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Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 21) – Cleaved

Well…here we are. After four seasons and over 76 episodes, it all comes down to this.

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With no way to fully take down the Solarian warriors under Mina Loveberry’s control, Star proposes a radical solution: destroy the magic power that controls them. Star reasons that if she can destroy the Realm of Magic, it will undo the spell her mother (Moon Butterfly) used to help Mina bring the warriors to life.

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However, such a decision comes with a heavy price: not only will Star and others who wield the magic lose their powers, but the dimensional portals the magic controls, will be closed forever, shutting off all access to the majority of Star’s inter-dimensional friends…including Marco Diaz.

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I don’t think any of us thought that when we first saw Star Comes to Earth four years ago, one of the biggest selling-points of the series would end up being the thing that had to be destroyed. At times, Cleaved almost feels on par with season 3’s episode Toffee, given that we’re dealing with the destruction of magic, but in a slightly different context.

While Eclipsa and Moon have parts to play in this story, Star and Marco are front-and-center for the majority of it. We do get to find out what happened to Tom from several episodes ago, though it feels like one of the weaker revelations in this story (almost like the writers needed to get themselves out of a corner, and keep him in the story somehow).

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We also get some fan-related callbacks, as well as some unexpected revelations before the end of the episode, including just what “the whispering spell” incantation is (though it’s true purpose still is unrevealed).

For me, these 22-minute episodes have often been a way for the series to give us more emotional stories, and there is plenty of emotion to be had here (with one moment regarding Moon really getting me ‘right in the feels’). However, I also had to focus my attention on this episode’s story as a whole…and in that sense, Cleaved comes across as a good-but-not-great final effort for Star vs the Forces of Evil.

Maybe if the large, final storyline of the series had been packaged as a 2-hour movie, it might have felt more satisfying. Given what we’re dealing with in the 22-minute time-frame here, things feel a tad uneven, like there’s a rushed attempt to tie up a few loose ends before we get drawn into the final conclusion.

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Speaking of conclusions, I had some ideas just where the story could end, and I was surprised to find I was…maybe, 35% on-the-nose? The other 65% was definitely something I couldn’t have foreseen, but I do feel that some of the stories following the season 4 Coronation episode, were hinting at what the conclusion would be.

In the end, it’s interesting to think how far Star Butterfly has come as a character after 77 episodes. From a hyperactive girl creating flaming rainbows, to a young woman who is willing to make a major sacrifice if it will help others, it has been quite a journey.

This wasn’t the ending I would have envisioned, but from an emotional and dramatic storypoint, Cleaved manages to do a decent job. It didn’t feel quite as satisfying an ending episode as Toffee from last season (or the conclusion to another great Disney animated series: Gravity Falls), but I doubt there will be many upset with how it all turned out.

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Best line from episode (said by Star Butterfly): “Ho-ho-ho, you don’t have any skin!”

Final Grade: B+

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Best line from episode (said by Marco Diaz): “O-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, down goes the zipper.”

When I first started watching Star vs the Forces of Evil over 4 years ago, I noticed a lack of people writing reviews after the first few episodes. That led me to start filling the hole I found online with these reviews of my own. Out of a number of things I’ve written about on this blog, this series is the only one I’ve reviewed from (near) it’s start, all the way to the end.

While Star has not had enough outstanding material to put it up with some of the best animated series I’ve seen, it’s weirdness and acknowledgments of “magical girl” anime, were what kept me watching, and to see what Daron Nefcy could bring to an American-made magical-girl series.

One of my biggest disappointments, was while Star did garner it’s own rampant fanbase online, it seemed that many did not share in a lot of the show’s mysteries that intrigued me. There were not hundreds of people trying to decipher the Mewni alphabet we saw, wonder about the backstory of obscure characters, or try to draw conclusions around the dozens of things we saw that were never given answers to. While the Gravity Falls fandom would have been analyzing everything being thrown at them, the majority of the fandom for Star, seemed more hung up on which of the fanships being shouted about online, was “the one, true faith.”

While I am sad I didn’t really find an all-inclusive community to discuss the show with during it’s run, I was happy that I did have the chance to meet some of the cast and crew.

Along with getting the chance to speak with Daron Nefcy and Dominic Bisignino at The D23 Expo a few years ago, a highlight was running into Adam McArthur outside the convention hall, and getting a one-on-one meeting with him (plus, Marco gave me a Birthday shout-out in one of the show’s livestreams a few years ago too!).

A lot of younger fans have expanded on the series in numerous ways, with all manner of fanart and comics that have shown up online. As for me, I took the ticket and rode the ride as far as the tracks would take me when it came to the series (and the un-finished Joe Books comic series and the two Disney book publications tied into it). Much like how the series Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2 I read in my teens/twenties ended, Star vs the Forces of Evil’s final episode assures us that the adventures will continue, but for us in the visual realms of animation, it seems that the portal has officially closed.

This may not be the end of Star articles for me, as I may do a few more introspection articles on the series, or another Top 10 episode list. For now however, it’s time to wrap up this last episode review for Star vs the Forces of Evil.

Good night, and good luck.

 

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Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 20) – Pizza Party / The Tavern at the End of the Multiverse

As we move into the final episodes of Star vs the Forces of Evil’s fourth (and final) season, it looks like Mina Loveberry is not going to make things easy.

With a massive army of Solarian warriors and major threats to the monsters of the kingdom, things may be taking a turn for the worse in this latest episode.

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– Pizza Party –

In a shocking revelation, Moon reveals that Mina is actually working for her, but promises she can quell Mina’s bloodlust, if Eclipsa surrenders the crown to her, and leaves Mewni, along with Globgor and Meteora.

This story is one where there’s quite a number of revelations and head-butting to be had. It could have easily spiraled out-of-control between several of our characters, and ended up becoming a major shouting match, but I was surprised at how the story managed to weave everything together in a satisfying way. There’s plenty of things going on in this segment, that kept me eager to see what would happen next.

Earlier in the season, I was wondering about Moon’s feelings towards Eclipsa after events in season 3. I had a feeling she might harbor some ill feelings towards Eclipsa, but I definitely didn’t think she was capable of doing what she did. We also see that the Magic High Commission may have also wished Mina to return things to “normalcy,” but it looks like it is more for their benefit, and not that of the kingdom. In a pop-culture sense, it feels like Moon and the Commission, acted like the Mob in The Dark Knight, hiring an unstable individual to take care of their problem…but not realizing just what they were getting themselves into!

One other major surprise is in the opening, where we get a little backstory into who Mina was, before she was drafted into Queen Solaria’s Solarian Warrior program a long time ago. We also get our first animated viewing of Solaria in the flashback as well.

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Best line from segment (said by Eclipsa): “Oh to be perfectly honest, at this point I-I’ll skip the speech and be on my way!”

Final Grade: B

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– The Tavern at the End of the Multiverse –

Before Mina can attack them, Star, Marco, Moon, and Eclipsa are magicked away by Hekapoo, to the Tavern at the End of the Multiverse. The tavern functions as a neutral zone, and Hekapoo feels she’s saved the group from certain death. However, Eclipsa, Moon, and Star do not want to just sit around doing nothing, while Mewni is in peril.

While Moon and Eclipsa have a heart-to-heart over a game of pool, Star is surprised to find Glossaryck at the tavern, and forces him to have a discussion with her.

We also get some “ticking-clock” imagery from Mewni, regarding the fate of the monsters there, as well as what being attacked by a Solarian warrior’s sword can do to a monster (which is so shocking, it even freaks Janna out!).

This segment continues the trend of shocking revelations that we’ve seen over the last few segments. We get some regarding Moon, and a few regarding Star. Star’s revelations though, might be the most emotionally-charged of this entire segment. We get a return to The Grandma Room as glimpsed all the way back in season 2, to discuss something we saw there…and what it may mean for the future of Mewni.

It is very nice to see the writers didn’t waste their final 11-minute segment for the series. The talking that goes on here is quite revelatory, and it never feels like any of the time is being wasted.

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Best line from segment (said by Eclipsa): “My whole, entire life has been ‘a time like this,’ Moon. You learn to enjoy these moments.”

Final Grade: B+

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Eclipsa, in The Tavern at the End of the Multiverse): “That’s it! That’s it! You’re done-you’re all done! Game over!”

And then…there was one. One episode to go, and Star vs the Forces of Evil, comes to an end.

Join me soon, as I review the final episode: Cleaved. At the end of the first season, Glossaryck of Terms mentioned that something can be cleaved in two ways. It can be cleaved apart…or cleaved together.

Just what could this final title possibly mean?

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 19) – The Right Way / Here to Help

On the last episode of Star vs the Forces of Evil, our teenage gang returned to Mewni, and Mina Loveberry threw down the gauntlet, trying to take control of Mewni back from Queen Eclipsa.

It looks like a new Battle for Mewni…has begun.

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– The Right Way –

Things look bleak for Eclipsa and the monsters in her palace, until Star, several of her friends, and a number of Mewni warriors come to her aid.

If last episode’s segment was the wind-up, this one is the pitch, as we see Star and her cohorts attempt to do battle with Mina. Sadly, most just end up as little more than cannon-fodder when going up against her. However, there are a few surprises to be had. There also is a moment which might be Ponyhead’s most sincere declaration ever…but then again, she might just be playing it up big for her Ponyhead Show audience that’s watching the battle.

Star is the stand-out here, utilizing her magic in a way we haven’t seen before. Out of all these characters she is definitely the most powerful, and we see her wage a major fight that gets quite intense at times.

Eclipsa does come into play at one point, as well as one of her spells that was hinted at a few episodes ago. I had a feeling we’d see this used before the end of the season, though what the writers and artists conjure up for the damage the spell can do, definitely makes it quite shocking when we see it in action.

While the battle scenes definitely got my blood pumping, and Eclipsa’s use of a major spell was quite shocking, the up-and-down feeling of emotional momentum in this story kept me from really enjoying it like I was hoping to.

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “RAINBOW KAIJU BATTLE-ARMOR!!!”

Final Grade: B-

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– Here to Help –

It turns out that the giant Solarian warrior that was thought to be Mina…wasn’t. Soon, Mina does show up at Monster Castle, leading a massive army of Solarian-warriors, and giving Eclipsa a time-frame to surrender…or be destroyed.

Things look bleak, until Moon Butterfly, and River Johansen arrive at Eclipsa’s palace, willing to help.

This segment seems to be rife with little ‘group-meetings.’ From Eclipsa and Moon, to Star and Marco, it seems to be a story rife with discussions. There’s even a little bit of discussion between River and Globgor. It’s not much, but it’s rather nice to see that River is still staying the course on giving respect and help to the new King of Mewni.

The writers also choose this segment, to mention some revelations between Star and Marco, from last episode’s Mama Star segment. It may seem a little out-of-place to thrown in such talk with a major battle about to take place, but it feels like this may be the last chance to have a conversation like this one (I won’t lie: my jaw dropped a few times during their conversation).

There also is another major revelation to be had, but like most stories we’ve seen in the series, this happens mere seconds before the story ends, leaving us on a cliffhanger ending.

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “Okay, can we kiss?”

Final Grade: B

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Star Butterfly, in The Right Way): “Mewni has changed. And it’s NOT! CHANGING!! BACK!!!”

Well, it looks like the battle has begun. Next episode, some of the revelations we’ve seen here will be opened up a bit more, and we’ll see just where Mina is going to go with her threats to wipe out the monster population for good.

See you for my next review, on the second-to-last-episode for Star vs the Forces of Evil’s fourth season.

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 18) – Mama Star / Ready, Aim, Fire

Without warning, the last episode of Star vs the Forces of Evil, plunged us into what is surely the big ending storyline of season 4 (and the series!).

This episode continues that storyline, as we find ourselves encountering a number of threats to Mewni, that may make what Toffee attempted, seem like child’s play.

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– Mama Star –

Star, Marco, Tom, and Janna are surprised to find a hidden entrance to the Realm of Magic, underneath Echo Creek! With no other way to get back to Mewni, they take the plunge, but run the risk of losing their minds…and encountering something sinister.

The Realm of Magic has been both fascinating, and frustrating. It’s one of the places I keep expecting to learn more about, but we just get little glimpses of it, and with almost no answers given. Magic in many forms seems to function that way in the show: you’re never given a through line on how it all works.

After the last episode had some “okay” storylines, the direction this one goes in manages to balance between serious, and comedic…and a number of the comedy bits actually made me chuckle!

There’s some serious stuff happening in this place after the events at the end of last season, and it looks like it is going to have a major effect on things. Speaking of “major effects,” there are some things that are said in this story, that will probably make many fan’s faces light up…but whether they will have any bearing on our characters later on, that’s a mystery.

We’re still no closer to fully understanding the Realm of Magic, but this story managed to come off as one of the more entertaining ones that takes place within it’s confines.

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “I need you to lead us through the magic to the Mewni well, and if you don’t, do you really want four goo-goo-brained teenagers who’ve lost their minds running around down here? Yeah, that’s right, we’re teenagers, we’re great at causing problems!”

Final Grade: B+

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– Ready, Aim, Fire –

After the events of the last segment, Star, Marco, and Janna have been scattered across Mewni (as for Tom, we have no clue).

This story functions as a “while you were away” segment, where we see that Mina Loveberry is planning to put her “take back Mewni for the Mewmans” plan into effect, using a massive suit of Solarian warrior battle-armor. Our characters are mainly operating on the sidelines here, acting as liaisons to show us what has happened in their absence.

Surprisingly, Janna is our eyes-and-ears for a good chunk of the segment, as she has arrived at the Monster Palace, just as the battle begins. It is also noteworthy that she stows away her snarky attitude for a good portion of the segment.

A highlight is seeing Globgor in action against Mina, though it doesn’t last long enough for my tastes. I had hoped we’d get to see more out of him after his introduction some time ago, but I guess my hopes were too high there.

Sadly, this story is not as emotionally engaging or as enjoyable as the last story, but maybe this is just to prep us for what is coming in the next episode.

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Best line from segment (said by River Johansen): “That’s okay! I didn’t want a hug too!”

Final Grade: B-

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Tom, in Mama Star): “Whoa…it is hot in here.”

Now that we’re back on Mewni, it looks like we’re all set to have a major, out-in-the-open battle that we haven’t ever seen committed to animation before. See you all back here for my next review.

 

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 17) – Sad Teen Hotline / Jannanigans

It’s been a little odd having Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz back on earth, after having spent quite a bit of time back on Mewni.

However, with 5 episodes to go before the end of the season (and the series altogether), it looks like the writers are revving up their engines, for the end.

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– Sad Teen Hotline –

Tom comes to visit Star on Earth, but while Star is excited to see him, Tom wants to speak to her about their relationship. Things get even more upsetting, when they find that they can’t communicate with, or get back to Mewni!

One thing I have often been interested in (and wish the writers would do more of), are these real-world connections when it comes to relationships. If you’ve been through one, you can clearly see that the persons who are writing this stuff, are putting their experiences into these characters.

There are extra bits of situational comedy worked into the story, though none of them really succeed in working that well. Probably the one that functions well enough, is Mr Diaz’s calling up the Sad Teen Hotline for comfort over Tom and Star’s relationship woes.

There are some decent bits of emotional drama interspersed throughout the story, but it feels like the emotional ennui drags on for a little too long.

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Best line from segment (said by Female Officer): “I’ve never known true happiness, ever since I got dumped over twenty years ago. I ‘m sad a lot.”

Final Grade: B-

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– Jannanigans –

Star, Marco, and Tom are still unable to return to Mewni via their magical conveyances. However, Star soon believes Janna may know a way to get them back. Unfortunately, Janna claims she doesn’t know how she got to Mewni recently, and leads her friends on a journey to jog her memory.

Earlier in the season, Janna suddenly appeared on Mewni without explanation. Given how most unexplained happenings on the show are shrugged off, this was definitely a surprise to me to see this brought up.

One fun moment is getting to see Janna’s home life, particularly her parents (which was definitely not what I expected to ever see, or experience!).

This segment even ends up tying into others we’ve seen, from one in the last episode, to another all the way back in season 3. That season 3 connection was one that I didn’t think was going to have any bearing on the future (though how Star in this scene is able to remember it, feels like some fact-fudging when it comes to the writer’s logic).

Even with those eye-opening connections, this just felt like a rather ‘meh’ Janna story. I sometimes figure Janna is the substitute Ponyhead at times, when the writers needed someone to be annoying to our characters on their quest, and throw a wrench into things.

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Best line from segment (said by Marco Diaz): “Janna, I didn’t realize how much this was affecting you. Plus, I didn’t realize that, you actually had, human emotions.”

Final Grade: C+

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Janna’s mother, in Jannanigans): “I hear Vancouver’s nice.”

Well, it seems like the final story arc of the series, has begun with this very episode! The inter-connectivity of the two segment storylines, seems to guarantee that this might be a story on par with The Battle for Mewni from season 3. We get some emotional turmoil and some surprising callbacks, but this episode has that thankless task of getting the ball rolling, leaving us to hope that where the story ends up, will be well worth it.

Next episode, we return to the Realm of Magic, in Mama Star. Then in Ready, Aim, Fire, a major skirmish begins to take place against Eclipsa. See you soon for the next review!

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 16) – Beach Day / Gone Baby Gone

Now that it seems Mewni is in good hands via Eclipsa and Globgor, Star is all set to just relax on earth with her best friend, Marco Diaz…or is she?

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– Beach Day –

Before The Battle for Mewni took place, Father Time gave Star an instant-camera picture of her and Marco, that was labeled “beach day.” The picture was taken some time in the future, and Star has been waiting to experience the day when the picture was taken. When she sees Marco’s father using an instant camera, she believes that day has finally arrived!

This is quite a fun situational episode. There’s some shades of The Banagic Incident here given how erratic Star is in trying to obtain her goal, but that actually helps make the story more entertaining. Plus, when some of her magic ends up not being compatible with the earth-dimension, she’s forced to handle a few issues like a normal girl.

Marco is kind of dragged along for the ride this time, but the writers manage to make him very entertaining. He obviously knows that the events in the photo mean a lot to Star, and like the old days, he wants to help his best friend have a good time.

It feels like a long time since there has been an 11-minute segment that felt so entertaining from start-to-finish. Most segments for SVTFOE have the habit of not getting good until the story is almost over. Here, there is such an enjoyable flow to the events, even within the last few minutes of the story,  where the logic of what happens may end up twisting viewers’ brains into pretzels.

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Best line in segment (said by Marco Diaz): “How much of my life would be affected by what I choose to do with my zit?…do I have free will?”

Final Grade: B+

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– Gone Baby Gone –

While babysitting both Meteora and his baby sister Mariposa, Marco is surprised when Hekapoo visits. Unfortunately, the portal she came through was left open in Mariposa’s room, and the two babies go through it!

Star and Marco follow, only to find that in the span of a few minutes on earth, the two babies have grown into teenagers in the other dimension, and formed a sisterly bond.

When it comes to adventures into the dimensions where Hekapoo dwells, these kinds of stories are the ones that have proven the most entertaining to me. From Running with Scissors to this one, it feels like there could still be even more entertaining stories to be told in this largely-unknown realm.

Much like how Marco experienced all sorts of (unseen) adventures, so too have Meteora and Mariposa. As they were so young when they first arrived, Star and Marco seem like strangers to them, and they seem somewhat untrusting of these newcomers. The story here feels like it could have been “borrowed” from some anime or manga, right down to the diva-ish baddie that our characters face off against. This type of villain feels rather unconventional, and I think that’s what makes his appearance here so enjoyable.

Just like Beach DayGone Baby Gone has an entertaining story from start-to-finish, and makes me wish we could have possibly gotten a few more stories out of Meteora and Mariposa’s time in this other dimension.

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Best line in segment (said by Meteora): “I don’t know why, but something about you…makes me angry!”

Final Grade: B+

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Brunzetta, in Gone Baby Gone): “Wait…did you summon me all the way out here just to ask for directions?”

After last episode’s rather ‘meh’ segments, this one proved to be quite surprising with it’s stories revolving around time and space. Beach Day delved into resolving a story element that was set in place all the way back at the end of the second season. Gone Baby Gone took a concept that I could never have conceived of, and took a number of characters on an adventure that just kept surprising me at every turn!

As we close in on the final five episodes of Star vs the Forces of Evil, one wonders how things are going to start winding down. Next episode, the first segment titled Sad Teen Hotline, deals with some issues that Tom has with Star. Then, in Jannanigans,we see Janna return to (hopefully) assist our group. See you back here soon!

Episode Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil (Season 4, Episode 15) – Doop-Doop / Britta’s Tacos

Well, after a rather emotional high-point with last episode’s coronation, we return to our regular, two-segmented episode format.

So now, what are those crazy kids gonna do next?

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– Doop-Doop –

Following the events of Eclipsa’s coronation, a number of our main characters have decided to scatter to the winds.

While Marco and Janna return to Earth, Star and Tom decide to take a little vacation. However, Star claims she wants to say goodbye to all her Mewni friends before they go…which seems to take awhile.

This story almost feels like an extended “cameo” segment, wherein we get to see Star and Tom interact with all sorts of characters she wants to say farewell to. The writers also throw in a few that we haven’t encountered before.

What ended up saving the story from falling into “C-grade territory,” was a bit between Tom and Star at the end. What the writers have done with Tom’s character still impresses me, given that it seems he truly has matured beyond his more volatile temper from the beginning of the series. There are some things that are bugging Star, and Tom actually chooses to tackle these issues…by talking!

An okay storyline, but one that feels like it could have used a much better set-up, to get to it’s conclusion.

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “Mm, that’s good mewman.”

Final Grade: B-

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– Britta’s Tacos –

Star goes along with Marco and his new baby sister Mariposa, to Britta’s Tacos. Marco is eager to finish his punch-card from the place and get their mystery prize, but as he attempts to complete his card, he runs across a number of people he hasn’t seen in awhile.

This story almost feels like the yang to Doop-Doop’s ying. While that segment showed us a number of creatures Star knew, this episode becomes a veritable cavalcade of characters we haven’t seen in awhile, associated with Marco and Echo Creek. Notable among them is StarFan13, who is almost like our “in-the-know” narrator about what has been going on in Marco’s absence.

This story is pretty much Marco-centric, with Star just finally allowed to “relax” after the last year(!?) of craziness on Mewni. One bit of emotional craziness Marco finds himself second-guessing himself on, was his treatment of Jackie Lynn Thomas when they were dating some time ago. The ‘was I a bad boyfriend’ vibe that Marco deals with, is something that is very real, and I do wonder if the show’s writers brought that element out of their own pasts, and put it up on the screen for all to see.

Much like Star’s emotional ennui in Doop-Doop, it is Marco’s own questioning of his feelings that keeps this an okay storyline.

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Best line from segment (said by Star Butterfly): “If we’re gonna do this, Mama needs a horchata.”

Final Grade: B-

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Seahorse, in Doop-Doop): “If I go outside, I’ll explode!”

As is the norm, when we come back down from a 22-minute episode, the 2-segment episode that follows usually doesn’t succeed in outdoing it.

Doop-doop unfortunately feels like a story that could have been much more entertaining regarding Star’s emotional baggage. Britta’s Tacos on the other hand, deals with Marco’s pasts in a number of different ways, and causes him to wonder about his past actions.

In the next episode, it looks like Star and Marco are finally going to have their Beach Day. And in Gone Baby Gone, baby Meteora and Marco’s little sister accidentally go through a portal, leading to our teen couple to rescue the two, before it’s too late. See you back soon!