Well, as thou can probably tell, the two-parter after Top Bolt I am not particularly satisfied with. So much so that I'm not going to bother looking up what its actual name is. But, hopefully, going over the episode before that, Top Bolt, shall cool me off a little.
That's sort of the funny thing there. Admittedly, I've not touched the show in a good long while. Perhaps I'm a bit unused to it, rushing into perception maybe. I can't completely remember the other combinations the Cute Map has given the Main Six. But, as I look back with fuzzy memories as I watched Top Bolt, I thought to myself. Have the two sent mares always made the problem worse by interfering like they did in this episode? I mean, think about it.
It was, indeed, mentioned that there would be solo tryouts for the new cadets for Wonderbolt academy. Does indeed make sense, that's something any school or training facility like this would do. Test every aspect just for cases like this where one pony is helping another. You know, something any competent teacher would likely catch. Raininator certainly caught on at what was happening because she'd been going through the same drills and exercises herself. Really don't think any actual organization would just let some random princess and employee just waltz in and loudly claim that they'll be taking over for the already preassigned teachers. But I can let that go, kids' show rules of reality, I suppose. Even if T.Sparks herself only learned to fly less then a year ago and would be a massive fault to put her in charge of those born with wings. But i'm just being pithy now.
(Oh, and yes. From now until the end of my attention span... those two main mares shalt always be known... *drumroll* As T-Sparks & the Raininator!)
My point there was, is that at some point, it would only be natural that Sky Stinger would have to preform on his own and back up his own claims. Really, likely far before this point... like in foalhood. Like... how in the name of logic did he even make it up to Wonderbolt Academy if the stallion can't even fly higher then twelve feet of his own strength? Really, it was shown that Vapor Trail was flying backwards in order to compensate for her partner in order to help him. Putting aside the scientific fact that most wings tend not to be biologically designed to rotate both ways, or indeed even the implied natural magic for such things. Putting aside even the fact that that effectively doubles Vapor's workload to the point where that should make her the single best natural flyer, by dint of practice. How does nopony notice that she's been doing this for almost a decade now? ESPECIALLY THE TARGET OF THESE EFFORTS?!!?
Sorry... sorry, two-parter rage kinda spilling over there.
Admitedly, I must say that Skyscourge is how you do an overconfident character. I mean, he does have results he can point to to back up his claims. Even that "Yeah, I know." was just so summarily put that it doesn't make you want to maul him like we often want to do with Rainosity Clash here. I mean... Raininator!
Why, even in that training session he did with T.Sparks looked like he was truly buckling down once he noticed that he did seem to be having troubles doing it on his own. And, we certainly know T well enough to know she wouldn't just let a student immediately give up and go trotting to the teacher he does think befits his talents. If her neuroticism had anything to say about it anyway.
But, the easiest solution to this whole episode would have just been them being the best friends those two ponies said they were. Vapor could had easily just said that she wasn't confident on doing on her own (which was clearly already a voiced concern by Sky) and indirectly suggest Sky do the same, and have the issue come up naturally, if she didn't want to just come out and admit that he'd been leaning on her this entire time. This whole episode didn't really need our two Main Mares. This whole episode boiled down to "Helping Helpers help the other Helpers they're already helping."
But that arises a bigger issue, I feel. This episode debuted Vapor Trail, which apparently caught on in the fandom pretty well. I don't get it. She's a horrible character.
Now, hear me out. She's a sweet & kind mare, I cannot argue that point! But, putting aside the fact that (Huh... I keep saying that... it's almost as if I'm being incredibly passive-aggressive manipulative here or something.) she and her foalhood coltfriend are clearly bait for us fandom shippers, she doesn't really exist on her own will. Almost everything about her exists by its relation to another character, Sky Stinger. She's helping him out... for almost her entire life, without any a word about it or acknowledgement, to even her own detriment. This seems strongly of an unhealthy relationship. At that, even a horrible ideal to tell your audience to live up to.
...Sigh. Of course, I'm over reacting there. ...I have... a bit of a history with helping others who never cared enough to ever acknowledge my contributions. It is most likely entirely my own opinion that its unhealthy to have your only driving force be helping others. I had a very, very strong feeling that Vapor only ever attended Wonderbolt Academy because Sky wanted to, and she had no other plans or will to do anything else of her own other then to keep propping up Sky to avoid having to deal with herself. In turn, Sky probably only came to the Wonderbolts because of the one mare that had believed in him. Maybe its just my own weird mind putting a dark tinge to things, but... I can only think of one catalyst that would make Vapor's parents be as protective & child-centeric, as was the excuse why she looked to concern herself with Sky's lot, ...past trauma.
Oh, and one last thing. That little line of T-Sparks? Regarding the admonishment of Sky for, quote: being "...so content to take a backseat."
That almost felt hurtful. That scene of him getting passed up in a family game of catch seemed awfully indicative of him always being the Sixth Wheel, being forever forced to be in the backseat. Like something like that kind of upbringing would lead a stallion to constantly think that he has to speak up and self-advertise... because nopony else will ever care enough to be on his side. Other then the one that has chosen to be by his side, for years even. Who just basically told him that their entire relationship up until now has been one big lie.
Kinda expected a little more drama from that in that episode.
Which. Ironically enough, runs contrary to what I happen to think about the Two-Parter.... *sound of grinding teeth*
Well! Start off with the good parts, maybe!
I loved that part about Luna coming in to mentor Starlight Glimmer! "I see much of myself in you, Starlight Glimmer..." Aye! You mean constant regret and depression that you can't live on without remembering? The nagging thoughts of having once been a major threat to the entirety of the free world, knowing full well you harmed other ponies and living on despite your dark past? Having a constant self-doubt into how you could relate to other ponies and get on with your life, knowing full well of what prior consequences had led to? A pretty much dark coat color scheme, a somewhat sparkly mane and, I'm pretty sure, stars in your cutie marks? HOO! SOME FODDER FOR THE FANDOM THEORISTS THERE!
(Specifically, that this new generation of alicorns are being trained to replace Luna & Celestia someday.)
But, onto the negative I suppose. ...Yes. That was pretty much only one solid, positive moment.
Namely, in the field of questions I want answered is just one simple thing I feel ought be addressed. That... of...
GOOD GRAVY! THE WRITING ON THIS WAS ATROCIOUS! Darkstone? Some randomly, just introduced element that has only just now came up? This mega powerful artifact that can somehow blanket wipe the all the power in a several mile radius (INCLUDING CHAOS MAGIC, WHICH BY DEFINITION SHOULD WORK WITHOUT BEING CONTROLLED!) has never been managed or been a concern to the Leaders of The Free World before now? This MacGuffin can somehow effect literally every being, likely assisted in the takedown of the entire world, was still somehow managed to be carved into a giant gothic throne and never left the pit it was wedged into. That can somehow manage to nullify a draconequus lord that has very likely outlived even the planet itself, has never been noticed before? What, did nopony ever lead a reconnaissance mission into this territory before, notice that the species that has proven to be hostile before somehow has a huge anti-magic field effect around their hideout and not think "Gee, maybe I ought report this back to Celestia & Luna..."
Just... so much of this episode seemed focused around blatantly transparent ploys to cripple the forced protagonists and create drama. This is exactly why I don't watch live action shows, or indeed, pretty much only My Little Pony. Needless Drama. You can practically hear the writers go "Uhh... wait, we can't just have the Changelings literally take over everypony everywhere. There would be instantly nopony to oppose them, and no reason to make an episode about it." "Well, there's Discord. He's not a pony." "Yeah, but he could just snap a finger & blow them all up into confetti or something." "Oh! I know! Have all magic be useless!"
They neutered Discord for this. Or, at least, completely forgot his character was already a solve-all. Magic doesn't work within two miles of the place? Oh, I dunno, Keep dropping stuff on them from miles away until they give up?
Or, maybe... I dunno. Actually know your friends will enough to notice when they're acting strange? Good grief, the changelings that took over the places of the Main Six were horrible actors. That's kind of why you don't ever see the "Shapeshifters replacing everybody you know" trope. Because it can't possibly work. You know how The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers did it? Because they gave their victims only a minute to react. "Oh, dude, you sure are acting strange today..." "IT IS BECAUSE HOUSE MESS IS. PLEASE DO LOOK INSIDE TO SEE WHY PROBLEM IS." "Well... sure... I suppose just a quick poke of my head inside won-" *instantly grabbed by alien tentacle.
You know what the problem with trying to impersonate somepony, especially those well known is? No one being could ever know every intricacy of the personality & mind of those they're replacing. Such as Pinkie Pie ever... ever, forgetting someponies name. You don't think Pinkie, at the least of them has contacts with every single member of this town? You don't think any one of these victims won't scream for bloody murder, causing the neighbors to become alarmed? These Changelings barely even bothered to not raise suspicious. Heck! At one point, they KNEW nopony else was around, and were just fooling around in a chamber disguised when they didn't need to!
SOMEBODY! PLEASE! EXPLAIN TO ME HOW! How in Equestria, did one tribe of Changelings, who have been shown already failing spectacularly to claim just ONE city before, SOMEHOW managed, in the span of barely, at most, three days, to completely overpower THREE ENTIRE KINGDOMS, AND FOUR LEADERS OF GREAT MAGICAL POWER?! Really, how? How do you claim one, without alerting the others when Canterlot was already so hard as to require spy tactics and ambushing & mind controlling the leaders. We won't ever get an answer for that, will we? Just a "Well, they already won, so here's all the drama in how they got taken down. Drama." We keep having that happen in this show. Just wave away any other solution that might solve the problem, so we have a main character to deal with it. Celestia & Luna have held responsibility over this realm for over a thousand years, but these days they just hand down threats? We have the Crystal Kingdom, a Two Leader matriarchy in Canterlot, and SIX competent protectors in Ponyville. If ANY of those pieces fall, it brings down the hammer of the other two, equally important pieces on this board! The only way the Changelings plan could have worked, is if they somehow simultaneously infiltrated all six strongholds, with each their own personalized strategies, all at the same time. Gosh, I don't know much about past wars and military tactics, but what does history say about attempting to simultaneously taking on all of the rest of the world on all at once when they have the higher population numbers?
And how did they deal with Chrysalis? You know, after she got done monologuing & spouting threats like the flanderized villainess she is now? The same way we always do. Talk about how its wrong, and spew friendship speeches again. I still remember that scene. Thorax has stumbled on the fact that he has found a better way to feed, Queenie doesn't believe him, so she threatens him. Starlight's plan... is to give her all the love while she's in the process of already draining his love.
Oh, btw. Appearently Changelings can feed off other Changelings. One would think biology doesn't work that way, or would point towards a possibility of them just sorta feeding themselves, but no. Guess "drain love" is just a stock threat we can use now that has no bearing on what the magic involved does. Despite this entire race being formed around that feeding magic.
This, of course, is another thing I want explained to me. Does that not boil down to: "I'M GOING TO SHOOT HIM UNTIL HE BLEEDS!" "AGH! NO! QUICK THORAX! BLEED ALL OVER HER BEFORE SHE MAKES YOU BLEED ANYMORE!"
I don't get it. So too, was that line about the hive constantly shifting, that only changelings could navigate what seemed chaotic. Yeah. Neat. Sure is useful in expediting yet more drama.
Nor do I understand how then, does his body decide to reform itself. Or why a cocoon is relevant to that. Because, you know, the point of a cocoon in nature is to protect the defenseless creature inside. Which, making yourself vulnerable mid-battle & mid-climax, is kind of a stupid thing to do, even if you've blown your enemy back a few steps.
Oh, and apparently... despite this "sharing of love" effects having shown a slow build in Thorax, having affected his hunger and his wings slowly enough for him to only passingly know of the effects and those same effects still, as yet, being minor enough... now, suddenly every single other changeling that does the same action INSTANTLY transform. Oh, and the one guy that did it first gets a bigger, showier after affect that marks him as being special.
Oh... wait... I forgot. It's magic.
WE DON'T HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT.
The whole thing wrapped up so quickly. Like, seriously, somebrony time that. There's no repairs to make after the world domination, nopony wants to immediately hunt down the Queen that just claimed revenge and has clearly shown herself capable of being a threat, there wasn't one single changeling that resisted the regime change and thought about it a bit more like any other sentient being would. Just a brushing off of the hands, because jobs done and we don't have to think about it anymore.
I hated 28 Pranks Later for how it warped a character to fit what the story needed. Warped even the environment and personality of background characters just so everything could center around what it wanted to accomplish. A Mary Sue/Gary Stu is the term for a character that forces everything else to how it relates to them. So what then is a story that defies everything else to force it to do what the story wants it to do?
This was all Prefabricated Drama. The worst thing any story or show can do, In my opinion... nay, any idea or concept... is to be Predictable.
Oh, something happens, who's left has to fufill the role of being the hero now, they get there, what they had previously depended on is proved to not be as reliable anymore, they confront villain, say they're holier... I mean "Gooder" which makes them win. Everybody involved laughs about it.
More episodes like this two-parter... and I'll have to leave the fandom entirely. If only because it would become something I can no longer enjoy. I can't care if there isn't any unpredictability. Characters that are foremost themselves & their own living, growing experiences instead of just being what the current story dictates they be.
Well... I suppose that still shows up. Trixie showing herself as more of a coward when she has to actually combat a threat and admitting she isn't really anything special. Discord getting them in trouble for shouting about himself at the wrong time & being too readily dismissable of threat when he usually has too much power to be concerned about anything. Starlight's usual troubles with her social anxiety & depression. Thorax being even less of a useful figure & spineless as he was pretty much raised to be. There's still depth... but still that notion that the writers don't want to try for what amounts to a Kids' Show...
Yeah... while it had more good points then 28 Pranks later, which I can only ever see as hateful & stupid, To Where & Back Again is certifiably the worst episode ever in my book.
(Oh... Oh, I see what you did there Hasbro. Equated the title to a well known book that became a well-known movie recently. Despite the stories having nothing but a mountain in common & unlikely heros. Almost as if you were grasping for attention.)
Bleh. I've got a bad taste in my mouth now. I need me a pancake. ...maybe I can bake some Sake into one...