Good evening everypony, and welcome back to another edition (and a brand new MLP:FiM season) of "Batbrony Reviews"!!! Tonight, for the season premiere, I'm in the unusual position of having to review two episodes that were not a part of a single story arc. Yes, for the first time in the entire running of MLP:FiM, DHX decided not to have the opening be a massive two-parter where the girls had to battle some threat to all of Equestria and... frankly, this change was probably a season overdue considering that last season's opener (while delightful) involved the Crystal Empire being threatened by a newborn alicorn. Yeah, it's not easy coming up with new threats to all of Equestria on a seasonal basis (especially seven seasons in), much less twice a season, so frankly I'm quite happy they finally decided to do this. And it worked really well since the first episode pretty much picked up immediately from where the last episode in Season 6 left off (and the closure it brought to such a momentous event in Equestria as relations getting normalized with the Changelings was very gratifying to see). But enough of my introductory ramblings, let's get to the real meat of my review... which is mostly me rambling. This is "Celestial Advice" and "All Bottled Up"!!!
Awwwwwwwwww, giant wing hug, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
So starting with "Celestial Advice," this episode was important and needed for a number of reasons. As I said, we got really good closure following the Season 6 finale, in particular seeing Starlight and her band of friends hailed as heroes (in many ways it was a fun and silly contrast to the Season 2 "Star Wars" celebration for the Mane 6 in the season opener, particularly because Starlight's group is nowhere nearly as tight as the Mane 6 were by that point and probably never will be since the only two who see each other on a regular basis are Starlight and Trixie). That entire scene was executed very nicely; I was particularly pleased to see such a wide array of Equestrian citizens and their closest friends and allies mingling in the same spot, including the reformed Changelings and Crystal Ponies (though it was odd that neither Princess Cadance nor Shining Armor were there, though I'm guessing that's going to be explained in next week's episode based on the preview for it). But it was also important because Twili- ah screw it, no more beating around the bush, CELESTIA GOT SOME DAMN MEANINGFUL SCREENTIME!!!
Wowwwwwwwwwwww, you have no idea how great it was to write that. And seriously, I'm holding off talking about anything else good about this episode until I get this spiel about of the way. First of all, this is what I had to say about Celestia's treatment in Season 6 (and pretty much since Season 4) in my Season 6 review:
Oh me oh my, why can't poor Celly get any love on this show it seems? Between time and time again being incapable of actually solving a national crisis (a plot device that seems a bit tired at this point, I mean, it was ridiculously easy for the Changelings to capture both her and Princess Luna, buck, all of Equestria's royalty was bucking useless in that so I can only hope that that was one bucking stealthy operation the Changelings launched) and just disappearing for stretches at a time, this character just can't catch a break these days. Let's not forget that there was a time in this show where pretty much EVERY MAJOR EVENT revolved around Celestia to some extent. She was the main catalyst in sending Twilight to Ponyville and getting her to regularly learn lessons of friendship and report them to her, she bucking made Twilight a princess for crying out loud, and she's supposed to be her dearest mentor, and a mentor and leader to all ponies. Needless to say, since the end of Season 4, that has not been the case and it is NOTICEABLE!!! This is a character who is simply too big in her importance to both the show's setting and main characters to be ignored the way she has the last two seasons by the writers without it coming off as ridiculous. SHE CONTROLS THE BUCKING SUN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, AND YOU'RE TELLING ME THAT THE HIGH POINT OF HER SEASON WAS A GAG ABOUT HER BEING UNAMUSED IN "No Second Prances" IN WHICH SHE DIDN'T EVEN SAY A BUCKING WORD?!?! It's too much, at this point, it's simply too much. Many of us in the fandom have long been asking for more Celestia, going all the way back to the early seasons, but instead she just had her worst season ever and this NEEDS TO CHANGE!!! She needs an episode next season, to put it mildly, she simply does. Nicole Oliver for one is too good in this role to ignore, but back to the character herself, this is a character that deserves better! Princess Luna has rightfully had a character arc across all six of these seasons, Princess Cadance has even had a character arc and sometimes major appearances in episodes (even if she maybe hasn't ever faced a friendship problem, unless you count "The Times They Are a Changeling"), but Princess Celestia, the sole ruler of Equestria for 1000 years, STILL DOESN'T HAVE A SOLO EPISODE?!?!? BUCKING RIDICULOUS!!! Writers, at this point I'm just begging for anything, anything at all. A fun little slice-of-life episode, maybe about a day in the life of Celestia or a romp with some other character on some random adventure, more about her and Twilight's relationship, maybe a look into her own mind and what her own fears and insecurities are, SOMETHING, ANYTHING!!! But the show simply can't keep ignoring such a big character without it coming off as a major flaw, and until that changes, until Princess Celestia finally gets the proper attention she deserves in the show, even in just one episode focused on her as an actual main character, it will remain quite possibly the biggest long-standing flaw of the show, and it's a shame that a season that was so strong for the most part in its handling of new and old supporting characters was so marred by such a glaring absence.
Andddddddddddd... exhale. OK, it appears that the show runners at DHX have taken note of this... GLARING problem, to say the least. As you can see, Celestia's been getting the shaft, and the entire show was going to keep getting brought down for it if such an important character was continually treated so poorly. NOW, I am not yet letting them entirely off the hook because this was NOT a solo-Celestia episode. BUT she was more or less the season opener's deuteragonist, and that is much more than she has been in any single episode for a long, long, long, long, long, long, long time. So for that, major props DHX, I can only hope you're going to build off of this solid foundation of Celly-love and not just let it be a single bone thrown her way. Anyways, yeah, Celestia was great here (and it should be obvious from the title alone that she'd be a major character, I mean, ya know, "Celestial Advice" and all). This is a Celestia I've wanted to see in the show for a long time, with a combination of new character elements we learned about her along with old staples about her that we already loved. The second Twilight asked her for help, I already felt like the show had entered a comfort zone it hadn't been in in a longggggggggg time, too long, in fact. Frankly, it was just nice seeing the show do something it doesn't do enough anymore; have the main characters go to their elders for help. I know some people may be like, "Well, it's cliche or old fashioned," but come on, the main character of this show has a mentor who's over a thousand years old and has ruled Equestria, the greatest country in the entire show, most of her life in relative peace and harmony. The fact that she had barely sought her advice for any major decisions or friendship problems, onscreen, since pretty much becoming the Princess of Friendship (there were exceptions, but not enough), was not just criminal from a storytelling point of view, but stupid, ridiculously stupid. Too often for some time now either the characters have easily learned most lessons on their own, OR Twilight has taught them; I know the former is easy enough to accept for most friendship problems in this show (especially for the veteran members of the Mane 6), and that the latter makes sense in establishing Twilight as the Princess of Friendship in actions and not just in title, BUT come on, surely they could have found more for Celestia to do before now. Anyways, yes, Twilight asking Celestia for help and advice not only made sense, but was great to see, especially in getting to contrast how Celestia is as a teacher to Twilight vs. Twilight as a teacher to Starlight.
"I was not aware that I was an expression."
Best bucking line in the entire premiere!!!
She really just forgot which kitchen her cake was in that day
Most of the time Celestia was just calmly listening to Twilight, and when she spoke, it was only because she knew exactly what she needed to say, no more, no less (aside from an innocent joke here or there). Considering how many ponies she's ruled and helped in all her years, this makes a lot of sense; it's probably hard to phase Celestia with much at this point, and she knows the value of hearing all that you need to know before speaking one word. Twilight on the other hoof, when it comes to Starlight, is always either worried that she's not doing enough to mentor Starlight or doing too little. She's not the OCD wreck she used to be, but she will always have a natural inclination to have all her ducks in a row in any professional activity as Princess of Friendship, that's just who she is. An interesting Star Wars analogy occurred to me in thinking of this trio of ponies today: Celestia is very much a Yoda to Twilight's Obi Wan, the former serene and having the utmost confidence in both her students and how she teaches them, while the latter is obsessed with mastering and practicing and perfecting every last bit of whatever it is she's invested herself in to the fullest, and then again, and again, and again. Twilight too is Obi Wan to Starlight's Anakin, but that analogy works in a different way that I'll discuss later. Besides of course knowing exactly what Twilight needed to be told, Celestia gave us some wonderful backstory on both her buildup to sending Twilight to Ponyville (a decision that evidently took her quite some time, most likely months given both the obviously difficulty with which she made her decision as well as the fact that getting the library secured for Twilight must've involved at least some paperwork) and what she was experiencing emotionally in making that decision. She was as afraid for Twilight as she was herself, because it was clear that at that point, Twilight was one of her closest friends (though I got the feeling that Twilight probably didn't think of it in the same way at the time, more like at best a maternal, but first and foremost regal, mentor considering how little she understood about friendship at the time), and she had no way of knowing if somepony as close to her as her sister could truly be saved even after she returned. She had big plans for Twilight already, and unfortunately for her, those plans meant letting the wonderful status quo of having such a wonderful, dear friend by her side almost constantly come to an end. It was great seeing how painful and hard that was for Celestia, and added a level of vulnerability to her we've only rarely gotten to see. And of course, the experience allowed her to tell Twilight with the utmost confidence that part of being a great mentor in anything is knowing when your students are ready to cut loose on their own, no matter in what or how painful it may be for the mentor or student, or even downright scary. All around, I couldn't have asked for a more solid start to the season for Celestia, but that said, she still needs a solo episode at some point, so stick to it DHX, and hopefully you'll deliver just that this season.
AHA! BEHOLD, THE RETURN OF TROLLESTIA, BOW BEFORE HER, MORTALS!!!
As for the rest of the episode, it was all good stuff. Twilight's increasing, OCD paranoia about what could happen to Starlight on her own was hilarious, and the lesson she learned and actions she took as a result was great too. As far as I can tell, Starlight (while still living in Ponyville, which, given how quickly she decided to do that after they set up so much her getting sent away, felt like a bit of a cop out, even if I was happy for it) is no longer directly being mentored by Twilight about friendship. She'll still live in the castle for the time being, but there appears to be no fixed agenda for her, she's just going about learning how to be a better friend and maybe helping teach others along the way in her day-to-day business. Hopefully this means she might get paired with other members of the Mane 6 besides Twilight, because I would like to see her grow closer to the other Mane 6 individually, though I get the feeling that a huge portion of her adventures this season will be with Trixie. Basically she's kind of where Twilight was at somewhere around middle-to-end of Season 2 or Season 3, at least I think she is.
Dat's... also racist. Man, Twilight has some deep-seeded racial insecurities, doesn't she?
Discord, while hardly a villain, was quite a good troll here in setting off Twilight's latest freaking-out episode, and it was kinda nice seeing him for the most part just lightheartedly screwing around rather than making himself constantly the center of attention. He felt, oddly enough, like a more normal member of that crowd. The reformed Changelings were adorable and hilarious (though Thorax's voice really doesn't work with that beefed up new look, just doesn't sound right coming out of him), the Mane 6 had some OK bits, the animation was just lovely, Starlight and her friends were great, Spike was once again a low key voice of reason, and all in all everything here just worked. Very solid opening episode, I very much enjoyed watching how everything played out in this one.
Moving on to "All Bottled Up," the lesser of the two episodes, but not by much. I still thoroughly loved it very much, and for good reason. It still felt very much connected to the first episode in that here, we got to see what kind of life Starlight is beginning to make for herself now that she's no longer directly reporting to Twilight on a regular basis. It seems she's starting by trying to teach her best friend, Trixie, how to be better at magic in general (since, to be honest, Trixie could stand to improve by quite a bit). This actually presented quite a few contrasts between Starlight and Twilight that I rather enjoyed and which fit very much into how we've seen both of them develop as characters. Going back to the Star Wars analogies, Twilight is the Obi-Wan to Starlight's Anakin in the magical department in the sense that, as far as we know, Starlight's the more powerful of the two when it comes to raw power. Let's keep in mind that when Twilight battled her in Season 5, Twilight was an alicorn and had (and probably still has) more book-learning about magic than Starlight did, and yet somehow Starlight stayed on par with her. Twilight is the learning obsessed master of technique who's greatest skill in mastering anything magical is doing so by practicing it 200 times a day and just getting it down to a T. Hence, Obi-Wan. Starlight, on the other hand, seems to have greater raw power and while she is still probably even in power with Twilight, the fact that she is as a unicorn is ridiculous to say the least and goes to show just what kind of stuff she's made of. While Twilight's calling is clearly as the Princess of Friendship (and that certainly involves plenty of magic, especially since friendship is probably the most powerful magic in Equestria, literally), Starlight, I get the feeling, may eventually go into a more explicitly magical field. I just don't see her being a friendship teacher in the same way Twilight is. As far as friends go, Twilight was not a natural leader to begin with. She was a recluse and anti-social, so it makes sense that like everything else, she taught friendship when she got into it like a project that she had to master through as much study and repetition as possible. Don't get me wrong, she's a great friend, but there are many ways in which she still approaches friendship as she has from the beginning, and it's for those reasons that she's the glue that holds together a group like the Mane 6. Starlight, on the other hoof, IS a natural leader it seems, or at least we have seen that she possesses the will to be. Her problem with friendship was insecurity, not disinterest, and there will probably always be a part of her that fears that she could hurt others if she isn't careful because of her past mistakes. Hence, I foresee her never having a Mane 6 group like Twilight, and frankly I'm OK with that. The show really doesn't need such an arrangement for any reason, it would come off as tired and lazy, and it just doesn't fit Starlight. She will have friends, but unlike Twilight, her closest friends won't be a big group that all are dear to each other as well; her friendships are going to be fewer and far more personal to Starlight, one-on-one so to speak. I mean, to date, it seems that her three truly closest friends are Trixie, Sunburst, and Spike, none of whom are friends with each other in particular (not in the same way at least). Trixie is her best friend, Sunburst is more of a very close childhood friend, and Spike is like a combination of mentor and little brother. Twilight is a super close friend too, but more as a mentor, and to this day you always get the sense that ever since the end of Season 5 Starlight's been kind of in awe of Twilight and in no way considers herself to be on the same level as her as a friend. What I like about this is that it highlights that there are all kinds of different ways to have friends in one's life (something the show has highlighted many times, but this is particularly noteworthy since it's main characters we're talking about). Some people have a solid group like Twilight and the Mane 6, others have few friends but super close ones like Starlight and Trixie. Valuable lesson to be taught, even if it was only in the background here.
So the actual lesson was pretty great too (if a bit obvious). Starlight was literally bottling her anger at Trixie because she feared that if she blew her top at her, Trixie wouldn't want to be her friend anymore. This was a little confusing because I'm pretty sure they've had spats before of some kind, but it largely worked because, just like some of Twilight's early friendship problems in Season 1 when she knew little about friendship, Starlight too is still super cautious when it comes to aspects of friendship that she doesn't understand. The idea that getting into a fight with your best friend is OK was clearly bizarre to her, and Trixie's ego probably didn't help convince her she'd take Starlight being angry at her OK. But in the end, doing so only made things worse, and Starlight and Trixie were able to come to an understanding that sometimes, friends need to be brutally honest with each other, and even if they fight as a result, that doesn't mean things won't be OK between them in the end. A good, if simple, lesson, but it got the job done.
The real highlights of this episode were the entertaining bits, and boy were there a lot. Trixie was insufferable (even more than usual) in this episode, but hilariously so (her predilection for junkfood seems to be becoming something of a running gag, and I nearly fell out of my seat when she birthed an Eldritch horror in that teacup poodle and insisted that a bag of pretzels were a suitable replacement for homemade teacupcakes... twice). It's nice to see that certain aspects of her personality haven't changed, that her magic is getting better (though there are still things she just bucks up for the strangest of reasons... I think she might be a magical klutz), and hopefully she might even start embarking on more of a character arc than she has to date as, possibly, a developing main character!
Pffftttt, OK, in all honesty, she kind of needed a nut cart to be thrown on top of her at some point in this episode... which thankfully happened. Cheeky little bastard used up about 50 too many of her Get Out of Jail Free cards. Also...
DAT'S A LOTTA NUTS!!!
Spike was very solid here; I love seeing him as now the most low key member of the main characters, and his rapport with Starlight remains fun to watch as he throws out good advice to her here and there, but nowhere near as pushy as Twilight would. Also, his terror of Trixie's magic and her wanting to use him as a teleportation guinea pig was hilarious. The Mane 6's subplot (while largely pointless) was pretty funny. I loved their assistant who clearly knew who they were and just didn't give a buck because he most likely gets paid two bits an hour to do this s*** all day for whoever comes through, and his pleasure at their two second failure at the end was amazing. The song they sang was pretty standard, but was amazing payoff as a joke set up earlier by Starlight that they'd most likely sing a song at some point; really, it was just that standard because the show was being self aware in that moment how cliche this is (there really was no good reason that the girls would sing a song about something so banal as beating a fun puzzle game), and the best part of all was the fact that they sung that song in real time is what kept them from beating the course record. Amazing payoff to a greatly set up joke, and it's great to see that the show runner's still have no problem poking fun at themselves and their beloved show now and then when it's warranted or just in harmless fun.
And finally, Bulk Biceps, Granny Smith, and that... new townspony, whoever she was, were all hilarious, both before and when they got possessed by Starlight's bottled up anger. If I had any complaints, it was simply that we've never seen Starlight's anger manifest as a magical entity, and probably won't ever again, so where the buck did that actually come from here? But other than that, this was a pair of lovely episodes to kick off what will hopefully prove to be another wonderful season of MLP:FiM. Join me again next week everypony when I review the next new episode of Season 7. Until then, this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*