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  1. Note: Taken from here and edited. A second, fuller review/analysis of how it's the perfect FIM finale is on the way. - A nitpick, but the adults are looking a little older than what they show. They're all at least in their mid-thirties if not closer to 40, but the giant bags under their eyes make them look like they're older than Bow Hothoof or Windy Whistles. Lighter, smaller, subtler lines under their eyes may work more to better match that range. - Twilight apparently had a little too much trouble relocating sheep away from the line, and her animation as Future Twi isn't very polished. +/- Twilight looking like a Celestia recolor was a major surprise (and I can see why some don't like it), but over time, I've become more and more used to her. Her hair's beautiful, but the lack of strap over her crest makes it look like it's floating over her chest instead of being hooked around. + The new interior of the Throne Room is absolutely breathtaking. Beautiful color palette pleasing to the eye, excellent callbacks via the stained-glass windows (including updates since the finale, like Flurry Heart officially becoming princess and the Y6 saving the School), and the lighter pastel making the bolder-colored characters pop out. + Spike really shows how much he's evolved since becoming the ambassador, and I don't mean physically or vocally. He's part-royalty, Twilight's equal, and has done a spectacular job maintaining harmony throughout the world. Recall the very beginning of the episode, which he states to Twilight how he mediates peace between the Diamond Dogs and Abyssinians, a reference to one of the comics where Capper's originally from). Also, he's more mature despite maintaining a kid-like attitude, too. + What Twilight prophesied during the final battle before the last friendship laser comes true. Fifteen or twenty years into the future, several races are now at harmony with each other. Dragons, griffons, kirin, hippogriffs, yaks, changelings, and ponies are all in harmony together. There's no infighting; everyone's communicating with each other happily and without prejudice. Not only did everyone come to embrace the Magic of Friendship. But their own lives improved, too. (You got to see some of this affect the ReMane Six later, as Ocellus, Silversteam and Smolder teach at the School of Friendship, and Rarity lives and sells fashion at her boutique in Yakyakistan.) + Luster Dawn has that same naivety as Twilight, but at a very different angle. Twilight thought making friends was a waste of time, period, though was apparently never really taught friendship at any point. Sure, Twilight had friends in Canterlot, but never reciprocated those feelings. Here, Twilight teaches her best and most faithful student how friendship's the most powerful and most important magic in the School for Gifted Unicorns, but due to their time separated over the years, Luster wonders if friendship is worth it if the friendships fade away. Unlike Twilight back then, Luster's more outgoing, but doesn't embrace friendship as a result of seeing Twilight spend most of her time ruling alone. + As a result, Twilight tells and explains very intricately about how it can be easy to make friends, but it's much, much harder to maintain them. They may be separate more now, but they always stay connected so they have each others' backs whenever something bad happens or catch up on things. Back in her days, Celestia mostly had Twilight learn to make friends and understand friendship on her own. Here, she shows Luster that friends always matter in the most proactive, teaching way possible. Arranging a meeting with Luster on the day all gather. + The flashback itself is emotional. Twilight was absolutely justified to feel super upset and scared what happens next. The big baddies are in stone sleep, but all of them have lives. Despite the promise of ruling together, we don't know how they're gonna rule together, budget their time to do so, and if they'll remain together at all. She's moving away to Canterlot, and the day of the coronation may be her goodbye. It was also very subtle and impactful for the RM5 to use their preparation to admit they're grieving, too. They're so unnaturally happy and casual to see Twilight head off to Canterlot, but their conversation at the Castle of Friendship shows how that happiness is truly everything but. They don't know if Twilight will be able to communicate with them ever again. Also, the criticism of Twilight not moving the capital of Equestria to Ponyville's nonsense. Canterlot has been Equestria's capital for well over a millennium, if not before Celestia and Luna were princesses. In addition to Canterlot having a firmer legacy than Ponyville, moving an entire capital would be a task of epic proportions. To be able to share their sadness, fright, and despair reminds he audience how close they are, no matter what trials they face. They were scared, and it's okay for them to be scared. Their cries felt very real, and it's heartbreaking to see them all slowly break down, especially ones like Pinkie (her words just got me crying, literally). Everyone was so obsessed and focused on the "perfect" coronation that everything went terribly wrong so quickly when things got complicated. The hilarious screwups were a very refreshing break from the drama. With the coronation over, they can laugh it off knowing it's over. They had their hardships today, and to have this break means they can relax. Because of this, Twilight has a clear head now and can use that knowledge over the years to come up with a great idea: every moon, they meet once under the Council of Friendship. It was a challenge they had to face, and they found a way to conquer it. The ending really marks the end of a long era, mirroring FIM's, too. Celestia and Luna are no longer ruling, and they felt confident in letting Twilight and her friends rule Equestria on their own. Yes, they'll be more happy to help her whenever they need it, but the RM7 are confident and can be trusted in helping Equestria move on to its next chapter. + The moral is excellent in concept and better than excellent in execution. I already talked about that extensively. + The episode took another bold, daring direction by giving everyone definitive lives with both occupations and sometimes love lives. not only on what they're doing. CheesePie, SugarMac, YonaBar, and LyraBon are more than confirmed, but ones like FlutterCord and AppleDash are hinted with subtle clues (i.e., Fluttershy's lunch bag and bluebells, AJ/RD's banter). It's DHX's story, but their lives also have a purpose: no matter how much your lives change, your friendships keep you connected. Everyone's extremely busy now, but they always manage to meet together. When they don't, they see them. Starlight and Sunburst still lead the thriving School of Friendship. Look closely, and you see all of the confidence from the Young Six. (For example, Smolder openly has tea with Ocellus, a hobby she once derided and hid until What Lies Beneath.) + Not everything ends happily. Granny Smith and Goldie Delicious are gone now, and AJ and AB are wearing their scarves in their honor. + The Magic of Friendship Grows. All of it. It's emotional, hopeful, and beautiful. This song got me crying at times. The background shots during the final chorus are extremely moving and very well-done. But there are two things to mention: The final shot of all seven watching Luster walk away with new friends is absolutely fantastic. Even more beautiful is the sunset glow, a literal twilight sparkle as one YouTuber wrote. The final shot: the book to open FIM closes, indicating the end of an era. (Pay attention to the "fin" on the left page, a great piece of detail in a show that doesn't always show the English alphabet so clearly.) This is an EXCELLENT episode! A magnificent cap to a great, successful show!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Note: Credit to @Zestanor and @Truffles for this review. Since School Daze, the Young Six have been some of the best characters. Eccentric and childlike, yet diverse in personality, gender, and race, their friendship is linked by caring for each other. After Cozy thrust doubts subconsciously, the Tree's spirit reminds them of their powerful friendship. Uprooted is their second (unplanned) test: The Tree's detroyed to their massive shock, and they concluded to memorialize it. So how well was is written? Not all that bad. In only a couple of minutes, the opener effectively establishes what their personalities, goals, and weaknesses are (often intertwining them through jokes, whether they’re brand new or called back from previous episodes, e.g., Smolder’s closeted femininity). Then when Twilight tells them the news of the Tree’s destruction, it’s easy to see why they’re devastated. The Tree not only solidified the harmony between them, but Equestria’s as a whole. Additionally, Dubuc addresses to continuity from What Lies Beneath and School Raze while keeping it self-contained so newcomers mustn’t watch earlier episodes to understand. At the same time, it gets clumsy at points. Their commemoration for the Tree sometimes gets repetitive, referring to it by name quite often. Altogether, dialogue's serviceable. Sometimes it can get quite preachy, treating the Tree, the Elements, and their messages of friendship as religious relics. Granted, that’s the point. No one can agree on how to honor it without desecrating its legacy, and their solutions range from complacent (the statue) to one-dimensionalizing (the friendship forum) to selling out (Gallus lying about the Tree to make the cave a tourist attraction). But personally, they can make the subtext a little bit more subtle. Gallus’s money-making scheme is cringeworthy. I laughed at Yona’s reaction, but not his embellished plan. Dude, you ain't no Flim and Flam! Sandbar revealing to stashing the Tree's broken parts in a wagon out in the open is the episode's worst moment. The whole dilemma throughout Act 2 is bound by Sandbar's decision to clean up the cave in favor of his little plant, and there's no second exit. For Yona to find it really easily (especially after Gallus asked him where it is beforehand) and nearby one of Silverstream's murals makes the remaining five look incompetent throughout their argument. However, Uprooted has several bright spots. The whole montage is fantastically set up and executed. Early, the students departed for the School earlier than what their families and tribe leaders permitted. Unlike the others, Thorax balances out severity with worry and understanding the most naturally. The Changeling Kingdom altogether's one big family and successfully adapted to his fight-less vision, and the last thing his kingdom wants to do is get into another war, which almost happened last season. However, he'll agree to a suggestion beneficial for everyone. Thorax and Twilight agree to the Y6's plan, leading to one of their best montages (and to echo @Zestanor, "one of the more significant parts"). In addition to establishing a very strong reason why everycreature returned to school so soon, their cultures are presented authentically. Some of it, like Smolder winning an arm wrestling match, is silly (and Gallus's was dark humor), but none are shown to shoot them or their homelands down. They all back up their personalities, subtly expand their lore, and affirms their care for each other and their homes. My favorite's Yona: If you didn't awe from clearing the snow for her dad and this, then y'have no soul. Speaking of Yona, she's fantastic, as usual. This time in a voice-of-reason role. When everyone's superficial tributes didn't capture the Tree's heart, Yona stayed on the sidelines, waiting for everyone to listen to each other, only to finally speak up and remind them what the Magic of Friendship. Sure, the Tree may be gone, but not its memory. BTW, her explanation for the yak's love for smashing cleverly develops more into her culture and really shows there's more into their lives than just aggression. Not a bad evolution after Party Popped wrote them as savage and primitive. Spike and Twilight are written well, retaining their complementary relationship while helping the Y6. This episode climaxes with The Place Where We Belong, S9's and the Y6's first song. Sentimental yet hopeful, its tone and message are wonderful. While things and lives come and go, their memories don't as long as we remember them and use them to self-improve. It feels a lot like an allegory about death, but rather than replace it for hibernation, there's a true sense of finality with Sombra destroying the Tree and Elements and the unknown of how to properly tribute it. Their decision to build a small treehouse solves that problem wonderfully. Yes, it's not the best built, using broken trunks, branches, and spare parts, but it centralizes who the Young 6 are: a diverse cast who represents the best of each kingdom and each other. The following lines punctuate it: But then, a miracle. By representing the Magic of Friendship at its purest, they rebuilt harmony within each other and applied their close friendship to rebuild it in its memory. Consquently, the Tree of Harmony turned to this: The Treehouse of Harmony's beautiful! Its crystalline pastel colors of blue, pink, and yellow invite the eyes, and it's breathtakingly composed. Compared to the Castle of Friendship, you'd want to actually go there. The Tree's spirit says they'll be safe within the house's walls, and optically, you believe her. Also, the ruins of Castle of the Two Sisters is collapsing (credit to @Truffles for pointing this out), so the Treehouse now takes its rightful place, replacing it for something more useful. As far as the elephant of the room's concerned, sure, the inspirations to Castle Sweet Castle are obvious, thanks to its similar structure and ideas, but the plots aren't the same. In fact, there's one gigantic difference between them: In CSC, the RM5 want to make Twilight's castle feel more like home. Twilight stayed away from it because she found it to not feel as homey as the Golden Oak Library, and no one found a cohesive solution for vral hours. So what do thy do to? Use the Golden Oak Library's roots as a tribute to her old home to connect her old home with her new one. Here, the episode's about memorializing the Tree only, but none of the Y6 could come up with a proper solution without desecrating its legacy. Until Yona reminded them of how they became friends and became closer as a result of the Tree's test. So they used the Tree's old branches, trunk, and Elements to build a treehouse, and the Tree used its powers to create a temple. Coming into Uprooted, I predicted the Y6 will become the new Bearers of Harmony, for the Tree tested them, saved them, each on sharing similar qualities with the ReMane Six (while still being themselves), and the Tree encasing them with the Elements' glows encased them in Raze. But with the auras being trading interchangeably (compare this to this), the Elements and Tree evolve into the Treehouse, and the spirit wants the Magic of Friendship wanting a safe space for friendship, it's becoming more and more possible that the Tree's spirit and magic used when the Pillars planted the seed want to pass down the MoF, perhaps to everyone, not just six masters. The fact that we also see no cutie marks may foreshadow more of what's to come. Altogether, a really good episode.
  9. 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.