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DannyJ


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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 4 · 2:41am Apr 26th, 2020

Continued from part three.


Episodes 25 & 26 – School Raze:

I may vomit.

School Raze is a strong contender for the all-time worst episode of this show, rivalled only by the season nine finale. Not even Shadow Play comes close. It's hard to think of any other episode that combines idiotic characters, gaping plot holes, awful world-building, an absurd premise, and morally reprehensible actions as deftly as School Raze does, and unlike Shadow Play, I don't even have anything I can really praise to offset the criticism. Pretty much the only thing I liked in this entire episode was Tirek's voice. That's literally it.

Because I have so much to complain about, this is probably going to be the longest section of the review by far. For context, this review is about 50K words long, and about a fifth of that is just the finale. So I'm going to break this down into subsections to make it a little more digestible.

So let's begin with:

Part 1: The Highway to Hell

HEY TIREK! PAID MY DUES! PLAYING IN A ROCKIN' BAND!

School Raze has an A-plot with the student six and a B-plot with the mane six, and the B-plot is completely pointless. The whole thing basically just seems to be a reactionary attempt to address the criticisms of the season six finale. Once again the fate of the world rests on the new characters, this time the student six rather than Starlight, but people didn't like how the mane six were taken out offscreen and did nothing for the whole episode last time, so now we get to see them going off on their own adventure. But if nothing that happens in the B-plot affects the A-plot at all, and nothing is accomplished by it, then why should we care? Answer: We shouldn't.

So the episode's plot kicks off with magic failing across Equestria. We'll get into the specifics of that in part two, but the important thing for the B-plot is that the mane six and all the princesses get together to discuss the matter, and Star Swirl somehow conveniently figures out their timeframe for solving it offscreen, and lets them know in a letter. So, given a time limit of three days to figure out what's causing this and stop it, what do they do?

Why, of course, they immediately assume that this is somehow Tirek's fault, because he once drained magic too, even though his magic draining was completely different from this, and even though he's locked up in a maximum security prison. By sheer force of plot convenience, they just happen to be right, but confirming this requires actually visiting him in Tartarus, an adventure that somehow takes them the entire three days. Wow, sure was lucky that their shot in the dark guess was right, huh? Imagine if they'd spent three days in Tartarus to get answers from Tirek only to find out that he doesn't know anything? Boy, sure was lucky that didn't happen, right?

You know you guys could've just sent Discord for this, right? Season nine already showed us that Discord has no trouble teleporting in and out of Tartarus, and it's not like he's going to betray Equestria for Tirek again after what happened last time. He could've checked in on Tirek and found out what's going on in a couple of minutes, and they could've stopped Cozy Glow with time to spare. Why did nobody try calling Discord?

But if that happened we wouldn't have a B-plot, so instead Twilight volunteers herself and her friends to go, with School Raze cringe dialogue line number one:

"I've FINALLY learned that it's okay to count on your friends for help! :D"

–Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, eight fucking seasons into Friendship is Magic.

Rarity is really surprised by this for some reason. I have absolutely no goddamn fucking clue in hell why. When was it ever established that Twilight had problems asking her friends for help? When was this ever something that she struggled with? I know that Twilight had to relearn a lot of really remedial lessons this season, such as "lying to your friends is wrong," but I don't remember this being one of them, and I have no idea why this episode touts this as a character flaw that she's only just now overcome. This is possibly one of the stupidest lines of dialogue ever written for this show.

But before we even get into Tartarus, we first have another completely illogical, story-breaking scene where the mane six get stuck at the gate. Twilight says that the last time that she visited Tartarus, when she was returning Cerberus to his post back in season two, she needed magic to open the gates, and this time she has no magic, so she's stuck.

So, two questions about this.

First, does Tartarus require any kind of special key or authorisation to get into, such as from the princesses? If so, why didn't Twilight think to bring it to open the door? And if not, wow, are you telling me that any sufficiently powerful unicorn can just open up Equestria's most secure prison where they keep all their ancient apocalyptic evils? No matter what the answer, someone here is a huge fucking idiot, and I suspect that it's Twilight.

Second question, if Twilight lacks either the magic or the authorisation to get into Tartarus, or both, and she knows it, then what exactly was her plan to get inside? The episode makes a specific point of telling us that Twilight didn't remember to pack the magic skeleton key herself. Cozy packed that, and Twilight didn't even know about it. So with the fate of all Equestria in her hooves, and only three days to save it, Twilight spent a whole day walking out to the gates of Tartarus on a hunch, without even having any idea what to do once she got there, and only overcame the problem because the villain knew what she needed and helped her out? Is she actually fucking brain damaged?

Never has this been more appropriate than now.

Also, this is a minor problem in comparison, but who the hell creates a magic skeleton key that only works once? This is just a huge plot convenience to explain why the mane six can't use the same key to get out again, and it makes very little sense when you think about it. Sure was lucky that Cozy just happened to have a key that could open the gates of Tartarus itself and yet would only work once, huh? Because otherwise her entire plan falls apart.

So finally we get to Tartarus itself, and for a place named after the ancient Greek concept of Hell, it's seriously lame. It's just a tiny shithole cave with a bunch of animals in cages, and also Tirek. So let's talk about Tartarus, and all the ways that it doesn't make sense.

As Twilight describes it, Tartarus contains "the most powerful villains and monsters," but this is a patently false claim, as the end of the episode shows us. Cozy Glow is not powerful or a monster, but she's locked up here too. Setting aside the moral questions of that until we get to the ending, what is the criteria for being locked up in Tartarus then? Why are wild animals locked up in this prison alongside thinking, talking, reasoning beings like Tirek and Cozy?

Now, Friendship is Magic has always blurred the line between people and animals, since even non-talking rabbits like Angel are shown to be clearly intelligent, but Equestria must draw the line somewhere, because animals are generally treated differently than ponies. Monsters like the cockatrice and the manticore, although we have seen Fluttershy reasoning with them before, behave just like animals, whereas the three-headed chimera, for example, actually speaks in plain English, even though it still tries to eat ponies. But in Tartarus, it seems like no such line is drawn.

When the Bugbear first showed up in Slice of Life, Bon Bon was worried that it was coming after her for revenge, so I take this to mean that it's an intelligent and actively malicious being. Tirek and the talking three-headed chimera also fit this description, so it makes sense why all of them are here. And if you ignore the "powerful" qualifier, you could maybe even make a case for Cozy.

But why are there manticores in Tartarus? Why is there a cockatrice here? Why the random cave monsters? Sure, they're all dangerous, but these are single members of entire dangerous species, and they're probably only doing what's in their natures. Fluttershy even sympathises with them and says that they're not monsters. What's the point of locking up some random manticore for being a manticore? And if manticores are so dangerous to ponies that they have to be locked up in Tartarus rather than allowed to live in the wild, then why lock up only one? Why not lock up all manticores? Or why not just exterminate the species, if their mere existence is so intolerable to Equestria? Same question for the cockatrice, and same for the cave monsters. Maybe the yeti too? I don't know.

And why, for the love of fuck, is a cockatrice locked up in Tartarus with all these other monsters with only a cage to contain it? It petrifies its victims by looking at them. Metal bars won't stop that, and the mane six certainly act as if the cage won't protect them. In fact, they believe that they're only safe because the cockatrice has lost its magic as well. So if the cage doesn't stop the cockatrice from killing everyone, then why is it even in a cage? And why hasn't it been moved off to its own corner like Tirek? Cerberus may as well have let it roam free for all the good that this does.

Next, let's discuss Tirek, the reason that we have to put up with all this fuckery in the first place.

No, I am not.

Even though Tirek's voice actor did a great job with him, and even though I'm pretty sure that this B-plot only exists at all to bring him back in preparation for season nine, absolutely nothing about Tirek's appearance here makes any sense. I have no idea why he does any of the things that he does in this episode. I have no idea how he does any of it. In fact, Tirek's role here is so badly written and confusing, it even makes his previous appearances on the show more nonsensical in retrospect by raising additional questions and creating plot-holes where previously none existed.

Let's start with the most obvious problem. This episode tells us that Tirek knows a ritual which can drain all the magic in Equestria at once in only three days. Apparently the drain is untraceable, since nobody ever tracks down Cozy's ritual site, and all it seems to require is a few magical artefacts. I don't know if it needs to be the specific six that Cozy uses, but I wouldn't think so, because none of their primary powers seem at all related to magic draining. This seems like a far superior method of eating magic compared to what Tirek was doing before, so why didn't he just use this ritual the first or second time that he did this? The episode never explains.

Next, this whole plot, everything about Cozy's evil plan, all hinges on her being tutored by Tirek, and he claims that he just told her what to do by letter? Are you fucking serious, School Raze? It's actually an important plot point in a season finale that Tirek gets mail delivered in Tartarus? And can reply? Do I even need to explain why this is stupid? I saw a fanfic use this exact idea once. Better Lairs and Landscaping. But that was a comedy. Tirek getting mail in Tartarus was meant to be a joke. But then this episode introduces the idea, and expects us to take it completely seriously. None of the characters even lampshade it.

Tirek gets mail in Tartarus.

HOW DO THE MAILPONIES EVEN GET IN TO DELIVER THE LETTERS?

But even setting aside the logistics of how Tirek accomplishes all this, we still have the problem of why. Tirek does not benefit in any way from helping Cozy Glow. In fact, Cozy's plan is so actively contrary to his interests that he changes his mind and helps to foil it. And there's no good reason for either action. It makes no sense for him to help Cozy, and it makes no sense for him to suddenly turn against her at the last minute either!

Let's start with the original plan, helping Cozy. Tirek receives a letter out of the blue from some filly asking for his help in draining all the magic from Equestria, so that she can just send it all off into some other dimension or something. As well, at the same time, she's planning to direct the mane six towards Tartarus, and give them a convenient single-use skeleton key to trap them inside there with Tirek, and there they shall stay with him for the rest of eternity. That's the plan, right?

So, I know that Tirek said that he was bored, but why does he help with this? When Tirek drained magic before, it was to make himself more powerful. Cozy's plan does not help him with that. In fact, it's to his detriment, because if he ever got out of Tartarus again, there would be no magic left for him to take for himself. Cozy's plan is just a waste, and Tirek even calls it as such. If she were draining all the magic in Equestria to send it to him, that would be one thing, but she isn't. So why does he agree to this plan?

Well, if he doesn't get personal power out of the deal, then the only two possible reasons that I can think of are freedom or revenge, but he doesn't get those either. He certainly wouldn't have been so quick to betray Cozy if she had promised him his freedom, so they obviously had no agreement there. And as for revenge, the episode seems to want that to be his motivation, only the entire extent of his revenge is getting the mane six locked up in Tartarus with him. And he never even considered the possibility that he wouldn't want to be locked up with people that he hates?

So Tirek looks pretty fucking stupid here. Beyond showing a general lack of forethought, I am impressed by how bad of a negotiator he is. Cozy Glow's entire plan is dependent on him and his personal knowledge. Tirek could've demanded that Cozy use the ritual to send the magic to him, or maybe he could've worked out a plan with her to break him out of Tartarus using that skeleton key that she has easy access to. You'd think that bargaining from such a position of strength, he would be able to leverage at least something for himself out of that trade, but he gets nothing.

And then, and then, the mane six come along and trap themselves in Tartarus with him for the sole purpose of finding out how he's draining all the magic from Equestria. Once again, Tirek holds all the cards in this situation. He has valuable information that the mane six need, they are not willing or able to force him to give it up, and on top of that, they cannot escape Tartarus without his help, because they bumbled in without a plan like a bunch of dumbasses.

So at this point, all Tirek has to do is demand his freedom in exchange for his help, and the mane six would be pretty much forced to capitulate. It's not like they have any other options, is it? If they don't get out, Equestria is doomed, and they're all gonna starve to death in Tartarus. Doesn't make a difference to Tirek. He's immortal. He'll outlive them. In fact, when Tirek tries to suggest this exact trade, the best response that the mane six can offer is Dash threatening that he'll stay in Tartarus forever if he doesn't help. Yes, that is indeed his current situation. He is stuck in Tartarus forever, and wants to not be stuck anymore in exchange for his help. Bravo, Dash.

But then Tirek just tells them everything and helps them out for free anyway, just because Pinkie threatens to annoy him. Why? For fuck's sake, WHY? That's three different get-out-jail-free cards that he's just thrown away now. How does someone this fucking stupid still remember to breathe?

Pls no politics in the comments.

Finally we move onto the escape sequence, and one of the dumbest world-building additions to this show that I've seen since manes being immune to magic.

School Raze tells us that chimeras in Equestria are all nothing more than ordinary animals which are simply bound together by magic. As in, they are literally multiple beings fused into one. Okay, so for a start, how? What actually binds them? There must be a reason that all these animals got stuck together, so what is it? Who's going around creating all these chimeras? Was it Discord? The real Grogar? I have no idea, but if it was either one of them, then that implies that every single chimera we've ever seen is over a thousand years old, which definitely cannot be the case for, say, griffons.

And that's the next problem. Chimeras being magical composites of two or more animals makes some degree of sense for the really weird ones with multiple heads and the like, such as Cerberus or the three-headed chimera, but think about how this works in the context of more common chimeras like griffons and hippogriffs. They are explicitly said to be hybrids too. So if Twilight drained Gallus of all his magic, would he split into a small cat and a bluebird? Would both of them still have Gallus's memories, or would his cat half try to eat his bird half? Would either of them want to go back to being Gallus again, or would they both be happy with their independent existences? Which half does the griffon ability to speak come from?

Or what if it had been Silverstream instead? Would she have split into a pony and a bird, or a pony and a griffon? Or, a pony, a bird, and a cat? Or what about other species? Are pegasi part bird? What about alicorns? Could someone drain the magic holding Twilight together and split her into a unicorn, an earth pony, and a pegasus?

See, this isn't the kind of problem you have if griffons and hippogriffs are just a weird but naturally occurring species. I mean, this is a magical world. Mythical creatures can just exist on their own. You can give the species as a whole a fantastical origin, but I was perfectly happy with assuming that griffons reproduce naturally. But no, apparently, what actually happens is that whenever a cat tries to eat a bird, sometimes they'll just get stuck together like conjoined twins, and then slowly merge into a single being in a horrific body horror process lasting multiple days.

I choose to believe that this is how Equestria canonically works, and you cannot prove otherwise.

This confusion is not helped by the fact that the chimeras in this episode seem to be able to just give up this magic at will, which I find very weird. If this is an option, then why do all these monsters need to be forced into these cramped cages in Tartarus? If it's possible to just harmlessly split up a dangerous manticore into several smaller, benign animals, why instead torture it by confining it to a small cage with no sunlight for the rest of its life?

And as for the escape itself, I find this all very sketchy. Twilight breaks out with the power of the creatures' magic alone, which seems to suggest that Tirek could've escaped Tartarus at any time just by draining all of the other inmates. Part of this involves draining Cerberus as well, and I seriously question the wisdom of depowering the guard dog of Tartarus when you're about to blow the doors wide open and leave all the prisoners there by themselves. I mean, I know that they're in cages, but that didn't stop Tirek last time, did it? And why is Fluttershy okay with just leaving all these animals locked up in Tartarus like this, even after they helped them?

But who cares, I guess. The point is, the mane six do eventually escape. Only problem is, they somehow managed to waste the entire remaining two days dicking around in there with Tirek, and now it's too late for them to do anything to affect the plot. Good work, ladies. Fortunately, nothing they did ever mattered anyway, and the real protagonists have already solved the problem by now. So let's go check in with the student six, shall we?

Part 2: The Entire Main Cast Get Outsmarted by a Child

"LOCK IT IN TARTARUS OR SOMETHING, IDGAF."

There's no getting around this. Cozy Glow was a terrible idea on a conceptual level. Child villains can be done well, but they need to fit the tone of the story they're appearing in, and their threat needs to be scaled to that. FiM has done child villains before which did fit, like Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, but importantly, they were antagonists for the Cutie Mark Crusaders, only appearing in low-stakes slice of life conflicts with protagonists on the same level as them, while the real supervillain shit was left to the adults. We never saw Diamond Tiara trying to blow up the Ponyville Dam or overthrow Celestia or anything, because that would be ridiculous. This show is often very silly, but it's not supposed to be a parody.

School Raze treats Cozy completely seriously. It treats her as a serious threat, and her plan as a serious conflict with serious stakes. It punishes her with serious consequences for her actions, and season nine continues to treat her seriously after this. Yes, Cozy is used for some light comedy here and there, but no more than any other villain on this show. As far as I can tell, I as an audience member am supposed to accept Cozy as a real villain on the level of Tirek and Chrysalis, whom she shamelessly stands beside in season nine's League of Evil, but how am I supposed to do that when everything about her is so unbelievable?

Cozy is a child. People argue about this and come up with fan theories, wondering if she's actually an adult in a child's body, or some kind of demon or monster in disguise, mostly in an attempt to rationalise and justify what ultimately happens to her, but Cozy never actually gets any backstory in the series, so I'm left to assume that she is exactly what she appears to be. Cozy Glow is a child with no special magic or abilities, and yet she somehow presents an apocalyptic threat worthy of a season finale plot, and outsmarts the entire cast. And I'm expected to take this as anything other than a bad joke?

And what makes it all the worse is that there is zero attempt to justify such a blatantly absurd character. Cozy is diabolically evil and practically a genius by this show's standards for no reason. Again, in a different show, a more overtly comical show, you wouldn't need to justify this. Mandark in Dexter's Lab is an evil child genius, and he doesn't need to be explained, because that's just something that you accept as part of the premise. But FiM until now has taken place in a relatively more grounded world, where foals behave like real children, go to school, and have low-stakes conflicts such as bullying problems. Cozy is a huge outlier even within the show's universe, and you can't just leave that unexplained, yet that's exactly what the show does. She has no backstory. She's just evil because she's evil.

This lack of context even extends beyond the character to the immediate events of the plot. It's bad enough that we don't know why Cozy is evil, but really, we don't know why she's doing anything. She explains her goals in only the broadest terms, and there's no connecting logic to them that would allow us to actually infer anything.

"Friendship is power," Cozy says. Her plan, as she describes it, is to become the most powerful pony in Equestria by having the most friends, and become an "Empress of Friendship." So what does this mean in practical terms? Does she mean social power? Political power? Magical power? In what sense does she mean to rule Equestria? Is she just trying to become a pony of influence who can always get what she wants, or does she actually want to sit the throne? And if it is Celestia's place that she's gunning for, precisely how does she mean to unseat her? And what then? Once she's the most powerful pony in Equestria, what is she going to do with her power?

And perhaps the best question of all, how does any of that connect with draining all the magic from Equestria? She's not doing anything with it. She's just sending it away. I don't see the point. Okay, it allows her to create a crisis that she can exploit to get rid of Twilight and her friends and take over the school, but how does that further her goals otherwise? The school is worthless in and of itself. If her plan is to rule Equestria through friendship, then surely she'd want to keep Twilight close? Twilight is one of the four most powerful mares in the realm, and she trusts Cozy completely. That is power, of a sort; Cozy has the ear of a princess, and she can work her way up from there to win over the others as well. But once she sends Twilight away, she's back to square one again. Now she's just one of many small children in an unattended school.

Let's be honest, they thought of the magic thing before they thought about their villain's motivation, didn't they?

So what are the effects of Cozy's plan, then? Maybe there's a clue in that.

Spells and potions fail on the first day, including cloud-walking spells. So this plan almost assuredly got someone killed somewhere. It also somehow causes cupcakes to instantly rot, because I guess the writer has no idea how long food normally keeps for. So, good for sowing general chaos across the nation, I guess, but I don't see any way for Cozy to exploit that when she's struggling to take over a single school. If she's trying to do the Emperor Palpatine thing, she's about twenty years too young for it, and not nearly well connected enough yet. At least, she isn't now that she sent her most powerful and influential friend off to Tartarus.

Second day, magical abilities begin to fail... for everyone except pegasi. I don't know if this is actually a part of Cozy's plan or just a plot hole, since nobody ever comments on it, but pegasi can still fly and affect clouds all throughout the episode. So maybe she's trying to become the most powerful by handicapping everyone else? But other pegasi are also unaffected, so this still confers no particular advantage to Cozy specifically. I guess if she wanted to start a race war with the scales tipped in favour of the pegasi then this would be a good first step, but I don't think that she ever shows any racist tendencies towards unicorns or earth ponies, and this would seem contrary to her stated goal of ruling through friendship anyway, so that's another dead end.

And on the third day, magical artefacts fail, signalling that all the magic in Equestria is now gone, except for the magic of the Tree of Harmony for some reason. And the magic of pegasi. And the magic of cutie marks and eye colour, which are also supposed to disappear without magic according to the season four finale, but I guess that the writers forgot about that.

And oh hey, wait a minute, what about the sun and moon? If Cozy drains all the magic in Equestria, then what is she planning to do about the day and night cycles? We can see from Twilight that the magic drain does affect alicorns, so what's going to happen? We know from season nine that Celestia and Luna can produce magical artefacts to take care of the sun and moon for them, so it's not a problem for the duration of the episode, but artefacts fail too on the third day, so what then?

At least when any other big villains defeated the princesses, they were powerful enough that it wasn't a concern. Nightmare Moon, Discord, and the Storm King could all move the sun and moon themselves, Tirek probably could, and Chrysalis and Sombra are both masters of mind control, and could probably just get the princesses to keep doing it for them. But what is Cozy Glow's plan for the sun and moon once she's drained all the magic from Equestria? As far as I can see, all Cozy will accomplish will be becoming the first villain to destroy Equestria by accident.

Except for GlimGlam, of course.

All this is a good case for why Cozy Glow should've been Chrysalis in disguise instead. I know I'm not the first to suggest that, but it really would've substantially improved the episode. Firstly, it would allow Chrysalis to be smart and competent, as befitting her villainous stature, rather than a crazy idiot ranting to herself in the woods. Secondly, the mane six and everyone else would look a lot less dumb if they were being fooled by a changeling queen rather than a literal child. Thirdly, Cozy's lack of backstory or motivation ceases to be a problem. Fourthly, Chrysalis would actually be able to take advantage of all this chaos she's created, unlike Cozy. Fifthly, it would make the ending much more palatable if it were Chrysalis being thrown in Tartarus rather than, again, a child. And sixthly, it might actually have given Ocellus something to do this season.

But no use pondering about what-ifs now, I guess. Let's just get into the details of the episode.

So by the time episode starts, Cozy has already somehow ingratiated herself to Twilight to the point that she's become a personal assistant to her, and Twilight is already relying on her to keep her schedule and even pack her bags when it comes time for adventuring. In fact, Twilight's trust of her is integral to Cozy's plans, because it's what allows her to get her hooves on all those powerful magical artefacts that Twilight still has for some reason. I'd have thought that she would've returned those to Celestia after Matter of Principals, but then we wouldn't have a finale plot, so whatever.

Anyway, this is just the set-up phase for Cozy's plan, and already I have a problem with this. Why is Cozy suddenly Twilight's assistant, in this episode and no other? What happened to Spike? I know Cozy puts on a good act of being cheerful and helpful, but Spike's entire purpose is being Twilight's assistant. She doesn't need Cozy. She's definitely never needed her until now. This is just another contrivance to facilitate the plot.

Then the magic issue comes up, and Twilight and her friends leave the school in Starlight's care, just like in Matter of Principals. Only, for some unfathomable reason, this time they take Spike with them, even though he contributes nothing to the Tartarus adventure, and even though he would be invaluable as an assistant to Starlight. Remember, Spike is considered qualified to substitute, and this school is normally staffed by six teachers. If Spike isn't helping this time, then Starlight is going to have to teach every class in the school by herself, because as much as everyone might think that Cozy's the bee's knees, she's still a student, so she can't exactly help Starlight with the teaching, can she?

This is yet another plot contrivance to facilitate Cozy's plan, because I guess not even Haber and Dubuc thought they could get away with Cozy overpowering Starlight and Spike offscreen. Even just Starlight is already straining credulity. Yet, hilariously, Cozy makes a sad face when she learns that Starlight will be staying, like she was actually banking on Twilight being dumb enough to leave the entire school in the hands of a child. And honestly, considering how stupid Twilight has been all throughout season eight, and even in this very episode, I can understand why. Even Neighsay later on is utterly unsurprised by Cozy's claim that Twilight left her in charge.

So after dealing with Starlight, Cozy effectively takes over the school. I have no idea what she's actually planning to do with it, since as established, there are no teachers now, but I guess the more important part is that her ritual can go on uninterrupted for the moment. Yet still she's trying to win over the student body for some reason, as a few mares mention that she bribed them with tickets for a Sapphire Shores concert in Ponyville that night. Why Sapphire Shores is holding a concert in the midst of a national crisis, I don't know, but I guess this is another one of those things that we're not meant to think about.

Enter Neighsay, the real hero of this story, who, despite having zero authority over this non-EEA accredited school, comes in to assume control of it now that it's unattended. No idea how he knew that it was unattended, or what he would've done if he'd shown up and Starlight was still there, but who cares, I guess. Logic doesn't matter at this point. I would also ask how he plans to teach this entire school on his own, but then, I could ask the exact same thing of Starlight and Cozy.

So Neighsay appoints himself headstallion, and immediately tries to expel all the minorities, because for some insane reason, he thinks that they're the ones behind the magic draining from Equestria. I don't know how he thinks they're capable of this, or why he thinks that expelling them will be enough to stop it, but the funny thing is, he's not far off. The real culprit is only marginally less absurd and unlikely.

And this is another thing that I love about Chancellor Neighsay. Some mysterious, unknown force is somehow stealing all the magic from Equestria, on a scale never seen before. This is an existential threat greater than any villain previously faced. Twilight and her friends are off on some idiotic wild goose chase, because their first thought was that Tirek was somehow doing all this. And meanwhile, Chancellor Neighsay's first thought, the very first thing that pops into his mind, is "I bet this is all Twilight's fault. Some kids at her school are probably behind this." He doesn't have any evidence to believe that. He just assumes it. And he's fucking RIGHT.

Oh sure, he accuses the wrong students, because his prejudices lead him to assume that it must be the non-ponies, but for someone taking a completely wild, unfounded guess, he was way closer to the mark than he had any right to be. There's a huge national crisis going on, apocalyptic level bullshit, and while everyone else is being jerked around on Cozy's strings, Neighsay immediately pegs that Twilight's school is the source of the problem, and he goes to deal with it. Then he gets there, and what does he find? A school with no principal, and a kid running things. Basically exactly the kind of legendary incompetency that he's come to expect from Twilight by now. I don't blame him for suspecting the student six after that, because he was right about everything else up to that point.

Neighsay is such a fucking baller.

However, despite being unquestionably the smartest character on the show by this point, not even Neighsay is unaffected by bad writing, so when he imprisons the student six, he somehow falls for Sandbar's betrayal act, and leaves him completely unattended for long enough for him to go to the Crusaders for help. Amazingly, a few of the student six also fall for this. Wow. Pretty good acting from Sandbar, considering that in the season premier he couldn't lie to save his life. Is this character development, or just a continuity mistake? I want to be charitable, but really, what does it say about Twilight's school that attending an institution that has honesty classes made Sandbar a better liar?

So Sandbar brings the Crusaders into the plot, totally pointlessly, I might add, since Cozy just ends up tricking them too. Much like the B-plot with the mane six, the Crusaders are just here for filler. I guess that the writers felt bad for having almost no Crusaders episodes this season, because they spent all their time focusing on this fucking school. Which actually reminds me of something – How does Sandbar even know the Crusaders? I don't think that the Crusaders and the student six interacted even once until this scene. They spent plenty of time with Cozy, but...

Anyway, so despite going to the Crusaders to help free his friends, Sandbar takes them all to the school's basement first, because the script says so, and discovers the ritual site, where Starlight is also imprisoned. Because on top of sucking up magic from all across Equestria, Cozy's ritual also captures ponies that go near it and contains them automatically. How very convenient, especially considering that Cozy apparently didn't plan for Starlight staying at the school.

Meanwhile, Cozy overthrows Neighsay with the power of mob violence, as you do. Once again, very lucky for her that the entire student body were willing to listen to a child over an adult authority, and were willing to help her kidnap a government official with no questions asked. I can see that the students have really embraced the spirit of friendship and harmony since attending this school. They're definitely all getting top marks in Theory and Defence of Friendship this year!

Cozy learned from the best.

So with Neighsay captured, the student six go to free him and get his help. Once they've explained what's really going on, Neighsay of course takes charge, and goes out to face the school again with the student six backing him this time, and tells them all of Cozy's true intentions so that they can safely apprehend her and put a stop to her ritual.

...Oh wait, no, that's not actually what happens. He just uses his convenient magic medallion to teleport away, and plays no part in resolving the conflict. Excellent.

Then we get School Raze cringe dialogue line number two:

"We OBVIOUSLY can't handle Cozy on our own!"

–Sandbar, to his gang of five friends, referring to a single defenceless filly.

I'm not sure why the student six are so afraid of Cozy Glow at this point. Smolder or Gallus alone could easily overpower her. With the six of them, it's no contest. Yeah, she defeated Starlight and the Crusaders, but only by tricking them. And she was only able to take down Neighsay by mob violence, which only worked because the mob already hated Neighsay. But the rest of the students aren't racists too, are they? If the student six confronted Cozy in public and accused her, they could take her easily. Yeah, most of the students would probably be skeptical that Cozy could be behind everything, but the proof is right there beneath the school.

But instead, they go straight to the ritual site to try to stop Cozy's plan themselves, since apparently Neighsay can't be bothered. Then while they're down there, Cozy for some reason decides to lead the entire school into the basement to see her evil plan in action, and very conveniently they all arrive just in time for every single student to simultaneously hear the one line of dialogue that would make the student six sound bad, completely devoid of context.

I really have to wonder what Cozy told everyone to get them to follow her into the basement, and what they thought they were going to find down there. I also wonder what Cozy would've done if she had snuck up on the student six with the entire student body behind her, only for everyone to hear the student six talking amongst themselves about what an evil deceptive cunt Cozy is and how they're going to stop her evil ritual. Boy, wouldn't that have thrown a wrench in her plans? How lucky for her that that didn't happen.

But nobody's luck holds out forever. So as is only appropriate for a villain whose successes depended almost entirely on luck and on every other character being an idiot, Cozy Glow is finally defeated when she makes an idiotic decision and the student six are the ones who get lucky for once. Cozy shit-talks the Tree of Harmony, which finally decides to wake the fuck up and slap her down despite doing nothing until this point, and it helps the student six to dismantle her ritual, which of course also returns all the magic.

A lesson that I don't think Cozy will soon be forgetting.

This ending annoys me, because I can't decide if it's a deus ex machina or not. It's simultaneously a foregone conclusion and not properly set up.

I think what it comes down to is whether or not the student six are meant to be using the Elements of Harmony in this scene. The other students mention the Elements, so it's sort of implied that they are, but it's still not clear. If they're not using the Elements here, then it's fine, because it's just the Tree stopping the ritual, and the Tree's presence is already well-established. If anything, it's a plot hole that the Tree didn't do all this sooner. But if this is supposed to be the Elements of Harmony, then while that excuses the timing somewhat, the whole climax is definitely a deus ex machina then, because the student six being the new bearers of the Elements was not set up at all.

Oh sure, you can argue that it's obvious from a Doylist perspective that they're meant to be the next Elements of Harmony, what with there being six of them and them learning friendship and such, but nothing in season eight itself supports this. I mentioned this while I was talking about What Lies Beneath. Sure, the student six know a lot about friendship in general terms, but the show never connects the individual characters to any specific virtues of the Elements. I mean, who would be which Element? Which of the student six shows the most kindness or generosity? Are any of them any good at magic? Does Sandbar even have enough of a personality for any Element? This is what I mean by this not being properly set up.

Anyway, that's it for the student six's side of the plot. Now we move into the endgame.

Part 3: Jesus Christ, Celestia, What the Fuck?

If you thought I wasn't going to make a big deal of this, you haven't been paying attention.

So for the final act, Twilight teleports in with her friends as soon as the magic returns, and corners Cozy. She asks why she did it, gives one of her friendship speeches, and apologises for failing to teach Cozy what friendship really is. It all sounds like a pretty standard villain defeat, up until we get the scene pictured above where Cozy is carted off to Tartarus and caged up next to fucking Tirek.

Where to begin with this? What do you say to something like this? It's been over a year since I first saw this scene, and it still leaves me utterly speechless on a rewatch. I know that there are people who defend this, people who argue that Cozy is evil and unrepentant and deserves to be punished, and this is not a judgement on those people, but with all possible respect, I strongly, vehemently disagree with this creative decision.

This all comes back, once again, to the fact that Cozy Glow is a child. Yes, she is an extremely messed up child who did horrible things, probably killed some ponies with this stupid plan of hers, and doesn't appear to be sorry for it. Her actions are indefensible, and she should definitely be locked up. But in real life, when minors commit serious crimes, our justice system makes certain considerations for them. Children are vulnerable. You can't just throw them into the general prison population, because they will be victimised. It's the same reason prisons separate men and women. And in the modern world, justice is not just punitive, but also has an aim for rehabilitation, which is especially true for children, because generally speaking, if a child is committing such serious crimes at such a young age, it is because there is something deeply wrong with them, and they need help.

And yet Cozy is put in fucking Tartarus, a cave full of pony-eating monsters, stuck in a cage next to a cockatrice that could turn her to stone, and a centaur that could eat her fucking soul. This is like putting an eight-year-old in a supermax. She is both extremely at risk, and is also never going to reform in Tartarus. In fact, she's being locked up with actively malign influences. Luna literally leaves her right next to her partner in crime. Not to mention that Tartarus is some kind of weird magical prison where the inmates apparently live forever, and where there aren't even any wardens who come by to check on or feed them, since nobody noticed Tirek's escape either of the two times he did it. No other pony in Equestria gets this treatment. Cozy is the only pony in Tartarus. Why? Why is she the exception? This is the textbook definition of a cruel and unusual punishment, and it's total overkill.

Seasons eight and nine both try to prop up Cozy as a villain on the level of Tirek and Chrysalis, but she's simply not. She might've done a lot of damage with her plan, but only because Twilight was an idiot and trusted her with numerous dangerous magical artefacts. She has no special powers of her own. Cozy's only advantages as a villain are that she's smart and deceptively harmless looking. But now that everyone's seen her true colours, she's never going to be able to pull off something like that again, especially not from prison. There is nothing dangerous about her once she's in custody, so why in the name of fuck is she being put in maximum security with Equestria's most dangerous monsters, and subjected to these inhumane conditions?

Does Equestria not have any asylums? Juvenile detention? Hell, don't they even have a regular modern style prison to put her in, if the courts were totally adamant that she needed to be locked up with violent hardcore criminals? In fact, did Cozy even get a trial at all? Did anyone even tell her parents before they arrested their filly and threw her in Pony Hell? It really doesn't seem like it, considering that she was already being locked up before Celestia and Neighsay even left the school. As horrible as Cozy's actions were, does she not have any rights in this situation? Modern western countries don't treat even their worst criminals like this. We give fair trials to rapists, cannibals, terrorists, neo-Nazis, and school shooters, but Cozy doesn't even get a bucket to shit in. And this is in Equestria, the same country which pardoned Starlight Glimmer for causing multiple apocalypses?

And speaking of, let's talk about that double standard, because that's almost as bad. Think about how many villains this show has reformed. How many characters have done terrible, awful things, and then totally gotten away with it because Equestria is a land of forgiveness and redemption? But they draw the line at Cozy Glow? Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily saying that she should've gotten away with it too, but what has she done which is so much worse than everyone else? Yeah, she probably got some people killed, but in all likelihood, so did Tempest; she was the commander of an invading army. So why doesn't Cozy get the same chances as everyone else?

Found on Celestia's Facebook page. Explains quite a bit.

And make no mistake, Cozy wasn't given the same chances. One of the most common defences I hear for Cozy's punishment is that the show only reformed villains who showed remorse for what they did, while Cozy had none. And while this is technically true, what it misses is that plenty of villains were not initially remorseful, and were only redeemed through persistent, concentrated effort on the mane six's part.

Starlight Glimmer put on a facade of friendliness when she met the mane six, and then fucked them over. That was her first chance. Twilight gave her a friendship speech at the end of the episode, but Starlight threw it back in her face and ran off. That was her second chance. Starlight could've then spent her time reflecting on her choices and turning her life around, but instead, she spent months planning her revenge, and came back to attack Twilight again. That was her third chance. And then, even after all that, Twilight still forgave her anyway, and Starlight became a main character for season six on her fourth. That is a lot of persistent, remorseless villainy before she finally reformed.

For another case study, let's look at Discord. Keep Calm and Flutter On was already his third chance. He'd been turned to stone twice already for being a major dick, and they released him for the sole purpose of trying to show him friendship and give him another chance, and he laughed in their faces for it. Finally, after much needling from Fluttershy, he did in fact seem to capitulate and reform, only to later betray them for Tirek and be a villain again. And they still forgave him for that, and still tolerate him, even though he continues to be a dick right up until the show's end.

Cozy did not get anywhere near that much leeway. She did her evil plan, she was defeated, Twilight gave her a friendship speech, and because Cozy didn't immediately apologise, everyone instantly gave up on her, and she was carted straight off to supermax without even a trial. For a world which is normally so gung-ho about reforming villains rather than punishing them, what happens to Cozy is incredibly jarring and absolutely antithetical to the show's themes, especially given her age, and especially given that we never even got to hear her sob story.

I've also heard some people defend this by saying that Cozy went to a school specifically for learning friendship, so if she was still evil after that, then she was probably always going to be evil and never going to understand friendship. But frankly, not only is that objectively wrong, as season nine shows us, but it's a far more damning indictment of Twilight's school than it is of Cozy.

The School of Friendship utterly failed at its one job, which was to teach friendship to people who didn't understand it. Every other student in Twilight's school already had a naturally friendly disposition to begin with. The student six are touted as a success story, but as I already talked about before, they were already friends from episode one. Cozy is the one student who actually needed to be taught friendship, and the mane six taught her nothing. And is that really such a shock when their curriculum consists of buckball games, cupcakes in class, watching their teachers fight over an award, scavenger hunts, "honesty classes," working on Applejack's farm, and some Scottish guy talking about how he beat the shit out of an ursa major? This school is a joke.

And even if I could ignore all that, and all of this finale's other faults, I still don't think I'd ever be able to get over the image of Celestia smiling as she talks about how she sent a small child to Tartarus. That's probably the most perverse and sickening part of this whole scenario to me. Even if anything about this was justifiable, that is a very damning reflection upon her character. What Celestia and Luna did to Cozy is not something to smile about. At least Luna looks pissed off with this whole situation, but Celestia obviously has no regrets and no qualms about this. At best, she just doesn't care. At worst, she takes pleasure in this. Royal Problem and Horse Play may have made Celestia a petty, childish idiot, but this is the episode that convinced me that Celestia is an awful person.

Celestia's mother is very disappointed in her.

But I've spoken enough about Cozy. Although everything about the Tartarus situation is horrifying to me, it's not the only thing wrong with the ending. Before we finally close off, we get one last scene with Twilight, Celestia, and Neighsay, the whole purpose of which is to hastily wrap up Neighsay's character arc. And just as I predicted earlier, resolving Neighsay's racism issues automatically comes with him giving his blessing to the school, despite everything that just happened.

I reiterate, Neighsay was proven right on every single count over the course of season eight. He was right about all the ways that Twilight mismanaged the school, he was right about her and the mane six being recklessly irresponsible, and he was even right about her students causing the anti-magic apocalypse. Everything that just happened here was Twilight's fault. She's the one who gave Cozy the means and opportunity to do this, and she completely failed everybody. If it weren't for the student six and the Tree of Harmony, Equestria would've been doomed. If anything, Twilight should be the one apologising in this scene. Maybe if she'd been running by EEA rules, this wouldn't have happened. Do you think Neighsay would've let a child handle dangerous magical artefacts?

But no, instead, it's all just brushed off as no big deal. "Oh, cheer up, Twilight! So one of your students turned out to be a psychopath and Equestria almost lost its magic permanently because of you, just in your school's first year! Big deal! Everyone makes mistakes! All schools have growing pains! At least the student six turned out alright!"

In general, Neighsay's role in the finale is completely pointless. He's barely a stumbling block for Cozy, and plays no role in resolving the conflict. He was an effective antagonist in the premier, but here, he's pretty much just in the story to reform so that we can have a hackneyed, oversimplified lesson about racism. Neighsay is a racist all season for absolutely no reason, until he sees one example of a pony being evil and non-ponies being good, and this completely turns his worldview around. If only it were that easy in real life.

I also blame Neighsay's role in this story for why Cozy had to be written the way she was. Like I said, if she'd just been Chrysalis in disguise, and the episode was otherwise completely the same, so much about it would've been improved. But if the whole crisis had been engineered by a changeling rather than a pony, it wouldn't have conveniently disproven Neighsay's prejudice. And sure, the writers are fine with throwing a small filly in Tartarus, but God forbid the aging racist bureaucrat doesn't get a redemption arc. Does this not seem a little backwards to anyone else?

And for our final kick in the teeth, we have the student six practicing for graduation, as they quite reasonably believe that saving Equestria and (possibly) wielding the Elements of Harmony is proof enough that they understand friendship. And considering the precedent of Starlight graduating after one world-saving adventure despite being much worse at friendship, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders being honorary graduates without even attending this school, I'm inclined to agree with them. But of course, the show has to maintain the status quo for one more season, so Twilight arbitrarily denies them, saying that one semester isn't enough to learn everything about friendship.

As a reminder, a semester is six months, and Fluttershy had nine Teacher of the Month awards by episode nine. I hate this fucking finale so much. And we end on School Raze cringe dialogue line number THREE:

"If [friendship] were EASY to learn, we wouldn't need a SCHOOL."

–Princess Twilight Sparkle, insulting everyone's intelligence one last time.

Final thoughts:

"So gee, DannyJ, what did you think of season eight?"

HMMMMMMMM.

If bad continuity was the defining marker of season seven, then bad characterisation was season eight's. In general, I think that most of the flaws of season seven were carried forward by season eight, such as poor continuity, rehashed ideas, and characters, logic, and world-building bending to the whims of the plot. However, I think that the characterisation was where season eight got it wrong the most. Discord, the princesses, most of the mane six, and several other characters were all written horribly, and the writing in general took a much more cynical and irreverent tone which lost something of the spirit of the show.

In my season seven review, I assumed that this was because the writers were too burnt out from working on the show for so long, but as I found out between then and now, it's actually that almost none of the writers still remaining by this point had been with the show for long at all. The writers didn't seem to care as much about the show because they were new to it, and many of them probably just didn't know any better, though this is more excusable in some cases than others. Being entirely new to the show, I don't think that Nicole Dubuc should've had as much creative control as she seems to have had, but I don't hold it against her for accepting a promotion. Josh Haber, I am somewhat less inclined to be charitable to; for how long he's been with the show, he should've known better, and should've made a greater effort to right the ship.

Having said that, season eight had a lot riding against it. Haber and the rest of the writers had the unenviable task of following up on both season seven and the movie, the latter of which most of them probably had zero involvement in, while also introducing a whole new seasonal arc with the School of Friendship, including the introduction of six new main characters. Now, I don't know whose idea the school was. It smacks more than a little of a corporate-mandated toy inclusion, but I can't discount the possibility that it was all Haber or Dubuc's idea either. The point is, whoever came up with it placed yet another constraint on the staff that they all had to work around, and the result was that all of the school episodes and movie references ended up overloading the season, to the point that we had barely any time for more familiar locales and characters like Canterlot or the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

And yet, in spite of this, some good did still come out of it all. Against all odds, I actually ended up liking the student six as characters, and they even had one of the better episodes of the season. And while no individual episode I could name ever reached the heights of A Perfect Pear, I think that season eight in general still had some pretty good ones here and there. The Break Up Breakdown, The Parent Map, The Hearth's Warming Club, and Sounds of Silence were all legitimately enjoyable episodes in my opinion, and easily stand alongside the better episodes of previous seasons.

However, I also can't ignore that season eight had way more just plain awful episodes than even season seven did. I'd say maybe a third of all season seven episodes were wretchedly awful rather than just weird or mediocre, but in season eight, I'd say it was closer to a full half. Too many season eight episodes either completely ruined their central characters, or else had writing so sloppy that it beggared belief. Horse Play, Non-Compete Clause, The End in Friend, Yakity Sax, The Mean Six, the list goes on. And of course, the premier and finale were also particularly dark spots on the season as a whole, with Cozy's final fate in Tartarus being the absolute nadir of the entire series to me, at least until season nine came along and somehow outdid it.

And speaking of season nine, we've got a lot more pain to come. The show rather overtook me whilst I was writing this review, and having since watched season nine fully and seen the show to its final end, it casts rather a new light on season eight. It's different watching Sounds of Silence now, knowing that it would end up being the last ever map episode. It's disappointing to rewatch The Washouts knowing that we would never see Lightning Dust again after this. And seeing Chrysalis going crazy in the woods or Cozy and Tirek in Tartarus is not made any easier by knowing where their stories end. I'd say it's bittersweet, but I'm mostly just bitter at this point.

But that's all a discussion for next time. I don't know when I'll complete the season nine review, or even if I will at all. Depends on the response, I guess. And my motivation. But if there's one parting sentiment that I might leave you on, it's that whatever Friendship is Magic might have meant to you while it was going, it can never truly be taken away. For as many harsh words as I've uttered in this review, everything that I liked about this show is all still there. The older seasons haven't gone anywhere, and I still like to go back to them from time to time, so what's there really to be mad about?

Because ultimately... it's just a show, dude. Like, chill out.

"I used to think that season eight was a tragedy. Now I realise, it's a comedy."

Acknowledgements:

I'd like to give a big thanks to Posh for editing and proofreading this review, as well as contributing a few minor additions to it himself.

Thanks as well to Oliver, Spifffy, FanOfMostEverything, Fylifa, and the rest of the Pony Canon Research Society, who whether through their blogs or Discord chats all graciously provided me a platform to record my whining about season eight, which became the notes that I used to cobble together this review.

Thank you to Present Perfect and DWK, whose own hilarious and sometimes scathing critiques of season eight I consider an inspiration for my own.

Thank you to Frankaraya, SkycatcherEquestria, Tjpones, and Pony Quarantine, whose artwork I shamelessly stole to pad out this review with reaction images. Hope they don't mind too much. Go check them all out for more cool stuff, and maybe give them a follow.

And thank you to you, the readers, for listening to my bullshit for fifty thousand words. My God, you people are patient. Or maybe you just have a lot more free time these days. Either way, congratulations on overcoming the mountain, and I hope to see you all again for the season nine review.

Arrivederci.

—DannyJ

Comments ( 33 )

I would say Season 8 is the low point of the series. As you noted, the staff were in a very unenviable position in trying to fold together both a movie that wanted nothing to do with established continuity and the latest toyetic horror—yes, there's a toy—to say nothing of the overall inexperience of the writing pool. I've already done my share of digging into these episodes, but I will say that I empathize with your disgust in many places. Especially the finale.

But that final message is perhaps the best takeaway from all of this. One shouldn't let the lows detract from the highs. Avatar wasn't ruined because of the Shyamalan movie. So too here. Glad I could help provide somewhere for you to keep notes as the horror unfolded. :twilightsmile:

5250455

Friendship is Card Games provided me many a port in the storm over the years.

This review is everything I expected and more.

And yet I would still like to read your review of season 9 and the conclusion. :twilightsmile:

"If [friendship] were EASY to learn, we wouldn't need a SCHOOL."

I had forgotten all about this line. I, uh... :twilightoops:

Because ultimately... it's just a show, dude. Like, chill out.

Says the guy who just wrote 50k words about one season, mostly about how much he hated it :trollestia:
I know that's the joke. Shuddup.

This whole thing was kinda interesting. I understood where you were coming from on some things, I disagreed with others, but in the end I definitely came out of this having learned something.

I'm not going to discuss the things I disagreed with, because A: we'd be here all day, and B: I am not a very good debater and you'd probably sweep the floor with me.

That being said, I hopped aboard the ride around the time the first half of Season 8 got leaked, and I started actively participating with the fandom when Season 9 started; no matter what anybody says about them, I'm still going to be have a big soft spot for this era, for better or for worse.

But in the end, it's neat that we can both be fans and still have differing opinions on the show—there's a whole episode about that, if I recall correctly (though I'm not sure if you're a fan of it). You can go your way, I can go mine, and the morning sun rises all the same, y'know what I mean? That works well enough for me.

I'm simultaneously looking forward to and terrified of your Season 9 review!
:)

5250501

Aha. I have mixed feelings on that episode, yes, but its moral was sound. Everyone's free to like what they like, and nobody will blame you for having a soft spot for the seasons you started with. I feel quite similarly with regards to Steven Moffat's run of Doctor Who, which I'm taken to believe is far from the majority opinion in that fandom. I don't write these to convince anyone that they're wrong for liking things, merely to entertain others while getting some catharsis for myself. Just think of these blogs as a long-form way of me sharing my opinion. Regardless, I'm glad that you got something out of them, even if my points weren't always agreeable, and I will endeavour not to disappoint with the season nine review.

Man, I'd love to see you bring this level of insight and analysis into the earlier seasons. All the wit without the guilt of wondering how you can subject yourself to such pain. :twilightoops:

Have to admit I massively disliked the finale already, but if anything, in hindsight I feel like I was being too generous to it. And I say this as someone who hated it enough to break into a rant about it, and at the time I was ostensibly talking about an earlier Season Eight episode that I actually liked, in a determined effort to focus on the positives of that season.

Like, one of my biggest problems (and one I had with Horse Play too) was how it felt like the show was trying to smuggle grimdark material in where it conspicuously felt out of place (I mean, losing your magic whenever you raise the sun is an excessively nasty interpretation to begin with, but why bother when the solution to such a thing is equally arbitrary?). But by and large that got swept aside by my other gripes with the plotting.

This is the first time I learned that the writers in later seasons were using cheat sheets. It depressingly explains so much.

Canon Discontinuity, why are you such a tempting trope to invoke?

Thank you for this write up Danny. All four parts of it! Even now that its a year later and some of the sting is gone from the initial viewing. It still gives a bit of catharsis.

For the "Oh its just a show and roll with it." crowd. It's natural to pick apart the things we love and feel anger when they don't rise to their potential. Apathy is much much worse. Knowing a little bit of the backroom drama at the studio helps, a little. Fan creations are better because fans actually are more experienced stewards of it.

Which is a little more hope. The show was going to end at some point. Wish it'd gone out better, but now that its over it's up to the people who do care about it to keep it going. And its examinations like this to know where it'd gone wrong to know what to do right.

That said I do hope for a season 9 review, Danny. I'll happily trade several years of your life and mental well being for it. I never said I wasn't a sadist.

5250711

This is the first time I learned that the writers in later seasons were using cheat sheets. It depressingly explains so much.

It explains even more when you read the cheat sheets themselves, which I have copies of. I'll go into this in more detail in the season nine review, but for just one example, you might normally find A Trivial Pursuit baffling for having Twilight still acting like a crazy asshole mere months before she's due to take Celestia's throne, but it makes a lot more sense after you learn that one of the cheat sheet's recommended reference episodes for Twilight is Lesson Zero.

Canon Discontinuity, why are you such a tempting trope to invoke?

Believe me, I know the feeling. Every fic I write takes place in my own AU that totally disregards everything after season six. Apart from some minor cherry-picking, like Applejack's parents.

5250750

I'll happily trade several years of your life and mental well being for it. I never said I wasn't a sadist.

I don't think I like this trade....

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I choose to believe that this is how Equestria canonically works, and you cannot prove otherwise.

Oh god, please write this, it will be horrifying. XD

I like how I just now realize that my old, clutching-at-straws defense for Cozy's motivation -- her "Friendship is power!" line suggesting that she gets friendship is magic, but still doesn't quite understand how it's applied -- just means the mane six were outsmarted by a dumb child. :B

Though I also still like the headcanon that she just looks like a pony foal. <.< And now you've maybe given me fodder to add a second chapter to that post-S9 fic I wrote about just this subject that no one liked the ending of.

Oh yeah, and did you hear the analysis -- I forget who did it -- that points out Cozy Glow is a parody of child stars like Shirley Temple, which makes the unfortunate implications of her eventual fate even worse? :q

Thank you for one of the most informative angry novels I have ever read. :B

"I've FINALLY learned that it's okay to count on your friends for help! :D"

That line. Drove. Me. Nuts. It's just... it's a lesson she learned in literally the first episode -- the first blasted episode -- and never had to deal with herself again. She was the one teaching it in literally the fourth episode aired. She never, in any major crisis after Nightmare Moon, ever considered leaving the others behind and doing things on her own. Literally the only thing this line achieves is making its writers look lazy, incompetent or both.

Could someone drain the magic holding Twilight together and split her into a unicorn, an earth pony, and a pegasus?

I was literally asking myself that question when I was watching the episode. Although, let's be honest here, it may be a bit much to expect the writers for this theoretical scenario to remember the earth pony bit.

Regardless, I tend to assume that the fusion angle is intended tor reflect a conjoined nature rather than each creature being literally created by sticking other animals together -- that is, each living creature has some sort of, hmm, "essence", some supernatural identity, that chimeric entities maintain. So when two cockatrices mate and lay eggs, the chicks contain the mingled "souls" of snake and bird despite not being themselves created by fusing a snake with a chicken.

5250903

I like how I just now realize that my old, clutching-at-straws defense for Cozy's motivation -- her "Friendship is power!" line suggesting that she gets friendship is magic, but still doesn't quite understand how it's applied -- just means the mane six were outsmarted by a dumb child. :B

Well, with how heavily her plan relies on contrived coincidences and other people being idiots, I'd say there's plenty of evidence to support Cozy being a dumb child.

Oh yeah, and did you hear the analysis -- I forget who did it -- that points out Cozy Glow is a parody of child stars like Shirley Temple, which makes the unfortunate implications of her eventual fate even worse? :q

I vaguely recall hearing about this, but I've not seen any in-depth analysis of this.

Thank you for one of the most informative angry novels I have ever read. :B

And thank you for reading it!

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

5250970
The conclusion I'm thinking of was something along the lines of "the show staff would have grown up with parents who watched people like Shirley Temple, and staff would have been really annoyed by her, so this is basically them getting revenge by throwing Shirley Temple in mega baby jail."

The only point of yours that I disagree with is Discord:

he did in fact seem to capitulate and reform, only to later betray them for Tirek and be a villain again.

I've seen that episode several times. I am convinced that Discord was actually trying to be a good guy.


Specifically, Twilight's element * did not yet exist *.

It would not show up until ... She forgives Discord.

Pay attention to her eyes. They do not flash when she is wielding the power of 4 alicorns; they flash when she forgives Discord.

Discord has to play the role of an ass for her to forgive, and her element to show up.

Applejack is a farmer; she is the element of honesty.
Rainbow is a speed freak and weather pony; she is the element of loyalty.
Twilight is exceedingly good at magic, *but she is consistently shown in the series to be the element of forgiveness*.

Ultimately, this is my big complaint about the end of 8. There's a short story on fimfic that I cannot find, where Twilight is talking to someone about how she had a friendship speech all prepared for Cozy, only to defer to Celestia to avoid having Celestia take royal anger out on her.

Twilight is Forgiveness; Celestia is punishment. A 1,000 year time-out for mis-behaving, given to both Discord, her sister, and Cozy.

5251142

That is kind of hilarious.

5251241

Twilight's Kingdom is actually one of my favourite finales, so I've heard a lot of different interpretations for what Discord was doing in that episode, and I find it hard to definitively pin down where I stand on it, because Discord's actions are so ambiguous that many different interpretations are valid. That said, I like to believe that Discord really didn't see the betrayal coming and at least wasn't entirely faking, because it means way more that way for both Twilight and Discord that she still forgave him, but that's just a matter of personal preference. Regardless, I'd say that whether Discord was faking or not, Twilight at least seemed to believe that he really had betrayed them, so it still says something of Twilight's boundless tolerance and forgiveness and how much Discord gets away with that this wasn't the end for him. She would've been perfectly justified in letting Tirek have him, and nobody would've blamed her.

I'd be interested in taking a look at that fic, if you ever did find it again. I don't generally read many fics involving Cozy Glow, just because I find everything about her absurd and everything that happens to her horrifying, but I make an exception for fics which attempt to actually address my problems with her character; I like stories which give her a backstory and actually try to explain why she's evil, or which explore the implications and consequences of what happened to her. Innocent Until Proven Cozy was probably one of my favourites for this.

Actually, revisiting this and comparing the lists of directors and writers across seasons (using Wikipedia's list), a few things do stand out to me, and they eerily coincide with the drop in enthusiasm I've had across seasons, culminating in the dead-end feel of Season Eight. It also overlaps with what you were saying about the change across seasons.

To whit:

-

* Seasons One, Two, and Three feel largely cohesive and uniform. The first season has Jayson Thiessen as director (as does Season Four), and still remains my favourite season. The entire run of three seasons has James Wootton as either co-director or director, with a pretty solid core writing team dominated by five major names: Amy Keating Rogers, Cindy Morrow, Meghan McCarthy, Charlotte Fullerton, and M.A. Larson. This is out of a pool of about 11 writers, of which eight make it beyond Season Three, and five make it beyond Season Four.

* Season Four has to deal with Princess Twilight Sparkle (not one of my favourite show shake-ups, but pretty mild in hindsight) and mostly confines her new status implications to a handful of episodes. This season sees a fresh influx of new blood (7 writers debut here) and a new co-director debuting (Jim Miller). But it largely continues the dominance of writers from prior seasons, and Jayson Thiessen returns to the helm after a major stint in Season One. Overall, this one to me felt like a return to form (to the point I half-considered lumping it in with the first three), and only minorly acted as a transition to Season Five.

* In Season Five, there's a massive shift in my opinion from the start to the end, which roughly coincides with the change of directors and the changing of the guard from the "old-timers" among the writing staff to the next reign of dominance:

  • Jayson Thiessen's "era" ends with the Season Five premier and coincides with Meghan McCarthy's last two-parter, which is frankly the highlight of this season for me.
  • There follows a string of episodes in the first half that vary wildly in quality but by-and-large keep to the standard of Season Four (Jim Miller was a co-director during Season Four and continues as director for Season Five up to Episode 13, hence to the halfway mark).
  • There's a definite directorial split in the middle. Prior to the halfway mark, Jayson Thiessen, James Wootton, and Jim Miller either directed or shared directing duties amongst themselves, with overlaps and comebacks and no comparably abrupt split like what comes next.


  • For the first time, however, directorial duties are now in the hands of someone who has had no overlap with a prior director at all. None of the previous three directors are, or will be, directing again and we enter the second half of the show, the Denny Lu "era", differentiated only by whether there is also a new co-director, neither of whom are show veterans either.
  • A few final hurrahs from the old-timers among the writing staff, though, so we have some good episodes still before the finale.
  • Josh Haber, hitherto only occasionally showing up as a writer, suddenly has a prominent string of episodes from this point on, starting with the Season Five finale, which introduces what, going forwards, is a major controversial shake-up, and which is also frankly the nadir of this season for me.

* In Season Six, Denny Lu acquires the first co-director, Tim Stuby. Only two of the original writing team remain (McCarthy and Polsky), Haber is now writing a lot of episodes (most of the major Starlight ones, for one thing) and as of the Season Five finale has replaced Meghan McCarthy in covering two-parters. With the exception of Josh Haber and Michael Vogel, though, writing duties are actually quite broad, spread among writers from Seasons One to Five and seven new writers debuting. To me, this season was an extremely mixed bag, but conspicuously lower in quality from prior seasons overall, and this might go some way to explaining it.

* The Denny Lu and Tim Stuby team-up ends with Episode 7 of the next season. Thus begins the Denny Lu and Mike Myhre "era", which is now basically the remaining three seasons of the show: Seasons Seven, Eight, and Nine.

This last run is definitely where the show loses me. By now, the only writer from Seasons One to Four (in my opinion, the show's prime) is Josh Haber, who in any case was barely passing through prior to the Season Five finale. The only exceptions (Larson and Valentine) basically only write one episode apiece, and Larson otherwise has nothing else beyond Season Five. None of the "old-timers" are present after Larson's one episode (Valentine debuted in Season Four). The writing staff is now dominated by people who debuted during the sharp transition of Season Five earliest. By now, the show for me has degenerated into picking a handful of decent episodes at best per season.

-

In summary, Seasons One to Three are a pretty strong bloc, with Season Four an honorary member; Season Five started continuing the trend but then ended with a massive shift in quality; Season Six went back and forth but overall nursed the decline; and by the last few seasons I've almost completely gone off the show.

All of these, to an extent, coincide not just with an obvious directorial split between the first half and the second half of the series, but even with the predominance of writers across seasons.

To be fair, it's more a statistical coincidence than anything (if we're talking good/bad episodes, I can pick counterexamples from either end of the series that would contradict the idea of an absolute decline), but the coincidence seems extremely close to me, and I think the major changes might explain it.

5251310

Very interesting analysis. Very insightful. And this more or less mirrors my own views of the show as well; I wasn't the biggest fan of season one, and my actual favourite season was the fifth, but the first three seasons feel a lot more cohesive than what came after, four and five feel like their own thing, and there's a definite drop in quality in season six, followed by a significantly more dramatic drop in season seven which just kept plummeting from there.

I'd like to give a big thanks to Posh for editing and proofreading this review, as well as contributing a few minor additions to it himself.

The NeighNeighNeigh is not a minor addition.

5251316

To be fair, a lot of my analysis is open to the charge of simplifying too much and blowing coincidences out of proportion. I mean, in broad strokes, yes, I do think the earlier seasons were better than later ones, and the change of director and writer turnover were likely factors. But it gets a lot muddier and more tangled when it comes to details.

For instance, I lump Season Three in with One and Two above, but honestly I think it's about the same quality level as Six, and Season Four for me doesn't have the same brilliant highs of Five (though it also doesn't have its awful lows either).

Picking individual writers is tricky too. I single out Haber mostly because his presence in the second half is so obvious, but that doesn't by itself prove he was a reason why I don't like it. He also wrote a lot of episodes I enjoy, like "Simple Ways", "Leap of Faith", "Bloom and Gloom", "Stranger Than Fan Fiction", and "The Fault in Our Cutie Marks". By contrast, those five early-seasons-dominant "old-timers" I singled out earlier (Rogers, McCarthy, Larson, Fullerton, and Morrow) have all penned episodes I've disliked or even despised (well, except for Fullerton, now I think about it...).

Plus, when it comes to the change in directors, I frankly couldn't have guessed. That mid-season shift in Season Five was completely invisible to me before I looked it up (I'd have guessed the biggest change would have been between Five and Six, if anything).

And this is all if we use nothing but my opinion as a measure for quality. Goodness knows there's no shortage of alternatives.

TL;DR: It's complicated. :applejackunsure:

5251346

TL;DR: It's complicated. :applejackunsure:

Life often is. But while there are exceptions to every rule, the rules are still good for a general perspective.

For instance, I lump Season Three in with One and Two above, but honestly I think it's about the same quality level as Six, and Season Four for me doesn't have the same brilliant highs of Five (though it also doesn't have its awful lows either).

I can agree with that.

Not that anyone asked, but my personal ranking for the seasons goes 5 > 2 > 4 > 1 > 3 > 6 > 7 > 8 > 9. And for me, three only marginally beats out six.

Wow. While I noticed many of these issues at the time, you really bring it into focus.

Also, it's an interesting realization that Neighsay was right all along except for, of course, his racism. Perhaps he would have been better written if only the show embraced that, highlighting how his knowledge and wisdom in his field would allow him to potentially be great if he didn't keep getting 90% of the way to the right answer and then focusing on the wrong thing, sabotaging not only his own ability to achieve goals (like see that the students of Twilight's school get an actual education) but also everyone else's view of him with his racism.

The treatment of Cozy Glow also needed re-examination. Of course, at the time, we all JOKED about Celestia sending a child to pony hell, but it seemed likely that Cozy was going to turn out to not really be a pony, although not certain -- the final scenes of Season 8 felt like the writers were trying to leave the door open to back out and declare Cozy a pony after all, like they weren't certain how season 9 would go. Celestia's smile and the abruptness of Cozy's imprisonment made it seem like Celestia knew something, but if she didn't actually GIVE the explanation, they could change their minds and maybe try to explain the smile in post or something.

Now though... it seems like there was never any such intention. Their original plan for Season 9 was to have the villains actually do more, but not to have a different villain entirely.

I feel like I should be mad, but it's all so long ago and the show has so many problems I just can't get so fired up over it anymore. It wasn't the current show I really cared so much about anyway, it was the perfect version, the potential version, I imagine in my head.

It occurs to me that perhaps a good Neighsay redemption arc would've been, to have him recognize at the end, rather than the extremely cynical 'I guess ponies can be evil too', that, despite everything, Twilight's mismanagement of the school, students running around with no teachers, the literal end of the world as we know it, while Twilight and her friends were sent off on a wild goose chase, the non-pony students of the school tried to do something about it, even if it was the tree that actually stopped it. Despite being in a situation in which he would expect the worst outcome even from ponies, they tried, when they had every opportunity, every opportunity, to give in to whatever vices he thinks nonponies cannot break free from and either sabotage things or at least run off and abandon their friends.

"...So, you proved me wrong. Perhaps there is a place in the EEA's schools for non-ponies after all. I will... rrrgh... see about updating our regulations so that all of you can attend a REAL school that won't regularly endanger your lives and those of everyone in the world. You deserve it, and I am sorry."

Bonus, this way Cozy Glow can turn out to be Chrysalis and his arc still works.

5255547

That would've been preferable, aye.

Ya know... if this season finale had been written to be a FARCE, then Tirek getting mail would've been great. Set up Tartarus as this horrifying-looking hellscape with shadowy monstrosities of unspeakable form... and then Derpy just blunders in with Tirek's mail, and he's sitting in his cage in a robe, sipping tea in a comfy chair.

Start out exactly like that, and then proceed with the insanity. It would have been MUCH better than this mess.

5421635

I'm guessing all my talking about Cozy in the season nine review reminded you that you hadn't finished the season eight one?

But no, apparently, what actually happens is that whenever a cat tries to eat a bird, sometimes they'll just get stuck together like conjoined twins, and then slowly merge into a single being in a horrific body horror process lasting multiple days.

I choose to believe FMA is responsible....

i.pinimg.com/originals/bd/e0/df/bde0df3dcd67142bf54b05245a292fd7.png

"Daddy... why... why...." :fluttershbad:

Then we get School Raze cringe dialogue line number two:

"We OBVIOUSLY can't handle Cozy on our own!"

–Sandbar, to his gang of five friends, referring to a single defenceless filly.

Alondro trots in, pulls out a .357 Magnum, and blows Cozy's F'ing head off, which splatters brain bits and blood AAAAALLLLLLLLLLL over the Student 6. He then turns around without a word, and leaves.

LIKE A BAWWWSSSSSSSS!!

And in the modern world, justice is not just punitive, but also has an aim for rehabilitation, which is especially true for children, because generally speaking, if a child is committing such serious crimes at such a young age, it is because there is something deeply wrong with them, and they need help.

But blowing their heads off is just so much EASIER!! And FASTER!! and CHEAPER!

It's EFFICIENT!! And science tells us efficiency is GOOD! OBEY SCIENCE!!! KILL THE NONBELIEVERS!! SCIENCE BE PRAISED!!

:pinkiecrazy:

Does Equestria not have any asylums? Juvenile detention?

Are there no prisons!? Are there no workhouses?! (seasonally-appropriate comment is seasonally-appropriate)

5421673

This sounds like the Imperial Truth.

5421641 Yeah, I just couldn't finish back then, as Season 9 was just so infuriatingly bad, being reminded of the horrors of the Season 8 finale was too much all at once! :facehoof:

5421674 I SHALL BE THE FIRST GALACTIC EMPEROR!! :pinkiecrazy:

So let's see what episode is next, and...

Oh. This thing.

No, I can't top this review. I got nothing to say that you haven't already blown to pieces. This two-parter is awful, both in concept and in execution. It's exactly what you'd expect, if not in details then in broad strokes, when such a failure of a system tries to go big instead of going home.

At this point, I'd at best be reiterating points I've made in previous blog comments.


All I can say to finish is that I must confess I've had a growing chip on my shoulder regarding the later seasons. It's like PresentPerfect said elsewhere: a good chunk of the attachment to the show involves disliking or outright hating significant chunks of it.

The second half of the show's to blame for most of that, for obvious reasons: if it wants to tell me it's canon with the rest of the show, then what can it expect? Of course I'm going to amputate it, if I see it as unhealthy. And given what we know about its production history, the atmosphere and culture that produced it, and what's actually up there on the screen, it looks incredibly unhealthy to me.

There's also the morbid fascination. It's like one of Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler's sausages from the Discworld series: you know they're bad, but some part of you just can't believe what it's just tasted, so it keeps prompting you to come back for more as if to confirm it really was as bad as all that.

And, of course, if you immerse yourself in the fandom for a decent length of time, you get constant reminders of it everywhere. Of course I'm bitter about that. It's hard enough deciding what I want to do for the half of the show I do like, without feeling isolated by iconography, talking points, and text from the other half that might as well have come from another show, for all the attachment I have to it.

That said, I still want to distance myself from it, however unsuccessful I've been so far. It's not that the show is bad that makes me dislike it so much, but that it started out so amazingly good. I still watch my favourite episodes to this day. I'd much, much rather be able to do that without the stink of its back half lurking at the back of my mind.

Sooner or later, I feel stifled. So, as a final message in this blog series, or as final as it can be...

Thank you for writing this. Apart from containing some useful pointers here and there, it certainly raised my awareness as to what was going on with this show (the stuff you highlight in S9 especially). Sometimes, yes, it's fun to take potshots at a target, especially one so loathesome to me personally.

And it's good to know I'm not alone. :raritywink:

5447465

I feel much the same, and you're welcome. I'm glad you found something of value in all of this.

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