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Just a guy who loves video games of all eras, heavy metal, and ponies. Oh yeah, I like to write about my first impressions on new pony episodes every week during the season - check my journal for that!

Also, I don't mind ya'll uploading my stuff to Derpibooru and other sites - just be sure to link back to the original page here on DeviantArt if you do upload my stuff elsewhere.

I do read all the comments I get. I might not reply to them all, but I do, at least, read them all.
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Something something Christmas themed spoiler pun.
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An hour-long pony special featuring Hearth's Warming airing around Nightmare Night, eh?  You know what?  If my local Dollar General is willing to start stocking Christmas items next to Halloween items, I might as well talk about this Hearth's Warming special days before Halloween comes and goes...  Ah, you knew I was gonna talk about this in any case.  So, what does this hour of Hearth's Warming in October contain?  Twilight's fallen behind on her Hearth's Warming preparations thanks to the School of Friendship on one hoof (makes me wonder if this took place around the same time as season eight's "A Hearth's Warming Tale") and some family coming over (Shining Armor, Cadance, and of course, Flurry Heart) on another hoof.  Of course, the rest of the mane six and Spike come in to help by...  *plasters eyes against synopsis*  ...if I'm understanding this right, going all over Equestria with Twilight to seek out gift ideas?  And the entire Pie family is here, too?

NOW you have my attention.

We start off with some spooky commercials from Discovery Family to remind you exactly what month it is before we jump into a *insert James A. Janisse voice here* title card!  Behind that title card is the Student Six getting on a train and a song!  It's Hearth's Warming Eve... Eve, and everybody is making last-minute plans and coming up with last-minute gift ideas.  Indeed, we see MARBLE PIE BEING DISAPPOINTED BY BIG MAC KISSING SUGAR BELLE AT SWEET APPLE ACRES.  Yup, the entire Pie family arrives at Sweet Apple Acres, but at Twilight's castle, Twilight herself is worrying that she might not have time to properly celebrate the holidays.  Oh yeah, the song itself was pretty good!  Insert crazy Twilight trying to make last minute preps here as she wanders into Ponyville.  Applejack tries to calm her down then comes up with an idea - to do a Hearth's Warming Helper thing.  Basically, it's Secret Santa on steroids.  Insert Sparity fuel here and Pinkie reluctantly agreeing after initially wanting to be her Pinkie self and give as many gifts to as many ponies as possible.  Twilight then - at the speed of light - becomes decently sane and draws the mane six's cutie marks and Spike on a piece of paper, tears them evenly, and puts them into AJ's hat.  So, who picked who?  We don't know - that's why they call this a "Secret Santa"!  Spike tries to bargain with AJ to try to get something for Rarity - presumably, he *didn't* manage to pick Rarity, but then AJ reveals that she didn't pick Rarity.  Spike then flies away.

At Twilight's castle, Twilight is still decorating for the arrival of Shining Armor, Cadance, and Flurry Heart.  She also reveals that she picked Pinkie, and she doesn't know what to gift her.  Pinkie, meanwhile, HI LIMESTONE.  Anyways, Pinkie reveals that she picked Twilight.  Pinkie's sisters try to help out, and then, out of nowhere, she decides to go to Yakyakistan.  Spike then bumps into Rarity, who reveals that she picked Applejack.  She also decides to get a gift delivered from Manehatten.  RD and Fluttershy are also shopping, and, after RD leaves, Spike comes in.  He reveals that he picked RD, and Flutters reveals that she picked Rarity.  Of course, they trade with each other, something that AJ allowed.  Coincidentally, AJ comes in after Spike leaves and reveals that she picked Spike.  RD then gets a candle for Fluttershy, and the candle turns out to be Discord.  They go off to try to pick something out for Fluttershy.  Back at the castle, Spike has a bit of a meltdown when he realizes that he doesn't know what to gift to Rarity.

Fluttershy and AJ arrive at the Rainbow Falls, and...  can it be?  Flim and Flam?  What in all of Equestria are you two doing here?  Anyways, Fluttershy is suckered from buying the latest Daring Do book (...come on, Fluttershy!  Well, to be fair, RD might already have it...) to buy...  a crappy stuffed doll from the two con stallions.  In Yakyakistan, Pinkie arrives, does a title drop, and Prince Rutherford tells her in private that the yaks... aren't the best at giving gifts, but he knows a few beings who are.  He then gives her a map to "the best gift givers".  At the post office, Derpy has a voice--wait, Derpy has a voice again?  Anyways, Derpy, in arguably the best moment of this entire hour, reveals that she delivered AJ's gift (sent by Rarity) to Sweet Apple Acres, and then she corrects herself - she actually delivered it to Sweet Acorn Orchard.  Spike, meanwhile, is trying to think up of something to gift Rarity.  RD and Discord are still trying to think up of something to gift Fluttershy, and then Discord reveals that he wanted to gift her the fastest animal in Equestria, a winter-chilla.  Twilight is still figuring out a gift for Pinkie, and then, after going through her library, she finds it:  a pudding supposedly made by Chancellor Puddinghead...  minus the recipe.  Nice callback, by the way!  Fluttershy reveals what she spent literally all her bits on a crappy doll to AJ, and you know what that means.  After Fluttershy shows her who she bought that piece of crap stuffed doll from, AJ is very displeased.

At Sweet Acorn Orchard, the two ponies who live there thank her for the gift to their son, Pistachio, and, on their insistence, she decides to stay for a while.  Twilight is still looking for the recipe and gets progressively crazier (seriously, crazy Twilight is fun to see), and then the rest of her family arrives.  In the middle of nowhere, Pinkie rides a polar bear to... the North Pole, I guess, where Rutherford's map pointed to.  She encounters three reindeer - Aurora, Bori, and Alice (get it?), and they seem to know a LOT about Pinkie.  They give Pinkie the perfect gift for Twilight and cryptically say that she'll find out its purpose soon.  Back at the Rainbow Falls, AJ tries to give Flim and Flam (planning an expansion to their resort) a piece of her mind, but they ain't having it.  Back with the RD and Discord storyline, Discord turns himself and RD into a ninja for a bit, and then they find the animal they were looking for.  Spike makes himself glow on accident by falling asleep whilst making an original gift for Rarity, and AJ and Fluttershy show up Flim and Flam by saying that crappy dolls do not equate to a special gift for that special somepony or whoever.

Back at Sweet Acorn Orchard, Rarity tells Pistachio that he has a future in fashion, and then Pistachio tries to give Rarity's gift to AJ - a special fedora - back to her.  Being the Element of Generosity, she gives it back to him and reminds him of his bright future...  in season nine?  No, I'm being serious - he seems like a pretty cool kid!  AJ and Fluttershy leave Rainbow Falls, not having the best gifts for Spike and RD.  At the castle, Cadance and Shining Armor are on Twi's case, and then Flurry Heart screws up the recipe by throwing random stuff into the mixture, causing it to grow and become mutated.  Discord and RD start to part ways as night falls, and then, after RD invites Discord to help gift the animal they found over to Fluttershy, the winter-chilla begins to grow into something I'm sure the Power Rangers need to attend to, a winter-zilla.  Oh yeah, that happens when night falls.  At the castle, AJ, Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy meet back up with a bunch of nothing but blanks for gifts.  The glowing Spike brings them in, but both the mutant pudding and the winter-zilla begin to attack.

The winter-zilla is attracted to Spike's glowing self, the mutant pudding tries to attack Rarity but is repulsed by Twi, Cadance, and Shining; Fluttershy calms down the winter-zilla after it attacks some decorations, and Pinkie reveals that the reindeer gift to Twilight wound up being the exact ingredients to turn the mutant pudding into a regular pudding (as Discord put it, "reindeer-ex-machina").  Afterwards, everyone seems to lament about their Hearth's Warming Helper gifts being total disasters, and then Spike gives his gift to Rarity in the form of a song.  Okay.  OKAY.  THIS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD, and Rarity seems to like it.  The titular "best gift ever", big shock, turns out to be friendship and going through all that effort to try to give someone else a special gift, and the song continues on into the night with scenes all across Equestria (literally, we see Starlight and Trixie hanging out, Luna and Celestia hanging out, a shot of the yaks being yaks in Yakyakistan, and even a scene from the changelings - HI THORAX AND PHARYNX!  EDIT:  Didn't realize that Ocellus was in that scene, too!) and the three reindeer end the special by driving the point home.

You know...  If this was a regular two-parter, this might be one of my favorite two-parters EVER.  Coming into this, I couldn't help but be a bit cynical.  Aside from the whole Christmas-in-October thing, the premise stuck out to me as being pretty simple and very predictable.  However, this reminded me why I like this series so much.  It takes a simple, common premise and adds its own unique twists to it.  That is where this special shines.  About the only thing that really went bad...  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think Flim and Flam should be absolutely done as characters.  Yeah, I know they're the type of character that you should dislike due to them being absolute jerks, but at this point, do we really need to see them this often?  Okay, back to gushing about this special.  Holy crap, was the comedy good or was it good?  No, it wasn't great.  It was only the best thing about this special, that's all!  Derpy having a voice for the first time in ages (since "Slice of Life", if I'm not mistaken) was unexpected and cool, Discord's good side came out to play in a BIG way, and...  It's at this point that I should mention this was an ensemble presentation with how many characters and storylines shared the spotlight here.  Discord, the Pie family, Derpy, the yaks, Twilight's family (minus her parents), Flim and Flam, the Acorns, the reindeer, and, of course, the mane six and Spike.  I know there's gonna be some disappointment about Starlight and Trixie not having any lines or bigger roles outside of background characters, but still, the ensemble feel of this special was the icing on the cake (and I didn't mind Starlight and Trixie being reduced to very minor roles here).  It takes mighty good execution to pull off something of that nature successfully, and, well...  Just about everything seemed to click on all cylinders here.  The writing.  The execution.  The comedy, as I've already mentioned.  How the characters were handled.  The story--actually, let's go back to the story for a bit.  Yeah, it was kinda predictable, but, as I always say, being predictable isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when there are enough twists in the formula to distinguish it from the crowd.  The songs.  Oh my, the songs were good.  In a way, I'm glad that songs didn't dominate this special, and the only two that were present made effective bookends and were very good to begin with - quality over quantity, folks!  As for new characters, the reindeer...  I dunno.  Something seemed really off about them.  Maybe it's the fact that they seemed to know more about Pinkie than possibly Pinkie herself for characters we've never seen before until now.  Maybe it's the fact that the gift they gave to Pinkie wound up being exactly what was needed to stop the mutant pudding - what, can they predict the future or something?  Actually, do they have that ability?  They fully expected Pinkie arriving at their cozy little North Pole-like hideaway, so...  Yeah, they were perhaps the most unintentionally creepy things about this entire special in my view!  I'm not saying they're bad characters, but man, thinking about them is creeping me out.  The Acorn farmers and that Pistachio kid, on the other hand...  I'm gonna say it again.  I want to see them in season nine.  I just think there's good potential for an episode featuring Rarity and Pistachio.  Okay, I think I've gone on long enough about just how good this was.  This is one I can see myself watching again, preferably around Christmas...  I'm sorry.  I'm never gonna get over that.

That'll wrap things up for pony this year!  Unless something crazy happens like half of season nine leaking in December or airing in Belgium in December or something...
Holy crap, are we really at the end of another season of pony?  The list below says "yes", we are!  Not only is this the end of another season of pony, but right now, all current indications point to this being the end of the penultimate season of pony.  As a result, as I was making this list, I felt kinda... strange, knowing that there are only 26 episodes - one season - currently still on the table.  I'm not gonna start telling you all how good of a ride pony has been over the past eight(!) years as it heads off into the sunset, because a lot of things could still happen.  However, the general feeling I'm getting about pony from the fandom at this point, considering all the announcements from popular/well-known pony conventions like BronyCon saying that either this year or next year will be their last time around, considering that one meta line from "Road to Friendship" (which, to be fair, could be interpreted in a number of ways), and even considering those leaks from a while back, there really is the feeling of the end of the series coming closer and closer.  Though, let's focus back on the present and talk about season eight itself for a bit.  As always, my ranking likely will be different from everyone else's...

1. Surf and/or Turf (S8E6)
2. Horse Play (S8E7)
3. The Washouts (S8E20)
4. Sounds of Silence (S8E23)
5. The Hearth's Warming Club (S8E15)
6. Road to Friendship (S8E19)
7. A Rockhoof and a Hard Place (S8E21)
8. The Break Up Break Down (S8E10)
9. The Parent Map (S8E8)
10. Marks for Effort (S8E12)
11. What Lies Beneath (S8E22)
12. Molt Down (S8E11)
13. School Raze pt. 1 (S8E25)
14. School Raze pt. 2 (S8E26)
15. The Mean 6 (S8E13)
16. The Maud Couple (S8E3)
17. Friendship University (S8E16)
18. School Daze pt. 1 (S8E1)
19. School Daze pt. 2 (S8E2)
20. The End in Friend (S8E17)
21. Grannies Gone Wild (S8E5)
22. Yakity-Sax (S8E18)
23. Fake It 'Til You Make It (S8E4)
24. Father Knows Beast (S8E24)
25. A Matter of Principals (S8E14)
26. Non-Compete Clause (S8E9)

If I really had to compare this to the past two seasons, this would fall in between seasons 6 and 7.  There were a lot of really, really good episodes, particularly within the second half of the season, that wound up being one reason this was kinda hard for me to make!  Another good-sized chunk of episodes - let's say from "Molt Down" to around "Fake It 'Til You Make It" - were good (or, at the very least, average) but flawed in various ways.  Of course, there had to be a few duds along the way.  However, at the end of the day, I still really liked season eight overall, if only because of...

...wait for it...

...the student six.  One of the best things this season did was use these new characters and the accompanying School of Friendship pretty often compared to Starlight in season six (she simply needed to appear more often!) and the pillar six in season seven (suddenly appearing just after halfway through, with half of them introduced in one episode and then having a major role in the finale).  I'm not bashing either for being bad (...okay, maybe a little bit on season six), I'm just saying that season eight arguably handled a season-long story arc better than season seven.  Did the student six feel overused at any point during this season?  Not really, at least to me.  Even in episodes like "The End in Friend" in which they didn't do much, their appearances still felt welcoming, and it was fun to see them interacting with each other, the mane six, Starlight, and Spike.  I had my reservations about the School of Friendship (and by extension, the student six) prior to the season premiere back in March, if only because it felt really out of place in a show called "Friendship is Magic".  Thankfully, it wound up being one of the best things about season eight - though, when you're focusing an entire season's story arc around it, I suppose it better be good!  Oh, and the storyline itself was really intriguing, which brings me to...

...You knew I was gonna talk about Cozy Glow for a little bit here.  I know I talked about her a fair bit in my "School Raze" post (side note - I have posts about every single episode of the season; go check 'em out if you want!), but there is something from that post that bears repeating here.  She might not be my absolute favorite villain this series has produced, but she's still one of my favorites.  For me, it really did boil down to her character, how she worked, and how she managed to feel somewhat realistic - as in, there are people in the real world with similar personalities/methods as her - whilst doing the things she did.  If the ending to the second half of "School Raze" was any indication, we'll be getting more of her next season for sure.

Speaking of next season, it's gonna feel really strange knowing that it might very well be over soon unless a tenth season pops out of thin air.  However, I'd rather relish in the present in this regard than worry about what'll happen after all is said and done.  In other words, just enjoy the ride and be glad that pony has lasted even this long.  Nine seasons is no small feat for *ANY* show, be it animated or not, and I have no doubt that expectations will be high for the staff to deliver a bang to end on...  again, if season nine is, indeed, the end.  No matter what, I'll still be here, talking about stuffs.  Lots of stuffs.

Next week:  It's Hearth's Warming in...  Halloween/Nightmare Night!  I can't even bring myself to make a joke about that, considering we're talking about a franchise that consistently airs Hearth's Warming episodes (special, in this case) in months that are not named "December".
Master...  Master...  Master of spoilers, I'm plugging your show...  or something.
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Season eight has been quite the bumpy yet exciting ride, and it winded down earlier today with this little two-parter.  One thing I do have to give this season credit for is the fact that the big, featured story arc of the season, the student six and the School of Friendship, actually did feel like an arc.  Both got plenty of screentime this season, more than I can say for Starlight Glimmer in season six (she simply needed to appear more often) and even the Pillars in season seven (suddenly arriving just past halfway, with half of them introduced in one episode that was pretty good).  Yeah, I said it.  There is an aspect of season eight that I do like better than the same aspect in season seven.  I'll definitely talk more about that in my season eight wrap-up post, because we're only here to talk about the finale.  So, what is Chancellor Neighsay's endgame?  How is Cozy Glow involved in all this?  There's only one way to find out!

This one starts off with Derpy crashing into the facade of the School of Friendship, and Cozy Glow picking up some of the letters that fell in the process.  Cozy then demonstrates how not evil she is by showing a new student where her first class is, helping Silverstream do the weekly crossword, and telling Twilight that she wanted Rainbow Dash to cover for her on a class field trip to Cloudsdale among other things like cataloging the many magical artifacts present at the school (take note of that, folks).  In Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash and Starlight show off the weather factory, with Starlight explaining the spell that makes non-pegasi walk on clouds, and then Yona falls through the cloud everyone is standing on.  Turns out, Starlight's magic spontaneously doesn't work any longer, as everyone who can't fly falls through the cloud but everyone who can fly helps them to safety.  After remarking about that being the first time a spell has failed on her, Starlight and RD go to Twilight.  Turns out, Twilight's magic has spontaneously disappeared as well.  So has Rarity's!  Cozy suggests that Tirek (still in Tartarus after the season four finale) might be behind this, and then Spike comes in with serious indigestion problems.  No, that's just the Spike Mail Service spouting out a letter from Princess Celestia, detailing an emergency meeting in Canterlot.  In Canterlot, we find out that ponies throughout Equestria and the Crystal Empire (Cadance is there as well) have been losing their magic.  A mailpony comes in delivering a letter from Star Swirl the Bearded.  The letter says that in three days, all Equestrian magic will cease to exist.  Again, Tirek shows up as the likely suspect, and the mane six volunteer to take a trip to Tartarus to see what he might be up to.  Back at the School of Friendship, Twilight leaves Starlight in charge, and Cozy wants to get started "helping" her with her substitute headmare role.

The next time we see Cozy, she's in charge of the school, much to the confusion of Gallus.  Cozy says that Starlight had to leave, writing nothing but a note, but, again, there is some confusion here, as Smolder thinks Starlight would've said so herself to the students.  Cozy then spouts some of Neighsay's rhetoric (in a somewhat more subtle way than Neighsay would've said) and calls upon the students to help her out (something else you all need to take note of).  We then see how the mane six and Spike are coping without magic - AJ relies on old earth pony tricks, RD protects the rest from a storm with a cloud, and so on.  Back at the School, the students start talking about how cool Cozy is, and Sandbar rejoins the rest of the student six in the library.  They talk about how they don't trust Cozy, and then something goes bang in the library.  They peer through a shelf and see Cozy herself coming out of the same catacomb entrance as was featured in "What Lies Beneath", and they decide to see what she's up to.  Back with the mane six, we see that they have reached the gates of Tartarus.  Unfortunately, said gates need magic to open, and they're still closed, which indicates that Tirek didn't break out.  Fortunately, Cozy happened to pack a magical key in Twilight's bags that'll open the gates - and, since the power of all magical artifacts hasn't disappeared yet, it still has use.  Twilight uses the key, but then it shatters afterwards and the gates close in on them after they enter.  A cockatrice greets them, but it turns out that not only did pony magic disappear, but the magic of every creature in Tartarus has disappeared as well.  Back in the school, the student six follow Cozy to her office and discover Neighsay himself in the head chair.  Neighsay - not knowing what happened to Starlight - strips Cozy of rank and takes over as the head of the School of Friendship.

In Tartarus, Fluttershy convinces Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog, to point them to Tirek.  Tirek himself is surprised at the visit, and Twilight gives him the lowdown.  Tirek says that he isn't the one who stole all the magic by saying that if he did, then he wouldn't be in Tartarus.  However, Tirek says he might know something about where all that went.  Back at the school, Neighsay is convinced that the entity who stole all Equestrian magic is not a pony, which makes the student six, eavesdropping in on his talk with Cozy, mad.  Of course, Neighsay catches them and imprisons them in a dorm room, suspecting them as the ones who stole the magic, and makes the school pony-only "as nature intended."  Sandbar then comes up with a plan to break himself - and only himself, since he's the only pony in the Student Six - out so he can turn to the CMC for help.  He convinces Neighsay to be freed by taking a page out of Cozy's book, and the first place Sandbar goes is Sweet Apple Acres to fetch Applebloom.  He thinks that if the CMC can help Cozy distract Neighsay, then his friends can be freed.  Back in Tartarus, Tirek reveals that he has a pen pal in Equestria, and, since the mane six are seemingly trapped in Tartarus, he goes ahead and reveals her name:

Cozy Glow.

In the school, Sandbar directs the CMC into the catacombs, and they see Starlight in a magical prison created from the six magical artifacts described in "A Matter of Principals".  Oh, and did I mention that Cozy Glow is the actual baddie of this finale yet?  We find out literally from the horse's mouth that she is the one who is stealing Equestrian magic, and she wants Neighsay gone so her plans can be fully realized.  We also find out where all that magic will go:  into another realm (the EqG-verse?), and that Cozy wants to become EMPRESS OF EQUESTRIA.  OR FRIENDSHIP.  BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE SHE WANTS TO BECOME EMPRESS OF EQUESTRIA.  In her mind, friendship is POWER.

Okay, let's stop here for a moment.  I first watched this when the Swedish dub started making the rounds at the very end of August (side note - yes, that is how screwed up the airing schedules for this season became - the English version didn't land until September 7 local time for me - Australia, remember, and the finale didn't air in the US until October 13, when you all will be seeing this!), and I wasn't too sure about it.  Then the English version dropped a week or so later and whoa, this suddenly got very good.  See, this is why I keep on hearing people in, say, Sweden or France refuse to watch the version that's in their native language.  It's not necessarily the dubs or voice actors handling said dubs being that bad, it's that the original English version has more nuance, more impact, and voice actors that can clearly provide that nuance and impact.  Then again, you could say that for <insert random Japanese anime here> being better in the original Japanese than an English dubbed version.  Let's get to the second half now;  that was just a thought I felt like throwing out there.

The next thing we see is the mane six's reaction after they find out about Cozy Glow's involvement in the plot to steal all Equestrian magic from Tirek.  Their focus shifts to figuring out a way through that pesky gate.  Twilight comes up with a plan:  By borrowing the remaining magic of the creatures of Tartarus, she might be able to open the gate.  Meanwhile, Neighsay is having a talk with Cozy about Twilight's mistakes and how the EEA will handle everything which ends with Cozy reaffirming, after she exits the office, that she wants Neighsay out.  The CMC and Sandbar attempt to break Starlight out, but that prison has safeguards straight out of a hentai, as tentacle arms almost drag them within the prison once they reach a certain distance.  That leaves the CMC/Sandbar on their own, but then Sandbar comes up with a plan:  freeing the rest of the student six.  After doing so, Sandbar says that, of all the ponies at the school, Neighsay might be able to help.  The next day, Neighsay is busy declaring himself head-stallion of the School of Friendship, and that the school will be run to the EEA's strict doctrine.  Then... Cozy Glow happens.  She convinces the students to betray Neighsay, which jettisons the student six's old plan.

Cozy then reiterates her FRIENDSHIP IS POWER rhetoric to Neighsay while he is chained up in the principal's office, and... yikes.  Neighsay himself looked seriously worried.  The CMC then catche up with Cozy, distracting her long enough for the student six to free Neighsay from his chains.  Sandbar tells the chancellor of Cozy Glow's plan, and, after coming to the realization that yes, one of his kind is stealing all of Equestria's magic, he uses the remaining magic in his medallion to open a portal straight to Celestia and Luna.  Back in Tartarus, Tirek reminds the mane six that all Equestrian magic will soon disappear, but Pinkie annoys Tirek into going through with Twilight's breakout plan of using Tartarus's remaining magic to allow the mane six and Spike to escape.  The CMC get thrown in a closet by Cozy, and the student six - in the catacombs - attempt to come up with a plan to use the artifacts to their advantage, possibly at the risk of destroying the school, and then... Cozy Glow happens, and her army of students is about to give the student six a new "friendship" lesson.  Back in Tartarus, every creature gives their magic to Twilight, resulting in her able to open the gate, freeing the mane six and Spike, but sunset - and the end of Equestrian magic - is fast approaching.

Cozy continues her streak of manipulation pitting the students against the student six, and a brief battle erupts as the six attempt to free Starlight/use the artifacts to restore Equestrian magic, but every single one of them is thrown into the prison.  A portal opens up underneath, and they begin to sink into it while the students begin to poke holes in Cozy Glow's act, and the master of puppets says that the Elements of Harmony only apply to friendship... sometimes.  Then the Tree of Harmony comes to the aid of the student six (minus Twilight avatar), freeing them from the prison, and allowing them to restore all Equestrian magic to the world, including transforming the creatures of Tartarus back to normal.  The best part:  The School of Friendship wasn't destroyed!  Back on the surface, Cozy again attempts to go after the student six, but Twilight and the rest of the mane six flash back to the school.  Twilight tries to explain to the troubled filly that while friendship is powerful, power alone should not be used to make friends (and, as we've seen here, it can do some pretty damning things).  However, Cozy still isn't having it, and she attempts to escape to try her handiwork again elsewhere.  She is then blocked off by some of the students she manipulated earlier, the princesses and Neighsay, and the royal guard who promptly arrest her rook ass.  The next day, a redeemed Neighsay (yes, that actually happened) thanks the student six for showing him what true friendship is like.  Best moment of the episode:  The student six is practicing graduating from the School of Friendship because they helped save Equestria, but Twilight reminds them that it'll take more than one semester for them to fully learn the magic of friendship.  In Tartarus, Luna and two royal guards deliver Cozy Glow--wait a minute, what?

That did happen, right?

They threw a child into pony hell, right?

Yup.  Your eyes did not deceive you.  Cozy Glow, in a cage, in Tartarus, next to her pen pal Tirek.  Her rook ass deserves it.  End of story.  Oh, and judging by the final shot of season eight, a very menacing-looking Cozy staring into the camera, we might be seeing her again in season nine.

*sigh*

High note.  This season ended on a high note.  As I mentioned earlier, I went ahead and watched the Swedish/Norwegian/Danish dubs and thought that the finale was pretty good.  Now that I've seen it "proper", I can say that, well...  Let's get this out of the way.  I've seen people comparing this to "Twilight's Kingdom" and other season finales, and, well, I don't think this was the best finale, but this was still very good.  What even should I talk about first?  Uhh...  Let's go with Neighsay, the most surprising thing about this finale!  I think a lot of people expected him to be the big baddie, that he would find a way to disrupt even Cozy Glow's plans.  Nope, he was just supremely misguided!  Seeing his own kind betray him then seeing a changeling, a griffon, a yak, a hippogriff, and a dragon help him escape...  Yeah, that'll do things to the mind of a pony who only looked out for other ponies to begin with.  I also gotta admit that seeing him have a soft side was kinda strange.  Alright, let's talk about Cozy Glow for a while, because hey, I had to get to her eventually.  You know, I always had a soft spot for villains who are experts at puppeteering, if you know what I mean.  Manipulation.  Deception.  Orchestration.  The smarts to do all that and not get caught on the wrong side of the road.  In my mind, such things are the greatest evils in life, and to see a child - A LITERAL CHILD - be able to do all that...  Technically speaking, does that make her the greatest villain in the show's history?  Uhh...  That's kind of a hard one to answer, especially considering that ending which implies that we might be seeing more of her in the future.  But, right now, she's up there as one of my absolute favorites.  Heck, I like all of 'em in their own unique ways!  Some villains are more flashy than others (looking at you, Tirek and Sombra), but Cozy never needed to be flashy.  Her entire practice works on being subtle.  If you were to look at a picture of her without having seen her in action, all you'd see is a cute little filly!  That's it!  What I'm trying to say here is that the look matches how she's evil.  I have to mention this as well:  There were implications going in that she and Neighsay were in cahoots with some evil plot, but I loved the fact that Cozy and Neighsay in cahoots was a red herring.  Also, don't tell me that she already has a plan to break out of Tartarus...  and let's not even think about redeeming her.  She's the type of character who is absolutely irredeemable, absolutely incapable of understanding friendship.  She. Is. A. LITERAL. PSYCHOPATH.  Some might have a problem with her not really having a motivation, but that's kinda what psychopaths are.  They just... do.  Hence, why she deserved a trip to Tartarus.  Here's the thing:  There are many people like her in the real world.  That's why I liked her so much - because she felt real.  Seeing her endgame almost play through completely was genuinely tense, which leads me to this:  I'm glad that Starlight was the one who needed to be saved this time around.  She already saved Equestria - have her be on the other side of the coin for once!  I also want to ask this:  How would you have reacted if Celestia and Luna were in Starlight's prison?  Yeah, that's about what I expected.  It would be tropey as hell either way, but...  Well, I guess an alternative would be to have Starlight accompany the mane six and Spike on their trip to Tartarus, but would Twilight intentionally leave the school in the hands of a child?

So, how about the finale in general?  Like I said already, I don't think it's the best finale, but it was still really good.  My biggest complaint is that there seemed to be a little too much going on, especially in the second half.  Maybe it was because of how often Tartarus and the mane six were focused on here, and I'll admit, I thought that this might've worked a bit better had some of those scenes been elminated.  On the other hand, I doubt that seeing Pinkie annoy Tirek into helping the rest of the mane six will get old any time soon!  I mentioned already how tense this one felt.  Literally seconds away from every bit of Equestrian magic vanishing into another realm (again, the EqG-verse?), and then the Tree of Harmony had to pull out all the stops to help save those it helped previously - the student six!  Going back to characters for a moment, almost NOBODY got shafted.  The Student Six played their parts beautifully.  The spotlight was firmly on them throughout, and seeing them save the day felt seriously satisfying.  The mane six and Spike, for how much time they appeared throughout both parts, were pretty well-handled.  Again, I like that Starlight was the one who needed a hoof, not Celestia and/or Luna!  Everyone was handled very well, but then there were the CMC, who wound up being a bit disappointing.  Like, what did they do?  Uhh...  Helped distract Cozy one time so the student six could free Neighsay?  Had a little moment at the end?  Got thrown and locked into a closet?  Saw what happened to Starlight and heard about Cozy's plan?  Not gonna lie, I was kinda bummed that they weren't a bigger part of this finale and ultimately wound up being kinda... throwaway, if you know what I mean.  Again, not a big deal - I wasn't *that* disappointed, since this was clearly the student six's time to shine.  Still, you all know how much of a CMC fan I am, and their moments were still pretty good, I suppose.  There were some other oddities here, like who was moving the sun and moon if Celestia and Luna were unable to do so?  You could argue that without magic, they'd start moving on their own (or the princesses had just enough power left for one more cycle), but that was one I really wish was explained further, especially considering the story relevance.  So yeah, this finale was kinda flawed, but I still really liked it.  Very good story and execution for the most part, the comedy was well-done whenever such a moment appeared, seeing more of Tartarus was pretty interesting, and hey, it's a proper resolution to the season-long arc about the School of Friendship and the student six!  I'll explain more about that in next week's season eight wrap-up, but for now, I'll say that it feels good to put another full season of pony behind me.  It was hectic, to be sure, but with possibly one season left on the table...  I dunno what else to say outside of "2019 is gonna be a very interesting year for pony".

Next week:  It's the season eight wrap-up!  All the fun and excitement of me ranking all of these episodes distilled into one wall of text on the Internet!

I am now convinced that Cozy Glow might not even be a metal fan at all, and besides, that running gag was starting to get old. =P
Spoiler dad doing whatever a spoiler dad does...
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After last season's "Parental Glideance" and "The Perfect Pear", every single one of the mane six has had their parents appear on screen in some form or fashion.  Since then, we've seen Sunburst's mom, Starlight Glimmer's dad (in "The Parent Map"), and even the parents and family of characters like Sandbar (in "The Hearth's Warming Club").  However, there's one set of parents that have surprisingly not appeared in the show yet, and that set of parents belongs to Spike.  You'd think they'd be mentioned at least once or twice in the show's almost eight-year-long history, but I don't feel like watching every single one of the *checks MLP wiki* 192 episodes that came before this just to get confirmation either way.  So, finally, towards the end of season eight, we finally get to see who Spike's parents* are.  There's an asterisk in that spot for a reason, something that'll beome clear towards the end of the episode.

This one starts off with Spike taking flying lessons from Twilight.  Cue slapstick, as a dragon learning how to fly from a pony doesn't go well.  However, a dragon learning from another dragon  does, as Spike gets a few pointers from Smolder, who says that usually, a dragon's parents teach that stuff.  Spike then finds himself questioning how much of a dragon he really is, in basic terms.  Nonetheless, he still makes a pillow for Smolder, who says that dragons normally don't use pillows, then a fireball lands right behind them.  A dragon named Sludge steps out of the resulting crater and proceeds to make a bit of a scene while also clearly being hurt.  Spike introduces Sludge to the mane six, and, despite his wishes to be on his own, he clearly needs some help from them.  Cue Sludge's exercise montage - did I mention that he's kinda overweight?  Within the span of that montage, Sludge is healed, and then he confesses that he is Spike's father.

Sludge goes on to say that he intentionally came to Ponyville because he was looking for Spike, who seems to believe him and his stories.  Spike's biggest question to Sludge deals with how he became an orphan.  Cue Sludge's story:  Spike's mom gave Spike's egg to Sludge followed by her leaving for the Great Migration (neat callback).  Sludge then decided to look for Spike's mom because he thought that Spike should meet her, and we get mentions of an abandoned Mount Aris and Klugetown (from the movie) as places he visited along the way.  Turns out, Sludge surrendered himself to a group of hunters who collect dragon scales, and he was practically thrown in jail afterwards.  There are a bunch of inconsistencies in Sludge's story, like...  How did Spike's egg get to Twilight/Celestia's school from a prison?  What happened to Spike's mom?  How did Sludge get out of jail?  How did Sludge know Spike's gender?  Nevertheless, Spike seems to be on Sludge's side, which causes Sludge afterwards to scream for a bonding montage (not literally), and that's what happens!  Side note:  The fake Hearth's Warming bit put on by RD was pretty clever.  Afterwards, Spike remarks about the only things that got done in that montage were his own ideas, not Sludge's.  Sludge says that Spike is not dragon enough, later going into a song about how a dragon should live, which apparently involves making things as uncomfortable as possible - basically, a castle is no place for a dragon, in his mind.  He literally starts throwing luxuries out of the castle - clothes, furniture, Starlight...  Sludge ends this segment with revealing his true intent:  living in the castle with all the pony luxuries given to him.

Twilight goes into Spike's room, where she sees Sludge sleeping in his bed, so she leaves him alone.  Twilight then bumps into Spike, who says that he slept outside because that's what dragons apparently do.  Later on, Twilight gives some advice to Spike, just... being yourself, which leads to Spike accusing Twilight of being jealous that he can turn to Sludge for advice on dragon issues.  A confused Spike then goes to Smolder and tells her about some of the things Sludge has been doing.  Smolder then says that a dragon doesn't use their children as servants.  Smolder then wants him to tell more about what Sludge has been doing, which leads to them concocting a plan:  Spike wants Sludge to move out of the castle with him, because apparently, that's what dragons do.  Smolder comes in, says that she has found the perfect home for him and Spike, which causes Sludge to freak out and start spilling the beans.  Then, after a literal fight over a pillow, Sludge says the he is *not* Spike's father, and that he was only there because he wanted to live a life of luxury in the Castle of Friendship.  What.  A.  Scumbag.  He leaves, taking said pillow with him, and Spike comments about him already knowing who he himself is and how he got to that position.  Twilight and Spike then end the episode on some very sweet bonding.

That was actually better than I thought it was going to be.  I mean, I'd still consider this... only just above average, but I was honestly kinda expecting it to be a trainwreck.  What actually happened was somewhat of a rehash of "Dragon Quest", only with a character who is worse than Garble... by design, at least.  "Dragon Quest" itself wasn't that great from what I remember of it, and this episode wasn't that much better.  Back to Sludge for a bit, I think you can tell that I wasn't a fan of him.  He is the PERFECT example of a character that you're supposed to hate because of his actions, and honestly, I think this is a good place to put a reminder that people like Sludge do exist in the real world.  I thought it was pretty blatant what Sludge was going to do from the moment he claimed he was Spike's father.  I knew that Sludge was going to take advantage of Spike in precisely the ways that would get to the little guy.  Let's stop for a moment.  Nobody knows who Spike's real parents are - not even Spike himself.  It would make sense for the mane six to give Sludge the benefit of the doubt until he revealed his true intentions.  His song wasn't that good.  Part of that is due to the last couple songs being home runs, and the other part of that has to do with the style - add them together, and you have something that simply didn't do much for me.  Nevertheless, I highly doubt that Sludge will ever appear in the show again.  Spike himself was alright.  He had plenty of good moments in this episode - specifically, his moments with Twilight and Smolder.  Oh hey, I just spoiled the biggest surprise of the episode for me, Smolder.  Even though I already seriously liked Smolder coming into this episode, what she did during this episode made me give some serious respect to her.  After episodes like this and "Molt Down", I really want to see more Smolder/Spike moments in the future.  Twilight was handled pretty well here, too, in that she wasn't overplayed or underplayed, and, arguably, no other character knows more about Spike than she does, making what he said to her during the episode resonate pretty deep.  In an episode that hinted heavily at Spike's past, we didn't get much of that in actuality... and I kinda doubt that those questions - who are Spike's actual parents etc. - will ever be answered.  After all, as the end of the episode showed, Spike considers Twilight to be part of his family, and I think the show staff is fine with that (and having Spike's actual parents show up out of thin air, at this point in the show, would be a bit of a shoehorn).  Still, though, there is a part of me that does want to see who his actual parents are - maybe that's just due to the design of Spike's mom in that flashback sequence!  Then again, that could be and likely is pure imagination on Sludge's part.  Hmm...  Well, at the end of the day, this episode, despite being pretty solidly written, still left me cold.  I think my biggest disappointment is that I believe a lot more could've been done with this premise than what we got here.  Still OK, still above average, but still cold.

Next week:  It's time for Cozy Glow to prove to the world that she is, indeed, a Metallica fan.

Are Spike's actual parents aware that they have a living child beyond any possible siblings Spike himself is unaware of?
EXPERIMENT: 1000 DEGREE SPOILERS VS. AUSTRALIAN AIRING SCHEDULE.
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Okay, this is one I've been waiting for ever since clips from it were played at the SDCC MLP panel earlier this year.  Hearing about this episode from the December 2017 leaks was enough to get my interest, with mention of a race that has never been seen before, the kirin.  Then that SDCC clip started making the rounds on the interwebs and...  Oh my.  I'm gonna go ahead and say it.  The designs of the kirin are spot on awesome.  So, if you don't know what a kirin (or qilin) is, it's a mythological creature found in Chinese and other East Asian cultures, and it's basically a bunch of different things (including a deer, a dragon, and, a unicorn) thrown into a blender to make one thing, and they nailed that aspect of the kirin's design, in my view.  New character designs aside, this one's premise made me even more interested.  So, it's an Applejack/Fluttershy episode, a map episode, and an episode featuring a ton of mute characters, who happen to be the all the kirin except one...

First off, for the last time this season, a new writer has joined the stable, and his name is Gregory Bonsignore, whose previous writing credits include shows like Transformers: Rescue Bots and Three Rivers.  He's also apparently an award-winning playwright!  Anyways, this one starts off in the Castle of Friendship, where Applejack and Fluttershy have already been called by the Cutie Map.  Twilight reveals that they're going to the Peaks of Peril, and that races like the kirin and nirik (see what they did with that name?) live there, as depicted on a shield that Rockhoof gave to Twilight.  At the Peaks of Peril, Fluttershy and Applejack talk about the situaion for a little bit, and then some Crazy Ralph (from the Friday the 13th movie series) wannabe tells them the dangers of the Peaks of Peril.  Cue montage of AJ encountering some of these dangers before turning around and going back through the same dangers again because Fluttershy didn't come along, for the most part.  Fluttershy was busy talking to squirrels who, after AJ wanted to urge Fluttershy up the traditional way to the kirin village, show them a shortcut to the kirin village.  At the kirin village, they, predictably, encounter a bunch of kirin.  Turns out, they're a quiet bunch, and AJ's and Flutters's initial attempts to talk with them fall flat.  Turns out, they only respond to yes-or-no questions.  Cue a frustrated AJ.

AJ tries to talk with some more kirin... but they're still not willing to speak.  Eventually, AJ and Flutters split up, with Flutters remaining in the village and AJ going off on her own.  AJ runs into the squirrels again... and another kirin.  This kirin is named Autumn Blaze, she's voiced by Rachel Bloom, and she will be your waifu for today.  She's also the only kirin who can talk, and I think Pinkie might get along with her just fine.  Autumn Blaze shows AJ a rainbow and gets philosophical.  Then she explains the Vow of Silence by way of a very damn good song   explaining what the kirin used to be (kind, peaceful, loved to tell jokes and perform on stage) until a fight broke out one day that destroyed their entire village.  Then, after more disagreements arrived, the kirin queen took a vow of silence with her villagers to maintain peace, walking them into the Stream of Silence to, well, silence their voices.  Then, Autumn Blaze made a cure from a flower that made her speak again, and...  Hello Phantom of the Opera reference.  Anyways, the kirin queen gave her a choice:  speak or stay.  She decided to move out, wanting to keep her voice.  Speaking of, I've gotta admit, I wouldn't mind hearing that voice again.  We find out that Autumn Blaze only made enough cure for herself, and that there is no more.  Nevertheless, AJ wants to go back to the village to see how the kirin would react to allowing Autumn Blaze back.  Also, I think Princess Skystar would get along pretty well with Autumn Blaze.

Back in the kirin village, AJ goes back to Fluttershy, and they quickly get into an argument about how to handle the friendship problem.  AJ, of course, wants the kirin to talk again, but Fluttershy is afraid that they might wind up back in the situation that made them silent to begin with.  Fluttershy also shows a depiction of the kirin and the nirik on the side of a cliff, explaining that the kirin, when they get angry, turn into the nirik.  They still wind up disagreeing on how to handle the problem, which results in the kirin taking them to the Stream of Silence.  Autumn Blaze comes back in, in nirik form, to separate the ponies from the kirin.  Here comes a really good moral about disagreements and arguments not being the end of the world.  One of the kirin tries to speak to Autumn Blaze through a language that I can only call "kirin sign language" and says that she wants the cure to the silence.  Of course, there is no more cure as the flowers can't be found anywhere nearby, but those squirrels show back up to direct AJ and Fluttershy to a place where more of those flowers can be found.  They pick up the flowers (from a place well outside the peaks) and bring them to the village, Autumn Blaze puts them in the village fountain, the kirin drink from the fountain, and they can talk again!  Rain Shine (that's the name of the kirin queen - oh, and she has a cute voice) tells them that Autumn Blaze has given them a gift, there's a reprise of that song from earlier, AJ's and Flutters's butts glow, they hoofbump, and...  That's it!

...Wow.  That episode was seriously good.  Hats off to Mr. Bonsignore, because he managed to squeeze a lot into an episode and make that lot flow tightly while having it still be very understandable.  I think what helped this big time was how uncomplicated this one was.  Though, between the song, the kirin themselves, the overall conflict, and especially Autumn Blaze, it still felt like there was a lot here!  The ending was very abrupt, and the episode in general felt a little too quick for my tastes, but those are about the only minuses I can give this - they're not even that big of minuses to begin with, in my view!  Okay, I gotta gush on Autumn Blaze herself for a little while.  Rachel Bloom did a hell of a job voicing her, and, even though it's very unlikely we'll ever see her again, I still want her to come back.  I say that about a lot of characters that have "celebrity" voices attached to them (*coughcoughTempestShadowcooughcough*), but still.  Her personality, her looks, her design...  Everything about her was spot on.  One thing I forgot to mention up top is the fact that the color palettes used for the kirin are more earthy than those used by average pony characters.  I like that.  I also like their magic effects and the fact that only the bands of their horns light up.  So...  Kirin School of Friendship student confirmed for season nine?  (If, indeed, the School of Friendship gets focused on next season.  I don't see why it wouldn't, but I digress...)  The story was well-paced and executed, and I like the fact that everything made sense.  Everything that AJ and Fluttershy did in this episode felt like stuff AJ and Fluttershy would do.  The comedy was spot on thanks to Autumn Blaze.  As I've mentioned, the moral here was really good.  Then, there's that song.  You know, we've had some really good songs as of late!  The one from "Road to Friendship" was really good, but then there's this.  Yeah, it's just as good as the one from "Road to Friendship", if not marginally better!  So yeah, I think you can tell that I really, really liked this episode.  The season eight blowout streak continues!

Next week:  It's the Spike's dad episode.  ...

Lesson learned:  A male kirin has a different, thinner eyelash design but otherwise looks pretty much identical to a female kirin.  That's something for all the artists reading this.
Something something Christmas themed spoiler pun.
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An hour-long pony special featuring Hearth's Warming airing around Nightmare Night, eh?  You know what?  If my local Dollar General is willing to start stocking Christmas items next to Halloween items, I might as well talk about this Hearth's Warming special days before Halloween comes and goes...  Ah, you knew I was gonna talk about this in any case.  So, what does this hour of Hearth's Warming in October contain?  Twilight's fallen behind on her Hearth's Warming preparations thanks to the School of Friendship on one hoof (makes me wonder if this took place around the same time as season eight's "A Hearth's Warming Tale") and some family coming over (Shining Armor, Cadance, and of course, Flurry Heart) on another hoof.  Of course, the rest of the mane six and Spike come in to help by...  *plasters eyes against synopsis*  ...if I'm understanding this right, going all over Equestria with Twilight to seek out gift ideas?  And the entire Pie family is here, too?

NOW you have my attention.

We start off with some spooky commercials from Discovery Family to remind you exactly what month it is before we jump into a *insert James A. Janisse voice here* title card!  Behind that title card is the Student Six getting on a train and a song!  It's Hearth's Warming Eve... Eve, and everybody is making last-minute plans and coming up with last-minute gift ideas.  Indeed, we see MARBLE PIE BEING DISAPPOINTED BY BIG MAC KISSING SUGAR BELLE AT SWEET APPLE ACRES.  Yup, the entire Pie family arrives at Sweet Apple Acres, but at Twilight's castle, Twilight herself is worrying that she might not have time to properly celebrate the holidays.  Oh yeah, the song itself was pretty good!  Insert crazy Twilight trying to make last minute preps here as she wanders into Ponyville.  Applejack tries to calm her down then comes up with an idea - to do a Hearth's Warming Helper thing.  Basically, it's Secret Santa on steroids.  Insert Sparity fuel here and Pinkie reluctantly agreeing after initially wanting to be her Pinkie self and give as many gifts to as many ponies as possible.  Twilight then - at the speed of light - becomes decently sane and draws the mane six's cutie marks and Spike on a piece of paper, tears them evenly, and puts them into AJ's hat.  So, who picked who?  We don't know - that's why they call this a "Secret Santa"!  Spike tries to bargain with AJ to try to get something for Rarity - presumably, he *didn't* manage to pick Rarity, but then AJ reveals that she didn't pick Rarity.  Spike then flies away.

At Twilight's castle, Twilight is still decorating for the arrival of Shining Armor, Cadance, and Flurry Heart.  She also reveals that she picked Pinkie, and she doesn't know what to gift her.  Pinkie, meanwhile, HI LIMESTONE.  Anyways, Pinkie reveals that she picked Twilight.  Pinkie's sisters try to help out, and then, out of nowhere, she decides to go to Yakyakistan.  Spike then bumps into Rarity, who reveals that she picked Applejack.  She also decides to get a gift delivered from Manehatten.  RD and Fluttershy are also shopping, and, after RD leaves, Spike comes in.  He reveals that he picked RD, and Flutters reveals that she picked Rarity.  Of course, they trade with each other, something that AJ allowed.  Coincidentally, AJ comes in after Spike leaves and reveals that she picked Spike.  RD then gets a candle for Fluttershy, and the candle turns out to be Discord.  They go off to try to pick something out for Fluttershy.  Back at the castle, Spike has a bit of a meltdown when he realizes that he doesn't know what to gift to Rarity.

Fluttershy and AJ arrive at the Rainbow Falls, and...  can it be?  Flim and Flam?  What in all of Equestria are you two doing here?  Anyways, Fluttershy is suckered from buying the latest Daring Do book (...come on, Fluttershy!  Well, to be fair, RD might already have it...) to buy...  a crappy stuffed doll from the two con stallions.  In Yakyakistan, Pinkie arrives, does a title drop, and Prince Rutherford tells her in private that the yaks... aren't the best at giving gifts, but he knows a few beings who are.  He then gives her a map to "the best gift givers".  At the post office, Derpy has a voice--wait, Derpy has a voice again?  Anyways, Derpy, in arguably the best moment of this entire hour, reveals that she delivered AJ's gift (sent by Rarity) to Sweet Apple Acres, and then she corrects herself - she actually delivered it to Sweet Acorn Orchard.  Spike, meanwhile, is trying to think up of something to gift Rarity.  RD and Discord are still trying to think up of something to gift Fluttershy, and then Discord reveals that he wanted to gift her the fastest animal in Equestria, a winter-chilla.  Twilight is still figuring out a gift for Pinkie, and then, after going through her library, she finds it:  a pudding supposedly made by Chancellor Puddinghead...  minus the recipe.  Nice callback, by the way!  Fluttershy reveals what she spent literally all her bits on a crappy doll to AJ, and you know what that means.  After Fluttershy shows her who she bought that piece of crap stuffed doll from, AJ is very displeased.

At Sweet Acorn Orchard, the two ponies who live there thank her for the gift to their son, Pistachio, and, on their insistence, she decides to stay for a while.  Twilight is still looking for the recipe and gets progressively crazier (seriously, crazy Twilight is fun to see), and then the rest of her family arrives.  In the middle of nowhere, Pinkie rides a polar bear to... the North Pole, I guess, where Rutherford's map pointed to.  She encounters three reindeer - Aurora, Bori, and Alice (get it?), and they seem to know a LOT about Pinkie.  They give Pinkie the perfect gift for Twilight and cryptically say that she'll find out its purpose soon.  Back at the Rainbow Falls, AJ tries to give Flim and Flam (planning an expansion to their resort) a piece of her mind, but they ain't having it.  Back with the RD and Discord storyline, Discord turns himself and RD into a ninja for a bit, and then they find the animal they were looking for.  Spike makes himself glow on accident by falling asleep whilst making an original gift for Rarity, and AJ and Fluttershy show up Flim and Flam by saying that crappy dolls do not equate to a special gift for that special somepony or whoever.

Back at Sweet Acorn Orchard, Rarity tells Pistachio that he has a future in fashion, and then Pistachio tries to give Rarity's gift to AJ - a special fedora - back to her.  Being the Element of Generosity, she gives it back to him and reminds him of his bright future...  in season nine?  No, I'm being serious - he seems like a pretty cool kid!  AJ and Fluttershy leave Rainbow Falls, not having the best gifts for Spike and RD.  At the castle, Cadance and Shining Armor are on Twi's case, and then Flurry Heart screws up the recipe by throwing random stuff into the mixture, causing it to grow and become mutated.  Discord and RD start to part ways as night falls, and then, after RD invites Discord to help gift the animal they found over to Fluttershy, the winter-chilla begins to grow into something I'm sure the Power Rangers need to attend to, a winter-zilla.  Oh yeah, that happens when night falls.  At the castle, AJ, Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy meet back up with a bunch of nothing but blanks for gifts.  The glowing Spike brings them in, but both the mutant pudding and the winter-zilla begin to attack.

The winter-zilla is attracted to Spike's glowing self, the mutant pudding tries to attack Rarity but is repulsed by Twi, Cadance, and Shining; Fluttershy calms down the winter-zilla after it attacks some decorations, and Pinkie reveals that the reindeer gift to Twilight wound up being the exact ingredients to turn the mutant pudding into a regular pudding (as Discord put it, "reindeer-ex-machina").  Afterwards, everyone seems to lament about their Hearth's Warming Helper gifts being total disasters, and then Spike gives his gift to Rarity in the form of a song.  Okay.  OKAY.  THIS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD, and Rarity seems to like it.  The titular "best gift ever", big shock, turns out to be friendship and going through all that effort to try to give someone else a special gift, and the song continues on into the night with scenes all across Equestria (literally, we see Starlight and Trixie hanging out, Luna and Celestia hanging out, a shot of the yaks being yaks in Yakyakistan, and even a scene from the changelings - HI THORAX AND PHARYNX!  EDIT:  Didn't realize that Ocellus was in that scene, too!) and the three reindeer end the special by driving the point home.

You know...  If this was a regular two-parter, this might be one of my favorite two-parters EVER.  Coming into this, I couldn't help but be a bit cynical.  Aside from the whole Christmas-in-October thing, the premise stuck out to me as being pretty simple and very predictable.  However, this reminded me why I like this series so much.  It takes a simple, common premise and adds its own unique twists to it.  That is where this special shines.  About the only thing that really went bad...  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think Flim and Flam should be absolutely done as characters.  Yeah, I know they're the type of character that you should dislike due to them being absolute jerks, but at this point, do we really need to see them this often?  Okay, back to gushing about this special.  Holy crap, was the comedy good or was it good?  No, it wasn't great.  It was only the best thing about this special, that's all!  Derpy having a voice for the first time in ages (since "Slice of Life", if I'm not mistaken) was unexpected and cool, Discord's good side came out to play in a BIG way, and...  It's at this point that I should mention this was an ensemble presentation with how many characters and storylines shared the spotlight here.  Discord, the Pie family, Derpy, the yaks, Twilight's family (minus her parents), Flim and Flam, the Acorns, the reindeer, and, of course, the mane six and Spike.  I know there's gonna be some disappointment about Starlight and Trixie not having any lines or bigger roles outside of background characters, but still, the ensemble feel of this special was the icing on the cake (and I didn't mind Starlight and Trixie being reduced to very minor roles here).  It takes mighty good execution to pull off something of that nature successfully, and, well...  Just about everything seemed to click on all cylinders here.  The writing.  The execution.  The comedy, as I've already mentioned.  How the characters were handled.  The story--actually, let's go back to the story for a bit.  Yeah, it was kinda predictable, but, as I always say, being predictable isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when there are enough twists in the formula to distinguish it from the crowd.  The songs.  Oh my, the songs were good.  In a way, I'm glad that songs didn't dominate this special, and the only two that were present made effective bookends and were very good to begin with - quality over quantity, folks!  As for new characters, the reindeer...  I dunno.  Something seemed really off about them.  Maybe it's the fact that they seemed to know more about Pinkie than possibly Pinkie herself for characters we've never seen before until now.  Maybe it's the fact that the gift they gave to Pinkie wound up being exactly what was needed to stop the mutant pudding - what, can they predict the future or something?  Actually, do they have that ability?  They fully expected Pinkie arriving at their cozy little North Pole-like hideaway, so...  Yeah, they were perhaps the most unintentionally creepy things about this entire special in my view!  I'm not saying they're bad characters, but man, thinking about them is creeping me out.  The Acorn farmers and that Pistachio kid, on the other hand...  I'm gonna say it again.  I want to see them in season nine.  I just think there's good potential for an episode featuring Rarity and Pistachio.  Okay, I think I've gone on long enough about just how good this was.  This is one I can see myself watching again, preferably around Christmas...  I'm sorry.  I'm never gonna get over that.

That'll wrap things up for pony this year!  Unless something crazy happens like half of season nine leaking in December or airing in Belgium in December or something...

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:iconlh1200:
lh1200 Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2018  Professional Artist
Do Make Sweetie Belle (Equestria GirlsAnd ride the Bikini for Eddy (Ed,Edd n Eddy) Plasse Thanks
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ascencioirving Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018
Happy Birthday friendmlp EqG Rainboom (hug) plz 
I wish you a very happy daymlp mane 6 (hug) plz 
regardsPinkie pie (the Fourth Wall) plz 
www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPdSbk…
Twilight Sparkle (Faceplant) plz Excited Rainbow Dash chat emote 
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aqdrobert Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Mousegryphon Fan Art by aqdrobert Happy Birthday!
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HunterBrony101 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Hobbyist Filmographer
Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 Animation sm Happy Birthday 2 
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FRIEND711 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Happy Birthday! 
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JaymieDaggerBark Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy Birthday Sutekh94!!! Celestia can have cake happy DA B-day :3 Patrick (Cake) [V1]  Blower fella (Party) Fun cake fella's Gobbler (Party) Cake for Shifteh fella Gift (Party)Let them jump out of cake  Rainbow Cream Cake with candles 50x50 icon3d Cake Icon Oreo Cake with candles 50x50 icon Beach Cake with candles 50x50 icon Piece Of Rainbow Layers Cake 50x50 icon Big Turd Cream Fruit Cake 50x50 icon Kawaii pink cake Blueberry Cake type 10 with candles 50x50 icon Candycorn Cake Type 2 50x50 icon  Cake for artist 50px  Ugly Triple-decker Cake with candles 50x50 icon Bad Piggies 2dk Cake with candles 50x50 icon Rainbow cake 3 50px Rainbow cake 2 50pxOrange White Cake with candles 50x50 icon White Cream Cake with candles 50x50 icon Dark Chocolate Cake Type 1 with candles 50x50 icon Bad Piggies Double-decker Cake Type 2 50x50 icon  Strawberry Cream Cake with candles 50x50 icon Double Colours Cake with candles 50x50 icon Deep Autumn Cake with candles 50x50 icon Dark Chocolate Cake Type 3 with candles 50x50 icon Gift Box Cake with candles 50x50 icon A Piece of Ube Cake 50x50 icon Dark Chocolate Cake Type 4 with candles 50x50 icon Rainbow Cream Wedding Cake 50x50 icon Spring Cake Type 1 2DK 50x50 icon Rainbow Cake Tower 50x50 icon Jerusalem Cross Cake with candles 50x50 icon Chocolate Cream Swiss Roll 50x50 iconMint Cake Type 3 50x50 icon Taichi Cake 50x50 icon Cake Icon 4, Frosting Pandan Cake (2 Layers) with candles 50x50 icon  piece of cake M and Ms 50px Happy Birthday cake 11 50px Happy Birthday cake 7 50px Happy Birthday cake 4 50px Cake Icon 5, Banana and Chocolate Geometry Chocolate Cake Type 3 50x50 iconGeometry Chocolate Cake Type 4 50x50 icon  Geometry Chocolate Cake Type 2 50x50 iconBanana Chocolate Cake with candles 50x50 icon Chocolate Swiss Roll 50x50 iconMarshmallowStrawberry Cake with candles 50x50 icon  Cake with berries 50px  Minecraft cake (Pixel art) Rainbow Cake Tower 50x50 icon A Piece of Ube Cake 50x50 icon Purple Crystal Cake? Rainbow Cream Cake with candles 50x50 icon Pink bouncing cake Lavender Flower Cake Fancy Cake 50x50 icon Cake For Artists with candle 50x50 icon Bow cake Macaron Cake with candles 50x50 icon Bad Piggies SC Cake with candles 50x50 icon  Purple Yellow Cake with candles 50x50 icon Tower Cake 50x50 icon Raspberry Cake with candles 50x50 icon Refreshing Cake with candles 50x50 icon Sundae Ice cream
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DrDark7 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018
Happy Birthday
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msalliecat Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018
Happy Birthday Sutekh94.
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VanillaCreamKilly Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018
Happy Birthday!! 
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eagc7 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Student Digital Artist
Happy bday ^^
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