Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 43: Castle Sweet Castle


< Part 42 | Part 43 | Part 44 >

Season 5, Episode 3

This post was originally going to cover both Castle Sweet Castle and Bloom & Gloom. However, my reviews of both episodes ended up much longer than I thought, so I’ve chosen to split the post in half! Hopefully this will make my episode reviews seem less like neverending walls of words.

Season 5 Episode 3: Castle Sweet Castle

In five words: Twilight adapts to another change.

Premise: Twilight Sparkle doesn’t feel quite at home in her new castle and has been doing strange activities with her friends instead of getting used to the place, so her friends try to make the castle feel more like home.

Detailed run-through:

As with The Cutie Map, the beginning of this episode (which consists of Twilight Sparkle helping Fluttershy wash her animals) is an appropriate time to reflect on when I watched it for the first time.

During the six years between watching season 4 and season 5 of MLP, there was one question about the show that my brain would now and then divert to: how in the world is Twilight Sparkle going to be OK with having to live in an extravagant new castle instead of her quaint little library?! It’s a question that I found myself scratching my head over quite a lot, because her house’s destruction was easily the scene I remembered the most from the season 4 finale. I think I even told myself that such merch-driven changes like Twilight being a princess and her new fancy castle are proof that the show wasn’t that great. Because I was left hanging on this question for so long, when I saw the title of this episode on a list of season 5’s episodes, I internally squeed a little. I just KNEW the show was going to address this question in a satisfying and earnest way that matches what I’ve always enjoyed about Twilight Sparkle’s character.

Fluttershy: Phew! Thanks for helping me get them so fresh and clean, Twilight.
Twilight Sparkle: No problem. Happy to do it.
Fluttershy: You probably can’t wait to get back to your castle and take your own bath, huh?
Twilight Sparkle: Aren’t there more animals that need cleaning?
Fluttershy: I think you and I are the only ones left! And I can’t wait to get the mud out of my mane.

Just like at the start of season 4, Twilight Sparkle fell victim to a merchandising decision and is incredibly awkward about it. Her friends reasonably expect her to be excited about the changes in her life, but they did not know how much attachment she put into the Golden Oak Library. After all, she only lived in that place for a year or two, far less than how long she lived in Canterlot. But since she’s Twilight Sparkle, she exerts that grief not by admitting it to her friends, but through a nervous breakdown where she desperately helps her friends with as many chores as she can so she can procrastinate on getting used to her castle. While other characters may procrastinate by lazily slacking off, Twilight Sparkle does so by working on a bunch of things unrelated to what she’s putting off. It’s how she takes her mind off her insecurities.

Angel Bunny randomly getting kicked into mud? Season 5 really is off to a strong start!

Twilight Sparkle further demonstrates her style of procrastination when she kicks our favorite love-to-hate bunny into the mud so that she has more work to do, then gives him a bath. This makes for a humorous stopping point before the theme song, where the appearance of Twilight’s castle hits ever so slightly different. All in all, this opening section does a great job demonstrating how Twilight Sparkle feels about her old house being destroyed, and how she’s exerting this frustration. One of the biggest things I enjoyed about this show when I first watched it was Twilight’s absurd nervous breakdowns, and this trait of hers shines strong as ever here.

Twilight Sparkle has spent the entire day helping out at Fluttershy’s house and giving Angel an unnecessarily long bath, and I can take a good guess why. It’s not just that she’s nervous to step inside her castle. Now that her library has been destroyed, the next best places for Twilight to experience comfort and familiarity are her friends’ houses. She’s nervous to take her first step into the unfamiliar, especially since she didn’t willfully choose to move out of her library.

Twilight Sparkle sets out to help Pinkie Pie make pancakes, and as the Mane 6 eat them afterwards, they all discuss how Twilight Sparkle has been exhausting herself with helping her friends, as though she doesn’t want to leave. Though the scene is greatly peppered with Pinkie Pie’s zany humor, it’s nice to see that they can all easily tell their friend has a problem. Twilight Sparkle thinks her friends can’t tell why she wants to help around so much, but she’s wrong.

For Twilight Sparkle, arranging these identical gems over and over again must be a form of therapeutic meditation.

While Twilight is snoring, Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash recount times that she helped them out with activities to excessive degrees. I greatly appreciate that this episode doesn’t spend too long showing Twilight Sparkle excessively helping her friends one by one, and instead sums up most of it in a narrated montage. This gives the episode more time to focus on Twilight’s insecurities and how her friends attempt to solve them.

Rainbow Dash: I mean, I know hanging out with me is awesome, but… it was like she’d rather keep losing than—
Fluttershy: Leave?
Rainbow Dash: Yeah. Who does that?
Applejack: Somepony who’s avoiding something, that’s who. Soon as she wakes up, we’re gonna find out what.

Applejack knows what it’s like to avoid an uncomfortable truth by working herself like crazy. Remember what all happened in The Last Roundup? I mean, besides the whole Derpy fiasco that the episode’s title may as well be synonymous with?

… No?

… Maybe?

OK, maybe you do remember Applejack getting away from her usual life by working at a cherry factory to send money over because she didn’t want to admit she lost a competition. While Rainbow Dash is greatly weirded out by Twilight Sparkle racing her repeatedly and losing each time, Applejack’s rational mind allows her to tell that Twilight is avoiding something.

The whole side plot of finding the measuring spoon that Pinkie Pie accidentally mixed into the pancakes is so incredibly silly that I almost didn’t mention it, but I’m bringing it up as an example of something season 5 does really well. This season’s episodes do a very careful job balancing important moments that advance the episode’s plot with wacky off-the-wall humor, and it’s done in just the right way to make the episodes all the more memorable. For a show that’s so rife with cartoony slapstick, it admirably doesn’t let that take precedence over the messages it delivers.

Pinkie Pie cheering that she won snaps Twilight out of her slumber. She spouts out a memorable line that’s gained some memetic status:

Twilight Sparkle: I’m pancake! I mean, awake!

While this line may seem merely like more of season 5’s distinct flavor of off-the-wall humor, it also gives a genuine demonstration of Twilight Sparkle’s mental state. One of the best ways to distract yourself from something important is to focus extremely hard on something unrelated, and Twilight Sparkle has been doing that with various activities, most recently her meticulous work helping with the pancakes.

Rarity: You know how much we appreciate all you do for us.
(Pinkie Pie snatches the pancake)
Rarity: And we simply adore having you around, but… we worry you might be… mm… avoiding something else?
Twilight Sparkle: Oh… Has it been that obvious?
Twilight Sparkle: I’ve been… the thing is… I know it’s silly, but I… I’ve been avoiding… this place.

In the first two seasons, I imagine Twilight Sparkle might have laughed like nothing’s wrong and thrown together a lie if asked what she’s been avoiding. The fact that she’s willing to admit it to her friends shows how far their friendships have come, and her stuttering is not her trying to come up with a lie, but trying to think of a way to say it that isn’t hurtful. After Rarity expresses shock that Twilight would avoid such a gorgeous castle and Pinkie Pie gives us a brief tour of what all it has to offer, Twilight Sparkle says that it simply doesn’t feel like home—something that’s sure to be relatable for viewers who have had to move somewhere completely new. The big fancy castle that I’m sure was dropped into the show for the sake of selling toys has allowed the show to tackle an important topic for viewers: the difficulty of moving homes. It’s a topic relevant for me, since I’m currently at a point where I need to figure out how to move out of my parents’ house, hopefully before the year ends.

Twilight Sparkle says that her new place is intimidatingly huge and she doesn’t know where to begin with making it her own. Rarity offers to decorate it for her while she gets some rest at the spa.

Twilight Sparkle: Oh, I guess I do need a little help. And so does my castle. And I just know you’ll do a great job, because nopony knows me better than you.

It’s sweet that Twilight trusts her friends to give the house decorations she will like, but she’s wrong on the last point. My view is that in life, no one ever knows you better than yourself. Maybe not everyone agrees with that, but my point that you can’t always rely on others to determine what’s good for you. And Twilight is soon to learn just that.

Spike enters the scene carrying a plush of Rarity, and I have a few questions. Having plush versions of fictional characters is one thing, something that many of this show’s fans are surely familiar with, but within the show’s universe, Spike apparently owns a plush of a real person??? How does that make sense? Who made the Rarity plush for him? Are plushes of other ponies a regular normal thing in Equestria?!

Oh, whatever. I am overthinking this show, as usual. This is supposed to be a silly little jab at fans who have one pony they particularly like to get merch of. But if you really want to see a theory for where this plush came from, feel free to head to the miscellaneous notes.

After Spike leaves to take Twilight Sparkle to the spa, we get a musical number sung by the rest of the Mane 6 called “Make This Castle a Home”, where they all work together to decorate Twilight’s castle and make it feel like home. The song’s upbeat tone shows how much Twilight’s friends are getting carried away with their own interests, merrily splattering their tastes all over her house without thinking about what would look nice and fitting.

Some people use the phrase “Mane 5” to refer to the Mane 6 minus one member, but I’m not that fond of it.
Especially because it doesn’t always refer to the Mane 6 minus Twilight.

During this musical number, Twilight’s friends first gather supplies from their own homes, then use them to decorate the castle. This brings me to a common criticism with this episode: it isn’t all that smart of them to decorate the castle with their own interests. I somewhat agree with this criticism, but it makes more sense with some ponies than with others. Rarity decorating the castle her way makes perfect sense, because she would obviously snag an opportunity to give a beautiful castle some of her fanciful touch. Fluttershy’s mindset for bringing in those animals is so they can keep Twilight some company, which isn’t unusual for her. Rainbow Dash can be justified in her decorations as being extremely caught up with narcissism. Pinkie Pie as being zany, maybe? But I can’t think of a justification for why Applejack would decorate Twilight’s place with farming equipment. It would make more sense for her to be the one trying to talk her friends out of all this, but hey, at least it’s four out of five ponies whose reasons for decorating the house I could justify! Not too bad, I’d say.

And here’s the end result of all this decoration work:

This is an absolute mess visually, and right before the first act of the episode ends, we see that it’s a mess in practical terms when one of the birds pops a balloon. This is a forewarning that things will go wrong fast.

I can’t decide if I think the picture hanging above the Mane 6 is a photo or a painting.

This episode unfortunately forgets Applejack is supposed to be the honest one when she is the first one to awkwardly pretend she thinks the castle looks great. The others follow suit, and man, it would make so much more sense if Applejack admitted up front it looks like a mess. Applejack’s characterization is definitely a weak spot in this episode. Still, I can see why the rest of them wouldn’t be willing to admit how strongly everything clashes. Rarity in particular politely tries to hide her annoyance, as is characteristic of her. It takes Spike entering the scene and saying it looks terrible for the Mane 6 to reveal their honest opinions; they’re relieved that someone broke the truth. Before Spike came, they probably felt they weren’t allowed to criticize each other’s work since they all had so much fun doing it.

And then comes the inevitable chain reaction of destruction, started by one of Pinkie’s hidden confetti cannons going off and fueled largely by Fluttershy’s animals running around like crazy since they aren’t used to being in such a gigantic castle. Twilight’s friends need more time to fix up the clutter, and Spike is put in charge of stalling her until it’s ready. This doesn’t prove an easy task, since Twilight has just enjoyed some relaxation at the spa and is excited to see what her castle looks like.

The rest of the ponies start by removing one decoration each, but Rarity doesn’t want to get rid of anything since she worked so hard on making all her decorations complement each other. It’s clear that she’s the only one who put any thought into making the castle look appealing. I feel like she could have done a satisfying job livening up the castle if she did it all by herself, and I can’t blame her for not wanting her stuff removed. Though I’m not sure why the decorations that the birds had destroyed are still laying there. Perhaps Rarity wanted to repair them by herself?

Rainbow Dash takes down the portrait of the Mane 6 since they already all know what they look like, and Rarity retaliates by getting rid of two of Rainbow Dash’s posters. This leads to a chain reaction of them trading jabs while removing each other’s decorations, sometimes even teaming up.

Pinkie Pie: Fluttershy, tell your birds to stop pecking at my balloons!
Fluttershy: I guess they must not like being scared out of their wits by exploding confetti cannons or something.

Early on in the show, maybe Fluttershy would have wanted her friends to all settle down, but since she’s gone through some character development, here she’s participating in taking down the decorations by commanding her birds to do so. She even tells off Pinkie Pie for not thinking of the animals’ well-being. The ponies in the scene don’t mean anything bad to each other when taking down all the decorations. After all, Rarity and Rainbow Dash got infuriated by the other removing their decorations one moment, but then teamed up to take down one of Applejack’s and even hoof-bumped the next. Perhaps they all know that they’ll clean up the clutter a lot faster if they get rid of decorations that aren’t their own, allowing them to reflect on what they did wrong.

This is such a good heavy scene. A fitting break from the humor most of this episode has had.

Back to Twilight Sparkle and Spike, we now get a part that tugs at the heartstrings. Now that the two people who resided in the house are looking at its remains together, they’re able to reflect on how much it meant to them. It’s something that the two probably couldn’t quite express to the rest of their friends, since only they grew up together and shared this house.

Twilight Sparkle: (sigh) I really miss this place, Spike. We had so many wonderful memories here.
Spike: We did, didn’t we.
Twilight Sparkle: Oh Spike, I’m so sorry. Of course losing the Golden Oak Library was hard for you, too.

Aw, Spike is even shedding a tear here.

Twilight Sparkle speaks for many fans of the show regarding how much of a blow it was for her to lose her home. It really does feel like all those memories are gone now, and things just aren’t going to be the same. It’s heartwarming to see that Spike has just as much grief about losing the Golden Oak Library; it was his home, too. He just doesn’t express his grief through insane mental breakdowns. I think he’s more the type to hold grief in, then eventually confide with someone who he can share that grief with. Different people have different ways of handling grief, and I find this contrast very believable.

Twilight Sparkle is almost ready to fly home, but Spike stops her and says that he remembered he wanted something in the house: after some stammering, he decides it’s a bed. Twilight Sparkle easily can tell when he’s lying, but Spike convinces her to get a bed regardless, which allows them just a little more time before they gaze upon the renovated castle.

With all the decorations removed, the rest of Twilight’s friends are back to square one. They all panic about what to do next, knowing her friend wouldn’t take well seeing that they did nothing. They all realize that they decorated the place as though it were their home rather than Twilight’s, and they satisfyingly don’t take long to admit they screwed up. When thinking about what Twilight liked about the Golden Oak Library, they realize that they too had a lot of good memories there and reference the events of some early episodes:

Rainbow Dash: Remember that time I crashed into all those books attempting my Sonic Rainboom after you guys just cleaned up? (laughs, then sighs) That was good times.
Applejack: Yeah, for you, maybe.
Rarity: Oh, and Applejack, remember when we were stuck having a sleepover there? Oh, that turned out to be so much fun.

It’s a fitting choice to have both of these recounted memories come from season 1 episodes. This is truly sending viewers down memory lane, since the first few episodes of a show are likely to stick out in their memory. Pinkie Pie then brings up the time the house got blown up, but then remembers that wasn’t a good memory. This makes them all realize that the Golden Oak Library was a special place to them too, and soon enough, Applejack has an idea.

Meanwhile, Twilight Sparkle and Spike are at the quills and sofas store run by the quills and sofas guy who we first met in season 1, looking for beds. Spike almost settles on a bed he likes, but when he sees the rest of the Mane 6 outside carrying shovels—a hint that they might dig something up from what’s left of the Golden Oak Library—he stalls her some more.

Soon enough, we’ll get used to how enormous this castle is compared to all these ponies.
Yes, in time this place will feel like home too.

Next comes a short reprise of Make This Castle a Home, where Applejack and Fluttershy (through her animals) get digging while the other three go shopping for supplies to make their idea into reality, then they work together to pull some ropes and raise something mysterious. This time, the tone of the song represents them setting right what went wrong, hopeful that Twilight Sparkle will like what they did.

When Twilight Sparkle and Spike arrive home, at first Twilight is confused that the house was kept the same. But then, her friends tell her something important that they realized: the memories you make are what makes home feel like home, which is so incredibly true. Soon enough, Twilight Sparkle feasts her eyes upon this:

The roots of the Golden Oak Library have been brought inside the castle complete with fancy decoration, and I find this to be an awesome solution to Twilight’s castle not feeling like home. The symbolism here is very clear: the roots of the tree allow us to remember where this show started, combining old memories with upcoming new memories to show what all they’ve been through. With this, the show acknowledges that while Twilight’s old residence may have been decimated, it won’t be forgotten at all, and that’s the important part.

Ah, the first episode of MLP:FiM. The start of a show that became something truly special.

And the icing on the cake, or the cherry on top, or whatever other culinary analogy you’d like to use, is that the ornaments on the tree show Twilight Sparkle’s memories since she first moved to Ponyville. There’s no explanation for how these ornaments are able to display old memories, but I’m willing to let it slide.

Rarity: We were hoping that being able to look at your beautiful old memories would inspire you to make new ones.
Applejack: And the best part of it is, it’s made from the roots of the Golden Oak Library, so you’ll never forget where you came from.
(Twilight Sparkle looks at the roots)
Twilight Sparkle: It’s exactly what the castle needed.

Twilight Sparkle: And I am ready to make new memories here.

Here, the show is telling something important to viewers struggling with moving to a new place: your new home will be a place where you can make tons of new memories, without forgetting about your old ones. With Twilight Sparkle’s castle, this proves completely true for viewers: looking inside her castle, I easily remember all the various events that happened there in the show’s second half. The part of the show that I never experienced until long after my initial phase passed. It gives me tons of fun memories of watching those episodes for the first time, all the way up to the final one. And I won’t lie, it also alleviates worries I might have about moving to a new place in real life. A new place does indeed mean new memories.

When Pinkie Pie presents her friends with a cake, the Mane 6 go to the dining room and find out that Rarity has moved her decorations over there. The Mane 6’s styles of decorations look a lot nicer like this rather than all clumped together, and Rarity does indeed know how to fancify a room on her own. The others say that they couldn’t help but decorate various other rooms in the house. Rainbow Dash says that she may or may not have put a few Daring Do posters in Twilight’s library, which might sound like a trace of Rainbow Dash being self-indulgent until you remember that Twilight Sparkle is a massive fan of those books too. It shows that Rainbow Dash was willing to tone down her extravagant decorations to focus on the interests that Twilight shares with her, which I find sweet. All this shows that Twilight’s friends decorating the castle with some of their own interests will help it feel like home after all, so long as they don’t go overboard. After another one of Pinkie Pie’s hidden party cannons goes off, they all share a laugh and the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

When I first watched this episode, I had hoped this would address the problem of how Twilight Sparkle will adjust to living in a big fancy castle, and I got exactly what I wanted! The episode acknowledges that changes like this are difficult, giving Twilight Sparkle, Spike, and the rest of the Mane 6 each their own moments that demonstrate how much the Golden Oak Library meant to them. The one weak spot is that during Twilight’s friends’ first round in decorating the castle, they feel very absent-minded as they go crazy decorating it with their own interests, but I really enjoy everything else about this episode. The resolution to this episode is an excellent way to combine old and new, giving the castle a testament to what all Twilight Sparkle has been through since she moved to Ponyville while also looking forward to the future, and it makes the castle feel MUCH less like merely a way to sell toys. We have five whole seasons to go through in this new residence, and we’ve just barely started. There’s a LOT of content that’s still waiting to be covered, and before you know it, the castle will indeed feel like Twilight’s home.

Grade: B

Agh, this one is so close to getting an A, and I feel bad not giving it one. It doesn’t quite make it because of the weak spot I mentioned.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Early in the episode, Rarity is the only Mane 6 member who eats pancakes with a fork instead of digging in with her mouth. I briefly thought it was weird that eating pancakes with silverware was shown to be the odd exception, but then I remembered Rarity has several other moments where she acts oddly human. Another example is when she panicked that Spike was about to see her naked in The Best Night Ever, even though the Mane 6 don’t normally wear clothes.
  • I am going to come up with the most ridiculous but plausible theory about how Spike got his Rarity plush that I possibly can. Maybe he and Big Macintosh secretly entered Our Town themselves because they got bored, and Spike found that Starlight Glimmer owned plushes of the six ponies who she had hoped to brainwash so she could practice what to say to them. I’m going to guess that Starlight made those plushes herself using magic spells, perhaps with the help of pictures she had gathered of the Mane 6. Spike nabbed Starlight’s plush of Rarity somehow… perhaps that plush happened to be lying on the ground? Big Macintosh also is known to have an interest in plush dolls, and it could be that this is where he saw Sugar Belle for the first time, if my wacky theory is correct.
  • I wonder what Bon Bon is doing over at the quills and sofas store. Do you think Lyra has a bad habit of wrecking Bon Bon’s beds, and Bon Bon is sleuthing all of Ponyville to find a bed sturdy enough that her roommate can’t find a way to break it? I’m imagining the two getting into an argument about beds, the kind of argument an old married couple might get into. (We’re not too far from Slice of Life…)

The next episode teases another question that had lingered in my brain after I finished season 4, this time about the Cutie Mark Crusaders.

Wow, this review turned out to be a doozy—over 4000 words long, even if you don’t count quotes from the show. Most of my season 1 episode reviews aren’t even half as long as this one! But it would have still shared a post with the next episode if that one didn’t also end up longer than I thought. This is what happens with every project I ever do: it starts out simple, but then I get carried away and put more and more detail into every installment. This is exactly the same thing that happened with my Homestuck posts, which also started out short and simple.

See you next week for a memorable episode that consists mostly of nightmares with a LOT to pick apart.

>> Part 44: Bloom & Gloom

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