• entries
    319
  • comments
    1017
  • views
    250465

About this blog

These blogs carry various editorials, articles, and essays.

Entries in this blog

 

FIM's most impressive feat: consistency of good quality

With season 9 being its last, I could give my thoughts on it ending, but I did so already. Instead, I want to reflect on what the show has done. Over the years, FIM has had moments where many, myself including, declare whether the show jumped the shark or not. For those who don't know, "jumping the shark" is the moment that indicates its peak has passed and won't return to form again. Examples are located here and here. Of course, when something jumps the shark is subjective. What might be a "jump the shark" moment for one may not be for another. There's no right way to determine it. That said, there have been many "jump the shark" moments, only for FIM to bounce back. Faust leaving during Season 2's production? Season 2 was really solid and has aged better than the former. Derpygate? Derpy was around during S2, was on hiatus in S3 til MMC, returned again in Rainbow Falls, and has remained a background mainstay since. Twilicorn debuting in MMC, a possible change in character? In S4, she showed remnants of Twi of old, and in S5, many of her quirks return. The castle replacing the tree? No on talks about it now, and I argue that Castle Sweet Castle helped relieve the worries. In fact, her castle's been in the show longer than the Golden Oak Library (104 eps to 91 to date, minus the shorts and Best Gift Ever). Princess Spike's ending implicating permanent status as a buttmonkey? Two weeks later, Amending Fences — one of the best of the show — aired, and Spike's direction has improved tremendously since. S5 remains my favorite of the show. Newbie Dash screwing up Dash's achievement? In consecutive weeks, Tail and TSRR air. Afterwards, the Wonderbolts become much more likeable, and Dash feels like a part of the team. Starlight joins the cast? She gradually improves in S6, and in S7 and 8, she makes her mark as one of the Mane Eight. The School of Friendship is born? Becomes one of the show's best settings and the home of the Young Six, some of the best characters of the show. You get the picture. Every time the show proverbially jumps the shark, the show always bounces back. It never stays down for so long. Whenever the show looks to be in the downturn in quality, DHX publishes good to great episodes, reminding us why FIM has the well-earned reputation of being one of the best Western cartoons of the decade. Consider this. Many cartoon shows don't last so long. After two or three seasons, it starts wrapping up or gets canceled. Gravity Falls only lasted two seasons. If they stick around, it runs the risk of rotting. FOX renewed The Simpsons for both a 31st and 32nd season, but many argue that it began its turn to mediocrity after Season 9. The Powerpuff Girls were good for about four years, but S5 and 6 (both w/o McCracken) sucked. Nickelodeon finally canceled Fairly Odd Parents after already drilling into the sewer. Sometimes they bounce back, such as Spongebob post Out of Water and Thomas & Friends following S16. Is it impressive that FIM lasted so long? Indeed. I still remember wondering if FIM will even have a S3 or 4. But think about it. FIM's been good for not just the first three to four seasons, but so far its entire run. A large chunk of the show's best episodes started in S5. If Friendship Is Magic ended after MMC or Twilight's Kingdom, we wouldn't have all-time greats like Flight to the Finish, The Cutie Map, Slice of Life, Lost Mark, The Times They Are A Changeling, The Perfect Pear, Shadow Play, Mean 6, The Washouts, or Sounds of Silence. DHX maintained consistently good quality from the very beginning to today, which is very hard to do. As I wrote here, Faust planted the seeds early, and her apple tree currently blooms. Prior to FIM, Hasbro's longest TV series was G1 Transformers (99 episodes, 6 seasons). When this show concludes, it'll be more than double the length (221 episodes, 9 seasons); not bad for a show that's been this good for so long, huh? Whether it'll hold up or not remains to be seen. But no one can deny that Friendship Is Magic built a legacy, and with S9 coming up in perhaps five to eight weeks, I can't wait to see what's in store.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"Father Knows Beast" Review (Revised)

Note: Credit to @Truffles, @Sparklefan1234, @PathfinderCS, and Silver-Quill for this review, which I C&P'd from here with extra edits. This review has been revised to include a little more content. Sludge may be the most hateable non-villain of the series, if not one of them with Svengallop, Garble, Zephyr, and Spoiled Rich. Garble's someone to just hate, but Sludge you love to hate. This slob knows how to con others with no remorse. He wants to lives the luxury life and make you work for it, all the while tugging the right strings to make you fall for his tricks and divide you from who you love at your most vulnerable state. While he freeloads, he's not a stereotype, as he always cleans up after himself and trades his laziness for his brains. Smart, calculating, and very manipulative, he catches himself, remains convincing, and uses Spike's want for biological parentage to bypass all doubts. Several clues indicate his scheming ways before he became more brazen: He stopped jogging on the treadmill to chug the fresh cider…with hilarious results. XD

  The Wonderbolts held him above them, but he won't fly until Dash lectures him.
  He doesn't admit to being his father until after he fully recovers (just as he's about to depart) and walks with Spike back inside.
  Just by his stops and gestures, he's making up his backstory as he goes along, including not answering other questions the RM5 asked, but his tale's canonically logical, and his tears sound real, adding a layer on uncertainty.
  Silver-Quill brings up this point. Look at the image below:

In this shot, she's nearly as tall as Torch, a monster-sized dragon.

In the next, she's nearly as tall as Sludge, who's much smaller than him:

  After his song, he cackles, cutting into Act 3.
  ^ The synopsis gives away a very important clue: "dad" and "real" are in skeptical quotes.
  Dismisses Spike after being asked if he wanted to do anything with his son and then casually accuses him of not being a "real" dragon, cutting deeply into his psyche.
  His name has negative connotations related to muck and sewage. Despite being clean, his personality perfectly fits his name. Because he's so conniving, I'm really glad he's not his father; if he was, he'd be a deadbeat. However, as excellent he is at crafting a façade, this leads to a few big problems I have with it, echoing from @Truffles's review, @Sparklefan1234's comment, and Discord conversations with @PathfinderCS. Spike's hurtful comeback to Twilight absolutely crushes her, but doesn't have the weight. From the beginning of Act 3, the RM6 were already suspicious of him thanks to his sleazy manipulation of Spike and major holes in his backstory previously. Unfortunately, they can't prove anything, and Spike grew so close to him that telling him the truth without being delicate risks fracturing his relationships with the ponies. They must give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he doesn't brainwash him further. Emotionally, the delivery of disappointment feels stilted, further hurting its importance.
  Spike doesn't truly figure out he was being used until after his conversation with Smolder, and their plan takes place off-screen. Afterwards, everything starts falling into place. Because he figured it out late and needs Smolder's off-screen advice for some closure, the pacing feels a little off.
  No one can blame Spike for being so disappointed with Sludge revealing to be a phony. After getting so acquainted with him, his reveal's a major slap to his face. Yet, just before it concludes, he starts getting over it and feels mostly satisfied with the only family he has. But as this and DQ demonstrate, wanting to know his family roots matters to him, and he thought he was so close to actually figuring out who his biological father is. Heck, he revealed his scroll of things to do with them and was so happy to do them. As a result, Father Knows Beast's ending feels really hollow and forced.
  Sludge's backstory, even with the holes, is plausible, and you can fill in the cracks with them. His sobs after telling them his story also feel real. The script and Allspark even built interesting and complex lore behind it with a very unique art style of its own, suggesting a degree of reality into his tale. At the time, he looked very sympathetic and acted like he wanted to reunite with his "lost son."

So for FKB to use the Liar Revealed trope feels like a gigantic letdown, and Sludge's reveal alone is anticlimactic. Previous clues indicate he set Spike up, but one big unmentioned red flag is stating he searched everywhere for him. Why does it hurt the story? Because he never recognized Spike nor said his name until after he fully healed. It was only a matter of time before Smolder and Spike craft a plan to out himself for being the fraud that he is. I don't like to harp on predictability in FIM nowadays, because the journey determines the episode's success above the destination, but that blatant piece of foreshadowing really risks sucking the audience out of the story. It's no surprise why many, myself including, feel dismayed. By revealing to NOT being his dad, the episode reverts to the status quo. After all this time, Spike's past remains a mystery. So despite a competent, nicely written story with a nicely song, great comedy (i.e., Sludge chucking SG out of the castle as she bathed ) and one of the best non-villain antagonists of the series, the resolve feels hollow. More could be done to tighten the plot or not feel so isolated from the rest of the series. At the end, I still feel uncertain whether I like it or not. Even after I submitted my initial review in the discussion thread. Nevertheless, it's got some big positives. Spike is very good here. He really wants to do the right thing and tries so hard to impress his "father." Here, we see his vulnerable side and one other flaw rarely exploited that well: his naiveté. He became so devoted with reuniting with what he thought was his biological father that he overlooks when he becomes a sleazy slob. Despite telling Twilight off, her worry clearly was on the back of his mind, evident by expressing his confusion towards Smolder. (This is also the first episode to refer to Spike as an orphan.) The audience sees his personality, how it was shaped, and (despite accusing her of being a fake parent) sympathize with them. His commitment for Sludge was genuine, which made his disappointment feel more crushing.
  Twilight has one of her more mature secondary outings of the series. Throughout FKB, Twilight is more than Spike's friend, but mom, too (and he sees the others as his family). From thinking he let her down after he was quiet and turned away for so long (punctuated by a really funny pillow reveal XD) to hugging him after he admits to being orphaned. Spike's health and well-being matter to him and will do anything to make sure he's safe, even if it means probably upsetting him. When he revealed Sludge ditched him and wasn't his real dad, she consoled him immediately, equally upset with the results.

These shots really show their love for each other:


  Unlike Sludge, Smolder represented authentic dragondom despite their rough reputation, and she was great at it. When Twilight had trouble instructing Spike how to do tricks, she's there to help, explained that their parents teach them to fly when they're ready, and Spike offers a thank-you pillow to her, who doesn't sleep with pillows. Also, she knew Sludge phonied everything and worked with Spike to out him, because he treated her as his servant instead of his son. When he fled, she comforted him.
  Sludge is a fantastic, competent, and clever antagonist. No need to repeat.
  This is Dragon Quest (S2's worst episode by far) done right. How so? Recall the sexist implications and xenophobic stereotyping of dragons by the Mane Six. In DQ, while the RM5 watched dragons, they mocked Spike for looking "feminine" and proudly claimed that he's unlike the "other dragons" because of it. This sexism and xenophobia crossed over to teenage dragons, who are are written to represent dragondom, with Spike disowning his identity until Gauntlet of Fire. These implications are nonexistent here, and Haber wisely dignified dragon culture. Sludge claims he teaches Spike how to be a "real" dragon, but in reality, Sludge is a false representation of dragondom, while Smolder is. Guess who's in the right here.
  DQ's lesson actively uses racism in a positive light and treats the dragons other than Spike himself as savages in comparison to ponies, creating imperialistic implications that ponies are inherently superior. Thankfully, FKB handles a similar moral much better, this time focused on family over individuality, but Spike neither forgets nor abandons his dragon identity or sees dragon culture as a bad thing.

Suspicions aside, they supported Spike's dad and worked with Spike to fulfill his wishes. They were all really charitable throughout the second montage: Pinkie and Fluttershy vs. Spike and Sludge in buckball (Granny Smith the ref):

  Rarity & Dash mimicking HW Day so they trade presents:


  Spike & Sludge bake and eat cupcakes together.

  Accusations of xenophobia from the ponies to dragons in DQ by bronies are justified, courtesy of their racist and sexist language. In FKB, no one acted like that at all, including Twilight. As mentioned previously, everyone's focused solely on Sludge being a terrible person, not because they believe dragons are primitive. When TS expressed concern, Spike retaliated with false accusations, which he apologized for.
  In DQ, Fluttershy agreed to watch the dragon migration after Dash agonizingly watched the butterfly migration, but punted her chest and cowered away. Here, Fluttershy actively helps him heal and no longer outwardly fears larger dragons. Disappointment aside, is Father Knows Beast a good episode? I believe it is. Compared to the rest of its post-Matter streak, it's the weakest of the bunch, especially so after its excellent run from Road to Friendship to Sounds, but it's still competently written. Hopefully, it'll continue to hold up on its own and age better in the future, but right now, don't expect me to watch it again anytime soon.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"Sounds of Silence" Review

Note: Credit to @Truffles and @Justin_Case001 for my review. Am I interested in talking about this episode? No. I'D RATHER SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! For Season 8, Nicole Dubuc brought in a few writers: Brian Hohlfeld, Kaita Mpambara, and Kim Beyer-Johnson. Minus Kaita, each of them have strong connections with Dubuc and worked with her on Transformers: Rescue Bots. Gregory Bonsingore is no exception. But for him, he's a little different compared to the rest. Bonsignore is an award-winning playwright and lyricist: His Off-Broadway play "Gorgonzola: A Cautionary Sicilian Tale" won several awards at a Miami musical festival, including Best Musical and Best Music/Lyrics. So to have an accomplished writer on FIM is a treat regardless of outcome. In his Friendship Is Magic debut, he displays his credentials. This episode covers a lot of information, comparable to Lost Mark or even MMC. But what he does so well is manage it. How? When scenes weren't as important (i.e., the Map calling), little time's used, but when he needs to delve into the important plot points (i.e., communicating with the kirin, finding Autumn, figuring out what caused the vow of silence), he takes advantage. Therefore, despite an abrupt ending, the story flows well. It goes by fast without rushing through. As what Twilight said, this is the first time a set of ponies took part in a second quest, this being AJ and FS. And here, each of them were tremendous. Was Fluttershy scared? Thanks to its ominous name and craggy exterior, more than plausible. The Friendship Express quickly hightailing from its weathered station further and freaky clerk support her fear. But as the episode progressed, her fear starts to ease, starting with helping nearby squirrels gather up bright yellow-to-blue flowers, who in return helped her locate the Peaks's real entrance and their discovery of the kirin. Needless to say, the kirin are gorgeous! Their earthly tones complement really well with their environment and contrast really nicely to the pastel-ly look of AJ and FS. Their manes, horns, toes, tails, and dragon-scale-esque backs are wonderfully designed, with only their brilliant eyes to pop out. And, yes, @Justin_Case001 is right. The tilting of the head makes them look really cute! But the outsider of the clan, Autumn Blaze, is easily the star of the show and takes up the bulk of the run time compared to the others. Pinkie and Silverstream are massive chatterboxes, but Autumn gives them a massive run for their money. She talks a lot and is full of quirks with solid reason. Other than the view and makeshift toys, she hasn't talked to anyone in ages to the point of forgetting or mispronouncing words. AJ is her first companion since Rain Shine exiled her. And her rapid, sometimes flowery, talk is completely hilarious. Her personality is more than charming. It's warm, bright, and optimistic. Even when she's bored, she finds ways to remain eccentric and hopeful to reunite with her clan, evident in many ways, including her gossip with a stick. Oh, and We're Friendship-Bound? You're dethroned! A Kirin Tale is the best song of the season. Nuff said! Not enough? Well, alright. The events Blaze described are quite serious, but because she and the song sound so happy with a boatload of humor (including pop culture jokes referencing Citizen Kane, Hamilton, and especially Phantom of the Opera!), the tone's nowhere nearly that dark. The song itself, written by Big Jim and Dubuc, is really funny with many fantastic lyrics. The kirin society's closed off from outside contact and, if going by the ancient shield Rockhoof used, lived closed off for millennia. Its vow of silence is relatively new in their history, but painted on a nearby rock (and shown to FS offscreen) to remind them of why they accepted this vow. The graphic imagery in itself paints a really dark era of what happened and, to echo what @Truffles stated in his replies, why Rain Shine (the kirin's longtime empress) was completely justified to take such a drastic measure in the first place. The kirin clan devolved into a literal flame war over who'll buy a homemade water pitcher, and their nirik fight destroyed their water supply, flora, and village. But even after becoming homeless, they kept going, and some of them were completely incapable of controlling their temper, hence their sustained nirik form. Had Rain Shine not step in and order everyone to step into the Stream of Silence and suppress their feelings, they'd lose more than just their village, but way of life or even themselves. And in response to those who criticize Rain Shine's plan as flawed, that's the point. Anger's normal, and it's okay to express your anger. But it's important to channel it responsibly. Rain Shine's solution restored order and peace within the Peaks of Peril, but sacrificed being able to communicate and feel without being reminded of why they suppressed their emotions. The following lyrics metaphorize the very moral: Rainbows won't light up the sky unless you let it rain. Shiny apples sometimes come with worms. Candles just won't glow until they burned. And that was why the Map called AJ and FS: to teach them how to constructively moderate their anger and disagree without sacrificing their joy, ability to feel, or fearing to hurt each other's feelings and reunite Autumn with the others. Why Applejack and Fluttershy in particular? For a few reasons. Applejack can tell the firm truth while also being sensitive to their feelings. She's not afraid to express what went wrong or what goes against her core morale without marginalizing them. In short, she tells the truth because she cares. If you have someone like Starlight, you run the risk of undercutting the very moral you're trying to teach, because she's plain and blunt, and with a history as sensitive as the kirin's, even more so. AJ's softer personality balances out better with the conflict as well as Fluttershy's further tenderness and care for the animals who live with them. Fluttershy is way more connected to the animals than anyone else. When they're happy, she's happy, and when they're sad, she's sad. She understands what they want, how they feel, and what they're saying. She inadvertently discovered leftover Foal's Breath flowers for the squirrels, and in return, they help them discover the Peaks' true entrance. Because of her ability to read emotions and understand what's wrong, she's observant in how to properly communicate with the kirin, including advising Applejack to ask yes or no question (even though AJ contrivedly ignored that to begin Act 2 ). Despite being initially frightened, she grew more comfortable around them as AJ searched for Autumn Blaze. Observe how she stopped being scared after Applejack returned to the village. The episode validates both their arguments, which won't work with another pair. Autumn's explanation packs the events with a lot of humor, which masked its seriousness. But because the kirin are mute and emotionally suppressed, Fluttershy fully realized how serious the situation was immediately. Her closeness to the wilderness justifies her to opt for the opposite solution. OTOH, AJ had a valid argument, too, which was find the Foal's Breath flower to free them from their vow of silence so they can emote and communicate again. Both sides have a point, rounding the conflict. It's easy to see why they briefly argued; they were both passionate about solving the kirin dilemma and couldn't find common ground, which they did after Blaze rescued them and used her anger and nirik alter ego to protect them from harm. And @Justin_Case001 makes three great points in his review. This is an episode about communication, more specifically being able to communicate without fear of hurting each others' feelings or starting an argument. Is it important to be sensitive to others? Without a doubt. Otherwise, you suggest you don't care. But it's important to talk to people, communicate with them, and find common ground to compromise without compromising your integrity. While The Cutie Map is about being diverse in your opinions, talents, and personalities, Sounds of Silence is about being diverse in how to communicate and find common ground. As I mentioned before, anger is important and will always be a part of your life. Unfortunately, it's attached to many harmful stereotypes, i.e., the angry black woman, which stigmatizes the emotion. But in itself, it's okay to be angry. Just like anger in itself is important, constructively channeling it is even more important. The nirik's temper were out of control, and until the end, only Autumn Blaze figured out how to manage it without manifesting into something worse. Fluttershy's solution to the friendship problem — keeping the kirin silent — is the wrong option, and she realizes it after they nearly dunked them into the Stream of Silence. However, it's very clear she didn't come to this conclusion with the worst intentions, but instead the opposite. Fire and wood mix easily, and nature is vital to the health of the kirin's secluded village and society. The nirik's temper was clearly a traumatizing event that she and the village altogether don't want to repeat, and this extreme option seemed to be the best one. Observe their faces as they argued:

They were clearly distressed. Their heated argument reminded them of what happened long ago. That's why they interrupted it before it escalated. Other than the pacing, cramming of detail, and AJ getting briefly nailed with the stupid stick, its last flaw is how obvious the Foal's Breath flower's impact into solving the friendship problem becomes as the plot progresses. Fluttershy and the story spent a good amount of time arranging it for the squirrels, and its brilliant gradients of blue to yellow with all that detail stand out really strongly against the dirty-looking desert. The fact that Blaze landed in a bed of identical flowers and made a tea out of them connects the dots much more. Yet, they're all very minuscule in the thick of things. Bonsignore's scripting talents really shine with well-done dialogue, pleasant characterization of AJ, FS, and Autumn Blaze, and intelligently simple story. Despite its fast pacing, the script is tight and polished; everything logically flows from one point to another without anything out of place. Since S4, FIM plugs in one episode featuring at least one celebrity guest: Weird Al for Pinkie Pride, Lena Hall for Mane Attraction, Patton Oswalt for Stranger Than Fan Fiction, Felicia Day & William Shatner for The Perfect Pear, and now Rachel Bloom (Autumn's VA) for this one. DHX, now Allspark Studios, puts forth a ton of effort into making the guests belong into the story, and that hard work pays off into an excellent episode (with TPP museum-worthy). Sounds of Silence is no exception. In an already-phenomenal Season 8, this is another addition to the pile of outstanding episodes.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"What Lies Beneath" Review

Note: Credit to @Ganondox and Loganberry for this review. Like using Chrysalis to explain past events to the Everfree trees, much of what Vogel uses to start What Lies Beneath is exposition to describe the Tree of Harmony, its history, and purposes. But rather than using a character babble it out, it's told in the context of a classroom lecture followed by studying for a surprise test, and it wasn't all explained immediately or through one mouth. When Twilight lectured, students either asked questions, didn't believe her, or became frustrated over not knowing pony history, organically informing the audience of its lore. Now, whereas HW Club gave the Young Six the boost they truly deserve, WLB expands them further. Each of the Young Six start having doubts over whether becoming friends with others is natural to their consciences, culture, and themselves. Cozy Glow nicely sets up the conflict by going deep into parts of the Young Six's psyche, exploiting areas of their culture and livelihoods that are really sensitive to them. Is it racist? Absolutely; she's stereotyping the creatures as inferior to ponykind, and given how dubious she's been this season, it's intentional. Unlike Neighsay (whose racism is mixed with bitterness), her manipulation is masked with sweet innocence and then changes the subject, as if she meant no harm. Yet, pay attention to the moment afterwards and their little argument that night in the library, started by Gallus after getting annoyed at Silverstream for tapping her claws on the table. Her superiority complex cut deeply in them. And it's at this moment where the episode turns into an improvement of two past episodes: the pilot and The Crystal Empire. To get this out of the way, I agree with both Loganberry and @Ganondox regarding the Tree of Harmony's tests for the Young Six. Not only were they really harsh, but also morally questionable. What if Gallus failed his test? Would he be trapped in the enclosing cavern forever? Would the Tree create another test? Or what about Yona's arachnophobia; will she become so scared of spiders that she'd rather kill them over acquainting them? Fear is reactionary and not always based on logic. (And the dialogue was also a little rough with plenty of repetitive dialogue.) So, why does the Tree get a pass when Celestia and Luna don't? The Tree is omnipotent and understands the characters' strengths, weaknesses, and virtues. After seeing a friendship-related problem, she ties it to being(s) who can successfully heal it. Sometimes it's one, two, or more, depending on who and what they all have in common. Of course, this is a little different, because she tests them to determine whether they can become friends with each other or not.

Additionally, despite its strong powers and subsequent growth, it can't fix it alone. Faith is placed upon them, and it's up to them to use their knowledge and friendship capabilities to solve it. OTOH, Celestia and Luna already defeated King Sombra, who cursed the Crystal Empire into disappearance. But after one of their guards alert of their resurgence, what does Celly do? Write to Twilight and place thousands of lives on her shoulders! Conversely, the stakes here are nowhere nearly as severe. In addition to needlessly putting countless lives on the line, they assigned her and her friends to take part in Twilight's challenge, but Celestia warned her that she and only she can save the Empire, contradicting the assignment Celestia placed on her since the beginning of the series. If she goes against the test in any way, she risks failing. So once she's trapped and requests Spike to return the Crystal Heart to its altar, she's rightfully worried, hence her dismay after Sombra's defeat. And the episode also has the gall to emphasize passing the test as the most important plot point over protecting the empire from Sombra, which makes the sacrifice lesson she spewed really hypocritical and phony.

WLB counteracts this. Firstly, the Tree can't mandate them to take her test; they choose to explore what was under the drain grate she popped open. When Gallus crossly questioned her tactics, she was precise in her reply. Secondly, from the start, she explicitly tested their meddle to make them prove whether friendship's in their nature or not. She has the wherewithal to know that, yes, they'll break free, but will also not leave until they found each other. Tightening their friendship was the purpose for her tests, and the moral excellently backs her up. And how does WLB improve the pilot, specifically Part 2? Vogel spends a great deal of time equally pacing and exploring each of their fears along with sensible ways to face and beat them. Gallus and Smolder beat theirs first, but WLB doesn't forget about them. Instead, when one of their friends is very vulnerable and doubts if they'll ever conquer their fears, they bond with them more and use their own experiences as an example of overcoming them. The bonding between Ocellus and Smolder has added weight, because changelings and dragons retain an awful reputation (dragons for their brutish nature and history of terrorizing pony villages, changelings for nearly overthrowing Equestrian royalty twice), and the same can be said with Silverstream's horrific belief that the Storm King will reconquer Mount Aris.

One little thing that gets overlooked is what Smolder and Gallus say after they arrive at the cave entrance… …AND after reuniting with all but Sandbar: With every opportunity to leave the cave, they willingly risked being trapped to find the others. Twice. No matter the consequences, they were NOT leaving ANYONE behind! Their friends matter, period! When the Mane Six were tested in the Everfree Forest, each one was segmented. When one trial ended, another began, and they were all written in to prove they properly represented the Bearers of Harmony. Sure, individualizing them isn't a bad thing, but by splitting them all up into only a few minutes, none of them had time to develop or breathe. Each segment was crammed, and be being bound to the E/I rating, the stakes weren't heightened as much as they should or paced more evenly.

By contrast, Vogel intertwined each and every one of them simultaneously. None of their tasks ended at once, but he neither rushed them through nor ended them abruptly. He gradually built up their fears, exploited them, and ended them properly. What do I mean? They conquered their fears at the right time of the story, used the right characters to help pass their tests, and only after Vogel exhausted development of those fears.

No matter the tone, each of their fears are treated with equal validity: Smolder's fear of femininity overtaking her persona was by far the most lighthearted, but the episode didn't treat it as a joke and utilized it as an example of being able to change from who she once was to Ocellus, who recalled how they used to treat others back then. The Storm King was already destroyed, but Silverstream's fear of his return resulted in her cheerful, optimistic personality being replaced to debilitating fright to the point of crying. Gallus realized his "return" was a mirage, but that wasn't enough for her. So he used his fear of small spaces, helped her overcome her fear of his return, and she let it all out to him.

How Yona faced her fear was the most different. Gallus's trick foreshadowed what was to come, but when spiders faced her, her strongman personality gave way to intense arachnophobia. When spiders got too close, she was justifiably upset. With no friend she knew around, she wished they were there so she could get out. But in a twist, the lead spider Spindle talked to her. What the spiders were doing was that they weren't trying to scare her. They wanted to help, Spindle leading by example. Language barrier aside, they shared something in common: befriending each other and reuniting her with the others.

Recall the second quote box above. Sandbar's fear's more subdued, but nonetheless validated. From the beginning, he focused on returning to his friends so they, "Dash," and "Rarity" can go on this adventure. Every time he questions his teachers' logic, they manipulate him into removing doubt and forcing him to run in a massive loop. Soon, he has enough, questions them outright, and when they express disappointment in him for caring about his friends than them, he turns the tables on them. As he lectures them, his friends arrive and watch from behind, adding more weight into how much they mean to him. He may be the quietest and most straight-man-ish of the Young Six, but he also needs to grow; confronting his fear of disappointment head-on was a fantastic solution.

Without the constrictive E/I rating and by rearranging the plot, Vogel legitimized the stakes without phoning them in, which makes us invested in their obstacles, friendships, and outcomes. This next paragraph deals with spoilers for the S8 finale and S9 leaks/speculation, so it's under the tag. Overall, What Lies Beneath is another really excellent episode within S8B's fantastic lineup.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"A Rockhoof and a Hard Place" Review (Revised)

Note: Credit to @gingerninja666, @Ganondox, @Theanimationfanatic, and Justin Galloway on YT for this review, which has been revised to expand my thoughts better and for better editing as a whole. Out of every legend from Season 7B, Rockhoof's was the worst. Combined with being a boring character, the story itself was very bland, and Applejack told the entire thing rather than letting the tale show. It's competent, but completely uninteresting. How ironic that in his first self-contained episode, ARaaHP is spectacular with some of the best characterization of a Pillar since they were first introduced. Hard Place is a "fish out of water" story, an idiom that puts the character in a setting or situation they're very foreign or uncomfortable with. DHX holds none of the comedy back, which had a lot of variety, but mostly came from the characters' reactions, starting off with Professor Fossil. Rockhoof doesn't understand preservation at all, because he lived in the era she continues to discover, emphasized by his destruction of an old sweat lodge (rightfully upsetting her) and triggering the conflict. Fossil's line, which sounded completely innocent on the surface, foreshadows future events while remaining wonderfully subtle: The scene in the auditorium to begin Act 1, while adding on to Rockhoof's inability to adapt to modern times, established connections, providing pivotal context as the episode progressed. Rockhoof's a Pillar, adding to the mystique and adoration from folks across generations. Most of this generation in the School of Friendship's very young, with five of the six unfamiliar with pony folklore. Smolder's sarcasm in response to Rockhoof's first accident is just one opinion (which changed as he told his story of his fight with an Ursa Major), but Yona adored him immediately, because his strength and bravery remind her of yakdom back home. As for the rest of Act 1, there was criticism of what Ocellus said about Discord's stone transformation (Celly and Luna casting a spell) as not being true to continuity. That's not true. From Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 2: Sisters power up the Elements. Them casting a spell. The Elements couldn't turn him to stone alone. And I agree with YouTuber Justin Galloway regarding this point (his comment from this video link): Indeed! Personally, I can't blame the students for feeling excited (and Gallus lying about the class's direction). Learning can be fun, but sometimes boring, and Gallus is the perfect rebel to steer the class and Rockhoof in another direction. The story, despite in small doses and done to further emphasize his trouble to adapt, was really entertaining. To reiterate, the comedy in this episode as a whole is absolutely fantastic. This one in particular is probably the best one. (You know what I'm talkin' about. ) Several other funny moments include: Rockhoof incredulously swatting decorative set pieces out the school window, not knowing it belonged to Rarity for class (and was not created to fool him). Despite all of the carnage inside Twilight's classroom, the worst he can do to her wooden desk is squish it like a marshmallow. Cranky being heavily embarrassed after Cranky announced he had a rash somewhere in his privates. OTOH, in hindsight, this accidental embarrassment was well-earned for Cranky, who spent all day in the school treating the students like garbage on the buckball pitch. During Somnambula's speech, Rockhoof suddenly falls asleep and squashes a mare behind him. XD
  Despite doing so inside the school (even though Twilight told him to wait previously and didn't react at all to the fire), Spike and Smolder's bond continues to evolve through a fire-breathing competition. Small, but compared to their conversation in Molt Down, they're more comfortable around each other, and she's not so bristly towards him. That said, no matter the jokes or how much Rockhoof screws up, the episode never treats him as dumb at any point, which @Theanimationfanatic points out. Everywhere he works, he's always willing to impress, whether it's delivering the post to the right house, massaging, helping Zecora, or teaching. Wherever he went long ago, his warrior-first instincts aided him, and he applies them here. Today, harmony replaced war. He doesn't need to fight much anymore, especially now with Stygian redeemed. As a result, he screws up, sometimes badly, yet the episode does a great job not making him look worse each time he faults. To expand my reply, his struggle feels real, and he always works to at least try to succeed; at times, he does the right thing, but overlooks one crucial detail, whether it's teaching instead of preparing for battle, trying to relive life on his soil rather than retaining its history, and so forth. As a result, we sympathize for him and root for him to succeed. It's a major strength that the episode worked very hard in getting right. What's more interesting is how most of the Pillars still contact each other and know their whereabouts, but not Rockhoof. Despite their close connection as champions and friends, it also shows us an audience how distanced Rockhoof became since the Pillars split. He goes back home and virtually spends his days there, as if his life is complete. He can keep his shovel, but not need to use it. He remains a warrior, but as the episode progresses, he realizes he's less of a warrior, but now a veteran who can't settle after being gone so long. On the other hand, DHX/Top Draw puts forth a lot of effort to make the other Pillars's adaptations as seamless as possible. My favorite is Mistmane's just because of her work in The Crystal Empire. There are a lot of amazing set designs throughout the series. But Twilight's right. The imagery here's some of the most beautiful ever put forth for the show. The composition, colors, crystal designs, light, shadow, and perspective are so organic to the country. As the episode progressed, Rockhoof's struggles slowly took a toll. Sulking away from the School started it, and his doubts reappeared in the CE scene, especially after he tells her that shovel ponies aren't in current demand. It progresses further by accident after Meadowbrook was able to open her clinic back home and then after Twilight finds Stygian's new novel. Both of these sting him for two reasons: He can't go home. If STYGIAN can adapt, why can't him?! But the final trigger? Accidentally sinking the Aris navy. @gingerninja666 explains that point perfectly: And it's after this when Rockhoof requests to be turned to stone. Mpambara doesn't hide one bit how it's an allegory of suicide, and his (the writer's) logic narrows this down in several key areas: No matter how hard he tries, he's always one step behind, and he can't catch up. Everyone successfully adjusted, but all he does is, in his eyes, ruin his reputation, and it's not only self-embarrassing, but also self-deflating. If he can't rely on using the stars to navigate around the world, then what can he do now? Rockhoof believes his friends are better off without him. Because he can't transition, he believes he looks weak to them, even though he means so much to them and were willing to help him in any way they can. That's why he avoided communicating with them for so long. He understands how much the Realm idolizes him and the others, but he doesn't want them to think of him as the washed-up veteran he became, but the warrior they grew up remembering. Turning into stone means preserving his legacy. Older adults are at highest risk for suicide; for U.S. veterans, twenty died by suicide daily in 2014, 65% of them 50 years or older. @Ganondox even pointed out an even sadder implication of one reason why an elder may commit suicide, and one powerful Golden Girls episode long ago does the same. Rockhoof's generation is long gone; he's the lone relic left. He believes his time has passed him. Additionally, he fears of what's to come. What if he stays un-stoned, and everyone sees him as this old relic who relishes for the good old days? He doesn't want to look old, washed up, and useless. Twilight agreed to write a stone spell, thereby assisting his suicide. The fact that it's temporary doesn't change the implications. Everyone reacted to Rockhoof's wish in complete horror. Twilight didn't want to write it, because she knew he belonged somewhere. But the students, especially Yona, reacted the hardest for obvious reasons. The followup scene in the castle hallway is one of the best of the series. Yona developed a student-to-teacher crush on him, but when his life was in danger, she came right to him, and her idolization for him evolves, evident by the class report she recited. She's in school in Equestria, where no one looks like her or shares her interests; her constant running almost got her into big trouble immediately, and Neighsay spouting racism towards non-ponies doesn't help. Bonding with others eases her fears and makes her feel safe. His ability to be strong, brave, and persevere inspired countless individuals, including her, who's innocent and childlike. Their chemistry and her admiration are incredibly genuine, and the fact she stood up for him and convinced everyone in the school to gather around outside and listen to his stories at maybe the lowest moment of his life makes him realize at just that moment he means so much to them. It fixes a big problem from two previous episodes: Magic Sheep and No Second Prances. Magic Sheep: Luna's Tantabus creation is an allegory of either depression or addiction. Self-punishing with the Tantabus not only reminded her of her crimes long ago, but also gave her an escape from the torment she inwardly suffered. But it's marred by an awfully-executed moral, thanks to its rushed, absolute ending. Addiction and illness don't magically disappear. NSP: After Trixie and Starlight fell out, Trixie acted like she didn't want to live anymore, but it's an unfortunate implication, and Twilight and Starlight doing nothing as she treks into her cannon is just insulting. Here, A Rockhoof and a Hard Place tackled a really dark subject, but took a long time developing the allegory, provided key clues foreshadowing what was coming, and treated it with the delicateness and seriousness it so richly deserves. The moral it teaches — "No matter how hurt, lonely, or hopeless you feel, you matter." — is also magnificently executed. But it isn't just Yona and Rockhoof. AJ and Twilight were really good in their roles, too. Twi may lead the school, but she trusted AJ into conversing with each other and letting AJ help guide her and him wherever he went. Working with him and helping him was a team effort throughout. More importantly, Mpambara keeps Spike in character in Act 3 without looking insensitive. How? With this shot: Spike has a history of being snarky, but thanks to the suicide allegory, his sarcasm, sardonicism, and sometimes blasé behavior won't fit at all to the tone and messaging DHX is aiming. If not careful, viewers may end up hating his portrayal. By opening the act with him asleep and then woken up with a start, the episode instantly sets part of the tone, and his sleepy behavior parades into the classroom, allowing DHX to use his snark for comedy without unfortunate implications. This episode was an amazing surprise. Because Season 8 was so good up to this point, I had high expectations for this one. After watching it the first time, I knew it was great. But watching it again and again helped me pay closer attention to the effort put into creating this wonderful story. Ever since I first watched the S8 leaks last year, I had Break Down as its best. A Rockhoof and a Hard Place replaced it, and it's one of the ten best of the whole show. Bravo! P.S.: Those who read my statuses may have read and followed my episode order, but for those who don't, this is my current top-10 of the series (including Rockhoof): The Perfect Pear The Best Night Ever Crusaders of the Lost Mark Amending Fences Shadow Play Sisterhooves Social The Cutie Map A Rockhoof and a Hard Place Parental Glideance The Break Up Break Down An episode of such a quality deserves such a spot. More can't be said about how amazing Hard Place is.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"Road to Friendship" Quickieview

NOTE: Copied and pasted my review from here and contains some extra edits. Trixie and Starlight's chant and dance were total cringe. Looking for me to dish another negative? You ain't gonna find it here. (On the) Road to Friendship's story's incredibly simple, its focus driven 100% by Starlight, Trixie, and their incredible chemistry. Just like Spike, Big Mac, and Discord from Break Down, they only became friends two seasons ago, yet thanks to Haber's clever writing, you'd think their friendship goes back to childhood. Until Season 6, Trixie only stood center stage for Boast Busters, Magic Duel, and Rainbow Rocks as a tertiary character. But Haber brought her into becoming a reoccurring character and has become a vehicle for storytelling around Starlight. Their magnificent chemistry is thanks to Haber's incredibly tight dialogue, a continuous improvement of the show started by Shadow Play. With everything they say to and about each other, you buy into it, whether it's their praise, banter, jokes, passive-aggressive insults, and full-blown arguing. Their exchanges were snappy and completely believable; each moment and line flowed so well, even when the vocabulary repeats, with no hitch at all. Thanks to their chemistry, Haber takes advantage of as many comedic opportunities as possible. Virtually all of them land. Some of my favorites include: Starlight teleporting back to the school in a hurry, only to briefly return to say goodbye in between. Starlight throwing a little meta joke about how Twilight and friends would sing a song to commemorate their voyage, only for them both to start a song themselves. Blowing open the inflatable raft causes Starlight to get pinned to the window. During their descent into fighting, Starlight and Trixie share passive-aggressive barbs at each other during the Somnambula magic show. While sleeping in the caravan in Somnambula, Trixie talks and rehearses in her sleep, while Starlight snores noisily, each a callback to previous episodes. Kudos to Haber for using a combined pun of the village's name. The elder pony peaks out of the chest, sees nothing happening, and returns to sleep. Cue credits. But the best comedy comes during We're Friendship-Bound. Aside from being the season's best song up to this point, it's incredibly upbeat with catchy lyrics and just-as-catchy jazzy beat. Like Apples to the Core four seasons ago, its jovial tone reverberates through each scene, which ranged in activity, danger, and atmosphere. I don't recall the last time Pinkie broke the fourth wall, but Trixie and Starlight shattered it everywhere, especially this line(!): But like the rest of the season, Haber progressively tests their friendship. While Starlight's preoccupied at the school, Hoo'Far asks if he can trade his bigger caravan for hers. She says no, because it's her home. Her smaller, cramped wagon comes into play twice, including as they relaxed the first time. Trixie closes the door, causing SG to accidentally drop a smoke bomb. Starlight wasting bits on street food over essentials. Trixie waiting a long time in line for a particular street vendor over shopping at another empty vendor that orders the same thing. After all the hotels are booked, they get really testy with each other. Despite apologizing with each other… …they get really cramped inside her wagon. Starlight can't move, so she moves the smoke bombs, squashing Trixie. They couldn't sleep in the same room! Trixie wrapped a bandana around her muzzle to stop her snoring. Next morning, thy passive-aggressively take the last of each others' food, the haycake by SG, the juice by Trixie. This passive aggression continued into the failed magic show, one of Road to Friendship's funniest scenes. The water boils that night when they traded sleep- and meal-related insults and accusations, culminating with Starlight ejecting Trixie's supplies and: But the boiling foamed the next morning when Starlight traded away her wagon for his behind her back. You think that her impulsiveness would let her think twice about trading it away. Despite her decent alibi of traveling with a roomier wagon, Starlight has two major problems here: Her timing. Neither of them got along and fought the night before. Those feelings pass over here. Starlight traded it while Trixie slept. It doesn't matter if your intentions are good. This is her property, and she decides what to do with it, not SG. It ain't no surprise why Trixie's so upset; her anger's completely justified. Starlight comes off as a major plothole here, why she's primarily written to be in the wrong in Act 3, and becomes the episode's primary apologizer. This is a reversal of No Second Prances, but done way better. In the former, Trixie used Starlight, and she had to make it up to her. Here, Starlight screwed up badly and has to make it up. Some are a little disappointed we see nothing of Saddle Arabia beyond just Hoo'Far (who, BTW, had really excellent and witty dialect), but like Chrysalis in The Man Six, those who do miss the point. This episode's about experiencing the ups and downs of friendship, having their friendship tested, overcoming it, and becoming closer. In the grand scope, Saddle Arabia isn't necessary, and the story in between more than makes up for it. All in all, it's an excellent episode — one of the best of not just the season, but the show, too.  

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"The End in Friend" Quickieview

Having the teachers learn is okay. Having them become so out of character and incompetent in order to make the Student Six look like better friends and teachers isn't. There are many reasons why Complete Crap Clause is such a disaster, which I don't need to explain in this paragraph. One episode later in S8, The End in Friend, shares a lot in common with it, but unlike its predecessor, it fixes NCC's primary issues. Which ones? To go through them one by one: One of the biggest differences is Dash's and Rarity's statuses. In NCC, both Dash and AJ were co-teaching their class about how to learn friendship through teamwork, but their egos got in the way of actually teaching the Student Six. Here, despite being teachers, they're not teaching the class. They're subjects for Twilight's class so she teaches them about how differences in passion don't fracture friendships.
  Why did AJ and RD argue previously? Because they wanted to win Teacher of the Month, and their focus was on that over the students. That's not the case here. They actively try to work with each other to get past their differences as Twilight uses their experiences in real time to teach them. Or at least try to. Unfortunately, miscommunication or tastes get in the way of being able to see their interests in a positive light.

When things boil over, it doesn't come at the cost of the Student Six looking better. Instead, they use their arguments as a teaching tool to learn what friendship means, even if it's not Twilight's intention. Notice how they quickly scribble notes before Act 1 closes followed by Smolder questioning their friendship as the moral is delivered. Additionally, their argument isn't petty and perfectly in character of each other. When they insulted each others' interests, they were rightfully angry. Their testiness was down to earth, and the episode treated it as a really big problem; Twilight and Starlight took their fighting seriously to the point of crafting an emergency plan to mend their friendship.
  In addition to not coming at the Student Six's expense, it's even more evident by how other ponies react to their escalating argument. The other ponies at the restaurant represent the Ponyville folk, and their reaction isn't comedic. They know quite well how close the Mane Eight are, including these two. When an argument as nasty as this endues, they notice, and it's very shocking. Ponyville can't afford to lose their tight bond. Lyra and Bon Bon showing grave concern in between gasps adds to the seriousness of their drama. Rarity and Dash not only learn their lesson, but also take it to heart and stick to it. Oh, yeah, TEiF doesn't have a teacher recklessly screw up at a certain yak's expense. In addition to fixing Non-Complete Clause's problems, it borrows one key piece from Mare Do Well and its ripoff, 28 Pranks Later. But there are major differences here, too. Even in Mare Do Well and 28 Pranks Later, they still didn't have to scheme Dash to teach her a lesson. In the latter, the RM5 become major hypocrites, because they get upset at her for putting more effort into the jokes after accusing her of being previously lazy. This mean-spirited tone is completely nonexistent in Twilight and Starlight's setup; the RM5's previous setups were reactive, while Starlight and Twilight's was proactive.
  The purpose of their plan was to use their strengths, weaknesses, and interests so they can follow the trail (intentionally) left behind and rescue it. We know it was a setup, but Dash and Rarity were so absorbed in their argument that they didn't. Yet, when peril hit, they put the fate of Equestria above their feud (unlike NCC, which was the opposite).

Adding the fact that this quest carried no sense of danger helps, too.
  As they searched, their anger progressively eased. While in the swamp, they admired each others' tricks and ideas to solve the puzzles, including crossing the swamp, asking help to a Bufogren (who was also involved), and opening the passageway behind the School of Friendship. At points, they actually forgot about their fight, leading to the scene on the mountain. They realized how poorly they behaved and not only grew a sense of tolerance for their interests, but newfound respect, as well. This quest humbled them without humiliating them. And to borrow from @Cwanky's review, given the current climate regarding sports, politics, and cultures (including multiculturalism), the understanding and respect of diversity while sticking to our own values is integral to society today. The moral taught (and how) is incredibly important. The teachers were as equal as the students: They, too, learned a valuable friendship lesson. But the episode carefully crafts it so it doesn't prop the students over them. And by sticking to the lesson and not devolve into an argument, The End in Friend concludes on a high note. Oh, and all the horse jokes in this episode were quite funny. In short, this was a really good episode.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"Once Upon a Zeppelin": Twilight's Growth as Princess

Last year, I praised Once Upon a Zeppelin as Fame & Misfortune written correctly for three reasons: writing an actual story than a hodgepodge of "jokes" disguised, the princesses' fans not written disparagingly, and writing Twilight well while simultaneous treating the multi-sided conflict with respect. Princess Twilight is the most developed of the Mane Eight; initially focused on her studies over friends, now it's reverses: she loves to read and study, but emphasizes friendship first. Becoming a princess and then the Princess of Friendship meant an increase of both her duties and role as an international advisor. So how much involvement is too much? When does acting like a princess feel like a honor and more of a chore? A Flurry of Emotions hinted that question, but was mostly surrounded by tying in her schedule to sudden babysitting duties. Once Upon a Zeppelin tackles that question directly and becomes her most important episode since Twilight's Kingdom. No vacations allowed? The cold open shies away nothing from the downsides of Equestrian royal duty. Twilight's bored expression as she rests her muzzle on her hoof demonstrates how mundane princeesshood is sometimes. Given previous continuity, she loves being a princess, but also wants to show how being the Princess of Friendship allows her to spread her knowledge far and wide. But here, she signs because she feels like she has to instead of want. Accidentally snapping the head of her quill further adds to the frustration. Excellent visual storytelling initiates the conflict, further accentuated by this line: Pay attention to the line and action underlined. She wants to go, but believes she'll betray her princess duties if she stops or dillydallies. Royalty for her devolved into a bad habit, and sometimes interference is required to break it. Hence Spike's role, which is small but very, very important. His involvement and Twilight emphasizing how much she means to him as a family shows their bond, but that's still rather understated. Spike knows her better than anyone and comprehends when Twilight isn't feeling cheerful or excited. When it starts to become a chore, he doesn't want her to be swamped under it all and dread life as a princess permanently. His insistence of accepting the zeppelin vacation and promptly taking over her roles demonstrates the proper guidance she needs. Does it end things, though? Knowing this show, far from it. A return to duty. Iron Will announcing not just random bullshit about Twilight exploring Cloudesdale's Weather Factory caught her attention, but the BS that Iron Will made up just to excite the crowd, too. Knowing that Twilight, Cadance, and their family would set the zeppelin abuzz, he took advantage. But that's not why Twilight accepted the invitation in the first place. She accepted it to get away from royal duties for once, but Iron Will putting her at the center of attention forces her to return to them. While in the royal lounge, Twilight was stuck with a massive dilemma: cancel the cruise, make everyone miserable, and miss the Northern Stars (her most sought-out event of the cruise) or continue the cruise and hope she won't be driven crazy and miss the Northern Stars. When Night Light suggested to cancel it, Twilight stepped in: Why does she do this? Negotiating with others and sometimes compromising in order to get things done is crucial to anyone being part of a governing body. Twilight wants to do what she wants with her family, but also wants to disappoint no one. With this deal, she hops she can help create a satisfactory and memorable cruise. This means adjusting to her schedule, but hopes she can balance them. Secondly, pay attention to what she said after SA expressed concern (which I'll get to in a bit): Nowadays, her duty as Princess of Friendship is instinctual. If she feels canceling the cruise will disappoint everyone, she believes she's betraying her goals as princess. Everything she suggests in her deal offer to Iron Will is centered on selflessness. A will to sacrifice her own happiness for others' happiness. But that doesn't mean her family doesn't get concerned for her own well-being and her own happiness. After Twilight creates her deal on the fly, Shining said this: Recall why Spike jumped into her duties despite her objections. He wants her to be a happy pony rather than just a princess and let her hair run down. Spike's instincts foreshadowed SA's mild objection above, which in turn foreshadows future events. A break-free day. Despite making the deal, Twilight maintains hope she'll spend quality time with her family, but no matter where she goes, something always gets in the way, starting with the sudden raffle. Star Tracker becomes Twilight's honorary family member, and right away, there's friction between them. Star Tracker is very quick to go around, all to the point of her not noticing him unless by surprise. He's incredibly nervous around her, because she's a princess and doesn't want to do anything to harm or embarrass her. But his difficulty to communicate results in sometimes breaching simple etiquette, such as whispering into her ear without warning and standing too close to her. All this creates cringe comedy without crossing the line into secondhand embarrassment. So why doesn't Twilight tell him to give her some space? Two reasons: Unfamiliarity with this type and degree of discomfort. This is the first time we see anyone approach Twilight in this manner, and she doesn't know what to do. Despite the discomfort, he has no ulterior motive. She understands he doesn't do it to be creepy or uncomfortable, and she doesn't want to add to the embarrassment and discomfort he already feels. To her, swallowing her own pride and hoping he realizes what he's doing was her best solution. Unfortunately, it isn't the best solution. By saying nothing, she accidentally lets the bingo game last too long, nearly missing the boat race (and having to wave the checkered flag rather than race against her older bro). Then, she missed time to be with Cadance and Flurry Heart in Peewee Princess Playtime and had to hastily depart for a Q&A while the zeppelin is stationed at Neighagra Falls. Despite the cluttered and buy schedule, she hopes she accomplishes her objective of making others happy, fulfilling her end of the bargain, and anticipating watching the Northern Stars. Yet, making others happy results in missing even more valuable time with Velvet. Because she spent a long time answering the Q&A, she missed watching Velvet take part in the barrel ride over Neighagra Falls. There, despite having the time of her life, Velvet's motherly instincts kick in after seeing disappointment on her face: As any good mom would do, she sees how overwhelmed she is with the princess duties, but Twilight fibs to her and tells her it's all peachy. So why does she lie to Velvet and Night Light? Because she doesn't want to let them down. She wants them to celebrate and have a good time. Admitting to being unhappy and disappointed in not participating with her family is, to repeat from before, admitting to unfulfilling her royal duties. Once more, it's not like she doesn't want to take a break. She feels like she can't. Like being a princess is a part of her identity and must stick true to what she's assigned to do, whether she's on duty or not. This disappointment and crowded schedule culminated to one final thing: signing autographs. From a composition and storytelling standpoint. it mirrors almost everything she went through previously. Star Tracker with the quills: Spike with the quills. The stack of papers: The princess mail she had to sign away. Twilight's disappointment on the cruise: Twilight's boredom over signing the mail and forms. The fans and autographs: Twilight's fan mail from the castle. Iron Will: The offscreen person who delivered Twilight the mail prior to the open. Twilight's in the center; everything and everyone surrounding her is tightly enclosed around her, perfectly capturing the same claustrophobic atmosphere to debut the open. What happened in the open and what led her to escape the castle for a breather returned in full force, culminating to her boiling point in Act 3. Purple minus the blue. Her boiling point? Missing her most important event of the whole cruise. At this point, the toll she put up with filled up. The façade, that forced happy face, she kept in order to keep everyone else happy crumbled. For the first time in a long time, Twilight couldn't hide her vulnerability. Here, it's impossible not to feel bad for her. For several years, she maintained her duties as a princess while keeping her composure. Beneath the fun and smiles, stress slowly accumulated within, accentuating as OUaZ increased the tension. What makes her crying hurt to watch is threefold: Compared to the others, she doesn't cry often, both in the past and future, so for longtime bronies, when she starts to cry, they'll notice. The crying felt real. Twilight not only showed to be upset. She sounded upset, too. Her family, Iron Will, and almost every other cruise pony being able to watch it makes this scene sting even more. Flores's tender care for the scene. This event was incredibly important to her, and missing it by having to fulfill her duties as a princess while trying to temporarily escape her duties for a few days is a big problem. By playing this scene straight, we connect to her on a deeper level, extending our sympathies from within to her as we watch. After this, Twilight Sparkle turns into Rainbow Rage, yelling at her family — from her parents to Cadance to Flurry Heart — emphasized by the brilliant red-to-orange gradient background as her temper exploded, and then feigned an apology to Star Tracker after accidentally stepping on his hoof. Was she right to be upset? Absolutely. I she right to take her frustrations out on them and ST? Absolutely not. Like Glideance, Flores's careful writing and hard effort come into play. Despite sympathizing with her, Zeppelin knows what to tolerate, what not to simultaneously, and maintain that delicate balance. Immediately, Cadance's motherly wisdom comes into play. She, and the episode itself, comprehends how scolding her would be detrimental to her growth as a princess. FIM's at its best when it proactively resolves the conflict, and this is no exception. She understands what Twilight's feeling and retains that soothing voice throughout, while remaining firm in her morale. A princess she'll forever be, she has her own needs and wants, and must set up boundaries so they don't get crossed. When mothers hogged their babies around a nervous FH, she immediately stepped in, separated her from them, and used her experience as an example to help Twilight further understand how being happy and wanting to do the things she wants is as noble as helping others. Zeppelin earns a lot of credit for having the guts to teach that message. Is it noble to help make others happy? But you're also obligated to make yourself happy, too, and that obligation isn't selfish or entitled at all. Twilight's whole conflict fits the moral's frame, which is executed with excellent class. And how does she approach it? By apologizing to Star Tracker for lashing out on him and letting him, her family, and everyone else on the cruise eat ice cream on the deck. This… …isn't all that bad, either. <3 Conclusion. Once Upon a Zeppelin is one of the best episodes of the show for a variety of reasons. One of them is how Twilight experiences and resolves the conflict. The Princess of Friendship's turmoil was great, and little by little, the story chips away her self-confidence and the façade she self-painted on her face in order to maintain her reputation. Every time she tries to make others happy, she becomes more and more miserable, and it becomes more and more difficult to maintain that image she created. Missing out on the Northern Stars brought her to her breaking point, leading the way to a valuable lesson she needed to learn ever since she ascended. Through Flores's careful respect to continuity, it methodically recreates Twilight's image as not simply a princess, but an Equestrian being overall. Altogether, Zeppelin's an excellent study of growth and maturation within an evolving show.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"A Matter of Principals" Quickieview

Lately, when Discord is at his best, he's a jerk with a heart of gold. Without his inherent edge, he's a completely different character in his voice. Discordant Harmony and especially The Break Up Break Down handle that side very effectively. But when he's just a jerk, he loses that dimension and becomes antagonistic just because. And that's the case here. Because he's not leading the school, he makes Starlight, established previously and here as a friend, miserable. His worst moment, very clearly, occurs at the buckball pitch. His scheme with the bugbear put the Student Six and a few others in really grave danger. Had Starlight not scare him off, Yona would've been stung. Recall how Dash's and AJ's selfishness and recklessness nearly caused her to drown? This is no better. Had she be hurt on Twilight's grounds, then the school would be in big trouble. Starlight was absolutely justified to be angry at him, warn him, and blast him away from the school grounds after he continued his defiance. Back to him later. Starlight and Spike continue their successful roles since Season 7. AMoP is the first episode since The Crystalling to pair them up, and you immediately see their trust and faith for one another after Twilight temporarily promotes her. He's always by her side and helped put in the work to alleviate the stress. When Discord and Starlight didn't see eye to eye, Spike was the middle man to maintain order between them and be as objective as possible. Was Starlight justified to warn and blast him away from the school grounds? Absolutely. As headmare, it was her job to punish him. But Discord isn't like other beings; he's a god with a love to warp logic. Rather than talking to him what's wrong, Starlight chose a very drastic measure, which Spike rightfully warned would only worsen matters. Why? Because provoking him proved him right, even though he was insufferable. Therefore, he felt justified to raise more hell in the School of Friendship. Discord has insecurities and sometimes fails to hide them. But the clues, even if subtle, are missing, because that context when Starlight spoke the episode's primary lesson is missing, too. Everywhere he showed up, Discord becomes a destructive brat, and acting like he doesn't know either her or him hurts, too. Was she right to apologize to him? Yes. But by offering him a job, the story lets him off without any level of consequence and rewards him for it. The RM6 return, nullifying the offer, but it's still an unsatisfactory resolution. On top of that, almost all the jokes fall flat. The ones with Twilight fail, because she's flanderized: Her personality early was reduced to obsessively organizing and pre-planning everything to the point of being redundant and at Starlight's expense. Cranky constantly spitting his drinks (accidentally) at Gallus's direction while being a lazy ass regresses him. One of the only jokes to be funny is Trixie talking on her banana phone. Despite being rather negative (and not liking it), I won't throw in reactionary hyperbole and call A Matter of Principals bad, awful, or an atrocity, because it's not. At the time of this quickieview, it's the third-worst episode of S8, but nowhere close to the badness of Non-Complete Clause and Fake It; it's watchable mediocrity. 

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

The Return of Harmony: Princess Celestia's Second-Best Appearance

Consider this a little belated gift for the Summer Sun Celebration. Princess Celestia's best appearance was Horse Play. For the first time, FIM had a quasi-legit Celestia episode, and she was written very well. Despite being a country ruler, she had no acting experience and really showed how much she sucked at it. But when the play was on the verge of collapse in "celestial" proportions, Celestia leads the Mane 8 into saving it and becoming a nationwide success. This episode is a marvelous exercise in how to make a godlike presence feel human. So, what about her second-best appearance? That goes to The Return of Harmony! Why not Crystal Empire, A Royal Problem, or Twilight's Kingdom? If you don't know my history, I ratted on her appearances in each of them, so no Debbie Downers for this blog. Okay, so why is this her best role pre-HP? Three big reasons. Rightful pass of the baton. One common criticism I know of this series is her (lack of) inclusion or sometimes exclusion in the two-parters, usually for really stupid in-'verse reasons. Twilight's Kingdom, The Crystal Empire, To Where, and the film took the brunt of it, and justifiably so. This isn't the case here. Discord was an old foe of both Celestia and Luna eons ago, but turned him to stone after they discovered and bonded with the Elements of Harmony. Still, powerful the two princesses are, they don't possess them anymore. Only their rightful heirs can harness their true power and restore harmony to Equestria once again, them being the Mane Six. The confusion is very evident on the Mane Six's faces, especially Twilight, as you see here: Her interrupted line echoes her expression: But the camera's panning of the stained glass window — PNG from here — explains why, along with Celestia's explanation:
Even though this scene is rather expository, Celestia sets the tone. The EoH trust the M6 into wielding the Elements and using them to defend and protect harmony throughout the land. Twilight promises her they'll reuse them to beat Discord. Therefore, Celestia trusts them, too. Controlled anger. Pay attention to how Celestia behaves when Discord confronts them. Previous appearances showed Celestia as calm, cool, collected, and not afraid to pull a trick or two on others to maintain a loose atmosphere. For the first time, Celestia is the opposite: demanding, hostile, and very angry. All for the right reasons. Thanks to her and Luna's broken link from the Elements, her old foe was released into the modern Equestrian world and can't do it by herself. Discord understands this and uses the priceless artifacts and Celestia's anger to taunt her. With the Elements lost, he can do whatever he wants at his own disposal while maintaining his own integrity. Scenes like this demonstrate how dynamic Celestia not only is as a character, but can be, too. Up to this point, she had a lot of potential, and this back and forth shows us what the writers — Larson here — can do with her if you write the right plot. Also, notice three things during this scene. Despite being angry, she never loses her control. Age carried a whole load of wisdom for her. She knows his mind games and gets tested, but crossing the line by herself is exactly what he wants. As long as she remains calm, he can't really do anything with her. Twice, she extends her wings, once when she yells enough and once when she warns Discord after he toyed with the EoH. Emphasized a degree of majesty and warns Discord to take her and the new Bearers seriously. Before the camera pans to her face, Celestia paws the ground forty-five seconds aggressively into the video above. This shot is no accident. Rarely, a horse will forcefully drag their hoof across the ground to indicate anger, threatening to charge. Here, she warns Discord to not cross the line or hurt the Mane Six, or else. But since they each know she's no threat to him, that's really all she can do. Help from afar. Discord's powers are so great that they influenced her friends and brainwashed them into their polar opposites. Even though she retained her optimism and hope they'll return to normal, their lack of cooperation over her the reference guide made her frustrated and angry, causing a nasty brawl and effectively ending their friendships between each other. Dash's lack of presence (foreshadowed by Celestia's backstory early in Part 1) caused the Elements to backfire and result in Twilight believing that perhaps the Magic of Friendship truly isn't enough. Finally, she couldn't take any more manipulation, discolored, and decided to leave everyone but Spike behind. But who didn't? Celestia. At Twilight's lowest moment, she knew it still wasn't too late to help her or her friends. By returning her friendship lessons to her, she reminds her of her growth since first moving to Ponyville. Every friendship lesson she learned was important, and Celestia won't let her forget it. As Twilight recited them, the Twilight of old recovered, and no longer was she Twilight Quitter anymore. This scene here reinforces RoH's main moral: The Return of Harmony was the most perilous situation the M6 ever experienced. But Elements or no Elements, Celestia knew how to help tell Twilight from afar how important her friendships with the RM5 are. All without telling her, too. But this moment also enforced a secondary moral, which is just as powerful: Almost seven years after RoH first aired, it still rings so true in the old library, don't you think? Conclusion. Despite writing Twilight as the lead, Larson maintains the importance of their whole friendship. All six matter, and he writes the episode as if they matter. Secondly, Princess Celestia had her best role of the series that wouldn't be usurped until Horse Play. Depending on how she's written, she can be a major force to be reckoned with in the story and have a tremendous impact on the conflict and resolution. Despite appearing in Part 1 and briefly to conclude Part 2, she maintains her presence at the most critical times and was there to help Twilight when she was about to quit. Both parts of The Return of Harmony respectively premiered on September 17 and 24, 2011, and Larson's strokes of genius age brilliantly.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

episode review "The Mean Six" Review

Note: Credit to @Jeric, @PathfinderCS, and @Captain Clark and conversations with them on Discord for this review. One of The Return of Harmony's biggest strengths is its clever execution of the Discorded Mane Six. Discord manipulated each and every one of them — sans Fluttershy for humor's sake — into exposing a major internal weakness, such as Applejack fearing no one loves her and running away from the idea and Rainbow Dash fleeing the labyrinth and leaving her friends behind to protect Cloudesdale. Twilight's slow progression of losing her denial that her friends still cared and had some good left in them was a masterpiece of a villain's accomplished deeds breaking down a strong character's confidence so much that she abandoned the Magic of Friendship. Now with Discord a good guy, warping the Mane Eight into Discorded versions of themselves doesn't make sense anymore. But Mike Vogel brings the idea back in clever fashion while still keeping their presence fresh in The Mean 6. Chrysalis crafts a spell to create copies of them. Poorly crafted, apparently. Instead of creating exact mirrored personalities of every Discorded Six, three of Chrysalis's Mean Six are switched up a little in order to be unpredictable and to increase potential for both friction and comedy. Rather than be Rainbow Ditch and wrap up major delusions of Cloudesdale being safe and protected, Mean Dash — who I call "Lazy Dash" — is completely apathetic of everything around her. No matter the interest or urgent, she'd rather fly and sleep. Pinkie Pie in both TRoH and TM6 is a major grump, but Mean Pinkie in TM6 — "Bordie Pie" — finds everything so boring instead of being Chef Hater Pants. TM6's version, Twilight Snarkle, stands out the most for a few reasons, one of which is how much she completely differs from Twilight Quitter in TRoH. She's very snarky with a very keen ability to tap into someone's weak spot to make them pay attention to her. More about her later. Vogel uses Chrysalis's desperation and status to recap past events. Occasionally, Season 8 hides its exposition very organically, The Mean 6 being one of its smartest iterations. Rather than just have Chrysalis spill everything, she explains to still photos of the RM6 of what she used to be, what happened to her now, and what she wants to do next. Each lines oozes with a wide range of personality, from extreme cockiness — i.e., her little prance with matching music — to a lust to conquer Equestria to a deranged thirst for Starlight's pain and destruction. Now that she no longer controls her kingdom and is all alone, she'll do anything to reclaim her credibility as threat to Equestria, and creating half-baked clones of changelings exemplifies her desperation and status. Chrysalis has always been a mixed bag. Very threatening with a slab of ham as her thorax, but often woefully incompetent. Whenever she's ready to conquer Equestria, she overlooks one major flaw in her plan or concentrates more on her own ego over conquering the kingdom. In ACW, she sent Twilight to the same dungeon as the real Cadance and didn't take SA's bond with Cadance so seriously. Rather than capture every single threat to her revenge, she willingly left Starlight behind. So, why is The Mean 6 her best role by far? The episode wisely uses her current status as a solid alibi for why Plan A lacked a major failsafe. When Snarkle criticized her for not attacking the ReMane 7 at the School, she knew right away that trying to destroy them would backfire big time. Defeating Celestia in ACW was by luck, which she and TM6 are aware of. The Elements of Harmony are Equestria's key for maintaining security, but very few are acutely aware of how powerful the Elements are. Until later in this episode, she had no idea the Elements feed the Tree nor of its existence. Among the collection of eccentric villains, she plays the straight woman. Comedy drives the communication between the Mean 6 and Chrysalis; how they respond and react to each other determines the joke's effect. Aside from Snarkle, Chrysalis is the most competent of the Evil Seven, but Chrysalis's quick temper and Snarkle's ability to force QC to depend her really makes her stand out. Without an army anymore, she must not only create something from scratch, but also depend on them. Each clone is headache-inducing and willfully disobedient, but must keep them alive, because they are the possible source to take down the ReMane Seven. Yet, Chryssie knows she can start over and adjust to spell to force the Mean Six to obey her, hence her threat to kill Snarkle just before Act 2 closes. But once she runs out of patience and loses control, she's incredibly threatening. (BTW, kudos to DHX for outlining Chrysalis's shadow as Rarihoard, Boredie Pie, and Liarjack nod nervously. Really emphasizes her intimidation.) The Mean Six, however, share her spotlight and are all great in their own ways. Flutterbitch (or Flutterbrute, for tact's sake) remains just as funny as ever. Nasty, self-serving, sarcastic, and menacing — and a really big bully. Forced a lost bird to walk and climb back to his nest his nest, then told animals living nearby she hopes they freeze to death, and then followed up with classic flower-flattening. She taunted animals and relished it, which Discorded Flutterbitch didn't do (instead smugly cheering Angel on for flattening Twilight).
  Liarjack would make Discorded!Liarjack feel jealous. Each of her lies are bigger, more outlandish, and meaner. What started out as a small swindle grew grander and grander. Watching AJ try to string together an impromptu lie explaining Flutterbitch, Rarihoard, and Snarkle's whereabouts is just one example of the hilarity, but how our heroes respond to her meanness is where they're strongest. More about that later.
  Gladly.

Despite few lines, she made the most of it. My favorite is this: During RoH, Greedity was a great source of comedy. Rarihoard makes her look sane. Look at her faces!
Creepy, ain't they?

So why do they work, unlike this, this, this, or THIS? Because of who the source of the joke is. As Rarihoard hogged onto more and more stuff, the more obsessed she became. Her faces accentuated her lust for anything, especially when she caught eye of Applejack's wagon, an immediate trove of treasures. Similar to Return of Harmony, comedy is plentiful in The Mean 6, Rarity's deranged faces a source of it.
  Grumpie Pie was excellent, and Bordie Pie was just as great. Andrea Libman performed really well emphasizing hooooowwwww boooorrrred she is. But the post-production knows how to counter-balance her boredom with some humor, too: In the beginning of the video linked above, her hair subtly squeaks as she moves her head.
  But the best one, without question, is Twilight Snarkle. While the ReMean Five are comic antonyms of the ReMean Five, she's the most fleshed out. Extremely calculating, power-hungry, and very snarky, she balances out her villainy through manipulation. Chrysalis cannot defeat Twilight alone; Snarkle understands this through her questions and snarky comebacks.

This little bit demonstrates their chemistry masterfully: Fantastic the episode's overall dialogue quality is, their organic exchanges really sell the chemistry. Kathleen Barr — QC's VA — and Tara Strong take advantage of the script to craft excellent tension between each other. Chrysalis rightly couldn't stand Snarkle and the others for being so uncooperative, while Snarkle rightly kept her on a tightrope so she can take out Chrysalis when she least expects it. Very clearly, they can't stand each other.

Even when she ain't with Chrysalis, she figures out a way to deliver a shot at her, enforcing her hatred of her and her servants:
There are many ways to create a great villain, but the foundation is being a great character; that is highlighted very well through her ability to manipulate a very naïve Pinkie Pie in Act 2. When an evil alicorn evilly rubs her feathers together like hands…

…you know ye got her good. >)

At the same time, she acts like the straight mare, showing off how dynamic she is. Her sour impatience progressed to anger as Pinkie recaps the events of Twilight's Kingdom creates great friction between them, especially after the fact that Pinkie doesn't know that at all.

Oh, yeah, the "bzzt!" sound effect is really funny. XD But the Mean Six aren't alone. The ReMane Seven star here, and they were all done very well, particularly in one aspect: the conflict. From the opening shot, everyone was tense, particularly Twilight. Because "Shutterbug" pushed them ten minutes behind schedule, Twilight slowly lost her cool, and then rolled her eyes when Shutterbug exaggeratedly pleaded for forgiveness. To briefly go on a tangent, Shutterbug/QC's haste to collect their hairs contained several great jokes, like yanking on Dash's tail hair a little too hard, picking out a loose strand from AJ's hat (and not putting it on her head), and this lightning-quick meta reference: But it wasn't just the opener. The beginning of their trek alone is an excellent exercise of foreshadowing. Rainbow Dash questioned Twilight's activities as "fun." Even though all seven agreed to camp, Twilight's plans were kept secret, apparently with little input from anyone. Granted, Twilight designed this camp night to be a surprise, but it made Dash a little uncertain. Adding the nervous rubbing of her hooves helps, too.
  Pinkie Pie accidentally scared the daylights out of Fluttershy so badly that she hyperventilated, just moments after FS declared her happiness for quiet time with everyone. Unlike Filli Vanilli, this was quick, performed once, and with no ill intentions whatsoever. Not to mention Pinkie warned everypony she was playing beforehand.
  Starlight sulked the entire time. While her friends were grouped together in front, she lagged behind and grumbled at the swampy weather and bugs. It's her first camping vacation…and showed to hate it without saying it outright. To talk a bit regarding two of the RM7: Pinkie had one of her most likeable roles of the last two seasons, and how she behaves embodies the Element of Laughter. She's so happy to be with everyone and so eager to participate in Twilight's camping retreat. Teaching inside that school meant having few free days to spend quality time with everyone, so she takes the opportunity to take advantage of it. Watching her smell those roses so deeply and then roll around in them like a little baby (and avoiding any thorns ) is unbelievably adorable. Being a massive Starlight brony since she first arrived, it makes no sense avoiding her. In the last few outings, she's been very relatable, and this is no exception. Her immense distaste for camping is really relatable, especially with her reasons why (bugs and humidity ain't no fun), and struggling to keep AJ's gear and cloak on invited nice slapstick. As they trekked deeper into the Everfree Forest, her anxiety, exhaustion, and lack of enjoyment became more and more evident. More about her later. Speaking of anxiety, the whole second scene progressed the tension further while maintaining their close relationships. Rarity and AJ mildly spar over AJ not having anything to keep their manes neat. Even though Pinkie is so cute rolling in the rosebushes, Twilight is less than enthused and got really cross with her for nearly kicking her into the muzzle by accident. But Pinkie's having way too much fun that she doesn't notice and scampers deeper into the forest, building up more tension between them. Fluttershy wanders off into the forest to help a lost bird without telling anyone, leading everyone into splitting up to search for her and Pinkie and further testing Twilight's will. At this juncture, TM6 was really good. When they separated and met another Meanie, it became great. Even though the ReMean Five are sorta cookie cutters, they're dynamic, too, evident by their interactions with the Mane characters and environments. As I wrote previously, Lazy Dash spoke little and wasn't on screen much in the second act, but generated more conflict by ditching FS in the woods and shooing away Twilight while she leaned precariously over the pond. Throughout the episode, nobody suspected something was wrong with their counterpart, except Dash and AJ with "Rarity." Because she grew madder as she possessed AJ's camping gear, they worried for her sanity. As I wrote previously, Rarihoard's deranged expressions are a great source of dark humor, but how Dash and AJ behaved bewilderingly around her adds an extra layer into the jokes. Liarjack's encounter with Starlight and Rarity is the only one to not be comedic, and their first scene marks the episode's initial transition in tone, which will be discussed below. Flutterbitch/Flutterbrute never bumped into or talked into a Mane character, but like Fluttershy, a bird has to return to his nest and got lost. But while Fluttershy helped out their sibling, she got lost and walked around in a proverbial circle, giving the story a grand opportunity to use Flutterbrute to accidentally damage her rep in the forest. Doesn't help when Lazy Dash ditched her (and made FS break the fourth wall in confusion). Yet, because Fluttershy has no idea someone who looks just like her threatened the animals and destroyed the daisy patches, who can blame her for feeling so  upset when the animals curse, growl, and yell at her? Ya can't. Snarkle and Bordie talked to one apiece: Pinkie and Twilight, respectively. Bordie, being Equestria's most boring pony, did what she's great at: insulting something exciting as lame and uninteresting. Because Twilight spent a great deal of time and effort preparing the campsite and when to have it, to have her Friendship Retreat blown off like that by someone she's supposedly close with hurts, thus making her actually wonder if it was worth scheduling it after all. Conversely, the tone in the Snarkle-Pinkie tandem was predominantly comedic, using the characters' responses, cartoon logic, and behavior to accentuate it. Originally, Snarkle took delight to Pinkie spilling all the secrets to the Tree of Harmony and the Elements, but the more eccentric she behaved, the angrier she became. Her anger over Pinkie's attitude evolved into callousness for Fluttershy, including telling her to stay on schedule and "get over" her anguish, accelerating the switch of the once comedic tone of the episode into emotional, dramatic, and harsh. When Pinkie accused Twilight of being selfish and ruining everyone's fun, their anger and grief felt really raw. Twilight doesn't cry often, so when she does, long-time viewers will notice. But here, it feels somewhat different. Her hurt didn't just bleed from within, but grief, too. For the first time in years, her friendship with Pinkie was brought into serious question. Regret for not just going out to the retreat, but also possibly formatting the idea of spreading the Magic of Friendship in the first place. Why was Fluttershy's hoarse "CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!" so crushing? Because of their exchange. Cushioned by her minutes-long fright, she noticed her friendship with Pinkie and Twilight slowly starting to crumble…and she couldn't bear it. And whose emotions were also raw? Rarity and especially Starlight. Think about this episode in Starlight's perspective. She never liked camping previously, but accepted their invitation, because she has been not only an invaluable asset to the School, but also a fantastic friend. She wears AJ's classic camping poncho, struggles like hell to keep the camping gear, but stays quiet out of respect. But that evening, "AJ" tells her her story of how great she is as a camper in Equestria, accuses her of being silly with that gear, and then laughed at her because she thought her look stupid. How would you feel if she were you? Something like this, I presume? If your answer's yes, I can't blame you. Someone she apparently trusted mocked her at her lowest moment all day long. Starlight felt USED! And Rarity did the right thing sticking up for her and sternly threatening to "AJ's" face a long talk about her heinous behavior, one of her most powerful moments of the entire series. A role reversal of… …but without the terrible dialogue and broken setup. In fact, their entire argument in the forest — including the crying — felt real. All day long, they anticipated for quiet time with each other in Twilight's Friendship Retreat, but the Mean Six accidentally exacerbated their friendships further to the boiling point. Their anger with each other was grounded, had weight, and — unlike NCC — wasn't petty whatsoever. This is how you have adult teachers in a cartoon argue angrily without sacrificing their dignity. BTW, kinda funny how Chrysalis almost accomplished her plan to destroy Harmony without even trying! How genius is that?! *ahem* Okay, got a little carried away here. Yet, when their friendship was bound to collapse, Twilight mustered what makes their friendships strong: Despite their differences, disagreements, and arguments, deep down, they care for each other and will help them. Vogel did an excellent job taking his time wrapping up all the conflicts each Mane pony had with someone else, airing their grievances, and maturely settling them one by one. Still, FS rightfully worried no one likes her, so how do they resolve that? By everyone running up to her and roll in the dirt with a hearty laugh. It brings great closure and proves she's one of them. Yeah, neither group figuring out they were talking with duplicates feels a little anticlimactic, but it makes sense, and the criticism of it misses the episode's point. If they figured out who their doppelgangers are, then Vogel contradicts the moral he's teaching: the strongest friendships get through difficult times with one another. The RM7's friendship is so strong, because they use their strengths to get through. No matter the obstacle, the Mane Eight understand the heart of their friendships and work together. On the other hand, the Mean Six are collectively selfish. Despite Snarkle's warning them to follow her lead, they only look after themselves, and their lack of cooperation cost them their sapience. How can you also tell how close the RM7 are? The Friendship Retreat is in complete tatters, but all they can do is laugh it off. This small exchange: Their trust in each other's so ingrained, they lightly tease each other hours after they settled their fight. Season 8's first half is the most consistent in quality for the entire series. The Mean Six is just one example why. Its storytelling is outstanding with excellent dialogue, comedy, drama, and heart. A Hearth's Warming Tail is excellent and was Vogel's best episode; TM6 leapt over it. Bravo!

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

episode review "Molt Down" Quickieview (Updated)

Note: This review has been edited to add more content. Do you remember dreading the thought of a Spike episode? I do. For so long, Spike episode were usually among the worst of the series, much less the season. For the first five seasons, no matter the plot, episodes usually starring him were usually awful; anything better wasn't the norm. But since Princess Spike (his worst outing of the show), everything changed. His episodes became good. DHX wrote him with dignity. Since Newbie Dash, the Spikabuse vanished. Even today, the thought of not bashing a new Spike episode is completely refreshing. Molt Down is the first S8 episode to star Spike, and the show's biggest evolution from the status quo since Newbie Dash. How does it approach it? By describing how a child dragon goes through puberty. Like real life, puberty ain't fun, and several allegories hammer that point home. Itchy, painful stone scales: rashes and pimples. Volume shifts: deepening of the voice. Armpit smell: body odor and hair. Fire burps: dunno. A period, perhaps? Sleep disruptions: teens being more alert late in the day. (Thank @Jeric for that pointer and the accompanying research.) Haber's jokes are equally as funny as sympathizing for Spike. Yet, the jokes themselves have an extra layer of dimension, because they're not all the same type, the characters' reactions vary, and visual cues round the story. Other great jokes include: Zecora stuffing each of her ears with a cottonball after Spike suddenly shouted. The camera's wide shot, Spike's irritated voice, and the squashing/stretching of the pot he's in as he complains create a perfect recipe for a joke. It's wonderfully timed and really hilarious. Smolder smacking Spike a little too hard in the back, accidentally driving him in pain. Pinkie's sudden shouting and liking that foul odor.   Her sly faces really sell the characterization, too. Twilight grumbling at the thought of Celestia never creaking out. That said, not all of them. Sometimes they got a little repetitive or cringeworthy, notably Rarity's shouts after a while and the grossout shot of Spike's stone scale. But for the most part, they did their job. That said, let's talk about Spike. Although he grew considerably since hatching from his egg years ago, from how Twilight acted, this is the very first time Spike molted. The stone scale is painful already, but having so many throbbing and itching is completely foreign to him. Puberty is a part of life the majority of us experience, and whatever he has to endure throughout the episode parallels ourselves in some way. The stages of puberty poor Spike suffered through echoes our own. Impressively, despite many chances for Haber to unleash the most cringeworthy puberty-related joke possible, he restrains himself just enough to create them at his expense without crossing the line into Spikabuse. How does he do that? I'm not sure, but many of the guesses include: What Spike had to go through isn't his fault. Every dragon goes through this stage, including Smolder's presumably-older bro. The molt effect that Spike suffered from is no less different than any other dragon when they grow up. When they treat it as normal, we do, too.
  Spike's friends and Twilight don't ignore him. When they noticed something is wrong with him, they're there to help. They care about Spike and want to work with him so he can get better.
  Smolder interacts with Spike. Back in S2, Spike grew rapidly due to inherent greed, opening up a big implication into how dragons grew. Is greed the cause? Could Spike control it, which was a main part for two future conflicts? How did other dragons grow when they didn't show signs of greed? Smolder's description of greed-induced growth as not normal for a dragon cleared up so many questions and brought forth more insight on dragon lore and dragon culture in her homeland. Smolder has an attitude, and her description of dragon culture's response to the molt effect increases Spike's anxiety for the unknown, increasing the conflict's stakes. But there's one thing to note, which the episode makes very clear — as scary as her description of dragon life during the molt is, she's not treated as a bad person, and Smolder isn't written to be antagonistic. The molt effect is a part of her life, so what she and others experienced is expected. For the most part, she's prepared for the challenges; theorize that others back home do, too. Spike, on the other hand, isn't. He's lived with Twilight his whole life and knows so little about dragon culture. The molt effect, especially the smell, is putrid, and he fears that Twilight and the others will reject him, forcing him to live on his own. He's not prepared to defend himself from predators that relish for that smell, especially the roc. Because Twilight asked him to retreat to an area that won't fry anyone in the school, Spike assumes even more that the more out of control his molt becomes, the less Twilight will want him around. Can't you blame him for being so scared of growing up and fighting to alter the molt? Of course not! For obvious reasons, Rarity and Twilight are usual partners for Spike in his episodes, but they're all really good here. (Credit goes to @Truffles and his reply for this bit.) What makes them stand out here is their immediate empathy for Spike. In the beginning, when Rarity sees Spike hide something under his eye, she becomes suspicious and worried. She walks around him to sneak a glance at what's under his claws, but never gets frustrated at any point. When he admits to being embarrassed by the stone scale, she assures him not to worry, but treats his embarrassment with the respect its deserves. She's the first to recommend getting some of Zecora's blemish cream, and did so again after Pewee accidentally pinched his scale.
  Twilight gets worried when Spike sleeps in all morning and also sympathizes with him for getting breakouts, just like her years ago and also recommends heading to Zecora. When he accidentally destroys her lecture, she doesn't criticize him or make him feel worse. Recommends to leave the castle for his own safety and everyone else's.
  Despite battling a sudden ear infection, Rarity never stops thinking about Spike and asks her for blemish cream to help him with his stone scales. When they bump into each other, she notices his worsening condition and took out the cream (only for the roc to snatch her).
  Right on cue, Twilight shows up and heads to Zecora's to get the cream. Unlike Cart Before the Jerks and Complete Crap Clause, neither of Spike's closest friends and relatives treat his condition as a lesser deal to themselves or belittle him for it. Both of them treated his condition, embarrassment, and pain as important, never stopped thinking about him, and wanted to help him in any way they can. Zecora's really well written in a nowadays-rare appearance. But rather than be treated as merely a vessel to deliver plot devices, she becomes deeply involved in both the A and B plots: Spike's puberty and Rarity's phoenix-related ear infection. Her interactions with the characters and their problems add depth to her character, occupation, and relationships with others. One big change for this season is the treatment of the Everfree Forest, historically a really dangerous place to roam. What was a common plot device for the Mane Six, Spike, and CMCs to face conflict in S1, its dangers and presence became mostly absent after Princess Twilight Sparkle. But for the third time this season, an Everfree creature threatened creaturekinds' safety. And the chase scene was really tense. Zecora, Spike, and Rarity were in great danger, and the score and sounds throughout hammered in the sudden perils they faced. In the leaked version, the chase's tone was more comedic, courtesy of Twilight's lasers sounding like video game beams. Here, the comedy was more toned down, an excellent change from the leaked product. YO! Do you smell what the roc is cookin'?! Little details refine the episode and shape up the episode's quality. Two really stick out: As the episode progresses, Spike's limbs darken in color, foreshadowing his eventual molt and where it'll start.
  During the break in the chase, when Spike's old skin starts to encase him, the background music becomes louder and completely stops when he's completely cocooned. For several seconds, we hear nothing except Twilight firing at the roc, increasing the tension and making us wonder what will happen to the poor dragon next. So, what happened after he molted? THANKS, JOSH HABER! After everything he went through in this episode, Spike molting and earning wings is an excellent payoff. I don't know if he grew a little or not, but when you're making a child dragon molt, sticking with the status quo would be a complete slap to the face to Spike and the audience. Something about him had to change. Interestingly, even though his new wings feel earned, Spike and his friends treat his accomplishment as merely a new milestone in his life as he grows into adulthood. Here, MD brings forth a really great moral: For Twilight to deliver this lesson to him shows us how much he means to her, their hug proving their tight bond. DHX, please, more of their family dynamic! If there was one little problem with the chase, it's what Silver Quill pointed out: Twilight's magic felt kinda weak. Yes, you could argue that she scaled it back because Rarity and Zecora were trapped within the roc's talons, but she needed Spike's assistance to rescue them from their fall, when Twilight magically corralled them all during the movie. Conversely, the theme of growing was subtly foreshadowed through Peewee's reintroduction. The now-adult phoenix still interacts with his parents, but a sharp eye will notice he has his own nest now, indicating either a family of his own or the preparation for one. Spike may've released him, but they still know each other very fondly, evident by their embrace. Peewee grew up; Spike will, too. Back in Season 5, I panned Spike being handed the bouquet of dragon sneeze flowers, the lowest moment of the season. Rather than capping off a broken episode with a rather sweet moment, DHX doubled down on his buttmonkey status. After all, isn't FIM supposedly a feminist show? Well, you don't empower women and girls by making your only male lead a punching bag for abusive comic relief. It's hypocritical and massively sexist, one of the biggest stains of the series. But after that, the direction for his character improved. No longer did his personality shift to demand the plot. His role wasn't confined to pure comic relief. His episodes no longer beat him down or abused him just to teach him a contrived lesson. Starting out with secondary roles in Amending Fences and Re-Mark, Season 6 expanded his role, including becoming close friends with Starlight, bonding dragonkind and ponykind by working with and befriending Ember, and sacrificing his celebrityhood to stand up for Thorax. Season 6 was Spike's best season. Albeit a diminished role in S7, he was really good in Triple Threat, Owl's Well done right. Coming into Molt Down, Spike was having a great year. Now he left his biggest mark in the show since Times. His wings demonstrate his evolution in not just his character, but also his role. It's unknown whether his wings will have a big impact on the season, or it's just cosmetic. But what happens in the future will wait. When I watched the leaked version, I liked it, but wasn't totally happy with it. Days before its official airing, however, I was unsure whether I was fair to it or not. Now, when comparing the leaked version with the final product, the leaked Molt's lack of polish and missing score completely affected the episode's overall quality. The final product is excellent, well edited, and really makes the audience feel like Spike earned his pair of wings. Molt Down's one of the best episodes of S8 so far and one of the best Spike episodes altogether. P.S.: And, yes, Molt Down's change of the status quo's superior to MMC's.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

episode review "The Break Up Break Down" Quick Review

I don't know who was nuts enough to think Discord, Spike, and Big Mac would make a great team back in Season 6, but whoever it is, thank you! Big Mac, Spike, and Discord all act like they knew each other for years, even though this trio only formed after Discord officially became a part of the Guys' Night team. They play off one another through their actions, responses, and emotions, creating great chemistry with one another. Speaking of chemistry, Spike and Discord are outstanding in their best outings of the season thus far (and maybe of the show, too, once it's all finished). Discord's cynicism towards H&HD, and love in particular, plays off spectacularly with Spike, who's very optimistic and refreshingly snarky. To think that only a few seasons ago, Discord was one of his enemies, but from the way they talked to each other and knew each other so well, you'd think he was closer to Discord than Twilight. How they interacted with one another was among the multi-dozens highlights here, such as Spike criticizing Discord's pessimism to Spike intentionally teasing Discord for possibly having a crush on Fluttershy to Discord ignoring Spike's sappy romantic poem about Rarity. They know how to get under each other's skin without crossing the line, making their teasing all in good fun rather than mean-spirited. One of the season's biggest improvements — the dialogue — really shines. Every line's so organic, even when it's somewhat expository, gelling together. Every line oozed with personality and passion, whether it's from the O&O squad or the CMCs. Confalone knows how when to have them talk or act and keep them all in character. Even Big Mac isn't confined to that "Eeyup!" gag, varying his emotions or telling Discord to "EeWAIT!" The dialogue allows for not just some amazing comedy, but also some heart. More 'bout the latter later. The comedy here is golden! Every joke landed perfectly, from the dialogue responses to the satirically cheesy love music playing in the background as Big Mac rushes to Sugar Belle to Big Mac's drinking a barrel-load of cider to Sweetie's "Please say no." Spike's deadpan to Discord as an anti-romance cynic is one hell of a comeback, and that jab towards the greeting card industry by Discord is too funny. Oh, yeah… >Lyra and Bob Bon sharing H&HD bond & gifts >best friends Riiiiiiiight. XP The CMCs were also fantastic here. All season so far, they've been at their A-game. The episode recognizes them as kids, but doesn't make them so obnoxious. They were right to wonder where that mysterious pie came from and search high and low to find him. But the and does a nice swerve: They may not have found that actual special somepony for SB, but had a magnificent time together, anyway. Sweetie's small speech at the end had quite a lot of heart in it. Speaking of heart, as hilarious as TBUBD is, Confalone balances it perfectly. Big Mac's sadness was somewhat over the top, but treated with the respect it deserves. His romantic feelings with Sugar Belle feel genuine, and you can tell by how he talked about the small stuff to Skelenor, like how Sugar snorts and wiggles her nose when she giggles (something that @Nyactis Mewcis Catlum pointed out a while ago in a status). Big Mac doesn't talk much, so when he does, you listen. After they cleared up everything, it was all okay again, and they had a great end to Hearts & Hooves Day. Discord's revelation of finally believing in romance works perfectly and marks my moment of the season so far: revealing to damage her wagon wheel. Why? 'Cause he confirms to us he believes in love and figured out how to get them back together while remaining in character. He's still a jerk, and his advice to BM (long with Spike's) really stinks. But at the end, he retains a heart of gold and does the right thing, even when he's spoiled for Ogres & Oubliettes. Somehow, he predicted what Big Mac was going to do next, but given he's the Lord of Chaos, it makes sense. Really shows he cares for him as a friend. Derpy was great in her role as mailmare. As Discord counted the types of tea he loved, Top Draw lowered the audio quality of de Lancie's mic to match the sound one would hear from the old-school TV. Really masterful editing that helps enhance the joke. (The same scene from the leaked version, BTW, has the same audio quality as the rest of the ep.) Oh, and it has two morals, each executed masterfully: "Don't assume. Communicate with your friends, and everything will work itself out."
  "Don't be afraid to openly admit your feelings. Those who care for you will listen and understand." This one is my favorite of the season so far, because it's so relatable to everyone. When I first watched it in December, I watched a treat. Seeing it completed gives it such a fresh look, and it still holds up excellent. The Break Up Break Down isn't just the best episode of Season 8 so far, but one of the ten best of the show altogether, as well.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

DQ's episode order from best to worst

After I failed Fake It 'Til You Make It, I decided to put all 28 failed episodes in order from worst F- minus to least worst F+. That list eventually expanded into a complete list of episodes I graded, from the best letter-plus episode to the worst letter-minus, . The statuses can be found here: A episodes, B episodes, C episodes, D episodes, and F episodes. With each list compiled, I'm taking every episode in the show and arranged it in order from the best to the worst. The list is always subject to change; episodes could be upgraded or downgraded at anytime. Unlike my statuses, S8 episodes are in bold underline; unannounced/leaked ones are under the tag. Once they're officially published, I will uncover them. To see every piece of FIM media I graded (and how I graded each episode for each season), click here. That gets updated during each season and possibly in between or during the offseason, if I changed one. And for readability purposes, I sectioned each list with "— — —" in between. Let's begin! The Perfect Pear: A+ The Best Night Ever: A+ Crusaders of the Lost Mark: A+ Amending Fences: A+ Shadow Play: A+ Sisterhooves Social: A+ The Cutie Map: A+ A Rockhoof and a Hard Place: A+ Parental Glideance: A+ The Break Up Break Down: A+ Party of One: A+
— — — Testing Testing 1, 2, 3: A Pinkie Pride: A The Hearth's Warming Club: A Slice of Life: A Suited for Success: A On the Road to Friendship: A The Washouts: A Lesson Zero: A Sleepless in Ponyville: A The Times They Are A Changeling: A Flight to the Finish: A The Mean 6: A A Hearth's Warming Tail: A The Saddle Row Review: A Surf and/or Turf: A Marks and Recreation: A Grannies Gone Wild: A Cutie Re-Mark: A
— — — Castle Sweet Castle: A- The Cutie Mark Chronicles: A- Once Upon a Zeppelin: A- Hurricane Fluttershy: A- The Fault in Our Cutie Marks: A- Sounds of Silence: A- Discordant Harmony: A- Wonderbolts Academy: A- The Mane Attraction: A- Uncommon Bond: A- The Return of Harmony: A- Horse Play: A- For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils: A- Gauntlet of Fire: A- Bloom & Gloom: A- Molt Down: A- What Lies Beneath: A- It Isn't the Mane Thing About You: A- All Bottled Up: A- Winter Wrap Up: A-
— — — A Flurry of Emotions: B+ Rarity Takes Manehattan: B+ Luna Eclipsed: B+ Scare Master: B+ Friendship University: B+ Call of the Cutie: B+ Marks for Effort: B+ Magic Duel: B+ Pinkie Apple Pie: B+ Viva Las Pegasus: B+ The Parent Map: B+ To Change a Changeling: B+ On Your Marks: B+
— — — Apple Family Reunion: B Family Appreciation Day: B Green Isn't Your Color: B Hearth's Warming Eve: B Secret of My Excess: B The Crystalling: B Top Bolt: B The Last Roundup: B The End in Friend: B Inspiration Manifestation: B A Health of Information: B Fall Weather Friends: B School Raze: B Twilight Time: B Rarity Investigates!: B Dungeons & Discords: B Sonic Rainboom: B A Friend in Deed: B
— — — Sweet and Elite: B- Triple Threat: B- School Daze: B- Applebuck Season: B- Read It and Weep: B- It's About Time: B- Castle Mane-ia: B- Celestial Advice: B- Canterlot Boutique: B- Stranger Than Fan Fiction: B- Yakity-Sax: B- Hearthbreakers: B- Dragonshy: B- Swarm of the Century: B- Not Asking for Trouble: B- Twilight's Kingdom: B- Father Knows Beast: B- Where the Apple Lies: B-
— — — Forever Filly: C+ Campfire Tales: C+ The Maud Couple: C+ Rock Solid Friendship: C+ Maud Pie: C+ Made in Manehattan: C+ Too Many Pinkie Pies: C+ Make New Friends but Keep Discord: C+ Daring Done?: C+ The Gift of Maud Pie: C+ Three's a Crowd: C+ Baby Cakes: C+
— — — Power Ponies: C A Dog and Pony Show: C The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone: C Friendship Is Magic: C Leap of Faith: C Applejack's "Day" Off: C The One Where Pinkie Knows: C Look Before You Sleep: C The Cutie Pox: C Fluttershy Leans In: C
— — — Buckball Season: C- Magical Mystery Cure: C- Princess Twilight Sparkle: C- Simple Ways: C- Stare Master: C- Party Pooped: C- Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?: C- A Canterlot Wedding: C- Spice Up Your Life: C- The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000: C- The Ticket Master: C- A Matter of Principals: C-
— — — A Royal Problem: D+ Over a Barrel: D+ Equestria Games: D+ The Best Gift Ever: D+ Griffon the Brush Off: D+ Brotherhooves Social: D+ Tanks for the Memories: D+ The Hooffields and McColts: D+ Keep Calm and Flutter On: D+
— — — Filly Vanilli: D A Bird in the Hoof: D Hearts and Hooves Day: D Just for Sidekicks: D Every Little Thing She Does: D Bats!: D Secrets and Pies: D
— — — Feeling Pinkie Keen: D- Spike at Your Service: D- Ponyville Confidential: D- Non-Compete Clause: D- MMMystery on the Friendship Express: D- It Ain't Easy Being Breezies: D-
— — — Flutter Brutter: F+ Games Ponies Play: F+ Daring Don't: F+ The Crystal Empire: F+
— — — No Second Prances: F Honest Apple: F May the Best Pet Win!: F What About Discord?: F Fake It 'Til You Make It: F To Where and Back Again: F Hard to Say Anything: F The Cart Before the Ponies: F Trade Ya!: F Appleoosa's Most Wanted: F The Show Stoppers: F Putting Your Hoof Down: F Somepony to Watch Over Me: F Boast Busters: F P.P.O.V.: F The Mysterious Mare Do Well: F Owl's Well That Ends Well: F Princess Spike: F
— — — 28 Pranks Later: F- Rainbow Falls: F- Dragon Quest: F- Bridle Gossip: F- Fame and Misfortune: F- Newbie Dash: F- One Bad Apple: F-

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

season review Buffalo Man's Tops and Bottoms of Season 7

To continue the pattern from S5, this is a review of S7 as a whole, with both tops and bottoms in respective categories. To view the rest: Season 5 Season 6, 1st Half Season 6 Season 7, 1st Half No apologies for C&P'ing content from my First Half overview (with some changes). Episodes Bottom-5: Fame & Misfortune

Where do I start?

a. The dialogue is atrocious.
b. The RM6 published all of their lessons from S4, including the one from Daring Don't, revealing her identity.
c. They publish their journal without testing their target audience via study group beforehand.
d. Each of the fan representations they meet are quarter-dimensional, stereotypical caricatures. None of the characters who appear act like genuine people.
e. The RM6 are abused everywhere they went. Ranged from not taken seriously (Pinkie) to objectified (TS) to trespassed (AJ) to boycotted (Rarity) to stalked/harassed (FS). The background characters are out-of-character assholes.
f. Every "fan," including the Canterlot reporter, honestly believed the journal was a work of fiction, turning the background characters into straw men.
g. "We're a Work in Progress" is the worst song of the show for manipulating the audience, excusing bad writing and behavior of the characters over the years, and glorifying their flaws (as if changing and evolving is a bad thing in the show and life).
h. The background assholes don't learn their lesson, and the main moral disguises what they did as a setback. Even after they stop group-hugging, Rarity, AJ, and FS still have to settle major problems, and the harmful moral excuses the abuse they suffered.

There's no care for continuity, characterization, or story whatsoever. It disregards their main demographics (children and guardians) to boost their own ego and attack the critics. No wonder why Larson disassociates from it and hates it himself.

For anyone who wonders why I (enjoy) bash(ing) this episode, dogshit on the sidewalk doesn't deserve to be rewarded a participation trophy. Fame & Misfortune's the worst of S7 by far and the worst written episode of the series.

If there were any minuscule saving positives, Starlight continued to show growth, and I gained much more appreciation for Stranger Than Fan Fiction and its nuances after watching F&M.
  Hard to Say Anything

Two words: unadulterated shit. After about 7 to 8 minutes of meandering (but nothing genuinely wrong), the minute Feather Bangs Stereo Pop shows up, the episode flushes down the drain. Big Mac and the CMCs have their worst and second-worst characterizations in the show, respectively. Big Mac for following on the CMCs' hairbrained schemes to try to woo Sugar Belle, the CMCs for believing the fairy tales are how-to romance guidebooks. None of the jokes or twists work at any point — Stereo Pop's characterization is a blatantly dated Bieber parody, Stereo Pop's phallic cutie mark resembling an erect penis with testicles (hence why he covers it up in almost every shot), and the shallow song-off between Mac and Stereo Pop.

Protip, DHX: Sexual harassment ain't funny, either.

Big Mac's crush on Sugar is contrived as hell, too; not only for the blatant ending, but also by the fact that we don't actually see it develop; the entire crush plot is unrequited. You could've written this episode much more differently and make it better. Hell, Starlight would've been a fine secondary character. Instead, it's a generic, clichéd, by-the-numbers plot that DHX couldn't even write well. Hell, continuity stated in the episode (Big Mac warned the CMCs not to use love poison to force the romance through) was ignored to make it work.
  Honest Apple

While the former was marred by a terrible middle and ending, this episode's marred by a terrible beginning and middle all the way to the climax. Rarity acted incompetent and out of character by putting her contest into action despite only two judges signing off on it with no possible backups beforehand in case someone had to cancel. Apple Bloom looked really dumb for not realizing her bow caused major problems (and is a contrived plot point to boot).

But what really drags this episode down is a complete lack of understanding of what makes Applejack the Bearer of Honesty. Does she tell the truth? Absolutely. But she tells them while still caring about others' feelings! So, what does she do here? Turn into an egomaniac with no clue how to judge fashion properly and a lust to tear down their work. The worst moment, by far, is shaking the crossed-over-stitched feathers off Lily Lace's hat. An in-character AJ will NEVER pull this stupid stunt! The only way she was able to realize she was verbally abusive was when Strawberry Sunrise (upon introduction from Rarity) delivered her the same abuse in return. We're in season 7; AJ should NOT have to learn about how important tact is when being honest.

The new characters in the episode? Unlikeable, stereotypical, generic, or all of the above. Hopefully, none of them return!
  Secrets & Pies

This is a type of episode that would probably fit in S1, like Honest Apple. It makes no sense for Pinkie to behave the way she did towards Dash here.

S&P is a stretched-thin ripoff of Party of One with worse characterization. Pinkie's characterization here is the worst of the season for completely falling for Dash's tricks over the years and her psychotic obsession for catching Dash in the act. Dash is out of character for dumping the pie down Tank's feeding tube twice (easily my least favorite scene and one of S7's worst moments). Dash is partially at fault for causing Pinkie's injury at the academy (that's what you get for crying "wolf!" all these years!).

Like most episodes over the years, Dash is beat down to be taught a lesson, a cliché so worn thin and should be tossed in the trash. Unlike PoO, every joke is awful, whether it's repeated to the point of annoying (the "look at that" coverups with no proper variation) or disgusting (Dash trying to eat the dumpster pie, close ups of Pinkie's deranged and tired faces).

A good moral — "Don't create a snowball of lies just to make a friend happy. It's more worth it telling the truth." — doesn't save this episode.
  A Royal Problem

The saving grace in this episode: Starlight. No, her actions were wrong, but the episode built that up to the point where Starlight's nightmare was so soul-crushing that it could've damaged her psyche. More on that a little below.

Celestia was great in Advice, for showing how human she is without devolving her character. Unfortunately, she and Luna are out of character here. Is it fine for them to bicker as sisters? Totally. But their bickering crossed the line into being personal attacks; each of them treated each other's important roles in Equestrian society as not just pointless, but wasteful, too. On top of that, they never understood that THEY were the friendship problem until Starlight told them directly to their faces, and even then, they were still too dumb to get it till later. (Seriously, Snips and Snails are smarter than them here!)

So, when did they finally get it? When they witness Starlight's heartbreaking nightmare. Their lack of appreciation for one another makes no sense, since Luna's envy of her sister and lack of appreciation are why she turned into NMM in the first place. You'd think at their age, they'd figure something out. It's among their five worst appearances for each in the show.

But the worst moment of the episode comes during the resolution when Celestia tells Starlight that she was right to swap their marks. Firstly, she performed her spell on them against their will. Just because they say it's okay doesn't make it okay. The princesses absolve her of her wrongdoing. That side would've been resolved had she asked first and the princesses not act like idiots. Secondly, when they say she did the right thing, Starlight's emotional pain during her terrible nightmare becomes an afterthought. That her self-infliction plot-wise and emotion-wise was pointless.

Despite quality characterization from Starlight, background music, and animation hints, Celestia's and Luna's out of characterization, idiocy, and incompetence ruin the episode. Even though I have it fifth-worst in overall quality, it's currently my second-least-favorite episode of S7 behind Fame (and easily the most disappointing). Dishonorable mentions: Fluttershy Leans In, Daring Done? Top-7: The Perfect Pear

Pear Butter and Bright Mac = best FIM couple and best-written parents of the show. Everything about this couple is the complete opposite of the likes of Flash/Twilight and Sugar Belle/Big Mac: The development of the romance is like someone who knows romance wrote these ponies. Their chemistry from foalhood to matrimony's completely organic and makes complete sense to the audience. They show how much they love each other during and after life.

Every joke lands.

Only the third episode to make me cry and did so on a few occasions. One of them when Big Mac asked Burnt Oak if they can return to hear more stories about their dad. More about that later.

It has misplaced criticism about them leaving out how they passed as well as Granny avoiding the tree. This isn't that episode. TPP's about celebrating their lives, cherishing their pasts, and letting go of both lifelong pain and bitterness. Each note is hit as the episode progresses. Secondly, the entire Pear family disowned Buttercup for marrying an Apple, and they died early. The marriage site gives her too much pain to deal with. The ending provides the perfect closure for this episode.

"You're in My Head Like a Catchy Song" = best S7 song. It's so simple in its acoustics, but, to echo RainShadow on YT, packs such an amazing emotional punch. One of three times this episode makes me cry, the other one being Grand Pear apologizing to Apple Bloom.

Grand Pear = show's most tragic character. The night his daughter married and became an Apple is the last day he saw her alive. Unfortunately, he'll never apologize to her and has to live with an enormous mistake he'll never repair. The moment he broke down as he apologized to Apple Bloom captures the heartbreak he had to hold within for so long. And excellent voice acting by William Shatner (and Felicia Day for Buttercup).

In my first half overview, I said this might be the best episode of the show when S7's over. I was wrong. It isn't simply the best episode of the show, but of MLP altogether.
  Shadow Play

FIM's canon and timeline are constructed on the fly and operate season to season. When an episode many seasons later feels like everything beforehand was preplanned, that's a major compliment. Amending Fences handled it beautifully. Shadow Play executes it just as beautifully, but in another way.

Previous episodes both during S7 and in the past hung little details about specific characters' pasts, including Star Swirl. Twilight finished his spellbook, because he couldn't figure out how important the magic of friendship truly was in Equestria. The era he predominantly lived in justifies that, and it's connected to his association with the rest of the Pillars, his venom towards Stygian after he stole their magical artifacts, and bitter shots at Twilight after bungling her spell to free them.

This two-parter is nearly one hour shorter than the FIM Movie, but each line matters, is naturally spoken, and the cast is excellently balanced. Everyone here in SP matters and is treated with importance. Remove just one of the Pillar Six, Mane Eight, or Sunburst, and the whole story changes.

Speaking of characters, Stygian is the best villain in the entire series. Not only is he a really good character. His backstory that resulted in him becoming the Pony of Shadows is fantastic. DHX could've just stuck with the intro animation — a great callback to the opening scene of the pilot — and leave us with the simple backstory. Instead, each scene builds up the PoS's birth and merger with Stygian more and more. His backstory mirrors Starlight's intentionally.

Speaking of Starlight, this is her best appearance of the series. For the entire season, DHX took extra care of her appearances and characterization, making sure she's not only written very well, but also make her a part of Ponyville's society. Unlike S6, her appearances are much more frequent and vary in importance, whether she's the episode's central character in Uncommon Bond or near-background like FLI. Shadow Play's a culmination of what she learned since becoming Twilight's pupil to conclude season 5. Everyone's rush to condemn the Pony of Shadows through the Elements of Harmony echoes critiques some of us had for the EoH, which was a band-aid to force evil to assimilate to Equestria's society; Sunset's character reset exemplifies this flaw to a T. Instead, Starlight pursued the cause of the Pillar's division from Stygian to search for a real fix to the conflict.

Like most of S7's second half, SP illustrates a conflict that doesn't put one side entirely in the right or wrong and explored this tension masterfully. It's FIM's best two-parter.
  Parental Glideance

"Wow" perfectly describes this treasure. Easily the best episode by a debut (solo) writer in the series.

Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles = character-wise, two of the best canonical parents in the show. They play the embarrassing parent trope while still subverting the clichés, making them feel like they love Dash, and acting realistic. They're hyper, but so damn lovable.

The jokes land perfectly.

*gasp* The Wonderbolts are fucking LIKEABLE! Somepony call the Vatican! We witnessed a miracle!

This episode also shows how to have a likeable character do a Putting Your Hoof Down rant correctly. There, Fluttershy calculatingly insulted both Pinkie and Rarity and then had the blame shifted to Iron Will that night. Here, Dash was at her limit's end, lost her cool, and immediately wanted to make things right.

The criticism against the moral's execution is a flaw that doesn't even exist. Was Dash right to be upset at her parents? Yes. Some actions (despite having downplayed stakes) were reckless. Does she have the right to yell at them, slap Bow's hoof away, and implicate disownment of them because they embarrass her so much? No, she doesn't. She takes her supportive parents for granted, and Scootaloo would love to experience this feeling just once from her parents. The moral and execution were on the money.
  Marks & Recreation

Is the cutie mark a pony's true life goal? What about their other passions? Will they be affected, too? Cutie marks are a part of Equestrian lore, but open up other questions, such as predestination, a choice of what they want to do for the rest of their life, their names associated with their mark, or living in a box. This underappreciated gem answers a few of these questions, streamlining its lore.

a. Kettle Corn receives a cutie mark related to haiku poetry. @Batbrony highlighted VERY clever foreshadowing in his review: the circle she loves painting over and over is a zero in Japanese calligraphy, and a haiku is Japanese poetry. BTW, she was really good and cute in her curious, poetic, childlike ways. Her mark is unrelated to her name, one of the few in that regard.

b. The CMCs are excellent in their roles, especially Sweetie Belle during her shouting match against Rumble.

c. Rumble's blistering criticism and fears of a cutie mark trapping him in a box are believable. When he got no answer from Apple Bloom in regards to the last time she brewed potions with Zecora, he gained the leverage needed to retain his status as a blank flank. The song he led to rally the other fillies — "Blank Flanks Forever" — is solid and further developed the conflict.

Thunderlane, now a Wonderbolt, is fantastic. His reason for sending Rumble to Cutie Mark Day Camp at Camp Friendship (calling back to Mane Attraction) makes sense: he wants Rumble to exit the box he himself created following his promotion to a Wonderbolt.

The climax to resolve the conflict is both mature and tasteful. Yes, FIM could've simply made Rumble the complete bad guy and have the narrative shoot him down everywhere. Instead, the story used Thunderlane, he and the CMCs teaming up, and having Rumble witness and eventually decide to join the campers and TL at the campfire shows us that he can conquer his fear of losing his pastimes and hobbies. The moral — no one person is defined by a label — is fantastic.

In all, a fascinating episode.
  Once Upon a Zeppelin   Discordant Harmony

Discord has his most likeable performance in the series. He was the spirit of chaos, but in many of his post-villain appearances, he was being a jerk for the sake of it. Here, he shows how much he cares for Fluttershy and wants to be seen as a valuable friend to her. Pinkie's advice's solid, but Discord's naivete with friendship made him take her too literally. Because he and 'Shy are close, it makes sense for him to feel really sensitive when ponies question it.

Fluttershy continues to show off her growth from past seasons. Unlike Leans In, it does it better. She's not so timid anymore and really shows how much Discord means to her. Not in the way that Keep Calm implicated, but a genuine care for him. Like equals. When Discord became too normal and began to fade away, Fluttershy jumped into action to try to save him. More about her and the moral later.

Out of every episode, this is the first to actually treat their friendship like one. Prior, the show tells us they're friends, but they don't behave like friends. Here, their friendship feels incredibly genuine, a long-time coming for this show.

As a cherry on top, the moral is spectacular. More on that later in the overview.
  Uncommon Bond

This great episode shows us how much Starlight grew prior to Shadow Play. This is an external conflict for Starlight: trying to catch up with Sunburst and figure out what they have in common so they can share memories and know each other better after being separated for so long. But when Starlight finds out Sunburst has smoother and better chemistry with Twilight, Trixie, and Maud over her, it's easy to see how discouraging and devastating it must be to her. As such, her rash decision to literally remake one of their childhood pastimes (including turning themselves into fillies) is believable, yet rightfully points out her idea as disturbing.

At the same time, Sunburst, who was excellent here, isn't written to be a jerk, but instead got carried away and lost sight of his childhood friend. His interactions with her friends really fit into his character and, in some respects, can get really cute, too. Yes, he should've paid attention to Starlight's mood (she ain't very subtle about how she feels), but it was very clear he wasn't doing it to be mean.

How they were able to find something in common fits them all. Instead of playing the board game, the life-size game brings a roleplaying element, alongside using each of their strengths to bond each other more.

This episode and Starlight's conflict are very relatable to a lot of people, and everyone being in top form helps shape UB into being one of S7's best. Honorable mentions: It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, All Bottled Up. Note: From now on, F-graded episodes are divided into F+, F, and F-. S7 episode ranking: The Perfect Pear: A+ Shadow Play: A+ Parental Glideance: A+ Marks and Recreation: A Once Upon a Zeppelin: A- Discordant Harmony: A- Uncommon Bond: A- It Isn't the Mane Thing About You: A- All Bottled Up: A- A Flurry of Emotions: B+ To Change a Changeling: B+ A Health of Information: B Triple Threat: B- Celestial Advice: B- Not Asking for Trouble: B- Forever Filly: C+ Campfire Tales: C+ Rock Solid Friendship: C+ Daring Done?: C+ Fluttershy Leans In: C A Royal Problem: D+ Secrets and Pies: D Honest Apple: F Hard to Say Anything: F Fame and Misfortune: F- --- Top-13 episodes (in order, updated; A+ episodes in italics): The Perfect Pear The Best Night Ever Crusaders of the Lost Mark Amending Fences Shadow Play Sisterhooves Social The Cutie Map Parental Glideance Party of One Testing Testing 1, 2, 3 Pinkie Pride Slice of Life Suited for Success Honorable mentions: Lesson Zero, Sleepless in Ponyville, The Times They Are a Changeling. --- Bottom-13 episodes (in order, updated; F- episodes in italics): One Bad Apple Newbie Dash Fame and Misfortune Bridle Gossip Dragon Quest The Crystal Empire Rainbow Falls 28 Pranks Later Princess Spike Owl’s Well That Ends Well The Mysterious Mare Do Well P.P.O.V. Boast Busters Dishonorable Mentions: Putting Your Hoof Down, The Show Stoppers, Appleoosa’s Most Wanted. Morals: Bottom morals: 1. Fame & Misfortune: Your personality flaws are admirable and make up who you are.

Like characters in a TV show, people in real life change, either through progression or regression. Everyone's personalities have a balance of their positives and negatives. Part of learning is figuring out how to improve and become better people. By championing and glorifying personality flaws, this moral's actively claiming that changing and improving to become better people is pointless. Consequently, they're preaching a really dangerous slippery slope. To put this into perspective: There's a gigantic difference between liking someone in spite of your flaws and liking someone because of your flaws. F&M preaches the latter.

When connected into the show, it's very hypocritical. Why? Because it goes against one of show's core themes of becoming better. The Mane 8, the CMCs, Discord, and so on all have strengths to build upon and weaknesses to overcome. Character development is crucial to the show. Dash's self-absorbed ego, Fluttershy's phobia and timidity, Twilight losing composure so quickly are all well-known character flaws; even when the episode isn't done well, they work forward to improve. Secondly, what do Discord, Diamond Tiara, Gilda, and Starlight all have in common? They all had personalities and attitudes the show and protagonists didn't tolerate, and they had to improve so others could trust and like them (again). When they didn't, the episode rejected them, like Lightning Dust, Gilda in S1, and Wind Rider. This moral spits on their reformations and redemptions.

You can read more about my panning of this moral in my status, some of which I C&P'd from.
  Fame & Misfortune: You can't change how they feel about you, but you can change how they affect you.

In a vacuum, this isn't a bad moral. But given the context of the episode and offensive subtexts when paralleled to fans, the implications make this moral toxic. This moral is in response to how Ponyville and Canterlot directly harassed and bullied the RM6 to the point of altering their lives and devastating Twilight. The RM6 handwave all of it as just an obstacle in their friendship and mask it as criticism, thus telling us to tolerate the abuse. --- Top morals: Discordant Harmony: Your best friend may have nothing in common with you, but you're true friends because you care for each other.
This is true for just about anyone. Many of us have at least one person we know who have nothing in common in personality, opinions, qualities, 'tude, and preference. Commonness doesn't determine true friendship, but by how much they love each other. Neither Discord nor Fluttershy share anything in common. Their personalities and tastes vastly differ, but they're still friends and show us that. More importantly, she's the one who took him in and trusted him. By delivering that moral, Fluttershy hones in past continuity and growth while not degrading her character.
  The Perfect Pear: Don't hold onto past anger and guilt of a mistake you can't fix forever. Celebrate their lives, and pursue new memories with their loved ones.
I repeated this point ad nauseum since first watching it last June. People from all walks of life make mistakes they truly regret. While some correct their mistakes, not everyone does. Grand Pear is among the latter for disowning his late daughter on the last day he saw her alive. On the opposite end, Granny Smith grew so bitter of the Pear family for how they treated her that she didn't inform Grand Pear of their deaths until much later in life, adding to the grief and longtime feud and whitewashing Buttercup and Bright Mac's romance to her grandponies. Honorable mention: You have the obligation to your own time, even when you feel you must sacrifice it to make others happy ("Zeppelin"). New characters: Characters that appeared on screen prior to S7 (even when in the background) don't count. Even though Star Swirl and Meadowbrook were referenced in past seasons, they didn't make physical cameos until S7, so they're exempt. Bottom-5: Toola Roola & Coconut Cream: Both fillies are lumped into one as a result of one common role. For the first time all series, FIM used token characters in an episode. Their only purpose from a meta standpoint is to tell young girls, their primary demographic, that they matter…when the entire episode leading up to the ending lumped young girls/kids (as the fillies) with the rest of the abusive ponies (the adults). Token characters talk down to children by only telling them they matter on a surface level only.
  Stereo Pop. Fucking Stereo Pop! A blatant, dated parody of teenage Bieber and stereotypical boy bands. Without him, Hard would actually be able to go somewhere. And, no, that asspull at the end doesn't make him any better.
  Strawberry Sunrise: She is a straw mare. Her only purpose is to be an asshole just to make AJ understand how it feels to be in the designers' horseshoes. There's no personality beyond this point, and the episode treats her bullying as a good thing.
  This Canterlot reporter from F&M. He's there only to drive the vessel that the ponies who abused the RM6 see them as merely fictional beings in an autobiographical journal and attack the critics more. Dishonorable mention: Lily Lace (valley girl stereotype), Dandy Grandeur. --- Top-6: Buttercup & Bright Mac. 'Nuff said.
  Stygian: The best villain in the series. Basically a ponified Squib, he doesn't have the magical abilities the Pillars or any other unicorn have, compensating it with his intelligence. As Shadow Play builds up his backstory, he as a character enriches.
  Bow Hothoof & Windy Whistles: Eccentric, loud, yet also very dedicated to raising their daughter the best way possible. They're very endearing, relatable, and hilarious.
  Star Swirl the Bearded: After years of mystery, he and the other Pillars physically appear before the Mane 8. As a character, he's incredibly balanced. Wise, smart, understands magic like the back of his hoof, but also judgmental, difficult to convince, and bitter. When he gets mad at someone, you'll know it, and his putdowns of Twilight in Shadow Play, Part 2 exemplify that. He's a byproduct of the tumultuous era he lived in over a millennium ago. But when he admits he's wrong, he sets his ego aside. A marvelous character. Honorable mentions: Pharynx, Mistmane, Star Tracker. Mane 8: Bottom: Pinkie Pie. She's really good in some episodes this season, in particular Not Asking for Trouble and Daring Done? Unfortunately, her characterization took a collective turn for the worse. During Rock Solid Friendship, she pestered Maud and Starlight continually, contributing to Maud feeling she doesn't belong in Ponyville. In S&P, she fell for Dash's constant cover up and became obsessed with catching her in the act. Dishonorable mention: Rarity. --- Top: Starlight. Overall, she's the best written and most consistent. After a sloppy redemption arc, DHX takes more care to write her correctly. She's not as nervous and hesitant as before, has a sardonic edge, and isn't boring or unlikeable. She still has a ways to go, but the Starlight here transitions into a more-self-confident pony. Every episode she's in makes her feel like she belongs in both Twilight's circle and Ponyville altogether. Plus, she's given much proper use. Her role in Rock Solid's fantastic, and it's a nice touch how she worked with the RM7 to build Fluttershy's sanctuary. Uncommon Bond brings forth a personal side to Starlight, and she humanizes Shadow Play's conflict as the Devil's Advocate. Honorable mention: Twilight Sparkle. --- Full M8 rank (in order): Starlight Glimmer Twilight Sparkle Fluttershy Spike Rainbow Dash Applejack Rarity Pinkie Pie Moments: Bottom-3: Big Mac forcing an attempted kiss on a sleeping Sugar Belle. Ah, nuthin' like a scene that says, "Hey! As long as it's a comedy, sexually harassing girls is a-okay!" Anyone who thinks this…


this…


AND THIS…


…is okay or funny is lying. Big Mac's trying to force a kiss on Sugar Belle, who had no idea he was there! If SB showed or said anything to suggest that she knew he was there and teased him, then this moment won't look as bad. As is, it has NO business anywhere, especially in an education-centric cartoon like this one! I predicted no other moment will be worse than this one months ago, and it remains such.
  The Canterlot reporter accuses the RM6 and their journal of being fictional. Rather than rewrite why, I'll C&P why from my review:
    The four Ponyville ponies stalk and harass Fluttershy. What makes this so painful to watch is two reasons: Fluttershy's history. She's a sensitive pegasus who not only battles a psychologically crippling phobia, and was also laughed at (Hurricane Fluttershy) and abused (PYHD). The ponies' reasons for harassing her: Why she keeps relearning the same lessons and one stallion whining about why he wasn't inserted into the journal. Are you KIDDING ME?!

FUCK those four ponies! Dishonorable mentions: Vet reveals Tank swallowed a whole pie/Dash chucks pie down her chute in a panic. AJ destroys Lily Lace's hat. Pinkie's bkg. friends laugh at everything she says. Celly and Luna absolve Starlight for swapping their marks. Pinkie tells Dash to "eat up" with a deranged face. Celly and Luna fight. --- Top-4:   Big Mac asks Burnt Oak if they can return to hear more stories of his dad someday. This tearjerker is full of great detail. Big Mac — a stallion of few words beyond his "eeyup" gag — being the one to ask makes knowing more about his parents feel more important. After he asks, Burnt Oak cries, indicating clearly how much he missed his close friend. Little touches in episodes like this one turns a great episode into an amazing one.
  Starlight cries after Star Swirl venomously disowns Stygian. Starlight reformed from her villainous days a few seasons ago, thanks to Twilight giving her the opportunity to change and follow a completely new path. While every Mane and Pillar wrote him off, Starlight sees Stygian as someone who should be given another chance, because she relates to him. Star Swirl casting a final judgment on him as someone unworthy to befriend cuts deeply into Starlight. If she was in Stygian's shoes, she'd likely share his fate.
  Buttercup sings to BM. Their relationship is real, and the emotional (but simple) song makes it more believable.
  Bow Hothoof admits to installing the music by himself. Firstly, best joke of the season. Secondly, narrows Dash's parents down perfectly. They devote their entire lives to their daughter and cherish her, period. It helped build up the fallout later on. Honorable mentions: Rumble jumps over the line that divides the CMC and blank flank camps. Grand Pear apologizes to Apple Bloom. Cadance offers motherly advice to Twilight following her meltdown. Fluttershy re-creates Discord's house. Granny Smith forgives Grand Pear and welcomes him to the family. What I want for Season 8: Continue the episode quality. Season 7 is the most consistent in its episode quality (with only 5 bad and average episodes each and 15 good ones), and this was with a lineup of mostly writers who didn't write for the show very long or debuted in S7. Nick Confalone, one of the best writers for S6, only wrote one episode in S7. Josh Hamilton wrote the best debut episode in the show, and Triple Play isn't that bad. The Fox Brothers's Discordant Harmony was a major beacon of great quality to help conclude the first half. While Lappin started off poorly with Honest Apple, To Change a Changeling and Uncommon Bond are great and excellent, respectively. Brittany Jo Flores debuted with Zeppelin, and it's a far more nuanced and clever episode than F&M. Haber, who returned in the second half, had the longest tenure.
  Haber to continue his magic touch. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but after Haber returned to the show, the quality of the episodes spiked collectively. A couple of bumps along the way, but overall, the episodes were at least good. To repeat from earlier, the stretch from Mane Thing to SP was the series' best run since S1-2 (easily its best finish since S1), and who knows whether S8 will continue this trend or not.

Once he returned, the direction changed for the better, too. Almost every episode contained dozens of shades of grey. By doing so, the conflict provides an extra side to the story, increasing layers to make the experience more rounded than one-sided conflicts provide. Episodes like Health of Info, M&R, SP, or Zeppelin wouldn't succeed had they not follow this direction.
  Starlight continue her arc. Her redemption arc isn't done, but she's come so far in the past couple of seasons, S7 being a major step up after DHX follied in S6. Now she's more self-assured and helped save Stygian from returning to limbo. She's heading in the right direction, and I want to see her develop more, maybe interacting more with the others beyond TS and Spike.
  Once more, watch your unfortunate implications and stereotypes. This got better following F&M, but chances are they may fall in that trap someday. If you have anything you might want to see for S8, let me know in the comments. Verdict: Season 7 was a huge step up for FIM. After S6, I worried whether the show would slow down or not. But not only did S7 squash those fears. FIM has a lot more left in the tank. With so many good and great episodes, and with Nicole Dubuc and Haber together to edit after co-writing Shadow Play so well, it's heading in the right direction. It's my second-favorite and second-best season of the show, and I can't wait what S8 has in store. For those curious about my season order from best to worst: 5 > 7 > 2 > 1 > 4 > 3 > 6.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)" Review/Analysis

Notes: A few points to go through: The entire review will contain very heavy spoilers for the movie. As such, it's contained under a spoiler tag. If you haven't seen it and don't want to be spoiled, don't click and leave. There won't be any comparisons or contrasts with the TV series, judgment of whether the movie does something better or worse than the TV series, or whether continuity's reinforced or contradicted. No judgment of existing show characters as IC, OOC, and/or flanderized. The movie is being judged as a movie, not a continuation of the series. So if you're expecting me to praise or criticize the film for sticking true to or contradicting continuity, click back now.    

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

DQ's letter grades for various FIM media

One of my biggest peeves in reviewing is giving something a calculated score, because it's very difficult if not impossible to reduce the quality to such a mark. Plus, whenever many people see a score, they tend to not read the review at all and rely on the score/grade itself as proof for purchase. Nonetheless, if I were to grade the following based on the following items below, they would be the followings below the first rule. The grades are respective and separated to the following categories: Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Season 6 Season 7 MLP: The Movie Season 8 The Best Gift Ever Equestria Girls series, RR animated shorts, specials, and IDW comic/annual Main Comic Series* Micro-Series Friends Forever If you want to see my order of every FIM episode from best to worst (with grades), click here. Be warned: There are no reasons given for any of the grades, and they're all subject to change. Let's begin! Season 1: Friendship Is Magic: C The Ticket Master: C- Applebuck Season: B- Griffon the Brush Off: D+ Boast Busters: F Dragonshy: B- Look Before You Sleep: C Bridle Gossip: F- Swarm of the Century: B- Winter Wrap Up: A- Call of the Cutie: B+ Fall Weather Friends: B Suited for Success: A Feeling Pinkie Keen: D- Sonic Rainboom: B Stare Master: C- The Show Stoppers: F A Dog and Pony Show: C Green Isn't Your Color: B Over a Barrel: D+ A Bird in the Hoof: D The Cutie Mark Chronicles: A- Owl's Well that Ends Well: F Party of One: A+ The Best Night Ever: A+ ——— Season 2: The Return of Harmony: A- Lesson Zero: A Luna Eclipsed: B+ Sisterhooves Social: A+ The Cutie Pox: C May the Best Pet Win!: F The Mysterious Mare Do Well: F Sweet and Elite: B- Secret of My Excess: B Hearth's Warming Eve: B Family Appreciation Day: B Baby Cakes: C+ The Last Roundup: B
The Last Roundup (edited): F The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000: C- Read It and Weep: B- Hearts and Hooves Day: D A Friend in Deed: B Putting Your Hoof Down: F It's About Time: B- Dragon Quest: F- Hurricane Fluttershy: A- Ponyville Confidential: D- MMMystery on the Friendship Express: D- A Canterlot Wedding: C- ——— Season 3: The Crystal Empire: F+ Too Many Pinkie Pies: C+ One Bad Apple: F- Magic Duel: B+ Sleepless in Ponyville: A Wonderbolts Academy: A- Apple Family Reunion: B Spike at Your Service: D- Keep Calm and Flutter On: D+ Just for Sidekicks: D Games Ponies Play: F+ Magical Mystery Cure: C- ——— Season 4: Princess Twilight Sparkle: C- Castle Mane-ia: B- Daring Don't: F+ Flight to the Finish: A Power Ponies: C Bats!: D Rarity Takes Manehattan: B+ Pinkie Apple Pie: B+ Rainbow Falls: F- Three's a Crowd: C+ Pinkie Pride: A Simple Ways: C- Filli Vanilli: D Twilight Time: B It Ain't Easy Being Breezies: D- Somepony to Watch Over Me: F Maud Pie: C+ For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils: A- Leap of Faith: C Testing Testing 1, 2, 3: A Trade Ya!: F Inspiration Manifestation: B Equestria Games: D+ Twilight's Kingdom: B- ——— Season 5: The Cutie Map: A+ Castle Sweet Castle: A- Bloom & Gloom: A- Tanks for the Memories: D+ Appleoosa's Most Wanted: F Make Friends but Keep Discord: C+ The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone: C Slice of Life: A Princess Spike: F Party Pooped: C- Amending Fences: A+ Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?: C- Canterlot Boutique: B- Rarity Investigates!: B Made in Manehattan: C+ Brotherhooves Social: D+ Crusaders of the Lost Mark: A+ The One Where Pinkie Knows: C Hearthbreakers: B- Scare Master: B+ What About Discord: F The Hooffields and McColts: D+ The Mane Attraction: A- The Cutie Re-Mark: A ——— Season 6: The Crystalling: B The Gift of Maud Pie: C+ On Your Marks: B+ Gauntlet of Fire: A- No Second Prances: F Newbie Dash: F- A Hearth's Warming Tail: A The Saddle Row Review: A Applejack's "Day" Off: C Flutter Brutter: F+ Spice Up Your Life: C- Stranger Than Fan Fiction: B- The Cart Before the Ponies: F 28 Pranks Later: F- The Times They Are a Changeling: A Dungeons & Discords: B Buckball Season: C- The Fault in Our Cutie Marks: A- Viva Las Pegasus: B+ Every Little Thing She Does: D P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View): F Where the Apple Lies: B- Top Bolt: B To Where and Back Again: F ——— Season 7: Celestial Advice: B- All Bottled Up: A- A Flurry of Emotions: B+ Rock Solid Friendship: C+ Fluttershy Leans In: C Forever Filly: C+ Parental Glideance: A+ Hard to Say Anything: F Honest Apple: F A Royal Problem: D+ Not Asking for Trouble: B- Discordant Harmony: A- The Perfect Pear: A+ Fame and Misfortune: F- Triple Threat: B- Campfire Tales: C+ To Change a Changeling: B+ Daring Done: C+ It Isn't the Mane Thing About You: A- A Health of Information: B Marks and Recreation: A Once Upon a Zeppelin: A- Secrets and Pies: D Uncommon Bond: A- Shadow Play: A+ ——— My Little Pony: The Movie: B ——— Season 8: School Daze: B- The Maud Couple: C+ Fake It 'Til You Make It: F Grannies Gone Wild: A Surf and/or Turf: A Horse Play: A- The Parent Map: B+ Non-Compete Clause: D- The Break Up Break Down: A+ Molt Down: A- Marks for Effort: B+ The Mean 6: A A Matter of Principals: C- The Hearth's Warming Club: A Friendship University: B+ The End in Friend: B Yakity-Sax: B- On the Road to Friendship: A The Washouts: A A Rockhoof and a Hard Place: A+ What Lies Beneath: A- Sounds of Silence: A- Father Knows Beast: B- School Raze: B ——— Best Gift Ever: D+   Equestria Girls: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: F- The Fall of Sunset Shimmer: A- MLP Annual #1: C- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls — Rainbow Rocks: D Equestria Girls Holiday Special: F- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls — Friendship Games: F+ My Little Pony: Equestria Girls — Legend of Everfree: C-   Dance Magic: C Movie Magic: C- Mirror Magic: D- Forgotten Friendship: C ——— Rainbow Rocks Shorts: Music to My Ears: A Guitar Centered: C Hamstocalypse Now: C Pinkie on the One: D+ Player Piano: C- A Case for the Bass: B- Shake Your Tail!: C- Perfect Day for Fun: D   Life Is a Runway: A My Past Is Not Today: A Friendship Through the Ages: A   Main Comic Series: (Individual issues and overall arc are graded separately.) The Return of Queen Chrysalis: B
a. Part 1: B+
b. Part 2: C-
c. Part 3: B
d. Part 4: B Nightmare Rarity: F
a. Part 1: D-
b. Part 2: D
c. Part 3: D-
d. Part 4: F Zen and the Art of Gazebo Repair: B+
a. Part 1: B+
b. Part 2: A- Neigh Anything: B
a. Part 1: B-
b. Part 2: B My Little Pirate: Friendship Ahoy: D
a. Part 1: C
b. Part 2: D+ The Bookworm: C-
a. Part 1: D
b. Part 2: C Reflections: F
a. Part 1: D+
b. Part 2: D-
c. Part 3: F
d. Part 4: F Manehattan Mysteries: A-
a. Part 1: A-
b. Part 2: A- The Good, the Bad, and the Ponies: F-
a. Part 1: F-
b. Part 2: F- Siege of The Crystal Empire: F-
a. Part 1: D
b. Part 2: F
c. Part 3: F-
d. Part 4: F- *The main comics have been so bad, until they clean up, I refuse to read them again. ——— Micro-Series: Twilight Sparkle: F+ Rainbow Dash: F- Rarity: B+ Fluttershy: F- Pinkie Pie: A Applejack: D+ Cutie Mark Crusaders: A- Princess Celestia: B- Spike: C- Princess Luna: C ——— Friends Forever: Pinkie Pie & Applejack: F Cutie Mark Crusaders & Discord: B Spike & Princess Celestia: C- Twilight Sparkle & Shining Armor: B Fluttershy & Zecora: A Rainbow Dash & Trixie: C+ Pinkie Pie & Princess Luna: A- Rarity & Applejack: D+ Rarity & Babs Seed: B Rainbow Dash & Soarin': A I wound up growing uninterested in reading Friends Forever, hence the short list.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

"It Isn't the Mane Thing About You" Review

Josh Haber extended his résumé quite a bit since joining FIM back in Season 4. During that time, he published and edited a combination of the good, the bad, and the average. He wrote really good episodes like Re-Mark and Bloom & Gloom, yet edited Season 6, the worst of the series, and helped write To Where and Back Again, FIM’s worst finale. For most of Season 7, he was absent while working on another show. One week ago, he made his return joining the Lady Writers as editor for Daring Done? In his first written episode since To Where, Haber showed his growth and wrote Season 7’s most surprising amethyst. Strengths: Colorful characters. Ponyville’s charm comes from its cast. With the tertiary and background characters, Mane is no exception. Just about every character in this episode is very likeable. Filthy Rich in his desire to find the right flower bouquet for his Spoiled wife. Mr. Breezy and Davenport in trying to improve customer service and sales. The flower trio using Rarity’s advice to select and sell bouquets easier. Townsponies weren’t only interested in listening to Rarity’s advice, but also receptive to each other. It feels like the town actually likes each other and wants to help one another.

Pay attention very closely to two very clever continuity nods in the background. As the flower trio sold out, Granny and Grand Pear were next door in the booth the entire time, cluing those who watched The Perfect Pear they put the past and feud behind them permanently.

  In the beginning shot, look very closely:


Apple Bloom and Burnt Oak conversing. >BM and Sugar Belle… Seriously, good to see the show continue building the relationship after a massive screwup.

One of the ponies to catch my eye most was Daisy and how receptive and kind she was to Rarity the entire time. Only a few episodes ago, she and Diamond Cutter denigrated her behind her back and was part of the anti-Rarity boycott. It was one of the most out-of-character moments of the entire show, ’cause this normally sweet pony bashed a supposed friend. Here, it’s like none of that happened, and everything returned to normal. Thank Mama Celestia!

However, the background characters share their role. Fluttershy, Dash, AJ, TS, SG, and Zecora do, too, in their own ways. Zecora: Over the years, she has appeared very sporadically, sometimes only making two appearances for an entire season. In her first speaking appearance since Re-Mark, she clearly points out which item is which. True, Zecora could’ve labeled them, but the conflict and accident aren’t her fault whatsoever and, thus, not a flaw in the episode at all. She pointed with her hoof which is the shampoo and which is the remover potion. Rarity’s accident caused the mix-up.

Telling Rarity to conclude Act 2 she can’t brew a potion in time is a breath of fresh air, particularly in a show where magic’s sometimes considered the be-all end-all. To conclude Act 2 or the episode as a whole with Zecora saying she got one available right now would be as anticlimactic as Dragon Quest. Fluttershy, RD, and AJ: Like any good friend, they try fixing Rarity’s mane as a last resort. Each of their choice for wig works, because they’re familiar with the items they share with her: tree leaves, cloud moisture, and straw. Rarity desperately wants to be in the photo shoot, but can’t with her mane so messy, and with their last resort being a failure, it leads to Rarity having to cancel. Why does this work? Because they’re doing whatever they can to help her. Their wig creations are intended to help Rarity, and both she and the audience get it. Twilight & Starlight: They, too, tried their best to help. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Although there was a clever callback to Re-Mark: More about them a little later. Of the RM7, the character that got my attention the most was Applejack. Over the past few seasons, when they communicate, it’s if they can’t stand each other rather than the opposite (Made in Manehattan exempt). Here, after Rarity sulked to the point of downing tubs of ice cream, AJ turned on the light and had enough. This is exactly who she should be: honest to the point of saying the uncomfortable truth, yet do so because she cares for her.

Now, a good episode doesn’t require background ponies to be involved in the episode. But when done right, it makes Ponyville feel more like a town and community. It does that here.

Rarity.

It ain’t a good episode if the star isn’t written well. She was written well here. Every line she spoke oozed with personality: confident, sassy, vain, unsure, hopeless, upset. She reacted to specific situations she was involved in, whether it’s having super-sticky string bound to her body, accidently applying remover potion on her mane, and so forth.

One criticism I noticed of this episode from an analyst is he called the salesponies in the town dumb for not recognizing Rarity under her black cloak. There’s a problem with the argument. Rarity completely covered her entire body aside from her hooves and face with a large cloak. When Rose tried to peak underneath, Rarity shyly refused from fear of ostracization and embarrassment. A few times, she pulled her hood down, once after opening Mr. Breezy’s door and as she headed to Davenport’s auction, possibly to keep her identity hidden.

By how the episode was structured, Rarity apparently looked forward into taking part of Vanity Mare and Photo Finish’s photoshoot. How long? Not stated. Although you can guess it was scheduled well in advance. Her self-assurance was obvious throughout the opener by how she used her mane proudly during the three scenes. Being no shortage of ego, it ain’t a surprising for her to flash or focus her proud locks.

The accident was so sudden and so close to the date of the shoot that she was desperate in trying anything to fix it. Borrow a Crystal Pony’s glass-like mane, mask it with a beautiful dress, use a cloud or straw, have Zecora quick-brew a potion to revert the mane to its original state. When her wig options dried out, she was forced to cancel her shoot, which she longed planned for and visibly upset her.

From all the buildup and the RM4 worrying about her wellbeing, her iconic meltdown isn’t treated as a joke. Her disappointment and sadness are real. Nothing is exaggerated. Consider this: If by chance you lose your hair through some kind of accident before some kind of important event, how would you feel? It makes sense in Rarity’s character to be so upset. Good for DHX and Haber to treat her situation seriously.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Getting back to Starlight and Twilight, some lines grabbed my attention: How significant are these lines? Very.

A magical boundary within this world is established. It doesn’t matter how rich the world of ponies is. Without rules, you arbitrarily pull solutions out of your basket. Worldbuilding is fun, but it’s equally important to sit back and cut off possible shortcuts. Look no further than Twilight having only a few minutes to become one with a book and griffons never getting cutie marks.

Twilight, Starlight, and Zecora (from earlier) inform and remind her that magic doesn’t come out of thin air. You need something of substance to create the magic. Rarity’s mane is so shredded and damaged by Zecora’s remover potion that re-growing her mane with magic’s even riskier.

So, what about the mustache and poison joke? The mustache temporarily grows above the lip. At some point, it either disappears or falls off. Rarity pleaded to grow her mane back to what it used to be as a permanent solution. Rarity’s mane and tail were fully grown when the poison joke made dreadlocks out of her fur and hair. With most of her violet hair missing, there’s no guarantee if she’ll be poisoned the same way. Once more, the poison is temporary; a bath reverts the joke. Mane sticks to their established guidelines of Equestrian magic. Like Zecora’s quick brew, finding a spell to revert the potion’s effects is anticlimactic and contrived, neither of which this episode needs.

More importantly, they set up the platitude expressed by AJ and FS: Older than time, but its truism helps circulate it and not expire. Rarity is one such pony capable of turning around a worst-case scenario. Just two questions: How can she overcome this horrific problem, and what can her friends do to help her?

Twilight answers the latter: With Rarity at her lowest point in a few years, comforting her makes sense. This trek commences this conversation chain, including feeling guilty for canceling her photoshoot and believing to be a fad the entire time, her friends reminding her of the goals she accomplished, and Twilight nudging a lesson of self-confidence to get by her difficult situation.

Here, we’re reminded of one important detail: Throughout Act 2, she assumed that ponies looked at her differently because her mane is missing. Again, that’s not true. Everyone she came across knows her for her pizzazz, ability to help others, and inherent command for attention. How big of an ego does the Element of Generosity have? Really big. Yet, they never ostracized her for not being pretty. She isolated herself and desired to blend in, an act they see as out of character of her if they knew it was her. Rarity was so shy around the merchants that she refused attention. The townsponies weren’t acting like jerks at any point.

So, with the barriers of what ponies can’t do with magic, Rarity’s desperation and depression, and their words of encouragement, what do you get? Three things: Reinvigoration of Rarity’s self-worth. Kickass Rari-punk mane.
And one of the cleverest and smartest resolutions of the series. Although she canceled the shoot, her decision worked out for everyone. Rarity’s lavender order was left over, so Filthy was able to give his spoiled wife bouquets of her flowers for Mare’s Day. Mr. Breezy relocated his large fan outside his shop, allowing traffic to interact with it firsthand. Davenport’s chaise is sold. Everyone picked up the best possible. (Good for the show to have Rarity’s mane grow naturally.)

Yet, if that wasn’t enough…

Warm cup of karma.

Although Rarity canceled the shoot, Photo Finish took pictures of her as she ventured through Ponyville, courtesy of her friends.

Sure, this ending is sorta Hollywood-ish, but Rarity underwent a literal bad hair day and then attached her newfound look to spread goodwill to everypony that having her front and center of Vanity Mare magazine makes sense. Negotiating with Photo reinforces how much they care for Rarity and will do anything to make her feel better. Mane comes full circle with the ending.

Good at what it doesn’t do!

Back when I first heard about Mane, I was concerned. Coming to the episode, my two biggest fears were: Rarity’s worst personality trait reemerges: her judgmentalism. Occasionally, sound bites of prejudice spew out of her mouth, most notably her racism towards Zecora in Bridle Gossip. Witnessing one of the most groundbreaking characters in the series showing a prejudice to bald ponies would seriously damage her rep. An unfortunate implication of the story belittling cancer patients. How would that be represented? Rarity or any pony treating somepony bald or becoming bald differently than folks with a full mane. Ponyville treating Rarity differently for losing her hair. Magically growing her mane back after melting down for losing it. The idea of baldness as the worst possible thing. Neither happens. Her mane grows back naturally a few months later. Rather than vanity or prejudice, self-confidence during the heat of a sudden crisis is Mane’s overarching theme. Rarity assumes ponies will treat those without (good) manes differently. Instead, no one insults, shuns, or intentionally shames her. Self-embarrassment by her destroyed locks causes her to cloud her own judgment and believe her own livelihood is a lie. After Twilight reassures her that her lost mane shouldn’t destroy her self-worth, Rarity takes what should be the worst-case scenario into the best. Until here, Rarity’s confidence was never tested, and this plot rounds her character more. Credit to @Jeric for helping me provide info for this section. Weaknesses: Clean Up on Aisle 19!

Every episode can use a cleanup, and Mane ain’t no exception.

The dialogue can use some better editing and more varied vocabulary. How many times does the episode use the word “mane”? Forty-one. That’s way too much! Dash herself said the word “awesome” thrice. Varying the word choice and cutting down the repetition will allow the dialogue flow a bit more. If you ask me which bothers me more, it’s Dash’s “awesome.” These days, that word has become a catchall identification for her, when she’s more than capable of using others. At least, multiple ponies rather than just one used “mane”.

The script’s repetitive vocabulary also made the moral of shining from the inside out really heavy. Saying it once as Rarity changed into Punk Rarity is fine. But to do it twice more pushes it.

Shake off the excess.

The opener takes too long to establish some level of conflict. Usually a minute long, the theme song doesn’t play until three minutes in. For a 22-minute episode, that’s excessive and slow. The message can begin more effectively by either rearranging the song’s placement — perhaps after ordering the lavender bouquets — or trimming some of the runtime in the market.

Mane-ly forgotten.

After Pinkie accidentally applied Zecora’s shampoo on Pound and Pumpkin Cake, the episode focused the entire time on Rarity. No mention of her at any point until a few minutes before the end. Considering she was the catalyst for the conflict, her absence left a gap in the story and felt like she was re-inserted to tie it all up.

Nevertheless… Nice ‘do. Conclusion:

Well, well, well, what a pleasant surprise. Out of every episode in the second half, this one worried me the most. Prior to Daring Done? (the episode preceding Mane), I was looking forward to DD more. Why? Blame the synopses. That said, the actual story is something very different. I’m really surprised by how I enjoy Mane more, Mane is (in over quality) better than DD?, and none of my fears came true.

In Haber’s first story since co-writing To Where and Back Again, he shows his FIM touch. Rarity has easily one of her best appearances in quite a while. The rest of the mane cast is also well done, especially Applejack. Zecora’s first speaking appearance since Re-Mark brings her to the familiar role, yet at the same time showed how she can’t solve all problems. No background or tertiary character is a jerk, reviving and sticking true to that refreshing (albeit familiar) welcoming atmosphere the show proudly presents itself in. A guideline of magic was both established and stuck to, providing Rarity (and the episode itself) the opportunity to twist the story’s formula. Mission accomplished!

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

How I'll Review the FIM Film (If I Review)

I made it clear to some of my friends, but for those here, no, I haven't watched the FIM Movie yet and am steering clear of spoilers for the time being. That won't be long, though. Earlier this evening, I bought a ticket and will see it tomorrow. And with seeing it may come forth a review. Now, unlike past reviews for this series, if I write one, it's gonna be a little different in a few ways. The animation and music will be talked about and judged.

Traditionally, I don't, because they're really well done, and my focus is primarily the story. The only times I talk about them are when they do something extraordinary or if they screw up in some way. Unlike the rest of the series, the FIM Movie is animated in Toon Boom Harmony, a completely different program. A different program and theatrical release mean new character models, revised set design, and different animation movement and style. The music is performed through an orchestra, so you're gonna get a different type of feel for it than the show. There won't be exact lines of dialogue quoted in the review. I'm able to do it in ones for the comics and episodes, because I can read or watch them online, where they're readily available. Every episode and EQG flick has a transcript in the FIM Wiki. That's not the case for the FIM Movie. I'm paying $15 to go to a theater, so the best I can do is paraphrase it. I'm gonna have to retain a general sense of what the plot will be and what the characters do and will read plot spoilers afterwards as a reminder. And, no, I won't read any transcript for the movie until it's released for home viewing.

Once it gets released, and if I desire to rewatch it, I might edit it to include lines to indicate which are significant in a positive or negative sense. NO continuity references, comparisons, or contrasts. NO judgment of continuity being reinforced or contradicted. I won't judge existing characters as in character, out of character, flanderized, or a combination. Whether any of the Mane Six are given solid development, balanced, not shifted to the background, and don't act flat are what I'll generally look for.

The villains and new heroes: the same thing. Since they're brand-new, I'll be judging their development (including whether the character is underdeveloped or not), believability of their motives, richness of personality (or lack thereof), stereotypical or not. The entire review will be hidden under the "spoiler" tag. Many still haven't seen it, and the movie is getting released internationally at later dates. So, out of respect, I'll keep it completely hidden. If I edit the review further in the future, perhaps I'll un-spoil it. It's getting a little obvious what I plan to do, but for those who still wonder, I will judge the MLP Movie as a self-contained movie, NOT a continuation of the TV series! Why? If I treat it like it's part of the series, then I'm being unfair to not only the movie I'm watching, but also the rest of the series that came before it. Yes, Big Jim stated on Twitter it takes place between seasons 7 and 8, but this movie should hook people who'd never seen FIM before and wonder if it's worth watching. The FIM Movie is its own entity and ought to be judged on its own merits.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

episode review "Fame & Misfortune" Review

Note: Credit goes to @ChB, @King Clark, @AlexanderThrond, @Jeric, WaterPulse, and Razgriz for this review. FIM (and by extension, bronydom) is close to seven years old. Over the years, the characters grew into lovable role models and inspirations. Each has their own reasons for watching, loving, and sticking with the show. Through thick and thin, FIM's overcome turbulent times, yet succeeded. How long it'll last is to be determined. By extension, the brony fandom grew, underwent a whole bunch of drama, and grew some more. While Slice of Life was a love letter to the fanbase, Fame and Misfortune takes their own frustrations and responds in a really lazy, broken way. It's the Rainbow Falls of Season 7. Strengths: Glimhorse = Awesomehorse!

All season, Starlight's been the best-written Mane character. In every episode she's been in, her roles make sense. She continues to grow into her own and is more and more one of the Mane cast. Even when the episode isn't as good as it should be, she's usually the best part.

This episode is her best post-reformed appearance. Everything about her role fits perfectly. While the RM6 wrote in the journal, she was absent and had no knowledge about it. So the journal is new to her, and she can look at what's going on with a fresh mind. Simultaneously, she's treated like an actual, genuine part of the gang, not an ancillary member that the writers can plug in when the episode calls for it.

Her best moments occur in two places: At the restaurant after Rarity ran away wailing after two patrons denigrated her behind her back. She took Rarity's reaction and what they said about her really hard. The chilling part is her bitter tone as she replied to Twilight: Combine that with her nasty glare, it's perhaps the angriest the audience has seen her. As Twilight went off to Sweet Apple Acres with AJ, she stayed behind. Her mannerisms and worried expressions show how much Rarity means to her and doesn't want her to get hurt. Moments like these implicate to the audience how much she values her as a friend. When I first began writing this review, I read a comment offsite accusing her of acting like a Deus Ex Machina, a criticism that makes no sense at all. If she's like one here, then she wouldn't be established until the climax or resolution and pops open an idea that wasn't established at any point in the series. Starlight was an important secondary character since the opener and had a major impact in all four acts. Just before she temporarily departed in Act 3, she told the ReMane 6 (and by extension, us) that she'll be back with something important.

Coconut Cream & Toola Roola.

These two fillies, based on their G3/G3.5 depictions under the same names, are good characters. What makes them strong is, yes, they argue petulantly, but they argue like children. When Twilight stops them, she shows them an important moral to learn from and decide to try. Even with the little screentime, they grow in each successive appearance. Whether they'll appear or not anytime soon I don't know. Personally, I hope they do. This may depend on the VAs (who are kids) themselves.

Strong melody.

The melody for We're a Work in Progress is really good. It's positive, uplifting, and inspirational. All the qualities that help hone the welcoming backdrop and make FIM's world so endearing. Weaknesses: Handwaved continuity.

There are at least four continuity errors, two of them major. Like my RF review, instead of a brief summary, here's a fuller list: They learned that lesson from Return of Harmony. The season 2 premiere. The journal didn't debut until season four. Unless they stated to add them in later (which they didn't directly), it should be only S4 lessons, not a mesh of all four together. The fact that everyone suddenly wanted to know about what they learned. Once they published it, they became popular and unpopular. Why does this not make sense from a continuity perspective?

Ever since they defeated Nightmare Moon, Ponyville and Canterlot revered them as celebrities. Sure, other episodes within the earlier seasons had this type of occurrence before, ala 'Shy from Green Isn't Your Color. But Green is from season one, when the characters and world still grew. At the time, it was mostly Canterlot, Ponyville, and the Everfree Forest, So the writers could get away with that.

Nowadays, the Forest has no more plot utilization, and the world has expanded beyond not just Ponyville and Canterlot, but Equestria altogether. In RoH, Celestia rewarded their victory with a celebration and stained-glass window. They saved The Crystal Empire from Sombra. Twilight became a princess. After defeating Tirek and saving all of Equestria, they and Spike became responsible for spreading the Magic of Friendship across the world. You get the point.

If this was a early-season episode (seasons one through two), then their sudden popularity would be believable. This is season seven. They're international celebrities. If they were interested in the journal and lessons, they would've done so long ago. Particularly the ponies from Ponyville. More about this later. The CMCs' sudden popularity makes no sense, either. They dipped into popularity contests twice (Confidential, Twilight Time). In Flight to the Finish, they were awarded the spot representing Ponyville for the opening ceremony. After Lost Mark, they became permanent celebrities and are sought for advice whenever they wonder where to either find their Mark or reconnect with it. Hell, they remark about their history of success during Forever Filly:


  So, why would they suddenly become really popular again now? And why would they conveniently skip over Twilight Time's lesson, which SB wrote in that same journal? In the Equestrian world, Daring Do is nothing but a figment of A.K. Yearling's and the Daring fandom's imagination. The RM6 know she's real, yet they respect Daring's/A.K.'s boundaries. She wants nothing but to be remembered as a quality children's storybook series. The entire Daring Do con is commemorated specifically for Daring the character, her world, and overall cast. The ending of both Don't and Stranger imply they (both the ReMane Six and Quibble) keep her identity and privacy a secret.

But the RM6 out her in their journal. Not one of the seven, especially Dash nor Twilight, pause for one second to reconsider the consequences of unsolicitedly revealing Daring's secret identity — how big it'll be in the Daring fandom after reading something that should never have been revealed. They just go, "Screw common sense!! We'll publish it, anyway!"

The continuity error's even worse when Dash directly references Don't after SG magically published several clean, refurbished copies. Dialogue, you disappoint me.

A good chunk of the story's believability lowers considerably when the dialogue is often forced, and that's what happens here. Even though the RM7 and CMCs act in character and the two new fillies are portrayed like kids, sometimes the lines are mechanical, turning fully-dimensional and relatable characters into robots. It happened in many episodes prior, including Rainbow Falls, Trade Ya, Newbie Dash, and Buckball Season. Same thing here. Starlight, Toola, and Coconut spoke the most natural here.

The most annoying points come after they remind the audience of the lessons they learned and, in particular, after Rarity ran off: Thanks, Twilight, for reminding us everything we all just saw seconds before. And loud enough so the snobby couple a few feet away could hear (yet didn't react due to plot contrivance).

It gets worse when the ponies exposit, and there's a lot of it here. What's the golden principle in entertainment? Show, don't tell. In "children's" entertainment, even more crucial. By expositing so much, much of the seriousness and humor are sucked out, leaving behind an arid story.

The tone will be mentioned later. But a repeated flaw in this show (and episode in general) isn't:

A Whole Cruel World.

The entire setting is really, really cruel. One or two days ago, the Mane Eight were among Equestria's biggest celebrities. Once they published the journals, they became pariahs. A group of leaders that (in the townsfolk's POV) deserve nothing except abuse. Wherever the script went, the RM6 felt miserable. And the more Twilight witnessed their pain, the more and more pain she felt, too. And how did all of Ponyville (or Canterlot) react? Selfishly. Rarity (the diner): Two background ponies talked shit behind her back. Neither of them clearly understand anything what the journals were supposed to say and went off on nothing except baseless assumptions. After she ran away, they feel oh so proud of themselves and pretend like it's no big deal. Not even Starlight's scolding through their thick heads worked.

It's really unclear what they're supposed to portray. Is it supposed to be a jab at people for criticizing the writing within the episodes, missing the point in an episode, or hating Rarity's character? Any of the above, all, or none? Whatever the case is, it fails for five reasons. The lack of clarity already explained.
  The "stuck-up rich bitch" stereotype is enforced.
  Rarity underwent major trials that completely transformed her as a character. We as an audience saw that ride…but all they read is the result. To echo @Jeric in a chat with me, both RTM and Simple Ways showed her at really low lows. When all they read is how shitty you behaved, then they may have an awful impression of you regardless of outcome.
  Daisy, a well-known background pony from season one with a sweet (yet overly-dramatic) personality, bashed Rarity. For her to act like a snob is very out of character of her!
  The newspaper. Observe the 1.5/5 score in the shot linked above. The pony who read it really disliked it, and the couple's dissing only piled everything on. That one shot further muddles the point.
  Pinkie: It's one thing if they're tourists meeting Pinkie for the first time and wanting to get acquainted with her. All five — Carrot Top, Cherry Berry, Sassaflash, Berry Punch, and Coco Crusoe — are long-established background ponies dating back to season one. We've seen them help each other out so everyone's lives improve. They were seen at one point or another during The Smile Song; all but Coco and Sassaflash not only have very dedicated fanbases, but also actively followed, smiled, sang, and danced with her. Pinkie's presence was more than enough to make them all happy.
 
Glad you said this, Pinkie, 'cause that doesn't make this scene okay! In fact, it makes it worse. Them knowing her for years and suddenly laugh AT her like complete jackasses does nothing but implicate that their happiness before and after Pinkie brightened their days is a façade.

In fact, hold that quote.
  Dash: Bratty pegasi continue to pressure Dash and refuse to leave her alone. It's one thing if they truly were eager to hear more about her stories and adventures. It's another to rip out Twilight's lessons gleefully, pretend Twilight isn't even there, and act all smug about it. Dash wasn't happy with how poorly they treated her friend, but was forced to put up with it, since her "fanclub" is too stubborn to listen.
  Fluttershy: Several big problems: Like every other pony before them, all four adults are assholes. Or to be accurate, worse than just assholes. They're abusive, gang up on Fluttershy, and then put up a shoddy, lazy excuse just to be awful people. "Entitled to know"? "Why can't I be in the book"?!

ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!

There's NO excuse to gang up on her, period! One of the ponies here is Lemon Chiffon, who debuted in Mare Do Well. Previously, she had two hearts as her cutie mark. Here, a half-full glass of water mark along with a snooty, "masculine-sounding" voice. She resembles a lot like Lily Peet, a MTF brony "pundit" with a history of bashing bronies. I don't know or care if she laughed from that or not.

If it's intentional, that's a line you never cross. Why? When you parody specific fans, it comes off as tacky at best and self-indulgent at worst. It tells the audience you have a very hostile opinion on not only specific members of your audience, but also the people you're trying to reach out to. Personally, if I'm parodied like this, I'd be really offended, because I'm treated like a caricature rather than a real person.

If it's unintentional, then while the line ain't crossed, her attitude, voice, and mark are supposed to mock the "entitled fan" stereotype when FS stands up to them, three qualities Chiffon can't control. Sometimes intent doesn't equate result, yet the possible transphobic implications remain.
  This "gang" resembles PYHD's market scene, one of the worst of the series. Unlike the former, all of them debuted previously. These four characters and their so-called "personalities" are designed for this episode only. Good chance some or all of them will either never make an important appearance again or (hopefully) change to a more likeable personality.
  @AlexanderThrond brought up a great point in his review, and I'll expand on that. Fluttershy is used as a vessel to respond to the "criticism" (read: abuse in the episode's context) of their struggle to develop her, completely contradicting their intentions several seasons ago. From Luna Eclipsed until right around Rainbow Falls, her character stagnated, and her shyness was often reduced to comic relief. It looks even worse following an episode where she learns a very valuable lesson. When you flanderize a character like her after she underwent significant development in season one, you reduce her from three-dimensional to one-dimensional. Any long-time brony understands how this valid criticism of her didn't come out of thin air.

During season four, DHX attempted to write better stories surrounding her, even when they aren't quite up to snuff: Bats!, Breezies, and Filli Vanilli. The following season, that criticism blossomed, and the flanderized Fluttershy has been absent ever since. The one episode showing Scaredyshy in S5 wasn't written as a daft joke: It expands a pointless scene from LE and explains why she hated Nightmare Night so much: She hates being pranked, and NMN without the pranks isn't fun. Without reading the valid criticisms, understanding them, and putting forth solid effort to fix this flaw, the Fluttershy we see today won't exist. Season five was great for her. Seasons six and seven are her best to date.
  It conveniently ignores It Ain't Easy Being Breezies. She had to assert herself through a very difficult action that she hated to make: kick out the breezies so they can continue their journey home. In her journal entry, she marks down how she had to learn that tough message. It's her very last journal entry that we witnessed, and it'd make sense if it were her last one in the journal, too. Not one time is it referenced, and it's ignored in order to continue using that journal as a forced plot device to dissuade. To handwave one of the most important episodes and subsequent lessons in her entire saga just to drive a point home makes the meta reference and payoff very deceitful.
  Rarity (boutique): The context behind the jump scare pile onto the torture. But why would Lemon Hearts (one of Twilight's friends from Canterlot) even be a part of the anti-Rarity hate mob in the first place? She'd know how much Rarity (and the rest of her friends back in Ponyville) mean to her, and she'd respect that. If she got upset, chances are she'd write or talk to Twilight.
  Applejack: No, they didn't bash her, pretend she didn't exist, laugh at her, or gang up on her. These are huge AJ fans.

They're still assholes. Every single one of them show up at Sweet Apple Acres unannounced, immediately declare themselves to be part of her family without any consent, and force them to accommodate them, whether they like it or not. Big Mac, AJ, AB, and Granny not only moped as they slaved away for trespassers, but were actively distressed. Obviously, they want nothing to do with them, yet can't do anything about it since they're so outnumbered by this mob. All of them are terrible, but since she's my favorite character, the FS scene is my least-favorite.

Oh, and Twilight? She's her own section.

"Comedy."

What this show does well often is the comedy. The jokes, timing, and corresponding tone can really make an episode funny. But when the jokes make no sense, forget it.

The jokes suck for varying reasons, ranging from missing the point to the story's tone to hypocrisy of the meta "humor."

The biggest offenses are the following (in airing order): Fluttershy writing her journal entry minuscule and nervously using the excuse of leaving room for others. This joke is very vague. Is it to reference her Timidshy past, or something?
  The mashed, rotten apple used to indicate AJ's lesson. Why the hell would she even smash an apple in there to begin with? She may not be the tidiest pony, but c'mon, man.
  Lemon Chiffon's voice and attitude so the audience can laugh at the "entitled fan" stereotype from all four who brigaded FS.
  This jump scare:
 
By far the worst joke in the episode and second-worst grossout face of the season to this: If it's a jump scare, it's supposed to be a surprise. Rarity has a history of exaggerated faces, and both Twilight's and Starlight's distress/grimaces clue the audience that they'll hate what they'll see from her. Credit to @ChB for pointing this out.
  It takes up a good amount of the frame, and is drawn in exaggerated detail. The slowly-dripping mascara and level of intricacy for her mouth are no accident. It's done to be disgusting.
  The context surrounding it. The couple bashing her behind her back, reading the bad review in the newspaper as they dissed her, and Canterlot boycotting her in front of her boutique took a toll. Of the six who were tortured, Rarity had it the most devastated reaction.
  The entire scene with AJ is supposed to be a meta reference to her lack of popularity in the fandom and how little she appears in merch compared to the others. Unfortunately, what's supposed to be a gold mine for excellent meta jokes (including parodying the short end of the stick she received by the showrunners since Mane Attraction) is turned into a major missed opportunity. Just about every character who invaded SAA is established as far back as S1, including Cherry Berry (again) and Dinky Doo. This scene reinforces one of the episode's fatal flaws: the sudden treatment of the RM6 as celebrities.
  Context is key. If this was the first or early joke in order and rewritten a bit to make it seem like it's tens and eventually hundreds of happy tourists from abroad flocking in line at the entrance to meet her, then it's possible to make it work. Instead, every pony other than a specific few leading up to this scene live in town and trespass because of plot convenience. These ponies reinforce that context. AJ's statement of not liking the newfound popularity understates the chaos from SAA and their insufferable behavior.
 

That line (and who it represents) is an imbecilic straw man. People complained about Twilight in season 4, because her characterization was boring, and rising her into princesshood put her on a much higher pedestal compared to the rest. Turning her into a princess means she takes part in ruling the kingdom and making sure none of her actions hurt Equestria.

The Twilight of old appeared in Castle Mane-ia, yet what made her so lovable and her status played hooky until Twilight Time. Later episodes, Twilight's castle forming a round table (thus equalizing the Mane Six and Spike), and season five since rectified that, and the criticism has since dwindled considerably. So, how many jokes were successful? Two. Pinkie's party favors popping out of the journal once Dash opened her journal page.
  Twilight's face becoming flat as a pancake after AJ accidentally smashed her into the wall. Her exaggerated scowl and glare made it funny. Best joke of F&M. *closes "Twilight"*

Even though this is an ensemble episode, Twilight receives the most focus. Each time she witnesses a caricature of fans attack/stalk her friends or is completely ignored herself, Twilight's confidence gets beaten down more and more. Like the others, she's tortured by the townsponies just to create a payoff (whether it's the punchline to a joke or otherwise), but the torture pornography helps ruin it, among other things.

"Among other things" being the littler details. Recall how I called the dialogue a flaw: There's more to this problem generally. On two specific instances, the dialogue helped ruin the story. Here, Twilight both affirms and doubles down on an absolute viewpoint of what the journal and results should be: If you don't take the friendship lessons to heart, you're not to be listened to, even if you enjoy it. There's no homogenous way to enjoy a product. If there are ponies out there who enjoy the journal, but isn't fully invested in absorbing the lesson, so what? There's no one right way to enjoy it. I'll return to this point soon.
  …



… Where do I even start with this shit?

F&M is FIM's third meta episode of the series. Only this time, the characters are portrayed as the showrunners' avatar, and those who are abusing the ReMane Seven represent the fans they're retorting. It's self-referential and doesn't hide it.

When we as an audience criticize the Mane Eight, we don't usually do so because we hate the characters or expect the worst. We criticize because we know that this show is very good and has done great, yet can do better. As an audience, we relate to them in some way or another. It can be a mane pony, secondary, or background. Everyone has a preference of who they like and dislike. Nobody looks at a character exactly the same way. Guess what? That's okay. At the end of the day, we still love the characters as a whole and appreciate the show and staff for what they do.

This "parody" is completely inaccurate in message, conflict, and theme. This exchange is the worst dialogue in the entire episode and causes the whole conflict to fall apart. They're characters, not real people. They exist only on screen, on paper, or within our own imaginations. It's the creators' job to flesh them out and make that character become high-quality and memorable. Neither the avatars nor antagonists are real.

But in the universe, the characters ARE real and conquer major trials. Each time they wrote in the journal, they changed for the better, even after the episode sometimes doesn't work. Fluttershy after Breezies, Dash in Equestria Games following Rainbow Falls, Rarity after Simple Ways, etc. In canon, the characters aren't dictated by a writer's pencil or keyboard, because there, they don't exist. On the other hand, the antagonists see the autobiographical lessons as fiction and those who wrote them as fictional characters.
  Neither the antagonists nor protagonists are on equal conflict ground. The ponies questioning, bashing, stalking, and abusing the RM6 are treating them not as real people, but as either characters that we as readers want to replicate on paper and recreate or property that we can recycle. How the hell can the reporter — probably the one who released the 1.5/5-star rating, though that's just a guess — honestly believe the RM6 are fictional characters when he's talking to them directly? Once more, why do ponies from within their inner circles suddenly begin to see them as celebrities when they've known them for so long, anyway?

This small exchange does nothing except tell the audience that all of these "antagonists" are straw men. Characters written to be proven wrong in order for the main characters to have the upper hand. What makes them so bad is that you're taking what could be valid points and eliminating them so the protagonists have the upper hand in everything they do. You're making what should be a complex conflict completely one-sided, thus telling parents that the episode — and show, if they watch it for the first time — is trying to emotionally manipulate children into viewing the plot through a black-and-white mentality. F&M uses real talking points from within the fandom, checks them off, and morphs them into abusive caricatures of fans rather than taking the good, bad, and recreating them into what fans as a whole truly are — people. In layman's terms, what could be a good lesson is morphed into a bad one. Straw characters helped ruin the Fluttershy Micro, Root of the Problem, Spice Up Your Life, AND here. NEVER use straw men to teach a lesson! Good melody, poor lyrics. While the musical melody for Work in Progress is good, the lyrics make the song the worst of the season. (Yes, worse than the duel between Big Mac and Stereo Pop.) The song (and by extension, the "we're not flawless" moral) is a loaded statement. Everyone knows the characters are flawed and how important the combination of both strengths and weaknesses makes the characters appealing, relatable, and memorable. Sometimes, the characters make really terrible mistakes, but what makes them work or not is whether these mistakes make sense or not. Sometimes the showrunners make sloppy, careless, or lazy mistakes, and people criticize the execution of the characters and story, because they love the show and know the writers can do much better, hope they learn from their mistakes, and hope these mistakes don't happen again.

The "It's flawed" excuse is as stupid as "It's a kids' show." Flawed characters don't make up for poor characterization, worldbuilding, or writing overall. When you're a moral-driven cartoon with huge focus on likeable characters like this one, your reasons for characters (especially ones designed to be role models to children) to act like jerks must make sense. "In character" and "flawed" don't justify bad behavior. Think through your implications!

Time and time again, the show has a history of not thinking through the unfortunate implications. Sometimes they're small and don't affect the story so drastically. Other times, they completely affect the entire story and moral. See DQ, Mare Do Well, OBA, and Hard to Say Anything.

Here, the implications (in story and out, small and big) are abundant. The RM6 out Daring Do as real, invading her privacy.
  Pinkie's laughed at by ponies who's known her since at least season one, implying that their appreciation for her and friendships together are lies.
  The implications surrounding Lemon Chiffon.
  The fact that ponies from Canterlot and Ponyville suddenly become enamored at the idea of the RM6 publishing the journals. I wrote it earlier, and I repeat it. Place this episode in season one, adjust the story to remove the implications, and write better jokes, this is passable. Why? Because we still haven't fully acquainted with the Mane Six and Ponyville. But have Ponyville and Canterlot act like they never knew them from the beginning in a season-seven episode? A time when where they're celebrities and help spread the Magic of Friendship abroad? Nonsense! Do they genuinely care about the ReMane Six, or was their appreciation for them prior to F&M a waste of time?
  This moment, when White Lightning walks away, hurt by Lemon's insults of FS:
This is supposed to represent how sometimes very vocal negativity can drive a wedge in discussion and may make people fear to express themselves. It becomes even worse when the person is brigaded by many like-minded negative people, creating a very toxic atmosphere. Toxicity goes both ways. "Toxic positivity" is as true as "toxic negativity."
  As far as the scene itself's concerned, the characters' fans and haters both attempted to trespass on Twilight's property, and it's assumed WL's part of that crowd. It's very difficult for me to pity her when she behaves as poorly as everyone else.
  The moral is really clunky. It's supposed to be about how despite a whole bunch of people trashing the work, as long as some enjoy it, the effort's worth it. But there's a difference in what you're trying to say and what you're saying. After the song and friendship speech, both sides resumed their bickering and feuding. The lesson paints all of the abuse as merely an obstacle of their next friendship quest. However, this isn't merely an obstacle. These fan clubs and haters are willingly or accidentally ruining their livelihoods. Rarity's boutiques remain boycotted; AJ still can't figure out how to eject her freeloading fanclub; Dash will still be nagged by brats in the sky; haters will still stalk and verbally abuse Fluttershy; and old friends will continue to treat Pinkie like an automatic laugh track. Only Twilight can deal with her problems post-credits. What happened here is not okay and shouldn't be handwaved for the sake of a cheap gag.
  Coconut Cream and Toola Roola are (apparently) a metaphor of the show's assumed primary demographic: young girls. Because of how self-referential Fame is, how those two fillies are the only ones not the ReMane Seven who are sympathetic, and how they're the only ones who actually the lessons to heart, it sends an unintended message that little girls who take the morals to heart are the only people who matter.

What makes this toxic? Let's go back to Twilight's quote from before:
Parallel this to the brony fandom and FIM. Would anyone want to take the lessons to heart if they're not entertained first and foremost? FIM's educational entertainment, the emphasis intentional. Everyone wants to be entertained when watching the show. But answering the question as this is a generalization. Critically think why you like the show. Why are you entertained when watching it? What entertains you about it? For some, it's easy, not so much for others. Bronydom is a fanbase of millions. Like human fingerprints, each reason why each brony — yes, little boys and girls count as bronies, too — watch the show and what they value most in the show is very individual. Could be the stories they tell for one, the colorful cast another. One may like the Mane Eight equally, some more than others, or have a dislike of at least one of them completely to the point where they can't stand 'em. For others, could be varying degrees of heart, humor, storytelling, and so forth. For another, how both kids and adults alike can watch it without shame. Hell, the morals of friendship they teach may be the primary reason a few watch it. How much they personally emphasize depends on their preference. Earlier this season, A Flurry of Emotions hinted this moral in the background; whether it's intentional or not doesn't matter. Spearhead creates abstract pieces of art with intent of witnessing other ponies' reactions and emotional experiences once they see them. He understands how each one reminds Cadance and SA of Flurry Heart and dearly missing her and that someone else will react really differently. He's explicitly open with this fact. No one watches the show the same way, either.

To echo, Twilight and the entire premise affirm that if the ponies don't learn the friendship lessons and grow from them, then whether you like the journal or not, you're not worthy of being listened to. The moral in itself implicates this by using two fillies as tokens. Combine that thought to bronydom, and it implicates that you're only a fan if you take the friendship lessons and morals to heart; if you don't, you don't qualify for a fan.

I doubt that's supposed to be that way. But from how the story's themes were presented and what the characters believed, it makes sense why many take it that way. Because that ideal, accidental or vice-versa, is dishonest in every facet. Some may love aspects of the journal, some may hate it. Others may have equal or less sharp reactions. You can control the content you put in, but not how they feel when they view it. How you, the ones who publish it, respond to it is up to you. Likewise, to repeat from before, no one will react to any FIM episode, comic, short, or EQG film/special the same. No professional material (episode, movie, comic, short, etc.) is free from questioning. Do they miss the point sometimes? Absolutely. All of us have done that, myself including. But when the characters behave out of character, you paint an uplifting and likeable world as cynical and mean-spirited for the sake of the story, and/or teach dishonest and hurtful messages, then criticizing and bashing the story's integrity is fair game.

For that matter, and this is a message to everyone reading this review, people regardless of age are entitled to like and love the show how they see fit. People are entitled to dislike and even hate episodes. People are entitled to criticize episodes if they suck. People are entitled to take NO lessons to heart! Does any of this make them lesser of a fan than others? If your answer is yes, exit the page now. Aside from the mane characters, CMCs, and the other two fillies, everyone is a quarter-dimensional, abusive caricature of specific groups of fans. Each set Twilight encounters includes the entitled fan, collector, hate mob, brat, and freeloader. Swap lines within their groups, and their personalities are exactly the same regardless of who's speaking. There's no redeeming quality in anyone here.

But what makes this really sad?

a. Both kids and adults combined represent these stereotypes, including ALL adult fans. The fact that all of them are false representations of who fans are regardless of age talks down to not only adults who watch the show, but also little kids. The episode paints a broad brush on every antagonist by turning them all into one-note bullies. Every adult (both the lovers and haters) acting so petulant hurts the episode's themes, messages, and reinforces awful geek-centric stereotypes. On their own, the stereotypes are bad enough; it's even worse when using them to try to teach a moral to children.

b. F&M doesn't isolate the criticism from the abuse and reacts very defensively to valid (and dated) talking points. Fans (including big Fluttershy fans, like myself) criticized her, because we know they can write her better. (We're seeing this now with AJ and her flanderization.) Ironically, the past three seasons are among her best of the series, thanks to the criticism. Even though he wasn't in the episode, Spike wouldn't have his best season last year had the fanbase not hammer them for their poor treatment of him for so long.

c. As written before, these caricatures are straw men.

d. Recall the quote: It applies to everyone, not only Pinkie. Most of the characters have been present since the pilot, a large chunk (i.e, Lyra, Bon Bon, Daisy, Lemon Hearts, Twinkleshine, Rose, Amethyst Star) with canonical characterizations prior. The background characters became beloved from their antics, spawning ideas, theories, and other creative forms of imagination. When characters do something with the mane characters, like help, sing, or dance, they tell us how much these ponies care for one another. Slice of Life works in so many ways, one of which is how much they care for each other and see others as part of Ponyville's soul. They actively helped Matilda and Cranky prepare an impromptu wedding and fussed little. The moral and animation presentation make it feel like they accomplished something.

So, what do they accomplish here? Becoming ungrateful bastards. That's not what the show stands for. It's so out of character of the show's welcoming atmosphere and progressive morale. Rebuttals to some/common/eventual defenses for this episode. When all we see is everyone from Ponyville or Canterlot behave like assholes, you're telling us to assume that everyone from both towns behaves like this. The same logic applies to bronydom. When 99% of all the audience sees is badly-behaved fans, you paint an impression that this is not only the norm within the brony fandom, but that almost everyone who's a brony is some kind of "manchild." You're guilting people by association. If you're trying to suggest that it's only a portion, either SHOW a portion or clearly dictate that that these jerkasses, while very loud, don't represent the whole. Don't use real talking points. Consolidate the assholes to a spare few, while making the characters recognize throughout that kids and adults — not just two kids — do care about the journal and their well-being.

Two episodes apply your defense much better than Fame: Spike's Search from G1. Stranger Than FF. Yes, Quibble can be an elitist and sometimes a bit of a jerk. But he's also a fan of Daring Do like the rest in the con, and the ep never lets you forget it. Just a fan of the first three books. It's very clear to the audience that he was only one bad apple within that entire con, yet the episode treats him as a genuinely good person who just got caught up. On top of that, he learns his lesson at the end. This entire episode is very laid back in tone, so the writers are able to get away with cartoony shenanigans, the satire, and a bunch of the humor.

The Daring Do con is a satire of fandom conventions and their quirky charm. It shows us how dedicated many Do fans are, but the con is written in a way so the audience knows it's in good fun. We as people see ourselves in that con, but its accuracy and good-nature comedy make it funny. We laugh at ourselves by simultaneously laughing with the writers.

BTW, thanks to Fame, I respect and appreciate Stranger now. Though I stand by on Quibble being OOC in the second half, I was wrong to call him a stereotype, and I was really unfair towards the episode the entire time.
  Self-deprecation comes primarily not at the audience's expense, but at their own. We're not laughing at ourselves, but at the situation the comedians are in. Rodney Dangerfield was amazing at it: He always never took himself seriously, knew that the audience and he were going to have a great time together, and was just an all-around good guy.

You know who was great at making the audience laugh at themself? A hint: he just passed away. Don Rickles. He could deliver any type of insult at you. There was no line he couldn't cross. So why was he funny? Again, Rickles never took himself seriously. The lighthearted tone in his routines loosens the atmosphere and makes the audience more receptive to the jokes. Rickles knew how to insult you without getting personal. He put in the effort to make you laugh through his performance. If they laughed, then he succeeded. He roasted everyone and made them laugh so hard that they couldn't breathe. Despite his act on stage, he was an excellent person behind the scenes. The stories people tell about him show how good he was as a person. When he has that good of a reputation, the audience knows his insult routine is all in good fun. Some of his best roasts were to people he respected or were close friends with, like Sinatra and Reagan. In short, guilt-trip someone who's insulted to laugh at themself, the joke is neither good nor funny. It failed. To double-down and accuse them of being part of the problem is hypocritical. Like "SJW," "fanbrat," "fanboy/girl," and "alt-left," this pejorative jumped the shark. In fact, I hated it ever since I heard it. Why? Because it mocks people just for being able to feel. You're directly trolling people for sharing an emotional response. You mandate that people should act like robots or live in some kind of hive mind. Humanity doesn't work that way. Diversity helps shape up our world. You can't control people's emotions.

Ironically, calling people "snowflakes" or "sensitive" is hypocritical, too, 'cause you're emotionally reacting to their emotion.

"But why do you love Cutie Map, when it's one of the most cynical settings of the show?" Glad you asked, my imaginary questionnaire. This setting is completely confined into that town only, and both its presentation and Mane Six's reactions make it clear that what they see around them is not normal. Everyone's happiness is completely controlled. Starlight continually brainwashes Our Town's inhabitants into sticking to her ways, or else. Starlight was a ruthless, calculated control freak. Not to mention she was the villain. Something folks like her should do. If she wasn't so evil, then it won't make any sense. It was also very well written. DHX very carefully planned everything about that episode from beginning to end, and the Mane Six figured out how to solve a life-threatening friendship problem very cleverly. In short, TCM's about celebrating diversity and free will, not the opposite. It's cynicism done right. Congratulations for answering your own question. There's no place to treat real people and groups of real people like stereotypes in any show, especially one with intent to educate to children. The fact that we teach kids that (ageist) stereotypes are A-OK in entertainment makes me take it very seriously. This show is way better than this pandering schlock.

The better the show, the more it respects kids. And, yes, kids DO care about lore/worldbuilding. If they don't, then why is magical thinking so important in children's development, and why do psychologists and high-quality children's educational shows (i.e., Arthur, Mister Rogers', Sesame Street, Shining Time Station, Magic School Bus, Dragon Tales) value it so much?
  In a June 2017 interview from The Hollywood Reporter, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner admitted that boys make up 30% of FIM's TV audience, and they no longer allegedly aim toys to a specific gender. Observe the recent trend of FIM being marketed to boys AND girls over the past year-plus. With Let Toys Be Toys campaigning for the desegregation of toys, Audi's Spanish branch publishing a car commercial satirizing gender roles, and companies like Target, Toys R Us, and TJ Maxx (for clothes) de-sexing aisles, this trend is only (hopefully) continuing.

Focus that back to MLP. Zacherle founded the franchise as a unisex toyline, and MLP & Friends was for all ages regardless of gender. Faust and crew published FIM as an all-ages, gender-neutral show, too, and it's been that way since. The family-friendly approach and refusal to apply gender and age barriers onto their stories and world are two background reasons why the fandom became so enormous and boisterous.

The point? "It's for kids" is a stupid excuse. Being for children shouldn't affect the quality of your product. To use it regardless of circumstance talks down to kids and treats them like idiots. Apply this to "it's for little girls," as well. Labeling FIM as for (little) girls shoves gender roles upon our children, segregates genders into categories, applies different standards of quality to girls when it should be universal, and treats girls as tokens to excuse misogyny and misandry. Being a "good girls' show" shouldn't matter. Be a good show, period.
  It's odd how no one has come forward to claim credit for the aired product. Larson repeatedly disassociated himself from this episode, both in ToonKritic's podcast and on Twitter.
  Big Jim was unaware, too: I don't know what happened behind the scenes, but given the visual and audio evidence, the theory of it being a lighthearted poke either originally or after submission to Hasbro deserves the benefit of the doubt.

However, for the aired product, it's ridiculous to claim it's lighthearted when Ponyville and Canterlot treat them like crap and the characters become emotionally distressed and scared as a result. Unlike Best Night Ever, Slice of Life, and Stranger, the meta conflict and character reactions are supposed to be taken seriously. The tone and mood are played straight; both sides treat the matter as a really big deal. Laughing and grimacing at the stereotypes don't a satire make. That's why The Good, The Bad, and The Ponies isn't a parody (despite its intentions), and the same applies here. Razgriz made an excellent point last month when criticizing Fame, and I echo my reply on Discord to here with changes: You can't have a show without an audience. People watch and follow the show out of interest, admiration, and so on. They don't watch to get called out. It's a bad move to taunt any portion of the fanbase, because it can come across as an attack on the people you're not attacking. "Lighthearted fun" or "a portion" makes no difference. If you're going to respond to any group of fans, you BETTER know what you're doing. Rickles knew what he was doing when roasting people. Whoever ghostwrote this script didn't. If you have that thought, erase it. There's no excuse for anyone to abuse the showrunners, and I never condone it. I'm on record of being against it, sometimes replying to users angrily when they do. No matter how angry we get at episodes from time to time, these showrunners, animators, and editors are people. They earn as much respect as everyone else here. The criticism, even the harsh ones, are aimed at the product. If I criticize the company or showrunners, it's for their lack of effort if applicable because I know they do better, releasing something with stereotypes or harmful morals (since kids are impressionable), or their behavior if they cross a line (which I've done to no one but IDW's Ted Anderson for his sexism). But I don't get personal; that's a no-no under any circumstance.

At the end of the day, DHX is an entity full of people like you and I. That "argument" is the most obvious self-fulfilling prophecy I've heard within fandom in quite some time.

One thing the show does very well is it creates and enforces a very uplifting, inviting atmosphere. The pastel colors, likeable mane characters, likeable background ponies, idealistic solutions to friendship, and proactive approach to solving friendship problems tell the audience this isn't supposed to be that type of world where "realistic" doesn't translate into stereotypical cynicism. This was one of the themes when the show started, and it's shown by how Ponyville and Pinkie actively welcomed Twilight in the Golden Oak Library. Sometimes even when the episodes don't do as well, it stays true to its tone.

Think about this. When were the episodes at their best? When it shoots up. Hurricane FS, Winter Wrap Up, Perfect Pear, Lost Frickin' Mark! Even when it doesn't do as well as it should, like A Friend in Deed, it still capitalizes on that welcoming, confident setting.

OTOH, what are some of the biggest flaws in Mare Do Well, PYHD, Ponyville Confidential, Bats!, Filli Vanilli, 28PL, Newbie Dash, and Owl's Well? The mean-spirited tone. Everything about it is not only completely cynical, but also done in a way that completely beats down on the mane character and makes it act like the entire world is out to get them. When the setting dials up the mean-spirited tone, it makes the world they're living in very unpleasant to watch. Do so with an idealistic, uplifting world like FIM's, then it's done for no other reason than to serve the plot. If you're gonna present something mean, make it feel organic.

Each time the series turned up this level of contrived cynicism, the quality of the atmosphere and overall story degrades. You're piling on cruelty again and again just because. Fame, to repeat it, has that same flaw. Ironically, it's similar to one of season 2's worst, which Larson wrote and took credit for: (Link to poster.)

Replace the gossiping theme and CMCs with fandom and the ReMane Six, respectively, and you get the same episode. Remove the fandom allegories; all you have left is a town deciding to suddenly declare the ReMane Six famous and treat them like dirt just because they can.

So, here's a question, and think about it long and hard. If Fame and Misfortune didn't include fandom allegories, would you grin viciously at this episode? Would you act like white supremacists following Trump's election victory and publish the vitriol in the first place?

For a good chunk of you, chances are it's gonna be "no."

That alone means Fame is a failure. This "bravery" is cowardice and a self-centered desire to air your dirty laundry as well as support the idea that kids should embrace lazy shortcuts of entertainment. Excusing this lowbrow shit is bad enough. To do so through this doesn't make this episode any better. In fact, you only make it worse.

One final note.

A few self-contained scenes completely contradict continuity…but I held out one more: the whole premise itself. There's no care in backstory, worldbuilding, and contextual logic in any way, shape, or form. Echoing WaterPulse offsite, it feels like the one(s) who ghostwrote it didn't give a damn about the Equestrian world or threw it all away just to drive home a point. If the story doesn't care about the rich, ever-growing world, why should your audience? Conclusion: Wow.

Just…wow.

Now, to give Fame some credit, it has a lot of potential. The material to create an excellent satire is there. We as a fandom have its strengths and flaws. A good, effective satire can allow the fandom to actually poke fun at itself: acknowledge the problems, yet do it that makes it funny and not anger-inducing. Stranger pulls it off rather effectively, particularly within that con and treatment of Quibble as a nice albeit stubborn guy. And apparently, this was supposed to be lighthearted, too.

So, what the hell happened? Where's that traditional love and care for the audience? How did the show (which aired The Perfect Pear one episode prior) manage to publish an episode that was so wrapped up in trying to send a message to its audience that it forgot to write a story, much less a good one? Larson makes it known that plenty of it was ghostwritten during development, and the fact that nobody claimed responsibility for it is troublesome. That doesn't mean DHX doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Far from it. They're a reputable company, and the people within care about their craft and the quality they publish.

I feel very sorry for Larson. Even though many of his ideas weren't his, laws require him to be credited for it. This episode as is feels out of character of him. Out of everyone who worked for the show, he's closest to the fandom. He may've screwed up on one satire, but that was due to story oversights, not spite. Additionally, in every episode he writes, he focuses a lot on sticking to the continuity and not contradict it; neither episode that keeps it in mind (this and MMC) were his fault.

I originally skipped this one, because I believed it was going to be bad. After watching it the first go around (and then skimmed through a second time), it blew me away. Was it as bad as I thought? No. It's twenty times worse.

Fundamentally, it's broken. It doesn't understand what a parody is supposed to be; it tries to parody obnoxious fans, yet the characters play everything so straight that it's treated as a serious plot instead of a satire. Continuity is ignored for the sake of the story, both in sections and throughout. Jokes are rammed in without focus on having them make sense. The premise used the idea that the ReMane Six would finally be recognized as a result of their journal, even though their celebrityhood dates back to the pilot in Ponyville and Canterlot and expanded following MMC. Fanatics are painted with a broad brush by having everyone sans two fillies portrayed as abusive caricatures. Yet, by combining valid criticism with the abuse, reducing existing characters into less-than-flat caricatures and ageist stereotypes of fans, and painting the antagonists as seeing the RM6 as only fictional characters, the antagonists become straw men, damaging the story and morals. The beginning is stupid, and it only worsens with each passing minute. Starlight's appearance, her best since reformation, is wasted here.

Fame & Misfortune panders to the lowest common denominator. Lazy, dishonest, and intellectually offensive. This garbage exists as is to check off common talking points within the fandom, whether it makes canonical sense or not. Whoever decided to warp the script into a callous attitude should be ashamed of themself. It overtakes 28 Pranks Later as the most mean-spirited take of Equestria in the entire show and is fundamentally worse than Rainbow Falls and EQG1. Unlike Fame, those two tried to tell a story. Add the unfortunate implications (the ageism, enforcement of tired geek-based stereotypes, and treatment of Coconut and Toola as tokens), it's even worse. It's both my most hated and (so far) worst episode of season seven. At the start of the review, my bottom-13 was like this: One Bad Apple Bridle Gossip Newbie Dash Dragon Quest The Crystal Empire Rainbow Falls 28 Pranks Later Princess Spike P.P.O.V. The Mysterious Mare Do Well Owl’s Well That Ends Well The Show Stoppers Putting Your Hoof Down Now, after talking about another awful episode (Newbie Dash) with King Clark, it's now this: One Bad Apple Newbie Dash Fame and Misfortune Bridle Gossip Dragon Quest The Crystal Empire Rainbow Falls 28 Pranks Later Princess Spike P.P.O.V. The Mysterious Mare Do Well Owl’s Well That Ends Well The Show Stoppers

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

review Spike's Search: The Better Dragon Quest

A few days ago, I watched one of Mr. Enter's older videos: a countdown of his ten worst FIM episodes of the series (only the first three seasons counted). At the time, Dragon Quest was his second-worst, only behind Putting Your Hoof Down. The one thing that caught my attention when summarizing DQ's issues is how he called an episode from G1 better than this. After a quick Wiki search, I found Spike's Search, a 1987 episode from MLP & Friends, containing the following summary: Hmm…similar to DQ, ain't it? For those who are curious, here's a link to the episode: Let's quickly get a few of Search's flaws out of the way. At the time, all animation was hand-drawn, so you'll see shortcuts. A chunk of this animation is more dated than a classic Scooby Doo episode. The lip-syncing is horrible. Many times, the characters were saying one thing, yet their lips say something else. The B-Plot — Weston the Eagle looking for his parents — was dropped until the resolution. The song…not good, either. Both lyrically and vocally. The dragons are stereotypical bullies. Fortunately, this story isn't a dud, and plenty of the faults come from the standards at the time. The background is really good, and Spike is very sympathetic with a noble goal. If I tell you more, I won't be able to explain why Spike's Search is better than DQ. How better? Well, let's get crackin'! The trigger. Every story has to set the conflict somehow, and this is no exception. Two adjectives apply to DQ: sexism, xenophobia. The entire episode is prevalent in this nature, including the opening act. Spike's desire to know about his origins and family comes from their infamous conversation within the ditch: Dash laughs at (and insults) Spike for his pink apron (along with his so-called "feminine" action of baking cookies), and this: This is just one part, but it ruins the story as a whole. Spike's friends declaring how not acting like other dragons makes him better than the rest of the population. In story context, let's put it this way: Not convinced? Apply it to real life: Not funny now, is it? The xenophobia comes from the ponies mocking dragons as a whole for their supposedly brutish, tough, ugly-looking, and aggressive nature while not understanding at all who dragons as a race truly are physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For all the audience knows, they're knocking them through perception, not fact. The one thing all six are aware of about them is their migration patterns. In Spike's Search, that conversation doesn't exist. As the group played volleyball, Spike sneezes, accidentally shooting fire in the process and frightening all the ponies. Spike repeatedly apologizes, and both Megan and brother Danny continually reassure him that it wasn't his fault. Though, the fact that he nearly hurt ponies triggered his guilt, and sneezing fire multiple times afterwards doesn't help. While Spike's friends from DQ peer-pressured him into joining the dragon migration, Spike from G1 pressured himself to find his family. His quest to find his parents stems from the belief that they'll better raise him, control his accidental fire-breathing, understand manners, and so forth. In short, he feels like he belongs better with other dragons. The stereotypical bully. Both Dragon Quest and Spike's Search use the stereotypical bully. It's a big flaw in both episodes. But if you ask me which stereotypical bully is better, it's from Search. Why? DQ attaches both age-old teenage boy and teenage bully stereotypes along with the bully archetype itself. All of their mannerisms are simplified human beliefs of masculinity: overly aggressive, greedy, vocal, the "traditional" teenage boy voice, a lust for intimidation, macho, and selfish. Design-wise, each dragon is supposed to represent what a dragon looks like in their teenage phase. With each scene, the episode shames Spike for being a dragon (and to parallel it, a boy IRL for traits completely unlike a "normal" boy). Spike's Search doesn't do that. He's originally happy to take part in the group of adult dragons, but is taken aback by their rudeness, greed, and selfishness. When two dragons insulted him for his size, the older king dragon dissented and crafted colorful language to try to make him prove to the group that he belongs in their gang. Rather than initially trying to physically bully him into joining or else, the king dragon emotionally lures him via mind games. Most importantly, the metaphors of dragons = boys and ponies = girls don't exist. Not only aren't the labels of masculinity and femininity visually depicted, but the dragons don't attempt to classify ponies as female-oriented, either. Instead, the dragons use Spike's naiveté to bring them into Dream Valley to further manipulate him. The climax. Search's climax is infinitely better. DQ: Dash, Twilight, and Rarity challenge the dragons to a fight, and Spike disassociates himself from his race, literal fighting words to the dragons. So, what do they do? Run away. *sigh* Talk about a major anticlimax. Spike's Search: Spike's friends assemble a party to lure them into a trap. Their weapon of choice: rushing water that temporarily douses their fire-breathing. If they're going to bully people throughout the town and their close friend, there'll be consequences. Since they use fire, words, and size as weapons, Spike's friends using their strengths against them creates a satisfying comeuppance. The moral. This is what seals it. So, what makes this very different from DQ? How it's set up. To reiterate, Spike wants to be a grown-up dragon and initiated his quest on an accident. Dragon life isn't automatically declared to be inherently inferior to pony life at any point. Hell, the group supported him throughout, and both he and Danny walked together to find some. Additionally, it emphasizes that this is only a cluster of dragons, not an actual representation of dragons as a whole. It doesn't metaphorically differentiate boys from girls. With it absent, the sexism implications don't exist. When Spike begins to believe that the dragon life is about bullying other people, Danny quickly interrupts him and reminds him that those dragons aren't the only ones out there. There are different kinds of ponies and dragons. Rather than affirm a generalization to both him and us, he tells Spike he only ran into some bad luck. This type of moral applies as much today and can be done really well if you know what you're doing and tell a decent story in the process. Conclusion: Friendship Is Magic is a great show, but it screws up royally here and there. Dragon Quest stands as season 2's worst due to sexist stereotyping, racism implications, and botching the moral of how no one group is a monolith by generalizing a select few as the whole. Is FIM better than G1? Yes. But sometimes it can take a lesson or two from its predecessors. Albeit with worse animation, Spike's Search does DQ's same plot nearly twenty-five years prior better.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

Amazing, Touching Easter Egg in Sonic Mania

Two days ago, Sega released Sonic Mania digitally for the Switch, PS4, and XBox1. (The PC version's delayed till 8/29). But the manual's already posted. The focus is on Page 3 below: Focus on the Motobug at the far right underneath Heavy Rider. The Sonic Mania Team (consisted of The Taxman, Stealth, and many others, many of them former Sonic fangame hackers from Sonic Retro) named him Jimmy and gave him identical move sets in honor of Polygon Jim, a Sonic fangame hacker who passed away in 2013. Jimmy was most known for creating a fan-hack of Motobug in Sonic 1. It might be my all-time favorite Easter Egg in any Sonic game. Excellent tribute, guys! ^^

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

Buffalo Man's Tops and Bottoms of Season 7, First Half

To continue the pattern from last year, a review of the first half of season seven, with both tops and bottoms in respective categories. To view the rest: Season 5 Season 6, 1st Half Season 6 Discordant Harmony and Perfect Pear are featured in this overview without spoiler tags hiding the comments. So if you haven't seen either and want to read it, be warned. Episodes Bottom-3: Hard to Say Anything

Two words: unadulterated shit. After about 7 to 8 minutes of meandering (but nothing genuinely wrong), the minute Feather Bangs Stereo Pop shows up, the episode flushes down the drain. Big Mac and the CMCs have their worst (and maybe second-worst) characterization in the show (respectively). Big Mac for following on the CMCs' hairbrained schemes to try to woo Sugar Belle, the CMCs for actually believing that the fairy tales are how-to guidebooks. None of the jokes or twists work at any point — Stereo Pop's characterization is a blatantly dated Bieber parody, Stereo Pop's cutie mark resembling an erect penis, he shallow song-off between Mac and Stereo Pop. Protip, DHX: Sexual harassment ain't funny, either.

Big Mac's crush on Sugar is contrived as hell, too; not only for the blatant ending, but also by the fact that we don't actually see it develop; the entire crush plot is unrequited. You could've written this episode much more differently and make it better. Hell, Starlight would've been a fine secondary character. Instead, it's a generic, clichéd, by-the-number plot that DHX couldn't even write well. Hell, continuity stated in the episode was ignored to make it work.
  Honest Apple

While the former was marred by a terrible middle and ending, this episode's marred by a terrible beginning and middle all the way to the climax. Rarity acted incompetent and out of character by putting her contest into action despite only two judges signing off on it with no possible backups beforehand in case someone had to cancel. Apple Bloom looked really dumb for not realizing that her bow would cause major problems (and is a contrived plot point to boot).

But what really drags this episode down is a complete lack of understanding of what makes Applejack the Bearer of Honesty. Does she tell the truth? Absolutely. But tells them while still caring about others' feelings! So, what does she do here? Turn into a complete control freak with no clue how to judge fashion properly and a lust to tear down their work. The worst moment, by far, is shaking the crossed-over-stitched feathers off Lily Lace's hat. An in-character AJ will NEVER pull this stupid stunt! The only way she was able to realize she was verbally abusive was when Strawberry Sunrise (upon introduction from Rarity) received the same abuse in return. We're in season 7; AJ should NOT have to learn about how important tact is when being honest.

The new characters in the episode? Including Inky Rose, they're all unlikeable, stereotypes, generic, or all of the above. Hopefully, none of them return!
  A Royal Problem

The saving grace in this episode: Starlight. No, her actions were wrong, but the episode built that up to the point where Starlight's nightmare was so soul-crushing that it could've damaged her psyche. More on that a little below.

Celestia was great in Advice; there, she shows how human she is without devolving her character. The same can't be said here. She and Luna are out of character here. Is it fine for them to bicker as sisters? Totally. But their bickering crossed the line into being personal attacks; each of them treated each other's important roles in Equestrian society as not just pointless, but wasteful, too. On top of that, they never understood that THEY were the friendship problem until Starlight told them directly to their faces, and even then, they were still too dumb to get it till later. (Seriously, Snips and Snails are smarter than them here!)

When did they finally get it? When they witness Starlight's heartbreaking nightmare. Their lack of appreciation for one another makes no sense, since Luna feeling jealous of her sister and lack of appreciation are why she turned into NMM in the first place. You'd think at their age, they'd figure something out. It's among their five worst appearances for each in the show.

But the worst moment of the episode comes during the resolution when Celestia tells Starlight that she was right to swap their marks. Firstly, she performed her spell on them against their will. Just because they say it's okay doesn't make it okay. The princess absolve her of her wrongdoing. That side would've been resolved had she asked first and the princesses not act like idiots. Secondly, when they say she did the right thing, Starlight's emotional pain during her terrible nightmare becomes an afterthought. That her self-infliction plot-wise and emotion-wise was pointless.

Despite quality characterization from Starlight, background music, and animation hints, Celestia's and Luna's out of characterization, idiocy, and incompetence completely kill the episode. Dishonorable mention: Fluttershy Leans In. --- Top-3: The Perfect Pear

Best episode of the season, and possibly the entire show. Any possible flaws in this episode are complete nitpicks.

Pear Butter and Bright Mac = best FIM couple and best-written parents of the show. Everything about this couple is the complete opposite of the likes of Flash/Twilight and Sugar Belle/Big Mac: The development of the romance is like someone who knows romance wrote these ponies. Their chemistry from foalhood to matrimony's completely organic and makes complete sense to the audience. They show how much they love each other during and after life.

Every joke lands.

Only the third episode to make me cry and did so on a few occasions. One of them when Big Mac asked Burnt Oak if they can return to hear more stories about their dad. More about that later.

It has some misplaced criticism about them leaving out how they passed as well as Granny avoiding the tree. This isn't that episode. TPP's about celebrating their lives, cherishing their pasts, and letting go. Each note is hit as the episode progresses. Secondly, the entire Pear family disowned Pear Butter for marrying an Apple, and they died early. The marriage site gives her too much pain to deal with. The ending is the perfect closure to this episode.

"You're in My Head Like a Catchy Song" = best S7 song, and will likely be that way once it ends.

Grand Pear = show's most tragic character. The night his daughter married and became an Apple is all but the last day he saw her alive. Unfortunately, he'll never apologize to her. And excellent voice acting by William Shatner (and Felicia Day for Pear Butter).
  Parental Glideance

Wow.

That's the word to describe this treasure. Easily the best episode by a debut writer in the series.

Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles = character-wise, two of the best canonical parents in the show. They play the ebarrassing parent trope while still subverting the clichés, making them feel like they love Dash, and acting realistic. They're hyper, but so damn lovable.

The jokes land perfectly.

*gasp* The Wonderbolts are fucking LIKEABLE! Somepony call the Vatican! We witnessed a miracle!

This episode also shows how to have a likeable character do a Putting Your Hoof Down rant correctly. There, Fluttershy calculatingly insulted both Pinkie and Rarity and then had the blame shifted to Iron Will that night. Here, Dash was at her limit's end, lost her cool, and immediately wanted to make things right.

The criticism against the moral's execution is a flaw that doesn't even exist. Was Dash right to be upset at her parents? Yes. Some actions (despite having downplayed stakes) were reckless. Does she have the right to yell at them, slap Bow's hoof away, and implicate disownment of them because they embarrass her so much? No, she doesn't. She takes her supportive parents for granted, and Scootaloo would love to experience this feeling just once. Less BSing this hot air, the better.
  Discordant Harmony

This is much tamer compared to the other two, but that doesn't make it not good. This is an all-around solid episode.

Discord has his most likeable performance in the series. He was the spirit of chaos, but in many of his post-villain appearances, he was being a jerk for the sake of it. Here, he shows how much he cares for Fluttershy and wants to be seen as a valuable friend to her. Pinkie's advice's solid, but Discord's naivete with friendship made him take her too literally. Because he and 'Shy are close, it makes sense for him to feel really sensitive when ponies question it.

Fluttershy continues to show off her growth from past seasons. Unlike Leans In, it does it better. She's not so timid anymore and really shows how much Discord means to her. Not in the way that Keep Calm implicated, but a genuine care for him. Like equals. When Discord became too normal and began to fade away, Fluttershy jumped into action to try to save him. More about her and the moral later.

Out of every episode, this is the first to actually treat their friendship like one. Prior, the show tells us they're friends, but they don't behave like friends. Here, their friendship feels incredibly genuine, a long-time coming for this show. Honorable mention: All Bottled Up S7 episode ranking (so far): The Perfect Pear: A+ Parental Glideance: A+ Discordant Harmony: A- All Bottled Up: B+ A Flurry of Emotions: B+ Celestial Advice: B- Not Asking for Trouble: B- Forever Filly: C+ Rock Solid Friendship: C+ Fluttershy Leans In: C A Royal Problem: D+ Honest Apple: F Hard to Say Anything: F --- Top-13 episodes (in order, updated): The Perfect Pear The Best Night Ever Crusaders of the Lost Mark Amending Fences Sisterhooves Social Parental Glideance The Cutie Map Party of One Testing Testing 1, 2, 3 Pinkie Pride Suited for Success Lesson Zero Sleepless in Ponyville Honorable mentions: The Times They Are a Changeling, Flight to the Finish, A Hearth's Warming Tail. -- Bottom-13 episodes (in order, updated): One Bad Apple Bridle Gossip Newbie Dash Dragon Quest The Crystal Empire Rainbow Falls 28 Pranks Later Princess Spike P.P.O.V. The Mysterious Mare Do Well Owl’s Well That Ends Well The Show Stoppers Putting Your Hoof Down Dishonorable Mentions: Boast Busters, Appleoosa’s Most Wanted, Trade Ya! So far, none of S7's worst come close to qualifying for the Bottom-15. Good. Moral Bottom moral: N/A: The purpose of this section is to post the worst moral, period. Execution doesn't matter. So far, none of the morals are objectively bad, even if their execution sometimes isn't great. --- Top moral: Discordant Harmony: Your best friend may have nothing in common with you, but you're still true friends because you care for each other. This is true to just about anyone. Many of us have at least one person we know who have nothing in common in personality, opinions, qualities, 'tude, and preference. Commonness doesn't determine true friendship, but by how much they love each other. Neither Discord nor Fluttershy share anything in common. Their personalities and tastes vastly differ, but they're still friends and show us that. More importantly, she's the one who took him in and trusted him. By delivering that moral, Fluttershy hones in past continuity and growth while not degrading her character. Honorable mention: Don't hold onto past anger and guilt forever. Celebrate their lives, and pursue new memories with their loved ones (The Perfect Pear). New Characters: Characters that appeared either in the background or as cameos in prior seasons don't count. Bottom character: Stereo Pop. Fucking Stereo Pop! A blatant, dated parody of teenage Bieber and stereotypical boy bands. Without him, Hard would actually be able to go somewhere. And, no, that asspull at the end doesn't deserve the false praise. Dishonorable mentions: Strawberry Sunrise (unlikeable asshole), Lily Lace (valley girl stereotype). --- Top character: Buttercup & Bright Mac. 'Nuff said. Honorable mention: Windy Whistles & Bow Hothoof. Mane 8 (includes Spike and Starlight) Bottom M8 character: Applejack. She's the only one of the Mane Eight to have her characterization be so bastardized. Not understanding fashion? Fine. Crossing the line of honesty into smugly bring cruel and being proud of it? NOT okay! Honest Apple crosses PPOV and Somepony for her worst appearance and episode, respectively. (Thankfully, she did much better in Pear.) Dishonorable mention: Rarity. --- Top M8 character: Starlight. Overall, she's the best written and most consistent. After a sloppy redemption arc, DHX seems to be taking a lot more care in writing her correctly. She's not as nervous and hesitant as before, has a sardonic edge, and isn't boring or unlikeable. She still has a ways to go, but the Starlight here has transitioned into a more-self-confident pony. Plus, she's given much proper use. Last season, she was treated as someone who could be plugged in for the sake of it. This season, she feels a lot like a character who belongs in Ponyville. Her role in Rock Solid's fantastic, and it's a nice touch how she worked with the RM7 to build Fluttershy's sanctuary. Honorable mention: Rainbow Dash. --- Full M8 rank (in order): Starlight Glimmer Rainbow Dash Spike Twilight Sparkle Fluttershy Pinkie Pie Rarity Applejack Moment: Bottom-2 moments: Big Mac forcing an attempted kiss on a sleeping Sugar Belle. Ah, nuthin' like a scene that says, "Hey! As long as it's a comedy, sexually harassing girls is a-okay!" Anyone who thinks this…


this…


AND THIS…


…is okay or funny is lying. Big Mac's trying to force a kiss on Sugar Belle, who had no idea he was there! If SB showed or said anything to suggest that she knew he was there and teased him, then this moment won't look as bad. As is, it has NO business anywhere, especially in an education-centric cartoon like this one! I doubt there will be a moment worse than this one for the rest of the season.
  Celestia tells Starlight how swapping their talents was the right decision. Already explained why it's such a wreck earlier. Dishonorable mentions: AJ destroys Lily Lace's hat; Celly and Luna fight. --- Top-2 moments: Big Mac asks Burnt Oak if he could return in the future to hear more stories about his dad. This tearjerker is full of great detail. Big Mac being the one to ask breaks away from his "eeyup" gag and makes knowing more about his parents feel more important. After he asks, Burnt Oak cries, indicating clearly how much he missed his close friend. Little touches in episodes like this one turns a great episode into an amazing one. Amazing direction! 
  Bow Hothoof admits to installing the music by himself. Firstly, best joke of the season. Secondly, narrows Dash's parents down perfectly. They devote their entire lives to their daughter and cherish her, period. It helped build up the fallout later on. Honorable mention: Pear sings to Mac. What I want for Season 7, second half: Clean up Rarity's characterization. Dash is better; AJ on the right track.
  Until PG, every episode felt like lost potential. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it felt like there could've been more polish on the scripts, even the good ones. It seemed like they didn't edit them as well as hoped for. Afterwards, they've been better, but hopefully, that lost potential feel can be put to rest.
  Continue Starlight's development.
  So far, the difference in episode quality is staggering. The best episodes of Season 6 weren't THAT good, while the worst were REALLY awful. This season's the opposite: Even when they're horrible, they're not so awful that they qualify for the worst of the series. Hard was closest, and it ain't that close. Remember, this is a team full of new writers. If you want proof how important an editor is to the show, this is it; Josh Haber knew how to write Spike, but was a really poor editor. Credit goes to The Sister Writers for keeping them all in check and pushing forth new ideas while making them work. Hopefully, nothing bottom-10 level will come.

And watch out for your unfortunate implications!
  From my S5 review: In layman's terms, less of Lily Lace, Stereo Pop, Inky Rose, and Star Streak. More of Burnt Oak or Windy Whistles.
  From my S6 review: May nor happen this season, but y'never know. Verdict: While S6's the worst, S7's one of the best. After a slow start, it's picked up. Some episodes are more flawed than others, but other than three, none of them get near the bad territory. If the worst the rest of the way is as average as FLI or as bad as A Royal Problem, fine. But if there are many great episodes the rest of the way, even better. The first half has better characterization, better plots, better execution, and better quality control. Currently, it's above Season 1 in third place. Hopefully, the second half will do just as well.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut

 

equestria girls rewrite Equestria Girls fanfic rewrite idea, Draft #3, Part 1: Renaming Sunset's family

Last time I posted about my fixfic concept, I announced that Draft #2 was done and I was going to return to the basics. Rather than completely go forward, I want to take the issues that I discovered while looking back and fix them. A good project doesn't get finished in one go, and I want to make it good. Earlier this year, Parental Glideance introduced us Rainbow Dash's parents: Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles. This episode shows how families don't have to have a naming convention in order to officially be family. Previously, it was speculated that many families (specifically parents) needed one, either as a prefix or suffix, even though there might've been exceptions (ala Twilight Velvet and Night Light, Twilight and SA's parents). PG's leeway gave me an idea on the family names. Originally, Sunset's family (all OC's) was narrowed to a Shimmer surname. As structured in Drafts #1 and #2, her family was like this: Mom: Sunrise Shimmer
Dad: Dawn Shimmer
Brother: Solstice Shimmer I decided to change that. Their new names are as follows: Mom: Venus Sunrise
Dad: Dawn Shimmer (still the same name)
Brother: Summer Solstice Moreover, I decided to do something that I haven't done in years: draw the characters. This is where I envy the artists. I don't know how much they practiced, but a good chunk can draw ponies regardless of the pose. Drawing has traditionally been a struggle for me. Twenty years later, I still can't draw a realistic thumbs up! (Thank God for painting nature landscapes. Unless you're Picasso, everyone's gonna notice that one square eye.) After watching a few amazing tutorials, I decided to give myself a stab at drawing Venus and Dawn. After I was done, I scanned them and vectorized them in Illustrator. Here's the result: (Link to the drawings and credits.) Dawn's on the left, Venus on the right. Not bad after not working on any pony drawings, period, for over four years. Their bios remain the same: Dawn: a stay-at-home dad. Venus Sunrise: a lifeguard during the warm and Summer months. The Shimmer family lives in Grazewood, a small village along Equestria's west coast. Their two-floor home's perched at the top of a hill southward, with a patio and each of their bedrooms facing the ocean, providing an excellent view of the sun as it sets. Venus and Dawn raised Sunset, but five years after Sunset ran away and seemingly put her Equestria past behind her, Venus gave birth to a colt, Summer Solstice.

After Sunset reunited with her Equestrian family eleven years later, she was able to successfully mend her relationship with all of them and became close with them, especially Solstice. Before moving on to Solstice, Caveno, and others, I'm gonna practice first.

Dark Qiviut

Dark Qiviut