Monday, 22 August 2016

Episode review: S6E16: "The Times They Are a Changeling"

The changeling nursery
Well, that's not nightmare-inducing at all...
This is going to be a relatively short review, as I'm absolutely exhausted right now. Still, this time we had a new writing team in Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt. (As an aside, have you noticed how few female writers the show has now?) The title also gave away an admittedly rather ill-kept secret: that we were going to see a changeling play a major part in an episode for the first time since "A Canterlot Wedding". (I don't think that "Slice of Life" cameo really counts!) Past the break for a bit more.

We've had a few episodes this season that have tried to recapture the spirit of early-series Friendship is Magic but haven't quite done so. "The Times They Are a Changeling" comes considerably closer, and is an episode that I enjoyed a good deal. It's also Spike's second good ep of Season Six – surely that's against the law! Burke and Wyatt seem to be in the satisfying category of new writers who properly get this show, and I'd be happy to see them return.

It's nice to be back in the Crystal Empire again, and for a considerably more interesting story than the just-okay "The Crystalling" at the start of the season. It also gives Twilight an excuse to meet up with her relatives again, something which I think helps the generally very good characterisation here. Cadance is comfortable in herself, the little flash of adorkable!Twi is lovely, and I can even tolerate Flurry Heart here. Shining's prejudice against all changelings seems harsh for him... until you remind yourself of the full extent of what happened to him before his wedding.

Spike introduces "Crystal Hoof" to Twilight
"I've read all your books!" "What, all of them?"
The friendly changeling, Thorax, is a pretty solid character. Maybe his "I just want a friend" stance is a little simplistic, but in a trad-feeling episode that's actually a plus. Still, it does make you wonder how he survived to adulthood with Chrysalis around. We also get some really interesting world-building in this connection: changelings do indeed start as larvae in nurseries, it's not only their Queen who can talk, and they can turn into inanimate objects. Maybe some of these mark Thorax out as unusual; maybe he's even learned them since going solo. Who knows?

But this is really Spike's episode. It is perhaps starting to wear a little bit thin when we keep being reminded about his hero status in the Empire, but never mind. The role he plays has some similarities with Apple Bloom's way back in "Bridle Gossip", but of course there hasn't (to our knowledge!) been an evil zebra queen trying to destroy Equestria. As for his song... like many in the series, the lyrics feel a tad awkward on occasion, but it's very nice to see Spike get a solo song at last, and one with enough emotion to suggest he is maturing too.

Several episodes in S6 could be summarised as "meh, but a few good things happened". This one is "good, though a few meh things happened", which is a considerable improvement. The way the ponies' expressions change during the song, or the brief musical reminders of the soundtrack of "A Canterlot Wedding", or Starlight's friendship lessons apparently needing a change of scene... all these are little things that add to the whole. Mind you, if Chrysalis ever has the nous to teach her minions the "Sunshine, sunshine" rhyme, the Crystal Empire is stuffed...

The ponies hold a conference
"Twilight, do we really have to revise geometry now?"
Best quote: Starlight (to Twilight): "She's the only baby they have"

  • Another satisfying Spike episode
  • Thorax is a relatable character
  • The other ponies are well characterised
  • Gets the traditional/modern balance right
  • Interesting new changeling lore
  • Spike gets a generally really nice song
  • The ending is a little rushed
  • A few niggles with the song
  • A bit similar to "Bridle Gossip"

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