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I'm just here to write.

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  • 13 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 · 114 views
  • 16 weeks

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    3 comments · 122 views
  • 20 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 · 145 views
  • 23 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 · 232 views
  • 33 weeks
    Something Cosmic, chapter 5

    "So if you and the Tree of Harmony aren't opposites, what are you? And what does this have to with alicorns?"

    "Nothing!" Discord said with a cheerful grin, slowly rotating in place. "You just made an incorrect assumption and led us on a tangent!"

    "Wha—" Twilight spluttered. "I didn't lead us on a tangent! You're the one who— Agghhh!"

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    0 comments · 141 views

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

Continued from part one.

Episode 9 – Non-Compete Clause:

Season eight's timeline is fucked.

That's probably not what you expected my first complaint about Non-Compete Clause to be, but it is. Call me Rian fucking Johnson, because today I'm subverting expectations.

wHAT thE FUUuuuUUCkkkk

Yes, I'm talking about Fluttershy's eight previous Teacher of the Month awards. No, I don't think that it's nitpicking. And no, I definitely will not let it go. We have had zero episodes focusing on the School of Friendship since the premier to this point. Seven episodes of no school, and in that time, we skipped past nine months of the school operating, almost a year. Where did all the time go? What were the student six doing and learning during all that time? We never see. We just skipped pretty much their entire first year at the school.

And I want you to think about that from now on. Every student six episode after the premier in season eight takes place after this massive timeskip, assuming that this season is in chronological order (though admittedly, even that's not a given). So from now on, whenever we cover a student six episode, I want you to remember that according to this episode, they've already been at this school for at least nine months now. Nine months into friendship schooling, and they're learning about the concept of teamwork. That Hearth's Warming episode in the latter half of the season? That logically has to be their second Hearth's Warming together. Think about that.

Don't even get me started on what this does to the timeframe of the series, either, because this season already began with a huge timeskip, during which the school and the train route to Mount Aris were constructed. That one episode of season seven tried to imply that the entire series until that point took place over less than three years, and now season eight alone is already looking close to two years long. I mean, wow, if you thought the idea of the first three seasons taking place over a year was a stretch, just try to wrap your head around this timeline.

Ah... but you're not here to listen to me rant about timeframes and chronology, are you? You all know what the real problem of this episode is, don't you?

It's like season one again! Only, you know, worse.

What this episode is demonstrating is an extreme form of character regression. I briefly mentioned in the introduction segment how the show started doing this in seasons six and seven. It's a way for the writers to continue recycling character arcs, episode morals, and plot elements that otherwise should've been resolved by now, and it's pretty blatant in this case.

The comparison above demonstrates this. Applejack and Rainbow Dash learned their lesson about being overly competitive in season one. They resolved their differences in season one. In almost every episode since then (until this one anyway), they've gotten along and kept their competitive streaks under wraps. Yet now, all of a sudden, they're back to acting like children again, as if they never learned anything, and as if all that character development just never happened, because that's what needs to happen for the plot to work. Take that element away and there is no episode.

Only it's actually worse than just backsliding. Rainbow Dash and Applejack are not just going back to old bad habits; they're worse than they ever were before. Not just because this time they didn't even learn their lesson by the end, but also because of the roles this new season has handed them. Sure, them both cheating in the race wasn't a good look for them in Fall Weather Friends, but at least in that episode the stakes were trivial, and at least back then they were supposed to be young and immature characters.

But it's eight seasons later now. They're both older, more experienced, and have known each other for years. They're both supposed to be such experts on friendship that they contributed to a best-selling book about it, teach it professionally in a school, and are sometimes employed by a mystical omniscient map as friendship missionaries. You would think that characters with that kind of pedigree to their names would be better than this, but apparently not.

And what's more, this time there are actual stakes and consequences to what they're doing. Their petty squabbling is not harmless anymore; it's actively endangering themselves and others. It endangers their own students, the kids that they're supposed to be responsible for. The context of Applejack and Rainbow Dash being friendship teachers makes it so much worse that they still behave this way, especially when even their first year friendship students know better.

Try to move me, you alicorn pieces of shit.

And you know what? That's another thing. The student six are meant to be first year friendship students (albeit ones who've been attending this school for nine fucking months already, holy shit), yet as this episode shows, they're all more mature than their teachers, and already better friends with each other than they are too. It was so irksome seeing them being the sensible and productive ones, and getting frustrated with Dash and AJ, because it's doing the same thing that Starlight's worst episodes did – shitting on the familiar characters that we already know and like to make the new protagonist(s) look better by comparison. Fortunately, unlike Starlight, this turned out not to be a trend for student six episodes, but it's still a horrible reintroduction to them after their seven episode absence.

Not only that, but their competence in this episode goes back to a problem that I've had with their group ever since the premier, which is that their very existence undermines the concept of a friendship school by rendering it redundant. None of these characters need friendship lessons, nor did they ever, because they were already friends from their very first appearance! From the moment they cut class together, they were already a pretty tight-knit group, and they fostered those friendships even despite the supposedly stifling and horrible EEA rules.

So it's obvious from their two major appearances in the season so far that they learned all their most important lessons about friendship without any help from their teachers. Hell, even the premier episode's song, "Friendship Always Wins," admits that some things can't be learned in books, and I would say that the student six (and the entire first two seasons of this show, incidentally) are good indicators that friendship is one of those things. So all this just brings our attention back to the obvious question:

What in the name of FUCK is the point of this school?!


Episode 10 – The Break Up Breakdown:

Phew. Okay, now that we've got that mess out of the way, time for another good episode for a palette-cleanser.

You guys know I like Discord. A good Discord episode makes my dick rock hard, and Dungeons & Discords was one of my favourites of season six. I loved the unexpected grouping of Spike, Discord, and Big Mac for an episode, and everything that it did with them. To say that I was happy to see that dynamic return here is an understatement, and I was all the more delighted by it for the fact that Discord's appearance in the episode was a total surprise to me. Season seven never followed up on the Dungeons & Discords group, so I had forgotten all about it, and just thought that I was in for a fairly standard Spike and Big Mac episode. You can't imagine the noises that I made when Spike called out Discord's name and I realised what was coming.

It was me. I was coming.

Now, that's not to say that this episode didn't have questionable moments. Although it makes a joke of them, I did think that the misunderstandings were a little contrived. The Crusaders totally should have heard Big Mac hiding in the hay bales in that barn scene. And frankly, the Big Mac and Sugar Belle relationship has always felt a little weird to me. It came right out of left field in season seven, like a canon crackship, and nothing about this episode helped me to understand just what Sugar Belle actually sees in Big Mac or why they're together.

All that said, however, I enjoyed pretty much everything else. Aside from the initial contrivance to set it up, I found the Crusaders subplot cute. I liked the little Lyra and Bon Bon moment. And of course, I loved everything to do with Discord. I already mentioned his dynamic with Big Mac and Spike, but he was also a great source of comedy in this episode, just because of how cynical and apathetic he was to Big Mac's plight. After how neutered he was in Discordant Harmony last season, I was so glad to see him being a dick again. Just the way he kept shitting all over Big Mac's relationship was so hilarious to me.

I dunno. Maybe I'm biased, but I liked this one. Chalk that up as two good episodes this season.

Episode 11 – Molt Down:

Right... Molt Down... What to say about Molt Down...

The molt effect in a nutshell?

This episode was... surreal. I'm not quite sure how to articulate it. Everything about it just felt weird in some subtle way. I knew that the wings were coming, because they were in the season trailer, and yet they still took me totally off-guard. The whole molting process was so oddly gross for this show, and ended in another of those Pokémon-esque instant transformations in a burst of light, just like Rockhoof and Mistmane in Campfire Tales, and I believe that I commented before how much I hated those.

And winged Spike in general is such a strange design. He looks exactly the same, only now he has wings. Every other winged adolescent dragon has been a lot slimmer and taller than Spike, and he just doesn't fit the established dragon aesthetic. I feel like if they were actually going to do this, if they were really going to permanently change Spike's design in a flash of light and give him wings, then the redesign should've been more substantial. I mean, I'm not exactly asking for his Last Problem design, because that was pretty weird-looking too (a critique for another day), but... I dunno, am I alone in this? Did anyone else think that season eight winged Spike looked weird?

It wasn't just that, either. There were a lot of other things that felt off about this episode. Little things. Things that bothered me in small ways, and just contributed to making it feel... I dunno.

Like Rarity's shouting because of her blocked ears. Didn't that feel weirdly out of place to anyone else? It's used for a few jokes, but... I'm not sure why it's in the story. It causes Rarity to miss Spike's warning and get snatched by the roc, but... did she need to be deaf for that? Storywise, did the roc even need to grab Rarity at all when it already had Zecora? I don't get the purpose of Rarity's blocked ears. It's not like a B-plot or anything. It's just there.

Or what about how Twilight immediately starts fighting the roc, remembering for the first time in ages that she's a super powerful alicorn princess, and yet she still can't actually beat it? Isn't that weird? Or what about her random angry jealous comment about Celestia? Where did that come from? What about when she asked Spike to leave and find somewhere "less flammable" than her castle made out of crystal? Is crystal known for being particularly flammable?

I'll tell you what really felt strange to me, though, and this is a weirdly specific thing, but... this episode is full of continuity. Like, chock-full of it, unlike most other episodes this season. There's a reference to Rarity's hair troubles in the previous season, a reference to Spike's greed growth all the way back in season two, and for some reason even a full appearance by Spike's former pet phoenix, Peewee, a minor character that hasn't appeared on the show since the unicorn Twi era. And yet, despite all of that, Spike grows wings, and has several major scenes with Twilight... and yet nobody comments on the parallel.

I'm not sure that it's a flaw, exactly, but it's just another thing that feels strange to me. This episode clearly remembers and hearkens back to episodes where Twilight didn't have wings, and Spike gets his own ascension to mirror Twilight, and it's just... nobody says anything? Not even a joke about Spike being a princess now? You know we would've gotten one if it had been Larson writing this. It's conspicuous in its absence.

I don't know. I just don't know. I genuinely can't tell if this is a bad episode or not. It's been almost two years since I first watched it, and I still can't figure out how I feel about it. It just baffles me, and not even for any particularly obvious reason.

One day I'll make my peace with this episode. One day.

Nice seeing Spike and Smolder interact, though. That was something. More on that later.

Episode 12 – Marks for Effort:

Okay, next we have... eugh, really? Alright... Next we have the Cozy Glow episode. The first one. I've got a lot to say about Cozy Glow, but most of it I'm gonna have to save for later. But I have a few minor positives to get out of the way first. For one thing, regardless of my opinion on Cozy as a character or a villain, I do like how this episode exists to set her up, and I'm glad that they held off on dropping hints about her true nature right away. I like that they waited until her later appearances for that, so that we could get to know the facade first. It gives it a better impact when later episodes reveal that she's evil, especially for viewers who didn't catch it the first time around, which I imagine would be most of the show's actual target audience.

Next, while most of what happens with Cozy here is total nonsense, I can at least understand her general plan. As she says, she deliberately fails her test to make the Crusaders look bad at friendship so that they can attend the school with her. On the surface, a sound enough plan for a child. On a deeper level, as a villain scheme, I suppose it makes sense to attempt to endear herself to the Crusaders this way. Maybe she was hoping to have them as easily manipulable minions or something. The later reveal of Cozy's true nature also explains in retrospect what initially looks like a plot hole, that being how and why she just happened to be outside the Crusaders' clubhouse when they met her, given that it's on the Apple family's private land. If she was deliberately seeking them out, then fair enough. That makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is why Twilight totally falls for even the surface-level plan. One of the questions is "Who is the Princess of Friendship?" and Cozy's answer is "Your mom." It's so obvious that this is a deliberately wrong answer, because there's no way that any student enrolling at this school doesn't know that. Twilight should have noticed this and known that Cozy was up to something, yet instead, she completely accepts at face value that the Crusaders sabotaged Cozy's test, and punishes them for it. It's like a show version of the Anon-a-Miss problem – not only does Twilight look incredibly stupid for falling for this, but she also shows a complete lack of trust in the Crusaders, despite knowing them for years and considering them friendship experts.

I like to imagine that Cozy's actual plan here was to deliberately fail the test, get caught, and then confess that she wanted to help the Crusaders when asked about it, thereby endearing herself to her teachers. But she totally underestimated just how dense Twilight actually is, and thus had to confess to Starlight instead. That's why she had that quiet little "oh no" to herself outside the classroom. It wasn't because the Crusaders were in trouble. She was just having a rare moment of sympathy for her headmare after realising that she obviously has worms eating her brain.

Much like Celestia, as Twilight ages, her condition will only worsen.

Another thing I need to comment on with this episode is the School of Friendship itself. I once again come back to the same point I made before about how the very concept of a friendship school is idiotic, but this episode demonstrates that in spades. We actually get to see some of the mane six's classes here, and it's immediately clear that this entire institution is just a huge waste of time. Pinkie's class consists of her giving out cupcakes. Rainbow Dash is having a Wonderbolt storytime in the gym, while Applejack is running a buckball game in her classroom. Cozy's test consists of basic questions like memorising the six Elements of Harmony, and her homework is just helping the teachers' friends with odd jobs. What is the point of any of this?

It's especially weird, because the Crusaders want to attend this school, so we get to see them and other characters directly compare it with Cheerilee's classes, and when held up against that, it's all the more glaring that Twilight's school actually does nothing. She tells the Crusaders that they don't need her school because they already know all about friendship, and they need Cheerilee's classes instead. So is that an admission on Twilight's part that her school does not provide a general education on subjects like math, science, and history? Because that's what it sounds like. And from the mane six's classes, that's what it looks like, too. I mean, this isn't even an accredited institution, so I wouldn't be surprised.

Then at the end of the episode, the Crusaders are declared honorary graduates of the School of Friendship, again because they're supposedly already friendship experts. I would like to briefly remind you all that in this episode they fake having a fight and breakup to prove that they're not friendship experts and get into the school, when in the last Crusaders episode Twilight saw them have a real fight and breakup, but whatever.

So being friendship graduates now, what does that mean for them? Okay, they can tutor at the School of Friendship. What else? Are they officially out of school now? Can they stop attending Cheerilee's classes? Does a friendship diploma count as a credit toward qualifying for any other higher education? Probably not, since the EEA doesn't recognise it. What about jobs? What jobs does a friendship diploma qualify you for, other than teaching at this school? I can't think of any, and even the student six in the final episode seem to go into mundane jobs that have nothing specifically to do with friendship.

Graduating this school doesn't seem to mean anything tangible. It just seems to be a vague affirmation that you "understand friendship," which is totally worthless in and of itself. It's not like every student that graduates this school can wield the Elements of Harmony or anything. The Crusaders never do. All it basically means that the graduate either has friends, or knows how to make friends. And like I said, the student six and every single character that attends this school were friends from day one anyway, so what are they learning? The only types of people that I could see benefitting from a school like this are socially awkward losers like Mudbriar, who we never see attending, or villains in need of reform like Cozy Glow, who it doesn't work on anyway!

Couple all this with the fact that "learning at the School of Friendship" has several times now turned out to mean providing free labour on Applejack's farm, and I'm increasingly beginning to think that this entire school is just one big scam.

The students, upon realising that they're not getting their tuition money back.

Episode 13 – The Mean Six:

I really wanted to like The Mean Six. I mean I really did, because it was a Chrysalis episode! In the seven preceding seasons of this show, she only appeared four times, and almost every time that she did, she was the best part of the episode (yes, even in her three second cameo in Times They Are a-Changeling; it's not like that episode had anything else going for it). And after how horribly Where and Back Again ended, and after how we were stuck with just Thorax and the skittlebugs for an entire season afterwards, I was praying for Chrysalis to come back and do something.

And then I finally got my wish, and... it was the biggest disappointment of the whole season.

To be clear, I was expecting villain decay. Every other time that Chrysalis appeared, she had a full army at her beck and call, and she doesn't anymore. And after how season seven completely squandered its chance to bring her back and do a proper changeling civil war arc, I knew that Chrysalis was going to be on her own, so I didn't expect anything as grandiose or impressive as what she managed before, especially not in a mid-season episode. But I was at least expecting her to be competent and intimidating.

I mean, sure, if you really think about it, you can poke all sorts of holes (hahaha) in Chrysalis's plan from A Canterlot Wedding, and her ego and megalomania have led her to make a few dumb mistakes, but she was never meant to be a stupid character. Until this episode, she was actually fairly successful as far as FiM villains go. She nearly took Canterlot in her very first appearance. She took down all of Equestria's leaders and great heroes offscreen in her last one. Both times she was only ever defeated by deus ex machina, and both times she got away alive and free in spite of that, which is more than any other unreformed villain can say. Say what you will about her, but you can't deny that early series Chrysalis was good at what she did.

But then we come to this episode, and suddenly Chrysalis is so stupid that her plan foils itself without anyone ever even realising that she was there. Seriously, think about this. Chrysalis made evil clones of the mane six to wield the Elements of Harmony, without even knowing for sure if that was even possible in the first place, and made them both more powerful than herself, and with the agency to betray her, and all this before she even knew where the Elements were. God only knows what she would've done if the mane six hadn't been coincidentally going on a trip to see the Tree of Harmony at the exact same time that she was planning this. And why make them evil clones when the Elements of Harmony are tied to virtues? If the clone plan had any merit at all, that alone would've fucked it all up.

No matter how many logical hoops I jump through in my head, I can't possibly justify this plan. This is probably the stupidest plan of any villain in G4, and if you've read the From the Shadows comic arc, you'll know that that's saying a lot. No character this stupid should be as successful as Chrysalis has otherwise been, unless the people who she's fooling are even stupider.

But what am I saying? Of course the mane six are even stupider than Chrysalis. One need only look at pretty much any other episode in the final three seasons to see that. A few of them come close to figuring out that something's going on, even if their guesses are wrong, but they never actually do work it out, even when they're all together again and openly accusing each other of saying things that they know they never said. This entire episode is the epitome of an idiot plot.

Remember when Twilight Sparkle was smart?

Also, I don't know if anybody else noticed this, but this entire episode was incredibly unoriginal. It once again reminds me of the Equestria Girls Holiday Special, in that it's basically just a rehash of multiple previous stories inelegantly stitched together. In this case, it steals from two major sources. Firstly, the mean six themselves are rehashes of the corrupted mane six in Return of Harmony, with Mean Twilight being the only original personality of the bunch. And secondly, the entire premise of the mane six being separated and having their friendships tested by evil doppelgangers of their friends is a rehash of Return of Chrysalis. Only in Return of Chrysalis, it was done by the changelings as part of a deliberate strategy, instead of accidentally by evil magic stick clones.

So really, this episode's story fails at every turn. And it's a shame, because I wanted to like this one. The voice actresses were obviously having a lot of fun here, and I wish I could have enjoyed the ride with them, but I just can't abide by this. Chrysalis deserved better. And sadly, this will not be the last time that I say that.

Episode 14 – A Matter of Principals:

Yeah, I'm reviewing these in the official order, not in the order that they were actually broadcast. I believe that Yakity Sax was the one that I actually saw next after Mean Six, but screw it.

A Matter of Principals is another one of those episodes which I simultaneously enjoyed but also thought was pretty bad. Obviously, I enjoyed it because I enjoy Discord, and there were a few other things about the episode that I liked, such as Iron Will's cameo, and all the Princess Spike references. But aside from that, the vast majority of this episode just doesn't make sense. You can look at almost any scene of this episode and find something questionable about it.

Like, starting small, Twilight says that all these magical artefacts she has were donated for this lesson by Celestia, because they come from various different cultures just like the students do, but why does Celestia have them? Clover the Clever's cloak, okay, sure. The Crown of Grover? Okay, Griffonstone doesn't have a monarchy anymore, so I guess some griffon scavenger might have sold it to Equestria at some point... Knuckerbocker's Shell? That's Daring Do's. It's from one of GM Berrow's chapter books. Daring uses it to call Knuckerbocker for help, because he's a friend of hers and helped her on a previous adventure. Why does Celestia have it rather than Daring?

The Helm of Yksler? Why does Celestia have an artefact of a famous yak hero? Equestria only established relations with Yakyakistan in season five. Prior to that, ponies and yaks had zero contact for centuries! How did Celestia get ahold of this helm? And how is there an artefact for a famous changeling at all? All the changelings were seemingly just drones under Chrysalis until Thorax's coup. We didn't see anything resembling fashion or culture in their hive, so who the hell is this hooded changeling in the portrait and how and why does she(?) have a special talisman?

"Fuck continuity, and FUCK YOU." – Mirage, I guess.

What about the substitute teachers? Twilight in this episode says that she has a plan in case the mane six are all called away for a friendship mission at once, and that's supposedly why she has six months of lesson plans ready. And yet she didn't prepare substitute teachers ahead of time? Starlight had to wait until the next day of class before hiring any? And there was a long enough period of time where they had no substitute teachers that Discord could just bring in his own? This comes off as horribly inept on Twilight's part.

Starlight's eventual choices for substitute teachers are pretty eyebrow-raising as well. Maud, Trixie, and Spitfire? Why them? Why any of them? I'd say it's just nepotism, Starlight hiring her own friends for the positions, but Spitfire doesn't fit the mold. Either way, they're all pretty terrible choices for teachers. Trixie is a raging narcissist that even Starlight can't stand half the time, Maud is socially awkward and most people don't get her, and Spitfire is... well, I don't know if I'd call her an asshole anymore, but I definitely wouldn't call her a friendship expert. All of these characters would be much more at home as students of this school than teachers, so why are they here? Why not ask the Crusaders? Aren't they supposed to be part-time friendship tutors now?

Why is Starlight suddenly so powerful? Okay, yes, I know, she's always been a powerful character, but she still at least scaled to Twilight's level of talent until now. Yet suddenly, she can take out the fucking Bugbear in one shot, a monster the mane six previously spent an entire episode struggling with in the background, and then not a minute later she casually defeats Discord in a single huge blast as well. Yes, I know it doesn't stick, but the mere fact that Starlight could even affect him at all already places her leagues higher than she should be. We never saw Twilight in Return of Harmony try just banishing him. Why not? Is Starlight really that much stronger than Twilight?

Of course, for as much as I enjoyed him here, unquestionably the biggest issue of the episode is Discord. I said in my season seven review that I enjoy Discord being a dick, and I wasn't overly fond of how neutered he was in Discordant Harmony. For this reason, I still enjoyed Matter of Principals in spite of its flaws. However, I cannot ignore that it goes way too far in the other direction, and the result is another instance of extreme character regression.

Discord in this episode is motivated entirely by jealousy and pettiness, which hasn't been a driving part of his character since season five. Make New Friends But Keep Discord and Dungeons and Discords were both about Discord learning that he can't always have things his way, and Discordant Harmony was an affirmation that he had accepted this. That's not to say that Discord isn't still a tool from time to time, but after his most major developments, it's usually within acceptable bounds. Unless he's pissed off with someone, he doesn't usually drag others into danger, and if he does, it's normally because they can handle it and because he wants to teach them something.

But that isn't the case here. Discord has no lesson to teach Starlight, much less the student six, and no reason to be doing this other than personal jealousy that Twilight didn't involve him in this School of Friendship nonsense, which doesn't make sense for him. Discord shouldn't still be such a jealous cunt after everything that happened with Tree Hugger. He shouldn't be so hostile to Starlight after the season six finale given their own history together. And he shouldn't even care about Twilight's school anyway, because since when did Discord care about this kind of mushy pap? I would think that he would be bored to tears by a school all about teaching friendship and harmony, which is probably half the reason why he goes out of his way to disrupt it.

Not to mention that in the course of disrupting it, he actively endangers innocent bystanders as well, not just the target of his ire. This is a line that Discord hasn't crossed since he betrayed Equestria for Tirek. Or, put another way, the last time Discord was this villainous, he was an actual villain. As fun as I found it to watch, this episode is a pretty serious derailment of Discord's character growth and reformation arc. And sadly, this was all just foreshadowing of much worse things to come in season nine, but I'm once again getting ahead of myself. My point is that he should be past this kind of shit by now, especially after Discordant Harmony. Why is he doing this?

Well, I'll tell you why. It's the same reason for Starlight's odd choice of substitute teachers, her inexplicable power creep, and Celestia's mysterious contradictory artefacts:

Season eight's writers did not watch previous seasons of the show.

That may sound like an outrageous claim, and to be fair, I am exaggerating and generalising for the sake of getting a point across, but for the most part, it is absolutely true. FiM had been running for seven seasons by the time this episode was in production, and by then, not a single regular writer was left who had been with the show since the beginning. By season eight, most of the writers were either new guys and freelancers, like the writer of Horse Play, or "veterans" who had jumped on at season five or six at the earliest. Josh Haber was probably the longest-serving writer by the show's end, and he started in season four.

Incidentally, did you know that Josh Haber worked on The Passion of the Christ? He was an assistant to Mel Gibson. True facts.

Nicole Dubuc, the writer of Matters of Principals, started on the show with season seven. Her first writing credit was Shadow Play, and you've all heard me complain about how awful that was, but then she inexplicably served as executive producer all through season eight and halfway through season nine, wrote most of the premiers and finales spanning that time, and laughably was a co-story editor with Haber, despite clearly not being able to keep her continuity straight.

This is not a judgement on the woman herself, by the way. I'm not saying that she's a bad person or anything. But I think that if there's any single individual to blame for the declining quality of FiM through the last three seasons, it's probably Dubuc (though I personally hold Haber just as responsible). She joined the show very late, took an executive position almost immediately, and right away started making creative decisions for a show that she obviously knew very little about, coincidentally just as it began reaching its lowest point.

Is it a stretch to say that Dubuc didn't watch any previous seasons of the show when she took over? Well, yeah, I guess. Like I said, that was an exaggeration to make a point. I'm sure that she watched some stuff for reference. She's obviously watched Princess Spike, at least. But I very much doubt that she watched everything. That's around fifty hours of television, not even counting movies, so it's easy to understand why she wouldn't bother. That's why, instead, new writers to the show are given cheat sheets, which come with a list of descriptors and basic character traits for each main character, and a few handy reference episodes to watch to get a feel for them. We know this because of all the leaks that came out in season nine.

Now, I'm not going to discuss the cheat sheets in detail, even though they're hilariously bad, because I'm saving that for the season nine review. But the point is that if the writers rely on cheat sheets rather than actually watching the show, it goes a long way towards explaining why the continuity is as fucked up as is. At best, they're watching one episode in twenty, and everything else that they know about the show and the characters, they learned through the in-house equivalent of Wikipedia summaries.

This is why I don't entirely blame Kaita Mpambara for Horse Play being garbage. New writers come into this show with no familiarity with its lore, but instead of being directed to familiarise themselves with it properly, they're just given a few reference episodes to watch and have to do their best, and straightening it all out is the job of the story editors. They just have to trust that the people in charge actually know what they're doing.

Only they don't. Dubuc was one of those people in charge who was supposed to keep the continuity straight, and yet, just like the freelancers, she seems to have little familiarity with previous seasons. She references things, but she doesn't understand them. She knows that the yaks are a thing, so she includes an artefact of a famous yak hero, but she probably hasn't actually watched Party Pooped, so she doesn't know that yaks and ponies only recently established relations. She knows that Spitfire is a recurring character who's friendly with Dash, but she probably hasn't watched any of the many episodes where Spitfire is a complete bitch, so she has no idea how weird it is for Spitfire to be teaching friendship. She knows that Discord was a jealous cunt once, because Make New Friends But Keep Discord is a reference episode, but she hasn't watched his entire reformation arc, so she misses the point and regresses his development.

This is even evident in Shadow Play. Dubuc knows all the Tree of Harmony episodes, so she feels qualified to give it a stupid contradictory backstory, but it seems like she didn't read Journal of the Two Sisters, so she probably didn't know that her backstory was stupid and contradictory. Though to be fair, Haber is just as much at fault there, and should probably have known better and corrected her, given that he wrote the episode that the Journal was based upon.

The most damning evidence of all, though, is Mirage, the famous hooded changeling whose portrait hangs in the school. Take a look at her in the leaked version of the episode:

I'm not even mad. This is just depressing.

Remember in my season seven review, when I joked that I was surprised that they remembered to put Luna's face on the moon in a flashback set before season one? This is even worse than that. The changelings went from black to colourful in season six, and by season eight, someone had already forgotten that there was ever a time when the changelings were not skittlebugs.

Now, to be completely fair, this is probably an animator's mistake, not Dubuc's. And credit where it's due, this was fixed by the time the episode actually aired, so I'm not counting this as a point against anyone. I just think that this is a pretty good illustration of a general trend of ignorance among the show staff through the last three seasons. It shows most clearly in the newbie writers' episodes, Dubuc's included, but pretty much the entire season suffers from it. Season seven did too, and so would season nine after this.

I think that the movie was the worst example, though, because its entire plot was predicated on this. Remember, Canterlot has been invaded before, and the last time it happened, the invading army had a much better plan, and Equestria had far fewer powerful defenders and allies. Yet with only two active alicorns, Shining Armor, and the Royal Guard, they still fought back and won. Come the movie, and a disabled unicorn can casually stroll into Canterlot unopposed, throw some grenades, and defeat four alicorn princesses in about two minutes. Then by season eight, the brief fight between the mane six and some jobbers versus the Storm King's forces at the end of the movie has become known as the "Battle of Canterlot." So what the hell do they now call the much bigger, previous battle in Canterlot, where the Royal Guard actually existed and did things?

This is all fairly typical of the Haber/Dubuc era of MLP. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's the defining feature of it. Whenever you watch any episode of this show from season seven onwards, just imagine that it exists in a world where the first five seasons did not happen. Suddenly, doesn't it all make a lot more sense?

...Anyway, I've delayed and digressed long enough. A Matter of Principals was a bad episode. There. That's the review. I could've just said that at the start and saved us all some time.

Episode 15 – The Hearth's Warming Club:

So let's relax a little now and talk about another relatively decent episode.

I know I've been ragging on the School of Friendship constantly throughout this review, but I want to reiterate that I actually don't mind the student six themselves. With the exception of Sandbar, who I find even blander than Thorax, I think that they're all pretty likeable and well-defined characters, and even though it came late in the season, this episode was one of the ones that convinced me of that.

Before we get into what I liked, though, a few minor criticisms.

Firstly, this episode and later ones did a lot to flesh out the student six as characters, but Sandbar remained boring and one-note right up to the end of the series. This episode missed an opportunity to do something interesting with him, because even his Hearth's Warming story was a joke about how boring he is, which shows that the writers were aware of this issue. This would be fine if he was at least comically boring like Maud (i.e. boring to the characters, but entertaining to the audience), but he isn't. He's just a waste of a character. They should've had a zebra or a batpony or something instead to round out the student six. Having a token pony in there serves no purpose if all he does is make ponies look lame.

And secondly, as usual, Twilight was pretty dumb in this episode. Some mystery figure sabotages the tree and runs to the student quarters, so she immediately assumes that it must've been one of the student six. And yeah, she's right, but only because the script says so. Her entire basis for accusing them is that the back doors were locked. She says that there's no way that the thief could've gotten out, but in a world where even baby unicorns can accidentally walk through walls by magic (Baby Cakes, season two, episode thirteen), "the doors were locked" means absolutely nothing. Stupid. And then she decides to collectively punish all of them if one of them doesn't confess. Yeah, sounds great for fostering friendships. What if it wasn't them? Double stupid.

"Anon, I'm smart!"

Anyway, other than that, this was a pretty entertaining episode on the whole. It uses the setup of the tree being vandalised to both tell a mystery story and to deliver several self-contained vignettes about how the different species celebrate their holidays, which works as both world-building and character exploration (again, aside from Sandbar's). Yona's, Silverstream's, and Ocellus's stories are mostly just fluff, enjoyable but ultimately inconsequential world-building. On the other hand, Smolder's story was the comedic stand-out of the episode, while Gallus's was its emotional heart.

What was great about Smolder's story was how unexpected it was. This show doesn't do dark comedy often, so it always catches me completely off-guard when it happens. I still remember that squirrel stuck to the tree in Pinkie Apple Pie, and how Granny Smith just left it to die without even acknowledging it. That had me in hysterics, and so did Smolder's story. We're set up for a mushy tale about the kindness of this nameless Dragon Lord, but then it turns out to actually be a story about how dragons celebrate ruthless treachery and cruelty. It subverts expectations, but it's also entirely appropriate for the dragons, and that's what makes it hilarious.

But the best part is the added context of Smolder saying that it was the favourite story told at the celebrations last year. That means that whoever made it up was totally taking a shot at Ember and her policies. This is the dragon equivalent of political satire. Holy shit I love this.

As for Gallus, his story was a surprisingly sad and hard-hitting end to the episode. The mystery aspect of the story was not emphasised much, as we didn't see any of the actual investigation, but it was still a genuine mystery, as the audience doesn't know enough about the student six by this point in the season to pin any of them for it with much certainty. Obviously, it was someone who could fly, but just based on personality alone, I was more suspicious of Smolder than Gallus. It's learning their stories that leads to the inevitable conclusion, and Gallus's story which explains his motives, while also finally defining his character.

I find Gallus the most interesting of the student six for this exact reason. He's dry, sarcastic, and aloof, superficially similar in some ways to Rainbow Dash, but he's also bitter and cynical, and after learning in this episode that he's an orphan, it makes sense why he is. We learn here that he doesn't have any family who cares for him, not even Grandpa Gruff. He doesn't even know what a cousin is. Given that context, doesn't it make total sense why he's at this school, why it's such a big deal for him to have friends now, and why he'd do what he did just to stay with them a little longer? It's genuinely brilliant.

I also appreciate how the student six start fighting towards the end, and how Gallus tries to defuse it until he's finally driven to confess. It serves as both a showcase of Gallus's best qualities, and also an example of why the student six are still students. All their other appearances until this point only reinforced the pointlessness of the School of Friendship, because many times their friendship seems more solid than the mane six's, so it's nice to have moments like these to remind us that they're not as perfect as they appear, and to at least try to justify the school's existence.

Also, I really like how the Hearth's Warming tree has a miniature Fire of Friendship on it. MY FANFICS ARE NOW CANON.

Episode 16 – Friendship University:

Ahhh... right... this episode... Fuck...

Okay, so there are really two things to talk about with Friendship University. The first is the School of Friendship arc, particularly as it concerns Chancellor Neighsay, who reappears here briefly. The other is Flim and Flam, and the Friendship University itself. I should also probably mention Star Swirl's part in this whole mess, but he's less immediately relevant to the episode than you might think, and I don't really have much to say about him for now, beyond that he's an idiot for getting tricked by Flim and Flam of all people. I do have more to say about the Pillars in general, but it can wait until the Rockhoof episode. For now, Star Swirl's appearance here basically just amounts to an overblown cameo, and it's not worth talking about.

So, minor positives to mention first. I liked Flim and Flam's song. This show doesn't have enough songs anymore. And Rarity's disguise routine was funny. That's it. Moving on.

So Flim and Flam, then. First question, why on Earth are they doing this? Why are Flim and Flam opening up a bogus friendship university? I don't understand this. Yeah, I know, the episode says they're doing it to supplement their income to expand their casino RESORT, but for fuck's sake, they're successful casino RESORT owners in Las Pegasus. You don't get much more profitable than that. What in Christ's name are they building that's so expensive that they can't fund it out of their existing profits? And how in the ever-living fuckbiscuits can they fund it just by selling paper for what must be less than a week, especially after the upfront costs of opening up Friendship U in the first place? Remember, they don't charge for tuition. The episode says that. All their profits come from selling worksheets. How expensive are those worksheets? Seriously.

Next, let's discuss the particulars of the "scam" itself, and I put "scam" in quotes because it isn't one, really (at least not any more than Twilight's school is). The episode makes a big deal about this, but when you think about it... Flim and Flam did nothing wrong.

No, really, I'm serious. Think about this. They're operating a school, they're not publically funded, and they don't charge for tuition. It's free to attend. The only way they make money is through charging for those worksheets, and if you can't pay for the worksheets then you just don't progress any further. Now as I mentioned, those worksheets must be overpriced as fuck to fund whatever Flim and Flam have planned, but they're quite upfront about that. It's not a hidden cost that they spring on the students later. In many ways, it's fairer than real life student loans are. Star Swirl, the nameless background ponies, and even Rarity all willingly pay these costs, and then are given what they paid for. Yeah, I know, microtransactions are pretty insidious. Capitalism can be a bitch sometimes. But technically, nobody is being cheated here. If ponies don't want to pay Flim and Flam's prices, they can always go to Twilight's school for a (presumably) cheaper alternative.

The obvious place for Flim and Flam to scam their students on this would be to provide poor quality products, but they're not even really doing that. They're teaching actual, legitimate friendship lessons from Twilight's own book, as Rarity affirms, and they really are offering course completion in half the time, just as advertised. The only point that they're not totally honest and upfront about is what they do with the profits, leading to the dumbest line of the episode, "Using your students' bits to expand your resort is wrong." Bitch, shut your mouth. What are they supposed to do with that money? Buy a thousand sewing machines like Rarity did? And frankly, anyone who's dumb enough to pay for friendship lessons in the first place deserves to lose their money. Yeah, I said it.


I guess there is one problem with what Flim and Flam are doing, that being that they ripped off their whole idea from Twilight's school and directly plagiarised half of her book for their courses. And yes, that does sound pretty bad, doesn't it? Only this is never presented as the central problem with what they're doing, and they make plenty of good arguments in defence of it.

As Neighsay points out, it's not like Twilight has a monopoly on the concept of a friendship school. Flim and Flam are perfectly free to open their own, and although Twilight is obviously seething at the very idea of this, even before she knows that it's Flim and Flam behind it, she is still forced to admit that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Plagiarising from her book is less defensible, but Twilight doesn't even complain about that part at all. She's perfectly fine with them teaching from it, probably because she knows that it's the definitive work on friendship, and that any other friendship school would pretty much have to use it. Her only reservation is she doesn't want them profiting from it, although I don't know how a private school is supposed to stay open without monetising in some way. We can't all be royalty, Twilight.

And that's another point I'd like to make. Twilight comes off really badly here. She's not an idiot like she is for most of the rest of the season, but she does come off as hostile, petty, and vindictive. I understand distrusting Flim and Flam, given their history, but Twilight obviously went into Friendship U looking for a fight. As soon as she saw Flim and Flam, she was immediately insulting them and implying that their university was a scam, and when she sees Chancellor Neighsay, she says to his face that she doesn't respect him.

Then they bring out Star Swirl himself to endorse the university, who tells her that Flim and Flam have changed, and that she should give them a chance. But instead of trusting her idol and practicing what she preaches, Twilight instead breaks into Flim and Flam's office to sneak through their papers. It's kind of hilarious when they catch her and take that incriminating photograph, because when they blackmail her by threatening to publish it and destroy her reputation, the threat works precisely because what Twilight was doing was wrong, and because it's hard to believe that she's not motivated by jealousy when she's so vehemently against Flim and Flam even with zero evidence. Even the scheme that she does eventually uncover does not in any way vindicate her, even though the episode thinks that it does.

And speaking of Twilight's faults, let's bring it all back to the stallion who pointed them out in the first place, Chancellor Neighsay.

Based and neighpilled.

Neighsay shows up only briefly in this episode to accredit Friendship University (as he should, since it's a legitimate school), express some admiration for Star Swirl, and remind the audience that he's a racist. And speaking of, that might be one of the few legitimate complaints Twilight could've made about Friendship U, if Neighsay was right that they really do refuse entrance to non-ponies. Pity that the episode never brings this up again, but oh well. But since he's here, I want to touch base on where we stand with Neighsay by the mid-point in the season, now that we've had some time to reflect on his words.

I want to present a thesis. I think that Neighsay is written to be a racist asshole as a way to distract the audience from his core arguments, because otherwise, they would realise that he's right about pretty much everything else. Aside from his ridiculous ranting about the non-ponies, Neighsay's points in the premier were that the teachers are irresponsible and unqualified, that the students skipped classes and endangered others, and that Twilight and her friends risked leaving the school unattended if they were ever all called away for an adventure at once.

These are all very good points, and moreover, they're points that Neighsay is consistently proven right about throughout the season. Irresponsible and unqualified teachers? Well, Rainbow Dash and Applejack nearly got several of their students eaten by magic piranhas, so check. Students skipping class and endangering others? Yes, the student six did in fact do exactly that in the premier, and Cozy Glow somehow managed to endanger all of Equestria, so he's definitely not wrong about that. Check. And the teachers all going off on a mission at once, leaving the school open for a massive, horrible disaster? Yes, that happened. Twice, in fact. The first time, the disaster was named Discord. The second time, it was called Cozy Glow. Double check.

The simple fact is that Neighsay being a racist, a hypocrite, and an all-around vindictive person has no bearing on that fact that he's right. Twilight's school fails by EEA standards. Even if Neighsay wasn't a racist, it still would've failed. But instead of shaping up, Twilight threw out the rulebook and just made up her own standards, and just like Neighsay predicted, the result was a rolling disaster. The EEA exists for a reason, and the more I saw of the school throughout the season, the better Neighsay looked.

But none of that matters, because Neighsay is a racist. He's an asshole, and he's the villain, and therefore he is wrong by default, and the characters and audience are free to just hate him rather than actually consider his point of view.

I think that the problem the writers ran into is that Neighsay is not a supervillain like Discord or the Pony of Shadows, even though he has the look and the voice for it. He's an ideological antagonist like Starlight originally was, an obstructive bureaucrat opposed to the opening of the school. He can't be defeated in a big fight with friendship lasers, so the only way for him to stop being an antagonistic force in the narrative is for him to give up and accept the friendship school. Only the writers accidentally created a character who was smarter than them, and who legitimately had good points against the friendship school. So how do you justify him losing the argument?

That's where the racism comes in. It distracts the audience from his actual good points. Neighsay doesn't have to be proven wrong if the characters can just show him that he's being an asshole. Then he'll apologise and say, "Oh no, I'm sorry I was such an asshole. I will stop now." And him changing his opinion on the friendship school and putting his stamp of approval on it is just an unstated requirement of not being an asshole, even though those are totally unrelated things.

It's sad, really. I like Neighsay, for the same reason that I liked Pharynx in To Change a Changeling. He may be an asshole, and he may have slightly different reasoning than I do, but I admire and respect him for being the only character in-universe who recognises just how badly the School of Friendship fails on every conceivable level. He is my husbando, and I want him to make love to me while screaming racial obscenities about griffons.

Okay, I'm done now.

On a final note, I'd like to remark that a lot of little things about the episode don't make sense, things which are not important enough for their own sections, but are worth mentioning.

Rarity buys dozens of sewing machines out of her own money for her classes without even a plan for what to use them for. Why? Twilight remarks that Friendship University has more students than her school does, yet Flim and Flam teach the whole school by themselves. How? Friendship U gives out degrees. For what? See my earlier rant about what the purpose of a friendship school is. And at the end of the episode, the characters question how Flim and Flam got a copy of Twilight's book to plagiarise from. Maybe because she published it, you utter fucking spoons?

Also, I'd just like to say that I find it hilarious that Flim and Flam fearlessly blackmail a princess of the realm until threatened with having their """scam""" revealed, and even then have no intention of returning their supposedly ill-gotten gains, but one stern look and disapproving tone from Star Swirl gets them to crumble. Remember when Star Swirl was supposed to be an obscure historical figure? Now he's literally more widely respected than Twilight. Even the villains defer to him. It's great.

Thank you, Star Swirl.

Continued in part three.

Comments ( 23 )

It came right out of left field in season seven, like a canon crackship, and nothing about this episode helped me to understand just what Sugar Belle actually sees in Big Mac or why they’re together.

Did you notice they are apparently the only cross-tribal couple in Equestria? Well, just saying.

I don’t know. I just don’t know. I genuinely can’t tell if this is a bad episode or not. It’s been almost two years since I first watched it, and I still can’t figure out how I feel about it.

All I can say, it makes such an inconvenient dependency loop that I effectively gave up on settling chronology ever since.

Episode 9 – Non-Compete Clause:

My hatred burns eternal.

Author Interviewer

Try to move me, you alicorn pieces of shit.

Oh my god. XD

I'll have to remember "skittlebugs", that is endearing.

Really have to disagree with you on Mean Six, though. Chrysalis is clearly unhinged, smart enough to wield powerful magic and make those clones, but crazy enough not to test them out first or really think through her plan at all. I need to defend this episode because you're not getting away with liking Break Up Break Down scott free, no sir. >:V

He is my husbando, and I want him to make love to me while screaming racial obscenities about griffons.

Well, I guess it had to be someone's fetish.

Also, where did you get that wizard picture, holy shit. :O

Um, Lyra and Bon-Bon, excuse you. :V

I'm honestly lukewarm about Spike's appearance in Molt Down. Twilight getting her wings made her awkward to look at for a while afterwards, and this far into the show my main reaction to Spike getting the same is around the level of "About damn time!" His scene with Smolder is the clear highlight of the ep, though for me the roc itself was a close second (because I love rocs and I love the design of this one).

Count me as another who thought The Mean Six was a major disappointment. The most interesting part of the story was Fake-Twilight and Chrysalis confronting (and planning against) each other, and quite apart from that angle getting buried under a revenge plan with no foundations, a lot of underwhelming identity-mix-up shenanigans, and a lesson that's just weirdly back-handed (good friends remain good friends even if you can't tell good friends from obviously evil imposters!), the whole exercise is rendered moot by the ending anyway.

In one respect, it's worse than the meaningless Sludge episode later, because teasing and then denying a character's backstory is at least less annoying than actively degrading a hitherto-at-least-respectable character. This makes Chrysalis look less like a threat and more like a buffoon.

Have to admit I am kind of impressed by the case you make for Flim and Flam's scam not being a scam, though whether the episode emphasizes it or not, I still think the plagiarism issue isn't easy to gloss over (they are passing off someone else's work as their own, when all's said and done, and explicitly for profit). And I didn't consider those logical problems about the Hearth's Warming episode, though yes, it is the episode that made me warm up to the students and especially to Gallus.


Um, Lyra and Bon-Bon, excuse you. :V


No, they get married afterwards, but Big Mac / Sugar Belle get there first, despite their relationship being arguably much older.

re:"The Mean Six": I also couldn't help but notice how the Everfree went from a very visually distinctive monster-haunted magical forest that most people are afraid to so much as step into to a perfectly generic, countryside woodland with rose-lined paths that the main characters see no issue with just taking a casual picnic in.

Which is especially notable in light of the fact that both of the Everfree's previous appearances in this season ended up with characters getting attacked by monsters.

I want to present a thesis. I think that Neighsay is written to be a racist asshole as a way to distract the audience from his core arguments, because otherwise, they would realise that he's right about pretty much everything else. Aside from his ridiculous ranting about the non-ponies, Neighsay's points in the premier were that the teachers are irresponsible and unqualified, that the students skipped classes and endangered others, and that Twilight and her friends risked leaving the school unattended if they were ever all called away for an adventure at once.

I noticed that as well. Especially the scene where he asks what Twilight plans to do if the Map decides they need to be in another country on no notice, which is a very good question to ask, but she makes an unrelated comment about the importance of teaching friendship and the issue is never addressed until "A Matter of Principals" comes along and we discover how Twilight does not, in fact, have any real plans for that.


I need to defend this episode because you're not getting away with liking Break Up Break Down scott free, no sir. >:V

I am allowed my biases, you are allowed yours.

Also, where did you get that wizard picture, holy shit. :O

I really wish I remember. Probably 4chan? I pick up a lot of shit around the internet. Glad you're finding the review entertaining as well as informative, at least.


Count me as another who thought The Mean Six was a major disappointment.

Oh thank God, I'm not alone!

I still think the plagiarism issue isn't easy to gloss over (they are passing off someone else's work as their own, when all's said and done, and explicitly for profit).

I am kind of playing Devil's advocate with Flim and Flam to a degree. I can't really make much of a defence for plagiarism either. I merely note that Twilight herself seems to take no issue with it beyond them profiting on it. I mean, when you write the definitive curriculum on how to run a friendship school, every other friendship school is pretty much going to have to use it, and Twilight does seem to acknowledge this. Where it gets murky is in the more unknown questions, since Flim and Flam never negotiated with Twilight directly for it. Did they pay to obtain their copy, for example? How much do copyright laws apply to lesson plans, whether in real life or Equestria? Do textbook authors have a right to restrict how teachers use the materials they wrote after they are bought and paid for? I'm uncertain about a lot of these things. All I know is that Flim and Flam may be shady characters, but this scheme is a lot less clear cut than Twilight and the episode's writer seem to believe it is.

I think the entire school arc is just about / under one year, and that "teacher of the month" disaster is a combination of bad editing and out-of-order airing.

It is actually much, much easier to explain all of S1-3 being one year -- they turned episode ideas into scripts and art without any regard for when it was written, without even planning on having ongoing character development. It was all just supposed to be "entertain the child this week", and the whole fandom kinda surprised them.

Other than that, yea, you're summarizing everything wrong with season 8 really nicely. I did not know that they basically lost ALL historical knowledge and show bible data, relying on just Cliff's notes.

I mean, can you imagine if that was done with a serious property? Like, say, if Star Trek was given over to a director that never saw the original, didn't like what little he saw of the new stuff, and wanted to re-write everything from scratch, and justify it with a time travel alteration when there's a canon timeline maintenance agency that would have prevented it?

Yea, that would never happen. Didn't happen. That was a fake timeline that has been erased.


Season one has a relatively coherent story chronology if you look close. It was just jumbled up in the airing order. You can rearrange all the season one episodes and get a fairly sensible timeline out of it. It does have continuity markers and observable character growth. We just never saw it in the proper order. Seasons two and three rather complicated matters somewhat, because they continued to be mostly out of order, and a lot of people just assumed that every season corresponded to a year, but then season four introduced the retcon of the first three seasons taking place over a single year, and working out a timeline for that is rather more difficult. Then seasons four, five, and six were seemingly intended to be another year or two between them. But once we get to season seven, that's when the timeline becomes absolutely impossible.

He is my husbando, and I want him to make love to me while screaming racial obscenities about griffons.

Sergeant Gilda swoons.

Only the writers accidentally created a character who was smarter than them

I will never not love this line. :rainbowlaugh:

For one thing, regardless of my opinion on Cozy as a character or a villain, I do like how this episode exists to set her up, and I'm glad that they held off on dropping hints about her true nature right away.

And yet, my very first comment upon seeing her was, "Oh, here's our villain for the season."

And apparently quite a few other people recognized it immediately as well!


You NEVER throw in another apparently neutral character and hold off on giving them any defining intro or background or personal connections when that character is going to turn out to be the Big Bad. Seriously, it's a trope that's been used in anime since the 70's.

But, that was ok initially, as I expected there would be some big reveal of her connection to something. Maybe NMM, maybe she was the herald of Grogar, maybe she was a henchpony of Tirek in disguise, maybe she was Chrysalis or another changeling Queen. Lots of possibilities. But by the end of the episode, I already got the nagging feeling there wasn't going to be anything to her. Likely post-POS awareness of how awful the writing had become.

And after how horribly Where and Back Again ended, and after how we were stuck with just Thorax and the skittlebugs

I am the mastermind who coined the term 'Skittlesbugs' immediately after the episode aired.

I have COPYRIGHTED and TRADEMARKED this term and shall now sue you for $19 trillion Bison Dollars for using it without paying me! (Alondro is taking a cue from Apple... who's suing every company that has a fruit-themed icon... and who keep making Alondro want to nuke their headquarters... which he could do since he knows how to construct a fission-fusion type nuclear warhead, including which isotopes of lithium and beryllium to use as tampers and neutron flux enahancers...) :pinkiecrazy:

As fun as I found it to watch, this episode is a pretty serious derailment of Discord's character growth and reformation arc. And sadly, this was all just foreshadowing of much worse things to come in season nine, but I'm once again getting ahead of myself. My point is that he should be past this kind of shit by now, especially after Discordant Harmony.

Alondro now cries TEARS OF BLOOD!! "YES!! FINALLY!! SOMEONE ELSE WHO SEES THE LIGHT!!! I CAN NOW DIE IN PEACE!!!" Dramatic death scene set to "Ave Maria".

That's where the racism comes in. It distracts the audience from his actual good points. Neighsay doesn't have to be proven wrong if the characters can just show him that he's being an asshole.

Much like all the arguments from a certain party who ALWAYS runs to the 'istaphobe' card to justify their actions and villainize the opposition with blunt hyperbole based entirely upon this singular declaration.

And the fact that EVERYONE knows who I'm talking about proves me 100% correct!


And yet, my very first comment upon seeing her was, "Oh, here's our villain for the season."

And apparently quite a few other people recognized it immediately as well!

Yeah, not me. My discord friends pointed it out to me. But then again, I really wasn't paying attention first time I watched it.

5356866 I'm old, so I've seen every villain trope 50 times or more in every form of media.

This was blindingly transparent to one schooled in 80's cartoons.

Moving on from previously...

Season eight's timeline is fucked.

What timeline?

Got nothing for "Non-Complete Clause". A lot of people cite it as a singularly maddening episode, but especially in light of this S8 and S9 retrospective... is it? It's held up as the single worst episode for this season, but it just feels like par for the depressing course, personally. Of course AJ and RD turn into unlikeable weird idiot versions of themselves. Look at how this second half of the show was made. Coherent stuff like "The Washouts" and "Sounds of Silence" are the true exceptions at this point, not broken wrecks like this.

It came right out of left field in season seven, like a canon crackship

What do you mean "like" a canon crackship? It is a canon crackship, which would be reason enough to declare it non-canon even if the episodes themselves didn't sound awful (Case in point: kissing someone in their sleep. Second case in point: braindead-sitcom levels of tedious misunderstanding).

I think the only reason these two got paired up was because Sugar Belle looks vaguely like Pear Butter while Big Mac looks like his dad (file that for an unintentionally dumb-sounding line) and her baking loosely fits the Chiffon Swirl connection. That's... about the level of any other spurious crackship, to my ears. You might as well pair up Rarity with background pony Amethyst Star because they share cutie marks and have a meta-level Sparkler connection. It's still complete nonsense, except when fanfickers do it, it doesn't impose canon on anyone else.

Bugger this for a lark. I'm not touching this damn fanfic-level material. Moving on.

"Molt Down" is still eh to me. Between this and the later Sludge episode, it at least gives Smolder a nice role as a sort of big sister figure to Spike (I'd argue Ember worked fine there, but redundancy is hardly the crime of crimes). And I still like the falcon-esque design for the roc where it's more usually depicted as aquiline.

Since last I was here, however, I've become much less warmly disposed to the weirdnesses you point out. I'm not sure why Rarity being deaf from phoenix feathers didn't bother me as much the first time around, or why I didn't complain about how bizarrely gross Spike's puberty stand-in ended up feeling. I don't even know why I wasn't bothered more by wings being something dragons just metamorphose into, when really Spike's lack of them seemed unremarkable after the variety of dragon forms paraded before us in "Dragon Quest". Heck, his fax machine breath has never been explained, and that's a much bigger departure from polymorphic dragons to my mind.

In hindsight, though, Spike getting his wings doesn't feel earned because it has nothing to do with his character. The closest thing he has to an arc at this point is being on good terms with Ember and Thorax, both being examples of cases where Spike's friendship-based upbringing among ponies led to him reaching out to two characters who otherwise might have had no friendly connection to Equestria. It's not like S1-5 treated him much better, but it's actually kind of astonishing how he felt like he had more of a point from "Gauntlet of Fire" onwards.

I mean, it's not like Twilight, where her ascension was at least nominally tied to a personal achievement. Spike just gets his wings because biology, and... cool. Now he can be drawn flying with Twilight. A certain "so what?" factor creeps in.

I think the main reason I never had much of a strong reaction to this episode is literally because there's nothing at stake in it. Well, apart from the phony drama around the roc, but we knew that was doomed even before Twilight inexplicably sucked at fighting it. Because of course the plot had to be rigged so Spike can have his big moment. This happens all the time now. Heck, we can accuse the Worfing of Celestia and Luna as far back as S2 of being examples. It's not like all this show's problems exist only in the second half.

"Marks for Effort", I honestly haven't watched. This review, and redsquirrel456's review, make it sound absolutely terrible, though.

No shock that the school's curriculum is complete pablum. Nor any shock that the CMCs have no genuine reason to care about it. Cartoon logic, y'all.

Barely any shock in hindsight that Cozy Glow is such an insulting joke of a villain either. Cartoon logic, y'all.

Oh, and look, the type of nonsensical ending that happens when you absolutely have to shoehorn in a happy ending despite literally everything that just happened, the other casuality of toxic positivity. Because cartoon logic, y'all.

Here's the secret: "cartoon logic" doesn't exist, any more than "it's just a kid's show" isn't an answer. It's a restatement of the problem, hiding some shaky-at-best assumptions (not least of all is the dumb non-effort philosophy it espouses, however implicitly). Cartoons can be silly and simple, but that is no excuse for them being crap. And it's frankly worrying that people automatically treat them that way. Like, what are people learning out there?

"The Mean Six", I've already commented on. Oh, apart from pointing out that there's yet another grimdark "bonus point" attempted here, despite the Mean Six posing absolutely no threat whatsoever. The morality of this Tree of Harmony makes Discord look like its blood brother, by this point, and we haven't even gotten to the child endangerment episode yet.

"A Matter of Principals" would just be reiterating points you and I have hammered into the ground by now. Needless to say that continuity slip-up and other continuity snarls leave me about as outraged as I felt for "Non-Compete Clause". What else can you say at this point except to reiterate the same obvious flaws over and over (Starlight's an OP Creator's Pet, bad behaviour gets rewarded because happy ending, characters like Discord backsliding so fast they barely have time to say "hi" to their early-seasons incarnations before shooting over the horizon, timeline carelessness...)?

This is all fairly typical of the Haber/Dubuc era of MLP. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's the defining feature of it. Whenever you watch any episode of this show from season seven onwards, just imagine that it exists in a world where the first five seasons did not happen. Suddenly, doesn't it all make a lot more sense?

I'd probably agree more strongly if Haber, for example, could even keep his own episodes straight. This is the same guy who coughed up two different and incompatible versions of the Pony of Shadows, randomly declared manes are fucking immune to magic no I will not let that one go because what the ever-loving fuck!?, and couldn't even remember that his two favourites Trixie and Starlight have already travelled together before and that one of them knows a silencing spell.

My own defining features of the second half of the show are:

  • New cast herd overload (Starlight, Starlight's clique, Discord's clique with Big Mac and Spike, the Pillars, the Student Six, to a lesser extent the Legion of Doom in S9...)
  • Cynical depiction of characters in an ostensibly idealistic setting
  • Memeface overload
  • Anarchic continuity, due to a combination of ignorance, apathy, scanty effort, and proprietorial attitude towards canon additions
  • Redemption overload (which half of the season, for one thing, redeemed the entire changeling species?)
  • Glimpses of a better alternate-continuity show here and there (the "Good Apocrypha" I mentioned earlier, such as the good Star-Trix episodes)
  • Overwhelmingly convoluted corporate media influence (the movie, the attempt at comic tie-ins, the whole School arc and concept)
  • Sidelining of Twilight's arc - and most of the Main Six to varying degrees - until we suddenly get to S9

They all come down to this: there was next to no care or respect for what had come before, too many cooks wanting to do things their own way, and a far more blatantly transparent mercenary approach to the show from on high. The evidence, to me, points to the one defining feature being the complete collapse of the old guard - directorial, writerly, creative - from S5 onwards. With them went any semblance of artistic passion that the show - for a corporate product - managed to display.

Heck, I'd even go so far as to use it to explain the gradual decline I experience from S1 to S7, with only S3 being a conspicuous outlier (though it having a smaller sample of episodes didn't help). I know you rank S5 highly, but to me, it marks the definitive transition between the first half and the second half, and the overall quality of the show dips accordingly, from one of the best season premiers to one of the worst season finales.

Literally the only reason I think the show kept going - and is apparently being revived at all - is that it's basically little more than a walking advert which has cottoned on to the power of a super-loyal fanbase.

I really don't like sounding like a cranky, pretentious nostalgic. The whole show is corporate product. My point is that it was good corporate product because it had a crew who gave a tinker's cuss about doing something worthy with its "just a kid's show", and crossed demographic boundaries, because quality is universal. Only now that goodwill impulse - and the unexpected audience it won over - has been hijacked by people determined to wear the skin but not to play the part. And it still works! It even has the gall to amplify flaws that have been there since the beginning (see: everything I said about Celestia above).

It's hard to ignore just how badly the show collapsed on every level from S5 onward, and definitely after S6, despite how popular it manages to still be. But who cares? Because at the end of the day, it's "just a kid's show".

And that's another phrase that, like the characters from before, became an empty mask to smuggle in some seriously hideous faces while pretending nothing really changed. Yes, it was "just a kid's show" before, but it had such a different idea of what merited being a "kid's show" that the sentence might as well be completely different, for all the meaning it has.

It can mean whatever you want it to mean, now. And that's the problem. It says MLP:FiM. It looks like MLP:FiM. It blended into what MLP:FiM was before. But it sure as shit ain't MLP:FiM anymore. Not under the mask.

God, I'm glad to get that off my chest.

Can't think of anything to add for your last two episode reviews here, so I'll move on.


What do you mean "like" a canon crackship? It is a canon crackship


I mean, it's not like Twilight, where her ascension was at least nominally tied to a personal achievement. Spike just gets his wings because biology, and... cool. Now he can be drawn flying with Twilight. A certain "so what?" factor creeps in.

Never considered that before, but you have a point, yes.

I think the point is more just that he's actually growing, rather than staying the same until suddenly looking different in the epilogue? Which I approve of in theory. The series take place over at least five years, and the characters who were adolescents at the start of it should theoretically be approaching adulthood by the end, so visible growth should occur. I just wish we could've had something more subtle and natural than a Pokémon evolution. The CMC grew over the course of the series, and I didn't even notice it until somebody pointed out to me that their models were scaled up in later seasons.

I know you rank S5 highly, but to me, it marks the definitive transition between the first half and the second half, and the overall quality of the show dips accordingly, from one of the best season premiers to one of the worst season finales.

You've mentioned this a few times before. I'm actually curious what it is that makes you hate the season five finale so much? Even setting aside my personal enjoyment, I'm still not sure how it compares disfavourably to what I would regard as the real worst offenders. Admittedly, given your feelings on Starlight, I can completely understand why the ending would piss you off, and her powers compared to Twilight's do come somewhat out of nowhere. Not to mention that the pivotal role of the Sonic Rainboom and its implications about destiny in Equestria probably aren't for everyone. But even just from the first half of the series, I'd say Canterlot Wedding was far worse about introducing new plot elements out of nowhere and screwing with power levels, and it also had that business about Twilights' friends turning on her.

But maybe I'm being presumptive. I'm guessing there's more to it than that?

God, I'm glad to get that off my chest.

If nothing else, I'm glad to have given you an outlet. You sound very frustrated in these comments, and it reminds me a lot about how I felt before I wrote these reviews. I only hope that finally getting to talk about it openly helps you to let go of some of it.


Yeah, I dislike the "flash-of-light" insta-changes too. When the CMC got their cutie marks, for instance, I thought it looked groan-worthy and over-the-top. The Main Six merely got some humble sparkles for theirs, and "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" was far more clever in its plotting and emotional impact, so what gives?

You've mentioned this a few times before. I'm actually curious what it is that makes you hate the season five finale so much?

I think I'll take this one to PM, It'd take this comment section massively off-topic, and I'm not hugely comfortable with it being visible to just anyone in any case. It's usually been enough to tell people "I just don't like Starlight, OK?" and hope they don't press the point.

If nothing else, I'm glad to have given you an outlet. You sound very frustrated in these comments, and it reminds me a lot about how I felt before I wrote these reviews. I only hope that finally getting to talk about it openly helps you to let go of some of it.

I think I'm getting more emotionally invested in this show as the years go on, to say nothing of the fanfic connection keeping me coming back for more. Which means what I'd just dismiss as crap elsewhere touches a nerve of mine in this particular case.

Even I don't think it's particularly healthy to get too attached to a show, but on the other hand, it's hard to feel a special connection to something and not tense up when you realize how bad it can get.


I think I'll take this one to PM, It'd take this comment section massively off-topic, and I'm not hugely comfortable with it being visible to just anyone in any case.

Fair enough!

Even I don't think it's particularly healthy to get too attached to a show, but on the other hand, it's hard to feel a special connection to something and not tense up when you realize how bad it can get.

Very true. I never considered myself especially emotionally invested in the show before, but the fact that I spent just shy of a hundred and fifty thousand words ranting about it proves otherwise.

Author Interviewer

I feel like you and I are on the same page in general, which is a nice thing to be able to feel. :)


As much as I like having different views to people and all (bet we'd have some episode disagreement to fight about sooner or later! :trollestia:), it is good from time to time to confirm that people are on the same page indeed.

I wouldn't consider myself a nostalgic, but darn do I feel cranky and old in this brave new pony. :rainbowlaugh:

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