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  • 42 weeks
    Season Eight Episode Reviews: Horse Play

    So hey, it's a new episode. Surely nothing to be excited about. Just another standard episode of a cartoon pony show.

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    5 comments · 319 views
Apr
28th
2018

Season Eight Episode Reviews: Horse Play · 4:59pm Apr 28th, 2018

So hey, it's a new episode. Surely nothing to be excited about. Just another standard episode of a cartoon pony show.

Only it's a CELESTIA EPISODE!

Prepare for extra spicy biased scoring as we look at Best Princess' newest episode, “Horse Play!”


TECHNICAL SPECS:
Season: 8
Episode: 7
Written By: Kaita Mpambara
First Aired: April 28, 2018


SUMMARY:

It's Princess Celestia's “ones-versary,” a holiday Pinkie made up to celebrate the 1,111 anniversary of Celestia first raising the sun. Twilight decides the best way to celebrate the event is to put on a simple play with her students. That is, until she learns that Celestia has always wanted to perform in a play, but had to settle for watching the other foals have fun while she practiced her magic lessons next to the living room window. Twilight's perfectly rational response? Not only make Celestia part of the show, but give her the lead role as herself! What could possibly go wrong?


REVIEW:

“Horse Play” is the third episode we have that can be considered a “Celestia Episode,” in that the events of said episode focus heavily on her as a character and not as a prop to be kidnapped to motivate the others. The other two, however, still had a heavy focus on other members of the cast. “Celestial Advice” was more about Starlight and Twilight, with Celestia serving as a foil to Twilight's typical downward spirals, and “A Royal Problem” had her sharing the spotlight with both Luna and framed the conflict around Starlight's insecurities rather than her own.

In that sense, “Horse Play” is the first fully Celestia-centric episode to date. While Twilight technically has more screen time, Celestia is the source to the episode's entire conflict. If she wasn't trying to act in the play, it would have gone down as a simple school production, Twilight would have been pleased, and everyone would have been happy. While Twilight exacerbates the issue by refusing to tell Celestia the truth, the Sun Princess is still the primary obstacle that needs to be overcome.

One of the problems I see with this episode is whether or not one can accept Celestia being this amazingly bad at being an actress. It's accepted as common knowledge that diplomacy and statecraft are largely matters of acting as well, and since Equestria hasn't been conquered or destroyed since Celestia's reign began (depending on where Discord factors in), she should at least have some experience. However, that's not the same thing as acting in a scripted stage show in front of a live audience. “Acting” covers a wide array of subjects, and it's understandable that someone may be gifted in one way and not in another. And as the resolution shows, Celestia does have skills that transfer to the theater – the ability to rally the troops, organize and improvise solutions, and ultimately use her own skills to “cheat” at a solution.

(You could also go the depressing route. The play has Celestia playing herself. Perhaps after over a thousand years of playing the role of leader, mentor, mother-figure, and many others, she can't play herself anymore because she doesn't know who she is. But this is obviously not canon, so I don't know why I bothered writing it.)

Where things go a bit too far is in Celestia's acting lessons. I can understand her not immediately understanding things like mime, but the way things go, it seems to imply she has no imagination whatsoever. Is that just a side effect of living so long? I don't know, but it feels really forced.

As mentioned in the “Surf and/or Turf” review, this season has basically had the Mane 6 be the ones exacerbating problems, which then have to get fixed by someone else. This episode somewhat bucks this trend. Twilight definitely makes a mistake in not telling Celestia the truth from the beginning, but her attempts to improve Celestia's acting don't actually make things worse than they already were. She even comes up with a standard theater solution: cut the part down so that she has no lines and won't embarrass herself.

The unspoken issue is that Celestia's very presence makes things worse by virtue of her being Celestia. The minute everypony sees her, they immediately begin scuttling their own work because it's not “good enough” for a show staring their beloved God-Princess. The sun prop being destroyed also makes things worse, but that was again on Celestia, not Twilight. Now, allowing Trixie to sell massively dangerous fireworks in Ponyville's back alleys? That's definitely on Twilight. She needs to stop her before Trixie can ship those nukes to the Crystal Empire Separatists.

In terms of straight comedy, this is a darn funny episode. Celestia unleashing the Royal Canterlot Voice, the previously-mentioned fireworks globe, and our princess reducing her acting coach to tears (even if the scene is, again, forced) are all hilarious. The Mane 6, Spike and Starlight all get some good lines and moments, and Celestia's final “gotcha” shows that Trollestia is alive and well. Even so, it does manage to pack in a decent moment of sincerity between Twilight and Celestia, putting the proveribal cherry on the top of the delicious sundae that is this episode.

And lest we forget, we have confirmation that Celestia has been raising the sun for 1,111 years. The story from the play is listed heavily from the Journal of the Two Sisters book from a few years ago, including that Star Swirl was involved. Which means there is an eleven-year span between when Celestia first raised the sun and when Luna became Nightmare Moon, during which time we have the Pillar disappearing, Sombra taking over the Crystal Empire, and all matter of other things occurring. So congratulations, episode, you made Equestria's timeline even more implausible.*

Correction: This actually means a 111-year span. Sorry.


CONCLUSION:

Taken purely as a comedy, this is a funny and silly episode. Celestia gets a chance to be something other than an imposing monarch, and the case is ultimately used well. As a character piece, it feels like it tries a bit too hard to cram Celestia into the “bad actress” slot, particularly with the workshop in the second act. Nevertheless, it's a fun showing for Best Princess, and we can only hope that we have more opportunities to utilize her in similar ways in the future.

Only they won't, because now that they've given her an episode, Hasbro and DHX can safely shove her back into the scenery to wait for the next big threat to capture her. WHY MUST YOU BE SO CRUEL?!


Next time: Starlight and Sunburst reunite with the ponies that made them. Literally.

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Comments ( 5 )
PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I have learned to take any and all numbers given to us in the show with about two pounds of salt.

Because then I'll be too drunk to care about numbers

(You could also go the depressing route. The play has Celestia playing herself. Perhaps after over a thousand years of playing the role of leader, mentor, mother-figure, and many others, shecan'tplay herself anymore because she doesn't know whosheis. But this is obviously not canon, so I don't know why I bothered writing it.)

No, but this is a good angle for a followup fic.

I think you meant a 111 year span.

4849273

This is what I get for doing math first thing in the morning. :ajsleepy:

So if Celestia has been raising the sun for 1,111 years, and Star Swirl was there for her first sunrise, and she and Luna were "too young to understand" the danger the Pillars faced before disappearing, that seems to suggest that Celestia and Luna are roughly 1,200 years old, give or take a few decades. They may be long-lived, but they're definitely NOT goddesses.

The worst I could say about this episode was how far they took it with the workshop ponies. But it still had me laughing, AND I looked up and learned about antidisestablishmentarianism! And then disestablishmentarianism! And establishmentarianism!

They still made a good point about how having the eyes and attention of thousands doesn't mean you're cut out for a certain kind of production. Other wise we'd have more recording artists acting.
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And more politicians hitting the stage.

Also got to give props to how it handled everyone outside Twilight and Celestia. Every few seconds is telling you something about at least one character. Like how people don't feel the same royal obligations to Twilight, or how Fluttershy was completely locked up after the fireworks exploded. Heck, Trixie isn't even on screen, but just from how that explosion ends, it still tells you every thing you need to know about her. This one is worth rewatching and pausing.

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