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Synopsis:

Starlight Glimmer is awkwardly adjusting to living in the Castle of Friendship as Princess Twilight Sparkle’s new friendship student, but gets a rather nerve-wracking jolt when she learns during Twilight and the Mane Six’s trip to the Crystal Empire to hold Princess Cadance and Shining Armor’s new baby’s “Crystalling” (a Crystal Empire tradition for new babies involving empowering the Crystal Heart) that her first friendship assignment is to reunite with her old friend Sunburst, who is now living there, and to reform their old friendship bond. On arrival in the Crystal Empire, it turns out both Shining Armor and Princess Cadance are haggard and exhausted because their new baby was born, most unexpectedly, as an alicorn. While Twilight and the rest of the Mane Six decide to help the new parents out, Spike takes charge of Starlight and her first friendship lesson, although on meeting with Sunburst neither seem too eager to say anything to the other about the years they’ve spent apart (Starlight for obvious reasons). Meanwhile, everyone else manages to get everything ready for the Crystalling while corralling the new baby and her god-like and uncontrollable power, but right as they are about to present her Cadance separates the baby from Pinkie Pie, causing her to let out a cry so loud and potent that it shatters the Crystal Heart itself. And as the Crystal Heart is the only object preventing the empire from being the same frozen waste as the rest of the Arctic, storm clouds immediately start moving in…

With the entire Crystal Empire soon to become uninhabitable tundra, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna use their own power to buy time, Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash try to tell all the crowds for the Crystalling to stay indoors, and Twilight, Rarity, Pinkie, Shining, and Cadance try to simultaneously keep control of the baby’s powers while searching the library to find something to fix the Crystal Heart. Although they manage to find a spell, the baby accidentally discharges a blast that destroys it soon after, forcing Twilight and Cadance to try and rebuild it from memory. Meanwhile, after seeming to fail at her first friendship lesson, a despondent Starlight returns to the Crystal Palace with Spike, but notices the worsening weather as she does. On arrival and learning the situation, she runs back out to Sunburst, believing him to be an “important wizard” who can help fix the heart. Yet on confronting him, he finally admits that he never went anywhere in school; all he ever did was study magic–never mastered performing it himself. His bitter outburst about this prompts Starlight to confess her own past as a villain, and ironically gets the two to reconcile. When Starlight mentions the situation about the heart, however, Sunburst gets an idea to combine multiple spells from multiple alicorns along with the Crystalling event to simultaneously restore the Crystal Heart, drive off the Arctic weather, and put the baby’s chaotic powers under control. While unable to perform the magic himself, he acts as “Crystaller” while Shining Armor, Cadance, Celestia, Luna, Twilight, and Starlight combine their own powers and manage to save the Empire and put an end to the power spasms. Soon thereafter, Twilight and Shining’s parents arrive to see the baby, and Cadance and Shining decide to name her “Flurry Heart” after the events around her Crystalling. Sunburst becomes the new Royal Crystaller and he and Starlight rekindle their friendship. At first, Twilight is unhappy that she wasn’t able to help Starlight at all with the lesson. Spike, however, points out that all Celestia ever did with her was “put her on the right path” then relied on her to make her own choices to accomplish the lesson. Realizing that worked out well with her, Twilight decides she might be a better teacher than she thought.

Review:

Season Seven is nearly upon us so, once again, I have to buy these episodes on Youtube and hurry up with my review since the DVD isn’t out yet. As always, before I start, some words on Season Six.

The general consensus among the fandom seems to be that Season Six was either a very “average” season or was the worst one yet. I think the latter is a bit extreme. From a personal standpoint, I don’t think it had any episodes that really knocked anything out of the park like “Twilight’s Kingdom” or “Crusaders of the Lost Mark”, but it did have some very good ones and it didn’t have any ones that stank…almost. I noticed in this season that the writers continued to cater to the older fandom, although how they did it is a bit interesting. Since they couldn’t use adult content, instead they used more metaphors and satire of the fan culture itself. And those episodes seemed to be a hit. There were some pretty abyssmal songs in this season, but there were also some really fantastic ones. I dare say both worst and the best “90 second” songs in the entire series are here.

If there is one thing I have to say that kind of stank, it was when characters were being used purely as plot devices. This is par for the course in many two-parter episodes, which tend to focus on Twilight while the rest of the Mane Six are window dressing. Yet now it seems to start happening in regular episodes. More on that later.

Yet one can’t talk about this season, or their thoughts on it, without talking about the elephant in the room. At the end of the day, the pony of the hour for this entire season is Starlight Glimmer. After spending a good part of Season Five making her into the show’s greatest villain, the writers now have the task of doing a 180 and making her likable enough to not only be a cast regular but on the same level as the rest of the Mane Six. Even they seem to be aware that they never really sold her that well. In pretty much all the episodes Starlight appears in this season, she’s the focus. Otherwise she gets left on the editing room floor. That’s right…it’s so bad that they don’t even want her in a “casual” role.

It’s hard for me to talk about Starlight Glimmer without going on another tirade that encompasses my thoughts regarding her on this season as a whole. While I ideally want to save my discourse on her for my review of “To Where and Back Again”, I can’t ignore some things about her right now when talking about Season Six. In terms of the fandom, she’s probably the most polarizing thing to ever come out of the show. There are some fans who genuinely, honestly, truly love her. There are other fans that want her cut into tiny pieces and fed to a dog. The problem is the ones that hate her hate her “too much”, if that makes sense. It’s true that at least half of the fandom never wanted her to become part of the main cast and the writers never sold us well enough on her doing a Heel-Turn-Face. It was even enough to make some folks leave the fandom all together. Yet the problem is that people focus too much on their hate of her. Enough to where it becomes irrational. It’s like anything associated with Starlight Glimmer must be trash…

“Hmm, this was a pretty good episode. Had some cute moments. That character was done well. The song was nice…wait. Starlight Glimmer was in this episode? Oh…then it was terrible. F- all around.”

Me personally? Hmm…that’s a difficult question to answer. After watching all of Season Six, I won’t say that I like Starlight Glimmer, but I tolerate her now. The fact is she serves an important and even needed role in the show: she gives Princess Twilight Sparkle something to do. Most of Season Five and even Season Four had Twilight sitting around being “princessy”. She even called attention to it when she constantly waited for the Cutie Map to send her somewhere. Now that she has a student, there’s a reason for her to “do things” in episodes. Aside from that, Starlight does have some interesting personality quirks. In a sense she’s like Discord, only instead of being a villain reformed in name only, she’s more like the case of someone who wants to change but has no idea what an alternative even is, let alone how to do it. A good analogy is if there’s a fly buzzing in the house. Discord would maliciously turn the house into a frog to eat it, and enjoy the reactions of horror and shock from the ponies. Starlight would obliterate an entire side of the house blowing away the fly with a spell, and then, on seeing a shocked reaction, would blink and go: “…What?” Some of her character interactions are genuinely good too, but I’ll get to those later.

The problem is most of Starlight Glimmer’s past can be overlooked, but the one glaring thing they never provided justification for was why Starlight suddenly feels so meek and humble before Twilight, to say nothing of feeling honored to have been “forgiven” by her and made into her student. Starlight hated Twilight in Season Five. HATED. Her entire plan for revenge was to completely ruin Twilight past, present, and future. She was willing to torture her for eternity in order to make her suffer. In the best cast scenario, all Starlight did was become willing to try giving friendship another chance. She never thought what she was doing to Twilight was necessarily “wrong”. So why, oh why, is she suddenly feeling lucky to be underneath her?

More on Starlight later in this review, but we have to get through the episode itself. How was it?

Shining Armor and Princess Cadance were created for the sole purpose of selling toys. So why was Princess Flurry Heart created? Hint: it wasn’t because the show needed a character who was a baby.

The fact that Princess Flurry Heart was born an alicorn and the world of the show changed to where that was an abnormality indicated that something big was on the horizon and that this was a herald of things to come. That idea lasted all about 44 minutes in the fandom before it became clear Flurry Heart’s true reason for being a fifth alicorn in existence was to sell more toys. It almost felt like a narrative bait-and-switch in that they had made a big deal out of her in the previews only to turn up what had the feel of an extended “friendship problem” episode since it’s really two episodes in one: the plot about the broken Crystal Heart and the plot about Starlight trying to reunite with Sunburst. Even though the danger was serious in this episode, it wasn’t nearly as dark or heavy as other two-parters, and didn’t have a “face” on a villain to use. In other words, another episode Hasbro commissioned to sell merchandise, only this time we didn’t have someone like Queen Chrysalis to give it a kick. There wasn’t even any new songs in this episode.

So was it trash? Well…no, not quite.

The episode does manage to hold your interest in spite of being dialogue-heavy, which is no easy feat for a Y-rated episode. The physical bits and use of magic in this episode is kind of entertaining. The fact that it doesn’t have the feel of a more monumental two-parter thereby allows Cadance and Shining Armor to act more normally and get some further depth to their characters. Even the way Flurry Heart was animated and voiced was a bit cute. My eyes kind of go to her in every scene she’s in, and the animators almost always have her doing something “like a baby”, so that part was actually well done.

Unfortunately, the best part of this episode is also the worst. Apparently, the writers and animators realized they had dug such a deep hole with Starlight Glimmer that early in this episode they’ve started out at the gate changing her. Starlight no longer has that air of superiority and smugness about her. Now she’s more wide-eyed and inexperienced. She’s no longer cold and domineering. She’s shy and tentative. There is one brief bit in this episode where she shows she still knows how to manipulate others in how she does so to Spike, but most of the time she’s more open and casual with how she talks to others. And while it wasn’t made too clear yet in this episode, she prefers to stick to things she knows than try to venture into the unknown of “friendship”. Even her mane style has changed as if to say “this is a new character, not the Season Five Starlight Glimmer”.

What’s the end result? It gives her a more likable, approachable, and investing personality for her character.

It also turns her into Twilight Sparkle from Seasons One, Two, and Three.

Yes, that is ultimately the main strategy that the writers are going with, and in doing so they acknowledge the biggest time the show ever shot itself in the foot when it made Twilight Sparkle an alicorn after only three seasons. They lost their main protagonist: “the student learning about friendship”. And to try and recapture that, Starlight Glimmer is now Twilight Sparkle…right down to connecting to Spike more than any other character. Seriously, the way Spike follows her around and talks to her in this episode, you can just paste Twilight Sparkle’s picture over Starlight Glimmer’s and you immediately say: “Yes, this is Season 1-3 Twilight.”

That might be alright, but what does that leave Twilight Sparkle with? In most episodes, unfortunately, nothing good. In this one, for example, Twilight becomes Princess Celestia…the “old hero” who can’t really do anything anymore and needs the newer generation to solve problems for her. She even points that out almost at the end.

And that, in short, illustrates what I call “the Paradox of Starlight Glimmer”: there is no way to make Starlight Glimmer look good without making another character(s) look bad. This isn’t the last time this season we’ll encounter this effect…

This may not be the nicest way to start off a season, but it lacked the plot holes of Season Five’s finale, which was a plus. And it didn’t have “evil vines” as an antagonist. So while I expected something a lot better…it was “a start” for Season Six. Luckily, better episodes not designed to sell toys would come, but it’s understandable where this ended up making more members of the fandom “casual” rather than avidly waiting for new episodes.

Fun Facts:

The only change to the opening credits for this season is the addition of Starlight Glimmer in the photo, cementing her role as a series regular.

First appearance of Starlight Glimmer’s new hair style. As I mentioned earlier, when Starlight Glimmer was first created, six different mane styles were created for her to choose from. This new one doesn’t correspond to any of them, but it’s notable for being one of the few mane styles that keeps a strand of hair in front of one of her eyes. That said, her mane regularly does a mirror image flip between shots (strand is over the right eye instead of the left and vice versa).

Starlight makes a meta-humor joke about the castle’s interior dimensions not matching the outside.

I kind of pointed this out last season, but Starlight Glimmer is shorter than Twilight Sparkle. However, her mane styles continuously make her look the same height or taller.

“Crystalling” is a knockoff of “Christening”, which usually refers to a Baptism in the Christian faith, although it can also refer to dedicating something material like a house or ship. The former meaning is likely the one intended.

Rarity is the only one struggling not to bust out laughing when Spike talks about how he’s a hero in the Crystal Empire. That’s cold, man. 😦

Spike presents the nature of a Crystalling on a Grecian-like urn.

On watching this episode a second time, there’s some foreshadowing in the flashbacks. While Sunburst always knows what to do…Starlight Glimmer is always the one who puts it into action, and “bigger and better”.

The flashback in this episode is essentially a remake of the flashback from “The Cutie Re-Mark”, right down to having the same cameos from pony versions of Sailor Mars, Sailor Venus, and Sailor Jupiter. Spike is also able to break into it, as the filly version of Starlight Glimmer reacts to him.

Shining Armor’s stubble indicates that, yes, in MLP:FIM stallions need to shave. Beards aren’t just “innate”. This would be reinforced by Zephyr Breeze later this season.

Spike saved everyone during the Equestria Games? Riiight…but stopping an object from potentially landing on a dozen ponies who could have easily avoided it… Oh, I’ve ranted enough about Spike’s unmerited fandom for one lifetime…

The nature of alicorns has been retconned and changed so much from Lauren Faust’s original concept (and all in the name of merchandise…) at this point that this episode established that alicorns are not supposed to be natural-born at all. It’s interesting that Rarity mentions what needs to be earned are “alicorn wings” as opposed to the horn, since the expanded fan universe has stated that Cadance was born a pegasus, not a unicorn, meaning in her case she had to earn an “alicorn horn”.

Flurry Heart has normally developed eyes, driving a final “nail into the coffin” of the idea of baby ponies having no corneas or pupils like they were designed back in Season Two, although Carrot Cake and Pound Cake would continue to be drawn that way.

Tabitha St. Germain, the voice of Rarity and Princess Luna, also provides the baby babbling for Princess Flurry Heart.

Ian Hanlin is the voice of Sunburst. Other works he’s done voice acting for are Lego Ninjago and Nexo Knights.

Neither episode ends with the normal credits theme, although there’s a different song for both.

One of the few episodes where Princess Celestia “does something”. 🙂

The pony watering the flowers has the water she’s pouring freeze in the middle of it. 😛

On a personal note…Crystal Ponies are rather thick. 😛

Rarity tries to catch Flurry Heart with a butterfly net. I kind of think this might be an allusion to “Fairly Oddparents”.

As of this episode, the former “alumni” of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns include four ponies who went on to lead normal lives, one who turned into a recluse, one who just became a scholar, and one who became corrupted. I’m starting to think Princess Celestia isn’t the best teacher. That said, she seems to “know” trusting Sunburst is the right thing to do in various scenes in this episode with her facial expressions and body language.

The inserting of the crystal into the broken Crystal Heart might somewhat be a knockoff of “The Dark Crystal”.

First appearance of the “Crystal” version of many characters, although Princess Celestia and Princess Luna pretty much look the same.

Sunburst thinks he won’t have any time for “wizarding” with all the Crystallings he’ll be doing…in spite of the fact Flurry Heart is the only baby born in the Crystal Empire since it reappeared three seasons ago. 😛

Twilight Sparkle’s parents, Twilight Velvet and Night Light, get their first speaking roles in the series in this episode. Night Light is voiced by Andrew Francis, the same voice as Shining Armor. Twilight Velvet is voiced by Tara Strong. In six seasons, this is only the second voice on the show she has ever done (the first being Twilight Sparkle). The credits list them simply as “Mr. Sparkle” and “Mrs. Sparkle”.

In the last frame of the episode, a small shape can be seen flying toward the Crystal Empire. Although it’s impossible to make out, many fans immediately thought it was a Changeling. Turns out they were probably right, as that shape is likely Thorax. Because of this, this episode officially paves the way toward the Season Six Finale.

Rating:

2 Stars out of 5

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