Sunday, 17 June 2018

Brief audio thoughts on S8A, with text transcript here

I felt like making a short audio review of the first half of Season 8, so here it is. The whole thing is less than eight minutes long, so don't expect in-depth analysis. It's quite deliberately just a brief summary. For those who prefer to read reviews, a full transcript follows.

Hello everypony. Logan here and this is my brief look back at the first half of Season 8 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. If you would prefer to read this, I'll be placing a transcript on my website – well, blog – which you can find at

On the whole, I think the show is doing all right as we enter the mid-season hiatus. The overall standard is probably a notch down from Season 7, but a notch up from Season 6. I feel reasonably happy with how things have gone, and I have a fair amount of optimism regarding when things pick up again in the late summer or early autumn.

The big innovation this year was the introduction of the School of Friendship, which brought with it six new featured characters. These are apparently known as the "Young Six" inside DHX, but the fandom generally refers to them as the "Student Six" – and as I also prefer that name, it's the one I shall use here.

I thought the School got off to a slightly shaky start, what with the season premiere having Celestia tell Twilight that even she couldn't go against EEA rules but then Twilight herself deciding that rules were for silly ponies and that she could do whatever the hay she wanted. Still, the Student Six have grown on me considerably, and I am now hoping that we'll see them in several more episodes before the end of the season.

The star of the show for me over this half-season has been Starlight Glimmer. Despite largely being confined to smallish supporting roles, almost everything she's said or done has been hugely watchable. She actually reminds me a bit of pre-ascension Twilight in her snarkiness and impulsiveness, and her dialogue has been excellent. Not to mention those facial expressions!

We've had three new writers join the team this year, and results have been mixed. Brian Hohlfeld struck gold with "Surf and/or Turf", Kaita Mpambara (which I've doubtless pronounced wrong, so my apologies to him) produced the very entertaining "Horse Play", but Kim Beyer-Johnson's "Non-Compete Clause" was disappointing.

On which note, it's now time for my favourite and least favourite episodes of the 12 so far – 12, because I count the two-part premiere as one. I'll start off with my least favourite eps, so that we can do the most fun bit last!

My third-least-favourite episode is "The Maud Couple". I found Mudbriar more irritating than amusing, Maud herself was less fun than sometimes, and the episode wasn't helped by there being a much better romance-themed episode in "The Break Up Breakdown" later in the season. Also, while it was nice to see Marble Pie again, some actual spoken dialogue, rather than just "Mm-hmms" would have been appreciated.

Second-last, I'm sorry to say, is "Fake It ‘Til You Make It". Fluttershy is my favourite pony, and I'd wanted more Fluttershy/Rarity friendshipping for ages, but I was disappointed with this one. ‘Shy and Rares spent little time on-screen bonding, Flutters' over-the-top personas went on for too long, and her threatening to throw out a family of raccoons just seemed mean-spirited for her.

Bottom of the pile, to no-one's surprise, is "Non-Compete Clause". This wasn't a total dead loss and it did have its moments, but virtually all of these involved the Student Six. Applejack and Rarity [sic – I know it should be Rainbow!] themselves just seemed to be re-running "Fall Weather Friends" – and that comparison was not flattering to the Season 8 episode. I'd re-watch "Fall Weather Friends" over this any day.

Briefly going through the middle-of-the-road episodes now: "The Parent Map" dragged a bit but had some nice dialogue. "Grannies Gone Wild" had a stupid premise but made me laugh. "School Daze" – well, I touched on that one earlier. "Marks for Effort" had lovely dialogue – once again – excellent Starlight and cute CMC moments, but a horribly out of character Twilight. "The Mean 6" subverted our expectations by not tying up all the loose ends; I found this more intriguing than annoying. And "The Break Up Breakdown", which only just missed out on the top three, demonstrated that romance can work in this show. (I still want it kept away from the Mane Six, though!)

So, on to the medallists. "Molt Down" takes the bronze with one of the best Spike episodes, perhaps rivalled only by "Gauntlet of Fire" from Season 6. In "Molt Down", we saw our favourite little dragon growing up, and except for an overused running gag about his voice it was done well. The roc made Everfree seem dangerous, something I always appreciate, and Zecora finally got a meaty role again. One small complaint: Twilight is the only other character to have sprouted wings in canon (no, Princess Big Mac doesn't count!) and so I'd have expected at least a tiny bit of shared-experience bonding – but we didn't get it.

Second spot goes to "Horse Play". Not everyone enjoyed this, partly because of the cringe-comedy aspects of Celestia's performance, but I appreciated it enormously. For a start, it was a true Celestia episode, not the Tia-and-Luna double act of last season's "A Royal Problem". "Horse Play" also included that beautifully designed and near-heartbreaking night flight scene after Twilight had offended her mentor, not to mention making chunks of The Journal of the Two Sisters canon.

Top of the pile – for now – is "Surf and/or Turf", partly because of its sensitive portrayal of what could be interpreted as a child of divorced parents. ("You're looking well" was a very well judged line: it's exactly the sort of thing someone might say to an ex they were still on decent terms with.) The episode also had the best song of Season 8 so far – though it's not as if there have been many to pick from – and a wonderful sequence, at once heart-melting and desperately sad, in which Scootaloo experiences seapony-style swimming and gets an all-too-brief insight into what flying must be like.

As I just mentioned, songs have been in short supply so far this season. I had been hoping that, with the movie being out of the way, the number would rise considerably again, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. I think that's a shame, but at least all of the three we've seen so far are solid at worst. William Anderson's scores have again been very satisfying, too.

With the first half of Season 8 rising from an inconsistent start to a strong last few episodes, I'm really looking forward to what we get next. Thankfully, no more episodes seem to have been leaked, so we shouldn't be spoiled on more than just what's in the synopses and the official previews. We know Season 9 will happen, so this year at least we can just get on and enjoy the show.


  1. Excellent review sir. I pretty much agree with everything you said (although I loved Fake it too but it's just me. Agree to disagree! ;-)).

    There is one thing I wanted to talk you about explicitly. I actually sent a Soapbox article to ED about it, but I think won't be bad if I talk you about it here. Despite I loved the first half of the S8, there is an episode that confirmed all of my fears about the show going on for too long: Non-Compete Clause. I'm not gonna go into what is wrong within the episode, because we all know what is wrong with it. What I want to talk about is another thing: Many people are freaking out over the rumors (which are slowly getting confirmations) of the S9 being the last one and frankly after NCC I just don't understand why. The problems with NCC are common problems I saw in many other shows that run for too long like Family Guy or The Fairly OddParents (Heck I even made jokes of NCC potentially being a discarded post Wishilogy FOP episode with MLP's characters pasted on it), and my fear for MLP was that it would have met the same fate of those shows. This is why I originally planned to quit after the Movie: To not see that happening. If I changed my mind was... Thanks to the leaks. The episodes contained in the leaks (NCC aside) as well as the details of FiM ending with the S9 made me understanding that most of my fears were wrong, so I've decided to go on until the very end. What I don't understand is... NCC was more of an isolated case, but if the show goes on for too long episodes like that would become the new praxis, and frankly, I don't want to see that happening. Would fans wish for more seasons beyond the S9 if that would mean more eps like that one? Let's think about it for a minute.

    One last thing thought: With the S9 being the last one, there are only 37 eps left (I count the two parters as one eps, and also add the upcoming Christmas special to the count), with so few eps left, I really hope that NCC is the last dud we're going to get. I really do hope so...

    1. I'd be surprised if I liked 37 episodes in a row – I don't think it's ever happened before! So I'm pretty sure there will be one or two more duds. As long as there aren't 20 of them, I won't get too worried.

      I can remember that during Season Three people were already worrying that the show might go on for too long. I think I said at the time that I felt five seasons would be about right. I was wrong about that, and I'm happy to have been wrong, but I don't want Simpsons Syndrome to affect the show.

      Assuming it ends after nine seasons, then that's fair enough. I'll always treasure FiM and I imagine it'll always be "my" MLP, in the same way that in Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston will always be "my" Doctor. But I intend to watch G5 when it arrives, and at least give it a chance. :)