Monday, 22 May 2017

Episode review: S7E10: "A Royal Problem"

Celestia shows Luna a pancake with a smiley face on
New headcanon: Equestria has pancakes instead of emoji
The synopsis for this one looked pretty intriguing: a Royal Sisters episode at last, but one with added Starlight. Since I'm in the "quite likes Glimmy" camp, this didn't put me off, but I was still a little anxious about whether the writers could make it work. In this case, said writers were Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco themselves, which boded reasonably well. Past the break for my take!

This is my favourite episode of Season Seven without a doubt, surpassing even the glorious Scootfest that was "Parental Glideance". Actually, it's not just my favourite episode of the season so far, it's one of my favourite episodes of the entire damn show. I don't think I'd quite put it right at the top of the heap, but I don't think I've been so happy with an ep right from first viewing since "A Hearth's Warming Tail".

First up, we had Starlight, in probably her finest post-reformation appearance. Her running character flaw of relying on magic all the time was very much in evidence again here, and I can well believe her using cutie mark magic without thinking, given her history. That does bring up one of my very few niggles: I'd have liked to have seen somepony (Twilight?) call her out on the dangers of Starlight, specifically, not being more careful with that particular field of magic.

Starlight talks to Twilight, who's appearing as a musical box figure
"Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play..."
Still, that's a nitpick (as is Luna's cutie mark including the splotch, unlike in S4). Glimmy's solo friendship mission had plenty of ups and downs, but she certainly learnt plenty along the way, which is the whole point. Despite Twilight's attempts to annoy her as much as equinely possible. Much as I like Twi, and amusing as I've found her freakouts since S1 days, I have to admit I cheered when Starlight finally snapped and shut her in the drawer.

I don't agree with those who feel it's unrealistic for Celestia and Luna to argue like that after knowing each other's personalities for so long. Sibling relationships are a funny thing, in a class all their own, and their arguments often seem entirely illogical to outsiders. Starlight, who is after all an outsider in more ways than one, understandably struggles with how to handle the Sisters for a while.

It's nice to see a bit of detail about what Celie and Luna actually do all day/night. I think there's a fair balance between the two, something which makes the eventual making-up between them satisfying. Another little point: Celestia comes across as being surprised how easy it is to raise the Moon, though she did it for a thousand years! Though maybe she found it hard for other reasons back then...

Daybreaker reveals herself
This was an amazing reveal
And so to Daybreaker. Daybreaker. This isn't quite actual canon, as we see her through the medium of Starlight's dream. Now, it's been established that Celestia herself has no power in the dream world. Here, though, Celestia has Luna's cutie mark and abilities, so it fits. As for Daybreaker herself, she's perfect for the role she plays, and her scenes with Nightmare Moon are notably epic for a mid-season episode. Besides, it finally gives us the chance to see Celestia win a fight – even if she is partly Luna at the time! :P

This episode has a lot of excellent little touches, notably from the animators: witness how many times ponies' expressions change for just half a second, or almost as the scene cuts away. There's the slowly wilting lavender, Starlight hiding herself under a pillow again, Luna and the banana, the Spike-inspired toothbrush near the end... and then there are those dream bubbles, including that scene with baby AJ.

Add to that the really rather terrifying Luna dream sequence with the foals, some really good, snappy dialogue and of course the return of S5's finest feature (pancakes!) and you have a wonderful episode. I hesitated a bit over whether this was "merely" a very high four-star ep (like "Rarity Investigates!"), but in the end I decided that it just does so many things right that it deserves the highest accolade. We have S7's first classic!

Celestia fighting Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon
Celestia. Winning a fight. At last. Okay, it's a dream, but still
Best quote: Starlight: "I'm going to stop talking now."

  • Daybreaker is absolutely fantastic
  • We finally get a Royal Sisters episode, and it's amazing
  • Starlight's best episode since "The Cutie Map"
  • Glimmy and Twilight's scratchy relationship
  • Lovely little touches in the animation
  • At last, Nicole Oliver really gets to show us her vocal talents
  • No real comeback for Starlight for abusing cutie mark magic
  • A couple of minor nitpicks


  1. What bother me the most is how they portray Celestia in this ep... Is this the 1000-year-old ruler of Equestria? Celestia are immature and petty in this ep, which didnt suit her character that i thought it would be, is it the same Celestia in early 3 seasons? A mightly goddess, a chessmaster, a wise mentor? Or should i conclude Celestia in this ep is the true Face of Celestia when she isnt in public? What we knew about Celestia in past 6 seasons need to be validated again...

    Random: I realize something. Trollestia is now canon.

    1. I think that Celestia was pretty much in line with her actions back in Best Night Ever, with a more carefree attitude when in private.

    2. I think that's about about right. I'd probably have been irritated if Celie had been shown to behave the same in private as in public.

  2. From the moment I first heard the synopsis for this episode, it's the one I most wanted to see. And it certainly didn't disappoint!

    Although we've only seen snippets of arguments - and their aftermath - in the show so far, I could see how the two sisters would argue like that. After all, even while Luna was banished, Celestia had no control over the Dream Realm. So neither would truly know what the other does - or how difficult it was. But even so, watching them argue like that was really something else.

    I don't think Starlight had much choice in the matter of what she did. Three times she tried to intervene in the argument: once she was ignored, once she was pushed away by Luna, and once she was thrown away by Luna's magic. Somehow, she had to get them to see sense; and so, while they were distracted by their arguing, she swapped their cutie marks. (I'm not convinced she would have been strong enough otherwise!)

    Of course, it all kicks off when Celestia enters Starlight's dream. Daybreaker may have been Starlight's nightmare, but she was still quite the villain - a perfect foil to both Celestia and Nightmare Moon.

    There are a lot of little touches I love about this episode, too - from Twilight's stunned expression at the very start, in fact. Plus I think Starlight was adorable when she fell asleep right behind Celestia!

    For me, this was definitely the best episode of S7 so far, and would make my top ten of all time. It's certainly take some beating!

    1. Interesting point about Starlight not really having any choice. It's a bit concerning that the Sisters don't seem to be able to reverse a spell Glimmy cast on them, though! The question of just how powerful Starlight actually is... it's an interesting one, and I'd love to see a backstory for her beyond the snippets we've seen here and there.

    2. The way the sisters' argument was escalating really didn't bode well; and I suspect that Twilight's warning about what happened the last time they fought would have been at the back of Starlight's mind. Somehow, she had to stop them. And since reason wasn't working, I don't think she had much choice in the matter when it came to using that spell! And let's face it: it worked!

      (Although I do think Starlight was getting dangerously close to talking herself into the Canterlot dungeon!!)

      Powerful as Celestia and Luna are, they don't know every spell known to ponykind. (That much is made clear in "The Crystalling".) Wherever Starlight discovered the spell that allows her to remove or swap cutie marks, it's clearly not somewhere most ponies have ever looked! And it's nigh-on impossible to counter a spell you don't know, it seems!

      (Twilight had no defence against it the first time Starlight used it; and she only stopped it the second time with a powerful shield spell!)

      Going on what I've seen so far, I'd reckon Starlight to be possibly edging Twilight for raw magical ability, although Twilight has a far better versatility and greater knowledge of counterspells. (If I'm right, I'd suspect Celestia herself is responsible for that - right back in "Cutie Mark Chronicles", she's talking about Twilight taming her abilities.) But with her magic linked to her emotions, and Starlight being a very emotional pony, that could explain a lot of it.

      And I'd agree with you fully: I'd love to see a proper backstory for her, too!

      (One last little thought: look at Starlight's cutie mark - in particular those two swirls. They could possibly be viewed as either a slightly-rotated approximately equals sign, or else one swirl balancing on the point of the other. Just a little observation!)

    3. I've always wondered about Starlight's CM; it's never really been explained. Also, someone needs to be writing ponyfic... ;)

  3. Great to see you award a 5-star, and I think it's deserved. This is an episode I'm going to be watching over and over again.

    I think Twilight was in the ep for about the right amount of time. Any more would have been overbearing, but the episode is still better off with her in.

    Some of Starlight's faces and reactions were so fun to see, particularly when interacting with Twilight. My favourite was her bluntly saying "No." while face-desking.

    I can't wait to see plushies of Daybreaker.

    1. It's certainly good to have a five on the board again. :) And I agree about Twilight – she was certainly good value, and annoying as she became her snooping on Starlight provided some excellent comedy.

      Given the enormous wave of Daybreaker art already, I imagine the plushies will be along pretty soon!

  4. I disagree! >:V

    The best quote was actually Luna's UBERGRUMP face. :V

    1. Not actually a quote. :P But it was brilliant.

  5. Such a good episode! I don't really care for Glim-glam, but I actually liked her in this one, and had a good deal of sympathy for her!

    One little thing, though... that damned map table is legit terrifying. The only thing I can think of that enables it to do what it does is the ability to see into multiple branching futures. And it picks the one that IT wants to happen.

    1. Well, given what Starlight can (or could) do with time magic, I can well believe a suitably enchanted table could do more!