Christmas stories are commonplace in most shows. My Little Pony had the solid “Hearth’s Warming Eve” back in Season 2 and “Hearthbreakers” in Season 5. Today’s episode is sort of a sequel to the former. I think “A Hearth’s Warming Tail” should have been saved for much later in the year, but that’s a minor thing. Season 6 of MLP has been pretty good, but sadly the most mediocre season so far. There have been very few great episodes. Of course we’re still pretty early on so this can change. And what better way to start this change than with an uplifting story such as this?
Here’s the official episode description from Discovery Family:
It’s Hearth’s Warming Eve and everypony is excited. Everypony except for Starlight Glimmer. Twilight decides that to cure Starlight of her holiday blues, she will read her one of her favorite Hearth’s Warming Eve stories, “A Hearth’s Warming Tale.”
If it’s one negative a person can think up, it’s that the episode progresses and ends exactly how one expects. It doesn’t break new ground and is pretty much a retread of a show adapting “A Christmas Carol.” Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. New writer Michael Vogel doesn’t give us anything new but at the same time delivers a wonderful story of Christmas time & friendship. As the description states, much of the plot is told through story format. I think it would have been better if Starlight had in real time experienced it herself rather than through hearing a story. Nonetheless, the book is entertaining.
This Christmas Carol adaption is nothing new for older viewers but for a lot of kids it will seem like something original. The plot is paced very well as see early on how Snowfall Frost dislikes Hearth’s Warming. A lot of what is seen here is synonymous with a tragic real life happening: a lot of people are bitter toward Christmas. The day unfortunately has been heavily commercialized and when the time approaches many instead of focusing on what it truly means just looks forward to it being over. In the story we see Snowfall thinking the day is just an excuse for presents when time can be better spent doing other things. You can guess pretty easily what happens when the spirits of Hearth’s Warming past, presents (not a typo) and future arrive. Still, it’s effective in getting the message across and the final scene in the story is heartwarming.
This season has been pretty devoid of songs, so it’s good to see a bunch here. In fact, this episode can be considered a musical, the first since “Crusaders of the Lost Mark.” The songs never distract from the story, rather they enhance the overall message. For example, in “Say Goodbye to the Holiday” we see Snowfall use the lyrics “words said so often that they lack any meaning.” This again is synonymous with real life. For those that have become alienated to Christmas the term “Merry Christmas” (or in the episode, “Happy Hearth’s Warming”) doesn’t mean anything. It’s only when a person (or pony) understands the greatness of the day when the words start to mean something. The journey to Snowfall discovering that, and in turn Starlight, was great to see. The final picture of the episode was a fantastic, moving one. Even though I believe Starlight reforming was a mistake, it’s nonetheless touching to see her become close friends with the others in an organic way only MLP can do.
Overall, “A Hearth’s Warming Tail” is a great episode, the season’s best. The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in other shows, but with MLP a retread can still be fantastic. The story format is used effectively and the songs are truly wonderful. This will definitely make for a nice watch on a winter December day.