Monday, 6 August 2018

Episode review: S8E14: "A Matter of Principals"

Discord, wearing glasses and consulting a scroll, gives a mischievous smile
"They never would be missed"
I probably ought to mention, so I will, that I'll be reviewing episodes on the Discovery Family schedule, more or less. It seems that Boomerang in Australia is likely to rush through the entire remainder of the season at two episodes per week, and that's just too hectic a schedule for me. Now I'm back home from my little break, I can talk a bit about this episode: "A Matter of Principals" was written by Nicole Dubuc, and...

...with one exception, I enjoyed it quite a lot. Unfortunately, that one exception was a large one exception. This was a School of Friendship episode through and through, with the Mane Six off the scene thanks to Discord's tricks, and unsurprisingly the Student Six played a major role. That was good news: I really do think they're the best group of characters outside the Mane Six since the CMC, and I hope they get more chances to shine before the show has run its course.

"Spell-venger hunt" might be a terribly awkward name (though I can believe Twilight thinking it's clever) and the pairing up of the students is hardly an innovative literary device. Still, why quibble when it works? Sandbar remains the least interesting of the Student Six, which makes me wonder whether there's something to be revealed about him later in the season. Oh well, the other five were more fun and there was some nice, snappy dialogue. Surely those artefacts will return, too?

The giant purple, clawed and fanged Ursa Major towers over the terrified class of students
The first time since "Boast Busters" we've seen an Ursa Major
Starlight was, as usual in S8, very watchable, even when she was letting things get on top of her and – at times – resorting to magic too freely again. There's been a lot of debate about her decision to apologise to Discord, but the more I think about it, the more I feel it was clever: she completely took the wind out of the draconequus's sails, which took some doing. As was touched on, this was the Guidance Counsellor talking.

Discord, though, I didn't like. He was the Discord of about S4, or even the Discord of "Keep Calm and Flutter On", and I would hope Fluttershy had words with him after the episode ended. One real false note was the bugbear. Much of the rest was either normal Discord silliness or at least "Castle Mane-ia"-style slapstick, but he put Yona in genuine fear of her life. That goes beyond even his "The Return of Harmony" personality and felt entirely wrong for S8 Discord.

Spike showed that he works almost as well as Starlight's assistant as he does as Twilight's, though maybe we get it re his wings now, animators! Talking of, the animation was nice, and we got to see plenty of the School building, which I appreciated, while Trixie was entertaining as usual. (Iron Will less so. Diminishing returns?) This could have been a four-star episode, but Discord's characterisation – the Yona scene in particular – leaves a sufficiently sour taste for me to knock off one of those stars.

Starlight puts all her effort into a huge blast of blue-white magic; the Student Six look on from a distance
Starlight's magical abilities are ever more scary
Best quote: Silverstream to Gallus: "You paid attention in class!"

  • The Student Six continue to be great...
  • does Starlight, for the most part
  • A good episode for Spike
  • Trixie's funny extended cameo
  • Discord really didn't feel right at times
  • Starlight's zap did feel a little bit S6 
  • Iron Will was a bit dull, while we didn't even see Spitfire's lesson


  1. I guess I'm wrong once again. :/ A lesson of "if you don't get your way, throw a harder tantrum" in yet another episode about Discord being a tremendous ass because he can isn't enough to ruin enjoyment? Starlight should have apologized to him instead of blasting him, that was the opportune moment instead of at the very last second. But her apology, in either case, should have been, "I'm sorry we didn't invite you, but maybe there's a reason for that and you should work on fixing your behavior before we give you another chance." Instead, we got something I thought for sure would give What About Discord a run for its money as fandom's least favorite, but what do I know? :(

  2. I'm with Logan in that I hope (and expect) Discord got a talking to later about this. Simply giving in to him would be unsatisfying. But I think Starlight is more clever than that. To me, she realized that Discord was just throwing a tantrum, and if she continued being stubborn about it, things were only going to get worse. So she took the high road and minimized the trouble. Maybe a too-subtle message for a child audience, but a realistic one.

    1. By blasting him in the face -- which I'll admit was a transcendentally cathartic moment -- she just made everything worse, though. :/

    2. Well, yeah. It was after that she finally realized she was only making things worse.

  3. The way I look at it, Starlight was being diplomatic when she apologised to Discord. And by making him vice headmare - which he accepted - she was putting him in a situation whereby he had to accept her authority.

    I'm not generally a big fan of Discord episodes (with one huge exception that proudly sits in 3rd place on my overall list): but this one may well be threatening my top 20 when I adjust my listings at the end of Season 8!