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Good evening everypony! I apologize for being so late on my season finale review; my original plan was to post it together with my full Season 6 review, but it turned out that both reviews together were simply to long to post in the same blog, so without further ado, here is my Season 6 finale review of "To Where and Back Again"! The Season Finale After seeing the season finale, I find myself in a very strange position. 95% of this finale was an A+ effort in pretty much every single way, but that 5% that wasn't brought it down quite a bit. In fact, while I overall very much enjoyed the product as a whole, I have to say that this is my least favorite season finale of all of MLP:FiM. How can this be, you might ask? Well, let's take a look, at both the good which was the majority of both episodes, and the little but very significant bad that brought it down quite a bit in my eyes. In many respects, this finale in execution paralleled last season's finale. There was a lot of set-up and A LOT of slow, steady pacing for the majority of both episodes, sometimes to the detriment of the final product. The reason it worked for so much of the episode, however, is that this finale was focused almost entirely on Starlight Glimmer. This worked for quite a few reasons. First, most season finales since Season 2 have been focused on Twilight as the main character; this finale, like the season opener, kept the focus on Starlight, who had probably the most important character developments of the season, and capped a splendid first season featuring her as a reformed character and pupil of the Princess of Friendship. It gave us a great chance to see how she's grown and developed over the season and had some very nice payoffs, like getting to see Starlight and Trixie working together to save the day (for the record, they are quite adorable as BFFs and I really hope we get to see more of them next season). This time also, she was the undisputed sole hero of the day, in that unlike in the season opener, where Twilight and the Mane 6 played a role along with her in saving the day, Starlight (aside from having some friends along, only one of whom she was really well acquainted with) was the primary mover here and focus of most of the episode. And for the most part, I have to say that Starlight had a great episode. In fact, I have no complaints whatsoever about her role in the episode or the lesson that she both taught and learned. This was a fantastic place for her to end up at the end of Season 6; in most of Season 6, she's been perfectly content playing the role of student, of supporter, of learner. In other words, she hasn't taken the lead on many things for the most part because the last time she was in a leadership role, she was an out of control megalomaniac and was terrified that she simply wasn't cut out for such responsibilities. Being a good friend and good pony was one thing, she was comfortable with that for the most part by now even if she still had some anxieties, but being a leader? She simply didn't believe she was ready for that, and couldn't ever be again, and it showed when she returned home and freaked out when all the ponies she'd formerly enslaved wanted her to help take charge with something as simple as festivity responsibilities. But at the end of the day, Starlight realized that she already knew what it meant to be a good leader, could put it into practice, and teach others what it meant. She kept the dysfunctional group she was in united and focused on their task of saving her friends and Equestria, she led them through many perilous situations and stayed at the center of coming up with their next move and bringing the best out of all of them, and she taught what she'd learned about what it means to be a true leader to Chrysalis and the Changelings to save the day. In summary, Starlight, as I said, had a great season finale, and it will be fascinating to see where she goes from here next season. I hope she stays in Ponyville because I've really gotten used to her presence this season and it's nice having a major character that's around as much as she has been this season who wasn't one of the Mane 6, helps mix things up a little. All in all, it was a great close of the season for her and really did justice to her entire character arc this season. The supporting characters were great as well. The Mane 6 and Spike only showed up briefly (mostly at the beginning), but did give Starlight some great advice, and Princess Luna had a pretty great appearance as well in Starlight's first and second dream, first giving her some wonderful advice and then warning her of the renewed Changeling threat (sadly, Celestia did not get a similar appearance, but then again she had a pretty poor amount of screen time this whole season). Chrysalis and the Changelings were as intimidating as ever and, after waiting four seasons for them to come back in force, they made a great showing as the finale's villains, and had a really good plan to boot. Last time they showed up, aside from infiltrating a royal wedding, they tried for the most part to take Canterlot by brute force, which almost worked but in the end proved a futile effort. This time, they definitely upped the stealth and deviousness quite a bit, abducting pretty much every major ruler and protector of Equestria, which could have had disastrous consequences for all of Equestria. It wasn't made clear entirely in the second part if they just wanted to feed off of the rulers or take over the whole country, but I have to think that conquering Equestria was the end game here. Either way, it was a great plan and very dastardly in its execution and intent. But really, the true supporting characters of both episodes were Starlight's motley crew of Trixie Lulamoon, Thorax, and Discord, and this was a fun bunch. When Starlight thought of bringing Trixie along rather than Twilight, it was both adorable and hilarious (mostly because of how peeved and passive aggressive Twilight was about being passed up for Trixie and how smug Trixie was about it), and they were wonderful throughout both episodes. Trixie's still Trixie, and I wouldn't want that to change one bit, but she's also a true friend, even BFF, to Starlight in her own way. They probably shouldn't have turned tail and fled Starlight's town when Starlight had basically a panic attack, but then again, this wasn't one of the Mane 6 who would encourage Starlight to stay, this was Trixie. She's still new to the whole friendship thing herself, and her #1 concern was probably Starlight's comfortableness, not her reconnecting with ponies who Trixie had never even met. Besides, it paid off considering they were able to get back in time to figure out what the Changelings were up to. Her interactions with Discord were also a hoot and pretty much what you'd expect from two reformed villains (Tier 1 and Tier 2 respectively) in the show being around one another for a long period of time, although some of the times when they bickered were a bit much just because it was clearly not the time or place (then again, these are two VERY stubborn characters so it's believable enough out of the two of them). Thorax had a very nice return as well, though I felt a bit bad for him. Don't get me wrong, he was smart, intelligent, very helpful considering he had tons of insider information on the Changelings, and kind of a steadying and calming voice along with Starlight, but he sometimes felt like a fourth wheel. I know that he's kind of a shy and quiet character by his nature, but sometimes, especially in the second episode, Trixie and Discord went at it so much that you forgot he was there (Starlight was usually the one playing peacemaker between the two). Overall, however, he still turned in a really good return, and even though he was hardly as old of a character as Trixie, Discord, or even Starlight, fit right into their motley crew. Finally, Discord was, well, what else, Discord. The strangest part of his appearance was seeing him not being able to use his chaos magic for most of it, but it was great getting to see Discord in a major role in a season finale once again, and this time actually helping for most of it. He was also even more obnoxious than usual considering he barely knew or cared about any of the ponies he was working with and was unabashedly only there to help Fluttershy, but that just made him even funnier (his stand-up routine in front of the Changeling guards was particularly hilarious). Overall, aside from (and we'll get to that in a minute) one little bit at the end, this season finale had a great bunch of supporting characters, even if it was a bit odd seeing the main group of the episode limited to four characters when we're so used to the group of six (seven if you count Spike) we're so used to seeing in major show events in the Mane 6. So... what didn't work? What was the little, tiny bit of this finale that brought it down in my eyes as my least favorite season finale of MLP:FiM to date? Well, it wasn't the obvious plot device in Part 2. You all know the one, the "Changeling magic rock/Chrysalis throne" that sucks out all non-Changeling magic in the vicinity preventing the rescue team from using any magic besides Thorax. Yeah, that didn't actually bother me. I mean, it was obviously a plot device for the sake of convenience to prevent Discord from just using his chaos magic to save the day in two seconds (the show itself admitted as much), but I didn't mind that because it made for a pretty unique situation. We had two unicorns and a draconequus incapable of using any magic to save the day, and a Changeling who could really only use his to transform his appearance. It required a lot of hard and clever thinking from Starlight and company, and even then they only barely succeeded. That, however, is where the problems come in. As I said before, the pacing was very similar to Season 5's season finale. A lot of set-up and a lot of action in the middle of the episode, executed very slowly and very steadily. While this makes for some great scenes at the beginning and in the middle, the problem is the pacing was just a touch too slow. Hence, the conclusion was a bit rushed like last season's. However, that's only the beginning of the problems of this conclusion. Last season, the biggest problem with the conclusion was that it was rushed; however, it still was a very solid conclusion because it was squarely focused on the reformation of one character, Starlight Glimmer. Season 6 only made that conclusion even better because it was clear that, while she was reformed, Starlight still had a lot to learn this season. THIS conclusion, however, was rushed in a bad, noticeable way that caused a lot of problems because it was not about the reformation of one character. THE ENTIRE CHANGELING SPECIES (aside from Chrysalis) WAS REFORMED! That is what we call a rushed ending in the worst sense. All it took, literally ALL IT TOOK to reform the Changelings was one speech from Starlight Glimmer, a pony they'd never met, and a display of magic from Thorax which they'd never heard of. While Thorax sharing the magic of his love for others wasn't problematic (I can totally buy that he'd be able to unleash that at this point), the rest of the Changelings proceeding to do it was downright damn confusing! How did they unlock such magic??? These Changelings had never loved anything before like Thorax had (unless you count their adoration and loyalty to Chrysalis, but I don't think that's love, that's fanatic devotion), and all of a sudden we're supposed to believe that they're unlocking a magic that Thorax himself hadn't known he could unlock in his current condition until two seconds ago? That's just downright ridiculous. The follow-up to that, however, might prove more controversial to fans. After the Changelings ridiculously unleashed a power they shouldn't have yet in a completely random and unjustified act of reformation (talk about your bad deus ex machinas), they, well, for lack of a better term, went through a metamorphosis. And what emerged? Well... this. What the... It's a... a majestic deer-moose-bug-king-thing... I think... what??? Yes. All Changelings (except for Chrysalis and any she is able to produce from this point on, I assume) have been turned from their intimidating appearance into beautiful, majestic looking creatures. Which... kind of defeats the purpose of Thorax's first episode. And therein lies the problem. Thorax's debut was probably the most beautiful episode of the season in its heart and message. And at the center of the end of that episode were the ponies of Equestria and the Crystal Empire overcoming their prejudices against Changelings and placing their trust in a member of a species they had only ever feared, and for good reason, even though he still looked like something out of a nightmare. Now, that's just all gone. It's not hard in the slightest to ask ponies to trust Changelings when they look so damn wondrous, majestic, and beautiful now. The designs themselves were fine, I have no problem with them from an aesthetic POV, but my problem is with the principle of changing their look in the first place. For a show that has always promoted fellowship and goodwill between all no matter who you are, where you come from, or what you look like, it feels wrong on some level that such a shallow change in character appearance would be made just to signify that all Changelings are "good" now. Thorax was good when he looked like a regular ol' Changeling, and I have no idea why that had to change now. In fact, the sad thing is I think I know what drove them to change the appearance. With all of the Changelings reformed, I think the animators were afraid that we wouldn't be able to distinguish Thorax from the rest of the Changelings (or any individual Changeling characters for that matter). If this was their driving incentive, there were surely better alternatives out there; they could've either solely changed Thorax's appearance while keeping the other Changelings the same, or even retained the Changeling body designs but just changed the individual color designs of each one. But now, they're just this beautiful looking species which no pony in their right mind should have any trouble trusting, and something about that just doesn't feel right for this show. It's lazy, it's somewhat questionable from a principled POV, and it wasn't executed very well either. I was happy that Chrysalis is still villainous as ever, and now has a bone in particular to pick with Starlight Glimmer to boot (new nemesis, anypony?), but the end overall was rushed, lazy, underwhelming, and anti-climactic. Even afterwards it was! Did we get a song to end out the season, or even a satisfying closing scene? NOPE!!! While it was nice seeing Starlight return to her town with all of her friends, all we got was this lame bit from RD about how somepony needed to catch them up on everything they missed and... that was it! Seriously, that was it. WHAT A LOAD!!! Bronies, take notes. If you're putting together an essay, or a video, or writing a story, whatever, this finale right here is perfect proof of why a strong conclusion is so important, because your entire body could be perfectly good of whatever you've worked on, and it would still be noticeably sullied by a weak conclusion like what we had here! Overall, I'm not disappointed with the whole of the season finale, really, I'm not. It achieved exactly what it wanted to in strongly closing out the most important story and character arc of Season 6, Starlight Glimmer's. But for a season that was so strong, it is just a tad disappointing that things ended on such a weak, unmemorable note in those last five minutes, as though the end of an entire season of MLP were nothing but an afterthought. Overall, however, "To Where and Back Again" is on the whole a strong season finale to another splendid season of MLP. That's all I got for ya tonight, everypony, until next time this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off!!! *cue dramatic exit*
OK, good afternoon everypony, and welcome to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews." Sorry for taking so long to get around to this review, just been preoccupied since the episode. This should be a pretty short review anyways overall, not a whole lot to say with this episode since, well, it was a pretty basic and simple episode. Without further ado, let's dive into "28 Pranks Later"! Somepony, help me!!! So let's get this out of the way, this is just an alright episode. It's not outstanding, it might have some stuff that might tick people off, but overall, it's just OK, and sometimes OK is fine. In this case, I certainly think that is so. The lesson is serviceable, and actually has broader applications beyond the episode context. Basically, it's all about when joking in general goes too far. We all probably know a coworker or some friend or family member who doesn't know when enough is enough when it comes to joking (and this doesn't just have to apply to pranking). This is actually a more serious character flaw than one might think at first glance, after all, who doesn't like a good joke? But when you think about it, people who get too hung up on joking and being humorous ALL THE TIME can come off as flippant, frivolous, and not to be taken seriously because they don't seem to take anything seriously. That's what Dash's problem was here; she was making jokes at the expense of others, not taking their reception of her behavior into account. In an attempt to prove she was the best at something (as Dash is want to do when she believes she's been challenged), she actually proved to be the worst in becoming to zealous in her efforts. If nobody besides her was enjoying the pranks, what was the point? Now some of the pranks by themselves might seem harmless enough, but let's keep in mind that the whole town clearly knew what she was up to by the middle of the episode. This is no different than when the town turned on the CMC after they discovered they were the ones running a gossip column. It was a collective anger and annoyance which made perfect sense and was perfectly reasonable and understandable. Huh, apparently RD is part bat-pony... HUZZAH! How is this face scarier than ANY of the zom-pony bits were? As for Dash herself, I didn't think she was out of character. Some people will immediately point to her scaring Fluttershy as the biggest sin of the episode given that she and Pinkie had agreed in the past not to prank her. But consider a few things. First, that was ALL the way back in Season 1; just because she's matured doesn't mean Dash, anymore than the rest of the Mane 6, is any less capable of still screwing up or doing something wrong. No one else was around to tell her otherwise, and she was probably just bored the first time. The second time she was out at that point to prank everyone because, to reiterate, she felt like her pride and prowess had been challenged, and the episode did right by having all her friends point out that it wasn't just mean, but also lazy to prank a pony as easy to scare as Fluttershy, so there was an awareness from the episode itself that it was unusual for her to do so. Overall, Dash was just being a knucklehead, and I don't see why that's hard to believe her doing, even in Season 6; she's still one of the more stubborn characters, plenty liable to making a mistake, certainly not a Mary Sue. I thought she was fine, and she learned her lesson more than enough in the end. It was interesting too that, if you paid attention, she didn't really go after Pinkie Pie in her pranking; she gave her a soft prank, probably for two reasons, (1) she was scared that if she got her too bad that Pinkie would retaliate, and (2) Pinkie didn't really go against her at the beginning. Very interesting to consider both of those points, if you think about it. Seriously, is RD loaded or something, how much money did she spend on these pranks?! Finally, the humor, while not gut-busting, worked for the most part. I was slightly disappointed that the zom-pony bit didn't go further, but it worked for the most part. I think the most disappointing aspect of it was the title; being called 28 Pranks Later, I kinda wanted them to spoof 28 Days Later and have the "zom-ponies" be super fast. But no, like we've seen in many, many cartoon zombie spoofs, it was a Night of the Living Dead spoof, and a pretty basic one at that, but it was still pretty funny. Honestly the two biggest laughs came from Harry the Bear (seriously, he just steals the show when he gets decent screen time) and RD's last bit where she pretended like she hadn't learned her lesson. Overall though, like I said earlier, this was just an OK episode, but I'm OK with that. It was pretty clear that a new writer had worked on it (which has been kind of apparent a couple of times this season), but again, not every episode has to be a masterpiece. This did what it wanted to, and I'm fine with it for what it is. That's all I got for ya this week everypony, until next week this is Batbrony signing off. I'm off! *cue dramatic exit*
OK, sorry I'm a bit late to the party everypony, I just needed to absorb and process how amazing that episode was. Welcome back to another edition of "Batbrony Reviews". Today's episode is what I would describe as quintessential MLP; something that captured everything we love about the show to begin with while also doing something new (surprisingly considering this holiday, and the story they recycled, are both very well-established). It also highlighted what I love about Starlight's addition to the main cast this season, namely the fact that her presence gives them the opportunity to retread old stories or themes while making them still seem fresh and new since, obviously, she has not participated in most of the Mane 6's adventures in the past and still has a lot to learn about friendship. Without further ado, let's dive into "A Hearth's Warming Tale". So let's get this out of the way first: the only bad thing about this episode, the single worst thing about it, is the fact that it released in the middle of May. That's about as hilarious and ridiculous timing for a Christmas-themed episode as you can get, and it's completely unseasonal in every sense of the word. It's not a big deal in the slightest, it's just funny is all. Hee hee, pissed off Starlight Glimmer pleases me That out of the way, let's begin. So the story is essentially MLP's take on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" with some minor elements of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" thrown in there. It's Hearth's Warming Eve (yet again, man this show is getting inconsistent with the seasons, I cannot keep track of how they work in Equestria at this point), and everypony in Ponyville is loving it. Everypony, that is, except Starlight Glimmer. Turns out she's grown to not see the big deal in Hearth's Warming. She doesn't think most ponies care about its origins and that the stuff they really care about is superficial, so to fix that, Twilight sets out to tell her her favorite Hearth's Warming story, "A Hearth's Warming Tale". We've seen this setup for Christmas episodes in A LOT of shows, but as so often happens in MLP with similar setups like this, what made this stand out was how fantastically everything was executed. First and foremost, the fact that Twilight approaches this problem by reading Starlight a story is perfect for her! The show likes to remind us a lot that Twilight is an egghead, but usually for jokes or just to begin solving problems. An entire episode is rarely covered by her love of reading, so it's nice to see her channeling her bookishness so positively throughout an entire episode. The other way it surpasses other shows that have done a similar setup before is how it conveys the themes. There's a lot of parallels you can draw between Starlight's concern that ponies don't really care about the origins of Hearth's Warming and just stuff like presents and parties instead and both Christmas media and people in real life who fear that it's just a superficial, materialistic holiday these days where people don't really care about the more religious aspects of it. A lot of Christmas media take this approach, but the difference is what conclusion they come to and how they get there. In some cases you have people try to get people to abandon the materialistic aspects altogether and wholesale go back to the spiritual roots; it's rare, but sometimes happens, and those can be done well, but oftentimes aren't. The best example of this I can think of is "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which almost entirely foregoes any materialistic aspects of the holiday in favor for a very somber message. More commonly you have the compromise approach; someone tries to show how the materialistic and spiritual sides of the holiday can complement each other and are both equally important. This can be executed very well, or horribly. An example of doing it well would probably be "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"; conversely, a horrible way to do it is in Kirk Cameron's wretched and dreadful "Saving Christmas". What makes this stand out is that it's super rare that a 22 minute television episode could cover these themes as well as MLP does here. In an episode which includes setup and a conclusion before the actual meat of the episode, we get a wonderful message about how presents, parties, and celebrations with friends and family can, when approached correctly, embody as much of the spirit of a Christmas-like holiday as understanding its roots and celebrating those as well. Neither aspect is thrown under the bus; Hearth's Warming's origins are just as important as what holiday it has become, so long as they're about the celebration first and foremost. The celebration of the holiday is what's most important, embodying all the good of where it comes from and what it's led to. This is as nuanced a message as a full-length Christmas movie could be which convinces an audience that the good to be found in giving presents at Christmas is just as much what Christmas is about as celebrating the birth of Christ, as long as both come from the same place. It also works perfectly for MLP's setting considering friendship and community, we know by this point, are quite possibly the most central aspect of the most powerful magic in Equestria. Overall, it was just a wonderful handling of tried and true themes, made all the more impressive by the short amount of time they had to cover them all, and MLP writing at its best. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, these sets are GORGEOUS!!! A huge part of how they were able to execute this episode and deliver its message so well was the fact that it was a musical episode, and a delightful one at that. First of all, it's about time we got a musical Hearth's Warming Eve episode, not just with one song thrown in at the end. All of the songs did a great job of telling the story, capturing the spirit of the holiday, and just bringing the episode to life. This is Daniel Ingram at his best, and my goodness it was delightful to see him get to make music for a holiday episode finally. It also helps that they chose some of the characters with the best singing voices to carry these songs. The opening ensemble in Ponyville was fantastic, Starlight Glimmer's Snowfall Frost had yet another great villain song, Ashleigh Ball proved yet again (in my personal favorite song of the episode) that Applejack has possibly the most underrated, gorgeous singing voice on the show in her delightfully simple and nostalgia-inducing number as the Spirit of Hearth's Warming Past, Pinkie had a surprisingly touching but still incredibly bouncy number as the Spirit of Hearth's Warming Presents (HA), and Luna came out of bucking nowhere as the Spirit of Hearth's Warmings Yet to Come and, in her first number since "You'll Play Your Part" since Season 4 (and first solo ever) absolutely KILLED IT!!! Finally, the episode ended on a lovely ensemble with all the ponies celebrating. Through and through, each number was delightful and thematically seemed to cover different aspects of the holiday season, making for an excellent way to convey the episode's message and themes. The tunes themselves did not just tell the story, they told the themes, and that's quite impressive if you ask me. By far one of the most impressive musical achievements on the show in some time, I loved every minute of the music in this episode and once again have to tip my cap to the always phenomenal Daniel Ingram on an incredible job well-done. I was particularly fond of this number, but they were all phenomenal in their own ways Dang, Luna got HUGE! You been working out girl? Besides those two big points, there's not too much more to cover. It was "A Christmas Carol" MLP-style, so no reason to go over the story really, they just updated it in a few ways for the purposes of the setting. The fact that main characters yet again assumed the roles of these story characters was a nice callback to the first Hearth's Warming episode where they staged the pageant in Canterlot together. Twilight was adorable as she told the story, especially when it was suggested that she was actually singing the song numbers as she read. I would have liked to see a bit more of Starlight's reactions as the story went on, but that's forgivable considering they could only fit so much into one episode. The animation was probably the most gorgeous we've ever had for a Hearth's Warming episode; we've never seen Ponyville celebrating it, and it did not disappoint, the whole town and Twilight's castle simply came to life entirely as they should for this celebration, not to mention the animators also got to play around with lovely 19th century Victorian-style animation for the "A Hearth's Warming Tale" setting in old Canterlot and other surrounding towns. That Snape-pony was kind of hilarious (seriously, who else could they possibly be referencing with that guy?), and I seriously couldn't get enough of that older setting, especially the outfits! Holy cheese, those outfits were amazing!!! My personal favorite was Applejack's and Rarity's, and for the former that's quite a testament to how great the design and animation were considering AJ was pretty much one color palette in her whole design. It just had this simple elegance to it as so many other dresses AJ has worn have had, and showed once again why I adore little things like that with her character when they just tweak her ever so slightly and have her step outside of her comfort zone and adorn things she normally wouldn't. Get rekt, m8 Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the background ponies. In the both the present and story-setting we got to see some of our favorite familiar faces from around Ponyville (I was especially pleased to see Blossomforth and Cloud Kicker get some nice screen time, those two sometimes get overlooked), and it was loads of fun getting to see all of Ponyville celebrating the holiday. My personal favorite of course (because I'm me) was Derpy becoming the best Hearth's Warming Eve star EVER, but nearly all of the major background ponies got some sort of fun appearance, and you can tell that the animators had a lot of fun playing around with them on this one. Overall, as I said earlier, this was about as quintessential MLP as we can get: it had a great message, story, pacing, animation, music, humor, and just great everything in general. It's possibly my favorite Hearth's Warming episode they've done to date, though I'll have to think about that carefully considering the Season 2 one is pretty darn amazing in its own right. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out as soon as you can; as for me, I can't wait to see it a second time as soon as possible. That's all I got for ya'll today, everypony. Until next week, this is Batbrony signing out. I'm off! *cue dramatic exit* I think we can all agree that best Hearth's Warming Tree Star was the best part of this episode