Monday, April 17, 2017

Episode Talk: S7E01-02, Celestial Advice/All Bottled Up

Well, a new season has come, and I'm here to talk about it!  Okay, about 90% of what I'm here to do is post screenshots of Carrot Top, but that's good too, right?

Oh, and happy Easter, I guess, if you're into that sort of thing.  But below the break, we talk about only the important stuff: my opinions--arranged mostly as a mass of "here's something I think"s rather than as a cohesive review or summary--on the S7 opener!

And Carrot Top.


     -I've honestly been dreading this season more than any other that I remember--though I know I was pretty down going into season four as well, so maybe I've just forgotten some of the apathy I felt then.  But the thing is, I still don't enjoy Starlight Glimmer, I still can't really enjoy the show when she's playing a major role because they screwed up her reformation (and everypony's reaction to it) so badly, and as a result?  I knew coming in that two Starlight-centric episodes was not going to be something I enjoyed.  I wasn't lying up above: about 90% of the reason I convinced myself to watch these was to look for Best Pony cameos, and most of the rest was a combination of obligation and a desire to keep up-to-date for fandom-related purposes.

     -I wish I could say I was pleasantly surprised by either episode... but I wasn't.  Neither were awful in a void, and both had individual elements I enjoyed, but neither were able to transcend the fundamental flaws with which previous cannon had saddled them, for me.  It's hard to get excited about Starlight completing her friendship studies when Starlight's been shown to be such a ridiculous failure at friendship in the first place, isn't it?  It's telling that, when pressed for a single friendship lesson Starlight had actually learned, ever, Twilight drew a blank, and instead awkwardly segued to how she'd shown "leadership" when she helped take down the changelings.  I guess bossiness is an acceptable substitute for friendship these days--though Starlight herself has become pretty darn passive, as we see in All Bottled Up.  But we'll come to that; let's talk about Celestial Advice first.

That's right, Carrot Top scored herself a free front-row ticket to the award ceremony!  It was surprisingly easy; all she had to do was sign a form indicating that she was willing to stand next to "a bug-eyed green monstrosity that, not two weeks ago, would as soon have devoured you as looked at you."  There were surprisingly few volunteers, especially considering the quality of the after-award canapes!

It is, admittedly, hard to appreciate a ceremony when one feels compelled to stare straight ahead while trying to project as little emotion as possible, just in case somepo- something gets hungry.  "Be the vapid used-chariot salespony, be the vapid used-chariot salespony," Carrot Top repeats to herself like a mantra.  "Spike's full of love; eat him first.  Be the vapid used-chariot salespony..."

     -One thing I'll definitely give the episode credit for: Celestia.  When I first watched it, I was disappointed but not surprised by how emotive she was; she is over a thousand years old, after all, and canon be damned, I can't stop picturing her as someone who's basically calm and collected when the world isn't about to end.  But after thinking about it a bit, I reckon that most of what we saw was probably an act; she's being very obviously sarcastic (playfully so) in places to guide Twilight down from her panicking, after all.  Why should we assume her depiction of herself nervously pacing around the castle and talking to herself isn't equally... let's say, "exaggerated?"  We know Celestia's not above out-and-out lying to help a pony; why not make up a relatable story to get Twi back on the right track?

     -Plus, "There's no wrong way to fantasize" is the single best line of either episode.

     -Discord, on the other hand, felt wasted.  One joke, stretched too far, and too little for his character to do.  I am always disappointed when Discord gets wasted, but... ah well.

Of course, just because Carrot Top had to stand by the ex-ling at the ceremony, that didn't mean she was going to actually mingle with the nasty buggers.  Her and the ponies self-segregated the very instant it was socially acceptable to do so, and staked out a few tables for "normal folk" to eat and chat at.  Caramel's suggestion that play paper football with Thorax's antlers for goalposts was considered, but quickly discarded.  Partly out of desire not to cause an international incident, but mostly because he was moving around too much.

     -Maybe the most annoying thing about this episode is that it really did trick me into thinking that something--something would be done to make Starlight more palatable for me.  I knew they weren't going to ship her off forever (she's in the very next ep, after all), but I did start getting excited about moving her away from the castle, maybe getting back to the main six, and to hopefully at least stop bringing up every single time she's on-screen that she's lauded for completely failing at all the basic precepts with the main six spent the first couple of seasons learning.  Very bait-and-switch-y, to have it all come back to status quo at the end.

What's this?  Carrot Top front and center of a still shot?  At last, it's her chance to shine, her chance to--

...Dammit, Pinkie.

     -Now, on to All Bottled Up, aka "at least Trixie's still funny."

     -Okay, there was more than that; Snowflake was wonderful, most notably.  But really, this felt like a whole lot of filler from the main six--isn't it really easy to picture a S1-S2 episode built around them all going through an adventure room, learning to work together, etc.?  But instead, we got a non-arc out of them that ended up being nothing but setup for a blah song (I'm really annoyed by how, in the last two seasons the animation for the songs has gotten so lazy; the repetition here and in Spice Up Your Life, the lack of backgrounds and stock poses in The Times They Are A Changeling, and so on).  Meanwhile, the rest of the episode is built around Starlight trying to use magic to solve her problems instead of interacting with another pony as equals.  GEE, WHEN HAS THIS EVER COME UP BEFORE.  I feel like Starlight is S1 Fluttershy re-learning not to be scared every other week, except if Fluttershy also was a sociopath and consistently avoided any consequences for her actions.

     -But like I said: at least Trixie was amusing.  I didn't think some of the more valley girl moments fit her all that well, but the self-absorption and smugness make her a great foil.

     -There's probably a lot more I could say, but really, these two episodes felt like 45 minutes of blah to me.  I didn't hate them, but I can't say I really enjoyed watching either of them, either.  And I'm certain I'm going to dislike the Flurry Heart episode that's up next (even if the preview clips confirm that Carrot Top will be in it!).  Well, here's hoping that *looks at calendar* April 29th will bring the first FiM episode of the year that Chris can get excited about.


  1. "There's no wrong way to fantasize"

    Yes there is and whatever you were thinking of should fill you with shame.

    "I feel like Starlight is S1 Fluttershy re-learning not to be scared every other week, except if Fluttershy also was a sociopath and consistently avoided any consequences for her actions."

    To be honest, that is actually tenable interpretation of Fluttershy.

    As for myself, I was going to post something on my blog, but they were such dullards that I couldn't bring myself to finish writing them.

    I don't really disagree with what you've said any way, besides the fact that I don't find Trixie funny- violence aimed at Trixie on the other hand. That and Celestia.

    And if Celestial Advice is a hint at Starlight Glimmer getting a pair of wings, then we're in trouble.

  2. At least someone agrees with me. ;_; Let's be hate-the-show-but-can't-stop-watching-for-fear-of-irrelevancy buddies.

    1. I was amazed at how much (unjustified, far as I'm concerned) positive response the episodes got on your blog post. Maybe you just attract a bunch of optimism for some reason. And me.

      Maybe this season I should actually pay more attention to the episode previews than I have till now; that way I won't have to feel the disappointment of discovering it's a Starlight (or Flurry Heart?!--groan) episode in the process of watching.

  3. I'm a bit surprised at the apparent lack of awareness on the part of the show that defeating an Equestria-threatening big bad with the power of friendship* makes her the equivalent of Twilight--at the end of the second episode of the series. Given how she didn't learn anything last season, she really is just starting out. So why is she graduating?

    *For a sufficiently low bar for that to describe what happened there in Starlight's case.

    Also, now suddenly the Mane 6 minus Twilight were all close friends and an identifiable group before she got there? Or is that more unreliable narration from Celestia? But if so, why would Twilight find it credible?

    Anyway. Celestia had some good stuff; the line, aspects of bringing Twilight through. The implication that she ought to ship of Glimmer. Luna was cute, even if the gag was dumb. Basically all the minor characters in ep 2 were good; Bulk most obviously so, but everyone telling Glimmer "hey I think I'd notice if a big honking table suddenly showed up here" was great. Trixie was good on her own, and sometimes the Trixie/Glimmer dynamic was pretty nice (at the station until the pretzels were brought out again, say). Spike did fine as secondary support. The Mane 6 side of things, though mostly filler and containing a decidedly negative value added song, did have the one good joke.

    So there's that, I guess.

    1. Why is she graduating? Because they've stopped trying but they still need to sell toys.

  4. I'm completely with PP up there. I can't remember feeling so obligated to begrudgingly watch a show just to be able to keep up with the fandom. Starlight Glimmer (redeemed) was a mistake. I really hope she gets left behind to guard the castle in the mlp movie. I will be so let-down if I have to continue dealing with her for the length of an entire film .
    I will disagree just a little bit on the Celestia bits of the blog post, as a long-suffering Celestia stan I was really excited to get some more screentime with her, even if it was out of left field and retconned things unnecessarily irt the Mane 5 pre-Twilight.

    ...Does anyone else get the impression that the characters are just getting more flat and 'sacrifice character for the plot'-esque as the show goes on? If that trend continues it almost makes me hope that this is the last season so the Mane six can be put out of their misery.

  5. Starlight needs a sign for her room.

    "It has been __29__ days since the last botched spell that threatened to destroy Equestria. Keep up the good work."

  6. Man, when did this place become such a pit of negativism?

    I'll only argue two of the points, because they're the only two I still remember (I read the column at work this morning but am responding after work).

    I don't see the thing about Celestia being so old that she's seen everything by now, so she shouldn't have been inordinately troubled by trying to mentor Twilight. I mean, she pretty explicitly said that she'd never seen someone with Twilight's raw magical ability in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles," so she very much was in unexplored territory with her. I can certainly buy that she would have been nervous.

    And a collection of things about Starlight. I don't mind at all the implication that she's learned other friendship lessons off camera. If everyone's so offended by her mere existence, isn't it a good thing that they can imply she's more experienced than just the canon instances instead of having to show them all? I don't understand the point made about Twilight not being able to name one lesson. Presumably, a viewer who's seen S6 can name several. And while showing Twilight's imagined disasters instead of maybe having her spout out a quick summary of them is somehow a bad thing, it's also a bad thing that Twilight shuffles through scrolls of lessons Starlight's learned without going through the litany of them? Seems like a double standard. Lastly, and this is a big one for me, why would Starlight need to be a master of friendship to graduate? All of the elements are still learning their own lessons as well, and this is no better illustrated than when Twilight was going through those scrolls and said, "She taught me this one!" The Princess of Friendship herself still has things to learn? Then certainly any other graduate would as well. I don't even feel like they're grooming Starlight to be a princess, because the specific subject she's studying already has one. They're consistent about delineating responsibilities like that. Plus we already have a developing princess, Flurry Heart, and I don't see why they'd carry two such arcs at the same time.

    Honestly, if you don't like the show, stop watching it. Who cares about being current? How many people still write stories set in earlier canon? Plenty. And you can pick up the rest without watching. I don't understand why people get so worked up about this. It's been said lots of times, but I'll say it again: it's a kids' show, and I don't expect some high level of sophistication from it. As long as it's fun, I'm happy, and I don't need to hold it up to some stringent literary standard. It just seems odd to me that people who don't like the show anymore congregate to complain about it instead of drifting off to something else, but there are several forums out there that have devolved into pretty much that.

    1. I wouldn't go so far as to DLDR the people who aren't enjoying the show, but a solution I have found that works very well for me is to read the recap page on TV Tropes and just not watch it if something is in there I'm sure I'll hate (your typical Pinkie Pie episode, cringe comedy, stuff like that). That way, I'm still up to date without subjecting myself to 22 minutes of mild torment (there's an oxymoron for the ages...).

  7. Oh yeah, Chris. I remember back in season 4 when you and everyone else on this blog were down on the show, and I was one of the few defenders who still totally enjoyed it.

    I think since MLP became the Starlight Glimmer Show, I've more or less caught up to the rest of you.

    I gave my own thoughts on the episode here:

  8. I still feel like Starlight Glimmer was a better villain than she ever was post "redeemed". Some villains are better as villains.

    1. I think the same of Discord. Though his post-reformation peaks were higher than Starlight's.