Let me get this out of the way, because this might come off as a rant: I like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I do. Really. I'm not a big enough fan to call myself any names or align myself with a subsection of the fanbase. I just watch it with my son, and have a passing interest in the culture surrounding it.
But most of all I watch the show in its own bubble. Me consuming a product as intended for hungry eyeballs made by hard working artists doing what I hope is their very best. So when I say what I say, it is from a me to show complaint only, in large part having to do with how the story is being told.
So. Let's get to it.
I can tell Faust is gone.
I sit here, having ruminated on season 3 and its finale for a few days now. At first viewing I didn't like the last episode, (13). But on rewatch It did grow on me. I have one nitpick, but its at the very very very end and it isn't important to my argument. But the reason I didn't like it was that it felt like it was going by too fast. Or... something. Something was happening way too fast. But the episode itself, in its own bubble, is paced alright. ( I would personally cut out a song, but only to tighten things up.)
So if the episode was fine, what was feeling... rushed?
And then I remembered having a similar feeling with the season 2 ending, which was a two parter. And it also was paced fine for the most part. And it had plenty of time to get across what it wanted.
So then I think back to the season one ending. The Grand Galloping Gala episode. This one had less stakes than the other two, granted, but it didn't feel rushed. This is one of the last episodes, if not the last, that Faust had any huge directorial control over. And I can tell. Because then it hit me:
Seeding. Faust actually took time to seed, let it set, and then let it blossom, though it might not be exactly how we imagined when we saw it. She gave us setup and payoff. Setup has not really been utilized effectively in the show for a good chunk of time now. And this is in a show that has very few plot episodes, and far more slice of life episodes. But still, she found a way to put setup in those episodes that payed off later in the plot driven ones. Think about how many times we heard that there was a Grand Galloping Gala, or prepared for it in some way before we were allowed to go to this gala and see it for ourselves. By this point it was set up as something important and it tied all the episodes before it, the ones that might have seemed pointless for plot, together in some little meaningful way. It made the gala far more interesting, as by itself all alone its just a really fancy party. ( And a stuffy one at that, apparently.)
So by the end point of season 2 Faust had only been a consultant, and from some internet documentation we know that she barely did anything in the last few episodes. There were some rocky bits in season 2 where you can tell someone with a tight ship was handing off the wheel to someone else. Some characters started acting odd. Rarity seemed to suffer the most, flittering back and forth from her original character to a stuffy stereotypical debutante character, (which Faust said was a fine line to walk with her, but she didn't want her to be the debutante.) My speculation is that Hasbro was poking its hands into the cake a wee bit more than they had, especially after Derpygate. The cool mythical monsters made fewer appearances, and things seemed a bit more... sellable than they did. All of this and it is a miracle that season 2 wasn't complete garbage -- it wasn't as good and tight in the story/character department as season 1, but it has many episodes that hold their own and some are my favorites.
But that finale. There was no buildup, no setup, for that finale. We have two important characters that just, like in bad fanfiction, pop up out of the blue, never having been mentioned before, and are now the arguable focus of the story. We have a long lost brother character that she always totally had, and a princess babysitter, who is also an alicorn. ( This will be a point of contention later. Keep it in your back pocket. I will rant on this. It won't be pretty.) So now Twilight, who is a super awesome character don't get me wrong, has waaaay too many ties to royalty to be comfortable. But, I'll let that slide. My main point is that there was no setup. Had there been setup, this would have been a fine pair of episodes. By themselves, they are fine. I have nitpicks, but they are just that. Nitpicks.
Now we come to season 3, the shortest season. Save for the first two episodes, which at least tried a little to seed something with the book thing, and perhaps the very (very) poorly written Discord episode where the elements are left with Twilight finally for reasons. This season has issues. Cracks. Big ones. Not all bad, just... enough to worry about. And that's what I mean when I say that you can tell that Faust is gone. The ship is leaking. It's still a perfectly well designed ship, but the guys running it, and I'm sure they're doing their darndest with what they've been trusted with, are changing some of the foundation and I'm afraid this is going to turn into Pixar's Brave. There are genuinely good character moments, but then they turn around and contradict old character growth or something, or open tiny plot holes. ( Did anyone else notice that the last episode had issues with the cutie mark switch ups? Rarity and Rainbow Dash do not have cutie marks that have anything to do with their professions!)
The finale, while it tried to seed a wee little bit beforehand, failed. It wasn't overt enough. I can kinda tell that Hasbro wanted to sell more alicorn princess dolls. And that is fine, but take a few more tiny moments in the season to hint something. Give us at least one more episode with Twilight doing something important, anything -- she didn't even send a letter to her mentor, and this was THE time to be doing that. I want to like that last episode, please!
Now let us discuss the alicorn thing.
I don't care that Twilight is now an alicorn. Whatever. She was probably going to become one sometime, but I have a hunch that it was going to be at the very end of the show. At any rate, this is what we've got. It was seeded pretty heavily by Faust herself so sooner, later, just make it good guys.
My issue is with Cadence.
Right now she is sticking out like a sore thumb. Alicorns, from what I understand, were a very very very rare thing. Alicorn does not equal princess. Princess does not equal alicorn. There are princes running around that do not have wings. Faust did not intend for there to be any other alicorns save for Celestia, Luna, and eventually Twilight, because they are unto GODS in ponyland. She said that she was surprised to see that Cadence had been turned into an alicorn at some point after she had left. So from what I can gather this thing, this seemingly little thing, is tearing at the walls of the ship. And it would have not been so bad had the Crystal Empire stuff had not ripped open even more questions.
When did she become an alicorn? She looks younger in the Twilight flashback, so I will assume that so far she has lived about as long as most normal ponies. She probably hasn't lived for thousands of years. She doesn't have special hair yet, which seems to be a thing now, she seems more interested in marriage and "in the now" sort of stuff. She has not transcended into the ageless elf maiden archetype yet. So let us assume that she isn't that old, but is probably immortal now. I will also assume that if the alicorns are an aspect of something now, as her introduction has thrown that wrench into it, she has to be the aspect of love. Because.
Now remember, had it just been Twilight who had just become an alicorn, this would have made it more meaningful and special. Sun, moon, stars. Even Starswirl would have fit into this. Cadence ruins this by existing. That is not to say that I don't like her character, what of it there is. Strip the wings and I have little issues. This is world building here.
So now lets dump some crystal ponies onto this. So if she was young in the flashbacks and probably not yet long lived, how could she be the princess of the Crystal Empire? ( Lets not touch on what an empire really is, but it is not a small splotch of city with a castle in the middle of it.) Did she inherit it somehow? When she became the aspect of love did she automatically get the crystal empire? Why did she wait so long to try and save her subjects? If she did inherit it from her parents or something, why isn't she a crystal pony? Wouldn't that have made more sense in the long run? She was a crystal pony that was estranged from her homeland that married a unicorn? What sort of racist junk is this, that only unicorn mares with special wings can become royalty over all of the different races?
Who are you pink pony lady? Where do you come from? How do you function in this universe? Why aren't you a crystal pony? If you are somehow really old why did you get married? He's just going to die eventually. Do you get new ones every so many centuries?
I just... I don't even know. I want to understand, I really do. If she hadn't appeared as younger in the flashback then I could assume that she's just really old. But I can't do that now. If she wasn't this long lost princess then I could have assumed that she was just an aspect that popped up one day and now we have another princess of some school of magic. But that doesn't quite fit either. So I just want to understand. Please.
Maybe little kids and die hard bronies don't really care about this sort of thing. I don't think they do in the long run. If the next season was absolutely terrible, with no redeeming qualities, I bet that they would go down with that ship and not really care. But I came for the decent story. It kinda isn't so much now... it's not bad bad, but it's not as good. It's getting pretty average for a kid show. And that's probably the worst place to be.
Listening to: Through the Fire and the Flames
Reading: Return of the King ( Oh gersh is it long.)
Watching: The Paint Dry Channel
Playing: Guild Wars 2
Eating: Sourdough Bread
Drinking: From the hose out back