Note: Various users are credited here, and there are some uncovered Season 9 spoilers (so read at your own risk!)
Well, Season 9 arrived, so it's time to post my tops and bottoms of FIM's second-best season so far. My previous overviews are linked below.
I don't apologize for gushing over S8 this early.
One important note: Despite being counted as an episode, The Best Gift Ever is self-contained, so it's not included.
Fake It 'Til You Make It
Or, as I'll say for here, Putting Your Hoof Down 2.0. This entire episode is a major retread of one of the worst of the series. Background/tertiary ponies act rude for the sake of the plot? Check.
Fluttershy conveniently forgets being assertive without being a jerk? Check.
Fluttershy becomes an even bigger jerk than the folks she talks (down) to? Check.
Consequences for her actions go unresolved for a painfully badly executed lesson? Double check!
But that only scratches the surface for how bad this ripoff truly is. To go over some of them…
a. Manehattan's setting's one-dimensional. Every single shopper to visit Rarity for You acts like a stereotypical depiction of New York's commercialized neighborhoods from an outsider's perspective. Sans the Edward Scissorhands parody, all act snooty, high of themselves, and with a one-track mind. Can you find anything worthwhile of these caricatures? Not at all. Even worse, since every shopper's like this, it makes Saddle Row a one-dimensional, unpleasant atmosphere.
b. That said, despite their rudeness, the worst anyone really became was a background pony — Mare E. Lynn her name — agreeing with Fluttershy's eviction threat. At no point did anyone belittle her or act physical. All they want was to buy Rarity's clothes to match them. Fluttershy behaves worse than anyone else and, unlike its predecessor, has no motive justifying this sudden change in characterization. Bossing the raccoons around, threatening to kick them out, dissing them as rodents, and insulting her friends all cross a very firm line that this show established from the very beginning of the show. Why does she bear Kindness? For her inherent empathy and patience for others. She violates her moral code for a shitty, out-of-character reason. On top of that, by claiming to be pretending, FITYMI removes all accountability, rushes its conclusion, and makes her apology unearned.
c. Rarity doesn't get absolved, either. Just like Honest Apple, she continues to show horrible leadership by rushing to find a backup storekeeper for the shop. Had she pre-planned everything, she wouldn't be this disorganized. But to make it worse, she becomes very OOC herself by bashing Manehattanites, Saddlettes, and her customers behind their backs, implicating she only extended her clothing line to Saddle Row to make a quick bit rather than connecting people's inner beauty. You do know your employees and many of your friends live there, right? What would they think about you if they caught you shit-talking about them? Won't be fun, ain't it?
Now, does it get as bad as the former on the whole? Not quite. At least some of the characters here remain pleasant (contrived excuses aside), particularly Smoky, Softpad, and Smoky Jr. But that doesn't give this laziness a pass. Skip it!
@Captain Clark, @Nyactis Mewcis Catlum, and @Jeric are credited for this.
Compete Crap Clause
Stole it from @Captain Clark. It fits too much. Whereas the former ripped off PYHD, this crap ripped off an actual good episode. So, how can AJ and RD get away with their immaturity in Fall Weather Friends and not here?
In the former, neither of them were really good friends at the time. Prior, they disagreed and showed some friction. Additionally, FWF's stakes were lower and more grounded, and the goal was set: Dash has to compete in the Running of the Lave without flying to cheat. The highest moment of tension (their brawl) only affected them. Afterwards, they felt embarrassed, learned their lesson, and immediately worked together to complete their mission.
OTOH, FWF 2.0 takes place several seasons later. They're teaching students the lessons of friendship they themselves learned over the years. Are they the most mature? No. That's okay. What isn't okay is degrading them into out-of-character children by putting the safety and education before their lust to win Teacher of the Month! To win it, they (or shall I say the story?) raise the stakes twice. Firstly, Dash's selfish desire to win Teacher of the Month and a stupid timing competition caused friction with AJ, resulting in a careless accident in bite-acuda-infested rapids…despite both knowing that Yona is so aquaphobic and can't swim (more about this later). Yet, after Twilight threatened to take over the trip, they agreed to get along, yet still competed with on another by being passive aggressive and testy with each other, forcing the Young 6 to find the way out of the nature walk for them and nearly getting themselves devoured.
On top of that, just before it ends, they go back to arguing again, implicating they learned nothin'! As a result, NCC becomes the third episode — Cutie Pox & Fame the first two — to become pointless filler!
The dialogue, usually a strength of S8, was clunky, contrived, and painfully unfunny.
Protip: Writing long-standing characters out of character to make new ones better is pure laziness and risks making the new characters unlikable. The Y6 were poorly written.
Two moments save it from failing: Twilight actively calling Dash and AJ out for their incompetence and threatening to punish them, and Dash and AJ getting sincerely nominated for TotM — risking that reward will make them think about how stupid they behaved on the trip.
A Matter of Principals
Discord's at his best when he's a jerk with a heart of gold. An ability to show he cares in his way. Unfortunately, AMoP flanderizes him into only a brat, first by tricking the RM6 to go on a friendship quest (which meant getting Fluttershy into the same pickle), and then using his jealousy of Starlight to make her and the student body miserable. His behavior contributed to friction between Starlight and disorder in the school with substitutes (including Cwanky as an out-of-character lazybones and jerk, and a dragon-sneeze tree to get under Spike's scales ).
For the first time since The Crystalling, Starlight and Spike share the spotlight, and both of them were written fine here. While Discord and Starlight didn't get along, Spike acted as the middle man, keeping a cooler head while being as objective as possible. After Discord unleashed a bugbear on the grounds and put Yona in harm's way, Starlight was 100% justified to blast him and banish him from the school grounds. On the other hand, this is exactly what Discord wanted, as he insulted her for her past villainy, and the fact that she got her temper get the best of her proved him right and left her in a big dilemma.
The ending is unfulfilled, yet not as black and white as some think. On one hand, Discord doesn't deserve Starlight's job offer for reasons explained. Clearly he doesn't deserve it, and even though the RM6's return — all filthy — nullified her hire, the fact that she hired nullified any consequences for his actions. On the other, despite being the interim headmare, she's also the SoF's counselor, so she also has to look in others' shoes. Rather than balance her job, she focused on leading the school and didn't consider the source of his actions to constructively solve sooner.
Is it the worst episode of S8B? Without a doubt. But to echo from my quickieview here, it's watchable mediocrity, nothing more.
Dishonorable mentions: Father Knows Beast & Yakity-Sax.
A Rockhoof and a Hard Place
During the second half, FIM went on a five great-episode streak, two of which are included here. This is one of them and the best of them all last year. Kaita Mpambara cleverly foreshadows Rockhoof's eventual wish to become a stone statue, ala Discord by both the princesses initially and the M6 later.
In addition to being absolutely funny, Hard Place briefly featured one of the most beautiful set pieces of the show: Mistmane's Crystal Empire garden is full of beautiful colors, composed perfectly, and feels exactly like something she'd do. Long ago, she surrendered her outer beauty to preserve an old friend's, and the hard work she put here is an extension of that same selflessness.
There are two stars here: Yona and Rockhoof.
a. Yona acted as Rockhoof's foil. When she first met him, she admired him for his strength, perseverance, pride, bravery, and occasion to smash, yakdom's cultural foundations. Immediately, she grew a student crush on him, and her excitement when thinking of him perfectly blends with her innocence and youth. This is why "Day just got betterrrrr!" is so damn funny: It's so easy to understand where she comes from, and her reaction's very in character. So who can blame her for reacting to Spike's news the hardest? So how did she respond? With the season's best scene.
b. Rockhoof is the center of this fish-out-of-water tale, and he's incredibly sympathetic. No matter the job, he always tries to impress not just himself, but also others. When they thank him, he knows he succeeded. When he screws up, he feels guilty. War conquered the realm long ago, so his warrior-first instincts don't leave, but today, harmony triumphs, and now he's a veteran looking to live and not give up what he grew up remembering. Everyone can go home, but he can't, and Stygian adapted to modern life, but not him! Once his most innate skill — using the constellations to dictate direction — is moot by time, he believed the only way out was to become stone, an allegory of suicide that was masterfully executed.
Not a bad outcome for a Pillars with a bland backstory, huh?
This is just a summary of its magnificence, so read my review for fuller detail. Like my main review, credit goes to @TheAnimationFanatic, @Ganondox, and @gingerninja666 here.
The Break Up Break Down
"It's Hearts and Hooves Day and Big Mac has romantic plans for Sugar Belle, but the day takes a turn when he overhears his special pony tell Mrs. Cake she's planning on breaking up with him!"
Several seasons ago, Discord was the M6's biggest foe, and it took more than a full season after he reformed until they began to have any faith in him. tarting in Season 6, Confalone's Dungeons & Discord added him with the tandem of Spike and Big Mac to create the O&O trio. On the surface, it shouldn't work, yet somehow he succeeded. Now they all act like they knew each other since Spike hatched, and it makes sense. Their organic tandem sells the humor, snarky exchanges, Big Mac's anguish, and Discord's act to mend his friend's relationship with Sugar Belle.
Yet, that was only the A-plot. The CMCs were also spectacular here. Thinking Sweetie has a secret admirer, they search for him, experiencing equally funny shenanigans. Yes, thre wasn't nearly as much time spent here, but Confalone economically took advantage of what he gave them, including rendezvousing at the barn and getting mixed up with Big Mac, who accidentally flustered on them (and apologized). Did thy find "him"? No. And they realized it was all a mix up. But being best friends, the journey more than made up the destination, punctuated by one of the most heartwarming lines all year:Quote
Sweetie Belle: Oh, it's funny. I've been sitting here feeling sorry for myself for not having a special pony on Hearts and Hooves Day. But remembering all the fun we had, I think I have two special ponies – my two best friends.
P.S.: Here's my full review.
The Hearth's Warming Club
If only Acts 1 & 2, it would've been good. The final six minutes turned it into the best Christmas episode of the franchise and one of the top-15 overall. To go over it one by one:
a. Gallus asks Silverstream what cousins are. Thanks to his sarcasm and pride from earlier, for him to ask a sincere question comes off as rather surprising to the audience, evident by how off-guard Ocellus was as she explained to him. Earlier shots foreshadowed his act to vandalize the Fire of Friendship, but this was the first outward clue.
b. Once Smolder and Yona complete their interrogations, everycreature becomes desperate and worried. They want to go home, but someone holds them back. No one confessing equals guilt from everyone. Therefore, they apply their anger on others, such as Sandbar accusing Smolder of feigning anger and Silverstream's conspiracy theory. Ignoring Gallus's words of calm, they argue loudly. While they fought early that semester, this is their first true fight as friends. Their anger is weighty, and watching his friends devolve hurt him to the point of nearly crying.
c. Gallus's backstory is devastating. His friends are incredibly lucky to have family to celebrate with, but like many in real life, not everyone is. Griffonstone's family dynamics are either unstable or nonexistent, evidence pointing the latter; he's an orphan in a desolate, corrupt world. His friends are his first real family, and the School his first real home. As bad as damaging the main hall is, can't you blame him for not looking forward to returning to Griffonstone? No! Going back there meant returning to an aimless, depressing life, even for a few weeks.
d. So with the ample opportunity to hide his secret, why confess? As what he said to his friends, he didn't went them to stay stuck in her School and feel just as miserable here as himself while in Griffonstone. Yes, his friends will be there, but won't enjoy each other's company. If they ever find out later, who knows how close they'll be. For all he knows, they may relapse and separate, leaving him all alone again. By confessing and accepting the consequences, he saves everyone's friendship.
e. Right here, the remaining five demonstrate true friendship. Despite every good reason to be mad, disappointed, and force him to relearn friendship lessons as punishment alone, they chose to not only forgive him, but also support him at his lowest point. Maturity quickly developing beyond their years, they elect to stay behind, proving he's one of them no matter what (and nullifying his punishment). Similar to the RM7 two episodes ago, they become closer.
This episode is phenomenal, and I cannot recommend it enough!
Road to Friendship
Like Big Mac, Spike, and Discord's friendship, Starlight and Trixie's began in S6's No Second Prances, a very rocky episode. Since then, DHX greatly improved their chemistry, solidified their friendship, and make it important for them to have conflicts without making each other look horrible. Road to Friendship continues to build it and is unquestionably their best outing together.
Like Break Down or Horse Play, its tight dialogue convinces the audiences to buy into their friendship. Listen to how Starlight and Trixie communicate with each other and their environments. Their chemistry's organic in its humor, drama, and overall emotion. Haber took full advantage of not only take full advantage to comedic opportunities, but how to test their friendships too. We're Friendship-Bound, its lyrics, and tone are ear porn, and Pinkie's friends must be a teeeeeensy bit jealous over its fourth-wall-breaking madness.
However, don't ignore Hoo'Far nor him inadvertently contributing to the conflict. He met Trixie and would like to trade his larger wagon for something smaller and more homey. Is Trixie's rusty, uncooperative, crowded and falling apart? Yes. But to her, it's her home, so there's sentimental value attached to it… But Hoo'Far sees it from a material P.O.V. only and believes she needs change.
Starlight agrees with him. Since stopping at Somnambula, their whole trip worsened, and to her, Trixie's caravan is its source. By agreeing to trade, they have more room to sleep and store. Trixie told him why her wagon matters so much, but not her. For all she knows, Trixie wants to trade it, yet nopony offered to. Nevertheless, Starlight has NO right trading her property without asking! Thanks to their bad argument the night before, Trix's anger rightfully worsens. Fortunately, the ep understood this, hence its harsh treatment against SG once they split and that she apologized, a reversal of NSP done right.
Heh! As a result of this upbeat, scaled-back classic, you'd think they knew each other since before the pilot.
P.S.: My quickieview.
P.P.S.: SG, Trix, please work on your chant and dance. Thank you!
A scrapped ending for Wonderbolts Academy was to redeem Lightning Dust, but after being reckless, selfish, and careless to the point of nonchalantly eschewing the RM5's near-fatal peril, it doesn't make sense. Disqualifying her works best. So what becomes of LD now? Does she retry for the WB, start a new career, or change for the better? The Washouts answers every question: leads a successful group of "washed-out" ex-'Bolts and becomes one of FIM's most manipulative antagonists.
Her foil's Rainbow Dash, who continues a mostly grand streak of great outings (minus one, sadly). When DHX writes her well, they balance her ego with sympathetic depth, and like Berrow in GGW, Confalone does the same here. The episode phenomenally exploits her ego and self-confidence with equal dedication caring for Scootaloo and never relenting the consequences of when she exposes her flaws.
Since most of TW is in Dash's perspective, we follow her every move and witness when she's either strong or vulnerable. However, Scootaloo isn't around her all the time; when she opens the Washouts Fan Club, Dash interrogates her. Later on, she brags about how much better the WBs are next to her and doesn't warm up to them at all till later in the stunt show, transitioning her emotions from envy to concern without being forced, especially once LD uses Scoot's rebellious naivete to claim anyone is capable of being a Washout.
As per usual, it's really funny, especially this classic scene!
Unfortunately, Dash's "tough love" not only made her feel more left out of the Wonderbolts, but also helped solidify Scoot's decision to become a Washout. Add to the fact that Dash immediately shuttered the Washout club over Scoot's inward objections, solidifying the thought that her mentor didn't act in good faith at any point.
I haven't even touched upon the subtle development of Scoot's quest for inclusion (explained further down) and the harsh lesson Dash needed to hear to close Act 2, which you can find here. In all, a fantastic episode!
The Mean 6
What better way to close out Season 8A with the second-best 13th episode!
After a small sabbatical, Chryssie returns, aimless in the forest and desperate for revenge on the Mane 8, especially Twilight and Starlight. In doing so, she concocted a crazy scheme of replicating the RM6, leading to some of the best exchanges and jokes, mainly the hilarious tension between her and Snarkle.
But the real stars of TM6 is the RM7. Immediately conflict brew between them, beginning with TS's impatience with the photographer and slowly growing while trekking deeper into the Forest (i.e., Pinkie accidentally startling FS and Rarity leaving man equipment behind). After FS wanders off to help a bird find his nest, the conflict improves, especially when they encounter QC's doppelgangers unbeknownst (and vice-versa). These exchanges brought forth both needed comedy to keep it entertaining, but also accelerated the frustrations within each of the ReMane 7; Lazy Dash's dismissals of 'Shy and Sparkle at their lowest points and Liarjack bullying Starlight for carrying all the camping gear are perhaps the best examples.
Consequently, the RM7 had probably their worst argument since Return of Harmony. Thanks to confusion, everyone was anguishing realistically, the tears from Twilight subtly accentuating the pain. By accident, Chrysalis almost successfully broke them up…if not for their strong bond.
Oh, and this…
P.S.: My full review. Like before, Jeric, Clark, and @PathfinderCS credited here.
Honorable mentions: Surf and/or Turf, Grannies Gone Wild, & Sounds of Silence.
Note: All episodes are listed in my order. As for S8's alone, they're below with their grades and placement (as of the day before S9 debuts).
S8 episode ranking:
- A Rockhoof and a Hard Place: A+ (#8)
- The Break Up Break Down: A+ (#10)
- The Hearth's Warming Club: A (#14)
- Road to Friendship: A (#17)
- The Washouts: A (#18)
- The Mean 6: A (#23)
- Surf and/or Turf: A (#26)
- Grannies Gone Wild: A (#28)
- Sounds of Silence: A- (#35)
- Horse Play: A- (#41)
- Molt Down: A- (#45)
- What Lies Beneath: A- (#46)
- Friendship University: B+ (#54)
- Marks for Effort: B+ (#56)
- The Parent Map: B+ (#60)
- The End in Friend: B (#71)
- School Raze: B (#75)
- The Maud Couple: B (#78)
- School Daze: B- (#84)
- Yakity-Sax: B- (#92)
- Father Knows Beast: B- (#98)
- A Matter of Principals: C- (#133)
- Non-Compete Clause: D- (#152)
- Fake It 'Til You Make It: F (#163)
In order to qualify, it must be a bad moral on its own merits. While some were poorly executed, they weren't actually bad.
Breakdown: Don't be afraid to openly admit your feelings. Those who care for you will listen and understand.
This lesson rings true in both this episode and beyond. Communication is crucial to any relationship, both romantically and familiarly. What's one of the most important elements of communication? Listening. Thanks to misinformation and miscommunication, Big Mac & Sugar nearly fell out on the most romantic day of the year. Thankfully, BM didn't give up and openly admitted his love for her as he mended her trailer, and Sugar — in her sweet, bubbly, caring voice — not only cleared it all up, but became more in love with him.
Hard Place: No matter how hurt, lonely, or hopeless you feel, you matter.
Over a year ago, Rick & Morty co-creator Dan Harmon tweeted very valuable advice for battling depression. The sentence that struck me, who was never clinically depressed, was how your feelings may be real, but aren't reality. That rings so true to Rockhoof, whose self-shame for his inability to adapt to modern times no matter how hard he tried made him believe no one sees him for the hero he was anymore. Yona, who admires him, convinced him he belonged not just by how much she likes him, but by rounding the whole school up to greet him.
Surf: Even if you don't know it, you wording can perpetuate doubt and confusion to someone else.
Another key component to a healthy relationship is how you communicate. Words matter. Even if what you say's innocent, another person might not take it that way. Observe the awareness of microaggressions to create a more inclusive society, for example. Now, what happens in Surf and/or Turf's completely unrelated to bigotry in any way, but pay attention to what Terramar's parents say to him:Quote
Sky Beak: Haven't seen you in days, son. Wish you'd come around more often.Quote
Ocean Flow: Terramar! Welcome home, baby! No excuses. This time, you're staying for dinner.
Honorable mention: The best friendships overcome the toughest hardships (Mean 6).
Characters that appeared on screen prior to S8 (even when in the background) don't count. So some of the tertiary characters from Fake It and Stellar Flare won't make the cut.
Every tertiary character debuting in Fake It.
Every Manehattanite who walked into RFY's a walking stereotype, and the new ones share the problem. They're uninteresting, irritating, and obnoxious. I don't come to watch FIM to see caricatures of millennials, Gen-Xers, rich people, goths, and so forth. Save those elsewhere.
Dishonorable mention: Rolling Thunder (flat co-foil for Scootaloo).
Cute yak best yak! NEXT!
This griffin is a hysterical featherball of jerkery. Embedded with a Griffonstone edge, he keeps his vulnerability within, yet will reveal it when he feels he has to.
Triumphs over Stygian as the show's best villain. Deceptive, witty, manipulative, confident. Innocent on the outside, scheming from the inside. More than willing to make friends, then dump them after fulfilling her usefulness while making them the guilty party.
Growing up with her own culture in the Dragon Lands and understanding it from inside and out, she's macho without being demeaned for it, yet actually cares for others in her own way. Since S6, FIM showcased dragons in a more positive light; she's the most thorough example, especially in Molt Down and Father Knows Beast.
From my SoS review:Quote
She talks a lot and is full of quirks with solid reason. Other than the view and makeshift toys, she hasn't talked to anyone in ages to the point of forgetting or mispronouncing words. AJ is her first companion since Rain Shine exiled her. And her rapid, sometimes flowery, talk is completely hilarious. Her personality is more than charming. It's warm, bright, and optimistic. Even when she's bored, she finds ways to remain eccentric and hopeful to reunite with her clan, evident in many ways, including her gossip with a stick.
Oh, and this:
^ If you can make a really serious situation witty and hysterical, y'got talent.
From my FKB review:Quote
Sludge may be the most hateable non-villain of the series, if not one of them with Svengallop, Garble, Zephyr, and Spoiled Rich. Garble's someone to just hate, but Sludge you love to hate. This slob knows how to con others with no remorse. He wants to lives the luxury life and make you work for it, all the while tugging the right strings to make you fall for his tricks and divide you from who you love at your most vulnerable state. While he freeloads, he's not a stereotype, as he always cleans up after himself and trades his laziness for his brains. Smart, calculating, and very manipulative, he catches himself, remains convincing, and uses Spike's want for biological parentage to bypass all doubts.
Honorable mentions: Silverstream, Ocellus, Sandbar, Snarkle.
Blame it on
Fake It PYHD 2.0, her worst portrayal of the entire series. Backtracking her growth all these years, having to relearn her lessons in a contrived fashion (no pun intended), knowingly threatening to evict a rescue raccoon family, and apologizing half-assedly. In PYHD, she became a bigger plothole because everyone was atrocious to her first. But this ripoff gives her no believable motive and regresses her by storytelling demand.
Dishonorable mention: AJ.
Were ya expecting anyone else? S7 improved her performance and was its best man character, but two episodes held her back: Fame (being the false vessel for DHX to reject the Death of the Author theory) and To Chang a Changeling (became OOC by calling Pharynx a "lost cause" behind his back). S8 improves her consistency tenfold. No OOC moments, no contrived mouthpiece of DHX. As a character, she takes control and is in character in every appearance she's in.
Honorable mention: Twilight.
Full M8 rank (in order):
- Starlight Glimmer
- Twilight Sparkle
- Pinkie Pie
- Rainbow Dash
Yona nearly drowns.
An in-character, likeable Dash and AJ would stop squabbling over some lame record. That same Dash, who rejected going after a difficult-to-attain windpower record from Hurricane Fluttershy after several pegasi were too sick to fly, would consider her inability to swim and utilize her lessons to help teach her students friendship. That same AJ, who forgave Grand Pear and welcomed him to the family decades after disowning his late daughter, would stop arguing with Dash and focus on helping the students row safely. But nope! We got new characters in disguise whose out-of-character stupidity caused their boat to crash in dangerous water and needed the help of Ocellus and Silverstream to rescue her after nearly drowning!
Do they have ANY idea how lucky they are?! If she died, relations between Yakyakistan and Equestria break beyond repair. Even worse, Twilight will have to close down the school! Prince Rutherford agreed to lend his trust to Equestrian royalty and let her join the school. Again, this ain't Fall Weather Friends or Castle Mane-ia! They're supposed to be past this stupid phase! Congratu-feathering-lations for proving Neighsay right, ponuts!
Discord unleashes a bugbear on Starlight's students.
Reasons why are similar to prior. Had Discord's prank harm Yona or the others, Twilight's school has an irreparable PR nightmare. Not to mention it makes Discord a spoiled brat! The reason it's lower is because a non-student's responsible for this, and the interim headmare both successfully intervened and justifiably called him out for his actions.
Fluttershy threatens to evict Smokey and family.
Verbally abusing animals, who she values so much and the core of her talent, violates her moral compass that this show sided for so long. To make it worse, Rarity reminded her early on how she rescued them, hired them, and they became very valuable employees. After threatening them, she proudly bashed them behind their backs to a fellow mare who agrees. *scoff* Some "pretending"!
- FS claims she "pretended."
- Discord screws up the treasure hunt.
- Maud stands Pinkie up.
- Dash & AJ argue to conclude NCC.
- Twilight suddenly announces the School of Friendship.
Yona rallies the School in support of Rockhoof.
From my HP review (with edits for here):Quote
Yona developed a student-to-teacher crush on him, but when his life was in danger, her idolization of him evolves, evident by reading her essay to him. She's in school in Equestria, where no one looks like her or shares her interests; her constant running almost got her into big trouble, and Neighsay's open racism towards non-ponies doesn't help. Bonding with others eases her fears and makes her feel safe. His ability to be strong, brave, and persevere inspired countless individuals, including her, who's innocent and childlike. Their chemistry and her admiration are incredibly genuine, and the fact she stood up for him and convinced everyone in the school to gather around outside and listen to his stories at the lowest moment of his life makes him realize at this moment he means so much to them.
Discord breaks Sugar Belle's wagon wheel.
Reiterating from above, reformed!Discord is written the best by balancing his abrasion with caring for his friends. (Observe this balancing act from The Beginning of the End for an excellent post-S8 example.) In Break Down, he acts like rude and selfish at times (even shooing Hearts & Hooves Day as a commercialized fad), but when he screws up, he'll go make it right. Here, he uses his chaotic magic to stealthily break Sugar Belle's wheel, allowing Big Mac to catch up to her, where they settle their differences and reunite. Yes, he complains about Hearts & Hooves Day being a commercialized fad, yet after his bad advice nearly breaks 'em up, he actively salvages it, proving his belief of romance and friendship with Spike & Big Mac.
Smolder and Gallus won't leave the cave.
Gallus: Maybe the others got out already and we're the last ones?
Smolder: [sarcastic] Yeah, that totally seems like something they would do.
Gallus: [groans] Any other dragon or griffon would save themselves and get out of this crazy cave.
Smolder: Guess we aren't just any dragon or griffon anymore.
Gallus: Guess not. You go that way. I'll check over there.
a. The School of Friendship helped them learn to become better people.
b. No matter where they live, how they celebrate, speak, or what they look like, everyone's equal.
c. Their friends matter. If they pass their tests alone, they'll help them and support them. They'd rather be trapped underneath than abandon them.
d. Individually, they developed. Each task up to What Lies Beneath affects who they are and how they respond to the Tree's test. Without School Daze, Clause, and Club, they never become the people we know now.
P.S.: I'm still in a self-plugging mood right now. If anyone wants to read my What Lies Beneath review, click here.
After Twilight dismisses class for the winter, Gallus flies away.
mlp.fandom.com's caption perfectly points it out: "Note the subtle foreshadowing here - only Gallus appears unhappy in this shot." The Young 6's whole dynamic fleshes out, starting here. Without it, we know nothing of their lifestyles or Gallus's home hardship.
Lightning Dust's false inclusive motive.
Rainbow Dash: It's not about making anypony feel bad. It's about finding the best flyers. The best of the best.
Scootaloo: *sulks in despair*
Lightning Dust: I started the Washouts because I believe anypony can be the best of the best.
Scootaloo: *cheers up, beams in delight at Dust*
Originally, Scootaloo's love for The Washouts appeared to be a fad. At the start, she represented the rebelous teenager growing fascinated with the extra danger because it was "cooler" than the Wonderbolts. Until the final act, she never relinquishes this role. But this exchange creatively swerved an extra motive to admiring the Washouts: inclusivity. Unlike every other pegasi to date, she can't fly, yet idolizes Dash, who's now a Wonderbolt. She envies her mentor and her rise to stardom and feels guilty. This shot punctuates her guilt:
But when Dust retorts, her facial expressions improve instantaneously:
Every thing Scootaloo says and does through the rest of Act 2 calls back to these shots.
a. Scheming with Dust to have the WBs expel her, qualifying her to join.
b. Rejecting Dash's and Spitfire's tough love, believing they had selfish ulterior motives. "Following your wingflaps" subtly points to her disability (thank you, Ganondox, for this point) and envy of Dash for achieving an unattainable goal.
c. Dash's snappy decision to close her fan club finalizing her decision to join the Washouts.
After all of this, it culminates with the most painful lesson in Dash's life, and the one she most deserved to hear. The Washouts calls back so many episodes so subtly, including Flight to the Finish, and takes advantage of its continuity to build an internal conflict developing within Scootaloo for quite some time. Not only did Confalone and his editors write an avenue for Scootaloo to search for a club that'd include disabled pegasi like her, but also show major differences between them.
Does Dash love Scootaloo? Of course she does! She's her surrogate sister. But her ego made her believe she became protective in bad faith. Scootaloo's direct rant was a long time coming, and made Dash painfully realize she'll never become one of the best fliers, the key physical qualifier for becoming a 'Bolt. The Washouts gave her a chance to prove herself, and she wasn't giving it up. Like it or not, Scoot's growing up; she must trust her to use her conscience and judge if a stunt's too dangerous. Dash and Twi did the right thing letting her go and decide for herself.
- Cozy talks to Starlight after watching Twilight expel the CMCs.
- Silverstream stands up to The Storm King.
- Twilight sticks up for Spike after helping defeat the Roc.
- Ocean Flow and Skybeak (Terramar's parents) greet each other warmly.
- Celestia leads the play's rescue.
- Gallus's friends stay behind to support him.
What I want for Season 9:
The usual: maintain consistency, watch out for unfortunate implications, etc.
Haber and Dubuc continue working as a team. Shadow Play really showed what they were capable of; despite a slow start, they helped edit the most consistently great season of the show. Haaber's return helped improve S7, Dubuc's arrival added extra touches to improve its formula. So far, they remain that team with the touch.
Further develop the Young Six. What Lies Beneath and School Raze show us what to potentially expect of them: The Tree of Harmony likes them, has faith in them, and believes they can spread the Magic of Friendship far and wide. Friendship's in their nature. Don't be surprised if they succeed the RM6 and either become the new Bearers or become successors to the Elements before them. The Y6 are some of the best group of characters FIM ever had; more of them, please!
Deliver finality. Hasbro announced Season 9 as its last. As disappointing as it is to many, S9 and FIM's end's also a time to celebrate the show itself, what it became, its consistency from the beginning, and how it can inspire other shows years from now.
Story-wise, there's still some closure left. Cozy Glow's S8's villain, yet she, Tirek, or Chrysalis aren't done. Their arcs remain. The Beginning of the End and an upcoming episode may foreshadow their conclusions, but the ride interests me just as much.
No secret. I love Season 8! Had S5 not top it just a little bit, it'd be my favorite. Great episodes, excellent consistency, great new characters. Best villain. I don't need to say anymore. Bring on Season 9!!!
P.S.: My season order: 5 > 8 > 7 > 2 > 1 > 4 > 3 > 6.