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:
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.
Hard to Say Anything
Two words: unadulterated shit. After about 7 to 8 minutes of meandering (but nothing genuinely wrong), the minute
Feather BangsStereo 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.
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.
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).
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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).
Characters that appeared either in the background or as cameos in prior seasons don't count.
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).
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
- Twilight Sparkle
- Pinkie Pie
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…
…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.
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:
[Stereotypes are] a shortcut and a major flaw in this show. If you're going to use stereotypes, then why the hell should I believe you care about the quality of your work? This show is supposed to teach people (especially kids) that people are more than just false representations, but this show sometimes screws this up badly. Put in some effort into your tropes!
From my S6 review:
More episodes of the characters at their best. One huge change of pace in Season 5 was its lack of reliance of the characters overcoming a flaw within themselves. Pinkie Pie, Rarity, the CMCs, AJ, and Twilight all used their best qualities as dominant vessels in the conflict to solve a problem. When the episode isn't good, they're the highlights. Gauntlet and Viva did that, too. Each of the Mane Eight have strengths; put them into good use more.
May nor happen this season, but y'never know.
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.