• Editorial: What's the Point of the Student 6?

    Well, now. 13 episodes in already? What have these little ragamuffins been up to?

    After their introduction at the start of the season, a number of fans have been looking forward to seeing the Student 6 develop. 

    But what was exciting then is still just a promise at the midpoint, and it makes you wonder. Where are they going with this? Are the students going to be developed? To put it a bit harshly, what's the point of the Student 6?

    The Student 6. Some theorize they're a whole new Mane Cast—here to take over for the Mane 6 after they've reached all their goals and dreams—but others would say they're more like supporting characters. 

    They probably aren't direct parallels to the Mane 6 like the Pillars were because... we just did that last season (although, speaking of, they did set up that the Elements of Harmony are back in play, so call me when the Successor 6 is a thing)

    Granted, no matter what they're going to have to share the screen with the Mane 6 in some way, but exactly how they should is the real question here.

    The Dreaded Idiot Ball

    Wait, that's not an idiot ball, that's the Orb of Confusion.
    One of the fandom's biggest pet peeves by far is when a character is stuck with the proverbial Idiot Ball for an episode—whether by acting actually stupid or by forgetting past development—specifically when we feel it's done to make another character look better by comparison.

    A not too small number of fans with complaints about Non-Compete Clause claimed that was one of their main problems with the episode, one of the only regular episodes the Student 6 have to their name.

    Now this is an idiot ball!
    And whether you agree about Non-Compete Clause, we can all agree this style of development (even if it was ever applied intentionally, which I highly doubt) is annoying and more importantly ineffective.

    It doesn't really tell you anything specific about these characters. It might tell you what they're not, but it really doesn't say a whole lot about what they are.

    So, if not via the passing of the Ball, how might we see the Student 6 develop in the remainder of the season and beyond?

    A Reason for Being Here

    It would help to know why they're here, in an in-universe sense.

    We get that the general idea: to learn friendship at the friendship school—but it's the specifics that a good set of characters make. 

    And, hey, I don't want the answers spoon-fed or front-loaded all at once, but since we haven't spent all that much time with them yet, it's still hard to get a handle on their individual reasons for being here. So, quick run through, what's our best guess?

    Sandbar has no apparent reason for being there. I like him, I'm just telling you the facts. He's a relaxed, easygoing duuude with a tendency to mediate conflicts, so it's curious that a pony teen like him isn't off pursuing his special talent instead.

    According to the Wiki, he was in Forgotten Friendship during the Canterlot scenes (a fact you'd think I'd remember after taking 150+ screenshots for the followup). He's not a unicorn, so he couldn't have been attending Celestia's School, but that at least gives us some idea of where he was before all this.

    Gallus was specifically "introduced" by Grandpa Gruff. Given what we know about Gruff and the general efforts by Gilda and co. to rebuild the lost glory of Griffonstone, I imagine there's a fair bit of expectation placed on Gallus's shoulders to represent.

    More so than even the royals, we saw Gallus shrink at his Grandpa's rebuffs in the premiere. And yet, he also eventually suggests cutting class. So his lineage might not be all that grand, but it seems like there may be pressure to make it so that he may or may not be able to live up to.

    Yona honestly might just be here to brag about Yak culture. I know it's generally a running gag that Yaks hold a very high opinions of Yaks, but if we take her at face-value, Yona said she wants to meet ponies to tell them about Yakyakistan. 

    You might be tempted to say she's actually here to learn about other cultures, but that's not the in-universe reason because Prince Rutherford brought her here, and he doesn't see Yona's patriotism as a bad thing.

    Why Yona specifically when all Yaks love Yakyakistan? Therein lies the question.

    Smolderoo intrigues me the most, as you may know from my Molt Down followup. She was ordered to be here by the Dragonlord herself, but unlike Yona, we know Smolder at least has a brother back home.

    She's away from her family, so why was it so important that it be this dragon in particular out of all the ones Ember could've chosen?

    Smolder was dragged in and, like Gallus, held some beliefs about how lame ponies are, so this isn't something she wanted initially. I wonder whether Ember saw some potential in Smolder or if this is more of a straighten and fly right sort of experience. 

    Ocellus is there for a very clear reason, at least. We know for a fact Thorax doesn't rule with an iron fist so much as a soft hug and a cup hot cocoa, and he knows that Ocellus is apt to shape-shift instead of be herself.

    His plan is to get her to embrace who she is by finding friends that accept her for whatever form she takes, it seems like, and it's sweet how encouraging he is. 

    Thanks to her little bout of exposition-dump-itis, we know Silver Stream is basically Ariel from the Little Mermaid. She's been underwater her whole life up until recently, and now she wants to be Part of Their Wooorld.

    And yeah, she was also introduced formally, by General Seaspray, but from the way she acts, I could very easily see it being her suggestion to come to the Friendship School. 

    Her brother's a lot less decisive about leaving home for all that exciting newness, but knowing about his fondness Sequestria and Harmonizing Heights, you have to wonder if Silver Stream here will ever get homesick herself.

    But Who Here is Actually Bad at Friendship?

    So far, we've seen them work together pretty darn well and even bond as friends acquaintances on their own, without teaching—which begs the question.

    Are they actually bad enough at friendship to warrant needing to be taught about it, or are they there for other reasons?

    You can argue Yona is a touch too self-centered, Ocellus is too shy, and Silver Stream is maybe too easily distracted, I guess. Sandbar, I still have no idea, there's nothing wrong with the guy, and Gallus and Smolder both don't particularly want to be friendly.

    But we more often see their potential and their strengths than the flaws they have yet to work through, so are they here just to show up the Mane 6 for a season and vamoose? Take their spots all-together in this or the next gen?

    Each season has a motif that helps get across the themes and ideas of that season, and it doesn't take me pointing out the Students and the school could be compared to the Pillars or the Chest and its Keys. 
    Like Starlight or the Pillars, while they may show up later on, it's pretty likely they'll mostly be important in this season especially.

    The latter might be the best comparison you can make:

    Last season, the Pillars didn't even show up until after the mid-season hiatus. Before then, several episodes tie in thematically, since it's all about learning from the past, like The Perfect Pear or A Royal Problem (most of us thought Daybreaker was just for fun, but directly referencing the NMM fiasco in an episode where the sisters fight is no accident)—but the actual Pillar plotline doesn't get going until S7b.

    The staff may be doing the same this season, in terms of developing the Student 6.

    Why? It could have to do with the mid-season hiatus. We've had one since season 5, but after last season, they might be adopting this method of back-loading the season with story so none of the important setup details are lost in the months without pony.

    And maybe to give us some Mane 6 episodes before they let the newbies take a turn, so we don't complain too much about them taking over.

    A Brighter Future to Look Forward To

    Get it? Because the saturation on the leaks makes it brighter
    So, if you're not satisfied with the Student 6 development so far, don't lose heart. They might only be important for a season, but the best is likely yet to come.

    But I'll pass it on to you. What do you think the Student 6 are here for? What theme(s) is/are important this season that they might demonstrate? How do you want to see them develop? Solo episodes, team-ups, one-on-one episodes with their teachers, or ensemble outings?

    For now, all of that is up to you.

    Marvel's Blog: Here