Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thomas and Friends Season 21: Episodes 11-18

Here's part two of my thoughts on Thomas and Friends' 21st season!

Episodes 11, 13, and 16 are written by Lee Pressman; 12, 14, and 18 by Helen Farrall; 15 and 17 by Davey Moore.

11. Philip's Number
This is gonna be fun!

It's safe to say that Philip has become a divisive character among the fandom; either you love his childlike charm or you find it annoying. I've found myself in the former category since Toby's New Friend, and Philip's Number is a great continuation of the little boxcab's character development. Some of you will argue that he's a diesel equivalent to Percy, but what you're forgetting is that Percy isn't young anymore. Okay, he still kind of is, but Philip is even younger than Percy!

Anyway, I really enjoyed the episode. And no, the fantasy sequences don't bother me in the slightest.  You can see that it's all in Philip's mind; Dianna Basso and her team didn't outright say so, and they pretty much expected you to fill in the gaps. Besides, is it any more trippy than "Never Overlook a Little Engine" in Lost Treasure? Not really. Heck, it was this episode alone that made Basso my favorite Thomas director. Even at her most pathetic, she knows how to make an episode look great on screen.

Even though I'm annoyed by the constant usage of the "be yourself message", it worked for this episode, only they added a new angle about carving your own path. At first, Philip wanted to know why he was given the number 68 (by the way, wouldn't it be funnier if he was number 69?), but after saving 68 sheep from Gordon hitting them, he decided that's what he should be remembered for. It was great!

What makes it even more so is Gordon's character. At first, he makes fun of Philip's number, but after saving him from running into the sheep, he genuinely apologizes for teasing him earlier, showing that despite his arrogance, he does have a sympathetic side, something I hope we see more of in season 22. There may be a few issues here and there, but in the end, I don't think they're worth moaning about. It's an episode that can't be overlooked, especially for it's message at the end.

12. The Fastest Red Engine on Sodor
This is a big one; the episode that fully showcases Rosie in her brand new red livery (which she will retain, no matter what certain "fans" think). How does it fare, and does it do Rosie any justice?

Well, even though she appears prominently, this is mostly a James episode, but a great one at that (and I'll get to why in a bit). They say Rosie was given a repaint, but they don't say why. Did she need a change? Was it because she didn't want to be made fun of for her old livery (which would be understandable)? Anything would do instead of simply cutting one of eight missing episodes.

Despite this issue, the episode, as I mentioned earlier, is great. James' stubbornness really shone here, and he's got solid reasoning to why he didn't want to worry about his brakes until it was too late and had his crash at Tidmouth Sheds. Though I should point out that steam engines don't use brake fluid; there's a reason you got a railway consultant!

The theme, once again, is really good here; it is incredibly stupid to let problems fester to the point they're out of your control. Yes, the episode aired long before the ToonKriticY2K scandal, but thinking about that recent event, it makes the moral of this episode much stronger, especially as some of his former "friends" would rather try to claim innocence instead of at least showing the tiniest bit of regard for those he's hurt! What is it with the Thomas writers pointing out issues with the fandom?

On the whole, I love this episode, and the crash is amazing. A pity that Rosie didn't do much here, but it is interesting how this lead up nicely to the next episode...

13. A Shed for Edward
And here we go with possibly the most controversial Thomas episode in recent years. No, not fandom controversy like The Way She Does It or Rocky Rescue. I mean, like, legitimate controversy. I'll get to that in a bit.

To start with, this is the very first episode of the entire show where Mark Moraghan doesn't narrate except for the episode's title. But really, what is the point of a narrator these days if we can see what's happening before us? This is why CGI storytelling is better than model storytelling; much as I like the latter in the classic era, it had limitations. After all, less is more.

I really like Edward and Philip's dynamic in this episode. Sure, it's a bit like Edward and Thomas' in The Adventure Begins, but that was when Thomas was new to Sodor. Since then, he's grown up and is now in charge of his own branchline. This feels like Edward and Thomas for a new generation.

What makes the dynamic even stronger is how it connected to the themes. Philip was chattering at night, and Edward wanted to find somewhere to sleep. Some of the locations he found are rather silly, but it emphasizes how desperate he was, making it funnier. And when Edward nearly has an accident, Philip realizes where he messed up and chose not to bother Edward the next night they were together. If that isn't character development, I don't know what is.

And then there's the ending; I don't care what anybody says. It is one of the most heartwarming of the whole show. Edward moved to Wellsworth Sheds of his own volition because it was closer to his branchline, and Philip needs someone wise to guide him. Something "fans" don't care about because they're randomly screeching "EDWARD'S BEEN KICKED OUT OF THE STEAM TEAM" or whatever.

Well, guess what? The Steam Team concept is irrelevant these days! The only reason it was formed back in season eight was to establish a core cast of engines #1-7 as well as Emily. Nowadays, we have episodes featuring the likes of Diesel, Daisy, Toad, Stephen, Spencer, etc., which means the Steam Team concept is simply redundant.

It's not just Edward being written out of the Steam Team; so are Henry and Toby. And honestly? I'm okay with that, especially if you consider the terrible starring roles they had in the likes of Edward Strikes Out, Henry Gets It Wrong, and Toby's Triumph, where they had their characters rewritten just to suit the story. Not only that, their personalities aren't that interesting compared to Thomas, Gordon, James and Percy. With those four, there's a lot more storytelling potential. Frankly, Edward, Henry and Toby are better off as secondary characters; even the Railway Series didn't give them that much time to shine in the books (at least, after the early ones).

In addition, fans were miffed when Duck wasn't a member of the Steam Team, but in retrospect, I'm glad he wasn't, because if he had been, he'd have been butchered badly during seasons 8-16, and would fans rather have him as a main character and be messed up horribly, or as a secondary character and written properly? I know what I'd choose, frankly.

Sorry about the rant, but this is something that has been on my mind for a while now. And yes, they are appearing in season 22, regardless of what certain "fans" think. Getting back to A Shed for Edward, that ending is perhaps the most relatable to me; when moving, you can either be sad about leaving your friends (and that's perfectly fine), or you can be excited about meeting new faces and going on new adventures. It's the Magical Mystery Cure of Thomas episodes, and I'm glad that Edward's finally returning home, and that he'll never be poorly written again.

We'll miss you at Tidmouth, old blue #2, but at least you're finally home again.

14. The Big Freeze
This one was... disappointing, even for Helen Farrall. The plot description said that Diesel proves himself to be a hero, but all he did was mock the steam engines and in the end, deliver the coal they needed. That's it. And how does a railway survive with diesel shunters that can go at, like, thirty miles per hour? That's an issue which has been plaguing the show since season six; there's no diesel muscle. In fact, it felt like a missed opportunity to bring BoCo back into the fold pulling the express.

There were a few good things like Thomas being punished for his ignorance, as well as showcasing the negative side of winter (something I've recently found out all too well), and... that's pretty much it, I'm afraid. Oh, and the Fat Controller tripping up three times felt more cringe-worthy than funny. Can we at least add variety to his comedy? I don't hate the episode, but it felt rather... meh. It could've been four and a half minutes long and the plot would be the same. Or maybe if it was a special on its own...?

15. Emily in the Middle
You know how there have been episodes this season I've defended that people disliked? Well, this one is kind of the opposite. To get to the point, it's basically the season 21 equivalent to The Other Side of the Mountain. Allow me to explain...

This is practically Love Me Tender 2.0, only with Emily slapped on and without the heart and charm of the season 20 episode. Think about it; both are Donald and Douglas episodes written by Davey Moore, they take place in winter, and at least half the plot is spent on them arguing. Oh, and Toby is there cause why not. In Love Me Tender, it made sense for them to bicker because they disagreed about which lines they should clear first. Here? They just argue because the story demands it, and that each infuriated the other by telling Emily about their past incidents.

Here's the thing; we already have a set of twins in that mindset, and they are Bill and Ben. Donald and Douglas are supposed to be more mature than that! Hell, the reason the latter came to Sodor was because the former did not want to be separated from his brother. That, and there was the threat of them being scrapped. Not only that, there can be more done with them if given the chance, and not just in winter episodes. They don't always need to work together, for goodness' sake! See Donald's Duck and Escape as to why that's the case.

Then there's Emily, and honestly, she's the best thing about the episode. It's a nice idea to try and put up with two arguing engines at their worst; had it been James or Gordon, they would've snapped much sooner. And I don't blame Emily for getting frustrated at the twins' petty bickering, though it's something they needed to learn after Love Me Tender that arguing will only land not only themselves, but others in trouble as well, something that should be taken into consideration for season 22 onward.

So yeah, I'm not a fan of this one either; it's probably my least favorite episode featuring Emily as lead character. As I've said, it's very much The Other Side of the Mountain of Davey Moore episodes. If I wanted to see this plot, I'd rather watch either Love Me Tender or MLP's A Royal Problem. The former gives more credence to Donald and Douglas' conflict, and the latter shows great development not only to Starlight Glimmer, but Princesses Celestia and Luna as well. Emily in the Middle just feels like another sign of creative stagnation.

16. Terence Breaks the Ice
Now we're talking! This is the episode very much every Thomas fan was looking forward to ever since it was announced; Terence made his debut in a winter episode, so it's appropriate he returns in a winter episode.

I quite liked the flashback; yeah, it's a bit lengthy, but it's possible there wasn't enough story to fill up the runtime. That being said, it's a great way to reintroduce Terence to a modern audience who may not know who he is, though it is rather odd that Thomas would say he always wore his snowplough after said episode when we've seen episodes where he doesn't.

Some people have criticized that Terence doesn't have much character, to which I can understand. Here, they give a bit of a more cocky personality like he had in Toby Takes the Road, and it works really well for the moral and story. Plus, the rescue is really dramatic as he could've sunk like the big tree.

Speaking of which, I really like how the Earl worked around the problem he faced by stacking another small tree on top of some presents. That's really creative of him to do so, and it's something I think all of us can do when faced with a problem.

17. Daisy's Perfect Christmas
If there was any episode that was a metaphor for the Thomas fandom, it would be this one. Daisy feels like the perfect representation of entitled fans who'd rather the show focus on them rather than children - you know, the actual target audience. They even used children to further hammer in the metaphor, and it works brilliantly. Oh, and did I mention that I loved the moral here; breaking tradition can be a good thing?

Plus, any episode where the troublesome trucks become carolers is worth watching. I will never not love this episode; this is how you do Fame and Misfortune. Well done, Mr. Moore.

18. Confused Coaches
Here we go with the season 21 finale, as well as Helen Farrall's last (confirmed) episode. Is it a grand finale? Well... not really. It wasn't really a bad episode either. It's... serviceable, to say the least.

For one, it takes a while for the main conflict to build up. Gordon and Spencer's rivalry is fun to watch, though it feels a bit strange the former would boast about platform one being the most important. Then again, he did boast about it in Respect for Gordon, so... I can understand... kind of? That being said, it does lead to some funny bantering over numbers; Spencer got burned for not having one!

What wasn't funny was the Fat Controller tripping up whilst offering drinks to the Duke and Duchess. It's getting old, writers! And it's gotten to the point you wonder why he's even in charge of the North Western Railway. Fortunately, they do show him being authoritative when he scolds Gordon and Spencer for their petty rivalry. That is something we need more of.

Another positive was the coach swap; it definitely feels like a plot device taken from the Railway Series. And I can totally buy Thomas and Philip not seeing who's at the platform, but the passengers and station staff are a bit questionable. Wouldn't they or Sir Topham notice that something was off? Although it does lead to an interesting race around the third act and it makes me wish for an episode where Spencer takes the express whilst Gordon is absent; that would be great to see!

Oh, and it's the first time Thomas has had a New Years' themed story! It's so refreshing after umpteen Christmas stories per season. And as for Thomas working with Philip? I don't really care. Anyone saying the boxcab has replaced Percy just because of this episode are extremely shallow.

Overall, this isn't really Helen Farrall's strongest episode, but I don't have much of a reason to hate it either. It's fun to watch if you're in the right mood, but there are stronger episodes in this season alone I'd watch more often.

Final Thoughts
Well, this was a tough one to get done. I dunno if it's because I was so distracted with My Little Pony, settling down in Oregon, or dealing with college in real life and stupid people online that I was generally disinterested in reviewing season 21. But now, I've finally got it done, and how does it hold up?

Surprisingly well, actually! Even more so considering that eight episodes have been cut due to Big World! Big Adventures! Yes, you heard right - Mattel have cut eight episodes out of season 21. Yeah, we lost The Missing Coach for season two, but we do have the original story out there, and Break Van was just about enough to establish the predicament Donald and Douglas were in. Gordon Goes Foreign would be great for season three, but working their way around that gap in Time for Trouble worked alright, and the original story, again, is out there.

But season 21? That was meant to establish Rosie's new role and job, but so far, we've not been able to see it, and we don't know why she was at Vicarstown in Journey Beyond Sodor (which supposedly takes place after season 21, but more on that later). Were they also going to do more with Carly and Big Mickey? Bulgy? Terence? Or what about Trevor, who hasn't done a thing since Three Steam Engines Gruff? Heck, what about the railway museum that was mentioned in Over the Hill? Was Hugo going to get one last shot at redemption?

So many set ups, and yet very few have been given pay off so far. I hope they find their way in season 22 or maybe even season 23. Otherwise, that'll be eight scripts up in smoke.

But the biggest issue I have with season 21 is its continuity with Journey Beyond Sodor. Again, the latter is meant to take place after the former, but the biggest plot holes are in regards to Carly's presence at Brendam Docks (and not to mention Thomas going to the mainland with Edward to pick her up) and Edward living at Tidmouth instead of Wellsworth. Heck, James didn't even make a comment about Rosie's paint in the special! I even asked people when Journey Beyond takes place in relation to season 21, and the results I got were... inconclusive. Unless Team Thomas makes a comprehensive timeline of the series, I'm afraid it's an unanswerable question for now.

Even more frustrating is how confused season 21's own timeline appears to be; Carly didn't appear in Emily in the Middle, Harvey was confident in A Most Singular Engine but wasn't in Stuck in Gear, Edward was at Tidmouth in The Big Freeze (unless he was visiting), Rosie appeared in red in Hasty Hannah prior to The Fastest Red Engine on Sodor (unless it wasn't made as huge a deal back then in the former), Daisy's Perfect Christmas didn't have snow, the list goes on.

The season wasn't all bad, though. I love that they're making female characters more prominent (barring Rosie, which is a shame), and the themes for the show, even if some weren't the most original, have never been stronger than they have been. And again, I didn't mind the experiments being implemented. It's not the first time a season has tried new things, and it won't be the last either. So really, what's the fuss all about? It's not like Mattel dumped all of these changes in one season; otherwise, fans would have a reason to moan!

To sum up, season 21 is unfairly underrated. There were a few episodes I didn't like that much, but the good outweighs the bad by a lot. It's like season three of My Little Pony, and I think Ryan says it best:
“Maybe it wasn't better or worse than usual - just different. Today wasn't perfect like it used to be. It was a new kind of perfect.”
As long as the writing quality for the show remains high with Brenner and company on board, the fans should have absolutely nothing to worry about... unless they'd rather be a big bunch of Daisy Downers!

One final note I'd like to make is for Helen Farrall; thank you for giving us some of the best episodes Thomas and Friends has ever had. Your work will truly be missed by many, but you'll still be standing as one of the best writers of the entire series. Thank you once again, and good luck on your future endeavors.

Thomas and Friends Season 21 Rankings
18. New Crane on the Dock: 3/10
17. Emily in the Middle: 3/10
16. Cranky at the End of the Line: 4/10
15. The Big Freeze: 5/10
14. Confused Coaches: 7/10
13. Stuck in Gear: 8/10
12. Unscheduled Stops: 8/10
11. Hasty Hannah: 8/10
10. P.A. Problems: 9/10
9. Terence Breaks the Ice: 9/10
8. Philip's Number: 9/10
7. The Fastest Red Engine on Sodor: 10/10
6. A Most Singular Engine: 10/10
5. Springtime for Diesel: 10/10
4. Runaway Engine: 10/10
3. Dowager Hatt's Busy Day: 10/10
2. A Shed for Edward: 10/10
1. Daisy's Perfect Christmas: 10/10

Final Overall Rating: 8/10

Monday, February 12, 2018

Thomas and Friends Season 21: Episodes 1-10

Has it been ages since the last written Thomas review here? No really; the last major review I wrote on the blog was The Great Race back in July, well over five months ago. And there's my Journey Beyond Sodor video review from October (or, depending on how you view it, November). Season 21 seems to have gone neglected... until now, that is! There's been a ton of discussion about the show's future since it came out, and I wanted to wait until the hype for the new season had died down so I could analyze it properly having absorbed it all, especially as I want to view the episodes for what they are, not what they're signalling for the show's future.

So, without further confusion or delay, here are my thoughts on season 21 of Thomas and Friends!

As the title card above states, it'll be reviewed in two parts; part one about the first two weeks, and part two about week three and the Christmas on Sodor episodes.

Episodes 1, 2, and 4 are written by Davey Moore; 3 and 6-9 by Lee Pressman; 5 and 10 by Helen Farrall.

1. Springtime for Diesel
I don't get why Diesel in the later seasons is being given flack for "not being his devious self". He's a far more complex character than fans are giving credit for. He's very much the Thomas equivalent to Discord from season three onward. If anyone should be the threatening villain, it's Diesel 10, and he hasn't shown up since season 17.

Anyway, I really love this episode, especially the character development; Diesel's deviousness being a habit he can't shake off, Daisy getting her passengers to their destination despite being crippled (so did Skarloey, Rheneas and Edward, but they did what you'd expect them to do), and we even got Den standing up for himself when Dart tries correcting him. And given that he was last seen in season 19's Den and Dart, also by Davey Moore, that was great.

There were a couple of issues, even if they're minor; one, how did Den not know what Daisy was given that she went to the Dieselworks in The Railcar and the Coaches? Two, why were they not supplied with springs? But in the end, they're just minor plotholes that can be given a simple tweaking.

The ending really does it for me; seeing Diesel go through emotional turmoil was pretty funny to watch, and seeing him pour his heart out to Daisy that night was really genuine and heartwarming. Even more so when she tells him off for bumping her earlier (kind felt suggestive, don't you think?). This is what I call a great start to the series.

2. A Most Singular Engine
Have I mentioned how great a character Daisy has been since Ryan and Daisy? It really is true, and this is another fantastic episode. Though, the continuity between this and Springtime for Diesel is a bit confusing given the relationship between him and Daisy. But then again, maybe character development isn't instantaneous?

Another odd thing was that it's said Daisy is the only diesel railcar on Sodor. Did they forget Hugo? It's kind of an issue as A) they could've said she was the first diesel railcar and B) it would've been a better debut for him than season 20. It's also not a problem for me as... well, it makes it easier for me to forget that the German sausage ever existed! :P

Anyway, the way the plot builds up was very nicely handled. Diesel being frustrated with Daisy's overbearing personality and him seeing Harvey to put Daisy in her place all felt believable; heck, Ryan's role was great as well since he's naive.

Once again, the second half was great. Daisy and Harvey finally confronting each other... only to encounter a cute little bunny at the crossing. Their rivalry gets nipped in the bud when they help each other out and Diesel gets a good dose of karma by rolling into the sea. Though the toilet humor felt rather shoehorned in...

Still, another lovely episode. Oh, and is that the first time in years Duck and Diesel have been in the same shot? If only we could have an episode based around their current personas...!

3. Dowager Hatt's Day Off
Oh my God, I don't think I've ever laughed this much at a Thomas and Friends episode! But seriously, it feels like The Green Controller done properly. As in, they're not using an engine to run the railway. Dowager Hatt was the perfect choice for temporary controller, and her entrance into the story is the right mix of badass and hilarious. Also, did anyone feel sorry for poor Percy? First he's had a tissue land on his nose (and seeing him struggle to try and get it off without hands), and then he can't even get up Gordon's hill pulling the express.

The episode itself is a satire on the Barlow era; how Sharon Miller's railway would be run. But unlike the "joke" in The Way She Does It, this doesn't feel out of place at all, even if that era should stay a thing of the past. And fortunately for (almost) everyone, Emily is around to speak sense into Dowager Hatt. Episodes like this are why Emily's my favorite character; she is the ideal sister figure for the main cast and I think it'll be interesting to see how she'll play off against Rebecca and Nia (more on that later) in the next season. And that ending with Philip? You feel sorry for him, but you can't help but have a bit of a laugh at the predicament he's in.

4. Stuck in Gear
This one, however, kind of feels like a step backwards. Does that make the episode bad? Not necessarily. I'm glad Harvey got a lead role to himself, though his character feels rather inconsistent with what he had in A Most Singular Engine when he was confident in his own abilities. That's a problem I got with season 21 as a whole.

But the episode's biggest problem within itself is Harvey's crew not being involved. Couldn't they have tried to help their engine in removing the branches from his gears before it got worse? It's pretty jarring as season 20 had three episodes where the engines interacting with their crews. That being said, I really like the theme they showed here, and it's one I can relate to. I understand how stupid it is not asking for help before a problem gets worse, but with my shyness being ingrained at a young age, it's a habit I can't shake off.

I really like the ending and how the lesson stuck with Harvey; he was so excited at moving his arm again that he lost himself and felt sheepish, but still asked for help anyway. The weakest of the first week, but still a good watch nonetheless.

5. Runaway Engine
Now there's an episode I was looking forward to when it first came out, and did it deliver? Yes, it did! Especially given that it's a Helen Farrall episode.

The dynamic between Stephen, Millie and Glynn is one of the best of the entire show, and the middle act shows how genuine their friendship is, especially when Stephen feels guilty for unintentionally hurting Millie. Then again, she did leave waste in front of their shed out of pettiness, but then, that's what Stephen and Glynn got for not listening to instructions. And I can't forget the grumpy passenger's role; he's always entertaining whenever he appears ever since his debut back in season 18's Duncan and the Grumpy Passenger, even more so how Sir Robert calmly dealt with his temper.

And I know some will complain about Stephen being childish for his age, but here's the thing; if he was a generic elderly character, he wouldn't be fun to watch. Stephen's a flawed character, and episodes like this and Over the Hill show why it's a good thing. He's got drawbacks just like everyone else, but he knows how to roll with them. On the whole, it's a brilliant end to the first week.

6. P.A. Problems
And here we go, people; the 500th episode of the entire series. It's very rare that a kids' show could last this long, but here we are with a milestone in Thomas history. How does it hold up?

Quite well, actually. It's nice to see Edward co-starring in this one, especially as Crocks Scrap Yard is near his branchline, and how he was featured to demonstrate that old doesn't mean useless... but the theme is very much a strength and a weakness. Why? Well, look at what happens when the TX-1000 fails. Fair enough, it breaks down, but they don't explain what was wrong with it or what caused the speakers to have awful feedback. And that implies that all new technology is flawed, which is rather narrow-minded. Laptops are sometimes better than desktops, MP3 players provide you with more variety than a cassette player, flat-screen TV sets are more reliable than the bulky, squarish sets, etc.

The point is, if you're saying we shouldn't upgrade to newer technology, then by that logic, Thomas wouldn't be in CGI and they'd still rely on worn out models that can't even pull more than two pieces of rolling stock. In The Fogman, there was a reason the foghorn was unsuitable as a replacement for Cyril.

Anyway, like I said, Edward had a really good role here, as did Reg. So nice they didn't forget about him completely. His enthusiastic nature is so contagious I can't help but enjoy it. Much like Beresford from Journey Beyond Sodor, Reg is one of the most understated characters of the series. And yeah, I feel bad for the workmen having to put up with his singing, especially the one at the end. A great episode with a solid (though flawed) theme; with a few tweaks, it'd be perfect.

7. Hasty Hannah
Fun fact: This episode was actually intended to be a part of season 20, but it was held back and is now a season 21 episode. But was the wait worth it, and is Hannah as interesting a character she's made out to be?

Okay, so this is an episode where Toby is portrayed as being worrisome... but unlike Three Steam Engines Gruff, it actually has a catalyst behind it. Hannah is rather overbearing, and Toby is not used to going at high speeds. Might've worked better if he was a bit more assertive against Hannah's desires, but we got what we got.

Hannah herself was a really fun character, though it would be a shame if she never returned to the series. I think she would be great as part of the Ffarquhar coach stock; can we have a story with her, Annie and Clarabel? Seeing her almost getting killed was really dramatic, and shows that you can have too much of a good thing like speed. I would've preferred a scolding from the Fat Controller, but nearly getting killed would hammer the point home further. Though, I have to wonder; why wasn't James used more in the story?

And how would Toby get to Knapford within twenty minutes? Sure, he said it out of sarcasm, but it would be impossible to get there from Crovan's Gate, even for someone like Gordon, within that time frame. For Toby, it'd probably be twenty hours instead! (Okay, maybe not, but still.) And how on earth can he get from Dryaw to Gordon's Hill? If he was on the mainline, I could understand, but as a guy who reads maps, this is rather frustrating.

Despite the issues, I think this episode was really good. Not one of season 21's strongest, but the way it played out worked fine for me. Oh, and we also get a preview of Rosie's new livery, as well as - what I think, at least - implications of romance between Toby and Henrietta. Not sure where the writers are going with this though...!

8. Cranky at the End of the Line
There's... not a whole lot I can say about this one. I mean, it became obvious that Cranky would not be replaced by Carly. It was obvious from Stuck in Gear that there'd be a new crane. Heck, Thomas and Edward traveling to the mainland completely goes against the former's desires in Journey Beyond Sodor, and that's supposed to take place after season 21! Yeah, there's comedy, but it didn't really make me laugh as it felt like a distraction.

And then there's a huge plot hole if we consider Kevin's Cranky Friend; why didn't the Fat Controller plan on getting a new crane after Kevin returned to the Steamworks? Was it not considered at the time? The episode as a whole feels like filler; you could skip right to the next episode and miss nothing.

9. New Crane on the Dock
Is this one better than the previous? Well... no. It wasn't. Sure, the theme is good, but it's nothing we haven't seen in the likes of Ryan and Daisy and No Help at All. Sure, they added the theme of communication, but it's hammered in at the end. Sure, there's some nice humor, but again, it feels like a distraction.

I like what they went for with Cranky and Carly's dynamic; he's the older brother who's jealous of his new baby sister getting all the attention and they get into a petty squabble about it. And I guess that makes Salty the uncle figure telling them a story about a two-headed sea serpent. It's funny, sure, but it doesn't really add much to the story. And in case you're wondering, it's something we'll be seeing in season 22 when it comes out, but will that (along with other aspects being hinted at) make it bad? No. I look purely for good storytelling and themes, and whilst the themes are good, the story is pretty unoriginal.

Which brings me onto Big Mickey. This is pandering to older fans at its absolute nadir. Only they know about TUGS and the younger fans don't. They won't know about it unless they looked online. Big Mickey gaining a face feels like a half-baked attempt at acknowledging his presence, perhaps the biggest plot hole in this season alone. Why did no one bother with him until now, of all times? At least when Henrietta gained a face, there was a reason for it. What was the point of giving Big Mickey a face other than fan service? It's like having Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer being paired up to take away the fact that the story is terrible! (Oh wait, they already did that.)

So yeah, I didn't like this one; it's my least favorite of the season up to this point. It almost feels like a sign of stagnation in the writing department, and they need to come up with new ideas. Otherwise, the show will have reached the end of the line...

10. Unscheduled Stops
I'm not the kind of person who automatically gives an episode a high rating simply for who returns. As I've said countless times, I look for a good story and theme to go along with it. That being said, it was a nice surprise to have Bulgy return for the first time since season 12, and the voice Colin McFarlane gave him is absolutely brilliant; he is perfectly cast. I don't think we've had a surprise like that since Harvey's return in Thomas' Shortcut.

This episode starts out with some typical Thomas vs. Bertie racing until the small red bus breaks down at the crossing gate. Thomas offers to take his passengers, but unfortunately, his good deed results in him making more stops than necessary.

That brings me onto the episode's themes which are... a bit confusing. Think about it; Thomas does a good deed for Bertie's passengers at the cost of being late. The Fat Controller isn't too happy about that and so he hires Bulgy to look after Bertie's passengers. Thomas more or less disobeys the Fat Controller's orders and gets off scot-free. I'm not saying the episode is bad because of a flawed theme, but I think Helen Farrall could've been a little more explicit as to where she was going with this one.

I do enjoy the episode for what it is, especially with the Fat Controller having the right balance between being a clown and a serious controller (something which fans have rightly complained about, for the record), but the flawed and confused theme at the end keeps it from being a full 10.

Thomas and Friends Season 21 Scorecard
1. Springtime for Diesel: 10
2. A Most Singular Engine: 10
3. Dowager Hatt's Busy Day: 10
4. Stuck in Gear: 8
5. Runaway Engine: 10
6. P.A. Problems: 9
7. Hasty Hannah: 8
8. Cranky at the End of the Line: 4
9. New Crane on the Dock: 3
10. Unscheduled Stops: 8

Season Rating So Far: 80/100

Thursday, January 4, 2018

My Little Pony Season 7 - Final Thoughts

Well, after a heap of struggles throughout 2017, I finally managed to cover all of My Little Pony's seventh season, and what a journey it has been! But for now, it's high time I gave it one final look over, and answer this question; will it be better than season six?

Like the last two seasons, the episodes of season seven will be ranked from worst to best, rather than airdate order. You can click on the headers to read the full reviews as the overview isn't going into major detail for the most part. Unlike the last two seasons, however, I will only be discussing the episodes. Everything else like characters, music, voice acting, and animation are very much standard at this point.

Whenever I have the chance, I'll make a list on the Top 10 worst episodes of MLP. Secrets and Pies will undoubtedly be on it, most likely at #3. Why is this the worst of season seven? Because I was expecting better from it. Simple as that.

Yes, I was annoyed by To Where and Back Again, but that was more to do with the bad timing of the story and a lot of the contrived coincidences in the plot. Also, the fact that Starlight Glimmer's arc was resolved so easily in one season made the sixth frustrating to enjoy as a whole, even with the good episodes here and there. But, in hindsight, the finale came from a season where lackluster writing was to be expected.

Secrets and Pies? This came from a season where the writing was expected to be an improvement, and the fact that it was two episodes shy of the finale made it all the more frustrating. It becomes even more so when you consider how poorly Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie were handled. The former is an insensitive jerk, and the latter is a creepy stalker; neither are sympathetic in the slightest!

If you're a fan of either character, stay away from this one. It's a complete insult to the show's theme, there's the unfortunate implication of Rainbow Dash's and Pinkie Pie's friendship being destroyed (as well as the former potentially ending up being one of the worst characters of the show), and the ending is terribly convoluted. All of that makes it worse than the most infamous episode of the season...

I don't know if Hasbro or the writers like shooting themselves in the foot, but they've done this quite a lot since season five. The 100th episode being a complete mess of "story", Luna coming off as potentially endangering Equestria again through self-harm, Diamond Tiara coming off as unsympathetic (and being overshadowed by the Crusaders getting their cutie marks because reasons...), Starlight's backstory being terrible, Friendship Games being wasted potential, Rainbow Dash joining the Wonderbolts being anti-climactic and mean-spirited, Thorax being a complete disappointment of a character, the aforementioned To Where and Back Again, Flash and Sunset's "dynamic" coming from an out-of-nowhere bit of dialogue in the first movie (and having no pay off), and Sunset returning to Equestria just to bring Starlight into the human world and be the big hero yet again. Fame and Misfortune itself can be added to that pile.

There were (and probably are, in fact) better ways for Hasbro to respond to audience criticisms, a lot of which are actually fairly genuine. This is not one of those, and it comes off as a Mane Six Torture Porn. Even sadder is that they're all actually in character for the most part. If Larson had actually stuck to his guns and wrote the episode he wanted to write, it could've been much better as well. Oh, and by being a season five leftover, it uses "jokes" which have long since lost their significance. And speaking of season five...!

There was so little to talk about here that I practically struggled to find anything I thought was worth talking about. In fact, this was probably one of those episodes that felt like repetitive humor was forced in just to pad out the episode to 22 minutes. That, and cherry-picking its own continuity. How could anyone have conveniently forgotten that Pinkie could've asked anyone from the Crystal Empire to help?

The only good thing I can come up with is that you can easily forget Not Asking for Trouble ever happened. It's practically a filler episode and... well... I don't know what else to say. It just sucks as a whole.

Here's some behind the scenes insight for you; I was going to give the episode a 4/10, but when I rewatched it for the sake of reviewing, a bigger problem occurred to me, so I settled with giving it a 2/10.

A fair number of you were surprised that I gave it such a harsh rating, but consider, if you will, how I feel about the "dynamic" between Flash Sentry and Sunset Shimmer. This is the exact same problem with Sunburst and Starlight. The episode gives me no reason to even care for their friendship. At all. Yep, it's yet another case where Hasbro and/or the writers shoot themselves in whatever feet they have left (along with giving the latest Equestria Girls online "series" a two or three minute runtime  instead of ten... because why not) - heck, the ankles are probably gone by now.

Also, I don't really see why Sunburst has a fanbase of his own; he's literally everything fans complained about Flash Sentry - bland, uninteresting, and pointless. Sunburst is practically style over substance, and you could literally forget he existed if not for his role in Shadow Play (more on that later). If Starlight got bullied for not having a cutie mark in her teens and resented that she got hers so late, The Cutie Re-Mark would've been largely the same, and the ending would've been even better! Sunburst's inclusion very much shot the story in the head.

Okay, getting back to Uncommon Bond, the theme displayed here is okay for the most part. Twilight and Maud do shine with the character they have - heck, even Trixie probably had a few great moments - and Starlight is fairly relatable. But apart from that, this episode was just a complete slog to sit through, and by the end of it all, I was thinking, "that's it?"

As the last entry of the bottom five, these are my two tips for seasons eight and nine:
  1. Don't write in subplots if A) they have no bearing on the main plot, and B) they're included just to pad out the runtime.
  2. Don't write the story's characters solely to teach the moral.
Those, to me, are the biggest downfalls of this episode. If they cut it down to two acts, and if Trixie learned to better herself and that carried over onto her later appearances, this probably would have worked better. At least Starlight was actually relatable here, and that this felt like a starting point for her getting better in terms of character, even if this episode was frustrating at best.

It says a lot about season seven's quality when an episode merely ranked a 6/10 barely reaches the #20 spot. The plot isn't really all that good, especially since it's loaded with cliches, but the characters' strengths barely prevent it from being outright mediocre. And actually, this is pretty much an issue with Josh Hamilton's writing; the conflict in the story comes off as contrived at the best of times, and it kind of leaves you wondering who we're meant to root for by the episode's ending.

Same problems, same writer, different episode. However, what makes this one marginally better is that there's a clearer idea as to what Hamilton was actually intending.

That being said, it served as a strength and a weakness to this episode, especially in the ending. Maybe if there was a clearer idea as to who we're meant to root for at the end, as well as having Rainbow Dash's parents show a bit of restraint in their support for their daughter, this would probably rank higher. As it stands, it's merely passable.

I still believe this episode is held down by a thin plot, but then again, isn't My Little Pony generally viewed as a slice of life series? That said, it's the strength of the characters that serve to give this episode legs to stand on. Most of them, anyway. And yes, it is an improvement over Fame and Misfortune, but it's only at #18 on the list mostly due to the quality of this season. However, for the most part, there isn't a whole lot I can say that I haven't.

One other thing though; can we have an episode where Twilight's parents come to Ponyville and/or interact with another of the Mane Six's parents? I think you'd have a great episode with an idea like that!

Honestly, I'm surprised at how well this episode holds up. Despite there being a problem with Pinkie Pie being annoying - but then again, she does have a reputation for being written inconsistently - this is still a good episode on its own merits. Again, I haven't much to add to what I've already said, and even though this doesn't make my personal Top 10, Rock Solid Friendship is an episode you can't overlook.

Have I mentioned that the Crusaders have been outstanding characters in the past few years? This episode is why. They're growing up and it especially shows with how much their voices have deepened slightly since Call of the Cutie.

As I said in the review, there was a missed opportunity to have Starlight assist the Crusaders since A) she's never fully interacted with them, and B) she could've helped Rumble through her own experiences with cutie marks.

Other than that, it's a great episode with some really strong themes. And yeah, Rumble's behavior in this episode isn't going to be to everyone's tastes and that's fair enough, but at least he's got more charisma than other characters I could mention... (I'm looking at you, Sunburst!)

This was another surprisingly good episode, especially given how much I loathe Thorax as a character. Heck, this puts his debut episode to shame!

Something I didn't notice until after I posted the review was that Trixie's role would be considered useless and she could be cut out entirely. I... kind of agree and kind of disagree at the same time. Yes, she didn't do much in the plot, but given the events of To Where and Back Again, I figure she probably went along with Starlight to the hive to see Thorax since she missed out on the events of Triple Threat. (Insert "Headcanon accepted!" quote here.)

But on the whole, there's not much else to say. And it only gets better from here...!

I think it's safe to say this episode is extremely divisive among the fandom. Heck, it's probably one of the most divisive of the show. I can see both sides of the argument, but honestly? I see it as something of a guilty pleasure in hindsight, so I can't really bring myself to tear it a new one especially since I've already torn Legend of Everfree to shreds.

But really, I seemed to talk more about the current state of Equestria Girls (and believe me, Better Together is a load of trash) than I did the actual episode. I'll admit I tend to go for digressions in my reviews, but that was probably the biggest in any review I've written thus far.

As for Big Macintosh being paired up with Sugar Belle? No, I'm not too much bothered by it. Yes, it's out of nowhere; yes, the way they got together came off as strange; and yes, romance shouldn't be utilized as a plot point for an MLP episode... but to be honest, they have more chemistry and charisma together in one episode alone than Flash and Sunset ever did for the last four years. And there are implications that he might end up with Sci-Twi...

On whole, even if I can see where people who dislike it are coming from, I can't really bring myself to hate this episode. It may not rank very highly among the 9/10s, but I suppose it could be good for a few laughs if you're in the right mood.

How appropriate; the first episode of the season is in the dead middle of the list. Even though there are episodes this season that have more narrative and substance, this was still a great opener to the season and a surprisingly relaxed one as well, especially given how weary I was for the show's future. But of course, I get why fans would find it a boring start to an otherwise solid season. For me, the strength lies in the humor, characterization for Celestia, and the heartwarming moments.

The episode's theme is a rather personal one to me. I generally want to be as honest as possible, but sometimes, I need to show some restraint so I'm not hurting anyone unintentionally. I figure that may have been because I posted this immediately after an analysis on Flash and Sunset's dynamic.

What kept this from getting a 10, however, was that Applejack's bluntness seemed rather over the top. Yeah, Rarity did ask her for her opinions, but did Applejack really need to take it that far? Granted, it does lead to the episode's message, but still.

I figure it's also worth mentioning as to how much the judges' reactions seemed shockingly akin to how Thomas fans react to opinions that don't line up with theirs. Sure, this episode was being produced long before the Thomas fanbase exploded, but the similarities are pretty disturbing, to say the least...!

Everything else is really good, however; though I wish they'd stop giving us Applejack/Rarity episodes every season. This dynamic has gotten old, really fast.

Missing the Top 10 by one spot is one of the first episodes leading up to the finale. I'm sure that when it first came out, it was largely dismissed as an okay, filler episode. But this episode is more than that.

It's great that there's continuity within the episode, especially if you watched Sleepless in Ponyville before this, and although there isn't much to the Crusaders and their sisters (sister figure, in Scootaloo's case) being stuck in the cave, it's still charming in its own way.

The stories being told themselves are fantastic as well. Yeah, they're the main focus of the episode, but with so little you could do with being stuck in a cave, what other option was there? Plus, the themes presented in each of them are great. But now, let's get to my personal top 10 episodes of season seven... the big ones!

To be honest, I don't think I should've given Discordant Harmony a 9. Given how this had pretty much nothing wrong with it, I feel I should've ranked this one higher - at least to the #6 spot with a rating of 10.

This is also a similar problem with Fluttershy Leans In. In fact it's probably the weakest MLP episode I've given a 10.

There's nothing wrong with either review that I've made, but in hindsight, I feel I've ranked Fluttershy Leans In so highly because I was unsure what the rest of the season would bring, and nearly every episode in the Top 10 came after this episode. I could've swapped its rating around with Discordant Harmony so the Fluttershy episode would be at #10 and the Discord episode at around #6, but the reason I didn't was for the sake of consistency.

On Equestria Daily, it was Somnambula who was ranked the best of the Pillars of Equestria, and I think it's easy to see why. The theme about not giving up hope is one anyone can relate to, I'm sure, and it's another one I can personally relate to. And the fact that Somnambula relied on hearing rather than sight is impressive and could also be relatable to the blind.

It does, however, also suffer from being a bit similar to previous Daring Do-centric episodes, but since each of them had a different message, that's only a minor complaint. Daring Done? is enjoyable to watch, and that's good enough for me.

This is probably the best episode to date by first-time writers. And again, there is very little I can say that I haven't. Flurry Heart is adorable and charismatic for someone of her age, and her bonding with Aunt Twilight is heartwarming. No major complaints here apart from an issue regarding how baby ponies look in the show.

Since I reviewed this about two weeks ago, I'll keep this brief. It's the best finale since Twilight's Kingdom, and it shows that once again, My Little Pony is in good hooves. I'm wondering if season eight can lead on from this really well and maybe show a redemption arc for both Star Swirl and Stygian...

I don't know if I mentioned this to anyone, but I'm not a fan of MLP going for style over substance in their episodes. (And even less so with their characters, but that's a topic for another day.) Slice of Life and a majority of the Equestria Girls productions post-Friendship Games flopped for me because it felt like the gimmicks took priority over the story.

But this episode? There was a gimmick with Rarity's punk look, but it didn't feel out of place and actually tied into the moral really well. I still feel they could've carried it over onto a few episodes, but we got what we got.

And when it comes to Rarity, there is little chance of getting her character wrong when she's the lead. I don't know if this is her best episode to date, but Mane Thing is definitely well in the Top 5, and it's even more surprising that it showed a chance of redemption for Josh Haber.

And speaking of writer's redemption, it was during season six that the Fox brothers had a fantastic start with The Gift of the Maud Pie, but sadly, it was downhill from there, but then Forever Filly and Discordant Harmony came around.

You know, it's been a recurring theme for season seven to take previous ideas and either improve on them, or take a different angle. For example, Once Upon a Zeppelin, as I mentioned earlier, is an improved Fame and MisfortuneDiscordant Harmony takes a different angle on Lesson Zero; and this episode is a vastly improved Somepony to Watch Over Me.

But on the whole, I think the review speaks for itself. It's got a fantastic theme that can transcend to all families young and old.

You know what? I think this one has been given enough praise (even from me), so let's move on. The review will speak for itself.

And so we get to the "pear" of episodes that have been consistently singled out for praise. It's really difficult to decide what's the best thing about The Perfect Pear; is it the guest performances of William Shatner and Felicia Day? The song? The Romeo and Juliet vibes? The bittersweet ending? But really, everything about this is simply wonderful.

For most people, this would be #1. But for me? There's one more episode on this list that I haven't covered...

This episode is one I will forever see as a miracle until the day I die or when Generation 4 comes to an end (and that may be sooner than we think). Whichever comes first.

I know people will complain (because of course they can) about Starlight switching the sisters' cutie marks, but honestly? It doesn't bug me that much. Starlight wanted to understand why Celestia and Luna were mad with each other and tried to approach it rationally, but she switched their cutie marks because the argument was escalating, so she had to intervene before it got worse. I'm sure all of us have been there at least one point in our lives.

And more recently, there's been similarities between this episode and Emily in the Middle, only it's less than half the length, Emily takes the role of Starlight, and Donald and Douglas take the role of the royal sisters. However, the Thomas episode suffers for a couple of reasons:
  1. It's a pretty blatant retelling of Love Me Tender from the previous season with Emily and other characters sprinkled on top. Sure, her role in the episode is great, but...
  2. ...there is only so far you can take Donald and Douglas as argumentative brothers. They don't always need to be tied together (especially not in winter episodes), and their personalities are far more nuanced than the current writers seem to think thus far! Yes, this was done back in seasons six and seven, but at least try a little more variety with them in future episodes (which they will appear in, regardless of what certain fans think).
Getting back to A Royal Problem; the episode itself really shines during the third act. With Starlight feeling like she's failed her mission, we get to see a really epic battle between Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, as well as explanation as to why Celestia rarely uses her magic in major battles like we saw in A Canterlot Wedding - she doesn't want to hurt anypony after the battle with Nightmare Moon.

When it comes to favorites and least favorites, I always try to explain best as I can to why I feel this way. So what makes A Royal Problem my favorite episode of season seven? Well, I could say that it's because it oozes with charm, but that's a bit like saying "the best Equestria Girls: Better Together short is Blah Blah Blah because it's the least rubbish", but that's not really a good explanation, is it?

There is a lot about A Royal Problem that makes it work as a whole; there was not a single moment where I was feeling annoyance or anger. Getting to the "oozing with charm" comment, I believe much of it lies in the three lead characters, especially when you consider their reputations - Celestia being labeled as a tyrant by the fandom, Luna potentially threatening Equestria again with the ending of Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?, and very much the entirety of Starlight's season six arc. So, I think it's safe to say that Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco did all three characters justice in one episode alone. They did quite well with Celestia in Celestial Advice, but they did a fantastic job with her here.

A Royal Problem is the first in what I can consider the "we're doing what we can to make MLP great again" trilogy, and I include The Perfect Pear and Shadow Play in it. All these episodes together feel like some kind of renaissance for the franchise, especially given the dip in quality that was seasons five and six. Sadly, there's always the groups of people who say the show should've ended at season four and that everything after is inferior (it is true for some shows, even if they do eventually improve at some point down the road; good luck sitting through season ten of The Fairly OddParents).

But what really cements this episode as the best of season seven in my opinion is that it feels like, for the first time in ages, Starlight Glimmer actually feels like a genuine character. Granted, there were hints in All Bottled Up and Rock Solid Friendship, but this is the first time it's more blatant to the audience.

Overall, A Royal Problem is an absolute joy to sit through. It's got funny moments, dramatic moments, strong characters, a wonderful villain, and to date, it is the only episode worthy of challenging Twilight's Kingdom as my favorite episode in all of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. What's not to like about it?

Final Thoughts
Season seven was not a perfect season. It definitely had an episode with some of the worst themes of the entire show, a couple more episodes feel pointless, some characters don't come off as well-rounded, likable and/or sympathetic, and four of the five songs come off as merely forgettable at best and painfully ear-grating at worst. And it's also getting harder to keep track of who's writing for the show.

However... the positives do outweigh the negatives by a lot. Most of the themes in the episodes are fantastic (even if some were re-hashed), Starlight got better as a character, the expanding lore is amazing, the Mane Six feel like real characters again (even Rainbow Dash to an extent), there's a lot of character growth to those who've been around since the first two seasons, and we've also got some variety within the episodes.

Do I think it's of equal quality to season four? Not really. Even though season four had only two episodes that were sub-par at best, season seven had five, and two of its episodes got negative ratings. That being said, season seven is a step in the right direction for My Little Pony. Let's hope that season eight can follow up on that, but let's try not to set expectations too high...

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 10 My Little Pony Characters That Were DOA

Well, 2017 has been an interesting year, to say the least. No, I haven't finished up my season seven overview cause I'm pretty much struggling to find anything I could say that I haven't yet. Suffice it to say it'll be delayed for at least a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, to fill the gap, here's another collaborative post I did with The Super Mario Brony.

A couple of notes here; bold text is said by yours truly, and that italicized text is said by Tyler. Also, it was written prior to December, so forgive us if information is dated.

Remember the post earlier this year where Tyler and I listed potential ways that 2017 could salvage or sink MLP? Well, one of the kills for MLP was that they brought back characters that were unlikable from the get-go.

Now that all of Season 7 has aired (not to mention anything recent in the EG spinoff franchise), we'll be looking at those characters that could've gained themselves likability or potential within them, but in the end, didn't end up getting what they could've gotten.

Like many of our previous character lists, any character from both Friendship is Magic and Equestria Girls is fair game.

And these characters we'll be mentioning make the cut, mainly due to poor writing and poor characterization. Therefore, we're not including characters that weren't trying to gain a cult following from many of us in the fandom, nor any characters that purposefully meant to be unlikable by our standards. (i.e. Svengallop)

Okay, I realize this choice to kick off our list is a bit contentious, to say the least. But really, it was all we could think of to avoid a Top 9. That, and if we included a certain green-haired jackass that shall remain nameless, it would've been too obvious. Anyway, Derpy Hooves.

Everyone has often adored her for her many background appearances, and her shining roles in Slice of Life and Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?. (Even if her role in The Last Roundup strangely came out as controversial amongst disabled people) But quick question: "For a show that actually develops many of its characters, do minor characters like Derpy deserve so much love JUST CAUSE she makes 'interesting' background appearances throughout so many episodes?"

And this is pretty much a spoiler for the rest of the list, but I'll comment on it anyway; to fully care about a character, they need to be made relatable to the audience. They don't necessarily need complex backstories for us to care; just enough character to feel relatable. Derpy... hmm, how do I put this politely? ...kind of doesn't.

And yes, we get that background characters aren't meant to develop themselves, but do they really deserve some attention when they're not playing major roles? The answer to that... is a big fat NO.

To best sum these characters up, they have about as much wasted potential as a group of baddies in The Muppets movie (of 2011) known specifically as (for those of you who've seen and know what we're talking about) The Moopets.

Based off the trailers of Friendship Games, it looked as if they were going to be the Anti-Human Five (we'll come to the former sixth member later). Seems like a cool idea, right?

Ha-ha! ...nope.

Yeah, it have been somewhat nice to see them shine with at least SOME decent quality in Dance Magic, but what about their parts in Friendship Games?

They contributed literally nothing, their personalities were as interesting as a brick wall, and all they did was just stand there and looked pretty. Sorry, but good looks don't make good characters. As for why they aren't higher? Like I said, they had potential, but it wasn't utilized within the 72 minute time frame; there's no excuse for not trying.

Admittedly, we don't think Sunburst is necessarily a "bad" character per se... BUT, we did say characters who tried gaining a cult following amongst the fandom that had poorly executed characterization or writing overtime (or just hardly ANY of the two said qualities for that matter), right? And unlike his childhood friend Starlight (who earned TONS of it in a good way during Season 7 surprisingly), Sunburst suffered both of those qualities for various reasons.

It isn't helped that whilst Starlight had some interesting qualities in The Cutie Map, Sunburst had none from the get go.

If you want a pony who's really great with magic, you have Twilight, Starlight and Sunset, and the latter's basically an EG-exclusive character. If you want somepony that's a foalhood friend to a major character, you've got Moon Dancer. If you want an introvert character, you've got Fluttershy who's gained some great development, as well as Coco Pommel and Maud Pie.

And you might make the argument that he gained some in Uncommon Bond to an extent, but the way we both see it, it's kind of a part of one of our kills on 'Making Plots and Character Development More Random than Original'.

Does Sunburst have any chance of gaining any character in season eight or nine? (And yes, a ninth season has been confirmed.) I don't know, but if that were the case, it won't take away the fact he went through two seasons without any real character. You have 26 episodes to work with.

We've made it pretty clear over the years that we HATE Starlight's partner-in-crime, Trixie.

When she started off in Boast Busters as a selfish showoff who was just trying to gain the attention of literally everypony in Ponyville, she was just unbearable that we wished she would just never come back for another episode (much like other entries we're discussing on the countdown). But when she learned a lesson after Twilight saved her, she got her comeuppance in admitting it aloud. In Magic Duel (which was rather good no matter how much we still loathe her), she was a real threatening villain what with that Alicorn Amulet possessing her, where it was the amulet that made her worse than usual, but not where she wanted every evil thing to be the way she made it entirely.

But when Season 6 started off with No Second Prances, then that's where not only a protagonist like Twilight was derailed, but also where her bloody irritating persona became TEN TIMES WORSE! Her showoff attitude and constant bragging about how better she was than a lot of other characters in Boast Busters was already annoyingly terrible enough, but an episode where she tries to plot against Twilight through the use of her new "friend" that is Starlight? Unacceptable! And her role in To Where and Back Again makes no difference as she deserves more development for herself to justify her past transgressions just as Starlight has now done.

In Season 7, she was no different as she was still the same annoying pony she was back then, even when All Bottled Up had the right to characterize her into learning yet another lesson. But what about her role in To Change a Changeling? Well it's rather enjoyable seeing Starlight being her voice of reason, rather than for her to try and portray herself as somepony new (which there was no change in her character at all when the episode came around). (And I didn't mention the season premiere that is Celestial Advice since it focused more on Starlight and Celestia than her, even though awarding her, Starlight, Discord, and Thorax medals was one small point of the plot to start the season off)

So yeah, she might be Starlight's friend, and had a good role in Magic Duel, but you know what? We can look past her on being Starlight's friend, but not her irritating persona as she is still THE most annoying pony in MLP history. As for any last hopes she has? Yeah, I got nothing...

Speaking of one-note characters, does anybody even remember Plaid Stripes? ... No? Then you've pretty much figured out the problem we have with her; she's annoying at worst, and forgettable at best.

And what about her own father, Mr. Stripes?

Well, Mr. Stripes seems obviously biased about his daughter having a job.

And yeah, there's no point as to bringing them back, since one's nonsensical while the other loathsome in every manner of a character. So what else is there to say, other than if they attempt to come back, we doubt they'd do something redeemable?

Even after he made amends with Pinkie in Ponyville and with other ponies in Season 5's Party Pooped, Prince Rutherford still stands out as a detestable character who's easy to loathe.

The fact that he was a stubborn jerk in Not Asking for Trouble makes it worse. I suppose I get the message they were trying to go for, but the way it was presented makes the episode one of season seven's weakest.

How you'd approve of him even after he makes amends with other characters throughout the series besides Pinkie Pie and the rest of the Mane Six is beyond us, but these stereotypical jerks have to be characters who literally have no hope for themselves whatsoever. And to give off a little FYI to any writer who's gonna TRY to impress us with them and their current characterization; Pfft. Yeah, good luck! 😠

Timtin Sprieber could've been a contender on the countdown, but because he didn't try to gain that much of a cult following during Everfail, we have to give that dishonor to his sister, Gloriosa Daisy (or, as I like to call her based on how bankrupt she and her villainous motives are; Maleficent Daisy).

There's not a whole lot I could say about her that I haven't. Stupid motivations, not thinking clearly, and practically getting away with terrorizing the campers make Gloriosa rank very high on the list. Seriously, Camp Everfree is run by incompetent counselors who can't row a boat to save their lives.

And if we need to make our selves very clear; just because we didn't mind a similar villain being done before her, doesn't mean we want that particular villain recycled through another character... like her! Cause literally, Maleficent Daisy does it the wrong way. So give us more ideal villains than just the same one over and over again after Sunset's original evil self, Hasbro!

Yep, you saw her coming. And she's only at #3 on the list. The short version is that she is NOT who Twilight is supposed to be. The long version? Twilight is supposed to be a brave, confident, wise character. Sci-Twi is none of these things.

And we've summed up her whiny, crybaby-ish persona more than once, but what about any last hopes she has?

Well, they could do what they should've done from the start by pairing her with Flash, but... nope. They do nothing for the poor guy (yes, nothing - don't even bring up a "shipping" that was also DOA) and replace him a character that's everything fans complained about, except ten times worse. She's a lost cause by this point.

And besides, sometimes even good characters can add charm to bad ones in some way, shape, or form. (At least most of the time)

So you gotta imagine Hasbro would have better ideas for EG characters, but, unfortunately they haven't in recent times because Juniper Montage was in the EG specials that became a thing right after the spinoff went downhill - especially what with Legendary Everfail. We also like to think of this brat as the Arianna Grande of MLP characters.

I've already done an analysis post on the bespectacled brat, but to sum it up, Juniper might've been a good character if A) she wasn't a cliched villain, and B) she actually brought something new to the table. Juniper did neither, and it says a lot when fans can make better characters than her.

And since the spinoff has just died completely after the specials, there's really no point at making anymore nonsense out of it, cause literally other than Sunset and Flash (to an extent), there are no other characters worth bringing to the table since they're all just unbearably derailed for the worst.

I've yet to compile a list of my Top 10 worst characters of MLP. Whilst Thorax would undeniably be on the list, he also receives the "honor" of having the biggest amount of wasted potential.

Thorax also earns our top spot for his characterization and lack of development he has earned overtime. In fact, here's a brief list if you all will of the characters who seriously put his story arc to absolute shame: Sunset Shimmer, Discord, Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity, Spike, Star Swirl the Bearded, the CMCs, the Wonderbolts, Lord Tirek, Pharynx, Trixie Lulamoon, Cadence, Shining Armor, Cheese Sandwich, Pear Butter & Bright Mac, Grand Pear, Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, Moon Dancer, Vapor Trail & Sky Stinger, Celestia, Colortrua, Maud Pie, the Dazzlings, Coco Pommel, Daring Do, Trouble Shoes, Gilda, Babs Seed, Rockhoof, Mistmane, Flash Magnus, Somnambula, Mage Meadowbrook, Princess Luna, the Rich family, the Pie family, Queen Chrysalis, King Sombra, the Hooffields and McColts, Stygian/Pony of Shadows, Twilight Velvet & Night Light, Sunburst, Our Town ponies, the yaks, the breezies, Silver Shill.

Yeah. Even Starlight's story arc is better than Thorax's story arc.

We could go on for ages as to why they all work (in most cases), but, to make a long story short, Thorax's story arc was a flop from start to... whenever it ends. He couldn't even stand up for himself in his debut and when he next appeared in the season six finale, his changes were just handed to him on a silver platter.

And yes, To Change a Changeling may have been surprisingly good to us while anything else where Thorax plays a major role in is either average (Triple Threat) or just... well, bad (The Times They Are A Changeling), but his messed up arc was also one of those causes of TCaC's imperfection.

All that said, if Thorax had been assertive in standing up for himself in his debut, he could've been an interesting character, but... nope. This has been Zack Wanzer, and Tyler Smith, and we'll see you in the new year 2018!