, and definitely not a bad final episode of the season for Pinkie Pie, not at all.  I had a lot of fun watching it, and I hope most of you did as well!  That's all I've got for ya today everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Batbrony

Good afternoon everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Well at this point it shouldn't be any surprise that this season we were delivered yet another very exceptional episode, but here we are again, and boy oh boy was this one a long time coming for a very big reason.  We all know by now that family and legacy have been the two major themes of Season 7, and this week the show hit on that theme yet again with a major appearance (for the first time ever in the show) of Twilight's ENTIRE family!  We may have seen plenty of Shining Armor, Princess Cadance, and even Flurry Heart in the past, but strangely enough, before this episode, her parents, Twilight Velvet and Night Light, despite making multiple appearances in episodes throughout multiple seasons, had never had roles as main characters and had only spoken a few lines in a minor appearance in last season's "The Crystalling - Part 2."  This was always a bizarre oversight, not quite as infuriating as Celestia being so neglected as a character before this season, but very head scratching all the same considering (1) we've seen them make appearances in the show since Season 1, (2) they are the parents of the main character of the show (not to mention a princess of Equestria), a major supporting character, and the in-laws of another princess of Equestria (or another kingdom entirely if you're one of those folks who don't consider the Crystal Empire to be part of Equestria).  Well, after the show's writers finally rectified this strange oversight, I am happy to announce that Twilight Velvet and Night Light made splendid appearances and that both were not just likable as individual characters themselves, but also gave us a very solid glimpse into how Twilight and Shining Armor both ended up the way they are with parents like those two.  There's a lot of other great things to unpack from this episode, so without further ado, let's dive in!  This is "Once Upon a Zeppelin"!!!

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So the episode start with, oddly enough, the best Spike and Twilight scene of all of Season 7 thus far, if not the best Spike scene of the season.  Now, the bad thing about this is it speaks to how little major attention outside of one OK episode Spike has gotten this season, but on the other hand he still has had some very good moments this season, and this one was a true gem.  The implicit and total trust and love that Twilight and Spike have in and for one another was on full display for about two minutes, if that, with Spike insisting that Twilight take a vacation for herself when her parents offered while he stay behind to handle her work load.  Twilight in turn objects by declaring that he's as much a family member of hers as the rest of her family (possibly the first time she's ever flat-out stated so clearly he is family), but Spike, while clearly appreciative of Twilight recognizing this, just takes everything in stride and still insists she take a nice break for herself.  This is all capped off by Spike humorously predicting to himself that Twilight's gonna start planning a schedule of activities for the trip any second now, which she then does.  While, as I said, a very short scene, there's a lot of heartwarming elements to unpack here.  Not only is Spike's offer very selfless and generous, especially considering he already functions as Twilight's assistant virtually 24/7, but the way he and Twilight treated each other like family didn't feel forced in the slightest.  Instead it felt like how two siblings would treat each other when one is just trying to do something nice for the other and who have the utmost confidence and trust in one another.  Contrast this with Season 1, where not only Spike was considerably less mature but also Twilight treated him very often more like a son than a sibling, and you have an idea of just how much these two characters' relationship with one another has matured and developed since the show began.

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Ya know, I should be more surprised that Twilight would find vacation-scheduling/list-making while on vacation to be relaxing, but honestly after seven seasons I don't think any brony at all should be phased by this revelation :orly:

Once the vacation itself begins the episode introduces a whole slew of characters, so we'll have to break down the episode by them bit by bit.  Starting with our main character, Twilight was quite good here.  I wouldn't go so far as to say this was her best episode of the season by any means, but if you're going to do 'Twilight stresses herself out unnecessarily because she's trying to juggle too much and please too many people without thinking about her own wants or needs' in Season 7, this is how you should do it.  It's no "Lesson Zero" breakdown where the fault and blame rested squarely on a much younger Twilight's shoulders because she was making bad choice after bad choice, no no, for the most part Twilight was trying to please both her family and the ponies on the cruise (more on them later) as best as she possibly could by keeping a stiff upper lip about it.  Her biggest mistake was that she underestimated how important devoting some time to herself would be in this situation, especially in the context of taking a vacation with her entire family, which is a very rare occasion for her these days given how busy she and the rest of them are (with the exception of possibly her parents, they seemed to be either retired or, if they're too young for that, just entering the twilight stages of their career-lives and seem to be very relaxed now that both kids are out of the house).  Her other mistake is that she failed until the end to set some boundaries for ponies outside of their family who, although well-meaning, were a little too pushy, clingy, or cloying at times in their desire to let Twilight know just how much they liked her.  These were undoubtedly a big mistakes, after all they're why there were any problems in the first place, but they are also very understandable mistakes, even for Twilight to make at this point in her life.  She's a goodhearted pony who always wants to do the right thing for any pony she can, and given her responsibilities as one of Equestria's own monarchs (technically) it's hard for her to unwind when around others these days.  Thankfully she learned her lesson by the end, and I can't even say her venting and lashing out at Star Tracker was that bad (more on him later too) seeing as, even though her anger itself wasn't good, her being brutally honest was how the rest of her family finally realized something was wrong for her in the first place (though they did keep asking if she was OK throughout the episode).  All in all, this was about as solid an episode featuring Twilight in Season 7 as you could ask for, at least in an appearance that, while quite exceptional, was hardly something we'd call one of her best showings ever.

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Holy shit, that's cute!!! :wub:

Moving on, the Royal Crystal Family (or should it be Imperial Crystal Family since it's an empire???  Whatever, point is, it's Princess Cadance, Shining Armor, and Princess Flurry Heart) had a pretty great showing as well.  Flurry Heart, while she didn't have much beyond some cute and funny appearances, was her usual, adorable self.  Probably her funniest bit was where she was at a playtime with a bunch of other foals and couldn't help but keep trying to stack them on top of each other like building blocks with her magic.  Besides that, though, wasn't too much else to her, although her surprised reaction to Twilight doing something off-schedule was both hilarious and also suggests she may be starting to understand adults more and more... that or the writers just did it for the sake of making the joke even funnier.

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Today's episode features Princess Flurry Heart in "Shit You Do When You're Bored, a Foal, and Have Wayyyyyyyyy Too Much Magic" :please:

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Shining Armor was one of the best scene stealers in this entire episode, which is pretty impressive when you consider that a "airsickness/seasickness" running gag is pretty hard to make funny in anything.  I think what made it work here is that it not only gave us a look at Shining Armor's dorkier side (which is usually when he shines the most) but we also got to see him hilariously trying to handle airsickness which he tried to insist wasn't a thing the entire time in front of his ENTIRE family, quite literally.  His sister was pretty much laughing her ass off at him, his wife was quietly trying to help him save face, and his parents (especially his mom) were pretty much coddling him (the funniest bit being when his mom literally lifted him out of the water with her magic, an image which just looked hilarious considering he looks to be a head taller than her).  Don't get me wrong, Shining obviously wasn't just the butt of jokes; he still looked out for his sister and family and seemed to have a good time, but my goodness, "Airsick Shining Armor" was a terribly fun running gag.

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"I'M THE KING OF THE WORL- oh buck, nope, not good!" :scots:

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"As your LSBFF, I am obligated to find joy in your suffering."

"I bucking hate you sometimes, Twilight."

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Finally, Cadance herself had an exceptionally solid showing with a bit of a subplot of her own evening, a pretty subtle one at that.  The entire trip she seemed to look out for Twilight the most out of the entire family, most likely because she could relate the most to what Twilight was dealing with.  They all wanted to make sure she was doing alright, but Cadance in particular kept approaching her and, after Twilight's breakdown, was able to tell her exactly what she needed to hear.  She explained that part of being a princess means accepting that you can still be a good princess even if you are unable to please everyone 24/7.  You have to be able to take care of your own needs still, and sometimes even wants are needs (such as Twilight needing some time to relax with her family).  Cadance both explained and showed this in the episode in how her first and foremost priority, in most scenes, was taking care of Flurry Heart, and watching out for the rest of her family while she was at it.  This is best displayed when Cadance explains as much to Twilight and Iron Will when they learn the exact nature of the air cruise, as well as when she makes sure her daughter doesn't get smothered with attention from complete strangers who just want to see their kids befriend a baby royal princess, even though they're well meaning.  She's very protective throughout the entire episode, and much of that includes being protective of her family's privacy.  The fact that this never came off as snobbish was very impressive, you could really sympathize with what Cadance was going through and why she was doing what she did, and I even found myself wondering if this is what watching out for their kids in real life is like for major celebs or public figures.  But overall, as far as being the bearer of an episode lesson goes, this was definitely one of Cadance's best showings ever in that regard, especially in her role as a mother and her mentoring Twilight as her sister-in-law, friend, and fellow princess.

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This, however, will probably haunt her nightmares for quite some time... and mine, too. :unsure:  Seriously, who the hell sold that in the first place???

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Now that we've got the familiar faces out of the way, it's time to get into some of the juicier and unexpected bits of the episode... which were admittedly a bit of a mixed bag, though largely solid on the whole.  First of all, let's talk about, you guessed it... Twilight's parents, Night Light and Twilight Velvet (voice by Charlie Demers and Patricia Drake, though they had been previously voiced by Andrew Francis and Tara Strong).  How were these two?  Oh, a whole lot of fun!  They weren't the amazing soccer parents that Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistle were, nor were they the sweetest of couples with an amazing romantic backstory to go along with it like Bright Mac and Pear Butter were.  In fact, their appearance, while anticipated, wasn't nearly as fandom-mind-blowing as those previous two sets of parents were, considering, as I mentioned earlier, we've seen these two many times before.  And yet it was still a very satisfying appearance all the same in which we got a very solid idea of how these two produced the children they did.  First, you have Night Light, who, although both he and his wife are pretty grounded for the most part, is definitely the more straight-laced of the two.  I mean, the guy's favorite thing to do on the airship for crying out loud is BINGO!  This is the type of guy who, like Twilight, probably loves nothing more on a lazy Sunday than curling up in his favorite chair with a good book and a cup of tea, and I could easily see the majority of her love of organization, lists, and scheduling coming from him mostly.

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Not that Twilight Velvet seemed out of sorts or anything, but out of those two, she was, very surprisingly, the wild child of the two!  I think many bronies were caught off guard by this character development, but at the same time most I've spoken to (myself included) welcomed it, as it quite refreshingly helps distinguish the two parents from each other.  She still seems very similar to her husband and daughter, but she definitely has a bit of the "thrill junkie" within her; heck, speaking as someone who keeps a lot of his own likes and habits "close to the vest" myself, I could totally see Twilight Velvet being the same way.  Not necessarily being dishonest in public about who she is to others, but simply keeping a lot of her own private likes and habits to herself, only occasionally cutting loose with them.  The best bit in this, of course, was Twilight Velvet's literally riding a barrel over Neighagara Falls, a scene which was as hilarious as it was adorable.  Twilight Velvet's reaction and adrenaline from it all was priceless, her wet mane whipped over her face looked adorable, and Night Light coming up and pecking her on the cheek to her delight while her face was still covered was even MORE adorable!!!

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And now Batbrony presents... lewd conversations with the Sparkles. :bedeyes: Read at your own peril :toldya:
 

Spoiler

 

"I AM SO HIGH ON LIFE RIGHT NOW!!!" :yay:

"Wow... so uh, dad, if this is mom's idea of "relaxing" while on vacation, what exactly does she mean when she says you two are gonna have a "relaxing" night in?" :wacko:

"Well, uh, you see... oh boy.  Ya know what, I think I'll let Cadance handle this one." :lie:

"Huh?" :wat:

"Well it's just that it's a bit more in her area of 'expertise' and might be less awkward if she explains it to you." :blush:

"I still don't follow." :huh:

"Don't worry, Night Light, I got this." *Cadance whispers very lewd things* :sunshower:

"OH CELESTIA, NO, WHY?!" :love:

"Hey, why do you think I married your brother?  He had to impress me in quite a few areas that I am VERY picky about!  Kinda comes with the whole "being the Princess of Love" territory and all." :orly:

"OH SUN, MOON, AND STARS NO, WHY, WHY?!?!  MY POOR, LOST INNOCENCE!!!  YOU ARE ALL HORRIBLE, FILTHY PONIES AND I HATE YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!" *runs away* :eww:

"Wow... didn't think she'd take it that badly.  I really never pegged Twilight as that much of a prude, especially with all the books she reads.  Boy am I glad your son got his 'special traits' from your wife." :orly:

"Yeahhhhhhh... I better go talk to her.  Before she throws herself off the zeppelin." :unsure:

"NOT BEFORE YOU TAKE ME BACK IN OUR CABIN!!!" :ph34r:

"Sweetie, we're not the only ones staying there!" :love:

"I DON'T CARE!!!" :D

 

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MAJESTIC AS BUCK!!! :muffins:

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My lewd jokes about Twilight Velvet's "wild" side aside, this was the bucking cutest shot in this entire episode and it is as sweet as it is pure and innocent.  It's amazing how just a little peck on the cheek from Night Light and the smile it brings out on his wife can reveal so much about how much they love one another, and I'm sure that many married couples or just people completely in love with one another could tell you (speaking as someone madly in love myself) that little gestures like that between two loved ones are some of the best parts of getting to shower love upon someone else you love.  Doesn't always have to be a sweeping gesture, sometimes little reinforcements of one's love for another like that mean all the world to them.  Also, c'mon, I mean... LOOK AT HOW BUCKING CUTE THAT IS!!! :wub:

Of course, they had more good bits than just that.  Their policy about accepting free tickets to a cruise, no questions asked (even though they had no idea what contest it was for to begin with), was too funny (especially how it came back to bite them in the flank later, not to mention it sounds like the setup to a slasher film); their looking out for their children was quite fun to see (especially the aforementioned scene where Twilight Velvet literally lifts Shining Armor from the water with her magic); and their soaking up attention from cruise participants thrilled to see the princesses was pretty funny too.  Overall, they were just a cool, cute couple who behaved for the most part pretty much exactly as you'd expect Twilight's parents to behave - dorky, straight-laced, and just a little bit crazy, with just enough wrinkles and unique character traits thrown in there to make them stand on their own as their own characters.  It was a great showing from the both of them and I am happy we finally got to see these two in expanded roles!  Hopefully we'll get to see even more of them in the future.

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In yet another returning character, we, surprisingly, saw the return of Iron Will in this episode!  The reason I list him here among newer elements is because (1) his return was so unexpected (seriously, I would never have pegged him to show back up in this of all episodes) and (2) he was written kind of... differently than in his first appearance.  Let's recall, in Iron Will's first appearance in "Putting Your Hoof Down" he was, at the most, a minor antagonist, if even that.  He didn't come off as deliberately malevolent or anything, just a bit of a shrewd businessman and slightly bully-ish in the way he threw his muscles around to intimidate others.  But he was still a minotaur of his word who set out to ACTUALLY help ponies become more assertive, and when Fluttershy insisted that she wasn't satisfied with his services, he kept his end of the bargain and stopped demanding payment from her.  He seemed like someone who overall was, at the end of the day, pretty decent, even if he was a bit of a hothead as well.  Here, Iron Will was far more of a jerk and written as, if I'm being honest, a bit of a con artist as well.  I mean, he did try to deliver a quality product to his customers until the end of the episode, but he bamboozled Twilight's family into taking the trip in the first place and then, when they finally decided they were done letting him drag Twilight all over the place at the end of the episode and explained the situation to the other ponies onboard, just skipped out on his angry customers for some bizarre reason.

Now, make no mistake, hearing Trevor Devall in this role again (one week after he reprised his role as Thunderlane as well) was hilarious and a lot of fun, and for the most part Iron Will was still his old, over-the-top, bombastic self (like a... jerkier Mr. T, if you will).  But again, his presence here was confusing at times, especially in his interactions with Twilight considering... well, he'd technically never even met her before!  He'd met Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy previously, but certainly not Twilight.  Now I'm sure it's both possible Twilight saw him around town and heard about him from her friends, but still, as far as we know, those two individuals had never actually met each other.  Heck, I was confused as well how he'd heard about Twilight's tour of Cloudsdale; his other stories about her were obviously made up, but that first one was legit, unless of course he thought he made it up and instead accidentally told a legit story about Twilight.  However, if I'm being perfectly honest, most of my critiques for Iron Will here are largely me nitpicking.  He was for the most part a treat to see; his story about getting into the themed cruise business because the assertiveness-seminar market had dried up was as hilarious as it was random, and his exit at the end, like with everything involving Iron Will, was hilariously over the top!  Overall, he had a fine showing, and was a lot of fun to see once more.

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Finally, we come to the cruise passengers themselves, who, let's be honest, were an obvious allegory and stand-in for the fandom, particularly fans when they encounter show makers and celebs at pony conventions.  As in "Fame and Misfortune," their presence here was both mixed and very meta.  However, it was definitively superior to the depiction of the fandom in "Fame and Misfortune" for a number of very good reasons.  Generally speaking, the cruise passengers here, while often depicted in a negative light, were also depicted in a positive light as well (I'd say the balance between the negative and positive was 50/50) and they had a satisfying resolution to their place in the story arc.  In contrast, "Fame and Misfortune" felt very raw and hostile in its treatment of any ponies who were supposed to be representing the fandom (with like the exception of one or two characters), and had barely any resolution with them even.  As I said in my "Fame and Misfortune" review, there is nothing wrong in concept with the show delivering a message aimed squarely at the fandom about how we act as fans and how we should act; the problem there is that it feels more like the show makers venting about the fandom than actually, constructively saying anything about it.  By itself it was just a meh episode for me, and I still stand by my earlier conclusion that it is such a divisive episode that there is no one right way to feel about it, whether one loves, hates, or just doesn't care for that episode; however, this episode's existence does bring down "Fame and Misfortune" quite a bit, since it was a far better handling of how the show should and can critique the fandom while still having plenty of positive things to say about it.  Were the passengers oftentimes too exuberant, clingy, or nosy in their adoration of the princesses, especially Twilight?  Sure, but the worst their behavior got was awkward to cringey, and they never treated Twilight or her family like assholes or jerks as so many ponies in "Fame and Misfortune" treated Twilight and her friends.  They also had a better excuse for their behavior in that they thought from the get-go that the princesses were there as a part of the cruise specifically to see them, meaning they would never think of treating them like this in regular, day-to-day life; now, as a brony, while I would argue that going to a con doesn't give one license to just leave your brain and good sense behind and treat con guests however you want, there is an expectation at cons that celeb guests are there to see fans, unlike say if you randomly encounter a celeb in real life at a store or restaurant.  Once these passengers were explicitly told by Twilight that she could use some space and time to be with her family, they were very respectful of her wishes and realized that they'd been misled by Iron Will.  Once again the overall message directed at the fandom was that just because you're a fan of someone doesn't mean you should feel entitled, no matter what the circumstances are, to butt too much into their business, even if they're taking time to hang out with you, but it was delivered and executed so much better in this episode than it was at all in "Fame and Misfortune."

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Honestly this isn't even that different from how he behaved in the actual episode...

The most obvious stand-in among these passengers, of course, was Star Tracker, and I'm even more mixed in my feelings about him than I am the passengers as a whole.  For starters, I couldn't figure out whether this guy was supposed to be a teenager or an adult (I'm leaning towards the former but still, not sure), and whether he's one or the other does put his behavior into a different context.  Also, while by the end of the episode we realized that he too was, overall, just a well-meaning pony who was really excited to see Twilight, the delivery in some of his humor was... odd.  Like, my best guess is that the writers wanted to make it seem like he was just a really, really awkward pony, largely for the sake of humor.  The problem, however, is that he does things like (1) keep invading Twilight's personal space WAYYYYYYY too much, (2) awkward gestures like continually biting his lip around Twilight or combing back his mane, and (3) talking with a very odd tone in his voice that his behavior ultimately came off for much of the episode as less awkward and more... creepy, really, especially in a sexually stalker-ish kind of way.  Again, I really don't think that that was the intent of the character, but for me, that's simply what he came off as for much of the episode.  Also, his freakout from Twilight stepping on his hoof was WAY too over-the-top.  No offense Star Tracker, but frankly, ya acted kind of like a pussy in all that; I mean dear Lord, my mom doesn't flip out that much from someone stepping on her foot!

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Seriously man, NUT UP!!!  I'm not even one to usually say that, but sheesh, grow a pair! :angry:

Thankfully he was pretty cool by the end of the episode (though his standing up for Twilight to Iron Will felt a little forced, and I never really dug his voice actor; I couldn't figure out if it was an actual VA doing a bad, awkward teenager/obsessed fan voice or an actual fan who just wasn't very good at voice acting).  Overall, as far as meta-stand ins for the fandom go, Star Tracker and the other passengers here, while not perfect in their delivery, were a significant step above the incredibly hostile, angry, and at times downright cruel crowds that Twilight and her friends encountered in "Fame and Misfortune," and in that respect they felt like they were a part of delivering a far more helpful and constructive message to the fandom than the latter were.

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This, however, will forever and always be terrifying :unsure:

Besides all of these players, there were plenty of other things that caught my attention in this episode for both better and worse.  Finally getting to see an episode featuring a zeppelin the entire time was pretty awesome, and the design of the airship here was sweet.  The one thing that bugged me with it was how the passage of time and distance seemed to work; the tour scene in particular was bizarre in that Iron Will seemed to point out locations in a matter of minutes that should be hundreds of miles apart from each other, and there's no way the ship was moving fast enough to get to those that quickly (hell, his pointing out Canterlot second on the tour was downright confusing considering they TOOK OFF from Canterlot).  I get that that was largely because the show had to be fit into 22 minutes, but still, it was an odd flaw all the same.  Some of the activities, particularly barrel riding over Neighagara Falls and Shining Armor's boat race, were hilarious, though I will say it's a shame that we didn't get to see a full scene of the actual Frozen North Stars.  The one thing about that scene that bugged me was that Twilight's family didn't seem to consider at first that she'd be upset that she missed literally the one thing she'd wanted to do with all of them more than anything else the entire trip, but again, that's a minor nitpick.  Getting a pretty even dosage of day and night scenes was pretty cool and unusual as well, as were the sheer number of settings in this whole episode.  All in all, while not a flawless episode, this was still a very exceptional Season 7 episode and, especially for all of the new elements it had like getting to see more of Twilight's parents, a delight to watch on the whole!  We've only got 4 episodes left everypony, and I've got a feeling they're going to be rather delightful (and please, while I'm on the subject, don't watch the early episode leaks so that we can support the official DHX releases of them, or if you do, please don't spoil them for anyone else).  That's all I've got for ya everypony, until next time, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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This is what Spike gets for doing nice things

Batbrony

Good evening, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  This week's episode, while not quite as surprisingly excellent as last week's, was still, nonetheless, quite exceptional for what it was.  Our last Cutie Mark Crusader episode of the season, "Marks and Recreation" features the CMC starting a Cutie Mark day camp for blank flanks, mostly so that they can help more than one at a time.  However, trouble arises when Rumble decides he'd rather remain a blank flank than get his cutie mark, and convinces the other campers to do the same.  Without further ado, this is "Marks and Recreation."

So one thing that particularly stood out to me about this episode to start off is simply how many fillies and colts it featured.  Now make no mistake, we've seen plenty of ponies from the CMC's age group before, oftentimes in episodes featuring them in school.  The difference between those episodes and this one, however, are that, normally, most of the ponies there are mostly background characters.  They might have some jokes or bits here and there, but for the most part they're not exactly critical to the plot.  Here, however, not only was Rumble one of the main characters, but at least 2-3 of the other fillies and colts, including Pipsqueak, Kettle Corn, and Skeedaddle, were all supporting characters actively involved in the main events of the episode.  Hell, Kettle Corn got her bucking cutie mark, then disowned it, and then re-embraced it all in the same episode!  All in all, it was just very pleasing seeing how much young ponies besides the CMC featured in this episode, and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing more episodes like this one in that regard.

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Where this episode suffered for that, however, might just have been with the CMC themselves.  Don't get me wrong, for the most part the CMC were perfectly fine.  Their day camp idea was great, they were doing an awesome job counseling their friends, and they moved the action of the episode along just fine.  However, when you get down to it, most of this episode (including its resolution even) is driven by Rumble and Thunderlane.  The CMC usually facilitate most of what's going on, but this didn't really seem like an episode where they learned anything at all, they simply helped a friend learn a valuable lesson, but really his big brother helped him learn that more than they did.  I wouldn't mind that the CMC kind of took a backseat in certain respects (again, make no mistake, they were still main characters, just not as explicitly as they usually are), if it weren't for one thing.  The writers for some reason felt the need to force the CMC to not realize that Rumble was phoning in every one of his "attempts" to do any camp activities.  The only reason I can figure they may have felt the need to do this is because the CMC didn't realize what fears about cutie marks Rumble may have had until Thunderlane told them he was good at all of the things they thought he wasn't good at, which led them to realize he was deliberately failing at them because he didn't want to get a cutie mark at something other than flying.  I can kind of understand their reasoning, but at the same time, with how smart the CMC as a whole are - not to mention how obvious some of Rumble's "failure" at the camp activities were, seriously, the guy couldn't have been more obvious that he simply wasn't trying if he, well, tried - it felt really forced that they honestly thought he just wasn't good at any of these things.  It doesn't break the whole episode or anything, it just felt like unnecessarily forced writing.  Overall, however, the CMC had a pretty solid episode, and Sweetie Belle in particular gets props for easily the funniest moment of the episode when she straight up broke out her own version of a "Rarity freakout."

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They really should start charging for their cutie mark services at some point if this really is what they're meant to do their whole lives... oh don't look at me like that, YOU WOULD TOO IF YOU HAD TO!!! :angry:

Thankfully, even though the CMC weren't exactly the bright spots of this episode, the true bright spots more than made up for it.  First we've got Rumble, who prior to this has only appeared in minor supporting or background roles before.  Here, excellently voiced by Vincent Tong (deliciously feeding the rumors that DHX intentionally casts him in roles that are at least somewhat douchey), he serves for most of the episode as its main antagonist before finally learning an incredibly valuable lesson.  His fear for most of the episode is that if he tries something other than honing his flying skills, then he may accidentally get his cutie mark in something else that'll keep him from becoming a Wonderbolt like his older brother, Thunderlane.  This is great on a couple of levels.  First, speaking as an older sibling myself, I can totally see where a fear like this would come from for a younger sibling like Rumble.  Younger siblings often can feel like they're in their older siblings shadow in terms of personal achievements and life goals, and may even struggle with figuring out what they want to do even as a result, especially if they idolize their elder sibling to a point that they want to be just like them.  This is obviously not the case with all siblings, but it very often can be, and here that's clearly the case (though Rumble does seem to have some insecurity issues as well considering he clearly doesn't just idolize Thunderlane, he makes it very clear at certain points that he wants to be as cool as him, but not just thought of as Thunderlane's little brother).

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In all honesty, as a big brother, I do have to say as well that I wouldn't have had any complaints if Thunderlane had smacked some sense into Rumble THIS way instead :orly:

On another level, it was great seeing the show once again delve into the lore of cutie marks and what concerns ponies might have about them, especially growing up.  They're so commonplace in pony society that it's actually quite believable that most ponies would take them for granted and simply assume that everypony will "get" cutie marks (not just physically get them, but understand what they're deal is and what they mean to them).  But the show has made it quite clear at this point that they do not mean the same thing for everypony, and that many ponies in going about getting them don't even quite understand what it'll mean for them when they do get them.  With young ponies like those mostly featured in this episode, that was clearly the case, so it wasn't that surprising that they could be convinced by a pony like Rumble that cutie marks would just put them into a "special box," forcing them to pursue one thing for the rest of their lives while foregoing all other activities.  That's even a relatable fear for children in general.  Growing up, I think most of us at some point like to think we could basically be anything we want to be, but in the back of our heads (especially as we get older) that creeping notion that at some point we're going to have to be one thing in particular is always there, and I think a fear for kids who dwell on that too much is that they're not going to be able to try other things once that happens.  Thankfully, by the show's end all of the younger ponies, including Rumble, had realized that they can do all sorts of things no matter what their cutie mark ends up being.  Just because they're cutie mark signifies what they have a special talent for doing doesn't mean that's the only thing they'll ever be able to do, or even be good at or enjoy doing.  Likewise, with adults in the real world, just because our careers may be in one particular field doesn't mean we can't do plenty of other pursuits in our spare time, whether they be hobbies, ways of giving back to the community, or other activities.  It's sometimes hard work fitting everything we want to do in (something briefly indicated by Apple Bloom realizing she hadn't made potions with Zecora in some time), but balancing time to fit a lot of different activities into our lives is part of being an adult, and a skill that is more than worth cultivating.  Overall, I was very impressed with the moral revolving around Rumble in this episode, plus just pleased to see a character like him as the episode's focus.

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So just how did Rumble come to his realization by the end of the episode that cutie marks keep you from doing anything else?  Well, partly with the help of the CMC, but mostly because of his older brother, Thunderlane, another long time minor supporting/background character (voiced quite excellently by Trevor Devall, who actually voiced him way back in Season 2 and Season 4 as well, with, impressively enough, pretty much the exact same voice).  Earlier this season we got an excellent revelation that Thunderlane, like Rainbow Dash, had actually become a Wonderbolt as well, which in many ways helped normalize the group quite a bit as well as not make Rainbow Dash look SO unusual as a member.  Having two members from Ponyville makes it clear that you don't just have to be a Rainbow Dash-tier flier to get in, as well as emphasizes nicely that Thunderlane ain't too shabby himself when it comes to flying.  Well here, the fact that he was a Wonderbolt was also, as discussed earlier, critical to the plot and Rumble's own insecurities about getting a cutie mark.  First he got Rumble involved in the day camp to begin with, hoping that it might help Rumble explore a variety of activities he might enjoy and broaden his horizons, not to mention have fun with other fillies and colts while he was at it.  But when the CMC finally confronted Thunderlane about Rumble's fears, he realized just how bad some of Rumble's insecurities were and set out to make things right, for both him and the other campers he'd persuaded to ditch the CMC's day camp.  This final scene was excellent, showcasing both a Wonderbolt doing some normal, community service as a role model for younger ponies on his own time (something I've always, desperately wanted to see considering it just seems natural that members of a group like that would give back to their communities in ways like that, not just go around engaging in photo ops or autograph signings), as well as Thunderlane just trying to be a good older brother, reassuring Rumble that he doesn't have to worry about his cutie mark sticking him into one corner only.  This is especially highlighted when he tells his brother how much he discovered he loved cooking once his service with the Wonderbolts forced him to take it up at points, and they then proceed to have some sibling bonding as they help cook a meal together.  While Thunderlane was able to help the other ponies at the camp as a Wonderbolt, he was able to help Rumble as his older brother, and the presentation of both was fantastic.  I'd love to see more of Thunderlane and Rumble in the future after this, and it was a true treat getting to see both of them get such big roles here alone.

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Besides those two, the rest of the supporting cast was a delight.  Little Pipsqueak was adorkable as ever in his tiny, cute British-y way, though it would have been nice to see him make some progress on the cutie mark front.  Ah well, I'm sure he'll discover his true calling as a worshiper of all things Princess Luna and/or the Night in general at some point in time soon enough. :orly:  Skeedaddle was pretty funny here as well, both in his helping Kettle Corn discover her cutie mark in his leading the others in their haiku writing activity, as well as with some funny lines like "What if I get my cutie mark in being bored?"  BUT, I have to say that out of all the supporting characters in this episode, the one who stole the show for me was, without a doubt, Kettle Corn.

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Holy shit, this filly had it all.  First, she develops an obsession with painting circles (and they were always, ALWAYS the exact same circle, slightly unfinished even if you looked at them closely).  That, however, does not turn out to be her cutie mark.  What does turn out to be her cutie mark?  BUCKING HAIKU WRITING, THAT'S WHAT!!!  In fact, once she discovers that's her special talent, she starts saying haikus naturally in her speech (even when she's trying to repress her special talent), and it is as bucking hilarious as it sounds.  And yet, despite all of that, she still loves, you guessed it, PAINTING CIRCLES!!!  Even when she disowns her cutie mark and joins Rumble's group, she still. Loves. Painting. CIRCLES!!!!  I don't know why I'm so obsessed with everything this little filly got up to in this episode.  I think it's a combination of the fact that (1) she is pretty bucking adorable, along with (2) just how bizarre and hilarious both her special talent as well as her interest in painting circles was.  In any case, for a first time character, this filly left a wonderful first impression in both how cute and hilarious she was, and frankly I kinda want to see more of her, I won't lie. :lol:

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Kettle Corn: she SERIOUSLY needs some circles and haikus in her life ASAP

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OK, I have to admit that if this is really what the writers were doing in depicting how Kettle Corn painted her circles, then I have to say... bravo, BUCKING BRAVO, that's a scary awesome and subtle detail to include for a character whose special talent is coming up with haikus!  I mean... wow, talk about mind blown, right?

Just got a few other miscellaneous items to cover before we wrap things up.  The return to Camp Friendship, the same day camp where Applejack and Coloratura became friends as young fillies, was a fun callback to Season 5 (though I wouldn't have minded seeing AJ here if that were at all possible, even more so Coloratura even).  Rumble's song "Blank Flanks Forever," while hardly one of the show's best tunes, was pretty fun and upbeat (even if it was a minor antagonist's song), though I do have one bone to pick with it that's REALLY silly.  At one point in the song some of the fillies and colts in the background are waving their hooves back and forth to emulate finger snapping, like you might encounter in an old, 1950's doo-wop number.  I can see why, in concept, this idea might have sounded bucking hilarious to the storyboard artists who most likely came up with it, but in execution it looked bucking stupid.  I know I shouldn't overthink it, but WHY THE BUCK WOULD THEY DO THAT???  They have no concept of digits, why would they emulate finger snapping if they don't know what the buck finger snapping is???  Am I totally overthinking this?  Yes, yes I am, but I don't care, this was bucking stupid, even if it was meant as a gag.  Other than that, however, I had no issue with the song itself; hardly Season 7's best tune, but pretty fun nonetheless.

Other than that, I've got nothing else to add.  This was just a fun CMC episode with a very good, well-written lesson at its heart, and a great note to send the CMC out on for Season 7.  Until next time, everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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If we're all being honest with ourselves, we've all probably shipped Rumble with Sweetie Belle or Scootaloo at SOME point in time, so don't even pretend you haven't ^_^

Batbrony

Good evening, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Goodness me, at this point the amount of exceptional episodes this season has become so commonplace that it's almost starting to lose its effect.  But just almost.  This past week we had yet another delight of an episode in "A Health of Information," and easily Fluttershy's best episode of the season.  It was well-paced, well-written, had great appearances from new and old characters, and a side of its main character that we rarely get to see.  Without further ado, let's begin, this is "A Health of Information."

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"Ya'll ready to learn all about the magic of... the perfect gumbo recipe?"

So first things first, even though she appeared in this episode less than last week's, I'd say this was easily the better of Zecora's two appearances this season, so far at least.  For starters, we got to see her helping somepony *gasp* outside of her damn hut!  OK, fine, I know this is hardly the only time she's stepped outside of her house, but still, it's a rare enough occurrence that it stood out to me, plus it was interesting that she wasn't helping somepony brew something like she usually is.  She was specifically helping Fluttershy track down a moss for some oxen visiting her animal sanctuary whose location in the Everfree Forest she was familiar with, though I have to admit this opening scene raises to points of concern.  (1) Does this mean that oxen aren't sapient in this universe?  If so that's fairly confusing considering both yaks and cows are.  (2) Why the hell was Zecora fetching the moss when she ended up falling into the water in order to get them?  Look, I know it set off the whole plot in the first place, and it even tied into why Fluttershy felt so bad about everything, but still, let me reiterate a common sense point that both Fluttershy and Zecora should have been well aware of... FLUTTERSHY CAN FLY!!!  Like, I know Fluttershy doesn't like flying that much, but it's not like she would've been flying over a mountain, she would've had to hover like two feet over the water while she was gathering moss!  It's not something that breaks the whole episode, but still, I kinda found it to be a silly oversight by both characters all the same.

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Why does Zecora look so bucking cute in this still image? 

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Wings.  You have them.  USE THEM!!! :angry:

Anyways, it's not long before this episode goes from being a pleasant bit of slice of life to a medical drama.  Oh wait, my mistake, it doesn't become JUST a medical drama... IT BECOMES BUCKING NIGHTMARE FUEL!!!  Why, you may ask?  Well because of the disease in question which Zecora (and later Fluttershy and Doctor Horse) catches from a mysterious flower pod called Swamp Fever.  I don't know what sick bucker on the MLP writing staff came up with this disease, but get a load of this... you've got silly symptoms like it causing you to exhale bubbles or causing you to break out in spots (which aren't exactly pox so much as polka dots), but it also gives you fatigue, confusion, causes you to eventually start sneezing lightning apparently, and worst of all is the end result.  This bucking disease causes its victims to eventually TURN INTO THE TREES THAT DROP THE FLOWER PODS WHICH SPREAD SWAMP FEVER?!?!

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Well, I think it's safe to say that this is the appropriate response to that...

 

Holy. Bucking. Shit.  THAT IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES!!!  I mean, let's wrap our heads around what this disease in a children's television show does to ponies.  It transforms their entire biological structure into a form completely unnatural to their own, and assuming they lose sapience, more or less kills them in the process of slowly transforming them into a bucking tree.  That sounds like some bucked up idea that you'd find in a 1980's children's television show or film, and again, I have no idea who the buck came up with it for here, but it's bucking terrifying in concept alone.  Not that I'm complaining, it certainly raised the stakes from the very beginning for everypony involved, but still, definitely wasn't something I was expecting here.

Once Zecora's been diagnosed, we get to the real meat of this episode where Fluttershy shines, and on top of that a very solid, subtle moral is delivered as well.  Feeling guilty for putting Zecora in a position to come down with Swamp Fever in the first place (and she's not wrong technically, which is possibly the only thing that KIND OF takes away from a still very powerful moral), Fluttershy throws herself into frantic efforts to find a cure.  She sifts through Twilight's library even more ardently than the alicorn princess herself, and in the process (through some excellent research) discovers exactly where they need to go to find a cure, Hayseed, the old village of Mage Meadowbrook, a legendary sorceress and healer (some question how an earth pony was a sorceress, but we know that earth pony's do have their own type of magic and the ability to interact with and use magical elements, so I certainly think it's possible for an earth pony or a pegasus to be a sorcerer/sorceress in their own way).  Once there, they track down her old home and even stumble across her descendant (seemingly sole descendant by the looks of things), Cattail, and also hunt down information recorded by Mage Meadowbrook in her old diaries leading them to conclude that the key to a cure for Swamp Fever is the honey produced by Flash Bees, who are immune to the effects of the Swamp Fever flower pods.  During all of this, Fluttershy foregoes getting any rest for herself, and soon it becomes apparent that she too is coming down with Swamp Fever.  In desperation, she frantically attempts to use her natural charm on animals, and when that doesn't work the Stare itself, to get honey from the Flash Bees, but neither works, and after getting stung by them, Fluttershy faints from her fatigue and remains unconscious for three days while nothing Twilight or Cattail do to retrieve the honey works.  When she awakens, Fluttershy realizes that in not getting herself any rest, she not only endangered herself but also Zecora as well, since if she'd been fully rested she might have managed to retrieve the cure sooner.  Realizing that Mage Meadowbrook successfully got honey from the Flash Bees by wearing a healer's mask with a stripe pattern similar to those of Flash Bee queens, who the males are subservient to, Fluttershy uses the mask to get the honey and heals herself, Zecora, and Doctor Horse of Swamp Fever, in the process also rediscovering the cure for Swamp Fever for good (very odd that Mage Meadowbrook only recorded the cure in her personal diary, but given that she seems to have lived centuries ago long before printed works in Equestria, we can give her a bit of a pass for not more widely publishing her medical knowledge).

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Fluttershy's character arc in this episode is at the heart of a very mature, subtle moral, especially personal and meaningful to people who can relate to it (such as at least one very dear friend of so many of us on the forums here).  People who've had a loved one get diagnosed with a bad disease or debilitating medical condition in general often go through hell to help them get through it, if they can.  They try everything they can to make it better, whether that be financially or just anything at all they personally can do for the one they love.  They might drive themselves to such lengths that they even start blaming themselves for what's happening in the first place, or keep convincing themselves that they're not doing enough.  Again, this message was just slightly undercut by the fact that this was technically Fluttershy's fault, but again that is easy enough to ignore when you consider just how good the message is.  It is not good for one to neglect their own needs when trying to care for another, no matter how much you love them or how bad things may be for them.  They wouldn't want you to do so since they love and care for you as well, and on a more pragmatic level, not looking after your own needs might actually make it more difficult for you to take care of them, much less yourself.  While such perseverance and determination to aid another as Fluttershy displayed is certainly admirable and capable of achieving much, it needs to be tempered and balanced if one hopes to sustain such a drive in the long run.  This is a mature message both on an intellectual and emotional level, and I am sure those who can personally relate to Fluttershy in this episode were very much affected by it and knew exactly what the show was doing.

Beyond these core elements, the episode had a lot of other great things to offer viewers as well.  Twilight had one of her best supporting roles in sometime, and a true one at that.  Oftentimes a risk with having Twilight as a supporting character is that, by the sheer nature of who she is as the show's main character, she will dominate the screen time.  Heck, we've seen her paired up (rarely) with Fluttershy in past episodes, such as when they visited the Hooffields and McColts, and while they were both supposed to be main characters in that episode, one could argue Twilight stood out far more than Fluttershy.  Here, however, she was firmly a supporting character; Fluttershy took the lead on most things, while Twilight offered good support and mature advice the whole time.  It wasn't even out of deference to Fluttershy or anything, Fluttershy just had a better handle on the situation from the start than Twilight did and she knew this.  Her intro with Spike in which they were having a cooking competition was also rather cute and funny, a more normal side of Twilight we don't get to see nearly as much these days like we used to, plus it was fun seeing her do something not related to her love of intellectual pursuits like baking (also, those sweet potato muffins honestly sounded REALLY good if I'm being perfectly honest).

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OK, Twiley looks ridiculously adorable with flower on her little hoovesies and her horn! :wub:

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Remember kids, this is what baking too much does to you.  Before you know it, you're having fever dreams about pans!!! :love:

Cattail was another fun, new element added to the episode.  The entire village of Hayseed seems to have had an Equestrian version of Cajun-bayou culture, which was pretty unique to see in this show.  While the real world parallels could only go so far, the show has never made a habit of stereotyping other cultures when it does have shades of cultures similar to ones in our own world, and the same was true here.  In addition, his willingness to simply help Fluttershy and Twilight as soon as he learned what they were after was admirable to see seeing as he'd just met them, not to mention he basically opened his home to them as well (well, after they inadvertently broke into it, though in their defense they had no idea it was occupied to begin with).  The lore with his distant relative and ancestor, Mage Meadowbrook, was quite cool as well, and it was nice learning about the last of the Legends of Magic (though I still think it would have been cool if Fluttershy's allegory among them were Somnambula).  But all in all, the best elements of this episode that will stick with me going forward are those relating to its message and just how great of an appearance Fluttershy herself had.  That's not to say the episode as a whole wasn't exceptional, it really was.  It's just that these elements in particular are what make it particularly unique in its own way as an exceptional episode, especially in a season like Season 7 where there have been so many great episodes already.

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Well, that's all I've got for you everypony.  I feel fairly certain that by the end of Season 7 this episode will still stand out as Fluttershy's best of the season, so it was a pleasure getting around to finally reviewing such a great episode.  Until next time, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Batbrony

Shine Inside Out by InuHoshi-to-DarkPen

As should be VERY evident in this thread, the fandom artist community pretty much exploded after this episode :D

Good evening everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  First of all, apologies for getting this review out so late.  Just been having trouble making time for it over the last few days on account of a whole lot of exciting real life stuff that's been happening.  But that will be saved for another day, for now, onto the episode itself!  Without further ado, this is "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You."

Confident by Petrinox

So first things first, I just have to say that this was an odd duck of an episode.  Like, not a bad one, far from it.  In fact in execution this is a perfectly good episode, and in tone very much in the same vein as predecessors from Season 1 or Season 2 of the show.  But that said, what did stand out to me as apparent was the fact that this was a Season 7 subject in an episode executed like a Season 1 or Season 2 episode, and that threw me for a bit of a loop.  Unlike last week's episode, this is not so much a bad or disappointing thing as simply an odd thing to ponder.  I cannot help but find myself asking "What if this episode had been executed differently?" and in fact will do just that at the end of the review.  But for now, let's delve into what we got here.

To start, Rarity kicks ass here, and I don't just say that because of the end.  This was undoubtedly a Season 7 Rarity performance; while the character has never been completely self-obsessed or shallow I cannot help but think that if this episode had debuted in Season 1, she would have displayed far less grace or restraint in how she handled things than she did here.  Instead, we got a Rarity who, while more than understandably upset at her predicament, did not come across as particularly shallow at any point; if anything, we actually readily understood how being unable to fix such a situation could truly devastate her without it feeling forced.  Rarity doesn't just put a premium on maintaining good looks to make herself feel better, she does it to make an impression on ponies both in her own dealings as well as when she's lending a helping hoof to them, as evidenced by the opening scene of this episode where she's going around town lending assistance to various businesses and establishments.  This does have a practical effect in that, well, without sounding too shallow, if there's one thing folks love more than practical-minded people, it's practical-minded people who look radiant.  Politicians like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, etc. all had good looks and distinct images, and this applies to business as well.  A great example that comes to mind is who will folks always associate as the face of Apple, Jobs or Wozniak?  Jobs of course, and not just because he was the better PR guy and knew how to connect to what customers wanted, but because eventually he developed a distinct image that, while not Hollywood-handsome, was its own kind of handsome within the Silicon Valley world.  Point is, Rarity looking good isn't just something that she shallowly does to make herself feel better; at this point, it's simply a part of who she is and how she carries herself about, and there's nothing really wrong with that.  She doesn't think she's better than other ponies because of it, she doesn't really even flaunt it, she just enjoys looking fabulous and using that part of herself to help others try to realize their own potential to be fabulous in their own ways.

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When you're just having one of "those" days :lie:

This makes her reaction to losing most of her mane more than believable, even if some of her bits during her most panicky moments are hilarious.  She doesn't just focus on getting it back (even if that is her top priority), she really does try to go about her business as well but just finds at first that she can't.  She also doesn't blame Zecora or Pinkie Pie, and tries to have as much of a stiff upper lip as she can.  Let's also consider that this isn't just something Rarity would freak out about; she may freak out more than most would, but evidently losing one's mane or tail is something that most ponies dread and understand magic can't fix easily, if at all.  Even her sadness is, eventually, oddly subdued; normally we'd expect to see Rarity having a grand and fabulously over-the-top display of drama when she's especially feeling low, but here her lowest point is Rarity just... well, not being Rarity.  She truly feels at that moment like she's not her true self, and can't even muster the ability to lament her current state as grandly as she normally would.  That was a nice, subtle touch and Tabitha St. Germain's handling of the subdued, restrained Rarity in that moment was very effective.  The ending of course was fantastic, and Rarity rocking the punk look all over town was as unexpected as it was delightful to watch, especially when she kept acting like herself again, it contrasted the punk image so wonderfully!  And her learning to always believe that she was always fabulous no matter what she looked like, so long as she still behaved fabulously and channeled that into everything she did, was a great lesson for both herself as well as those who may be most affected by this episode, and a nice continuation of part of the lesson from Rarity's own legend of Mistmane which she recounted just a few episodes ago.  So all in all, I really have no complaints about Rarity's performance here or how she was written; I still enjoyed her turn in "Campfire Tales" more personally, and for me that's still her highlight of the season, but this was a splendid turn for her all the same.

Rocking this mane (avaliable as shirt) by GaelleDragons

Zecora coming back (in the first of back-to-back appearances, how about that!) was a welcome return, and unlike Daring Do's performance last week, Zecora's appearance here was not, thankfully, botched.  I was honestly a little disappointed we didn't get to see her just shoot the shit some more with Pinkie Pie and Rarity when she started talking about manes and how tricky they are to handle with magic, but that was mostly because an unfortunate truth about Zecora is that she's usually there for the purpose of plot devices more than anything else.  Most of what she says is either exposition about something that will be critical to the plot, or words of wisdom tied into the lesson learned.  Make no mistake, I still enjoy her as a character and think she was used well here, but it is something I've noticed about her over time, and really it's a big reason we should see more of her, so that she's not just being used in such formulaic and predictable ways.  Also, I can't help but think she should have taken a little bit more of the blame here for what happened to Rarity; she may not have gotten the bottles mixed up, but she is partially responsible in that she had no labels for two VERY different potions that look exactly the same.  Overall, however, it was just nice seeing Ponyville's resident zebra once more, and I'm sure it'll be even better seeing her in this week's upcoming episode!

Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, kind of annoyed me here.  Her performance was nowhere near "MMMMystery on the Friendship Express" levels of bad or anything, but the best way I can put it is that they wrote her unnecessarily stupid here for the purposes of the plot.  This is not the first time this has ever happened to Pinkie Pie as her over-the-top nature is often exploited by the show to create some kind of foil or plot device that gets everything else rolling, and many times it too has come off as lazy writing for this character.  Pinkie may hardly be the brightest member of the Mane 6, but some of the shit she was doing in this episode seemed to be stuff that a five year old could figure out.  Her spraying of that ridiculously sticky silly string EVERYWHERE in sight felt like something she'd impulsively do in a bad MLP fanfiction, not an actual episode; her repeated suggestion to simply use any cupcakes she salvaged from the silly string rather than bake new ones came off as both lazy and inconsiderate to the Cakes or their customers (even if it was a funny gag at certain points); and she seems to have spent at least an entire afternoon, if not one or multiple days even, simply trying to clean Sugarcube Corner up with the wrong potion, and you're telling me that in all of that time she never realized that this might be shampoo and not a magical cleaner???  All in all, hardly Pinkie's worst showing, but not exactly a flattering one either.

New mane style by LooknamTCN

She did, however, admittedly look rather adorable at the end of the episode after the shampoo debacle

The rest of the Mane 6, on the other hand, were phenomenal, especially at the end.  Twilight and Starlight (honorary fill-in for Spike here as far as I'm concerned) did admittedly get off to a bit of a rough start, mostly in that they, once again, couldn't resist messing with the laws of nature by trying to do something with their magic which, not a second before, they had said they shouldn't when they tried to assist Rarity with her mane through their magic.  Now look, I get that they were just trying to be good friends, but (1) they've both made this mistake enough times with often near disastrous consequences that they should know better by this point, and (2) Twilight's first attempt in particular was a really shitty thing of her to do.  They're trying to help their friend get her mane back, or some semblance of it, and what does she do?  Why steal another pony's mane of course, much to that poor bucking crystal pony stallion's horror!  I don't even get how the writers thought they could play this for laughs when they literally just gave this guy the same exact problem that Rarity was contending with the entire time, except I doubt he has a group of friends that includes a bucking Equestrian princess to help him try to get over such a dilemma.  That'd be like doing a high school drama episode where, in order to help a friend who was anorexic, her friends tried somehow "passing" her anorexia onto someone else.  Not a solid solution guys, not at all!  At least the rest of their magical attempts weren't harmful to anyone else, and it was fantastic hearing them at least say no to attempting using time travel to fix things, but still, it was kind of ridiculous that those two made as many attempts as they did when they were so sure to start out that it wouldn't work.

Besides that, however, Rarity's friends were great.  Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack in particular tried their best to come through, first in trying to come up with whatever kind of wigs they could (in all honesty Applejack's was probably the most likely to work, even if Rainbow's looked the prettiest, but dear Lord Flutters I don't know why you thought Harry the Bear's green plant wig would work at all... even if it was hilarious and adorable seeing Harry working on it), and second in trying to bolster Rarity's spirits and help her regain her confidence to channel her inner fabulosity no matter what she looked like.  Applejack in particular had some very personal lines of encouragement and support, a nice dose of Rarijack and reminder of how close those two in particular are in a season where we haven't seen a whole lot of it outside of this and one other episode.  Probably her best line was when she hearkened back all the way to their very first adventure, reminding Rarity of when she did her first major act of generosity among her friends in giving up her tail to Steven Magnet; this was not only a critical element of Rarity's own nature to remind her of, but also highlighted how close these two are in showing how much of an impression this memory in particular must have left on Applejack.  In the end, their support and friendship was exactly what Rarity needed in order to regain her confidence.

At least someone's having fun... by StarBlaze25

Ponyville itself was very much alive in this episode, again in a way reminiscent of Seasons 1 and 2.  The Flower Sisters, Roseluck, Daisy, and Lily, in particular had great showings and even showed shades of character growth; while they came close to panicking like they were so wont to do in early seasons, they ultimately kept their cool (with some assistance from Rarity) and did some smashing business with their flower sales while they were at it.  They also treated Rarity the least different of any other business associates around Ponyville after her mane fiasco, simply unable to help her when they couldn't see her mane, which felt like a far more natural reaction than the other two.  Speaking of which, fan pony salesman and Davenport, the owner of Quills and Sofas, were not nearly as charming.  Fan pony store owner was relatively harmless, but he came off as a really inept business owner seeing as he was hurting his own business... simply because he had all of the fans in his store going at once, which made it hard for any pony to even enter his store.  Pretty stupid move on his part, plus his later comments about "non-fabulous" ponies seemed a bit... superficial, at least how he delivered them.  Davenport, however, was far worse in that he wasn't just stupid for not having wider variety in his sofas to start out, but was also a complete jackass!  Dude made a business arrangement with Rarity, a very simple one at that; she gave him VERY sound business advice that helped him improve his sales, and in return all she wanted was a custom-made chaise lounge.  Hell, as far as we know she was even going to pay for it in bits as well, so the fact that he was willing to break that agreement just for a few more bits is dickish beyond all belief.  If I was Rarity, I wouldn't do business with a guy like that ever again!  How can you really trust a guy like that in any type of business arrangement if he's willing to straight up break his word when it comes to his own business?!  Aside from that, we had some fun appearances from Filthy Rich, Caramel (who may or may not now be a father of a filly via Sassaflash, who he was dating back in Season 2), Granny Smith and Grand Pear (who could be spotted in multiple scenes selling apple and pear products at a shared stand in the Ponyville Market), Apple Bloom conversing with Burnt Oak (again, another great bit of continuity from "The Perfect Pear," even if it would have been cooler seeing Big Mac talk to him), Big Mac and Sugar Belle taking a romantic walk at Sweet Apple Acres (something which I missed in my first viewing, though to be fair they showed it sooooooo briefly that it really is easy for anyone to miss), and Derpy at both the beginning and end, including rocking the ONLY one of the Rarity-inspired punk manes that looked as fabulous as hers did!  Seeing so many different faces from Ponyville showing up in notable roles here was great, and something that is far too rare at this point in the show.

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Mannnnnnnn, the Flower Sisters are SO CUTE!!! :wub:

Colour Co-ordination by bobthedalek

As you can see, all of the elements we had in this episode easily add up to a good, perfectly likable episode.  So you're probably wondering in what way I think it possibly could have been better?  Well, odd as it may sound, I really do think this episode, by virtue of its subject alone, could have been far more daring if it wanted to.  Allow me to explain.

The elephant in the room with the subject of an episode like this is twofold.  Rarity lost something which she believed is fundamental to achieving her own identity.  Not in a superficial way (mostly), but this is a character who loves being fabulous and sharing that side of herself with others in any way she can, so it's easy to understand why this situation would be so personally distressful for her.  Obviously, this episode can easily be relatable for two groups of people: (1) more generally speaking, anyone who has lost due to unfortunate circumstances something about themselves they consider to be a defining trait, or (2) more specifically, people who have lost their hair, especially due to a medical condition of some kind.  That's a pretty heavy real world parallel for any MLP ep, and there's no way the writers weren't aware of it.  So how could they have pushed the envelope just a bit more with this one?  In just a few little ways, really.  For starters, even though Rarity's mane eventually grew back, we didn't need to see that at the end of the episode; it needlessly minimized what she'd gone through, as well as the triumph of how she'd just rectified her situation as best as she could.  Going even further, she didn't even necessarily need to fix her mane at all; as awesome as the punk mane was, I couldn't help but wonder (1) why it didn't occur to her to do that in the first place, and (2) how she had enough hair to do that?  For her it was a wonderful fix, but in real world parallels, lots of people can't always do such a fun solution as Rarity did.  Some may have no hair to spare at all (though of course wigs are always an option), and for others the lack of hair may even be the least of their problems.

Derpy Style by lachlan765

So what could have happened instead?  Well, I say, what if the Mane 6 hadn't been able to really help Rarity?  What if no one at first could, and she herself couldn't simply fix it by going with a different mane style?  What if eventually, she came across somepony who in many ways had it even rougher than she did?  This could either have been somepony with some kind of medical condition, or if the writers wanted to be less serious, a character like Derpy who has been the town klutz for years and has had to always live with that.  In either case, she could have simply talked with this pony, asking in awe how they've managed to stay positive or their chipper selves despite their struggles and challenges in life.  Their answer?  They never let whatever bad conditions or circumstances they had in their lives define who they were.  They always stay true to themselves and never, ever let any limitations they face keep them from remaining who they are, for their own sake as well as for the sake of those they love.  Doing it doesn't mean it's easy, just worthwhile.  Such an example would have been inspiring to somepony like Rarity, and led her to concluding the same thing she did in the episode as it is, simply in more dramatic fashion as the result of a far more serious experience.

Now again, I must reiterate that this episode did not disappoint me.  Executed as it was, it was a very good episode.  But I still strongly believe that it could have been more if it wanted to be, and can't help but regret that we'll never get to see what it could have been if treated just a tad more seriously, even if what we got all around was good itself.  That's all I've got for you everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Let's close this thread with, what else, a shitload of Punk Rarity pics!!! :D

Raritys Confidence by Jazzerix

Punk Rarity by Scarlet-Spectrum

.:New style baby:.+SpeedPaint by FJ-C

Punk Rarity (with Speedpaint) by wolfchen999

Rarity punk by RedchetGreen

Fastest Hooves In Equestria by Underpable

Sounds of magic by Mechagen

I won't lie, if this had happened, it would have easily been the most metal thing ever!!! :love:

Batbrony

Good afternoon everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  I'm sure you're all wondering why I'm posting my review of this latest episode so early.  Well, while I normally always wait to write a review until after an episode has officially aired on Saturdays, I felt I had to make an exception this week since my girlfriend is briefly visiting me today and Saturday.  If I waited, that'd leave me only Saturday evening and Sunday to catch up on this new episode and write my review on it, which is just more work and stress than I need.  So without further ado, let's dive into "Daring Done?"!

So, how did this episode leave me feeling?  Welllllllllllllllllll, something like this... :okiedokieloki:

Very, very, very, very, VERY disappointed... :fiery:

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That moment you need both Peyton Manning and a dog that looks just like him to sum up how disappointed you are :sunny:

Now do not mistake me, this episode is nowhere NEAR one of my least favorite ever in the entire show.  Compared to a dumpster fire like "Hard to Say Anything," it's a bucking masterpiece.  On its own this is just a very 'meh' episode, not that good, but not that bad either.  HOWEVER, I still found myself disliking it more than most 'meh' episodes in this show, about as much as I would dislike an actually bad episode of the show.  Why?  Because like I said, it's an incredibly disappointing showing all the same.  There was real potential here and some great ideas for what should have been at least a good, if not great, episode.  It's nowhere near as infuriating in its disappointment as "Hard to Say Anything" was for blowing such a massive change in show canon with Big Mac getting into a relationship and all, but it is disappointing in these respects, which I will go through in detail.

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DON'T MAKE ME CHOOSE!!! :love:

BTW, most of the pics in this review will probably be from the Somnambula segment, simply because that's really the only part of this episode I loved through and through :smug:

Disappointing Factor #1: We Don't Get Many Daring Do Episodes

One of the most charming aspects about MLP at this point in its run is that there is a wide bevvy of beloved supporting characters in it.  These come in two varieties: (1) supporting characters who we see with a pretty steady degree of regularity, such as Cheerilee, Big Mac, the Cakes, the Princesses, etc., and (2) supporting characters who only appear on special occasions, even less so if they have celebrity VAs.  A.K. Yearling/Daring Do is definitely the latter, but she shows up far more than beloved supporting characters like Cheese Sandwich or Countess Coloratura because her voice actress, Chiara Zanni, isn't a celebrity voice actor like those VAs are.  This means she's become what I'd like to refer as a "special staple" on the show; she's not a regular main or supporting character, but she is a well-enough established element of the world that gets referenced so often, or flat out shows up enough, that she can be considered in her own way to be a staple of the show.  While her appearances are still special occasions, you'd like for them to leave something of an impact on the show as well, even if they don't leave the biggest of impacts.

Normally this has been the case, to varying extents.  Here, however, everything was handled so poorly that not really anyone came out looking better for it, including Daring Do.  Plot points were forced and contrived to the point that I couldn't help but think that Daring Do could have probably figured out most of the problems she was facing on her own, especially considering what solutions she chose to come up with at the end.  The idea of Daring's exploits having unintended consequences that make life harder for others is not a bad one, in fact it's a fairly well-explored theme in the superhero genre in general, but it was handled badly here for a number of reasons that I will get into later, including the fact that Daring simply couldn't figure out for most of the episode how to fix things (like I said, given what she figured out she should do, this shouldn't have been that hard to figure out).  She created an existential crisis for herself when she really didn't have to, and her lack of resolute behavior made it come off as though she didn't have a handle on anything that was going on.  Anytime the incredibly EASILY swayed crowd in Somnambula turned against her, she got sad, anytime they said something nice about her, she got happy; it's like the entire direction of her life, whether or not she retired, was hinging moment-by-moment on whether or not these ponies were in a good mood around her or when talking about her, it was ridiculous.  Perhaps worst of all, however, was that absolutely NONE of the exploits Daring Do got up to here, even rescuing Rainbow Dash from a bucking pyramid, came off as epic or adventurous.  It all felt watered down somehow, like a wilted flower, and for a character who has always excellently channeled the spirit of Indiana Jones, who in just her last appearance embarked on this amazingly fun and exciting adventure with Rainbow Dash and Quibble Pants that involved puzzles, temple traps, and a giant bucking crocodile monster, for any of her adventures to come off as lame and empty of adventure is the biggest sin of all.  By far this was the worst Daring Do episode to date, and seeing as this is a supporting character who only appears on special occasions, it is all the more disappointing because of that.

Disappointing Factor #2: Wasting a Cool Setting with a Great Background

So @Jeric and I were at first convinced that this ENTIRE setting was being ambiguously referred to as "southern Equestria" which really doesn't make sense for one bucking town to be called that, but when I consulted the MLP Wiki entry on this episode, I realized the town is called Somnambula.  However, while that name makes sense, I'm not sure they actually said the name once in the episode (although I could be wrong); the only time I recall them even suggesting it was called that was when the one villager said that Somnambula was the town's namesake, but again, I may be wrong and may have to rewatch it again.  Either way, at least it's not called southern Equestria, that name is bucking generic as hell, though I have no idea what Somnambula itself is supposed to refer to considering it is drawn from the word "somnambulism" which is just the scientific term for sleepwalking, and there wasn't one bucking thing in this whole episode even close to that.

Back to the issue at hand, this actually is a pretty cool setting, both visually and in its background.  The idea of an Egyptian pony society (while a bit confusing considering all of these ponies in Equestria share the same country) is not a bad one in the slightest - though I will point out this was a missed opportunity to return to Saddle Arabia instead, I REALLY wanna see the Saddle Arabians again - and their looks, while a bit confusing given that they are clearly modern ponies in their garb but for some reason had ancient Egyptian eye paint, were pretty cool.  Jeric even pointed out to me that one of the Somnambulans was wearing specifically an Egyptian hijab, not just a generic one, meaning somebody did their research in coming up with that look, and I give props for that attention to detail.

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Say what I will about this episode, the Egyptian hijab is a very cool detail all in all!

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I mean look at this, look at the bucking colors and gorgeous visuals in this one shot alone!  AND ALL OF THIS GOT WASTED ON A THOROUGHLY MEH EPISODE?!  For shame!!!

Even cooler is the town's background, which is easily the best part of this whole episode.  Somnambula has a really great story around her (with some cool alternative animation at parts), and a unique personality to boot from what we saw; she seemed to have this very kind, hopeful demeanor, even resonating what I would call a natural nobility even though it seemed she wasn't an actual noble herself, or at least not part of the royal family.  She was smart but also clearly brave, and didn't seem to rely too much on her brains or her brawn, but a healthy balance of all sorts of commendable qualities.  The Sphinx itself was a bucking cool villain in its design, and my only gripe with both of them is that, for some reason, the show makers didn't bother to get either of them voice actors, and I think that's quite the missed opportunity; both of these characters could have sounded very unique, but instead all we got was the random village pony reading their lines, it was kind of annoying and distracting.  But like I said, her whole backstory about rescuing Prince Hisan and saving her land from the Sphinx was awesome and honestly I wouldn't have complained if it was longer, and Somnambula is another great addition to the growing members of the Legends of Magic.

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D'awwwwwwwwwww, who's a cute ancient Egyptian pony??? YOU ARE!  YES, YOU ARE!!! :wub:

The problem is that, ultimately, this cool setting and background all came to nothing.  The city itself felt minuscule, largely because it seemed they didn't utilize nearly as much of it as they could have, and considering this thing was right next to multiple pyramids, that's a bucking shame.  We're talking about the first time ever we've gotten to see MLP's version of Indiana Jones in an EGYPTIAN-type setting... guys... in case you forgot, Raiders of the Lost Ark is still easily the best and most beloved Indiana Jones movie ever, and most of that takes place in Egypt!!!  There are so many great Indiana Jones callbacks they could have done here, but instead most of the episode was spent with the main crew dawdling about listening to ponies waffle between praising Daring Do or bitching about her, hearing an awesome story that had no impact on the present events, and then embarking on a really stupid and underwhelming adventure inside a, if I'm being honest, really boring pyramid, and that's saying something considering it was a perfectly awesome setting in Somnambula's own backstory!  Hell, even the stakes are lame!  What do Daring Do, Rainbow, and Pinkie ultimately stop Dr. Caballeron from doing?  Stealing a bunch of glowing topaz!  Like, I know it has huge meaning to the townsponies, but c'mon, all they did was stop them from carrying a giant ass sack out of town, that's it!  We didn't even get any kind of epic chase, they just confronted them like Scooby Doo and the gang would confront a monster about to get unmasked.  While this setting had great potential, especially considering it does have a pretty awesome background, overall everything about how it was actually used was simply underwhelming and not particularly fun or exhilarating.

Disappointing Factor #3: Bad Editing and Bad Pacing

Wowwwwwwwwwww, was this episode ever a hot mess in the editing and pacing department!  The biggest problem probably stems from the fact that we wasted five minutes of the episode opening up in Ponyville and then at A.K. Yearling's house (speaking of which, where the buck is it exactly that they got to it so quickly AND apparently A.K. Yearling for some reason gave this exclusive interview to, of all papers, the bucking Ponyville Chronicle?  I thought she was a recluse living somewhere in northern Equestria, what the buck is she giving an exclusive interview to the town paper of one of Equestria's most podunk little towns when she should be telling this to, oh IDK, a paper in like Manehattan or something?!); I'll expand on this point about the opening later in the review, but from there it was all downhill.  We didn't seem to get nearly enough exposure to the town of Somnambula itself, most likely as a result of those wasted opening five minutes, which in turn made the setting feel too small and confined; some scenes lasted too long or seemed to drag, others didn't seem to develop enough; and finally, as a result of the bad editing and pacing, laughably stupid things would occur, like Dr. Caballeron kidnapping Rainbow Dash when Pinkie Pie and Daring Do were LITERALLY 20 FEET AWAY!!!  Oh yeah, we're gonna tear that bit of stupidity apart later.

Point is, everything about the pacing and editing in this episode (except, oddly enough, for Somnambula's story) felt off somehow, like it just wasn't right.  It's not the worst I've ever seen in the show, but it is plenty of testament to how something seemingly as small or simple as getting the editing and pacing wrong in an episode can screw the whole pooch.

Disappointing Factor #4: Plot Contrivances and Poor Continuity

Good gravy, are there a shitload of plot contrivances and poor continuity in this episode!  This is one of those cases where the plot contrivances and bad continuity honestly just get worse the longer the episode goes on, so I'm just going to list them off down below one by one.  *deep breath* Let's begin!

(1) The aforementioned "where the buck does A.K. Yearling live" plot point.  We see Pinkie and RD read about her retiring in the paper, and then cut to them running to her house, with no sense of how far they just traveled!  Not only is this a poor transition, but it, compounded with the fact that A.K. spoke to the Ponyville Chronicle, makes it impossible to determine just how far she does live from Ponyville, or even where exactly in Equestria she lives.

(2) A.K. Yearling's inability to confront a very solvable problem.  The fact that her actions as Daring Do are disrupting others lives in harmful ways is not a bad plot point, nor is her feeling bad about it bad; however, A.K. suffers an existential crisis from this fact that almost leads her to retire as Daring Do for good, when there are far better options available to her for confronting it which aren't all that hard to figure out, namely, using her considerable resources accrued from her Daring Do novel sales and royalties to pay for damages and costs she incurs in her adventuring!  Given that this is exactly what she does at the end, the fact that she couldn't figure out she should do it before on her own is even more infuriating and stupid for it.

(3) The "A.K. Yearling is Daring Do and vice versa" plot point is finally falling apart as a result of some really shitty continuity in this episode.  It was always an awkward situation, but I was able to believe that most ponies didn't know Daring Do was real because I always figured her adventures took her to far away lands outside of Equestria.  I still thought it would make more sense if she acted like she was just reporting on the REAL adventures of Daring Do, not pretending to be a novelist, but that theory held up well enough.  Well that all went out the window because of this episode, because Somnambula is a town in Equestria itself, meaning Daring Do does indeed adventure in Equestria.  Even worse is the fact that A.K. Yearling tells Rainbow and Pinkie that southern Equestrian (and we have no idea how much of Equestria that's supposed to cover) don't know about her books since they're not sold there, so they don't know who A.K. Yearling is and that Daring Do is a popular fictional character.  What this essentially means is that while ponies in "southern Equestria" know that Daring Do is real but don't know about the books about her written by A.K. Yearling, vice versa, in "northern Equestria" (again, no idea how much of Equestria that is supposed to cover) ponies don't know that Daring Do is real and think she's just a fictional character because of A.K. Yearling's books.  This is a terribly stupid plot point resulting from really bad continuity more than anything else, and it makes every pony in Equestria look like idiots.  I know they don't have the Internet, but this country is probably the most developed nation in its setting and is pretty well-interconnected by this point, so communication isn't that primitive.  So you're telling me that in all these years, no northern Equestrians have ever told southern Equestrians about the Daring Do novels and, vice versa, no southern Equestrians have ever told northern Equestrians that Daring Do is real?  Nope, can't buy that, it's too big of a leap in logic.

(4) The ponies of Somnambula are far too ridiculously easy to sway.  Every single time both Rainbow Dash and Caballeron bring up a point for and against Daring Do, they agree with whoever's speaking, it's bucking annoying.  I know it might be a joke about mob behavior, but if it is it isn't particularly executed that well or cleverly.  On top of that, you're telling me that absolutely NONE of these ponies could recall seeing Ahuizotl on Daring's previous adventure there?  The biggest reason I find that hard to believe is because he and Daring were responsible for the destruction of Somnambula's statue, which sits right in the middle of the whole bucking town, and not a single pony saw him at any point when that happened?  That's a HUGE stretch right there.

(5) Nopony recognizes Caballeron when he's hiding under nothing but a cloak.  I know that A.K. Yearling's disguise when she's not Daring Do is fairly simple, but it at least has multiple pieces of clothing (hat, cloak, very big glasses) and is convincing enough considering how much of her it conceals.  Caballeron, however, wears nothing but a cloak and his INCREDIBLY distinct five-o'-clock shadow is still visible even when he has it on.  You're telling me that RD, Pinkie, and bucking Daring Do, his archnemesis, didn't at any point recognize him under that?

(6) Rainbow Dash gets captured in the absolutely stupidest way possible... BECAUSE SHE FORGETS THAT SHE CAN FLY!!!  It doesn't help that the abduction wasn't even particularly well handled considering (1) his henchmen just pop up out of nowhere and (2) THEY'RE STANDING 20 BUCKING FEET AWAY FROM DARING DO AND PINKIE PIE WHEN THEY ABDUCT RAINBOW, but for obvious reasons, the most egregious bit of forced plot in all of this stupidity is Rainbow forgetting that not only she can just fly away from them, but she just so happens to be a little thing called, oh, THE FASTEST FLYER IN ALL OF EQUESTRIA!!!!!!!  There's really no getting around or justifying this one, it was just stupidity for the sake of moving the plot forward.

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Rainbow Dash: She... just didn't feel like trying that day

(7) The pyramid rescue is a bucking joke and completely undermines the message of "having hope."  Having hope does, admittedly, sometimes mean you have to take a leap of faith in certain things, BUT that's not all that it means.  Hope is so much more than just about taking a leap of faith, and holding onto it does much more for someone than convince them to take chances.  On top of that, this show has done the "you have to take a leap of faith" lesson before all the way back in Season 1's "Feeling Pinkie Keen," and frankly it was much better handled there.  Here, they jumped down into a slime pit to their doom without any plan or reason to think this would work whatsoever and got BUCKING LUCKY!!!  What did they find at the bottom, you may ask?  Oh, just these bizarre contraptions that, for some unknown reason, blow puffs of air that are strong enough to float them across the gap!  What?  Don't you know those are super common in ancient deathtrap temples?!  This plot device is one of the worst, most forced deus ex machinas I have seen in some time, and in fact it's so bad that it even ruins the Somnambula story to a certain extent.  For starters, why would they even make these?  What purpose were they actually supposed to serve?  As far as I could tell, the bridge was supposed to be the only way across the pit, but because they have these in there, there's essentially no threat if one fell off the bridge or it wasn't there.  Why would someone build a deathtrap slime pit if it wasn't supposed to be, ya know, an actual deathtrap???  Second, they shouldn't have needed to take a leap of faith at all if those were down there.  I don't know how they could have possibly missed those devices considering they were clearly poking out of the slime below, so Pinkie and Daring should have been able to determine that they could just use those.  Finally, while this doesn't have to do with the devices themselves, why was that "no flight" spell still in the pyramid?  It really shouldn't have been after all of those years considering I was under the impression that the Sphinx just put that spell on Somnambula alone in that particular moment.  To make matters worse, why did Dr. Caballeron tell Daring Do that the spell was there at all?  He could have let her try to fly to save Rainbow and fall to her doom instead, problem solved!  Overall, this whole climax was just one giant clusterbuck of stupidity and some of the biggest plot contrivances I've ever seen in this show.

Disappointing Factor #5: Bad Character Writing and Utilization

This point applies largely to the main characters.  I've already detailed how A.K. Yearling/Daring Do clearly shouldn't have been so troubled by the unintended consequences of her actions that she simply decided the best thing would be for her to retire; she's been doing this for years, and she's a very different character than Rainbow Dash is.  Whereas Rainbow Dash has always been impulsive, Daring seems like she's a healthier balance of adventurous, but also thoughtful and considerate.  The very fact that these reports bothered her so much are proof of that.  She's a successful novelist at that, and her adventuring requires a great amount of intelligence (not that Rainbow Dash isn't smart, but Daring Do seems like she's about as book smart as she is street smart), so she should have been able to conclude on her own that a sound way to fix the trouble she'd caused would have been simply paying for the damages and costs she'd incurred.  Beyond that, she just wasn't particularly engaging to watch in general; she spent most of the episode moping, and the little actual adventuring she did wasn't really exciting at all.  Always a shame to see such a good supporting character wasted here like Daring was.

Pinkie Pie was fine for what she contributed, heck, she seemed to be acting of sounder mind here than Rainbow Dash was and offered some solid advice to Daring Do.  Her presence was a tad confusing but I'll get into that later.  Dr. Caballeron did unnecessarily stupid things like tell Daring Do that she couldn't fly inside the pyramid, or kidnap Rainbow Dash when Daring Do was standing 20 feet away; he may be traditionally an over-the-top villain, but he's still been competent enough in the past.

However, by far the absolutely worst character here was none other than Rainbow Dash, both in her writing and very utilization.  Rainbow may be impulsive, but she also loves solving a mystery, ESPECIALLY if Daring Do is involved.  A dilemma like the one Daring faced required talking to ponies face-to-face and figuring out what their problems were, and what they needed to fix in order for them to be cool with Daring again.  What does she spend most of the episode doing?  Ignoring what the ponies of Somnambula are mad about and just loudly insisting that they should love Daring Do because she's "so awesome and cool!"  It gets so bad that she straight up insults their own culture and belittles the statue of Somnambula as being crummy when she doesn't even know anything about why it means so much to them!  I forgive this point only a little bit since she does seem to understand why they care about it so much after they've explained the story of Somnambula to her, but still, as a historian myself I know what a culturally insensitive thing it is to simply belittle another person's culture, especially when you don't know thing one about it.  Rainbow Dash was acting like an idiotic Daring Do fangirl here, doing nothing but cheerleading for Daring Do for most of the episode in the most superficial of ways, which really isn't the kind of support Daring Do needed.  She needed real friends who were ready to support her but also give her good advice and figure out how to address some truly genuine concerns.  But instead she got Fangirl Dash, and considering just a few episodes ago we got an entire episode in "Fame and Misfortune" where the writers specifically called out and condemned the worst type of fanboy behavior in all kinds of nerdy fandoms, RD's behavior here feels hypocritical and in many ways makes "Fame and Misfortune" worse.  Another point that makes "Fame and Misfortune" worse is simply the fact that RD's outing Daring Do as being A.K. Yearling in their journal wasn't what caused A.K. Yearling to retire; @Jeric and I both agreed that if that'd been the case it would have been a cool bit of continuity from that episode, but instead it's now clear that the show is simply ignoring that ever even happened, which makes "Fame and Misfortune" even less consequential to the show's continuity and canon than it already was.

The worst part about RD, besides her poor writing in general (let's not forget while we're at it her forgetting how to fly, I mean, seriously) was that she didn't even have to be in this episode.  She didn't really help Daring figure out to never stop having hope even if she made mistakes, that was mostly Pinkie and the story of Somnambula, and Somnambula wasn't even her Legends of Magic analogue, we already got that in Flash Magnus just a couple of episodes ago.  So why did they include Rainbow Dash here?  Simple, because it was a Daring Do episode and for some reason the writers feel like Rainbow is the only one of the Mane 6 who absolutely MUST be involved in any Daring Do episode.  Frankly, that's a policy that I disagree with and I'll go into more details about that in the next section.  But Daring Do is not some mirror image of Rainbow Dash, there's a ton more to her than that, so I don't see why other members of the Mane 6 can't just as easily adventure with her as well.  Unfortunately, DHX clearly doesn't see it that way, and as a result RD just felt out of place in this story the whole time; she didn't really contribute anything, she only made matters worse for Daring, and the writers were forced to make her behave very stupidly in order to set up a very forced climax.  Overall, this episode simply would have been far better if Rainbow Dash wasn't here at all, and if the show insisted she had to be, then she should have at least been acting far smarter and more considerate than she was here.

OK, at first glance she may look like a terrifying, tyrannical pony Sphinx, BUT...

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...I bet in reality she's just a cute widdle giant bird-cat pony who wants some belly rubs! :muffins:

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:D :D :D

What the Episode Could Have and Should Have Been

As you can see, while the overall product we got in this episode was simply 'meh,' all of the meh elements in this episode make for a very unlikable product, far more unlikable than it should be.  The worst part of this entire episode, as I said earlier, is that this could have at the very least been a good, if not great episode; the pieces were all there, they just simply didn't come together.  A few changes, some minor, some major, would have given us something far better than we got, and so below I'm going to detail what direction I truly believe this episode should have taken instead.

First of all, Rainbow Dash simply shouldn't have been the main character here.  In fact, you don't even need to start it in Ponyville.  The whole episode should have started in Somnambula so that we didn't waste five minutes outside of this setting itself, allowing the characters more time to explore this setting.  Pinkie Pie could possibly still be there, but other candidates for supporting Mane 6 character could include Rarity (who would be well equipped to help with this dilemma) or Twilight (who really should be able to go on an adventure of her own with Daring Do, especially considering she's been a fan of hers far longer than Rainbow Dash has been).

That said, the only pony who absolutely should have been there of the Mane 6, whether another Mane 6 member was accompanying her or not, is Fluttershy.  For starters, it seems like she'd be better equipped to deal with this sort of problem; she's kind, considerate, and very much capable of listening to others but still offering helpful advice after she has heard their concerns.  She could have been traveling to Somnambula for her own personal reasons, possibly to see some type of exotic creature, and while there she could overhear how much the locals didn't like Daring Do.  After running into A.K. Yearling, she could explain to Fluttershy why the locals don't like her; Fluttershy would listen, be very supportive since she knows how to be kind and considerate to those struggling with some kind of personal dilemma, but also be in a prime position to help Daring confront this.  They'd start going around, with Fluttershy asking others to explain why exactly they don't like Daring Do; she wouldn't impulsively shout them down any time they raised a concern, but patiently and quietly listen, possibly offering some gentle counterpoints now and then.  She'd probably even be able to advise Daring on how to fix this situation after hearing their concerns.

Secondly, Fluttershy just seems to be a far closer analogue to Somnambula than Pinkie Pie or Rainbow Dash are.  After carefully thinking about it I'm pretty sure that Somnambula is supposed to be Pinkie's analogue from the Legends of Magic as opposed to Rainbow's, considering Flash Magnus is clearly hers, but frankly it's hard to see the connection in Pinkie's case too.  I think it's supposed to stem from Somnambula spreading hope to others being comparable to how Pinkie, when she puts smiles on the faces of others, spreads hope to them, but to be honest that's not enough of a connection for me.  While it's obvious that Mage Meadowbrook, a healer, will probably be Fluttershy's analogue, I think she clearly has far more in common with Somnambula than Pinkie Pie does.  Somnambula may have been good at spreading hope to others in ways similar to how Pinkie does, but she also seemed somewhat quiet, reserved, thoughtful, and had this very natural nobility and grace to her demeanor and how she carried herself; watching her story play out, I was far more reminded about Fluttershy's character arc than I was Pinkie's.  Fluttershy gives hope to others too in her kind, considerate behavior, and is usually very thoughtful in her actions.  Hell, she has a very similar natural grace to how she carries herself just as Somnambula does, which ponies like Rarity and Photo Finish have pointed out in the past.  Overall, it just felt like, after watching this, that Fluttershy would have been far more comparable to Somnambula than Pinkie Pie is supposed to be.

Finally, having Fluttershy here would have gotten extra brownie points from me for simply being unique.  As I said earlier, why should we have this rule that Rainbow Dash MUST show up in any Daring Do episode?  Daring Do is beloved by ponies all over Equestria, whether or not they know she's real, and this includes multiple members of the Mane 6, all of whom have technically adventured with her at least once and are thus friends of hers just like Rainbow Dash is.  RD contributed virtually nothing to the plot here and was downright unbearable at times, but having Daring go on an adventure with another member of the Mane 6 (or even a couple, like Fluttershy and Rarity or Fluttershy and Twilight) would have mixed things up a bit, giving this episode a distinct, unique element distinguishing it from all other Daring Do episodes.  It's a shame the writers didn't consider this and instead went with the easier, lazier, more predictable route of giving Rainbow Dash the spotlight in another Daring Do episode, even though she really didn't deserve it here and only distracted from both the main problem as well as Pinkie Pie, who did far more to help Daring Do solve her personal dilemma than RD did at all.

Other elements that could have been different as a result of these changes are (1) the town of Somnambula could have been more thoroughly explored if the episode had started there from the very beginning, (2) more adventurous elements could have and should have been added, including actual callbacks to Indiana Jones, particularly Raiders of the Lost Ark, (3) plot points wouldn't have necessarily felt so forced or contrived if characters had simply been approaching them more smartly and subtly, (4) with more time in Somnambula, Somnambula's own story could have been expanded upon to a certain extent, and (5) both Daring and the townsponies should have been gradually convinced that things weren't as bad as they thought and that there were good ways they could both resolve the problems they were facing and come to appreciate each other more.  All of these new elements would have most likely resulted in a far better episode, one which was at the very least good, if not great, in its premise and execution.

Unfortunately, that's not what we got.  While most meh episodes in this show are simply forgettable, this one left a particularly bad taste in my mouth simply because of how much of its potential it failed to realize.  It's hardly one of my least favorite episodes of the show ever, but it is one of the biggest disappointments the show's ever had, at least for me.  With so much unrealized potential, this is a real shame, but it thankfully doesn't take away from the great things that this season has already done and will continue to do I'm sure.  That's all I've got for you today, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off!  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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Huh... apparently the word of today for this episode is 'kinky' :orly:

 

Batbrony

Pharynx by mysticalpha

Good evening, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  The hits just keep on coming in Season 7 with, yet again, another episode that was more than exceptional.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that "To Change a Changeling" was downright inspired in certain moments, especially in its writing.  Let's not waste any more time dawdling on introductions and just get to it, without further ado, this is "To Change a Changeling"!

Starlight Glimmer and Trixie - Imperfect Mediators

Given how influential the Cutie Mark Map has become as a plot device in the show for helping the main cast find new friendship problems, most of us going into this episode were assuming that Starlight and Trixie would be chosen by it to visit the changelings.  Much to our delighted surprise, this was not the case.  Now, make no mistake, I don't mind the Cutie Mark Map in concept, nor in how it's used most of the time; DHX has shown restraint in not using it too much to the point that it would become an obvious and forced plot device crutch, and it is definitely a staple of the show by this point, but not in a tired or overused way.  Still, given how likely it seemed that it would be used here, it was still pleasantly surprising and noteworthy to see that Starlight and Trixie were simply on hoof to help by accident more than anything else.  They were simply coming by to surprise their friend Thorax with a visit and see what the state of the Hive in general was, but they had no idea what exact problems they were facing.  This both helps make perfect sense as to why Spike wasn't there, and also helps put into context why Starlight and Trixie weren't the best prepared to help with this specific issue; while they share similar backgrounds with Pharynx, Starlight was a true ringleader (and as such shares more in common with the still-unreformed Chrysalis) while Trixie was (and to some extent still is) just an annoying nuisance more than anything else, who just so happened to get incredibly dangerous at one point by virtue of acquiring an incredibly powerful magical artifact.

What really made them most helpful in this situation is that they both knew how much it can hurt to not really feel like you belong anywhere or are a part of anything, which was definitely at the heart of Pharynx's issues.  We'll get into those more later on, but probably the biggest reason they weren't willing to give up on Pharynx is because they could sympathize with his situation; if somepony else had been there, they may have focused too much on how Pharynx was affecting the Hive, not how the Hive's situation was affecting Pharynx as well.  Now, some may raise that Starlight was willing to recommend that Pharynx be kicked out of the Hive, but in her defense she (1) didn't believe that Pharynx had any willingness, inclination, or personal reasons or potential to change for the better at the time, (2) was trying to figure out what was best for the most parties involved, which did in fairness have to put precedent on the Hive first and foremost, and (3) changed her mind about this after learning more about who Pharynx was as an individual and realizing that he did have the potential to find his own place in the Hive again.  Even though her initial recommendation that Pharynx be kicked out as well as her plan to lure maulwurf to the Hive so that Pharynx might have the chance to protect it and prove his worth to it both backfired, she did remain perseverant in her efforts to help both Thorax, Pharynx, and the Hive, and ultimately her and Trixie's efforts forced them to confront Pharynx's issues head on, instead of letting them fester and grow worse.

On top of that, Starlight and Trixie were, as always, an entertaining pair.  Trixie's ego is still as hilarious as when it backfires on her (her "teleportation spell GO!!!" bit was especially amusing, as was her constantly being a thorn in Starlight's side), Starlight found herself confronted by more than a few problems she wasn't necessarily very well equipped to handle (largely because of cultural differences between the ponies and changelings) which led to many amusing results, AND to top it all off, Starlight had a Braveheart moment that inspired absolutely... NOPONY!!!  Well, at least for five minutes, but to be fair, it DID eventually work!  All in all, while neither Starlight or Trixie had all of the answers for the changelings here, they still found a way to help them confront their problems and ultimately resolve them, which is to be commended considering most ponies probably would have balked at a problem like this.  Good outing from the both of them, all in all, very solid indeed!

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"HELLO!  My name is Starlight Glimmer, and today I am here to tell you about the maulwurf: Half Mole, Half Bear, Half Razor Sharp Claws!"

Burrowed Change by AssasinMonkey

In all honesty, that thing is bucking terrifying

The Changelings - Old Habits Die Hard

Oddly enough, the changelings themselves were at the heart of the Pharynx issue, or rather why it wasn't resolving itself all that well.  As we can see, the whole Hive by this point has been reformed by Thorax's efforts and is now attempting to build a society built on giving and sharing love with one another rather than taking it, and for the most part those efforts are going quite well.  The changelings still have to take many baby steps, but they are definitely getting there.  However, what seems to be taking FAR longer to change is an interesting tendency of the changelings we haven't really discussed, largely because we've never gotten to see all that much of it: group-think.  What do I mean by that?  Let me explain.

Now, clearly the changelings under Queen Chrysalis were essentially her thralls; she would call them things like her children, and even though she had some level of affection for them, they had no choice over the direction of their lives.  This seems to have gone on for as long as changelings have existed, which could be hundreds if not thousands of years, meaning in all of that time they got very much used to every single member of their society "agreeing" to follow every single one of Queen Chrysalis's orders about the direction of their society and what they should do for it.  Under King Thorax, they now have free will, but they are clearly still getting used to it; this was very well evidenced in both the scene where Thorax shows off some of their new cultural activities, as well as the Feelings Forum scene, by a number of clear examples.

(1) Thorax shows the changelings engaging in very simple, basic cultural activities, like theater, potluck, swing dancing, and arts and crafts; with all of these activities taking place in the same space, the scene almost felt like an adult version of daycare was on display.  I do not say that condescendingly, it actually makes perfect sense in fact that the changelings would need to start with very basic cultural activities like that; they've probably never had any opportunities to do anything like that given that their entire existence has always been devoted to only fulfilling Queen Chrysalis's wishes or surviving from taking the love of others.  (2) Building off of that, the Feelings Forum scene shows us a changeling explaining that she thinks she's supposed to be a green changeling since that's what she transformed into, but sometimes wants to be a blue or a purple changeling; given that she can easily change into these, she's tempted to, but since she was transformed into a green changeling, she thinks that might be living a lie and not who she really is.  (3) In the same scene, another changeling shares how arts and crafts time helped him cope with his own personal insecurities.

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OK, that's bucking adorable

All of these scenes show us ways in which the changelings are grappling with their emerging individuality as they struggle to embrace their newfound free will; new cultural activities give them opportunities to discover differences between themselves and become more comfortable with their identities as unique individuals.  Yet at the same time, it's a struggle because not only were they once a society where every member followed the same exact direction and path, but they also largely looked the same in their base changeling form, and were used to impersonating others; now, they have both free will and unique appearances, and while they clearly want to find out who they are as individuals, they're also scared of doing so, and some still love the possibilities of being whatever they'd want to be with their changeling powers, even though they know that wouldn't necessarily be who they really are, and would feel like they're both lying to themselves and others.

The biggest thing by far, however, making it harder for them to break their old habits and way of thinking is without a doubt the Pharynx problem.  Pharynx is, to most of the changelings, just being a pain in the flank, and when they are all agreed that he's a problem, they fall into a bad habit of group-think.  It's still hard for them to have disagreements with one another, so given that Pharynx is universally disliked by all in the Hive when the episode starts, it's easy to see how they'd so easily agree with one another that they just want him to go.  It's the easiest course of action, and all of them seem to want it, so of course it makes the most sense to them all!  The problem with this is that, in their earnest universal agreement with one another, none of the changelings besides Thorax consider what they'd lose in kicking out Pharynx.  They're too caught up in agreeing with one another that he's got to go that they never ask themselves what he might have to offer to the Hive instead; he's the most different from the rest of them now, the new Thorax essentially.  And where Thorax had no place in the old Hive before, Pharynx in their eyes has no place in the new Hive now.  But the first time around, Thorax being away from his people clearly wasn't the right call; sure he needed to live with ponies in order to discover what sharing love is truly like, but ultimately he needed to go back to them in order to help save them.  Likewise, Pharynx leaving his people wouldn't have been the right move either, but again, the changelings dangerous habit of wanting universal agreement and accord among themselves in directing their society almost led to this happening.  Overall, we got a fascinating look at the state of changeling society in the midst of a massive societal and cultural overhaul which told us a lot about who they used to be, who they are now, and what they aspire to be, probably the most of a look we've ever gotten at changelings as a whole.

Also, I can't lie, some of the background changelings were amazing.  We got "splashed by Pharynx with paint" changeling, Feelings Forum moderator changeling, Feelings Forum identity crisis changeling, Feelings Forum arts and crafts changeling, but by far my favorite had to be "My soup is too hot" changeling!  That guy CLEARLY has his priorities straight and knows exactly what folks are coming to the Feelings Forum for!  Soup on, my man, soup on.

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Soup Changeling, the only changeling who got exactly what he wanted out of the Feelings Forum!!! :D

Pharynx and King Thorax - A Tale of Two Bros

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As much of a douche as he was, this was hilarious

So now we finally come to the crux of this episode, King Thorax and his older brother, Pharynx.  These two by the end of this episode serve as an interesting converse to the Two Sisters, Celestia and Luna, in Equestria, especially given Pharynx's late episode transformation.  Whereas with the latter, the elder sibling, Celestia, has always been more bureaucratically minded (not just in her duties, but much fanon speculates this is the case as well) while the younger sibling, Luna, has always been the more aggressive of the two (to the point that some fanon has speculated that she is the more involved of the two in Equestrian military affairs), Thorax as the younger sibling is the far more diplomatic of the two while Pharynx, the elder sibling, is far more aggressive and militaristic (which makes sense given that such aggressive behavior used to be the norm for the changelings).  Another interesting development is that, as pointed out earlier, Thorax used to be the odd-man out among the changelings, while Pharynx was as in as one could be as head of patrol for the entire Hive; the changeling transformation and reformation, however, flipped this on its head.  Pharynx, when the episode begins, is by this point universally reviled by the rest of the Hive, with the exception of his younger brother, but even Thorax doesn't know how to deal with him.  This is where things get most interesting.

Initially, when we heard the premise of this episode as well as saw the beginning, it seemed like the most likely route it would take would be in showing that Pharynx alone had to change.  The idea that he might even be in open rebellion against Thorax was not off the table.  However, it quickly became apparent that that was not the case.  Pharynx did not initially capture Starlight and Trixie out of spite against Thorax, in fact, he didn't even know who they were; instead he brought them to Thorax, claiming they were trespassers and enemies of the Hive, but then begrudgingly accepted Thorax's vouching for them.  This right away made clear a couple of things: (1) Pharynx recognizes Thorax's authority as head of the Hive, even if he doesn't agree with or understand the new direction he's taking the Hive, (2) who's in charge of the Hive mattered less to Pharynx than the state of the Hive itself.

Now to be fair, I'm not letting Pharynx off the hook entirely.  He was clearly a pain in the flank of most of the Hive, and for confusing reasons at times.  He needlessly tears down or destroys some of the Hive's new decorations, constantly was butting heads with the other changelings and frightening them (even doing crazy shit like pouring black paint on a changeling to make her look more intimidating), and even seemed to miss sucking love from other ponies like they used to (he did not hide his disdain of ponies much at all, though that never really stopped him from working with Starlight or Trixie if he felt it was worth working with them).  However, in his defense, most of this nostalgia seems to stem not from his enjoying being evil for the sake of being evil, but simply having a FIERCE protective streak in him, both for Thorax as well as the rest of the Hive; if he simply wanted to be evil for the sake of being evil, he'd probably have left already and joined Queen Chrysalis, wherever she's at.  Instead, Thorax stayed loyal to the Hive, even if he hates what it's currently like and can't wrap his head around it because, like the other changelings, he's not used to the idea of a society where its members have different likes, interests, and ideas, including things they disagree on.  Despite his stubbornly refusing to embrace things like a softer outlook on life and gentler activities like Thorax was promoting, Pharynx does actually love something; he loves the Hive, he loves the changelings in it, and he'd do anything to protect them.

Pharynx by HoloRiot

No joke, I ADORE Deer Bug Pony 2.0's design and coloring, the antlers especially tie the whole look together (@PathfinderCS agreed?)!!!

Now, Pharynx is clearly a placeholder for ANY group of people (or an individual) who another, opposing group just wishes would go away, the idea being that life would be so much simpler if he/she/they were gone, rather than finding a way to work with them instead.  More specifically, however, he is clearly a stand-in for a conservative individual; I do not say this, even as a moderate conservative myself, because of some victim complex or anything.  Pharynx had his own issues to work out, certainly, especially in figuring out how he could still appreciate a place he very much still loved when it didn't look anything like he wanted it to and he felt he had no true place in it.  But nonetheless, I have to very much commend DHX for making him so sympathetic in this instance, because while Pharynx was certainly acting like a jerk, the show was far more critical, it seemed, of the idea of kicking him out.  The "progressive" changelings, if you will, for the most part thought the best solution would simply be kicking him out of the Hive, rather than finding a way to live with him and incorporate him into it, even if it was harder.  The only reason Thorax even stood up for Pharynx wasn't because he was his brother, but because Pharynx showed him when they were younger that he did have his own ways of caring for others, even if he still had a gruff exterior.  But it took Starlight and Trixie forcing a confrontation with the maulwurf to show the whole Hive how Pharynx still belonged; Thorax's initial plan to lure the maulwurf away from the Hive may have worked, but it might not have been a permanent solution.  Pharynx, on the other hand, was the only changeling acting like he had any gonads left; now it makes sense that the changelings, now having to share love with one another, would initially try to avoid as much aggression as they could, but still, they clearly went too far and in their earnest embracing of their new lives, forgot that sometimes protecting yourselves requires force, not just peaceful solutions.  Pharynx was far more a protector than an aggressor at his heart, even if he overcompensated for his new role as outsider in the Hive by putting on far too aggressive of an exterior.

Some bronies have also pointed out that Pharynx isn't even just a stand-in for a lone conservative voice who feels like the world he has always known has, all too quickly, left him far behind, but also a stand in for military veterans.  This is a very curious but accurate point, I believe.  Pharynx, like many military veterans, feels that his efforts to protect the Hive are misunderstood and unappreciated by a soft public that doesn't understand why he has to do what he does.  With how gentle the changelings have become by this point, he's clearly at a point in life where not only does his role in the Hive feel muddled, confused, ambiguous and uncertain, but downright pointless and thankless.  This is probably at the core of most of his aggression, aside of course from his background as a servant of Chrysalis.  He clearly needs to change and find a new place in this new changeling society, but he doesn't need to change as much as most of the changelings think he does.  He can still have his gruff exterior and tough as nails persona, he just has to be willing to accept that the other changelings aren't like that now while still finding a way to work with them.  In turn, the other changelings need to accept that Pharynx is the way he is to their benefit, that it's OK if he isn't as gentle or loving as the rest of them, that he can still love the Hive just like they do in his own way and even help them be better at protecting it too.

[SPOILER] Brothers by RossmaniteAnzu

At the heart of this episode is the complex message that difference is not a dirty word, even if that which is different from you may, on the surface, be a pain in the ass.  When dealing with something or someone like that, you have one of two things you can do.  You can either take the easy route with someone like that and just have nothing to do with them, ignore them, even cast them out from your life and society as much as you can; this is even easier if everyone else you know wants to do the same.  But just because it's the easiest route doesn't mean it's the best route.  In doing so, you keep both yourself and the person or group you loathe so much from discovering what you may have in common, that you both are, when you get down to it, both perfectly decent for the most part even if you look at things very differently, and that you both have valuable things to contribute to your society and each other, and can even make each other better when you find ways to work with and cooperate with one another.  Taking the hard route and finding a way to do just that, live with, love, and appreciate someone who lives their life and views things completely differently than you do may be much more difficult, but it is also far more rewarding to you, the 'other' and society as a whole.  I've made many friends myself, both in real life and on the forums, who have VERY different world views than I do, and while I may not share all of the same views with them, I know that deep down they're still good people who I am more than happy to know and be friends with, and that when we're friends with each other, we're both better for it.  Pharynx AND the Hive both go through this transformation by the end of the episode, understanding that they both need each other and still love and appreciate each other, even if they don't always get each other.  Not always getting someone else is OK as long as you don't let it blind you to whether or not they are a good person.  This subtle and complex message is why I highly appreciate what this episode did, and why it is yet again another amazing addition to an already amazing season of MLP.  Don't think there's really much else I can cover, so that's all I've got for ya today everypony!  Until next time everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Changeling Brothers by Frequine

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Batbrony

Campfire Legends by mysticalpha

"And then... the brash, hotheaded, boastful pegasus Prism Sprint painted ALL of the Peach family's peaches as a prank along with the earth pony who eats too much sugar, Blue Brownie, costing the Peach family an incalculable amount of loss in time, labor, and product!  OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" :love:

"Why does this story sound familiar when I've never heard it before?" :dry:

"Just think about it, sugar cube, I'm sure it'll come to ya eventually." :mellow:

Good afternoon everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!!  Me oh my, this show has seriously got to stop throwing so much amazing at us, for real!  I have not seen track records of flat-out great episodes in this show, this consistently, since Season 2 (in my estimation, at least).  We got a break last week with an episode that was very much just good, not great, but the show returned to giving us more great episodes again this week in the delightful "Campfire Tales"!  This one's gonna be a pretty easy episode to review as I can simply go sequentially through the episode itself, so without further ado, let's dive right in.  This is "Campfire Tales."

Alright, so this episode set out to do not one, but two things, and given that it had writers who've never written for the show before (Barry Safchik and Michael Platt, respectively), that was no easy feat.  However, unlike with Becky Wangberg's atrocious debut in "Hard to Say Anything," these two clearly did their homework, and the result was a great episode.  So, just what exactly did the episode aim to do?  First, it needed to act as solid continuity to Season 3's amazing "Sleepless in Ponyville," which we all of course remember most for being the first episode in which Rainbow Dash decided to start acting as a surrogate older sister to Scootaloo, but was also just as enjoyable for the camping subplot in which Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo all go on a camping trip together.  Now, for the most part the episode handled the continuity great; it's one minor flaw was that the dialogue at the beginning suggested that this was their first annual camping trip since the last one, suggesting only a year had passed in the show since Season 3, and I refuse to believe that given everything that has happened.  But that's easy enough to ignore, so I don't need to gripe about it too much.  The other thing that the episode set out to do was add some very cool canon of its own to the MLP:FiM universe canon, while still juggling it's primary plot in the present, and in this the episode splendidly succeeded as well, introducing us to characters recently introduced to the MLP comics themselves in the still ongoing "Legends of Magic" series!  Let's take a closer look at just how the episode succeeds in both of these respects.

So to start things off we get an absolutely delightful opening scene setting up the camping trip itself, establishing that this is now an annual tradition of these three pairs of sisters.  We see that Applejack is, as always, the grounded center of this group of six ponies (no surprise given that she's been trying to be a family matriarch since a young age due to the untimely death of her parents, especially for Apple Bloom, and she has the most experience being a dependable sibling of any of the older ponies here, so she can run a show like this no sweat); Rarity for her part has become considerably more practical for a trip like this, though delightfully still brings her own unique touch to it, just in a more reasonable manner; and Rainbow Dash for her part is mostly focused on using this time to hang out with Scootaloo, which makes sense considering (1) she's very busy as a Wonderbolt these days, so probably doesn't have much time to regularly hang out with Scoots, and (2) she has the most reason to do as much bonding with her surrogate sister as she can, seeing as she's been treating her like family for the least amount of time of all three older siblings and thus has the most developing of her relationship to do with Scoots.  As for the CMC, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle seemed pretty chill in their activities, but Scootaloo's own behavior further emphasizes my point that she and Rainbow Dash's bonding is especially important to each other on this trip.  While the other two pairs of sisters clearly see this as one of many things they do together, Scootaloo and Rainbow both clearly see this as an event that will always be special to them seeing as it was the foundational event of their "sisterhood."  On top of that, Scootaloo also clearly is far more nervous in nature now than Apple Bloom or Sweetie Belle are; her nightmares on their previous trip clearly left a bad impression on her, and this was, for me, one of my favorite bits of continuity.  In a lesser show, she'd be over these fears by now as if they didn't happen, but here the writers had fun with the idea of Scootaloo instead kinda not doing too well in nature, which added variety to the group as a whole.  Some people can camp no sweat like the Apples, others do it while still needing as many comforts from home as possible, like Rarity and Sweetie (though Sweetie would probably do better without them than Rarity would), and others are either bad at survival skills, like Rainbow (given that she almost ate poisonous berries before Scootaloo told her what they were) or just do not do well in nature at all and find it to be an unsettling place they don't ever get used to, like Scootaloo.

But anyway, moving on, the trip is off to a lovely start... that is until of course it's interrupted by a fresh spawn of hell in this show's canon, FLY-DERS!!!!  Yes, Fly-ders, little bastards that are apparently flies crossed with spiders and all the more terrifying for it.  These bastards from the Luna Bay area way up in Northwest Equestria will bite you, web you (apparently they're even carnivorous considering AJ, who seemed to know the most about them, was doing everything in her power to stay away from them), and web up all your shit too just because they can!  In other words, they are the Equestrian equivalent of the hyena: NATURE'S ASSHOLE!!!!!!  So after the swarms of fly-ders appear, the group is forced to flee into a nearby cave, and the older ponies (after Rainbow quite hilariously and recklessly fetches their campfire from the fly-der swarms) decide to raise their younger sisters spirits and pass the time (hoping the fly-ders will soon leave) telling them all campfire stories, namely stories about their favorite Equestrian legends.

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Applejack starts off with the legend of Rockhoof, a legendary earth pony whose sheer determination in the face of impossible odds magically unlocked his strength as he saved his village from certain destruction!  The story itself was delightful, especially in seeing the Norse-type culture that Rockhoof belonged to, but the real highlight for me was in how Applejack told it.  Unlock the other two pairs of sisters, this was a story that Apple Bloom had already heard many times (further highlighting how naturally close those two are as sisters, and delightfully conveyed in how excited Apple Bloom got at certain parts of the story, even squeeing in anticipation, which was too adorable).  The backgrounds were especially impressive to me; while Rarity's story probably had the most artistically beautiful backgrounds, and Rainbow's even had the biggest, this somehow felt bigger, even though it was technically a more confined story than Rainbow's was.  I think it has to do with how the volcano so nicely contrasted the blue sky; normally an erupting volcano would be surrounded by a sky full of ash and fire in a scene like this, but here you had this massive volcano overlooking this tiny pony village, but contrasted wonderfully by a picturesque blue sky.  The lava effects as well, although hardly the first time we've seen them, were very cool, and Rockhoof was quite an awesome character.  Since we know that the Season 7 finale is going to tie into the Legends of Magic somehow, I cannot wait to see more of this guy in the finale when it comes around!  Aside from being an earth pony, Rockhoof didn't tie too explicitly into the Apple Family like the other two stories tie into their respective characters, but I was OK that; it's easy enough to believe this is a favorite story among earth ponies in general, so Applejack probably heard it from her parents too when she was younger, plus of course I could easily see a character like Rockhoof overcoming his smaller size to do the impossible inspiring younger earth ponies like Applejack used to be before she could do greater feats of strength.

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Huh, I wonder what he's screaming at...

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Oh... yeah, that makes sense :mellow:

The next interlude leads into my favorite segment of the entire episode, Rarity's story.  Things are set up nicely when Sweetie Belle expresses boredom at their current plight.  Rarity in turn starts to do something I wish we saw in the show more often, use her generous nature and eye for aesthetic beauty to the benefit of others in creative ways most would never think of doing.  First she shows Sweetie Belle that there's more to the cave they're in than meets the eye, showing how flecks of gold dot its wall (further emphasizing her eye for spotting gems and precious minerals as well), and even uses their campfire to create beautiful shadow puppets (and a pretty humorous throwback to ballerina Twilight as well).  I love now knowing that Rarity can both do this, as well as the fact that she clearly used the shadow puppets to help tell her story.

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While it's possible that Twilight told Rarity about what she did, for some reason I find it more likely (and amusing) that Starlight told Rarity when they were both talking about how OCD Twilight can be sometimes ^_^

Then she proceeds to tell the best story of the lot, about a unicorn by the name of Mistmane.  Mistmane lived in a corner of Equestria where some type of ancient Japanese-inspired culture was prevalent, and the scenery we got to see there was too amazing to describe!  So many colors, beautiful buildings, backgrounds, and clothing we've never seen in the show before, and even unicorns with curved horns, something that has only appeared, to date, in either the MLP comics or fan art!  As for Mistmane herself, she was a beautiful unicorn and powerful sorceress who was forced to defeat her best friend Sable Spirit, now the empress of their region, who, after trying to magically make herself more beautiful, only made herself more ugly instead, and in her rage chose to have all of her subjects spend their days doing nothing but beautify her palace.  Mistmane easily defeats Sable, but then does an even greater act of heroism; saddened by the state of her home, and simply wanting to bring back hope to her people, Mistmane puts all of her magic into restoring both her home and Sable, at the cost of her own beautiful features.  While it doesn't fix everything her people have lost, their hope is restored, as is the Sable's perspective upon being shocked by how generous and selfless Mistmane was for the sake of others.  Sable resolves to reflect Mistmane's generosity as best she can for the rest of her days, and the land is restored as ponies return to leading their old, happy lives.  Mistmane herself spends the rest of her days wandering the countryside, assisting ponies with her magic wherever she can, and spreading beauty along the way as she does; even if there's nothing she can do or nothing for her to do to help someone, the least she can do is make their day a little brighter with something beautiful.  What makes this story the highlight of the episode is not only the fact that it's a beautiful story in its own right about generosity, the value of true aesthetic beauty when used appropriately, and self-sacrifice for the good of others and how that is the highest beauty of all, but also the fact that it gives us so much insight into Rarity's own philosophy about both aesthetic beauty and generosity, and how they tie together for her so naturally.  This didn't sound so much like a story she would have grown up with like Applejack did, on the contrary, this felt more like something she would have come across when she was growing older, possibly during her college days (so to speak); the story was far more refined and developed than Applejack or Rainbow Dash's were, and it clearly held dear personal meaning to Rarity.  She very deliberately saw herself, or at least a pony whose example she wants to follow, in Mistmane, though unlike Rainbow she did not flat out state it either.  For her, in this moment, it was most meaningful sharing something so personal and beautiful with her friends and her beloved sister, further illustrating how, even in telling this story, Rarity's generous nature was on display, and also went hoof in hoof with her love of spreading beauty to others as well.  Hands down the best segment of this episode for me, it just might also be Rarity's highlight moment of Season 7 thus far, making "Campfire Tales," oddly enough, Rarity's best appearance in Season 7 to date, which is incredibly odd given that she was not the primary focus of the episode itself.

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I cannot even begin to imagine how complicated and technically difficult some of the animation and backgrounds were in this story... I mean... JUST LOOK AT ALL OF THIS!!!  Easily some of the best, complex, and most beautiful animation we've seen in all of Season 7, or the entire show for that matter, so far!

Finally, after Rainbow causes a cave in when the fly-ders (little bastards that they are) start advancing on the group again, Scootaloo has a near panic attack, and Rainbow decides it's her turn to tell a story.

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Uh, Rainbow, I think ya got something on your... ya know what, nevermind, I'm sure you'll notice eventually

The best part about the set up for this one (as well as the story itself) is that Rainbow is clearly telling this to calm Scootaloo down.  It fits Rainbow's demeanor and personality that she is protective to her surrogate sister, and doing something like this is about as much of a softy as she typically gets.  She may have acted a bit gruff at times, acting as though she were annoyed at Scootaloo's panic, but really you could tell she was just trying to put on a brave face for her as she reassured her everything was going to be OK.  The story itself wasn't particularly remarkable (especially after Rarity's), but Flash Magnus is easily the best Flash on this show (suck it, Flash Sentry), and it did feature some pretty awesome flying scenes as well as some of the best dragon action of the show (including with, presumably, Ember's father, the former Dragon Lord Torch).  I did find it super cool on a personal level that the commander of the pegasi in the Royal Legion was called Commander Ironhoof; I say this because I have a minor character featured in Equestrian history in my own fic-universe in my fic "Batmare Begins" whose name was Eisenhuf, that is, German for Ironhoof!  Total coincidence of course, but it was pretty cool seeing the show runners decide that's a badass name for a pony just like I did some time ago.  Other than that, the story featured some cool action and a cool new Equestrian hero (I'm going to presume it took place before the Sisters arrived since the pegasi seemed to be in old Pegasopolis armor), but a fairly standard lesson about one's loyalty bringing out your most heroic side.  This felt more like a story Rainbow would have learned in school than from her parents, but instantly latched onto when she first heard it; being totally awesome as a result of your loyalty to your companions and friends is something she clearly prizes, so it's unsurprising this was one of her favorite stories.

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OK, that is admittedly bucking awesome...

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...but holy shit, that's adorable!!!

After the close of Rainbow's story, (and a failed attempt from Applejack to clear the cave in, but to her credit, she did come close; let's say she had her very own "Captain America almost lifts Mjolnir" moment and almost channeled some Pie-family magic into her strength) the sisters decide to go through the back of the cave, and follow an underground river.  Their spirits have all been bolstered at this point by the stories, both young and old, and the river, fortuitously enough, leads to Winsome Falls, their destination for the camping trip.  The younger sisters, emboldened by the stories they've just been told, are determined to salvage the trip here, and the older sisters are happy to oblige, glad to see their younger counterparts happy.  The episode closes on a happy note, and all is well.

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Woah!  Check out the return of wet-mane Rarity (bonus points for a lil' wet-mane AJ too :orly:... oh don't look at me like that, YOU KNOW YOU WERE THINKING IT TOO!!! :angry:)

If this episode has any lesson at all (besides those contained in the stories themselves) it's in the power of older siblings to impact their younger siblings lives for the better in the low moments.  Older siblings, especially when their siblings are genuinely smaller than them, can do things they can't, but more importantly are figures they look up to.  This doesn't mean the things older siblings do always have to be big, rather, small acts are often some of the most important that their siblings will remember years later.  The little ways they went out of their way for them when they didn't have to.  As an older sibling myself, I loved getting to see these sides of Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash once more, always do whenever it happens, and so I found myself very, very appreciative for everything this episode did.  It's another great episode of Season 7, and me, I got no complaints on my end about that.  Until next time, everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Batbrony

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Good evening everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Wooh, goodness gracious me was this episode a breath of fresh air!  Now, do not get me wrong, this whole season has been incredibly exceptional, but sometimes you need a break from the incredible.  What exactly do I mean?  Well... to be blunt, the last five episodes have ranged from very exceptional (in "Not Asking for Trouble" and "Discordant Harmony") to divisive for very good reason (in "Fame and Misfortune") to among the most amazing showings that MLP has ever had to offer (in "A Royal Problem" and "The Perfect Pear", my new personal favorite in the entire show).  I don't think we've had stretches of awesome this consistent in a season since Season 2, and I kind of forgot how exhausting that can be sometimes.  Make no mistake, I have adored every minute of Season 7 (with the exception of the unfathomable awful that was "Hard to Say Anything"), but the show can't be amazing every week, and sometimes we just need a break with a really solid, flat out good episode that is very Slice of Life in nature.  Although it features two very unusual main characters we've rarely seen on the show, I fully believe that "Triple Threat" is exactly that, a solid Slice of Life offering that was just, all around, good.  That's it, just good, and it's fine being just that.  This shouldn't be a terribly long review at all, so without further ado, let's dive right in.  This is "Triple Threat"!

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WOOOOOOOOOOOO, SUPERHERO LANDING!!! :D

So, curiously enough, this was our first Spike-centric episode of the season.  How does it hold up as far as Spike episodes go?  Eh, alright.  I've seen Spike written far worse in the past, but some of his character here did feel a touch OOC, even if the reasons for his behavior were understandable.  Spike had a ton of responsibilities to juggle here, starting with (1) welcoming Ember to Ponyville, (2) welcoming Thorax to Ponyville after he realized he'd invited him there on the same day, and (3) solving a friendship problem that arose in the middle of their visits.  Between playing ambassador to two visiting leaders of their respective people as well as solving a friendship problem which was unknown to him, Spike certainly had plenty to juggle.  My beef with how he was written, though, was that about halfway through the episode, when he learned he had a friendship problem to solve, he seemed to (1) not consider at all that it might have something to do with Ember and Thorax and (2) forget altogether that the visiting monarchs should probably take precedence over the friendship problem.  Granted, I get what he was doing: from the start of the episode he was trying to keep everything organized in a manner he'd learned from Twilight, by keeping plenty of lists, but that all went to shit when Thorax showed up and sent Spike into a panic.  He probably figured he'd have all the time in the world to GIVE to Ember and Thorax once he solved the friendship problem.  The problem is that he kept going out of his way to avoid Ember and Thorax in the course of trying to solve really simple "friendship" problems that were really just little disputes or spats, which seemed a bit off for Spike, even a really panicky one.  Dude's been around long enough to know how to properly prioritize what is and isn't most important to address.  The episode redeemed how it treated Spike a tad in my eyes at the end when it turned out that not only was he the one who created the friendship problem in the first place (which I thought was really clever), but the one who needed to learn a lesson as well (though I have no idea why that means he was the one who was glowing, and not Ember or Thorax considering they were the ones who solved the problem), but still, he was a bit frustrating at times.  That said, the state of panic he was in the whole time was pretty hilarious (especially his "you've gotta be shitting me!" face when the friendship map summoned him), and Starlight's own schadenfreude-like amusement directed toward Spike at one point very much summed up the amusement I myself got from how everything was working out for him.  Hardly the worst Spike episode ever, but not exactly a great or even good one, at least not for Spike.

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The best part of the episode has got to be, hands down, Ember and Thorax (arguably the true main characters of the episode as well).  This was Thorax's first truly regular appearance, if we're being honest, since his debut episode; he was a largely supporting player in the Season 6 finale (mostly there because the plot demanded it, even if he was perfectly fine), and he barely had anything to do at all in the Season 7 opener.  Here, he had an actual problem that needed resolving (which may even come up again later in the season if the episode title of Episode 17, "To Change a Changeling," is anything to go by), and even better it was tied to his role as leader of the new, reformed changeling pack (as an aside, I do find it a bit odd that they're not calling it a changeling hive anymore, but rather a pack, but whatever, doesn't bug me too much).

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Awwwwww yeah, cute deer bug pony loves da fire, he loves it so, so much!

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Ember too, in her first appearance since her debut, was just as pleasing to see.  Like Thorax, she had a leadership problem that needed resolving as well, tied into her own people, the dragons.

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There were two things that worked especially well with these two.  One was that they brought back the most endearing qualities the two characters had last time: Thorax was the same old adorable softie/deer bug pony he's always been, happy to share in as much love as he possibly can, and Ember was once again the most tsundere character the show's ever had, and on top of that she also had a ton of hilarious and adorable cultural misunderstandings going on with the ponies (the best being her eating Twilight's dining room - literally - and destroying Derpy's poor muffin in a misguided attempt to display friendship, both of which were just the best of a ton of hilarious cultural missteps in her interactions with the ponies).

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OK seriously, they could not make this deer bug pony more adorable if they tried!  Though I do have to ask... how long, exactly, is his bucking neck???

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:love:

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The other was that these two worked out their own issues themselves, or rather, with each other!  Yeah, in a bucking awesome turn from the show's usual formula of having either (1) the Mane 6, (2) Spike, (3) the CMC, or (4) Starlight Glimmer solve some kind of friendship problem, two supporting characters solved their own problems simply by talking and interacting with each other.  In fact, they were both quite well suited for helping the other; Ember knew that Thorax needed simply to be taught how to be a more assertive leader and what he needed to learn to do so, while Thorax knew how to teach Ember to be more open about her feelings with others.  Hell, they probably bonded quite easily since they were both leaders; they wanted Spike's help first and foremost, but frankly, it makes sense that that might be a bit much for the little guy.  As much as he's gone through, he's still a baby dragon, and while his heart may be in the right place, I wouldn't say he's a leader, at least not yet.  Frankly, Ember and Thorax were just better suited for teaching the other what they needed to learn, and when they finally did, they had a great dynamic together.  I loved that once they realized what misunderstandings had just happened that they both started acting like the adults in the room, like everypony else was acting ridiculous (frankly, their being kept apart can't just be put on Spike considering Twilight and Starlight thought it was the best move too).  Overall, loved these two here, and would honestly love to see more of them going forward.

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D'awwwwww, deer bug pony just can't get comfortable! :wub:

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Ember literally eating Twilight's castle is far cuter than it has any right to be...

Besides these two main elements, the rest of Ponyville (as should be the case in any good slice of life episode in this show) was pretty much a character in and of itself, including in Twilight and Starlight (although they were supporting characters, they barely contributed to the resolution at all, so really most of what they did was initiate plot direction and gags throughout the episode).  For their parts, Twilight and Starlight were pretty hilarious as they haplessly tried to keep Ember and Thorax apart (though while I understood why Ember was more interested in seeing Spike than those two since they're both dragons, I was a bit confused why Thorax wanted to see Spike more - he may be closer friends with Spike than the others, but friendship isn't an issue with him and I would think he'd know he should take his issue to another leader, not Spike of all ponies or dragons).  Their funniest bit was easily when Ember bluntly pointed out how similar they look and even behave, a joke which both felt like it was poking fun at the "all you (blanks) look the same" line applied in a number of racial jokes as well as a tad meta even, considering many fans have drawn parallels between Twilight and Starlight, and they are quite undeniable considering they are teacher and student after all.  The background ponies had a ton of bits in the episode, possibly their most this season; Lyra and Bon Bon got into an argument that Spike helped resolve, there were cute and funny bits with Ponyville residents all over the place as part of the celebrations for Ember's arrival (I loved that they were all very receptive of both Ember and Thorax, though they were understandably terrified of some of Ember's more aggressive displays, intentional or accidental), some background ponies argued over a chair for some reason (WAY more aggressively than they needed to), and of course, poor Derpy's muffin meeting its untimely demise against a wall on account of Ember... rather than of course meeting its demise, as it should have, in Derpy's belly.  And overall it was just a lot of fun seeing two characters like Ember and Thorax just a bit out of their element in a town like Ponyville, but the rest of the town still going about its business as usual; frankly, a dragon lord and a changeling pack leader are probably hardly the strangest things these ponies have seen by this point.

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"You ponies all look the same."

DAT'S RACIST, EMBER!!! :sunbutt:

All in all, like I said, this was just a good episode.  It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, it was good.  The lesson that Spike should have just told Ember and Thorax about each other right away, rather than simply assumed they wouldn't get along, is a VERY standard lesson (made only clever in the sense that Spike was the one who had to learn the lesson, rather than teach anything), though it did set up a delightful joke about how ponies are always just telling each other what friendship lessons they've learned (once again, another fun bit of meta humor).  But as I said before, I'm perfectly OK with this episode just being good.  I don't need every episode to blow my socks off, otherwise they wouldn't be special to begin with.  And hell, I don't even need most episodes to be very exceptional, or at least so bad or divisive that everybody is talking about them.  GOOD episodes, just solidly good, are the bread and butter of this show, and we need bread and butter for sustenance as much as we need the delightful decadence that are treats like "The Perfect Pear."  The fact that this show's "good" is far more delightful than the average of most other animated shows of a similar nature is a credit to the high level of quality we've come to expect from MLP by this point.  So yeah, overall, I very much enjoyed this episode for what it was, and that it didn't pretend in the slightest to be anything that it wasn't, and rather embraced being exactly what it was: a GOOD episode of MLP.  That's all I've got for ya this week, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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That "I just watched a good episode of MLP" feeling...

Batbrony

Afternoon everypony! After a far too long of a hiatus, I am happy to announce that the latest chapter of Batmare Begins, "Flint Meets Steel," is now officially up! If you're a first time reader of it, you can click here to get to the fic itself. A huge thank you to my long time followers for your patience and understanding, and I hope you very much enjoy the chapter! To any new readers, likes, favorites, and follows are always appreciated, and to all of you, as always feel free to leave comments below, especially if you yourselves have any questions, critiques, or suggestions! :proud:

Lord willing, the next update will take far less time to put together, but I guess I can't say for certain seeing as real life business tends to always get in the way in some way or another. For now, I hope you enjoy this latest update, and thank you again for your continued interest in my story and characters, it's a huge part of what makes writing this all worth it to begin with. Have a good day everypony, until next time, this is Batbrony signing off! I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit* :muffins:

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Batbrony

Well then... that was... odd.  Certainly not bad, and I don't even find myself disagreeing with the lesson of this episode, but it was quite odd to watch to say the least.  I honestly don't think we've ever had an episode as blatantly meta as "Fame and Misfortune," and it leaves me in a strange place when it comes to reviewing it.  But I'm gonna try my best, since it's still an episode of MLP, and like I said, not a bad one, even if I don't know completely how I feel about it.  Without further ado, let's begin, this is Batbrony Reviews "Fame and Misfortune."

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I won't lie, that is undeniably one of the most adorable faces Twilight's made in some time :wub:

So let's not beat around the bush and get straight to the point: this episode is a biting critique of both the worst behavior displayed by nerdy fandoms in general, and specifically the brony fandom in particular.  What happens?  Twilight Sparkle rediscovers her old friendship journal she and her friends put together, and decides to distribute it all across Equestria in the hopes that ponies will take the lessons to heart.  This plan seemingly backfires, however, when suddenly the Mane 6 are being treated like celebrities, and as a result being hounded and harangued in the absolutely worst ways that celebrities are.  Worst of all, none of the ponies harassing them seem to have taken any of the lessons to heart and are more interested in far more trivial, superficial matters.  The friends are almost overwhelmed by all of this insanity, but take comfort in each other at the end, as well as the fact that some ponies (namely G4 Toola Roola and her friend Coconut Cream) show them that they have taken their lessons to heart and haven't missed the point of the journal, even if many others have.

That's as simple a summary as I can give, and it's really not that complex of an episode overall.  It's still an odd one, and I certainly have my criticisms despite appreciating the lesson.  Let's start with my criticisms before we touch on the positives, just to get them out of the way.  For starters, this episode has a single-sided depiction of celebrity-hood, and a negative one at that.  I don't think the bad things they show happening to the Mane 6 as celebrities are necessarily inaccurate, not at all, being a celebrity is an exhausting, 24/7 endeavor I am sure and fans can be super weird, if not downright uncomfortable at times.  But they don't show the fact that being a celebrity comes with its own set of perks as well, and not just superficial ones; while MLP creators and artists may, in the grand Hollywood hierarchy, only be minor celebrities for the most part, they still have access to a lot of opportunities that their fans do not for the most part.  Plus, come on, they get to make an awesome show about magical ponies; hard work as that may be, I'd still say it's pretty awesome.  Point being that being a celebrity of any level isn't JUST the nightmare that the show depicted here, there's more to it than that.  I will admit, though, that I appreciate that they took our longstanding critique that the Mane 6 were never treated like celebrities by the rest of Equestria despite saving it so many times; after this episode, I'm perfectly OK if they aren't ever again seeing as ponies treated them so bizarrely.  I far prefer getting to see them lead their lives as normally as possible when they can.

My second critique is that I wasn't particularly fond of seeing mainstay background ponies treating the Mane 6 like assholes.  The new characters I didn't care about, and while I understand that they couldn't just make new character models and were most likely just recycling characters for convenience's sake, it was still not particularly pleasant seeing background characters we've come to love act OOC and like total jerks.  Granted, like much in this episode, it will probably be forgotten entirely going forward, so I'm pretty forgiving of it overall with that in mind, but still, I wasn't all that fond of it at times (except of course when Pinkie had that hilarious line, "YOU'VE KNOWN ME FOR YEARS!!!!!!"  That was golden and I cannot hate that line at all).  I will admit, though, that I did enjoy seeing them criticize the "Best Pony" fad, or at least how some people treat it; it's alright if you have a favorite character for your own personal reasons (I should know considering Derpy is mine), BUT having a favorite character doesn't mean that they are superior to the others for EVERYBODY just by virtue of being your favorite, or that you need to prove their "superiority."  Just be content with why you like them more than the others, while also accepting that the Mane 6 simply wouldn't be as special as they are if even one of their members weren't a part of their group.  The episode definitely did a good job at hammering that point home towards the end, and I applaud them for addressing that particular niche in the fandom.

The third critique I have isn't much of a critique, more like just an expression of how I personally feel about the episode.  The target of this episode is the fringe elements of the fandom, namely fans who turn their liking of the show into an unhealthy thing for both themselves and others in a variety of ways.  The biggest critique I have of how this is shown is that I believe it is especially targeted at the con-going crowd, ya know, bronies who regularly attend pony cons and get the most chances to be around the show's creators.  There's nothing wrong with that either, but in my case, it means that the lesson didn't actually resonate with me all that much.  Why?  Not because it's a bad lesson, but because I'm not a part of that crowd.  In my entire life, I've been to a grand total of one convention, last year's BronyCon.  It was a great time where I got to meet a bunch of cool bronies and creators, both from the show and in the fandom, and yes, I also got exposed to in those few days some of the more uncomfortable sides of the fandom, i.e., fans who take certain things about the show too seriously, fans who don't have good self-awareness and can make others uncomfortable because of their behavior, fans who feel entitled to certain treatment just by virtue of loving the show, fans who think they prove their "status" in the fandom by owning the most merchandise that they can, etc.  These were all there to be sure, and yet, that's the only time I've gotten to see it.  Now any fan can certainly be exposed to the ugly side of the fandom online as well, but it's far different in person, when you get to see hundreds if not thousands of bronies gathered together.  I myself have only gotten to see that once, and many bronies can't even say that, so really, I think for folks like myself who are not a part of the regular con-going crowd, this episode isn't going to resonate as much with us.  That's OK, all episodes have varying levels of effect on people depending on what they can personally take from it; I know that many bronies didn't feel that "The Perfect Pear" resonated with them as much as it did with others, and in many of those cases, they're bronies who've never had a romantic relationship or a really deep one, so it's understandable that they may not get why that episode resonated so strongly with others who have been in love with another.  But the reason I do still list it as a critique is because the target audience of this episode is so narrow; con-going bronies either have the good fortune of living very close to where a big con is regularly held, or they have the resources to get to multiple cons each year.  Ultimately, that's a small segment of the fandom, even if it is an important segment.  An episode like "The Perfect Pear" by contrast could easily resonate with anyone who's ever been in love, or just wants to understand the deeper effects of a pure love in general, meaning it has a far more universal audience, to the point that I believe that even people who don't watch MLP could get a lot out of it.

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Replace that tree with a body pillow, and you've got an eerily accurate scene one could easily encounter at one of our cons ^_^

So, even if this episode doesn't resonate with me very strongly, why do I still think it's a good episode?  Because it still has a good lesson, even if it's a very meta one that probably won't ever be brought up again.  For me, this was 22 minutes of the show's creators venting about the hardest aspects of dealing with this fandom, and I'm OK with that.  This is a weird fandom by nature, and in general that's usually alright, but at its worst it means that the show's creators are often confronted by dozens of fans with silly critiques, demanding and entitled behavior, or just take their love of the show to uncomfortable levels.  Worst of all, they forget what the point of this show is to begin with, teaching good lessons to others and helping them be better for learning those lessons.  Overall, my biggest takeaway from this episode for the fandom is that, if you have the opportunity to express your love for the show in public, especially to its creators, don't do it in a way that isn't good for anyone.  Don't harass them, don't act snobbish or entitled around them, don't act as though they are there (at a con or such) for you.  Being a fan and getting to share in your love of the show with a creator means doing just that, sharing, showing how much you appreciate the work they've done, and the stories and characters they've created.  I'm not saying you can't be critical of the show, I've done just that up above after all.  But it's one thing to be critical of certain things in an episode of the show.  It's another thing entirely to take certain flaws as a personal affront, or to act like a jackass about certain problems.  In the grand scheme of things, a bad episode in this show, even one as horrendous as "Hard to Say Anything," isn't going to be the end of the world; it'll just be a bad episode and, while you can be upset about that, you shouldn't let it affect you or others too much.

As the song in this episode goes (which sounded a bit too epic to be warranted for this episode, but I won't complain since it was still a super lovely song all the same), "We're not flawless, we're a work in progress."  This doesn't just apply to the characters, it applies to the show itself.  The creators are always trying to see how they can improve upon the already great stuff they've made, what new things they could add to make it even more special.  When episodes like "The Perfect Pear" happen, we see the greatest fruits of their labors and ambitions, proof that they truly are trying to push the boundaries of what they can accomplish in this show.  But that doesn't mean there will never be buck ups or mishandled episodes either, and while we don't have to like those episodes, we shouldn't blow them out of proportion either.  Being a good fan means trying to use your love of something to share in celebrating it with its creator, and offering helpful critiques and advice when you can.  It doesn't mean inconveniencing creators or even making life harder for them; if that's going on as a result of your behavior, then you're doing something wrong as a fan.

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Do you have to like this episode?  I don't think so, no.  I don't think anyone should be personally offended by it, but if it didn't resonate with you very strongly like in my own case, that's alright.  And hey, if you loved it and had a blast at its meta nature, that's great, keep on loving it.  This episode is already creating very split opinions on it in the fandom, it seems, and I'm neither surprised nor do I think that's a bad thing, necessarily (just don't make the creators lives a living hell for making it, folks, OK?).  So what's my advice for all of us to take away from this episode?  Simple: love the show, critique it where it's warranted but in a reasonable manner, and show your love to the show's creators in a healthy, positive, uplifting, and grounded manner that leaves both you and them feeling better.  Don't be a jackass, don't act like the creators "owe" you anything, and don't forget what this show is all about in the first place.  Learning some good lessons about life, taking those lessons to heart, and practicing them in your own lives as best as you can for the good of others and yourself.  If we do that, then we're proving that the show creators' efforts have all been worth it.  That's all I've got for ya this week, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch "The Perfect Pear" again...

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DON'T JUDGE ME, YOU KNOW YOU DO IT TOO!!! :angry:

Batbrony

Beautiful night by PeachMayFlower

This very special edition of "Batbrony Reviews" is dedicated to Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco (episode writers), Kaylea Chard and Jae Harm (episode storyboard artists), "Big" Jim Miller (episode director), Daniel Ingram (episode music), Felicia Day (Pear Butter), William Shatner (Grand Pear), Bill Newton (Bright McIntosh), Ashleigh Ball (Applejack), Michelle Creber (Apple Bloom), Peter New (Big McIntosh and Goldie Delicious), Tabitha St. Germain (Granny Smith and Mrs. Cake/Chiffon Swirl), Bill Mondy (Burnt Oak), Cathy Weseluck (Mayor Mare), anyone else who worked on the episode, and of course Lauren Faust for giving us this show and making this episode possible to begin with.  Thank you all for all you contributed to making the perfect episode of a truly remarkable show.

Those who regularly read my episode reviews have probably noticed by now that I have chosen to forego my usual introduction.  No it didn't slip my mind, rather, it was very much an intentional decision.  There is nothing "usual" about this episode, and hence a usual introduction would not have sufficed.  The first time I watched this episode, I was too blown away by it, even after already anticipating it for over a month when word started getting out about how amazing it was, to really feel anything but pure joy.  The second time I watched it, I spent the last five minutes of the episode crying; I have a feeling now that this may happen every time I watch it.  I say this as someone who does not cry easily; the last time any movie made me cry, I believe it was Toy Story 3 back in 2010 (granted I don't go out of my way to watch sad movies, but still, even if I did I wouldn't be someone who cries just for anything).  That movie made me shed some tears out of nostalgia, most likely because I was also fresh off of my freshman year of college and was watching it with my mom; this 22 minute episode of a show with a budget the fraction of what a Pixar movie costs, in contrast, made me weep like a newborn.  What could have possibly elicited such a reaction?  Nothing short of perfection, really.  I've seen the best episode that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic will ever have to offer to me, and I'm perfectly OK knowing it can't get any better than this.  Some things just don't need to be touched or surpassed, kind of like how The Empire Strikes Back will probably always be the greatest Star Wars film of all time.  That's enough set up for this, however, it's about time we got this show on the road.  Without further ado, this is Batbrony Reviews "The Perfect Pear."

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While I obviously do not have a set format for my reviews, this review will have a very unusual format.  It will break down elements of the episode in all areas (be it story, characters, writing, voice acting, animation, music, etc.) as I go through what was recounted in this episode in chronological order as it happened, not as the episode itself was organized.

Seeds of a Tragedy

The family feud is an old story trope in much of literature (it's also something we even observe in history quite a bit).  The most famous example in Western literature (at least the one most people probably think of first) would be "Romeo and Juliet," but I would argue it is not among the finest examples of a family feud in literature (and I would hardly be the only one to make such an assertion).  While the lesson is powerful and the tragic elements inherent to a family feud are there, there's not quite enough for us, the audience, to latch onto emotionally in regards to caring about the Capulets and Montagues.  Romeo and Juliet are teenagers who fall in love incredibly quickly and get married before they even really know what being in love for a lifetime truly is (and subsequently die before they know as well), and the only other supporting characters who we really are emotionally invested in in regards to the feud are Tybalt (Juliet's cousin) and Mercutio (who's not even a Montague, but just a close friend of Romeo) and they die before Romeo and Juliet even do.  By the end of the play, any characters we were sort of emotionally invested in are dead, the only truly likable one left is Friar Laurence, and there are no Capulets and Montagues left who we know enough about to really care about them, other than the fact that they just lost two young members of their families because of their bitter feud (whose roots we also don't know much of anything about).  The writing is certainly as poetic as anything Shakespeare wrote, and as I said before, the tragedy and powerful lesson are both there, but anyone who truly knows Shakespeare would never claim that "Romeo and Juliet" is his finest or most enduring work (even if it was their personal favorite).  So what makes for a truly powerful way to tackle the tragedy of a family feud?

Believe it or not, I believe that "The Perfect Pear" has done just that.  Yes, at the risk of sounding blasphemous, a 22 minute episode of animated television has made me feel more emotional about the tragedy of its family feud than Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" ever has.  How?  I mean, really, how?  Well, to get to the bottom of that, we need to start at the beginning.  No, not of the episode, but of the feud itself between the Apples and the Pears.

The feud starts fairly innocently.  In fact, you could even be forgiven for at first thinking it's about to fall into an old cliche one encounters in many children's animated programs where a family feud or rivalry between two people (that is largely played for laughs in the given show or episode) stems from something really petty or silly even.  That's usually a big root of the "humor" in the entire feud.  However, this episode quickly makes it clear that it is not playing up any of the feud for laughs, but is rather treating it with the utmost seriousness.  Although it initially begins with Granny Smith and Grand Pear, two fierce competitors in Ponyville simply trying to outdo the other at selling their agricultural wares, merely smack talking each other in the course of business, it rapidly escalates into something far uglier than a friendly rivalry.  This is nicely highlighted with immediacy and subtle urgency by the episode in a smart visual cue at the end of their first true feud with one another in the Ponyville market.  At the end of that scene, the ponies they've been trying to sell apples or pears too, ponies who are their friends and neighbors, go from being excited with their products to being completely put-off by the scene before them.  They don't think there's anything funny about the feud, rather, if you look at their faces, they're clearly at least annoyed and think they're both acting obnoxious, if not downright dismayed and saddened by it all.  What already makes this a sad state of affairs is that we both (1) already know from over six seasons of seeing her what a lovable character Granny Smith is (which both makes the ugliness when she's in feud mode all the more jarring, as well as early on suggests that Grand Pear too was largely amicable when he wasn't feuding with the Apples), and (2) the episode itself makes a point of showing us how much the both of them love doing what they do (in Granny Smith reading stories to her apple trees at night and Grand Pear in turn making blankets for his pear trees), growing and selling apples, pears, or apple or pear products.  There shouldn't be anything wrong with loving your work, but because they take their competition with each other too far in a hurry, an inherent ugliness, at least when it comes to the Apple Family vs. the Pear Family, is added to their work itself, which we know is so important to both families, central to their very identities.

And so, already tragedy emerges in the Apple and Pear Family Feud, with such a bitter, ugly element added to the thing which both families love so much: their work.  They build a fence between both properties that does more than simply mark the boundaries of their properties, they're constantly trying to one-up one another, and it gets to a point where eventually, none of the Apples or the Pears, especially Granny Smith and Grand Pear, can even stand the fact that they share the same community or even think of an Apple or a Pear as their neighbor.  Yet amidst this growing rift between the two families, a single, small hope emerges, which eventually becomes the best hope that both families have got.

Love Blossoms

This hope starts off small, as so many forms of hope often do.  A tiny kindness, one foal giving another a cute nickname and sharing in a sweet moment with her, that's all there is to it really.

Enter Bright McIntosh and Pear Butter, who almost immediately latch onto something as foals which, by this point in time, virtually every other Apple and Pear has forgotten in regards to one another: possibility.  The possibility of being friends with one another, the possibility of being even more than that, and the possibility of the beautiful things that can come out of all of that, so much more precious than anything "gained" by feuding with each other.  For them, the feud is virtually meaningless right from the start.  Oh sure, one's an Apple, the other's a Pear, and they both are well aware of what their families think of each other.  But at no point do they let that keep them from being decent to each other and their families for that matter.  Decency in turn evolves into kindness; kindness into friendship; and friendship eventually into full blown love.

Pears And Apples by piepon

From the start it seems as though these two were always destined for one another at some point in time, but that doesn't make the path they take to get there any less delightful to follow.  Why?  Well again, we return to that word, 'possibility.'  In their growing love for one another, Bright Mac and Buttercup discover that it is possible to be even better ponies for overcoming the feud.  Just as tragedy is inherent to the Apple and Pear feud by this point, so too is unconditional love inherent in how these two grow up around each other.  They don't go about their business holding a grudge in their hearts that could consume them any minute or lead them to do bad things in turn.  No, instead they go about each day letting their love for one another channel into everything they do.

So what kinda lives do they lead?  Does their love save Equestria from some centuries old tyrant or ward off some monstrous creature?  Do they grow to become leaders in all of pony society who everypony else looks up to?  Not in the least, in fact, not even close.  Now, make no mistake, what I'm about to say is no knock on the show's main characters.  If anything it's rather amazing that the show continually sells the Mane 6 as such complex characters when they've done so many remarkable things by this point in the show that they could easily, in a far lesser property, morph into Mary Sues.

But what this episode does is something very hard and very rare in great love stories, or many stories in general of all kinds.  It highlights what remarkable, beautiful things can come out of 'normal.'  Because that's exactly what Bright Mac and Buttercup are, at least on the surface.  They're farmers, they like life in their quiet little town with their friends and family, and friends, family, their work and each other is pretty much all they need.  Describing it like that, this all sounds very pedestrian, and I can understand why.  The only thing is, well... it's not, not in execution at least.  Every step of Bright Mac and Buttercup's courtship is made up of very simple acts of love: the nickname of 'Buttercup' that Bright gives to Pear Butter; Bright's confessing he accidentally destroyed the Pear's water silo when he could have let her take the blame; the two of them sharing a picnic together, complete with him giving her flowers (even if he goes a little outside the box on that one, not by choice of course ;)); Buttercup writing and singing a song for Bright, confessing her love for him, and he in turn confessing his love for her with a carving of their cutie marks; their sharing milkshakes, dancing far across from one another in the town square, taking walks with each other through the seasons, or even Bright just doing a chore for Pear.  These are simple, normal acts of love, and yet they tug on the viewer's heartstrings very much.

The Perfect Pear.. by LCpegasister75

Let's take a look at Buttercup's song to get a sense of why, because the song is the perfect encapsulation of what makes Bright Mac and Buttercup's love story so heartwarming.

"You're In My Head Like a Catchy Song" is hardly the flashiest, longest, or most complex song that Daniel Ingram has ever written for this show.  It may not even be the most technically impressive number we've heard on the show.  And yet, somehow I now find a song that's really only two verses long and lasts just over a minute and a half is my favorite of the entire show.  Why?  Because it channels beauty through normalcy in the same way that Bright Mac and Pear Butter do.  It's simple, one might even say bare bones, but therein lies its charm.  If it were simple out of laziness, this wouldn't work at all, but it is very deliberately simple.  The simplicity is sincere, intimate, the song not sounding like some grand, staged affair which we're not sure did or didn't just happen in the story itself, but rather sounding like something Pear Butter herself could have written.  Horse feathers, it sounds like something any of us could have written!  Writing music is hard, especially for people who don't do it on a normal basis, so as short as that song was, when you listen to it, when you hear the careful care and attention in Buttercup's voice that she gives to every note and word, you can just picture how long this must have taken her, how much time she spent making sure it was perfect for the stallion she loves.  She could have written it in an afternoon, or days, or weeks even, whatever the case, we know she put time into making it just through the performance alone.  That story, the story of what she put into it, how she poured her heart into it because she loves Bright Mac that much, that's where the beauty in the song stems from.  It is a pure, sincere, intimate expression of her love, their love, and for those of us who have been in love before, it grabs us by reminding us of the things, big and small, we'd do for those we love.

All of this, the sincerity, the intimacy, the pureness, pervades every single act of their love.  Nothing seems staged, nothing seems forced, nothing seems like it's there because it's a cliche of love stories.  Sure they may all be old standbys, but things like picnics with your true love, walking with one another, giving your sweetheart flowers, or singing your true love a song, these are old standbys because couples have loved them for generations.  It's not about what they're doing, though, it's ultimately about how they're doing it.  These two, from start to finish, simply work.  There's not a moment they share onscreen where they don't seem like they don't belong together, and that's how you know you've got a great love story on your hands.  It's one thing for a story to tell us that two people are "star-crossed lovers destined to be together," but it is another thing entirely for us, the audience, to universally believe it.  That takes hard work and skill in both writing and execution.  Overall, this beauty of normalcy that we see in both the song and these two as a couple, the simple acts of love, their honesty and intimacy, this is what grabs us and won't let us go.  This is the true heart and soul of this episode, the idea that so many wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary things that you never even imagined or thought possible can stem from even the simplest love if its strength and pureness are immeasurable.  We may not be capable of saving a magical land of talking horses with ancient, magical artifacts, but what we are all capable of is plain old love, whether it be for friends, family, or yes, even the love of your life.  And just like Bright Mac and Buttercup, we too are capable of producing wondrous, beautiful things the likes of which we may have not once thought possible if we hold in our hearts a true, pure love for those dear to us as they did for one another.

Lover by RenoKim

Tragedy's Greatest Blow

And yet, just when things seem to be heading to an inevitably happy conclusion, that old Apple Family and Pear Family feud rears its ugly head again in the worst way yet.  Very suddenly, Grand Pear announces that the Pears are moving away from Ponyville, much to Pear Butter's dismay.  There is certainly a logic to his making the move; there is more business opportunity for them in Vanhoover and less competition from an equally ardent farming family, so there is plenty that makes sense about it.  Yet the sad part is that one can't help but get the sense that these are not Grand Pear's overriding reasons for moving.  He just has too much hate in his heart for the Apples by this point, and it blinds him to so much.  Not simply what his daughter is going through with Bright Mac, but also the fact that this is his family's home by this point.  That they have a loving community of friends and neighbors around them who love what they do, that they're a cornerstone of this community, that they'd be throwing all of that away in the name of profit and getting away from a family which he insists they can't stand.  With all this in front of us, I can't help but conclude this move is more about getting away from the Apples, ignoring everything wonderful about living in Ponyville, all in the name of a stupid, needless feud.  Most tragically of all, it threatens to snuff out the possibility of the beautiful things that may come of Pear Butter and Bright Mac's love for one another, the possibility that they have always believed in.  In fact, it comes very close to doing just that; understandably, Pear Butter can't imagine leaving her family.  We don't exactly know if her mother is still in the picture or around at this point as we never see her, and it doesn't seem she has any siblings either, so for all we know her father may be the closest family she has left, not counting her more distant relatives.  So it makes sense, very sadly, when she sadly announces to Bright Mac that she has to stick with her family in spite of her undeniable love for him.  Neither of them want it, clearly, but Pear is just too scared and dismayed at this point to imagine an alternative; in this moment, it must seem as though her whole world is falling apart right from under her very hooves.  And it certainly seems that way to us as well.

Love Always Finds a Way

And so it's left up to Bright Mac to open another door for her, to keep the possibility of them and the beautiful things their being together might lead to alive.  It's ultimately up to her to say yes, but he has to take a huge leap of faith, the biggest leap of faith he's ever taken or possibly will ever take in his life, to give her the opportunity to say yes.  It can't be easy.  He has to secretly arrange with his best friend, his love's best friend, and Ponyville's mayor itself everything needed.  They have to somehow get just enough onto the border between the Apple and Pear's properties for a proper ceremony, and even a small celebration afterward.  All this without their families or the love of his life even knowing.  And yet he somehow does it, and then his carefulness is rewarded in getting to show it to her.  Everything he's done, all of it for her, for them, for what they could have, believing in his heart and soul that it's worth fighting for and taking the biggest chances in their lives for.  Confronted with all of that, reminded how much he loves her and she loves him, her belief is rekindled again almost immediately and right then and there, Buttercup and Bright Mac choose to get married.  They don't need it to be a town event or an affair planned months in advance; in this moment it is perfect, as perfect as any love story could be, especially for them.  We already can see, the second she says yes, how much safer and reassured she already feels; in her heart too, you simply know that she knows this is right, that this is what they're supposed to both have.  Exchanging and burying an apple tree and pear tree seed with each other, they prepare to say their vows...

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But tragedy won't leave well enough alone.  Their parents find them and for the first time, even though there's been plenty of evidence in front of them through the years, are confronted with the notion that their two children love each other.  Even after their children tell them exactly how it is, finish saying their vows, and take their first true kiss as husband and wife, they're still too blinded by their mutual hatred to care.  They assume that their kids are being stupid and foolish or simply trying to hurt them.  They can't even consider the possibility that their children are acting more of the adult than they are.  That all changes, however, when Buttercup says one single sentence.

"But... the Apples are my family now too."

That's when something clicks for one and snaps for the other.  You look at Granny Smith's face, and she's shocked.  A Pear has just said that the Apples are her family.  Her.  Family.  Something happens in the older mare at that moment.  A revelation, and suddenly you just know that their love, the beauty of it, its sincerity and the possibility it promises sweeps over her like a flood.  For a moment she's genuinely too shocked to do anything.

But on the other side something far worse happens in her father.  He feels betrayal, from his only daughter (probably his only child) no less.  Still blinded by his hatred of the Apples, he thinks his own daughter is disowning her family; in reality, she's asking him to be a part of another now as she is.  He just can't see that, though, he simply cannot.  So instead he lays down an ultimatum, a terrible one.  Be an Apple or be a Pear: you can't be both, not in my eyes, and if you're not a Pear you're not my daughter anymore.  It's the worst choice a father could present to his daughter in this moment, one Pear Butter should never have had to make.  But she knows what's right, even if he can't, and even though she'd rather not have to make the choice at all, she knows she must remain true to the love that has guided her all of her life.  There's so much at risk, but she believes in too much in the good and beauty that could come out of her and Bright Mac's love to say no.  So she makes the choice.  Grand Pear leaves in a rage.  And as the disowned daughter weeps into her husband's shoulder, the first fruit of their love is born: Granny Smith comes over and extends a hoof and a smile to her.  She accepts a new daughter into her life and family, and Buttercup in turn gains a mother and a new family.  Although there is sadness this night, love is already overcoming it, overcoming the ugliness of years of Apples and Pears feuding with one another.

Love continues its work through the years.  Bright Mac and Buttercup settle down, Granny embraces her new daughter-in-law, and together they build a beautiful life and family together.  Through the years Buttercup embraces being an Apple, leaving behind her old life as a Pear; we don't know much about this part, but I can't imagine it's out of hatred.  Most likely it's just too sad for her thinking of her old life, of the family that left her behind.  But as long as she has Bright and her new family, she is content, part of something intrinsically beautiful and special as could be.  They go from being husband and wife to, eventually, father and mother as well, bearing three beautiful children together.  They raise their children as best as they know how, with the entire Apple Family's love supporting them along the way as well.

Our Life Under the Apple Trees by InuHoshi-to-DarkPen

Life is as it should be: with their love, their family, their work, their friends and home and community, Bright Mac and Buttercup are set, having everything they could possibly ever want.  The beauty and goodness stemming from their love continues to unfold more and more each and every day, until it's as normal to them and their family as the apples they grow.

Then... then one day, they're gone. :(

We don't know how.  We don't know when.  Based on our best guesses from what we've seen in the show, it was some time ago; Big Mac was probably somewhere around 12 or 13, Applejack anywhere from 8 to 10, and Apple Bloom may have been at most a toddler, but possibly still a young foal with barely any memories even of her parents.  We'll probably never learn how it happened, and that's OK, I don't think we need to.  It doesn't matter how, it doesn't even matter that it happened, really.  Because as sad as it is, as terrible as their absence is in this show, as horrible as the loss must have been for their families and for their children especially, the most important thing is the beauty and good they brought into the world by taking their leap of love together.  By believing in it and each other so strongly that it could not be denied.  They may be gone, we may never even see more of them in the show again (though I certainly wouldn't complain if we did in more flashbacks or flashback episodes even), but they're not really gone.  Everything that the Apples are in this show, especially their children, is a testament to who they were and how they lived their lives.  We've seen this throughout the show, the wonderful thing that the Apple Family is for both Ponyville and across all of Equestria, and we now know what an important part in that family that Bright McIntosh and Pear Butter played.  All because they believed in their love and the possibilities of it.  That legacy has been there from the start of the show, even if the writers themselves didn't envision this story arc at the time, and in this episode we see it at work once more in a truly beautiful way, healing something that Buttercup and Bright Mac probably hoped ever since they got married would heal some day.  It's the arc that ties this entire episode together, that gets the Apple siblings learning all of this about their parents and the beautiful love that they had together in the first place.  And it's the final triumph of Bright Mac and Buttercup's love over the tragedy of the Apple Family and Pear Family feud.

The Perfect Pear by Nemo2D

The Legacy of Love: Old Wounds Mended, Scars Left Behind, But Love Emerges From Tragedy

An old stallion shows up in the Ponyville market one day, unannounced, just there to seemingly sell his wares.  We're not even sure what his plans are, how long he really plans on staying.  How long it took him to come here, to come back home.  We're told he has a famous shop in Vanhoover, but this does not appear to be a businessman in his prime.  He doesn't seem to care much about money anymore, or competition, or being the best; he just seems to enjoy selling his pear jam to others who seem to enjoy it.  Maybe he's remembered that over the years, why he enjoyed growing and selling pears in the first place: because it made his friends and neighbors happy, and made him happy in turn.  He seems gentler for it now, wiser and quieter.

Then he spies a young filly.  And he must know who she is.  Perhaps he's seen a picture before, perhaps simply read about her.  Or maybe... just maybe it's the fact that this filly is the spitting image of the stallion he hated for so many years for marrying his daughter, "stealing" her away from him.  Whatever the case, he knows... it's his youngest granddaughter, asking him about his pear jam.  He can't say anything, not yet.  It's taken him long enough to muster up the courage to come here after all these years.  So he starts by extending a small kindness to his youngest granddaughter with a gift of his pear jam; it's the first gift he's ever given to any of his grandchildren, the first endorsement he's ever given to his daughter's marriage and the life she built, the first time he's ever involved himself in the family they built.  And it's with something he's loved making all of his life, but finally remembered why he loved doing it; because he loves sharing the thing he loves with others, especially his family.  For now, that's enough for him.

It quickly becomes not enough for the Apple siblings, though.  Taken aback by the kindness of somepony they've always been told is in a feud with their family for unknown reasons, they do what their parents would have taught them to do, what they've grown up for as they've gotten older: they seek to find answers, initially because they hope they might end the feud.  As they speak to first family, and later friends of their parents they never even knew about, they learn a story about their parents they weren't even seeking at first.  They learn about their love, how strong it was, ways they take after their parents they didn't know about that played a part in their own story, how their parents love and devotion to one another left such a positive impact on their family and the friends their parents had in life.  In the process, they gain new stories and memories of their parents to take to heart, pieces of them they never had and never got the chance to learn about, treasures they'll hold onto forever; you can see it in their eyes as they learn more and more, how special this all is to them, ponies who don't ask for much out of life to begin with and yet at this point cannot get enough of all of this.  What's more, they grow closer to friends of their parents in Burnt Oak and Mrs. Cake, ponies they now know who have wonderful stories to tell them about the way they lived their lives.  I hope going forward that the Apple siblings keep getting closer to these two; it'd be a wonderful character development to see unfold, a way for them to get closer indirectly to their own parents, and a way for Bright Mac and Buttercup's love and its legacy to live on in both their friends and children.

And of course, they learn about the hurt that was never fully healed.  About their grandfather, and what he did, the terrible, terrible mistake he made.  After all these years, they'd be well in their right never to talk to him again.  Nopony would really blame them if they chose not to.  But that's not what they do, because they're their parents' children.  Because they are the most precious, important legacy of Bright Mac and Buttercup's left behind by them, and they've been raised their whole lives to embody that love.  They hold in their hearts a love that believes in possibility as much as their parents did with each other so long ago, and as long as they can believe in the possibilities of unconditional love, then they can find it in themselves to not shun their grandfather or hate him... but rather, to do what his daughter and her husband always wanted to do.  Forgive him and welcome him back into their lives, now that he's ready to be a part of it.  So they go off to find him, which doesn't take long at all in their small little town.

When they find him, he looks tired.  Maybe even a bit lost, like he's not sure now why he's here, if he can do what he came here to do in the first place.  He couldn't have known he'd never see her again.  He couldn't have known that the last words he'd said to his daughter would be words said in anger.  He couldn't have known that he'd never get to share in the life she led with her husband, that he'd never get to see her as a wife and a mother.  He has to have hated himself for a very long time for this.  Then a tiny voice calls out as he's closing up his shop, and then there they are... his three grandchildren.  Even his old eyes can see that.  The big one that looks just like the boy he hated for so long if he were red as an apple, but with his mother's shade of mane and her freckles too; the middle one, probably close to if not around the age that Pear Butter was the last time he saw her, grown into a fine young filly herself with the best of her mother and father in her, a true leader; and the littlest one, a spitting image of her father but as sweet and gentle as her mother was, who probably never got to know either of them that well and has needed her siblings and her grandmother most of her life to be her parents.  He's probably thought for years about what he'd say to them in this moment, but he couldn't have fathomed how hard it really would be.  Words he's probably practiced in front of the mirror time and again all fall by the wayside, and in the moment all he can muster is a tearful "I'm... so sorry.  I-I-I was just so angry, but I never..."

MLP Vector - Pear Butter and Grand Pear by jhayarr23

It's the hardest thing he's ever had to do, but to his disbelief, not a second later his grandchildren are already embracing him.  And just like that, he's home.  The love of his grandchildren, the love that Bright Mac and Buttercup always had and believed in, it's all suddenly washing over him as it did Granny Smith on that fateful night so long ago, and it feels so good.  Better than he could ever have imagined.  He has another family now, as his daughter always wanted him too, and even though the sadness of the mistakes he made will never really be gone, will always leave scars, that's all they are now, scars.  They're no longer the festering wounds that they were, and Bright Mac and Buttercup's love has finally healed the greatest, most terrible wound left behind by the Apple Family and Pear Family feud.  As the Apple siblings bring their grandfather home to make amends with their grandmother, the two old farm ponies finally bury the hatchet and accept what their children always wanted them to: the possibility of loving each other and having one another as family.  Reunited at long last, the family of Pears and Apples congregate in a tearful reunion years in the making beneath the branches of the physical embodiment and legacy of Bright Mac and Pear Butter's true love for one another: the intertwined apple and pear trees, sprouted from their apple tree and pear tree seeds planted so many years ago as their vows to one another, a perfect tribute to the beauty and goodness their love left in the world.

These are the miracles of love.  These are the wondrous things it can work.  In an imperfect world, love is never easy, even at its strongest.  But it is always worth it, because the good it can bring into the world and work into others' lives, whether it be with friends, family, or the love of your life, is always precious and priceless in comparison to any other alternative.  One does not even need particularly remarkable circumstances to bring remarkable love into the world; one simply has to believe in that love strong enough, and the possibilities of it, to work something miraculous through it that only they can.  This episode perfectly understands and conveys this as many, many, many other fictional properties, many with bigger budgets or resources throw at them, have failed to do, even if that was their intent.  It's a remarkable piece of television, and it will probably always remain my favorite episode of My Little Pony.  I am blessed enough, in this moment, to be courting a young woman myself, a friend from my own childhood; so much of what I saw in Bright Mac and Buttercup's courtship reminded me of the love and wonderful moments we have gotten to share with one another, and this episode left me hoping so hard that we are able to bring beauty and good into the world through our love as Bright Mac and Buttercup did.  I know many other friends who, under different circumstances, have been touched by this episode as well; some who have gotten even further along in love with others, some who very much hope to be blessed with a true love like Bright Mac and Pear Butter had in each other, and some who even have not just taken part in such a beautiful, wonderful love like those two had, but have also known the hurt of losing the one they loved, a hurt all too similar to what the Apples and Pears experienced in losing Pear Butter and Bright Mac.  Yet, just as Bright Mac and Buttercup would never trade any bit of their love for one more minute of life, just as they had no regrets for their love and all the good it did despite all the hurt they went through, just as all who loved them and cared about them, despite their sadness at their loss, feel overwhelming joy, happiness, and love recalling how wonderful they were, those friends of mine too don't regret one minute of the love they shared with their own true loves.  They too in loving one another brought immeasurable good, love, and beauty into the world, and the fact that this episode can capture the truth and beauty of these acts that so many have shared in in real life, that is what makes it, for me, stand head and shoulders above so many works of fiction in general, and every episode of MLP.

To those responsible for making it, thank you again.  I can't wait to show it to my beloved Julianna next week, and maybe, just maybe someday I'll get to show it to children of my own as I teach them about what beauty and good true love can bring into the world.

Apple Pear by Phyllismi

Miscellaneous Notes

-Despite this episode being a little light on the laughs (not in a bad way, mind you, the episode was very intent in its approaching its subject matter with seriousness, care, respect, and gentleness even, with only some lighthearted laughs here and there), I got a huge laugh at the beginning from Granny Smith's line about praline obviously being a better topping on apple-fritter-flapjacks than caramel syrup.  Also, as a quick aside, this show always manages to get me in the mood for pancakes whenever they show up; I don't know why, but among any of the food they show, the pancakes always look especially delicious!

-This episode made me really want to see the Apple siblings doing more together.  I mean, I know they've always been staples of the show, but here we got to see a side of all three of them we rarely have, and it was a delight.  They all had great reactions throughout the episode as they learned more and more about their parents, and I would love to see long term impacts on all three of them as a result of this episode, like Big Mac spending more time with Burnt Oak, or Applejack or Apple Bloom getting closer to Mrs. Cake since she was such a good friend of their mom.

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 And of course, obviously it would be wonderful to see more of Grand Pear, but I don't know how much we can expect since he was voice by William Shatner; either they'd have to get him for more jobs (which isn't impossible considering John de Lancie still regularly does work as Discord), or they'd have to find a voice actor who can do a good impression of his Grand Pear voice (certainly not impossible either, though hardly ideal).

-Another notable laugh, possibly the best in the whole episode, came when we were first introduced to Burnt Oak.  He was obviously designed to bear a striking resemblance to Sam Elliott, and clearly somebody took notice of this and just had to take advantage of it considering we already have a pony based on the Dude.  So what did they do?  They introduced Burnt Oak waving goodbye to The Dude pony as he walks away with a cart full of rugs!!!

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THAT. IS. SO. PERFECT.  You could even say it ties the whole episode together. :smug:  While I know it's possible that this was written into the episode, considering no dialogue was devoted to it, I would venture a guess that the storyboard artists were responsible for this purely visual gag, so props to Kaylee Chard, Jae Harm, and any other storyboard artists who worked with them on it (unless of course I'm completely wrong and it was written into the script by the writers themselves).

-Our special guest stars Felicia Day and William Shatner both deserve praise for their roles as Pear Butter and Grand Pear.  Felicia gave us a very well-developed personality in Pear Butter with not too many lines to work with, and little things like Pear Butter's occasional voice cracks or her very grounded personality made her an instantly lovable character.  And of course I cannot praise her vocals in "You're In My Head Like a Catchy Song" enough, simply sublime.

[SPOILERS] Pear Butter by Varshacoro

William Shatner did an equally impressive job with Grand Pear, and I was especially blown away by the fact that he was able to create distinct voices for Grand Pear at three different periods in his life (young adult Grand Pear, middle-aged Grand Pear, and elderly Grand Pear) as well as by the emotion he injected into the role, especially in Grand Pear's finally reuniting with his grandchildren and begging their forgiveness.  Bill Newton did a great job as Bright McIntosh as well, and I would certainly love to see him reprise the role at some point.  Top notch job from all three of you, and I for one certainly will not complain if they return to these roles in the show at any point.

-Speaking of impressive voice acting jobs, let's give a hand to Tabitha St. Germain and Peter New.  Tabitha of course killed it as Granny Smith and Mrs. Cake in the present day (also, I did not know until after watching this episode that Tabitha has always voiced Mrs. Cake, so let's just chalk that up to the seemingly never ending list of characters she seems to voice in this show), but like William Shatner, she had to voice characters at different periods in their lives, only she had to do so for two different characters.  Her young adult Granny Smith voice was adorable, and I could even hear a tad bit of Applejack in there, and there were even subtle differences between her middle-aged Granny Smith and elderly Granny Smith.  Same goes for Mrs. Cake, her younger and older selves somehow sounded a tad different, but not too much.  Peter New, of course, did great as Big Mac (I very much appreciated that Big Mac was talking more here, it helped hit home how much this all meant to the Apple siblings), but I also forgot he voices Goldie Delicious, and that voice of his is hilarious!  Goldie was a delight to see again, but he even managed to add some fairly heavy emotional moments to a character who has largely been used for laughs the couple of times she's appeared.  A hand goes out to Cathy Weseluck too as young adult Mayor Mare and older Mayor Mare, though she had considerably less to do since her character was only in one scene.

-Excellent callbacks to Season 1's "Over a Barrel" when Applejack both read a bedtime story to her tree Bloomberg and tucked him into bed.  She clearly picked up reading bedtime stories to apple trees from Granny Smith, but apparently she somehow picked up covering them in blankets as well from Grand Pear somehow.  While it's most likely that either Granny Smith or, even more likely, her mother Buttercup taught her that trick, I like to think it was genetic and just passed down to her from her grandpa. :orly:  There were a couple of other excellent continuities in canon in repeatedly seeing the moon with Nightmare Moon still in it in the flashback's to Bright Mac and Buttercup's courtship, or Mayor Mare still sporting her pink mane when she was younger (callback's dating all the way back to the very first episode of the show and Season 2's "Ponyville Confidential, respectively).

-Learning things the Apple siblings got from their parents was a real treat, even stuff that went unsaid.  Things like where some of their physical features come from (Big Mac's mane and tail are colored just like his mom's, Applejack and Big Mac both have freckles just like she did, Apple Bloom has the exact mane/tail and coat colors as her father did, Applejack getting her hat from her father, etc.); learning that Bright Mac was honest just like Applejack; the fact that Buttercup had a talent for helping friends like Mrs. Cake figure out what they were good at just like Apple Bloom does with the Cutie Mark Crusaders; or the fact that Buttercup didn't like drawing attention to herself and keeping things low key just like Big McIntosh, were all wonderful things to learn.  I guess we don't know if Bright Mac could or couldn't sing (he definitely couldn't play the guitar though), but it seems as though all three Apple siblings got their great singing voices from their mother, and Applejack most definitely learned how to play the guitar from her.  But thankfully as well, the episode did not fall into the trap of doing nothing but showing how their parents were just like the Apple siblings; that's a bit of a cliche and it wouldn't have made for nearly as interesting an episode as one where we got to see their parents as interesting, unique, wonderful characters in and of themselves, not just carbon copies of their children.

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-Daniel Ingram deserves extra praise for the music as a whole in this episode, not just "You're In My Head Like a Catchy Song."  All of the music did a great job of helping tell the story, and the manner in which it was utilized in scenes such as when the Apple siblings reunite with their grandfather helped make those scenes all the more emotional and powerful.  Wonderful job, sir, truly wonderful.

-Young Goldie Delicious briefly appears in one of the early flashbacks at one point, which is a super cool detail to fit in there.  Also, is it just me, or does Burnt Oak bear more than a passing resemblance to Thunderlane?  His young self really looked a lot like Thunderlane, and we do know Thunderlane is pretty bulky for a pegasus stallion, so it wouldn't surprise me if he had some earth pony blood.  I'm very curious now as to whether or not they're related, possibly even father and son.

-Cloud Kicker and Alula can be seen together in the background very briefly in an early shot in the Ponyville market, which was a little detail I very much appreciated myself.  There's a lot of fan canon out there in both art and fanfiction, drawn from what we've seen in the show itself, that speculates they're sisters, so seeing continuity like that was really cool.

-Another detail I thought was super cool was that it seemed like, especially in the earlier flashbacks, most of the ponies in Ponyville were earth ponies.  It could just be a coincidence, but I get the feeling it was a subtle detail.  After all, Ponyville was founded by earth pony families like the Apples, so it wouldn't surprise me if early on in its history most of the first residents who came during its initial expansions were earth ponies in turn, and it diversified among the pony races more and more as it grew.  One of the few non-earth ponies in the earliest flashback was, of all things, Dinky, which implies one of two things: (1) either it was a silly oversight, or (2) they're implying that she is both Derpy and Time Turner's daughter, and that on top of that she may be doing some time travelling with Time Turner.  Suffice to say, I like scenario #2 better. :bedeyes:

-I would love to hear how everyone else felt about or was impacted by this episode.  Obviously plenty of you have already shared your thoughts in the episode's thread or your own blogs, but feel free to share any others here.  It's an episode I'll certainly never get tired talking about.

That's all I've got for ya'll this time, everypony, and thank you all for taking the time to read my most special edition ever of "Batbrony Reviews."  Until next time, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

There will be fireworks, so stay close by mirroredsea

Batbrony

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Good morning, everypony, and welcome back from the U.S. mid-season hiatus of MLP Season 7 to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Well, we had a double heaping of some truly exceptional MLP goodness yesterday (well, rather I should say we had a heaping of great goodness followed by a mountain of "HOLY BUCK THAT WAS THE MOST AMAZING INCREDIBLE SHIT I'VE EVER SEEN!!!" but, eh, details, details), so let's not waste anymore time and dive right into the first new episode of the day (and first new Discord episode of Season 7, I should add).  Without further ado, this is "Discordant Harmony."

So as far as Discord episodes go, I actually have to say this one was oddly... simple for him.  Now, I don't say that simply because of how it was executed alone or how he behaved, no no, I'm saying that the actual conflict around which the entire episode revolved was oddly simple.  Don't get me wrong, there were some complex character developments at play, especially in the third act, but what was technically the central conflict around which everything revolved?  A tea party.  Yeah, Discord decides he wants to host Fluttershy, his best friend, for a tea party at his place for once because they always hold them at her house instead.  I have to admit, I'd be hard pressed to think of a Discord episode that has had a more straightforward conflict than that.  Of course we all know that since this is Discord we're talking about, nothing about what happened in the episode's execution was truly "simple," but I think most of you know what I mean.

So Discord wants to host Fluttershy for a tea party, and really (given how the episode concluded) if he'd just stuck with doing everything he did to start off, everything would have gone smoothly.  The first act is largely Discord just bamfing around town gathering supplies for the tea party, and that alone amused me quite a bit, just the fact that he was doing it at all; think about it, Discord has shown multiple times that he can manifest whatever he wants to out of thin air, so he most definitely DID NOT need to shop for those supplies.  My working theory is that either (1) he wanted to actually buy the supplies to add a personal touch to his tea party with Fluttershy, ya know, act like she mattered enough to him to go out and get those things rather than just pop them into existence, or (2) he was bored and just wanted to buck with some ponies.  Anyways, he gets some supplies and of course adds his own chaotic touch to them, until of course he's met by Pinkie Pie.

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Apparently her name is Jasmine Leaf... can we seriously, PLEASE get more of her?  If only for her adorable mane and accent alone!!!

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This is where things take a turn.  Pinkie offers admittedly good advice that as long as Discord makes Fluttershy feel comfortable, she'll have a fun time.  Unfortunately Discord of course interprets this as meaning that she'll never enjoy herself at his place given how, well, absolutely bonkers it is, so he goes about tidying it up as only he can... with six of him, of course.  By the time he's done, he's so normal that he's pretty much Mister Rogers (no really, I'm 99% certain that's exactly what they were referencing with his "normal" look), and, well, his place is as... not-Discord as it could possibly be.

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As boring as normal Discord may have been, I will forever be grateful for this delicious reference :D

This leads to exactly what you'd expect... that's right, Discord almost fades from existence.

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Yeah, in a curiously dark turn in the third act, Discord quite literally almost ceases to exist (which, now that I think about it, if that had happened I'm pretty sure that Fluttershy would have been stranded in his realm as well, leading to all kinds of uncomfortable questions about what her fate might have been in that event).  Heck, he can't even really do anything about it himself once he becomes too normal, so it's all up to Fluttershy (who was already weirded out by his out of character behavior) to literally bring the chaos back into his life.  This whole bit is easily the best scene of the episode and illustrates a lot about how both characters have grown as a result of their unusual friendship with one another.  So of course Fluttershy succeeds, the day is saved, Discord more or less gets his groove back, and they get to have the tea party at Discord's that they both always wanted.

Now, at first glance this episode seems utterly predictable.  I mean, what it boils down to is "Friend A misunderstood Friend B and thought they wanted Friend A to behave one way, when Friend B already loved them for who they were and wanted Friend A to act their normal self."  That is a very, very, VERY recycled plot formula in television for all ages, appearing in shows ranging from animated cartoons to sitcoms aimed at family or adult audiences.  So yeah, anyone who does believe that, in many ways, this episode is predictable, they're not wrong.  It is, and yet I still found it to be quite exceptional.  Why?  Execution.  Really, that's about it, the episode was just executed incredibly well.  John de Lancie was phenomenal as usual as Discord (I particularly appreciated some of his subtle touches here, such as the fact that his "Discord 2.0" a.k.a. "Discord with glasses" had an ever-so-slightly lower, more mature and serious sounding voice than Discord himself did) and brought the laughs as we've come to expect by now from this character.  His chores about town and tidying up his place were probably his two funniest scenes, and I especially enjoyed seeing Discord screwing around with ponies besides Fluttershy and the Mane 6.  Frankly, it was hilarious how nonplussed most of the other ponies dealing with him seemed at this point.  I mean on the one hand some of them seemed curiously unaware of what his chaos magic can do (odd considering he more or less lives in Ponyville and has been screwing with that city for years), but on the other hand they definitely didn't treat him like a threat either, more like an annoyance.  His party supplies and the alterations he gave to them as well were also quite a hoot, particularly the singing Ginseng tea bags and the sapient pinata (also, "Pinatas hate bats" is easily the best line of this entire episode ^_^). 

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Not sure if best beehive or worst beehive ever.  Hmmm... best beehive. :orly:

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The other part of it that made it really exceptional in execution was Fluttershy herself, particularly in the third act.  Now, it may seem predictable, even Mary Sue-ish, that Fluttershy would just want Discord to be himself, but the way they delivered it was actually quite smart and clever.  You actually got the sense that, if this were Season 1, Fluttershy maybe would have preferred a perfectly normal tea party, but this is Season 7 Fluttershy who's been friends with the Lord of Chaos for years, she is much less rigid in her own wants and needs.  Her explanation that not only would she expect Discord (in fact, she seemed to look forward to it even) to host an incredibly crazy, chaos-filled tea party at his own home, but that she'd come to truly appreciate their differences as they'd grown in their friendship, was one of the smartest pieces of Fluttershy writing we've had in some time.  It showed that she's really not as predictable as we might think she is sometimes, and that even if she herself may seem like the most mild of characters, that doesn't mean she wants or expects everyone else in her life to be like that.  What she showed us is, just like with all of her other friends, while she's completely comfortable with who she is and how she lives her life, she enjoys the variety and spice that they bring to her life as well, including Discord in all of his chaotic ways.  Plus I won't lie, Fluttershy trying to (and somehow succeeding in) channeling her "inner-chaos" in order to save Discord was not only touching, but hilarious cute as well.

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Oh Fluttershy, you so crazy :icwudt:

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Overall, this was a solid start to the second half of Season 7, and really, I think it would be getting much more attention than it has if it weren't for the episode that came directly after it.  Unfortunately for "Discordant Harmony," it had the bad luck of preceding what may possibly be the most important episode of MLP ever.  But we'll find out more about that in my next review. ;)  Tune in next time (which should be today) for a very, very special edition of "Batbrony Reviews."

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Batbrony

Good evening everypony, and welcome back to yet another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Tonight I'll be looking at the three recent EQG "shorts" (only in the sense that rather than feature length films they were simply episode-length affairs) "Dance Magic," "Movie Magic," and "Mirror Magic."  These will all be included in one review since, unlike my normal fare, the reviews for all three of these should be considerably shorter.  Without further ado, let's dive in, this is "Equestria Girls: 'Dance Magic,' 'Movie Magic,' and 'Mirror Magic'."!!!

"Dance Magic"

The first one of these was easily my least favorite, despite some WILDLY entertaining bits to it.  "Dance Magic" was like if you took the first EQG movie and condensed all of its problems and positives into a 22 minute episode; wildly entertaining and fun in some moments, but mind numbingly stupid in others.  The plus side is that Rarity actually got featured here, and as far as her performance goes, she was spot on.  Tabitha could do this role in her sleep at this point and any "Rarity moments" were pretty much perfect; Human Rarity crying on a fainting couch in her room, eating ice cream when she was sad and making sad-nomming noises, just getting WONDERFULLY over-the-top whenever she got in a mood, I loved all of that start to finish.  Rebecca Shoichet got to sing at one point as Sunset and, even though I couldn't have cared less about the song itself (and neither did Daniel Ingram from the way it sounded, seriously, sounded like he churned that thing out in an afternoon, if that), hearing Rebecca sing in her normal singing voice is ALWAYS a joy, I mean, just wowwwwwwww her voice is gorgeous.  It was cool that they were continuing on from "Legend of the Everfree" by having the girls raise money for Camp Everfree to fix it up, I really did like that detail.  Besides that and the fact that the voice cast in general is always a joy to listen to, I didn't really dig much else.

For starters, for the first half, Rarity was... kind of stupid.  Like, take her naivety in "Rarity Takes Manehattan" (a FAR superior showing compared to this, and behavior which is far more forgivable in the context of that episode) and amplify it times ten.  I mean, she goes and straight up blurts what she plans on doing for this music video contest to girls who she not only knows WILL be competing against them, but have been... well, for lack of a better way of putting it, kind of bitchy in the past (while I'm on the subject of the Crystal Prep girls, WHERE THE BUCK WAS THE RAINBOW DASH/LIGHTNING DUST CANTERLOT PREP DOPPLEGANGER???  There were supposed to be five of them but there were only four, where the buck did she disappear off to, seriously???).  I have no idea why she thought that was a good idea for one moment.  To be fair she fesses up that it was her fault later on, so she at least realizes her error, but that doesn't excuse how stupid it was.  In the second half, it was the rest of the girls who were kind of idiotic.  They kept throwing out ridiculously stupid ideas for the music video, and I get that they were just trying to lighten the mood, EXCEPT this was not just money they were trying to win just for themselves, THIS was money they were trying to raise for bucking Camp Everfree, SO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY GIRLS, especially after you blew all the money you'd already raised on costumes for the music video!  Not to mention that the girls decided for some reason that they NEEDED to use their Equestria-horse anthro powers (whatever)... for the music video.  I will never like those anthro designs, but I am at a point where I can accept the girls using those powers when they need to, but this????  This hardly seems like a situation that calls for those powers at all.  The ending was also ridiculously telegraphed; it's not like MLP isn't oftentimes somewhat predictable in where episodes are going, but usually the execution of it isn't.  You can often see where an episode will end up, but not usually how it will.  Here, the second I heard stuff like that the prize was TWICE as much as they needed for Camp Everfree, and that the Crystal Prep girls were trying to raise money for their school dance (which, I'm sorry, I don't really care about that "plight," their gym can't be all that bad when Crystal Prep is a super exclusive private school, so I can't imagine it'd be an awful place to have a dance, even if it wasn't a yacht), I knew that the two groups were going to join forces to earn the prize and split it 50/50, and lo and behold whaddya know, THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED!  So yeah, like I said, this was the first EQG movie condensed into a 22 minute episode in terms of quality.  Entertaining in certain spots, but very mehhhhh overall because it didn't really feel like something that the DHX crew cared about making, it felt like something they might have assigned to new hires or even interns just to do or as a first time project.  I'm not trying to be overly critical, it's just not particularly good, and if that's what an EQG show would ever look like... yeah, sorry, I'll pass on that.

"Movie Magic"

"Movie Magic" was better than "Dance Magic," but oddly more forgettable, probably because there was as little to love as there was to hate in it.  The best way I can describe it is that it was essentially an MLP episode meets Scooby Doo, no joke, I'm not even kidding.  The Humane 7 "gang" basically has to solve a mystery of some sort (not a particularly good one, again, like "Dance Magic" the ending was terribly telegraphed), which mostly Sci-Twi and Rainbow tackle.  I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of "movie-studio" episodes in kids show, or when cartoons depict movie productions, they just feel a little... too close to the showmakers' actual culture, like, you know they're a part of this culture so they're going to be super tongue in cheek about a lot of stuff.  That kind of happened here, with the usual cliches like a drama queen actress being bitchy for a lot of the episode, a jealous assistant/relative of the director, and all types of "whacky" sights on set.  Seen it before, never been a big fan of it before, and not really a fan of it here.  I will admit that I kind of liked the director since he didn't come off as a jerk, just a nice guy who genuinely was really stressed out and had a lot on his hands to juggle (his tearing apart his niece at the end after she got caught was pretty satisfying too).  Same with when it first got brought up in "Dance Magic," I am REALLY not a fan of Daring Do and A.K. Yearling pretty much existing in the exact same way in the human MLP world as they do in Equestria, that just seems... forced.  Like, I can accept a lot of the parallels between the two worlds, but that is REALLY starting to stretch it, as is the idea that Rainbow Dash is the super fan of her here as well.  Having there be human counterparts is one thing, but making them virtually identical in how they behave AND what has happened to them in critical ways, that's another.  Granted, even that didn't bother me as much as the Power Ponies bit.  In a bid just to put them in some superhero costumes (a very lazy excuse for doing so if you ask me) the girls stumble onto a superhero movie set and it turns out to be for... Power Ponies.  Like, no joke, the director says POWER PONIES!!!  WHY???  Why are they called that in this world???  There's absolutely nothing about them that looks or screams ponies in this world!  I know that a lot of the pony puns have carried over from Equestria to this world, but the Power Ponies one makes no bucking sense.  So ya wanna know why it exists?  Because the writers didn't want to come up with a new name because they cared more about just getting the girls into the costumes to begin with to make them look more interesting.  The final scene where the girls got to be in the film was pretty entertaining, but overall, while this was technically better than "Dance Magic," it was, like I said, something I'll barely be able to remember going forward.

"Mirror Magic"

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OK... wow.  Just... wow.  In all the right ways, I am VERY happy to say!  The bad news is that "Mirror Magic" is clearly the only one of these three that DHX gave a shit about or that any bronies should give a shit about.  The good news is that DHX gave a shit about it in ALL the right ways!  If "Dance Magic" is the episode equivalent of the first EQG film, then "Mirror Magic" is the episode equivalent of "Rainbow Rocks."  It's the only one REALLY worthy your time and has anything any of us have ever actually loved about the EQG movies.  Let's list them, shall we?

1.  Sunset Shimmer is the focus of "Mirror Magic," not any of the other Humane 7.  The Humane 7 (including Sci-Twi) may be human versions of our beloved Equestrian characters, but they are NOT the same characters as them and never have been.  The worst consequence of this is that we've never had the same connection to them as we do the pony versions, so they've never really served well as THE main characters of any EQG property.  Every time they're in the spotlight in a major way they feel like cardboard cutouts of their Equestrian counterparts, caricatures of them.  The less focus on that, the better.  Sunset Shimmer, on the other hand, has always been the most interesting character in any EQG property, bar none, and I am always happy to see anything EQG focused on her first and foremost.  It's a big reason that "Rainbow Rocks" is the best EQG movie to date, and as big of a reason that "Mirror Magic" is far and away the best of these episodes.  As a result of Sunset Shimmer being the focus, the rest of the Humane 7 fill the roles they're best suited for in EQG; supplemental supporting roles, and they're GREAT when they're like that!  They're not distracting, they still have some fun lines (Pinkie Pie was particularly good here), and they do just enough to help out overall without it feeling forced.  This is EQG in its wheelhouse and I have no idea why this is still hard for them to do.  I know they probably don't want to ALWAYS be focused on Sunset, but I'm sorry, she still remains the only actually interesting original character to this property with the only really interesting ideas to explore, ESPECIALLY because of her Equestrian origins.  Without the Equestrian ties (which none of the other girls have), all you're left with is a bunch of human knockoffs of our ponies, and that's no fun!

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If this were an actual "Ed, Edd, n' Eddy" reference, that'd be pretty bucking awesome

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Me every time Sunset Shimmer is the focus of EQG

2.  Sunset Shimmer meets Starlight Glimmer.  I REPEAT, SUNSET SHIMMER MEETS STARLIGHT GLIMMER AND IT IS PURE JOY AND OH MY GOSH HOW HAS THE WORLD NOT IMPLODED FROM THIS MUCH AWESOME?!?!?!

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Every brony when this happened

Wow, let me tell you, everything with these two was bucking perfection.  Sunset going back to Equestria was the true highlight of all of this, and I had not realized just how much I missed seeing her in pony form (especially since this is the first time we ever got to see her as a pony as a good character and not a villain).  Dear Lord did they take advantage of giving her "cross-dimensional" jet lag after being in the human world for so long.  Her standing on two pony legs (adorably), not remembering how to pick things up with her hooves and forgetting to use her magic until she remembered she had a horn, THAT was funny and kind of tragic on some levels.  She is increasingly getting out of touch with her Equestrian roots, and it made me even fear where her story is going.  I'm calling it right now, I think that the ultimate way they're going to ensure that magic doesn't keep leaking from Equestria into the human world is to cut off all ties to it (you just have to believe that Twilight's 24/7 portal is causing all kinds of magical imbalance shit leading to that), which will mean that at that point, Sunset has to decide between staying in the human world or going back to Equestria, and I have to believe she'd stay in the human world.  It'd be a tragic but fulfilling way for her to discover and fulfill her destiny, and I'd love it as much as I'd hate it on a sad level (mostly because we wouldn't get more pony Sunset, but also because she'd never get to come back to her home, unless of course they went with the whole "this is her true home now" angle, though she still seems to often miss Equestria and want at times to go back, so who knows what'll happen).  Anyways, besides that, her and Starlight hitting it off was adorable, Starlight coming back with her (behind Twilight's back no less) was even more adorable and hilarious, and the two essentially becoming "reformed-villains" besties was THE GREATEST!!!  I could keep going on and on, but seriously, just watch it for yourself, if you need any more convincing that this was amazing then you probably haven't seen enough of either of these characters to begin with.

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3.  ACTUAL MAGIC SHIT GOING ON THAT I GAVE A SHIT ABOUT!  OK, this magic mirror wasn't that interesting (although the idea of them being stuck in the mirror in that mirror limbo or disappearing into nothingness once it was destroyed was pretty creepy) but it was at LEAST some Equestrian stuff!  I didn't give two shits about their "problems" in the first two episodes because they were ALL human-world problems, no Equestrian stuff whatsoever.  This was at least an interesting issue at hoof with actual Equestrian roots.  Sure the villain wasn't that good (although I will say that Juniper Montage was AT LEAST a better villain than bucking Principal Cinch from "Friendship Games," and her reform was handled pretty well), but the mirror itself was pretty creepy overall.

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I can take the villain only so seriously when shit like THIS happens!

4.  A solid conclusion overall, with Starlight Glimmer doing a pretty bang up job convincing Juniper to give friendship and forgiveness a chance (with an especially fun and amusing joke from Pinkie Pie about just how many of their friends are reformed villains who've been forgiven).

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Pfffftttt, and this is why I bite my ice cream ^_^

It's pretty easy to see that this was the only one of these three episodes TRULY worth anyone's time, though the other two are worth seeing if only to get some context for this one as well as to see how much better "Mirror Magic" is than the other two.  I came away from this for the first time since "Rainbow Rocks" genuinely happy to actually accept EQG stuff as canon in the greater MLP universe.  Playing around with how you could connect the two worlds, giving as much of the spotlight to Sunset Shimmer and her story as you can, getting characters like Starlight involved, THIS is everything I want to see and more in EQG!  I wish they wouldn't run from stuff like this in other EQG stuff, but as long as there is even a promise of more spotlight being put on Sunset Shimmer, bring on more EQG, I say!!!  Other than that, not too much else to say.  That's all I've got for you, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off!  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit* :muffins:

Batbrony

Good afternoon, everypony!  Well, I have no reviews for you at this time, but what I do have is 110% Grade A adorableness.  I'm so sorry, I just can't help but gush over the simply wonderful girlfriend that God has so richly blessed me with that I just had to introduce you all to her (rest assured she knows about this and said she's more than happy to have me introduce her to my pony fam ;)).  So then, everypony, meet Julianna (or just Juli for short as she usually goes by, but isn't Julianna just the most beautiful name!!! :D).

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Right now, this beautiful, wonderful, amazing young woman is the world to me, and being with her has helped the both of us grow happier in general, develop an ever-growing love for one another, and most importantly grow closer to God, knowing He's looking out for us every step of the way, wherever things may end up for us.  Nothing's set in stone obviously right now, we're not just naively assuming that we're one another's one true love or anything, BUT we do know we already love each other very much and that we want to see where God takes us as a couple and to make the most out of whatever we'll be blessed with.  She's having a very fun time learning more about MLP and you lovely folks in mah pony fam, and thinks the show is very adorable thus far (we haven't been able to get too far into it unfortunately just because we're in a long distance relationship at the moment, but we've watched it most times we've been together).  With our relationship about to turn 5 months old next week, I can't believe I've been blessed with such an amazing young woman in my life and wanted the rest of you lovely folks to know all about her. :muffins:

Oh, and ya wanna know how amazing she is?  Well, get a load of this; early on we both figured out that one of her big ways for showing love was through gift-giving, so guess what this amazing girlfriend of mine got me for my birthday as early birthday presents???

First, a WHOLE ton of candy, seriously, look at all of that! :love:

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An AWESOME DC 4-glass set that she found at Target of all places! :fluttershy:

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And best of all...

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A DERPY FUNKO!!!  I HAVE NEVER HAD AN MLP FUNKO TO THIS POINT AT ALL, NEVER BOUGHT WON, NEVER WON ONE, NOTHING, AND EVEN MORE AMAZING THEY STOPPED MAKING THESE IN 2016 BUT SHE FOUND ONE OF MY VERY OWN BEST PONY, NOT EVEN KNOWING THEY WERE SUCH A PRIME ITEM FOR BRONIES, ON AMAZON!!!!!!!!! :muffins:  IS THAT AWESOME OR WHAT????????

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So yeah, in short, we're both in a very great place right now.  I don't know in the long run where God is going to take us, but I'm so very happy for what we have right now and can only hope things get better and we get closer as we go along.  She was a great friend for many years before we ever considered dating one another and I just feel like the luckiest and most blessed guy in the world to have such an amazing sweetheart right now.  In short, she is, at the moment, the Catwoman to my Batman (and hopefully that stays the case for a longggggg time to come). :orly:

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I'm very happy I could share this amazing girlfriend-of-mine with ya'll everypony, and I hope there may be only more good or even great things to share going forward.  Hopefully will have some reviews up for you soon of some of the recent EQG shorts, but until next time everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

Batbrony

Good evening, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!!!  Well, the midseason finale has arrived, and while I can't say that our final episode before the Season 7 mid-season hiatus was amazing, it was still a very, very decent episode that was very enjoyable to watch.  Not flawless, but not in a maddening way whatsoever.  This should prove to be a fairly short episode review since there's not too much to cover, so without further ado, let's begin, this is "Not Asking for Trouble"!

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OK, not gonna lie, that's bucking adorable :wub:

So as there's not too much to cover with this episode, let's start with the most complex aspect of it, the lesson.  This was both a strength and a weakness, oddly enough, and for very similar reasons.  It was admirable how complex and subtle the lesson itself was, but at the same time it was almost too complex and subtle for its own good.  The best way I can put it is that, in execution, this lesson was "confusingly nuanced."  Jeric pointed out to me that unlike with most episodes, the lesson here wasn't telegraphed; this is not to say that we as an audience are too stupid to learn lessons unless they're spoonfed to us, but it's not like telegraphing lessons has ever been a big weakness of MLP, they usually do a good job of delivering lessons without making it seem like they're patronizing or belittling the audience.  It's not even to say that MLP can't have subtle lessons, they have many times.  This one, however, wasn't even apparent by the time the final frame had ended; the episode was far more about WHAT was happening than about WHY or what we were supposed to take away from it.  After all, what happens is very simple: (1) Pinkie Pie goes to Yakyakistan to celebrate Yickslurbertfest with the yaks, (2) she celebrates with them, (3) avalanche buries Yakyakistan, (4) things suck for the yaks and they try to cope while Pinkie unsuccessfully tries to get them to accept help from the ponies, (5) she leaves Yakyakistan and secretly comes back with her friends, (6) they unbury Yakyakistan, the day is saved, and the yaks are grateful despite having insisted on no outside help.

And... that's it.  That's the whole episode.  So what are we to take away from all of this?  I think two things contributed to why this lesson was so confusing: (1) the pacing, seeing as about rather than 2/3, it seemed like more like 3/4 of the episode were devoted to Yickslurbertfest and setting up the conflict itself, before Pinkie ACTUALLY fixed the problem, and (2) the fact that the lesson seems to be more applicable to a problem for individuals, but what we had before us was a national crisis for the entire nation of yaks, which made it harder to understand the nature of the problem and the lesson.  The first point is forgivable considering Pinkie Pie was trying to help the yaks, she just didn't want to be a bad friend by going behind their backs and wanted to get their permission to seek help from others before she did (both considerate and a wise course of action considering the yaks have proven just how hot-headed they can be in the past).  The second point I'm still trying to make sense of, but I think Jeric put it best to me when he said that the writers probably intentionally left it vague and muddled so as not to give younger viewers unfortunate implications.  You see, the lesson at play here is basically that sometimes, friends or family who we deeply care about are in some sort of trouble or get themselves into some sort of trouble, but aren't willing to admit that they have a problem, even as the problem gets worse.  Such self-destructive behavior usually arises because of one's stubbornness or pride preventing one from admitting they have a problem or being willing to ask others for help, or even an addiction that people are so hooked on they can't even see they have a problem.  This makes it a little clearer why they would've kept things so vague and centered on a problem as strange as the yaks being unwilling to accept help with unburying their village; it's not like we'd be likely to see an individual character struggling with an addiction of some kind on this show, after all, that'd be a little too mature even for this show.  So what we got instead was Prince Rutherford letting his pride get in the way of doing the right thing and stubbornly refusing to ask for help, even though he really did WANT help.  And that's really what the lesson boils down to: sometimes pride, or stubbornness, or addictions prevent those we care about from asking for help, even if they really do want it, and when that happens it's up to us to step up and help them anyway, even if they haven't asked, because we care about or love those we want to and try to help.  It's certainly not a bad lesson in the slightest, it was just oddly executed is all, but again, not in a way that really bothered or annoyed me.  It was just... odd, overall, neither the best nor the worst lesson we've ever seen presented or executed in this show.

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Someone needs to seriously dub Andrew W.K.'s "Party Hard" over this scene! B)

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Good to know that Equestria is not the only culture in this world that has a problem with ridiculously high levels of sugar intake on a regular basis :orly:

Thankfully, everything else we got was incredibly likable and fun in this episode.  Pinkie Pie had a far better episode than her last starring outing in "Rock Solid Friendship"; she was her fun, lovable, caring self, but her behavior was never unnecessarily too over-the-top, this was clearly a writer who understands how to healthily balance Pinkie Pie's fun-loving side with her serious, being-a-good-friend-and-solving-friendship-problems side.  Considering how much of the episode was devoted to Pinkie just touring Yakyakistan and learning about and partaking in Yickslurbertfest (gosh that name is hilarious), I was very surprised that none of it ever got boring or felt like padding, it was actually a ton of fun to watch Pinkie just hanging out with Prince Rutherford and the yaks!  Yakyakistan was pretty cool to see more of, and Prince Rutherford and the yaks themselves were just as hilarious as they were the first time, though thankfully not as insufferable either.  Rutherford in particular was a hoot, and some of the bits where he trolled Pinkie or delusionally tried to act as though everything were OK with the yaks after the avalance were pretty hysterical.  I do have to wonder how their village doesn't get buried more often by avalanches considering it seems like a festival like Yickslurbertfest would be very prone to setting off avalanches, but this was a silly enough episode that that point doesn't bother me too much.  The Mane 6 were in the episode about as much as they needed to be (RD's line in particular about them not playing Pinkie Pie's roadtrip game was hilarious), and Gummy was quite funny here as well as only he can be.  Also, Pinkie Pie is officially an honorary yak now, which just seems right and is also just kind of amazing and perfect.  Overall, I really don't have too much to say about this one.  It was a perfectly fine episode, not great, but very enjoyable in spite of some of its minor flaws, and a fine finish to the first half of Season 7.  We're entering the mid-season hiatus now, but don't worry everypony, new MLP episodes will be back before you know it, and when they are I'll be right here as always, ready to write more reviews!  Until next time, everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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BEHOLD!  PINK YAK, CUTEST YAK!!! :muffins: :wub:

Batbrony

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Ya know, switching their coffee instead of their cutie marks might have honestly been a more dangerous move on Starlight's part

Good afternoon, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!!!  Well, after the horror that was "Hard to Say Anything," and the mixed results of "Honest Apple," we needed something extra special to wipe the bade taste of those two episodes out of our mouths.  After today's episode, I am very happy to say that we got just that and so much more!  "A Royal Problem" is easily, for me at least, the best episode of Season 7 so far, and the only disappointing thing about it at all is that since it premiered early in Canada, pretty much half of the brony fandom has known how great it is for weeks and let the other brony fandom know early on just how great it was.  It's a very little thing to complain about, I know, but it really would have been nicer if the episode had debuted in both Canada and the U.S. at the same time so that the majority of bronies would have seen it at the same time.  Still, if that's my sole complaint, you just know we must be in for quite a treat, right?  Right you are, so without further ado, let's dive into a truly spectacular episode, this is "A Royal Problem."

NOTE: Because this episode is complex in content but simple in the number of pieces involved in its execution, this review will largely be divvied up into the main players involved, that being (1) Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, (2) Starlight Glimmer, and (3) Twilight Sparkle.  Miscellaneous items will be covered towards the end of the review, but the meat of the review will be found in covering these three characters.

The Royal Sisters: Princess Celestia and Princess Luna

So despite the Cutie Mark Map and Starlight Glimmer initiating this episode, this episode is really about Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.  As you can see below, I've labeled Starlight Glimmer not as the "Problem Resolver," but rather the "Problem Confronter," and that's because she really doesn't resolve things, and honestly that's not a bad thing.  I'll go into more detail about that later, but really, the primary actors here are Celestia and Luna, because ultimately they have to be the ones who resolve their differences.

Before I go any further, let me first just say that it is about damn time we FINALLY got an episode focused on both of these two, especially Celestia.  While Celestia did have a great appearance in the season premiere, it was still in the same role we've always largely seen her in, that of mentor; while it makes sense that Luna has had more appearances to date since she does have more personal issues to tackle than her sister, pretending like Celestia had no issues of her own would have risked making her out to be a Mary Sue.  While I still don't think that Celestia has as much to deal with in her personal life as her sister does, it is nice to finally see her flawed side as well, and really I just want to see even more after this of these two just doing sister-things together.

But back to the meat of things.  What is the problem they need to deal with?  Basically a sibling problem.  No really, that's it.  Even after Luna's return, they still haven't learned how to truly appreciate each other, mostly on a professional level.  They clearly love each other, but they run into a problem that many siblings can run into as they get older, busier, and more distant (while these two live in the same castle, they run an entire country and celestial bodies, so it's not hard to see how they might be more distant even living in such close proximity to each other): they fall out of touch with each other's lives, what the other is up to, the challenges and struggles they face on a daily basis, what their priorities and schedules are, and just forgetting how to make time for each other in general.  It's actually a very understandable problem especially for people who have siblings (especially those in two-child households like myself); keep in mind, in a two-child household with siblings not that far apart in age, your sibling is probably your first best friend, but also someone who as a kid you most likely live with on a daily basis and the best friend you are least worried about getting into spats big and small with because you know that, unless something REALLY bad happens, you'll still be loving each other at the end of the day.  After years of living together, you can easily take for granted the time you get to spend with one another, but before you know it you're growing up, moving away, and seeing each other far less than you used to.  This can be even harder than seeing parents less, because just as you tell or do things with parents that you wouldn't do with anybody else, you also talk about or do things with your sibling that you wouldn't do with anyone else, and they get you in a way that not even your parents can since they're usually pretty close to you in age.

So they're distant and don't appreciate what the other goes through on a regular basis, seems easy enough to resolve, right?  Well, not really, especially for these two.  I would argue that since they're the rulers of all of bucking Equestria, they like to think that this was either a problem that would either fix itself, or was not even a problem at all, just something they could ignore.  Most of the time in their daily lives they have to worry about what they can do for others, not necessarily what they need for themselves.  This made it easy for these issues to slip under their radar, though it's not untrue to siblings either; siblings often let problems between each other fester under the surface until they can't any long and they just explode.  This seems to be where Celestia and Luna were heading before Starlight intervened, and thank goodness she did because who knows how things may have exploded if she hadn't.  What doesn't help is that they literally operate polar-opposite daily schedules (although this episode left me confused as ever as to how much Luna does typically stay awake during the day; Celestia clearly sleeps at night, but Luna often makes daytime appearances, so what the buck is it?  I suppose that the most likely possibility is that she gets 7-8 hours of sleep after going to bed somewhere around 7 or 8 am, which would mean that the latest she's waking up typically would be at 4 pm, with possible exceptions to that rule, of course.  And if the situation really calls for it on special occasions, I'm sure she can get up around noon or early afternoon for special events and get some shuteye later in the day too), so they really only see each other normally in the morning, late afternoon, or early evening, and even then they're usually super busy.  They do, it should be noted, both do little kindnesses for the other, something which in my experience as a sibling older ones often do since they no longer have 24 hours a day to do something nice for their sibling; Celestia makes pancakes every morning for Luna, which always goes unacknowledged since Luna is really too tired to care and just wants to get to sleep, and Luna tries to make the castle as peaceful a place for others to sleep as possible, which Celestia can never really notice or acknowledge since she's usually still busy with kingdom affairs and is on her last leg of the day by that point.

After figuring out that this is how the situation is (doing some very good research I might add), Starlight of course does her old cutie mark-switcheroo on the two so that they have to see for at least a day how the other has to live their lives and what kind of struggles they have to put up with, just so they can appreciate what the other goes through.  Just what do they find out?  Basically that they have an older sibling-younger sibling dispute very much rooted in an old trope about older and younger siblings, that being who they are as a result of how they grew up.  Luna learns that Celestia, as the older sibling who has always taken the lead being the face of the two, largely has to devote most of her time and energy to fulfilling societal expectations, very similar to how older siblings and firstborns may often feel more pressure from their parents to succeed professionally.  Celestia needs to constantly worry about where she's going to be next, who she needs to help her with something, who needs her help, and doing all of this with the same calming, serene smile on all the time, even if it's not what she's feeling at the moment.  After a thousand years she's great at it, but what she's come to take for granted is the idea that her life is as hard as it could get.  What she craves from Luna is just some quiet moments where just the two of them can slow down and not be so perfect, just sisters doing sister things.  Celestia in turn starts to learn that Luna, as the younger sibling who has never garnered as much attention as her elder sister, largely devotes most of her time and energy to working behind the scenes, doing her most good in the Dreamscape, where she can assist ponies one-on-one in the deepest depths of their psyche.  She no longer craves the praise of her subjects as she once did before becoming Nightmare Moon, in fact she seems rather comfortable with working alone (something Princess Celestia clearly is not), but, as the more neglected publicly of the two, Luna resembles very much the archetype of the younger sibling whose parents put less pressure on them than their older sibling to succeed, and as a result they can often feel neglected.  Like this archetype, Luna does not seek affirmation from her subjects, at this point she just wants to help them (emphasized nicely by how much her botch of the fundraiser for a field trip for a bunch of foals bothered her so), but she does seek affirmation from those closest to her, and since her parents aren't still around, that happens to be her sister, her elder sibling and in a sense a semi-parental figure to a certain extent.

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After seeing what could be the extreme result of not resolving this problem, that being the return of Nightmare Moon and the emergence of Celestia's own dark side, Daybreaker (an extreme fear no doubt, especially considering Starlight is the one who dreamt it up, but nonetheless not outside the realm of possibility with such powerful beings), Celestia manages to defeat their demonic dream-selves (which works for me considering I would argue that Luna was having a harder time personally dealing with Celestia's neglect, or at least it was hurting her more, while Luna's neglect of Celestia was something Celestia was just trying to bury under a smile, not exactly too hard for her after centuries of wearing smiles day-in and day-out), and the two sisters proclaim and reaffirm their love for one another, resolving to make things right and make time for one another no matter how busy they may be, since, well, there's no pony more special to them than each other.  Their relationship is too unique and precious to squander, and you get the sense that even though it will be a lot of little things making up the bulk of it, that alone will be enough for those two to show each other how much the other truly does love them, plus it should make it easier to go about their own business every day.  A fantastic lesson learned by two characters who, although not the biggest messes in the world since they are so mature from centuries of life, do deserve more development than they have gotten considering they are easily two of the most complex characters on the show.  What more can I say other than everything with these two was perfection, plain and simple.

The Problem Confronter: Starlight Glimmer

There's not nearly as much to say about Starlight or Twilight, thankfully, but both did have pretty great episodes in their own ways.  For Starlight, this was the very first time the Cutie Mark Map has called her, and to top it off in another first it called her alone, the first time it has called anyone alone.  While this could have potentially fallen into the trap of "Ohhhhhhhh, Starlight Glimmer is too special to go with anypony else to solve a friendship problem," it actually was executed great here and made perfect sense.  We know the map seems to understand how both a character's strengths and weaknesses can help resolve a conflict, and it even seems to have some innate sense of how delicate situations may be.  In this case, the problem did not need someone who was going to be able to actively teach Celestia and Luna what they were doing wrong (not entirely at least) so much as somepony who could confront the problem in the first place, make it known to Celestia and Luna that they were having problems.  Starlight was oddly well-positioned for this; unlike Twilight she didn't have any particularly close attachment to Celestia or Luna, but she's about as observant and measured as Twilight can be as well, making her ideal for identifying that a problem exists in the first place, studying the situation more closely, identifying what the problem is, and confronting both sisters about it.  She was also ideal, oddly enough, for forcing these two to confront their problem head on, more so because of who she is than anything else.  It's not hard for Starlight to imagine worst case scenarios, but for very different reasons than Twilight; Twilight almost always considers in even the most banal situations what a worst case scenario could be just because it's who she is.  It's just another thing on her checklists that she takes into account.  Starlight, on the other hand, tries not to worry about worst case scenarios most of the time because if she does, she knows that she's going to spiral into a deep spell of depression and anxiety.  Why?  Because she was at the heart of a worst case scenario when she was a tyrant and almost destroyed Equestria to boot.  Normally she has a pretty good lid on these anxieties, but it's not hard to see why she easily fell into these anxieties here.  After all, she was dealing with a problem that not even Twilight herself had ever confronted involving the two most powerful rulers in all of Equestria, so given that her frighteningly real (to her) nightmare involved the Royal Sisters spiraling in their hatred for each other into Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, it's clear that she would have held such a scenario to be her own failure.  Her anxiety inadvertently forced Celestia and Luna to remember how much their subjects depend on them, which means they even depend on the two of them maintaining harmony between one another.  So while she may not have ultimately taught them the lesson or fixed things single-hoofedly, Starlight nonetheless was the best pony to initiate the confrontation of and resolution of Celestia and Luna's squabbling, even if she herself quickly realized that it would take them more than her since she was, even early on, quite in over her head.  A very good episode for Starlight all around, in a very odd way at that considering her ultimate contributions were, to a certain extent, pretty limited beyond giving Celestia and Luna the tools to patch things up between one another.

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Starlight Glimmer looks far cuter while eating pancakes than anypony should, at least for the sake of the audiences' health

The Beleaguered Comic Relief: Twilight Sparkle

This episode found Twilight in a place we very rarely see her, especially these days: primary comic relief while being a supporting character!  It's rare enough for her to be the primary comic relief in an episode nowadays, but usually even when she is she's still the main character.  Here she was most definitely a supporting character and very deliberately did not have anything much to contribute towards fixing things, which is where most of her humor stemmed from.  We already know that Twilight absolutely hates the idea that there are problems she can't help out with or tackle herself, but it was even more maddening for her to think that there might be something wrong with her precious mentor and her sister which she could not help resolve.  Of course, the fact that Celestia is such a beloved mentor to her is exactly why she couldn't help; she hold Celestia on a pedestal, even more than most ponies typically do, and while this usually isn't a problem, here it would have been.  Compounded with the fact that she has had to help Luna with many personal problems in the past, it's not hard to imagine that Twilight could have easily thought that Luna alone was to blame for these problems, not the both of them.

Thankfully, her displeasure and anxiety at these circumstances leads to some splendid OCD-Twilight freakout moments.  The best running gag of the whole episode (and one of the funniest running gags this whole season so far) was the spell Twilight used to animate some kind of ballet figurine on a music box or something, which ended up being as hilarious as it was creepy.  I especially enjoyed that the Royal Guards by Starlight could easily hear her talking to Twilight and thought that she was going insane.  Besides that, Twilight didn't do much else but spend most of the episode freaking out, but to her credit she did trust the map and let Starlight go on her own in the first place, and it's not like she gave Starlight any bad advice, even if none of her advice turned out particularly helpful either.  All in all, while hardly a serious appearance for Twilight, it was a splendidly funny one!

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I like to think that Twilight was freaking out from this so much that she spent about two straight days maintaining that spell so that she never missed a moment that Starlight was in her room... 'tis a most amusing thought, indeed! :orly:

Miscellaneous Items

-The pacing of this episode was absolutely fantastic and proof that fast-paced does not always equal frantic or dumbed down.  There was a ton to fit into this one, but the episode managed to do so without ever feeling like it rushed or didn't cover something properly by largely staying on point, not having any subplot outside of the few times Twilight conversed with Starlight, and keeping the focus on a handful of characters.  Excellently fast-paced episode and kudos to the writers on a job well done there!

-I love little details like the fact that Celestia makes pancakes (or some kind of nice breakfast) every morning.  While it initially might sound like some kind of Mary Sue character trait, it actually invites closer inspection from the viewer.  Upon further consideration, it does not seem like Celestia makes her other meals on a regular basis (probably because she's so busy normally during lunch and dinner, and run-ragged by the time dinner arrives), just breakfast.  I like this detail for a couple of reasons.  For starters, it probably started as something she did because she knows the value of a good breakfast for starting your day off right, and eventually it warped into a peaceful little routine of hers that she seems to enjoy doing by herself.  A little something that's only hers and helps her start her day off right.  Considering this, it makes her gesture of making Luna breakfast every morning all the more touching; it's clearly a nice little way she tried to reconnect with her sister, even if Celestia focused more on its convenience for her as well as what it means to her rather than if it would make any sense to her sister.

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Mmmmmmmm... hey, Celly, if Luna doesn't want any I'll totally have some panca-

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Damn it, Celly, don't just throw the pancakes away!  I'm sure one of your servants or guards would enjoy what appear to be heavenly pancakes!!! :angry:

-Speaking of breakfast, I kind of adore that Luna just DOESN'T do breakfast.  Don't get me wrong, I love breakfast and it's sad that anyone wouldn't enjoy it, but let's keep in mind what it means to Luna.  Let's say ponies are typically in bed between 9 and 10 (late night exceptions notwithstanding).  That means Luna is working essentially a 10 hour shift in which she's monitoring the dreams of every pony in Equestria, one-on-one.  By the time she gets off, breakfast to her is the same as what dinner is to some poor schmuck who just worked a full shift and is getting home after 8 pm, ready to have nothing but a frozen meal he can make in five minutes and just fuel himself with.  I absolutely died when she bit right into the side of a pineapple and ate a banana peel (girl must have a stomach of steel, though I couldn't help but think she was also trying to spite Celestia just a tad both times), and her I don't give a buck face made it even better!  The cherry on top was when she made the shittiest pancakes ever, which again, makes sense, but hopefully from this point on she'll be more willing to have actually good breakfasts with her sister, and get to spend some quality time with her to boot.

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She either REALLY hates pancakes, really hates Celestia's pancakes, or just wanted to prove how much stronger her bite strength is than Celestia's.  JAWS OF STEEL ON THAT MARE!!!

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AND A STOMACH OF STEEL TO BOOT!  That's just... noooooooooo, Luna, noooooooooo.  Why you do that poor banana that way, what that banana ever do to you?

Also, dat sibling death glare... drink it in, folks, because it is terrifying.  Note to self, NEVER say no to Celestia's pancakes.

-The 'talking to themselves' bit between Celestia and Luna was handled masterfully.  If they'd done it poorly, we would have seen Luna doing it earlier, then Celestia, THEN they would have been like at the end "Were you talking to yourself???"  But the way they did it here was so much better.  We first saw Celestia doing so when she was trying to do Luna's duties, which was made even funnier considering you realized just how much she relies in her professional work on working with others, and how weird working in solitude is for her.  But when Luna said to her at the end "Did you talk to yourself," that suggested that Luna does the same, and I LOVED that that's how they showed us that.  Heck, I could totally relate because I ALWAYS talk to myself, in fact, I love it, I don't understand why some people think it's weird talking to yourself when you're all alone.  Heck, it's my favorite time to vent about anything because I don't have to lash out with my most extreme emotions at anyone when they're actually there.

-I really need to know now if Twilight really does know ballet.  I know it's just the object she was using, but she looks too cute in a ballet outfit for me not to know.

-Luna's dream was bucking terrifying.  Between the creepy foals surrounding her in a dimly lit room and her bucking TEETH falling out, holy shit, that was all downright bone-chilling.  That was wayyyyyy creepier than anything in Starlight's dream.

-Daybreaker has a very distinct personality from both Nightmare Moon and Celestia.  She's about as campy and over-the-top as Nightmare Moon, but just as Nightmare Moon as a lot of the same self esteem issues as Luna, Daybreaker takes Celestia's general confidence to an extraordinary level of contemptuousness and pride.  Like Celestia, she is very sure of herself, but in a prideful manner that leads her to reject the notion of needing anyone else at all, and only needing power.  Whereas Nightmare Moon in a twisted sort of way still wants to be loved, even if it means enslaving ponies into loving her out of fear, Daybreaker couldn't care less what others think of her and is clearly happy to just flaunt her power.  Overall, whereas Nightmare Moon represents a cold, distant Order based on devotion to her and her cold, distant Moon alone, conversely Daybreaker represents a fiery, raging Chaos based on trampling all who would dare challenge her or just the idea that she couldn't handle and control everything there was to handle with her power and her Sun.  Her design was pretty awesome too, while I'm at it, and it was great seeing the show daring to go such a dark place as it did in Starlight's nightmare.

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"Mwahahahahahah, bow before me mortals, behold all these flame wars on Twitter I totally started!  See the destruction I have wrought online and quiver in fear of my ability to anger others with my unbearable s***-talking and trolling ways!!!  NYANYANYANYANYANYANYAAAAAAAAAAAAA, I'M SO EVIL!!!" :bedeyes:

Sweet Celestia, she truly is an unspeakable evil unlike any other! :o

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-I really want Celestia's pancakes now because they looked so delicious.  Also, I think this might explain why Twilight loves pancakes.

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Luna's, on the other hoof, I will pass on

"Oh... they're... lovely, Luna." :sunbutt:

"Oh I know they're not, I just wanted you to have as s**tty a breakfast as I usually do!" :orly:

-The dream bubbles floating past Celestia was one of the best parts of the whole episode.  On the funny side of things, we got (1) Discord in a pillow fight with the Smooze, (2) Cadance jamming out with DJ Flurry Heart (and I have no bucking idea who was dreaming that one), (3) Pinkie Pie surfing on Gummy, (4) Fluttershy on a giant Angel Bunny (come to think of it, the idea of a giant Angel Bunny is kind of terrifying), (5) Flim and Flam swimming in loads of bits Scrooge McDuck style, and (6) best of all, HER ROYAL LORDSHIP, EMPRESS DERPY, FIRST OF HER NAME, LONG MAY SHE REIGN!!!  On the sadder side of things, we had (1) Doctor Whooves with what appeared to be a Weeping Angel, and (2) most bucking importantly of all, APPLEJACK AS A BABY CRADLED IN THE ARMS OF HER PARENTS!!!  I don't know if AJ was dreaming this or if Granny Smith was, but this is the closest we've ever come to seeing them, and it's as important as it is sad.  Her dad appears to be pear green (very much like Granny Smith) and her mother appears to be grey or tan.  Very similar to some of the background information we got about Derpy and other characters in "Parental Glideance," this has just put the death of AJ's parents once again front and center to AJ's character, and central to how she's turned out like she has.  If this is supposed to be set-up for the episode later on this season which will be focused on how her parents met, I have to say that I am loving it DHX, please give me MORE!

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-Luna getting tired from smiling was too funny.  Don't have much else beyond that, I just think it was hilarious how hard it was for her to do it all day.

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-I love that both Celestia and Luna turned on their sibling-sass the second they switched places and made it a competition as to who could handle the other's duties most easily.  That's just such a sibling thing to do and I could easily see myself doing that with my sister in similar circumstances.

-Starlight's "Heheheheheheh, oh buck, I may have just pissed off the two most powerful rulers in the world, please don't blast my flank to the moon or the sun" face after impulsively switching Celestia and Luna's cutie marks was perfect and I don't blame her for freaking out after what she did.

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Dat moment you're this close to getting sent to the moon and the sun at the same time :catface:

-Luna's facial expressions, particularly whenever she was tired in the morning after a long night of working, were too funny and I could look at them all day!

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"Get that bucking thing outta my face."

"I'm not touching you!  I'm not touching you!"

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, memories... this makes me want to start randomly poking my sister in the arm for no reason other than to her annoy her :D

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And now, Batbrony proudly presents, "Drunk Luna Ain't Got Time For Your S***"

"Ah will boop you whenever I want as much as I want, Miss Twilight-Sparkle-with-Aqua-Highlights!  Ya know why?  Cause I'm the bucking Princess of the Night and just spent a whole night protecting your dreams AGAIN!  If ah wanted to, I could let your dreams drive you BUCKING insane with a flick of my wrist, no joke, you want Lovecraftian horrors up the ying yang, well that's what you'll get if you don't GIVE ME MAH BOOPS!!!"

"I don't understand, I just asked her if she could pass an apple over!"

"Well that was your real mistake, Luna's very protective of her fruit."

-I very much liked that neither Celestia or Luna were completely bad at what the other did.  Luna only screwed up at two tasks while doing just fine with the others and ultimately Celestia acquitted herself just fine in the Dreamscape.  A more annoying version of this kind of episode would have taken the blatant "Town Mouse - Country Mouse" approach of having them just fail at everything that the other normally does, and with characters that powerful, that just wouldn't make sense.

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That being said, it is quite clear that unlike her sister, Luna is not a fan of checklists... and suddenly I now know where Twilight's checklist-fetish comes from... why am I not surprised by this? :maud:

-At first I thought it was just plain stupid that Celestia and Luna haven't confronted this problem sooner.  It didn't bother me because I wanted this episode very badly, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it's actually justified.  You see, we know that years have passed in show-time since the show began.  Well, with most ponies pushing off such a problem that long wouldn't make sense.  The thing is, Celestia and Luna are immortal alicorns, so for them, time probably has different meaning than it does to normal ponies.  Years passing before they talk to each other about something personal probably doesn't feel like that long of a time for those two, so really, if one considers that, it actually makes sense that they would have allowed these circumstances to stay buried beneath the surface and just continue to annoy them more and more over the years, festering.

-Overall, this is one of those rare episodes that, for me, is just perfect in every which way.  It's perfect in knowing what it was and what it set out to do, remaining laser-focused on those goals no matter how fast the pace got, and ultimately being everything it possibly could be in knowing itself and embracing itself for what it was.  After the last two episodes, I love so much being able to say that.

That's all I've got for ya, everypony!  Hopefully, like I said earlier, now that this episode has happened we'll get more episodes starring Celestia and Luna!  I'd eat that up even if it was just "A Day in the Life of the Princesses" kinda deal where we see them just doing their own thing together, including activities as sisters.  But for now, until next time, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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D'awwwwwwwwwwww, is a wittle Daybreaker!!!  WHO'S A CUTE SUN TYRANT, WHO'S A CUTE SUN TYRANT?  YOU ARE!  YES, YOU ARE!!! :wub:

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"Mornings... not even once."

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ALL GLORY BE TO EMPRESS DERPY!  LONG MAY SHE REIGN!!!

Batbrony

Ahhhhhhhh, good evening everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Well, this week's episode review should be shorter and considerably less angry than last week's for a few reasons: (1) this episode was far less infuriating, (2) I'm in a splendid mood after seeing "Wonder Woman" this weekend, and (3) I need to write a shorter episode review in general.  So without further ado, let's begin and dive into "Honest Apple."

Now, while this episode is far superior to the dreck that we got last week, it was not without its problems.  My friend Jeric boiled it down nicely yesterday when he said to me that the main problem is that we had "Season 1 Applejack interacting with Season 7 Rarity," and I have to agree.  Applejack was behaving uncharacteristically OOC, and immature even; I'd even say that I'd have a hard time believing Season 1 Applejack would act this way, even with Rarity when they weren't quite as close.  It's not simply an issue of not taking her friend or her feelings and concerns into consideration, Applejack just displayed zero tact or discretion whatsoever, and that's just not like her.  I could buy Rainbow Dash in earlier seasons behaving like this, but never AJ; her element may be the Element of Honesty, but that doesn't mean she's blunt to the point of not considering the feeling of others.  She understands holding one's tongue, in fact, she's always been the small town ideal of just that; if she's uncomfortable with something, she'll usually have a subtle, wry, blunt comment to make about it, or just hold her tongue if the situation calls for it.  Whoever wrote this wrote her like a country bumpkin with no appreciation for higher culture (heck, at one point she's flat out insulting the work of Coco Pommel, a genuinely good friend of hers!), and in our current political climate I don't exactly appreciate those stereotypes being displayed when many of those stereotypes are how we got to such a polarized state in our country in the first place, especially when it's a betrayal of who this character is.  On top of that, she's uncharacteristically stupid as well; we know that AJ understands the idea of wearing clothes in different contexts and settings, not just for work or practical business (and sometimes fancier dress is required FOR business), because AJ herself has worn such outfits for such special occasions many times, much of it made by Rarity!  She may not get the art side of fashion, but she understands its appeal, that it has appeal, and that it's a whole other industry of its very own.  She doesn't walk around with this "If I don't get it it must be stupid and irrelevant" attitude that so many people seem to revel in these days.  It's a disappointing missed opportunity, because there was a great episode to be had here, it just needed some tweaking is all, especially considering RariJack is my favorite pair of friends in the Mane 6 and can be such a joy to watch when they are done right.  So yeah, not happy at all with AJ, and even less so when I consider that it was done in the name of making the lesson the writers had in mind work.

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Sad AJ is sad, that's what happens when you write her badly, writers!

So what is the lesson you might ask?  Well, it's basically an indictment of Internet s*** talking.  No really, I'm serious, the whole lesson is about watching what you say or how you say something to others, especially when critiquing something they've done or made.  You can't just consider your own thoughts or feelings when doing so, you need to take into account how your words are going to affect the person you're talking to as well.

Now, normally I'd have no problem with this lesson.  I mean, people not knowing how to be civil with each other or even display the most basic decency to each other on the Internet is a big reason people tend to get so heated with each other these days.  So on its face, the lesson is a good one.  However, here's why it doesn't work in this particular context.  The lesson was forced, at the expense of making any sense whatsoever.  We already went into how it forced AJ to be incredibly OOC, but it also doesn't make sense in the setting either.  The thing about this lesson is that it applies most to Internet communication because it's incredibly easy to dehumanize or become desensitized to the feelings of someone you're talking with online when all you see is a screen in front of you.  This episode, however, is all about face-to-face interactions, and the thing about face-to-face interactions is that people, especially genuinely decent people like AJ, tend to be far more sensitive to the feelings of others when talking in person to someone.  Only people who genuinely have no lid on what they say, either because they're that insensitive or have some kind of personality disorder, have no filter when talking directly to others.  So really, while the lesson was good, it just made no sense that it had to be taught to AJ of all people under these circumstances.

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This troll, however, was HILARIOUS!

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So now that the biggest issues are out of the way, what worked in this episode?  Well Rarity is the most obvious choice.  Her choice of AJ as a judge was creative but also showed her trust of her arguably closest friend (as well as understanding of her strengths), it was incredibly generous of her to organize an event like this to help others break into the fashion industry she loves so much, and her level of maturity displayed the whole episode was great.  She reprimanded AJ when she deserved it, but wasn't unduly harsh, plus her way of teaching AJ how she bucked up was hilarious and witty (also, Strawberry Sunrise is a hilarious s*** talker when it comes to apples).  Her biggest issue is that this conflict should not have been one sided; the ideal situation would have been both AJ and Rarity made mistakes to a certain extent.  AJ should have been uncomfortable with the judging and not sure what to say since she didn't know how to fit in, and Rarity should have not been aware of AJ's concerns for most of the episode.  That way they would have had something to teach each other.  She wasn't quite Mary Sue levels here, I can buy Rarity being this mature, it's just the conflict felt forced since one character suffered so much in order to make it happen, and it didn't do Rarity any favors either in doing so.

But oh well, the episode more than made up for it by giving Rarity the most amazing 10 seconds of the episode!

I have no idea where the buck that came from, but I want more of it!!!  All I know is that Rarity apparently has FANTASTIC methods of stress relief and venting!  SHRED GIRL, SHRED!!! :D

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As for the rest of the episode, it was pleasant enough.  I enjoyed that it was largely set in Ponyville, specifically the Canterlot Boutique and the Ponyville business district.  The return of Photo Finish and Hoity Toity (in speaking roles, no less) was positively delightful, and I very much liked all three of the up and coming fashion designer ponies as well (especially, for some odd reason, the valley girl one; very strange for me since I usually hate that character type in cartoon shows, but here for some reason I thought it was adorable and hilarious.  Possibly because the writers seemed aware of the stereotypes of the valley girl trope and seemed to playfully be poking fun at them while still making the character endearing by, you know, actually being good at stuff).

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'Lit'rally' intensifies!!!

The set up and conclusion for the episode were both lovely, and the fashion show (along with the instrumentals that sounded very reminiscent of the fashion show in Season 1's "Suited for Success") made this episode feel like a spiritual successor to some extent to "Suited for Success" even.  But because of the problems that I cited earlier with both AJ and the forced nature of the lesson, what should have been a good to even great episode ended up just OK.  That's a damn shame, but it's nowhere near as infuriating as last week's wretchedness.  That's all I've got for ya tonight, everypony!  Until next week, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

To end things off, let's just have a bunch of pics from the better moments of the episode...

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And finally, the 10 seconds we will always remember from this episode :orly:

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Beautiful :love:

Batbrony

Hey kids, it's your friendly, neighborhood Batbrony!  Gee whiz, another Saturday, another new episode of MLP, boy oh boy I sure am excited!  Well, let's embark on what shall surely be an enlightening and fulfilling experience for all of us and watch another new episode of our favorite show, MLP!!!

*one episode of I don't know what the buck I just watched later*

:wacko:...

No really, what in the hell did I just watch?  Because it sure as hay wasn't MLP!  Uh-uh, I refuse to call that MLP, not in a thousand years would I call that MLP!  What was that piece of ass strutting around pretending to be MLP?!?!  Guys... I have to tell you.  I never thought this day would come, and I really hoped it wouldn't, but, it is official... after five years of "MMMMystery on the Friendship Express" being my worst episode of MLP ever, I... I now have a new worst.  It is this.  Fillies and gentlecolts, "Hard to Say Anything" is... it is only TECHNICALLY the worst MLP episode I've ever seen, because I still refuse to consider this abomination to be an actual episode of MLP.  It. Is. That. Bad.  There is no truly easy way to sum up everything that hurts about this episode, so I'm just going to have to go through the whole episode from beginning to end, sharing exactly what I'm thinking as I first watched this... thing.  Well... here goes nothing.  This is *throws up in his mouth a little* "Hard to Say Anything."

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Alright, so things start off with the CMC getting some old costumes!  Well, nothing wrong with that really, seems a bit odd that they'd be excited about that at this age, but OK, I'll bite.  Well then it turns out that the "costumes" are a clown wig, a pirate hat, and mustache-gag-glasses.  Uhhhhhhhhhhh, guys, you do realize that even five-year-olds know those aren't costumes, right???  Well as long as it's just some throwaway gag I guess it's no big- wait, what's that?  These stupid not-costumes are a crucial plot-device that keep getting brought up throughout the episode?  Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... why?  I mean, really, why?  The CMC (as demonstrated multiple times, including the past two episodes) are at a point in their lives where they're mentally and emotionally mature enough to solve problems with their intellect and by reasoning things through.  The last time they needed costumes for anything was when they tried to get their cutie marks in a talent show, and (1) those were actual costumes that they made, (2) they were younger, and (3) it was just a bucking talent show and one of dozens if not hundreds of things they tried to do to get their cutie marks, not a potentially life changing situation like in today's episode!  OK, so... not exactly off to a great start now, are we?  Well, what comes next?

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Wowwwwwwww, that... yeah, that looks pretty bad guys.  Frankly, your apple disguise in this episode was a better disguise than these...

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...and that should tell you everything you need to know about how these work as disguises

OK, Big Mac's here, and we learn he's taking some apples off to Starlight's old village for the fifth time in a single week.  First of all, that doesn't seem possible for a number of reasons.  First, the Mane 6 had to take a bucking train to originally get there when they first found the village.  Because, ya know, it's in a pretty remote part of Equestria, and all.  Big Mac, as far as we can tell, is just dragging his bucking apple cart all the way there.  Second, Sweetie Belle distinctly mentions later in the episode that it was a long ride, so once again, I find it difficult to believe that even Big Mac could get to a location that is most likely hundreds of miles away five times in a single week just by dragging his heavy apple cart around.  He may be strong but even he can appreciate and take advantage of the convenience of a train when the situation warrants it!  But anyways, it clearly doesn't seem like that's why he's going, something which the girls quickly notice.  Do they notice because they reason amongst themselves that it's downright odd that Big Mac would be making so many trips?  Well, kind of, but not really.  Really the big factor that leads any of them to conclude that Mac is up to something is Scootaloo saying she noticed him blushing, which just seems... dumber.  I mean, who really ever notices anyone blushing unless they're right in their face?  It's not like the blush alone was the only give away that something weird was going on, the CMC could've easily concluded that just by reasoning alone, but no, instead they figured it out because of something really stupid and cliche like noticing Big Mac blushing from a distance.  Then they make some really stupid bucking guesses about why he's making so many trips and decide to tag along to spy on him.  Not only is this decision made in a span of 10 seconds, but the CMC also decide that the best way to go about this is to lug along their "costumes" as "disguises" so that they'll "for realsies be spies guys, like, totally, they're totes legit now!"  So now they're not pretending to be spies, they actually think they are being spies by dressing up in a clown wig, a pirate hat, and mustache gag-glasses... I would say this feels like something that S1/S2 CMC would do, but that feels like it would be insulting to S1/S2 CMC.  In fact, I'm sure it would be insulting to them.

Alright, so they get to Starlight's old village and what do they find?  Well, it appears that Big Mac has a crush on Sugar Belle, that cute unicorn from the S5 premiere who used to bake nothing but muffins during Starlight's old reign but is now the resident baker and is having the time of her life baking all kinds of yummy treats, many of which "conveniently" require apples to bake, and since they don't exactly have many apple trees in the area, she has to evidently order quite a few from the Apples (though admittedly it even appears that she has more than she needs, BUT she keeps ordering them on a regular basis and, during this segment, is clearly giving Big Mac some verbal and physical cues, and more than a few suggestive looks).  I'll be honest, this introduction to these two works for me.  Sugar Belle is as adorable as ever, the two seem to be going through the flirty, bubbly, butterflies-in-your stomach phase of a relationship RIGHT when it's on the edge of blossoming into a full blown one, and their chemistry is pretty infectious in this initial scene.  This beg's the question however, WHAT'S THE BUCKING PROBLEM!!! :angry:

No, really, what is the problem?  Even the CMC notice that Sugar Belle is as into Big Mac as he is into her, and really their initial encouragement that he just go and talk to her wasn't bad advice.  Heck, they even point out that he didn't have a real first crush with Cheerilee considering it was a love potion, which, if you think about it, is kind of the pony-equivalent of a magical roofie. :unsure:  That's more than a little uncomfortable to think about and probably a big reason the writers decided to never go forward with making CheeriMac into a canon pairing; there would always have been questions, very uncomfortable ones, about whether or not their initial relationship was set off by first getting together when they were magically roofied, and frankly those are questions that shouldn't be asked in this show.  So why I always did think that CheeriMac was a cute ship and am sad myself to see it die officially, I can understand why they would kill it and don't mind that, of all the ponies to pair him with, they chose Sugar Belle.  That's actually a creative choice, really!  She's not a local in Big Mac's hometown, and she's not a member of the Mane 6 or even a major character; she's just a random supporting character in a town very far away from Ponyville, which adds an interesting, long-distance relationship dynamic to her and Big Mac's pairing.  Really, when we look at this episode from the outside, this is not just a good set-up, but an incredibly promising set-up for a really, really cool status-quo changer in this show that could have been so, so good.  So what went wrong?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I'll tell ya what went wrong.  We've had shades of what's going to be so, so wrong up to this point, from some of the poor logic exercised by the CMC (namely those bucking stupid "costumes" they keep insisting are disguises, I swear I cringe every time Scootaloo puts that giant clown wig on and insists she's being a spy) but the moment Big Mac tries to express his feelings for Sugar Belle for the first time, this is where the s*** really hits the fan for the first time.

You see, when Big Mac tries to do something that should have just been a routine stage in starting a relationship which, by all accounts, was on the brink of starting anyway... this guy shows up...

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Stop flipping your hair you obnoxious son of a turd's excrement :okiedokieloki:

This... is Feather Bangs, or as I like to call him, "Piece of Lazy S*** Excuse for Giving This Plot a Contrived as Buck Conflict."  Just... just look at him.  Breathe it in, folks, breathe the stench of fail that is this character in.  Where do I even start?  How about his introduction, or rather lack of one!  Yeah, this guy has no build up whatsoever!  We aren't told who he is, what he does, why the buck he has a crush on Sugar Belle (seriously, not once, he just seems to want to get with someone for the sake of getting with someone), or where the buck he even came from!  I ended this episode still not knowing whether or not he always lived in Starlight's old village, moved there only recently, or if he even lives there at all!  So yeah, HE HAS NO INTRODUCTION!!!  He just shows up and starts flirting shamelessly with Sugar Belle.  And you want to know what the really bucked up thing is?  SHE SEEMS INTO IT!!  WHY???  Two seconds ago she was eyeing Big Mac up and down and "accidentally" bumping her snout into his!  NOW she's into this tool???  Why is this so?  Why, why, why, why, why????????

I'll tell you why!  LAZINESS!!! GRADE A LAZINESS!!!!  Let's take a look at the "special" writer of this episode, shall we?  The writer of this episode is a first time MLP-writer by the name of Becky Wangberg.  Ya wanna know what else she's worked on?  The Fairly OddParents and a bunch of other no-name shows, most of which seem to be on Nickelodeon.  Now let me say this; Fairly OddParents at one point was a good show, much like SpongeBob Squarepants was.  But also just like SpongeBob, Fairly OddParents lasted too long and got driven into the ground by Nickelodeon's insistence that they keep churning it out, and eventually became a shallow excuse of a kids show.  More importantly for the purposes of our beloved MLP, I would never want ANY writer for Fairly OddParents touching MLP with a 10-foot pole because the shows are completely different from each other!  Fairly OddParents was almost always a comedy-show first and foremost, actual lessons were largely an afterthought.  And when it was good at that, it was just fine!  When it was bad at it, it was badddddddd.  But MLP has never, ever, EVER been a comedy-show alone; it has had episodes that place more emphasis on the comedy than anything else, but for the most part it usually tries to teach kids and adults alike smart but also accessible lessons.  They may sometimes be simple, but the execution is usually so good that one can't help but appreciate the efforts that went into teaching these lessons, and many times the lessons are very complex.  This episode was not just an opportunity to teach a good lesson about starting a romantic relationship, but was also a status quo changer for a major supporting character on the show.  So who do they give it to?  A veteran MLP writer?  OF COURSE NOT, THEY GAVE IT TO A FIRST TIME SHOW WRITER WHO HAS NOTHING ON HER RESUME THAT WOULD SUGGEST IN THE SLIGHTEST THAT SHE WAS QUALIFIED TO HANDLE THIS EPISODE!!! :angry:  If there is one thing that defines this episode more than anything else, it is how much the laziness put into the writing defines it.  It is a laziness we are unaccustomed to seeing in this show, and it is quite remarkable how much said laziness, something you might more typically see in a show like Fairly OddParents today, brings down a treasure of a show like MLP so, so much.  I will discuss this laziness later, but suffice to say that it is present, it is at the core of what's wrong with this episode, and it brings it down so, so, SO low!

Alright, so... picking up where I left off, Justin Bieber as a pony shows up (man, I really wish I never had to say that), acts like a dumbass, and for some reason Sugar Belle now likes this.  So Big Mac panics, because... Feather Bangs can juggle???

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Anyways, he panics and the CMC decide to help.  Heck, they even make a point of assuring him that they are MUCH more mature than they were the last time they tried to help him with his love life and would NEVER think of magically roofieing him or Sugar Belle!  Well that's good, so do they suggest he do anything competent?  HA HA HA, you poor bastards give this episode too much credit if you think they do!  No, the characters who are probably late tweens or early teenagers by now (seriously, two weeks ago we had Sweetie Belle telling us she was into experimental theater right now, make up your mind show!) suggest that he do things as one would... in a fairy tale.

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This is dumb.  OK.  It's dumb.  I don't want anyone telling me that the characters who tried to figure out if a griffon could somehow have a cutie mark, have time and time again tackled their own insecurities and feelings of failure and inadequacy, and are now helping other ponies do the same on a regular basis, would suggest that someone should try to get into a relationship by doing things as a Prince Charming would in a fairy tale in SEASON 7 OF THIS SHOW!!!  Heck, I don't think they would in Season 1 or Season 2 either, but Season 7??? REALLY???  Guys, if you wanted to do the "Character A needs help expressing his feelings to and starting a relationship with Character B with the help of Character C" trope, why did you pick the CMC in the first place?  The only circumstance in which they should have been the ones helping Big Mac out with his love life is if he and Cheerilee were for real getting together; that would have been an interesting opportunity for the CMC to make up for their past mistake when they tried to force them together.  But why are they here???  They don't know this town, they don't know Sugar Belle, and none of them have ever been in any relationship, SO WHY ARE THEY THE ONES HELPING HIM???  A friend and I agreed after this episode that it would have made far more sense if either (1) Starlight Glimmer, or (2) Applejack were helping Big Mac in this situation than the CMC.  First, they're both older so presumably at least know a little more about relationships by virtue of age alone.  Second, they both know the town and Sugar Belle, as well as Big Mac; Starlight Glimmer is at least sort of friends with him, and Applejack is his middle sister who can easily take charge of a situation at a moment's notice.  Either of these two would have easily been able to contribute more here than the CMC could, especially the CMC as they're being written HERE!

OK, so first up, they try to concoct a false peril for Sugar Belle by having Scootaloo feign stealing her saddlebag.  Can I just say I've never liked this trope?  Anyone willing to create a false, EMERGENCY situation to attract a girl's attention, well... that comes off as douchey... at best.  At worst, it comes off as a little creepy even.  Maybe even cowardly.  Point is, how much do you really care about someone if your icebreaker is MANIPULATING them?!  Anyways, it doesn't work, because once again Feather Bangs pops out of nowhere and intercepts (literally) Big Mac's save.  How he does this, I don't know.  Once again, there is no explanation for his seemingly just knowing when Big Mac is about to try to make a move, or why he gives a buck!  He's just there, and the thing that makes Sugar Belle falling for this even dumber is that she could see plain as day that Big Mac was about to catch her saddlebag before he even did!  SHE KNOWS HE INTERCEPTED BIG MAC'S SAVE AND STILL SEEMS INTO IT!!!  WHY?!?!?!?!  His douche baggery was just on full display for all to see!!!  Oh wait, I know, sing it with me kids, LAZY WRITING!!!

So next, the CMC, HOLY CRAP---- :love:

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D'awwwwwwwwwwwwwww, you're so cute!!!  Who's a cute sweepy pony, WHO'S A CUTE SWEEPY PONY?  YOU ARE!  YES, YOU ARE!!! :pinkie:

Ahem, anyways, the CMC decide that the best thing for Big Mac to do is... kiss Sugar Belle awake because that's what fairy tale princes do??? :confused:

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:sunbutt:...

:sunbutt:...

Uh oh...

So like a smart person, Big Mac says that that's creepy and nowhere near reflecting where they're at in their relationship- oh no, he goes along with it.  Wait, what?

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Uh, Big Mac...

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Dude, seriously, stop!

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Well, what did ya think was gonna happen you creepy dumbass!!!

OK, people, in a different show the sequence of screen shots I just showed you could EASILY be the start of a VERY different sequence of events in, say, a show like Law and Order: SVU!  Let's put this in perspective.  Kissing someone awake is... not exactly something that many people except for the closest of couples do, like, couples living together, and even then it's not something they do on a regular basis.  But are Big Mac and Sugar Belle a couple at this point?  NOPE!!  They are (although having flirted quite heavily already) technically just business acquaintances and nothing more at this point in the show.  So what he just tried to do?  Yeah, I'm calling it, that's attempted sexual assault in a public space and this episode is too stupid to even realize it!  I don't care that it doesn't work, the show does not understand HOW bad what he just tried to do is.  Throughout the episode they keep mentioning that the love potion was a REALLY bad thing, but this?  This is played for laughs, and frankly, this is a million times worse than the love potion was even if one considers it a magical roofie.  The love potion was a bad idea from kids who don't understand what makes for a healthy relationship, but this is a grown ass adult who has actual romantic intentions for a pony who, at this point, does not return said intentions.  He is attempting to kiss her without her prior knowledge in a public space without her consent.  THAT. IS. ASSAULT!!!  YOU DUMBASS WRITER!!!!!

So obviously Sugar Belle freaks out (because what the buck else would you do if a dude you kinda like but aren't in a relationship with was leering over you as you slept in a public space and about to kiss you without your knowing, I mean, REALLY GUYS!!), but then, who should show up but Douchey McDouchemane, I mean, Feather Bangs (gosh I hate that name... also his name doesn't really make much sense since he's not even a pegasus, what the buck).  He offers her a random carriage ride, and she seems to happily accept; buck me, at this point she's giving him the same kind of eyes she was giving Big Mac earlier in the episode, so she seems to be pretty into him.  I would be madder about her going along with his schtick, but frankly, he was the far less creepy one in this scene, and that's pretty badddddddddddddd.

So finally, the CMC decide that Big Mac should try to win her over with a love song.  Granted, it's cliche but frankly it's a breath of fresh air (at least in theory) after the night terror we were just presented with in Mac's last disastrous attempt.  And honestly the song isn't that bad at first.  It's nothing special, but it's pretty sweet (aside from the whole sneaking into her store thing and closing the door while turning the lights off), and Sugar Belle seems to appreciate it too.  But then Feather Bangs comes back and we get easily the worst scene in the whole episode (and possibly the worst songs we've ever heard in the entire show), because HE brought his own song as well and... well, it's a Bieber song.  I don't know what else to tell you.  It's the MLP version of a Bieber song, and not a good one, with PLENTY of suggestive lyrics and visuals (I don't care if they were played for laughs, it made me more than a bit uncomfortable at points).  Even worse, the whole sequence turns into a pairing of dueling numbers, so basically we keep jumping back and forth from a clumsy, increasingly bad country song to a terrible pop song, and the two genres clash so badly that they just further amplify how bad it all is.  It's like somebody split up a bad bro-country song by completely separating the pop from the country, and it resulted in an equally bad pop song and country song.  Sugar Belle's not into any of it, and is most DEFINITELY not into Feather Bangs... wait, what?  Yeah, this whole song she clearly seems miffed at Feather Bangs when in the very last scene she was eyeing him up and down like a kid with a brand new lollipop and I don't know what the buck is going on now!  Was she ever into him?  Based on her earlier reactions, she had to be!

Oh wait... oh you sons of bitches... LAZY WRITING STRIKES AGAIN!!! :angry:  This is possibly the most egregious example of this in the whole episode.  The only reason Feather Bangs is supposed to be here is because we're supposed to believe that he is a viable rival lover to Big Mac, vying for Sugar Belle's affection as much as he is, for most of the episode.  The only way they're able to make us believe he has any chance as a rival is by showing Sugar Belle digging what he's doing, at least initially.  But now that we're supposed to believe that she's really into Big Mac, not Feather Bangs, she is inexplicably showing NONE of the earlier interest she showed for Feather Bangs, even though he's basically doing the same s*** he was doing before, just on a bit of a bigger scale.  Holy buck, that is AMAZING in its laziness!  I mean, really.  I don't even know what to say at this point other than... wow.  Just wow.  Characters flipping their behavior back and forth on a dime as easily as one would flick a light switch on and off.  Buck me, that's lazy.

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This whole scene was ear-and-eye cancer... like, all of it, I seriously feel less healthy for having watched it

So what more is there to say?  After the "dueling songs" go disastrously, with Big Mac and Feather Bangs essentially destroying most of Sugar Belle's store, Big Mac and the CMC finally figure out what should have been a far easier lesson to teach, that showing someone you care about them in an especially special way means showing them that you know who they are and what they care about, and that you in turn care about them and what they care about.  WHY WAS THIS SO HARD TO TEACH!!!  So Big Mac makes her a new shelf, she loves it, they get together after some CMC shenanigans (involving, yet again, those bucking stupid NOT COSTUMES, WHY IS THIS A CRUCIAL PLOT DEVICE, IT'S NOT CLEVER?!?!?!), and they look really sweet and cute together. THE. BUCKING. END.

Oh wait, no it's not, because in the last 30 seconds we're supposed to feel sorry for Feather Bangs and hope that the CMC help him figure out how to talk to mares.

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Uh uh, no way, you bastards don't get to pull that lazy, tired, "ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, he's not a bad guy, he's just misunderstood" trope in only 30 seconds when we have seen nothing redeemable about this twat since he was first introduced (if you want to call it that).  I hate that lazy trope, and it's yet another perfect embodiment of the utter laziness that characterizes this whole bucking episode!!!  Buck Feather Bangs and buck his lady problems, I hope every mare turns him down harder than a jackhammer chews up a sidewalk!  So let me reiterate if it wasn't clear already...

People, this was trash.  Hot, steaming, burning, wretched smelling trash.  This was SO much worse than "MMMMystery on the Friendship Express" in every way possible.  "MMMMystery on the Friendship Express" insults my intelligence, and the intelligence of any brony out there, BUT to its defense (and I never thought I'd be saying this) it is well aware that it is nothing but a throwaway episode.  Nothing important happens in it, it is just an episode for the sake of having another episode, that's it!  THIS was supposed to be a status quo changer, THIS was supposed to be a major development for a major, recurring supporting character!  We have barely seen any of the characters in the show get into relationships or the show itself handle the topic of romantic relationships; I hope it largely stays that way, but I also always hoped that the show would address it to a certain extent, because I always thought that this show, as good as it is, would probably be able to handle romantic relationship subjects better than most kids shows can.  I still believe that, even after this episode.  Sugar Belle and Big Mac are honestly, as I said earlier, a cute couple, and I think they could be a really good couple going forward!  Nothing about the pairing itself is what turned me off in this episode, in fact, that's where the tragedy of it lies.

This episode, for as bad as it is, feels like half of it IS good MLP.  There are signs of the quality from MLP we've come to expect on a regular basis.  The few genuinely funny lines in there (like Apple Bloom's "Quick, act like apples" line or Sugar Belle's "That's the whole town!  It's just the one street" bit) are typical MLP fare, little details like Sugar Belle's reactions throughout the song numbers as well as the fact that Starlight's house has been replaced by a tree, the largely inoffensive beginning and ending, the three mares who keep fawning over Feather Bangs (the fawning itself is disgusting but they have fantastic character designs and are pretty entertaining to watch), these things work!  Sugar Belle herself was honestly perfectly fine aside from when the script forced her to like what Feather Bangs was doing, besides that she was sweet, adorable, and her VA has the cutest voice!  But at the end of the day I found myself and a friend agreeing with one another that the end of CheeriMac is the least of this episode's problems, and that should tell you a lot right there.

The problem is the good was in a jumbled mess with sooooooooooooooo much bad, there was no clear cut divide between the two and on top of that, this was a lot of bad in an episode that should have been incredibly easy to do right.  What we got instead was patronizing to its audience, treating us as though we were too dumb to handle a more complex plot, and even worse it had no right to be patronizing because the episode was so much dumber than it thought it was!  If someone just understood who these characters are, how they behave, this premise, even with the CMC involved in it, could have easily turned into a good to great episode!  And that's why I keep referring to laziness as being at the core of what makes this episode a disaster, because I don't know how else to explain it.  A first time writer for this show bucking up an episode this badly in a critically acclaimed show that is in its seventh season?  Laziness, plain and simple.  There is more than enough material for this writer to have watched to have gotten more than a clear understanding of who these character's are for the purposes of her own episode, and frankly, I just think she didn't bother to do her homework.  The only other alternative is that she's just that bad of a writer, and I really hope that's not the case because if so, I don't know how she's still getting work.  But for the time being, I'm chalking it up to unforgivable laziness, and for such a piss poor effort put into what should have been such an important episode, "Hard to Say Anything" gets an F---------------------- from me.  It is not even in my book an episode of MLP, because it is unrecognizable as MLP.  I would expect this level of quality from other shows that Ms. Wangberg has worked on (on their bad days), but for MLP, this is simply unacceptable.  DHX, please, learn from this and don't ever let this person work on this beloved show ever again, much less on episodes that should be so important.  In fact, don't ever assign first time show writers such important episodes ever again.  Congratulations, "Hard to Say Anything," you are now my least favorite episode of MLP, and I hope it stays that way, because I shudder to think of what an episode would have to do to make me hate it more than I hated this one.

Buck me... that's all I got for ya this week everypony.  Until next time (in a Celestia-willing better episode than this) this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off... to get a drink... or twenty!!! *cue dramatic exit to the bar*

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When an episode drives Batbrony to get drunk dressed as Superman, you know it done bucked up

Batbrony

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Gooooood afternoon everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!!!  Well... right now, I don't know what else to say but this...

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Why is that?  Well, that's the first word that comes to mind regarding the latest episode of MLP to premiere in the U.S., "Parental Glideance."  This episode simply had it all, every single thing that I could possibly love about a single episode of MLP rolled into one.  It was just a delightful, perfect 22 minutes of television, and to understand why, we need to dive into what makes an episode like this so very remarkable.  This is gonna be one hell of a review ya'll, so without wasting anymore time or dawdling about, let's dive right in.  This is "Parental Glideance."

The 'It' Factors: Why This Episode Soars

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(1) Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles

Alright, so since at least Season 2 the fandom has been begging, and I do mean BEGGING, to see more of the Mane 6's parents, and to date our desire to see more of their parents has never been quite sated.  The closest we've come to doing so has been in some of Pinkie Pie's episodes featuring her family, including her parents (which I love since we usually get to see them in a more normal setting, even if Pinkie is usually there for special get-togethers) and Fluttershy's parents in "Flutter Brutter" (again, another very good appearance because we got to see her parents in their home, learn that they were retired, and the conflict was even centered around Fluttershy helping them get Zephyr Breeze out of the house).  That said, up until today we had never had an episode entirely centered around one of the Mane 6's parents themselves from start to finish, and our hunger for such an episode remained unsated.  After "Parental Glideance," however... well, if anything I want more episodes like this even more now, but I will admit that my hunger for an episode centered around a Mane 6 character's parents has been temporarily sated, at least. ;)

This episode introduced us almost immediately to none other than Rainbow Dash's parents, Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles (surprisingly distinct names when I think myself and many others in the fandom were long worried that their names would be rainbow-related as well in some fashion).  How were they?  The first word that comes to mind is delight, as in they were absolutely a delight!  These two are the walking, talking, living, breathing definition of "superfan parent."  Aside from a very hilarious gag at the beginning of the episode about how confused they both were by Scootaloo's shrieks of fangirling, Bow and Windy spent most of the episode just showing how much they adore their daughter in every single way possible, and probably also ways you never thought possible.  You wanna know what the most incredible part of it all was?  IT WORKED HERE!  The superfan parent, like so many other things in MLP, is not a concept that they invented or pulled out of a hat, this is something one encounters in both real life and popular media.  In both settings, superfan parents can very often, easily be insufferable, especially as characters, and it's easy to see why.  Superfan parents are by definition an extreme, and almost always when depicted in media operate in extremes; thus, here's how they usually get bucked up, (1) the parents come across to the audience as genuinely annoying when they're not supposed to, thereby undercutting anything that's supposed to be endearing about them, (2) the child or children of the superfan parents come off as overreacting to their parents love and adoration, thereby undercutting any degree to which we're supposed to sympathize with their exasperation at their parents behavior, or (3) the child and parents are both Flanderized and given the Mary Sue/Gary Stu treatment, meaning the child accepts the parents over-the-top behavior as perfectly normal and they and the parents get along in complete harmony, and we as the audience are supposed to enjoy this dynamic, when to the audience it simply seems that the parents live only for the child alone and all parties in the family are unrealistically perfect, if not downright obnoxious, in how much they love each other.  All three of these scenarios are failures of this trope that it is very easy for it to fall into, because, as I said, it does inherently require extreme behavior to some extent from the parents.  So while the failures are understandable, when they happen, they nonetheless make the superfan parent a trope that is all too easily more often than not an annoying one.

This was, I am pleased to say, not the case in the slightest in this episode.  Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles, despite being superfan parents in every sense of the word, despite having multiple rooms dedicated to their daughter (presumably an only child, but not yet officially confirmed, but c'mon, until I hear otherwise, I am assuming that RD is an only child), about a million types of cheers prepared for her and situations in which to cheer her on, and even a framed diaper of hers, never really came off as that annoying.  Oh don't get me wrong, you could understand at points why they were being too much for RD to handle, but that is required for the superfan parent trope to work.  It ensured that they did not just come off as a Mary Sue and Gary Stu, but instead as fallible parents prone to embarrassing their daughter in the course of showing how much they love her, as any parent should be. ^_^  That was really the secret to making them so likable.  Most other ponies, including RD and her Wonderbolt teammates, were aware that her parents were being a bit much, but besides RD almost everypony else took it in stride because they knew it was just a couple of parents loving their daughter.  These little interactions made it easier for us to accept their behavior as endearing; none of it was really causing any issues for RD, it's not like she was being threatened with losing her spot on the Wonderbolts (I can distinctly recall a number of times where the superfan parent trope has led to a situation where the child of the parents is threatened with losing their job or some other BS if their parents don't tone it down), the worst they did was go a little overboard in their praise for Rainbow Dash (the towel-hanging cheer was too much even for me) and do a couple of not-so-safe things like shoot fireworks at her show.

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Awwwwwwww, look how much they love watching their daughter!  SUPERFAN PARENTS ALL THE WAY!!!

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OK guys, that's enough, don't wanna get too excited now do we?

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C'mon guys, cut it- OH BUCK, THAT'S A FIREWORK CANNON, YUP, THAT'S A CANNON THAT IS FLINGING FIREWORKS, HOW DID YOU EVEN GET THAT IN HERE PAST SECURITY YOU CRAZY BUCKS!!! :love:

Overall, however, my biggest takeaway from these two was just what a good thing their love for their daughter was.  Really, I mean it.  That's really the secret to making the superfan parent trope work as a whole; they need to seem both real, even fallible and embarrassing, but when all is said and done their love for their child must both be at the core of who they are as characters and a likable quality, even if it's a bit much at times.  That's what I got from start to finish here with these two.  They lived and breathed RD, but not in a way that was harmful to their own well-being or their daughter's.  Every fiber of their being was devoted to helping their daughter become the best pony she could be, letting her know that she was the best pony she could possibly be in their eyes no matter what she did, and letting as many ponies know as possible just how much they love their daughter.  It didn't come off as coddling, or overbearing, or their only character trait whatsoever.  From the little we gathered about the two of them at the start of their episode, they lead their own lives and RD is NOT their only pastime or hobby; Bow came off as perfectly normal when he was *snickers* mowing their cloud lawn at the start of the episode (speaking of which, I just realized he almost pushed the mower into Scootaloo's head... thankfully it was just an old fashioned push mower, otherwise I would've been more concerned about her safety), and Windy seems to have some kind of obsession with Princess Celestia based on her collection of both Princess Celestia commemorative plates and some kind of Princess Celestia figurines in the background.  But the love they have for their daughter is still a core of their character and who they are, but here it simply worked all the way through.  Sure they generally behaved in a manner that varied between energetic and highly kinetic to downright frantic, but that worked because they're Rainbow Dash's parents and she's acted the same way plenty of times.  The fact that they were like little schoolfillies whenever they talked about their daughter was downright adorable, and their cheering segments were some of the funniest parts of the entire episode.  Heck, it was so endearing that I found myself even wanting what they have, in a general sense; that kind of unhinged, unmitigated, unconditional love that only a parent could feel for their children in such indescribably wonderful ways, and hey, I'm very much hoping I do get the opportunity to feel that sensation some day!  All in all, I would love to see these two again after their first appearance.  They did what is the toughest thing for any new character in the show these days to do, they added a real layer of heart to the show, and it was especially gratifying to see the parents of a Mane 6 character do so.  What more can I say other than I totally dug these two, am totally onboard the Bow Hothoof/Windy Whistles bandwagon, and can't wait to see more of them.  Stand up and give these two a cheer everypony!  Just, eh, don't bring any firework cannons... :unsure:

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This... I want this... I want to give this some day to a kid of my own so badly now (well, even more than I did before)

(2) Scootaloo

The other heart of this episode, besides Rainbow Dash's parents, was oddly not Rainbow Dash at all, it was Scootaloo.  In fact, I'd say this episode was more of a Scootaloo episode than a Rainbow Dash episode.  Oh sure, Rainbow Dash learned the lesson here, but I don't think the point of this episode was the lesson learned, at least not entirely.  The point was contrasting Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash, stand-ins for two types of kids; those with incredibly loving parents who might embarrass them on occasion in how much they love them... and those without such parents.  Scootaloo flat out says at one point in this episode that she's never had the kind of parental support that Rainbow Dash has to this day from her parents; while this is not by any means a sure confirmation of the "Scootaloo is an orphan" fan theories, it's the closest we've ever come to it being confirmed.  There are now only two options left: (1) Scootaloo is an orphan, or (2) she has incredibly neglectful parents, both of which would be devastating.  I suppose there is a third scenario possible in which her parents knew from the start that she couldn't fly and so never really encouraged her to be her best in order to keep her safe, but I doubt that's the case.

Anyways, without deviating too much, Scootaloo is in my estimation the heart of this episode.  Among the CMC, I would argue that right now she's actually the most innocent of the three still for a very particular reason (and no, it's not just because she sounds the youngest of them because her VA's voice has changed the least, though that does help).  We now know after this episode that Scootaloo has spent the entirety of the show kind of building herself a surrogate family, between her friends, Rainbow Dash, and now Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles.  All her life she's wanted to follow Rainbow Dash's example, and in this episode she got so much joy just from seeing how Rainbow Dash turned out the way she was because of how her parents raised her.  My takeaway from this is that Scootaloo, more than Apple Bloom or Sweetie Belle, is the most appreciative of the CMC of the simplest blessings and joys in life.  Things like RD's mom making RD her favorite sandwich, or her parents giving her a trophy room with all sorts of childhood mementos, scrapbooking every second of her life that they could, cheering her on at every opportunity that they could get, these are things which Scootaloo holds as precious because, based on what we've seen and she said, she's never had that.  She knows that it's not the effects of what they do that are what count, but just the fact that they're doing them, THAT'S the love, and that's what she wants more than anything else.  It's not being the best that matters to her (she may say she wants to be just like Rainbow Dash, but she's so different from Rainbow Dash, and not just physically), it's just having someone pushing you to be your best, someone there for you no matter what.  If nothing else, you could just tell how much joy it was bringing to Scootaloo to even feel like she was sharing in RD's family's experiences, even just a little bit.

I think more than anything else, the final scene confirms that she is the true heart of this episode.  Rainbow Dash may have learned the biggest lesson here, but Scootaloo got the most out of all of this.  Not only did she get to learn where Rainbow Dash came from and what helped make her into the pony she'd become, but because of how she helped remind her of that in showing RD how great she had it in comparison to herself and so many other colts and fillies, she also got even more of a family out of it.  It seems that both her personality rubbing off on the two, as well as possibly RD telling her parents that Scootaloo could use a little more support in her own life, has led to Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles treating her as something of a surrogate daughter by the end of the episode as well, much as Rainbow Dash treats Scootaloo already as a surrogate sister.  It's hard to exactly say how much this is the case since the most they do is give her a cheering section after getting her report grade, but the fact that they even made cheer-gear for her would suggest they're pretty serious about this, and the look on Scootaloo's face when they do so says it all.  Just look at her, she looks like she's about shed tears of joy!

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Rainbow got reminded of how important her family is to her by somepony who knows because there's probably nothing more she'd want than a family that's always there for her, and that filly may have just gotten her wish to some extent.  So here's hoping we see Scootaloo more with RD and her family, she had a great outing, one of her best episodes in quite some time, and hopefully got something she's always dreamed of, a family that loves her.

Also, her fangirling was adorable as buck, I'm sorry, it just needed to be said.

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Hnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggg... TOO... CUTE!!! :wub:

(3) Backstory and Continuity... Lots and Lots of Backstory and Continuity... Spoken and Unspoken

Jeric told me yesterday that the writer of this episode, Josh Hamilton (a first time MLP:FiM writer), has written in the past for Avatar: The Last Airbender and the The Legend of Korra.  So needless to say, he has some good credentials.  Nonetheless, the debut he made in this show was simply shocking for me, namely in his handling of show continuity.  This episode gives backstory galore, and not just with Rainbow Dash.  In fact, I finished this episode not thinking of it as the best Rainbow Dash episode ever, but rather the best episode about Rainbow Dash I've ever seen, if that makes sense.  In case it doesn't, let's just count all of the backstory we get in this episode.

#1. Rainbow Dash's Backstory - so before this episode we knew how RD got her cutie mark and helped Fluttershy and the other Mane 6 get theirs (inadvertently), but we never knew much else besides that about her childhood.  Well here, we got filly RD galore.  The flashbacks themselves were pretty simple and just showed her on the podium for flying competitions (although they had far more depth than one would initially assume, but we'll get to that later), but there were dozens of photos (most of which we could make out) of Rainbow Dash littered throughout this episode. Most of them showed Rainbow as a filly or foal (which was adorable), and showed us either (1) some stage of her life, or (2) just served as testament to the many ways in which her parents loved her.  Regardless, it was a nice bit of silent backstory (which is what I mean by things unspoken, though it is hardly the only bit of backstory or continuity unspoken in this episode), and a nice recognition from the writers that not all backstory needs to be given in flashbacks or exposition alone.  You can convey things about characters lives in all kinds of ways, not just by straight up telling us.  Oh, but we're just getting started.

#2. Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts - this was a nice little bit of continuity that would be easy to miss, but I think it came up enough that it's worth noting.  This was one of the first episodes where we really got to see Rainbow as a normal, full-fledged Wonderbolt, and it showed.  While I wouldn't say the Wonderbolts have treated her badly or anything since she joined them ("Newbie Dash" was way more RD's fault than theirs), she only joined them last season (approximately a season ago actually as of this episode), and since then it's still felt fresh.  Well here, it didn't, it actually felt like she was just another member, albeit an exceptional one, of the Wonderbolts.  She had a normal rapport with them, she knew her place in their routines, they're even doing favors for her.  Heck, even the ways they rib her felt normal; she's clearly still one of the younger ones, but Spitfire and Fleetfoot never gave her anymore crap about her parents than they should have.  In fact, Spitfire didn't really say anything at all other than get a little miffed initially by their training getting interrupted (oh, and getting her poor tail cut off, and frankly she should have been madder about that), and Fleetfoot spent a lot of the episode trying to reassure RD that her parents weren't being that bad (although she did steal RD's shit-eating grin from "Daring Don't," but I don't mind, because that smug face is spectacular and frankly we need to see it more, and it was perfectly called for in that scene... keep doing your thing Fleetfoot, I love when our favorite lisping pegasus gets all sassy).  Overall, like I said, it was really cool seeing RD just being another one of the Wonderbolts; she might be their captain someday considering she's that good of a flier, but frankly, right now, she's clearly just happy to be living her dream as one of the fliers she always dreamed of being.  I like that, and I'm glad we got to get a real look at that and her normal, Wonderbolt responsibilities.  Not to mention they were all super awesome for doing that really, really, really nice favor for her at the end, that was cool to see.  I love so much that at this point they're pretty much this other subset of friends for RD, albeit on a professional basis.

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Dayummmmmm girllllll, you just somehow captured, like, all of the sass and smugness in all of Equestria in one look, and it looks amazing!!! B)  Also, now that I think about it, this could double as a flirty look... I'm not gonna take that strain of thought any further, just think about it for yourselves and what scenario would demand THAT being used as a flirty look. :yay:

#3. Thunderlane's a Wonderbolt - Holy shit, Thunderlane's a Wonderbolt now!  When did this happen?  I don't know, but I don't care, it's just really cool that he's a Wonderbolt now.  I think we'd seen him in the Wonderbolt Reserves before, but based on the one shot of him in the Wonderbolts locker room, in an actual Wonderbolt uniform, not a Reserves uniform, I can only conclude that Thunderlane is now a Wonderbolt.  This is super cool because now RD is no longer even the only flier from Ponyville in the Wonderbolts; we've seen Thunderlane since Season 2 and as far as we know he still lives in Ponyville.  Also it makes it actually a little clearer how difficult it is to get into the Wonderbolts, or rather, the level of flying that is required.  Since RD was the flier we largely followed for six seasons trying to get into the Wonderbolts, it always seemed like it was damn near impossible to get in.  But Thunderlane is clearly just an exceptional flier, nowhere near RD's level, but very good nonetheless.  The fact that he's in now makes it clear that there is actually a bit of a range one encounters in the levels of talent among the fliers in the Wonderbolts.  Not all of them are going to be at RD's level or even close necessarily, they just have to be better than most fliers.  It's still an elite unit, but it's nice having a better sense of who gets in there now.

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#4. Other Wonderbolts Continuity - Not much to say here other than Vapor Trail and Sky Stinger showing up super briefly (in Wonderbolt Reserves uniforms), which was nice to see.  And at least Sky Stinger didn't talk this time; he may not be a douchebag anymore, but that doesn't change the fact that he still sounds like a douchebag.  Anyways, I did enjoy seeing those two ever so briefly, nice bit of Season 6 continuity there.

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He's so much less annoying when he's not talking, and she's as adorable as ever... YOU'RE STILL TOO GOOD FOR HIM, VAPOR!!! :angry:

#5. THE GREATEST THING YOU'LL EVER SEE - OK, so this may be just a bit of an exaggeration here, BUT this last bit of silent backstory was a real game changer.  Did it have anything to do with Rainbow Dash?  No, not really.  The Wonderbolts?  Not really, even though they're there too.  Well then who, you might ask?

DERPY. BUCKING. HOOVES.  THAT'S WHO!!!

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In a span of about 10 seconds, Derpy got perhaps the most important piece of backstory we've ever seen her get, and it all comes down to her eyes.  In the flashback where Rainbow Dash is describing how embarrassing her parents were, we clearly see Derpy at first on top of the podium among the young fliers, clearly the best of them all.  When RD mentions that she was the youngest in that entire group, we learn quite a bit already, namely that Derpy (and about every other pony she was flying with there) is older than her (which actually makes sense, fans have long speculated that RD is one of the youngest of the Mane 6).  But then when RD starts showing her progression higher and higher in the flier standings, we see simultaneously Derpy getting lower and lower.  Why?  HER EYES!  Her eyes continue to get progressively worse as she gets lower in the standings.  Combine this with the single shot of her in the Ponyville Hospital in "Where the Apple Lies" with bandages over her eyes, and suddenly, without a single word being said about it, WE HAVE US A CANON BACKSTORY OF SOME KIND FOR DERPY HOOVES!  HOLY SHIT!

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What we know right now for sure is that (1) she used to be a really good flier, (2) her eyes used to be straight, (3) she got worse at flying, and probably clumsier, when her eyes started getting worse, (4) she tried and failed to get them fixed in her late teens or young adulthood, and (5) she is now perfectly happy living with them as they are.  Holy buck, that is a crapload of backstory for a bucking BACKGROUND PONY!!!  A BACKGROUND PONY!!!  Needless to say, this was the single most important thing in the episode for me seeing as it involves my best pony, and that's saying quite a lot considering this was a bucking great episode.  But this, I want so badly more backstory like THIS!!!  SO, SO, SO MUCH!!!  Josh Hamilton, thank you for such a lovely and unexpected treat, and writers, please take notes, we want more things like this.  For all I know, this could be even setting up a future Derpy-centric episode, and if it is, I am going to go NUTS!!!  I'm not even sure anyone will be able to console me and bring me down from the high that shall be achieved, it would be truly epic in its proportions.

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The Lesson, And What It Means To All The Rainbow Dashes and Scootaloos Out There

So like I said, this is not a Rainbow Dash episode to me so much as an episode about Rainbow Dash.  And really, the lesson was not just directed at Rainbow Dash, or kids or adults like Rainbow Dash.  The lesson was directed at all the Rainbow Dashes AND Scootaloos out there.  For all like RD, the lesson was something akin to the same one that learned by a certain character in a certain recent Marvel flick (I won't spoil anything for those who haven't seen it, but I'll just leave this song here for those who have, and they'll know what I'm talking about), that being that there are things in life that, while you have them it's easy to take them for granted.  With parents, especially parents like RD's with love, praise, support, and encouragement so bottomless to the point that it can be embarrassing at times, it's REALLY easy for someone like RD to take them for granted.  But then she's confronted by Scootaloo, a pony who's never had what she had, and suddenly she's confronted with wondering what would have been if she never had her parents, or possibly even wondering what if she didn't have them tomorrow?  Suddenly, what RD was confronted with more than anything was the single question, "Had she taken them for granted, and what if they didn't really know how much she loved them for always being there for her?  What if they never knew?"  More important than anything she's ever achieved is simply that her parents have been there for her every step of the way, so the least RD figures she can do for them is try to be there for them as much as they've been there for her.  That's what family does, no matter what we end up doing with our lives, the very least and most we have to give each other is all the love and support that we can, and it's a wonderful lesson that RD learned, truly.

As for Scootaloo, while she didn't really learn anything in quite the same way that RD did, I think what she did learn is to never stop hoping for the support and love that she's always wanted.  Even if she'll never get it from her actual parents, whether they're dead, abandoned her, or just really neglectful, she learned that there are other ponies out there ready at a moment's notice to give her the love and support she's always wanted.  It just took a little searching to find.  For all the other Scootaloos out there, it's a lesson to never give up hoping for the love you may not have gotten from those who should have given it to you most.  You just might have to find it elsewhere, and it may be hard, and there may be a lot of hurt along the way, but if you look hard enough, it just may be out there for you.  Overall, just never stop hoping and looking, because you'll never know when you might find it; before you know it, you might have your very own family lifting you on their shoulders (or hooves) cheering you on for the B you just got on your awesome report, moldy sandwich included.

Aesthetic Notes

Just a couple of things to note about the, as always, amazing animation.  First, it was great seeing so much of Cloudsdale, as well as seeing Scootaloo up there finally (though the best part of that was seeing how she got up there).  Second, wing expressions, I NEED MORE OF THESE!  They were incredibly creative and I feel like we haven't seen nearly enough of them.

Finally, Windy Whistles was adorable as buck, and there were quite a few shots which you can compare to past RD stills and see quite a bit of similarity between the two.  So A-plus to the animators for giving her a distinct character design (and an adorable one at that) while still making her clearly RD's mom in appearance, especially in the face and some of her expressions.

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Minor, Minor, Minor Gripes

OK, so despite saying this is a perfect episode, I have just a handful of minor, minor, minor things to bring up that weren't so perfect but do require being addressed.  First, how the buck did RD's parents not know she was a Wonderbolt?  I know they said at one point that they didn't go to Wonderbolt performances so long as she wasn't in them, and that it's not like they have television or the Internet, BUT they do have newspapers, which presumably have sports sections, and I have a hard time believing that it was never reported in a Cloudsdale newspaper that a national hero from that city had been inducted into the Wonderbolts.  They sure didn't look like they were living as hermits either.  I suppose I could believe that RD would be anal enough in her attempts to keep them from finding out that she'd be willing to steal their newspapers, but until I hear for sure that that's what she did, I'm just gonna chalk this up to a tiny bit of lazy writing.

Second, there was only one section of this episode I didn't particularly care for, that being when Scootaloo had her exposition dump of RD's time in the Wonderbolt Reserves to RD's parents.  Don't get me wrong, I could totally see her telling them this stuff, I just don't know why we needed to see it.  It felt forced and awkward in its delivery (although her parents reactions, especially Windy Whistles, were pretty hilarious and adorable), but this felt more like exposition for the sake of audience members who never saw these episodes than anything that we needed to see her parents learn.  It wasn't awful, just wasn't executed particularly well.  Other than that, I literally have no other complaints for this episode, it was just that great.

The Ideal Season 7 Episode

I said to a friend after watching this episode (*cough* Jeric *cough*) that, overall, this episode encapsulates everything I'd want in a standard episode in the 7th season of MLP:FiM.  This show is so established at this point, that you can't just keep doing the same thing you've done in other seasons all the time.  You need to have payoff!  Payoff doesn't just have to be for long-term storylines, the most important in all the show; it can be for smaller story threads as well, things revolving around main characters like RD or Scootaloo, or even background/supporting characters like Derpy and Thunderlane.  The point is, this show has made it clear that there is a distinct passage of time by this point.  It may be difficult to follow at times, but it's safe to say that at least years have passed by this time in the show.  This isn't always made clear, but it's great when the show does recognize this, in big and small ways.

Besides the triumphs of backstory and continuity, the introduction of RD's parents to the show was seamless.  This is not always the case when it comes to the parents of a main character; sometimes they're too similar to a character to be distinct, other times they're so different that you can't believe they even are the parents of a certain character.  But in this case, not only did Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles most definitely seem just about right in their behavior to be RD's parents, but they were also plenty distinct.  They weren't freakish athletes just like her (as far as we know at least), they weren't trying to vicariously live through her by making her achievements their own, and they weren't her polar opposites.  They were just parents with a ridiculous amount of love for their daughter, and by the end of the episode showed themselves to have plenty of love to spare for others as well, in this case Scootaloo.  Their introduction was so smooth, so seamless, that the episode barely can be said to have revolved around them; oh sure, they were main characters of it, but they felt very much like they fit naturally alongside characters we've been following for over six seasons like Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash.  THAT is how you introduce parents of main characters at this point in the show.

Overall, this is the greatest triumph of Season 7 thus far, just an absolutely phenomenal, nearly flawless episode in every which way possible.  If we get more episodes like this this season, you certainly won't find me complaining, and here's hoping we get more episodes featuring Mane 6 parents or even more backstory/continuity for characters like Derpy or Thunderlane.  That's all I've got for ya'll this week everypony.  Until next week, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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Batbrony

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Good afternoon, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Today I'm taking a look at the latest Season 7 episode to debut in the U.S., "Forever Filly," a fun, albeit flawed, little slice-of-life episode.  Aside from this being noteworthy as being the first Rarity and technically CMC episode this season, there's not much else to say prior to getting into the review proper, so without further ado, let's begin.  This is "Forever Filly."

So for the most part almost everything in this episode worked, but in the end I found myself simply thinking of it as good, not great.  This isn't on account of any kind of infuriating, obvious flaw, but rather something a little less noticeable and more subtle: the conflict set-up.  Not the conflict itself, mind you, in fact this conflict is actually a fairly common one in movies and television.  All we're dealing with here, in multiple plot arcs no less, is the "such and such loved one has gotten older and changed quite a bit and I haven't even noticed, and not only do I still want to treat them like I did when they were younger, but I'm also not ready to accept that they're older and have changed."  It's a super common story trope, especially in long-running shows where characters have presumably gotten older (you've probably seen such an episode in more than one family sitcom before, usually involving some staple child character in the show getting older, graduating, heading off to college, getting married, etc., or even say a wedding movie where the focus is on the parents of the groom or bride).  Heck, really this kind of story even falls into the broader category of the "coming of age" story, and is just one particular way of telling it, namely from the perspective not of the character who is coming of age, but of someone close to them watching them come of age.

Here's the problem.  It's not that the conflict in and of itself was a bad one in its premise, it's that it wasn't executed properly, and I think I know why.  Poor pacing made certain character decisions seem impulsive and poorly thought out.  Rarity went from being perfectly level-headed in her business dealings in the very opening of the episode to being an emotional wreck all in a span of five seconds, and then spent the rest of the episode acting as though she hadn't seen Sweetie Belle in years.  Likewise, Zipporwhill (voiced again by, of course, Tabith St. Germain, because I swear if there's a character who needs a hilariously over-the-top or unusual voice, Tabitha is their go-to gal to voice her) seemed to be confronted with a problem that really shouldn't be a problem for her.  I mean, her cutie mark is presumably because she has some kind of talent at connecting with dogs, so one has to ask why such a pony wouldn't understand the notion of dogs growing up and their behavior changing as they get older?  I mean, don't get me wrong, I liked how her subplot tied into the final lesson, but more so because of how things wrapped up, not because of the conflict itself.  That conflict too was poor in its set-up because it just didn't seem like Zipporwhill, even if she is still a filly, even if this is her own pet we're talking about whom she has an emotional connection to, should have a problem figuring out what her dog wants when that is presumably her talent and she knows this already because she has her cutie mark.  And I mean seriously, it's a dog, plenty of dogs play with toys that they had as puppies if it's one of their favorites, and not to be mean to dogs or anything, but they're pretty simple in their wants and needs, they're nowhere near as picky as cats can be.  But the bigger problem with this subplot is that ultimately its presence forced the main conflict to be rushed in its own execution, which is why Rarity came across as being so impulsive and irrational in some of her decision-making.  If they'd simply removed the subplot, then they could have had a more basic but also more properly executed episode where Rarity had more time to set the conflict up and get it resolved.  She could have set up spending a day with her sister but not so frantically in the show's opening minutes, not as such an emotional wreck, and everything would have come across as feeling a bit more real in execution.  The ideas they were dealing with here are very realistic and relatable, I think everyone at some point (or multiple points) will realize that time has gone by quicker than they thought and that someone or something in their life has gotten far older than they used to be or changed a lot.  But again, the problem is that because they jammed a plot and a sub-plot together in order to teach the lesson, the conflict set-up in both plot and sub-plot felt rushed, forced, and a bit unrealistic.  The conflict set-up and pacing problems didn't ruin the episode or anything, they just kept an episode that was good to very good from being great, and that's just a bit of a shame.

 

OK Jeric, this question is for you in particular; can't you just see Tabitha making this actual face in the recording booth?  I mean, seriously, I'm picturing it and it just makes so much sense for her.  I wouldn't be surprised if they animated it around whatever face she was making as she read the line.

So what did I like here?  Oh, a whole lot, believe me, I liked a ton.  I did enjoy that they picked Rarity to have this conflict rather than Applejack; at first I thought AJ would be a better pick, but then I realized that AJ had to grow up from an early age (assuming her parents are dead) and would probably be more prepared for Apple Bloom getting older than Rarity was with Sweetie Belle.  Her problem is over-protectiveness, not coddling, when it comes to being a big sister.  Rarity, on the other hoof, moved out of the house at a pretty early age it seems, and didn't really grow closer to Sweetie Belle until Season 2 after the Sister Hooves Social.  Unlike Applejack, who sees family all the time, Rarity is a character who it would be easy for time to get away from between her adventures with the Mane 6 and all of her business ventures, even after she's gotten closer to Sweetie Belle.  So both the conflict makes sense for her, as do the emotional bouts; I just thought they happened too quickly, but really I have no problem with how emotional Rarity got over all of this because that does fit her character.  I just wish such emotion had been more built up and better paced, like the episode would have been better served starting with Rarity worriedly realizing she hadn't spent enough time with Sweetie Belle lately, but getting more emotional when she realized there was so much about Sweetie growing up that she'd missed.  But nonetheless, I like seeing focus placed on Rarity and Sweetie Belle's sisterhood, I liked this particular conflict, I liked that Rarity was put into this position both because it makes sense for her and for whatever reason seeing a character who in her own life (despite having a flamboyant personality) is usually so put-together and in control realize that there was so much she didn't know about someone so important to her, it just felt right.  It resonated, it made this message all the more powerful because it helped further illustrate that life can get away from all of us, even those of us who think we've got everything figured out (contrasting the lesson she learned with how put together Rarity is in running the Canterlot Boutique in the opening scene is a perfect example of this).  So aside from what I already highlighted as things that didn't work, I thought that Rarity was great here on the whole and loved that she was chosen for this particular type of episode.

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Sweetie Belle was another highlight, mostly in how she helped resolve the episode in the end but also because it was nice seeing the show recognize that there has been quite a passage of time since the start of the show and that characters have gotten older.  Now it would be nice if her actual body got bigger, or if they didn't make things confusing by making it seem as though Rarity hasn't seen Sweetie Belle in years, but still, I liked what we got here all the same.  The recognition of this passage of time was nice (which might have been further reinforced by how big Ripley, Zipporwhill's dog, now is as well as how much lower Zipporwhill's voice is than it was in her first episode back in Season 4), and I'd love to see more of it, especially in relation to the CMC.  It was nice too that Sweetie Belle didn't really get unduly mad at Rarity; sure she got mad, but not in a "Sister Hooves Social you're not my sister anymore, I hate you" kind of way, but more in a "we're sisters and you're frustrating me right now as only a sister could, so while I'll forgive you later, sorry but we're having a beef right now" kind of way.  She still helped Rarity learn her lesson indirectly (while learning it herself as well) by showing Zipporwhill what to do about Ripley, and even before getting mad she appreciated what Rarity was trying to do, just not how she was doing it.  Overall, this was just a very good example of how to show that a young character has gotten older in a show without being too flagrant about it; granted, I still argue that her body needs to get bigger because hearing things like Sweetie Belle is into experimental theater while still being as small as she ever has been is just a bit ridiculous and makes it harder to accept, but this was a very nice start and it works with how Claire Corlett's voice has changed over the years as well (though as a quick aside, I must say that Michelle Creber's voice sounds even older now than Claire's does, good Lord writers, PLEASE make the CMC bigger already!).

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This shot is seriously cute, and while it initially may seem a bit OOC for Rarity, c'mon, she's bonding with her sister, siblings do things they don't typically do with each other all the time.  Speaking as an older brother, I can totally buy it.

Besides our two main characters, it was cool seeing the CMC finding new ways to assist ponies, namely in helping a pony like Zipporwhill who already has her cutie mark but felt disconnected from her special talent.  Granted it was imperfectly executed, but I like the idea because it makes sense that they won't always be showing ponies what to do to get their cutie marks (though I guess they already kinda did this with Bulk Biceps).  Zipporwhill's return was completely unexpected and, aside from the problems I already cited with her subplot, worked entirely for me, especially her lower voice; whether this was because she's older now or because the writer's decided the original pitch her voice was at in Season 4 was just ridiculous, doesn't matter to me, because it was a far better sounding voice than her original one and Tabitha did a great job with her accent.  Finally, Sassy Saddles for the little she was in the episode at the beginning was fantastic.  Her rapport with Rarity is great and I loved the little we got to see of the two of them working together, two ponies simultaneously very similar and very different in their talents and abilities and who when they're at the top of their game can equally appreciate what the other does in their establishment.  Some of Rarity's failed attempts to bond with Sweetie Belle were pretty funny, particularly the photo shoot, but others felt a tad ridiculous and forced, like the puppet show or the balloon-making scene.

I did seriously love this scene

I must also note that it's bizarre, now that we've seen Ripley age, that other pets like Winona have not visibly aged.  Still, the recognition of the passage of time in this episode, as well as its lesson of appreciating different stages of life while you have them (including for people in your life) because before you know it, they're gone, but when they are gone all you can do is appreciate what you have now rather than bemoan not having what was in the past anymore, that was all great and I appreciate it very much.  It leaves me slightly hopeful that at some point the show might just be willing to tackle the subject of death and loss on that level, possibly in relation to the Apples, but at the same time I know realistically that that remains a long shot.  All in all, this is a good to very good episode held back by a few very particular but not very maddening flaws, but important flaws nonetheless.  I'm sure I'll enjoy rewatching it, but it certainly won't be an instant classic in my book either.  That's all I've got for you this week everypony, thank you for your patience in waiting for my review, and I'll see you next week (probably late again as well since I might have work on Saturday).  Till next time, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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But it's OK, cause they're Best Sisters Friends Forever!!!  But yeah, seriously, diabetes for sure... :mellow:

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Batbrony

Good morning everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!  Well today I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that this review shouldn't be all that long, but the bad news is it probably won't be that long because I thought this episode overall was just... eh, OK.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't amazing either, and I've seen far better episodes before about Fluttershy becoming more assertive or gaining confidence.  But let's not go over all of that here, instead, let's dive on into the full review itself, this is "Fluttershy Leans In."

So last week's episode, "Rock Solid Friendship's," biggest flaw was Pinkie Pie with a ton of OOC behavior, and while that was a BIG problem, the episode as a whole was still very likable.  This episode, while it didn't have such a glaring flaw, had a bigger issue with the episode as a whole that brought it down to being just an OK episode: a contrived conflict.  Now it wasn't the need for an animal sanctuary that was the problem, uh-uh, but rather the issues that arose on the way there.  Frankly, it just felt entirely unnecessary that the three "experts" that the Mane 6 recommended to Fluttershy to bring in to help build her dream animal sanctuary be brought in in the first place; the only one of them who had any kind of expertise with animals in the first place was Wrangler, but even her talent for animal enclosures and herding had virtually nothing to do with building an animal sanctuary.  Hard Hat it should have been pretty clear only knew how to construct buildings and nothing else, and it seems like a landscaper or exterior designer of some kind would have been a far better choice to help than him.  And finally I have no idea what Dandy Grandeur was even doing there; it's not that the animal sanctuary didn't end up having interior "structures" or features of some kind, but I have no idea why Fluttershy or Rarity would have thought a guy who clearly seemed to know nothing but high end interior design would have anything worthwhile to contribute to an animal sanctuary project.  So when Fluttershy got mad at all three of them, I really didn't find myself getting mad at them either; if anything, Fluttershy kind of came off as douchey when she did because she just shouldn't have let them get involved in the first place.  Wrangler, Hard Hat, and Dandy Grandeur at one point before anything even began all seemed to know they didn't know what they were doing in this project, when they shared very nervous glances with one another.  But they tried to help anyway because they were happy to help a friend of Applejack, Pinkie Pie, or Rarity, respectively, so it's not like there was any malicious intent behind their buck ups, they just shouldn't have been brought in to help at all in the first place.  Frankly the Mane 6 deserved more of Fluttershy's ire than these new ponies did; the new supporting characters largely didn't know Fluttershy at all and were just doing what they knew how to do best, so technically as far as what they're good at, they were putting their best hoof forward.  The Mane 6, on the other hoof, kind of seemed to dump off helping Fluttershy on these three, and not only did that lead to all of these issues, but it was completely unnecessary and avoidable in the first place.  The Mane 6 when they work all together are more than capable of tackling a project like this, and as the episode ended up showing, in the end, that's all that was needed.  Fluttershy had a clear vision of what she wanted, and all they needed to do was follow her lead and give her the manpower she needed to bring it to life.  It was gratifying when we got to see Fluttershy lecture the other five at the end when they almost pulled the same crap that Wrangler, Hard Hat, and Dandy Grandeur did, but really she should have been even angrier at them.  I mean, she left things off with those other three badly, and for all we know they might be on bad terms with Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity too now, and once again, this was all avoidable if the Mane 6 had just offered to help Fluttershy instead themselves in the first place!  So overall, I just really didn't buy into the primary conflict in this episode.  It was contrived and completely avoidable, it's only purpose was to force Fluttershy to be more assertive (which she has done plenty of already in past seasons and in far better episodes that taught such a lesson far more effectively), and it felt forced to the point that I just didn't feel like picking sides like the episode wanted me to.  So as I said earlier, while Pinkie Pie was REALLY bad last week, I honestly felt like the contrived conflict that affected this entire episode brought this episode down far more than Pinkie did in last week's episode.

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Eheheheheh, ya sure ya want us getting involved? :wat: I mean, just so you know, we may not know anything about what you want us helping you out with, but OK, if you insist that this plot goes where it will inevitably go if we stay involved, fine, we'll play along until it blows up in your face. :please:

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Also, can we please get more of Wrangler at least?  I don't know why, but I just really dug her design, the colors, the clothes, it all just worked for me.

Other than a really contrived and forced conflict, the rest of the episode was largely harmless.  Besides how her assertive moments felt forced and needless, Fluttershy was very sweet and I really thought the best trait of hers on display in this episode was her kindness and how that translated into a beautiful dream becoming a reality.  My biggest takeaway was that her kindness, her love for all her animal friends, was what kept driving her, even when things got difficult, to finally make her dream of building an animal sanctuary a reality, and it was great seeing those simple, basic elements of Fluttershy on full display here.  Also it was pretty hilarious that it was her fault that all these animals were overrunning Dr. Fauna's clinic in the first place because she just couldn't help but recommend her to all her animal friends that she met all over Equestria.  Talk about word-of-mouth getting out of control. ^_^ 

Dr. Fauna was actually quite delightful, and like Nurse Redheart a couple of episodes ago, it was really nice seeing her in such an expanded role so unexpectedly.  She didn't contribute to the problem at all, in fact like I said it was really Fluttershy's fault that she had too many patients to handle in the first place, and she clearly loved animals about as much as Fluttershy did, it's just her expertise was more directly about animal health itself rather than their overall care like Fluttershy's is.  In fact, as far as new elements in this episode go, I'd say she was my favorite one; I know she wasn't a new character, but it was just nice seeing the writers so positively utilizing a supporting character in Ponyville when so often the Mane 6's problems either revolve around themselves or supporting characters are just there for comedic gags.  This time the Mane 6 helped make a permanent change to Ponyville that benefited the entire town, and one resident of Ponyville in particular, because she and her animal patients needed their help and intervention.  I honestly wish we saw more often the Mane 6 helping out Ponyville residents like that as part of their episode lessons, it'd just be a nice, simple way to get more of the entire town involved in their adventures.  The return of Big Daddy McColt was quite a bit of fun as well, (though it did beg the question even more as to why Fluttershy didn't just bring him in in the first place since she knew he had expertise that could actually aid her in this endeavor, thereby further undermining the contrived conflict of this episode, but I digress), and it was great to see him paying the help that Fluttershy and Twilight had given him and his family in the first place forward with kindness of his own.  So kudos DHX on both Dr. Fauna and Big Daddy McColt, this is exactly how you should be handling supporting characters in the show and involving them in it!

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Now that's a brohoof I never thought I'd see in this show

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The animals throughout the episode were pretty cute overall.  I did get quite a laugh out of Angle Bunny hurting himself in, of all things, a bucking parkour accident, and even better still being a rotten bastard to everyone afterwards.

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I shouldn't be so happy about this, but I am...

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...and that is why. :orly:

Most of the animals in Dr. Fauna's office were cute, but two things did bug me.  First, that bear was a cheap, knockoff Harry the Bear and had nowhere close to the amount of swagger that Harry does; he was just a freeloading bum in Dr. Fauna's office and when you have a great bear like Harry already, why even both introducing another one when you know he'll be nowhere near as awesome as Harry is?

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I mean, seriously, get a load of this bum!  You ain't Harry, ya cheap knockoff!!! :angry:

Second, the giraffe was cute in design, but her presence there was very confusing to me.  Equestria is a world where we know that a number of animals are sapient; cows can talk and seem to have their own communities, or to even live among ponies (we've seen them buying stuff in Ponyville before but also seen them in dairy farms, but perhaps that's what they do as their jobs), and even sheep, despite being herd animals, can talk (though we haven't really seen that since Season 1, possibly because the writers don't want to raise anymore uncomfortable questions with it by even bringing them up again).  I was wrong earlier that giraffes are related to horses, they actually really aren't, but nonetheless I kind of always thought that if they were ever introduced, giraffes would be sapient animals too.  Heck, this giraffe's head resembled a pony's (at least by the show's own animation) so closely (she even had eyes like a ponies with the typical eyelashes they use to denote a female character) that it was downright bizarre not hearing this character talk.  So I guess giraffes are just "animals-animals" by Equestrian standards now, but I still find that bizarre.  Heck, I don't even know what to think about goats anymore; when we first saw them, sure, they didn't talk, but they were clearly assisting Iron Will with his show, which included running electronics and stage equipment, and yet since then we've seen them treated more and more like they too are "animals-animals" in this world.  I guess my bottom line is that in this episode, Equestrian biology and how the animal kingdom works in Equestria just got even more confusing for me.

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I am so confused! :love:

Ah well, at least this episode had a super adorable sloth in it!  Sloths make everything better, always, like, not even joking, they just do.  And her name was Lola, too!!! :D

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Uh, Fluttershy, you, uh, you got something on your leg, there...

Finally, while I did have my beef with the Mane 6 as far as the overall conflict goes, besides that they were fine.  They really should have just helped Fluttershy build her animal sanctuary in the first place, but they made up for it in the end at least, and it's not like their hearts were ever in the wrong spot.  I did think some of the "emotional" moments they had when Fluttershy was describing her dream were a bit forced (like, we get it, you love Fluttershy, but you don't have to be on the brink of tears just because she has an awesome dream and is super cute describing it), but overall this was one of their first group episodes (at least in some parts) this season, and I'm always happy to see them all working together towards something as a group, even if it was only for some of this episode.  As I've said throughout this review, the animal sanctuary was a really cool idea and it was really neat seeing Fluttershy make such a cool dream a reality.  But as a whole, this episode was just OK; there wasn't really anything infuriating about it, but too much of it was too forced and needless for me to really care about this episode either.  I guess in that respect I'm OK with how Pinkie was in last week's episode since, even though I hated parts of it, I at least cared about her performance.  I will always take something I care about, whether I love it or hate it, over something I'm just plain apathetic about.  Still, an OK episode is still one worth checking out, and this one is definitely worth checking out for Fluttershy and her awesome animal sanctuary alone.  That's all I've got for ya'll this week everypony; next week my review may be a little late since I'm visiting my girlfriend on Saturday when we both take a trip to Lansing, but I promise to get it up as soon as I can.  Until next time, everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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I have no idea how I missed this face during the episode, but this face is AMAZING! :D

Batbrony

Maud the Miner by mysticalpha

Ahhhhhhhhhh, good afternoon everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews."  First of all, my apologies for not getting this review posted yesterday, I was feeling tired and under the weather by the time I was able to write it so it just wasn't happening last night.  That said, I am glad I waited and rewatched the episode, because I now feel much better equipped to review this one than after my initial watch of it.  Let's not waste anymore time dawdling about and dive right into "Rock Solid Friendship"!!!

So this review will largely be broken down by character analysis because I believe you can best review it by analyzing the three main characters in it, Pinkie Pie, Maud Pie, and Starlight Glimmer.  So to begin, let us start with Pinkie... in this instance, a bit of an elephant in the room.  It brings me no pleasure to write this, but upon watching this episode twice I have to say that this was the worst that Pinkie Pie has been written in the show since "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" back in Season 2.  Those of you who know me will recall that that is to this day my least favorite episode of the show, so yeah, this does not bode well.  The good news is that this episode on the whole is MUCH better than that one, namely because, unlike in that episode, the majority of the characters here are not vapid idiots, completely inconsiderate, or just plain OOC.  The bad news is that Pinkie is, and when Pinkie is written badly, she is written BADLY.  Pinkie Pie when written as a stereotype of herself is unbearable, and it feels insulting to the character, like the writers have forgotten that, despite being as hyper and energetic as she is, this is a character who has grown so much since the show began.  The perplexing news is that really she was only written terribly for the middle 11 minutes of this episode; she's actually alright in the first 5 minutes when the conflict is getting set up and the last 5 minutes when it's getting resolved, it's only when she's creating the conflict that she is horrible.  This somewhat makes sense since the biggest reason she was written so badly was simply so that a conflict would exist in the first place (much like in "MMMystery on the Friendship Express") and it is not excusable here anymore than it was there, in fact, even less so since this is Season 7 Pinkie.  Not only should she be mature enough by this point not to cause such a bad conflict, it just doesn't make sense for her character on a number of different levels.  First, Pinkie Pie has never considered herself to be a "friendship expert," so why does she here?  I could see Twilight having that problem, but Pinkie embodied the Element of Laughter from the start, NOT Friendship.  She's the fun expert, all things party and social gatherings and get-togethers and jamborees, that is her schtick!  Heck, just last week we even saw how this has been a part of how she's grown more mature; she's really got stuff that she's into down to a science at this point, like that list of every pony in Ponyville's favorite desserts, and that just makes sense for a character like her, she should be on top of stuff like that in an over-the-top way that somehow makes sense for her.  I don't even care if you use the excuse that this is because it involved her sister, because that brings up yet another reason why her behavior here doesn't make any sense.  When has Pinkie ever felt such distrust toward Maud?  From the first episode that Maud was introduced, Pinkie has done nothing but adore her and seems to have complete respect for her!  If anything else, Pinkie was probably the least aware of anypony else that there was anything unusual about Maud's behavior; she always loved Maud for who she is and never showed the slightest inkling that she understood that others wouldn't get her.  Heck, what about what Starlight and Maud were doing together even made Pinkie think they weren't getting along???  THEY WERE FLYING KITES TOGETHER WHEN PINKIE STARTED FREAKING OUT FOR PETE'S SAKE!!!  On top of that, she is Maud's YOUNGER sister!  We know that Limestone is the oldest of the Pie sisters, followed by Maud, and that Marble and Pinkie are twins, so why in Equestria would Pinkie belittle her older sister like that by being so clingy, protective, and doing just the most boneheaded, obvious behavior in the name of making a friendship work out that could only lead to running it into the ground?!  Heck, this type of behavior seems more suited for Applejack than Pinkie Pie, we've seen her go to over-the-top lengths for her family tons of times, especially being protective a ton to Apple Bloom.  Again, I don't care if the stakes were that Maud might move to Ponyville, because Pinkie has never even shown that she misses her family so much that she'd do anything for any of them to live by her.  I mean, I'm not surprised she was thrilled by the idea, but at the same time, I cannot justify any of Pinkie's behavior in the middle of this episode just because she really, really, really wanted Maud to move by her.  So many forced jokes (Lyra is a rock, really Pinkie???  Even when you're losing it I can't believe you'd seriously try something so stupid), so many boneheaded attempts at forcing a friendship to happen, and most of all, an inexcusable and unbelievable lack of faith in her own sister knowing when she'd found a friend, or even being capable of finding one.  I get the set-up, I get Pinkie wanting Maud to move by her.  And to be fair, the second Starlight pointed out her problem to her (hilariously, I might add) Pinkie realized her errors and resolved to fix them.  But that doesn't excuse that a conflict existed when it shouldn't have, and this conflict was very, very, very painfully forced to the detriment of Pinkie.  It is especially painful at this point in the show when any of the Mane 6 are written badly in the name of forcing a conflict because it just feels like they are being regressed and infantilized in the name of making a conflict work, especially when supporting characters like Maud and Starlight are involved who DO know FAR less about friendship than the Mane 6 do.  Pinkie should have been able to make a healthy contribution to Maud finding a friend, heck, SHE DID when she encouraged Maud to hang out with Starlight, but then for whatever reason the writers decided that she needed to have a hundred brain farts just so a lesson could be learned.  It was bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, and I did not like it at all.  Pinkie Pie, I'm sorry, but you get an F here, or rather, the writers who botched you do.  If you want to see Pinkie Pie losing it in a way that is believable for her character, there are far better episodes to watch that have just that, like "Party of One."

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Good Pinkie

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Bad, bad, BAD Pinkie!  Very bad!!!  Like... just don't... at all... please.

Anddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd... exhaleeeeeeeeeeeeeee.  OK, rant over!!!  Did you have fun everypony?  Cause I sure did! :pinkie:

OK, now that that is out of the way, onto the good parts of the episode.  Because yes, unlike the irredeemable "MMMystery on the Friendship Express," this was a good episode all around.  Not great, but good, and that is largely because the primary plot point, that being Maud finding herself a friend outside of her family, was executed quite nicely (outside of anything involving Pinkie Pie).  First of all, it was pretty awesome and hilarious seeing Maud, oh I'm sorry, Maudalina Daisy Pie (which is amazing) getting her "rocktorate" that opening scene was just gold from start to finish, plus it's just damn cool that a kid's show would acknowledge the existence of doctorates as part of its canon and show a character actually earn one.  But on top of that, Maud probably developed here more than she ever has as a character, and I liked that a lot.  Really, it was necessary in order for her character to remain endearing at all, because just maintaining the status quo with her would be unbearable.  Some of her bits at the beginning were confusing, like I have no idea how she wasn't slightly impressed by Twilight's Castle, even if it was just to be a joke.  But all in all, the idea that she'd never found a pony who got her outside of her family was a good one and made sense (though I will ask how the Mane 6 don't qualify as friends for her?  I mean, they seem to enjoy her, and they may not entirely get her, but they certainly seem to appreciate her for who she is, it's not like they just tolerate her, I mean, heck, Rarity was thrilled to see Maud and not just because she could help her find a gem!).  Best of all, her interactions with Starlight were just plain fun, they had a very solid rapport with each other (I have some issues with some of it but I'll bring that up in Starlight's section).  It was especially fun getting more of a glimpse of Maud's sense of humor, as well as insight into why she likes rocks so much while still coming to grips with the fact that rocks aren't enough for her, even if she does love them.  I was happy that she's essentially living in Ponyville after this episode, and in a pretty cool new setting too, that underground cavern looked pretty snazzy (and hey, no rent, she basically got herself free real estate, unless of course she did have to buy the land, I wonder if that's the case, I mean, she clearly had to get it registered as a new address, we saw a mailbox there and everything).  So even if Pinkie Pie was written so stupidly so as to make Maud look like the more mature of the two (which she was), that doesn't mean that Maud wasn't executed well, she was, very much so.  Hopefully we'll get to see more of her around Ponyville now, cause when she and Pinkie have good rapport, they are awesome together.

Slaves With Benefits *Season 7 Spoilers* by bobthedalek

Finally, we come to Starlight, who was pretty solid as well.  I have a few issues, but mostly with just some of the ideas surrounding her presence, not her execution here.  First, that flashback connecting Starlight to Maud was as hilarious as it was deliciously evil; I have some problem with the idea that Maud wouldn't be concerned with pointing some pony to an object that could enslave others, BUT the execution was so good and snappy as a joke that I couldn't help but love it for what it was!  As I said before, she and Maud have great rapport together and were very fun to see being friends with one another.  It didn't feel like Starlight and Trixie do, where those two are clearly BFFs and Starlight very often has something to teach Trixie about friendship, this felt more like just a, ya know, friendship, where two individuals are just happy to share some interests with each other and spend some time together now and then.  I like that because sometimes that's all a friendship is, just digging someone's company now and then, and I can also see that being the type of friendship Maud would desire.  Although I don't exactly get why both of them said they didn't want to talk about feelings with each other when that's kind of exactly what they did when Maud explained to Starlight why she likes rocks, giving her insight into her own struggles with ponies, but whatever.  The bigger issue I had with Starlight's presence was the episode never really explained WHY Starlight gets Maud.  And really, why does she?  Why does she get Maud and the other Mane 6 supposedly don't?  As I said, I'm not quite sure why Maud doesn't even consider the Mane 6 to be friends.  Does she think they just like her because she's Pinkie's sister?  And again, what about Starlight makes her qualified to get Maud more than others?  Sure they've both struggled with making friends, but for totally different reasons.  Starlight just felt alone after Sunburst left her when they were younger, she never felt like ponies were judgmental about her.  She has even today a fairly grounded and even-keeled personality, and I don't even get why she thought that liking kites was some kind of weird thing she should largely keep to herself (don't get me wrong, that bit with the kites was hilarious and I loved learning that it's something she really likes, but I still don't get why she acted like it was some big secret, I mean, they're kites, sure not everyone is into them but nobody thinks you're weird for liking kites, they're just bucking kites!!!).  But overall, Starlight was fine here and had some great chemistry with Maud.  I don't want the show to start having her befriend every major supporting character outside of the Mane 6, because I don't want her to develop her own Mane 6 and don't want the show to send some kind of message that "Starlight is better at some kinds of friendships than the Mane 6 are, because... reasons," but this one I can dig because it felt different from a lot of the other friendships Starlight has made.  Overall, despite a few nitpicky issues, I really liked seeing little ol' Glim Glam here, and hopefully we get to see more of her, Maud, and their kites in the future!

Oh, also, I completely agree with Starlight, jalapeno-red velvet-omelet-cupcakes sound terribly disgusting, c'mon Pinkie, what're you even thinking???

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These two, I totally dig these two :bedeyes:

A few extra notes to wrap things up.  What was up with that Rarity scene?  Like, all of it.  What was up with it?  Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy did Rarity freak out when Maud told her that all of the gems there were common gems?  I figure Rarity might know more about gems by this point than even Maud, and it seems like in Equestria that gems grow almost as common as apples, so it seems like a ton of gems would be common.  I mean, she couldn't bedazzle the s*** out of so many dresses if they weren't.  On top of that, there were so many gems in that cave that how could they not be common???  I mean, it was literally covered in gems ground to ceiling, there's no way they could be anything but common!  I don't know, this is a nitpicky point, but it bugged me, because if gems were supposedly rare, it seems like Rarity would rather sell them then go to the trouble of putting so many on dresses.  But in this world, I've never gotten that impression about gems, heck, Rarity's not even the only one who puts them on dresses, that's how common they seem to be in Equestria, so I have no idea why she was on the verge of tears when Maud told her that, even if it was for laughs.  Confusing scene overall and in the end it had no major impact on the episode.

The bit with Lyra and Bon Bon, while obnoxiously stupid as far as Pinkie Pie's contribution goes, was pretty hilarious on their end.  Lyra's terrified face was too funny and she just seemed so confused by what was going on (although oddly accepting of the idea that she was supposed to be a... rock, but hey, I guess that's just how scared ponies get of angry Pinkie), and Bon Bon looked so terribly annoyed at Pinkie (plus I'm not surprised that she wasn't taking any of her s*** either, I mean, she was a monster-hunting secret agent at one point).  The return to Ghastly Gorge and seeing the Quarray Eels make another appearance were both cool callbacks to Season 2, though I refuse to believe that Maud wasn't aware they were there when she was looking into moving there, she's too smart not to have thought of that.

Episode Art: Rock Solid Friendship by SilFoe

"Find your own mint pony, ya pink menace!"

Finally, most importantly of all, DERPY HOOVES, BEST PONY FOREVER AND GREATEST GEM THIS SHOW HAS GIVEN US TO DATE, made her first appearance of Season 7, and it was most enjoyable indeed!  She first showed up when Maud and Starlight were in the market, just walking around, but then she had her own little bit when Pinkie Pie threw a pizza at her and she gleefully chased after it (hey, at least she got a free pizza out of Pinkie Pie's stupidity, that's more than most ponies can say in this episode about what they got from Pinkie's OOC behavior)!  I look forward to seeing more of best pony this season, and cannot wait for Derpy's next appearance.

I apologize for all of these upcoming pics but I just had to post this as a sequence...

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Ha ha, best pony has pizza and you do not, BE JEALOUS, FEEL ENVY!!!

Overall, this was the first episode of Season 7 that, for me, was just good.  It wasn't great, it wasn't terrible, maybe it wasn't even very good, but it was solidly just good, and given how bad Pinkie was here, it really should be commended for even being that good.  I did care about what was happening, I liked what ended up happening, and ultimately something was accomplished, Maud has a friend and lives adjacent to Ponyville, good stuff overall, even if the road there wasn't entirely smooth.  That's all I've got for you this time folks, until next time everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*

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HOLY S***, BUCK YES!!! :D

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Batbrony

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Good afternoon everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews."  Today we've got the first normal episode of Season 7 proper, following the two season premiere episodes, and I'm very pleased to say that this was a delightful episode indeed.  That's particularly important for the third episode of a season because, in past seasons, I've noticed that very often the third episode of any given season very much sets the tone for the general level of quality one encounters or can expect to encounter throughout the season.  This was definitely one of the best third episodes of a new season the show has had in some time, so without further ado, let's begin.  This is "A Flurry of Emotions."

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Hi, I'm Batbrony, and this is Flurry Heart... welcome to 'Jackass'!!!

Alright, so the most important aspect of this episode was the first really full-episode feature of Flurry Heart since her first debut in "The Crystalling" last season.  While I found her to be perfectly harmless when she first showed up last season, there were a fair number of bronies who, to this day, weren't too crazy about her.  They thought she was just there for the sake of having an annoying baby character and weren't crazy about her being an alicorn either, and I always thought that was a little unfair to her as a character, even if the threat she presented in her debut was a little ridiculous.  That said, we didn't really get much else of her after those two episodes, so the show hadn't really given her defenders much of a chance since then to really justify her existence.  Today I'm glad to say that that has been fully rectified with this episode.  Flurry Heart was not only even more adorable and hilarious than when she first showed up, but was also still believable as a young foal while clearly having grown and developed (at least by baby standards) quite a bit since when we saw her in her debut when she was only days old.  She has long-term memory now, better control over her magic, and even something of a personality, and given the passage of time since she first appeared, this all makes sense.  But despite these new additions to her, she still behaved as a foal her age should, and what we got was a foal character that felt very natural and well-put together.  I was also very impressed that the show didn't try to pretend like Flurry Heart even had to learn a lesson here; oh sure, Twilight lectured her at the end, but that was largely just to calm her down in the moment because, well, she's a baby still and can only learn so much at this point in time.  Overall, I thought that Princess McFlurry was an absolute treat to watch this time around, and Tabitha St. Germain's splendid voice work on her did not hurt in the slightest either, hay, I'd even say it was a better job than her first time around!  So all in all I was very pleased with how Flurry Heart's return went, and I do hope we get to see more of her going forward (although I should note that I really hope the show at some point lets foal characters actually get older, because it makes NO sense that the Cake Twins are still around Flurry's age.  Heck, the first episode of the season pointed out why it makes no sense; Celestia mentioned that it has clearly been years since the show started in Equestrian time, and the Cake Twins have been around since Season 2, WHEN ARE THEY GONNA GET OLDER IN THE SHOW?!  But I digress).

Oh, also, before we move on, if you thought this show couldn't find anymore ways to jam-pack adorableness into a 22 minute episode of MLP, then you were quite pleasantly surprised by how cute this episode was.  I mean, come on, take a look at this!

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Sweet Celestia, that's A LOT of cute!!! :love:

Anyways, moving on we come to the main character of this episode, Twilight.  Through this first three episodes of this season, I've actually been quite pleased to find that the lessons that Twilight's been learning don't seem to be (1) redundant for her, or (2) something she should have learned already.  I bring this up because last season, while an excellent season all around, had quite a few instances of characters in the Mane 6 learning lessons that they really should have known by that point in the show, and oftentimes they came off as either jerks or stupid because of it.  Now while it may still be early in the new season, the fact that Twilight has been handled so well in the lesson department is an encouraging sign, to say the least.  Both lessons make sense as being ones she might have to learn at this point in the show.  She'd only just gotten used to being Starlight's teacher last season, so obviously having to let a student go on to her next step in life was something which she'd never done before and needed to learn how to do.  Likewise, in this episode we see that Twilight still has a lot to learn about being a responsible aunt, especially when she doesn't see Flurry Heart all that often, which can make it easy for her to just want to be a fun aunt for the young filly, but as we saw today, she doesn't have much experience with full-time care of a foal that age, much less a relative, and couldn't just try to squeeze her into her already packed schedule.  A foal Flurry's age needs 24/7 monitoring and care, and Twilight clearly underestimated how hard that'd be to do in this instance, especially while trying to juggle other responsibilities.  But like I said, this did not seem like a Season 1 or Season 2 Twilight problem, I could totally buy that she'd need to learn this now.  And the best part of it all in execution was that she learned it as the episode went on, not just all in one bunch at the end.  Season 1 or Season 2 Twilight would've tried to grin and bear it from start to ugly finish, maybe even deny until she absolutely couldn't any longer that anything was wrong at all.  But this is Season 7 Twilight, and by the time she got to the hospital, Twilight was already readily admitting that this day had gotten out of control and was quite the nightmare already, that she'd bucked up.  She was just trying to make the best of it at that point and get through the rest.  The only difference in the hospital scene was that Flurry finally caused enough of a disruption that Twilight needed to calm her down quite a few notches and admit to Flurry that she couldn't and shouldn't keep trying to drag her to all these places and just keep her off to the side.  It wasn't fair to Flurry, nor was it fair to the ponies Twilight was supposed to be helping or who were going out of their way to help Twilight, as evidenced by the toy store clerk, poor Cheerilee (whose mouth must just reek of chalk now, poor earth ponies and pegasi with no digits or levitation magic), and Pinkie Pie in Sugarcube Corner, along with the hospital staff and the sick fillies and colts at the hospital.  All in all, while not the deepest of lessons, I still really liked it just because I didn't mind that Twilight was learning it since it all made perfect sense.  Twilight's got a lot of experience in a lot of things at this point, but one thing she still doesn't have too much experience in is being a responsible aunt to her alicorn niece.  Very good lesson and very good characterization of Twilight.

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Off to supporting characters, we had quite a bunch of good stuff to go around.  First, Spike was awesome.  I've really enjoyed his rising maturity levels over the last 3 seasons now, and I feel like mentoring Starlight to a certain extent (in a big brother kind of way, even if he's younger and smaller than her) has really contributed to that.  He's much more confident in his ability to have a situation under control now and he's still Twilight's #1 assistant as always, if not even better than ever, and here he just wasn't messing around.  He knew the second Twilight proposed letting Flurry tag along that it'd mess up their entire schedule and he also knew that wasn't a good idea for many reasons; sadly, because Twilight needed to learn a lesson and (more likely connected to show canon) because Twilight still has a bad habit of not usually listening to Spike's advice until it's too late, Twilight did not listen, but still, Spike was very enjoyable all the same.  He didn't seem too phased by Twilight not listening to him, which means he's either getting used to it or was just perfectly happy to watch everything blow up in her face instead. :yay:   He also had some fun bits with Flurry Heart, like this bit with the Cake Twins where Flurry and Spike desperately tried to intervene to no avail and get the Cake Twins to stop fighting...

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"You see this s*** going on over here, dragon-dude?  Mannnnnnnnnn, it's not good!"

I mean, c'mon, how funny is that s***?  Besides Spike we had a very fun subplot with Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, and I must say it's about damn time.  We've really only seen these two as a couple during season premiere or finale episodes, usually in the middle of some kind of a national crisis, so I was very gratified that we finally got to see these two, extensively, JUST as a couple doing couple things as they tried to get an afternoon to themselves to get a break from Flurry Heart.  Even better, I loved very much that the show was very real in that they went to something, an art show, which neither of them were particularly crazy about, but it was better than nothing at all and Twilight just happened to be in Ponyville too, so it worked, because that's just how much they needed a break from parenting a foal this age.  That was delightful in its accuracy, as I've heard of many a parental couple who get to a point when they have a young baby that they're willing to do anything if it means they're out of the house and get a day or an evening of a break from their parenting, even if it's not something they really like!  What was even more fun was the art show itself, namely because of Spearhead, Shining Armor's old Royal Guard buddy.  This guy was a blast!  As I said earlier, he's that rare type of "dude-bro" who, rather than being insufferable, was kind of awesome and hilarious; he wasn't full of himself, he just loves being a dude bro in every sense of the word, and I totally dug that.  His approach as an artist as well really worked for me.  Not the pieces themselves, but I kept seeing throughout this thread people commenting that they thought the writers were being snarky about modern art and people not liking it.  I think that's true to an extent, but I think it changed when Spearhead came in.  I don't think the writers were critiquing modern art, I think they were critiquing how some modern artists insist that their art have one interpretation alone.  THAT is what makes modern art really insufferable; not so much what it looks like (even if much of it is nowhere as impressive as classic pieces of art) but the idea that such vague and general art can only have one interpretation, which some insufferable modern artists do insist.  Spearhead here, however, made his art very accessible for others by insisting that enjoying his art was all about his patrons interpreting it as however they wished, injecting meaning into it that meant something to them.  His art meant something very specific to him, but he wasn't going to begrudge others having it mean something else to them, but rather encouraged it.  For such a seemingly simple character, and in a subplot no less, this was actually quite a nuanced and subtle message about how to appreciate art no matter what form you encounter it in.  For that, I have to give major props to the writers on such a well-written and fun new character.  I doubt we'll see more of him this season, but I wouldn't complain if we did, Spearhead was a blast!

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You're cool in my book, Spearhead, you're cool.  Dude-on mah dude-bro! B)

To close out the supporting characters we had some fun appearances from Nurse Redheart (I seriously can't remember the last time she had a speaking role, and it was fun seeing her softer side this time around as opposed to when she made herself Pinkie's mortal enemy when the Cake Twins were born), a new toy store clerk who absolutely unloaded some sass on Twilight about proper organization (and yes, I loved it :lol:), Cheerilee who, as I mentioned earlier, got quite the shaft from having to write all those equations on a chalkboard all over again with the chalk in her mouth (but hey, at least Twilight is getting her apology cookies), but I do love getting to see Ponyville's favorite teacher getting small little bits like that now and then, really helps further bring the town alive when the supporting and background ponies there get to play more active roles, and finally a really funny scene with the Cake Twins and Pinkie Pie in which Flurry Heart had the most adorable, failed attempt ever at trying to teach the Cake Twins how to share (I'd count the hospital scene but there were so many background and supporting characters there that none really stood out aside from Redheart, and I guess we learned what the horsey hives are as well).  All in all, for a single episode, it was a pretty darn solid one as far as activity from supporting characters goes.

Besides that, I don't have too much else to mention.  The animation as usual was lovely and I continue to appreciate the experimentation we continue to see the animators engaging in, ESPECIALLY in some of the faces they throw into the show (which I should also credit the storyboard artists for considering that's where a lot of that starts I'm sure).  I mean, get a load of this face, can you even imagine seeing something like this in Season 1 or Season 2?

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That's hilarious... OK, one more

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Perfection :orly:

Besides the facial animation, I was quite impressed by some of the magic animation in this episode, it was unusually ambitious for a slice-of-life episode.  Think about it, we had not one but two very powerful magic users (three if you count the few times Cadance used magic, but she barely did here), oftentimes using magic at the same time and sometimes on the same things, and one of them was also an infant, which meant that the magic had to look as though it were being employed, to some extent, by a baby who doesn't entirely know what she's doing all the time.  Very impressive, if I do say so myself, and it's hard to believe we've gotten all the way to this point in their magical animation since Season 1.  There was also a pretty neat reference to the G1 villain, Grogar (considered the second most evil G1 villain behind Tirek) in the story Twilight was telling to the fillies and colts at the hospital, but whether anything else comes of that remains to be seen.  He may be a canon character who shows up at some point, but for right now he's at the very least a fictional character in Equestrian lore, if not an actual historical one, we don't know.  If something more comes of that, it'll be very cool indeed that they mentioned him earlier this season.

Overall, this episode was a blast and a very, very, VERY solid third episode of the season, which bodes well for the entirety of Season 7.  I can't wait to see what comes next, but for now I'll settle for rewatching an episode as immensely enjoyable as this one.  This has been another edition of "Batbrony Reviews," everypony!  Until next time, everypony, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off! *cue dramatic exit*

Batbrony

Good evening everypony, and welcome back to another edition (and a brand new MLP:FiM season) of "Batbrony Reviews"!!!  Tonight, for the season premiere, I'm in the unusual position of having to review two episodes that were not a part of a single story arc.  Yes, for the first time in the entire running of MLP:FiM, DHX decided not to have the opening be a massive two-parter where the girls had to battle some threat to all of Equestria and... frankly, this change was probably a season overdue considering that last season's opener (while delightful) involved the Crystal Empire being threatened by a newborn alicorn.  Yeah, it's not easy coming up with new threats to all of Equestria on a seasonal basis (especially seven seasons in), much less twice a season, so frankly I'm quite happy they finally decided to do this.  And it worked really well since the first episode pretty much picked up immediately from where the last episode in Season 6 left off (and the closure it brought to such a momentous event in Equestria as relations getting normalized with the Changelings was very gratifying to see).  But enough of my introductory ramblings, let's get to the real meat of my review... which is mostly me rambling.  This is "Celestial Advice" and "All Bottled Up"!!!

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Awwwwwwwwww, giant wing hug, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! :kindness:

So starting with "Celestial Advice," this episode was important and needed for a number of reasons.  As I said, we got really good closure following the Season 6 finale, in particular seeing Starlight and her band of friends hailed as heroes (in many ways it was a fun and silly contrast to the Season 2 "Star Wars" celebration for the Mane 6 in the season opener, particularly because Starlight's group is nowhere nearly as tight as the Mane 6 were by that point and probably never will be since the only two who see each other on a regular basis are Starlight and Trixie).  That entire scene was executed very nicely; I was particularly pleased to see such a wide array of Equestrian citizens and their closest friends and allies mingling in the same spot, including the reformed Changelings and Crystal Ponies (though it was odd that neither Princess Cadance nor Shining Armor were there, though I'm guessing that's going to be explained in next week's episode based on the preview for it).  But it was also important because Twili- ah screw it, no more beating around the bush, CELESTIA GOT SOME DAMN MEANINGFUL SCREENTIME!!!

Wowwwwwwwwwwww, you have no idea how great it was to write that.  And seriously, I'm holding off talking about anything else good about this episode until I get this spiel about of the way.  First of all, this is what I had to say about Celestia's treatment in Season 6 (and pretty much since Season 4) in my Season 6 review:

Oh me oh my, why can't poor Celly get any love on this show it seems? Between time and time again being incapable of actually solving a national crisis (a plot device that seems a bit tired at this point, I mean, it was ridiculously easy for the Changelings to capture both her and Princess Luna, buck, all of Equestria's royalty was bucking useless in that so I can only hope that that was one bucking stealthy operation the Changelings launched) and just disappearing for stretches at a time, this character just can't catch a break these days. Let's not forget that there was a time in this show where pretty much EVERY MAJOR EVENT revolved around Celestia to some extent. She was the main catalyst in sending Twilight to Ponyville and getting her to regularly learn lessons of friendship and report them to her, she bucking made Twilight a princess for crying out loud, and she's supposed to be her dearest mentor, and a mentor and leader to all ponies. Needless to say, since the end of Season 4, that has not been the case and it is NOTICEABLE!!! This is a character who is simply too big in her importance to both the show's setting and main characters to be ignored the way she has the last two seasons by the writers without it coming off as ridiculous. SHE CONTROLS THE BUCKING SUN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, AND YOU'RE TELLING ME THAT THE HIGH POINT OF HER SEASON WAS A GAG ABOUT HER BEING UNAMUSED IN "No Second Prances" IN WHICH SHE DIDN'T EVEN SAY A BUCKING WORD?!?! It's too much, at this point, it's simply too much. Many of us in the fandom have long been asking for more Celestia, going all the way back to the early seasons, but instead she just had her worst season ever and this NEEDS TO CHANGE!!! She needs an episode next season, to put it mildly, she simply does. Nicole Oliver for one is too good in this role to ignore, but back to the character herself, this is a character that deserves better! Princess Luna has rightfully had a character arc across all six of these seasons, Princess Cadance has even had a character arc and sometimes major appearances in episodes (even if she maybe hasn't ever faced a friendship problem, unless you count "The Times They Are a Changeling"), but Princess Celestia, the sole ruler of Equestria for 1000 years, STILL DOESN'T HAVE A SOLO EPISODE?!?!? BUCKING RIDICULOUS!!! Writers, at this point I'm just begging for anything, anything at all. A fun little slice-of-life episode, maybe about a day in the life of Celestia or a romp with some other character on some random adventure, more about her and Twilight's relationship, maybe a look into her own mind and what her own fears and insecurities are, SOMETHING, ANYTHING!!! But the show simply can't keep ignoring such a big character without it coming off as a major flaw, and until that changes, until Princess Celestia finally gets the proper attention she deserves in the show, even in just one episode focused on her as an actual main character, it will remain quite possibly the biggest long-standing flaw of the show, and it's a shame that a season that was so strong for the most part in its handling of new and old supporting characters was so marred by such a glaring absence.

Andddddddddddd... exhale.  OK, it appears that the show runners at DHX have taken note of this... GLARING problem, to say the least.  As you can see, Celestia's been getting the shaft, and the entire show was going to keep getting brought down for it if such an important character was continually treated so poorly.  NOW, I am not yet letting them entirely off the hook because this was NOT a solo-Celestia episode.  BUT she was more or less the season opener's deuteragonist, and that is much more than she has been in any single episode for a long, long, long, long, long, long, long time.  So for that, major props DHX, I can only hope you're going to build off of this solid foundation of Celly-love and not just let it be a single bone thrown her way.  Anyways, yeah, Celestia was great here (and it should be obvious from the title alone that she'd be a major character, I mean, ya know, "Celestial Advice" and all).  This is a Celestia I've wanted to see in the show for a long time, with a combination of new character elements we learned about her along with old staples about her that we already loved.  The second Twilight asked her for help, I already felt like the show had entered a comfort zone it hadn't been in in a longggggggggg time, too long, in fact.  Frankly, it was just nice seeing the show do something it doesn't do enough anymore; have the main characters go to their elders for help.  I know some people may be like, "Well, it's cliche or old fashioned," but come on, the main character of this show has a mentor who's over a thousand years old and has ruled Equestria, the greatest country in the entire show, most of her life in relative peace and harmony.  The fact that she had barely sought her advice for any major decisions or friendship problems, onscreen, since pretty much becoming the Princess of Friendship (there were exceptions, but not enough), was not just criminal from a storytelling point of view, but stupid, ridiculously stupid.  Too often for some time now either the characters have easily learned most lessons on their own, OR Twilight has taught them; I know the former is easy enough to accept for most friendship problems in this show (especially for the veteran members of the Mane 6), and that the latter makes sense in establishing Twilight as the Princess of Friendship in actions and not just in title, BUT come on, surely they could have found more for Celestia to do before now.  Anyways, yes, Twilight asking Celestia for help and advice not only made sense, but was great to see, especially in getting to contrast how Celestia is as a teacher to Twilight vs. Twilight as a teacher to Starlight.

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"I was not aware that I was an expression."

Best bucking line in the entire premiere!!! :icwudt:

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She really just forgot which kitchen her cake was in that day :derp:

Most of the time Celestia was just calmly listening to Twilight, and when she spoke, it was only because she knew exactly what she needed to say, no more, no less (aside from an innocent joke here or there).  Considering how many ponies she's ruled and helped in all her years, this makes a lot of sense; it's probably hard to phase Celestia with much at this point, and she knows the value of hearing all that you need to know before speaking one word.  Twilight on the other hoof, when it comes to Starlight, is always either worried that she's not doing enough to mentor Starlight or doing too little.  She's not the OCD wreck she used to be, but she will always have a natural inclination to have all her ducks in a row in any professional activity as Princess of Friendship, that's just who she is.  An interesting Star Wars analogy occurred to me in thinking of this trio of ponies today: Celestia is very much a Yoda to Twilight's Obi Wan, the former serene and having the utmost confidence in both her students and how she teaches them, while the latter is obsessed with mastering and practicing and perfecting every last bit of whatever it is she's invested herself in to the fullest, and then again, and again, and again.  Twilight too is Obi Wan to Starlight's Anakin, but that analogy works in a different way that I'll discuss later.  Besides of course knowing exactly what Twilight needed to be told, Celestia gave us some wonderful backstory on both her buildup to sending Twilight to Ponyville (a decision that evidently took her quite some time, most likely months given both the obviously difficulty with which she made her decision as well as the fact that getting the library secured for Twilight must've involved at least some paperwork) and what she was experiencing emotionally in making that decision.  She was as afraid for Twilight as she was herself, because it was clear that at that point, Twilight was one of her closest friends (though I got the feeling that Twilight probably didn't think of it in the same way at the time, more like at best a maternal, but first and foremost regal, mentor considering how little she understood about friendship at the time), and she had no way of knowing if somepony as close to her as her sister could truly be saved even after she returned.  She had big plans for Twilight already, and unfortunately for her, those plans meant letting the wonderful status quo of having such a wonderful, dear friend by her side almost constantly come to an end.  It was great seeing how painful and hard that was for Celestia, and added a level of vulnerability to her we've only rarely gotten to see.  And of course, the experience allowed her to tell Twilight with the utmost confidence that part of being a great mentor in anything is knowing when your students are ready to cut loose on their own, no matter in what or how painful it may be for the mentor or student, or even downright scary.  All around, I couldn't have asked for a more solid start to the season for Celestia, but that said, she still needs a solo episode at some point, so stick to it DHX, and hopefully you'll deliver just that this season.

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AHA!  BEHOLD, THE RETURN OF TROLLESTIA, BOW BEFORE HER, MORTALS!!!

As for the rest of the episode, it was all good stuff.  Twilight's increasing, OCD paranoia about what could happen to Starlight on her own was hilarious, and the lesson she learned and actions she took as a result was great too.  As far as I can tell, Starlight (while still living in Ponyville, which, given how quickly she decided to do that after they set up so much her getting sent away, felt like a bit of a cop out, even if I was happy for it) is no longer directly being mentored by Twilight about friendship.  She'll still live in the castle for the time being, but there appears to be no fixed agenda for her, she's just going about learning how to be a better friend and maybe helping teach others along the way in her day-to-day business.  Hopefully this means she might get paired with other members of the Mane 6 besides Twilight, because I would like to see her grow closer to the other Mane 6 individually, though I get the feeling that a huge portion of her adventures this season will be with Trixie.  Basically she's kind of where Twilight was at somewhere around middle-to-end of Season 2 or Season 3, at least I think she is.

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Dat's racist

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Dat's... also racist.  Man, Twilight has some deep-seeded racial insecurities, doesn't she? :toldya:

Discord, while hardly a villain, was quite a good troll here in setting off Twilight's latest freaking-out episode, and it was kinda nice seeing him for the most part just lightheartedly screwing around rather than making himself constantly the center of attention.  He felt, oddly enough, like a more normal member of that crowd.  The reformed Changelings were adorable and hilarious (though Thorax's voice really doesn't work with that beefed up new look, just doesn't sound right coming out of him), the Mane 6 had some OK bits, the animation was just lovely, Starlight and her friends were great, Spike was once again a low key voice of reason, and all in all everything here just worked.  Very solid opening episode, I very much enjoyed watching how everything played out in this one.

Moving on to "All Bottled Up," the lesser of the two episodes, but not by much.  I still thoroughly loved it very much, and for good reason.  It still felt very much connected to the first episode in that here, we got to see what kind of life Starlight is beginning to make for herself now that she's no longer directly reporting to Twilight on a regular basis.  It seems she's starting by trying to teach her best friend, Trixie, how to be better at magic in general (since, to be honest, Trixie could stand to improve by quite a bit).  This actually presented quite a few contrasts between Starlight and Twilight that I rather enjoyed and which fit very much into how we've seen both of them develop as characters.  Going back to the Star Wars analogies, Twilight is the Obi-Wan to Starlight's Anakin in the magical department in the sense that, as far as we know, Starlight's the more powerful of the two when it comes to raw power.  Let's keep in mind that when Twilight battled her in Season 5, Twilight was an alicorn and had (and probably still has) more book-learning about magic than Starlight did, and yet somehow Starlight stayed on par with her.  Twilight is the learning obsessed master of technique who's greatest skill in mastering anything magical is doing so by practicing it 200 times a day and just getting it down to a T.  Hence, Obi-Wan.  Starlight, on the other hand, seems to have greater raw power and while she is still probably even in power with Twilight, the fact that she is as a unicorn is ridiculous to say the least and goes to show just what kind of stuff she's made of.  While Twilight's calling is clearly as the Princess of Friendship (and that certainly involves plenty of magic, especially since friendship is probably the most powerful magic in Equestria, literally), Starlight, I get the feeling, may eventually go into a more explicitly magical field.  I just don't see her being a friendship teacher in the same way Twilight is.  As far as friends go, Twilight was not a natural leader to begin with.  She was a recluse and anti-social, so it makes sense that like everything else, she taught friendship when she got into it like a project that she had to master through as much study and repetition as possible.  Don't get me wrong, she's a great friend, but there are many ways in which she still approaches friendship as she has from the beginning, and it's for those reasons that she's the glue that holds together a group like the Mane 6.  Starlight, on the other hoof, IS a natural leader it seems, or at least we have seen that she possesses the will to be.  Her problem with friendship was insecurity, not disinterest, and there will probably always be a part of her that fears that she could hurt others if she isn't careful because of her past mistakes.  Hence, I foresee her never having a Mane 6 group like Twilight, and frankly I'm OK with that.  The show really doesn't need such an arrangement for any reason, it would come off as tired and lazy, and it just doesn't fit Starlight.  She will have friends, but unlike Twilight, her closest friends won't be a big group that all are dear to each other as well; her friendships are going to be fewer and far more personal to Starlight, one-on-one so to speak.  I mean, to date, it seems that her three truly closest friends are Trixie, Sunburst, and Spike, none of whom are friends with each other in particular (not in the same way at least).  Trixie is her best friend, Sunburst is more of a very close childhood friend, and Spike is like a combination of mentor and little brother.  Twilight is a super close friend too, but more as a mentor, and to this day you always get the sense that ever since the end of Season 5 Starlight's been kind of in awe of Twilight and in no way considers herself to be on the same level as her as a friend.  What I like about this is that it highlights that there are all kinds of different ways to have friends in one's life (something the show has highlighted many times, but this is particularly noteworthy since it's main characters we're talking about).  Some people have a solid group like Twilight and the Mane 6, others have few friends but super close ones like Starlight and Trixie.  Valuable lesson to be taught, even if it was only in the background here.

So the actual lesson was pretty great too (if a bit obvious).  Starlight was literally bottling her anger at Trixie because she feared that if she blew her top at her, Trixie wouldn't want to be her friend anymore.  This was a little confusing because I'm pretty sure they've had spats before of some kind, but it largely worked because, just like some of Twilight's early friendship problems in Season 1 when she knew little about friendship, Starlight too is still super cautious when it comes to aspects of friendship that she doesn't understand.  The idea that getting into a fight with your best friend is OK was clearly bizarre to her, and Trixie's ego probably didn't help convince her she'd take Starlight being angry at her OK.  But in the end, doing so only made things worse, and Starlight and Trixie were able to come to an understanding that sometimes, friends need to be brutally honest with each other, and even if they fight as a result, that doesn't mean things won't be OK between them in the end.  A good, if simple, lesson, but it got the job done.

The real highlights of this episode were the entertaining bits, and boy were there a lot.  Trixie was insufferable (even more than usual) in this episode, but hilariously so (her predilection for junkfood seems to be becoming something of a running gag, and I nearly fell out of my seat when she birthed an Eldritch horror in that teacup poodle and insisted that a bag of pretzels were a suitable replacement for homemade teacupcakes... twice).  It's nice to see that certain aspects of her personality haven't changed, that her magic is getting better (though there are still things she just bucks up for the strangest of reasons... I think she might be a magical klutz), and hopefully she might even start embarking on more of a character arc than she has to date as, possibly, a developing main character!

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Pffftttt, OK, in all honesty, she kind of needed a nut cart to be thrown on top of her at some point in this episode... which thankfully happened.  Cheeky little bastard used up about 50 too many of her Get Out of Jail Free cards.  Also...

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DAT'S A LOTTA NUTS!!! :yay:

Spike was very solid here; I love seeing him as now the most low key member of the main characters, and his rapport with Starlight remains fun to watch as he throws out good advice to her here and there, but nowhere near as pushy as Twilight would.  Also, his terror of Trixie's magic and her wanting to use him as a teleportation guinea pig was hilarious.  The Mane 6's subplot (while largely pointless) was pretty funny.  I loved their assistant who clearly knew who they were and just didn't give a buck because he most likely gets paid two bits an hour to do this s*** all day for whoever comes through, and his pleasure at their two second failure at the end was amazing.  The song they sang was pretty standard, but was amazing payoff as a joke set up earlier by Starlight that they'd most likely sing a song at some point; really, it was just that standard because the show was being self aware in that moment how cliche this is (there really was no good reason that the girls would sing a song about something so banal as beating a fun puzzle game), and the best part of all was the fact that they sung that song in real time is what kept them from beating the course record.  Amazing payoff to a greatly set up joke, and it's great to see that the show runner's still have no problem poking fun at themselves and their beloved show now and then when it's warranted or just in harmless fun.

 

And finally, Bulk Biceps, Granny Smith, and that... new townspony, whoever she was, were all hilarious, both before and when they got possessed by Starlight's bottled up anger.  If I had any complaints, it was simply that we've never seen Starlight's anger manifest as a magical entity, and probably won't ever again, so where the buck did that actually come from here?  But other than that, this was a pair of lovely episodes to kick off what will hopefully prove to be another wonderful season of MLP:FiM.  Join me again next week everypony when I review the next new episode of Season 7.  Until then, this is Batbrony signing off.  I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*