To continue the pattern from S5, this is a review of S7 as a whole, with both tops and bottoms in respective categories. To view the rest:
No apologies for C&P'ing content from my First Half overview (with some changes).
Fame & Misfortune
Where do I start?
a. The dialogue is atrocious.
b. The RM6 published all of their lessons from S4, including the one from Daring Don't, revealing her identity.
c. They publish their journal without testing their target audience via study group beforehand.
d. Each of the fan representations they meet are quarter-dimensional, stereotypical caricatures. None of the characters who appear act like genuine people.
e. The RM6 are abused everywhere they went. Ranged from not taken seriously (Pinkie) to objectified (TS) to trespassed (AJ) to boycotted (Rarity) to stalked/harassed (FS). The background characters are out-of-character assholes.
f. Every "fan," including the Canterlot reporter, honestly believed the journal was a work of fiction, turning the background characters into straw men.
g. "We're a Work in Progress" is the worst song of the show for manipulating the audience, excusing bad writing and behavior of the characters over the years, and glorifying their flaws (as if changing and evolving is a bad thing in the show and life).
h. The background assholes don't learn their lesson, and the main moral disguises what they did as a setback. Even after they stop group-hugging, Rarity, AJ, and FS still have to settle major problems, and the harmful moral excuses the abuse they suffered.
There's no care for continuity, characterization, or story whatsoever. It disregards their main demographics (children and guardians) to boost their own ego and attack the critics. No wonder why Larson disassociates from it and hates it himself.
For anyone who wonders why I (enjoy) bash(ing) this episode, dogshit on the sidewalk doesn't deserve to be rewarded a participation trophy. Fame & Misfortune's the worst of S7 by far and the worst written episode of the series.
If there were any minuscule saving positives, Starlight continued to show growth, and I gained much more appreciation for Stranger Than Fan Fiction and its nuances after watching F&M.
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 second-worst characterizations in the show, respectively. Big Mac for following on the CMCs' hairbrained schemes to try to woo Sugar Belle, the CMCs for believing the fairy tales are how-to romance guidebooks. None of the jokes or twists work at any point — Stereo Pop's characterization is a blatantly dated Bieber parody, Stereo Pop's phallic cutie mark resembling an erect penis with testicles (hence why he covers it up in almost every shot), and the 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-numbers plot that DHX couldn't even write well. Hell, continuity stated in the episode (Big Mac warned the CMCs not to use love poison to force the romance through) 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 her bow caused 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 she tells them while still caring about others' feelings! So, what does she do here? Turn into an egomaniac 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) delivered her 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? Unlikeable, stereotypical, generic, or all of the above. Hopefully, none of them return!
Secrets & Pies
This is a type of episode that would probably fit in S1, like Honest Apple. It makes no sense for Pinkie to behave the way she did towards Dash here.
S&P is a stretched-thin ripoff of Party of One with worse characterization. Pinkie's characterization here is the worst of the season for completely falling for Dash's tricks over the years and her psychotic obsession for catching Dash in the act. Dash is out of character for dumping the pie down Tank's feeding tube twice (easily my least favorite scene and one of S7's worst moments). Dash is partially at fault for causing Pinkie's injury at the academy (that's what you get for crying "wolf!" all these years!).
Like most episodes over the years, Dash is beat down to be taught a lesson, a cliché so worn thin and should be tossed in the trash. Unlike PoO, every joke is awful, whether it's repeated to the point of annoying (the "look at that" coverups with no proper variation) or disgusting (Dash trying to eat the dumpster pie, close ups of Pinkie's deranged and tired faces).
A good moral — "Don't create a snowball of lies just to make a friend happy. It's more worth it telling the truth." — doesn't save this episode.
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, for showing how human she is without devolving her character. Unfortunately, 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!)
So, 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's envy 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 princesses 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 ruin the episode. Even though I have it fifth-worst in overall quality, it's currently my second-least-favorite episode of S7 behind Fame (and easily the most disappointing).
Dishonorable mentions: Fluttershy Leans In, Daring Done?
The Perfect Pear
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 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 of both lifelong pain and bitterness. Each note is hit as the episode progresses. Secondly, the entire Pear family disowned Buttercup for marrying an Apple, and they died early. The marriage site gives her too much pain to deal with. The ending provides the perfect closure for this episode.
"You're in My Head Like a Catchy Song" = best S7 song. It's so simple in its acoustics, but, to echo RainShadow on YT, packs such an amazing emotional punch. One of three times this episode makes me cry, the other one being Grand Pear apologizing to Apple Bloom.
Grand Pear = show's most tragic character. The night his daughter married and became an Apple is the last day he saw her alive. Unfortunately, he'll never apologize to her and has to live with an enormous mistake he'll never repair. The moment he broke down as he apologized to Apple Bloom captures the heartbreak he had to hold within for so long. And excellent voice acting by William Shatner (and Felicia Day for Buttercup).
In my first half overview, I said this might be the best episode of the show when S7's over. I was wrong. It isn't simply the best episode of the show, but of MLP altogether.
FIM's canon and timeline are constructed on the fly and operate season to season. When an episode many seasons later feels like everything beforehand was preplanned, that's a major compliment. Amending Fences handled it beautifully. Shadow Play executes it just as beautifully, but in another way.
Previous episodes both during S7 and in the past hung little details about specific characters' pasts, including Star Swirl. Twilight finished his spellbook, because he couldn't figure out how important the magic of friendship truly was in Equestria. The era he predominantly lived in justifies that, and it's connected to his association with the rest of the Pillars, his venom towards Stygian after he stole their magical artifacts, and bitter shots at Twilight after bungling her spell to free them.
This two-parter is nearly one hour shorter than the FIM Movie, but each line matters, is naturally spoken, and the cast is excellently balanced. Everyone here in SP matters and is treated with importance. Remove just one of the Pillar Six, Mane Eight, or Sunburst, and the whole story changes.
Speaking of characters, Stygian is the best villain in the entire series. Not only is he a really good character. His backstory that resulted in him becoming the Pony of Shadows is fantastic. DHX could've just stuck with the intro animation — a great callback to the opening scene of the pilot — and leave us with the simple backstory. Instead, each scene builds up the PoS's birth and merger with Stygian more and more. His backstory mirrors Starlight's intentionally.
Speaking of Starlight, this is her best appearance of the series. For the entire season, DHX took extra care of her appearances and characterization, making sure she's not only written very well, but also make her a part of Ponyville's society. Unlike S6, her appearances are much more frequent and vary in importance, whether she's the episode's central character in Uncommon Bond or near-background like FLI. Shadow Play's a culmination of what she learned since becoming Twilight's pupil to conclude season 5. Everyone's rush to condemn the Pony of Shadows through the Elements of Harmony echoes critiques some of us had for the EoH, which was a band-aid to force evil to assimilate to Equestria's society; Sunset's character reset exemplifies this flaw to a T. Instead, Starlight pursued the cause of the Pillar's division from Stygian to search for a real fix to the conflict.
Like most of S7's second half, SP illustrates a conflict that doesn't put one side entirely in the right or wrong and explored this tension masterfully. It's FIM's best two-parter.
"Wow" perfectly describes this treasure. Easily the best episode by a debut (solo) writer in the series.
Bow Hothoof and Windy Whistles = character-wise, two of the best canonical parents in the show. They play the embarrassing 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 from her parents. The moral and execution were on the money.
Marks & Recreation
Is the cutie mark a pony's true life goal? What about their other passions? Will they be affected, too? Cutie marks are a part of Equestrian lore, but open up other questions, such as predestination, a choice of what they want to do for the rest of their life, their names associated with their mark, or living in a box. This underappreciated gem answers a few of these questions, streamlining its lore.
a. Kettle Corn receives a cutie mark related to haiku poetry. @Batbrony highlighted VERY clever foreshadowing in his review: the circle she loves painting over and over is a zero in Japanese calligraphy, and a haiku is Japanese poetry. BTW, she was really good and cute in her curious, poetic, childlike ways. Her mark is unrelated to her name, one of the few in that regard.
b. The CMCs are excellent in their roles, especially Sweetie Belle during her shouting match against Rumble.
c. Rumble's blistering criticism and fears of a cutie mark trapping him in a box are believable. When he got no answer from Apple Bloom in regards to the last time she brewed potions with Zecora, he gained the leverage needed to retain his status as a blank flank. The song he led to rally the other fillies — "Blank Flanks Forever" — is solid and further developed the conflict.
Thunderlane, now a Wonderbolt, is fantastic. His reason for sending Rumble to Cutie Mark Day Camp at Camp Friendship (calling back to Mane Attraction) makes sense: he wants Rumble to exit the box he himself created following his promotion to a Wonderbolt.
The climax to resolve the conflict is both mature and tasteful. Yes, FIM could've simply made Rumble the complete bad guy and have the narrative shoot him down everywhere. Instead, the story used Thunderlane, he and the CMCs teaming up, and having Rumble witness and eventually decide to join the campers and TL at the campfire shows us that he can conquer his fear of losing his pastimes and hobbies. The moral — no one person is defined by a label — is fantastic.
In all, a fascinating episode.
Once Upon a Zeppelin
On 10/7/2017 at 4:21 PM, Dark Qiviut said:
This is Fame & Misfortune done correctly.
- Unlike the former, Zeppelin doesn't forget to write a story. Brittany Jo Flores develops an actual story and intertwines it without making it the focus. It's not a hodgepodge of scenes and disguising it as a story. The story is the focus.
The fans here have a very solid reason to be on the cruise. They were promised by Iron Will that they'll spend quality time with the princesses, and the ponies were really happy when they found out she was there. But if you take a look, no one on the cruise is treated like an asshole. They look up to the princesses and are happy to see them. When Twilight kindly asks them at the end if she can spend time alone with her family, they were more than happy to oblige.
Now, Star Tracker. He's awesome! Here's a question: If you as a teenager were guaranteed to spend a day with your favorite celebrity, would you be so giddy and nervous, too? I bet. Star Tracker's the second-youngest pony seen in the cruise line, and he was so happy to be with Twilight that he got nervous and accidentally got too close. His moment telling IW to leave her alone was AWESOME!
The fans aren't stereotypes, straw men, or dumb. They're people, and this episode shows that.
Twilight slowly gets to the breaking point. She wants to be with her family, but misses activities from getting swarmed by Iron Will and her promise to live up to the deal. Missing the northern stars was her breaking point. Like To Change a Changeling and Marks & Recreation, the episode doesn't treat her or the fans as entirely in the wrong. Both sides have really good reasons to feel the way they did. But like Parental Glideance, when Twilight crossed the line and started yelling at Star and her family, the story doesn't let her off the hook. She's right to be frustrated, but not burst out and yell at everyone.
After Cadance (who had maybe her best appearance of the series) gave her some advice on where to draw the line, Twilight made things up and apologized to her family and Star. Her hug to Star Tracker was really sweet.
Really well done!
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.
As a cherry on top, the moral is spectacular. More on that later in the overview.
This great episode shows us how much Starlight grew prior to Shadow Play. This is an external conflict for Starlight: trying to catch up with Sunburst and figure out what they have in common so they can share memories and know each other better after being separated for so long. But when Starlight finds out Sunburst has smoother and better chemistry with Twilight, Trixie, and Maud over her, it's easy to see how discouraging and devastating it must be to her. As such, her rash decision to literally remake one of their childhood pastimes (including turning themselves into fillies) is believable, yet rightfully points out her idea as disturbing.
At the same time, Sunburst, who was excellent here, isn't written to be a jerk, but instead got carried away and lost sight of his childhood friend. His interactions with her friends really fit into his character and, in some respects, can get really cute, too. Yes, he should've paid attention to Starlight's mood (she ain't very subtle about how she feels), but it was very clear he wasn't doing it to be mean.
How they were able to find something in common fits them all. Instead of playing the board game, the life-size game brings a roleplaying element, alongside using each of their strengths to bond each other more.
This episode and Starlight's conflict are very relatable to a lot of people, and everyone being in top form helps shape UB into being one of S7's best.
Honorable mentions: It Isn't the Mane Thing About You, All Bottled Up.
Note: From now on, F-graded episodes are divided into F+, F, and F-.
S7 episode ranking:
- The Perfect Pear: A+
- Shadow Play: A+
- Parental Glideance: A+
- Marks and Recreation: A
- Once Upon a Zeppelin: A-
- Discordant Harmony: A-
- Uncommon Bond: A-
- It Isn't the Mane Thing About You: A-
- All Bottled Up: A-
- A Flurry of Emotions: B+
- To Change a Changeling: B+
- A Health of Information: B
- Triple Threat: B-
- Celestial Advice: B-
- Not Asking for Trouble: B-
- Forever Filly: C+
- Campfire Tales: C+
- Rock Solid Friendship: C+
- Daring Done?: C+
- Fluttershy Leans In: C
- A Royal Problem: D+
- Secrets and Pies: D
- Honest Apple: F
- Hard to Say Anything: F
- Fame and Misfortune: F-
Top-13 episodes (in order, updated; A+ episodes in italics):
- The Perfect Pear
- The Best Night Ever
- Crusaders of the Lost Mark
- Amending Fences
- Shadow Play
- Sisterhooves Social
- The Cutie Map
- Parental Glideance
- Party of One
- Testing Testing 1, 2, 3
- Pinkie Pride
- Slice of Life
- Suited for Success
Honorable mentions: Lesson Zero, Sleepless in Ponyville, The Times They Are a Changeling.
Bottom-13 episodes (in order, updated; F- episodes in italics):
- One Bad Apple
- Newbie Dash
- Fame and Misfortune
- Bridle Gossip
- Dragon Quest
- The Crystal Empire
- Rainbow Falls
- 28 Pranks Later
- Princess Spike
- Owl’s Well That Ends Well
- The Mysterious Mare Do Well
- Boast Busters
Dishonorable Mentions: Putting Your Hoof Down, The Show Stoppers, Appleoosa’s Most Wanted.
1. Fame & Misfortune: Your personality flaws are admirable and make up who you are.
Like characters in a TV show, people in real life change, either through progression or regression. Everyone's personalities have a balance of their positives and negatives. Part of learning is figuring out how to improve and become better people. By championing and glorifying personality flaws, this moral's actively claiming that changing and improving to become better people is pointless. Consequently, they're preaching a really dangerous slippery slope. To put this into perspective:Quote
She embodies the lazy mooch stereotype, but she's endearing because she's a mooch.Quote
He's belligerent while drunk and drives 30 MPH above the speed limit, but that makes him such a great person.Quote
They're very abusive to their spouses and children, but they're fine as is, because they're flaws to their personality.
When connected into the show, it's very hypocritical. Why? Because it goes against one of show's core themes of becoming better. The Mane 8, the CMCs, Discord, and so on all have strengths to build upon and weaknesses to overcome. Character development is crucial to the show. Dash's self-absorbed ego, Fluttershy's phobia and timidity, Twilight losing composure so quickly are all well-known character flaws; even when the episode isn't done well, they work forward to improve. Secondly, what do Discord, Diamond Tiara, Gilda, and Starlight all have in common? They all had personalities and attitudes the show and protagonists didn't tolerate, and they had to improve so others could trust and like them (again). When they didn't, the episode rejected them, like Lightning Dust, Gilda in S1, and Wind Rider. This moral spits on their reformations and redemptions.
You can read more about my panning of this moral in my status, some of which I C&P'd from.
Fame & Misfortune: You can't change how they feel about you, but you can change how they affect you.
In a vacuum, this isn't a bad moral. But given the context of the episode and offensive subtexts when paralleled to fans, the implications make this moral toxic. This moral is in response to how Ponyville and Canterlot directly harassed and bullied the RM6 to the point of altering their lives and devastating Twilight. The RM6 handwave all of it as just an obstacle in their friendship and mask it as criticism, thus telling us to tolerate the abuse.
Discordant Harmony: Your best friend may have nothing in common with you, but you're true friends because you care for each other.
This is true for 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.
The Perfect Pear: Don't hold onto past anger and guilt of a mistake you can't fix forever. Celebrate their lives, and pursue new memories with their loved ones.
I repeated this point ad nauseum since first watching it last June. People from all walks of life make mistakes they truly regret. While some correct their mistakes, not everyone does. Grand Pear is among the latter for disowning his late daughter on the last day he saw her alive. On the opposite end, Granny Smith grew so bitter of the Pear family for how they treated her that she didn't inform Grand Pear of their deaths until much later in life, adding to the grief and longtime feud and whitewashing Buttercup and Bright Mac's romance to her grandponies.
Honorable mention: You have the obligation to your own time, even when you feel you must sacrifice it to make others happy ("Zeppelin").
Characters that appeared on screen prior to S7 (even when in the background) don't count. Even though Star Swirl and Meadowbrook were referenced in past seasons, they didn't make physical cameos until S7, so they're exempt.
Toola Roola & Coconut Cream: Both fillies are lumped into one as a result of one common role. For the first time all series, FIM used token characters in an episode. Their only purpose from a meta standpoint is to tell young girls, their primary demographic, that they matter…when the entire episode leading up to the ending lumped young girls/kids (as the fillies) with the rest of the abusive ponies (the adults). Token characters talk down to children by only telling them they matter on a surface level only.
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 make him any better.
Strawberry Sunrise: She is a straw mare. Her only purpose is to be an asshole just to make AJ understand how it feels to be in the designers' horseshoes. There's no personality beyond this point, and the episode treats her bullying as a good thing.
- This Canterlot reporter from F&M. He's there only to drive the vessel that the ponies who abused the RM6 see them as merely fictional beings in an autobiographical journal and attack the critics more.
Dishonorable mention: Lily Lace (valley girl stereotype), Dandy Grandeur.
Buttercup & Bright Mac. 'Nuff said.
Stygian: The best villain in the series. Basically a ponified Squib, he doesn't have the magical abilities the Pillars or any other unicorn have, compensating it with his intelligence. As Shadow Play builds up his backstory, he as a character enriches.
Bow Hothoof & Windy Whistles: Eccentric, loud, yet also very dedicated to raising their daughter the best way possible. They're very endearing, relatable, and hilarious.
- Star Swirl the Bearded: After years of mystery, he and the other Pillars physically appear before the Mane 8. As a character, he's incredibly balanced. Wise, smart, understands magic like the back of his hoof, but also judgmental, difficult to convince, and bitter. When he gets mad at someone, you'll know it, and his putdowns of Twilight in Shadow Play, Part 2 exemplify that. He's a byproduct of the tumultuous era he lived in over a millennium ago. But when he admits he's wrong, he sets his ego aside. A marvelous character.
Honorable mentions: Pharynx, Mistmane, Star Tracker.
Pinkie Pie. She's really good in some episodes this season, in particular Not Asking for Trouble and Daring Done? Unfortunately, her characterization took a collective turn for the worse. During Rock Solid Friendship, she pestered Maud and Starlight continually, contributing to Maud feeling she doesn't belong in Ponyville. In S&P, she fell for Dash's constant cover up and became obsessed with catching her in the act.
Dishonorable mention: Rarity.
Starlight. Overall, she's the best written and most consistent. After a sloppy redemption arc, DHX takes more care to write 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 transitions into a more-self-confident pony. Every episode she's in makes her feel like she belongs in both Twilight's circle and Ponyville altogether.
Plus, she's given much proper use. Her role in Rock Solid's fantastic, and it's a nice touch how she worked with the RM7 to build Fluttershy's sanctuary. Uncommon Bond brings forth a personal side to Starlight, and she humanizes Shadow Play's conflict as the Devil's Advocate.
Honorable mention: Twilight Sparkle.
Full M8 rank (in order):
- Starlight Glimmer
- Twilight Sparkle
- Rainbow Dash
- 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 predicted no other moment will be worse than this one months ago, and it remains such.
The Canterlot reporter accuses the RM6 and their journal of being fictional. Rather than rewrite why, I'll C&P why from my review:
Reporter Pony: Well, sure. I read this journal cover to cover, and I have to say your character would have been much more interesting if she'd stayed in Canterlot.
Twilight Sparkle: My character?! We are real ponies! This journal is a record of things that actually happened to us! We made mistakes, and we learned from them!
Where do I even start with this shit?
F&M is FIM's third meta episode of the series. Only this time, the characters are portrayed as the showrunners' avatar, and those who are abusing the ReMane Seven represent the fans they're retorting. It's self-referential and doesn't hide it.
When we as an audience criticize the Mane Eight, we don't usually do so because we hate the characters or expect the worst. We criticize because we know that this show is very good and has done great, yet can do better. As an audience, we relate to them in some way or another. It can be a mane pony, secondary, or background. Everyone has a preference of who they like and dislike. Nobody looks at a character exactly the same way. Guess what? That's okay. At the end of the day, we still love the characters as a whole and appreciate the show and staff for what they do.
This "parody" is completely inaccurate in message, conflict, and theme. This exchange is the worst dialogue in the entire episode and causes the whole conflict to fall apart.
They're characters, not real people. They exist only on screen, on paper, or within our own imaginations. It's the creators' job to flesh them out and make that character become high-quality and memorable. Neither the avatars nor antagonists are real.
But in the universe, the characters ARE real and conquer major trials. Each time they wrote in the journal, they changed for the better, even after the episode sometimes doesn't work. Fluttershy after Breezies, Dash in Equestria Games following Rainbow Falls, Rarity after Simple Ways, etc. In canon, the characters aren't dictated by a writer's pencil or keyboard, because there, they don't exist. On the other hand, the antagonists see the autobiographical lessons as fiction and those who wrote them as fictional characters.
Neither the antagonists nor protagonists are on equal conflict ground. The ponies questioning, bashing, stalking, and abusing the RM6 are treating them not as real people, but as either characters that we as readers want to replicate on paper and recreate or property that we can recycle. How the hell can the reporter — probably the one who released the 1.5/5-star rating, though that's just a guess — honestly believe the RM6 are fictional characters when he's talking to them directly? Once more, why do ponies from within their inner circles suddenly begin to see them as celebrities when they've known them for so long, anyway?
This small exchange does nothing except tell the audience that all of these "antagonists" are straw men. Characters written to be proven wrong in order for the main characters to have the upper hand. What makes them so bad is that you're taking what could be valid points and eliminating them so the protagonists have the upper hand in everything they do. You're making what should be a complex conflict completely one-sided, thus telling parents that the episode — and show, if they watch it for the first time — is trying to emotionally manipulate children into viewing the plot through a black-and-white mentality. F&M uses real talking points from within the fandom, checks them off, and morphs them into abusive caricatures of fans rather than taking the good, bad, and recreating them into what fans as a whole truly are — people. In layman's terms, what could be a good lesson is morphed into a bad one. Straw characters helped ruin the Fluttershy Micro, Root of the Problem, Spice Up Your Life, AND here. NEVER use straw men to teach a lesson!
- They're characters, not real people. They exist only on screen, on paper, or within our own imaginations. It's the creators' job to flesh them out and make that character become high-quality and memorable. Neither the avatars nor antagonists are real.
The four Ponyville ponies stalk and harass Fluttershy. What makes this so painful to watch is two reasons:
Fluttershy's history. She's a sensitive pegasus who not only battles a psychologically crippling phobia, and was also laughed at (Hurricane Fluttershy) and abused (PYHD).
The ponies' reasons for harassing her: Why she keeps relearning the same lessons and one stallion whining about why he wasn't inserted into the journal. Are you KIDDING ME?!
FUCK those four ponies!
- Vet reveals Tank swallowed a whole pie/Dash chucks pie down her chute in a panic.
- AJ destroys Lily Lace's hat.
- Pinkie's bkg. friends laugh at everything she says.
- Celly and Luna absolve Starlight for swapping their marks.
- Pinkie tells Dash to "eat up" with a deranged face.
- Celly and Luna fight.
Big Mac asks Burnt Oak if they can return to hear more stories of his dad someday. This tearjerker is full of great detail. Big Mac — a stallion of few words beyond his "eeyup" gag — being the one to ask 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.
Starlight cries after Star Swirl venomously disowns Stygian. Starlight reformed from her villainous days a few seasons ago, thanks to Twilight giving her the opportunity to change and follow a completely new path. While every Mane and Pillar wrote him off, Starlight sees Stygian as someone who should be given another chance, because she relates to him. Star Swirl casting a final judgment on him as someone unworthy to befriend cuts deeply into Starlight. If she was in Stygian's shoes, she'd likely share his fate.
Buttercup sings to BM. Their relationship is real, and the emotional (but simple) song makes it more believable.
- 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.
- Rumble jumps over the line that divides the CMC and blank flank camps.
- Grand Pear apologizes to Apple Bloom.
- Cadance offers motherly advice to Twilight following her meltdown.
- Fluttershy re-creates Discord's house.
- Granny Smith forgives Grand Pear and welcomes him to the family.
What I want for Season 8:
Continue the episode quality. Season 7 is the most consistent in its episode quality (with only 5 bad and average episodes each and 15 good ones), and this was with a lineup of mostly writers who didn't write for the show very long or debuted in S7. Nick Confalone, one of the best writers for S6, only wrote one episode in S7. Josh Hamilton wrote the best debut episode in the show, and Triple Play isn't that bad. The Fox Brothers's Discordant Harmony was a major beacon of great quality to help conclude the first half. While Lappin started off poorly with Honest Apple, To Change a Changeling and Uncommon Bond are great and excellent, respectively. Brittany Jo Flores debuted with Zeppelin, and it's a far more nuanced and clever episode than F&M. Haber, who returned in the second half, had the longest tenure.
Haber to continue his magic touch. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but after Haber returned to the show, the quality of the episodes spiked collectively. A couple of bumps along the way, but overall, the episodes were at least good. To repeat from earlier, the stretch from Mane Thing to SP was the series' best run since S1-2 (easily its best finish since S1), and who knows whether S8 will continue this trend or not.
Once he returned, the direction changed for the better, too. Almost every episode contained dozens of shades of grey. By doing so, the conflict provides an extra side to the story, increasing layers to make the experience more rounded than one-sided conflicts provide. Episodes like Health of Info, M&R, SP, or Zeppelin wouldn't succeed had they not follow this direction.
Starlight continue her arc. Her redemption arc isn't done, but she's come so far in the past couple of seasons, S7 being a major step up after DHX follied in S6. Now she's more self-assured and helped save Stygian from returning to limbo. She's heading in the right direction, and I want to see her develop more, maybe interacting more with the others beyond TS and Spike.
- Once more, watch your unfortunate implications and stereotypes. This got better following F&M, but chances are they may fall in that trap someday.
If you have anything you might want to see for S8, let me know in the comments.
Season 7 was a huge step up for FIM. After S6, I worried whether the show would slow down or not. But not only did S7 squash those fears. FIM has a lot more left in the tank. With so many good and great episodes, and with Nicole Dubuc and Haber together to edit after co-writing Shadow Play so well, it's heading in the right direction. It's my second-favorite and second-best season of the show, and I can't wait what S8 has in store.
For those curious about my season order from best to worst: 5 > 7 > 2 > 1 > 4 > 3 > 6.