Monday, 3 June 2019

Episode review: S9E10: "Gone to Seed"

I almost missed this lovely touch, but AB is doing a Pinkie Promise here
I should probably mention before going any further that I now have seen the Italian early releases, since I found versions with English soundtracks. I will of course not be even hinting at any spoilers for episodes that haven't yet aired on Discovery Family, so please don't anyone else do that either, not even in the comments. Thanks! Anyway, "Gone to Seed" was Dave Rapp's first episode since "The Parent Map". More relevantly perhaps, he also wrote "Where the Apple Lies" in S6. Past the break for more!

This was one of those episodes that S9 seems to be spending a lot of time on: a down-home ep with a domestic flavour, almost like a modern-day version of the show's early years. In this case, the focus was entirely on the Apple Family, so much so that there were only four voice actors in the entire thing. Between them, Ashleigh Ball, Michelle Creber, Tabitha St. Germain and Peter New did a pretty darn fine job. We've grown to expect outstanding VA work on My Little Pony, of course.

The Great Pumpkin Seedling plot of this episode reminded me strongly of the "Sass Squatch" one from Applejack's IDW Micro-series comic. Even though that was almost six years ago now and the stories had significant differences, I do wonder whether it was something in Rapp's mind as he wrote "Gone to Seed". I thought it fitted pretty well. I don't see why the Apples shouldn't believe (or at least half-believe) in some kind of magical Earth spirit, given everything else that Equestria has to offer.

It's fun to keep an eye on how this map changes as the episode progresses
Having the Great Seedling portrayed as a deer worked very well, especially as he reminded me a bit of the magical reindeer in "Best Gift Ever". It was interesting that the episode chose to leave open the question of whether he was actually real, with the apparent reveal of Big Mac as the culprit being followed in short order by a little doubt: the final scene with the carrot trails. I think that was probably the right decision, especially if you look at this episode from the target audience's perspective. Father Christmas and all that.

Sisterly bonding between Applejack and Apple Bloom was a major part of this episode, which was fine by me. I probably find it a little less interesting than Rarity/Sweetie or Rainbow/Scootaloo (if you count that) as the Apples have always been very close, but it was cute all the same. Applejack learnt (again) that you're never too old to have fun, a nice if unoriginal moral. However, she also acknowledges that AB is growing up... by telling her plainly that she's old enough now to pull her weight at apple-bucking time.

Goldie Delicious is not a character I find all that compelling. She only really has one special feature – being a crazy cat mare – and that was milked for all it was worth this time. I doubt we'll see her again in the show, and I'm not too bothered about that. I was much more interested in the brief flashback scene, which brought us welcome glimpses of Bright Mac and Pear Butter from "100 moons" ago. (The answer to the obvious question is, of course, "As long as the story needs a moon to be.")

Absurdly, this was Winona's first appearance since late S6!
One pony above all others got a horribly raw deal in this episode, and that was Big Mac. The other Apples, to a pony, took his extra work during the Confluence for granted and failed to openly care very much about his sleep deprivation. As befits his character, he didn't complain too much in public, but we were left in no doubt that he was seriously unimpressed. He even ended up falling down a pit at the end and having AJ and AB laughing at him. Sure, his smile showed he was fine really, but even so.

"Gone to Seed" is one of those episodes I tend to categorise as "superior filler". That f-word isn't meant in any derogatory way; it's simply that the ep is a stand-alone thing with no relevance to any wider storylines. Its tight focus on the core cast (oh ha ha —Ed), with not even a background appearance from any non-Apple pony, works well in this instance. There's nothing especially extraordinary about "Gone to Seed", but it's solid and nicely crafted and has a pretty decent message when all's said and done.

Best line: Granny Smith: "I s'pose it coulda been Goldie's cats. Why'n'cha ask then?"
Best moment: Winona and the cats in the apples near the end
Worst moment: Little specific stands out

  • Tight focus on the Apples stops the episode drifting
  • Nice interplay between the various family members
  • Good to see a little flashback to the old days
  • Interesting and appropriate design for the Great Seedling
  • AJ tells a truth to AB; the moral tells a truth to AJ
  • Leaving the question of the GS's existence or not open
  • Big Mac really does get the rough end of the stick
  • A few too many meme faces for my taste; they look odd on AJ
  • Goldie Delicious isn't a strong enough character to do much
  • The broad story has been done before, in that IDW comic


  1. Even thought I liked it enough, with this episode we're back to a problem I talked about weeks ago: this is the final season. Episodes slots should be filled by more important and engaging things, not the usual slice of life episodes. I liked this one more than She's All Yak, since it had a more interesting kind of story and moral than a freaking school dance, but this remains a standard storyline that could have been putted in previous seasons, even the very first one, and nothing would have changed.

    If I didn't saw the next three eps already, which, spoiler alert, are A TON better in terms of story and character development, I would feel like I felt after She's All Yak weeks ago. I just hope the final episodes will focus on important stuff as well, but I don't count too much on that...

  2. ...yeah, not a whole lot to add on this one. Little extraordinary or stand-out about it, but basically nothing it does bad or notably wrong. It's about the same as 'The Point of no Return", but somewhat better on account of no analogues to Twilight's repetitive freak-outs. I do quite like that it gets Applejack better then episodes where she's a lead often do (if at the expense of conjuring up a muddled mess for the Apple's history through that flashback when compared to past episodes). And her attitude towards Applejack's age reflects much better on her then, say, 'Somepony to Watch Over Me'.

    I always interpreted a "moon" to be a analogue for a month myself. Monthly lunar cycle and all. I always got the impression that was loosely confirmed in the show, but I'm probably imagining that.

    Unlike many, I'm not too bothered by the season mostly being reaffirming what made us love the show so much in the first place. I've watched and observed the show's rhythms enough (and done research on exactly how its produced) to know that the production schedule simply does NOT lend itself well to full-on serialisation (especially not with the writers and animation being separated from one another as they are in a way that gives the VA and animation staff basically no leeway for even tiny script changes), so more likely then not there would be major trip-ups there if they were to try something on the level of Avatar, Adventure Time and so on. In essence, while I'll be disappointed if its barely tackled outside of the finale, even at the outset I didn't expect even half the episode to be directly arc-focused - as long as a few are, and in a smooth way that still pays off dividends, I'm cool.

    1. In all honesty, the main reason I'm still watching the show, is the series finale. Years ago I was so atrociously disappointed in the S6, especially the finale, that I was very close to ragequit the show, because I got convinced that due to the merchandise driven nature of the series, it wouldn't have never ended with a proper ending, and I had to accept that.

      So originally I decided to stop with the Movie. Then the leaks happened, and shown me that most of my fears were completely wrong, especially the fact about the show never getting an actual ending, so I decided to stay until the end.

      In the meantime, despite my post-S6 skepticism I got a lot of good stuff. I really liked what we got by now ever since (S8 included despite a few stinkers and the general not good opinion). But the series finale is still what has the priority to me. I only want a satisfying conclusion for the Mane 6 and the other characters.... if the series finale fails in delivering that, then I'll have no choice: I will erase anything post-Best Gift Ever from my mind. I've seen a lot of extremely disappointing finales lately (Samurai Jack, Voltron, Star Vs The Forces of Evil, Game of Thrones and Gumball) and I wouldn't accept a disappointing finale for FiM after having become attached to it so much. I'd honestly prefer to stop somewhere I could still preserve most of what I liked instead. And I'm not gonna go easy on the series finale only because the S9 is going very well so far. Chances of a great final season with a terrible series finale always exist.

    2. @Anonymous I only watched 2 of those series you mentioned, i can only imagine how traumatic you are when you watch all of them. ;d
      Anyway, try to be optimistic, that what we come to this show in first place.

    3. Ah... this the Thing though: some of those finales were so awful that basically nullified any good purpose those shows had, and now it's like they never existed (Game of Thrones and Voltron are the worst ones on this regard. I think you will agree with me on that). Thanks to MLP's Best Gift Ever, I have an "insurance" that would allow me to not remove every memories of the show if the finale is disappointing, but only the S9... but even then, it would still mean to ignore the existence of something I enjoyed, because the S9 has some of the eps I loved the most in the series (The Beginning of The End, Sparkle's Seven, Frenemies, Student Councel, The Last Crusade and Between Dark and Dawn), and I'd HATE to disaknowledging them for a disappointing finale... but it's the only solution I have. I just couldn't stand the show ending with an humiliation like GoT and Voltron, after having followed it almost ever since its debut, so this is a sacrifice that I will have to do, if necessary...

    4. @Mike Cartoon Karma: Ah, but this is a place where the motion of the Moon is controlled by ponies themselves. We've seen in several episodes that a sufficiently powerful mage* can raise and lower it at will. So who knows what may have happened in the past? Or during Discord's first reign?

      * I think only alicorns have done this in the show so far, but I do wonder whether Starlight might be able to.

  3. > Absurdly, this was Winona's first appearance since late S6!

    Holy shit, that's a crime. D: Poor Winona!

    "Superior filler" is a remarkably apt way to describe the episode, lack of pejorative and all! :)

    1. The Cloptimist3 June 2019 at 13:26

      Yes, I loved that description too. The "filler" is really the main reason I'm here, I suppose, much as I enjoy the big arcs and epic adventures, and the occasional wonderful landmark self-contained story; I just like spending time in Equestria, with these ponies who by now feel like old friends.

  4. The Cloptimist3 June 2019 at 13:22

    As an aside, I don't know if you've mentioned this before already but I believe the preponderance of meme faces recently may be due to the change in animation software from Flash to Toon Boom Harmony, starting with Best Gift Ever (though it was used in the Movie too, but with a very different art style). Whether it's because the animators now have greater technical flexibility to create silly facial expressions, I don't know, but I suspect so.

    Unlike the poster above, I love that the show is just giving us more time with these characters being themselves. Take out the line about the school and this episode could have been from any season (though obviously Applejack's parents in the flashback would have taken some explaining!), and I'm absolutely OK with that.

    1. The Cloptimist3 June 2019 at 13:30

      (Oh, also, although it doesn't really fit here, I've been meaning to point out that Twilight's two most egregious meme faces - "pudding!" and "Forever!" - are directly influenced by, if not actual references to, Tara Strong's stellar VA work on 'UniKitty', some of which definitely seems to be bleeding through into MLP. Though the 'forever' is a nice callback to Green Isn't Your Color too, obv.)

    2. the change in animation software from Flash to Toon Boom Harmony, starting with Best Gift Ever

      I'm prepared to stand corrected, but I don't think that's right. As far as I'm aware, the entire series, including "Best Gift Ever", uses Flash. (Or Adobe Animate, or whatever they call it now.) Toon Boom Harmony was used for the movie, but not the show.

      My own theory is that Josh Haber likes meme faces. The first time I really noticed them was in "Castle Mane-ia" -- which was the first episode he wrote, back in early S4. In more recent times, as Haber has had more influence in showrunning, we've seen more.

    3. Yeah I'm pretty sure the show has stayed with Adobe Animate. Though given the models they've bene using for years with only minimal changes were made for it when it was called Flash, I wouldn't be surprised if they're not using the most up-to-date version on purpose - sure I remember the Powerpuff Girls special, The Powerpuff Girls Rule!, though initially delivered in late 2008, still used 2004-era Flash (as did Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) as there were features later versions lost that the staff wanted to use.

      Yeah, there's been a few episodes this season that have basically 'almost' been ones from seasons past with a few lines excepted, and this is one of those. Others would include Sparkle's Seven, oddly enough (the school neither appears nor is mentioned, and outside of Spike's wings the most modern thing is the appearance of Zepher Breeze), Common Ground (little stopping it from being soon after Buckball Season), and even The Point of No Return, if the scene at the start happened outside the Castle rather then the school. I, for one, applaud this: it's nice when some episodes happen outside of time within the show's chronology to a degree, at least such that you're barely reminded "it slots in right here". Season 8 has almost none of this, due to the school and Students being all over the place, and it was something I rather missed. With a show that has only occasional mild serialisation like this, having timeless filler is important, I feel. And I feel the show doing its best in that direction, as long as it doesn't prevent them from delivering a satisfactory finale, is important.

    4. The Cloptimist3 June 2019 at 22:45

      Perhaps the Toon Boom thing is just unsourced Reddit and Derpi gossip, I'd read it a couple of times and never questioned it as it seemed like a plausible enough explanation! Fair enough.

      (although... If it's not true, then I want to know why the crowds in Common Ground were so basic, to the point where it was actively distracting me the games were taking place in front of a hundred thousand coloured balls, because I gave them a total free pass assuming it was a new software thing! But I digress!)

      And yes, while sometimes it can be a frustrating experience seeing a show "waste" episodes on wheelspinning slice of life material when there are big questions left unanswered or big arcs to progress, I think MLP has usually done very well at balancing those expectations, for the most part. Like I said above, "filler" in this positive sense... it's really the main reason I watch.

  5. I think this ep is the second best episode written by David Rapp (the first one is Flutter Brutter). His usual cringe comedy is not in this ep, the characters are just well-written, and the plot is basic but enjoyable. I like this ep more than Common Ground or Point of No Return (same filler category).

    I was so fanboying when i saw AJ's parents xD After Perfect Pear, we finally got AJ's flashback with her parents, after near decade... ;_;

    1. Glad to see someone else who enjoys "Flutter Brutter" -- that episode got a rather poor reception in some quarters, and personally I think it deserved better.

    2. That episode is in my top 5 favorite episode of season 6, i dont know why it's so underrated. xc Actually, season 6 is one of underrated seasons.

  6. You forgot a Neigh:
    This year's batch of cider is going to taste a little bit like cat pee.

    1. Well, that's a thought I really needed. :D