Monday, 13 April 2015

Episode review: S5E03: "Castle Sweet Castle"

Lotus and Twilight at the spa
"So, you really think I have a shot at the Johnny Bravo role?"
Last week's Season 5 premiere made a very good start to the new season: it was fairly meaty, quite dark (by this show's standards), full of great one-liners and intriguingly open-ended. Oh, and wonder of wonders, Pinkie Pie felt right. This week we're back to the one-parters that are MLP's bread and butter. "Castle Sweet Castle" is co-written, by newcomers Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco. I didn't much care for the co-written episodes last year (and I liked S4) but the S5 finale made it work, so what about this time round?

I'm happy to say that this is another success. It's very different in tone to the opener, in that it's a notably "domestic" episode. There are two brief lines from Aloe (her first?) and one from Bulk Biceps during the latter's funny cameo – but that aside, every line in "Castle Sweet Castle" is spoken by one of the Mane Six or by Spike. This is one of several factors that made this ep hark back to the earlier, gentler days of FiM. I enjoyed this a great deal: it often feels like a more polished S1/S2 episode.

This is also an entirely Ponyville-set episode: we see the castle, the spa and Quills & Sofas, but that is all. Well, there is one other important location, but I'll get to that. The central theme is that Twilight has been avoiding her castle because it is an out-of-place monstrosity shoe-horned in by Hasbro just doesn't "feel like home" to her. After an amusing scene involving pancakes, her six closest friends decide to decorate the place for Twi, to help her feel more comfortable in her new home.

The Mane Six in the messy, redecorated castle
"Shoot, why didn't y'all tell me Twi got hayfever?"
Yes, I said six closest friends: this episode is notable for giving Spike a substantial role, and one he fitted into well. His closeness to Twilight actually counts for something, and is actually used sensibly by the writers. Kudos. While he's taking Twi to the spa (and being massaged to within an inch of his life by Bulk) the others do some decorating. And singing, naturally. The song is... decent. Not one of Daniel Ingram's greatest, but catchy all the same. Think "Ballad of the Crystal Ponies".

Inevitably, the differing tastes of the five non-Twi ponies lead to some bickering, which is fairly fun and in character – though Pinkie is occasionally a little more annoying than I'd have liked. Meanwhile, we get an important scene: Twilight and Spike visiting the remains of the Golden Oak Library (that name is now canon) and remembering the past. Some fans wanted the entire episode to dwell on dealing with this loss, but actually I think the way it actually plays out is better.

As befits an episode like this, the humour is generally fairly low-key: Twilight's "I'm pancake!", for example, or the little "Together!" hoof-bump between Rainbow Dash and Rarity. The "cider" joke doesn't really work, but Spike's Rarity doll does, because it's subtly done. What's nice is that almost everything feels natural for these ponies at this stage – this ep would have been very different four years ago. A cute, fun and touching episode and a very nice debut from the show's latest writers.

Twilight and Spike visit their old home
It does seem a bit weird it's just been left sitting there, though
Best quote: Twilight: "I'm pancake! I mean... awake!"

  • Successfully accomplishes "the feels" by not trying too hard
  • Almost a love letter to the simpler early days of MLP:FiM
  • Spike is given plenty to do, and with good reason
  • Satisfying, fitting acknowledgement of the old tree library
  • Not a bad song, even if not up to last week's
  • Pinkie is a tad too oblivious to the situation at times
  • It would have been nice to have given Davenport a voice


  1. Personally I enjoyed this a lot. It had a lot of charming moments, but I do worry if Dashie has an alcohol problem however. A great return to classic slice of life episode and a very good start to the new season.

    1. Yeah, I'd rather Rainbow's cider obsession didn't lead to any flanderisation in that direction.

  2. Ooh, I love Twilight's hair there in the picture!

  3. agree with everything in this review :3 hadn't thought that about Spike but so true!

    1. And maybe one day we'll get an actually great Spike episode!

      ...nah. :P