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Synopsis:

Following the events of “To Where and Back Again”, Twilight Sparkle is throwing a special celebration for the ceremony where Starlight Glimmer, Trixie Lulamoon, Discord, and King Thorax will receive the “Pink Heart of Courage” award for saving Equestria from Queen Chrysalis. After the award ceremony and during the party, Discord comes up to Twilight and asks her what she has planned for Starlight next, prompting Twilight to realize that her normal plans for “friendship lessons” are no longer appropriate considering how far Starlight has come in a short time. Not knowing what to do with her next, she ends up drawing Princess Celestia aside to talk with her about it, and while talking realizes she needs to send Starlight away on her own to continue to grow just as Celestia sent her. Yet each time she thinks to send her someplace, she imagines an outrageous fear–eventually prompting Celestia to burst out into laughter. She insists she’s not laughing at Twilight, but rather the fact that she felt the exact same way. She helps Twilight to realize she’s not really afraid of anything bad happening to Starlight, but rather the fact that she’ll lose a friend; and reassures her that, just as Twilight is still close to Celestia, Starlight will still be close to her. Twilight ends up returning to the gathering and publicly announcing that Starlight has “graduated” from her role as a student of friendship and is free to go where she likes. Yet after the announcement, Starlight approaches Twilight and admits she’s not ready to leave; as she doesn’t want to abandon her “teacher” either. Twilight is overjoyed and gives Starlight her “award present”: a room mirror just like her own that has pictures of her own friends all around it, so that she’ll wake up every morning “seeing herself surrounded by her friends”.

Review:

Thanks to the wonders of Netflix, I no longer have to wait forever to watch an episode twice for a review. So…let’s get started!

First, as always, Season Seven in general.

Season Six was nobody’s favorite. A few still disliked Season Three or even One or Two compared to it, but it wasn’t at the top of anyone’s list. It was, after all, quite a jarring move in which we had to quickly recover from Starlight Glimmer almost spontaneously being “turned good” and then deal with her as a cast regular for the rest of the season. A lot of fans didn’t care for her and making her a regular was enough to get some to abandon the franchise forever. I myself said I only “tolerated” her at the end, and that wasn’t easy. A lot of her critics had the fear she would eventually be put in a position where she’d have to save the Mane Six…but none of us expected “To Where and Back Again”, where she had to save everypony. And if it was, it was way too soon. Combined with the Changelings suddenly turning oddly-colored and innocent, and even Chrysalis couldn’t help salvage that. Personally I thought the season as a whole had some high points, but in general it was one of the worst.

Because of that, there was some puzzlement about what Season Seven would be able to offer. And we ended up getting something rather surprising.

I personally feel the first half of Season Seven was running on all eight cylinders and was fantastic. In fact, I dare say the first half of Season Seven is the best the show has ever been. We kept getting one episode after another that revealed new sides to characters that were totally plausible and interesting, and ended up making for episodes with a lot of heart as well as humor and entertainment. And all of it was capped off by the astounding “The Perfect Pear”.

The second half, on the other hand, went where the show had never gone before. By now, the IDW Comic was rather infamous, being one of IDW’s hottest selling titles and, at one point, enabled it to do more sales in one month than any Marvel or DC title. WOW. And after years of fans wishing and hoping that something from the comic would become show canon, and getting a taste of that in Season Six, we were getting something shocking: the IDW Comic and the show would actually collaborate on the “Legends of Magic” story arc to produce a joint story spanning both the comic and main series. Rather unprecedented for most genres.

Unfortunately…that’s where thing fell flat to me. While the second half of Season Seven had a couple good points and, in terms of lore, expanded it in new and amazing ways…the comic arc dulled it considerably. It’s the episodes that avoid alluding to the comic that are great while the ones that tie in the comic muck everything up.

As a result, what could have been the greatest season of the show’s history lapsed into “average”.

Enough of that. Let’s get to this episode.

Starting off this episode, I felt the old cynic in me about Starlight Glimmer come out. I had seen clips of it before it came out, and on realizing Starlight Glimmer was “graduating”, I rolled my eyes yet again. Hearing Twilight go on about how much Starlight had excelled at friendship made me just shake my head. Really…Starlight hadn’t done that much in Season Six to learn about friendship. She reconciled with Sunburst, she made friends with Trixie, she heard a story about a holiday, she accidentally mind-trolled five of the Mane Six…and then she saved Equestria. And that’s it. Twilight had to go through a lot more. That’s one of my two complaints about this episode, but it wasn’t one I really had at the time. I wanted Starlight “out of the picture” initially, so I didn’t care how.

The other complaint is Discord. By now I’m starting to realize that Discord just can’t change his nature of wanting to troll ponies even after what Twilight did for him. Nevertheless, he does have a line toward the end that indicates he was trolling Twilight without even realizing it; when he reveals he wanted her to send Starlight to him all along.

Yet really those are my only two complaints for the episode. The rest of it?

I had wondered if the “new” Changelings would appear after the last season’s finale, and starting with this episode I quickly realized King Thorax was a new recurring character. Frankly, I like it. The show needs more male regulars. And while I was a bit jarred at their new appearance, I’ve accepted it fairly quickly. The real jarring thing is how “childish” and innocent the Changelings became once they started sharing their love.

There’s a lot of characters in this episode and most of them only get a couple lines at most, but everyone seems in character and appropriate, so that works out fine.

What I really liked, though? While it would be “A Royal Problem” that would really give me the satisfaction I had been craving for six seasons, this episode finally, finally, finally started to get into Princess Celestia as a character rather just a plot device. There wasn’t much in this episode, but what we saw was nice and sweet. While Celestia had been getting so poorly used that, in “Make New Friends but Keep Discord”, the writers seemed to be endorsing the “Trollestia” image of how she enjoyed driving Twilight crazy, this episode brought back what I had really suspected for years. We know that Twilight doesn’t just look up to Celestia for approval as being a “good student”; she values their relationship…their friendship. And now we know Celestia does the same. It’s very touching. It’s tempting for a lot of fans to fantasize that they go so far as to enjoy a mother/daughter relationship due to their difference in age, experience, and even height, but…no, it’s just that they’re really good friends. The sort of platonic ideal where you can feel love between two individuals with no romantic element. And, frankly, it’s nice to see Celestia “help Twilight with a problem” for once. 🙂

Last but not least, Twilight and Starlight.

As I said before, I initially rolled my eyes at the prospect of this episode. I tolerated Starlight, but I wanted her gone and I figured the sooner the better. Yet a funny thing happened when I actually saw this episode. A great deal of it was from watching Silver Quill’s analysis of Starlight Glimmer’s character, I’m sure, and ruminating over what he said when I watched this episode.

Yet on seeing Twilight make her announcement, on seeing her speak with such pride, on seeing her tearing up at the thought of losing her friend, and on seeing Starlight’s own reaction to everything, I realized something odd that I never expected.

I didn’t want Starlight to leave either.

Silver Quill is right on most of his points. Starlight Glimmer does add to the show. She’s a character type that’s never been used before, but she’s also one of the more realistic character types. Kelly Sheridan honestly does a fantastic job voice acting for her. Probably the best on the show. She manages to give the sense of Starlight somehow being “the only normal person in a world of happy ponies”, and yet still fits in. She can probably emote more than most of the other voice actors vocally as well.

Yet I think what really ended up finally hooking me on Starlight I picked up in the rewatch of this episode. I still to this day hate “The Cutie Re-Mark”. I still have to consciously block it from my mind to fully enjoy Starlight. I still can’t “believe it” in that episode. However, when I saw Twilight’s tears, when I saw her express her fears, when I saw Starlight express how fearful she was at the end of this episode at the thought of leaving, and when I saw them embrace, I realized that what I did believe was the friendship between the two of them. I don’t know how exactly they connected, but I didn’t need to. It just “did”, and I believed the end result. And because I believe Twilight and her own friendships, that got me to believe in Starlight as well. Now I can confidently say I actually like Starlight Glimmer being on the show and I hope to see more of her in the future.

…I do wish she would be on the same level as the rest of the Mane Seven and would interact more one-on-one with non-Twilight characters or in smaller groups without Twilight, but I do fully accept her and enjoy her being there.

So yeah, I like this episode. In fact, I dare say it’s better than most of the season openings that were two-part dramas. And coupled with the next episode, it left me in a very good place for the rest of the season.

Fun Facts:

Season Seven was the first season not to open with a two-parter. Instead, both this episode and “All Bottled Up” premiered on the same day.

Spike channels Rainbow Dash’s mimicry a bit by being able to style his own scales to match Rarity before he imitates her. O_o

Twilight’s mirror has scenes from “The Cutie Mark Chronicles”, “Fall Weather Friends”, “Gauntlet of Fire”, “A Canterlot Wedding”, “Luna Eclipsed”, and the Season-Six-And-Later show opening. It also features a picture of Rarity and Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Owuliscious, Twilight and Moondancer, and…Discord and Celestia. 😛

In Pinkie Pie’s greatest act of hammerspace to date, she simply pulls a cord out of nowhere to deploy the entire party setup.

The crowd at the award ceremony for the “Heroes of Equestria” includes Starlight’s former cultists, the “new” Changelings, and Fluffy Clouds.

The “new” Changelings got voices in this episode. To go along with their new appearance, their voices are equally more pleasant.

One of Discord’s two appearances this season. And (sigh) he’s back to trolling Twilight.

Once Discord teleports out of the tea, Twilight quickly dumps it out. I wouldn’t drink anything he had been bathing in either.

Twilight’s fear about one Changeling deviating from the rest of the hive would ruin all of Starlight’s good intentions. The irony is that this possibility would be explored later this season in “To Change a Changeling”.

As a meta joke, this is apparently the first time ever Celestia has heard her own name being invoked in a pronouncement. 😛

Twilight’s fantasy about Starlight and Ember starts with them both calling each other’s names, slapping their arms together, and flexing…which is a knockoff of Dutch and Dillion’s meeting at the beginning of “Predator”.

The cuckoo clock that Starlight and Sunburst make in her fantasy has Flurry Heart for a cuckoo bird.

Somnambula is first mentioned in this episode in Twilight’s fantasy about Starlight and Sunburst.

Twilight’s fear about what will happen to Starlight and Sunburst is similar to the failed alchemy spell that Edward and Alphonse performed that left them both “crippled” in “Full Metal Alchemist”.

Starlight’s mirror has pictures from “Every Little Thing She Does”, “To Where and Back Again”, and “No Second Prances”.

Pinkie Pie also instantly cleans up the room with “vacuumspace”.

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5

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