Here we see Carrot Top and Berry Punch chatting as Starlight and Trixie return to Ponyville. Berry's in the middle of describing to Carrot Top how, while walking home from the bar last night, she observed a swarm of changelings descend upon the town, abduct several of the community's most prominent members, and fly off to parts unknown carrying the screaming Twilight and company and leaving behind several of their own number in disguise. Carrot Top, in turn, observes that changelings aren't exactly the most subtle of species, but that it could be worse. The fact that Twilight's shenanigans rarely result in the town being destroyed these days is a step up, at least. Both agree that the whole situation will probably sort itself out by tomorrow.
Later in the day, the two of them went to each of the "main six" in turn, demanding the fifty bits back which "we totally loaned you last week."
Episode thoughts, below the break.
Unfortunately, this was mostly another "eh" episode for me, with a few moments of "are you kidding me" sprinkled in amongst them.
I've been thinking about the "eh" thing the last few weeks--as I mentioned a little while ago, it's been my reaction to the last few episodes, but I don't think the problem is that I'm sick of pony (I still like the old episodes, there are still things in the episodes I like, etc.). I think a lot of it comes down to setting.
One of the big draws of early FiM was the setting: Equestria was a unique fantasy world in many ways, and early episodes like Winter Wrap-Up, Fall Weather Friends, and the like explored the way in which the denizens of Equestria interacted with their land. Other episodes explored this in a more subtle way--I'm highlighting a couple of the most obvious examples, here--and collectively they helped flesh out a milieu that was both fantastical and original.
The more recent episodes simply haven't done that. Either their setting contributions are cookie-cutter (the bunyip a few weeks back is the definition of generic outside of "loves cucumber sandwiches," which is... well, it's not exactly a vibrant contribution to the land of Equestria, is what I'm saying. Compare to, say, the cockatrice, which managed to be more original and organic despite being fundamentally more derivative to begin with), or have been left unexplored. The latter is my issue with a lot of the changeling land stuff today. A castle/hive that literally changes should be a brilliant addition to lore... but instead, we see doors open and close a few times after its first mentioned, and then the entire concept is promptly ignored. How easy would it be to make the changelings' ability to move freely through a castle that none of the heroes (except Thorax) can navigate? Incredibly! Likewise, the throne ends up being a mere plot device--when the entire journey is built around "get to the throne and destroy it," the fact that nothing is done with the throne (history, crucial foreshadowed weakness or vulnerability (not "Thorax told us the weakness," mind--foreshadowed),narrative importance to its destruction beyond "plot device reasons, all of the above...) terribly disappointing to me.
Meanwhile, characters were a mixed bag for me. I still can't really enjoy Starlight as a character, especially anything that references her past (like going back to Our Town), because it just calls attention to the fact that her redemption didn't work. I mean, I didn't like the way Twilicorn was handled at the end of S3, but it didn't change any of the characters' personalities, so it hasn't been a show-ruining experience for me going forward. But Starlight's redemption did change her, the main six, and apparently her old minions in terms of attitude and outlook, and it remains a hurdle to enjoying seeing her onscreen that I can't quite seem to clear.
On the plus side, Discord is great! Trixie... I'd have liked her less whiny and more haughty, but her and Discord were great trading barbs. Thorax was a plot device not a character, so he doesn't count. That's not an insult--there's nothing wrong with a secondary character being nothing but a plot device. Though as it happens, I think he was a bad plot device, which brings me to the ending.
Here's the thing: I like the idea that "if changelings could learn to share love, they would never go hungry again." It's a great ironic twist, and could tell us a lot about how changelings view themselves. But, you know, it only works in two scenarios: one, if it's so unthinkable/impossible for changelings to do that it's never happened before, or two, if it does happen on a semi-regular basis (but presumably is aggressively "addressed" by the queen and the other changelings). Instead, the show gave us a world where "sharing love" is something anyling can do with minimal effort simply by being told to try it, and somehow, this is a shocking, new development. This incredibly obvious, so-easy-it-probably-could've-happened-by-accident thing just never came to pass until a few ponies showed up and it was narratively convenient for them.
That's my biggest issue with the episode, really, and it's where my "are you kidding me" moments all come from: things just happening because that's what the narrative requires, without the slightest consideration for common sense. I'm not even talking about stuff like Chrysalis expositing her evil plan to the faux-main six for no reason other than so Starlight can hear it--that I can at least pass off as storytelling shorthand. I'm talking about the changelings being able to simultaneously capture a dozen or more of the most important ponies in Equestria, despite their continued incompetence when it comes to blending in (between Cadence, Spike and the main six, we're now eight-for-eight on "changelings are totally unable to act remotely like the ponies they're mimicking), never mind the complexity of pulling off a heist with that many moving parts and opportunities for exposure in the first place. About "sharing love" being as quick, simple, and absolute as flicking a lightswitch. About Thorax
And let's not even touch the issue of changeling agency. Every member of the species (or at least, every single one in the castle, it appears) instantly chooses the "flip your species" route? I wish we could have at least had three or four lines of uncertain back-and-forth from a few changelings first--something to suggest that any of them put a modicum of thought into this, or were exercising their free will rather than simply reacting and/or following orders.
Looking back on the season, my feelings are similar towards it as they were towards season three. There were a few bad episodes, a bunch of okay ones, and a few that I liked... but nothing that's going to be make my short list of favorites. After season five, which felt like an improvement, that's a disappointment to me--especially when there were a lot of episodes in there that, in the abstract, I feel like I should have liked more than I did.
Maybe the bloom really is off the rose. Or maybe the show's as good as ever, and I'm just not seeing it the way I used to. Whatever the case, this episode at least doesn't have me feeling particularly nervous going into next season--that's nice! I guess we'll see what comes next, after enjoying a long