Late to the Punchline Review MLP:FIM Season 8 Episode 2

Late to the Punchline Review MLP:FIM Season 8 Episode 2

Hello, I’m Half the Battle,
and this is my Late to the Punchline Review of Friendship Is Magic Episode 171:
School Daze – Part 2, which, like Part 1, is
written by Mike Vogel (this is his tenth episode)
and Nicole Dubuc (this is her fourth). This time for our Character section,
let’s get a quick run-down of the Student Six
as they’re established here. I can say from the outset that we have
marvelous vocal performances from a mostly new cast,
along with a unique blend of personalities here,
not just facsimiles of the main characters: Yona gets the most screentime so far. While she exhibits much pride in her yak heritage,
she’s enthusiastically eager to try new things and even overcomes her fear of flying
in about twelve seconds. Other than a brief tiff with Gallus,
she’s quick to befriend the other students. Her braids make for some great physical comedy,
but her ebullience is what really makes her a joy to watch. Gallus is at the other end of the spectrum. He’s immediately recognizable as
the sort of person who thinks it’s cool to be
cynical, snarky, and unimpressed. But there’s warmth beneath the surface,
and it’s only natural to surmise much of his toughness is a protective facade
that has allowed him to function in the griffons’ traditionally unfriendly
society. We’ve seen a similar duality in Grampa Gruff,
so I’m interested to see where his character goes from here. Smolder is drawn spectacularly cute
but shares her tough-guy image with Gallus. However, hers is grounded not so much in cynicism
as in competition, a cultural trait we’ve been led to associate with dragons. It’s fitting, then, that what eventually
draws her to soften toward Yona and Ocellus is being impressed by their talents. At this point, Smolder seems to be
the main creative mind in the group, and she also bonds quickly
with Gallus and Silverstream. Ocellus is the best academic of the group
but is otherwise quiet. But though shy and reserved,
she doesn’t seek solitude; she appears happy to have the others as friends. She also shape-shifts a LOT,
complete with size changes, much of it simply for fun, so it’s clear to me
that the show’s creators intend to make the most
of having a Changeling in the supporting cast. Silverstream is my early favorite
in the student cast, if for no other reason than that she’s just in love
with everything in the world around her. I identify with her joy of discovery,
and in fact my own motivation for teaching is my desire to share that joy with others. Perhaps that’s why it’s her idea to
introduce Yona to the fun of flying. My first impression of Sandbar was a little
weak; he seemed to be just a generic nice guy. A closer look reveals he’s similar to Spike
in a lot of ways: skilled in gentle guidance and the first to lend a hoof when anypony
needs help. There’s also a little bit of a surfer-dude
motif going on here, but it’s not as pronounced
as, say, Tree Hugger’s mannerisms. I hope he keeps a distinct personality, since
on a show about friendship, he’ll need more than being “the friendly one” to stand
out. The first sequence with Twilight sulking
and her subsequent conversation with Starlight Glimmer is a great snapshot
of her character, and it shows how much of her resolve depends on the help of her
friends. Starlight gives Twi encouragement in a literal
sense, giving her the courage to do the right thing. And as a pep-talking straight-shooter
who’s overcome so many of her own missteps, Starlight is the perfect pony for this. Also, I like her reference to “tough love,”
since the word love isn’t used often enough on this show. Let us not forget,
these two former enemies now really love each other. With the focus on Twilight and the new cast,
it might be easy to lose sight of how trying an experience this school project is
for the teachers, so I’m glad we get a scene to that effect—topped off with a
sincere and direct apology from Twilight Sparkle
for ignoring their insights and observations in Part 1. It’s good to see her taking ownership
of her friendship mistakes in a healthy way like this, even as she’s prone to pity parties
for her more task-related setbacks. Princess Celestia is probably wise
to let Twilight be the one to sort things out here
(for the sake of the headmare’s credibility), but I’m glad she contributes something
to the final confrontation. And her armor-piercing question is backed
up by the fact that Celestia was around
when the types of ponies put aside their differences over a thousand years ago. Other viewers have noticed the fitting choices
of which pony goes to which kingdom to announce the reopening of the school. Sending Dash to Griffonstone
and Pinkie to Yakyakistan are obvious moves. Fluttershy works with Thorax since
he’s the most gentle. (Notice he doesn’t hurl
accusations like the other leaders— very in-character.) Between the other two,
Rarity is the better choice for Ember since they’ve met and they have Spike
as a common friend. That leaves AJ
with General Seaspray, who might prefer a pony renowned for honesty
after the incident with Twilight in the Movie. Finally, I enjoy the pukwudgies
for their outright nastiness (though one is seen to be less hostile later). All by themselves they’ve made Everfree Forest
threatening again. I was surprised to learn
they’re not original to the show despite the cute name,
but have their origins in Native American mythology. For the story’s lesson, now I’d like to tackle
the School of Friendship part of the story. Full disclosure: My middle sister is the founder
and principal of a private school operated by her church,
and I’ve done my share of writing curriculum and teaching in school and church settings. Also, I learned best using traditional methods,
but I realize most people don’t think like I do
and prefer something a little different. Running a school requires more than
bricks, books, and brains. Within its appropriate scope, it needs to
serve the needs of its students so that they
grow as people as they grow in knowledge. Teens like the Student Six need an outlet
for physical exercise as well as creative expression. They’re building their own sense of self-definition
and self-efficacy. But they’re also moving
toward mature socialization, so they must have ways to participate meaningfully
in the events they’re part of and have positive interactions not only with their
peers but with adults of various generations. Teens are also driven to test boundaries
as they learn to balance their growing independence with their proper place in the world
and develop a theory of mind that acknowledges other people’s differing
perspectives and sensibilities. All that is besides the actual curriculum,
and schools aren’t solely responsible for all this. But they are where young people spend
the plurality of their waking hours outside the home, and a School of Friendship
would need to be especially attuned to all these elements. So what about the rules? It’s worth noting that while the song in the
finale says “The only rule here is to find your way,”
it takes a meter-thick manual for Twilight to flesh all that out. My guess is that seeking the student’s best
path to learning is the over-arching principle
—the “only rule,” if you will— as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach
of the EEA. But to operate efficiently,
any learning environment requires a few guidelines. Some examples:
What information you should teach should depend on what the students already know,
what they’re ready to learn, and the purpose for which they’re learning
it. As you prepare for class time,
consider what your students will be doing, and not just what you as the teacher will
be doing. The best teaching method depends on
the teacher’s personality and the students’ various learning styles,
but it should always be clear, well-prepared, and confidently and winsomely delivered. There should be some means to assess
whether the information is being understood and retained. Praise loud, fix soft. And when fixing,
correct the behavior, not the person. Always keep your cool and don’t “power trip.” As s teacher, don’t take “I don’t know”
for a final answer. “I don’t know” is
everyone’s starting point, and your job is to move the students from being unable
to answer a question to answering the question correctly. All that is to say, the ways to do school
right are very basic and easily adaptable
to a wide variety of topics, contexts, and learning styles. Most of it’s more about
good judgment than about method. But it takes some experience to learn
to separate the principles from the teaching methods
Twilight is used to, plus a mind that’s open to diversity and new possibilities,
something that may be beyond Chancellor Neighsay’s capacity. We move on to Emotional Resonance. And as My Little Pony Part 2’s go,
this is downright breezy. Not a lot of serious drama,
the “kingdoms at war” bit is fairly understated (though undoubtedly scary in-universe),
and the only real peril is the pukwudgie attack. But the lighter mood doesn’t mean a mundane
story. These twenty-two minutes are packed full of
fun. The attack provides our characters
a chance to show themselves ready for combat. Points to Silverstream for saving Yona
from the initial assault. All the teachers
get their moments protecting the students. Even Spike gets in on the action,
and I like seeing the two birds fetching a pukwudgie for Fluttershy to bother. The comedy comes heavy in this episode. Pinkie is at the top of her game,
with her apparent facility with pity parties, her line, “Do we still get to guess?”
and a full set of personalized confetti cannons. And her exchange with Fluttershy makes me
wish for an episode featuring shrimp. We get a delightful gag with five of the ponies
trying to cram through the doorway to follow Sandbar, with Spike, Starlight,
and Twilight tagging along casually. The students likewise entertain with
Yona’s wheel-hooved cupcake charge, Gallus’s braid-tripping assist,
and the sight of Yona Yak panting like a dog. The Bugbear is a terrific choice of form
for Ocellus, and Silverstream’s fascination with stairs becomes even funnier when she
gives a perfectly valid reason for her interest. Fluttershy gets a laugh for absently
decking a pukwudgie with an EEA rulebook, and Yona gets one more smile from me
by her “Not bad for pony” line delivery and facial expressions. We also see Angel Bunny attending
Starlight Glimmer’s class for some reason, and he seems pretty happy about it. I’ll also mention a couple heartwarming moments,
as Silverstream misses her family and Thorax shows some tenderness to Ocellus
during the conclusion. Speaking of which, now for the rest:
Perhaps surprisingly, the writers didn’t consult education professionals for the school
arc but instead wrote from their own memories
as former students. That’s valid,
inasmuch as the stories will probably be presented mostly from the students’ perspective. Also, I’m willing to sacrifice
a bit of realism here. Running a school is
extraordinarily complex and emotionally taxing, involves a lot of unfortunate trade-offs,
and any changes take more time than a series like this could reasonably accommodate. Part of the point of setting a story
in a magical land is so that your story ideas and their presentation are not
unduly restricted by reality. The show’s animation quality has been stellar
for a long time at this point, so I didn’t expect any major upgrades here. But we do get a few nice rotating camera shots. The story is nicely split into segments
involving the Mane Six and company, the other kingdoms, the students,
and the reopening of the school. The story does a decent job with the whole
load of characters, but I’m glad we close
on a moment with just Twilight and her friends. In the end, School Daze is fun and engaging
in both parts, and it also gets me curious and excited to see what Season 8 has to offer
as the show sets out into new territory. I give School Daze Parts 1 and 2 Crystal Mail. You can find my reviews and other articles
at or on my YouTube channel. I’m Half the Battle, and thanks for watching.

1 thought on “Late to the Punchline Review MLP:FIM Season 8 Episode 2

  1. I know "Late" is in the title, but… I really want to know two things:
    a) If you have watched all MLP.FIM episodes & EQG specials (sans the last "Xmas" one).
    b) The date of the recording (or rather "last edit") of the script of this episode review.
    -> The first is just to clear spoiler territory, the second is to rule out (via Wikipedia) things that you could not have known back then [to avoid pointing out "currently known revelations"].

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