Monday, 22 October 2018

Episode review: S8E25/26: "School Raze"

A curious-looking Cozy Glow talks to an annoyed Chancellor Neighsay
The two faces of evil. And Chancellor Neighsay
Now then, here we go! At last we've reached the end of S8 (yeah, yeah, I know most of you reached it ages ago) and it's going to be interesting to see where things go. This finale was written jointly by Josh Haber and Nicole Dubuc, and it appears that Haber wrote the first episode while Dubuc handled the big finish. S8 has been an up-and-down affair, but I've liked the second half more, so could this finale keep that up?

For the most part, yes. It wasn't perfect – few things are – and I suspect that it might not age terribly well once a cooler, more critical eye is turned upon it, rather as "Twilight's Kingdom" hasn't. However, right now I'm inclined to be positive and treat it as quite a ride. You certainly couldn't fault it on the "amount of things going on" fault, what with Cozy Glow, Chancellor Neighsay, the Student Six, the Mane Six and the CMC all playing significant parts. Oh, and a Tree, I guess.

The Tree was a bit of a dea ex machina at the end, but it's hardly the first time and I guess I can accept it after "What Lies Beneath". Actually, it's interesting that in the last two seasons the Elements have come back to the fore in a way they hadn't since S4. Whether I can accept Cozy Glow ending the episode in Tartarus... well, that depends quite a bit on her backstory, which we really know very little about. I'm hoping that the open-ended final scene means we'll discover more next year.

Luna and Celestia read a scroll held by Spike
"But this can't be right! We're not supposed to actually do anything!"
The Student Six have been the best thing about S8, and once again they played a major role here. It was nice to finally see Sandbar get his moment in the sun – and satisfying that, given Neighsay's attitudes, his plan could only have been carried out by a pony. (I had flashbacks to Fluttershy's infiltration of Our Town.) Yona was probably my favourite of the other students, not least because of the way she maintained faith in Sandbar when others did not.

Meanwhile, the Mane Six were in Tartarus. This was the first time we've spent an extended period of time there, though the day-to-day organisation of the place still appears a bit of a mystery. Presumably those monsters get fed and exercised from time to time – but when and by whom? I hadn't been expecting to see a cockatrice again, but it was nice to see that Fluttershy hadn't lost her ability to deal with Cerberus. (The others pitched in, of course.)

Tirek was the one who mattered, though. I'd really like to know how he got in touch with Cozy in the first place – another piece of missing information – and he seemed rather less fearsome than he had in the S4 finale, especially when Pinkie got to work! Even so, putting Cozy's cage right next to him at the end was ludicrous, and speaks of some pretty terrible Tartarus security. No wonder Cerberus was able to leave his post back in "It's About Time" – and thereby let Tirek escape.

A beaming Pinkie Pie pops out from behind the caged Tirek
To be fair to Tirek, an eternity with full-beam Pinkie might well make you yearn for Tartarus
I did like Cozy Glow as a villain. Yes, you have to ignore her (apparent...) youth to suspend disbelief enough, but she was probably the most manipulative character we've seen in the show to date, even ahead of Starlight Glimmer. The way she played Neighsay was an example of this, as was how she strung the CMC along while being all too aware of what they were up to. I tend to prefer this type of villain to a plain ol' monster like Tirek or Sombra, so I found it quite satisfying.

Talking of Neighsay, his portrayal was interesting. He reminded me a little of Watership Down's General Woundwort: undoubtedly a bad guy and racist to boot, but a pony who did – in his own twisted way – have ponies' welfare at heart. Yes, his reformation was rather too quick and easy, as is often the case in My Little Pony, but on balance I'd rather that than leaving him as a villain throughout. It will be interesting to see whether he's seen in the show again, or whether his tale is now told.

All in all, an interesting season finale which kept me guessing throughout; I'd managed to avoid spoilers at the time of watching. Considering how busy the (double) episode was, it didn't feel too overcrowded, and even the things that felt just too convenient (that universal key thing) turned out not to be quite as simple as they appeared. Perhaps Tartarus could have been given a little more interest, but that's not a huge complaint. This may not have been S8's best ep, but it was surely among its most watchable.

A determined-looking Ocellus, Yona, Smolder and Silverstream
Never mind Starlight, who's for Princess Yona?
Best quote: Fluttershy: "Um, are you sure there's magic in Cerberus? Clarissa the pig has two tails, and while her singing voice is lovely, I don't think it's magical."

  • Hardly a dull moment all the way through
  • Cozy Glow was an interesting, clever villain
  • We got to see Tartarus from the inside
  • Neighsay proving a little less one-dimensional
  • The Mane Six getting more of the spotlight again
  • Sandbar finally having a moment to shine
  • Yona's steadfast belief in Sandbar
  • Without Cozy's backstory, a piece of the jigsaw is missing
  • Once looked at more coolly, the cracks will probably show
  • Clearly an incomplete story given that final scene


  1. Yeah, I still don't believe that Cozy Glow is the 12 year old filly she appears to be. Probably an adult who never grew past that size.

    I'm kind of sorry she turned out to be a villain, though. Like, I really liked her in whatever CMC episode she debuted in, and there was no real inclination of her later machinations back then. :C

    1. "Marks for Effort". We at least got her cutie mark, her evil grin when correctly identifying the Element of Magic, and a plan so devious it impressed Starlight.

      What surprised me, though, was finding that she wasn't in league with Chancellor Neighsay. As soon as that was revealed in the finale, I figured he'd come around and she wouldn't.

  2. Cozy Glow being a bad pony didn't surprise me. What surprised me is how devious she is. Cozy Glow completely stole season 8 for me, her grinning face in the end still haunting me. After Mark For Effort, you can sum up this season as Cozy's journey for power, the villain wrote the plot this time.

    1. It's odd that her journey didn't get underway until almost halfway through the season, though. "Marks for Effort" was episode 12, I think.

  3. It’s interesting hearing other people’s take on this 2-parter. I think “you have to ignore her (apparent...) youth to suspend disbelief enough” is a key point I should maybe consider when I get round to re-watching it. Hopefully that’ll help me enjoy it more.

    1. "Apparent" is the word. I'm really unconvinced that she's the little filly she appears to be.

  4. An overall very good finale for an overall very good season.

    1. Too early yet to say where I'd place it. The second half was definitely more enjoyable for me than the first, though.