Good afternoon, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"! Today I'm taking a look at the latest Season 7 episode to debut in the U.S., "Forever Filly," a fun, albeit flawed, little slice-of-life episode. Aside from this being noteworthy as being the first Rarity and technically CMC episode this season, there's not much else to say prior to getting into the review proper, so without further ado, let's begin. This is "Forever Filly."
So for the most part almost everything in this episode worked, but in the end I found myself simply thinking of it as good, not great. This isn't on account of any kind of infuriating, obvious flaw, but rather something a little less noticeable and more subtle: the conflict set-up. Not the conflict itself, mind you, in fact this conflict is actually a fairly common one in movies and television. All we're dealing with here, in multiple plot arcs no less, is the "such and such loved one has gotten older and changed quite a bit and I haven't even noticed, and not only do I still want to treat them like I did when they were younger, but I'm also not ready to accept that they're older and have changed." It's a super common story trope, especially in long-running shows where characters have presumably gotten older (you've probably seen such an episode in more than one family sitcom before, usually involving some staple child character in the show getting older, graduating, heading off to college, getting married, etc., or even say a wedding movie where the focus is on the parents of the groom or bride). Heck, really this kind of story even falls into the broader category of the "coming of age" story, and is just one particular way of telling it, namely from the perspective not of the character who is coming of age, but of someone close to them watching them come of age.
Here's the problem. It's not that the conflict in and of itself was a bad one in its premise, it's that it wasn't executed properly, and I think I know why. Poor pacing made certain character decisions seem impulsive and poorly thought out. Rarity went from being perfectly level-headed in her business dealings in the very opening of the episode to being an emotional wreck all in a span of five seconds, and then spent the rest of the episode acting as though she hadn't seen Sweetie Belle in years. Likewise, Zipporwhill (voiced again by, of course, Tabith St. Germain, because I swear if there's a character who needs a hilariously over-the-top or unusual voice, Tabitha is their go-to gal to voice her) seemed to be confronted with a problem that really shouldn't be a problem for her. I mean, her cutie mark is presumably because she has some kind of talent at connecting with dogs, so one has to ask why such a pony wouldn't understand the notion of dogs growing up and their behavior changing as they get older? I mean, don't get me wrong, I liked how her subplot tied into the final lesson, but more so because of how things wrapped up, not because of the conflict itself. That conflict too was poor in its set-up because it just didn't seem like Zipporwhill, even if she is still a filly, even if this is her own pet we're talking about whom she has an emotional connection to, should have a problem figuring out what her dog wants when that is presumably her talent and she knows this already because she has her cutie mark. And I mean seriously, it's a dog, plenty of dogs play with toys that they had as puppies if it's one of their favorites, and not to be mean to dogs or anything, but they're pretty simple in their wants and needs, they're nowhere near as picky as cats can be. But the bigger problem with this subplot is that ultimately its presence forced the main conflict to be rushed in its own execution, which is why Rarity came across as being so impulsive and irrational in some of her decision-making. If they'd simply removed the subplot, then they could have had a more basic but also more properly executed episode where Rarity had more time to set the conflict up and get it resolved. She could have set up spending a day with her sister but not so frantically in the show's opening minutes, not as such an emotional wreck, and everything would have come across as feeling a bit more real in execution. The ideas they were dealing with here are very realistic and relatable, I think everyone at some point (or multiple points) will realize that time has gone by quicker than they thought and that someone or something in their life has gotten far older than they used to be or changed a lot. But again, the problem is that because they jammed a plot and a sub-plot together in order to teach the lesson, the conflict set-up in both plot and sub-plot felt rushed, forced, and a bit unrealistic. The conflict set-up and pacing problems didn't ruin the episode or anything, they just kept an episode that was good to very good from being great, and that's just a bit of a shame.
OK Jeric, this question is for you in particular; can't you just see Tabitha making this actual face in the recording booth? I mean, seriously, I'm picturing it and it just makes so much sense for her. I wouldn't be surprised if they animated it around whatever face she was making as she read the line.
So what did I like here? Oh, a whole lot, believe me, I liked a ton. I did enjoy that they picked Rarity to have this conflict rather than Applejack; at first I thought AJ would be a better pick, but then I realized that AJ had to grow up from an early age (assuming her parents are dead) and would probably be more prepared for Apple Bloom getting older than Rarity was with Sweetie Belle. Her problem is over-protectiveness, not coddling, when it comes to being a big sister. Rarity, on the other hoof, moved out of the house at a pretty early age it seems, and didn't really grow closer to Sweetie Belle until Season 2 after the Sister Hooves Social. Unlike Applejack, who sees family all the time, Rarity is a character who it would be easy for time to get away from between her adventures with the Mane 6 and all of her business ventures, even after she's gotten closer to Sweetie Belle. So both the conflict makes sense for her, as do the emotional bouts; I just thought they happened too quickly, but really I have no problem with how emotional Rarity got over all of this because that does fit her character. I just wish such emotion had been more built up and better paced, like the episode would have been better served starting with Rarity worriedly realizing she hadn't spent enough time with Sweetie Belle lately, but getting more emotional when she realized there was so much about Sweetie growing up that she'd missed. But nonetheless, I like seeing focus placed on Rarity and Sweetie Belle's sisterhood, I liked this particular conflict, I liked that Rarity was put into this position both because it makes sense for her and for whatever reason seeing a character who in her own life (despite having a flamboyant personality) is usually so put-together and in control realize that there was so much she didn't know about someone so important to her, it just felt right. It resonated, it made this message all the more powerful because it helped further illustrate that life can get away from all of us, even those of us who think we've got everything figured out (contrasting the lesson she learned with how put together Rarity is in running the Canterlot Boutique in the opening scene is a perfect example of this). So aside from what I already highlighted as things that didn't work, I thought that Rarity was great here on the whole and loved that she was chosen for this particular type of episode.
Sweetie Belle was another highlight, mostly in how she helped resolve the episode in the end but also because it was nice seeing the show recognize that there has been quite a passage of time since the start of the show and that characters have gotten older. Now it would be nice if her actual body got bigger, or if they didn't make things confusing by making it seem as though Rarity hasn't seen Sweetie Belle in years, but still, I liked what we got here all the same. The recognition of this passage of time was nice (which might have been further reinforced by how big Ripley, Zipporwhill's dog, now is as well as how much lower Zipporwhill's voice is than it was in her first episode back in Season 4), and I'd love to see more of it, especially in relation to the CMC. It was nice too that Sweetie Belle didn't really get unduly mad at Rarity; sure she got mad, but not in a "Sister Hooves Social you're not my sister anymore, I hate you" kind of way, but more in a "we're sisters and you're frustrating me right now as only a sister could, so while I'll forgive you later, sorry but we're having a beef right now" kind of way. She still helped Rarity learn her lesson indirectly (while learning it herself as well) by showing Zipporwhill what to do about Ripley, and even before getting mad she appreciated what Rarity was trying to do, just not how she was doing it. Overall, this was just a very good example of how to show that a young character has gotten older in a show without being too flagrant about it; granted, I still argue that her body needs to get bigger because hearing things like Sweetie Belle is into experimental theater while still being as small as she ever has been is just a bit ridiculous and makes it harder to accept, but this was a very nice start and it works with how Claire Corlett's voice has changed over the years as well (though as a quick aside, I must say that Michelle Creber's voice sounds even older now than Claire's does, good Lord writers, PLEASE make the CMC bigger already!).
This shot is seriously cute, and while it initially may seem a bit OOC for Rarity, c'mon, she's bonding with her sister, siblings do things they don't typically do with each other all the time. Speaking as an older brother, I can totally buy it.
Besides our two main characters, it was cool seeing the CMC finding new ways to assist ponies, namely in helping a pony like Zipporwhill who already has her cutie mark but felt disconnected from her special talent. Granted it was imperfectly executed, but I like the idea because it makes sense that they won't always be showing ponies what to do to get their cutie marks (though I guess they already kinda did this with Bulk Biceps). Zipporwhill's return was completely unexpected and, aside from the problems I already cited with her subplot, worked entirely for me, especially her lower voice; whether this was because she's older now or because the writer's decided the original pitch her voice was at in Season 4 was just ridiculous, doesn't matter to me, because it was a far better sounding voice than her original one and Tabitha did a great job with her accent. Finally, Sassy Saddles for the little she was in the episode at the beginning was fantastic. Her rapport with Rarity is great and I loved the little we got to see of the two of them working together, two ponies simultaneously very similar and very different in their talents and abilities and who when they're at the top of their game can equally appreciate what the other does in their establishment. Some of Rarity's failed attempts to bond with Sweetie Belle were pretty funny, particularly the photo shoot, but others felt a tad ridiculous and forced, like the puppet show or the balloon-making scene.
I did seriously love this scene
I must also note that it's bizarre, now that we've seen Ripley age, that other pets like Winona have not visibly aged. Still, the recognition of the passage of time in this episode, as well as its lesson of appreciating different stages of life while you have them (including for people in your life) because before you know it, they're gone, but when they are gone all you can do is appreciate what you have now rather than bemoan not having what was in the past anymore, that was all great and I appreciate it very much. It leaves me slightly hopeful that at some point the show might just be willing to tackle the subject of death and loss on that level, possibly in relation to the Apples, but at the same time I know realistically that that remains a long shot. All in all, this is a good to very good episode held back by a few very particular but not very maddening flaws, but important flaws nonetheless. I'm sure I'll enjoy rewatching it, but it certainly won't be an instant classic in my book either. That's all I've got for you this week everypony, thank you for your patience in waiting for my review, and I'll see you next week (probably late again as well since I might have work on Saturday). Till next time, this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*
But it's OK, cause they're Best Sisters Friends Forever!!! But yeah, seriously, diabetes for sure...