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  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Having the teachers learn is okay. Having them become so out of character and incompetent in order to make the Student Six look like better friends and teachers isn't. There are many reasons why Complete Crap Clause is such a disaster, which I don't need to explain in this paragraph. One episode later in S8, The End in Friend, shares a lot in common with it, but unlike its predecessor, it fixes NCC's primary issues. Which ones? To go through them one by one: One of the biggest differences is Dash's and Rarity's statuses. In NCC, both Dash and AJ were co-teaching their class about how to learn friendship through teamwork, but their egos got in the way of actually teaching the Student Six. Here, despite being teachers, they're not teaching the class. They're subjects for Twilight's class so she teaches them about how differences in passion don't fracture friendships. Why did AJ and RD argue previously? Because they wanted to win Teacher of the Month, and their focus was on that over the students. That's not the case here. They actively try to work with each other to get past their differences as Twilight uses their experiences in real time to teach them. Or at least try to. Unfortunately, miscommunication or tastes get in the way of being able to see their interests in a positive light. When things boil over, it doesn't come at the cost of the Student Six looking better. Instead, they use their arguments as a teaching tool to learn what friendship means, even if it's not Twilight's intention. Notice how they quickly scribble notes before Act 1 closes followed by Smolder questioning their friendship as the moral is delivered. Additionally, their argument isn't petty and perfectly in character of each other. When they insulted each others' interests, they were rightfully angry. Their testiness was down to earth, and the episode treated it as a really big problem; Twilight and Starlight took their fighting seriously to the point of crafting an emergency plan to mend their friendship. In addition to not coming at the Student Six's expense, it's even more evident by how other ponies react to their escalating argument. The other ponies at the restaurant represent the Ponyville folk, and their reaction isn't comedic. They know quite well how close the Mane Eight are, including these two. When an argument as nasty as this endues, they notice, and it's very shocking. Ponyville can't afford to lose their tight bond. Lyra and Bon Bon showing grave concern in between gasps adds to the seriousness of their drama. Rarity and Dash not only learn their lesson, but also take it to heart and stick to it. Oh, yeah, TEiF doesn't have a teacher recklessly screw up at a certain yak's expense. In addition to fixing Non-Complete Clause's problems, it borrows one key piece from Mare Do Well and its ripoff, 28 Pranks Later. But there are major differences here, too. Even in Mare Do Well and 28 Pranks Later, they still didn't have to scheme Dash to teach her a lesson. In the latter, the RM5 become major hypocrites, because they get upset at her for putting more effort into the jokes after accusing her of being previously lazy. This mean-spirited tone is completely nonexistent in Twilight and Starlight's setup; the RM5's previous setups were reactive, while Starlight and Twilight's was proactive. The purpose of their plan was to use their strengths, weaknesses, and interests so they can follow the trail (intentionally) left behind and rescue it. We know it was a setup, but Dash and Rarity were so absorbed in their argument that they didn't. Yet, when peril hit, they put the fate of Equestria above their feud (unlike NCC, which was the opposite). Adding the fact that this quest carried no sense of danger helps, too. As they searched, their anger progressively eased. While in the swamp, they admired each others' tricks and ideas to solve the puzzles, including crossing the swamp, asking help to a Bufogren (who was also involved), and opening the passageway behind the School of Friendship. At points, they actually forgot about their fight, leading to the scene on the mountain. They realized how poorly they behaved and not only grew a sense of tolerance for their interests, but newfound respect, as well. This quest humbled them without humiliating them. And to borrow from @Cwanky's review, given the current climate regarding sports, politics, and cultures (including multiculturalism), the understanding and respect of diversity while sticking to our own values is integral to society today. The moral taught (and how) is incredibly important. The teachers were as equal as the students: They, too, learned a valuable friendship lesson. But the episode carefully crafts it so it doesn't prop the students over them. And by sticking to the lesson and not devolve into an argument, The End in Friend concludes on a high note. Oh, and all the horse jokes in this episode were quite funny. In short, this was a really good episode.
  8. Lately, when Discord is at his best, he's a jerk with a heart of gold. Without his inherent edge, he's a completely different character in his voice. Discordant Harmony and especially The Break Up Break Down handle that side very effectively. But when he's just a jerk, he loses that dimension and becomes antagonistic just because. And that's the case here. Because he's not leading the school, he makes Starlight, established previously and here as a friend, miserable. His worst moment, very clearly, occurs at the buckball pitch. His scheme with the bugbear put the Student Six and a few others in really grave danger. Had Starlight not scare him off, Yona would've been stung. Recall how Dash's and AJ's selfishness and recklessness nearly caused her to drown? This is no better. Had she be hurt on Twilight's grounds, then the school would be in big trouble. Starlight was absolutely justified to be angry at him, warn him, and blast him away from the school grounds after he continued his defiance. Back to him later. Starlight and Spike continue their successful roles since Season 7. AMoP is the first episode since The Crystalling to pair them up, and you immediately see their trust and faith for one another after Twilight temporarily promotes her. He's always by her side and helped put in the work to alleviate the stress. When Discord and Starlight didn't see eye to eye, Spike was the middle man to maintain order between them and be as objective as possible. Was Starlight justified to warn and blast him away from the school grounds? Absolutely. As headmare, it was her job to punish him. But Discord isn't like other beings; he's a god with a love to warp logic. Rather than talking to him what's wrong, Starlight chose a very drastic measure, which Spike rightfully warned would only worsen matters. Why? Because provoking him proved him right, even though he was insufferable. Therefore, he felt justified to raise more hell in the School of Friendship. Discord has insecurities and sometimes fails to hide them. But the clues, even if subtle, are missing, because that context when Starlight spoke the episode's primary lesson is missing, too. Everywhere he showed up, Discord becomes a destructive brat, and acting like he doesn't know either her or him hurts, too. Was she right to apologize to him? Yes. But by offering him a job, the story lets him off without any level of consequence and rewards him for it. The RM6 return, nullifying the offer, but it's still an unsatisfactory resolution. On top of that, almost all the jokes fall flat. The ones with Twilight fail, because she's flanderized: Her personality early was reduced to obsessively organizing and pre-planning everything to the point of being redundant and at Starlight's expense. Cranky constantly spitting his drinks (accidentally) at Gallus's direction while being a lazy ass regresses him. One of the only jokes to be funny is Trixie talking on her banana phone. Despite being rather negative (and not liking it), I won't throw in reactionary hyperbole and call A Matter of Principals bad, awful, or an atrocity, because it's not. At the time of this quickieview, it's the third-worst episode of S8, but nowhere close to the badness of Non-Complete Clause and Fake It; it's watchable mediocrity. 
  9. Note: This review has been edited to add more content. Do you remember dreading the thought of a Spike episode? I do. For so long, Spike episode were usually among the worst of the series, much less the season. For the first five seasons, no matter the plot, episodes usually starring him were usually awful; anything better wasn't the norm. But since Princess Spike (his worst outing of the show), everything changed. His episodes became good. DHX wrote him with dignity. Since Newbie Dash, the Spikabuse vanished. Even today, the thought of not bashing a new Spike episode is completely refreshing. Molt Down is the first S8 episode to star Spike, and the show's biggest evolution from the status quo since Newbie Dash. How does it approach it? By describing how a child dragon goes through puberty. Like real life, puberty ain't fun, and several allegories hammer that point home. Itchy, painful stone scales: rashes and pimples. Volume shifts: deepening of the voice. Armpit smell: body odor and hair. Fire burps: dunno. A period, perhaps? Sleep disruptions: teens being more alert late in the day. (Thank @Jeric for that pointer and the accompanying research.) Haber's jokes are equally as funny as sympathizing for Spike. Yet, the jokes themselves have an extra layer of dimension, because they're not all the same type, the characters' reactions vary, and visual cues round the story. Other great jokes include: Zecora stuffing each of her ears with a cottonball after Spike suddenly shouted. The camera's wide shot, Spike's irritated voice, and the squashing/stretching of the pot he's in as he complains create a perfect recipe for a joke. It's wonderfully timed and really hilarious. Smolder smacking Spike a little too hard in the back, accidentally driving him in pain. Pinkie's sudden shouting and liking that foul odor. Her sly faces really sell the characterization, too. Twilight grumbling at the thought of Celestia never creaking out. That said, not all of them. Sometimes they got a little repetitive or cringeworthy, notably Rarity's shouts after a while and the grossout shot of Spike's stone scale. But for the most part, they did their job. That said, let's talk about Spike. Although he grew considerably since hatching from his egg years ago, from how Twilight acted, this is the very first time Spike molted. The stone scale is painful already, but having so many throbbing and itching is completely foreign to him. Puberty is a part of life the majority of us experience, and whatever he has to endure throughout the episode parallels ourselves in some way. The stages of puberty poor Spike suffered through echoes our own. Impressively, despite many chances for Haber to unleash the most cringeworthy puberty-related joke possible, he restrains himself just enough to create them at his expense without crossing the line into Spikabuse. How does he do that? I'm not sure, but many of the guesses include: What Spike had to go through isn't his fault. Every dragon goes through this stage, including Smolder's presumably-older bro. The molt effect that Spike suffered from is no less different than any other dragon when they grow up. When they treat it as normal, we do, too. Spike's friends and Twilight don't ignore him. When they noticed something is wrong with him, they're there to help. They care about Spike and want to work with him so he can get better. Smolder interacts with Spike. Back in S2, Spike grew rapidly due to inherent greed, opening up a big implication into how dragons grew. Is greed the cause? Could Spike control it, which was a main part for two future conflicts? How did other dragons grow when they didn't show signs of greed? Smolder's description of greed-induced growth as not normal for a dragon cleared up so many questions and brought forth more insight on dragon lore and dragon culture in her homeland. Smolder has an attitude, and her description of dragon culture's response to the molt effect increases Spike's anxiety for the unknown, increasing the conflict's stakes. But there's one thing to note, which the episode makes very clear — as scary as her description of dragon life during the molt is, she's not treated as a bad person, and Smolder isn't written to be antagonistic. The molt effect is a part of her life, so what she and others experienced is expected. For the most part, she's prepared for the challenges; theorize that others back home do, too. Spike, on the other hand, isn't. He's lived with Twilight his whole life and knows so little about dragon culture. The molt effect, especially the smell, is putrid, and he fears that Twilight and the others will reject him, forcing him to live on his own. He's not prepared to defend himself from predators that relish for that smell, especially the roc. Because Twilight asked him to retreat to an area that won't fry anyone in the school, Spike assumes even more that the more out of control his molt becomes, the less Twilight will want him around. Can't you blame him for being so scared of growing up and fighting to alter the molt? Of course not! For obvious reasons, Rarity and Twilight are usual partners for Spike in his episodes, but they're all really good here. (Credit goes to @Truffles and his reply for this bit.) What makes them stand out here is their immediate empathy for Spike. In the beginning, when Rarity sees Spike hide something under his eye, she becomes suspicious and worried. She walks around him to sneak a glance at what's under his claws, but never gets frustrated at any point. When he admits to being embarrassed by the stone scale, she assures him not to worry, but treats his embarrassment with the respect its deserves. She's the first to recommend getting some of Zecora's blemish cream, and did so again after Pewee accidentally pinched his scale. Twilight gets worried when Spike sleeps in all morning and also sympathizes with him for getting breakouts, just like her years ago and also recommends heading to Zecora. When he accidentally destroys her lecture, she doesn't criticize him or make him feel worse. Recommends to leave the castle for his own safety and everyone else's. Despite battling a sudden ear infection, Rarity never stops thinking about Spike and asks her for blemish cream to help him with his stone scales. When they bump into each other, she notices his worsening condition and took out the cream (only for the roc to snatch her). Right on cue, Twilight shows up and heads to Zecora's to get the cream. Unlike Cart Before the Jerks and Complete Crap Clause, neither of Spike's closest friends and relatives treat his condition as a lesser deal to themselves or belittle him for it. Both of them treated his condition, embarrassment, and pain as important, never stopped thinking about him, and wanted to help him in any way they can. Zecora's really well written in a nowadays-rare appearance. But rather than be treated as merely a vessel to deliver plot devices, she becomes deeply involved in both the A and B plots: Spike's puberty and Rarity's phoenix-related ear infection. Her interactions with the characters and their problems add depth to her character, occupation, and relationships with others. One big change for this season is the treatment of the Everfree Forest, historically a really dangerous place to roam. What was a common plot device for the Mane Six, Spike, and CMCs to face conflict in S1, its dangers and presence became mostly absent after Princess Twilight Sparkle. But for the third time this season, an Everfree creature threatened creaturekinds' safety. And the chase scene was really tense. Zecora, Spike, and Rarity were in great danger, and the score and sounds throughout hammered in the sudden perils they faced. In the leaked version, the chase's tone was more comedic, courtesy of Twilight's lasers sounding like video game beams. Here, the comedy was more toned down, an excellent change from the leaked product. YO! Do you smell what the roc is cookin'?! Little details refine the episode and shape up the episode's quality. Two really stick out: As the episode progresses, Spike's limbs darken in color, foreshadowing his eventual molt and where it'll start. During the break in the chase, when Spike's old skin starts to encase him, the background music becomes louder and completely stops when he's completely cocooned. For several seconds, we hear nothing except Twilight firing at the roc, increasing the tension and making us wonder what will happen to the poor dragon next. So, what happened after he molted? THANKS, JOSH HABER! After everything he went through in this episode, Spike molting and earning wings is an excellent payoff. I don't know if he grew a little or not, but when you're making a child dragon molt, sticking with the status quo would be a complete slap to the face to Spike and the audience. Something about him had to change. Interestingly, even though his new wings feel earned, Spike and his friends treat his accomplishment as merely a new milestone in his life as he grows into adulthood. Here, MD brings forth a really great moral: For Twilight to deliver this lesson to him shows us how much he means to her, their hug proving their tight bond. DHX, please, more of their family dynamic! If there was one little problem with the chase, it's what Silver Quill pointed out: Twilight's magic felt kinda weak. Yes, you could argue that she scaled it back because Rarity and Zecora were trapped within the roc's talons, but she needed Spike's assistance to rescue them from their fall, when Twilight magically corralled them all during the movie. Conversely, the theme of growing was subtly foreshadowed through Peewee's reintroduction. The now-adult phoenix still interacts with his parents, but a sharp eye will notice he has his own nest now, indicating either a family of his own or the preparation for one. Spike may've released him, but they still know each other very fondly, evident by their embrace. Peewee grew up; Spike will, too. Back in Season 5, I panned Spike being handed the bouquet of dragon sneeze flowers, the lowest moment of the season. Rather than capping off a broken episode with a rather sweet moment, DHX doubled down on his buttmonkey status. After all, isn't FIM supposedly a feminist show? Well, you don't empower women and girls by making your only male lead a punching bag for abusive comic relief. It's hypocritical and massively sexist, one of the biggest stains of the series. But after that, the direction for his character improved. No longer did his personality shift to demand the plot. His role wasn't confined to pure comic relief. His episodes no longer beat him down or abused him just to teach him a contrived lesson. Starting out with secondary roles in Amending Fences and Re-Mark, Season 6 expanded his role, including becoming close friends with Starlight, bonding dragonkind and ponykind by working with and befriending Ember, and sacrificing his celebrityhood to stand up for Thorax. Season 6 was Spike's best season. Albeit a diminished role in S7, he was really good in Triple Threat, Owl's Well done right. Coming into Molt Down, Spike was having a great year. Now he left his biggest mark in the show since Times. His wings demonstrate his evolution in not just his character, but also his role. It's unknown whether his wings will have a big impact on the season, or it's just cosmetic. But what happens in the future will wait. When I watched the leaked version, I liked it, but wasn't totally happy with it. Days before its official airing, however, I was unsure whether I was fair to it or not. Now, when comparing the leaked version with the final product, the leaked Molt's lack of polish and missing score completely affected the episode's overall quality. The final product is excellent, well edited, and really makes the audience feel like Spike earned his pair of wings. Molt Down's one of the best episodes of S8 so far and one of the best Spike episodes altogether. P.S.: And, yes, Molt Down's change of the status quo's superior to MMC's.
  10. I don't know who was nuts enough to think Discord, Spike, and Big Mac would make a great team back in Season 6, but whoever it is, thank you! Big Mac, Spike, and Discord all act like they knew each other for years, even though this trio only formed after Discord officially became a part of the Guys' Night team. They play off one another through their actions, responses, and emotions, creating great chemistry with one another. Speaking of chemistry, Spike and Discord are outstanding in their best outings of the season thus far (and maybe of the show, too, once it's all finished). Discord's cynicism towards H&HD, and love in particular, plays off spectacularly with Spike, who's very optimistic and refreshingly snarky. To think that only a few seasons ago, Discord was one of his enemies, but from the way they talked to each other and knew each other so well, you'd think he was closer to Discord than Twilight. How they interacted with one another was among the multi-dozens highlights here, such as Spike criticizing Discord's pessimism to Spike intentionally teasing Discord for possibly having a crush on Fluttershy to Discord ignoring Spike's sappy romantic poem about Rarity. They know how to get under each other's skin without crossing the line, making their teasing all in good fun rather than mean-spirited. One of the season's biggest improvements — the dialogue — really shines. Every line's so organic, even when it's somewhat expository, gelling together. Every line oozed with personality and passion, whether it's from the O&O squad or the CMCs. Confalone knows how when to have them talk or act and keep them all in character. Even Big Mac isn't confined to that "Eeyup!" gag, varying his emotions or telling Discord to "EeWAIT!" The dialogue allows for not just some amazing comedy, but also some heart. More 'bout the latter later. The comedy here is golden! Every joke landed perfectly, from the dialogue responses to the satirically cheesy love music playing in the background as Big Mac rushes to Sugar Belle to Big Mac's drinking a barrel-load of cider to Sweetie's "Please say no." Spike's deadpan to Discord as an anti-romance cynic is one hell of a comeback, and that jab towards the greeting card industry by Discord is too funny. Oh, yeah… >Lyra and Bob Bon sharing H&HD bond & gifts >best friends Riiiiiiiight. XP The CMCs were also fantastic here. All season so far, they've been at their A-game. The episode recognizes them as kids, but doesn't make them so obnoxious. They were right to wonder where that mysterious pie came from and search high and low to find him. But the and does a nice swerve: They may not have found that actual special somepony for SB, but had a magnificent time together, anyway. Sweetie's small speech at the end had quite a lot of heart in it. Speaking of heart, as hilarious as TBUBD is, Confalone balances it perfectly. Big Mac's sadness was somewhat over the top, but treated with the respect it deserves. His romantic feelings with Sugar Belle feel genuine, and you can tell by how he talked about the small stuff to Skelenor, like how Sugar snorts and wiggles her nose when she giggles (something that @Nyactis Mewcis Catlum pointed out a while ago in a status). Big Mac doesn't talk much, so when he does, you listen. After they cleared up everything, it was all okay again, and they had a great end to Hearts & Hooves Day. Discord's revelation of finally believing in romance works perfectly and marks my moment of the season so far: revealing to damage her wagon wheel. Why? 'Cause he confirms to us he believes in love and figured out how to get them back together while remaining in character. He's still a jerk, and his advice to BM (long with Spike's) really stinks. But at the end, he retains a heart of gold and does the right thing, even when he's spoiled for Ogres & Oubliettes. Somehow, he predicted what Big Mac was going to do next, but given he's the Lord of Chaos, it makes sense. Really shows he cares for him as a friend. Derpy was great in her role as mailmare. As Discord counted the types of tea he loved, Top Draw lowered the audio quality of de Lancie's mic to match the sound one would hear from the old-school TV. Really masterful editing that helps enhance the joke. (The same scene from the leaked version, BTW, has the same audio quality as the rest of the ep.) Oh, and it has two morals, each executed masterfully: "Don't assume. Communicate with your friends, and everything will work itself out." "Don't be afraid to openly admit your feelings. Those who care for you will listen and understand." This one is my favorite of the season so far, because it's so relatable to everyone. When I first watched it in December, I watched a treat. Seeing it completed gives it such a fresh look, and it still holds up excellent. The Break Up Break Down isn't just the best episode of Season 8 so far, but one of the ten best of the show altogether, as well.