Monday, 1 October 2018

Episode review: S8E23: "Sounds of Silence"

Autumn Blaze speaking from a rostrum, with a Citizen Kane-style poster behind
Doesn't this imply Autumn Blaze owns the newspapers she's pushing in the same sequence?
Getting close to the end of the season now, at least for the minority of the fandom that hasn't binged the whole lot already. Just two regular episodes left before the finale, and this one had a new writer: Gregory Bonsignore, about whom I knew nothing. (He has a Wikipedia page, though.) There were a couple of things about this that I'd already seen and was looking forward to, so – to use a rejected Darkwing Duck catchphrase – let's get spoilery!

As Twilight pointed out right at the start, this was the first time we'd had a repeat team-up for a Friendship Quest. Applejack and Fluttershy last worked together in Las Pegasus, but they were in a very different environment this time. Even in S8, it seems that near-unknown tracts of land still exist (though for some reason little-used branch lines run close to them anyway) for ponies brave or stupid enough to explore!

Let's cut to the chase and talk about the kirin. Autumn Blaze has proved an instant fan favourite, not least with Seth on EqD. It's not hard to see why: she quickly demonstrated an almost Minuette-like joie de vivre, but in her case it was tempered and darkened somewhat by her inability to talk to anykirin else. Still, she was a fun character and now the kirin's problem has been solved I wonder whether we might see more of her next season.

Fluttershy taking no messing from Applejack
"Oh, really, Applejack? Can't you even speak a few words of Squirrel?"
The episode had quite a strong moral and one which may be seen as a little bit political in 2018: if you hide from ever saying anything because you might offend someone, you will become a fiery evil nirik won't give anyone a happier life. This doesn't mean that MLP has allied itself with the fundamentalist wing of the US free speech movement, but simply that – as Autumn Blaze stated in satisfyingly show-appropriate terms – rainbows won't light up the sky unless you let it rain.

The other kirin, with the brief and late exception of Rain Shine, were inevitably reduced to bit parts by their silence, but both they and their village were attractively designed, looking a little bit strange without seeming entirely alien. The fact that they could understand Ponish was interesting: was there some low-level contact (perhaps via Celestia) continuing even through their years of isolation? There's a fanfic in that somewhere. Mind you, there's a fanfic in everything...

AJ and 'Shy worked well together, although in truth they were apart for much of the episode. The second act was mostly just Applejack befriending Autumn Blaze, which made this feel a bit more like an AJ-with-Flutters episode than a true double act. Their arguments (crucial to the episode's resolution) felt reasonably well in character, and I was glad to see Fluttershy willing to push to get herself heard early on, rather than simply reverting to her old meek self.

Applejack trying to get a kirin to communicate with her
AJ employing the "Speak Ponish loudly and slowly" method of talking to foreigners
I was a bit iffy about Fluttershy's suggestion that the kirin needed to remain silent forever. While she made an excellent and very 'Shy point about the danger of fire in a forest, I'd have liked her to seem a bit sadder about having to propose it. Applejack by this time knew about the foals-breath antidote – thought not what the flowers actually were – and so it was fair enough for her to be a bit impatient with Fluttershy's approach.

We got a song this time, and a good one it was as well, though it did teeter on the edge of Daniel Ingram's repeated tendency to overcomplicate. I enjoyed the references within it, and guest star Rachel Bloom belted out the lyrics with tremendous verve. Add to that some snappy dialogue (rather ironically) and that silly-but-funny cameo by the railway ticket office clerk and "Sounds of Silence" continued late S8's strong run of episodes.

Best quote: Twilight: "Sorry, Fluttershy – flanks don't lie."

Yays
  • The great Autumn Blaze, very well voiced by Rachel Bloom
  • Both kirin and nirik had striking designs
  • Clear, strong message about managing anger
  • A very good song (and singer)
  • AJ and FS sparking off each other quite nicely
Neighs
  • Fluttershy was a little sidelined at times
  • Equestrian Railways must lose an absolute packet

9 comments:

  1. This was a really good episode which I had a lot of fun watching. Autumn Blaze is such a cutie, and the fandom must think so as well considering all the fanart of her. Fluttering being sidelined for most of the episode pretty much sums up how under used she has been this season.

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    1. The under-use of Fluttershy in S8 is definitely something I'll be addressing (and complaining about!) whenever I get round to doing a post-season write-up. The last really good role she had in my book was "A Health of Information" last year.

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  2. Am I right in thinking Fluttershy was also sidelined for most of Viva Las Pegasus? I already drew the comparison that she and AJ fought in that episode, too. Are they in a rut with the pair?

    I disagree on Autumn Blaze's voice. As someone (I think DrakeyC) pointed out, she sounds like a celebrity cameo, for all that Rachel Bloom is not someone I would call a 'celebrity'. Her voice doesn't fit the aesthetics of the kirin whatsoever, and I felt like they overdid the bubbly rambunctiousness. I mean, we already have Minuette, and she's great, and she didn't sing a song. :|

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    1. As I said to Stewart above, Fluttershy has been sidelined way too much lately. I'm afraid I suspect that too many of the show team don't really know what to write for her, which as you can imagine causes me considerable annoyance.

      It was indeed DrakeyC, but for them it was a nitpick with a character that otherwise good a good review – in an episode that largely didn't.

      Also worth nothing that both you and DrakeyC generally dislike S8. I don't, at least not in recent weeks. That's bound to colour our judgements, from both sides.

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    2. You'd think they'd be sidelining Applejack more, since show staff think she's a dumb hick and all. >.>

      That's an interesting observation, because from where I stand, Drakey's been a pretty strong proponent of S8. <.< Like, I was really surprised when he didn't like UHHHHH something recently, I forget what. I guess I'm just the nadir of fandom appreciation at the moment. :B

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    3. DrakeyC wrote "An Autopsy of Season 8", which contains this sentence: "I won't mince words - Season 8 has been the worst season of MLP so far."

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    4. Ooh. I'll have to read that once it's actually done.

      Cuz I agree with him already. Season eight makes me feel bad for ever criticizing season seven. Or six, for that matter.

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  3. Another great season 8 episode. Kirin will be my favorite creature.xD
    Am i the only who feel bad for that old pony? The loneliness must drain all of his sanity. The map should send another small side quest to save that dude's life. I must be the only who wanted to see that old man get better in the end of the episode. ;(

    Not sure about Fluttershy was being sidelined, she may talk less than AJ but she is much more useful than AJ, she found the village, she found the cure and she can even obtain the same information about Kirin just as AJ even without hearing Autumn' story. The negative for this ep should be AJ is not useful enough.;)

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    1. I'm going to headcannon that he is, indeed, a crazy old pony, who put a train stop there because he thought it was supposed to be there, and the railway built a line to it so they could take him food.

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