How does it feel? Knowing that soon, every pegasus, unicorn and earth pony will bow to my will... and that there is nothing that you can do to stop it? - Lord Tirek
So, Season 4 has come and gone. It certainly went out with a bang, providing us with the most impressive display of magical battle the series has yet seen. Still, despite the visual feast, the finale has its problems. Let’s plunge right in, shall we?
The finale starts with another trip to the Crystal Empire, this time to meet with delegates from Maretonia. Spike is quick to remind everyone of his status as the Great and Honorable Spike the Brave and Glorious, which Rainbow is getting tired of hearing. Rarity has a glorious snark prepared, “And we never hear a peep out of you regarding your exploits…”, only to be gloriously snarked in turn by Applejack when she says Twilight gets to smile and wave as a princess: “And how is that different to smiling and waving as NOT a princess?”
In contrast to the gang’s good-natured teasing, Twilight’s mood is rather dour, as she feels a bit disillusioned with her status as Princess. She doesn’t feel like she is actually contributing much in this role. This is made worse when it turns out her task during the delegates’ visit is to unfurl a banner, and she is shut out of the conference between the delegates and the other Princesses. The delegates are two of the ponies we saw in “Equestria Games”, a rather imposing stallion with a beard and a mare who looks very much like a taller version of Rarity, with an elaborate headdress. (Why the country isn’t called Maresopotamia is beyond me. Perhaps it sounded a bit hard to pronounce, so the writers decided to go with Maretonia instead.)
On coming out of the chamber, they thank Twilight for understanding their desire to keep the conference between as few ponies as possible, and take their leave. When the other Princesses join her, Twilight pours out her heart to them in song. The three Princesses (also in song) try to reassure Twilight that she will find out her destiny in time. (Didn’t Celestia say she already met her destiny in “Magical Mystery Cure”?) This song is really kind of moving, and for bonus points features Princess Luna actually singing for the first time. Her singing voice, as with Rarity, is provided by Kazumi Evans. Her spirits somewhat lifted, Twilight retires for the night, as do the other Princesses.
Unfortunately, things are not all hunky dory in Equestria. A mysterious hooded figure is prowling around, draining unicorns of their magic. Princess Celestia sees this happening in a dream vision, and Luna confirms her fears… Lord Tirek is back on the scene!
Calling for Twilight and her friends, Celestia tells the tale of Tirek and his brother Scorpan. While they originally came to Equestria to take all the magic of the ponies, Scorpan eventually was befriended by them, and told them all about Tirek’s evil plan before booking. Beaten and captured, Tirek was sent to Tartarus. However, he escaped when Cerberus left his post way back during the events of “It’s About Time”. One wonders what he was doing all that time, but Celestia implies that his imprisonment left him too weak to steal any magic until now. However, now that he has recovered his strength, each pony he drains will make him stronger and more dangerous.
While it’s great to have such a great call back to previous events in the series, it makes me wonder why his absence from the prison was never noticed. Somepony has been really incompetent. Either Twilight was stupid and didn’t tell Celestia about Cerberus going AWOL, or Celestia was stupid and failed to check to make sure none of the extremely dangerous prisoners escaped. (Are the villains in Season 5 all going to be Tartarus escapees? I really hope not. That would just be lazy writing.) I’m going to go with the second one, because that way, I get to do a thing where I set up a theme. It’s also likely that Twilight would have mentioned it in one of her reports, being the thorough pony that she is, so I’m leaning towards it being Celestia’s fault.
Back to the story. Twilight assumes that the duty of defeating Tirek will fall to her, but is again disappointed when the Princess tells her that she is sending Discord instead. Since he can sense magical imbalances (when was THAT ability ever mentioned before?), the next time Tirek drains a unicorn’s magic, Discord will be able to find him, and defeat him. Since Tirek is so weak, he won’t be able to drain the more powerful Discord of his magic.
Back in Ponyville, Twilight is yet more depressed that she isn’t being as useful as she wants. Discord pops in as Poppins, and gloats over that for a bit, before handing the ponies the journal they’ve been keeping with some of the “more interesting” parts bookmarked, and insinuating that the box might be important for Twilight’s Princessness, before leaving on his mission.
Tirek drains another pony, and turns toward who he thinks is his next victim… only to find that the hunter has become the hunted, because it’s Discord! Tirek’s magical attacks turn out to be useless and Discord is easily able to capture him.
I’ve heard of splitting headaches, but this is ridiculous.
Of course, it’s at this point that Celestia’s plan backfires massively. The wily Tirek manages to convince Discord to turn on the ponies (his devotion to Fluttershy notwithstanding) and help Tirek drain their magic.
After reading the bookmarked parts of the journal, Twilight comes to realize the pattern that has been repeating over the event of the Season, and that each pony has been given something after inspiring another pony by standing by their Element of Harmony despite hardship. The flashbacks were a little unnecessary, in my opinion, and waste a little bit of time unnecessarily, but that’s a small gripe. Gathering their objects, Pinkie decides to interrogate Boneless… but he’s keeping mum.
I’d have thought a guy called Boneless would have been spineless too.
Throwing it at the box accidentally results in the toy transforming into a true key. Of course, the Mane Six soon discover that each item can be turned into a key in the same way… but one keyhole is left over, since Twilight hasn’t found her key item yet.
While this is going on, Tirek and his new ally are going around Equestria taking the pony magic. Once Tirek has enough unicorn magic, he is able to take the Pegasus flight ability (thus confirming that Pegasus flight is a form of magic rather being purely physical) and even the strength of the earth ponies, becoming larger, stronger and hornier with each meal.
Princess Celestia calls Twilight and is forced to admit to her that she trusted Discord too much. Ya think? You sent the freaking Spirit of Chaos and Mischief (who once ruled all of Equestria) to capture another evil pony-goat-centaur thing who also wants to rule all of Equestria, and YOU DIDN’T HAVE A BACKUP PLAN?! You didn’t even consider that he might turn on you and team up with the bad guy? I mean, I can understand Fluttershy being blindsided by Discord’s betrayal, but you’re the leader of the entire country. You need to be a bit more savvy than that, Princess. And that’s my theme… Celestia is fugging stupid!
At any rate, Tirek is on his way to steal the Princesses’ alicorn magic, and with it, he will be unstoppable. So the only option is for them to give up their magic before he can get to it. But it can’t vanish into nowhere… Twilight is going to have to contain it! “But wait,” you might say… “Silly SolarFox, you just said that Celestia didn’t have a backup plan. Doesn’t this qualify?” No, it doesn’t. First of all, it seems to be a response to the events. If they had given Twilight their magic before sending Discord out, as insurance, then it could qualify as a backup plan. Secondly (and this is another check mark under the Stupid Celestia column) one of the original reasons for sending Discord to stop Tirek is his ability to sense magical imbalances. So the “give all alicorn magic to Twilight” plan is fatally flawed, since Discord is obviously going to be able (and indeed, he does) sense that the magic is all in Twilight. Sure, he kept it from Tirek, but Celestia couldn’t have predicted that he would, especially since, y’know, he’d just betrayed them all. That being the case, this measure smacks of a desperation play, rather than a calculated backup plan. Luckily, we can have a slight break from Celestial Stupidity as the first half of the finale closes out.
When the second half begins, the Princesses invest all their magic into Twilight, leaving them drained and weak, and Twilight sparkling. She is told to go into hiding, and not to tell her friends, because otherwise they’ll be in danger. Aren’t they already in danger? Tirek is looking to drain every pony in Equestria, so they can hardly get into more danger than that. A better idea would to tell them exactly what’s up and have them ALL go into hiding together, so he and Discord can’t use them as hostages against Twilight.
Then again, how likely is that to happen…? Oh. Right.
So Twilight heads back to Ponyville, and keeps her secret, despite her frequent Power Incontinence confusing and concerning her friends. She decides to go alone to the Castle of the Pony Sisters, leaving her friends to keep everypony indoors, just in case.
Meanwhile, Tirek drains the magic of the Royal Guard, including Shining Armor, who gives Discord a furious “How could you do this?” line, which actually does seem to somewhat shake him. Heading into the Throne Room, Tirek is furious to discover that the Princesses have hidden their magic from him, and he promptly sends them to Tartarus. Discord is seeking proof that Tirek will keep his end of the bargain, and to convince him, Tirek gives him a medallion that he says belonged to someone close to him, as a sign of their alliance. At this, Discord declares he does love a good accessory, and even muses that maybe Rarity has rubbed off on him a little. Seeing a stained-glass window of a fourth alicorn princess, Tirek realizes that she must now have the magic of the Princesses. Discord, admitting that he was holding that information back as insurance, tells him about Twilight and her friends. They quickly repair to Ponyville.
The Mane Six members along with Spike are still unaware of his change of heart and ask him if his quest was successful. His response doesn’t thrill them… he traps all six in a cage and steps aside to reveal Tirek. Fluttershy is in tears when she realizes that Discord has turned on them, although he says they shouldn’t have been surprised.
Discord: Surely you saw this coming?
Fluttershy: *sobbing* I didn’t. I really didn’t.
I don’t generally fawn over Fluttershy like her fans do, but just seeing that face so entirely heart-broken… yeah, that didn’t feel good at all. Applejack, trying to hold and comfort her, gives Discord such a dirty look it’s a surprise he didn’t melt on the spot.
Tirek drains the ponies of their magic, and for good measure, decides that he’s had enough of this alliance, and he turns on Discord, draining his magic as well. Betrayed in turn, and utterly bewildered, Discord asks Tirek why… wasn’t the medallion a sign of everlasting loyalty? Tirek, now enormous enough to dwarf Discord, sneers that the medallion belonged to his traitorous brother and meant nothing to him in the first place. Applejack is less than sympathetic:
Applejack: Surely you saw this coming?
Discord: I didn’t. I truly didn’t.
Oh, Applejack, will you ever stop your trolling?
As Twilight tries to get her magic under control (randomly teleporting across Equestria before ending up between two rocks), Tirek finds her. She manages to teleport to the library, but a gigantic blast from Tirek totals it. Luckily, Twilight is able to pull Owliwicious out before it goes up, and he beats a hasty, if somewhat sad, retreat. A moment of silence, for the Golden Oak Library... okay, now it's time to kick some pony-goat-centaur thing ass.
Enraged by the destruction of the library, Twilight proceeds to open up a can of magical whoop-ass on the hulking brute, in what is the most absolutely amazing fight sequence, a la Dragonball Z, with zwee fighting, actual physical hitting, magical beam attacks, mountains being destroyed and all. Words can't really do it justice, it just has to be seen to be believed.
For your crimes against the Dewey Decimal System, I WILL MAKE YOU PAY!
Finding the powered up Twilight Sparkle evenly matched with him, Tirek decides to play his ace in the hole - he shows Twilight her friends (the Mane Six, Spike and Discord) trapped in bubbles, and offers to release them if Twilight will give him the alicorn magic. But wait... what is that rainbow shining over each bubble in turn? Twilight agrees to those terms, insisting that Discord be released as well. After he lets them go, he takes Twilight's magic, and grows to absolutely enormous size.
Meanwhile, Discord apologizes to everypony, and says that now he realizes how important their friendship is. He gives Twilight Scorpan's medallion as a gesture of his new and now genuine appreciation for the magic of friendship. Realizing they have the final key, the Mane Six hurry back to the box and open it. That same rainbow appears as they unlock it, and connects up to the Elements on the Tree of Harmony. Then it powers them all up.
With their new powers (and new manestyles) they make short work of Tirek and send him back to Tartarus. Then they travel all over Equestria, restoring the stolen magic to the ponies. Finally, the box plants itself just outside of Ponyville and a castle grows out of the ground...
The Princesses, now freed from Tartarus, arrive, and Celestia tells Twilight that this castle is hers. She's going to be the Princess of Friendship, and along with the others in the Mane Six. Even Spike gets a small little throne beside Twilight's. As the final song of the season plays, the Ponyville residents come to the castle, and the Rainbow of Light flies through Equestria, to be seen by all the new friends the Mane Six have made this season.
And so the fourth Season comes to a close, and the great Pony Drought begins once more.
Thoughts on the Episode
Visually, this episode is just gorgeous. Apart from the climactic battle, which is very impressive, there are some nice little touches as well. Things like Spike eye's not going grey (since he has no magic to begin with, unless you count the fire breathing as magic). There was also the part when Twilight had to lower the moon and raise the sun, where her mane started to flow and get all starry, just like Luna and Celestia.
There are however, some really questionable decisions on the part of writers, as relates to Celestia and her plans. The logical problems don't ruin the experience entirely, but they're pretty darn grating when you think about them.
Discord's betrayal and subsequent return to the fold are believably done. You really get the sense that he truly has learned his lesson this time around. A taste of his own two-faced medicine, if you will.
About Tirek as a villain... it's pretty awesome that he can be both subversive and manipulative, as well as a threat purely on his ability to drain magic and gain power. His look certainly changes the most out of all the villains we've seen so far. His story arc was very creative, and I think the writing team can be said to have made up for their Celestia blunders. If anything, he can claim that he lost due to circumstances mostly outside of his control, although turning on Discord probably wasn't his smartest move.
I hope that fans who complained that Twilight becoming an alicorn meant the end of her character development have seen the error of their ways. And the ones who complained that her friends are no longer important, too. This finale seems to have quite firmly addressed those issues.
One more minor gripe, and it might not make me very popular, but I felt there was just too much Derpy. She features very prominently and distractingly in a few scenes, which is pretty irksome to me, not being a fan of hers. Of course, her hardcore fans no doubt feel otherwise.
Well, Season 4 was very entertaining to me, and more than made up for Season 3 being a little sub-par. Now that Twilight has truly taken up her mantle of Princess of Friendship, it'll be interesting to see where she and her friends, go from here.
Applejack giving Discord a truly humbling ironic echo
That final battle. Good lord!
Pros: A visual extravaganza; A really effective and menacing villain; Closing out of the Rainbow of Light story arc on a strong note.
Cons: Celestia is losing her touch; the Rainbow Power designs look a little silly
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!
Stay sunny side up!