"Castle Sweet Castle" begins with Twilight avoiding her castle. To her, that new, spacious growth doesn't feel like home. Her old house, the Golden Oaks Library, had been destroyed by Tirek. This is a setup with a certain amount of poignancy to it, but this is a relatively muted episode, attempting to invoke emotion by way of memories. As such, not a whole lot actually happens here, to the point where I'm not actually sure if this premise is enough to sustain an entire episode on its own. Here, it straddles the line, not quite reaching the emotions that it's aiming for but also not feeling stretched thin. These episodes, which I simply feel indifferent towards, are the hardest to discuss, because they're the hardest for me to sort out my thoughts on. I mean, "Castle Sweet Castle" is fine, I suppose, but it didn't do a whole lot for me, which is disappointing, because some of the parts are in the right place.
Twilight Sparkle has a problem with some depth to it. Her friends seek to help her. The story is relatively grounded and down-to-earth. There's a strong tone of reminiscence in parts. So why, then, doesn't it work? To explore that, let's look at what happens after Twilight reveals her sense of discomfort. Spike distracts her out in Ponyville while her friends give her castle a makeover. However, instead of doing the obvious thing and thinking about their friend, they really just craft the thing as if they were making their own house. There's some petty squabbling, but it doesn't actually mean anything, and the episode would have been far stronger without it.
I feel that what this episode is going for would have been far stronger if, instead of trying to shoehorn tension in by having Twilight's friends squabble over how to decorate the castle, it had simply been about Twilight reminiscing about the old home while the others reminisce about previous episodes while decorating the castle. That would still carry the issue of the episode not doing much new, but it would probably do a better job of achieving the emotional heights it's going for. The episode comes close, sure, and is sort of quaint in its own right, but it could have been a little sweeter if the emotional effect had been built up a little better. This might have been better for near the end of the series, instead of near the start of a season, and its placement probably robs it a little of its effectiveness.
While my previous re-review included a lot of plot summary, I've already run out of things to summarize in "Castle Sweet Castle." At the end, Twilight's friends dig up the old tree and stick it in the castle, but I was never emotionally invested in the tree. If a little more time was dedicated to the characters' memories, it might have resonated more, but it almost feels like the episode depends on previous emotions (that, to be fair, were expressed by a lot of people) in order to work. For me, though, it just doesn't, and it's not entirely easy to explain why. This episode just feels too slight, and that's not helped by the fact that none of the jokes landed for me, "I'm pancake" excepted.
I was too harsh on it before, though. It's not offensive or anything, just sort of mediocre. Contrary to what I said before, the characterization is fine, and the song has actually grown on me this second time, as derivative as it is. There's something to this show's style of music that really does work for me. It certainly looks bad between "The Cutie Map" and "Bloom and Gloom", but it's fine. I have more mixed feelings about the influx of new talent to the show now, and I don't think this episode's writers are really all that bad in the grand scheme of things. I just hope their next episode has a little more to it.
So, yeah, "Castle Sweet Castle." Not a whole lot of insight here, just a bit of rattling that it doesn't work for me. Episodes like this have so little to them, so when they don't resonate with me, there's nothing for me to work with. It's fine. Nothing more, nothing less. It's just... fine.