Short breaks between seasons are rare, but certainly welcome. My Little Pony concluded its fifth season back in November. Just four months later and #6 has begun. The last major hiatus was almost a whole year, so this was shocking but no one’s complaining. Season 5 ended rather peculiarly: the redemption of Starlight Glimmer and what appeared to be her inclusion as a main character from then on. I didn’t think it was a good idea to make her good, but like with Discord it’s something one just has to accept going forward and see what the show will do with it. Interestingly enough, “The Crystalling” focuses not only on a major plot development, but also as a direct extension of the #5 finale. It’s not the most exciting premiere and probably on the lower spectrum of previous seasons, but still a solid way to get Season 6 started.
Here’s the official episode description from Discovery Family:
Twilight and the rest of the Mane Six head to the Crystal Empire for the “Crystalling” of Cadence and Shining Armor’s new baby while Twilight takes the opportunity to present Starlight with her first friendship lesson.
As Starlight tries to pick up the pieces of the failed reunion with her old friend, Twilight and the rest of the Mane Six struggle to save the Crystal Empire from an eternal winter.
The big question left at the end of “The Cutie Re-Mark” is what role Starlight would play going forward. The opening few minutes here establishes her as a resident in the Castle of Friendship with Twilight as the latter’s pupil. This is a really great idea and another step in Twilight’s character development. We’ve seen her as a student throughout the first 3 seasons, and then she became a princess. Now, she has her own student. Today’s two-parter is divided between two story points, which as you can guess, interact in the climax. The title is of course referring to the biggest development: Shining Armor and Princess Cadance’s baby, Flurry Heart. The trope of a baby being too much to bear for everyone involved can be annoying. It’s not terrible here, but as a focus throughout the middle of Part 1 and most of Part 2, the viewer wishes for something a little more engaging.
The other part of the story focuses on Twilight’s first friendship lesson for Starlight: rekindling the latter’s old friendship with Sunburst. I personally was shocked to see this plot point come back so soon, and really at all. The problem I still have with this whole backstory and what’s said here in the beginning is that there’s still no real reason why they stopped being friends. Surely they could have kept in touch. (At the end of Part Two Starlight even says to “keep in touch,” so why couldn’t they do that all those years ago?) The dialogue in Part One was painful to get through with this part of the plot. Sunburst’s first reaction to seeing Starlight was epically unrealistic. He wouldn’t become anything resembling a good character until the Part Two climax.
That is not to say this aspect of the plot was bad, because it actually became quite good in Part Two. The dialogue back and fourth between Starlight and Sunburst when the truth was laid bare was heartfelt. MLP is built on the subject of friendships, and while some aspects of this plot point weren’t the best, it was still nice to see come to fruition. Now, since Starlight takes up a good chunk of screen time, the rest of the ponies don’t get to do much. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because Starlight as a new main character should get a lot of screen time. Plus juggling so many characters is tough, and writer Josh Haber manages to give each pony at least a little screen time. There are a few great lines, but perhaps the best was when Twilight states, “I’m not sure how long it will take” with then Pinkie Pie asking, “Is quickly an option?” MLP never fails with its genuinely funny writing.
Interestingly enough, it’s Spike who proves to be one of the episode’s biggest highlights. In fact, I’m inclined to say this could be his best portrayal yet. Even when telling his grand story about his heroism in the Crystal Empire, he goes back to the mission at hand, reminding Starlight that putting something off isn’t a good idea. (Since she was attempting to trick him into telling the story so she wouldn’t have to meet with Sunburst.) Because Spike has been with Twilight since day 1, he should be pretty good with how friendships works. (The best scene was when he reassured Starlight that he and Twilight were her friends.) Now, a staple of these two-parters is that there’s always some kind of grand threat. In this case it’s an “Eternal Winter.” I’ve personally found environmental hazards to be a boring focus. This storm idea also comes unnaturally out of the blue. All of the ponies in dread over it just seemed to be overdone fake hype. At least the background music for when Princess Celestia and Luna were battling it was very thematic.
Overall, Season 6 as expected starts out with a solid premiere. The two supposedly divergent plot points meshed well as the climax started to roll in. While Starlight is a fun character to have around, she is still far more interesting as an antagonist. The Eternal Winter was an underwhelming threat and seemed like it was put there just to have something exciting happen for a two-parter. Twilight’s first lesson for Starlight in rekindling the old friendship with Sunburst was intriguing, since Twilight herself went through something similar in “Amending Fences.” (Something she briefly mentions.) This part starts out very rough, but gets better in Part 2. “The Crystalling,” while not as good as the premieres for just about all the previous seasons, is still not a bad opener.