• Member Since 17th Dec, 2011
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DannyJ


I'm just here to write.

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  • 1 week
    Dragonfall, chapter 17

    Coldsteel clears his throat.

    "I count myself among the resurrected, sir, and I believe that under the circumstances I have weathered the situation fairly well. Yellowbelly, also, does not seem any more notably useless now than he usually is. But Sergeant Rictus is..."

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    0 comments · 42 views
  • 20 weeks
    Courier's Journal, chapter 12

    "Heading into the city proper, we came to a memorial to the soldiers who died in the Battle of Hoover Dam, and an off-duty trooper named Kowalski paying his respects. Nearby, there was a bar being operated by one of Boulder City's few remaining residents, who told us about how dead it is around here. And of course there was also the massive pile of rubble and ruins that used to be the

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    1 comments · 145 views
  • 22 weeks
    COURIER'S JOURNAL: RELOADED

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    3 comments · 133 views
  • 27 weeks
    I Went to the Other Side, and All I Saw Were Stars

    Season's greetings, seasoned veterans of the DannyJ Experience. Hope you're all having a merry Christmas. As we head into 2022 for the next chapter of this progressively worsening nightmare that we all live in, I wanted to touch base with you all so that you know what to expect from me going forwards (in terms of writing, I mean; I remain an unpredictable force of nature otherwise).

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    1 comments · 168 views
  • 29 weeks
    Just Dodge! reading

    I've received a few dramatic readings of my stories over the years, but for the most part, they've always been for my shorter stories, with Jacob M. Keene's Agent Redwood reading being the longest one-and-done I've received until today, at half an hour long. Rest in Chaos in particular had at least four readings that I know of

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    5 comments · 246 views
Apr
26th
2020

DANNYJ REVIEWS: MLP SEASON 8 PART 1 · 2:39am Apr 26th, 2020

It's the sequel you've all been waiting for! I hope you like long reads, because last time I complained about season seven for twenty-five thousand words, and this time I managed to just about double that! Be warned, unmarked spoilers are below the break.

For new followers or those with short memories, in 2018 I released a massive review of every episode of season seven. At the time, I was feeling pretty pessimistic about the future of the show, and I got a lot of catharsis out of explaining exactly why in detail. Besides all the leaks that were happening at the time and everything that we learned about Hasbro's plans for the franchise, I also perceived a clear and noticeable decline in the show's quality, one marked primarily by bad continuity, as well as poorly thought-out plots and world-building.

As I said at the start of that review, I don't like being negative about this show. I never have. I don't like bringing down the mood for those that still enjoy the show for what it is, and even though it's just my opinion, enough negative opinions together make for a negative atmosphere in the fandom, which I've never wanted to contribute to. All that said, season seven was bad enough that I couldn't justify not criticising it as I had everything else I'd thought to be of similar quality, and the same applies here.

In my opinion, season eight is not good. In fact, I think it's quite bad, and in this review, I'm going to attempt to explain why. I'll try to make an entertaining and informative case for that statement rather than just ranting, and I will try to be as fair as possible, but nonetheless, I do not sugarcoat my opinions, and I know that I do come off as rather angry and sweary in text. I say "fuck" like eighty times in this review, so you'd better be okay with that if you're gonna read all this. But if you'd prefer not to hear me tear apart something you enjoy, then that's perfectly fine, and I understand.

For everyone else, come now and join me on a magical journey of imagination. Today, we are playing the part of morticians, and we have no less than twenty-four corpses to autopsy (not counting that big fat bastard who had way too much money for his own good).

The movie. I'm talking about the movie.

Introduction:

But before we discuss anything to do with season eight, we must necessarily address said fat bastard, AKA My Little Pony: The Movie, as it had an unexpectedly large impact on the season that followed, and I suppose I can't really avoid talking about it anymore.

I had many problems with the movie. I had problems with its story, problems with its characters and settings, problems with its animation, problems with its music, with the voice acting, the budget allocation, the marketing, and a whole slew of other things. But more than anything else, I really questioned why it even existed.

Let's be clear here. Friendship is Magic is not the cultural phenomenon that it once was. Large portions of its original audience, both children and adults, have long since moved on. Some were only chasing a trend, others were alienated by the many changes in the show's status quo, and some simply grew up. Poor advertising after the switch to Discovery Family and constant leaks in later seasons probably didn't help either. G4 MLP pretty much hit its peak in 2012. If ever there was a time to make an MLP movie and capitalise on the show's success, that was it. And they gave us Equestria Girls. No, they gave us Equestria Girls and three sequels. Don't get me wrong, I like the EG movies and all, but that was their shot, and they didn't take it.

So, finally releasing an actual pony movie as late as 2017 never struck me as a good idea. And evidently, Hasbro must've felt the same, because the movie seemed designed to draw in a new audience which the show would then capitalise on, rather than the other way around. It ignored so many aspects of the show to make its story work, and was more interested in introducing new characters and locales than doing anything with its established ones, because it didn't want to worry about all that continuity confusing its new audience. And as a long-time fan, this is the source of a lot of my problems with the movie.

The most obvious way this approach impacted the movie was in all the missing characters. At the point of the Storm King's invasion, Equestria had its own military, the Elements of Harmony, four active alicorn princesses, Discord, the Pillars, Starlight, the Crystal Empire, the yaks, the changelings, the dragons, and several others to draw upon for assistance, yet the movie ignores all of this. Shining Armor and the Royal Guard are mysteriously absent. Discord is nowhere to be seen. Starlight is seen but doesn't do anything. And when it comes time to seek aid from foreign allies, the ponies don't go to any of the much closer nations who actually owe them a favour, but instead journey halfway across the world to ask for help from a bunch of refugees that Celestia apparently hasn't spoken to for more than a decade, who then refuse them.

This is not even mentioning how heavily the movie leans on entirely new creations that were never even so much as referenced until that point. We'd spent seven years hearing about dragons, griffons, changelings, and the like, and there were still plenty of other species ripe for further development like the zebras, buffalo, and diamond dogs, but instead we got a movie about anthropomorphic cats and parrots, because the movie wanted so badly to be Disney.

In short, the world of the movie was so different to the show's that it may as well have been an alternate universe. But of course, the movie was intended to draw a new audience to the show, so that left season eight in the unenviable position of having to tow the line and integrate the movie's canon, while also following up everything that happened in season seven, even despite all the problems that causes with the movie's plot. And since the show's writers can't even fix their own sloppy writing (see: Daring Done), they're hardly going to be up to the task of fixing the movie's sloppy writing, are they? So all those plot-holes are just left to stand, an eternal scar on the body of this Frankenstein's monster that they stitched together.

It's alive! It's alive, it's— Oh, wait. No, it's fucked.

And speaking of season seven, it had issues of its own, which season eight naturally inherited.

Season seven marked a turning point for this show, even if nobody realised it right away. People always make a distinction between what the show was and what it is, particularly if they dislike what it is. They might draw that line any number of ways. Was it Faust leaving that ruined the show? Was it Twilicorn? Was it Starlight Glimmer's introduction? Depending on who you ask, it could be any of them. But for me, I was enjoying the show perfectly fine until season seven. There were episodes I hated in season six too, most especially Times They Are a-Changeling and Where and Back Again, but they were merely planting the seeds for what was to come.

Now, there are a number of ways that season seven differs from its predecessors, particularly in the writing style and approach to continuity, but I already talked about that extensively in the previous review, so I won't go into it again just yet. What I will bring up is the way that season seven, and season six before it, changed the show's character focus.

Before, FiM was a show about the mane six and sometimes the Cutie Mark Crusaders, with occasional spotlight episodes for popular side characters like Maud, Discord, and Big Mac (and even those took a while to happen; Big Mac's first episode as a protagonist was in season five). But after following most of those characters for five years, watching them grow and develop, it seems as if the writers ran out of ideas for them all.

At the start of the series, most of the main characters were set clear personal goals, which over the next several seasons, they gradually accomplished. Rainbow Dash became a Wonderbolt, the CMC got their cutie marks, Fluttershy conquered her shyness, and so on and so forth.

The most obvious example of this progression was Twilight becoming a princess at the end of season three, and this was also the most obvious example of the writers not knowing what to do with a character once their arc was finished. Twilight had a little bit more development in season four, but for the most part, once she had her castle, there wasn't much else to do with her, other than put her in charge of a group of friendship missionaries. For a while, she became something of a static character, all her personal flaws overcome, all her goals achieved, and with nothing left for her to do or aspire to.

Thanks, M.A. Larson.

Some may say that they wrote themselves into a corner, but that's not the case. There's plenty of stories you can tell with Princess Twilight that would continue to challenge her and develop her character in interesting ways, and a handful of episodes even came close to doing that. It's just that for the most part, the writers weren't creative enough to think of anything to do with her.

With the other characters on the show, they had a little bit more success. Rarity and Rainbow Dash both achieved their dreams as well two seasons later, and we got a few good episodes out of the deal which were able to take advantage of the new premises afforded by their success. I particularly like to point to Rarity Investigates! and The Saddle Row Review as good episodes that make effective use of Rarity's business success and/or Dash's Wonderbolt status.

However, after a while, the writers seemed to run into the same problem, where they just ran out of things to do with the main cast. Once the mane six had accomplished all their personal goals, overcome their worst flaws, learned all the most obvious lessons, and the creativity well had otherwise run dry, what else is there to do? Well, since finally putting the series to rest obviously wasn't an option, two choices remained. Either dumb down the characters and start rehashing old episodes, or introduce some new characters to shake up the status quo (an idea which The Simpsons parodied with the character of Poochie over twenty years ago).

Seasons six and seven did both.

Mane six episodes would often have them backsliding into their old characters flaws that they had long since overcome (Twilight putting the princesses on a pedestal and freaking out about things in A Royal Problem), going through similar conflicts to old ones (Dash annoying her friends to the point that they all pull a prank on her to teach her a lesson again in 28 Pranks Later), or learning lessons that were so obvious that they should have learned them long ago (Applejack gets a lesson about being too honest seven fucking seasons into this show in Honest Apple). And this is something that season eight continues to do, and is even worse about.

At the same time, the show also introduced us to Starlight Glimmer. In theory, she was a fresh new addition to the cast who still had room to grow and learn lessons, because she was still flawed while the mane six weren't. She even started building her own little friend circle out of popular side characters (and Thorax). But in practice, she was a divisive character who just dragged down the show for a lot of people, both for her similarities to other characters, her general personality flaws, and the fact that elevating her role in the show came at the expense of the original cast, particularly in the season six finale.

"Starlight Glimmer should be louder, angrier, and have access to a time travel spell." – Josh Haber, probably.

By season seven, the writers seemed to realise that Starlight had issues and that she wasn't working as intended, so they dropped the mane six replacement angle. She'd become too important to just shuffle off, so they kept her on the show and still gave her her fair share of spotlight episodes, but for most of season seven she was just another side character in an already large cast. In my humble opinion, I do think Glimmer works better this way, but the perceived need for a mane six replacement was still there, so that sadly wasn't the end of it.

Instead, in addition to the usual batch of episodes based on popular side characters, season seven also had three episodes introducing a bunch of even newer characters – the Pillars. And just like with Starlight, the show made its newest characters the focus of the finale. Only the Pillars were mostly boring, had no personalities, and the writers had no ideas for them, so come season eight, they invented yet another new group of characters to fill the void and take centre stage in the finale, and are you seeing why this is a problem yet?

The show keeps trying to replace the mane six with new characters, but when it doesn't work, they just keep inventing more new characters, until we have cast overload. The situation this leaves us with is a show where our ostensible main characters are dumb and don't learn from their mistakes, the rest of the cast is oversaturated by redundant side characters that have nonetheless become too important to just ignore, and the world-building and continuity of the series are fracturing and tearing at the seams under the weight of having to accommodate the bloated commercial mess that was the movie.

Season eight basically never stood a chance of being good. It wasn't just crippled right out of the gate, it was beaten, stabbed, shot, poisoned, drowned, electrocuted, set on fire, and hit by a fucking meteor the night before the race even began.

And some poor bastards out there still bet money on it.

Episodes 1 & 2 – School Daze:

So season eight begins as it means to go on, by introducing us to its latest gimmick/distraction, the School of Friendship. There are a lot of facets to the addition of the school to cover, and the school isn't even the only thing this episode introduces that I want to pick apart, so for the sake of expediency I'm going to save a lot of my points for later and talk broad strokes for now.

When last we left the show, Twilight and friends had just learned the origins of the Tree of Harmony, defeated some demonic shadow monstrosity from beyond their universe, and brought Star Swirl the fucking Bearded himself, one of the greatest wizards of all time, back to life (and his less interesting acquaintances too, I guess).

Upon our return to it, the first thing we hear out of the character's mouths, roughly translated into Honest, is, "Wow, that movie sure was canon and had consequences for us. Didn't you all have fun watching our movie in theatres? I sure am glad that we got to meet all those interesting celebrity-voiced personalities like Capper™, Tempest Shadow™, and Songbird Serenade™, even if we won't ever see them again because we can't afford to get the voice actors back."

GEE, WHO COULD'VE SEEN THIS COMING?

This is a trend in season eight, and it's one of its more annoying ones to me. Because the movie made no effort to integrate itself into the already existing world, the burden falls to season eight to do all the legwork of fitting these disparate elements in, which it mostly does through awkward conversations like this one. And given that unenviable task, I will say, season eight does generally succeed in blending in the movie's bullshit in a way that mostly works. I can actually buy the hippogriffs as a part of the world, for example, because we have episodes at Mount Aris and Seaquestria, and the show's hippogriff characters are regularly seen interacting with ponies and other familiar species.

But on the other hand, there are also elements from the movie that the show can't bring back for budget reasons, like all those celebrity-voiced characters. It can't even get John de Lancie back for more than three episodes per season, and he actually likes being associated with bronies. Sia? Emily Blunt? Forget it. Tempest Shadow, despite being such a centrally important character to the movie, couldn't return, so instead her whole arc is summarised in one line of dialogue to explain why she isn't there, and we just forget about her for the rest of the season. The movie may as well have just killed her off along with the Storm King for all the lasting impact she has, and hell, maybe then her character would actually be remembered as something new and different rather than being just another member of Twilight's harem reformed unicorns club.

And like I alluded to before, in focusing so much on the aftermath of the movie and trying to force in all these references, season eight also neglects its continuity from previous seasons. Most glaringly, Star Swirl, the Pillars, and the Pony of Shadows don't get even a token mention in the premier. Even Celestial Advice, an episode I specifically criticised for failing to adequately explore the fallout of the previous season's finale, did a much better job of it than this one did. But now let's get back to the School of Friendship itself, so that we can discuss why it's fundamentally flawed as a concept.

So this conversation about what they did in the movie was happening because Twilight and friends just returned from their adventure to discover that the Cutie Map grew larger while they were away, and now includes all the new lands they travelled to in the movie, as well as some of the ones further beyond. And it only makes sense, doesn't it? After all, the Cutie Map's purpose is to send the mane six out across the world to spread their message of friendship to the places that need it most, and as the movie showed us, friendship is in short supply in places such as Klugetown and the Storm King's lands. I bet that the mane six could make a real difference there, just like they did for Capper, Tempest, and the pirates.

So naturally, Twilight thinks that what the map wants is for her to leave it to Tempest to go to these new lands, while she should stay in Ponyville and open up a school. To teach friendship. But only to those who come to her, of course, unlike every character in the series that's actually needed to learn friendship. Yes, I'm sure this is exactly what the Tree of Harmony intended.

Everything that the Tree does this season is payback for Twilight fucking it over here.

Now, jokes aside, Twilight founding her own school isn't that unexpected a development. Just like her ascension to become an alicorn princess, it's a fairly natural trajectory for her character given what we know of her, and it was predicted by the fanfiction community years before it actually happened on the show. Twilight is a nerdy bookworm who loves studying, organising, note-taking, and generally everything to do with academia other than the incidental pressure of being tested herself. Starting her own school once she has the means and experience to do so is a downright obvious conclusion for her. So that's all fine.

What isn't fine is the specifics. Not just the questionable logic of starting a school now because the map expanded, but also the logic of starting a school to teach friendship in the first place. Remind me again, what was the initial premise of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? Because I seem to recall something about Twilight being a good student but not having any friends, until she got out into the real world and met the girls, and then she left Canterlot and the School for Gifted Unicorns behind so that she could study friendship in Ponyville by living daily life with them. You would think Twilight would know better than anybody that friendship can't be taught in a classroom, yet that's exactly what she's trying to do here. Fucking why?

Worse than that, Twilight's plans for a friendship school aren't just a new direction for her, but for all her friends. Present Perfect already made this point better than I ever could, but the mane six are just not teacher material. They're a diverse group of characters with their own lives, careers, and aspirations. Some of them, like Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, just don't have the right qualities to be teachers. Most of them, like Applejack and Rarity, already have full-time jobs. I can believe them finding enough time off work to still hang out as friends and go on adventures from time to time, because Equestria is an idealised fantasy land and all, but the idea that they could all easily take on second jobs and still have enough free time for casual mane six episodes is beyond ludicrous.

And that's not even to mention, as Present Perfect's review also pointed out, that half the mane six aren't even really teaching friendship. They're teaching fashion, or animal care, or apparently the inherent superiority of apples, going by the contents of Applejack's chalkboard. They clearly have no fucking clue what they're doing, just like the writers.

Not that I can blame them for that, because seriously, how else do you fill a year-long curriculum for a course just about friendship? How else would Twilight justify literally building a whole school for it? I mean, this isn't just an extra class that Twilight campaigned to include in the existing educational system; this is a whole separate school of its own. Multiple classes a day, several days a week, for at least two years, and all just to learn simple social skills. Seriously, just how fucking basic must you be to need a school like this?

...Oh.

And on that note, let's talk about the student six.

There's a lot I could say about the student six individually, but since most of their actual major character-building moments come in later episodes, I'm going to save it for now. Instead, I want to focus on the student six as a group and as a concept.

One of the main purposes of the student six, as I mentioned before, was to serve as a kind of replacement for the mane six. Personally, I would argue that replacing the mane six was never necessary in the first place, and that the show already had plenty of good side characters to turn to for episodes if the writers really had no ideas left for them. But since the show is so hell-bent on doing this, how do the student six hold up compared to Starlight? Well... better. I would definitely say better, for what it's worth.

One of the many things that Starlight was criticised for in season six was for being derivative. I do think that Starlight is a distinct enough character to stand on her own, but it is undeniable that she bears similarities to both Twilight and Sunset Shimmer. From Sunset Shimmer, she borrows the character arc of the repentant former villain seeking redemption, and from Twilight, she takes the role of the studious magical prodigy taken under the wing of an alicorn princess. She even has a similar name and colour scheme to Twilight, and several episodes actually made jokes about this. So even though there is more to her, it's easy to just write her off as Twilight 2.0.

The student six don't have this problem. Sure, some of them have a few superficial similarities to members of the mane six, but none of them feel like explicit counterparts or derivatives to any of them, because they don't align perfectly like Starlight does to Twilight and Sunset. Ocellus is shy, but she's also the studious one of the group. Gallus is blue and an asshole, but he's not a daredevil or much of a braggart like Rainbow Dash is, just kind of aloof. Smoulder likes dresses, but she couldn't be more different from Rarity otherwise. And then there's Sandbar, who has no personality at all as far as I can tell, so good luck finding who he lines up to.

These are mostly all good things. I still wouldn't want the student six to be the new main characters, but they at least feel like they could carry the show on their own if they were, because they're actually something new. They're distinct characters in their own right with their own group dynamic, not just rehashes of the mane six.

They also bring something else to the table that Starlight couldn't, which is opportunities for world-building. Normally, the mane six only get to journey to distant foreign lands if the writer can contrive a reason for the Map to send them there, but by having the student six be different species from every corner of the globe, it makes it easier to use and expand upon the cultures they come from. No need to send Pinkie on another diplomatic mission to Yakyakistan when you could instead do something with Yona, right? Season eight doesn't make great use of this, but when it does, it feels way more natural for having that connection already there.

And finally, having each of the student six be a different species also serves one additional purpose, which is to be an allegory for minorities, diversity, and racism.

Yes, I'm going there.

This is a touchy topic in today's times, so I'm going to avoid drawing real-world parallels, and I won't bring up my personal politics or speculate on those of the show's creative team. What I will say is that the student six and the character of Chancellor Neighsay are a very obvious allegory for racism, particularly institutional racism, and I think that this allegory is clumsily handled. It's not bad in the same way as Fame and Misfortune's allegory for the fandom, which was full of unfortunate implications due to its ineptitude. Rather, it's bad because it just doesn't really make sense at any point, either for the world of Equestria, or on a character level.

I'll address the world first, since that's easier to explain, but basically, this kind of institutional racism just should not exist in a land like Equestria. The kingdom was founded on the principle of people seeing past their differences and making peace with their neighbours. Every year, its most patriotic holiday centres around a traditional play warning people to get along, or else ice demons will kill them all. And it's been ruled for over a thousand years by an immortal monarch who everyone practically worships, who wields literal, actual friendship magic, and who openly disapproves of prejudice and disharmony.

So please explain to me how, in a world like that, an unapologetic racist who openly advocates for segregation rises to and keeps a senior government position? Not only that, but one who actually enforces his racist beliefs as policy?

Which brings us to Chancellor Neighsay. He's an interesting character for many reasons, with a cool design and a great voice actor. But he's also frustrating as an antagonist, because all of his virtues as a character are intentionally outweighed by his one defining flaw – he's a racist. When he's just talking about the School of Friendship itself and not the students, Neighsay is intelligent, observant, articulate, and accurately diagnoses many fundamental flaws in the idea; taken in a vacuum, he's simply a non-villainous antagonist with legitimate gripes about Twilight's approach to friendship education. Yet whenever the subject of non-ponies is raised, the show suddenly reduces him to nothing but a straw racist, and ties every piece of legitimate criticism he has into his completely out-of-place prejudice, because that is the only way the writers can make him and his role work within this slapdash storyline of theirs.

Now, to be clear, season eight attempting a racism allegory isn't, in itself, the problem. Given that the show is called "Friendship is Magic," the inclusion of an anti-racism message at some point or another was probably inevitable. But its integration simply makes no sense within the established setting. Remember, Neighsay's main sticking point with the School of Friendship was that it accepts non-ponies as students, because he considers them dangerous and a threat to Equestria. But Equestria is already a multicultural society, and other educational institutes that are presumably still subject to the EEA already accept non-pony students. So how in the name of the sunshine coming out of Celestia's ass does Neighsay even reach these conclusions, let alone decide, change, or enforce national policy based upon them?

"Sorry, but you filthy crossbreeds can't go to school. The government says that'll start a race war."

I'll talk more Neighsay's racism when we get to his next appearance, but I think you get the point I'm making for now. Neighsay doesn't have any reason to be racist. He just is, despite everything we know about Equestria suggesting to us that someone in his position shouldn't be. It's just another instance of story, world, and characters being sacrificed for the sake of a message, a trend that is sadly all too common in entertainment these days.

But we're veering dangerously close to commenting on real-world issues now, so let's step back and examine another stupid thing about this episode: the impotence of Celestia.

What is Celestia doing in this episode? No, really, why is she even here? She doesn't do anything. We've known this big white horse for eight seasons now, and she hasn't done anything useful since the third, when she promoted a more competent pony to become her eventual replacement in preparation for when her dementia set in. In every season premiere and finale that she appears in, Celestia either fails to stop the villain, or she's no help in the first place. She's been Worfed so much, I don't know why new villains even bother taking her out anymore, since she's clearly too feeble to be any kind of threat to them. They're basically just harassing a senior citizen at this point.

But at least Celestia being overpowered or outmaneuvered by big villains like Discord and Chrysalis makes some kind of sense. Those, at least, are entities on her own level, if not way above her. But an asshole bureaucrat in Celestia's own government is not. Sure, she has that token line about how even her school is still subject to the EEA, but the EEA, in turn, is subject to the government. Neighsay is very obviously prejudiced, and openly admits that that's his main reason for closing the school. That can't possibly be legal, so why don't Twilight or Celestia throw the book at him? And if, against all sense, it is legal, then why don't they just legislate against him to close whatever loophole he's exploiting, and then open back up? The princesses hold all the power here, and yet they still do nothing. Neighsay gets away with all of this with nothing more than a light scolding.

Seriously, Celestia, we're way overdue for an abdication. You should get on that.

And I have plenty more I could say about Celestia being an idiot (and all the other characters being idiots, too, for that matter), but instead I have one final issue I wanted to discuss: Grandpa Gruff and international politics.

Let me explain. When introducing the student six, the writers seemed to think that the best way to get us immediately invested in them was to introduce them through characters that we already know and like (and also Thorax). Not a bad idea in principle. And since the student six come from all over the world, they are also, in effect, each representing their nations, which makes the School of Friendship an act of international cooperation. In theory, this also gets us immediately invested in the success of the school itself. Your mileage may vary on that, but again, not a bad idea.

And these two ideas really go hand in hand, because when you think about it, the leaders of the other nations are the only ones that we know anyway. Until the student six came along, there weren't really any named yak characters other than Rutherford, no non-douchebag dragons other than Ember, no homosexual changelings other than Thorax, etc. So aside from Sandbar (the odd pony out), the student six were all personally chosen for this school by the leaders of each nation, and are personally chaperoned by said leaders in this episode (or in the case of Silverstream, by one of her leader's flunkies, because celebrity voice actors ruin everything).

This has the effect of raising the stakes for the school's success or failure. As the school is an act of international cooperation, its closure is also a symbolic failure of international relations, which threatens to become a literal failure when the student six running off and Neighsay being a cock almost causes war to break out between the other nations. This could only be possible with the leaders or their representatives being personally involved, so for the most part, it makes sense why all these characters are here, and why the student six are tied to them, even if I don't understand why they seem to blame each other for this mess rather than Equestria.

But then there's Grandpa Gruff.

I'm not trying to pick on the elderly here. It's just that old people fuck everything up.

Think about this. Who is he, really? What is his role, his position? Why is he important? Why is he relevant? Because I can tell you one thing for sure: He's not the leader of Griffonstone. Grandpa Gruff made precisely one previous appearance before this episode, not counting the comics, and that was back in Lost Treasure of Griffonstone, where he was just some old guy living in a hovel who explained to Dash and Pinkie that they didn't have a king anymore. So not only is he not the leader of the griffons, but the griffons apparently don't have a leader at all. Griffonstone is just a bunch of solitary assholes living in some run-down ruins. It's an anarchy.

And yet, when we reach this episode, suddenly there's a griffon army, and Grandpa Gruff of all people has enough clout to meet with all these foreign leaders and threaten its use against them. This raises several obvious questions right away:

1. Since when was Griffonstone together enough to actually have an army?

2. Why are we only just now hearing about this?

3. If Griffonstone does indeed have a proper government, then who's in charge?

And 4. Again, who the fuck is Grandpa Gruff that he has this much influence?

Now, the comics at least have implied some kind of Griffonstone restoration going on in the background, which would make this scene at least semi-plausible. Several comic issues I could name had griffon characters that seemed to be diplomats or royals suddenly coming out of nowhere, and they weren't really explained either. But even in those comics, Grandpa Gruff wasn't anybody important. And the show has been ignoring the comics harder than ever lately, so we can hardly fall back on them to clear this stuff up, can we? Especially not when the comics think that Grandpa Gruff looks like this:

I cannot stress enough how terrible an artist Jay Fosgitt is.

Nothing about the Griffonstone/Grandpa Gruff situation makes any sense given everything we've seen of them before on the show. You could maybe come up with a decent explanation for all this if you really tried, and it might even make for a good fanfic if somebody did, but given that the show never bothered to clear up this confusion, it's pretty obvious that there's no real underlying logic to it. It's just another example of how atrocious the continuity on this show has become. It's the same shit I was complaining about all through my season seven review, and this episode made it clear right from the get-go that season eight wasn't going to be any better about it.

And shit, I could go on like this for hours more. There's way more I could complain about with this episode, from the stupid little things like how Twilight has somehow never heard of the EEA, to the excruciatingly painful moments like that scene in Sugarcube Corner where the mane six took like five minutes to see through the worst liar in the world, but if I don't move on now I probably never will, so LET'S MOVE ON.

We're already six thousand words in, and we're only just now reaching episode three. Buckle up, kids.

Episode 3 – The Maud Couple:

So before we really get into the episode properly, I have something else I want to address: The new intro. This isn't something I'd normally feel the need to talk about, because until now, every new intro the show's done has just been an edit of the original, each time adding more details. But season eight is the first time the show's entirely rebuilt the intro from the ground up. And I have to admit, I like most of the changes.

This new intro not only looks nicer visually, but it's also a much better representation of where the show is now. We see Dash in the Wonderbolts and Rarity in her Canterlot boutique, the School of Friendship is on full display, and the new intro has a much better representation of the current cast of side characters. Though, probably my favourite thing about it is that it actually ties directly into an episode, with the final photograph in this version of the intro being the same one that they take at the end of School Daze. I like the narrative of that. So overall, I approve.

But that doesn't mean that I don't have things to complain about. For a start, I think that the school is given way too much emphasis and focus, considering that about half the episodes in the season completely ignore its existence.

Pictured: DannyJ protesting outside Studio B in Vancouver.

In the original intro, we had each of the mane six more or less in their element. Dash was flying, Rarity was surrounded by mirrors in her boutique, etc. But in the new intro, the earth ponies get shafted. We see Dash and Rarity with their new high-powered careers, Fluttershy with that animal sanctuary she built, and Twilight of course appears for the photo in front of the school, but what are Pinkie and Applejack doing in this intro? Teaching. In their own quirky and horribly inept ways, I grant, but Applejack isn't on her farm, and Pinkie isn't throwing a party. Whatever dreams and passions they had before have been completely subsumed by the school, and I think it shows a gross misunderstanding or misrepresentation of their characters.

This also affects the choice of side characters for the intro to highlight as well. In the intro for the first seven seasons, it was simple. We had the mane six and Spike, we had Celestia (and later Luna) at the end, and we had the photo to show off the other side characters, plus a Discord cameo in Fluttershy's segment. The side characters in the photo were a bit weird there too (like, why was Mayor Mare in it, for example?) but at least they were all recognisable faces.

But in this new version, it's all about the school. As much as I'm glad that this intro has more of the extended cast in it, they're not showcased well like they were in the old intros. They're spread all over and pushed into the backgrounds. And instead of showing all the friends Twilight's met since coming to Ponyville, like it used to, the final photo is now dedicated to school. We get the mane six and Starlight in there, of course, but other than that, it's just a bunch of nobodies. We don't really know the student six yet at this point, and the rest are all literal background ponies.

Meanwhile, the Cutie Mark Crusaders have been main characters for almost as long as the mane six have, but they're just cameos in the wide shot of the school (fittingly, since they barely appear this season). And Zecora isn't even in this intro at all, despite being a recurring character since season one, who was prominently featured in every previous intro since the second.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for the new intro. It's nice to finally get some new animation, and it's nice that it's finally reflecting all the ways the show and its characters have progressed over the years. All I'm saying is, not all change is progress, and this intro is also an unfortunate reminder of how far the show has strayed from its roots.

But okay, fine, enough of all that shit. You probably want me to just get on with it already and talk about the episode. What did I actually think about The Maud Couple? Did I like the new character? Do I approve of the relationship? Was it written well?

...I 'unno.

You know, I'm sure all these reaction images look fine in the blog, but they're a bitch to do in Google docs with all the page breaks.

Okay, that's not a good enough answer, I know, so let's examine this episode more closely. The Maud Couple is about Maud getting a boyfriend, and Pinkie not knowing how to deal with that. I'm not sure how I deal with that either, to be quite honest, so let's give the episode a point right away for so effectively putting me in Pinkie's shoes here. She wants her sister to be happy. Okay. But Mudbriar comes off as kind of an annoying douche. Also okay. Following so far.

I'm told that this character was based on Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory? I never watched it, so I'm just gonna take people's word for that. I don't know how similar the two actually are, but taking Mudbriar as his own character... if what they were going for was a watered down, less endearing version of Maud, then they fucking nailed it. Major props.

So Pinkie's looking for Maud... and this somehow leads her all the way to Yakyakistan and back. I find this really weird, and it's kind of a theme this season, so I'll come back to this, but let's ignore it for now. It's just a one-off gag here, so again, whatever.

Oh, Pinkie's going to the store... to buy... baking... supplies... when she... works in a FUCKING BAKERY JESUS FUCKING CHRSJDFNGLLKRGNKURUDFKSDKBFIRBGUIRADSNFS

EDIT YOUR FUCKING SCRIPTS, YOU DUMB FUCKING ANIMALS.

Okay, so here's something to really comment on with this episode... Why does Pinkie take such an immediate and extreme disliking to Mudbriar, and get so lastingly mad at him? It doesn't really make sense to me. Pinkie is one of the most overbearingly friendly and extroverted characters on the show, so seeing her get pissed off with someone like this just because they're weird and annoying is already oddly out of character for her. But the fact that it's Mudbriar specifically that she hates so much is even weirder.

The episode goes to great lengths to draw parallels between Mudbriar and Maud, and they really are similar in a lot of ways, so what's up with the double standard? After a lifetime of experience with Maud, and with how easily she gets along with her, you'd think Pinkie would be the last pony in the world who'd need to be taught how to look past Mudbriar's surface flaws. Hell, she was the one teaching the rest of the mane six this lesson in Maud's introductory episode. But for some reason, she really holds his various idiosyncrasies against him, despite the fact that all the things she dislikes about Mudbriar are flaws of Maud as well, aside from saying "technically" a lot. The episode even explicitly calls this out in the Starlight conversation, even though Pinkie denies it, but this point is never really resolved after being brought up.

So what am I supposed to take away from this episode? That Pinkie is completely in denial about what her sister is actually like, and only likes the version of Maud that she imagines in her head, while subconsciously hating the reality of her? That's what I get from it. And it would seem to fit, given the revelation that Maud doesn't even really like surprise parties, and has just been humouring her sister all these years. It's almost like Pinkie doesn't really know Maud at all.

The Maud Couple: a dark, dramatic, psychological tale of self-delusion and familial resentment.

So what did I like about the episode? Ummm... I guess I liked the comedy club scene? I liked Limestone and Marble, and that one part where Pinkie imagined those bizarro versions of her friends... I liked when it was over? Look, what do you want from me? I don't have that strong an opinion on this one, okay? It wasn't great, and it wasn't awful (at least not by the standards set by season seven). It was just an episode. That's all I got. I'm sorry.

BAZINGA out of ten – it was alright.

Episode 4 – Fake It 'Til You Make It:

I gotta tell you guys, only four episodes in, I'm already feeling burned out by this review, and it's taking me a long time to get through all this. Boy, I sure hope that I actually get this released before the start of season nine. I mean, imagine everyone else talking about the latest episode, or even worse, talking about the finale or G5 or other things because the show has already ended, while I'm still here bitching about an episode from 2018 that everyone's already forgotten about and moved on from. How embarrassing!

...Anyway, so the plot of Fake It 'Til You Make It is that Fluttershy has a dissociative episode.

You may think that I'm just saying that to be snarky (and I am), but Fluttershy having undiagnosed mental health issues really is all I can think of to explain what's going on in this episode. The only other explanation is that she's just a huge bitch underneath, and always has been. Take your pick. I just prefer the dissociative episode explanation because it sounds funnier.

But alright, let's back up a bit. The premise of this episode is extremely fucking stupid, so bear with me here. Rarity has some fashion thing she needs to go to, and needs somebody to watch her Manehattan store. Due to an extremely contrived series of coincidences, Fluttershy is apparently the only person in the world available for the job, and so Rarity asks her to do it, despite her being terrible at dealing with people. And to make matters worse, Fluttershy has also had an offscreen head injury, and just so happens to have completely forgotten all of her previously established knowledge of fashion. Oh no!

"Fuck continuity, and fuck everyone who cares about it." – Josh Hamilton, probably.

In season one, Fluttershy stunned even Rarity with her fashion knowledge, rattling off an in-depth critique of her original Gala dress with terms like "prêt-à-porter" and "French haute couture," which I'll admit to knowing fuck-all about, but which in the context of that episode was clearly meant to demonstrate expertise and mean something to both the characters. In this episode, Fluttershy somehow has no idea what she's doing. And that's not even getting into the image above, but let's not start ranting about IDW comic continuity again, because I think I covered that pretty thoroughly in my season seven review. The real point I'm trying to make is that this episode is built on a foundation of quicksand, and we haven't even really started yet.

But even allowing for a certain degree of contrivance to set up the episode, what's with the timescale here? Rarity urgently needs someone to take over in Manehattan because she needs to go to Canterlot and spend all night working with all of her assistants. But despite this massive demand on her time, she still goes all the way back to Ponyville, then around to all of her friends and associates in sequence, before finally settling on Fluttershy, and then going with her all the way back to Manehattan, before leaving again for Canterlot.

And then, after Fluttershy's been working for a while already, the racoons go back to Ponyville to complain to Spike and Twilight. So then the mane six, despite having all previously said that they were too busy to help, go with the racoons back to Manehattan to confront Fluttershy, then from Manehattan to Canterlot to catch Rarity at her fashion thing, and then all of them go from Canterlot back to Manehattan again to confront her a second time. Seriously, what the fuck? When did everybody suddenly unlock fast travel? Or is this episode just so badly paced and presented that it actually takes place across two days, but nobody noticed? I genuinely can't tell.

Then, of course, there's the question of Fluttershy's apparent psychosis. She has trouble dealing with the customers, so at Rarity's suggestion, she enhances her confidence by putting on new clothes and acting out various exaggerated personas, including snooty shopkeeper, valley girl hipster, and overdramatic goth. The episode has a dumb line about how she's never tried acting before (despite playing Private Pansy in the Hearth's Warming play, and acting out being Flutterbat in Scare Master), but she proves quite successful at it, and is able to actually make the sales. That's all... mostly fine, so far. And you know what? It's pretty funny too. Much as I'm ragging on this episode, I do enjoy the silliness of it all. But then we start getting into the crazy shit.

Fluttershy makes the intentional choice to push the limits of how bitchy she can be in her various personas, and I'm not entirely sure why. It reminds me a lot of how she was after Iron Will's assertiveness seminar in Putting Your Hoof Down, but it's even less justified here. In that episode, Fluttershy was just trying not to be a doormat, but took being assertive too far, and she learned her lesson about balancing assertiveness with kindness after she was called out. But in this case, she's just trying to be confident enough to sell clothes, until seemingly apropos of nothing, she decides to start abusing the customers until they all leave. She actively drives customers away from Rarity's business, and she knows it, but she keeps doing it anyway.

The episode tries to frame it like Fluttershy is some kind of extreme method actor who's just getting lost in character, but there's no reason for her to be this way. Again, she's acted before, despite what this episode says, and never had trouble breaking character previously. And she already learned from Putting Your Hoof Down that she can be assertive without being mean. Indeed, in this very episode, she does so. She sells clothes in her various personas several times before she starts being a bitch. It just comes from nowhere. It's cruelty for its own sake. Her friends even come to stage an intervention and tell her she needs to stop, but she's a bitch to them too, in-character no less, and she doesn't seem to realise her mistakes or apologise until Rarity fires her, which she of course needs to do for all three characters separately.

It just doesn't make sense. I seriously don't know why Fluttershy would do all this unless she was either a huge bitch all along just looking for an excuse to let it all out, or mentally ill in some way. Either way, definitely not an episode that makes her look good.

My reaction in two parts.

Anyway, so what's next on the list... Ah, right. The grannies episode. Hold on, lemme get a beer for this one...

Episode 5 – Grannies Gone Wild:

Alright, so Grannies Gone Wild isn't a bad episode, exactly. It had its charms. The Gold Horseshoe Gals' antics are amusing enough, and I do like how Dash takes her responsibilities seriously, even when they conflict with her desires. Not to mention that this is the episode that gave us Trixie's dad, probably my favourite background pony of the season. It's inoffensive, as far as season eight goes.

That said, it's also a fairly forgettable episode. Its central premise is pretty much all it has going for it. I can't help but feel like a massive opportunity was missed in reusing the Las Pegasus setting without bringing back Flim and Flam. I know the season already has a Flim and Flam episode later on, but it would've been a great chance to show how things had changed and improved since they took over from Gladmane, and seeing Granny Smith interact with Flim and Flam again would've given the episode something memorable about it. As it was, until I rewatched the episode for this review, all I remembered about it was Dash wanting to go on the rollercoaster, and Trixie's dad.

Seriously, I love this guy.

And another thing I can say about Grannies Gone Wild is that it definitely does not benefit from rewatching it with a critical eye. I would say that the central premise is strong, but the writing around it is generally weak, full of little logical inconsistencies that add up to weaken the whole.

Like why did they take a slow hot air balloon ride from Ponyville to Las Pegasus instead of getting a train? Even if the entire city's in the sky, it'd surely be faster to just get a balloon from the station at the other end? Or why do the Gold Horseshoe Gals have exclusive access to the rollercoaster, but not Dash? She's a Wonderbolt, and the Wonderbolts are both celebrities and long-time loyal fans of the Wild Blue Yonder. Come to that, why are the Wonderbolts fans of the Wild Blue Yonder anyway? Wouldn't a rollercoaster feel pretty lame compared to flying through the sky at supersonic speeds? And if this rollercoaster is so awesome and popular, why is it shutting down? I could easily see it being a scam by Flim and Flam to drum up additional ticket sales, but the episode never actually gave a reason for any of this.

Probably the biggest mystery, though, is how Goldie Delicious has been a member of the Gold Horseshoe Gals all this time, and how they've been doing these trips annually for decades at least, and yet Applejack never met her until Pinkie Apple Pie in season four.

Appropriately Applejack-themed confusion.

This show is bad at continuity. I said that many times before in my season seven review, but it bears repeating. This is far from the biggest continuity error of the season, but it's still a blatant retcon done to make the episode's premise work, and I can't let that slip by without calling it out, especially since this was a G.M. Berrow episode, and Berrow doesn't have the excuse of being a rando freelancer whose only knowledge of the show comes from writer's cheat sheets. She actually knows the lore. Or she should do, anyway.

Still, I don't judge the episode too harshly, in spite of these flaws. It's... fine. It's fine. Really. I almost kind of like it, even. It's just that I would be remiss to not address its failings and missed opportunities as well.

Episode 6 – Surf and/or Turf:

Right, so since Surf and/or Turf is basically just one big episode-shaped band-aid over the wound the movie left when it stabbed the show in the ribs, I think now's a good time to talk about the movie in a bit more detail.

As I remarked before, the movie leaned almost entirely on original creations for its plot, rather than drawing from the existing world that the show had already spent seven seasons building, and it made little to no effort to integrate these new creations into the world in a way that makes sense. For just one example, the show told us that beyond Appleloosa was Somnambula and the rest of "Southern Equestria," a region of deserts and pyramids where Daring Do had all her adventures, yet the movie doesn't acknowledge this, and also simultaneously claims that the Storm King had this huge empire right on Equestria's doorstep this whole time, and it's just never been noticed or remarked upon until now.

The hippogriffs are another prime example of this kind of incongruence, and this is probably also why they were the subject of their own episode in season eight to bridge the gap. The movie would have us believe that the hippogriffs have always been a part of this world, and that Celestia has always been aware of them, just that they never came up until now, because apparently allied nations in this world don't trade, talk to each other, or have transport links. Okay.

So now we have to fit the hippogriffs into this world, and this comes with several interesting writing challenges. Firstly, because the movie blew its load jerking off a bunch of celebrities, the show doesn't have the budget to bring back any pre-established hippogriff characters, including the queen and princess of this kingdom, so the writers need to invent several all-new characters to do anything with the hippogriffs. Secondly, there's the gimmick of the hippogriffs also being seaponies, probably because the marketing department wanted a mane six seapony transformation that they could sell toys of, so that needs to be addressed. And thirdly, there's the Storm King, and how his monstrous reign and recent defeat affected them.

Literally Hitler.

There's also the lingering question of what the fuck Equestria's relationship with Mount Aris is and how they didn't know about what happened, but let's not think too hard about that.

So to address the first point, since the show couldn't afford to get Skystar back, we instead have Silverstream as her suspiciously similar substitute, and since it couldn't afford Novo either, she is instead entirely absent, and General Seaspray acts as her proxy, both in a Doylist and a Watsonian sense. Neither of them play any noteworthy role in this particular episode, so I won't dwell on them, but I will say that I do at least find Silverstream a more interesting character than her original model. Obviously that's mostly because Silverstream had actual screentime over the course of an entire season, while Skystar pretty much just had one song sequence, but I do also think Silverstream has a better design and a more memorable name. I had to look up Skystar's.

As for the transformation and the aftermath of the Storm King, well, those are what this episode exists to address. It's an interesting idea, a society of sky-dwellers turning into sea-dwellers and then back again after decades in hiding, with an entire generation growing up underwater and knowing nothing else. I wish that the movie itself had played more with the idea, but season eight at least makes a decent attempt at exploring the concept, and it does so with two characters.

Here depicted in a season nine screencap, because they literally never appear onscreen together in season eight.

Silverstream encapsulates the wonder and excitement of a seapony/hippogriff discovering the surface for the first time, particularly in quirks like her fascination with stairs in the first few episodes (which I didn't find all that funny, but I do admit that it fits her and makes sense from a character perspective). In contrast, Terramar in this episode is conflicted, torn between the sky and the sea, and this conflict is also mirrored by hippogriff society as a whole, and his own family in particular, as his parents appear to be amicably divorced and living separately. So the episode is actually doing something quite multi-layered with him, and I do have to give props for that.

However, I do still have criticisms, chief among them being this episode's choice of characters to focus upon.

Now, don't get me wrong, Terramar is an okay character in and of himself, but the choice to not include Silverstream here in any capacity is frankly bizarre. Remember, by this point in the season, Silverstream has only made a single appearance, in the premier. We've not had any time to get to know her yet, and we've not yet seen her outside the group dynamic of the student six. And then we have a hippogriff episode, a perfect opportunity to give her some development on her own, and instead we're focusing on a second, completely new hippogriff character.

We're initially told to care about Terramar because he's related to other hippogriffs we that do know, but the problem is that we still don't know them well, and he's never shared any screentime with them anyway. Ironically, by this episode's end, Terramar is the most well-established and fleshed out hippogriff/seapony character so far, and we're left wondering why he wasn't sent to the School of Friendship instead. I mean, why not? He's the one we know. He's the one with actual inner conflicts. He's the one who would probably benefit the most from friendship lessons.

Then there's the Crusaders, another odd character choice. I get that the writers probably wanted to have a Crusaders episode near the beginning of the season, what with them once being the secondary protagonists of this show, but putting that aside, I don't understand why they're here. They don't bring any unique strengths, perspectives, or expertise to the situation. Any of the mane six would've worked just as well for the lesson the episode wanted to teach, and most of them could've had more organic conflicts as well. I mean, sure, Scootaloo liking Seaquestria because swimming is like flying is a cute character moment, but Sweetie Belle's preference for Harmonising Heights is completely arbitrary, and the way she argues so vehemently for it, to the point she and Scootaloo stop talking to each other, just isn't believable to me.

Consider instead if Silverstream had been along for this episode, and it had been her arguing for living on the surface, while Terramar wanted to stay in the water. Then we'd get characterisation for both major hippogriff characters, develop a relationship between them, and they both could've learned the episode's lesson. It would've strengthened the central student six arc as well, if we got to know more of these new characters on their own instead of just as part of a group. Y'know, like how we got to know the mane six? Just saying.

Finally, before we move on, I want to address one last point of contention I had, which is how the show handles the hippogriff/seapony transformation compared to the movie. In the movie, this was achieved through use of the Pearl of Transformation, which Novo and the seaponies were very strongly attached to, and didn't want to give up. Twilight just wanted to borrow its power, which Celestia for some reason thought was the only way to defeat a threat that took out four alicorns, and they weren't willing to give her even that much, prompting her to try to steal it in one of the most bizarrely out of character moments in the entire movie. For this, they kicked her and the mane six out of the kingdom, and sent them back to fight the Storm King alone.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but all those plot points to me suggest that the Pearl is kind of a big deal. Like maybe its magic is unique, not easily shared, and the Pearl itself is something that the hippogriffs treasure and want to protect? But as of season eight, Novo seems to have willingly shattered the thing into pieces, and gave out little bits of it to every single citizen in her kingdom, and the transforming magic still works just as well for them? I find this confusing.

I mean, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with hippogriffs being able to transform at will on an individual basis (though Terramar being unable to choose between Seaquestria and Mount Aris would've definitely been a much stronger conflict if the transformation wasn't so convenient), but was this really an option all along? Then why was Novo so reluctant to part with the Pearl in the movie? Why guard it so jealously from her supposed allies in their time of need if she could've just broken off a piece of the pearl with no consequences and let them go on their merry way?

I don't know. Maybe that's what she was planning to do after Pinkie's song, and we just never saw it because of Twilight being possessed by the script? Her actual justification was fear of the Storm King gaining the Pearl's power, so whatever. Maybe this isn't exactly a plot hole. It's just really, really fucking weird to me, and I don't like it.

On the plus side, I finally worked out how to deal with the page breaks in Google docs. Get fucked, print layout.

Episode 7 – Horse Play:

Alright, so now we come to the first regular episode of the season which was actual garbage rather than merely mediocre. We got to it a lot quicker than season seven did, though YOU WOULDN'T KNOW THAT FROM THE WORD COUNT OF THIS REVIEW, HUH?

The premise of the episode is that Celestia gets to act in a stage play for the first time in her life, but she's a horrifically bad actress. We haven't even begun yet, and already this is stupid, but it actually gets worse when we watch the episode itself. Celestia here is not just a bad actress. She's dumb as a fucking rock. Like, holy shit, how do you function levels of dumb. DWK's Totally Legit Recap for this episode was just a rap about Celestia going senile, and not only was it hilarious, it was so on-point that I and several other people I know began considering it as an actual fan theory.

No, really. I am dead serious about that. Celestia is so monumentally stupid in this episode (and in these last few seasons in general) that the "Alicornzeimers" theory actually explains quite a bit. Even her sudden decision to abdicate to Twilight in season nine makes a lot more sense if you assume that she's slowly losing her mental faculties, and knows that she won't be fit to rule in a few years. I mean, would you trust season eight Celestia to run an entire country? I wouldn't. She screws with the motion of celestial bodies on a whim for a school play, for fuck's sake.

Celestia in a couple more years.

But we'll get to all that later. For now, let's stop and consider the smaller details before we go any further. Celestia claims that it's always been her dream to act in a play, and yet she's somehow never found any opportunity to do so in over a thousand years. I know she's a busy mare, but a thousand years is a long, long time, and I don't think that this writer understands that.

Imagine that you want to play a part in a stage play, and that you're powerful, wealthy, famous, popular, and occasionally meet writers and actors as part of your job. How long do you think it would take to fulfill your wish? Well, it doesn't matter. You have your entire lifetime to do it. Do you think that you can make your dream come true at least once in the course of the seventy or so years you'll be alive, given those advantages? No? Well, that's okay, because you'll actually live about fifteen times longer than that. How about now? Do you think you can fulfill your dream now? Still no? Well, in that case, you're probably Princess Celestia.

Next, look at any career politician, any one at all, and tell me that they have no acting skills. And that's not even a joke about politicians being liars (although they are). It's actually true.

UNRELATED PHOTO, HAHAHAHA.

Seriously, acting skills translate well to many aspects of politics. Lying is part of that, sure, but having a good poker face is also very helpful in diplomacy and negotiation. Politicians often need to hide their true feelings about something, like pretending to like people who they need to appease, or pretending to care about issues which actually bore them. And politicians also need to have good public speaking skills, for debates and giving speeches and such. Giving speeches may also often require following a script. You see what I'm getting at? There's actually a lot of overlap here.

Now imagine that you're a politician. Sure, maybe you're a weird kind of politician, a pseudo-autocrat with vaguely defined powers, but regardless, you're the direct ruler of a country, and you're active and involved with running it. Imagine that this is your job. Imagine that you do it for your entire life. Now imagine that your entire life lasts a thousand fucking years. Imagine a thousand years of trade negotiations, peace talks, public events, speeches, ceremonies, galas, dealing with other politicians, businessmen, foreign leaders, the media, and the public, all of whom you have to appease, even though at least some of it you secretly can't stand (to the point that you begin intentionally sabotaging some events out of frustration and boredom). And now imagine that in all that time, you never learned how to give a convincing performance. Does this sound like you? If so, you're either the worst politician in the world, or you're Princess Celestia.

Next, let's address just how stupid Celestia is. Now, it's already bad enough that she's picked up no acting skills in a thousand years of working in politics while dreaming of being an actress. But even when Twilight brings in ponies to try and teach her, Celestia is still so unbelievably dense that she doesn't understand what's going on. A mare is standing there next to her, pretending to be cold while skiing. She's saying that she's skiing. Celestia can see that she's not literally skiing. She is an actress, and Celestia was introduced to her under the premise that she would be practicing her acting with this mare. And Celestia still makes a confused face, thinks that she's actually cold, and offers her a blanket. Celestia, as DWK put it, literally can't imagine things.

Imagine that you're so stupid that you can't even imagine things. You are now imagining being Princess Celestia, and you are also objectively smarter than her. Do you see now why I don't consider it such a stretch to think that she might be going senile?

When this episode first came out, I heard some people try to defend Celestia's behaviour by claiming that she was faking it all along, because at the end of the episode, she freaks everyone out by announcing that she's going to retire, and then says that she was joking and suggests that maybe she's not such a bad actress after all. People took this as evidence that her rampant stupidity was just a facade, because she seemingly can act, so she must've just been fucking with Twilight for reasons. But of course, season nine revealed that she actually wasn't joking, so no, turns out she really can't. Celestia is actually just as stupid as this episode makes her look. And frankly, that interpretation is more consistent with her other late series appearances anyway.

I'M SICK OF YOUR SHIT, CELESTIA.

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about the non-Celestia parts of this episode, because they're all terrible as well. Like Twilight. What the hell was she doing? This entire stupid plot is all about Twilight lying to Celestia because she thinks that telling her the truth will hurt her feelings. After eight seasons of this show, is this really the level that Twilight is still at? She's the Princess of Friendship, and she still hasn't learned yet that lying is wrong? And Applejack even directly tells her as much throughout the episode, but Twilight just ignores her, so we can also add "not listening to her friends" to her list of failings. Why is Twilight running a school to teach friendship when she still struggles with the most basic shit like this?

And speaking of things which Applejack pointed out for not making sense, why does Starlight here make a big deal about meeting the princesses? I mean, really? As Applejack said, they've all met the princesses on several previous occasions, so they really, really should be used to it by now. And then Starlight says that it's different because they've only ever met them for formal occasions or saving the world type stuff, except no they fucking haven't, and Starlight in particular already met them both under highly informal circumstances when she casually fucked around with their cutie marks, and then spent a whole day hanging out with them. This continuity is trash.

And speaking of continuity, how about Celestia's backstory? Star Swirl helped the unicorns to raise the sun and moon, but it was extremely taxing for them and they lost their magic, so Celestia raised the sun for the first time, and... why does this all sound so familiar...? Oh, right. Because it's her backstory from Journal of the Two Sisters, only cutting all the references to Luna for some reason. You know, the Journal of the Two Sisters? That book written in 2014 that had Star Swirl and the Tree of Harmony existing at the same time, and heavily implied that Star Swirl had visited the future and met Twilight Sparkle? That book that was rendered non-canon by Shadow Play? You know? That Journal of the Two Sisters?

A philosophy that this show (and Celestia) lives by.

My friend Oliver pointed out something interesting to me while we were discussing this episode. It was written by Kaita Mpambara, a new guy, and if you know anything about how this show handled the writing process and new writers, then that by itself explains a lot. For that, I don't entirely blame the new writer for the bad characterisation and continuity mistakes, because it's really more a fault of the process than anything else.

But what's most interesting, hilarious, and slightly depressing about all this is that our new guy evidently tried to get the continuity right. He was writing an episode about Celestia, so evidently he did the best he could for a new writer unfamiliar with the lore, and he researched her official backstory. Only, show canon didn't have its own backstory for Celestia, so what's his only source? Right, Journal of the Two Sisters, a book that show canon tossed out the window with Shadow Play in season seven. For fuck's sake.

I appreciate the effort, new guy. You tried. The result was awful, but you tried.

Episode 8 – The Parent Map:

So, there weren't many episodes of season eight that I totally enjoyed, but I think that The Parent Map was one of them. Towards the end of my season seven review, I remarked that I had softened on Starlight since season six, and that I wouldn't mind seeing more of her so long as we had less episodes like Where and Back Again and more like Uncommon Bond. And one good thing I can definitely say about season eight as a whole is that it gave me exactly what I asked for. In fact, The Parent Map might well be my favourite episode of the season, or at least tied for it.

For one thing, this episode had a lot of really great character moments, from all its principal characters. This was the first episode to really make Starlight and Sunburst feel like real friends to me, as they have a really good dynamic here, and the episode is deeply rooted in their shared history, while not really dwelling on it. They also both have really interesting relationships with their respective parents, both because of their reasonable frustrations with them, and also because Firelight and Stellar Flare both appear to be single, which suggests family drama on both sides. This kind of parent-child relationship is unique among the main cast. None of the mane six have family relationships this complex or interesting, not even Rainbow Dash, whose strained relationship with her parents last season now almost feels like a dry run for The Parent Map.

I also really appreciate the humour in this episode. There was plenty of good character-based humour, particularly in all the ways Starlight and Sunburst were embarrassed by their parents, or in how much they obviously did not want to be there, but there was other stuff too. Like the cutaway gag to Starlight's room full of teenage angst, or the way that Starlight and Sunburst argued their point to Stellar Flare by just repeatedly opening and closing the talking gate. I laughed a lot at this episode, and this combination of good humour and good characterisation really carried it.

Unfortunately, summing up what I liked takes up a lot less words than critiquing flaws in detail, so our brief moment of positivity is now over. Time to go back to the shit.

Trust me, this hurts me a lot more than it does you.


Continued in part two.

Comments ( 28 )

While I generally enjoyed season 8, I'm also generally enjoying this, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I gotta tell you guys, only four episodes in, I'm already feeling burned out by this review, and it's taking me a long time to get through all this. Boy, I sure hope that I actually get this released before the start of season nine. I mean, imagine everyone else talking about the latest episode, or even worse, talking about the finale or G5 or other things because the show has already ended, while I'm still here bitching about an episode from 2018 that everyone's already forgotten about and moved on from. How embarrassing!

:trollestia:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I hate how much hating the show is wrapped up in nostalgia for me. Like, there's just something cathartically comforting about complaining about the show, especially season eight, which was the worst season hands down.

I'm very tickled by that shout-out, because I was thinking you were making my points better than I had. XD

Boy, I sure hope that I actually get this released before the start of season nine.

*laughs in season review*

Mostly, I'm just glad I'm not alone. ;_;

While you can make an Equestrian world where there are little pirate empires expanding in the distant south seas, along with pony racism and all that comes with it, it takes an effort that I felt warranted an AU tag when I wrote it...

And then the show insists on shrinking distances to the extent that they're all living in a series of bottles between which travel times depend on how the writers have the bottles shelved this week.

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It's always been the way of the fandom to complain about the show, but the later seasons allowed us to refine it to an art.

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Personally, I liked Oliver's explanation that the space was literally leaking out of Equestria.

Another problem I had with the opening two-parter was that, despite Chancellor Neighsay's discrimination making him an easy antagonist to knock down, the episodes still bungle the message so much that they manage to prove him right.

One of his rationales was that non-ponies were dangerous. Obviously, the episodes should prove non-ponies are not dangerous, or (at least in the case of dragons) not dangerous now. Yet only Thorax manages to clear this easy bar; the instant the Student Six go missing, the other leaders immediately leap to the conclusion that war is now justified. You know, that thing that's very dangerous to large numbers of participants because of all the death and maiming and so on? Apparently for no better storytelling reason than to dramatically raise stakes that were never that high to begin with.

Personally, I wish the show had reset and gotten to G5 a lot, lot earlier.

Also can I just say I read your Season Seven criticism a long time ago, and though I differ here and there (I personally rate Honest Apple as a back-to-basics highlight and Secrets and Pies as an out-of-place baffling bore), it was at least interesting to see how much our opinions overlapped? If nothing else, I liked the depth of explanation you went into, so it was easy to understand where you were coming from.

Speaking of awkward conversations, does anyone else feel like the extremely unnatural dialogue in Season 8, Episode 1 when discussing the school made it seem like the Manes had guns pointed at their heads? I mean, I'm an actress, so I can tell when a sister in my craft is being forced to spit out lines they don't like for the sake of a paycheck.

"Not that I can blame them for that, because seriously, how else do you fill a year-long curriculum for a course just about friendship? How else would Twilight justify literally building a whole school for it? I mean, this isn't just an extra class that Twilight campaigned to include in the existing educational system; this is a whole separate school of its own. Multiple classes a day, several days a week, for at least two years, and all just to learn simple social skills. Seriously, just how fucking basic must you be to need a school like this?"

I still say a preschool would've made more sense. But the scenes with Cozy would've been way more awkward.

"Oh, Pinkie's going to the store... to buy... baking... supplies... when she... works in a FUCKING BAKERY JESUS FUCKING CHRSJDFNGLLKRGNKURUDFKSDKBFIRBGUIRADSNFS"

But my lad where do ye think the bakery gets its supplies?

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Yet only Thorax manages to clear this easy bar; the instant the Student Six go missing, the other leaders immediately leap to the conclusion that war is now justified.

That's a good point. I never thought of that.

If nothing else, I liked the depth of explanation you went into, so it was easy to understand where you were coming from.

Thanks. One of the things I always worry about with these kinds of critiques is not making myself understood properly. I don't mind whether someone agrees or disagrees with my points, since we all have differing tastes, so long as I make my point clearly.

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The dialogue does often feel unnatural to me, yes, though I tend to only point out the most egregious examples. But I always thought that was just because of the writing; I never considered the voice actresses' side of things. I'd be interested to hear more of your commentary on this aspect of the series.

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Specifically, it was Rarity's line about "where would one go to learn about friendship." It felt like Tabitha was really forcing it out as the line was so darned asinine.

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Ha. Yeah, I'd have trouble mustering much enthusiasm for that too.

Not to mention that we already had an anti-racism episode as far back as season 2. And it made a hell of a lot more sense considering that they were all the same species, like us humans.

Season 8 is the only season where I still haven't seen every episode, and never will.

Cozy was the worst villain of the entire show, and that's coming after the lazy schlock 'POS' from Season 7 one-off who was a hack NMM wanna-be.

It was obvious to me the first instant she was onscreen she was out child supervillain, and I hoped that they'd give her some interesting backstory. I've seen many variants on the trope, some fantastically tragic, like "Baby Dahl" from Batman: TAS, an actress cursed with a congenital illness who can never appear to age, stuck in perpetual childhood, denied all the desires of her adult mind because her body never matured. Her final breakdown was quite pitiable, and her only motive was a desperate wish to be happy again.

Instead... Cozy was a narrative void. She had NOTHING driving her and no explanation as to why in hell she became so evil by age 10. She's a rickety framework of a character that's lacking even the most basic foundation. Starlight's backstory was ridiculous, but at least she had one!

And that's just one issue in the staggering mess that was Season 8. You do quit a good job of framing out the rest. I lack the patience or tolerance for such dismal writing to bother thinking that deeply on the whole thing.

G4 MLP pretty much hit its peak in 2012.

Yep, absolutely. Season 5 started strong, but then they RUINED Starlight by turning her into just another OP villain who gets insta-reformed by crying.

The viewership numbers began to fall RAPIDLY after that.

The most obvious way this approach impacted the movie was in all the missing characters. At the point of the Storm King's invasion, Equestria had its own military, the Elements of Harmony, four active alicorn princesses, Discord, the Pillars, Starlight, the Crystal Empire, the yaks, the changelings, the dragons, and several others to draw upon for assistance, yet the movie ignores all of this. Shining Armor and the Royal Guard are mysteriously absent. Discord is nowhere to be seen. Starlight is seen but doesn't do anything. And when it comes time to seek aid from foreign allies, the ponies don't go to any of the much closer nations who actually owe them a favour, but instead journey halfway across the world to ask for help from a bunch of refugees that Celestia apparently hasn't spoken to for more than a decade, who then refuse them.

Alondro weeps tears of joy, "MY GOD!! SOMEONE ELSE ON THIS PLANET STILL HAS A BRAIN BESIDES ME!!" :rainbowlaugh:

But really, I've made this point SO MANY DAMNED TIMES about the movie! And it was justified by idiots as being 'not show canon'... which made no sense since Twilight was an alicorn and Starlight was there... until they made it absolutely canonical to the show... and the same idiots STILL defended it!

Some may say that they wrote themselves into a corner, but that's not the case. There's plenty of stories you can tell with Princess Twilight that would continue to challenge her and develop her character in interesting ways, and a handful of episodes even came close to doing that. It's just that for the most part, the writers weren't creative enough to think of anything to do with her.

Case-in-point: "Dragon Ball Z" was intended to end after the Freeza Saga. But the fans and corporate heads shouted "MOAR!!!", and so the Cell Saga was created, probably the most inventive and interestingly-written story arc of the entire manga. And it later allowed for the creation of DBZ: Abridged, which automatically makes it the greatest thing ever made by a human. :rainbowlaugh:

Honestly, we have fanfic writers who've made EPICS with alicorn Twilight. And then there are the THOUSANDS of one-shots which would fit nicely into an episodic series.

We have here, from just the stories I find good enough to win my intensely selective seal of approval, HUNDREDS of hours of TV. A thousand episodes or more of FANTASTIC material.

And what we got was lazy trash cobbled together by hacks in between their porn viewing on Tumblr (before they all fled to Twitter, which now loves "Cuties" and Epstein compatriots... nuke Twitter's servers.)

It can't even get John de Lancie back for more than three episodes per season, and he actually likes being associated with bronies.

Yep, I had dinner with him. And Lauren Faust and Tara Strong back in 2012. He likes sailing alot. It's a shame he and my dad couldn't hang out, my father is a HUGE maritime fanatic and could BUILD a wooden sailboat from scratch. I was one of the $10K backers for the documentary. And this isn't even my final form! :trixieshiftright:

no homosexual changelings other than Thorax,

Thorax is NOT teh gey!

...

He's secretly a vorarephile and eats ponies and their souls for power.... ..... .... I'VE SEEN THE STORIES!! :pinkiecrazy:

We NEED to meet. There is just too much to discuss here.

We're practically on the same wavelength on EVERY SINGLE POINT you make.

I'll have to see about your review of Season 7. I did like a couple episodes in 7, and thought that they were some of the best the series ever created, showcasing the potential of this magical world for storytelling. But the Pillars were mostly a waste of time, and the POS was... exactly what the acronym implied. Kinda like STD in Star Trek. XD

I'm hearing you mumble "Parrrrrtt twooooo..." in Harry S. Plinkett's voice.

Anybody wanna pizza roll? WHO'S FUGGIN' WITH MY MEDICINE!?!

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And what we got was lazy trash cobbled together by hacks in between their porn viewing on Tumblr (before they all fled to Twitter, which now loves "Cuties" and Epstein compatriots... nuke Twitter's servers.)

lh6.googleusercontent.com/z7V0XveiRyyW5wyXXgHqQx89-TFCRV2Z2NZ1g8byUzKjjb8k-WUOBnOFOm9_sWTQmRcv9BpEM2gzVqJ_1ERKlXMeXkuFEkfjOziRsT-lGWXmjMeqBDa674ESTqOBiAAYGF75KaoD

I was one of the $10K backers for the documentary.

Really? I didn't even know there were people who donated that much to it.

I'll have to see about your review of Season 7.

Not that I blame you for forgetting, since it was over two years ago now, but you actually read it already. And commented quite extensively on it, as you're doing now. Hence why I knew you'd be interested in this one.

I'm hearing you mumble "Parrrrrtt twooooo..." in Harry S. Plinkett's voice.

Pretty much exactly how I intended it.

5356850 I drank an entire bottle of sauvignon blanc tonight.

I'm amazed I'm still lucid at all.

My brain doesn't alcohol like other brainz. :derpyderp2:

You know what? Forget discretion: I'm gonna take potshots at this one too, because I'm getting sick of feeling I have to tread on eggshells every time this damn later series stuff comes up. I was gonna put up a disclaimer about how uncharitable this could get, but then the show staff (or at least the system they've been put into) have been operating in bad faith all this time, apparently, so the gloves are off, as far as I'm concerned.


Will briefly say I haven't seen the movie, and for various reasons (disillusioned with the series by now, can't stand the art shift, haven't heard anything encouraging in the plot details) am unlikely to do so. Although I'll honestly say that S8's attempts to mesh with the movie and the S7 continuity are the least of its problems.


Although I will push back against your point for the established characters' "arcs" being over and done with. For one thing, you make the point yourself that Twilight of all ponies still had room to be challenged and developed further. If the most goodest of good characters can still be made to work, then the rest of these mortals sure as sugar can too. Yeah, Rarity got another boutique in Canterlot, but that's only the beginning of her problems, not an endgame. It's the Diamond Tiara reformation all over again: just because one checkpoint has been ticked, doesn't mean the massive tangle of ramifications have all magically been addressed or expanded upon. Same with Rainbow joining the Wonderbolts.

Pinkie and Applejack were never defined by ambition in the first place, so it's far more believable to give them ongoing slice-of-life stories even if the status quo hadn't been shaken up. And it strikes me more and more these days that Fluttershy is a massive missed opportunity, wherein the show keeps falling back into a one-dimensional "coming out of her shell" arc when it's such a trite and one-sided view of her.

No, this is going squarely in the "staff lack imagination" pile for me, not the "there are no more stories to tell" pile. Hell, even if fanfiction didn't give the lie to the latter, it shouldn't be that hard to see how other shows manage to keep going and stay good despite longevity.


True, the introduction of new characters isn't a bad idea on paper, either, but it helps to have confidence in what's gone on so far. Discord's a prime example to me. He spends the entirety of S4 in a dubious place, culminating in him making a bit of progress when he screws over Equestria and then gets burned for it. The perfect setup for an ongoing atonement arc, right? Nope: he's just assumed good and bounced from one Slice-of-Life ep to the next. An entire goldmine of future stories overlooked because this show can't do long-term arcs for toffee.

I won't even go into why reformed-Starlight is a truly execrable example in practice. The Poochie comparison is outright hilarious to me, because he was a winking mockery of the idea of a new, obnoxious and ill-fitting character getting shoved in where he doesn't belong out of cynical corporate favouritism.

Whereas Starlight - a whole two decades later - manages to not only out-Poochie Poochie, but to be a sincere example of it. Because, if your posts are to be believed, she really was Haber's pet; the quote you make up for fun above could have been a sincere staff quote, and it would strike me as 100% believable. It's hard for me to express just how much I detest her presence post-"The Cutie Map".

The Pillars might have been a waste of space, but at least their problems were mostly ones of omission. Same with the Student Six: they were shoved into a show that wasn't built with them in mind.

Honestly, the cast overload is one of the defining elements of the second half of the show to me. I even roughly include Maud in this category, because it baffles me why she of all characters gets such a developed arc despite being introduced literally as a one-trick pony. Her getting lumped in with Starlight's clique is yet more confirmation of that.


There's no point me reiterating what everyone and their dog has said about the Friendship School, except thank goodness it got delayed so Seasons Six and Seven were spared the stupidity of it. It's especially insulting in hindsight, because Twilight going on to pass the torch academically does kind of fit her character if you tilt your head, squint, dim the lights, and keep the S1 premier in mind. But what am I saying? Why keep S1 in mind? I'm barely sure the writers even knew it existed, half the time. This is effectively G5 in disguise, after all!

(Oh, and if the rumours of the movie/G5 being a continuation of G4 are true, then: can't they just let this fucking dead horse rest in piece already? It's hard enough trying to remember the show as it once was without being surrounded by people going on about its walking zombie all over again.)

and hell, maybe then her character would actually be remembered as something new and different rather than being just another member of Twilight's harem reformed unicorns club.

The fact that she has such a club at all is groan-inducing. I don't hide the fact that the redemption factory line this show turns into at times is one of my least favourite ongoing aspects of it, not least of all because even if any of them had been decent, sheer numbers just makes it look like a lazy and ridiculous crutch for the writers. I haven't seen Tempest's, but I'm sure I wouldn't like a national terrorist with a disability sob story any better.

Let's move on.


You know, I originally didn't mind Maud too much. I was one of the few in a halfway house about her, wherein I thought she could be a mix of entertaining (you dislike "Gift of the Maud Pie", but it's the only Maud ep I'm enthusiastic about, and that's because Pinkie and Rarity make for a chuckle-worthy three-pony act with her) or unapproachable (her debut ep; I rate it for its surprisingly uncompromising moral, but Maud herself is an entertainment liability regardless).

This is the ep that convinced me I was just done with her. Like, why is she getting this much favouritism from the writers? She's literally got one card to play, and it wasn't exactly a knee-slapper to begin with. She's a caricature of a bore, except one where the joke wears thin.

It doubly hurts for me because I genuinely think geology is a great subject deserving of far more credit than it gets, so to see it used as an easy stand-in for "this character is boring" pains me in ways I don't want to be pained.

Mud Briar is basically her, but with an obsession that makes even less sense (sticks!? a tree or botany obsession, maybe, but sticks!? Is that the best you can do?) and with his obnoxiousness pushing into outright antisocial territory (anti-social, not a-social: look it up, then watch him get in other ponies' way). Making him sound like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory is just the decomposing cherry on top at this point.

Literally the only bit of this I liked was the Limestone/Marble scene, and all it did was make me wonder why they get the shaft. Limestone alone is funnier to watch than Maud.

What a miserable episode.


"Fake It 'Til You Make It" is exactly as you describe later: it's what happens when someone tries to write a "funny" Fluttershy when their only reference for Fluttershy is a few clips of something like "Putting Your Hoof Down". This staff system was a nuclear war of character destruction. You mention an Alicornzheimer's theory for Celestia later, but frankly the whole frigging world gives the impression of breaking down mentally.

You know why this psychotic episode gets any traction in the fandom, right? It's the same reason memefaces tickle half of it pink despite being nothing more than hideous mugging.

It's especially sad to me because Josh Hamilton was involved in the Avatar series, and he did some pretty good work there (not always the best episodes, but often some very good ones). So he can write well. I'm attributing this one to the shoddy staff system already being in place when he joined.

Equestria being treated as a space-time continuity nightmare I take as a given at this point. They say the world gets smaller the further you travel, but judging from this series, the world gets smaller the less the writers care about it.


I skip "Grannies Gone Wild" simply because I don't have much to say about it, other than AJ's recurring ghost head was a good gag, it's nice to see older people know how to have fun, and Rainbow getting panicky over responsibility is something I really want to see more often, because she so often gets pushed into the "immature brat" role that it's saddening.

If anything, it's funny to me I don't have much to say about this one (other than Aunt Applesauce apparently got a massive libido between this and "Apple Family Reunion", and I never found it funny) because I used to consider it a highlight, but thanks to reviews like this one, I see it more and more as a flawed anomaly going against a broader collapse of entertainment.


"Surf and/or Turf" is another of those eps that I reported as enjoying at the time, but which has slipped a bit since reading your review. The fact that Silverstream doesn't show up is just about forgiveable, as is randomly pushing the CMC into this, or Twilight suddenly deciding (gladly!) that S5's incarnation of her can get over itself. It's the bit about Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo not wanting to be friends anymore that struck me.

You make the point later, but it really is astonishing how broken even the idealism of the world has become in this second half. I should have seen the warning signs as soon as a time-breaking madwoman with brainwashing powers was treated as ethically on par with the likes of the Main Six (at least Twilight had to be under severe stress to even begin tampering with brainwashing), but this show has a massive problem with toxic positivity: no matter how serious or rotten the behaviour shown within, there must be a happy ending, so all manner of contrivances are engineered to make it happen, corners are cut, and suddenly your "Sugar Bowl" (TVTropes term) is a "Crapsaccharine World", where everything looks like the same nice wonderland, but in reality it's Hell with good PR.

To be even-handed, the show's had versions of this problem here and there before. I'd contend Pinkie slipped into being treated better than she should've in "Storm of the Century" and "Luna Eclipsed"; the fact that she contributes to solving the problem doesn't change the fact that she repeatedly aggravated it in the first place, either by failing to take blatantly obvious opportunities to explain herself or by neglecting what's going on around her. One results in Ponyville getting trashed, one results in a repentant criminal having a harder time to adjust to her own PR disaster than was ever necessary. But because we need our happy ending, Pinkie never gets chewed out for her behaviour, and that annoys the hell out of me because it sweeps any semblance of accountability under the rug.

Yet these are anomalies in past seasons. Fast forward to now, and suddenly the characters can act as hostile or incompetent as they like, and so long as we get to a happy ending, the cracks can be duct-taped and ignored... until, in some cases, they're broken again, in which case just get more duct-tape.

I don't know how much of this I'd lay at Dubuc's feet for her ignorance of how this show works, or at Haber's feet for his blatant lack of care. I don't know whether to blame the writers necessarily, since I could imagine some of them expecting a few more cynical moments based on the sort of stuff they were asked to watch. But the fact is that this is an atrocious way to write the idealistic world of MLP:FiM, because it undermines the very positivity it was supposed to promote. It's not much of an exaggeration to say it comes close to condoning bad behaviour, because without a combination of perspective and discipline, that's effectively what it ends up doing anyway.

And that's a long way round to saying: Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo briefly breaking off their friendship over a detached dispute is... not the worst example of that.

See, I can sort of imagine them saying it out of an immature moment, not least of all because they still seem to be kids. But Sweetie Belle's connection to the Harmonious Heights is bizarre, now you mention it. In light of your review, it does make me a bit less enthusiastic about the episode, especially in the broader context.


"Horse Play" I skipped entirely, not least because of reviews like this one. I'm merely surprised you didn't mention your Alicornzheimer's theory in your review of Season Nine, because it was the first thing I considered when you talked about "Between Darkness and Dawn".

Not that I treat it as headcanon, because that would imply I treat anything past Season Seven as canon. It's just pathetic how low this show sunk.

In fact, I was having a chat about how the show often eschewed more heartfelt and serious drafts in favour of goofier shenanigans, in the context of Season Five's revised scripts. I don't know if that was a conscious intention, but that was certainly the result. For one thing, it certainly made me look at "Brotherhooves Social" in a new light, and not a flattering one either.

Only, the idea that the show was compromised emotionally because the heads upstairs wanted to keep it trivial and unchallenging makes real plausible sense to me, and nowhere is it more obvious than in how Celestia went from an almost guardian-angel-like presence in S1 to the ditzy, unpleasant buffoon of the second half of the show (that she was basically useless in-between I'm not a fan of, either, but there was at least an attempt at keeping her dignity).

(Will add that I'm unsure as to the actor=politician angle; if we get away from theory and look at the real world, it doesn't strike me that actors and politicians have all that much overlap, and it's hard to think of cases where the latter goes on to become the former. Yeah, Reagan sort of works, but pointing at what might turn out to be exceptions doesn't prove much by itself, since it can amount to little more than cherry-picking).

Plus, that discussion point is mostly a red herring, anyway, distracting people from the far more alarming fact - which you admittedly mention - that Celestia is being displayed as too stupid for words. That strikes me as a far more damning problem.

And I've said it before and I'll say it again: the idea that unicorns lose their magic when they raise the sun is just so much unnecessary grimdark. It's especially annoying, because it's like saying Clover's male in a very late Equestria Girls special, or giving Scootaloo parents eight seasons too late. You, episode writer: you're a little presumptuous to be weighing in on prior canon when the average casual fanficker not only knows more than you, but has already probably kicked your ass in the storytelling department for this round.


For me, "The Parent Map" is one of a very odd class of episodes that only appears post-Season Six: the "new major recurring character" ep that I enjoy, but which I for various reservations don't accept as canon (call it "Good Apocrypha", I guess).

This one, for instance, I found very funny, pretty clever, and a welcome insight into the dynamics of Sunburst and Starlight's relationship with their parents. On its own merits, it's good. All it needs to do is belong to a completely separate continuity, and we're good.

Too bad we're expected to believe this is set in the same continuity that makes it impossible for me to like Starlight. I don't think I'm being stubborn here, but the thing about Starlight is that, even without the baggage of prior episodes, I still don't see her as a good character. She's honestly blander than most OCs, with virtually nothing making her stand out the same way the Main Six stand out from each other.

When she's not Wesley Crusher or a very twisted Haber version of jerkass "Anon" (doing whatever crap she likes and inexplicably getting no real consequences for it), she makes vanilla look interesting. So people who actually appreciate her by this point still baffle me. The best I can say about her is that she's depicted inoffensively, and that she's generally surrounded by a more interesting cast (Trixie should go without saying, but Sunburst being a geeky, nebbish wizard makes him easily the more relatable half of this particular double-act).

Also, I discount S6 from the "Good Apocrypha" category because, bluntly put, Starlight's episodes there suck anyway.


Well, that was fun. Extremely darkly amusing, at least, to get that off my chest. Time to ready, aim, and fire for Part 2!

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Don't tell anybody else, but your comments are always my favourites.

No, this is going squarely in the "staff lack imagination" pile for me, not the "there are no more stories to tell" pile.

This was actually the point I was trying to make as well, but I guess that didn't come across right. I was more trying to say, "Once the writers ran out of ideas, they fell back on stupidity."

I even roughly include Maud in this category, because it baffles me why she of all characters gets such a developed arc despite being introduced literally as a one-trick pony.

This is the ep that convinced me I was just done with her. Like, why is she getting this much favouritism from the writers? She's literally got one card to play, and it wasn't exactly a knee-slapper to begin with.

I don't think she's a one-trick pony, exactly. Maud is a good character when she's used well, and I've enjoyed the majority of her appearances. I didn't even mind her friendship with Starlight; at least it gave Starlight someone to interact with other than Trixie. I will agree that Maud was way overused in later seasons, though. We didn't need to have her move to Ponyville instead of her family farm when she'd just finished an advanced degree in rock-farming, and Mudbriar was probably the most redundant character of all time.

Oh, and if the rumours of the movie/G5 being a continuation of G4 are true, then: can't they just let this fucking dead horse rest in piece already?

For personal reasons, I find the G5 rumours hilarious, because one of my oldest fics, Human (don't read it; it's bad), was a meta fic written in 2012 which predicted that FiM would run for nine seasons and a movie, would get really, really bad before the end, and that G5 would then be in-continuity with G4, except way edgier and even worse. Looks like I'm three for three so far!

I don't hide the fact that the redemption factory line this show turns into at times is one of my least favourite ongoing aspects of it, not least of all because even if any of them had been decent, sheer numbers just makes it look like a lazy and ridiculous crutch for the writers.

I think this is just an extension of the Starlight problem. It's not just that her redemption arc was badly handled; it was also unnecessary, because we already had Sunset Shimmer. I firmly believe that redemption and forgiveness are baked into the DNA of this show (one of many reasons why the fates of Cozy and the Legion of Doom disgusted me so much), so I don't personally have a problem with lots of reformed villains in general; I just dislike unoriginality.

I'm merely surprised you didn't mention your Alicornzheimer's theory in your review of Season Nine, because it was the first thing I considered when you talked about "Between Darkness and Dawn".

Well, I didn't want to repeat myself. I already made the point once, and reiterating it wouldn't have added anything. The Alicornzheimer's theory is fun and all, and I'd totally love to read a serious take on it (one of the few circumstances I'd ever force myself to read a season nine fic), but ultimately, the problems with Celestia's characterisation are Doylist in origin, and no amount of Watsonian explanations will fix that.

it doesn't strike me that actors and politicians have all that much overlap, and it's hard to think of cases where the latter goes on to become the former

I'm not necessarly saying that actors make good politicians and vice versa. One job is all about being creative and telling stories, and the other is about boring political stuff. The kind of people who become actors and the kind of people who become politicians are usually very different. I'm just saying that they draw on a common set of skills. An ambassador is very different from a hentai translator, but they both need to be good with languages, right?

And I've said it before and I'll say it again: the idea that unicorns lose their magic when they raise the sun is just so much unnecessary grimdark.

You, episode writer: you're a little presumptuous to be weighing in on prior canon when the average casual fanficker not only knows more than you,

Unicorns losing their magic when they raise the sun is old lore, though. I mean, Kaita Mpambara was the one who put it in the show, but Amy Keating Rogers was the one who first came up with it when she wrote Journal of the Two Sisters, which was a direct tie-in with one of the first episodes of season four. And I don't regard it as particularly grimdark myself, though I suppose that depends on your personal interpretation. Admittedly, my personal take on it in my own stories is quite grimdark, because magic = souls in the Borderworld, but that's just because I'm edgelord who writes edgelord stories. I never viewed canon in a similar light.

For me, "The Parent Map" is one of a very odd class of episodes that only appears post-Season Six: the "new major recurring character" ep that I enjoy, but which I for various reservations don't accept as canon (call it "Good Apocrypha", I guess).

That's a good name for it, and it's about how I regard the episode too. Well, I don't accept it as entirely canon, anyway. I cherry-pick when it comes to the bad seasons.

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For personal reasons, I find the G5 rumours hilarious, because one of my oldest fics, Human (don't read it; it's bad), was a meta fic written in 2012 which predicted that FiM would run for nine seasons and a movie, would get really, really bad before the end, and that G5 would then be in-continuity with G4, except way edgier and even worse. Looks like I'm three for three so far!

You are a goddamn prophet if that's true. :rainbowlaugh: Now tell me the lottery numbers.

I firmly believe that redemption and forgiveness are baked into the DNA of this show (one of many reasons why the fates of Cozy and the Legion of Doom disgusted me so much), so I don't personally have a problem with lots of reformed villains in general; I just dislike unoriginality.

One of the hard things about that "too much redemption" criticism personally is that it makes me sound like a retributive thug. While that's a perspective I can understand, it's not one I look for. I love me a good redemption arc, and there's a lot to talk about re: the pros and cons of giving people second chances, isolating them for other people's protection, disarming/incapacitating them, or in extremis when you might have to grit your teeth and pull the trigger. And this is assuming our entertainment has to be morally aligned at all times; sometimes, there is just plain fun in a franchise that doesn't ask those questions and fully runs with "Bad Guy = Shoot Now". Most action movies, for a start.

To put it frankly, though, I think this show is bad at it. For one thing: too often, it confuses explanation with exculpation. Just because a bad guy has a sob story that explains their actions, doesn't mean we can suddenly overlook their crimes. Discord in S9 is arguably the most blatantly egregious example, but it plagues some of the other redemptions to some extent, especially when there's collateral damage to their actions.

To put it another way: if you're going to play the redemption card, take it seriously. Don't just slap it on because "friendship is magic" or whatever. That's just toxic positivity again.

It's not just that her redemption arc was badly handled; it was also unnecessary, because we already had Sunset Shimmer.

True, but Sunset is stuck in a spin-off. I'd say we already have Discord filling that niche, because he's a perfect example of someone who's clueless about how friendship works and will be a jerk if he can get away with it. Merely not messing the world over doesn't mean he doesn't have any more work to do to regain trust or fix the damage (hell, why doesn't he fix the library? Or treat Twilight any better, for that matter?).

Unicorns losing their magic when they raise the sun is old lore, though.

Fair enough. It's not like I won't grouse over stuff in the other half of the show, or in outside materials. I'm an equal-opportunity pain-in-the-neck. :pinkiecrazy:

The weird thing is that I generally don't mind grimdark or edgelord or what have you (if the story's any good, at least). I just tend to view it differently when it starts turning up near MLP:FiM. It's one reason I never got into Fallout: Equestria and ended up resenting its popularity.

N.B. I haven't responded to all of your points here, but mostly because I haven't got much to add beyond "I agree!" or "Okie dokie!"

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To put it frankly, though, I think this show is bad at it. For one thing: too often, it confuses explanation with exculpation.

I agree completely. Ahuizotl was also a particularly galling example of this.

The weird thing is that I generally don't mind grimdark or edgelord or what have you (if the story's any good, at least). I just tend to view it differently when it starts turning up near MLP:FiM. It's one reason I never got into Fallout: Equestria and ended up resenting its popularity.

Still not 100% on how losing magic is grimdark in itself, though. I mean, it's a negative consequence, but I wouldn't call it dark unless you go the route I did with it.

N.B. I haven't responded to all of your points here, but mostly because I haven't got much to add beyond "I agree!" or "Okie dokie!"

I generally tend to assume as such. The same is the case for me.

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oh god, Starlight is evil Cadence

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Still not a 100% on how losing magic is grimdark in itself, though. I mean, it's a negative consequence, but I wouldn't call it dark unless you go the route I did with it.

Best way I can explain it is with a parallel. In the TV show Avatar: The Legend of Korra, it's established that certain people can manipulate or bend specific elements in the environment to their will (hence fire-bender, air-bender, water-bender, earth-bender, and so on). It sort of parallels the tribes of ponies with their unique strengths and weaknesses, and in any case it's a big part of their daily life.

Introduce a villain, though, who mysteriously has the power to take all this away. It terrifies them. In some respects, it's treated like they just lost an essential part of themselves, or just had an arm amputated. The creepy part is that, unlike other forms of power-stopping, this one is permanent. It outright breaks some people.

Given how central magic is to unicorns, I got the same feel with that idea here. If you don't think it qualifies as grimdark, I'd still say it's an excessively nasty idea to introduce to a world like this one (as opposed to, say, unicorns raising the sun by committee with no major ill-effects, which is my go-to way of interpreting pre-Celestial sun cycles).

I dunno if it's just me, but there's something off about a unicorn basically being crippled just to make sure a day happens at all. To say nothing of it happening regularly. It's like a G-rated version of Aztec sacrifice.

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Fair enough, though the idea was already kinda introduced to the world with Tirek.

Well, technically both the JOTTS lore and Tirek were introduced around the same time, but you get my meaning.

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I meant more that it's weirdly horrific for such a mundane aspect of the world. Tirek draining souls is a villain gimmick; you expect villains to have dark powers like that, it naturally comes with the territory. The sun randomly doing the same thing because you want a Monday now feels unnecessary, like some worldbuilding fanficker just wanted to sound edgy for a bit.

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I get that. It wasn't the purpose of the addition, though. The narrative reason in JOTTS for the sun draining magic is to give an incentive for the unicorns to hand over control of the sun to the alicorns. If there's no drawback to them doing it themselves, then it's effectively giving up their main bargaining chip. Earth ponies bring food, pegasi bring the weather, unicorns bring... nothing, the alicorns handle that sun business now. Making the sun-raising an unsustainable burden makes it a sensible and conflict-free choice to give it up to Celestia and Luna.

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