Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Episode review: S6E25&26: "To Where and Back Again"

Queen Chrysalis makes her entrance
Right in front of the princesses. That has to be deliberate
Well. Well. After quite a ride during Season Six, we've come to the season finale at last. Well, actually some of us in the UK saw it weeks ago, and I saw it again at UK PonyCon on Saturday, but still. The writers were Josh Haber and Michael Vogel, so the big guns were definitely being wheeled out. Was I about to see a story for the ages, or would I end up disappointed and wishing that "Top Bolt" had actually been the last episode of the season? Find out by clicking past the break.

I've now seen this (double) episode on Tiny Pop, on the big screen at the con and on my own PC – and I've really liked it every time. Even the things that bothered me the first time round have largely ceased to do so. The general reaction at the con was enormously positive, and I've found the same while doing the S6 rankings thread on UK of Equestria. (It's running second to "The Saddle Row Review" as things stand.) Time for a bit more detail...

Trixie, Starlight, Discord and Thorax in the hive
Team Starlight. Whatever Discord might think about it
It was quite a brave move by the team to sideline Twilight and the rest of the Mane Six for a finale. This pushes Starlight Glimmer into centre stage, which will doubtless annoy some, though not me. I strongly suspect she's going to end up being alicorned at some point ("This is princess-level stuff!") but I'm glad it didn't happen quite yet. She does pretty well as a leader, although not perfectly, and once she's got a bit more streetsmart, she'll probably be fine.

Her backup squad consists of Trixie, Thorax and Discord – a slightly smaller crew than I'd expected, but no worries. The sniping and backchat between Trixie and Discord is a highlight of the whole thing: always watchable and often hilarious. Nerfing Discord with the Magic-Blocking Throne of Plot Convenience doesn't really bother me, and nor does the sudden sparkly-wings appearance of Thorax. Given what happens later on, that particular change is pretty mild anyway!

Changeling!Fluttershys crying in the hive
Scratch what I said about Chrysalis, this is the scariest scene in the episode
Taking Starlight back to Our Town was an interesting move, and one I wasn't really expecting. In other circumstances, that setup could have made an episode on its own. The whole dream thing was a bit on the predictable side, and by the time Luna actually utters the word "changelings" the fact has been obvious for ages (Pinkie gives it away with "Hey... you"), but never mind. It's all worth it to see Twilight's forced smiles when she gets rejected by Glimmy in favour of Trixie.

I really like Queen Chrysalis's hive, ever-changing passageways and all, and one thing I am sad about is how short a time it lasts. Still, while we're in there we do get some nice scenes: I love Thorax being a second Trixie, and the Room of Sobbing Fluttershys is... well, it's pretty hard to bear, but it does work. And of course there's Chrysalis's eventual appearance. This is one of the single most disturbing sequences the show has ever done, and I love it.

Evolved Thorax and Starlight Glimmer
The nearest we'll get to G4 Flutter Ponies? :P
The changelings' near-instant mass reformation is less than ideal, and I'm still not sure I like Thorax's new design in particular. That said, I don't go along with those who think it's ruined changelings forever: there are surely others out there – not least those who were dotted around Equestria impersonating the princesses and the Mane Six – and I reckon that now Chrysalis knows love-bombing can happen, she's clever enough to work out a way to block it.

Which takes me to the Queen herself. Not reforming her was the right thing to do if you ask me, but I'm still a tiny bit surprised that the show actually went down that route. Sure, we've seen the Flim Flam Brothers continue to be rogues after "Viva Las Pegasus", but Chrysalis is on a whole other level of villainy. I am a bit suspicious that she'll finally get reformed further down the track, but I hope not. She surely works better when she's on the bad side of the equation.

Spike and Twilight, the latter hoping Trixie will pick her
"Twilight, don't you think you've been overdoing the weird smiles a bit lately?"
For only the third time in a double episode (after "The Return of Harmony" and "Princess Twilight Sparkle"), we don't get a song. It's a small disappointment, but I'd rather not have lost any of what we actually have. All this means that I rate "To Where and Back Again" highly, certainly placing it in the upper echelons of S6. In the end, I watch Friendship is Magic for entertainment, and I was certainly entertained by this finale. It's by no means perfect, but I'm pretty pleased with it as a way to round off a rather variable season.

Best quote: Discord: "Well, isn't this quite the combination of secondary characters?"

Yays
  • Sidelines Twilight and the rest, and makes it work
  • Thorax impersonating Trixie and then Starlight is clever
  • Trixie and Discord make a fantastic double act
  • Chrysalis is genuinely scary (nearly) throughout
  • Trixie's "bubble of silence" freakout...
  • ...and her peanut butter crackers reference
Neighs
  • How did everypony get captured so easily?
  • The changeling!Mane Six aren't exactly convincing
  • It's going to take a while to get used to the new changeling design
  • What, no song?
★★★★

6 comments:

  1. A good way to end the season (if you didn't watch in the UK!) I really hoping that Michael Vogel stays on for season seven as he was easily the best writer this season.

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    1. I hope so, too. He knows what he's doing, that's for sure.

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  2. I'll be writing a review myself in the next few days, but you covered things pretty well.

    This 2-parter is the first one to leave a deep impression on me since the season 4 premier, and definitely earns it's place high in my season ranking. Incidently, there's no song in 'Princess Twilight Sparkle' either.

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    1. Error fixed; thanks! I think I'd probably put this below the S5 premiere (which, as you know, I adore) but maybe above the S4 finale (which has faded just a little for me).

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  3. While I hated them at first, I'm neutral now over the good Changelings. Their designs are OK (they got pincers on top and are supposed to be like colorful beetle ponies, plus yeah, they are the closest we might get to Flutter ponies unless proven otherwise), but to me the execution was poor and too rushed, at least Thorax's build-up was kinda decent.

    I really hate how they had the Princesses, AGAIN, get captured, it makes them look completely useless which is sad and annoying! I wasn't a fan of Starlight in this episode either, it was like she was overpowered (how can the alicorn Princesses get captured but Starlight, an ordinary unicorn, stop her? It's like they're trying to make her perfect). I still think Twilight's Kingdom is better also as at least all the Mane Six got used with their Rainbow Powers (which now seem obsolete and I hope they get used again in season 7 or something)...

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    1. Maybe they'll give Starlight a bit of Rainbow Power. :P

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