Episode Review: My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic (Season 6, Episodes 1 & 2) – The Crystalling
Since it began in 2010, the fourth generation of the My Little Pony cartoon series, has become probably even more popular than in its early incarnation in the 1980’s.
Not only has the show succeeded in finding fans outside of its intended age group, but has spawned numerous fan conventions around the world, a wide-range of toys outside the standard brushable plastic horses, and most surprising: the animated series has just started its 6th season…something that is very rare in this world where most animated series have a shelf-life of around 3-4 seasons before the company pulls the plug.
Following the events of Season 5’s closer, Starlight Glimmer has agreed to Twilight Sparkle’s offer, to be taught about friendship.
Soon, word comes that Shining Armor and Princess Cadance have had their foal, and Twilight and the group head off to the Crystal Empire, to take part in the little one’s “Crystalling” ceremony.
Twilight also decides to use the trip for Starlight to work through a friendship lesson. Her childhood friend Sunburst is also located in the Crystal Empire, and Twilight wishes Starlight to get reacquainted with him.
Season openers for the series have often been about introducing us to new characters or places. Much like the last few seasons, the previous season’s ending, ties into the next season’s opener.
Starlight Glimmer is one of the first characters we see, and given where she has come from in Season 5, she seems to have given herself over wholly, to being schooled by Twilight and her friends.
Watching her nervous reactions to what others might think of her, I was quickly put in mind of another pony/human whose name meant light at the end of the day: Sunset Shimmer.
Those who have seen the Equestria Girls film trilogy, may definitely get some similar vibes of a character who thought she knew her path, but then finds another way…but also has the jitters regarding what she’s done with herself prior to the reformation.
Another notable item is that from the start of the season premiere, it looked like Spike might once again be sidelined in the story (he was out-of-action for season 5’s opener), but he is worked in as a guide for Starlight at times.
This use of Spike put me in mind of some of his early series appearances, when he served as a helper to Twilight during her early studies. This does make me wonder, given how most stories with the ‘Mane 6’ are not quite sure what to do with him, maybe Spike will end up working more with Starlight in the coming episodes.
This 2-parter also delves a bit into the character of Sunburst, whom we saw was a young colt that shaped what Starlight did with her life. Sunburst’s appearance is probably one of the more interesting parts of the story, given that they don’t play all their cards regarding just what his capacities are in regards to magic, and it quickly shows that he isn’t one to spill all his secrets right away.
Of course, the story is also about the “Crystalling” of Shining Armor and Princess Cadance’s baby.
Much like the norm for an an episode with Twilight’s brother and sister-in-law, the two are once again in a state of mental panic, but this time over some additional elements to their little baby.
The show attempts to have some cute fun with this little bundle of joy, but it may remind some of a more out-of-control version of the Cake twins, from Season 2’s episode, Baby Cakes.
Even some of the added accoutrements, may drive a wedge into how far people are willing to believe certain lineages and birthrights, when it comes to babies in this world.
As well, the debate about babies born with big black dotted eyes, or eyes with big pupils, will continue to rage on.
Unlike some of the more familiar names attached to a Season opener, this two-parter is credited as being written by Josh Haber.
Since Season 4, Haber has written 6 episodes over the last few seasons, as well as been the main writer on the last Equestria Girls film, Friendship Games.
Much like Friendship Games, the 2-part Crystalling episode feels like it is telling a big story, but while it tries to be weighty and funny, it feels like it just isn’t able to balance itself in a wholly pleasing way. When it comes to season openers, it doesn’t pack quite the same balance or punch, as Season 2’s Return of Harmony, or Season 5’s The Cutie Map.
Also when it comes to crystal-based environments, Haber doesn’t do much to make the Crystal Empire anymore impressive, than what was done with Crystal Prep Academy and its students in the Friendship Games.
Much like Friendship Games as well, several of the ‘Mane 6’ feel like they’re here just to give lip-service to their characters.
We also get a small appearance by Princesses Celestia and Luna, and for those fans of Luna, we do get to see her doing some stuff…well, for a little bit, anyway. If you are a Luna fan, you’ll most likely savor the moment, and wish it was more substantial.
And lastly, I have an issue with the locale of The Crystal Empire. This cityscape has been touted as a grand new environment in the land of Equestria ever since its introduction in Season 3. Several plotlines have taken place within its boundaries, but even with it appearing in several stories, it has never struck me as interesting a place as Ponyville, or Canterlot (or even Manehattan).
Even when it was utilized as the backdrop for The Equestria Games, it just never struck me as an exciting place, as we only focused on a little area with the sports events.
Maybe in the future, if they can utilize some stories that are on the scale of Rarity Takes Manehattan or Sweet and Elite, I might take the place more seriously. Both of the episodes I just mentioned, gave a little more of a slice-of-life feel to these non-Ponyville locations, and it just feels like it would work perfectly to elevate the Empire in my eyes.
Final Grade: C+ (Final Thoughts: “The Crystalling” continues to add more characters to the show’s roster, while also attempting to expand on the lore of the show. Josh Haber attempts a juggling act that introduces new characters, while bringing familiar faces back into the mix, but produces a 2-part opener that just doesn’t feel balanced overall. The episode feels average in its execution. It doesn’t deliver when it wants us to laugh, and in coming up with some of the more dramatic moments, they never really feel like they have the kind of weight one would expect from them. The one shining spot might be the sub-story in regards to Starlight Glimmer meeting her childhood friend Starburst…but even here, it feels like that story could have been its own self-contained episode)