Well, after another long hiatus, new pony episodes are finally here. Just like last year, I'm going to dedicate a post to commenting on episodes that I found I had a lot to say about, while skipping over those which, for better or worse, stuck out less to me. I don't think it will surprise anyone to know that I have opinions about the season three premier, in any case. Click down below the break for my semi-sorted thoughts.
-To start, my overall opinion: I was underwhelmed. I guess I could best describe my reaction to the episodes as "probably the best that could be expected, under the circumstances." By, "the circumstances," I refer to both my own, sometimes unreasonable, expectations (inflated, in this case, by the long wait since the end of last season), and the general storyline. More on that last bit... now.
-At this point, I think it's safe to say I'm not really a fan of the "epic" episodes, as compared to the more slice-of-life ones. There are a lot of reasons, but perhaps the biggest one for me is that a high-stakes environment doesn't lend itself to the simplistic morals on which the show relies. I mean, the two-parter's message revolved around Twilight's dilemma: should she follow the princess's instructions to the letter, or should she try to do the right thing? Now, if the story built around that dilemma had been something low-key, that would've been fine. But when the stakes involve the subjugation of an entire nation, Twilight's concern with making sure she's the one who delivers the Crystal Heart doesn't just seem childish (which would be fine, by itself), but downright sociopathic. I mean, that she has to think about whether or not to let Spike prevent everypony's enslavement at the hooves of a monomaniacal despot casts her less as someone still learning about friendship than as a cold-hearted monster. The way she dallied, I half-suspected when she relented that she only did so because she realized that Sombra was probably going to end up putting her in shackles along with the rest.
-Speaking of Sombra, he was a major disappointment to me. To see why, let's look at the other three "big" villains (i.e. not Trixie, Flim and Flam, Gilda, and the rest of the "antagonists, but not particularly evil" crowd) and him: Nightmare Moon was a being consumed by jealousy of the Sun, who sought to plunge Equestria into eternal night; Discord was Chaos personified, and intended to upend cause and effect as a raison d'etre; Chrysalis was leader of a race who fed upon love, and invaded Canterlot in order to secure sustenance for herself and her subjects; and Sombra was a unicorn who enslaved the crystal ponies because... he was evil, I guess? And his endgame was...?
See the problem here? The other three all have easily identifiable motivations for their actions, and equally clear goals. Sombra? He's just a midnight-black unicorn with fangs who can turn himself into shadow. That's not a character, that's a physical description.
-One more bit about weaknesses of the episode: characters having deliberately, unrealistically obtuse conversations for the benefit of the audience is a pet peeve of mine, so I was no fan of the portent-filled scenes with Celestia and Luna. Even if there is a satisfying payoff later, I'm still going to be disappointed in the execution here, in the setup phase.
-The highlight of the episodes? I'm going to go with Dash and Fluttershy jousting. Dash's passive-aggressiveness made me laugh out loud; "No Fluttershy, you don't have to keep getting beat up by me... it's just that if you don't, Sombra will win and it will be all your fault..." In fact, a lot of the stuff with the crystal fair(e) worked for me--I guess I appreciated a little bit of levity and light-heartedness in the midst of all the high drama.
-I, for one, am desperately curious as to how the crystal ponies organize their libraries. It would have to be something non-intuitive enough that Twilight couldn't even make a reasonable guess what section a history book might be located in, and since the one she found was apparently in a large section filled with non-history books, it makes me wonder.
-The fact that the crystal ponies are, at times, semi-translucent bothered me more than it should. I mean, you can see right through them, and there's nothing there. No organs, no traces of all that crystal food they were eating, nothing. How does that work?
-Even if it was understated compared to previous celebrations, I liked that Spike finally got some recognition. Being emblazoned on a commemorative stained-glass window's a start, anyway.
-That pink heart-train is starting to really bother me. In its first couple of appearances, I told myself it was just a novelty that ran the Canterlot-Ponyville (and, I guess, Dodge Junction) route, and that any sort of real travel was handled by something like the setup from The Last Roundup. But apparently the saccharine-mobile runs all the way to the frozen tundra in the far north. I guess I'm going to have to get used to it, but that doesn't mean I have to think it's anything other than demographic (and, probably more importantly, merchandise-based) pandering, something I used to be thrilled that the show was so good at avoiding.
-Looking ahead to the rest of the show's announced run: I suspect the remainder of the season will be the same grab-bag of great, bad, and pretty good which the last two were. I can tell you right now, though: the more I hear about it, the less I'm looking forward to Trixie's return. This coming from someone who's always kind of liked her as a character, despite some of the more annoying fanon which has attached itself to her. We'll see.