Monday, 23 April 2018

Episode review: S8E06: "Surf and/or Turf"

A very happy Scootaloo, as a seapony, with clumps of seaweed behind her
Okay, no need for an actual review this week. Ten stars!
We had a new writer for Friendship is Magic this week: Brian Hohlfeld. Although new to this show, he's certainly no newbie when it comes to writing for animated series, having been heavily involved in the creation of Transformers: Rescue Bots along with a certain Nicole Dubuc. After last week's flawed but still generally pretty fun "Grannies Gone Wild", what would "Surf and/or Turf" bring us?

The answer was: the same sort of thing again, but better! This episode was not perfect, but I nevertheless enjoyed it more than anything else since the S7 finale, and of normal episodes since "Once Upon a Zeppelin". Although there were no Equus-shaking threats, it was very entertaining and I'll certainly be re-watching it for fun. I would be more than happy for Hohlfeld to write more episodes for the show, and I hope he already has.

This episode followed the template of "Tanks for the Memories" in the way it addressed a difficult issue (separated parents) without actually making the fact canon. Although I'm lucky enough not to have dealt with this issue in childhood myself, I thought the ep did a reasonably good job. Of course it was simplified and idealised – but that's Equestria (and its environs) for you. Terramar's parents were slightly reserved towards each other: "You're looking well" is a fairly neutral opening.

Close-up of Terramar's neck; he is touching the pink pearl fragment on his necklace
So... what if that necklace ever breaks?
Talking of Terramar, I liked the guy. You could argue that he shouldn't have had to be told that he didn't need to choose mum or dad, but I don't know... at one point, he tells the Crusaders, "I have to choose soon. Every other griff my age already knows where they belong," which suggests that (perhaps for cultural reasons) it is generally expected that he'll make a decision and stick to it. (No idea where that would leave the unchosen parent.)

Oh yeah, the Crusaders. :P The CMC had a pretty good time of it in this episode. Yes, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo behaved in a pretty childish fashion when they had their argument, but I don't think that's unrealistic. After all, did you stop having silly arguments with your friends the moment you got past puberty? Thought not. Apple Bloom got to be the voice of reason this time, though that did mean her role in this episode was a tad on the light side.

Twilight, as the fillies' chaperone, was very much in motherly mode, which I suspect comes from all those Twilight Time sessions – she really does seem to take an interest in what the CMC get up to. It was interesting to watch her (well animated) expressions whenever one of the youngsters said something interesting or cute or both. It's a bit of a shame we didn't get to hear Twi's screeching – though we didn't hear Big Mac's turkey call either.

Twilight and the Crusaders, entering from bottom left, swim into a mostly navy blue Seaquestria. There are lamps hanging from the ceiling and several seaponies in the distance
It's so amazing, look around at all the happy sights and sounds...
I quite liked what this episode did with the hippogriffs/seaponies and Mt Aris. Their "Glad to be a Hippogriff Day" celebration was only mildly amusing, but the screeching was great fun; I think *hippogriff screech* may be my new favourite non-speech vocalisation. Below the waves, Seaquestria was very nicely realised – naturally it looked a bit different from the movie version, but it was instantly recognisable.

Harmonizing Heights I didn't find quite so interesting (sorry, Sweetie!) though I'd love to know what legend Terramar was going to quote before he was cut off. Admittedly I'm biased here, because Best Filly Scootaloo's sheer joy at the closeness of swimming to flying was a massive thwack in the feels. It's a while since I've beamed so broadly at a scene. I wonder how Twilight felt, as the only creature there who knows what it's like to acquire the power of flight?

We even got a song, "Your Heart is in Two Worlds", whose lyrics were written by Hohlfeld. He did a pretty good job, and I enjoyed the song greatly; it's certainly more of a favourite in the "battle song" category than the Big Mac/Sugar Belle one from last year. Add to that lots of colourful animation and I can largely overlook the fact that (as with several other eps down the years) the whole problem could have been avoided with a well-placed word long before. It was just fun.

Twilight, levitating a scroll, looks uncertain and glances behind her as the CMC and Terramar look on
Interesting that Terramar called her "Miss Sparkle", not "Princess"
Best quote: Scootaloo: "When in doubt, chart it out!" (Twilight's influence, surely)

  • A generally quite successful way of tackling a non-TV-Y subject
  • Scootaloo "flying" is the most adorable thing I've seen in ages
  • A really enjoyable song with satisfying lyrics
  • Twilight's "research" vacation and cute giggles
  • Lots to see and learn about Terramar and the hippogriffs
  • A little on the Idiot Plot side
  • Apple Bloom was something of a third wheel


  1. I think in terms of message, this episode might be effective for a young kid who's going through or just gone through the divorce of their parents and feeling like they have to choose a side. That's probably what they were aiming for here. It's just, if you've been around a while and know about things outside your own experience, it's obvious the message breaks down.

    Also, while I agree the flash-animated Seaquestria was pretty amazing, watch them go down the stairs toward when they first arrive on Mount Aris. Something went terribly wrong there. c.c

    1. It's simplistic, I'll agree. But I think it goes with my general repositioning recently regarding Pony. If an episode is fun and makes me grin, that alone probably makes it worth the price of admission. And in any case, the show is for young kids, at least nominally.

      I'd missed that animation flub, but now I can't stop seeing it. You fiend!

    2. Yeah, going down a set of curved stairs is a nightmare animation task. You've got to carefully match each each step or it'll look... like it did. The layout people usually avoid that sort of thing by hiding the steps behind a bannister or an up-shot or something.

      On the definite plus side of the animation column, there's Twi's seapony design and movement. Ghod, it's gorgeous!

      This is a solid four-star episode for me.

  2. I find quite hilarios that the Hippogriffs were so welcoming over Twilight despite the last time she went there she tried to steal their pearl. I knew that in MLP characters were very forgiving, but this is another Level. XD

    1. It probably makes a fairly major difference that by this point, they know she's been instrumental in saving the world. :P

    2. Yeah, and she saved their kingdom (along with the rest of the world,) even though they threw her out on her rump!

      Actually, that was a fun bit when AB gave the credit for it all to her sister!

  3. I just realized, I could have solved Terramar's dilemma with one question: "In each world, where do you poop, and where does it go afterwards?" XD