Monday, 14 May 2018

Episode review: S8E09: "Non-Compete Clause"

Smolder (centre) raises arms in frustration at a startled Rainbow (left) and Applejack (right)
I know how you feel, Smolder
We had yet another new writer this time in Kim Beyer-Johnson. I'm not against new writers as such – Brian Hohlfeld did a very fine job with "Surf and/or Turf" – but I think FiM may be going a bit overboard. This came to mind after I read the synopsis of "Non-Compete Clause", which reminded me of nothing so much as "Fall Weather Friends" from S1. An episode I still enjoy, but I did wonder whether Beyer-Johnson would fully capture Applejack and Rainbow's character development since then. The answer was... This episode was a real disappointment, and it's currently vying for the S8 wooden spoon with "Fake It 'Til You Make It". The main problem was, as already hinted, AJ and Dash. The reason was much the same that "The Cart Before the Ponies" suffered from, ie having some of the Mane Six's characters apparently regressed to fit a predefined story rather than (as should have happened) having the story written around their current characters.

This isn't like the argument between Scoots and Sweetie in "Surf" – continuing flaws like that are fine. This was a full-on handbrake turn in characterisation, and the forced conflict just went on and on and on. In the middle part of the episode especially, it was frankly boring waiting for actual plot development. I was also disappointed that the AJ/RD argument was shown as continuing at the end of the ep. A resolution where they had learned from their mistakes would have been far preferable.

What saved this episode from being a dead loss were the Student Six, who were great. I do wonder if the fact that these guys are new for S8 helped here, as Beyer-Johnson didn't have to worry about previous development. Whatever the case, they were always watchable – even if Sandbar is still a little dull – and in some cases more. Ocellus was my pick of them, thanks to her brilliant "giant biteacuda" scene, though I also liked Yona a lot this time.

Ocellus (as a seapony) and Silverstream hold Yona in the centre as the others swim around them
Insert your own "drowning in mediocrity" joke here
Now, some may object that the trope of "students learn X from watching teachers fail at X" is one so old its mould has grown mould. That's true, but I don't mind well-worn concepts as long as the execution is good enough, and I felt that was the case with this aspect of the ep. I agree with iisaw that seeing some more of the Student Six would be welcome; I really am warming to them as a group in a way I didn't really expect to when I first saw the season premiere.

Fluttershy had a very small role but was cute in it. Twilight was the only other character of note in this episode, and I felt her role was a bit up-and-down. Some of the time she seemed to see straight through AJ and RD's bluffs (though the single eyebrow raise is starting to get overused) but at other times she seemed naive considering how long she's known them. No way were their acts at pretending they'd reformed convincing – this was another scene that was stretched out too far.

The episode was very visually appealing, with some attractive new scenery, but it wasn't enough to save it from feeling like an inferior retread of "Fall Weather Friends" – an episode I consider a minor classic. The thing about "FWF", apart from the obvious (to most of us...) fact that AJ and RD's hadn't learned as much about friendship back then is that the whole episode flows from one silly scene to another, whereas in "Non-Compete Clause" the ride was a very bumpy one.

I'm quite glad I'd seen people calling this episode the worst in the show's history, because when it turned out not to be I was rather relieved! It wasn't horrible, just underwhelming. That, however, is not good enough for this show, and especially when much the same plot has been done better – seven years ago. As such, I am very disappointed. What's most galling about this one is that it feels like it could have been so much better.

Sandbar and a smiling Yona, both in yellow hard hats stand by the remains of a destroyed wooden barn
"We razed this barn, we razed this barn, yes we did..."
 Best quote: Smolder: "Yeah... this isn't awkward at all"

  • The Student Six were good throughout
  • Animation was very easy on the eye
  • Fluttershy's tiny scene was great
  • Applejack and Rainbow's characterisations
  • Compares unfavourably with "Fall Weather Friends"
  • AJ and Rainbow failing to learn a lesson
  • Twilight should have been more perceptive at times
  • Pacing was uneven and the ride was bumpy


  1. This episode sucks. Nothing more to say. The S9 is heavely implied to be the final one according to the leaked infos, so the show is gonna go throught its sunset. I really hope this is the last episode this bad we're getting by the end of the series, really I do...

    1. I'd like to believe that this is the last outright stinker of the series, but there's still 30-43 episodes left, so there's plenty more opportunities to drop the ball.

    2. I would say more Luke 27-40 as I watched the other three leaked eps left to air and loved them, but regardless from what is my opinion, I don't think they will be cobsidered outright stinkers (a little parenthesis: Hasbro is attending the licensing expo this year, so if things will go like the last year, we'll know number of eps in S9).

  2. This has to be the worst episode since Princess Spike. Sans the student making an appearance I can't find any thing positive to say about this which is a disappointment especially as this was a RD and AJ episode who are my two favourite characters. Here's hoping the next episode will be better.