Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MLP Episode 701: Celestial Advice

Wow, I should've done this a long time ago. Why I didn't do it earlier was for many reasons; dealing with college, fanbase shenanigans, a petty fan over my hatred over Mirror Magic, moving to Oregon, settling down in Oregon, the buzz over Journey Beyond Sodor, and Thomas' 21st season. Because of it, my reviews for My Little Pony's seventh season got pushed into the backburner, and since it's coming to an end by the end of October, I decided to finally haul flank and get it done while I can.

So, without further confusion or delay, let's kick off the first half of season seven, starting with Celestial Advice. And whilst you're reading the review, don't be alarmed by any changes I've made to the format.

Following season six and the atrocity known as Legend of Everfree, I was extremely weary for the future of My Little Pony. I felt it may have gone on for too long and considering that Littlest Pet Shop lasted for four seasons, perhaps MLP could've ended whilst it had the chance. And then we got the surprise that the season premiere was actually two individual episodes rather than the two-part premiere we've come to expect since the very beginning. But was it any good? Surprisingly, yes!

However, I will get this out of the way before getting to the good stuff; the ending feels rather anti-climactic. Starlight insisting on staying with Twilight for a while yet is fine, but it renders everything she's been through between The Cutie Re-Mark and this episode completely pointless, and therefore making season six look like filler (even if one of my Top 10 episodes came from it). It's not helped by the fact that Twilight was barely helpful toward Starlight in said season, the latter could easily have been replaced by anypony, and that the criticisms regarding her were lampshaded.

That aside, let's talk about everything else. The story does move a bit slow - not necessarily a bad thing, and you really don't know what could happen next since this follows To Where and Back Again. It's character driven, and I really appreciate that.

Even though Discord's subplot doesn't add much, he drives Twilight's inner conflict as to where Starlight should go. His rivalry with Trixie is also rather funny as he knocks her ego down a peg or two, and even suggests turning Celestia's castle into cheese (I don't think she'd be too pleased about that, especially if some of the guards had a little nibble!)

Heck, Spike's reactions to Twilight's fantasies as to where to send Starlight are funny as well; he knows it's all in Twilight's head and how much she can exaggerate at times. That's what happens to you when you live with someone like Twilight Sparkle your whole life.

I actually like how the second act was handled. It utilizes the three-strikes formula, sure, but it also adds to Twilight's concern for Starlight's well-being, a huge step up from No Second Prances and especially The Times They Are A Changeling. That being said, the first two fantasies are slightly interchangeable with each other, but the third one with Sunburst was definitely the straw that broke the pony's back.

For me, the best character of the episode was Princess Celestia. After seven seasons, she finally gets major focus for at least half an episode! Sure, she was prominent during the first two seasons, but she wasn't really a major player in, let's say, Call of the Cutie or The Best Night Ever. Rather, she was there to either help deliver the message or drive the plot.

She also does it here, but there's also a bit of added depth to Celestia's backstory leading up to Mare in the Moon. It's wonderfully done, and there's even a minor nod to Amending Fences. (On a side note, please give Moon Dancer an episode! That's all I ask for right now! Either that, or mention Sunset Shimmer in the actual show.)

That being said, when the episode first came out, there was a rather interesting comment on DeviantArt criticizing Celestia's portrayal, which I kind of understand, since MLP has a bit of a reputation for bringing up character backgrounds without proper explanation (looking right at you, Crusaders of the Lost Mark). Sure, Celestia has had many generations of students, but I think there's the possibility that very few students before Twilight had a special bond with her and Celestia may have forgotten. Yeah, she's seemingly at lest a millennia old, but I don't think her memory is perfect either.

And I dare you to say that Celestia and Twilight's moment after the story isn't one of the most heartwarming scenes of the show. Seriously, Twi almost looks up to Celie like a second mother, and even though she's grown up, she still needs her former mentor when she needs help the most.

Final Thoughts
I really hope Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco stay for the foreseeable future. Yes, Legend of Everfree was an unspeakable atrocity, but the girls have shown that they can make the best out of potentially bad ideas or, in some cases, revisit past themes with a new twist on their own, and a couple of episodes further down season seven really show that they do belong on the writing staff.

On the whole, Celestial Advice is a pretty strong start to season seven, and I was dreading watching season seven before it began! However, if the live action Wonder Woman film has taught be anything, it's that even in the bleakest of times for a franchise, there's almost always a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. It's also worth watching this episode for a really funny gag involving Pinkie Pie at the end, so...!

Rating: 9 out of 10

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