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  1. Note: Taken from here and edited. A second, fuller review/analysis of how it's the perfect FIM finale is on the way. - A nitpick, but the adults are looking a little older than what they show. They're all at least in their mid-thirties if not closer to 40, but the giant bags under their eyes make them look like they're older than Bow Hothoof or Windy Whistles. Lighter, smaller, subtler lines under their eyes may work more to better match that range. - Twilight apparently had a little too much trouble relocating sheep away from the line, and her animation as Future Twi isn't very polished. +/- Twilight looking like a Celestia recolor was a major surprise (and I can see why some don't like it), but over time, I've become more and more used to her. Her hair's beautiful, but the lack of strap over her crest makes it look like it's floating over her chest instead of being hooked around. + The new interior of the Throne Room is absolutely breathtaking. Beautiful color palette pleasing to the eye, excellent callbacks via the stained-glass windows (including updates since the finale, like Flurry Heart officially becoming princess and the Y6 saving the School), and the lighter pastel making the bolder-colored characters pop out. + Spike really shows how much he's evolved since becoming the ambassador, and I don't mean physically or vocally. He's part-royalty, Twilight's equal, and has done a spectacular job maintaining harmony throughout the world. Recall the very beginning of the episode, which he states to Twilight how he mediates peace between the Diamond Dogs and Abyssinians, a reference to one of the comics where Capper's originally from). Also, he's more mature despite maintaining a kid-like attitude, too. + What Twilight prophesied during the final battle before the last friendship laser comes true. Fifteen or twenty years into the future, several races are now at harmony with each other. Dragons, griffons, kirin, hippogriffs, yaks, changelings, and ponies are all in harmony together. There's no infighting; everyone's communicating with each other happily and without prejudice. Not only did everyone come to embrace the Magic of Friendship. But their own lives improved, too. (You got to see some of this affect the ReMane Six later, as Ocellus, Silversteam and Smolder teach at the School of Friendship, and Rarity lives and sells fashion at her boutique in Yakyakistan.) + Luster Dawn has that same naivety as Twilight, but at a very different angle. Twilight thought making friends was a waste of time, period, though was apparently never really taught friendship at any point. Sure, Twilight had friends in Canterlot, but never reciprocated those feelings. Here, Twilight teaches her best and most faithful student how friendship's the most powerful and most important magic in the School for Gifted Unicorns, but due to their time separated over the years, Luster wonders if friendship is worth it if the friendships fade away. Unlike Twilight back then, Luster's more outgoing, but doesn't embrace friendship as a result of seeing Twilight spend most of her time ruling alone. + As a result, Twilight tells and explains very intricately about how it can be easy to make friends, but it's much, much harder to maintain them. They may be separate more now, but they always stay connected so they have each others' backs whenever something bad happens or catch up on things. Back in her days, Celestia mostly had Twilight learn to make friends and understand friendship on her own. Here, she shows Luster that friends always matter in the most proactive, teaching way possible. Arranging a meeting with Luster on the day all gather. + The flashback itself is emotional. Twilight was absolutely justified to feel super upset and scared what happens next. The big baddies are in stone sleep, but all of them have lives. Despite the promise of ruling together, we don't know how they're gonna rule together, budget their time to do so, and if they'll remain together at all. She's moving away to Canterlot, and the day of the coronation may be her goodbye. It was also very subtle and impactful for the RM5 to use their preparation to admit they're grieving, too. They're so unnaturally happy and casual to see Twilight head off to Canterlot, but their conversation at the Castle of Friendship shows how that happiness is truly everything but. They don't know if Twilight will be able to communicate with them ever again. Also, the criticism of Twilight not moving the capital of Equestria to Ponyville's nonsense. Canterlot has been Equestria's capital for well over a millennium, if not before Celestia and Luna were princesses. In addition to Canterlot having a firmer legacy than Ponyville, moving an entire capital would be a task of epic proportions. To be able to share their sadness, fright, and despair reminds he audience how close they are, no matter what trials they face. They were scared, and it's okay for them to be scared. Their cries felt very real, and it's heartbreaking to see them all slowly break down, especially ones like Pinkie (her words just got me crying, literally). Everyone was so obsessed and focused on the "perfect" coronation that everything went terribly wrong so quickly when things got complicated. The hilarious screwups were a very refreshing break from the drama. With the coronation over, they can laugh it off knowing it's over. They had their hardships today, and to have this break means they can relax. Because of this, Twilight has a clear head now and can use that knowledge over the years to come up with a great idea: every moon, they meet once under the Council of Friendship. It was a challenge they had to face, and they found a way to conquer it. The ending really marks the end of a long era, mirroring FIM's, too. Celestia and Luna are no longer ruling, and they felt confident in letting Twilight and her friends rule Equestria on their own. Yes, they'll be more happy to help her whenever they need it, but the RM7 are confident and can be trusted in helping Equestria move on to its next chapter. + The moral is excellent in concept and better than excellent in execution. I already talked about that extensively. + The episode took another bold, daring direction by giving everyone definitive lives with both occupations and sometimes love lives. not only on what they're doing. CheesePie, SugarMac, YonaBar, and LyraBon are more than confirmed, but ones like FlutterCord and AppleDash are hinted with subtle clues (i.e., Fluttershy's lunch bag and bluebells, AJ/RD's banter). It's DHX's story, but their lives also have a purpose: no matter how much your lives change, your friendships keep you connected. Everyone's extremely busy now, but they always manage to meet together. When they don't, they see them. Starlight and Sunburst still lead the thriving School of Friendship. Look closely, and you see all of the confidence from the Young Six. (For example, Smolder openly has tea with Ocellus, a hobby she once derided and hid until What Lies Beneath.) + Not everything ends happily. Granny Smith and Goldie Delicious are gone now, and AJ and AB are wearing their scarves in their honor. + The Magic of Friendship Grows. All of it. It's emotional, hopeful, and beautiful. This song got me crying at times. The background shots during the final chorus are extremely moving and very well-done. But there are two things to mention: The final shot of all seven watching Luster walk away with new friends is absolutely fantastic. Even more beautiful is the sunset glow, a literal twilight sparkle as one YouTuber wrote. The final shot: the book to open FIM closes, indicating the end of an era. (Pay attention to the "fin" on the left page, a great piece of detail in a show that doesn't always show the English alphabet so clearly.) This is an EXCELLENT episode! A magnificent cap to a great, successful show!
  2. I freaking love the cold open of this episode! Having the major players of this episode doing monologues describing what happened is fantastic. The final Spike/Discord/Big Mac certainly got off to a great start from then and there. It's a great example of a flashback episode, giving Mac a bit more personality and Discord is being Discord as normal. Love the usual references and gags, along with the the apples basically taking over Ponyville, and the CMC were helping Sugar Belle with her message sending. I love the moment with Granny describing her dream as well. (Star trek reference!) The ending to this episode is probably the most touching and great ending to the normal episodes. Seeing this ending is the best way that they could have gone before the series finale. Glad they decided to wrap up the Big Mac/Sugar Belle story arc, because they ended up creating a gem of a episode. Grade: A
  3. Because Season 9 was its last, FIM was likely going to go out and try to deliver the best episodes possible. Out of the gate, Dubuc and Haber co-wrote Sparkle's Seven, one of the best comedic, animated, and written episodes of the series. Taking ideas from the lead voice actors, they blended together a tremendous script that never let up, delivered an excellent allegory of how well-made predictability transcends poorly-made unpredictability, and used that allegory to create an excellent plot twist. If you wanna read my review, it's right here. Unfortunately, no episode review for The Last Crusade, but my love for it from the minute it debuted early never wavered. While Sparkle's Seven doesn't take itself too seriously, this was an emotional roller coaster from the minute Scoot realized her parents were coming home. Mane Allgood and Snap Shutter were, to put it bluntly, very bad parents for not being able to spend time with Scootaloo, and the parents (and episode itself) know it. Therefore, they come up with a solution that allows them to do the job that Equestria depends them upon while simultaneously taking care of Scootaloo. Unfortunately, it completely overlooked the fact that Scootaloo has hundreds of close relations back in Ponyville and all over Equestria. In trying to resolve a dilemma, they made Scootaloo even more upset and put her at greater odds with them. The only way they were going to let her stay is to show them that the CMCs truly changed their lives for the better; with help from Aunt Holiday, Auntie Lofty, and every resident they knew, they successfully convinced Mane Allgood and Snap Shutter that separating the CMCs would only hurt Equestria over the long haul. Letting her stay in Ponyville and promising to spend more time with her when the train let them was the right solution for the story, lessons, and characters. Both TLC and Seven are outstanding and extremely close in quality, but by the skin of its teeth, Last Crusade overthrew it. No other episode came close to toppling it…until The Big Mac Question. Line 'Em Up! I long repeated this, and to write it again, the dialogue since Shadow Play has really improved, the verbal comedy especially. Since Dubuc relinquished her role as co-editor, the comedic dialogue has, sadly, been somewhat of a step down. Thankfully, I'm reminded through BMQ that the same wit never really left, and that when it's on, it's great. Discord, for that matter, was the king of these great lines. Here are just a few: The first line wasn't quite true, but the second completely was, historically speaking. (The line is doubly important for adding context to the episode's central lesson of how keeping things simple are what really makes things special, but I'll get back to that later.) Not a bad callback. Once more, Discord has a point. Every time someone hopes for the better, something goes wrong. But Discord's the Lord of Chaos with a childish, immature streak, too. Since he wasn't alerted of Big Mac's proposal plan, he became giddy and impatient (with a great mariachi reference [taking a page from Star Trek: TNG]). As he read a message on a painted apple, he quickly realized something was awry in his own way. Big Mac's riddles were clumsily written, sometimes confusing, and easily gave away the second location. In trying to come up with the "perfect idea," Big Mac created a major flaw in his plan. However, Discord still isn't completely accustomed to the "friendship" aspect of Equestria, and given his long, immortal, antagonistic history, he maintains a defiant, devious streak. After he uses his magic to lay every single wooden apple around Ponyville without fully looking at the riddles, he soon caved in to Spike's glares and doubt, agreeing to double-check. From the beginning, Discord believed this game was overblown and instead should give it to Sugar Belle instead, only to have it rejected for "not being romantic" and breaking BM's rule of discovery. Afterwards, when he missed his chance to actually get Sugar Belle to see an apple, he went about spreading "the love" in, once more, his own way: giving the wooden apples life and instructing them to their own posts. Unfortunately, like Big Mac, his instructions and direction were also not quite clear, so the apples popped up whenever another pony passed by, leading to delicious, entertaining chaos. Without it, Discord's involvement in the episode would be out of character and as bland as Cart Before the Ponies. Chaos drives Discord, and his ability to create havoc and mayhem makes for a more entertaining conflict and story, especially around Big Mac and Spike. On the other hand, it puts him into fault. Instead of thoroughly double-checking and making sure everything goes right, he cuts corners and tries to be cute and creative (tho I don't mind ), leading him to become responsible for the spider-looking apple monster. Also, I disagree with the criticism of Discord regressing. Sure, he may not have developed like D&D and TBUBD, but he understands how much Sugar Belle means to Big Mac. Despite his severe disagreement with the plan and Spike's commitment to it, he regrets worsening things and helps rectify the errors with everyone else offscreen as BM and Sugar proposed to each other. Furthermore, this episode shows some subtle growth from Break Down: After a lot of complaining over the lovey-dovey stuff and wanting to play O&O instead, he doesn't let his opinions interfere with Big Mac's proposal and tries to simultaneously help her solve the riddles and respect Spike's pleas. The Time Is Right Michael Vogel's among the best writers of the current crop. The Big Mac Question adds to his résumé, and with Hader co-writing, they co-created well-done, well-timed comedy. Discord's spilling of littler, more innocent secrets works as a joke for a big reason. As written already, Discord still hasn't fully accustomed to friendship, notably keeping a secret. FS's fright of clowns, Twilight's sleepwalking, and Octavia's date have a more innocuous, lighthearted zephyr; yes, he's spilling them to Spike and Big Mac, but not maliciously. This joke leads to the punchline right before the intro: shouting excitedly that Big Mac plans to propose to Sugar Belle. Everyone's curious reaction to the echo is really hilarious, and even better as one of them — Shoeshine — hears it and shrugs it off. Even better, they repeated the very same joke while keeping it fresh. It's 100% understandable that Apple Bloom's family will soon expand with Sugar Belle becoming her soon-to-be sister-in-law. Her giddy face sells her excitement well, so when she shouts out loud and everyone's as confused as before, you still laugh. Every single "shocking" misadventure by the CMCs: Scoot heads to the bowling alley and accidentally causes a Lebowski stallion to throw a bowling ball into a lamp, breaking the wooden panels below. When AB heads to the sanctuary, she shocks a monkey into a sleeping canopy of Smoky and family. SB opens a sauna, where a relaxing mare throws a body towel over her head when she finds out her privacy's invaded. Spike has a point. Discord's poor directions made the apples believe that the next pony to come close will receive the poem, and it followed each pony wherever they went. In trying to make Sugar Belle see an apple, he — surprise surprise! — helped unleash a boatload of chaos at the Ponyville market. Relocating them back to Sweet Apple Acres was another unwise decision, as they merged into THIS monstrosity! However, instead of actually going on a rampage to find Sugar Belle, the apple monster with its six, spidery eyes successfully delivered the assigned message in its grossest, yet most sincere, message of marriage right onto Discord. Yes, all the apple spit's gross, but not done with any ill intentions, and Discord didn't do a lot to make the problem better. Secondly, notice how the large apple's voice is very similar to Big Macintosh's? A nice, little way to get Peter New to talk in his Big Mac voice while making it sound as garbled, menacing, and childlike as possible. Whenever Granny Smith spoke, she was "spaced out," giving DHX plenty of leeway to pluck some great Star Trek references. Beyond "where nopony has gone before," she said this: >References Q >Inspiration for Discord …cheeky cheeky! Yet, the timing of the humor alone wasn't just right. As the apples chased Ponyville in Act 1, the animation crew snuck in this tender moment: Ever since FIM started, Lyra and Bon Bon have always been side by side, and the brony fandom established a long-time ship out of it. In Slice of Life, they teased the possibility despite hammering in the "best friends" line with the cheek caressing, couple-like arguing late, and the bedroom eyes. Over the last few seasons, their "friendship" began to really evolve, especially since S8 when DHX knew the finish line. Just a few examples: Grannies Gone Wild: Everywhere they went in Las Pegasus. Break Down: Exchanging Hearts & Hooves Day gifts. Marks for Effort: Bon Bon buying a green cactus, presumably for Lyra. End in Friend: Having lunch together. Dragon Dropped: Sharing a milkshake together, ala Buttercup and Bright Mac. After what happened in DD, you knew that the animators were just going to do something with Lyra and Bon Bon. From Season 5 onward, their evolving relationship was clearly no accident. While the main stories developed in front of us, their arc developed from the background. I guarantee you someone in this fandom will go back, find all the foreshadowing over the seasons, and build their story. Why is their proposal so significant? Representation matters. The TV debut to Auntie Lofty and Aunt Holiday introduced a same-sex couple for the first time in the show's history. While they're secondary characters, their presence in Scootaloo's life mattered, and they helped lead the CMCs' idea for a CMC Appreciation Day. It demonstrates how significant the brony fandom truly was to the growth of this show. In the beginning, everyone was surprised by how good Friendship Is Magic truly was. Although viewership and overall size of bronydom has dropped over the years, it still has its viewers and dedicated bronies. The brony fandom created this popular fanon ship all the way back to season one…and animator Morgan Shandro made it canon. Lofty/Holiday and LyraBon are special in their own rights. The former gave the LGBTQ+ community well-needed representation in a very popular family show and directly impacted the story. The latter came after years and years of development, and the animators decided that this was the right time to make it official. BTW, how apropos for Lyra to propose by dropping on one knee like a human? Drawing to a Close A giant reason why Shadow Play's one of the greatest episodes of FIM is how it blended so many arcs into one. Changes of editors + writers = changes of direction. The team turnover means new people post and publish episodes that match their own vision of FIM, so you have a wide array of stories that sometimes go nowhere. This two-parter blended so many arcs (the Pony of Shadows, Star Swirl's lack of understanding friendship, the Pillars, Starlight's redemption) so seamlessly that it looks like the creators intentionally left them vague so that they can be completed at the right time. It's one of the most impressive feats this show has ever done. Big Mac Question blends so many arcs in a smaller scale and closes them. Back in The Cutie Map, Spike explains his preference to be with Big Mac as the reason for skipping the Mane Six's first friendship quest. More than a season later, Nick Confalone expanded this little gag into its own story by including Discord in the Guys' Night Out duo. Two seasons later, they all acted like they knew each other since Spike hatched. BMQ added another chapter into this arc with one central goal. Once Hard to Say Anything concluded, Sugar Belle and Big Mac became an item. Over this and the next few seasons, the writers and animators sprinkled in romance between 'em, solidifying their unity. This episode called back to how they became an item in the first place: Big Mac renovating her shelf to add more space for her desserts, and Scoot recognized the blueprint for it inside SAA. Also, great call by Vogel and Haber to have Sugar Belle plan to propose to him, too. Usually, the male proposes to her, and Big Mac planned to pop the question at some point today. However, Plot 1B had Sugar Belle plan her own with Mrs. Cake's and the CMCs's help, showing that Sugar Belle had some ideas and offer of her own to prove her own commitment as his wife. Speaking of the CMCs… As the episode lampshaded, they earned a reputation of concocting schemes, either with success or failure, since they first met. After multiple tries, they finally got Big Mac to become an item with Sugar. Here, they felt guilty for accidentally contributing to the confusion that almost caused them to break up. (In Break Down, the delivery ponies mistook Sugar Belle for Sweetie Belle after smudging the address, leading them to believe she had a secret admirer.) For the first time all series, they're aware of the consequences. By working with Sugar and helping her to find Big Mac, they feel like they can make up for at least some of it. Yet, as what the episode showed, even their good intentions sometimes don't go according to plan. All series long, Spike's romanticism has had an impact on everyone and himself. In Break Down, he hinted his romantic "expertise" by reciting a poem of his unrequited crush on Rarity, only to be hilariously interrupted when Discord ignored him. XD Here, he brags to an offscreen character how he's so romantic and tries to help Mrs. Cake deliver all the proposal messages to the desserts…only to have his idea burn to a crisp. Lyra's and Bon Bon's series-long, evolving relationship, as explained before. Plus, notice how Bon Bon popped the question just after Lyra? Their dual proposal and rings subtly foreshadow Sugar's and BM's later on. Sugar Belle was one of the four ponies the Mane Six met when they first arrived in Our Town, and led them into an underground rebellion so they can regain their magical talent and break free from Starlight's tyranny. At season's end, she forgave her, and later helped invite Starlight to return to the village for the festival. After To Where, DHX slowly incorporated her into the secondary cast. The time she became super-heartbroken over losing her boyfriend and then became super-happy when they reunited was the moment I permanently bought into their romance. When Big Mac talked about how he loves her snorty chuckle, you can tell they really love each other. When they were going to marry was only a matter of time. Aside from being part of the timeline of Dungeons & Discord, Hard to Say Anything, and The Break Up Break Down, it is the perfect sequel to the franchise's greatest episode — The Perfect Pear — and references it in so many ways. Decades ago, Buttercup suspected that Mrs. Cake — Chiffon Swirl back in the day — enjoyed baking, so she gave her ingredients and challenged her to be creative. Her instincts were proven right, as she got her cutie mark and became lifelong, close friends with BC, which continues long after her passing. Here, she's essential to the story by agreeing to take part in Sugar Belle's 21-dessert surprise proposal. When the Pears were about to relocate to Vanhoover, their parents married in secret at the rock that borders the Pear and Apple orchards. (Notice how Bright and BC planted seeds in their opposing orchards, which directly contributed to the growth of the intertwining apple-and-pear tree around the rock in which they declared their love for each other. During their walk together, they find themselves at that tree, and as they talked, the sun sets perfectly within the iconic heart, spiritually indicating their support for Sugar Belle and their romance. Knowing who his father was like means a lot to Big Macintosh. Here, he envisioned proposing to Sugar Belle at a similar desk like the one he built for her a few seasons ago, calling back to Bright Mac's own declaration of love to Buttercup at the rock, only to teasingly falter. Through this episode and his heart-to-heart chat with his girlfriend, we see he knows more about him now and how much his understanding of his parents matters so much. Now that he's older and wiser, he wants to respect their legacy. Sugar Belle’s poignant wisdom and subsequent glow also suggest agreement by them with her, too. The first time Mayor Mare officiated a wedding, she worked with Bright Mac to rush one in before they relocated far away. That wedding was set up quickly and in secret from the feuding families with no certainty if they were going to be together. Bright Mac wasn't lucky just to get her to witness their surprise, but also complete the vows before the Pears moved. This doesn’t happen here. The wedding at the now-grown tree was well-planned and included the wanted decorations, guests, streamers, and so forth. From the start, Sugar and BM know they want to spend the rest of their lives together, a massive contrast from the pressure Pear Butter and Bright Macintosh felt then. One of the two twists within the episode: everyone explaining to Applejack, the unknown narrator. (The other being the wedding, which I'll get to later.) She was the one who agreed to go on that expedition to find out about why the Pears and Apples feuded for so long, which introduced their parents’ pasts to them, brought them closer to them, and helped them forgive Grand Pear. Her tears show how touched she was of not only the story they told her, but her brother's marriage. Speaking of… Grand Pear only had a couple of cameos here, but his biggest one was his appearance at his grandson’s wedding. The last time one took place there, he abandoned his own daughter and never saw her alive again. Several decades later, he returned to Ponyville. Their forgiveness and witnessing of the beautiful intertwined tree together began the long-awaited healing process. This time, he (and Granny) returns to the very same site, stands beside the other Apples and Burnt Oak, and gives Big Mac his unconditional blessings, closing another gap that caused a massive, increasingly bitter divide between himself and his mother-in-law. How poetic is this sequel to have another marriage take place at their tree. Two seasons ago, the Apple kin rediscovered their parents’ legacy, how they introduced each other, and fell in love thru very bitter times. Come to the end of the episode, and that long-standing bitterness that divided the Pear and Apple families for so long is healed. Well, BMQ breaks a second, not-so-talked-about barrier: Sugar Belle’s the first non-Earth Pony to be part of the Apple family. (Also, recall AJ scolding Twilight for using magic unsolicitedly on her farm in S1? Intentional or otherwise, this episode implicates that the Apples welcome unicorn magic full-time on the property now.) A Lesson in Execution BMQ's primary lesson — "When you tend to make things complicated and make mistakes, the simplest things are the most desired and cherished" — is magnificent, but the way it's taught brings that home. Before he takes out his ring, Big Mac wants to show Sugar Belle his commitment to being her husband matters by helping her find him. How? By using those painted apples with attached clues, she travels from one location to the next before meeting him at the hilltop near Sweet Apple Acres. Unfortunately, his plan never properly flourished. Not only did she miss the first apple, but he had to go back to his barn to pick up the screwdriver he left behind. When he realizes she wasn't coming, he walks to Sugar Cube Corner to find her. Discord tries to help Sugar Belle find the first apple, but she misses it twice, resulting in his poor strategy of having the apples follow whoever sees them first. When he cleaned it all up, Sugar Belle still never saw it! Deciding to cut to the chase, he brought her to that same hilltop, only to realize he left. He blindfolded her and then brought her back to SCC. He may believe in romance now, but doesn't quite understand it still. Instead of helping each other out, Spike and Mrs. Cake were so sworn to their own party's secrets that they created an imaginary buffer that prevented helping each other out. When Spike tried to help Mrs. Cake, he found out that Mrs. Cake messed up her desserts and later accidentally burned every one of Sugar Belle's messages. Spike isn't always the politest dragon, and BMQ's no exception. In order to make Sugar's search for BM as perfect as possible, he got a little too worried over the arrangement, placement, and visibility of each apple, glared hard at Discord for not checking carefully, and refused to ease the game's difficulty. Why did he blow his magical fire on the remaining notes? Because he believed they would be able to get into the desserts quickly and easily, only to screw up badly. However, he didn't accept all of the blame, bluntly criticizing Mrs. Cake's terrible desserts. Mrs. Cake accepted a very difficult challenge of baking twenty-one desserts. Immediately, things went terribly wrong. During the rush, she had absolutely no idea what ingredients she was using and whether she used them at all. Poignantly observed by Scootaloo: Fortunately, no pony tasted them. Sugar Belle orchestrated her entire twenty-one-dessert proposal with Mrs. Cake and added another one with its own message to call Big Mac down to the shop. The purpose of having just one word in each dessert was to help Big Mac solve the proposal puzzle after he eats each once, but to bake that many meant Mrs. Cake's margin for error significantly decreased and must work harder than usual to finish on time. On her end, discovering Discord and Spike at the doorstep meant overlooking the apple on the step and running off as quick as they can to find Big Mac. The Cutie Mark Crusaders tried to find Big Mac to give him the dessert as promised. But when they couldn't find him at the barn, Apple Bloom called back Granny's advice and took it a little too literally, causing trouble of their own and annoying her friends in the process. The fact that everyone's plans were too complicated is kind of the point. Every single pony's so focused in trying to create the perfect proposal, they overlook serious flaws. What everyone had to figure out was that by messing things up, they discovered the true worth of commitment and dedication. They never had to go over the top in order to fix it, either. Pairing it down the essentials was all they needed, something Discord comprehended well beforehand. Sugar Belle was the first outside of Discord to truly figure it out after Big Mac felt upset for screwing up his own proposal and feeling that he let the legacy of his parents down. Because he doesn't talk much, his words matter a lot, so when he expresses his sadness, you really feel it. However, despite problems of her own, she understood that this was nothing compared to what they (and when she was controlled by Starlight) endured. To her, this was merely a blip. Mistakes happen; they can use 'em to grow closer and really show their love for each other. I read a few comments on Derpibooru calling their dual proposal cute, and it really is. <3 Their solid chemistry sells the warmheartedness! But I won't end my review until I call out two other things in this episode: All episode long, Spike wore nothing. For all we know, the fourth wall or a character we had no idea existed until then interviewed all of them. What slowly began to change, though, was when he wore a suit and tie for the first time. As a result, the wedding surprise was kept under wraps from the audience; showing him wearing his suit and putting on his bow tie really makes their marriage all the more impactful. Had we knew they were eloping at episode's end, this whole journey would've felt completely pointless. After a lot of great humor, chaos, and a little bit of drama, Discord alerting the apples to drop and sing "happy marriage, happy apples!" was perfect, heartwarming cuteness on top of already perfect cuteness! He might've added to the problems, but he respects their wedding ceremony and uses a subtle, Discord-y twist to show it. Consider this his own, special way to appreciate his friendship with everyone, their marriage, and their future lives. Conclusion What else can I say about this one? The Big Mac Question is really funny, really cute, and really heartwarming. Vogel and Haber tackled all of the emotions at exactly the right time and provided a magnificent cap to several arcs, some of which date back to the first season. This is the new-best Season 9 episode and one of the ten best of the series.
  4. This episode is very typical of the early series CMC episodes. Love all the great facial features. The new character models for the adult CMC are recognizable with a slightly different main and tail styles. The song isn't overly great, just basically bragging that they are adults. The song is catchy through, and I love the wink and nod to the production of the show during the song. The voices of the actor even sound a bit older for the episode. The two new characters in the episode seemed like typical siblings. Overall, this was a bit of a weak way to end the CMC's story arc in the show. I liked the song somewhat, but it was overall a fairly weak end to the CMC story arc for the show. Grade: B-
  5. I love the fact that Fluttershy is playing a semi-antagonist role here in this episode. It's a very interesting. twist to her character, and her usual character trait of being too trusting for her own good. Then again, that's why we all love her. The return of Ahuizotl makes the final episode that features Daring Do that much better. But, again, this episode focuses on the nieveities of Fluttershy and just how trusting she truly truely is. The end absolutely fantastic. I love how Fluttershy saves the day yet again. Love this build that they gave Ahuizotl at the end here, and the turn around with Ahuizotl and Caballeron. Overall, I thought the build up for this was good. I also loved the use of Fluttershy in this as well. Finally, I loved the overdue return of Ahuizotl and the character building that his character went through. Grade: A-
  6. Note: Expanded from my forum post. Credits to comments by @BornAgainBrony, @Truffles, and @Ittoni for the review. This whole episode is packed with lots of smaller details, which on rewatch go a long way. One of the first instances is this exchange between AK and her former fans. At first, it looks like a throwaway line that Groom Q.Q. Martingale threw in there. But in the beginning of Act 2, that concerned filly returns to her book signing, where we see more of this exchange: During my rewatch of the saga last month, I assumed it referred to kicking away the wild cats, one of them a housecat, during Daring Don't. But those weren’t accidents; she tried to defend herself. Despite her initial denial, she finally admitted to not only accidentally kicking a puppy, but didn’t put it in any of her books. Why does this small exchange matter? The Daring Do Series is a series of autobiographical events, but because she’s trying to sell stories to children as well, she sanitizes, alters, and omits things that might disinterest or repulse the audience. She edits each book to make the stories more sellable and sells the books as fiction. For a long time, that tactic worked; each "character" has become memorable, and there's a huge Daring Do fandom out there. Now it's starting to backfire. It opens the door for the possibility of more laying beneath to the whole Daring Do saga. Remember, the series is written in third-person limited perspective, every adventure in Daring’s point of view. Groom Q.Q. Martingale's opens that point of view, painting her stories in a more negative light while still making sense. More importantly, Caballeron’s response becomes more credible to the general audience. Yes, he’s scheming to steal the Truth Talisman of Tonatiuh, but because of the editing of her own book, she opens things up for him to explain his own side and sprinkle truths both big and small that she didn’t tell. As omissions and inaccuracies big and small add up, doubt clouds the Daring fanbase's head, which Fluttershy and the little filly represent. Innocuous details like the flower being the wrong color now implicate she has something to hide. During that exchange, Dash busts back in to warn A.K. that Caballeron is bringing Fluttershy along to Tenochtitlan. During the frantic warning, she looks around to see if anyone was around (not seeing the filly), just to see if no one is sneaking around. Like Dash herself, A.K. Yealing forgets about the child, revealing her original identity as Daring Do to the filly's shock and delight. Despite the growing scandal, some ponies still idolize her and want to grow up to be just like her. Another one comes in Fluttershy's first scene in the Tenochtitlan Basin. Notice his twinkling highlights and small smile as she tames Ahuizotl's jungle cats. For the first time all series, he shows sincere appreciation for someone other than himself. Usually greedy and selfish, he watched firsthand how much someone's selflessness and unconditional caring mattered. He brought her over to trick her; despite carrying that trickery throughout, his plan began to both crack and evolve. Yet, that crack didn't quite begin there. After Caballeron scolded at Rogue for almost poisoning himself, what does she do? Take out her traveling picnic with apple juice to Caballeron's surprise and share her lunch with them out of appreciation. Rather than snub her, he and his henchponies accept her generosity. Had this not happen, Caballeron's appreciation for Fluttershy from that point forward won't make sense. From the very beginning, Fluttershy was convinced that there's more to the Daring Do saga than what A.K. Yearling told through her books, even though she witnessed Caballeron and Ahuizotl firsthand commit bad actions. Talking personally with Caballeron while in the bookstore only made her more curious. So, was she gullible and naive? Absolutely. However, her naivety is much more believable compared to buying a too-good-to-be-true rag doll from Flim and Flam during Best Gift Ever, and one key moment shows she isn't that gullible: This indicates awareness of the events and an expectancy of Caballeron to try to explain the problem. So how does he respond? With a plausible alibi surrounding a museum that closed down from lack of funds. Daring's long history of storing many sacred artifacts on her shelves, destroying temples older than the Royal Sisters, and thus the homes of many animals (something she cares about deeply) also invited questions on her behalf. While she listened to and questioned him, he explained his lies while remaining grounded to Equestrian reality, and his book while under Martingale has enough credentials to sway many ex-fans. Additionally, she was very well aware throughout that Martingale was Caballeron, talked to him as if he was Caballeron, and never reacted at all when he reveals his identity to her. Also, Fluttershy never wavers her unconditional kindness regardless of any circumstance. During the entire expedition, she stayed true to her embodied Element of Harmony and exemplified it wherever she went. In each scene, Caballeron and his gang slowly show appreciation for it, both subtly and obviously. Beyond the examples from above: At the closure of the first expedition scene, Biff, Rogue, and Withers smile in thanks for Fluttershy. At the base outside of Tonatiuh's pyramid, Caballeron yells at Biff for suggesting to take a shortcut, and Biff feels disrespected by him despite being second-in-command. Fluttershy reassures him that he will and she believes in him (which happens inside the central room). Once they reach the top, Withers relaxes under shade, unaware that he was under an active, dangerous flyder hive. Instinctively, she whispers to stay still and called the flyders away for just a moment so he can escape. Again, Dr. C smiles appreciatively. On an unrelated note, Tonatiuh is the Aztec god of the sun, and the only way to enter his temple is to place a sacred relic in a pedestal once the sun reaches its apex. If intentional, clever tie-in to its mythology. Inside the temple, Caballeron tricks Fluttershy to getting the Truth Talisman of Tonatiuh (I'll get back to it in a sec), and once she retrieves it, lava spurts out. Previously, Caballeron and his henchmen were somewhat cowardly and only went after the treasure. If something bad was going to happen, they'd leave it behind. That doesn't happen here. Instead, they instinctively knock down a totem pole, and Caballeron rescues Fluttershy from certain death. Again, they didn't have to do this, but they chose to rescue her and save her. Yes, they retrieved the talisman, but because of her kindness, they returned the favor. Fluttershy's naivety in this scene, however, is problematic in two areas: Throughout almost all of Daring Doubt, Dr. Caballeron was very competent. However, his use of false despair to convince Fluttershy to fly up and steal Tonatiuh's talisman wasn't convincing whatsoever and lazy. By falling for his bad acting, she crosses from being just gullible into becoming dumb. Fluttershy reveals to having no idea that Caballeron planned to trick her the whole time. If Fluttershy knew beforehand he was scheming yet went along, it subverts the idea that she was too gullible, instead showing she knew what she was doing. OTOH, it also makes her really reckless, implicating she knows Caballeron poorly acted, yet helped him steal the talisman and put her own life at risk. Right after he reveals to lie to her, he soon reveals that he valued her kindness and friendship, a smaller subversion in and of itself and downplays unneeded drama, but it also lessens the weight of his small change of heart. Caballeron revealing his lie through the Truth Talisman could've gone either way with varying implications. The canonical path, as stated before, shows her unconditional kindness, especially after her ignorance towards Angel's needs fueled the conflict, but it made her look way too naïve and made his eventual understanding of FS's kindness at the end feel too lucky. OTOH, had Fluttershy showed controlled kindness, then you risk repeating the unfortunate implications of controlling Discord's channels of communication in the form of "kindness" from Keep Calm. Personally, I prefer the innocent path here, but it could've showed a more nuanced degree of taking elements from both. Now to focus on the other side, Rainbow Dash was written much better here compared to 2, 4, 6, Greaaat. To echo @BornAgainBrony, Daring Doubt is a shining example of giving Dash negative traits without making her out of character or miserable. Yes, her rush to judgment was written in the wrong, but at no point does Dubuc demonize her for her black-and-white "good guy, bad guy" assumptions. With the allotted time given to her, Dubuc rightfully justifies her prejudices. Daring Do and Rainbow Dash are both very good friends and better confidants. Whenever she's about to publish something new, she delivers a copy to her two weeks in advance. The entire main crew, especially Dash, is trusted by her to keep her identity a secret. BTW: >RM6 out her in Fame & Misfortune >episode retcons the journal again Not the first episode to handwave this atrocity's existence! As a result of Daring and Dash trust each other, they exchange information and secrets. If something goes wrong, Daring knows Dash will be there to try to help. Here, that's exactly what happened. When Dash first sees Groom Q.Q. Martingale, she immediately recognizes him as Caballeron despite a much more complicated disguise, an immediate improvement of Daring Done. Watching Fluttershy buy into Caballeron's story was a major shock; she has every right to be upset and urgently warn Daring about what he was after and why he manipulated her like that. No one can argue how abrasive and pushy she was here. But Caballeron began yet another scheme, decided to tag someone along to unknowingly help him retrieve the Truth Talisman to get rich quick, and took her to a temple with very dangerous traps (one in which FS got caught in minutes later). Her worries are perfectly justified. Imagine if Fluttershy got hurt — she wouldn't forgive herself for not interfering sooner! Once Caballeron admitted through the talisman that he lied, she got right in his face, as any good friend would. But then he admits through it his and his henchmen's gratitude for Fluttershy's kindness and generosity, Dash's edge immediately dissipates: Ditto. Speaking of lines, the dialogue during the escape (especially those influenced by the truth teller) was top notch, and some of the lines were really, really funny. Some of the best are: Caballeron fighting with the talisman, finally relenting to reveal he still held onto Lapis-Lux's diamond. Clever, clever. Perfect timing to sneak in a clever "Day" Off callback, eh? Now, let's talk about the thorn peaking out from the pond. Ahuizotl has earned a reputation in the Daring Do books as one of the most memorable villains within the fanbase. In reality, both he and Daring have been massive archenemies, even though Dr. C's an even bigger one. Several times, he has tried to kill Daring Do in order to prevent her from taking relics throughout the Basin. In Daring Don't, he searched for ones himself — the Rings of Scorchero — to trap Tenochtitlan Basin in a massive heatwave, only for Daring and her friends to foil his plan. One of her latest books involved Ahuizotl heading to Somnambula to separate the Doomed Diadem of Xilati from the Tiara of Teotlale (a.k.a., the Sister Crown Relics), and Daring raced the clock to steal it back and return it home before a cursed night was cast over the land and Somnambula was sunk beneath the sand. Daring Doubt shifts things a bit, at first accusing Daring of getting by his jungle cat army and then attempting to steal Tonatiuh's talisman, even though he has no idea that Caballeron and Fluttershy are inside. After they escape, we don't see him again, but once we do, he's furious. Not just an evil furious. He was at his angriest throughout the show's history. Despite his history as a villain, who can blame him. It was safe and secure, and from his reaction, he clearly did NOT want it stolen. And he shows the knowledge of Tonatiuh's temple by waiting for them at the main exit, and his anger really takes over. He wanted to retrieve that talisman and play no games, going so far as to cornering them in a dead end and ramming into it, threatening to hurt them and trap them under the temple rubble until they return it. At this point, Daring accidentally gives Fluttershy what may be the solution: Think about this. They steal the talisman, and he becomes supremely upset when he catches them. She's the only one astute enough to understand that something was missing, this being why he got so mad, and the only way to solve it was to confront Ahuizotl himself. Dash justifiably assumes that he's "just a bad guy," but FS realizes that the world sometimes operate so one-dimensionally. On one hand, Ahuizotl's explanation for being ferocious and violent has some merit, something both @Ittoni and @BornAgainBrony explain in their posts in the episode discussion. Throughout the series, Daring and Caballeron have been taking artifacts throughout Tenochtitlan Basin, and in doing so, many ancient pyramids have been destroyed. Whether it's in the name of profit or protection, they're still stealing from them and displacing them, which each carry massive consequences. Ahuizotl is given charge to protect not only the basin, but also the artifacts of these same ancient beings. For those who watched the series throughout, this explains quite a bit why he and his crew of Aztec ponies searched for those rings, began the ceremony inside the dark tower, and came so close to beginning that heatwave within the basin. If he completed his plan, then neither Daring nor Caballeron would rob the temples again without potentially deadly consequences. Also, I see why the episode establishes him as a guardian in the first place; he's sly, territorial, knowledgeable, and old enough to know every nook and cranny of Tenochtitlan Basin from the back of his three hands. But thanks to Cabby and Daring's rivalry, he's caught in the crossfire and at risk of being replaced; Tonatiuh's talisman being the tip of that sun ray. On the other, it overlooks a very specific piece of continuity, which was ironically referenced in Act 1: Why did he travel to Somnambula, allegedly separate the Sister Crown Relics, put hundreds of lives at risk, and cause Daring to go on one of her most dangerous journeys? What made him decide to apparently team up with the Wild Bunch Gang to steal Xilati's diadem from where it belonged? None of this was answered, which it should've. He did many things both in the main and secondary canon that we would consider evil, and this would easily be his worst. Given how Daring Doubt tried to explain his actions and make us at least understand his position, you can argue one of two answers. By forcing Daring and Caballeron to go to Somnambula, there's a chance that both of them would get stuck there and sink under the ground, which would keep every relic in Tenochtitlan Basin safe. With them out of the way, he won't have to worry so much about them grave-robbing anymore. Since this plot is about clearing up misunderstandings by listening to others, there's also the likelihood that he was caught in the crossfire. The gang chased her through Somnambula after she retrieved the Doomed Diadem from them and apparently Ahuizotl. Could Ahuizotl have been trying to recover it too, only to be caught in the crossfire? Given how the books are in her perspective, it makes his motives look more sinister than she believed. Theory #2 is more in character to the portrayal of his rivalry with Daring and Daring Doubt's dismantling of Daring's limited perspective of the journeys. But without a clear answer, we can only guess what truly happened and must rely on headcanon to fill in the gaps as well as reviewing little, overlooked details from previous episodes. An episode with this important a moral and with a very gray perspective of humanity must be treated with respect. Is it? I argue yes, but if others don't, I can see why. Ahuizotl's apparent trip to Somnambula may not have been that important in Daring Done, but when observing the arc as a whole, this plot point is now crucial in overall scope. Unfortunately, this resolution fails to deliver any explanation, much less a decent one, creating a massive plot hole in a worldbuilding idea that never fully delivered. Therefore, Daring Doubt doesn't adequately explain why Ahuizotl acted so violent this whole time. Fortunately, this episode's resolution isn't completely unsalvageable. Review all of the reformations over the seasons, from Diamond Tiara to Starlight to Sunset. What do they all have in common? In some way or another, they all change their ways, even if their personalities don't. What happens here isn't a true-to-FIM reformation or redemption, which — again — @BornAgainBrony points out well. Nobody agreed to anything other than a truce related to Tenochtitlan Basin. As long as neither of them steal treasures or destroy the temples, Ahuizotl won't come after and threaten them. But that doesn't mean their feud won't continue anywhere else. Daring Do will still hunt for treasure and store them however she can so no one else can destroy or desecrate them, while Caballeron's greed remains (only without one sidekick ). What this episode establishes is how despite being enemies, neither of them truly have any moral high ground. No true good or bad guys exist in the reality of Daring Do; Fluttershy has that wherewithal to deliver an objective perspective to help put them all on the same page and listen to one another. Plus, @Truffles points out an important distinction between Ahuizotl's explanations and Garble's reformation from 9A. Throughout the series, DHX established Garble as a petty, stereotypical teenager with a lust to pick on Spike whenever possible, and will threaten anyone if he doesn't get his way. However, Sweet & Smoky tries to introduce a more sensitive side to his personality by being close to his younger sister Smolder, who's more open to his quirks and talents. Thanks to his past actions, his secretive side's hard to sell, even after he opens himself up to save the baby dragons from freezing to death inside their eggshells. Daring Do's triangular feud here lacked that key position of listening from the get-go, and creating a series of limited-perspective books that prop up Daring's status as a hero only invited extra questions about the lore. Until the climax, nobody ever asked Ahuizotl about his behavior before, evident by how taken aback he was to FS's question. Daring's urgent line in trying to figure out an escape route and Fluttershy's awareness created a plausible out for a truce. This review, though, won't be complete without praising the ending. How hilarious is it that after trying very hard to avenge his losses over the years, his decision to become a best-selling author himself would be his most successful path. The way he presents himself to the audience makes him credible, and patting his hair as he reads is a nice touch. All in all, Daring Doubt dares to deconstruct the world of Daring Do. At times, it works. At times it doesn't. But overall, the good heavily outweighs the bad. I like it a lot, and rough edges aside, it's nicely done. It's a good episode and the best one of the Daring Do arc.
  7. The cold open is fantastic. Love the very start of it, and of course Starlight being adorable is never a bad thing. It also wouldn't be a Starlight focused episode without at least one nervous chuckle. Trixie is being particularly overly herself in this. As usual, Spoiled Rich has forgotten the lesson she learned in the earlier episodes. The others definitely seem competent... except for Trixie and Spoiled Rich. The other three choices were interesting in their own ways. Good seeing the guardians and parents again as well. The return the Octavia/Vinyl Scratch duet from Slice of Life was a fun little interlude, along with the facial expressions of Gallus. Trixie louces everything up as usual. The facial expressions are amazing as usual. Starlight is being a bit mean spirited to Trixie, but that was needed. Twilight is amazing as usual. Sunburst being thrown into the role of Vice Headstallion was a great choice in the end. Overall, a very good episode that features one of the better pairings in the series. Grade: A-
  8. Note: Credits go to I_Am_Number_6 on EQD, @Jerica, and @gingerninja666 for this review. Starlight Glimmer had one of the biggest arcs of the whole series. Debuting in The Cutie Map as Season 5’s top villain, Twilight successful convinced her to reform and change her ways. Rather than condemn her to Tartarus or exile, Twi elected to proactively teach her the Magic of Friendship. Even though she learned all the lessons academically in between To Where and Celestial Advice, she realized she wasn’t ready to lead once more. Throughout Season 7, confidence exuded out of her, showing more comfort in her opinions and ideals once again; Shadow Play and its creative genius helped Starlight show her intellectual bravery at its best, leading to her next chapter of her journey that began in Season 8. With A Horse Shoe-In, today’s chapter continues to near its final destination, and SG has (once again) a fantastic appearance. At the very beginning, viewers are reminded that she will become the next head of the School of Friendship once Twilight moves to Canterlot and replaces the Royal Sisters. However, Twilight’s reminder carries more in-verse weight than in Beginning. Spike issued Starlight’s promotion to Headmare via Royal Decree. As Princess of Friendship, she has the authority to announce it, especially to those she’s close to. More importantly, Twilight exercised this decree with a clear head. Back in BotE, Twilight was in the middle of a massive meltdown, so when she told her the news, she wasn’t prepared for what came next. Now she is. By telling her with a clear conscience, she put in a lot more thought into who’ll succeed her and (like before) trusts Starlight into making the right decisions. Ain't this heartwarming and cute?! Her trust for Starlight is reaffirmed in two other moments. In Act 1, Trixie reminded her that Twilight never did anything alone, including running the School of Friendship. As one of six teachers, they all took care of the students together. Because she had close friends helping her, Starlight told Twilight about her new idea: hiring a Vice Headmare to help alleviate the work. What does Twilight say? After blowing up in Trixie’s face, she and Twilight share a heart to heart in her classroom. During the interviewing process, Starlight really wanted someone she knew well to be Vice Headmare, but because Trixie didn’t take it so seriously the first two tries and then took it so seriously the last that she accidentally put her students in danger, she let her frustrations take over, yelled at Trixie over it, and angrily told her that she would never be VH. Twilight reminded her that, yes, she has friends to help her, but not every friend is right for the job you offer, and that she has to tell them immediately before it gets out of control. Now, is Starlight right to be upset with Trixie? Absolutely. Is Trixie a capable VH? Not at all. But Starlight isn’t fully innocent, either, as she ignored the signs from earlier, insulted her, belittled her worth, and put her friendship with Trixie at risk. Apologizing to her was the right move. As for Trixie herself, she showed aplenty to prove she wasn’t qualified beyond a blind flash beehive transfer. In Twilight’s classroom, she skipped a completely important history lecture on friendship, napped with everyone (with helpful tips from Gallus ), and didn't feel ashamed of it. Afterwards, she shouted at Grandpa Gruff and expelled him from the School of Friendship. Both of these showed extreme opposites of what she looked for. On one hand, she didn't care for the subject the students are learning. On the other, when push comes to shove, she cared maybe a little too much, rightfully defending a student’s reputation to a surrogate who gave little about him and losing her own temper rather than constructively using her anger to maintain her rep as substitute. That said, despite her neglect for studies, extreme measures, and lack of thought, Trixie's certainty she'll be hired is merited. What inspired Starlight to create this permanent position? Trixie’s reminder of Twilight’s friends helping her run the school. Rather than go away and wait for lunch, she followed Starlight, overheard the whole conversation, and assumed that Starlight will hire friends to help them like Princess Twilight. As a result, this whole interviewing process felt like a game to test her meddle, and she won't bite. Read this exchange from Act 2: In Starlight's mind, she wanted Trixie to really show she can lead a school and help the students learn, but she was way behind compared to Hooves and Octavia. However, Trixie assumes Starlight just wants to test her with one final step before letting the rest of the "competition," and the language from both of them is loose enough so you see where they come from while being unable to break through that communication barrier. And it was that barrier that caused Trixie to not take Starlight's anger seriously the first time, followed by confusion, and then hurt once she realized what Starlight wanted and after SG made her feel worthless. In addition to helping complete another chapter to the overall arc of Season 9, the episode carries a message of how nepotism can cause a system to become corrupt if left unchecked. Because she did so poorly, SG almost DQ'd her once and then told her very softly in their second interview she wouldn't hire her. But as a result of Trixie setting the expectation of being hired (and thus placing herself above Octavia, Hooves, Big Mac, and Spoiled), Starlight was caught in a major dilemma. How can she tell Trixie she's not qualified for the job? Regardless of her own temperament, how well will Trixie handle the disappointment? What if she finds out through someone else that she will lose the opportunity? Conversing with "Phyllis" (and protecting her from Trixie) and holding off the truth only added to her dilemma and increased her frustration. Fortunately, when the problems became too big to ignore, she put her foot down, and Twilight's "motherly" advice helped her even more. In addition to how your friends may not always be the best fit for a job, a nice, subtle secondary moral floated in the background, which @Jerica caught and told me about in my Discord convo with her. Out of the five interviewees, Octavia Melody was easily the most qualified. During the substitution, she easily had the most fun while taking part in Laughter class. As she instructed her students to play their instruments, Pinkie Pie suddenly played the yovidaphone loudly behind them. Did anyone get upset? Nope. They continued playing and had a blast playing their favorite instruments no matter how good they were. And, yes, they all laughed. Hard. In her one-on-one interview with Ocellus's parents, she understood her knowledge of music, praised her student for quickly improving in her work, and got along incredibly well. While in the same Bridleway Theatre as the special playing of Hinny of the Hills back in Season 4, her students sat in their seats as Octavia prepared. Initially, Gallus was bored as hell. Then the lights went out. Out came Vinyl. And they began to play an exciting remix of classical music to everycreature's delight (great callback to their remix and friendship from Slice of Life ). Octavia understands that not everyone's tastes are the same, but she knew how to loosen her hair and create joy to those who wish for it. Yet at the end, she turned down the job. Why? Fear she'll lose her time for music. Even though she's so good in those interviews, music's her passion, and she doesn't want to give it up. Sadly, you sometimes have to choose, which isn't easy. Bittersweet it may be, watching her tell Starlight she would love to accept the offer but decline would add a major gut-punch to the episode and add some real, down-to-earth weight to this episode. What would also add weight would be to see Gallus tell Trixie how much he appreciated her passionate defense of him to Grandpa Gruff. Most ponies won't have the guts to tell off the temperamental griffon like that, including Starlight. No matter how narcissistic Trixie can be, she knows her limits and cares for at least her students' psychological health. Apathy for his guardian's growth and openly belittling him while he was already down were massive signs of disrespect towards her and her students, and she showed Gruff he hasn't earned her respect in return. If there's a scene showing Gallus thanking Trixie for defending him, it'll show both some chemistry between them and how her presence matters. Containing it off-screen softens the impact, but his off-screen gratitude meant she has some a place in the school after all. With the changing of the guard approaching, the School Counselor spot needed to be filled, and Trixie more than showed she qualifies. As clichéd as this sequence can be this season, adding a montage would really help Sunburst show his credentials. In the climax, she hired him after Trixie contacted him via scroll, a passionate interview, and admission of not having to take much care of Flurry Heart anymore. If we see him have a world of fun teaching his students in one of his classes, conversing pleasantly with the students' parents, and then go on a very fun field trip together (maybe to The Crystal Empire to greet Mistmane, Cadance, and Flurry Heart), then you can really sell his passion for teaching. Having her hire him in a quick, expository flash-forward makes the resolution feel a little rushed. Nothing close to ruining it, but makes his hiring as Vice Headmare tough to sell. To end this review on a high note: This episode does a fantastic job reintroducing the Vice Headmare occupation without contradicting continuity, a point brought up by I_Am_Number_6 on EQD. Back in A Matter of Principals, she hires Discord for the same position after she lost her temper and ruined the buckball field, but he loses his job instantly after the RM6 returned from their "friendship quest." Here, she went through the process with a lot more care and thought, especially since Twilight's soon leaving for Canterlot. In addition to in-episode growth, Starlight shows continual growth, too. Back in No Second Prances (her first self-contained episode post reformation), she forces Big Mac to talk against his will. Here, she understands not everyone's so comfortable to talk and won't force him to do a job he feels he can't. Thank @gingerninja666 and his friend for pointing it out. Also… BAD idea, Whooves! What a big, pleasant surprise to see a brand-new writer take on FIM this late in its running! Ariel Shepherd-Oppenhein did a splendid job in her Pony debut and executed a very solid, very good episode, one that may be Starlight's last once it's all finished.
  9. The cold open was pretty good, featuring Rarity and Spike. AJ being the replacement in the gem cave was brilliant. The montage of things that she normally does with Spike with substitutes was interesting as well. The middle segment features Rarity's envy and jealousy coming out, keeping Spike from spending time with Gabby. It's the main 6 ponies relearning issues that they should have learned yet again. Rarity is the main antagonist here, letting her major jealousy and envy of Gabby come out. It was an okay episode, but Rarity's character here was not great. The main 6 taking turns with Rarity was probably the best part of the episode. Grade: B-
  10. Note: Review expanded from here, and credits to a comment by @BornAgainBrony. Back in Sonic Rainboom, Rarity showed her vanity, a big flaw to her character that hadn't been shown before. Was her behavior all that positive? Not at all. However, her position was completely believable. For the first time, we watched her gain recognition and attention outside of her comfort zone; it didn't matter if they were staring at her delicate wings or not. So it's easy to see why that vanity-dominant ego influenced her to join the competition as well. In Dragon Dropped, her envy for Gabby replaces her vanity. She enjoyed spending all her time with Spike and felt jealous of Gabby, fearing that she could lose not only it, but Spike's memories of her altogether. A combination of envy and fear of being forgotten drove her into assuming she must go to extreme lengths to retain contact with Spike. Like in SR, Rarity’s bad side here was thoroughly explored while not making her unlikeable or out of character, starting with the small and working hard as she could to retain the status quo. Several moments add up: Spike initially overhearing Rarity as he wrote his latest note to Gabby, immediately setting the tone of the entire story. The fact that he kept his newfound friendship with Gabby a secret out of fear himself. No one else doing his jobs as good as he, including collecting the gems from the cave without waking the bats. The first montage (which I'll get to in further detail later). Staring crazily at him! (Blink, and you'll miss it!) Not reacting at all after Gabby broke up with him. But Spike’s broadening horizons by becoming a close friend with Gabby meant he was growing, and his friendships around him were maturing. He spent a lot of time with her and helped her grow into a better pony. But with Gabby now in his life, he can further connect with other species. Like the Dragon Lands, Griffonstone’s reputation isn’t the best; to bring Gabby there helps him understand the decreasing prejudice against dragons and connect with someone on a deeper, more mature level. So why would Rarity feel jealous of Gabby anyway? Fearing a negative reaction, Spike kept his friendship with Gabby a secret ever since he started communicating with her and pretended it never happened. After Gallus began studying overseas in Ponyville, Gabby began to fly over to Equestria more often, which made it more difficult to keep it under wraps. Pay attention to the initial conversation, and from the visual and audio cues, it looks like it had been building for some time, but the open was the first time she grew really suspicious, because he didn't hear her and admitted to having other plans. Turning down invites was rare, but it looks like it was going to become more common. The montage contained are a few sequences: Spike tasting the best gems, carrying her bags as they leave the shop, and relaxing in the spa together. Throughout those three scenes, we see not only how much they enjoy each other's company, but help and adorn each other, too. Even though Spike carried all those bags, she rescued him as he nearly tripped over a step and waited for him until he could see. My favorite's the spa scene, as Spike enjoyed eating those cucumbers. Juxtaposing perfect scenes from the past with present-day struggles and boredom show us how much she misses Spike. Without his inherent wit and loyalty around, things weren't the same. Watching them enjoy their time while she struggled added extra salt into the wound, especially when Spike ate Gabby's maraschino cherry. In the past, there was implication that Rarity occasionally took advantage of him, and although I disagree strongly with the complaint, scenes like Rarity teasing Spike for wearing a cute, pink apron for the dragon migration witnessing meant they can't be dismissed. For most of the series, their friendship and his unrequited crush were in his point of view. For the first time, we see it in hers. By focusing their friendship on her, we connect to her beyond the surface and focus on how important his presence and friendship meant to HER. Going back on how she felt she took it for granted calls back those criticisms, and Haber very wisely and cleverly responds constructively to them, making her do things she wouldn’t do if it were someone else. Yet, their strong, series-long bond makes those decisions and actions believable, helping us understand where she’s coming from, even when when she does bad. And needless to say, she does some very selfish things. Take him along that two-day expedition that only occurs once a year, then a two-day vacation to a Power Ponies convention (Rarity, I've been to BronyCon four times; foot-aching comes with the territory ), and finally a day-long gameplay of O&O. All with complete intention to hogging all the time with Spike away from Gabby and make them forget about each other. She baited him, earned the outcome she wanted, but at the cost of a super-depressed Spike and a Gabby with enormous pain in her heart. This is why Twilight's presence in Act 3 matters. She's very close to Spike and never saw him like this before. Something was really wrong, and Rarity inadvertently outed herself as the perpetrator. Twilight's quick-thinking and stern disappointment gave her a major wake-up call, solidifying her own doubts of whether they will truly make up or not (suggested by her to start the third act), and making her realize what a massive jerk she was to them both. Friendships change, but it doesn’t mean the good times will end, and she has no business trying to put in effort to "steal" him away when he wanted to be with others. Yeah, like what @BornAgainBrony wrote, this episode is clearly playing on the love triangle plot and Rarity’s feelings for Spike without delving into the “romantic” part that loomed over the show for so long. Bringing in Gabby to the fold and establishing connections between them was a really great way to exploit how much she meant to him and vice-versa. However, unlike Tanks for the Memories’s death allegory, the stakes in this one and Rarity’s action match the predicament and tone Haber is conveying, whether it’s romanticism or friendship. Speaking of the connection, how Gabby and Spike began their friendship was a great payoff to a flaw from Fault in Our Cutie Mark. In the former, Twilight’s happy “discovery” of griffons getting cutie marks went unresolved. Haber takes advantage of it, using that hanging plot point to establish their “penpalsmanship.” In their time on screen, they show excellent chemistry. Rarity was at her most selfish here, and like Twilight in Trivial Pursuit and Fluttershy & Angel from She Talks, she needed to learn how her awful actions affected those around her. In Sonic Rainboom, her vanity nearly cost her her life, but Dash was the lead. In Sweet & Elite, her selfishness put her at risk of choosing her friends and the Canterlot Elite, only to realize what was right when she finally needed to choose. Here, she witnesses these consequences the hard way and was completely responsible for it. Now that she’s much more mature and developed, she can accept the anger from Gabby and disappointment from Twilight better. Swallowing her pride, apologizing to Gabby and Spike, and letting them go on their own after they make up shows her remorse felt genuine. Dragon Dropped is Rarity’s best episode of the show. If it’s her last, a phenomenal conclusion.
  11. Note: This review has been edited to clean up and add more content, and credits go to comments by Sloppy Steve, The Dragon Warlock, and TwilightIsMagic for it. Yes, it's true. Real-life snakes can’t eat vegan; they're obligate carnivorous, so they can't digest vegetables in real life. Wolves are also primarily carnivorous, though do eat vegetation at times. If the animals behaved they do here, then yes, having carnivores eat vegan food here would be animal abuse. However, the episode makes a very clear distinction that puts the onus on the animals there, and does so in two ways.  No animal here behaves like those in real life. They may not talk and act animalistic at times, but they can communicate with those who can talk very well, think, and act sapient. This is especially the case when she talks to Antoine the Snake (as he's very recipient to Fluttershy's words and requests), Scout the Flamingo, and Zecora's "gecko." During the predator/prey support group, Fluttershy proposes an important rule in the sanctuary that everyone (including Antoine) agreed to: no eating other animals inside. From this support group, this isn't the first time carnivores or omnivores tried to eat other animals, and FS's gathering is to get everyone to cooperate and get along. The sanctuary is a safe space for ALL animals big or small. The surrounding ecosystem doesn't have this rule. Another controversy is regarding Zecora's use in the episode. After reading posts by The Dragon Warlock and TwilightIsMagic on EQD, I posted this in the episode discussion and then a followup after doubting some of the criticism from both them and I. From the following, these criticisms still hold up. Even though Zecora had no idea at the time that both Angel and Fluttershy swapped bodies or Angel caused massive problems at the sanctuary, it still doesn't excuse her leaving Angel out to run in the dangerous Everfree Forest alone. Understanding how Zecora once caught Swamp Fever and then got nearly eaten by a roc, she should've known better than to just leave "Angel" be. At least carry him back into the heart of Ponyville before letting "him" go. Zecora should've warned them what the potion would do. Yes, she can talk in riddles at times, and when you listen to them more and more carefully, you understand them, and she warned them to take it alone and at home. But by not telling them what would happen to them if they drank them, they get caught in a massive surprise. Alerting them of the consequences would lessen that surprise, make her less of a troll, and give them some input on how to fix it. Until the middle of the second act, Flutterbunny assumed Z erred, only to realize it wasn't the case after their meeting. If her wink says anything, her potion intended to swap their bodies until they figure out they each contributed to the conflict. The rest of the criticisms I had of her plan, both of its construction and implications? Hogwash. There is another here, too. Bunny!Fluttershy's inability to alert both Twilight and Spike that her body got swapped was supposed to indicate how hopeless it is for her to solve it with help. No one knows about the swap, and without a voice, she can't tell others. However, that helplessness could've been clearer to the audience and not relied on not wondering if using The Stare (which she used successfully on Angel earlier) would get others to notice. The rest of the episode, however, is character-driven gold, and their interactions with each other and their environments as both themselves and swapped bodies contributed to the plot, particularly in the humor and drama. Back in Putting Your Hoof Down, Angel had not only his worst appearance of the show by far, but also arguably the worst appearance of any character in the whole show. Yes, Angel isn't exactly the nicest and most patient, but it really took him to the next level, making him a massive, abusive, out-of-character brat in order to get what he wants. While this episode doesn't directly connect to that episode at all, his brattiness returns. Unlike the former (and his desire for a salad made exactly the way he wanted), the episode gets the audience to understand his position in a few ways. Fluttershy focused all her time on the animal sanctuary and classes that she spends no more quality time with him at all, and it shows in the open. As she stays focused on the task at hand, he wants her to give him some level of attention, but keeps getting ignored. During this exchange, Fluttershy utters a crucial line, which I'll further get to later. After Fluttershy gives Angel a little "carrot-based" idea, he decides to get her attention by disrupting the support group and starting a massive fight, disheveling both Fluttershy and himself. During the brawl, Dr. Fauna explains to Zecora that FS is able to keep the "chaos" under control despite Angel's shenanigans. Of course, Zecora believes things are worse than they look, observes how tension's boiling over, and believes the problem must be solved quickly before it becomes worse. After spotting Fluttershy messaging the "gecko's" sore back, he asks her to message his own in an attempting to get attention, only to be rejected in favor of her responsibilities, and this rejection happens at least twice (the latter one equipped with Fluttershy snapping back and Angel hopping away, upset). Why does Angel mock her in front of Zecora? Because he's frustrated with her spending all of her time with everything else. This culminates to his hasty decision to disobey Zecora and take the potion out in the open. Just prior, Fluttershy wanted to be with him and then immediately felt self-pressured to complete her task. Notice the change in Angel's face from celebratory to concerned to fed up as she showed more and more worry. This doesn't make Fluttershy innocent, though. Recall the "crucial line": …and said with a sly smirk. Thanks to that line, Fluttershy suggests she sees his actions as spoiled only. When he tries to get her attention, she yells at him, catching the attention of Dr. Fauna. Yes, she immediately regrets it, but it only restarts inside the storage closet. When he wants to taste the carrot concentrate, she's at her wit's end, accusing him of not taking her occupation seriously and wasting her time, culminating with equal growls towards each other. Right after they switch bodies, the first thing Flutterbunny instructs Angelshy is to "do her chores" while she hops to Zecora's hut, thinking this body swap was unintentional. Yes, Angelshy acted like a brat and used his newfound physique to poke fun at the Ponyvillagers, but Fluttershy getting her under her control only added to the tension between them. Grabbing his tail, stomping the ground, and applying The Stare only fueled his belief of her being "bossy" and animosity toward the other animals at sanctuary. Why does FS's small gesture matter? Because it symbolizes her core judgment to the conflict. Up to this point, she accused Angel of not taking her responsibilities seriously; by literally handwaving, she's suggesting Angel is being spoiled and lazy because he lived with her all her life, and by asking for attention, he's only caring for himself. And, yes, that's true. He doesn't take her job seriously. However, that literal handwave also admits hypocrisy by implicating that she doesn't take him seriously. Unlike PYHD, neither side is in the right from the very beginning. Both of them have streaks of not being nice to one another. Yes, they want to get along and be family, but neither believe they're being listened to, yet only worsen matters by not listening to each other. They oversimplify the opposite's conflict and treat their own as more important. This equal unpleasantness also helped fuel the comedy, especially Angelshy's reaction to the environment and FS's other relationships. Some examples include: Getting very giddy after smelling carrots from Berry Punch's basket. Having initial trouble running to the water fountain. And eventually giving up. Angel bossing Sandra around. Never piss off Angel! The best one, of course, is this: Angel's observant around his environments, FS's extended friendships (namely with the draconequus), and is mocking her for it. And for anyone barfing at the shipteasing, it's not like Confalone hasn't done it before. So why did Zecora come up with this body-swapping potion? Because she forethought the very source of the conflict and concluded that the only way everything will truly return to normal is to make them understand their own positions and see it themselves. Given how they treated each other throughout the first half, the lesson they were going to learn was gonna be tough, and Confalone really showed it. Thanks to not having a voice in Angel's body, FS can't properly communicate with anyone beside Angel himself. Her sign language to Twilight, Spike, and later Zecora becomes untranslatable. On her way into the Everfree, her breath begins to shorten, she starts losing her bounce, and barely escaped from a hungry bald eagle. Seeing as she doesn't take him seriously, Angel takes FS's sanctuary job less seriously, too. Rather than focus on the assigned job, he uses his newfound status to gain revenge on Sandra and become as lazy as Rainbow Dash from 246G, such as letting the storage keys stay lodged in Murial's sore trunk, not reminding Scout the Flamingo to shift his legs, and giving Zecora's "gecko" Antoine's cookies. Again, the fact that Angel's jerkish behavior is to be expected along with a grain of sympathy allows us to stomach his actions. Angel's neglect over taking care of her sanctuary led to massive chaos inside, made Dr. Fauna extremely upset over "Fluttershy" for being so ignorant of the animals' wellbeing (great voice-acting, BTW), and made all the animals distrust Angel after he found out he needed to get the keys out from Murial (who was now dissolving inside Antoine's stomach). (And on an unrelated note, Sloppy Steve from EQD made a great point about the "nuanced" storytelling here. The episode could've just let the biology of the predators go after Fluttershy satisfied Antoine's hunger. Instead, his predatory instincts kicked in after Angel took his treat away for the hungry "gecko" — or shall I say, fire lizard — and swallowed his prey whole, just like a real snake.) If Fluttershy was still a pegasus, she would've been able to fly back to the sanctuary without breaking a sweat. But because she's 1/10 the size, she spends a lot of energy hopping and becomes extremely exhausted and dehydrated once she returns. At this point, Angel realizes what he had done, regretted mistreating Fluttershy, and understood how hard it was for FS to work helping the animals in the sanctuary. It took getting the prey and predators to trust him, work together, and dislodge the keys just to take the carrot concentrate out, but carrying that heavy jar without spilling it zapped a lot of strength out from him. Once Flutterbunny wakes up and feels energetic, they share a magnificent heart to heart. No matter how tough the times may be toward each other, they care for each other, and we see it through their contrition, appreciation for what they do for each other, and around them. From now on, they won't take each other for granted. Beyond the lessons Angel and Fluttershy learned, there are a lot of really interesting bits. The episode further establishes not only the responsibilities Fluttershy has in the school, but also in the sanctuary. Between teaching, taking care of Angel, and running the sanctuary, it takes a lot of willpower to get through all of it. This is the very first episode since the School opened to deal with anyone juggling through very stressful jobs and how neglecting one causes a chain reaction. Often, bodyswap episodes will have the voices change along with the bodies, like Carpet Diem from Gravity Falls. That doesn't happen here; their bodies change, but not the mind or voices. By doing this, STtA must rely on the animation and voice acting to convince the audience Angel and Fluttershy swapped. Libman, DHX, and Top Draw did an outstanding job here, and you can tell they all had a world of fun. With Angel in Fluttershy's body, she doesn't talk all that mellowly. When Angel's in her body, Libman's tone's sharper, hoarse, rude, and louder to make it sound more youthful and "masculine." Thanks to his obsession for carrots, smelling them makes him sound excited and rebellious. From the animation point of view, Fluttershy as Angel might've been a little tougher to sell, since she can't speak. But she knew him ever since he was born, so she can utilize the very same language as Angel when he's a bunny. That communication works with Angel, but not anyone else. Plus, as mentioned before, she quickly fatigued from all the jumping, a limit Angel's more aware of than her. As always, Fluttershy has a way with animals, understanding the need to nurture them and remain patient. Grown out of her timid shell, she exudes authority while simultaneously earning respect and trust from the animals and Dr. Fauna. The episode establishes how impactful the animal sanctuary has been to Fauna since opening: Thanks to all the room for them to roam and heal, her job's not so stressful anymore. Of course, she lends lots of credit to Fluttershy, saying the sanctuary would be a "zoo" without her, foreshadowing the Freaky Friday-like swap to end Act 1. Since the second season, DHX toyed with pegasi/alicorn wings becoming secondary hands. She Talks to Angel doesn't go mad about it like Parental Glideance (and the winged hands were one of the best parts of the episode), but it did one key moment: Taking care of those animals was a big deal that Angel took for granted. Her matted hair and wrinkle under her eyes proved how much Angel's attitude pushed her close to breaking. Holding her right wing out and pointing at her list — which she held with the other — reminds him she is the authority figure and desperately wants him to listen to her. There's some to dislike, but a lot to like. She Talks to Angel resolves Angel's jerkiness from PYHD, intertwines the animal sanctuary quite well, and is the second-best Fluttershy episode of the show.
  12. Oh the cold opening is absolutely brilliant. Angel is being his usual self, and that's what makes the episode that much better. Seeing Fluttershy interact with all the animals in the sanctuary is great. Loving the continuity between the earlier episodes pertaining to the Sanctuary. Love the bodyswapping aspect of the episode here. The cadence of Fluttershy (as Angel) is absolutely phenomenal. Love that they went this way on the episode. Angel is being just as cruel as he previously was as a bunny. Love the ending to this episode with the entire population of the sanctuary helping to swap them back. Overall, this was a very good episode exploiting the bodyswap trope that has been used in many cartoons. It was a great episode with a great ending. My grade: A
  13. This episode shows just how much Twilight has matured over this season with the lack of a typical twilight freakout. It did a good job to build up the story for the remainder of the season as well. Discord could have been a bit better utilized in the episode, but really is just a nitpick. Overall, I think this episode did a good job of building up the suspense for the remaining episodes on the schedule. My grade: B+
  14. Note: Expanded my thoughts from here and here. Being Starlight's first episode of Season 9 and from a prior synopsis, one could guess a low-stakes episode, magic-oriented, or possible repeat of a Every Little Thing She Does. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. Magic's involved, but it wasn't central to the story. With her friends off for Spring Break, she's running the school now until they return, and she needs something to organize her time in school while also not being in office. Casting an alert curse on a bracelet was convenient and made sense: Once they need her help, she'll be right there. Unfortunately, she didn't foresee what was to come. Her schedule just before Spring Break became so hectic that she not only got many ponies lined up, but Silverstream came over several times for very small problems related to an unnamed project. And to make matters worse, Starlight was unable to help Trixie gather the right objects for Maud and Mud’s spring solstice party the next morning (with Sunburst invited, too) and Trixie had to prepare it all by herself. The episode spends a good amount of time gradually building tension, starting with the innocent(ly funny expressions by Trixie) and ending with the stressful. Some examples include: Trixie casually drinking tea and eating sandwiches as Starlight juggles between her office and the picnic. Starlight helping her students while trying (and failing ) to hide her nerves. As Trixie reminds her of the errands, Starlight stays conspicuously silent as she looks around and taps her hooves. As Ocellus deals with her identity crisis, Starlight tries to solve it while rushing through. Starlight leaving the store once her bracelet buzzes, accidentally dropping the streamers she plans to buy. After Starlight realizes she missed out on everything and failed to keep her promises, she crouched and smacked her muzzle on the ground. Suddenly, her bracelet rang again. During this first third of the story, a lot of great faces were animated to accentuate the stress building up amongst themselves and each other, like their eyes increasing size, Trixie's sneers, Smolder's smirk, and Starlight's anguish. The dialogue was also top-notch, adding to both the humor and drama. Additionally, despite being Starlight-centric, Haber doesn't write Trixie in the wrong for expecting her to keep her promise, too. Yes, Starlight was justified to not keep 'em, even though she tried her hardest to keep up. Being in charge of the school for now, she's responsible for their safety and guidance if need be. To her, rejecting any help could mean missing out on something truly important to solve and letting Twilight et al down. Nevertheless, Haber doesn't let Trxie's feelings go or feel marginalized, spending good time airing her frustrations and then confronting her after taking care of the party arrangements. So when Silverstream asked for help one more time, the moment when Starlight turned her away and took off her bracelet until the Break ends made sense and didn't feel rushed through. So when Terramar alerted her that Silverstream vanished and then called her out for turning her away (Thanks, Trixie ), could you blame her feeling terrible for the whole thing? By closing the school early, she believed she could've solved an actual problem rather than any nerve-wracking nitpick from earlier. After realizing that she was in the Everfree Forest to likely research cockatrices, the tension climbed hundredfold and added further uncertainty for Starlight. Early in the open, Starlight explained how becoming a counselor allowed her to use her "checkered past" to get to others' shoes and aid them below the surface. The guilt she felt from seasons ago disappeared. But that guilt returned and only increased as the episode and danger progressed. Even after they all realized SS was safe and sound, that guilt never went away. The communication between the rest of her friends also felt very complete with plenty of humor. Some of the best moments were as follows: The anime-like blood vessels ready to burst and SG's shock really sell the joke and immediately show how even he gets on her nerves. Trixie standing up for Starlight to Terramar and eventually accepting partial blame for her disappearance. After Terramar criticized Starlight's party for not being "perfect," everyone, including Maud, glared crossly at him, shutting him up. In acts of desperation, Starlight looked in even the most unconventional places, such as inside Pinkie's party cannon and on a crowded bookshelf. Moments like these show both the panic creeping from within and the guilt that she already possesses. This little exchange: In the final two acts alone, there was plenty of flirting between them in comparison to Maud Couple from last year. Mud's little smile after Maud's reply feels genuine and shows appreciation for each other. The lesson has some similarities with Zeppelin, but they’re not the same. In Zeppelin, it’s about how it’s not selfish to have time with yourself. Here, it’s about not getting bogged down with a very stressful job to spend quality time with others. It’s a really good lesson. There are two problems. When Starlight and the others made it inside the open ruins of the sisters’ castle, they assumed the cockatrices won’t fly in and only surround. One big problem. Cockatrices can fly high, and they got too close to a flock of migrating ones by watching them from a cliff above. What if the provoked cockatrices decide to fly over the walls or through the old windows? They were just as vulnerable inside the ruins as out, yet the episode lowers the stakes a bit here and assumes they’re safe until they walk out. It was really dumb of everyone to gather and breathe there. At the very end, Silverstream admits to Starlight that her advice didn't amount to anything in the long run. First off, the joke wasn't funny. Secondly, it all but made Starlight's stress over "not doing her job" pointless and marginalizes the moral, as SS's visits didn't factor at all into the conclusion of her Spring Break project. Had Trixie not interrupt, Starlight would've completely lost her temper and given her the riot act. That said, it’s really good, and given the fact that Starlight’s takeover of the school may be inevitable, she really needed this episode. Good work, Haber!
  15. This episode had a very good start. Twilight is being so Twilight in this episode, it's absolutely fantastic... at first. Pinkie is, of course being totally Pinkie. I love the fact that AJ and Rainbow Dash are being over the top as usual when it comes to being competitive. Twilight continues totally over the top by using the dumbest rules ever. Twilight continues to be a jerk to Pinkie throughout the episode however, getting Pinkie disqualified from the game purposefully. This entire episode basically went from being totally over the top to being one of the bottom of the barrel episodes. Luckily, Sunburst gets Twilight to come to her senses. It's the same lesson that Twilight has learned more than once in the series. Overall, it was a good episode, but was a rehash of lessons that Twilight has learned over and over again. My grade: B-
  16. Note: Credits to @Cwanky and @OptimisticNeighsayer for this quickieview. After Dash had one of the most insufferable appearances of the series, A Trivial Pursuit is somewhat a return to form for Season 9. The best part, bar none, is Twilight's arc. While Lesson Zero slowly progressed Twilight into insanity, Twilight began to feel the pressure before the cold open; Spike's attempts to reassure himself and Twilight's obsessive grin and eyes give that away so quickly. When the episode conveniently puts her and Pinkie (who never played the game before)) together, things just went south. Now, Pinkie isn't trying to hurt Twilight in any way. She wants to have fun and help Twilight win. However, she was a poor teammate. She wasn't familiar with any of the rules [and apparently never opened the rule book ( )], had no idea that you needed to answer specifically to be awarded points, couldn't interject her own opinion into her answer (putting them both in the red for a bit), and got easily distracted. So the audience can see why Twilight panics and tries to use the rules to get back into the game. Of course, like 246G, ATP doesn't show a character at her best or most likeable. Twilight was completely antagonistic and not someone to root for, especially in a game designed for some friendly competition. When you look over the episode, she used the rules to do some really bad things. Get Cranky, who did nothing wrong, disqualified for taking a quick nap. Caught Fluttershy taking suggestions from Angel. Dock points from AJ and Dash for taunting each other. Tried to create a new rule in order to penalize Maud and Mud. But the worst thing she did was take advantage of both her knowledge of the rules and Pinkie's lack thereof to bait Pinkie into asking Maud for information within an active category and intentionally get her disqualified so Sunburst can replace her. So why does Twilight’s terrible behavior work much more than Rainbow Dash’s? In Greaaat, Dash was completely composed as she bullied her students. Despite an early panic attack, Twilight initially held out hope and tried to coach Pinkie. However, her sanity had already spiraled coming into this moment, especially when Granny read aloud the "Sticks & Stones" category, so she clearly was not in the right mind when she baited PP. DQ’ing Pinkie was the last possible outcome for her, whereas RD’s sour opinions of cheerleading never changed. Dash was supposed to teach her students how to cheerlead, but she wanted nothing to do with them and was being less than lazy throughout. From the get-go, she looked for whatever excuse to get out of her classroom, forced them to fend for themselves, and intentionally exacerbated the problem for those who looked forward to making the halftime show as memorable as the tournament itself. OTOH, this episode takes place inside the Hay Burger restaurant. Twilight never had fun the entire time there and became more and more insane as she fell behind. (Notice how her mane's and tail’s neatnesses changed in accordance to her sanity, a nice callback from Lesson Zero.) The stakes here are less weighty than the former. Even after her students screwed up, she still couldn’t care less and continued insulting the passion and those who enjoyed it after Yona and Ocellus ran away crying. She didn’t come to her epiphany until Smolder and Snips called her out for it, so her apology didn’t feel contrite until after they re-met and worked hard for the next twelve days. However, despite teaming up with Sunburst, Twilight never got what she wanted. With a goal of maintain a high correct percentage, Sunburst was obsessed to not answer incorrectly and was way more uncooperative than the more innocent Pinkie. All of the humor at her expense during montage #3 works because she completely deserves it. As the climax approached, she remained far behind and nearly got baited into being disqualified herself, only to realize her grave mistake just in time; her remorse is more impactful than Dash’s as a result. Also, this lesson applies much more personally to Twilight here than in Lesson Zero for one crucial reason. The moral of LZ is for the ReMane Five, not her. Here, Twilight is explicitly learning how her freakouts made things miserable to not only herself, but also her teammate and those around her. As for the rest: When there's an episode light in story as this, it's important to be entertaining throughout. Trivial Pursuit has a load of comedy, but not all of them succeed. Like Sparkle's Seven, the animators had a load of fun with facial expressions. Every one of them by Twilight worked very, very well. Probably TOO well. But one specific face failed massively: Pinkie's "TWI-PIE!" face! X__X Pinkie sounds excited and eager to team up with a Twilight. Her overly exaggerated face and how suddenly close up the camera got makes her look as crazy as TS, if not more so. This jump scare is less humorous and more nightmare fuel. Other joke-related comments. The aftermath of Bulk's brohoof was the funniest of the whole episode. I don't need to see a closeup of Pinkie's rumbling tummy along with its gross-sounding growl! X__X The audience doesn't need to see a pool of Cranky's drool as he sleeps. Bleh! D: Buffalo Man: *hands Twilight a cup of ice* Dash's characterization is much better, and her rivalry with Applejack here was funnier and more IC than Compete Crap Clause. Unlike that episode, their competition was contained to the nightclub without getting too insulting, and no one was under the threat of drowning. The best moment between them was AJ not answering the Zap Apple question on time (thanks to Dash's distraction), and on cue: @Cwanky makes a fair point about how the Trivia Trot rule book being Twilight's character "in hard copy form." Each rule either aided or hindered her three-peat obsession. These absurd rules are a written extension of both her character and episode arc. However, I share part of what @OptimisticNeighsayer wrote, that it may feel less contrived if other players aside from Twilight used the rules similar to Twi, just to show that using them is a part of the game. In Trivial Pursuit, only Twilight and Sunburst know the rules from front to back. The only rule everyone knows so well is probably the most severe: Asking another team for answer information from within an active category is cheating, and thus you're disqualified. As is, the rule book's way to difficult to take seriously in any way, shape, or form. While you have valid anti-cheating rules such as not being allowed to review source material, ones like "no help from pets," "no napping," "no taunting," and "DQ'd players can reassemble into their own team" are way too out there. The book is a blatant plot device. Stuck on the plot? Twilight knows a rule for that! Combined with a well-paced story, A Trivial Pursuit brought Season 9 back on track after 2, 4, 6, Greaaat derailed its streak. However, it's weaker than the worst episode of Season 9A, Going to Seed for a big reason: Average for most of the first half, the heartwarming older-younger sister bond between Apple Bloom and Applejack in the second half elevates it. But if the second-worst episode of the season is still good, I'll take it.
  17. Since the start of Season 2, Rainbow Dash traditionally has the worst episodes of the season and show at large. After a swarm of some great and excellent outings, Season 9 releases its first clunker. Smolder had one of her best outings of the season. Representing the student body who wanted the cheerleading to work, she put up with all of Dash's crap and gave her the calling-out she so rightfully deserved. After Dash gives an apology that didn't sound so contrite, she actually proved she meant it by helping her students practice. And if you look at the montage, you'll see how much effort Dash put into coaching them to be the best they can be and the students placing their trust back into her. Snips continues his capitalist streak, trying to sell as much as possible to buckball fans and goers. And he inadvertently made Dash see the errors of her ways. Celestia going all fanatical remains the episode's funniest moment. And the buckball scene as a whole (minus one moment, which I'll get to) holds up well enough. That's all the positives. The rest of this episode was just a colossal train wreck. There's one piece of dialogue, where after it all ends, that really spoils the mood. And attached with a snarky, conceited face and tone. So why is Twilight going all Trollight the worst moment of the season so far? It calls back memories of what the RM5 did in Mare Do Well and 28PL, the former one of the most infamous of the entire series. Rather than tell Dash upfront, they go behind their backs just to make her get it, and the tone attached to them is cruel and unbecoming of not only anyone who truly cares for a friend, but also the show. For those two, it took until being confronted by them at the very end with them actually telling her to her face. 28 Pranks Later has the worst atmosphere of the two, because rather than fix the problem, they exacerbated MDW's worst problems and made a worse version of that episode. Here, Dash learns her lesson well before the climax, and Twilight doesn't see the transformation taking place, but imagine if she didn’t. What if Twi told her at the end? Can you imagine just how dirtier that would feel to the audience? Just to teach Dash a contrived lesson, Twilight intentionally put the whole tournament at risk. Had Twilight decided not to make Dash the cheerleader coach beforehand, none of what happened would've existed. Dash would be at home teaching buckball and not feel demoted and deflated. She started a conflict that should never have existed in the first place. But what does making that snide, passive-aggressive line admission also mean? Twilight knew well in advance that Dash would not take this “demotion” very well, do less than minimum effort to help the students prepare for the halftime show, try to sneak away and get involved with it, potentially ruin all hope they have for it, and make them quit cheerleading practice. Like the Ponyvillagers in MDW, she used both Dash and her students as guinea pigs just to make Dash learn a lesson. This is one of her most out-of-character moments of the whole series, as it shows no trust with Dash and the student body. That final exchange is an admission of no confidence, yet the episode paints her in the right for pulling such a disgraceful stunt. Trollestia was the worst part of both Ticket Master and Bird in a Hoof, as she treated the Mane 6 (and for the latter, her sick phoenix) as a means to an end. Trollight adopting that same "quality" doesn't make it any better or more humorous. Because this episode's Mare Do Well 2.5, it's easy to see why many don't take it very well. Mare Do Well is factually terrible, and its infamy means it should've been put in the background and not to be reminded of again. This episode and the ending feel a lot like a multi-down and an admission by DHX of having continuous difficulties writing/editing her well. Those reactions also remind me of my own following Princess Spike's ending. After a mess of an episode and conflict, Spike was given a bouquet of Dragon Sneeze trees, restarting his allergies and forcing him to sneeze at the rebuilt statue. What made that moment so atrocious is how it solidifies a very sexist position within the show. Spike had been the show’s buttmonkey from the beginning, and several episodes either neglected him despite being an important part of Twi’s life (like not being at Twi’s birthday) or made him the butt of very unfunny slapstick (Owl’s Well, the Spikeabuse from Fall Weather Friends and Castle Mane-ia). Additionally to being the only non-pony of the Mane cast, he was the only male. Beating down the only male lead in a pro-feminist show is as misandrist and anti-feminist as it comes. Now, is Twilight’s line as bad as that atrocious, sorry excuse for a "joke"? Not even close. PS's "joke" made me wonder whether FIM jumped the shark, a dose of irony after Slice of Life subtly satirized it. Twilight's admission, as awful as it is, isn't nearly that low. To this day, I still don't regret my tirade over it. Thankfully, Spike had more than half a season, several more from that point forward to recover. From that day forward, he hasn’t had an episode close to this level of quality since. Unfortunately for Dash, we’re now in the last season, and if you look at the synopses of what’s to come, Also, Kaita Mpambara is one of the best new writers, so for him to write such a stinker is massively disappointing. However, just because Twilight intentionally placed Dash in an unfavorable position doesn't mean Dash is entitled to take her disappointment out on the students. With RD being the focus, we see how she feels and reacts to her surrounding. What we got here is Rainbow Dash's Honest Apple. In Honest Apple, Applejack wasn't initially sure she would be the right pony to judge on practicality, but after Apple Bloom (inexplicably) had trouble with her hat. So even though Applejack became Applejackass, it didn't start out that way. She went into this process without ill intentions. However, Rainbow Dash never got on the right foot with Ocellus, Smolder, Yona, or the two cheerleading valley mares (Shimmy Shake & Lighthoof). What was her reaction to Twi over its importance? …Nice support for your students, Ms. Cools-a-little. From the get-go, Rainbow Dash not only showed absolutely zero interest in teaching the students how to cheerlead, but made less-than-minimal effort. Let's go over her sins one by one, shall we? Shimmy Shake and Lighthoof were apparently students at the school. But Dash apparently doesn't recognize them very well and passively dissed their cheerleading routine by rolling her eyes at them. However, even if Shimmy and LH may not interest her, she could've been inspired by Ocellus's desire for respect, Smolder's subtle feminine curiosity, and Yona's eagerness to fuel her in helping all five practice. Instead, what does she do? Remain completely apathetic towards cheerleading as a whole, ignore Snips's (bit-centric) reminder that Twilight put her faith in her, and put her focus completely on the constructing buckball field over her own classroom. Their first practice in front of her was loaded with problems, including Yona's inability to not cause a classroom earthquake, Ocellus's timidity, and Smolder's poor smoke direction. But Dash pays no attention, her focus out at the window. She doesn't see one second of it. As far as she's concerned, as long as they just perform in front of her, it's all she and the buckball audience would give a shit about. As long as someone else with more passion than her can teach them, then she can watch ponies practice and build the field. Even though Snips's focus is bit-centric, he showed to be no fool these days. However, his vague wording of needing a coach so he can "make any bits" led her to her scheme, which was a disaster. … … Seriously, Dash? You really think everything will be A-OK? You think that they will rather have Snips, who's completely unqualified to teach or tutor in any form of athletics, over you? Yet, she uses that "come-up-with-something" idea to blindfold her students and try to sneak out, and would've succeeded had Yona not peaked. "Come up with something" isn't an excuse to be damn LAZY and do NOTHING under a cheap guise. After being suggested to "turn to her friends for help," she did just that and spent the rest of the first day of practice asking her friends. But she gets only the equipment. She literally is doing "what she needs" just to get stuff. No tips on how to work with them safely, arrange them properly so the practice and the dance routine improve, etc. In layman's terms: Lo and behold, they practice for the rest of the day and fuck everything up in the worst "comedy" routine of the season! What does Dash do? Completely ignore it and act like it never existed. When she turned around to see them all glum and upset, her only reaction was a disinterested "What?" Hmmmmmmmmmm… …now what does that remind me of? Oh, yeah, this little shit!! AJ's act of shaking all those feathers off Lily Lace's hat after uniquely stitching them one by one overnight is by far the cruelest act between the two episodes, but Dash's words were much worse. In HA, AJ stereotyped fashion at a boiling point (though her following words while much more composed doesn't help her at all) and at least gave it a chance. Here, Dash maintained a negative, narrow, stereotypical viewpoint of cheerleading before Twilight assigned her, maintained it throughout, and then remorselessly showed her disgust for it and those willing to perform and make it good in spite of her laziness! Even worse, despite being visibly upset, she still didn't see the big deal in how hurtful her actions were! *facehoof* Sweet Celestia! Look, I get it. Being assigned to a job you don't like sucks. No one likes it. But this isn't about you. It's them. THEY agreed to take part in the School of Friendship's cheer squad, because THEY were interested and knew Dash was the most athletic and best one to properly rally! Dash, you're a TEACHER. It's your job as a TEACHER to HELP THEM! It's one thing to be so oblivious towards their screwups. It's another to severely flanderize her ignorance, pretend they don't exist, act so disinterested when they badly mess up, directly insult them, and STILL don't care! I read one comment somewhere, and I can't find it, but that brony's right. Dash, why are you a teacher? This is the second time you were a selfish piece of shit. What you did with AJ on that boat is way, way worse than this, but that doesn't make your despicable, out-of-character actions here any better. If you truly needed help like you claimed, you coulda, I don't know, look in the library yourself and work with the students to hone their craft! Neighsay bashed the school in part because the teachers are professionally unqualified. Congratu-pony-lations for proving him right again! *AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!* Ain't it odd that Dash suddenly bashed the idea of cheering? IIRC, she had no problem teaching someone how to cheer eight seasons ago! Sure, teaching someone how to cheer from in the stands is much more different than cheerleading, which is pre-planned and organized. That doesn't mean she can't use those lessons here, but that would've been a leeeeeeeetle too helpful for her students, wouldn't it? Needless to say, this episode sucks. Today, it's the worst of the season and yet another Dash-centric flop. However, despite bashing Dash's characterization and discontinuity, it's not close to the worst of the show or her worst appearance ever. Several episodes prior handled her way worse than this. May the Best Pet Win, Tanks for the Memories: Abusive to animals. The former by being cruel to those who want to be her pet and dismissive toward Tank. The latter for treating her company with Tank to be more important than keeping her alive. Sorry not sorry, Dash DOESN'T deserve pity over having to wait three months during the winter! Rainbow Falls: Gaining an ego and then actually thinking about abandoning the relay team representing her town in favor of the “cooler” Wonderbolts squad. Mare Do Well: No explanation required. 28 Pranks Later: Jumpstarted the MDW ripoff by scaring the daylights out of FS while knowing she hates being pranked, and then the whole town, including SCOOTALOO, decided to get her back. Newbie Dash: What supposed to be her milestone episode turned out to be the biggest torture porn of the entire show. Three years later, it remains FIM’s biggest black mark. Compete Crap Clause: Lusting to win Teacher of the Month, she and AJ focus more on winning than the Young Six’s safety, causing a Yona to nearly drown! Rather than learn their lesson, they act passive-aggressive toward each other and nearly became bite-a-cuda dinner!  When Rainbow Dash wised up, she was remorseful, apologized, and worked hard to help the students make the cheerleading become the go-to moment of the tournament. Despite her terrible behavior, she put in the effort to make up for it, a commendable act by her. Yeah, it’s the worst episode this season, but compared to almost the rest I listed, it’s not terrible. Lastly, it's understandable that some may feel DHX, particularly the crew from S6 onward, hates Rainbow Dash. But if they do, then we wouldn't have the following: Stranger Than Fan Fiction: OK, this episode isn't as good as what many say, but only due to Quibble suddenly acting like an idiot while in the jungle (thinking it's all a game). OTOH, Dash was fantastic as a fantastic foil. Top Bolt: A better climax could've really helped this episode. But Twi and Dash worked hard to help out Sky Stinger and Vapor Trail and were able to fix their friendships. Their portrayals were among the best of S6. Glideance: Dash’s Putting Your Hoof Down, and done right. Grannies Gone Wild: An episode that has no business being great, but it is. Initially wanting no part in it and trying to skip out, she immediately sees the error of her ways and works tirelessly to keep the Golden Mares safe. Despite all of the comedy at its expense, Berrow's episode reminds us to sympathize with her, not think she had it coming. She rightfully earned her way to the roller coaster. The End In Friend: NCC and Mare Do Well done right. Their argument was very believable and had every right to defend their own interests when the other didn't take theirs seriously. But they used their interests and strengths to realize how much they still mean to each other. The Washouts: An excellent sequel to Wonderbolts Academy, and Dash’s best episode. Like its predecessor, it balances her strengths and flaws very well, transitions between Dash's insecurity and worries for Scoot's safety flawlessly, and doesn't demonize her for any of it. Common Ground: An amazing followup of STFF with a personal touch, and Dash's best outing of the season. Tries her best to help Quibble learn buckball to bond with his stepdaughter, accidentally messes up, and steps back up to continue helping him until she found the right resolution. Most importantly, as disappointing as 246G is, this is Season 9's only folly. Many more episodes remain. If you wish, you can open the spoiler box beneath for brief commentary on the early-aired episodes: So, yeah, it's a bad episode, but not the worst, and whenever the show ends, she still has many good episodes.
  18. The premise of the episode is good overall. But... the actions of a certain blue pegasus really ruin this episode. Rainbow dash came off as a jerk throughout the scenes she was involved in here, wanting to focus more on the buckball team itself rather than the cheer squad. This was a complete waste of an episode. Snips didn't help either with his greed coming out at every turn. Yeah, it was redeemed by a pretty good ending. But overall, I can say this is one of the worst episodes of season 9. It's a shame that it was so bad because it had a lot of potential. My grade: D+
  19. Good cold open. Pinkie Pie was very pinkie at the start. I also got significant Willy Wonka vibes here. But it looks just as boring as a normal factory. Pinkie is still being as typically Pinkie throughout the episode. Sans was a good character throughout the entire episode. The visual gags were great as well. The return of Weird Al in a more subdued role was a great choice for this episode, with a call back to his time before the factory. The montage with pinkie doing gags and the "science" of comedy was fantastic as well. The song (which isn't a surprise with the musical genius that is Weird Al at his best) was absolutely fantastic, showing just how much of a range he really has. Overall, this was a fantastic episode and a great way to start off the second half of the final season. My grade: A-
  20. Note: Copied and pasted from here and edited. Rainbow Roadtrip took quite sometime before the plot actually began to move. Until Mayor Skies sung about Hope Hollow's descent into despair, it spent a great deal of time showing what went on inside that "luxury resort," the ponies' behavior, and the mayor's façade when leading the tour. But all of this took about one-third of the 60-minute runtime. That's way too long, and the lack of humor makes this plot develop bland and way too simple. The songs aren't the best of the series or up to par of Best Gift Ever's introduction. The lyrics and melody feel unfinished, clumsy, and lack the rhythm. In comparison to the movie or BGE, Rainbow Roadtrip's much more mellow, and that was the point. However, say what you wish about the former outings; they weren't boring, and all the action keeps the audience engaged. By making RR's plot so simple, the mellow direction makes this story very bland. Collectively, the last two seasons have some of the best dialogue of the series. Another couple of rounds of editing would've helped tighten it and give it some more humor. But it has its own strengths. It's competent. The movie ignored a world of continuity to connect the story, mainly Twilight's inability to possess the staff through her magic or teleport, and even the thought of Discord or Shining Armor existing. In BGE, Fluttershy's intelligence was zapped so Flim and Flam could get away with their scheme for a few more hours. Here, despite no stakes at any point, it doesn't contain any big mistakes, and it especially not an ableist post office scene. Every action makes sense. When Twilight needed to teleport, she did. When Fluttershy needed to help acquaint ponies, she did. Everyone's in character and not basic at all. Already wrote this before, but I'll write it again. Applejack and FS were merely there in the movie, and neither Dash, Spike, nor Rarity did much. Twilight and Pinkie were easily the most complete with the former taking over most of the spotlight. (The movie had the M6 saving the day, but Twilight had one of the two biggest character arcs.) RR balances all six much more naturally, using their best strengths to help revive hope within Hope Hollow. Early on, the characters show their flaws, like Dash's ego and Twilight's perfectionism. After Mayor Sunny Skies explained what happened to Hope Hollow, they show why they bear the Elements of Harmony. Sometimes their methods to help Hope Hollow regain hope took a little more time, but they remained patient throughout, convinced their lessons will help them. There's no antagonist, and do we need one? Nope! Everyone is grumpy, because they feel Hope Hollow won't return to its glory days. The fact that there's no Rainbow Festival to cheer ponies up increased the hopelessness and despair of the whole town. Mayor Sunny Skies also felt responsible for causing the town to lose its color and ruining the legacy his family left behind for him, even though Petunia tried tirelessly to convince him otherwise. Because he felt so guilty over his supposed accident, you can't help but root for him and the M6's quest to revive the festival so he can let it go (no pun intended ). Its biggest strength: It's so wholesome. Hope Hollow's split and bitter, and after he told his story, they worked to strengthen each others' relations. Their methods to help them and kindness were genuine, and they really worked with everyone to help them recreate the Rainbow Festival's magic. Like Rarity herself, Kerfuffle's a fashion designer, but because of Hope's hopeless magic, she now feels shy about exposing her creations with others, fearing rejection and lack of appreciation. With the Rainbow Festival's revival, Rarity gave her the confidence and guidance needed to showcase her talents and earn that respect. Dash realized Barley and Pickle had trouble flying, so she gradually trained them. Twilight worked with Petunia to find a spell powerful enough to repel the gloomy magic blanketing the town. Torque Wrench felt unappreciated working as the mechanic and carpenter of Hope Hollow, working out of necessity. But Applejack, understanding how it takes a lot of understanding the craft to fix more than just the billboard, gave her the needed confidence to rebuild the rainbow generator. The Hoofingtons and Moody Root were long-time neighbors, but didn't get along, and Moody refused to share his apricots with them. But Pinkie's happy-go-lucky charm and Fluttershy's openness to others created a bridge for them to communicate and exchange. It's charming, heartfelt, and warm, and you feel so happy to see them succeed. This special's a very pleasant surprise. I didn't expect much, but I'm glad to be wrong. Between the film, BGE, and this, I may prefer the film. But which of the three is the best? My vote goes to Rainbow Roadtrip. And it's Kim Beyer-Johnson's best episode so far.
  21. Between Dark and Dawn marks the next chapter for the goal from the premiere: Celestia and Luna will retire, so the RM7 will take their place when they're ready. Capping the first half with this episode fits with the arc to a T, especially with the sprinkling of continuity throughout the season thus far. The fact that Gail Simone, one of the best comic writers, was invited to write the first Royal Sister episode of the show fits the grand nature of what S9 has felt for the past several episodes. If you're going to wrap it up, do it while on top. Season 9A is the most consistently good half of the series: Over half of the first eleven were great, and what wasn't great was still good. Between Dark and Dawn increases the percentage of great episodes, and it's the third-best episode of Season 9, only behind both Sparkle's Seven and The Last Crusade. So why is it so great? Time to break it down! LO-FUCKING-L! I know little of Simone's comic writing, but according to Voice of Reason in his latest At the Screening, she has really excellent comedic timing. Well, easy to see why: BD&D's littered with hysterical moments throughout. Some of the best are the following: You know what's coming! Y'said what everybrony was thinking. Celestia could've been involved everywhere, and they went with a simple trespass of Tank's hungry great-great-great-great-great grandfather. While Luna and Celestia went on vacation for the first time in forever, several ponies reacted really hilariously. Three favorites include one stallion (Fond Feather) fainting as they walked by, one mare taking a selfie while Celly naps on her head, and a stallion backing away from them in the post office (a scene that I'll get to later). And it's easy to see why. They're the most famous ponies in all of Equestria, yet spend almost their whole lives cooped up in Canterlot Castle. So once you pass them when you least expect it…well, can y'blame 'em?! Dash incredulously asking why the swanifying ceremony was so important. In addition, this episode has a plethora of really goofy faces, taking full advantage of the cartoony medium. The fact that a very famous writer agreed to write for an episode and the overall absurd tone accompanying it gave the crew ample opportunity to go for it wherever. If I go through a lot of them, I'd be overloading slower browsers with all the pictures… Oh, what the hell! Y'know y'screwed up when Pinkie's cross. Feelin' a wee giddy there, I presume? Not feelin' the Aloha spirit, I guess. This episode is loaded with detail, and this tiny one is no exception. Celestia glaring at the goofed-up face of herself. Luna fighting off fits of laughter. The sculptor not having any clue about his screw-up. Luna doesn't like the thrills. That said, wait for that Luna face again. Goth Celestia? How amusing. Ruling a kingdom ain't easy, whether it's for celebrating the agency of swans or manipulating position of the sun and moon. That FACE is Twilight at her most exasperated. Of course, the funniest of them all. Recall Luna's face while riding Flim and Flam's roller coaster? That face comes back again, only this time with Celestia's excitement. With all these faces, it's easy to see how much fun the storyboarders and animators had with these scenes. But even with all of them, they don't ruin the moment when it gets serious or turn gross. They push and toe the point of being uncanny without crossing that imaginary border. Each time they make that face, it's laugh-out-load hilarious. The little scores and voices help time them, too. More to come later. Swanversion of expectations. One big strength of FIM that doesn't get much credit anymore is its ability to subvert expectations to the audience. Back in Season 1, the show built a reputation of flipping clichés on their head, such as making the prince a vain jackass, a female unicorn who works beyond the call of duty to deliver the best quality possible, or a realistic approach to sisterhood conflict. How does this episode do this? Via swans. Stereotyped as elegant and gracious, the swans here are not presented this way at all. They're impatient, and temperamental, and aggressive, all with enough agency to make the RM7 know their place. When they found out who was leading the gala, they honked crossly at them. These moat-wandering, spoiled, Pony version of castle gators commanded respect; when things didn't go their way, they let Twi and friends have it. Celestia knew it, and while they were on vacation, they have every reason to count on them to solve it without their help. Fancy seeing you here! As Twilight helps run Equestria while Celestia and Luna vacation, the first main thing they must accomplish is hosting the Swanifying Gala. But little did Twilight know that Fancy Pants (welcome back!), Jet Set, and Upper Crust would be there to help out. Granted, it was very dumb of her to reject their help without observing Celestia's scroll of instructions, yet this isn't purely her fault here. No one warned her that someone would come to assist her. For all she knew, they entered unannounced and had no idea how to help set it up. This was Twilight's first taste of how to run and eventually understanding how no one pony can run an important royal event, much less a kingdom, alone. Leaders need help. Some rudeness aside, Fancy Pants was quite reasonable, and his sternness was completely justified. Neither he nor his aristocratic clients entered Canterlot Castle because they felt like it. They're familiar with the Swanifying Gala and lead the Royal Swanifying Committee. He knows how it works, and with Upper and Jet helping him, they can delegate for the gala so it can all be finished on time. Twilight turning them away surprised them and implicated that they know more that they do. However, their disorganization setting up the gala meant ignoring other critical points of government. By falling back, they can't help negotiate a deal with the street sweepers and help the carpenters complete their own jobs. So why does this matter to Fancy? Canterlot trusts him; Celestia wouldn't hire him to lead the committee for no reason. Everyone there — even down to the swans, who are promised watercress — are his constituents. By getting involved and lending his voice to those more unfortunate than him, their complaints amplify. Fancy makes sure they are heard and the RM7 listen. Plus, as head of the committee, the gala adheres to specific formal standards. With his experience, he can accurately judge if it holds up to it or not and mandate changes if they don't. The tablecloth decorations clearly don't, so Rarity had to delegate someone else to help her. When they realized what to do, he lets his monocle down and trusts them to finish the job. While this may not be as entertaining as the A-plot, it's important, nevertheless. This is the first time they run a kingdom together, so this was good practice. Hiccups aside, they prove their worth for now. The AliTeam! But the meat of the story is Celestia and Luna. Now, this ain't the first time they shared a humongous portion of an episode. A Royal Problem dealt with long-standing friction between them, but for almost the entire 22-minute run, they acted like they hated each other, making up only after Starlight nearly scarred herself with a massive nightmare. Secondly, Starlight was the main character, not them. Most of it was in her point of view or sympathetic toward hers. Eight and a half seasons in, but FIM finally wrote them co-leading an episode. In addition, this was A Royal Problem written much, much better. How? Instead of making them forget how much they loved each other, they loved each other both in the beginning and at the end. Their fight slowly progressed, crescendoing at their private picnic, without degrading them. The many moments throughout the episode not only showed their relationship, but added touches to their characters. Going over milestones one by one. For long-time watchers like myself, the criticism of Celestia and Luna being inactive, whether via capture or not appearing at all, makes some level of sense, especially during the Chaos Theory and Cosmo arcs and movie. This episode, self-aware, pokes a little clever fun at itself, setting the tone of both the episode as well as their relationship. Even though they're major beings in Equestria, they're still sisters. Each time they "helped" was always as a team. This shot — as they exchange eye contact and hold hooves — reminds us in a very funny, over-the-top manner. Unless you read the comics, the show rarely explored them as a sibling bond and individual characters. Often they appear as royal heads only. That all changed with this one scene: How is this important? This is the first time the audience ever watched them act like actual sisters throughout a scene. They may be wearing regalia, but they're not behaving like royalty here. A tight connection between them is revealed, and nowhere nearly as muted as their hoof-holding during Slice of Life's moral recitation. Reading to bow their hair, they share immense excitement for the upcoming trip and offer grand ideas to share their moments together. That said, the episode subtly lays the groundwork for their eventual fight. They disagree with how to spend that time on vacation, and it's easy to see their perspectives. Just like the Fifty Shades series, Princess Celestia's day shift is SOOOOOOOO boring! On the other hand, Luna spends all night settling nightmares and other forms of dreams so they can sleep. So adventuring and relaxation, respectively, would be welcoming changes to their routines. But most importantly, Luna says this: Here, doubt clouds above them, potentially leading to an argument. However, just like the Angry Swans, Between Dark and Dawn subverts expectations once again, cutting off the idea to make way for a compromise. When it's possible to introduce disagreement (i.e., Celestia's uncertainty toward the Hawaiian shirts and forgetting to warn Luna of the snack's awful flavor), they go back to being caring sisters once more. "Lotta Little Things" is one of the best songs of the series. Similar in tone to The Smile Song, its happy jingle bounces off the sisters' hooves and into the viewer's mind, and the catchy lyrics accentuate its giddy tone. Also, the animation in two of the sequences is creative. Aside from the clever Easter Eggs (yes, I know about Capper, and Wicked's an awesome musical! ), by making the ground round like a globe, it reinforces the jolly mood of the song and shows how far they traveled to do those activities. Beyond just the great lyrics, it also subtly advances their conflict. At the start, they cooperate and have a world of fun together, and several of the shots are adorable! Celestia at Not-Toys-R-Us cuddling with all the humongous plushies as Luna giggles, Luna fails to create the illusion of holding onto the Great Horseshoe, Luna giggling at the Celestia & Luna sculpture shown earlier, Luna playing the banjo (with some of the most imaginative rhyming since Stop the Bats), and especially Celly and Luna huddling as Jack Pot and Big Bucks perform. <3 However, after the second chorus, they start subtly disagreeing more. Still seeking thrills, Celestia looks for more adventure. But Lethargic Luna is exhausted and wants to take a break. From that point forward, they begin to disagree on what "fun" is, like Celestia getting bored watching Wicked, Luna nearly dying from fright swimming with sharks and barreling down Neighagra Falls. The last lyrics succinctly point out this change in tone. The post office scene is one of the best of the entire episode. Beyond the zipline, this really showcases the vast difference of opinion of fun. Celestia's so used to it, but as stated in episode, Luna's traditionally asleep at night, so she never experiences it, so what's mundane to Celly excites her like a little filly. And this scene is loaded with comedy spots and the most adorable Luna has ever been. Luna prancing like a little filly while waiting. (Awwwwwww! ) A stallion slowly backing away from the line in surprise. DERPY as cute as ever! Luna wiggling her eyebrows at Celestia and singing "Wait for it…!". Bored, Celestia takes out her pocketwatch as the secondhand ticks. The whimsical "du-d-du" as she mails her postcard (which has their cutie marks on the written side!). "It's about the PROCESS!" Now who trusts the process more, her or 76ers fans? In addition to Luna at her most adorkable, it created a clever transition to make both of them stop seeing eye to eye and getting more and more angry at each other. They wanted to have fun, but with their sister there, the whole vacation was less joyful and more chore-ful. Their tug of war and ripping the bucket list in half symbolically marked the point where they stopped compromising with each other and quit enjoying being in each others' company. Their picnic scene was the major boiling point. The moment Simone built up over the first two-thirds. Luna's accusation was childish, but the episode shows us several moments to understand where she's coming from, such as taking part in more extreme events late in the song, getting extremely upset at her makeup being ruined, and then being forced to leave an opera in the middle of a performance. What did Celestia do? Shout and use the Canterlot voice in her face. So it's completely believable of her to feel unwanted. However, what she also did was accuse of her of believing Celestia wants nothing to do with her at all, and despite the huge disagreement with each other, she clearly doesn't want her to stay sealed in the moon. Celestia wants to enjoy life and not feel cooped up in the castle. But because their anger feels so raw, emotion dominates logic. Also, because that anger feels so down to earth, it's hard to watch. Compared to their fight from A Royal Problem, it wasn't petty. However, unlike Twilight and the gang from The Mean 6, they don't immediately make up. Spending several long hours alone, they're deservedly reminded of how much they need each other. Canterlot isn't complete with one Royal Sister. But as the fight shows the hardships of sisterhood, the late-night scene at the mountain proves they still love each other. Luna reminiscing the times Celestia taught her to watch the stars to search for the lucky ones allowed the story and characters themselves to close the conflict without rushing. They talked to each other, expressed why they felt the way they felt, and became a closer unit. Does this warm you? …I'll take that as a yes. Between Dark and Dawn is a phenomenal addition to FIM's growing lineup of great episodes. Great humor, great characterization, and great heart. Whether it's the B-Plot of The RM7 struggling to run a gala at the most inopportune time to Celestia and Luna distancing themselves and later reuniting, there's a lot to unpack and love. The little details add extra shape to the atmosphere and story, like ponies fainting or taking a selfie upon seeing them or Luna teasing Celestia in the post office, and help improve a good episode into a great one.
  22. This episode is focused on Celestia and Luna, took long enough to get a sister buddy episode for them. It started off well enough with Luna and Celestia helping out situations involving the mane 6. It then became a sort of duling storylines episode, with the Celestia and Luna portion and the mane 6 trying to run Equestria as practice for their incoming transition into leadership. Segment 2 started with a great song featuring Celestia and Luna. Love the combined voices of Celestia and Luna in song. Celestia is a bit more wild, where Luna is wanting to do the more mundane. The things that each sister pushes on the other makes the episode that much better. The mane 6 storyline features the return of Fancy Pants and some of the other uppercrust ponies. Segment 3 begins with the mane 6 storyline and Twilight being twilight. This is followed up by Luna and celestia doing things alone. The finale to the episode, Celestia and Luna talking was by far the best thing about this episode. I love this sibling dynamic between the two. This episode was fantastic, from the handful of pop culture references, the designs of Celestia and Luna for their day off, and the dueling storyline with the Mane 6 (and Twilight twilighting). This is one of, if not the best, episode of the season thus far. My Grade: A+
  23. I know hate is a strong word, but I seriously hate Scootaloo's parents. They single hoofedly ruined what could have been a great finale to the series long story arc of the CMCs. The episode was a bit of a throwback to when the CMCs would do everything and the kitchen sink to get their cutie marks and then find the message with their cutie marks. Scootaloo's aunts were a great addition to the episode, a sort of calming voice for this episode. The ending was certainly the mark of the end of the series, with the town and others showing great appreciation for the CMCs. But, Scootaloo's parents absolutely killed this episode for me. The CMCs were great throughout the entire episode, and the ending was great with the town showing their appreciation for the three fillies. My grade: C
  24. This episode started off fast with all kinds of students needed help, Silverstream in particular. It just got more and more annoying as the first segment went on. Trixie was certainly not helping the episode either. It also featured the return of the MLP universe's version of ShAmy and the return of Terramar. The second segment featured the entire party helping to find Silverstream in the Everfree Forest. The final segment of the episode features the return of the friendship treehouse and Silverstream working hard on her project with a willing Cockatrice. Overall, I thought this episode was very noisy and had a pretty predictable ending to it. It felt rushed, and made Starlight realize she doesn't need to be there for her students 24/7. Grade: C+
  25. The apple family dynamic was absolutely brillant in this episode from start to finish. I have always enjoyed the apple family episodes because of this tight knitted way. Apple Bloom and AJ were brilliant in this one, especially in the final act of the episode. Overall, it had a really good pace, a nice story, and the flashback which tied into the story about AJ. I really hope the address this again later in the season. Grade: A