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  1. 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.
  2. 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-
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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+
  7. 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!
  8. 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-
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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+
  12. 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-
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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+
  16. 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
  17. 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+
  18. 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
  19. Note: Expanded my original thoughts. Credit also goes to @AlexanderThrond, @Odyssey, and @OptimisticNeighsayer for it. With a world as magical and fantastical as Equestria, any form of mystical being is possible. They may sound like fairytales (or "pony's tales," as what Spike once said about the Mare in the Moon). Not too often does the show do the opposite: establish the legend of a mystical jokester no one witnessed and make both ponies and viewers wonder if he doesn't exist. Considering the amount of lore in the series (both in the TV series and comics), it's an undertaking for the show to give this concept any benefit of the doubt. That was partially Applejack's role, as her stubbornness and eye for logic initially play a role in downplaying and explaining other ways for phenomenons to work beyond a "just-because" shortcut. Additionally, Applejack's stubbornness usually lasts all the way through the climax. The Mane Attraction is the lone time to use it as a strength rather than a flaw. Just like the lore, Rapp reigns her flaw in. Instead of making her impose her stubbornness on everyone else, she's stuck with a dilemma: promise Granny and Big Mac to help round up every apple in Sweet Apple Acres and not try to hurt Apple Bloom's feelings. More on this later. Building up this dilemma in the first half was its biggest weakness, and there are a few reasons why. The first half is loaded with exposition. The rest of the Mane 8 were written off early, automatically turning it Apple-focused. But using a one-line shortcut cheapens the direction. Even the lore of the confluence (the time where every apple is ripe simultaneously) doesn't hold much weight, as it's attached to the clunky "moon" length of time and explained very early on. Additionally, the episode repetitiously reminds the viewer how catching the Sass Squatch-like trickster*; once is fine, thank you. *The AJ Micro revolved around a "Sass Squatch," a mystical creature that changed apples into squashes, and Applejack was stubborn as Boulder to try to capture him alone for most of the issue. Until the end of the flashback, it was really slow and bland, with surface jokes that aren't all that funny. Usually, they were related to either Goldie's "crazy-cat-lady" shenanigans or Big Mac's exhaustion, and nothing more beyond that. One of the only ones to work that well was Goldie's cats distracting her to steal her pancakes. Although it was a problem for the whole episode, the dialogue in the first half was quite repetitive. I don't need to specifically hear "Great Seedlin'" all the time. Throughout most of her time as a foal and filly, Applejack learned of his legend and the reward for catching it, so he spent good time every confluence to set up traps rather than buck the apple trees. However, she forgot where one of the traps were and was stuck in a deep hole for most of the day. She felt so upset for it that she felt like she let herself and her family down over trying to chase a mystical creature that may not even exist. Therefore, as what @OptimisticNeighsayer wrote, she established a "sour grapes" approach to the fairytale, eschewed the Great Seedling as nothing more than fairytale, and focused primarily on working the farm. It established why she can be so work-driven (nicely pointed by Alexander Thrond, his post linked further down), shown in past episodes like Applebuck Season and AJ's "Day" Off. So why is this, by far, the worst moment of the first half? Because of this: Goldie and Granny don't treat her mistake as a big deal, even though it is to her, evident by her tone and glum expressions. Combine that with Goldie's smugness, Granny's decision to explain right there why AJ became cynical in the first place, and their disagreement from earlier, it unfortunately implicates that Granny told AB the story as a "gotcha!" to put AJ in her place. AB tries to soften the blow by staying by her older sister and refusing to join her grandma and relative (and Goldie shaking her hoof after they accidentally ran too close was a little bit of accidental karma), but neither of them were held accountable for not taking AJ's hurt seriously, making the overall tone of the moment and flashback really mean-spirited. To borrow from @Odyssey, if it wasn't shown in AJ's point of view or have her bitterness dominate the mood, then perhaps the scene would feel more whimsical, and the tone's direction wouldn't be so convoluted. Thankfully, the rest of the episode picks up from there, focusing on Apple Bloom and AJ's bond. Whereas Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo had bonding episodes with their older sisters (both biological and surrogate) previously, AB never had that, as episodes where she shares a focus are more on herself (and for Brotherhoves Social, her relationship with Big Mac). The one time where there was some kind of bonding episode between her and AJ was Somepony to Watch Over Me, and that's an AJ-focused episode and AJ's worst appearance of the first five seasons. Recall AJ's dilemma that I mentioned earlier, and I'm going to expand from @AlexanderThrond post with my own thoughts. Yes, she wants to help everyone else, but catchin' him mattered to AB. That's why she was gentle when talking to her about it and tried to add uncertainty to the legend. More importantly, AJ didn't want her own trauma to similarly affect her. In short, to softly ask that question of the Great Seedlin' being real or not was a warning without trying to intrude. But she was also willing to help her and make her happy however possible, which is why they agreed to compromise on Day 2: If they work together to harvest the trees, they'll set up the traps later. Rather than make AJ so stubborn to the point of blindness like her Micro, the episode eases her stubbornness and allows her to be open-minded to his existence being possible. This moment and AJ's flashback tie a little bow on the first half and commence the second half's direction, giving them the bonding episode they sorely needed. Two moments, though, really stand out. Their montage was really heartwarming. Rather than let Granny and Goldie get the best of her, she helped AB prepare the traps, using both her own memories back in the day to place them in the best spots and ability to build to build them faster and effectively. Skeptical at first, she progressively showed to having a lot of fun setting them all up. Pay attention to the change of facial expression from this to this to this. When she said she had fun, she meant it; the facial expressions and length of time they put in to building those traps back her up. You can tell she was starting to evolve from an ol' prune to a shiny plum. This was the first confluence since she was a filly, and by helping AB, she reminded herself of the good fun she had then. Yes, she still has responsibilities, but quality time with her young sis healed painful wounds and let her loosen up in life. While Big Mac struggles to clean the orchard on time, AJ and AB are having fun off-screen, and after discovering an empty orchard, they'll accept any help possible to solve it, including listening to one of Goldie's Great Seedling tales. After some advice on how to improve their chances of catching him, they have one of their best heart-to-heart moments of the series. Now, even though they don't know Big Mac unintentionally disguised himself as the mythical deer, the episode makes his identity way too obvious. From the opening shot, the camera spies on him being exhausted at the table and accidentally falling asleep on the breakfast table. Over the next eighteen minutes or so, his expression and behavior deteriorate, such as sleeping on the floor, not observing his surroundings, sagging and drying eyes, not cleaning up the apples right away to knock the apples down easier, sleepwalking, and so on. However, despite the mystery behind the Seedling, that wasn't the point. Its focus was on Applejack eventually letting her hair down to reminisce and enjoy being a kid with a sister who was too young to participate last time. The hunt was merely the plot device to bring them together. So is it the worst episode of the season so far? Yes. But compared to the previous first halves, is this way better than Boast Busters, AJ's "Day" Off, Fake It, and The Cutie Pox? One hundred percent. Overcoming first-half hiccups, Going to Seed's the AJ Micro done better and a fine overall addition to the series.
  20. First is is Frenemies. I really enjoyed the different look of this episode with the episode focusing on the villains, rather than the heroines of the series. The musical number sounded like something you'd hear from a Disney villain from the 80s and 90s. Love that they were basically forced to work together and the near/aborted heel/face turn happened. I also love the new undercurrent of a betrayal by the three against Grogar. This will make things much more interesting as we approach the end of the season and the series. My grade: A- Lastly is Sweet and Smoky. This was a pretty good episode. Love the dueling storylines, and the focus on the dragonlands. Love the integration of Garble into the episode's story and his new foils to his character. And of course... Fluttershy being Fluttershy to the extreme in this one. It did work very well, as the storylines played off each other well. Garble was the absolute hero in this episode, there is no denying that. And... That last 10 seconds of the episode... SOOOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE! My grade: A
  21. Note: Credits to We Are Borg, MarikAzemus, and @Truffles for this review. After Sweet and Smoky, I won't be surprised if Season 8 was planned as equally as the 9th. The way she teased her off-screen bro after his horrid molt shows her edge, yet still cares for him. Combine this with Spike's feud with Garble still hanging in the air, what perfect time to address it than an episode about dragon-breeding. This episode mingles three plots: figure out how to hatch the eggs, get Garble to show his more sensitive side, and end his feud with Spike. While Sweet & Smoky started by using the first two, it expanded once Spike discovered who Smolder's brother is. Sure, no in-show word said he's her older brother, but given the context of past episodes and how Smolder's younger, higher pitched, and originally a little less mature than him, yeah, she's younger. Throughout, Smolder's more "feminine" side becomes more and more open. While at the School of Friendship, she's more introverted in her likening for tea parties, but while around Garble, she's more self-secure in openly having tea parties with Garble and Spike, expressing her feelings, showing emotion beyond archetypal "masculinity," and not being afraid to go against the grain of dragon culture she grew up learning from. Even more, her friendship with Spike grew closer to more of a surrogate sister, as she's more open around Spike, defends his passions, and stands up for him. Unlike Spike from Dragon Quest, Smolder rejects the long-time "culture" of bullying others to show "toughness," because she learned ways to be strong beyond the shallow "being-with-older-groupies" type, but not her identity. Thanks to Ember and Twilight, she learned how there's more than one right way to be a dragon, and as Garble tries to hide his insecurities, she tries to open them up so he and Spike bond. Speaking of Spike, he's the main lead, and he shows off his growth as a character in subtle ways. Even though he and Garble have a rough history, he trusted Smolder's words. Early on, she referred to his bro as being like a squishy marshmallow on the inside. Taking her words into account, he works with her to get him to reveal his more sensitive side with a promise of not making fun of him. His trust with Smolder goes back to Molt Down (their first real onscreen conversation), Rockhoof (their fire-breathing competition), and Father Knows Beast (working with her to out Sludge). Despite being the subject of constant abuse by Garble, Spike sucks it up. Why? Firstly, to promise himself to being a dragon without going out of character. Secondly, because that's what Smolder wants. If he (understandably) decides to cook Garble's snout, who can blame him? One can take so much punishment before going over their limit. He openly embraces "Spikey-Wikey." Back in Dragon Quest's beginning, he rejected Rarity's nickname, thinking it made him look too cute in front of ponies. (And from my perspective, her nickname for him then was sooooo patronizing. ) From that point forward, whenever Rarity calls him that, it's endearing. Calling himself that to Garble calls back to that background evolution of acceptance for it. This episode had plenty of Spike abuse, specifically Act 2 when he and Smolder try to get Garble to crawl out of his shell. However, I don't have much of an issue with this for a key reason. His mistreatment of Spike, both past and present, was integral to the conflict. How did he react once finding out she and GarGar were siblings? Not so well. Notice Smolder's raise of the eyebrow in the first link, implying suspicions towards her brother. Soon after, she warned Garble after he tried to be a passive-aggressive douchebag in front of her. From the get-go, she establishes she won't tolerate anyone bullying her good friend. Thanks to chickening Clump (one of the three stereotypical bullies) out after accusing her of being "soft," Beyer-Johnson shows she means business. But that doesn't mean Garble can't give him the short end of the stick by accident or abuse him behind her back. Unlike examples from other episodes, the Spikeabuse isn't a joke (something @Truffles points out in his review; link to it near the bottom). We as an audience are supposed to sympathize for him and root for him to overcome it all and prove to be better than him. But no matter how much he tried, Garble’s mistreatment of him understandably discouraged him. Additionally, his disappointment led him to accidentally discovering that the ground underneath the nests was too cold, immediately leading S&S into a darker turn. The eggs shook not from fright, but from dragons freezing inside. Thanks to his discovery, Ember unleashes Clump, Fume, and "Billy" some deserved karma. Back to the A-plot, with Spike being bullied, Fluttershy (representing the motherly support, while Smolder's the "sister") delivered two of the episode's most rewarding moments. After showing control over Spike since returning to the Dragon Lands, it was only a matter of time before someone called them out for their bad behavior. Fluttershy's anger was raw and real; when she ordered them to quit throwing lava at him, she meant it. Like a good mother, she keeps him accountable. At no point does she scold him and then pretend it's all okay. When she found out he played bongo drums and wrote poetry with Smolder, she embraced his hobby, but was quick to point out his hypocrisy in multiple ways: scapegoating her for being "sneaky" when he was the one doing the sneaking and using his status as a bully to hypocritically pick on Spike. After Garble's flimsy excuse, she gave him this: Her riot act to him was some well-needed tough love. He treated Spike like crap for not being a "real dragon" in order to hide his insecurities, and Fluttershy gave him some pointers of what makes him a "real dragon," narrowed to this: not being afraid to be himself and being with those who'll really appreciate his creativity. Granted, S&S's reveal could've been handled better. Nowhere the episode foreshadows his love for poetry. Now, the atmosphere early in Act 1 (thanks, We Are Borg, for catching this) foreshadows the upcoming stakes and differences between pony and dragon cultures, and Smolder refers to him as a lovable guy who likes to be with those who appreciate talents like Spike's, but what would do better is a hint or two that isn't so vague so his reveal of being a beatnik poet can be connected more with the rest of the plot, such as being with someone who can exchange points in creativity. Additionally, the episode told a lot about Garble's sadness, which he hid through a bad temper and embarrassment. Showing sadness, scaling back a little bit of the abuse (i.e., second-guessing before doing it anyway), and collecting lava to cool it down and turn it into the cylinder would help round it more. Conversely, the episode does a really good job showing us what he does to make us understand him without telling us to forgive him, which MarikAzemus points out. If you want to forgive him, that's up to you. Yes, Garble being sensitive is a cliché in storytelling, but it's one for ringing true. However, while One Bad Apple explains Babs's history of being bullied to make us forgive her for bullying others, Fluttershy and Smolder call him out every time he gets caught. Neither the story nor them downplay the bad things Garble did, emphasized earlier by how Spike would rather help hatch the eggs than be around him. The fact that Garble himself fears being picked on is not an excuse for picking on Spike in return. The fact that he defied Smolder's warning from earlier more than justified her to angrily call him out for picking on him. Small for her, sure, but important on the whole. Why? Because she keeps her promise to both him and Spike and shows she's taking both her professors' classes to heart and Spike's wellbeing seriously. However, rather than get defensive, everyone had to go to the nesting grounds, as the eggs were shaking from the baby dragons from inside feeling too cold. They've been inside for days, but they're newborns, and they're dependent on warmth from the underneath lava to keep them warm as they hatch. Ember called upon "every dragon" (or if the episode was more specific, every dragon she could find) to hatch them, but the fire was too cool. There, as Garble's "friends" laugh at him so hard that their fire becomes hotter, Garble notices a break. See the fumes? The eggshells were heating up. But how to do it better? At that point, Garble takes advantage. Earlier, he worried about others making fun of him for his creativity. Here, if he can get them to laugh at him, they can shoot fire onto the eggs. Will they make fun of him for it? Of course, and he knows it! But he soon stopped caring about what they think and agreed to trade embarrassment for the baby dragons' health. After briefly wallowing, he takes her lessons to heart, starting with this. Like Rarity years ago, he calls him "Spikey-Wikey" sincerely. As he beats the drums and recites the poems, Spike supports him all the way, snapping his own claws to stay into the tune. The more he recited and banged the drums, the more confident he became. When he recited his first poem, he exchanged eye contact with Spike, knowing that he'll embrace his creativity and back him when needed. Afterwards, he said nothing for a good few seconds. As he banged his drums, he became one with the music and his writings. The lack of confidence from before dissipated. Ironically, the more they laughed at his poetry, the more confident he became. By laughing at him, they're falling into his trick, which helps the babies hatch. Pay attention to the last three poems: All of them have a double meaning. In addition to telling the eggs to break free from the eggs, he was also telling himself and everyone else he wasn't hiding his talents anymore. He was proud to write poems, be a poet, and show it off. If they mock him, so what? That's their problem, not his. His self-confidence rose exponentially, and he singlehandedly saved a generation of dragons from freezing to death. The fact that Dragon Lord Ember defended him instantly after they hatched proves to everyone that their talents matter and should be celebrated. She loves the Dragon Lands and her culture, but she has a history of being looked down for being smaller in stature (and thus "weaker" than other candidates three seasons ago), so them mocking him was personal. If they continued to bully others for not being "real" dragons, then those eggs don't hatch. Thanks to Garble and Ember's and Smolder's fervent defenses of him, the dragons learn an important lesson of how they can improve relations with each other. If there's one thing here to comment, though, the fact that Garble's three friends had a change of heart seconds after Ember announced a massive change in its culture makes their change of heart feel less like an organic want to learn and more of "follow the leader." That said, the others agreed after realizing what he accomplished, implicating they're sincere. And @Truffles points out a really interesting, subtle secondary message. By unknowingly "hogging" the lava from the lake, they accidentally changed the landscape and put the lives of baby dragons (that she promised to take care of) in serious jeopardy. They count on her to protect their children at all costs; Ember's rightfully upset at them and treated the situation with the urgency it deserves. They were lucky to prevent the problem from getting worse, but if they're not careful next time, they might not be. This episode has rough edges. There were areas that could've definitely been improved on, one of them making Billy, Fume, and Clump less half-dimensional. Yes, seeing them angrily called out was satisfying, but it's like eating a Mickie D's burger with fries: It's filling for now, but it won't fill you for long. The dialogue's serviceable. And Garble's reformation could've been more natural. However, compared to Complete Crap Clause, this was much better in comparison. Characters remained in character. Beyer-Johnson expands dragon lore more. Garble's bullying and excuses weren't tolerated. And by taking his lessons to heart, he saves hundreds of vulnerable baby dragons and evolves one crucial component of dragon culture. Spike's the lead, but he, Fluttershy, and Smolder share great moments, and Garble reforms, ending their series-long rivalry. Sweet and Smoky overcomes its flaws and is executed effectively, resulting in a good episode.
  22. Note: Credits to The Dragon Warlock, @Sepul-Coloratura, and @TheAnimationFanatic for this review. Villains are often some of the more interesting characters in animation. Often they vary in personality, from grounded to eccentric. But the cartoon medium also gives writers an extra incentive by how amoral they can be and showing no remorse for their actions. Some of Disney's best villains like Jafar, Gaston, Honest John, Mother Gothel, and Scar are super expressive. When there's a song, they're almost always the best of the film. *points at Hellfire, Be Prepared, My Lullaby, and Poor Unfortunate Souls* Observe FIM's villains. Initially among the weaker characters, DHX began introducing better ones in Season 5. Starlight Glimmer was the most realistic of the series, adopting a warped philosophy of friendship and brainwashing any subject who dared to question her authority. Stygian's tragic backstory and relationship with the cunning Pony of Shadows added multiple layers in a really complex season finale. FIM's villain crown belongs to Cozy, whose manipulation of everyone cleverly hid her ability to doubt friendships, cause friction, and sway ponies. What do Cozy, Tirek, and Chrysalis have in common? They're all fallen. Cozy's manipulation abilities are greatly weakened, thanks to Grogar's lack of trust for everyone there (and Tirek and Chryssie outing her for lying about being in command). Although much healthier now, Tirek has to rely on his sanity and weightlifting instead of magic for strength and interest. Queen Chrysalis lost her hive, leadership, and pride; look no further than this outstanding callback from The Mean 6: Chrysalis feels so powerless and out of her league that she talks to what remains of Snarkle to keep her composure. Oh, how the mighty fell, indeed. (BTW, The Dragon Warlock suggested calling this trio the Fallen Three, and that's such a great name that until at least the finale, I'll call them that.) Now, put them all together in one room, and what do you get? Extreme variances of eccentric personalities. From the opening shot, we as a people saw firsthand they had trouble cooperating. Cozy got Tirek in trouble for something so petty, Tirek accused her of lying, Chryssie was bored as shit. Back to this in a bit. Grogar, the calming force of the four, is opposite all of them on the Character Wheel, mustering all he could to maintain patience and hoping his accomplices can work together with him to beat Twilight and friends. Thanks to his necklace and horns, he can intimidate them with merely a flicker of magic to keep them in line, but he understands beating them all requires teamwork and that bell he so yearns to repossess. Does he trust them? Not one bit. But he must rely on them and hope somehow their egos won't ruin everything. That's why he came up with a clever test: to test their wills and patience with each other. If they can at least try to work together, then perhaps they can scale Mount Everhoof, pierce through Gusty's powerful force field, and retrieve his Bewitching Bell. With his test brings forth his bell's history and backstory. Beyond just his tale of what happened to it, the graphics are magnificent. Its rough edges in the first shot, parchment-colored pattern in the background, lower framerate, and flat (yet sharp) contrasts of shadow and light (with a strong exception), there's an ancient, sometimes stone-like quality in the graphics. Showing us his story, his defeat by Gusty, the Bell's near-invincibility, and Gusty's incredible wizardry authenticates his tale, which increases the show's already-rich lore even more. Transitioning styles, spending a good amount of time explaining the Bell's lore demonstrates perfectly how important that object means to him. If he ever gets it back, they're literally one step closer from re-conquering Equestria. Returning to the Fallen Three, like I wrote before, their first appearances showed friction between them. Their appearances following the intro further expand their dynamic. Sweet, sour, and manipulative, she easily gets under Tirek's skin through her ego, high opinion of herself, and baby talking him. Patting him on his forehead like a little kitty cat and bribing her with cupcakes baits them into joining her meeting. In one minute, she pushes all the right buttons to folks more powerful than her without crossing lines. Even as they push back her lies, she immediately casts doubts and takes themselves under her miniature wings, leading to the season's best song to date. A Better Way to Be Bad is polar opposite of Our Town. While the latter was more grounded and inspired by WWII propaganda, this is over the top and primarily comedic. With the meeting a (doubly gross! ) disaster, Cozy immediately regroups with a better plan to get everyone together (with her in charge), and the strings are a great way to introduce her intellect and sass into the song while keeping Chryssie and Tirek in check. Of course, when Tirek starts singing, the tempo increases and the comedy focuses on both him and QC trying to own each other with hilarious insults, him by claiming he's strong enough to overthrow Equestrian royalty, and her by laughing at him for getting his ass whooped. They all have one thing in common: weaken and beat the Mane 8! But they have to get by their egos first, and this song really shows how not only how large their egos are, but also how they can use them to mock others. Tirek was so tired of Cozy's repetition that he agreed to work with her, but later competed with her and co-mocked Cozy by overtaking her song. In three minutes, her plan fails, and we're all back to square one. That said, the lyrics are phenomenal with excellent comedic timing and great music in the background to accentuate the tone. Favorite moment here's this: And all of Cozy's faces here are really hysterical, especially when Tirek shakes her in anger! The slapstick's also fantastic. Thanks to its light tone, they take some really nasty bumps, yet bruising only their tempers instead of their bodies. Neither Tirek nor Chrysalis stand each other, proving it by Tirek intentionally not catching her (forcing her to hit the ground hard) and QC shoving Tirek down a flight of stairs, both times with the opposite blindfolded. XD Watch it and observe all the energy. You'll notice how much fun Vogel, Ingram, and Nashville Scoring Orchestra had in making this piece, and the same can be said with Sunni Westbrook (Cozy's VA), Kathleen Barr (QC's), and Mark Acheson (Tirek's) when singin' it. But this song also foreshadows what they'll do at the trial. As they can't cooperate, they'd rather scale Mount Everhoof by themselves. Immediately, Vogel exposes critical weaknesses of each character and their poor planning. Cozy attempts to butter up Rusty Bucket, who guards Mount Everhoof so no one hurts themselves climbing up. But as soon as he objects, she (hilariously) loses her temper and tries to (unsuccessfully) sneak around his house, concluding with getting caught in a massive snowball that catapults her back to camp. On an unrelated note, Rusty refers to his copy of Twi's Friendship Journal *twitches eye* and uses a lesson written in it to emphasize why he won't let her do something so dangerous. That lesson — not to force someone to do something against their morale — is a nice, little callback to Bats's. Originally, Queen Chrysalis would order her hive to do her bidding. Now she must scale it alone. But try as she might, the strong gusts almost injured her. Quickly Tirek comprehended how Gusty's magic's too strong for him. So as they climb to the summit, he sits back, keeps the campfire roaring like a steam engine, and waits for them to fail. XD Why is this important? Because he's no team player, calling back to how he double-crossed Discord midway into Twilight's Kingdom, Part 2. Another great strength of this episode, and has been for several dating back to Shadow Play, is the tight dialogue. Not only was Grogar on point in his commanding presence in his voice, but everyone else. The best example of this dialogue takes place at the campfire, both before and after Chryssie knocked out that lamia (and no, I don't care if he's technically an Ophiotaurus! He's a lamia to me!). Cozy and Tirek's escalating argument is extremely plausible. Not only do the words and scripted actions feel bitter. Listen to them argue, too. Venom drips in every line. Cozy's at her wit's end, thanks to Tirek outwitting her and letting her be miserable as shit trying to climb Mount Everhoof. The more she devolves into a temper tantrum, the prouder he becomes, knowing he got under her skin and she can't do anything to stop him. (That little anime-like vein throbbing between her eyebrows subtly adds into her immense anger. ) On the other hand, she easily pushes a very sensitive button by talking ill of his grandma, who he still loves, as he dreams. Thank God these people are villains: Had she not be evil, her insult towards his family would be considered a low point of the show. *cough* FS bashing Rarity's and Pinkie's lives *cough* Now, recall Better Way to Be Bad. Great song, ain't it? It also foreshadows what comes following their brief argument, which is a shared desire. Sharing stories, they show some of the best chemistry between characters in the entire series. Their hatred for the Mane Eight, Discord, and anything else good is extremely plausible; not one line feels poorly constructed or out of place. By sharing their hatred, they let their guard down just a bit to have some downtime during their quest for conquest and misery. Chrysalis's mocking of Twilight is one of the funniest moments of the season for this reason, and those whimpered lips sell the joke perfectly. But as a massive and proud Fake and Misfuckton hater, my loudest laughs occurred when Chryssie buried Rusty's house with snow. Hopefully, that avalanche destroys the copy of that "Friendship" Journal. *AHEM!* OK, back to the review! With the Fallen Three finally a team, they help each other climb Everhoof, showing the natural progression of their alliance that began in the first act. With each step, they accurately prove Grogar's point: By working as a team and setting their egos aside, they can conquer seemingly impossible obstacles. Gusty's wind magic was supposed to be so strong that no one could come close to his Bewitching Bell! By learning from their mistakes, they figure out how to not only use the magic to their advantage, but exploit its weaknesses. Earlier, Chrysalis failed to fly to the other side by becoming a Roc, who was too big and too heavy. Cozy's smaller and lighter, thus can penetrate through the gust much easier. By connecting the vine from both sides of the cliff, they can climb across instead of fly or glide and successfully defend themselves from Gusty's magic. From the climax onward's one of the greatest sequences of the series. Gusty's force field's stronger than her gust magic. So strong that Tirek's hand nearly singed. But now more powerful than when he first met Grogar, he remains one step away from possibly penetrating it. Cozy's suggestion — borrowing QC's magic to open it — marks the perfect conclusion to Grogar's test and why he instructed them to go up there. For all we know, he could go up there himself. After all, he just rediscovered it and has already recovered enough to be stronger than the Fallen Three combined. But by placing the responsibilities on them, he forces them to have faith in each other when it's still so thin. And with her quit intellect, Cozy's not only the perfect vessel for this idea, but also making Tirek keep his promise. Tirek's humongous form is a magnificent detail in one key way. By getting that lamia to become lustful with her, she was able to eat all that love. Recall this line. That was no accident. By eating all of his love magic, she regenerates and becomes stronger. By absorbing her magic, he borrows the same strength she obtained from last night. So it makes sense for him to level up so easily. By being small, she can fly through a small opening and steal back Grogar's bell with limited time. Will Anderson's score adds to the stakes the scene places. Chrysalis trusts Tirek in breaking through the force field. Tirek trusts Cozy in stealing the bell. Cozy trusts Tirek in keeping it open long enough for her to escape before Gusty's magic heals the force field. Even after all that, Chryssie's strong enough for one more burn. XD After everything they went through, Tirek keeps his promise and returns her magic. While I currently disagree with @Sepul-Coloratura in calling it the most powerful moment of the show in the last few years (though that may change someday, so we'll see), he's right about how powerful AND important it is. No matter how evil villains can be, they're still characters with emotion and conflict. All episode long, the Fallen Three fought with each other, then progressively became a team, and showed genuine trust with one another. Even with their evil goals, they face similar challenges like the protagonists. Teamwork was their main goal, and they not only achieved it, but also felt happy doing it. I don't care if they're villains; one can't help but root for them. For the first time all series, they showed genuine pride for doing something good instead of bad and were *places two finger millimeters away from each other* this close to believing the true Magic of Friendship…only to hilariously relapse at the end and turn it into, perhaps, the first moral-less episode of the series. Nevertheless, thanks to this unpredictable yet powerful moment, we must ask ourselves this question. Since the Fallen Three briefly believed the power of friendship exists, can it help them become possibly redeemable? Since Beginning of the End, they were very uneasy around Grogar. Cozy, Chrysalis, and Tirek are the top baddies of the whole series, yet sharing that humanity within difficult times makes it all the more possible for them to eventually believe the Magic of Friendship and prove they deserve a second chance. To put this into a theory, what if Chrysalis starts to feel love as an actual emotion to obtain and share instead of steal? What if Tirek uses his brute strength and intelligence to overpower Grogar and be a matching force with Discord? What if Cozy uses her natural leadership abilities to lead everycreature out of danger or help solve a puzzle to defeat Grogar? Prior to this season, reformation made no sense. This episode changed all that instantly. That said, there's a question mark. Grogar apparently bought into the Fallen Three's lie of failing their mission. Yea, he's happy they bonded, but unhappy that he can't get his bell back. However, he seems to be unaware that it's nearby. I mean, sure, he only rediscovered it, as written before, so the orb isn't as all-knowing as it seems. And Grogar not only told them he didn't trust them to begin the episode, but showed it, too. Had his patience not remain so strong, he'd destroy them instantaneously. On the other hand, DHX established Grogar as calculating, smart, and wise enough to not fall for anyone's tricks; it's possible he knows they plan to betray him, but will wait until the time is right. When will that be? I don't know. How will he carry out his outing of them, if possible? Ditto. We'll see. Regardless of the circumstances, Frenemies is a major risk-taker. As the first all-villain episode of the show, it's also one of Pony's best. Fantastic humor, a lot of snappy dialogue. For the first time since Re-Mark, villains received character development; this episode developed them far beyond my imagination, incorporating a clever conflict and masterfully resolving it while maintaining their statuses. It's easy to see why the masses within the fandom adore it, and I do, too. Echoing @TheAnimationFanatic, that feeling when a villain episode teaches the qualities of teamwork objectively better than one with long-established protagonists like Complete Crap Clause… Altogether, this is one of Vogel's finest episodes and a masterclass of villainy craft. Bravo!
  23. Sometimes you just not look forward to an episode. Whether it’s the synopsis, unimpressive preview, or whatever, something didn’t click. Personally, I looked forward to it, although I understand why some didn’t. It had the makings to being the worst episode of the season at this point. Fortunately, it’s not. In fact, it’s a sneaky great one. For one, there’s a whole lot of really good comedy. Like every other episode this season, there’s a huge array of facial expressions, and they sell the jokes really well. My favorites are: Rarity looking very cross after Yona burped munched Brussel sprout on her muzzle. Gallus and Smolder teasing each other, the latter including a wink. Rarity’s smiles, such as asking Yona what she wanted at the Boutique and pronouncing sophisticatedly. Silverstream’s sass as she gobbled potato chips first and a really nervous grin the next. Yona romantically blinking at Sandbar, triggering giggles from her friends. And there’s also all of Yona’s antics as she tried to “fit right in.” When she tried the first time, she caused either a little commotion or chaos, ala damaging Rainbow’s classroom by accident. Then after she succeeded, she pretended to be Rarity in hilarious fashion, all the way down to her accent, dress choice, and mannerisms. Observe the title. It references the 90’s cult hit, She’s All That, which in turn was inspired by Oscar-winning musical My Fair Lady. I'm not familiar with the former (never watched it), but I am with the latter, and you can find similar tropes used for My Fair Lady in at least three other Disney films: Aladdin, Pocahontas 2 (the one best compared to All Yak), and Mulan. As such, there’s no denying how cliché this type of story is, and this episode’s formula (despite a wide variety of emotion carrying it, and I put not much focus on total clichés nowadays) may be a little too on the nose with it and could do more by straying away. But there’s no denying the emotion that drives this episode. Yona, being the least ladylike of the Young 6, is justified to be uncertain of Twilight's Amity Ball. The Amity Ball trophy's taken from Ponyville's annual Fetlock Fête, a dancing competition with an award going to the winner, and the poster features two ponies, no other creature. Additionally, pay attention to the language: To be fair to the teachers, it's not wrong for them to teach non-ponies Ponyville traditions. Twilight also changed the name so non-ponies can feel more invited. But there are problems. Today, Ponyville remains a homogeneous society, and the School's next door to Twilight's castle. She's supposed to teach a more inclusive Magic of Friendship, yet so far hasn't taught traditions from other cultures. Despite their efforts, it shouldn't surprise anyone why the unfortunate implication pressured Yona to assume she'd have to be a pony to qualify for the Pony Pal trophy. The event also showed how those same implications impacted the rest of the Young Six. Observe their faces. Ocellus's is blank. Smolder rolled her eyes. Gallus looked cross, implying he felt tokenized by ponykind. While everypony and Spike danced, they sat out and played cards. Outside of expression, Gallus expressed his concern, too. Prior, when ponies went to a faraway land to teach the Magic of Friendship, they risk very imperialistic implications, suggesting that those creatures are inferior. Two episodes that fell into this trap were Dragon Quest (stereotyping dragondom thanks to misogynistic teens) and Lost Treasure (treating friendship as the go-to method to fix a desolate, corrupt country). Thankfully, they've been more cautious lately, but this type of episode opened itself up to it. So how did they bypass those implications? Instead of coming to her and telling her she had to change, Yona came to them. She understandably assumed that she had to change into a completely different character. Therefore, by seeing all those dresses, she also assumed that she had to dress like a pony in order to "fit right in" with the rest. That little, innocent accident produced further doubt and fear into Best Yak's childlike psyche. But at no point does the episode look down on her or see her as stupid. Throughout, it listened to those fears and let airing her doubts whenever without interruption. When she tried to persuade Rarity to design the right dress for her, Rarity reluctantly agreed. When she struggled, everyone — and by extension, the episode — encouraged her to improve. On the other end, when her friends saw how she was speaking and behaving, their first impressions were worry. They wondered what was going on with her, and all giggling aside, they were concerned the entire time. Sandbar, who asked her out, was also getting increasingly worried after she nearly spilled punch all over her dress. Rarity's reluctance plays another key. Why does Yona's visit take her aback? Because she doesn't expect anyone to dress. Yes, the Fetlock Fête's a more formal tradition, but the Amity Ball isn't, and Twilight didn't announce dresses as a requirement. Thanks to peer pressure, Yona thought she had to. Rather than say no, Rarity agreed to her demand. After all, she's her client, and objecting may only worsen things. One little line subtly adds to this doubt: Rarity suggested she stand out for Sandbar. Yona corrected her. Instead of thrusting her beliefs onto her, she listened and, despite being opposite her morale, obliged. Everyone else actively wanted to help her improve. At first, Yona struggled mightily. The Pony Catillion chart really confused her, 'cause all of the colors and hooves overlapped each other, and Yona (hilariously) smashed up Dash's classroom when trying to learn the Pony Prance. Meanwhile, Pinkie's quick organization of the ingredients comes second nature to her, but Yona was overwhelmed. Seeing how she needed help, they started from scratch, modified their instructions, and slowly worked upward as Yona improved. Another big improvement here in comparison to other episodes is how they remained in character the whole time. Nopony looked down upon her the entire time. Instead of forcing her to agree, Yona came to them for help, and they worked the best they could to her demand. Did they get flustered, insult her, or treat her or her culture as inferior? Nope. They genuinely believed they were helping her accomplish what she wanted. Come the end of the montage, everything was according to plan. Unfortunately, they had no idea that, despite the best of intentions, they unknowingly perpetuated the same imperialistic "out-of-pony" stereotypes. What they intended was to help Yona impress Sandbar, have fun, and win Best Pony Pal. But their coaching accidentally suppressed Yona, who was beginning to treat her own identity as a yak as a weakness and took their lessons as means to become more self-conscious. This line further implicates this: Pay attention to the last two words. "Well spoken" is a microaggression. It may "sound" nice on the surface (and sometimes not intended to be offensive at all), but when a Caucasian calls an African-American "well-spoken," they say he's better not talking like "other" blacks, a.k.a., anyone who speaks Ebonics. Regardless of intent, it's racist and not a compliment whatsoever. In FS's POV, she's complimenting her, and Yona accepts it without a second thought. Albeit very on the nose, Fluttershy's supposedly innocuous line further backs up the episode's anti-assimilation theme and, along with the rest of the coaching, made her really vulnerable to shame and distressed if she messes up. And boy, did she mess up. Surprise surprise, Yona became very ashamed and depressed, hiding in the Palace of Solace. Recall what the Tree told them four episodes ago: Within the Everfree Forest's castle ruins, this treehouse provides a safe space for anyone who needed it. After the biggest humiliation of her life, Yona needed to air her despair, and this was the best place. Her song to begin Act 3 ranks up there with The Pony I Wanna Be, Moondancer's rant, Sunset losing her memories, and Grand Pear's apology as one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire series. However, what happened during the lowest moment of her entire life resulted in one of Pony's most heartwarming moments. Sandbar's a fine addition to the Young Six, but he's the most mellow, so he doesn't have plenty of oomph. Thankfully, he more than makes up for that by listening to her, treating her as an equal, and showing that he won't trade anything away that made her the way she was. His unconditional support for her and empathy cheered her up and reignited her self-confidence, demonstrating what helped make this show so successful: not only teaching us the Magic of Friendship, but proving it. Just to balance the perspectives more, I would've liked to see Sandbar sit inside the Palace just after the intro. That way, we get to see his insecurities a little more. But this is a nitpick, so carry on! Let's go back to Fluttershy's "well-spoken" line. Again, it's supposed to mean well, but has unintended consequences, staying true to the episode's critique of assimilation. The RM6 had absolutely no intention of leaving any non-pony out, but someday, someone was going to take these unfortunate implications to heart. Being the most emotional and vulnerable of the Y6, Yona was the perfect vessel. Even though they believed they did the right thing by trying to teach her the Fetlock Fête's traditions, they inadvertently cleansed her psychologically and culturally. They wanted nothing more than to make her happy, but not by taking away what made her so special. Apologizing to her and reassuring they love her for who she is is the right call. As for the sporadic critique of Yona and Sandbar winning the Pony Pal trophy, think about this. Once more, as Yona suffered the deepest humiliation of her life, Sandbar offered his ears, patience, and a proverbial shoulder for comfort. His actions embody the School of Friendship's values; they more than deserved that award. In addition, cleaning up meant they had plenty of time to rethink the Amity Ball's purpose. Why did they change the award's name and dress one of the pony statues up as a yak? To symbolize how friendship crosses boundaries and cultures. Thanks to their own mistakes, they can improve the Amity Ball to include everyone much better. Look at how everyone joined in her Yakyakistan Stomp. They show how much she means to them. For the ponies, this will be a lesson in working with non-ponies to make the School of Friendship and its activities feel more welcoming. Given the show's flaw of ponies sometimes acting as the savior to non-ponies, it's a long-time coming for the show to not only address this problem, but flip it to make the ponies learn this lesson. Also, if you believe this episode's moral is "be yourself" and a near-copycat of past episodes, such as Common Ground, you're overlooking the nuances. Common Ground's are to not use bitterness to isolate someone from being part of a family and to not pretend you have to follow a passion to bond with someone. The primary lesson from She's All Yak is not to feel like you have to erase your own identity to belong. They're not the same. Pony's on a hot streak. Since Matter of Principals, they haven't released one mediocre or bad episode, and aside from a rare fine one, they're all good to really good. So far, every season 9 episode is really good at least, and this is the fourth great one in a row. I'm unsure how well it'll age over time, but today, all I need to say is that She's All Yak is sneakily great and could (hopefully) land near the top of S9's best episodes
  24. Here's my review of the last two MLP episodes, so I don't fall behind any more than I already have. Starting with Common Ground. First off, I love that they had Patton Oswalt, his daughter and current wife in this episode. It was super adorable and his daughter's character was cute as well. I liked that Quibble was trying to bond with his 'daughter' in the episode over Buckball. Good continuity to the earlier Buckball episode (dispite AJ not being involved). Overall, I really did like this episode. It was a good paced, well written episode with RD trying to help (which didn't help in the end). My grade: B+ Next is She's All Yak. So... much... shipfuel in this one. Love that Yona got the time to shine in this episode. But, there's a lot that I do not like about it either. One, they basically turned her into a yak version of Rarity. That really annoyed me. Did love the ending to this episode. And I loved the pony Yona during the song. But, this episode overall had more good moments than bad. Overall, I liked the episode. Yona finally got some time to shine, and they did a good job with her. I just wish that they didn't turn her into a yak version of Rarity. My grade: B
  25. NOTE: Copied and pasted my review from here and contains some extra edits. Trixie and Starlight's chant and dance were total cringe. Looking for me to dish another negative? You ain't gonna find it here. (On the) Road to Friendship's story's incredibly simple, its focus driven 100% by Starlight, Trixie, and their incredible chemistry. Just like Spike, Big Mac, and Discord from Break Down, they only became friends two seasons ago, yet thanks to Haber's clever writing, you'd think their friendship goes back to childhood. Until Season 6, Trixie only stood center stage for Boast Busters, Magic Duel, and Rainbow Rocks as a tertiary character. But Haber brought her into becoming a reoccurring character and has become a vehicle for storytelling around Starlight. Their magnificent chemistry is thanks to Haber's incredibly tight dialogue, a continuous improvement of the show started by Shadow Play. With everything they say to and about each other, you buy into it, whether it's their praise, banter, jokes, passive-aggressive insults, and full-blown arguing. Their exchanges were snappy and completely believable; each moment and line flowed so well, even when the vocabulary repeats, with no hitch at all. Thanks to their chemistry, Haber takes advantage of as many comedic opportunities as possible. Virtually all of them land. Some of my favorites include: Starlight teleporting back to the school in a hurry, only to briefly return to say goodbye in between. Starlight throwing a little meta joke about how Twilight and friends would sing a song to commemorate their voyage, only for them both to start a song themselves. Blowing open the inflatable raft causes Starlight to get pinned to the window. During their descent into fighting, Starlight and Trixie share passive-aggressive barbs at each other during the Somnambula magic show. While sleeping in the caravan in Somnambula, Trixie talks and rehearses in her sleep, while Starlight snores noisily, each a callback to previous episodes. Kudos to Haber for using a combined pun of the village's name. The elder pony peaks out of the chest, sees nothing happening, and returns to sleep. Cue credits. But the best comedy comes during We're Friendship-Bound. Aside from being the season's best song up to this point, it's incredibly upbeat with catchy lyrics and just-as-catchy jazzy beat. Like Apples to the Core four seasons ago, its jovial tone reverberates through each scene, which ranged in activity, danger, and atmosphere. I don't recall the last time Pinkie broke the fourth wall, but Trixie and Starlight shattered it everywhere, especially this line(!): But like the rest of the season, Haber progressively tests their friendship. While Starlight's preoccupied at the school, Hoo'Far asks if he can trade his bigger caravan for hers. She says no, because it's her home. Her smaller, cramped wagon comes into play twice, including as they relaxed the first time. Trixie closes the door, causing SG to accidentally drop a smoke bomb. Starlight wasting bits on street food over essentials. Trixie waiting a long time in line for a particular street vendor over shopping at another empty vendor that orders the same thing. After all the hotels are booked, they get really testy with each other. Despite apologizing with each other… …they get really cramped inside her wagon. Starlight can't move, so she moves the smoke bombs, squashing Trixie. They couldn't sleep in the same room! Trixie wrapped a bandana around her muzzle to stop her snoring. Next morning, thy passive-aggressively take the last of each others' food, the haycake by SG, the juice by Trixie. This passive aggression continued into the failed magic show, one of Road to Friendship's funniest scenes. The water boils that night when they traded sleep- and meal-related insults and accusations, culminating with Starlight ejecting Trixie's supplies and: But the boiling foamed the next morning when Starlight traded away her wagon for his behind her back. You think that her impulsiveness would let her think twice about trading it away. Despite her decent alibi of traveling with a roomier wagon, Starlight has two major problems here: Her timing. Neither of them got along and fought the night before. Those feelings pass over here. Starlight traded it while Trixie slept. It doesn't matter if your intentions are good. This is her property, and she decides what to do with it, not SG. It ain't no surprise why Trixie's so upset; her anger's completely justified. Starlight comes off as a major plothole here, why she's primarily written to be in the wrong in Act 3, and becomes the episode's primary apologizer. This is a reversal of No Second Prances, but done way better. In the former, Trixie used Starlight, and she had to make it up to her. Here, Starlight screwed up badly and has to make it up. Some are a little disappointed we see nothing of Saddle Arabia beyond just Hoo'Far (who, BTW, had really excellent and witty dialect), but like Chrysalis in The Mean Six, those who do miss the point. This episode's about experiencing the ups and downs of friendship, having their friendship tested, overcoming it, and becoming closer. In the grand scope, Saddle Arabia isn't necessary, and the story in between more than makes up for it. All in all, it's an excellent episode — one of the best of not just the season, but the show, too.