Ya know, switching their coffee instead of their cutie marks might have honestly been a more dangerous move on Starlight's part
Good afternoon, everypony, and welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews"!!! Well, after the horror that was "Hard to Say Anything," and the mixed results of "Honest Apple," we needed something extra special to wipe the bade taste of those two episodes out of our mouths. After today's episode, I am very happy to say that we got just that and so much more! "A Royal Problem" is easily, for me at least, the best episode of Season 7 so far, and the only disappointing thing about it at all is that since it premiered early in Canada, pretty much half of the brony fandom has known how great it is for weeks and let the other brony fandom know early on just how great it was. It's a very little thing to complain about, I know, but it really would have been nicer if the episode had debuted in both Canada and the U.S. at the same time so that the majority of bronies would have seen it at the same time. Still, if that's my sole complaint, you just know we must be in for quite a treat, right? Right you are, so without further ado, let's dive into a truly spectacular episode, this is "A Royal Problem."
NOTE: Because this episode is complex in content but simple in the number of pieces involved in its execution, this review will largely be divvied up into the main players involved, that being (1) Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, (2) Starlight Glimmer, and (3) Twilight Sparkle. Miscellaneous items will be covered towards the end of the review, but the meat of the review will be found in covering these three characters.
The Royal Sisters: Princess Celestia and Princess Luna
So despite the Cutie Mark Map and Starlight Glimmer initiating this episode, this episode is really about Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. As you can see below, I've labeled Starlight Glimmer not as the "Problem Resolver," but rather the "Problem Confronter," and that's because she really doesn't resolve things, and honestly that's not a bad thing. I'll go into more detail about that later, but really, the primary actors here are Celestia and Luna, because ultimately they have to be the ones who resolve their differences.
Before I go any further, let me first just say that it is about damn time we FINALLY got an episode focused on both of these two, especially Celestia. While Celestia did have a great appearance in the season premiere, it was still in the same role we've always largely seen her in, that of mentor; while it makes sense that Luna has had more appearances to date since she does have more personal issues to tackle than her sister, pretending like Celestia had no issues of her own would have risked making her out to be a Mary Sue. While I still don't think that Celestia has as much to deal with in her personal life as her sister does, it is nice to finally see her flawed side as well, and really I just want to see even more after this of these two just doing sister-things together.
But back to the meat of things. What is the problem they need to deal with? Basically a sibling problem. No really, that's it. Even after Luna's return, they still haven't learned how to truly appreciate each other, mostly on a professional level. They clearly love each other, but they run into a problem that many siblings can run into as they get older, busier, and more distant (while these two live in the same castle, they run an entire country and celestial bodies, so it's not hard to see how they might be more distant even living in such close proximity to each other): they fall out of touch with each other's lives, what the other is up to, the challenges and struggles they face on a daily basis, what their priorities and schedules are, and just forgetting how to make time for each other in general. It's actually a very understandable problem especially for people who have siblings (especially those in two-child households like myself); keep in mind, in a two-child household with siblings not that far apart in age, your sibling is probably your first best friend, but also someone who as a kid you most likely live with on a daily basis and the best friend you are least worried about getting into spats big and small with because you know that, unless something REALLY bad happens, you'll still be loving each other at the end of the day. After years of living together, you can easily take for granted the time you get to spend with one another, but before you know it you're growing up, moving away, and seeing each other far less than you used to. This can be even harder than seeing parents less, because just as you tell or do things with parents that you wouldn't do with anybody else, you also talk about or do things with your sibling that you wouldn't do with anyone else, and they get you in a way that not even your parents can since they're usually pretty close to you in age.
So they're distant and don't appreciate what the other goes through on a regular basis, seems easy enough to resolve, right? Well, not really, especially for these two. I would argue that since they're the rulers of all of bucking Equestria, they like to think that this was either a problem that would either fix itself, or was not even a problem at all, just something they could ignore. Most of the time in their daily lives they have to worry about what they can do for others, not necessarily what they need for themselves. This made it easy for these issues to slip under their radar, though it's not untrue to siblings either; siblings often let problems between each other fester under the surface until they can't any long and they just explode. This seems to be where Celestia and Luna were heading before Starlight intervened, and thank goodness she did because who knows how things may have exploded if she hadn't. What doesn't help is that they literally operate polar-opposite daily schedules (although this episode left me confused as ever as to how much Luna does typically stay awake during the day; Celestia clearly sleeps at night, but Luna often makes daytime appearances, so what the buck is it? I suppose that the most likely possibility is that she gets 7-8 hours of sleep after going to bed somewhere around 7 or 8 am, which would mean that the latest she's waking up typically would be at 4 pm, with possible exceptions to that rule, of course. And if the situation really calls for it on special occasions, I'm sure she can get up around noon or early afternoon for special events and get some shuteye later in the day too), so they really only see each other normally in the morning, late afternoon, or early evening, and even then they're usually super busy. They do, it should be noted, both do little kindnesses for the other, something which in my experience as a sibling older ones often do since they no longer have 24 hours a day to do something nice for their sibling; Celestia makes pancakes every morning for Luna, which always goes unacknowledged since Luna is really too tired to care and just wants to get to sleep, and Luna tries to make the castle as peaceful a place for others to sleep as possible, which Celestia can never really notice or acknowledge since she's usually still busy with kingdom affairs and is on her last leg of the day by that point.
After figuring out that this is how the situation is (doing some very good research I might add), Starlight of course does her old cutie mark-switcheroo on the two so that they have to see for at least a day how the other has to live their lives and what kind of struggles they have to put up with, just so they can appreciate what the other goes through. Just what do they find out? Basically that they have an older sibling-younger sibling dispute very much rooted in an old trope about older and younger siblings, that being who they are as a result of how they grew up. Luna learns that Celestia, as the older sibling who has always taken the lead being the face of the two, largely has to devote most of her time and energy to fulfilling societal expectations, very similar to how older siblings and firstborns may often feel more pressure from their parents to succeed professionally. Celestia needs to constantly worry about where she's going to be next, who she needs to help her with something, who needs her help, and doing all of this with the same calming, serene smile on all the time, even if it's not what she's feeling at the moment. After a thousand years she's great at it, but what she's come to take for granted is the idea that her life is as hard as it could get. What she craves from Luna is just some quiet moments where just the two of them can slow down and not be so perfect, just sisters doing sister things. Celestia in turn starts to learn that Luna, as the younger sibling who has never garnered as much attention as her elder sister, largely devotes most of her time and energy to working behind the scenes, doing her most good in the Dreamscape, where she can assist ponies one-on-one in the deepest depths of their psyche. She no longer craves the praise of her subjects as she once did before becoming Nightmare Moon, in fact she seems rather comfortable with working alone (something Princess Celestia clearly is not), but, as the more neglected publicly of the two, Luna resembles very much the archetype of the younger sibling whose parents put less pressure on them than their older sibling to succeed, and as a result they can often feel neglected. Like this archetype, Luna does not seek affirmation from her subjects, at this point she just wants to help them (emphasized nicely by how much her botch of the fundraiser for a field trip for a bunch of foals bothered her so), but she does seek affirmation from those closest to her, and since her parents aren't still around, that happens to be her sister, her elder sibling and in a sense a semi-parental figure to a certain extent.
After seeing what could be the extreme result of not resolving this problem, that being the return of Nightmare Moon and the emergence of Celestia's own dark side, Daybreaker (an extreme fear no doubt, especially considering Starlight is the one who dreamt it up, but nonetheless not outside the realm of possibility with such powerful beings), Celestia manages to defeat their demonic dream-selves (which works for me considering I would argue that Luna was having a harder time personally dealing with Celestia's neglect, or at least it was hurting her more, while Luna's neglect of Celestia was something Celestia was just trying to bury under a smile, not exactly too hard for her after centuries of wearing smiles day-in and day-out), and the two sisters proclaim and reaffirm their love for one another, resolving to make things right and make time for one another no matter how busy they may be, since, well, there's no pony more special to them than each other. Their relationship is too unique and precious to squander, and you get the sense that even though it will be a lot of little things making up the bulk of it, that alone will be enough for those two to show each other how much the other truly does love them, plus it should make it easier to go about their own business every day. A fantastic lesson learned by two characters who, although not the biggest messes in the world since they are so mature from centuries of life, do deserve more development than they have gotten considering they are easily two of the most complex characters on the show. What more can I say other than everything with these two was perfection, plain and simple.
The Problem Confronter: Starlight Glimmer
There's not nearly as much to say about Starlight or Twilight, thankfully, but both did have pretty great episodes in their own ways. For Starlight, this was the very first time the Cutie Mark Map has called her, and to top it off in another first it called her alone, the first time it has called anyone alone. While this could have potentially fallen into the trap of "Ohhhhhhhh, Starlight Glimmer is too special to go with anypony else to solve a friendship problem," it actually was executed great here and made perfect sense. We know the map seems to understand how both a character's strengths and weaknesses can help resolve a conflict, and it even seems to have some innate sense of how delicate situations may be. In this case, the problem did not need someone who was going to be able to actively teach Celestia and Luna what they were doing wrong (not entirely at least) so much as somepony who could confront the problem in the first place, make it known to Celestia and Luna that they were having problems. Starlight was oddly well-positioned for this; unlike Twilight she didn't have any particularly close attachment to Celestia or Luna, but she's about as observant and measured as Twilight can be as well, making her ideal for identifying that a problem exists in the first place, studying the situation more closely, identifying what the problem is, and confronting both sisters about it. She was also ideal, oddly enough, for forcing these two to confront their problem head on, more so because of who she is than anything else. It's not hard for Starlight to imagine worst case scenarios, but for very different reasons than Twilight; Twilight almost always considers in even the most banal situations what a worst case scenario could be just because it's who she is. It's just another thing on her checklists that she takes into account. Starlight, on the other hand, tries not to worry about worst case scenarios most of the time because if she does, she knows that she's going to spiral into a deep spell of depression and anxiety. Why? Because she was at the heart of a worst case scenario when she was a tyrant and almost destroyed Equestria to boot. Normally she has a pretty good lid on these anxieties, but it's not hard to see why she easily fell into these anxieties here. After all, she was dealing with a problem that not even Twilight herself had ever confronted involving the two most powerful rulers in all of Equestria, so given that her frighteningly real (to her) nightmare involved the Royal Sisters spiraling in their hatred for each other into Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, it's clear that she would have held such a scenario to be her own failure. Her anxiety inadvertently forced Celestia and Luna to remember how much their subjects depend on them, which means they even depend on the two of them maintaining harmony between one another. So while she may not have ultimately taught them the lesson or fixed things single-hoofedly, Starlight nonetheless was the best pony to initiate the confrontation of and resolution of Celestia and Luna's squabbling, even if she herself quickly realized that it would take them more than her since she was, even early on, quite in over her head. A very good episode for Starlight all around, in a very odd way at that considering her ultimate contributions were, to a certain extent, pretty limited beyond giving Celestia and Luna the tools to patch things up between one another.
Starlight Glimmer looks far cuter while eating pancakes than anypony should, at least for the sake of the audiences' health
The Beleaguered Comic Relief: Twilight Sparkle
This episode found Twilight in a place we very rarely see her, especially these days: primary comic relief while being a supporting character! It's rare enough for her to be the primary comic relief in an episode nowadays, but usually even when she is she's still the main character. Here she was most definitely a supporting character and very deliberately did not have anything much to contribute towards fixing things, which is where most of her humor stemmed from. We already know that Twilight absolutely hates the idea that there are problems she can't help out with or tackle herself, but it was even more maddening for her to think that there might be something wrong with her precious mentor and her sister which she could not help resolve. Of course, the fact that Celestia is such a beloved mentor to her is exactly why she couldn't help; she hold Celestia on a pedestal, even more than most ponies typically do, and while this usually isn't a problem, here it would have been. Compounded with the fact that she has had to help Luna with many personal problems in the past, it's not hard to imagine that Twilight could have easily thought that Luna alone was to blame for these problems, not the both of them.
Thankfully, her displeasure and anxiety at these circumstances leads to some splendid OCD-Twilight freakout moments. The best running gag of the whole episode (and one of the funniest running gags this whole season so far) was the spell Twilight used to animate some kind of ballet figurine on a music box or something, which ended up being as hilarious as it was creepy. I especially enjoyed that the Royal Guards by Starlight could easily hear her talking to Twilight and thought that she was going insane. Besides that, Twilight didn't do much else but spend most of the episode freaking out, but to her credit she did trust the map and let Starlight go on her own in the first place, and it's not like she gave Starlight any bad advice, even if none of her advice turned out particularly helpful either. All in all, while hardly a serious appearance for Twilight, it was a splendidly funny one!
I like to think that Twilight was freaking out from this so much that she spent about two straight days maintaining that spell so that she never missed a moment that Starlight was in her room... 'tis a most amusing thought, indeed!
-The pacing of this episode was absolutely fantastic and proof that fast-paced does not always equal frantic or dumbed down. There was a ton to fit into this one, but the episode managed to do so without ever feeling like it rushed or didn't cover something properly by largely staying on point, not having any subplot outside of the few times Twilight conversed with Starlight, and keeping the focus on a handful of characters. Excellently fast-paced episode and kudos to the writers on a job well done there!
-I love little details like the fact that Celestia makes pancakes (or some kind of nice breakfast) every morning. While it initially might sound like some kind of Mary Sue character trait, it actually invites closer inspection from the viewer. Upon further consideration, it does not seem like Celestia makes her other meals on a regular basis (probably because she's so busy normally during lunch and dinner, and run-ragged by the time dinner arrives), just breakfast. I like this detail for a couple of reasons. For starters, it probably started as something she did because she knows the value of a good breakfast for starting your day off right, and eventually it warped into a peaceful little routine of hers that she seems to enjoy doing by herself. A little something that's only hers and helps her start her day off right. Considering this, it makes her gesture of making Luna breakfast every morning all the more touching; it's clearly a nice little way she tried to reconnect with her sister, even if Celestia focused more on its convenience for her as well as what it means to her rather than if it would make any sense to her sister.
Mmmmmmmm... hey, Celly, if Luna doesn't want any I'll totally have some panca-
Damn it, Celly, don't just throw the pancakes away! I'm sure one of your servants or guards would enjoy what appear to be heavenly pancakes!!!
-Speaking of breakfast, I kind of adore that Luna just DOESN'T do breakfast. Don't get me wrong, I love breakfast and it's sad that anyone wouldn't enjoy it, but let's keep in mind what it means to Luna. Let's say ponies are typically in bed between 9 and 10 (late night exceptions notwithstanding). That means Luna is working essentially a 10 hour shift in which she's monitoring the dreams of every pony in Equestria, one-on-one. By the time she gets off, breakfast to her is the same as what dinner is to some poor schmuck who just worked a full shift and is getting home after 8 pm, ready to have nothing but a frozen meal he can make in five minutes and just fuel himself with. I absolutely died when she bit right into the side of a pineapple and ate a banana peel (girl must have a stomach of steel, though I couldn't help but think she was also trying to spite Celestia just a tad both times), and her I don't give a buck face made it even better! The cherry on top was when she made the shittiest pancakes ever, which again, makes sense, but hopefully from this point on she'll be more willing to have actually good breakfasts with her sister, and get to spend some quality time with her to boot.
She either REALLY hates pancakes, really hates Celestia's pancakes, or just wanted to prove how much stronger her bite strength is than Celestia's. JAWS OF STEEL ON THAT MARE!!!
AND A STOMACH OF STEEL TO BOOT! That's just... noooooooooo, Luna, noooooooooo. Why you do that poor banana that way, what that banana ever do to you?
Also, dat sibling death glare... drink it in, folks, because it is terrifying. Note to self, NEVER say no to Celestia's pancakes.
-The 'talking to themselves' bit between Celestia and Luna was handled masterfully. If they'd done it poorly, we would have seen Luna doing it earlier, then Celestia, THEN they would have been like at the end "Were you talking to yourself???" But the way they did it here was so much better. We first saw Celestia doing so when she was trying to do Luna's duties, which was made even funnier considering you realized just how much she relies in her professional work on working with others, and how weird working in solitude is for her. But when Luna said to her at the end "Did you talk to yourself," that suggested that Luna does the same, and I LOVED that that's how they showed us that. Heck, I could totally relate because I ALWAYS talk to myself, in fact, I love it, I don't understand why some people think it's weird talking to yourself when you're all alone. Heck, it's my favorite time to vent about anything because I don't have to lash out with my most extreme emotions at anyone when they're actually there.
-I really need to know now if Twilight really does know ballet. I know it's just the object she was using, but she looks too cute in a ballet outfit for me not to know.
-Luna's dream was bucking terrifying. Between the creepy foals surrounding her in a dimly lit room and her bucking TEETH falling out, holy shit, that was all downright bone-chilling. That was wayyyyyy creepier than anything in Starlight's dream.
-Daybreaker has a very distinct personality from both Nightmare Moon and Celestia. She's about as campy and over-the-top as Nightmare Moon, but just as Nightmare Moon as a lot of the same self esteem issues as Luna, Daybreaker takes Celestia's general confidence to an extraordinary level of contemptuousness and pride. Like Celestia, she is very sure of herself, but in a prideful manner that leads her to reject the notion of needing anyone else at all, and only needing power. Whereas Nightmare Moon in a twisted sort of way still wants to be loved, even if it means enslaving ponies into loving her out of fear, Daybreaker couldn't care less what others think of her and is clearly happy to just flaunt her power. Overall, whereas Nightmare Moon represents a cold, distant Order based on devotion to her and her cold, distant Moon alone, conversely Daybreaker represents a fiery, raging Chaos based on trampling all who would dare challenge her or just the idea that she couldn't handle and control everything there was to handle with her power and her Sun. Her design was pretty awesome too, while I'm at it, and it was great seeing the show daring to go such a dark place as it did in Starlight's nightmare.
"Mwahahahahahah, bow before me mortals, behold all these flame wars on Twitter I totally started! See the destruction I have wrought online and quiver in fear of my ability to anger others with my unbearable s***-talking and trolling ways!!! NYANYANYANYANYANYANYAAAAAAAAAAAAA, I'M SO EVIL!!!"
Sweet Celestia, she truly is an unspeakable evil unlike any other!
-I really want Celestia's pancakes now because they looked so delicious. Also, I think this might explain why Twilight loves pancakes.
Luna's, on the other hoof, I will pass on
"Oh... they're... lovely, Luna."
"Oh I know they're not, I just wanted you to have as s**tty a breakfast as I usually do!"
-The dream bubbles floating past Celestia was one of the best parts of the whole episode. On the funny side of things, we got (1) Discord in a pillow fight with the Smooze, (2) Cadance jamming out with DJ Flurry Heart (and I have no bucking idea who was dreaming that one), (3) Pinkie Pie surfing on Gummy, (4) Fluttershy on a giant Angel Bunny (come to think of it, the idea of a giant Angel Bunny is kind of terrifying), (5) Flim and Flam swimming in loads of bits Scrooge McDuck style, and (6) best of all, HER ROYAL LORDSHIP, EMPRESS DERPY, FIRST OF HER NAME, LONG MAY SHE REIGN!!! On the sadder side of things, we had (1) Doctor Whooves with what appeared to be a Weeping Angel, and (2) most bucking importantly of all, APPLEJACK AS A BABY CRADLED IN THE ARMS OF HER PARENTS!!! I don't know if AJ was dreaming this or if Granny Smith was, but this is the closest we've ever come to seeing them, and it's as important as it is sad. Her dad appears to be pear green (very much like Granny Smith) and her mother appears to be grey or tan. Very similar to some of the background information we got about Derpy and other characters in "Parental Glideance," this has just put the death of AJ's parents once again front and center to AJ's character, and central to how she's turned out like she has. If this is supposed to be set-up for the episode later on this season which will be focused on how her parents met, I have to say that I am loving it DHX, please give me MORE!
-Luna getting tired from smiling was too funny. Don't have much else beyond that, I just think it was hilarious how hard it was for her to do it all day.
-I love that both Celestia and Luna turned on their sibling-sass the second they switched places and made it a competition as to who could handle the other's duties most easily. That's just such a sibling thing to do and I could easily see myself doing that with my sister in similar circumstances.
-Starlight's "Heheheheheheh, oh buck, I may have just pissed off the two most powerful rulers in the world, please don't blast my flank to the moon or the sun" face after impulsively switching Celestia and Luna's cutie marks was perfect and I don't blame her for freaking out after what she did.
Dat moment you're this close to getting sent to the moon and the sun at the same time
-Luna's facial expressions, particularly whenever she was tired in the morning after a long night of working, were too funny and I could look at them all day!
"Get that bucking thing outta my face."
"I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!"
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, memories... this makes me want to start randomly poking my sister in the arm for no reason other than to her annoy her
And now, Batbrony proudly presents, "Drunk Luna Ain't Got Time For Your S***"
"Ah will boop you whenever I want as much as I want, Miss Twilight-Sparkle-with-Aqua-Highlights! Ya know why? Cause I'm the bucking Princess of the Night and just spent a whole night protecting your dreams AGAIN! If ah wanted to, I could let your dreams drive you BUCKING insane with a flick of my wrist, no joke, you want Lovecraftian horrors up the ying yang, well that's what you'll get if you don't GIVE ME MAH BOOPS!!!"
"I don't understand, I just asked her if she could pass an apple over!"
"Well that was your real mistake, Luna's very protective of her fruit."
-I very much liked that neither Celestia or Luna were completely bad at what the other did. Luna only screwed up at two tasks while doing just fine with the others and ultimately Celestia acquitted herself just fine in the Dreamscape. A more annoying version of this kind of episode would have taken the blatant "Town Mouse - Country Mouse" approach of having them just fail at everything that the other normally does, and with characters that powerful, that just wouldn't make sense.
That being said, it is quite clear that unlike her sister, Luna is not a fan of checklists... and suddenly I now know where Twilight's checklist-fetish comes from... why am I not surprised by this?
-At first I thought it was just plain stupid that Celestia and Luna haven't confronted this problem sooner. It didn't bother me because I wanted this episode very badly, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it's actually justified. You see, we know that years have passed in show-time since the show began. Well, with most ponies pushing off such a problem that long wouldn't make sense. The thing is, Celestia and Luna are immortal alicorns, so for them, time probably has different meaning than it does to normal ponies. Years passing before they talk to each other about something personal probably doesn't feel like that long of a time for those two, so really, if one considers that, it actually makes sense that they would have allowed these circumstances to stay buried beneath the surface and just continue to annoy them more and more over the years, festering.
-Overall, this is one of those rare episodes that, for me, is just perfect in every which way. It's perfect in knowing what it was and what it set out to do, remaining laser-focused on those goals no matter how fast the pace got, and ultimately being everything it possibly could be in knowing itself and embracing itself for what it was. After the last two episodes, I love so much being able to say that.
That's all I've got for ya, everypony! Hopefully, like I said earlier, now that this episode has happened we'll get more episodes starring Celestia and Luna! I'd eat that up even if it was just "A Day in the Life of the Princesses" kinda deal where we see them just doing their own thing together, including activities as sisters. But for now, until next time, this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*
D'awwwwwwwwwwww, is a wittle Daybreaker!!! WHO'S A CUTE SUN TYRANT, WHO'S A CUTE SUN TYRANT? YOU ARE! YES, YOU ARE!!!
"Mornings... not even once."
ALL GLORY BE TO EMPRESS DERPY! LONG MAY SHE REIGN!!!