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Meet the parents

These reviews do contain spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.

I've made it no secret in the past, I wasn't the fondest of Starlight Glimmer. Not only did she have one of the worst villain origin stories ever, but her earlier episodes were pretty bad too. She would do a lot of questionable stuff from using magic constantly to solve her problems, to even using mind control and not thinking it was bad at all. While lately, I do think Starlight is getting better, there's something the show has failed to address about; her past. Even after three seasons, we still know nothing about where Starlight came from and how she got to where she is today. The most we know is that she just saw only one friend get a cutie mark and this somehow made her believe cutie marks in general were evil.

So when The Parent Map was announced, it looked to be the best time to do something like that. Not only does it have Starlight in it, but Sunburst is in on the journey too. I've wanted more episodes staring these two together and I think they have a good dynamic. It all sounded like a great idea to finally have the two go home and face the past once again. It has a lot of potential to finally explore Starlight's past and her town overall before running away. But no, we were all way off and the episode went off in a different direction.

When the map calls both Sunburst and Starlight, they both discover to their dismay they're heading to Sire's Hollow, the hometown of both unicorns. There, they discover their town has changed radically with a gate having an automated voice, to some places being preserved and nopony allowed, and some places looking like a mall. They soon discover that Starlight's dad, Firelight, and Sunburst's mom, Stellar Flare, are at the center of this mess. To make matters worse, both parents treat their own child weirdly with Firelight treating Starlight as a filly, and Stellar being overbearing on Sunburst. Now both Starlight and Sunburst have to figure out the problem with their parents and deal with how they treat them.

Once again, the map thing is rather confusing. Twilight states this is the first time the map has ever called anypony outside of Ponyville, so I'll give credit that it's expanding more to call some other ponies from different parts of Equestria. Though, this does raise the possibility somepony doesn't know about the map and will probably think something's wrong with them when they see their cutie marks glowing for no reason. Maybe the map only calls the Mane 7 and their friends, but who knows? Still, I'll say it's nice to see the map call outside of Ponyville for once.

If you were like me, you went into this episode hoping that this would touch upon Starlight's past. Well, sadly the episode doesn't bother exploring much of Starlight's past. The very most this episode does do is that Starlight's dad treats her like a filly and that she once went through a goth phase. Other than that though, there's nothing else. No look as to how Firelight tried to help Starlight after Sunburst left, no look at what she did after her friend left, no nothing. It's really disappointing considering how we still know nothing about Starlight's past at this point and this was the best chance they had with it. But aside from some tidbits here and there. nothing is done to explore about Starlight's past.

Despite that wasted chance, the episode does at least give us a chance to explore and see Sire's Hollow. We get to see more of it and learn a bit more about the town itself. Starlight's dad preserving the historical foundations of the town itself and learn some of its weird laws and what it's like around there. It's also nice to actually have a name for the town itself after the last few times we've seen it.

In this episode, we also finally get to see Sunburst's mom and Starlight's dad. The designs for both of them look really good and it's easy to see the resemblance between their own kids. As mentioned before though, they're both overbearing on their kids. Firelight seems somewhat like Rainbow's parents with how he seems to be so overbearing on his kid and trying to be supportive. Stellar Flare reminds me a bit of Spoiled Rich, but much nicer but still is strict on Sunburst and constantly makes plans for the future. They aren't bad characters at all and both do have good intentions on helping their kids in solving the problem. In fact, it looked like originally the problem was between them, but we soon learn it's something else between the two.

Meanwhile, there's this subplot involving Firelight and Stellar over the town and how it should be handled. Firelight wants to preserve the town (even making the bookstore strictly a museum), and Stellar wants to modernize it with new shops and bringing Sire's Hollow to the future. While this is a potentially good plot to explore about wanting to find a balance between the two, this plot point is soon quickly dropped. By the time this episode ends actually, it seems this subplot is dropped without being mentioned again and both parents will probably go back to their bickering about how to handle the town. Isn't that what a mayor is for though? Who's really running Sire's Hollow?

The comedy is good for the most part. It relies a lot on some facial expressions (in particular Starlight) and how the parents act. There are some good jokes scattered in the episode, but not as much as last week's episode. There's also this running gag about Sunburst trying to explain to his mom how the map works. It's good initially, but it kind of wanes out eventually. The antics involving Firelight treating Starlight like a filly is probably the best running joke though in this episode.

In a twist, we learn about what really caused Starlight and Sunburst to be called by the map. It wasn't because their parents are disagreeing with one another, but because of the relationship and how strained it is between parent and child. It seems to have taken a bit of page from Triple Threat. In that episode, Spike was called because he created the problem of lying and hiding secrets from Ember and Thorax. In this episode, we've heard how both Starlight and Sunburst avoid going home because of how their parents are and it's created a rift that lead to the problem overall.

It's not a bad idea and the episode did actually kind of build up to this point. While it's true the parents were a bit overbearing, they still wanted to help out in the end and do what was best for their kids. It's easy for kids to feel their parents are getting too much into their business, but it's also good to know they want what's best for you. Firelight wanted to make sure his daughter was still his little girl, no matter what. Stellar wanted Sunburst to succeed after he flunked magic school. It's actually some pretty good stuff overall, and shows how much they care about their own kids.

Unfortunately, while this is nice and all, the ending itself suffers massively at the end. In the last couple of minutes, there's this rushed ending where Starlight and Sunburst have to quickly make up with each of their parents. I think this wouldn't be so bad if this was the major plot and the subplot involving the preservation vs. new stuff never made it in. The ending does indicate Firelight and Stellar would visit their kids in the future. Not sure what kind of plots would ensue with something like this, but it does seem to indicate these two will be back sometime down the road. The ending itself with how Starlight and Sunburst consider their parents friends feels a bit weird as parents are there to guide and be there for you, but I wouldn't go that far as to calling them friends really.

While far from a bad episode, The Parent Map is a big step down from the last couple of episodes. I will say it's nice to see Sire's Hollow and the introduction of both Starlight's dad and Sunburst's mom is good. The comedy is good for the most part with some good running gags here and there. The characterization is solid for the most part and the twist involving the map was pretty good. However, it does have its problems that hamper it.

The plot seems to be scattered with some pacing issues. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to do or where it's going half the time. The subplot involving the preservation vs. new stuff went on unresolved and means the parents could go back to how over the top they went. Some of the jokes fell flat or ran on much longer than they needed to. Plus, it once again squandered a chance to finally look at Starlight's past, but all we get to know is her dad treats her like a filly and she went through a goth phase. That was it.

As I said, this episode is a big drop from last week and a shame after how the last couple of episodes were getting better and better. It does have its moments from seeing Sire's Hollow, some world building, the parents being shown, and having some solid jokes here and there. The plot and pacing though feel jarring, the subplot felt pointless, and the ending felt pretty rushed overall. I will say it's better than The Maud Couple in that it does have more going for itself, but this episode could've been better overall in some ways. It's still got a good moral to learn and there's nothing objectively wrong with the episode aside from some pointless stuff here and there, and wasting another chance to explore Starlight's past. I still think this is a good episode overall, but not as good as the last couple of episodes.

Earlier in the episode, Spike offered to go and be helpful, but sadly never went. Maybe if he did go, this episode could've benefited from some of his snarkiness and maybe he could've helped out. I don't think he still understands fully how the map works, but maybe he could've given more life to this episode.

FINAL SCORE: 7 out of 10 ( B- )

Season eight episodes ranking from best to worse:

Horse Play
Surf and/or Turf
Grannies Gone Wild
School Daze
The Parent Map (NEW)
The Maud Couple
Fake it Til You Make it
Critic Consensus: While it does suffer from some missed chances and the plot itself feels clunky, The Parent Map is still a good episode that has a good moral and has some decent world building to it.

Tagline: "If this is how Starlight and Sunburst's parents act around them, this may explain why they won't get married yet."
Add a Comment:
GJTProductions Featured By Owner May 6, 2018
I think the biggest merit of this episode is showing the contrast between the good parents of the Mane Six (yes, even Rainbow's overenthusiastic cheerleaders of a mom and dad count here) and the dysfunction that lead Sunburst to social isolation and Starlight to unscrupulous villainhood. 
TheDragonWarlock Featured By Owner May 11, 2018
I just wish this episode explored more about how Starlight's dad handled his daughter after Sunburst left.
Funtime1997 Featured By Owner May 6, 2018
To me my only complaint was the parents, although I could see what they were going for, Progressive and conservative.  The episode though it is decent.  Not the worst episode I have seen but it could have been better.  6/10
TheDragonWarlock Featured By Owner May 11, 2018
I still hold Fake it til you Make it to be the worst so far.
xNickTheBestx Featured By Owner May 6, 2018  Student Filmographer
honestly, i thought this was a lot better than you thought. sure, Horse Play is still the best one so far, but this one comes a close second
TheDragonWarlock Featured By Owner May 11, 2018
Eh, I was expecting more from this.
xNickTheBestx Featured By Owner May 11, 2018  Student Filmographer
to each's own
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