“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.”
—To A Mouse, by Robert Burns

While the Mane Six and Starlight go on a retreat near the Tree of Harmony, Chrysalis plans to clone versions of the Mane Six to steal the Elements of Harmony—and get revenge on Starlight which she swore to do in the end of “To Where and Back Again”. Things go awry straight away when the clones are more in line from the Discorded Six we saw in “The Return of Harmony.” The Fake Twilight proves to be even more devious when she plans to betray Chrysalis once she and the other clones get the elements.

We go through the standard interactions between real and fake Mane 6 and before the Fake Six go after the Elements and the real Mane Six and Starlight make-up thinking that they were giving each other a hard time. However, the Fake Twilight betrays Chrysalis, but in a twist, the Tree of Harmony grabs the fakes and turns them back into the clumps of wood they were originally. In other words, the Tree knows fakes when it sees them, and Chrysalis flies off in disgust.

Note that the Mane Six and Starlight and Chrysalis do not meet each other (or at least realized it was Chrysalis in disguise at the beginning taking photos and hair samples). So the Mane Six have literally no idea that Chrysalis was around. Chrysalis simply did not think this plan through from not realizing that her clones would embody the opposite of the personalities of the ponies she is cloning. I do give the episode credit for giving the clone Twilight some depth as well. There’s already a meme that she is/was the most competent villain the show has had.

The only bad spot is that the interactions/mix-ups with the real and fake Mane Six get to be a bit tedious throughout the second act. I do like that Twilight stops her group’s bickering by admitting she got carried away with her schedule. It’s not the best of Season Eight, but it is in line with the more recent episodes of the season making that in the higher end of Season Eight.

GRADE: A-

So that is the first half of the season. If I were to rank this episode among the other Episode 13’s of previous seasons, here’s how it would go (I exclude Season Three since that was only 13 episodes):

1. The Perfect Pear (S7)
2. Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep (S5)
3. Stranger Than Fan Fiction (S6)
4. The Mean 6 (S8)
5. Simple Ways (S4)
6. Fall-Weather Friends (S1)
7. Baby Cakes (S2)

StatManDan

[source]

813 – “The Mean 6”

Written by: Michael Vogel

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The Cutie Mark Crusaders, bored of the Ponyville School, wants to enroll in Twilight’s School of Friendship. They can’t though because they are overqualified and they are bad actors in trying to convince the Mane Six that they need more lessons in friendship.

The CMC come across a pegasus pony named Cozy Glow (who has a rook for a cutie mark) who needs help with her friendship lessons. The CMC help her to good effect and in preparation for an exam. Everything seems OK, but Cozy Glow failed the test and Twilight blames the CMC for deliberately giving her bad lessons.

Enter guidance counselor Starlight Glimmer. Cozy Glow tells Starlight that she intentionally failed the test because, in her words, she wanted to help the CMC get in the school. Starlight straightens everything out, now that she has something to do, and the CMC become on-staff tudors with honorary degrees.

Well, we were wondering how the Ponyville school we’ve know since the start of the show was going to factor in all of this. Of course, it’s similar to Arthur when there’s Mr. Ratburn’s class and Ms. Sweetwater’s class. This episode is much better for the CMC to be in and you have them doing what they have been doing since Season Six only now they have a role in Twilight’s school.

But it is Starlight who really completes the episode as she apparently had nothing to do for a while (and she hasn’t been seen since “The Parent Map”). She quickly became the funniest and best part of this episode.

The last few episodes have been much better from the show and make the school look more functionable for Season Eight.

Of course on a side, if you have read ahead on the synopses for the next 14 episodes of the season and/or saw the leaked episodes, do a favor for those who have kept away from any and all spoilers of that nature and not ruin it for them.

GRADE: A

StatManDan

[source]

812 – “Marks for Effort”

Written by: Nicole Dubuc
The CMCs try to convince Twilight to let them into her School of Friendship, even though it’s clear they’ve already mastered the curriculum.

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[source]

811 – “Molt Down”

Written by: Josh Haber
Smolder explains that Spike’s symptoms are just something all dragons go through in adolescence.
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The episode begins with Spike and Rarity looking for phoenix feathers for a new dress design (and to see PeeWee who has grown up). However, Spike is acting odd because he has developed a stone scale which is like a pimple. The stone scales spread all over his face and he also has sporadic indigestion and extreme shifts in volume when speaking.

Smolder explains that Spike is going through a natural process called during adolescence “molt”. However, one of the after effects of molt is that the molting dragon, much like when members of Menudo reach the age of 16, will be kicked out of the nest by the family (and also becoming prey for rocs). Not wanting to go through that, Spike sees Zecora to see if there is a cure, for which there is none. Rarity sees Zecora because working with phoenix feathers has affected her hearing, so Zecora gives her a potion while Spike leaves the hut.

However, Zecora finds spike hiding not from Rarity, but from a roc. The roc captures both Zecora and Rarity while Twilight tries to fight it. Meanwhile, Spike goes through a final stage of molting which including being encompassed in a stone cocoon, breaking out of wing, and growing wings. (Congratulations, Josh Haber. You’re the new M.A. Larson.)

Spike fies to help Twilight defeat the roc and save Zecora and Rarity. Also, “molt effect” does not automatically mean Spike has to leave Twilight as this is Equestria and typical dragon customs don’t always apply. Now Spike’s wings make him a better model for Rarity’s dresses!

This Spike episode, is closer to “Equestria Games” and “The Times They Are A Changeling” than most Spike episodes. There was a wonder when and if Spike would get wings and/or grow up. Here’s your answer. Now, there will be more speculation on whether Scootaloo will ever fly. Well, the next episode is a CMC episode….but I digress.

Handling Spike going through a form of natural puberty was handled quite well. Spike is doing desperate things during the episode, but they are not over the top as in other Spike episodes. It just let’s Spike go through the process while things are happening around him and he gets to save Rarity for once! So overall, this is one of the better Spike episodes and does invoke a major change in the show and now there is another flyer in the cast.

GRADE: A

StatManDan

I cut to the chase and say that this was a good episode apart from one part being telegraphed and one part extraneous.

The telegraphed part is of course Big Mac thinking (mistakenly) that Sugar Belle is in Ponyville to break up with him. The extraneous part is the whole thing with the CMC and thinking Sweetie Belle may have a secret admirer after the postal mix-up. I guess there needed to be a B-plot in this story and something else for Big Mac to bounce off of.

Now let’s get to the good parts. Discord is actually making an effort to be helpful and cheer up Big Mac. The part with “Skelanor” was quite humorous. Spike was good in this one too to tie in with “guys’ night”.

Long story short, Sugar Belle is taking a part-time apprenticeship with Mrs. Cake while her cousin is running the bakery in Starlight’s old village on weekends (to be on his own for once apparently). Of course, Discord “stalled” Sugar Belle so that Big Mac can square things away with her.

So overall, a better effort from last week apart from the telegraphed mix-ups and the extraneous portion with the CMC.

GRADE: B+

StatManDan