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Hearth's Warming Helper

Found 573 results

  1. Marshmallow

    Rate song, then post another!

    Ok, so this is really simple. Basically, someone posts a song. Then the next person gives it a score out of 10, briefly explains why, then posts another song for the next person to rate and so on. Example: User 1: Friday by Rebecca Black User 2: 10/10 Best song evaaar her voice is da bestest evaaaar!!!!lol Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley User 3: 5/10 meh, not my kind of music. But I do like his hair. A lot. Winter Wrap-up - My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic You get the idea. The rules are that you MUST listen to to the whole song, or at least the first 5-6 minutes if it's longer than that. Whether you like the song or not! It can be anything as long as it's labeled music. Pony music, your favorite song, the song that you and your friend composed last night, a song from your favorite opera, a song you hate, ANYTHING GOES! Also, try to include a Youtube link to the song (or any other kind of link really, as long as we can listen to the song) to make it easier for others to listen to it. Also, try to stay classy and respectful. Not everypony has the same music tastes! ^^ Ok, so I guess I should start. Octopus - Syd Barrett http-~~-//www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL36NuJJLIQ&feature=fvst
  2. Pre-Sequel has always been treated as the black sheep of the Borderlands series by many fans, and I'll agree with them on that. I avoided this game until recently because I couldn't initially get into it, but I had a change of heart. I played it. Today, I'll be answering these questions: Are the flaws with this game really that massive, or are they really not that big of a deal? Is this game actually bad? That's what's up for discussion here. Before I get into it though, the format of this will be a lot like a series done by a favorite YouTuber of mine named Fawful's Minion called "Blessed or Messed." If you aren't familiar, I'll be placing a point value on positive and negative traits of the game (except I'll use a different points system) and I'll make a judgment from which number ends up greater and by how much. I'll just start with the good. This game, mechanically speaking, actually retains most of what makes the Borderlands games great (Yes, most, and that will come up later). The loot system (although the more flawed one from Borderlands 2) remained completely intact, the gun variety is still there, it kept it's sense of humor, and the gameplay still feels like you're playing Borderlands. It's the fast-paced, first person shooter and RPG hybrid that we know and love still and that in itself is quite great. I mean it is expected, but the gameplay is still quite solid. +10 The platforming in Zero-Gravity, although a little easy even by Borderlands standards (hey it isn't a platformer!), feels absolutely AWESOME. You can utilize the lack of gravity to your advantage in navigating levels with an amount of speed and thoroughness that's absent in other games (although bunny hopping and grenade hopping are rather fast ways to move around in Borderlands 2 and 1 respectively). Also, it feels like it was executed in such a way that it almost feels natural after a while. +3 (Two plus one more because of the Slam mechanic) I really like the premise of the story. It's always refreshing to see a game from the villain's perspective, and see how they justify their own actions. It brings a level of depth to the plot that makes for a lot of interest on my end. It's really helpful in the case of Handsome Jack to have this because he made feeble attempts in trying to justify himself and demonize you in the original game. +2 Am I the only one who wishes that there were a character like Athena in another game? I think her kit has easily the best design of everyone's in this game. You can either play around elemental damage, your action skill, or massively painful melee attacks. She also complements the addition of Cryo perfectly. +2 Oh I forgot. A point for the addition of Cryo. Although it's way too powerful, I really like the crowd control mechanic, and it was executed fairly well. +1 The characters you play as ACTUALLY TALK NOW. Seriously, they respond to NPCs in certain conversations. It's a nice touch of polish. +1 This game added a dimension to Lilith specifically that I can appreciate. This game actually makes her look really bad, and I like it. +1 Some of the side quests are actually pretty entertaining. Nothing quite like Face McShooty's quest from Borderlands 2, but I found some humor in them. Especially the Torgue quest, because anyone who can't find Mr. Torgue amusing doesn't have a soul... +1 The game does a decent job of further building on the Borderlands universe. Yeah, just decent. +1 (Total: +21) Now moving onto the bad... I said the PREMISE of the story was good. The story itself though? It is the WEAKEST of the series. BY AND FAR. It did almost nothing to justify Jack's actions during the game or Borderlands 2. The plot had several holes, and didn't really mesh well with the rest of the series, either. Why exactly would the vault hunters ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH THE PERSON THAT TOOK ALL THE CREDIT FOR OPENING THE FREAKING VAULT? It's convenient enough ANYWAYS that they're even ON Elpis (they're there on... VACATION?)... It seems more like it should have been DLC than an actual game in this regard. -4 The O2 meter was an ASTOUNDINGLY dumb design choice. I understand Elpis has no atmosphere, and you couldn't breathe without oxygen, but that cannot and WILL NOT justify a mechanic that punishes you for trying to get around, or FORCES you into standing around doing nothing for an amount of time that adds up QUITE quickly. Not even to mention that the only reason they'd add this isn't consistent with the blatant lack of realism the series has. -3 They kept Badass Ranks. I can't believe that they'd keep literally the WORST thing about Borderlands 2... -3 Why exactly do the laser weapons of this game feel totally redundant to me? Is it because they could have been replaced by Sniper Rifles or SMGs with similar effects? Oh why am I asking this question, when the answer is quite obviously yes. This weapon category contributed next to NOTHING to this game, and I hope they replace it with similar weapons of different types in Borderlands 3, or maybe make their effects apply to a specific manufacturer. -2 Moxxi being blatantly out of character is downright inexcusable. The attempt to brush it off really didn't work on me. Not even to mention that attempt wasn't even referring to the ACTUAL PROBLEM! It was referring to... her make-up being different and her covered up southern accent? Seriously? -2 The boss fights in this game are so badly designed... None of these fights was remotely interesting or compelling to me at all... -2 NO. FREAKING. SLAG. I don't care if it doesn't precisely line up with the game canonically. I MISS MY SLAG. -1 Nurse Nina is literally a walking "strong, Russian-sounding woman" stereotype that reminds me WAY too much of Zarya from Overwatch for some reason. Zed was an amazing character, who probably had some of the funniest lines in the entire series, and they replace him... with that? Not acceptable. Just not acceptable. -1 Congratulations for butchering Mordecai's character even MORE. You make him look like a bumbling drunk has-been who can't stop stealing second winds and annoying you with a bad impression of his old voicing, and then you make him look like a complete moron? He was totally badass in the first game... What went wrong? -1 Aside from Athena's kit, I didn't really like the design of the other characters. None of them have quite the appeal of the playable characters from the other games. -1 (Total: -20) This game may be the black sheep of the series for good reason, but it's not really a bad game. It still retains what makes Borderlands great, and puts in interesting twists. Sure, it proved that Gearbox and 2K Games should never trust 2K Australia to make a Borderlands game EVER AGAIN, but it's still going to get a solid 7/10 from me. I can still see a degree of enjoyment here, and a unique experience that is worth playing, though I'd recommend not doing so not too many times more than once. The first two games are much more worth playing over and over with every character, and I'd even recommend doing so. But here, all I could recommend is maybe two saves... Past that point, you have to have better things to do with your time than playing this.
  3. I have a present for you this Christmas evening: A little glimpse on how MLP:FiM is promoted in China. Preface As its many knock-offs show, MLP:FiM is very popular in China, with small shops selling everything from off-color clay figurines of Princesses Celestia and Luna to almost official-looking play sets of tea parties with Rainbow Dash and Rarity. This fandom does not hesitate to share the knock-offs of the toy line, and to wonder why Hasbro does not crack down on the peddlers more. I have taken many photos of the merchandise on my trip, but very likely others have found these a hundred times over. Surprisingly, I have found that comparatively little of MLP:FiM merchandise other than toys from China gets shared, especially the books. (This seems to be true of other countries and languages too, but of course, this is an American/Canadian (and therefore English) production.) For a show that emphasizes values and therefore a concept of culture, the lack of analysis of books in other languages is rather surprising. Many of us love the show for both the morals and the way it presents the morals, and while the values it presents are very universal, it is still informed by a Western philosophical tradition (and perhaps even an Anglo-Saxon one, as language does shape thought). To see how the East (or China more specifically) treats the morals of the show and their presentations would be quite enlightening. I first bought the second book in the series “MLP: Presenting You 18 Good Habits” to help me learn Chinese using stories I was already familiar with, but soon became interested in the way it presented the stories in themselves. I eventually got the whole series. Introduction The covers are elegant and simple: A floral pattern dominated by one color, based off the member of the Mane Six that graces the center. The series is published by the Tongqu (lit. “childlike”) Publishing Company Ltd., a joint venture of the People’s Post and Telecommunications Publishing House and the Danish publisher Egmont, and apparently only has offices in Beijing. So far as I can tell, this company only has a Chinese distribution. It specializes in children’s books, with IP licenses not only for MLP:FiM but Thomas and Friends, Astro Boy, and various Disney properties, as well as publishing their own original material. Each book is 120 pages long, containing adaptations of three episodes from the show with a common theme of a class of good habits. The first one, “Good Habits of Learning,” which appropriately shows Twilight Sparkle in thought, contains “Read It and Weep” (loving to read ardently), “Rarity Investigates!” (observing and reflecting), and “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3” (having right study methods). Second has Pinkie Pie delivering “Good Habits of Living,” and features “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000” (eating a healthy diet), “Hurricane Fluttershy” (exercising), and “Flutter Brutter” (taking care of oneself). The third one, with Rainbow Dash reclining casually on a cloud, is (rather ironically) titled “Good Habits of Working,” and comprises “Somepony to Watch Over Me” (working independently), “Sonic Rainboom” (being earnest and down-to-earth), and “Newbie Dash” (developing team awareness). Fourth has the soft-spoken Fluttershy presenting “Good Habits of Speaking,” through the stories of “Luna Eclipsed” (speaking politely), “Putting Your Hoof Down” (learning to say no), and “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” (not taunting others). In the fifth, Rarity dresses three episodes as “Good Habits of Relationships”—“Amending Fences” (valuing friends), “Make New Friends But Keep Discord” (not monopolizing friendship), and “The Gift of the Maud Pie” (empathizing with others). Finally, Applejack brings us “Good Habits of Safety,” gathering “Appleloosa’s Most Wanted” (staying away from dangerous places), “Viva Las Pegasus” (not falling for sweet talk), and “A Friend in Deed” (not doing dangerous games). The books start with a preface, “Good Habits for Achieving a Good Future,” written by Xue Lei, a National Psychological Consultant, Learning Competency Instructor, and Early Childhood Education Instructor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Psychological Institute (among other things). (I have not been able to find her listed on the CAS website, perhaps because of her status as an instructor.) She is associated with the Faber and Mazlich series of parenting lectures and workshops based on “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” which both explains quite a few features about these books and gives it somewhat less of a Chinese slant than I hoped. In the preface, Xue notes that the key to good behavior for “the long prop-up” is not changing bad habits but developing good habits, and that stern lectures tend to backfire. She then goes on to explain the set-up of the book, and concludes with two quotes about cultivating good habits, one from the American psychologist William James, and the other from the Chinese journalist and author of children’s books Ye Shengtao. Curiously, though she describes the stories that follow as “vivid and interesting,” she doesn’t give any explanation of why she chose the stories from MLP:FiM in particular as her vehicle of cultivating good habits. So far as I can tell, however, she has not drawn from other franchises for similar series of books. The Stories Each story, after a title page, begins with an introduction of the major characters in the story. Remarkably, the series often varies the description for the same character, highlighting facts about the character that are relevant for the story that follows. For example, in “Read it and Weep,” Twilight Sparkle is noted as often encouraging other ponies to read more books, because “she knows most ponies do not know the historical legends.” For “Amending Fences,” however, her introduction focuses on her not caring much about friendship before coming to Ponyville, and even “Hurricane Fluttershy” describes her as “able to make all sorts of precision instruments.” At times, especially if it involves one-shot characters like Zephyr Breeze or Gladmane, the introductions end up giving away the story that follows, but not enough to completely spoil it. The stories are written in a colloquial, brisk style, using plenty of common Chinese idioms to add spice and informality. (They editors are particularly fond of using the phrase “bugan-shiruo,” meaning “not to be outdone.”) As one might expect, the stories follow the events in the episodes, but there are some exceptions. These likely are to keep each book at their 120-page limits, but perhaps also is a matter of style. Notably, the cold open from “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3” is mostly omitted, despite its great characterization of Twilight and RD, instead going straight into reading the Wonderbolts history book. The reader does not really understand the significance of the test until RD fails Twilight’s pop quiz. In the adaptation of “Sonic Rainboom,” Twilight does not warn Rarity about the fragility of her wings, and their melting in the sun comes as a genuine surprise to the reader. Foreshadowing and other hints at possible futures thus do not appear to be favored devices. The hyperbole gets toned down too: A few of AJ’s protective measures from “Somepony to Watch Over Me” are skipped, as is Fluttershy’s encounter with the tourist in “Putting Your Hoof Down.” At times, the stories assume the reader is familiar with the show, despite the character descriptions at the beginnings of each—“Viva Las Pegasus” begins with “The Map once again called out…” even though it is the only Map episode to be featured in this series. The changes are not just limited to omissions. In “Read it and Weep,” Rainbow Dash actually invites Fluttershy and Twilight in when they come to visit her at the hospital, instead of the two knocking and entering themselves. This of course softens the interruption, so the reader is not as attached to RD’s annoyance at being stopped from reading the Daring Do book. The changes and additions are particularly common when necessary to fit the intended good habit. Sometimes these additions and changes are fairly creative and fitting: When, in “Crusaders of the Lost Mark,” Diamond Tiara announces her about-face and gets her father to pay for the playground, she explains that her cutie mark talent is not only about getting other ponies to do what she wants, but even makes a point of the fact that it is a tiara, that she thought it meant she could “dictate to everyone without regard to [their] feelings, even speaking meanly.” This rendition thus emphasizes the flaw of arrogance because of social status more than the actual episode does. (I almost suspect, because it is published by People’s Post and Telecommunications, that it’s Communist Party meddling.) Others are completely shoehorned: For “A Friend in Deed,” the lesson that Pinkie Pie takes from her antics with Cranky is not that everyone has their own way of expressing friendship, but “[to] never do a dangerous game again!” which she even swears on a Pinkie Promise. Earlier, the editors even interpret the Smile Song at the beginning of the episode as not just that she likes seeing everypony smile, but that as long as she can make everypony smile, her friends will let her do whatever she wants, framing her as more careless than the episode would suggest. One shoehorned, but still fun, addition is in “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” where, to make the episode better fit the “healthy eating” theme, the editors add a pony getting a stomachache from drinking the Flim-Flam Brothers’ cider. The Pictures The pictures, as expected, come from screenshots of the show, one (sometimes two) per page. More than occasionally, the pictures do not perfectly correspond with the actual text per page, sometimes even omitting key information. Again in “Read it and Weep,” the page where RD starts reading Daring Do in fact has a picture of RD trying to resist reading the book. A picture of RD wearily starting to read does appear on the next page, although the text describes RD’s reactions to be far more exciting. For “Putting Your Hoof Down,” the text mentions Angel Bunny several times, but only one screenshot with him appears, and there the corresponding text doesn’t mention him. Even more puzzling is the omission of Applejack from any screenshot from “Flutter Brutter,” even though she is listed as one of the described characters at the beginning. It seems as though the editors were less concerned about matching the text with the picture and more content to just remind the reader of what she (or he) had seen in the show. The pictures are largely unedited, but there is at least once instance where something is added: Princess Luna in front of the spider target game in “Luna Eclipsed," using an obvious vector to make clear that she was the one making the spiders real. With the exception of “Rarity Investigates,” each story has at least one line that summarizes the moral of the story, highlighted in colored text, a direct commentary to the reader put in a heart-shaped blurb in a screenshot, or both. The blurb commentaries do not always serve the same functions. Some summarize the moral, others make a tangential point, and yet others give direct advice. Some are self-aware that the ponies are not perfect role models: For “Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3,” in the scene where RD blows spitballs at Twilight during her flashcard lesson, the editors give this warning: “Throwing spitballs [lit. marbles] at other people is very dangerous, kids, you cannot imitate it!” One unusual case, from “The Gift of the Maud Pie,” describes the characters’ own thoughts when Maud retrieves the party cannon. A few are even addressed to the parents rather than the children, such as in “Somepony to Watch Over Me," where, as a caption to Apple Bloom taking care of the chores before Applejack returns, the editors say “Kids are more capable than we imagine. Give kids a free hand to do what they can for the housework.” The Follow-Ups From the stories themselves we turn to the more unique aspects of the books. One of the most interesting is a section called “Pony Voices from the Heart" which summarizes in four frames the story from the perspective of one of the characters, often, but not always, from the one who had to learn something from the events. For a show that emphasizes character development, this approach is quite fitting, to further help the reader empathize with the characters and therefore better internalize the message. Next is the section called “Pony Classroom," which further explains the good habit that the story is supposed to inspire, with three “tricks” each providing a way to develop the habit, and some lines for the child to write down any additional tricks that she can think of. Here the editors are freer to use screenshots out of context, which is usually not a problem but can result in some awkward deliveries. One of the stranger ones, shown to the left, is in the healthy eating tricks after “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000,” where the second one takes a screenshot from “Spice Up Your Life,” where Rarity and Pinkie are trying the Zesty Gourmand-approved cuisine. The caption that follows reads “Don’t be a picky eater, focus on matching meat and vegetables, and eat vegetables, meat, and fruit of all sorts.” Given that “Spice Up Your Life” was an episode about not eating the same things over and over again, it’s a surprise that it wasn’t used as the story. At the same time, it seems very odd for our vegetarian friends to tell us to eat meat. (It is also interesting in itself that Chinese children also are picky about eating meat, when Western parents would just expect their children to eat their fruits and vegetables. Having tried a lot of authentic Chinese cuisine while in China, I suspect it is because in many meat dishes the bones are chopped up and cooked with the meat.) After that is a section called “Magic Practice Camp,” which presents the kids with a series of hypothetical situations that they are to judge either right or wrong, based on what they have learned. For the ones that are wrong, it further instructs the kids to discuss with their parents what should be done instead. What is particularly notable about this section is that the editors appear to have made a real effort to make the hypotheticals gender neutral—that is, both male and female characters are presented as virtuous and not-so-virtuous about equally. (I qualify this tally, though, because, especially as a non-native speaker, it is difficult to tell which names are male and female, and many Chinese names can be both.) This is interesting because in previous pony storybook publications from Tongqu, the audience was blatantly gendered—one series from 2015 was called “My Little Pony Teaches You to be a Perfect Girl.” Even more interesting is that there is no answer key in the back to accompany the questions. Though nearly all of the hypotheticals are not morally ambiguous, it still shows that the editors are more concerned with getting the children to think and interact with their parents in a dialogue, rather than to come up with the right answer. (Either that or there wasn’t room in the 120-page limit.) What Xue considers the most important part of the books is the “Good Habit Cultivation Chart,” to encourage children to “progress a little every day.” In this four-week chart, she instructs the reader to make a small goal for oneself to develop the habit just taught, and to color in the cutie mark each day that the goal is met. Interestingly, these pages never vary per habit, always using RD’s cutie mark. I find it cute, though that Applejack always heads the chart, as a sort of watchful eye over the reader to ensure that she (or he) is honest in filling in the marks. But what is most puzzling to me is the application of such a chart to the negative injunctions in the safety book, as not playing dangerous games, avoiding dangerous places, and not believing sweet talk always require someone or something else to provide the temptation to do otherwise. There is no reason to believe that a child will encounter such situations every day, unless the goal is not to put a fork in every electrical socket one sees. Each book ends on three notes: First is a reflective send-off of sorts, headed by these sentences: “The cultivation of good habits requires unremitting persistence. The ponies will always be there for you to cheer you on.” These are followed by a blank space next to one of the Mane Six, so the children can draw or paste a picture of themselves next to them. Next is a gallery called “Pony Fan Artwork Exhibition,” which celebrates the artistry and creativity of those who love the show (and the books). I am not sure if these children send these pieces of artwork to Hasbro’s China offices or to Tongqu, as the book doesn’t invite them to send their own artwork to any particular place. In any case, some of the artwork is quite impressive for those from three to eleven. One six-year old (not pictured here) created a traditional Chinese shadow puppet of Fluttershy with the help of her teacher. She must have had her stage fright in mind, for she comments “Although Fluttershy is timid and shy, I hope that she can be as happy as I am every day.” Many of these young fans also like writing letters to Princess Celestia of the moral lessons they have learned in real life. Unlike the hypothetical characters, all the fans featured are girls, but it’s hard to find a young boy who is into MLP:FiM anyway, so that’s not a huge problem. Finally each book provides a paper cutout craft of one of the Mane Six, somewhat boxy but still cute. Miscellaneous Thoughts Although the editors designed each story to be read on their own, there are some indications that the stories also flow from each other. Most obvious is the order of the books: Learning how to learn is of course fundamental to developing good habits, so that is taught first. The basic needs of living are explored in the second book, followed by the habits of good working, which support the basic needs of living. The higher-level ideas of communication with others and forming relationships come next. The only book that completely bucks the Maslow hierarchy of needs is the last book on safety, which should have come in either between the habits of living and the habits of working, or before the habits of speaking. (To its credit, there is a blurb in “Somepony to Watch Over Me” where the editor advises the reader, as Apple Bloom encounters the swamp chimera, that “safety is most important.”) It is also interesting that “Somepony to Watch Over Me,” the story about working independently, directly follows from “Flutter Brutter,” the story about self-care, as a natural expansion of the idea. I have already hinted my puzzlement at why “Spice Up Your Life” wasn’t used as the “healthy eating” story. I suspect two things: First, the Flim-Flam Brothers, as symbols of capitalist dishonesty, are easier, safer targets than the voice of authority that Zesty Gourmand brings. Further, Saffron Masala and her father are clearly inspired by Indian culture, and because of the border disputes between China and India, the Chinese are more likely to see India unfavorably than favorably, so having a story featuring them might get some backlash. (I did not see a single Indian restaurant when I was in China. At the same time, I do not know how "Spice Up Your Life" was received there.) What puzzles me even more is why “Wonderbolts Academy” wasn’t used for the “don’t play dangerous games” lesson instead of “A Friend in Deed.” As I have already said, the editors had to really shoehorn that lesson in. Meanwhile in “Wonderbolts Academy,” not only does Lightning Dust purposely take extreme risks, but RD feels overshadowed by Lightning Dust because of all the risks she takes. It’s hard to interpret the fire in “A Friend in Deed” as anything more than an unhappy accident, and certainly that accident wasn’t morally significant the way that the tornado in “Wonderbolts Academy” was. Perhaps, in light of using “Newbie Dash” for the “teamwork awareness” lesson, the editors found themselves debating whether it was a good idea to show RD retrogressing on her implied awareness in “Wonderbolts Academy” on how the Wonderbolts really should operate. Maybe they thought that RD had too many episodes centered around her at that point. Maybe they just saw “A Friend in Deed” as more fun for the kids. Maybe they also thought that the scenes where Pinkie Pie keeps on waiting for mail from RD to be too distracting from the main story. It puzzles me in any case. (I should further note, however, that this series is not the only set of pony-themed moral development books that Tongqu has recently published; there is one that focuses on making children feel proud of themselves as unique, and another that seeks to impart a more general “wisdom.”) Conclusion While far from perfect, “Presenting You 18 Good Habits” manages to capture a lot of what makes MLP:FiM so appealing to many bronies: the engaging stories, the impact of the morals, the empathy we feel with the characters, and the creativity it inspires. And probably because it was made with the parents in mind, it is no wonder it attracts fans like me, more than many English-language pony publications. (Or, at least, those who know at least a little Chinese.) Happy Hearth's Warming Everypony!
  4. Season 8 Episodes 1 and 2 "School Daze" Review by EpicEnergy Season 8 Episode 1 “School Daze Part 1” Review Episode 1 Opening: Normally, I don’t have an episode’s opening as an individual category in my reviews, but this is an exception because this opening is the first scene we see of season 8, containing much information right off the start. Since this is the first episode of season 8, this episode indeed has a connection with the previous MLP Movie, but not with season 7. First and foremost, I don’t expect S8 ep1 to take place right after the events in the MLP Movie, which is the Storm King’s defeat and the celebration of a certain festival afterwards, since the occurrences taking place in season 8 indicate at least a few weeks have passed since the events in the MLP Movie. Anyways, we are reminded of the incidents that took place during the MLP Movie and the new areas explored. The recollection in this episode of the MLP Movie incidents serves as a crucial component in establishing a firm foundation for future season 8 episodes because it reminds us that the MLP Movie and what happened in it is canonical; moreover, since most of the places there that were visited will be revisited in season 8, knowing about where they are located, who lives there, and what happened there is highly important. Additionally, the dialogue each character gives in this opening of episode 1 is very informative of what happened after the MLP Movie ended, such as where Tempest Shadow went. Very well handled, writers, I couldn’t ask for a better reminder and account of the MLP Movie, what a way to start an episode with. Moving onward. A good portion of season 8 is about the School of Friendship which reaches out to all creatures. Another portion is about adventuring to those places beyond Equestria on friendship quests. Both mainly originate from Twilight’s decision to start a school. It is this decision that lays the path for many Season 8 episodes, and this decision originates from the MLP Movie itself. This opening tells us about the lake from where a good amount of season 8 flows from. We know why there is a school, why Twilight founded the school, why creatures who are not Equestrians attend this school, why we see more of other lands outside of Equestria, and how these lands were found in the first place. The only issue I have with the opening is the fact that the map expanded without explanation. This map remains a contrived and arbitrary plot-device, which is a large problem to have in a narrative, and having it expand for no given or indicated reason makes this even worse. Consequently, I must subtract a few points for this poorly designed and improperly used plot-device that will most certainly affect future episodes until fixed or removed. Characters: The leaders of the nations outside of Equestria all have excellent personalities and play a great role in this episode, so thankfully there is nothing to criticize here. The mane six are also used and depicted fantastically, the only problem is Twilight Sparkle in a particular scene. The mane six approach Twilight to tell her that going by the book simply isn’t working. It is here that Twilight acts severely out of character, which is somewhat irritating because Twilight has set the book as the ultimate authority instead of her own as the Princess of Friendship. I must take off some points from the rating for this incident being illogical, as Twilight completely ignores all her friends and ignores the disastrous effects of following the book that are clearly evident throughout the school. New characters: The EEA scene is where we see the main antagonist of episodes one and two, Chancellor Neighsay. Neighsay has a somewhat arrogant and very serious personality which seems to be present in the entire EEA organization. This arrogant personality is what fits with his speciesism, which means that he thinks that ponies are higher and more important than any other creature/species. Next characters. In this episode, we are introduced to the student six. Their personalities are quite likeable. The student six are comparable to the mane six, but not to the point where they have completely identical characteristics, personality, and/or appearance. They are well-balanced characters. Plot: Overall, the plot is great in this episode; however, there have a few problems in some scenes. The first scene I shall address is when Twilight and Celestia in Celestia’s school talk about how to run a school. This where Celestia reveals that she and no one else has no authority over the EEA in academia despite her standing as a princess or any other standing whatsoever, like a princess of friendship. I suppose the EEA is some sort of independent organization that somehow manages to be the ultimate authority when it comes to academia, but this area remains unclear. The writers could have made it clearer as to why and how such an organization rose to power. Such a restriction has not been seen in Equestria up until now either, as far as I remember that is, though I won’t take off any points since this doesn’t appear to be much of an issue anyways. I must move on. Next, we see the School of Friendship itself for the first time. I don’t like that it is just there. The writers could at least have somepony say when it was built instead of just having Twilight announce ‘I’ll make a school’ then proceed to have it partially accredited, and instantly afterwards we see a fully operational school building. Hence, I must deduct a few points from the overall rating of this episode. Now I will critique the “friends and family day” scene. It’s good the writers gave us that reason for every leader to be there, because this makes the next scene seem hardly contrived and arbitrary at all. I’m referring to the scene where every single leader hears Neighsay make racial comments. During the chaos beforehand, I noticed Gallus just dropped Sandbar for no apparent reason which knocked over the leaders like bowling balls. Sorry to be so critical of what is meant to be a humorous moment, but Gallus just dropping Sandbar for no reason makes no sense, and Gallus wasn’t even upset or showed any sign of doing that purposely, yet he threw Sandbar very tremendously anyways. Also, Derpy causing both Smolder and Silverstream to crash out of the sky into the food/desert stand even though Derpy didn’t appear to touch them at all makes no sense either. What’s more is that Ocellus destroyed a good and sturdy tower as a large, flying insect, which also makes no sense how she managed to do that. Therefore, I must take off some points. Now for the final scene. Neighsay shuts the school down at the very end of this episode, and then the “to be continued” image pops up, which leaves us with suspense. Nicely done on this scene. Moral: There is no evident moral in this episode yet, because it is only part 1 of 2. Episode Rating: 8.5/10 Season 8 Episode 2 “School Daze Part 2” Review Characters: The characters are well-treated in this episode, so there is no problem here. We also see more characteristics and personalities of the new characters. Plot: The general plot of this episode is well designed as usual, but there are some aspects of it that fail to be genuine. To begin with, the opening of this episode, the usual part 2 MLP opening, consists of a summary of the previous events that took place during part 1. I appreciate this, because sometimes people can’t watch both episodes back to back on certain occasions, and this opening type assists by helping us to recall those events. Next scene, we have Twilight, who has entered a temporary yet severe state of depression. She acts severely out of character here and even entirely ignores her friends, but the real question I’m asking is whether this is reasonable. My interpretation, based on the previous occurrences in part 1, is that going into this depressive mood is in fact reasonable and not illogical since Twilight just had her dreams crushed and her friendships with other nations seemingly ruined, and that Twi tends to overreact; thus, no points will be deducted. The next scene I want to address is the potential world war scene. As a large part of the plot that exists to stir up suspense in the viewers to this episode, this subplot has a few issues that I must mention. The major problem is that all five nations instantly threaten each other that will result in a world war if not dealt with, and that every nation’s reason to start such a disastrous incident is that the leaders simply don’t know where each one’s student went. I find this highly unreasonable, since war, which should be used as a last resort, is used as the very first resort; moreover, we don’t even have any reason why the six students are highly important to the leaders to begin with, except for Sandbar (being a pony) and Silverstream (being the Queen’s niece). For these two reasons, I must deduct some points from the episode rating. Oh, by the way, what also makes no sense is that only the mane six go searching for the students while no one else does anything despite the threat of a world war. Moving onward to the next scene I will address, Silverstream says that she has never seen stairs before, and that this is her first time seeing them. As funny as it is, this is inconsistent because Silverstream was at a school with plenty of stairs to be seen. A simplistic, minor error on the writers’ part, but I still must count off a few points. Next scene. We are now introduced to a strange, new critter species. I would call them the correct name, but since I don’t know how to spell it correctly, I will refer to them as the colorful porcupines (I know, very creative). These creatures are obviously used for plot-convenience, because they suddenly appear right on time to threaten the student six so that the mane six can rescue them, and these critters disappear right after that. Since this plot-convenience is at least slightly subtle, and an attempt was made to make it completely subtle, I will deduct a very small amount of points. The remainder of the episode is great, and I have nothing to criticize in it, so I shall end this section and proceed to the moral. Moral: One may argue that there is no moral in “School Daze”, since it is a two-part episode, and most of those episode categories focus more on the story aspect rather than the moral aspect. I would disagree with that. The major moral is that all creatures are equal. This is symbolic of the modern-day issue of racism. Neighsay enforces the morally wrong idea that ponies are superior than any other race. Twilight demotes this by promoting the morally right idea that all creatures should be treated equally, and that friendship should be available to everyone. It isn’t pleasant when writers force modern-day issues into movies because we have seen enough of it in real-life and because the writers usually force it in there and ruin the narrative, but this modern-day issue is symbolized, and it don’t feel forced at all. This symbol fits perfectly into the theme and context, and it teaches us a very valuable lesson. Episode Rating: 9/10 Additional Areas (if applicable) I’ll be speaking of both episodes 1 and 2 as one episode in this category. Humor: The humor is excellent and solid! I am glad the episodes aren’t overflowing with it, nor are they kept at a too serious level either. It’s the perfect balance for this episode, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. Aesthetics: It’s pleasing to see that MLP S8 keeps the traditional 2D animations despite the movie’s animations. G4 is better off continuing what they started than switching over to 3D animations suddenly, though it wouldn’t bother me if G5 had them. Overall Episode Rating (parts 1 and 2): 8.5/10 Conclusion: There are minor problems in both episodes. The map is of course introduced once more, which a very contrived and arbitrary plot-device; however, it doesn't really play a part in "School Daze" so it hardly affects the rating. There is a plot-convenience in part 1 at the end where the students suddenly become extremely clumsy to further the plot, but the context makes this problem rather miniature and insignificant so this also hardly affects the rating. The second part has an illogical subplot, which is the only major problem out of both parts. Aside from those minor problems, the amount of good content in "School Daze" outnumbers the amount of bad content by far. Therefore, this entire episode is rated 8.5/10, unless you round it off to the nearest whole number which would give it a 9/10, Rating Scale: 0 = the worst of the worst, an absolute failure 1 = an extremely horrible disaster 2 = very dreadful 3 = terrible 4 = bad 5 = mediocre 6 = good 7 = great 8 = very fantastic 9 = extremely amazing 10 = an absolute perfection
  5. AlexanderThrond

    Season 8 reflections.

    This year, I had an exit strategy. If My Little Pony wasn't entertaining me by the third episode of the season, I'd bail. As it turned out, I watched every episode, so clearly this season was an improvement over last year's wretched showing, and there's actually a lot of trends this season which were pleasant surprises for me. At long last, this show is making some serious changes to its approach which have been long overdue, and as it turns out, this season wasn't half-bad. I mean, it's two-fifths bad, and it retains some of the same issues the show has had for years, but it's a small improvement. What season 8 showed me is this: My Little Pony can improve, I can still have fun with it, and the people currently writing the show have no intention of getting their priorities straight. It's still a show which regularly overextends its reach, and it's still a show which has no idea what to do with its own main cast. But it's a more watchable version of that show this year, and even its failed experiments are a bit less dull and rigid than they were last year. It's still a show mostly made by people who care about telling good stories, and that's ultimately what keeps me watching. I just wish they cared a bit more about which series they were writing those stories for. So, first, the good. Most obvious is that the show has finally adopted a seasonal gimmick in the form of a so-called "School of Friendship," where Twilight and her friends teach all of the lessons that they've learned to students from across Equestria and beyond. It's not a gimmick which makes much sense, admittedly, as the show never explains where Twilight or her friends actually find the time to run the school, and none of them ever really seem to know what they're doing. But it's a breath of fresh air nonetheless, and it allows the show to tell stories which are a bit different from the norm. Say what you will about their respective quality, but episodes like "Non-Compete Clause," "Molt Down," and "Marks for Effort" take advantage of the school setting to explore stories which might not have been possible in prior seasons, and even when those episodes are bad, the change in pace is refreshing. Also refreshing is just how much emphasis this season places on continuity. There are multiple episodes which directly reference the passage of time, and "Molt Down" in particular introduces a notable change which affects every episode afterwards. The character of Neighsay, introduced in the premiere, appears briefly in "Friendship University," and characters from earlier seasons make somewhat more regular appearances this year as well, most notably Chrysalis in "The Mean 6," Lightning Dust in "The Washouts," and Rockhoof in "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place." The seasonal villain, Cozy Glow, makes repeated appearances throughout the season, every time seeming more and more suspicious. Don't get me wrong, there's still no tangible running plot, but there's a clear increase in serialization, which is a marked difference from the tepid experiments of prior seasons. In fact, there's definitely a sense that the show's willing to take more risks this season, and some stories here directly cover subject matter which the show was unable to in the past. For instance, the aforementioned "Molt Down" covers puberty in a very recognizable and obvious manner, while all three episodes featuring Neighsay relate to racism and xenophobia, and "The Hearth's Warming Club" explicitly presents a character as an orphan. It's not that the show has never covered these subjects in the past, but this year it seems to feel no need to hide them. A great example is "Father Knows Beast," which mines a lot of pathos out of Spike's missing parentage, not only for Spike, but also for Twilight, who tries to fill the void but worries she can't. Even more surprisingly, the show has returned a good deal of imagination to its worldbuilding. Whereas last season it paired simple parables with aesthetics ripped from world mythology, here it much more cleverly builds upon already established concepts to greater effect. In "Surf and/or Turf," the hippogriffs' divided identity is given a little more detail. In "The Hearth's Warming Club," holiday rituals and cultural stories from various non-pony species are explored. In "What Lies Beneath," the Tree of Harmony is revealed to be a sentient entity which is capable of learning. If there's any quality of this season which is an unambiguous leap forward, it's this, which finally puts the show in a world which lives up to its original groundwork. And then there's the absurd bloat of the cast, which is handled way better than it could have been. Six new characters are introduced in leading roles, and although all of their episodes are together, this ultimately bloats the main cast up to no fewer than 14 characters. That's a lot to juggle, and the show doesn't quite manage to make the balance work, but these "student six" characters get a handful of genuinely charming episodes mostly to themselves without taking attention away from the main six. Alas, this doesn't actually leave them much room to develop individually, so most of the episodes they appear in take a somewhat forceful approach to establishing their personality. "Non-Compete Clause" has Rainbow Dash and Applejack act poorly seemingly for the sole purpose of making the students look better, and "What Lies Beneath" contrives an adventure scenario to explore each character's greatest fears. I found myself rather fond of these characters, but their development could have been handled better. That's a recurring trend in season 8. A lot of the general trends of this season imply the show moving forward, but none of them are executed quite as well as they should have been. For instance, another character who I surprisingly enjoyed this season was Starlight Glimmer, whose caustic personality has been expanded upon while her seeming ignorance of social norms has been greatly reduced. Several episodes, especially early in the season, find her doing nothing worse than speaking somewhat tactlessly, and each of those instances is either reacted to accordingly or actually pretty understandable. But the writers can't resist having her make extreme impulsive decisions, like in "A Matter of Principals," where she casts a weird banishing spell on Discord, or "On the Road to Friendship," where she trades Trixie's cart without bothering to ask first. The thing is, this season has done enough work with her to make her lapses fit in with those of the mane six, and they're at least more interesting than what the mane six actually do this season. If there's anywhere that the school gimmick falls short, it's in giving the mane six something new to do, because season 8 falls back on bickering more than ever, reducing formerly nuanced relationships to irritating bickering that makes you wonder why these characters are friends in the first place. "Non-Compete Clause" and "The End in Friend" have characters act without even the slightest bit of consideration towards each other, and even that is less baffling than "Fake It 'Til You Make It" and "Yakity-Sax," which both have characters behave in ways which are completely inexplicable in the grand scheme of things. In a season which has more direct continuity than ever before, those lapses are all the more noticeable. There are other cases, too, which are more justifiable but still irritating. "Sound of Silence" is another episode which relies partially on bickering, and while at least those arguments are comparatively important and thematically justified, the characters still come across as overly stubborn. Meanwhile, "The Maud Couple" and "The Washouts" make heroic efforts to justify their central characters' behaviour, but can't keep those characters from seeming unreasonably insensitive. Even a genuinely funny episode like "Friendship University" is dragged down by implying that Twilight can't handle anyone making a competing school. The problem is implications: Pinkie Pie is implied to be so fragile that Maud needs to lie to her, and Rainbow Dash is implied to not be willing to accept Scootaloo taking any path other than what she chooses. These implications are appropriate for those episodes' morals, but they reflect poorly on those characters, and create a sense of distance which the show didn't have even as recently as season 6. These don't always feel like the same characters I fell in love with all those years ago. As with last year, I really do think the problem is that the writers come up with ideas for morals first and try to fit the characters into that, and while the results are at least somewhat less dreary this year, they still feel at best like a pale imitation of what the show is supposed to be like. One of the biggest tells is the rise in ambition, which after all of these years still hasn't been accompanied by an actual rise in nuance. "The Washouts," for instance, recognizes how authority figures' actions can push children away, but Rainbow Dash's actions often come across as an exaggerated caricature of such behaviour, making her less sympathetic in the process. On the other end of the spectrum, "Surf and/or Turf" has such a fluffy take on being divided between homes that it barely feels like a real problem, and doesn't resonate with any of the thornier issues it's superficially similar to. This is a regular problem with the season, and even episodes which transcend that, like "Father Knows Beast," suffer from exaggerated character behaviour and overly simplified morals. This show has proven time and time again that it can't live up to its ambitions, so it really needs to scale them back. Moreover, this show tends to be very predictable, so focusing too much on the big ideas doesn't offer enough to distract from that. A good example is "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place," which orients itself so completely around the main idea of Rockhoof feeling out of place in the modern world that it has nowhere to go but to repeat itself for several minutes. If the early seasons got surprising depth out of their simple themes, the new seasons aim so high that they forget that subtlety. Everything is telegraphed at the start, and then repeated several times before getting resolved in obvious fashion at the end. The worst example is perhaps "The Parent Map," which creates a mildly clever parallel and then repeats it every five seconds, because it doesn't trust kids to get the hint. A lot of the topics this show has brought up these last few years beg for a more sophisticated and poetic treatment than what they get here, but a children's show like My Little Pony might never be able to offer that. Still, this season was much less constrained by moralizing than last season, and some episodes clearly have other priorities. "Marks for Effort" and "Molt Down" seem way more interested in character development and creating relatable scenarios than in communicating a grand thesis, and "The Mean 6" has such a simplistic moral that it might as well not be there at all. Stuff like this makes me wonder what the show would be like if the writers approached it like a sitcom, or even a soap opera, because whenever it finally decides to relax a bit, it can still accomplish great stuff. Other episodes, like "Horse Play" and "On the Road to Friendship," find an ideal balance, telling simple stories with simple morals while spending most of their time veering from one gag to another. Ultimately, I guess the biggest issue is that a lot of season 8 still wasn't much fun to me. Here, all I really have to offer is raw numbers: I enjoyed 63% of episodes this season, and my average rating was 64/100. That's a huge leap over last year, but it doesn't even meet the heights of seasons 4 and 6, let alone 1 and 2. The even-numbered seasons are the good ones, but there's been diminishing returns ever since the second season, and this year, the charms simply weren't enough to overcome my increasing boredom and frustration with this show. I should be happy. It's done a lot of the things I've been demanding for years now, and even if the show's still in decline, few shows decline as ambitiously and weirdly as My Little Pony has. But watching this show has become a bit of a chore for me, and at this point it doesn't seem like that's ever going to change. My Little Pony season 8 was alright, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm done with this show. 6/10 Here's how I rank every episode of this season, with scores included beside the title: 1. Horse Play (100) 2. The Mean 6 (85) 3. Marks for Effort (83) 4. The Hearth's Warming Club (83) 5. Molt Down (80) 6. The Break Up Break Down (78) 7. Road to Friendship (78) 8. Grannies Gone Wild (75) 9. School Daze (75) 10. Friendship University (73) 11. What Lies Beneath (70) 12. Father Knows Beast (70) 13. The Maud Couple (68) 14. A Rockhoof and a Hard Place (65) 15. The Washouts (65) 16. School Raze (58) 17. Surf and/or Turf (55) 18. Yakity Sax (53) 19. The End in Friend (43) 20. A Matter of Principals (43) 21. Sounds of Silence (43) 22. The Parent Map (35) 23. Fake It Til You Make it (35) 24. Non-Compete Clause (25)
  6. Hello everyone! If you do not know, I review MLP episodes as part of the show 'Pones N Stuff' on my YouTube Channel, 'The CC Network'. After a long time thinking whether I COULD showcase them here, I've decided to post them to a topic, to see what you guys think of them and putting your own opinions towards the episodes I've reviewed thus far. Sadly, due to only starting the show for Season 7, those are the only episodes that I have thus far. While some may be missing, they will be addressed at a later date. Here's a playlist with all the episodes thus far: I've also started Equestria Girls Month for the entirety of this month, where I'm reviewing the feature films. Only one has been put up thus far, more will follow in the weeks to come: I also do countdowns as well, unrelated to Pones N Stuff, which will be uploaded when they come as well, unless there is a demand to see those as well. All in all, I hope you enjoy the result of my critical and creative labours.
  7. Note: Credit to @Truffles, @Sparklefan1234, @PathfinderCS, and Silver-Quill for this review, which I C&P'd from here with extra edits. This review has been revised to include a little more content. Sludge may be the most hateable non-villain of the series, if not one of them with Svengallop, Garble, Zephyr, and Spoiled Rich. Garble's someone to just hate, but Sludge you love to hate. This slob knows how to con others with no remorse. He wants to lives the luxury life and make you work for it, all the while tugging the right strings to make you fall for his tricks and divide you from who you love at your most vulnerable state. While he freeloads, he's not a stereotype, as he always cleans up after himself and trades his laziness for his brains. Smart, calculating, and very manipulative, he catches himself, remains convincing, and uses Spike's want for biological parentage to bypass all doubts. Several clues indicate his scheming ways before he became more brazen: He stopped jogging on the treadmill to chug the fresh cider…with hilarious results. XD The Wonderbolts held him above them, but he won't fly until Dash lectures him. He doesn't admit to being his father until after he fully recovers (just as he's about to depart) and walks with Spike back inside. Just by his stops and gestures, he's making up his backstory as he goes along, including not answering other questions the RM5 asked, but his tale's canonically logical, and his tears sound real, adding a layer on uncertainty. Silver-Quill brings up this point. Look at the image below: In this shot, she's nearly as tall as Torch, a monster-sized dragon. In the next, she's nearly as tall as Sludge, who's much smaller than him: After his song, he cackles, cutting into Act 3. ^ The synopsis gives away a very important clue: "dad" and "real" are in skeptical quotes. Dismisses Spike after being asked if he wanted to do anything with his son and then casually accuses him of not being a "real" dragon, cutting deeply into his psyche. His name has negative connotations related to muck and sewage. Despite being clean, his personality perfectly fits his name. Because he's so conniving, I'm really glad he's not his father; if he was, he'd be a deadbeat. However, as excellent he is at crafting a façade, this leads to a few big problems I have with it, echoing from @Truffles's review, @Sparklefan1234's comment, and Discord conversations with @PathfinderCS. Spike's hurtful comeback to Twilight absolutely crushes her, but doesn't have the weight. From the beginning of Act 3, the RM6 were already suspicious of him thanks to his sleazy manipulation of Spike and major holes in his backstory previously. Unfortunately, they can't prove anything, and Spike grew so close to him that telling him the truth without being delicate risks fracturing his relationships with the ponies. They must give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he doesn't brainwash him further. Emotionally, the delivery of disappointment feels stilted, further hurting its importance. Spike doesn't truly figure out he was being used until after his conversation with Smolder, and their plan takes place off-screen. Afterwards, everything starts falling into place. Because he figured it out late and needs Smolder's off-screen advice for some closure, the pacing feels a little off. No one can blame Spike for being so disappointed with Sludge revealing to be a phony. After getting so acquainted with him, his reveal's a major slap to his face. Yet, just before it concludes, he starts getting over it and feels mostly satisfied with the only family he has. But as this and DQ demonstrate, wanting to know his family roots matters to him, and he thought he was so close to actually figuring out who his biological father is. Heck, he revealed his scroll of things to do with them and was so happy to do them. As a result, Father Knows Beast's ending feels really hollow and forced. Sludge's backstory, even with the holes, is plausible, and you can fill in the cracks with them. His sobs after telling them his story also feel real. The script and Allspark even built interesting and complex lore behind it with a very unique art style of its own, suggesting a degree of reality into his tale. At the time, he looked very sympathetic and acted like he wanted to reunite with his "lost son." So for FKB to use the Liar Revealed trope feels like a gigantic letdown, and Sludge's reveal alone is anticlimactic. Previous clues indicate he set Spike up, but one big unmentioned red flag is stating he searched everywhere for him. Why does it hurt the story? Because he never recognized Spike nor said his name until after he fully healed. It was only a matter of time before Smolder and Spike craft a plan to out himself for being the fraud that he is. I don't like to harp on predictability in FIM nowadays, because the journey determines the episode's success above the destination, but that blatant piece of foreshadowing really risks sucking the audience out of the story. It's no surprise why many, myself including, feel dismayed. By revealing to NOT being his dad, the episode reverts to the status quo. After all this time, Spike's past remains a mystery. So despite a competent, nicely written story with a nicely song, great comedy (i.e., Sludge chucking SG out of the castle as she bathed ) and one of the best non-villain antagonists of the series, the resolve feels hollow. More could be done to tighten the plot or not feel so isolated from the rest of the series. At the end, I still feel uncertain whether I like it or not. Even after I submitted my initial review in the discussion thread. Nevertheless, it's got some big positives. Spike is very good here. He really wants to do the right thing and tries so hard to impress his "father." Here, we see his vulnerable side and one other flaw rarely exploited that well: his naiveté. He became so devoted with reuniting with what he thought was his biological father that he overlooks when he becomes a sleazy slob. Despite telling Twilight off, her worry clearly was on the back of his mind, evident by expressing his confusion towards Smolder. (This is also the first episode to refer to Spike as an orphan.) The audience sees his personality, how it was shaped, and (despite accusing her of being a fake parent) sympathize with them. His commitment for Sludge was genuine, which made his disappointment feel more crushing. Twilight has one of her more mature secondary outings of the series. Throughout FKB, Twilight is more than Spike's friend, but mom, too (and he sees the others as his family). From thinking he let her down after he was quiet and turned away for so long (punctuated by a really funny pillow reveal XD) to hugging him after he admits to being orphaned. Spike's health and well-being matter to him and will do anything to make sure he's safe, even if it means probably upsetting him. When he revealed Sludge ditched him and wasn't his real dad, she consoled him immediately, equally upset with the results. These shots really show their love for each other: Unlike Sludge, Smolder represented authentic dragondom despite their rough reputation, and she was great at it. When Twilight had trouble instructing Spike how to do tricks, she's there to help, explained that their parents teach them to fly when they're ready, and Spike offers a thank-you pillow to her, who doesn't sleep with pillows. Also, she knew Sludge phonied everything and worked with Spike to out him, because he treated her as his servant instead of his son. When he fled, she comforted him. Sludge is a fantastic, competent, and clever antagonist. No need to repeat. This is Dragon Quest (S2's worst episode by far) done right. How so? Recall the sexist implications and xenophobic stereotyping of dragons by the Mane Six. In DQ, while the RM5 watched dragons, they mocked Spike for looking "feminine" and proudly claimed that he's unlike the "other dragons" because of it. This sexism and xenophobia crossed over to teenage dragons, who are are written to represent dragondom, with Spike disowning his identity until Gauntlet of Fire. These implications are nonexistent here, and Haber wisely dignified dragon culture. Sludge claims he teaches Spike how to be a "real" dragon, but in reality, Sludge is a false representation of dragondom, while Smolder is. Guess who's in the right here. DQ's lesson actively uses racism in a positive light and treats the dragons other than Spike himself as savages in comparison to ponies, creating imperialistic implications that ponies are inherently superior. Thankfully, FKB handles a similar moral much better, this time focused on family over individuality, but Spike neither forgets nor abandons his dragon identity or sees dragon culture as a bad thing. Suspicions aside, they supported Spike's dad and worked with Spike to fulfill his wishes. They were all really charitable throughout the second montage: Pinkie and Fluttershy vs. Spike and Sludge in buckball (Granny Smith the ref): Rarity & Dash mimicking HW Day so they trade presents: Spike & Sludge bake and eat cupcakes together. Accusations of xenophobia from the ponies to dragons in DQ by bronies are justified, courtesy of their racist and sexist language. In FKB, no one acted like that at all, including Twilight. As mentioned previously, everyone's focused solely on Sludge being a terrible person, not because they believe dragons are primitive. When TS expressed concern, Spike retaliated with false accusations, which he apologized for. In DQ, Fluttershy agreed to watch the dragon migration after Dash agonizingly watched the butterfly migration, but punted her chest and cowered away. Here, Fluttershy actively helps him heal and no longer outwardly fears larger dragons. Disappointment aside, is Father Knows Beast a good episode? I believe it is. Compared to the rest of its post-Matter streak, it's the weakest of the bunch, especially so after its excellent run from Road to Friendship to Sounds, but it's still competently written. Hopefully, it'll continue to hold up on its own and age better in the future, but right now, don't expect me to watch it again anytime soon.
  8. Dark Qiviut

    "Sounds of Silence" Review

    Note: Credit to @Truffles and @Justin_Case001 for my review. Am I interested in talking about this episode? No. I'D RATHER SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! For Season 8, Nicole Dubuc brought in a few writers: Brian Hohlfeld, Kaita Mpambara, and Kim Beyer-Johnson. Minus Kaita, each of them have strong connections with Dubuc and worked with her on Transformers: Rescue Bots. Gregory Bonsingore is no exception. But for him, he's a little different compared to the rest. Bonsignore is an award-winning playwright and lyricist: His Off-Broadway play "Gorgonzola: A Cautionary Sicilian Tale" won several awards at a Miami musical festival, including Best Musical and Best Music/Lyrics. So to have an accomplished writer on FIM is a treat regardless of outcome. In his Friendship Is Magic debut, he displays his credentials. This episode covers a lot of information, comparable to Lost Mark or even MMC. But what he does so well is manage it. How? When scenes weren't as important (i.e., the Map calling), little time's used, but when he needs to delve into the important plot points (i.e., communicating with the kirin, finding Autumn, figuring out what caused the vow of silence), he takes advantage. Therefore, despite an abrupt ending, the story flows well. It goes by fast without rushing through. As what Twilight said, this is the first time a set of ponies took part in a second quest, this being AJ and FS. And here, each of them were tremendous. Was Fluttershy scared? Thanks to its ominous name and craggy exterior, more than plausible. The Friendship Express quickly hightailing from its weathered station further and freaky clerk support her fear. But as the episode progressed, her fear starts to ease, starting with helping nearby squirrels gather up bright yellow-to-blue flowers, who in return helped her locate the Peaks's real entrance and their discovery of the kirin. Needless to say, the kirin are gorgeous! Their earthly tones complement really well with their environment and contrast really nicely to the pastel-ly look of AJ and FS. Their manes, horns, toes, tails, and dragon-scale-esque backs are wonderfully designed, with only their brilliant eyes to pop out. And, yes, @Justin_Case001 is right. The tilting of the head makes them look really cute! But the outsider of the clan, Autumn Blaze, is easily the star of the show and takes up the bulk of the run time compared to the others. Pinkie and Silverstream are massive chatterboxes, but Autumn gives them a massive run for their money. She talks a lot and is full of quirks with solid reason. Other than the view and makeshift toys, she hasn't talked to anyone in ages to the point of forgetting or mispronouncing words. AJ is her first companion since Rain Shine exiled her. And her rapid, sometimes flowery, talk is completely hilarious. Her personality is more than charming. It's warm, bright, and optimistic. Even when she's bored, she finds ways to remain eccentric and hopeful to reunite with her clan, evident in many ways, including her gossip with a stick. Oh, and We're Friendship-Bound? You're dethroned! A Kirin Tale is the best song of the season. Nuff said! Not enough? Well, alright. The events Blaze described are quite serious, but because she and the song sound so happy with a boatload of humor (including pop culture jokes referencing Citizen Kane, Hamilton, and especially Phantom of the Opera!), the tone's nowhere nearly that dark. The song itself, written by Big Jim and Dubuc, is really funny with many fantastic lyrics. The kirin society's closed off from outside contact and, if going by the ancient shield Rockhoof used, lived closed off for millennia. Its vow of silence is relatively new in their history, but painted on a nearby rock (and shown to FS offscreen) to remind them of why they accepted this vow. The graphic imagery in itself paints a really dark era of what happened and, to echo what @Truffles stated in his replies, why Rain Shine (the kirin's longtime empress) was completely justified to take such a drastic measure in the first place. The kirin clan devolved into a literal flame war over who'll buy a homemade water pitcher, and their nirik fight destroyed their water supply, flora, and village. But even after becoming homeless, they kept going, and some of them were completely incapable of controlling their temper, hence their sustained nirik form. Had Rain Shine not step in and order everyone to step into the Stream of Silence and suppress their feelings, they'd lose more than just their village, but way of life or even themselves. And in response to those who criticize Rain Shine's plan as flawed, that's the point. Anger's normal, and it's okay to express your anger. But it's important to channel it responsibly. Rain Shine's solution restored order and peace within the Peaks of Peril, but sacrificed being able to communicate and feel without being reminded of why they suppressed their emotions. The following lyrics metaphorize the very moral: Rainbows won't light up the sky unless you let it rain. Shiny apples sometimes come with worms. Candles just won't glow until they burned. And that was why the Map called AJ and FS: to teach them how to constructively moderate their anger and disagree without sacrificing their joy, ability to feel, or fearing to hurt each other's feelings and reunite Autumn with the others. Why Applejack and Fluttershy in particular? For a few reasons. Applejack can tell the firm truth while also being sensitive to their feelings. She's not afraid to express what went wrong or what goes against her core morale without marginalizing them. In short, she tells the truth because she cares. If you have someone like Starlight, you run the risk of undercutting the very moral you're trying to teach, because she's plain and blunt, and with a history as sensitive as the kirin's, even more so. AJ's softer personality balances out better with the conflict as well as Fluttershy's further tenderness and care for the animals who live with them. Fluttershy is way more connected to the animals than anyone else. When they're happy, she's happy, and when they're sad, she's sad. She understands what they want, how they feel, and what they're saying. She inadvertently discovered leftover Foal's Breath flowers for the squirrels, and in return, they help them discover the Peaks' true entrance. Because of her ability to read emotions and understand what's wrong, she's observant in how to properly communicate with the kirin, including advising Applejack to ask yes or no question (even though AJ contrivedly ignored that to begin Act 2 ). Despite being initially frightened, she grew more comfortable around them as AJ searched for Autumn Blaze. Observe how she stopped being scared after Applejack returned to the village. The episode validates both their arguments, which won't work with another pair. Autumn's explanation packs the events with a lot of humor, which masked its seriousness. But because the kirin are mute and emotionally suppressed, Fluttershy fully realized how serious the situation was immediately. Her closeness to the wilderness justifies her to opt for the opposite solution. OTOH, AJ had a valid argument, too, which was find the Foal's Breath flower to free them from their vow of silence so they can emote and communicate again. Both sides have a point, rounding the conflict. It's easy to see why they briefly argued; they were both passionate about solving the kirin dilemma and couldn't find common ground, which they did after Blaze rescued them and used her anger and nirik alter ego to protect them from harm. And @Justin_Case001 makes three great points in his review. This is an episode about communication, more specifically being able to communicate without fear of hurting each others' feelings or starting an argument. Is it important to be sensitive to others? Without a doubt. Otherwise, you suggest you don't care. But it's important to talk to people, communicate with them, and find common ground to compromise without compromising your integrity. While The Cutie Map is about being diverse in your opinions, talents, and personalities, Sounds of Silence is about being diverse in how to communicate and find common ground. As I mentioned before, anger is important and will always be a part of your life. Unfortunately, it's attached to many harmful stereotypes, i.e., the angry black woman, which stigmatizes the emotion. But in itself, it's okay to be angry. Just like anger in itself is important, constructively channeling it is even more important. The nirik's temper were out of control, and until the end, only Autumn Blaze figured out how to manage it without manifesting into something worse. Fluttershy's solution to the friendship problem — keeping the kirin silent — is the wrong option, and she realizes it after they nearly dunked them into the Stream of Silence. However, it's very clear she didn't come to this conclusion with the worst intentions, but instead the opposite. Fire and wood mix easily, and nature is vital to the health of the kirin's secluded village and society. The nirik's temper was clearly a traumatizing event that she and the village altogether don't want to repeat, and this extreme option seemed to be the best one. Observe their faces as they argued: They were clearly distressed. Their heated argument reminded them of what happened long ago. That's why they interrupted it before it escalated. Other than the pacing, cramming of detail, and AJ getting briefly nailed with the stupid stick, its last flaw is how obvious the Foal's Breath flower's impact into solving the friendship problem becomes as the plot progresses. Fluttershy and the story spent a good amount of time arranging it for the squirrels, and its brilliant gradients of blue to yellow with all that detail stand out really strongly against the dirty-looking desert. The fact that Blaze landed in a bed of identical flowers and made a tea out of them connects the dots much more. Yet, they're all very minuscule in the thick of things. Bonsignore's scripting talents really shine with well-done dialogue, pleasant characterization of AJ, FS, and Autumn Blaze, and intelligently simple story. Despite its fast pacing, the script is tight and polished; everything logically flows from one point to another without anything out of place. Since S4, FIM plugs in one episode featuring at least one celebrity guest: Weird Al for Pinkie Pride, Lena Hall for Mane Attraction, Patton Oswalt for Stranger Than Fan Fiction, Felicia Day & William Shatner for The Perfect Pear, and now Rachel Bloom (Autumn's VA) for this one. DHX, now Allspark Studios, puts forth a ton of effort into making the guests belong into the story, and that hard work pays off into an excellent episode (with TPP museum-worthy). Sounds of Silence is no exception. In an already-phenomenal Season 8, this is another addition to the pile of outstanding episodes.
  9. This episode started off with Rockhoof trying to find his place in Equestria by trying various jobs, especially over the first 10 minutes. The episode was a slow building through the early part. The moments with Rockhoof trying various jobs were very funny. This episode also featured the return of a few of the Pillars, showing what they where doing as their job following their return and integration. The star of this episode was Yona, who admitted to him that she wan'ts to be like him when she grows up. By the end, he's anointed the Keeper of Tails. Overall, this was a very good episode. It had an overall good pace, through it was rushed a bit toward the end. Yona was the star in this episode as well. I hope we see more episodes that focus on the individual members of the student six. My grade: 8.9/10 B+
  10. Dark Qiviut

    "What Lies Beneath" Review

    Note: Credit to @Ganondox and Loganberry for this review. Like using Chrysalis to explain past events to the Everfree trees, much of what Vogel uses to start What Lies Beneath is exposition to describe the Tree of Harmony, its history, and purposes. But rather than using a character babble it out, it's told in the context of a classroom lecture followed by studying for a surprise test, and it wasn't all explained immediately or through one mouth. When Twilight lectured, students either asked questions, didn't believe her, or became frustrated over not knowing pony history, organically informing the audience of its lore. Now, whereas HW Club gave the Young Six the boost they truly deserve, WLB expands them further. Each of the Young Six start having doubts over whether becoming friends with others is natural to their consciences, culture, and themselves. Cozy Glow nicely sets up the conflict by going deep into parts of the Young Six's psyche, exploiting areas of their culture and livelihoods that are really sensitive to them. Is it racist? Absolutely; she's stereotyping the creatures as inferior to ponykind, and given how dubious she's been this season, it's intentional. Unlike Neighsay (whose racism is mixed with bitterness), her manipulation is masked with sweet innocence and then changes the subject, as if she meant no harm. Yet, pay attention to the moment afterwards and their little argument that night in the library, started by Gallus after getting annoyed at Silverstream for tapping her claws on the table. Her superiority complex cut deeply in them. And it's at this moment where the episode turns into an improvement of two past episodes: the pilot and The Crystal Empire. To get this out of the way, I agree with both Loganberry and @Ganondox regarding the Tree of Harmony's tests for the Young Six. Not only were they really harsh, but also morally questionable. What if Gallus failed his test? Would he be trapped in the enclosing cavern forever? Would the Tree create another test? Or what about Yona's arachnophobia; will she become so scared of spiders that she'd rather kill them over acquainting them? Fear is reactionary and not always based on logic. (And the dialogue was also a little rough with plenty of repetitive dialogue.) So, why does the Tree get a pass when Celestia and Luna don't? The Tree is omnipotent and understands the characters' strengths, weaknesses, and virtues. After seeing a friendship-related problem, she ties it to being(s) who can successfully heal it. Sometimes it's one, two, or more, depending on who and what they all have in common. Of course, this is a little different, because she tests them to determine whether they can become friends with each other or not. Additionally, despite its strong powers and subsequent growth, it can't fix it alone. Faith is placed upon them, and it's up to them to use their knowledge and friendship capabilities to solve it. OTOH, Celestia and Luna already defeated King Sombra, who cursed the Crystal Empire into disappearance. But after one of their guards alert of their resurgence, what does Celly do? Write to Twilight and place thousands of lives on her shoulders! Conversely, the stakes here are nowhere nearly as severe. In addition to needlessly putting countless lives on the line, they assigned her and her friends to take part in Twilight's challenge, but Celestia warned her that she and only she can save the Empire, contradicting the assignment Celestia placed on her since the beginning of the series. If she goes against the test in any way, she risks failing. So once she's trapped and requests Spike to return the Crystal Heart to its altar, she's rightfully worried, hence her dismay after Sombra's defeat. And the episode also has the gall to emphasize passing the test as the most important plot point over protecting the empire from Sombra, which makes the sacrifice lesson she spewed really hypocritical and phony. WLB counteracts this. Firstly, the Tree can't mandate them to take her test; they choose to explore what was under the drain grate she popped open. When Gallus crossly questioned her tactics, she was precise in her reply. Secondly, from the start, she explicitly tested their meddle to make them prove whether friendship's in their nature or not. She has the wherewithal to know that, yes, they'll break free, but will also not leave until they found each other. Tightening their friendship was the purpose for her tests, and the moral excellently backs her up. And how does WLB improve the pilot, specifically Part 2? Vogel spends a great deal of time equally pacing and exploring each of their fears along with sensible ways to face and beat them. Gallus and Smolder beat theirs first, but WLB doesn't forget about them. Instead, when one of their friends is very vulnerable and doubts if they'll ever conquer their fears, they bond with them more and use their own experiences as an example of overcoming them. The bonding between Ocellus and Smolder has added weight, because changelings and dragons retain an awful reputation (dragons for their brutish nature and history of terrorizing pony villages, changelings for nearly overthrowing Equestrian royalty twice), and the same can be said with Silverstream's horrific belief that the Storm King will reconquer Mount Aris. One little thing that gets overlooked is what Smolder and Gallus say after they arrive at the cave entrance… …AND after reuniting with all but Sandbar: With every opportunity to leave the cave, they willingly risked being trapped to find the others. Twice. No matter the consequences, they were NOT leaving ANYONE behind! Their friends matter, period! When the Mane Six were tested in the Everfree Forest, each one was segmented. When one trial ended, another began, and they were all written in to prove they properly represented the Bearers of Harmony. Sure, individualizing them isn't a bad thing, but by splitting them all up into only a few minutes, none of them had time to develop or breathe. Each segment was crammed, and be being bound to the E/I rating, the stakes weren't heightened as much as they should or paced more evenly. By contrast, Vogel intertwined each and every one of them simultaneously. None of their tasks ended at once, but he neither rushed them through nor ended them abruptly. He gradually built up their fears, exploited them, and ended them properly. What do I mean? They conquered their fears at the right time of the story, used the right characters to help pass their tests, and only after Vogel exhausted development of those fears. No matter the tone, each of their fears are treated with equal validity: Smolder's fear of femininity overtaking her persona was by far the most lighthearted, but the episode didn't treat it as a joke and utilized it as an example of being able to change from who she once was to Ocellus, who recalled how they used to treat others back then. The Storm King was already destroyed, but Silverstream's fear of his return resulted in her cheerful, optimistic personality being replaced to debilitating fright to the point of crying. Gallus realized his "return" was a mirage, but that wasn't enough for her. So he used his fear of small spaces, helped her overcome her fear of his return, and she let it all out to him. How Yona faced her fear was the most different. Gallus's trick foreshadowed what was to come, but when spiders faced her, her strongman personality gave way to intense arachnophobia. When spiders got too close, she was justifiably upset. With no friend she knew around, she wished they were there so she could get out. But in a twist, the lead spider Spindle talked to her. What the spiders were doing was that they weren't trying to scare her. They wanted to help, Spindle leading by example. Language barrier aside, they shared something in common: befriending each other and reuniting her with the others. Recall the second quote box above. Sandbar's fear's more subdued, but nonetheless validated. From the beginning, he focused on returning to his friends so they, "Dash," and "Rarity" can go on this adventure. Every time he questions his teachers' logic, they manipulate him into removing doubt and forcing him to run in a massive loop. Soon, he has enough, questions them outright, and when they express disappointment in him for caring about his friends than them, he turns the tables on them. As he lectures them, his friends arrive and watch from behind, adding more weight into how much they mean to him. He may be the quietest and most straight-man-ish of the Young Six, but he also needs to grow; confronting his fear of disappointment head-on was a fantastic solution. Without the constrictive E/I rating and by rearranging the plot, Vogel legitimized the stakes without phoning them in, which makes us invested in their obstacles, friendships, and outcomes. This next paragraph deals with spoilers for the S8 finale and S9 leaks/speculation, so it's under the tag. Overall, What Lies Beneath is another really excellent episode within S8B's fantastic lineup.
  11. This episode started with a concept we've not seen in a long time, the Rainbow Dash fan club, with devolved into the fan club for "The Washouts". It was a good cold open, featuring Scoots and RD prominently. The first segment featured a good pace, and a return of Lightning Dust, who hadn't be in an episode since her appearance in season 3. RD and LD both let their rivalry be known. A couple of funny moments were sprinkled into the episode in the first segment. Heading into the second segment, Scoots does a tweener turn, becoming a Washouts member. The pacing, and RD saving the day were what made this episode a great episode. The ending was cute as well, It, overall, was a great episode, one of the best of the season thus far. The return of Lightning Dust made the episode good, but what really made this a great episode was the emphasis of the sisterly relationship that RD and Scootaloo have. There has not been enough of these kind of episodes to be honest. It had good writing, a good pace to it, a couple of funny moments, and a great resolution to the episode. My grade: 9.3/10 A
  12. Note: Credit to @gingerninja666, @Ganondox, @Theanimationfanatic, and Justin Galloway on YT for this review, which has been revised to expand my thoughts better and for better editing as a whole. Out of every legend from Season 7B, Rockhoof's was the worst. Combined with being a boring character, the story itself was very bland, and Applejack told the entire thing rather than letting the tale show. It's competent, but completely uninteresting. How ironic that in his first self-contained episode, ARaaHP is spectacular with some of the best characterization of a Pillar since they were first introduced. Hard Place is a "fish out of water" story, an idiom that puts the character in a setting or situation they're very foreign or uncomfortable with. DHX holds none of the comedy back, which had a lot of variety, but mostly came from the characters' reactions, starting off with Professor Fossil. Rockhoof doesn't understand preservation at all, because he lived in the era she continues to discover, emphasized by his destruction of an old sweat lodge (rightfully upsetting her) and triggering the conflict. Fossil's line, which sounded completely innocent on the surface, foreshadows future events while remaining wonderfully subtle: The scene in the auditorium to begin Act 1, while adding on to Rockhoof's inability to adapt to modern times, established connections, providing pivotal context as the episode progressed. Rockhoof's a Pillar, adding to the mystique and adoration from folks across generations. Most of this generation in the School of Friendship's very young, with five of the six unfamiliar with pony folklore. Smolder's sarcasm in response to Rockhoof's first accident is just one opinion (which changed as he told his story of his fight with an Ursa Major), but Yona adored him immediately, because his strength and bravery remind her of yakdom back home. As for the rest of Act 1, there was criticism of what Ocellus said about Discord's stone transformation (Celly and Luna casting a spell) as not being true to continuity. That's not true. From Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 2: Sisters power up the Elements. Them casting a spell. The Elements couldn't turn him to stone alone. And I agree with YouTuber Justin Galloway regarding this point (his comment from this video link): Indeed! Personally, I can't blame the students for feeling excited (and Gallus lying about the class's direction). Learning can be fun, but sometimes boring, and Gallus is the perfect rebel to steer the class and Rockhoof in another direction. The story, despite in small doses and done to further emphasize his trouble to adapt, was really entertaining. To reiterate, the comedy in this episode as a whole is absolutely fantastic. This one in particular is probably the best one. (You know what I'm talkin' about. ) Several other funny moments include: Rockhoof incredulously swatting decorative set pieces out the school window, not knowing it belonged to Rarity for class (and was not created to fool him). Despite all of the carnage inside Twilight's classroom, the worst he can do to her wooden desk is squish it like a marshmallow. Cranky being heavily embarrassed after Cranky announced he had a rash somewhere in his privates. OTOH, in hindsight, this accidental embarrassment was well-earned for Cranky, who spent all day in the school treating the students like garbage on the buckball pitch. During Somnambula's speech, Rockhoof suddenly falls asleep and squashes a mare behind him. XD Despite doing so inside the school (even though Twilight told him to wait previously and didn't react at all to the fire), Spike and Smolder's bond continues to evolve through a fire-breathing competition. Small, but compared to their conversation in Molt Down, they're more comfortable around each other, and she's not so bristly towards him. That said, no matter the jokes or how much Rockhoof screws up, the episode never treats him as dumb at any point, which @Theanimationfanatic points out. Everywhere he works, he's always willing to impress, whether it's delivering the post to the right house, massaging, helping Zecora, or teaching. Wherever he went long ago, his warrior-first instincts aided him, and he applies them here. Today, harmony replaced war. He doesn't need to fight much anymore, especially now with Stygian redeemed. As a result, he screws up, sometimes badly, yet the episode does a great job not making him look worse each time he faults. To expand my reply, his struggle feels real, and he always works to at least try to succeed; at times, he does the right thing, but overlooks one crucial detail, whether it's teaching instead of preparing for battle, trying to relive life on his soil rather than retaining its history, and so forth. As a result, we sympathize for him and root for him to succeed. It's a major strength that the episode worked very hard in getting right. What's more interesting is how most of the Pillars still contact each other and know their whereabouts, but not Rockhoof. Despite their close connection as champions and friends, it also shows us an audience how distanced Rockhoof became since the Pillars split. He goes back home and virtually spends his days there, as if his life is complete. He can keep his shovel, but not need to use it. He remains a warrior, but as the episode progresses, he realizes he's less of a warrior, but now a veteran who can't settle after being gone so long. On the other hand, DHX/Top Draw puts forth a lot of effort to make the other Pillars's adaptations as seamless as possible. My favorite is Mistmane's just because of her work in The Crystal Empire. There are a lot of amazing set designs throughout the series. But Twilight's right. The imagery here's some of the most beautiful ever put forth for the show. The composition, colors, crystal designs, light, shadow, and perspective are so organic to the country. As the episode progressed, Rockhoof's struggles slowly took a toll. Sulking away from the School started it, and his doubts reappeared in the CE scene, especially after he tells her that shovel ponies aren't in current demand. It progresses further by accident after Meadowbrook was able to open her clinic back home and then after Twilight finds Stygian's new novel. Both of these sting him for two reasons: He can't go home. If STYGIAN can adapt, why can't him?! But the final trigger? Accidentally sinking the Aris navy. @gingerninja666 explains that point perfectly: And it's after this when Rockhoof requests to be turned to stone. Mpambara doesn't hide one bit how it's an allegory of suicide, and his (the writer's) logic narrows this down in several key areas: No matter how hard he tries, he's always one step behind, and he can't catch up. Everyone successfully adjusted, but all he does is, in his eyes, ruin his reputation, and it's not only self-embarrassing, but also self-deflating. If he can't rely on using the stars to navigate around the world, then what can he do now? Rockhoof believes his friends are better off without him. Because he can't transition, he believes he looks weak to them, even though he means so much to them and were willing to help him in any way they can. That's why he avoided communicating with them for so long. He understands how much the Realm idolizes him and the others, but he doesn't want them to think of him as the washed-up veteran he became, but the warrior they grew up remembering. Turning into stone means preserving his legacy. Older adults are at highest risk for suicide; for U.S. veterans, twenty died by suicide daily in 2014, 65% of them 50 years or older. @Ganondox even pointed out an even sadder implication of one reason why an elder may commit suicide, and one powerful Golden Girls episode long ago does the same. Rockhoof's generation is long gone; he's the lone relic left. He believes his time has passed him. Additionally, he fears of what's to come. What if he stays un-stoned, and everyone sees him as this old relic who relishes for the good old days? He doesn't want to look old, washed up, and useless. Twilight agreed to write a stone spell, thereby assisting his suicide. The fact that it's temporary doesn't change the implications. Everyone reacted to Rockhoof's wish in complete horror. Twilight didn't want to write it, because she knew he belonged somewhere. But the students, especially Yona, reacted the hardest for obvious reasons. The followup scene in the castle hallway is one of the best of the series. Yona developed a student-to-teacher crush on him, but when his life was in danger, she came right to him, and her idolization for him evolves, evident by the class report she recited. She's in school in Equestria, where no one looks like her or shares her interests; her constant running almost got her into big trouble immediately, and Neighsay spouting racism towards non-ponies doesn't help. Bonding with others eases her fears and makes her feel safe. His ability to be strong, brave, and persevere inspired countless individuals, including her, who's innocent and childlike. Their chemistry and her admiration are incredibly genuine, and the fact she stood up for him and convinced everyone in the school to gather around outside and listen to his stories at maybe the lowest moment of his life makes him realize at just that moment he means so much to them. It fixes a big problem from two previous episodes: Magic Sheep and No Second Prances. Magic Sheep: Luna's Tantabus creation is an allegory of either depression or addiction. Self-punishing with the Tantabus not only reminded her of her crimes long ago, but also gave her an escape from the torment she inwardly suffered. But it's marred by an awfully-executed moral, thanks to its rushed, absolute ending. Addiction and illness don't magically disappear. NSP: After Trixie and Starlight fell out, Trixie acted like she didn't want to live anymore, but it's an unfortunate implication, and Twilight and Starlight doing nothing as she treks into her cannon is just insulting. Here, A Rockhoof and a Hard Place tackled a really dark subject, but took a long time developing the allegory, provided key clues foreshadowing what was coming, and treated it with the delicateness and seriousness it so richly deserves. The moral it teaches — "No matter how hurt, lonely, or hopeless you feel, you matter." — is also magnificently executed. But it isn't just Yona and Rockhoof. AJ and Twilight were really good in their roles, too. Twi may lead the school, but she trusted AJ into conversing with each other and letting AJ help guide her and him wherever he went. Working with him and helping him was a team effort throughout. More importantly, Mpambara keeps Spike in character in Act 3 without looking insensitive. How? With this shot: Spike has a history of being snarky, but thanks to the suicide allegory, his sarcasm, sardonicism, and sometimes blasé behavior won't fit at all to the tone and messaging DHX is aiming. If not careful, viewers may end up hating his portrayal. By opening the act with him asleep and then woken up with a start, the episode instantly sets part of the tone, and his sleepy behavior parades into the classroom, allowing DHX to use his snark for comedy without unfortunate implications. This episode was an amazing surprise. Because Season 8 was so good up to this point, I had high expectations for this one. After watching it the first time, I knew it was great. But watching it again and again helped me pay closer attention to the effort put into creating this wonderful story. Ever since I first watched the S8 leaks last year, I had Break Down as its best. A Rockhoof and a Hard Place replaced it, and it's one of the ten best of the whole show. Bravo! P.S.: Those who read my statuses may have read and followed my episode order, but for those who don't, this is my current top-10 of the series (including Rockhoof): The Perfect Pear The Best Night Ever Crusaders of the Lost Mark Amending Fences Shadow Play Sisterhooves Social The Cutie Map A Rockhoof and a Hard Place Parental Glideance The Break Up Break Down An episode of such a quality deserves such a spot. More can't be said about how amazing Hard Place is.
  13. Preliminary Topic Before I begin my review, I must bring up an essential topic. If you already know why Celestia is a problematic character and what those problems are, then there is no need to read this section. Feel free to skip down to the review at any time. Season 8 Episode 7 “Horse Play” Review by EpicEnergy To begin with, I have much to say about the characters, starting with Celestia. There are three things about her that I want to address. Firstly, the writers fixed the area where Celestia’s ability to raise the sun was diminished due to the Hearth’s Warming story that said unicorns could “bring forth day and night”. Now we understand that bringing forth day and night was not as simplistic as the Hearth’s Warming story depicted it to be, because it required multiple unicorns and Starswirl himself to raise the sun, which permanently depletes the other unicorns of their magic in the process. The strength required to raise the sun is now evident, and it makes Celestia more important and unique. I must commend the writers for providing this significant and needed fix. Secondly, this episode reveals and expounds on more of Celestia’s characteristics, making her even more enjoyable and relatable. Thirdly, this episode creates a negative characteristic in Celestia. Throughout this episode, Celestia interprets things too literally. It starts to get very annoying, but at least Celestia makes up for it in the end. Proceeding, I now will address Twilight’s behavior. Twilight acts out-of-character and bluntly lies to Celestia throughout the episode, which is illogical because she should have listened to Applejack in the first place and she should have known that telling the truth to Celestia would be morally correct and not contradictory to everything Twilight learned. Twilight’s actions are unreasonable, so I must deduct a few points off the episode rating. Lastly, I will briefly refer to the Method Mares. Their involvement in this episode provides even more theatre-related content, adding to this episode’s theatrical theme. The last subject I want to refer to is the moral. It is very basic, and completely unnecessary. It’s also a repeated moral, we obviously heard it before in previous episodes. The focus of the episode was on Celestia and not the moral; consequently, the moral didn’t receive the same treatment, and it is not satisfactory. Everyone already knows not to lie and to tell the truth. Episode Rating: 5/10 In conclusion, this episode focused on making Celestia a better character, and it succeeded despite not fixing every single one of her problems. However, the episode also made Twilight be unreasonable and gave us a basic moral that was already given in previous episodes. I would say that this episode had a balance of positive and negative features, giving it a “mediocre” rating. Rating Scale:
  14. Season 8 Episode 3 “The Maud Couple” Review by EpicEnergy Characters: Let me initiate this review by starting with the primary new character in this episode – Mudbriar. His personality is mainly technicality; as a matter of fact, he is only technical and hardly nothing else. This becomes very annoying over time, since he is always acting and speaking with technicality. Consequently, I must subtract a good portion of points from the episode rating for this. Next, I shall briefly talk about Pinkie. She acts somewhat out of character, overexaggerating too often, which doesn’t provide a natural feel to this episode. Therefore, I shall remove a very small amount of points for this. Continuing, I shall discuss Starlight. She appears to replace the rest of the mane six in this episode by counseling Pinkie and attempting to resolve Pinkie’s friendship problem with Mudbriar. I disagree that she replaces the mane six in this area; rather, I would say that her involvement in this episode has no problems. The only pony who would be qualified to take Starlight’s position would be Twilight, but she is not friends with Maud, so Starlight is the best candidate for this type of situation. Lastly, I want to address Maud’s personality. Maud can now demonstrate with ease her emotions through her tone of voice and facial expressions while still maintaining her normal personality. This is contrary to Mudbriar, as his technicality prevents his emotions from appearing to be genuine. Overall, I must deduct some points from the episode rating because of Mudbriar’s technicality and Pinkie’s highly overexaggerated personality. Plot: The general plot is superb, and well executed. Surprisingly, I found absolutely no contrived and arbitrary plot-devices or plot-conveniences in this episode. As a result, I must commend the writers for creating this genuine plot in this episode. Scenes: In this section I will review specific scenes. I may also skip one or more scenes. Firstly, there is the opening, with Maud performing her “stand-up comedy” that I was really looking forward to after she announced it in the season 7 episode “Rock Solid Friendship”. That isn’t the only amazing aspect of this opening, because the developers also added the “Hayburger” restaurant building into this scene, which was first introduced in the season 4 episode “Twilight Time” (there are a few differences, but it is the same building). Now this is where the new MLP opening song is first revealed. It really needed alteration, since the school and numerous new characters were added, so this change is appreciated since it included the new features of season 8 while still maintaining a few of the old opening features and general flow. The entire opening sequence of this episode is well done. Now I will proceed far into the latter half of the episode toward the scene where we have Starlight and Maud flying kites. Starlight’s kite flying hobby is fantastic and serves to add to her being a great character, so its return makes this episode even more enjoyable. Also, before I proceed to the next subject, one should note that Starlight has kites hanging from the ceiling in her room during this episode. Next, I will discuss the Pie rock farm scene. The writers include Pinkie’s other sisters, Marble and Limestone Pie. It’s very nice to have them back into the picture after a very long time since their last appearance on the show. They are well written, so nice job on this part. They also played a significant role by enlightening Pinkie on what is known as the moral of this episode. That is basically all the scenes I wanted to review, since the remainder has nothing notable that I need to focus on that I haven’t already addressed in this review. Moral: This episode’s moral is well informative and illustrated though the given metaphor. It is amazing how looks can be so deceptive, that’s why I always loved the geode metaphor, a long time before this episode even aired. I own a miniature geode that is within my bedroom up to this day to remind me of how one should not look on the outward appearance and judge someone by that method; rather one should look at the inward gems of another human, the positive side that has so much potential. That is a very considerable lesson to learn, and an even harder one to apply with humans being so judgmental of others. Episode Rating: 7/10 Conclusion: This episode is highly enjoyable in all aspects except the characters. With Pinkie's overexaggerated personality and Mudbriar's technicality, it came become annoying, leaving this episode with a "great" rating. Rating Scale: 0 = the worst of the worst, an absolute failure 1 = an extremely horrible disaster 2 = very dreadful 3 = terrible 4 = bad 5 = mediocre 6 = good 7 = great 8 = very fantastic 9 = extremely amazing 10 = an absolute perfection
  15. Season 8 Episode 4 “Fake It Till’ You Make It” Review by EpicEnergy Characters: This episode centers around Fluttershy, so I will focus solely on this character for this reason and that there are no new characters introduced. Fluttershy acts far out of character in this episode, so the question that should be asked should be based around whether this is inconsistent and whether it makes sense or not. I would argue that it is very inconsistent and makes no sense. It will be evident why I say this in the “scenes” section. Plot: Fluttershy maintains the Manehattan boutique for Rarity and decides to act as the Saddle Row pony’s stereotypical personality to be effective. At first this works. As time progresses though, Fluttershy becomes a more and more unpleasant Saddle Row pony who eventually takes this acting to an extreme that is displeasing even for a Saddle Row pony, which renders her acting ineffective. Now for a short review on this plot. I must complement the writers because they have carefully designed the incidents so that nothing appears to be solely a plot-convenience or an arbitrary plot-device. I must also add that this main plot is laid out nicely, from beginning to end. Scenes: I will review a few individual scenes in this section. The opening scene is great, because it occurs in Fluttershy’s animal sanctuary which is nice to have its appearance once again after its initial development in season 7. This opening also serves to further the plot, providing an explanation of the events that will ensue later in the episode. The next scene I will review occurs a while after this which has something that is plainly absurd. It’s when one of the customers tastes the lukewarm tea and instantly spits it out, and Fluttershy proceeds to lecture the raccoons very harshly afterwards. I’ll refer to this incident from now on as the “lukewarm-tea encounter”. It is at this point, I argue, where Fluttershy losses her character and unnecessarily acts excessively unpleasant. It also at this point that Fluttershy does the completely illogical, which should not have occurred. She does not apologize to the critters, and proceeds to make offensive remarks to the customers while elevating the boutique dresses to a god-like level that no one could buy because they are not worthy. There is a presented reason why Flutters does this, which is also illogical, but I’ll get to that afterwards. For now, I must address another scene before I get to the last part. In this scene, Fluttershy ignores her friends, despite them attempting to help, and kicks them out of Rarity’s shop! I know Fluttershy was acting, but acting does not mean one loses all sense of reason and not know when to stop and take things seriously! The final scene I will review is when Fluttershy admits she became too distracted with her acting, but it fails to suffice as a plausible explanation for her behavior, seeming to be more of an excuse than anything. She says, “I’m sorry, you know I was only pretending right?”. This is a terrible explanation because getting too distracted by acting and pretending to be an overexaggerated and illogical stereotypical Saddle Row pony does not justify being a detrimental employee and horrible friend. In other words, pretending to be someone offensive doesn’t justify being offensive, since harm is inflicted either way if the offended doesn’t know you’re pretending, which is exactly what happened. Also, everyone just forgives Fluttershy after her illogical explanation anyways without even speaking of how wrong her actions were. It’s implying that Fluttershy shouldn’t be held accountable for her actions at all because she was too focused on pretending to be someone she was not!!! I’ll have to subtract many points from the episode rating for this erroneous explanation, response, and implication. Moral: I will now focus on the main moral. In case no one knows what that moral is, it simply is that one has inner strength and need not change himself/herself in order to show it. This moral is highly fantastic, because it is very true and very helpful. Additional Areas (if applicable): Inconsistency with the Season 1 episode “Suited for Success”: In “Suited for Success”, Fluttershy is said, by her friends, to have a freaky knowledge of sowing, which helped her create Rarity’s dress exactly as intended. This knowledge is clearly obvious when Fluttershy gives her real opinion on the dress Rarity made for her a few moments back in this season 1 episode. The inconsistency is that Fluttershy is depicted as having hardly any knowledge of fashion in season 8 episode 4, which even Fluttershy herself admits. Episode Rating: 3/10 Conclusion: Everything about Fluttershy makes sense up to the “lukewarm-tea encounter”, and then everything goes downhill from there. The main moral is exceedingly great, as well as the general plot, but Fluttershy’s behavior is illogical along with a terrible explanation for it. In addition to those problems, this episode also contradicts the season 1 episode resulting in an irritating inconsistency. To conclude, I must give this episode a negative rating. As brutal as a 3/10 may appear, if you line it up with my rating scale you will find it is not nearly as brutal as it could be. Rating Scale: 0 = the worst of the worst, an absolute failure 1 = an extremely horrible disaster 2 = very dreadful 3 = terrible 4 = bad 5 = mediocre 6 = good 7 = great 8 = very fantastic 9 = extremely amazing 10 = an absolute perfection
  16. Season 8 Episode 5 "Grannies Gone Wild" Review by EpicEnergy This episode is impressive. The worldbuilding in it is very appreciative, as Las Pegasus is the setting of this episode, this time without having any antagonist. As if the worldbuilding wasn’t enough, the numerous side characters (old and new) are given satisfying spotlight time that allows them to develop. This also opens the door for plenty of fan-fics and so much potential for the show. I’d also like to add that Jackpot and Trixie appear to be alike, which generates the theory that Jackpot is Trixie’s dad. I would love to see that area explored in later episodes. Proceeding, Rainbow Dash is the only character who presents a complication in this episode, because she acts out-of-character. Acting out-of-character is sometimes inconsistent and illogical, like in the previous episode of season 8 (“Fake It Till’ You Make It”). I would argue that in this episode it is not inconsistent or illogical because Rainbow Dash’s behavior is understandable as she is forced to obey Applejack’s list or face the consequences. That doesn’t make it any less bothersome though. Moving onward, the moral is remarkable. It has been constantly stressed throughout the episode, not in a forceful manner, and is very relatable for many of us. The moral is that old people aren’t as boring and stupid as they are normally said to be. This moral reminds us to respect our elders and not assume unnecessary things about them simply because of their age. Before I close, I wanted to mention that throughout this episode Rainbow Dash uses her wings as hands. As minor as this may sound, it is very creative, and I find it rather neat to have in the show. Episode Rating: 9/10 Overall, this episode is one of my most enjoyed episodes in season 8, except for Rainbow Dash following AJ’s list, which is very understandable in the given context but still can be somewhat irritating in a few scenes. Rating Scale:
  17. Season 8 Episode 6 “Surf and/or Turf” Review by EpicEnergy This episode was amazing, but it did contain a few problems. First and foremost, I must address one of the largest problems in season 8 – the Cutie Map. I briefly mentioned it in my episode 1 review, that it will affect future episodes, and that is exactly what is occurring here in episode 6. I’ll briefly explain the situation – The Cutie Map is already a contrived and arbitrary plot-device, because it suddenly appeared with Twilight’s Castle at the end of season 4 and was largely used after that to mysteriously tell the mane six where friendship problems are and where travel to solve them without any explanation at all. It’s being used to further the plot of many episodes before and many to come yet continues to be arbitrary; thus, it remains to be problematic until an explanation is provided. This arbitrary plot-device mysteriously calls the CMCs in this episode and tells them exactly where to go and gives us no explanation as to why it called the CMCs and how it knew where a friendship problem was. Consequently, this incident affects this episode’s rating. Next topic. The characters and worldbuilding are overwhelmingly superb! There are numerous new characters all over the place. The episode’s story takes place at the majestic Mount Aris, which was first introduced in the MLP Movie. This kingdom is magnificent and has a culture of its own, with new buildings, events, creatures, hobbies, wildlife, and more! The most important aspect is that this kingdom has two separate places to live in: the land (with Harmonizing Heights) and the sea (aka., Seaquestria). I am genuinely astonished at both the characters and the worldbuilding in this episode! Proceeding to the next subject. The moral of this episode has a normal meaning and an allegorical meaning. The normal meaning is that one doesn’t necessarily have to choose between two things, and that your family will accept you for who you are even if you don’t choose. The allegorical meaning focuses on a specific topic, which is the modern-day issue of divorce. After a divorce occurs, the child can sometimes feel like he has no choice but to choose between one parent or the other. The episode is saying that the child doesn’t have to choose, and that he could switch between parents as much as he likes. This is very good advice, but one must take into consideration that it is only applicable to certain contexts. Minor Inconsistencies with other episodes: Before I proceed to the episode rating, I must address a few inconsistencies this episode has with previous episodes. Firstly, in the MLP Movie Twilight is looked down upon by the seaponies/hippogriffs after she intently steals their pearl, yet she walks around Mount Aris without anyone bringing it up whatsoever. How is she suddenly forgiven by the Queen Novo and the hippogriffs for this? I find this to be an irritating inconsistency. Another inconsistency is evident far back, when Twilight says she can’t go to Griffinstone because the map didn’t call her (in the S5 episode “The Lost Treasure of Griffinstone”); however, she easily goes to Mount Aris despite not being called by the map. Why couldn’t she go to Griffinstone for the sake of research, yet she could easily go to Mount Aris for this reason? Like I said, another inconsistency. Episode Rating: 8/10 To conclude, this episode has positive features and negative features, with the positive outweighing the negative by a good amount. It succeeds by far in the worldbuilding, characters, and moral aspects. On the contrary, it had a severely contrived and arbitrary plot-device that is only made worse through this episode. This episode also has a few minor inconsistencies with previous episodes. Rating Scale:
  18. Sisterhooves Social - 95 The Best Night Ever - 92 The Perfect Pear - 92 Amending Fences - 91 Crusaders of the Lost Mark - 90 Party of One - 90 The Cutie Map - 89 Rarity Takes Manehattan - 89 A Rockhoof and a Hard Place - 88 Sweet and Elite - 88 Sounds of Silence - 87 Twilight Time - 87 Where the Apple Lies - 87 The Cutie Re-Mark - 86 Sleepless in Ponyville - 86 Lesson Zero - 86 Winter Wrap Up - 86 Friendship University - 86 Road to Friendship - 86 The Mane Attraction - 85 Green Isn't Your Color - 85 The Cutie Mark Chronicles - 85 Flutter Brutter - 85 Dragonshy - 85 Suited for Success - 84 Trade Ya! - 84 Marks and Recreation - 84 The Break Up Break Down - 84 Pinkie Pride - 84 Rock Solid Friendship - 84 The Hearth's Warming Club - 83 Horse Play - 83 Scare Master - 83 Grannies Gone Wild - 83 What Lies Beneath - 82 Once Upon a Zeppelin - 82 Secret of My Excess - 82 The Washouts - 82 Top Bolt - 82 Maud Pie - 82 Shadow Play - 82 The Return of Harmony - 81 The Ticket Master - 81 Putting Your Hoof Down - 81 Forever Filly - 80 Hearth's Warming Eve - 80 Surf and/or Turf - 79 P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View) - 79 Call of the Cutie - 78 Stranger than Fan Fiction - 78 Discordant Harmony - 77 On Your Marks - 77 Simple Ways - 77 Applebuck Season - 77 Hurricane Fluttershy - 76 A Dog and Pony Show - 76 Fall Weather Friends - 75 Hearthbreakers - 75 Castle Mane-ia - 74 Look Before You Sleep - 74 Brotherhooves Social - 74 Dragon Quest - 74 Dungeons & Discords - 73 Twilight's Kingdom - 73 Sonic Rainboom - 73 The Gift of the Maud Pie - 73 A Health of Information - 72 Friendship is Magic - 71 Uncommon Bond - 71 The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone - 71 A Friend in Deed - 70 Appleoosa's Most Wanted - 70 Wonderbolts Academy - 70 Buckball Season - 70 The Parent Map - 70 Equestria Games - 70 Marks for Effort - 70 The End in Friend - 69 The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows - 69 Swarm of the Century - 69 Inspiration Manifestation - 69 Applejack's "Day" Off - 69 Molt Down - 69 Apple Family Reunion - 68 Griffon the Brush Off - 68 Over a Barrel - 68 To Change a Changeling - 68 Rarity Investigates! - 67 Parental Glideance - 66 Hearts and Hooves Day - 66 Castle Sweet Castle - 65 Rainbow Falls - 65 Father Knows Beast - 65 The Last Roundup - 64 Family Appreciation Day - 64 A Royal Problem - 63 It Isn't the Mane Thing About You - 63 Luna Eclipsed - 62 Flight to the Finish - 62 A Hearth's Warming Eve - 61 Somepony to Watch Over Me - 61 Filli Vanilli - 61 School Daze - 60 Campfire Tales - 60 A Flurry of Emotions - 60 The Fault in Our Cutie Marks - 60 Fluttershy Leans In - 60 The Saddle Row Review - 60 Made in Manehattan - 60 Canterlot Boutique - 60 Pinkie Apple Pie - 60 Bats! - 60 The Hoofields and the McColts - 60 Magical Mystery Cure - 59 All Bottled Up - 59 For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils - 59 Stare Master - 59 Make New Friends but Keep Discord - 59 Princess Spike - 59 No Second Prances - 58 A Bird in the Hoof - 58 The Maud Couple - 58 Bloom & Gloom - 57 Feeling Pinkie Keen - 57 Triple Threat - 57 Celestial Advice - 56 Viva Las Pegasus - 56 Hard to Say Anything - 56 Princess Twilight Sparkle - 56 The Crystalling - 55 Leap of Faith - 55 Not Asking for Trouble - 55 Spice Up Your Life - 54 A Canterlot Wedding - 53 28 Pranks Later - 52 Read It and Weep - 52 Games Ponies Play - 51 A Matter of Principals - 51 Bridle Gossip - 51 Yakity-Sax - 51 Keep Calm and Flutter On - 50 Fake It 'Til You Make It - 50 The Cart Before the Ponies - 50 Honest Apple - 50 MMMystery on the Friendship Express - 50 Secrets and Pies - 49 Ponyville Confidential - 49 The Times They Are a Changeling - 49 May the Best Pet Win! - 48 The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 - 47 Daring Done? - 47 It's About Time - 46 The Mean 6 - 46 The Cutie Pox - 45 Newbie Dash - 45 Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep? - 45 Every Little Thing She Does - 44 Just for Sidekicks - 44 Party Pooped - 43 Gauntlet of Fire - 42 Owl's Well That Ends Well - 40 The Show Stoppers - 40 Magic Duel - 40 Too Many Pinkie Pies - 39 Non-Compete Clause - 39 Daring Don't - 38 Boast Busters - 37 The Crystal Empire - 37 Tanks for the Memories - 36 To Where and Back Again - 36 Three's a Crowd - 35 The Mysterious Mare Do Well - 35 Power Ponies - 35 One Bad Apple - 32 Baby Cakes - 30 Testing Testing 1,2,3 - 29 It Ain't Easy Being Breezies - 28 Spike at Your Service - 26 Fame and Misfortune - 23 Slice of Life - 18 What About Discord? - 16
  19. RATING SCALE: 91-100: Masterpiece 81-90: Absolutely amazing 71-80: Great 61-70: Good 51-60: Flawed, but still has merits 41-50: Bad far outweighs the good 31-40: Bad 21-30: Horrible 11-20: Vile trash 1-10: Kill it with fire Season 1: Friendship Is Magic: 71 The Ticket Master: 81 Applebuck Season: 77 Griffon the Brush Off: 68 Boast Busters: 37 Dragonshy: 85 Look Before You Sleep: 74 Bridle Gossip: 51 Swarm of the Century: 69 Winter Wrap Up: 86 Call of the Cutie: 78 Fall Weather Friends: 75 Suited for Success: 84 Feeling Pinkie Keen: 57 Sonic Rainboom: 73 Stare Master: 59 The Show Stoppers: 40 A Dog and Pony Show: 76 Green Isn’t Your Color: 85 Over a Barrel: 68 A Bird in the Hoof: 58 The Cutie Mark Chronicles: 85 Owl’s Well that Ends Well: 40 Party of One: 90 The Best Night Ever: 92 Season 2: The Return of Harmony: 81 Lesson Zero: 86 Luna Eclipsed: 62 Sisterhooves Social: 95 (favourite episode) The Cutie Pox: 45 May the Best Pet Win!: 48 The Mysterious Mare Do Well: 35 Sweet and Elite: 88 Secret of My Excess: 82 Hearth’s Warming Eve: 80 Family Appreciation Day: 64 Baby Cakes: 30 The Last Roundup: 64 The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000: 47 Read It and Weep: 52 Hearts and Hooves Day: 66 A Friend in Deed: 70 Putting Your Hoof Down: 81 It’s About Time: 46 Dragon Quest: 74 Hurricane Fluttershy: 76 Ponyville Confidential: 49 MMMystery on the Friendship Express: 50 A Canterlot Wedding: 53 Season 3: The Crystal Empire: 37 Too Many Pinkie Pies: 39 One Bad Apple: 32 Magic Duel: 40 Sleepless in Ponyville: 86 Wonderbolts Academy: 70 Apple Family Reunion: 68 Spike at Your Service: 26 Keep Calm and Flutter On: 50 Just for Sidekicks: 44 Games Ponies Play: 51 Magical Mystery Cure: 59 Season 4: Princess Twilight Sparkle: 56 Castle Mane-ia: 74 Daring Don’t: 38 Flight to the Finish: 62 Power Ponies: 35 Bats!: 60 Rarity Takes Manehattan: 89 Pinkie Apple Pie: 60 Rainbow Falls: 65 Three’s a Crowd: 35 Pinkie Pride: 84 Simple Ways: 77 Filli Vanilli: 61 Twilight Time: 87 It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies: 28 Somepony to Watch Over Me: 61 Maud Pie: 82 For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils: 59 Leap of Faith: 55 Testing Testing 1, 2, 3: 29 Trade Ya!: 84 Inspiration Manifestation: 69 Equestria Games: 70 Twilight’s Kingdom: 73 Season 5: The Cutie Map: 89 Castle Sweet Castle: 65 Bloom & Gloom: 57 Tanks for the Memories: 36 Appleoosa’s Most Wanted: 70 Make Friends but Keep Discord: 59 The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone: 71 Slice of Life: 18 Princess Spike: 59 Party Pooped: 43 Amending Fences: 91 Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?: 45 Canterlot Boutique: 60 Rarity Investigates!: 67 Made in Manehattan: 60 Brotherhooves Social: 74 Crusaders of the Lost Mark: 90 The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows: 69 Hearthbreakers: 75 Scare Master: 83 What About Discord: 16 The Hoofields and the McColts: 60 The Mane Attraction: 85 The Cutie Re-Mark: 86 Season 6: The Crystalling: 55 The Gift of the Maud Pie: 73 On Your Marks: 77 Gauntlet of Fire: 42 No Second Prances: 58 Newbie Dash: 45 A Hearth’s Warming Eve: 61 The Saddle Row Review: 60 Applejack’s "Day" Off: 69 Flutter Brutter: 85 Spice Up Your Life: 54 Stranger than Fan Fiction: 78 The Cart Before the Ponies: 50 28 Pranks Later: 52 The Times They Are A Changeling: 49 Dungeons & Discords: 73 Buckball Season: 70 The Fault in Our Cutie Marks: 60 Viva Las Pegasus: 56 Every Little Thing She Does: 44 P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View): 79 Where the Apple Lies: 87 Top Bolt: 82 To Where and Back Again: 36 Season 7 Celestial Advice: 56 All Bottled Up: 59 A Flurry of Emotions: 60 Rock Solid Friendship: 84 Fluttershy Leans In: 60 Forever Filly: 80 Parental Glideance: 66 Hard to Say Anything: 56 Honest Apple: 50 A Royal Problem: 63 Not Asking for Trouble: 55 Discordant Harmony: 77 The Perfect Pear: 92 Fame and Misfortune: 23 Triple Threat: 57 Campfire Tales: 60 To Change a Changeling: 68 Daring Done?: 47 It Isn’t the Mane Thing About You: 63 A Health of Information: 72 Marks and Recreation: 84 Once Upon a Zeppelin: 82 Secrets and Pies: 49 Uncommon Bond: 71 Shadow Play: 82 Season 8 School Daze: 60 The Maud Couple: 58 Fake It ‘Til You Make It: 50 Grannies Gone Wild: 83 Surf and/or Turf: 79 Horse Play: 83 The Parent Map: 70 Non-Compete Clause: 39 The Break Up Break Down: 84 Molt Down: 68 Marks for Effort: 70 The Mean 6: 46 A Matter of Principals: 51 The Hearth’s Warming Club: 83 Friendship University: 86 The End in Friend: 69 Yakity-Sax: 51 On the Road to Friendship: 85 The Washouts: 82 A Rockhoof and a Hard Place: 88 What Lies Beneath: 82 Sounds of Silence: 87 Father Knows Beast: 65 School Raze: ? My Little Pony: The Movie: 67
  20. Dark Qiviut

    "Road to Friendship" Quickieview

    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 Man 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.
  21. So, after a long time of nothing for me, i decided to give a little retrospective to two Games i played trough, the first 2 Dc Comics based Playstation 1 Games, which are both based on Batman. I will give my personal Opinion on them and give one hint for each game, to make the game easier. Batman Forever - The Arcade Game This game is based on the Movie Batman Forever, not only would it be better to watch the Movie first, it is required that you watch the Movie first, because this is one of those Games that explain nothing. There are no real cutscenes, there is no real Dialog except for some Audio Clips from the Movie, which are like 4-5 Catch Lines and thats it. The Levels seem unrelated to each other and if you dont know the Plot of the Movie, you will probably dont understand anything that goes on in this Game. Apart from the lack of Story telling ( except for the Manual maybe ), the game also lacks a save feature. Yeah sure, you can save, but only your Highscores. In the Game itself you cant save anything and you have to play trough the entire game at once, without passwords, without stops and no way to recover continues. And the Highscores are so easy to beat in contrast to the actual game, that you dont even have to play the entire game to already break every record. So whats the point in even trying? You get nothing if you beat the game, except for some Credits. Apart from these negative things, the game is kinda fun. Its just that the difficulty is so high, even on the easy setting, that i wasnt even able to beat this game. So the game was fun for like 2 Days until i realized that i wasnt getting anywhere and i looked on the Internet for help. I am no gaming god and those beat em up games, specially arcade ones, are just to difficult for me. So all in all, the game was just okay. It was meh. Mediocre. Was fun for a few Days then it turned into frustration. HINT: Get a second Controller, once you run out of Continues for the first Player and are on your last life, press start on the second Controller and you get the same amount of Continues again, that you had with the first player and then you just continue the game as the second Player. If you choose 7 Continues on the Menu Screen, you get 14 Continues in total with this play method. Batman & Robin Oh, Batman and Robin...made by the same People that made the other Batman Game. Based again on a Movie of the same name, this game shares some similarities. With that i mean, that even if this Game now has Cutscenes, it still explains barely anything and some cutscenes dont even make sense because they didnt even happened in the Movie that way. EXAMPLE ( SPOILER ALERT ) : The very last cutscene, Mr Freeze is defeated and on the ground and Batman just trows some Jewelry from his sick wife on the Ground. Um...in the Movie he explained that they cured his wife from a disease, in this game this scene could also simply mean, that his wife his dead and Batman just trows her Jewelry on the Ground to really break Mr. Freezes spirit or something. Also it explains freaking nothing, if you havent watched the Movie. Apart from the lack of Story telling again, this game is also lacking in telling you what the heck you are supposed to be doing. Instead of giving you Missions, this game is basically telling you, that you have to find that out by yourself. By collecting Clues...which most of the time tell you nothing about the place you should be going. I started this Game so many times over again, because i got stuck with the hints and had no idea where i was supposed to be going...i dont get it. Some People defend this Game by saying : "Just get the clues, dummy !" I DID! I FREAKING DID AND THEY TOLD ME ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!! Most of this Clues arent even Mission related and just tell you Story stuff, that might have been better explained with some cutscenes. So, let me get this right...in order to even be able to play the damn game, you have to collect every single Clue in the game, because of so many unhelpful ones, while at the same getting shoot down by constant spawning enemys and dying constantly. Okay...maybe this would have been fine, if this Game wouldnt also have a TIME LIMIT! How the heck are you supposed to do all of this? During a time limit? Every single time, before every Mission? This game is so unnecessary complicated, difficult and outright frustrating that i really wonder how anyone would have fun while playing this. Sure, the Graphics look nice, the Cutscenes look alright, the Music is great and the Grand Theft Auto Style of Gameplay is impressive for Ps 1 Standards! I love it ! But everything else pulls this game way down. All in all this game gets the same rating as the other one, its okay and i really want to say that its kinda good, because of the good graphics, the interesting gameplay, but its confusing and frustrating game mechanics make this game almost unplayable without a guide. Its really a shame, i really would like to say that the game is good, but without a guide...its horror. HINT: Apart from the obvious Hint, to just use a Guide or Walktrough for help, there is another thing. I only tried this on the third day in the game, but it should also work on the other days, i hope. To get Full Life and every single Life Ball for recovery, just go into the Museum at any point ( after you have beaten the first Mission in there of course, otherwise you fail the mission if you just go in and out of the museum while there is a robbery XD ). Go straight forward to the closed main Door, go to the right side and press the Button on the wall. A platform on the left side will go down, quickly run to the left side, glide down to a small room before the platform goes up again and once your down there, get the red item. It will give you 2 Life Balls or Life Pallets or whatever they are called. Go out of the Museum and go back in again, the Red Item will appear every single time. With this Method you can get your full life back before every single Mission, which makes this game so much easier.
  22. Dark Qiviut

    episode review "The Mean Six" Review

    Note: Credit to @Jeric, @PathfinderCS, and @Captain Clark and conversations with them on Discord for this review. One of The Return of Harmony's biggest strengths is its clever execution of the Discorded Mane Six. Discord manipulated each and every one of them — sans Fluttershy for humor's sake — into exposing a major internal weakness, such as Applejack fearing no one loves her and running away from the idea and Rainbow Dash fleeing the labyrinth and leaving her friends behind to protect Cloudesdale. Twilight's slow progression of losing her denial that her friends still cared and had some good left in them was a masterpiece of a villain's accomplished deeds breaking down a strong character's confidence so much that she abandoned the Magic of Friendship. Now with Discord a good guy, warping the Mane Eight into Discorded versions of themselves doesn't make sense anymore. But Mike Vogel brings the idea back in clever fashion while still keeping their presence fresh in The Mean 6. Chrysalis crafts a spell to create copies of them. Poorly crafted, apparently. Instead of creating exact mirrored personalities of every Discorded Six, three of Chrysalis's Mean Six are switched up a little in order to be unpredictable and to increase potential for both friction and comedy. Rather than be Rainbow Ditch and wrap up major delusions of Cloudesdale being safe and protected, Mean Dash — who I call "Lazy Dash" — is completely apathetic of everything around her. No matter the interest or urgent, she'd rather fly and sleep. Pinkie Pie in both TRoH and TM6 is a major grump, but Mean Pinkie in TM6 — "Bordie Pie" — finds everything so boring instead of being Chef Hater Pants. TM6's version, Twilight Snarkle, stands out the most for a few reasons, one of which is how much she completely differs from Twilight Quitter in TRoH. She's very snarky with a very keen ability to tap into someone's weak spot to make them pay attention to her. More about her later. Vogel uses Chrysalis's desperation and status to recap past events. Occasionally, Season 8 hides its exposition very organically, The Mean 6 being one of its smartest iterations. Rather than just have Chrysalis spill everything, she explains to still photos of the RM6 of what she used to be, what happened to her now, and what she wants to do next. Each lines oozes with a wide range of personality, from extreme cockiness — i.e., her little prance with matching music — to a lust to conquer Equestria to a deranged thirst for Starlight's pain and destruction. Now that she no longer controls her kingdom and is all alone, she'll do anything to reclaim her credibility as threat to Equestria, and creating half-baked clones of changelings exemplifies her desperation and status. Chrysalis has always been a mixed bag. Very threatening with a slab of ham as her thorax, but often woefully incompetent. Whenever she's ready to conquer Equestria, she overlooks one major flaw in her plan or concentrates more on her own ego over conquering the kingdom. In ACW, she sent Twilight to the same dungeon as the real Cadance and didn't take SA's bond with Cadance so seriously. Rather than capture every single threat to her revenge, she willingly left Starlight behind. So, why is The Mean 6 her best role by far? The episode wisely uses her current status as a solid alibi for why Plan A lacked a major failsafe. When Snarkle criticized her for not attacking the ReMane 7 at the School, she knew right away that trying to destroy them would backfire big time. Defeating Celestia in ACW was by luck, which she and TM6 are aware of. The Elements of Harmony are Equestria's key for maintaining security, but very few are acutely aware of how powerful the Elements are. Until later in this episode, she had no idea the Elements feed the Tree nor of its existence. Among the collection of eccentric villains, she plays the straight woman. Comedy drives the communication between the Mean 6 and Chrysalis; how they respond and react to each other determines the joke's effect. Aside from Snarkle, Chrysalis is the most competent of the Evil Seven, but Chrysalis's quick temper and Snarkle's ability to force QC to depend her really makes her stand out. Without an army anymore, she must not only create something from scratch, but also depend on them. Each clone is headache-inducing and willfully disobedient, but must keep them alive, because they are the possible source to take down the ReMane Seven. Yet, Chryssie knows she can start over and adjust to spell to force the Mean Six to obey her, hence her threat to kill Snarkle just before Act 2 closes. But once she runs out of patience and loses control, she's incredibly threatening. (BTW, kudos to DHX for outlining Chrysalis's shadow as Rarihoard, Boredie Pie, and Liarjack nod nervously. Really emphasizes her intimidation.) The Mean Six, however, share her spotlight and are all great in their own ways. Flutterbitch (or Flutterbrute, for tact's sake) remains just as funny as ever. Nasty, self-serving, sarcastic, and menacing — and a really big bully. Forced a lost bird to walk and climb back to his nest his nest, then told animals living nearby she hopes they freeze to death, and then followed up with classic flower-flattening. She taunted animals and relished it, which Discorded Flutterbitch didn't do (instead smugly cheering Angel on for flattening Twilight). Liarjack would make Discorded!Liarjack feel jealous. Each of her lies are bigger, more outlandish, and meaner. What started out as a small swindle grew grander and grander. Watching AJ try to string together an impromptu lie explaining Flutterbitch, Rarihoard, and Snarkle's whereabouts is just one example of the hilarity, but how our heroes respond to her meanness is where they're strongest. More about that later. Gladly. Despite few lines, she made the most of it. My favorite is this: During RoH, Greedity was a great source of comedy. Rarihoard makes her look sane. Look at her faces! Creepy, ain't they? So why do they work, unlike this, this, this, or THIS? Because of who the source of the joke is. As Rarihoard hogged onto more and more stuff, the more obsessed she became. Her faces accentuated her lust for anything, especially when she caught eye of Applejack's wagon, an immediate trove of treasures. Similar to Return of Harmony, comedy is plentiful in The Mean 6, Rarity's deranged faces a source of it. Grumpie Pie was excellent, and Bordie Pie was just as great. Andrea Libman performed really well emphasizing hooooowwwww boooorrrred she is. But the post-production knows how to counter-balance her boredom with some humor, too: In the beginning of the video linked above, her hair subtly squeaks as she moves her head. But the best one, without question, is Twilight Snarkle. While the ReMean Five are comic antonyms of the ReMean Five, she's the most fleshed out. Extremely calculating, power-hungry, and very snarky, she balances out her villainy through manipulation. Chrysalis cannot defeat Twilight alone; Snarkle understands this through her questions and snarky comebacks. This little bit demonstrates their chemistry masterfully: Fantastic the episode's overall dialogue quality is, their organic exchanges really sell the chemistry. Kathleen Barr — QC's VA — and Tara Strong take advantage of the script to craft excellent tension between each other. Chrysalis rightly couldn't stand Snarkle and the others for being so uncooperative, while Snarkle rightly kept her on a tightrope so she can take out Chrysalis when she least expects it. Very clearly, they can't stand each other. Even when she ain't with Chrysalis, she figures out a way to deliver a shot at her, enforcing her hatred of her and her servants: There are many ways to create a great villain, but the foundation is being a great character; that is highlighted very well through her ability to manipulate a very naïve Pinkie Pie in Act 2. When an evil alicorn evilly rubs her feathers together like hands… …you know ye got her good. >) At the same time, she acts like the straight mare, showing off how dynamic she is. Her sour impatience progressed to anger as Pinkie recaps the events of Twilight's Kingdom creates great friction between them, especially after the fact that Pinkie doesn't know that at all. Oh, yeah, the "bzzt!" sound effect is really funny. XD But the Mean Six aren't alone. The ReMane Seven star here, and they were all done very well, particularly in one aspect: the conflict. From the opening shot, everyone was tense, particularly Twilight. Because "Shutterbug" pushed them ten minutes behind schedule, Twilight slowly lost her cool, and then rolled her eyes when Shutterbug exaggeratedly pleaded for forgiveness. To briefly go on a tangent, Shutterbug/QC's haste to collect their hairs contained several great jokes, like yanking on Dash's tail hair a little too hard, picking out a loose strand from AJ's hat (and not putting it on her head), and this lightning-quick meta reference: But it wasn't just the opener. The beginning of their trek alone is an excellent exercise of foreshadowing. Rainbow Dash questioned Twilight's activities as "fun." Even though all seven agreed to camp, Twilight's plans were kept secret, apparently with little input from anyone. Granted, Twilight designed this camp night to be a surprise, but it made Dash a little uncertain. Adding the nervous rubbing of her hooves helps, too. Pinkie Pie accidentally scared the daylights out of Fluttershy so badly that she hyperventilated, just moments after FS declared her happiness for quiet time with everyone. Unlike Filli Vanilli, this was quick, performed once, and with no ill intentions whatsoever. Not to mention Pinkie warned everypony she was playing beforehand. Starlight sulked the entire time. While her friends were grouped together in front, she lagged behind and grumbled at the swampy weather and bugs. It's her first camping vacation…and showed to hate it without saying it outright. To talk a bit regarding two of the RM7: Pinkie had one of her most likeable roles of the last two seasons, and how she behaves embodies the Element of Laughter. She's so happy to be with everyone and so eager to participate in Twilight's camping retreat. Teaching inside that school meant having few free days to spend quality time with everyone, so she takes the opportunity to take advantage of it. Watching her smell those roses so deeply and then roll around in them like a little baby (and avoiding any thorns ) is unbelievably adorable. Being a massive Starlight brony since she first arrived, it makes no sense avoiding her. In the last few outings, she's been very relatable, and this is no exception. Her immense distaste for camping is really relatable, especially with her reasons why (bugs and humidity ain't no fun), and struggling to keep AJ's gear and cloak on invited nice slapstick. As they trekked deeper into the Everfree Forest, her anxiety, exhaustion, and lack of enjoyment became more and more evident. More about her later. Speaking of anxiety, the whole second scene progressed the tension further while maintaining their close relationships. Rarity and AJ mildly spar over AJ not having anything to keep their manes neat. Even though Pinkie is so cute rolling in the rosebushes, Twilight is less than enthused and got really cross with her for nearly kicking her into the muzzle by accident. But Pinkie's having way too much fun that she doesn't notice and scampers deeper into the forest, building up more tension between them. Fluttershy wanders off into the forest to help a lost bird without telling anyone, leading everyone into splitting up to search for her and Pinkie and further testing Twilight's will. At this juncture, TM6 was really good. When they separated and met another Meanie, it became great. Even though the ReMean Five are sorta cookie cutters, they're dynamic, too, evident by their interactions with the Mane characters and environments. As I wrote previously, Lazy Dash spoke little and wasn't on screen much in the second act, but generated more conflict by ditching FS in the woods and shooing away Twilight while she leaned precariously over the pond. Throughout the episode, nobody suspected something was wrong with their counterpart, except Dash and AJ with "Rarity." Because she grew madder as she possessed AJ's camping gear, they worried for her sanity. As I wrote previously, Rarihoard's deranged expressions are a great source of dark humor, but how Dash and AJ behaved bewilderingly around her adds an extra layer into the jokes. Liarjack's encounter with Starlight and Rarity is the only one to not be comedic, and their first scene marks the episode's initial transition in tone, which will be discussed below. Flutterbitch/Flutterbrute never bumped into or talked into a Mane character, but like Fluttershy, a bird has to return to his nest and got lost. But while Fluttershy helped out their sibling, she got lost and walked around in a proverbial circle, giving the story a grand opportunity to use Flutterbrute to accidentally damage her rep in the forest. Doesn't help when Lazy Dash ditched her (and made FS break the fourth wall in confusion). Yet, because Fluttershy has no idea someone who looks just like her threatened the animals and destroyed the daisy patches, who can blame her for feeling so upset when the animals curse, growl, and yell at her? Ya can't. Snarkle and Bordie talked to one apiece: Pinkie and Twilight, respectively. Bordie, being Equestria's most boring pony, did what she's great at: insulting something exciting as lame and uninteresting. Because Twilight spent a great deal of time and effort preparing the campsite and when to have it, to have her Friendship Retreat blown off like that by someone she's supposedly close with hurts, thus making her actually wonder if it was worth scheduling it after all. Conversely, the tone in the Snarkle-Pinkie tandem was predominantly comedic, using the characters' responses, cartoon logic, and behavior to accentuate it. Originally, Snarkle took delight to Pinkie spilling all the secrets to the Tree of Harmony and the Elements, but the more eccentric she behaved, the angrier she became. Her anger over Pinkie's attitude evolved into callousness for Fluttershy, including telling her to stay on schedule and "get over" her anguish, accelerating the switch of the once comedic tone of the episode into emotional, dramatic, and harsh. When Pinkie accused Twilight of being selfish and ruining everyone's fun, their anger and grief felt really raw. Twilight doesn't cry often, so when she does, long-time viewers will notice. But here, it feels somewhat different. Her hurt didn't just bleed from within, but grief, too. For the first time in years, her friendship with Pinkie was brought into serious question. Regret for not just going out to the retreat, but also possibly formatting the idea of spreading the Magic of Friendship in the first place. Why was Fluttershy's hoarse "CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?!" so crushing? Because of their exchange. Cushioned by her minutes-long fright, she noticed her friendship with Pinkie and Twilight slowly starting to crumble…and she couldn't bear it. And whose emotions were also raw? Rarity and especially Starlight. Think about this episode in Starlight's perspective. She never liked camping previously, but accepted their invitation, because she has been not only an invaluable asset to the School, but also a fantastic friend. She wears AJ's classic camping poncho, struggles like hell to keep the camping gear, but stays quiet out of respect. But that evening, "AJ" tells her her story of how great she is as a camper in Equestria, accuses her of being silly with that gear, and then laughed at her because she thought her look stupid. How would you feel if she were you? Something like this, I presume? If your answer's yes, I can't blame you. Someone she apparently trusted mocked her at her lowest moment all day long. Starlight felt USED! And Rarity did the right thing sticking up for her and sternly threatening to "AJ's" face a long talk about her heinous behavior, one of her most powerful moments of the entire series. A role reversal of… …but without the terrible dialogue and broken setup. In fact, their entire argument in the forest — including the crying — felt real. All day long, they anticipated for quiet time with each other in Twilight's Friendship Retreat, but the Mean Six accidentally exacerbated their friendships further to the boiling point. Their anger with each other was grounded, had weight, and — unlike NCC — wasn't petty whatsoever. This is how you have adult teachers in a cartoon argue angrily without sacrificing their dignity. BTW, kinda funny how Chrysalis almost accomplished her plan to destroy Harmony without even trying! How genius is that?! *ahem* Okay, got a little carried away here. Yet, when their friendship was bound to collapse, Twilight mustered what makes their friendships strong: Despite their differences, disagreements, and arguments, deep down, they care for each other and will help them. Vogel did an excellent job taking his time wrapping up all the conflicts each Mane pony had with someone else, airing their grievances, and maturely settling them one by one. Still, FS rightfully worried no one likes her, so how do they resolve that? By everyone running up to her and roll in the dirt with a hearty laugh. It brings great closure and proves she's one of them. Yeah, neither group figuring out they were talking with duplicates feels a little anticlimactic, but it makes sense, and the criticism of it misses the episode's point. If they figured out who their doppelgangers are, then Vogel contradicts the moral he's teaching: the strongest friendships get through difficult times with one another. The RM7's friendship is so strong, because they use their strengths to get through. No matter the obstacle, the Mane Eight understand the heart of their friendships and work together. On the other hand, the Mean Six are collectively selfish. Despite Snarkle's warning them to follow her lead, they only look after themselves, and their lack of cooperation cost them their sapience. How can you also tell how close the RM7 are? The Friendship Retreat is in complete tatters, but all they can do is laugh it off. This small exchange: Their trust in each other's so ingrained, they lightly tease each other hours after they settled their fight. Season 8's first half is the most consistent in quality for the entire series. The Mean Six is just one example why. Its storytelling is outstanding with excellent dialogue, comedy, drama, and heart. A Hearth's Warming Tail is excellent and was Vogel's best episode; TM6 leapt over it. Bravo!
  23. 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.