I haven't reviewed the past couple of episodes for this season like I thought I would, so I thought I would for this one.
Anyway, there's really one just one big problem I have with this episode.
If you've read my past reviews on MLP, you're probably thinking "oh, he didn't like that it was another musical episode again," but not so! The songs were decent and well paced throughout the episode, with the only real song I have any gripes about was that I found the opening song seemed a little long for the show's traditional cold opening, and I couldn't help but think if that was wise, writing-wise. Otherwise the songs were great, and let's face it, with it being a holidays-themed episode, the songs really sort of went without saying.
I think why the songs won me over this time around is because the episode didn't fall for the same entrapments most other Christmas-specials come subject to when it comes to the songs. Since a fair number of our modern Christmas songs had their origins with various specials that first promoted them, most subsequent specials seem to feel the pressure that they need their songs to be great and profound so to join those ranks as well...only to ultimately overdo it and force out overly blown out songs that ultimately just don't grab the attention of the masses and fall to the wayside ignored. I didn't feel that same sort of pressure with the songs MLP featured with this episode, though, and I suspect the reason why is because MLP is already fairly confident with their songs as-is, as past history has shown that they tend to do very well anyway. So rather than force songs, the episode focused more on songs that were more relevant to the tale it's telling, pieced together in whatever manner the show's crew felt was best and most fun and enjoyable. Basically, how they usually do every other song for the show. While I certainly don't expect any of these songs to gain fame any further than outside the usual circle of bronies, they certainly suited the needs of the episode, as well as the overall theme, so this time I around I'll call them a success.
As for the episode's story, sure, it's basically just a retelling of "A Christmas Carol" (in retrospect, I kind of wish I had been recording myself while I was watching the episode, because I noted that aloud fairly early on in the episode, but oddly, for some reason, my mind went blank, I couldn't recall the actual title of Dicken's famous tale until about halfway through the episode when I suddenly, without warning, blurted out "'A Christmas Carol!' That was it! That was the name!"
) but if I'm perfectly honest? I'm more surprised the show took this long to actually do it (properly, I suppose I must concede season four's "For Whom The Sweetie Belle Toils" did borrow some similar elements). And I'm finding that if you had conceded to yourself well in advance to now that MLP was only going to do it eventually, you find you can enjoy this episode more when it finally does happen. Besides, to MLP's credit, they do shake it up a little, and threw it small elements that are a bit more "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" or even, ever so faintly, "It's A Wonderful Life" (funnily enough, both tales that are thought to have been loosely inspired by "A Christmas Tale" in various ways). In fact, it's too bad Rainbow beat Starlight to the punch on doing that famous "Grinch Grin" (
) last season, or it totally wouldn't have been seen as out of place by me to have Starlight do the same grin in this episode.
So sure, it's an old and oft-repeated tale...but there's a reason it remains so famous today, y'know.
I also found what characters stood in for who to be pretty fitting, especially in the department of the spirits. AJ and her delightfully frank and blunt manner served excellently as the Ghost of Hearth's Warming Past. Pinkie was the obvious choice for the Ghost of Hearth's Warming Present(s). And Luna was spot-on
for the Ghost of Hearth's Warming Yet To Come, as was her adjusted design for the role. Speaking of, it was also fun to see all these characters, both main and background, with slightly more Victorian, old-school designs. Though I must confess that I find it funny that the designers went through all that trouble to turn Vinyl Scratch and her trademark DJ set-up more appropriate for the time period...but still featured a young
(no less) Snowfall Frost hanging electric Christmas lights
that certainly didn't exist in the time period being parodied. We're quite skim on new characters, but I did like the design for Snowfall's Professor Flintheart who, like everybrony else, I immediately likened in appearance to a certain Professor Snape and figure it was totally done deliberately by the show's crew...y'know, like they do.
And the moral...it's old and true, to be sure, and certainly not one we haven't been told before, but it's a good one to remember still, and MLP's variant of it I'm finding is a nice one worth remembering. In fact, the only really gripe about the writing I even really have about the episode is the fact that Snowfall Frost, upon waking up from her visit with the Ghost of Hearth's Warming Yet To Come, didn't shout out into the street to ask what day it was:
"What's today, my fine fellow?"
"Today? Why, it's Hearth's Warming Eve!"
I must confess, I'm genuinely surprised they didn't fit in some variant of that line, as it seems to be one of the many famous moments of the tale to portray. But oh well, it's not like it kills the episode in any way. I assume that they simply thought they didn't have the time to fit it into the episode.
Yeah, all in all, it was a great episode and I found I greatly enjoyed it. In fact, I'd enjoy it even more...
...if it weren't for the fact that it's the middle of May, and I had just come in from a long day out and about on a rather hot early summer day, and was thinking in the back of my head the whole episode that it was the wrong time of year for this.
So...the timing's not great for the episode. But y'know, otherwise it was a nice episode. I'll even go so far to say that, of all of the Christmas-specials MLP has done to date, this one is the Christmas-specialist.