824 – “Father Knows Beast”
Written by: Josh Haber
“When a strange dragon crash lands in Ponyville claiming to be Spike’s father, Spike is ready to do anything his father says in order to learn how to be a real dragon.“
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Perhaps as a makeup for largely not doing much in the Movie, Applejack and Fluttershy are being sent by the map to solve a new friendship problem. This one is at the Peaks of Peril where they come across a group of creatures called Kirin. The Kirin are silent and do not speak which makes things difficult. However, Applejack comes across a Kirin named Autumn Blaze (voiced by Rachel Bloom). She sings a song about how the Kirin were once very sociable creatures unitl a fight broke out between two Kirin one day, and hurtful words were exchanged. The two Kirin’s bodies were ignited in fire by their anger and they turned into Niriks (Kirin spelled backwards), Their arguing quickly spread to the rest of the village, causing everything to go up in flames. To prevent this from happening again, the village leader Rain Shine ordered the Kirin to step through the Stream of Silence, suppressing their voices and emotions.
Autumn found a special flower that broke her silence, but Rain Shine made her choose between her voice and the village. Autumn chose her voice. Despite Autumn using up all the flowers at the time, AJ is still determined to get the Kirin to break their silence. However, Fluttershy says they should maintain the status quo to avoid harm to their village and the animals nearby. Sensing disagreement, the Kirin threaten to toss AJ and Fluttershy into the Stream of Silence before Autumn puts a firewall between them and the stream.
Autumn Blaze then says having emotions is not dangerous—what matters is what one does with them. Applejack and Fluttershy agree that giving up one’s emotions just to avoid feeling anger is no way to live and that friends can argue from time to time as long as they don’t let it get in the way of their friendship.
With that, we find the flowers from Autumn’s song (as well as earlier with Fluttershy helping some animals earlier in the episode) and the Kirin regaing their voices and emotions. Friendship Mission Accomplished!
The show went back to some of the basics with this episode and it paid off magnificently. We get a great song from Rachel Bloom and this may not make up all the way for what little AJ and Fluttershy did in the Movie, but these were the right ponies for this job. We also got a great lesson that emotions themselves aren’t dangerous. What matters is what one does with them. It is one of the best lessons of the season and it looks more and more like the season will end on a strong note.
823 – “Sounds of Silence”
Written by: TBA
“Fluttershy and Applejack journey to the edge of the map on a Friendship Quest to help a group of ponies who are so afraid of hurting each other’s feelings, they’ve taken a potion of silence.“
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A test is coming up about friendship’s effects on Equestrian history and the Young Six are having their troubles. Gallus and Smolder have trouble with the course material, Silverstream is in awe about plumbing, and Yona is asleep. At least there’s Ocellus and Sandbar. Meanwhile, Darla Dimple Cozy Glow expresses how great they are handling things despite their “disadvantages” as a group. It leads them to wonder if friendship is in their nature.
Enter a mysterious crystal root sticking out of a mysterious cavern. A illusion of Twilight appears to the group and will not hear about friendship not being truly in their nature. Each of the six are separated and given a test. Gallus must face his claustrophobia, Smolder must admit that she does like cute things, Yona must face her fear of spiders, Ocellus must face her fear that the Changelings’ past might affect her future, Silverstream must come face-to-face with the time the Storm King invaded Mount Aris, and Sandbar is given the loyalty test.
Gallus and Smolder get through their tests first and the former helps Silverstream with hers and the latter helps Ocellus with hers. Yona overcomes her fear of spiders and they help the rest get to Sandbar. Sandbar stops following a fake Rarity and Rainbow Dash and stands by his friends.
The glowing Twilight returns and it’s really a spiritual manifestation of the Tree of Harmony which as developed new abilities of its own as it grows (which perhaps explains that scene in “The Mean 6”). With all six passing the Tree’s tests, they are free to go back to the library. They’ll likely get an extension on the test, but Cozy Glow continues to be hinted in a certain direction.
Now in “The Mean 6”, we got a hint that the Tree has a mind of its own and it pretty much confirmed it. It adds another element of intrigue that we could possibly see more of in Season Nine. We also got a subtle hint that Cozy is not all that she appears to be (at least to those who have made this far without the spoilers).
As for the Young Six, they do get better as the season moves along. It’s hard to pick a favorite (*cough*Silverstream*cough*) from the six, but you can’t help but feel that they are learning a lot about friendship on their own than from the teachers and maybe that’s the intended direction.
It is a good episode to test the mettle of the Young Six adds some intrigue to the Tree of Harmony which just added a new power which is testing those who have their doubts about friendship (though testing part of the arc with the chest in Season Four).
822 – “What Lies Beneath”
Written by: Michael Vogel
“The students at Twilight’s School of Friendship are cramming for an exam on the History of Magic in Equestria in the school library when they discover a part of the school that no other ponies know about.“
Well, that was a unexpected. Rockhoof is trying to find his place in the modern world after being in limbo for 1,000 years. His “traditional” methods of unearthing artifacts clashing with the meticulous methods of Professor Fossil in Rockhoof’s old land. His re-enactment of his tales tends to cause damage to Twilight’s school. He also disrupts a fire-breathing contest between Spike and Smolder, mistaking it for a raging fire.
The other pillars haven been adjusting much better than Rockhoof. In Canterlot, Flash Magnus is the new drill sergeant for Princess Celestia’s royal guards. In the Crystal Empire, Mistmane is the royal landscape artist for Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor. In her village home in Southern Equestria, Somnambula is a motivational speaker and meditation guru. In the Hayseed Swamp, Mage Meadowbrook sells potions and remedies out of her home/health clinic. Even Stygian has found moderate success as a best-selling novelist. Seeing how well his old friends have adjusted to living in modern-day Equestria, Rockhoof feels more miserable and out of place than ever.
A job as General Seaspray’s Hippogriff Navy goes awry when using the stars to guide the way does not take into account rocks in the ocean. And yes, I’m not sure why the Hippogriffs need a Navy when they can turn into sea ponies, either.
Rockhoof is miserable to the point where he asks Twilight to cast a spell to turn him to stone (because we can’t say assisted suicide on a TV-Y show). However, Yona, inspired by Rockhoof’s stories, reads him her essay about how she felt she didn’t fit at the school at first, but has since made close friends. Rockhoof suddenly has an audience when he decides to finish the story.
Seeing this, Twilight make him the Official Keeper of Tales in Equestria. She’s a Princess, don’t question it. Rockhoof finally has purpose in the modern world.
Here is one of the more surprising episodes in the series. Much like “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” took a darker tone with its topic of self-torture to relieve past pains, this is pretty much as close as this show will get to hinting at suicide much like “Tanks for the Memories” used hibernation of a pet in lieu of death of a loved one.
Much as I feel that Steven Universe can tell its stories in 22-minute episodes (read: “Bismuth”) even though it sticks to 11-minute episodes, MLP could well have episodes that deal with touchy topics with a semblance of maturity if given the chance. That was one area that puts Mister Rogers and even Arthur in a class of their own, but I need to get back on track with the episode in question.
There really isn’t that much wrong with this one and it’s in the top tier for this season. It’s about someone trying to find their place in the world after a seemingly long time away from it and that one should keep trying instead looking for a way to leave it. It’s nice to see all the Pillars again, though you do wish they were able to help more. However, we do get a nice save from Yona and by extension the Young Six who were actually enthused by his stories.
We’ve had some good character moments this season, we just needed some better stories and this episode fits the latter.
PS: Since a series continuity error has been brought to my attention on “The Washouts”, I have to downgrade my grade on that episode to a B.