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Sunny Fox

Y’all wouldn’t know “practical” if it came up and bit ya! – Applejack to Rarity

This has always been one of my favorite episodes in Season 1, featuring as it does both Rarity and Applejack (my first and second favorite ponies). It’s one of those slice of life episodes that puts two ponies in a situation and just lets their personalities drive the story forward.

All of Ponyville is tidying up the trees in preparation for a big storm that the pegasus ponies are due to create, to make up for a previously missed rain shower. They’re taking down broken branches so that the storm doesn’t knock them off the trees onto any passersby. Rarity, however, is mending the branches instead, and prettying them up with some topiary. Meanwhile background pony Daisy is lifting branches magically, despite lacking a horn with which to do it.

Rarity’s artwork is not appreciated by the more practically-minded Applejack, who pulls off the branch Rarity was working on, and then remonstrates with her about focusing more on prettifying than completing the task. Their argument escalates until they decide they need to give each other some space before they really say something they’ll regret. However, the storm has other ideas, as a lightning bolt convinces the two they need to stick together and find shelter… and fast.

Pony sacrifice… Rarities and Applejacks living together… mass hysteria!

Luckily, Twilight has noticed them, and calls for them to hurry over to her library, protected as it is by a magical lightning rod. Rarity points out to Applejack that she has mud all over her hooves from hiding under the bench earlier (seen above), and tells her she needs to wash up. Twilight tells Rarity to make herself comfortable for the evening, since Spike is away on Royal Business in Canterlot. Then she excitedly suggests they have a sleep over, since she has never had one before. She even has a book entitled Slumber 101 – “Everything you Wanted to Know about Slumber Parties but were Afraid to Ask”. Rarity is unwilling to be cooped up all night with Applejack, who is having a few troubles of her own as she tries to wash her hooves.

Applejack would prefer a hoedown to a hose down

With her hooves sparkling clean at last, AJ is mortified to find Rarity and Twilight with mud on their faces. Rarity explains that this is part of them giving each other makeovers, and Twilight shows AJ the book. AJ is no more willing than Rarity to stay, but another flash of lightning stops her in her tracks. Rarity gives AJ her own mud mask, as well as cucumbers for her eyes. Applejack, having the appetite of a full-grown stallion, eats them instead. Twilight, delighted that she has another victim for her nefarious slumber party plans, is oblivious to the dirty looks her guests are giving each other.

As the evening wears on, the tension between AJ and Rarity gradually builds, with them daring each other to do things they despise, like Rarity letting her mane get drenched, and AJ having to put on a frou-frou glittery lacy outfit. Despite a rather successful (for Twilight) ghost story rendition, the two guests gets more and more annoyed with each other. When a pillow fight becomes more like a pillow war, catching Twilight in the crossfire, she dispiritedly suggests they all go to sleep. Even this is not enough to keep the peace, with the feuding fillies arguing over who gets the blanket.

Twilight finally blows up at them both, and sarcastically asks if anything else can go wrong… it promptly does, with lightning striking a tree outside, threatening to topple the top half onto the neighboring building. Applejack points this out as the reason why they needed to take down the broken branches, even though it’s a million-to-one freak event, and throws a lasso the catch the tree, ignoring Rarity’s exhortations to stop. When AJ pulls, the tree ends up coming in through the window, crashing down into Twilight’s bedroom.

Presenting the latest pony sensation: Dope on a Rope (With apologies to Applejack fans :D)

Rarity has her turn to say “I told you so,” and Applejack apologizes to Twilight… who is not at all satisfied. She also seems to have taken a blow to the head, looking through her book for advice about having a tree in one’s bedroom and wondering if this situation qualifies as “camping”.

Unable to fix the mess she helped cause, Applejack tries to convince Rarity to stop reorganizing the books and help her with the tree. Rarity is having none of that, until Applejack apologizes to her as well. Despite an initial reluctance to “get all icky”, Rarity lets go of her obsession with details and decides to help. She uses her magic to turn the tree into a number of art pieces, and the left over trunk is delicately nudged out of the window by Applejack. Rarity is miserable about being icky, damp and covered with mud, but Applejack knows just what to do… she puts cucumber slices on Rarity’s eyes. With the fences mended, the two embrace as Twilight notices the beautiful artworks… which aren’t in the book either.

The last few scenes have Rarity and Applejack finally learning to get along with each other despite their differences. Twilight sends Celestia a letter to that effect, and then asks the newly reconciled friends if they wouldn't like to have another slumber party soon. Her only response is two pillows to the face, and the merry laughter of her friends.

This episode is pure gold for Rarity and Applejack fans. It's really their episode, with Twilight taking a smaller role providing the straight pony to their comedic duo. There really is very little to detract; at most, the idea of characters who are the equivalent of young adults having a slumber party is a little odd, but that can be excused when one remembers that Twilight never had one when she was younger.

Pros: Different pony personalities provide enjoyable interactions.

Cons: It's a slumber party


Final Rating

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!

Sunny Fox

Listen here, Mister! Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you get to be a bully. You may have sharp scales, snort smoke and breathe fire, but you do not, I repeat, you do not hurt. My. Friends! – Fluttershy

This episode is the first in the series to focus mainly on Fluttershy. After being made aware of a thick cloud of smoke covering Equestria, her attempts to inform other ponies in town are hampered by her soft voice and shy demeanor. The louder and more boisterous Rainbow and Pinkie keep drowning her out as RD tries to break a ball bouncing record and Pinkie plans a party to celebrate the achievement. Before Flutters can get through to anypony, Twilight makes the announcement for her. The smoke is coming from a dragon who has arrived in Equestria for a short nap… which by dragon standards is 100 years. I wonder why Mayor Mare is nowhere to be seen; she should be there to try prevent panic, as she did during the cattle stampede in“Applebuck Season”. Since Twilight came to town, poor Mayor Mare has become superfluous.

The Mane 6 have been tasked with getting the dragon to leave, and so they suit up, in an amusing montage that also serves as a shout-out to The A-Team. Fluttershy does her best to avoid going along, but Twilight declares that her ability to talk to animals will be indispensable. Rainbow Dash is skeptical, saying that Flutters is scared of her own shadow, which Flutters proves to be. As they continue on, Flutters continues to be the load. First she hesitates to climb the mountain, and when Rainbow reminds her that she can just fly up, one of the sleeping dragon’s snorts frightens her so much that her wings lock up, forcing Applejack to find a detour for her. This is good news for Pinkie, but bad news for Rarity, who loses a straight 36 times in Tic-Tac-Toe (or noughts and crosses, if you prefer).

Hey Rarity, let’s play Tic-Tac-Toe, One-in-a-Row (winner goes first). I’ll start!

After they regroup, they almost get buried in an avalanche. However, it doesn’t seem so much that the avalanche is set off by Flutters shouting as it is by everypony sighing too loudly in relief that her shout didn’t cause one. Rainbow still continues to be uncharitable about it though.

Finally, they arrive at the dragon’s cave, and Twilight lays down the plan… Rainbow will clear the smoke away with her wings, Applejack will have some edible ammunition on hoof to buck at him if he attacks, and Pinkie will distract him with a rubber chicken. None this should be needed, however, since Twilight will first try persuasion. She asks Fluttershy for her advice, only to find her hiding behind Applejack

Flutters finally admits that she is scared of dragons, making the entire reason for her being there entirely pointless. Despite the best efforts of the others to embolden her, she doesn’t manage to overcome her fear.

Here, we have a rare glimpse of the shy and reclusive Pony-tailed Flutterhen...

So Twilight goes in again and finally meets up with the dragon, a big red lizard in the tradition of Smaug, lying on a bed of gold and jewels. Her reasonable explanation and request are rejected, with the dragon ignoring her and going back to sleep. Next up is Rarity, who does pretty well at first, flattering and charming the dragon. She is within in an inch of convincing him when she puts a hoof in it by offering to keep an eye on his treasure for him… predictably, this doesn’t go down well, and he snatches back all the treasures. Then Pinkie tries to win him over with a humorous costume, and is defeated off-screen, coming back rather the worse for wear.

Finally, Rainbow has had enough, and displaying more courage than brains, tells the dragon straight up to get out and gives him a double hoof to the snout. Enraged, the dragon roars at her loudly enough to send her rolling out the cave entrance, knocking down the others like nine pins. Finally coming out of his cave, he sends the group smashing into a rock with another roar, breaking off the top half of the rock to reveal Fluttershy.

Avast, Fluttershy's Rump!

The sight of her friends in a groaning pile finally lets her break through her fear of the dragon, and she proceeds to give him a talking to of epic proportions. Using The Stare™ for the first time, she overrides his objections (“But that rainbow one kicked me…”) and ends up making the poor fellow cry. The others seem quite okay with the rain of dragon tears… shouldn’t those be boiling hot or made of acid or something? Realizing that he isn’t really a bad dragon, just one who made a bad decision, Fluttershy reverts to her kinder self, soothing him and telling him nicely that he needs to find somewhere else for his nap. As her friends gather to congratulate her on standing up to the dragon, he takes to the air… leaving behind all his treasure. Nothing is ever mentioned what became of it, so possibly it’s still lying there.

Back in Ponyville, the pegasus ponies clear the last of the smoke away, Twilight writes her letter to Celestia, and Rainbow returns to her record attempt… which is ruined once again by Pinkie roaring like a dragon, scaring RD into dropping the ball. Fluttershy tells RD not everypony can be as brave as she is, only to be scared catatonic by a leaf falling on her. Cue the everypony laughs ending.

This being the first Fluttershy centric episode, she takes center stage. While she is not my favorite of the Mane 6 by any means, this episode is still really enjoyable. The references to the A-Team and fainting goats are fun to see. It’s also good to learn a bit about dragons. Although at first he seems animalistic, it’s made clear that even adult dragons are thinking, reasoning beings, who can even be quite emotional at times. Fluttershy shows that despite her fears and shyness, when you get her going, she can be a real powerhouse. Rainbow Dash is quite harsh towards her, which is strange considering they do have a history going back to when they were fillies in Cloudsdale. Even Twilight gets a moment or two of being harsher than perhaps is necessary, like being a killjoy while they were going up the mountain (“Girls! This is no laughing matter!”) Applejack shows her calm and motherly side, being willing to go to great lengths to help Fluttershy along. It might have been interesting had RD and AJ’s roles been reversed in this episode.

This episode also provides a bit of an insight into the relationship between Fluttershy and Angel Bunny. Many fans hate this little bunny for abusing Fluttershy, but their interactions are a bit more complicated than that. It’s indicated that Angel Bunny is sometimes exasperated by his owner, who tends to baby him. It’s more like a spoiled child’s relationship to a meek mother than it is abusive. Angel is also shown to be rather mischievous, causing trouble for Spike. I may make a blog entry examining Angel in detail at some point.

Pros: More depth to Fluttershy; Fluttershy actually acting cool; some funny moments, like Rarity’s failing at the last moment, and the dragon’s wounded expression when Fluttershy is chewing him out; the reference to fainting goats.

Cons: The relationship between RD and Flutters was sourer than expected; some loose ends, such as what happened to the treasure, and why Mayor Mare was absent.


Final Rating

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!

Sunny Fox

I just wanted to restore ancient aaa-aaa-arrr-rrttttt! Waahhh! – Rarity

Season 4 continues to show its quality with this episode. When watching it, I felt very much as if I were watching a Season 1 episode instead. Perhaps a lot of it has to do with the interactions between Rainbow and AJ, which hailed back to their friendly rivalry as shown in "Ticket Master" and "Fall Weather Friends". The second partnership in this episode is the one between Fluttershy and Rarity, again reminding us of the fact that these two are also closer to each other than to the others in general. The premise of this episode is a simple one: all of the Mane Six end up in the castle, each for their own purposes, and hilarity ensues, as each group unknowingly bounces off the other.

The title itself works on three different levels. First, it references the Castlevania game series, second, it's a play on the word mania, and third, the Mane-ia part catches the general chaos of the episode very nicely.

So the episode opens with the welcome return of Twilight's exasperated groan that first appeared in "Lesson Zero". Spike is getting his usual butt-monkey treatment, first by having his feather duster smashed by a book tossed in frustration, and then by being buried under a pile of books that topples over on him. Good thing he has those thick scales...

Celestia says, "Clean up those books, Spike!"

I am the only one worried that Celestia is not only clearly magically spying on Twilight, but also writes letters pretty darn fast? I mean, I know, physical goddess and all, but still... the only thing I can think of is that she wrote that letter ahead of time, just knowing Twilight will go through all her Ponyville Library books in vain, and waiting for her to say that line... curse you, Trollestia! The letter informs Twilight that more information might be found in the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. So it's off to the Everfree Forest again, which now is apparently so safe that they can go in ones and twos with nary a care; perhaps the Tree/Elements of Harmony are making it safe now? Intriguing... what Twilight no doubt thinks on finding the Library in the castle.

Twilight: *Sccchhh-winggg!*
Spike: I need an adult...

Meanwhile, Pinkie and Gummy are officiating the dariest dare of all darey dare dares between Applejack and Rainbow Dash... no, no, NOT THE BEES! They are covered in them, but the real test is who blinks first... so why are the bees even needed? Anyway, the beekeeper pony (I'm calling him Johnny Bee Good, but who knows what the fans will come up with) whistles them back to their hives, leaving the contest undecided, and the contestants in beekeeper suits. Tailor fit for their manes and in RD's case, wings... huh... wonder if Rarity had anything to do with modifying them? AJ has an idea how to resolve the tie, though.

Meanwhile... meanwhile... the pretty purple-maned pony herself is en route to the Castle, Fluttershy and Angel Bunny in tow, having decided that the tapestries of the Castle could do with a touch-up, and maybe even get some inspiration out of it herself... a twofer. They are followed into the castle by a large, mysterious shadow...

AJ and RD soon rock up as well, and AJ expounds on her Granny Smith's story of an evil pony of shadows, a being created by some left over evil of Nightmare Moon. Woooo!

I'ma tellin you, Rainbow Dash, I once caught a fish thhiiiss big!

As the episode goes on, the two pairs end up unintentionally scaring each other, helped out by the Castle itself, which is apparently tricked out with tricks and stuff. Rarity gets a good dose of irony, being interrupted in the middle of a speech about how they must be very careful, only to have Angel Bunny send her and Fluttershy through a trapdoor by accident... or was it? Dun dun DUN!


blogentry-2257-0-15963700-1385988932_thumb.jpg work here is done.

Applejack comes clean to Rainbow about why she brought them there (to continue their dare challenge - first to leave forfeits) while Angel Bunny manages to find Twilight and Spike, accidentally scaring Spike into revealing another hidden chamber... one with a journal left by Celestia and Luna. Poor Fluttershy is worried about her precious bunny friend, while Rarity provides some light. Fluttershy frets about Angel being trapped by fallen debris (hint hint) or being trapped in a dark place with no way out. Rarity calls her on that one...

Setting horn phasers to snark...

Despite getting out of the hole, (after unintentionally scaring RD and AJ away) Rarity has had enough, but Fluttershy convinces her to stay and look for Angel Bunny.

Twilight reads about "The Organ to the Outside" just as the mysterious shadow is revealed to belong to a mysterious cloaked and hooded pony, who begins to play said organ. Spike's concerns about the mysterious sounds are brushed aside by Twilight, and even Angel Bunny starts laughing at him. A new low for Spikey-Wikey. The organ appears to control the traps... don't know why that comes as a surprise, since the page we saw clearly shows the connections between the organ and the different rooms where traps are located. Applejack is separated from Rainbow, Rarity is separated from Fluttershy, and part of one of the tapestries is separated from the rest of it, much to Rarity's dismay. Meanwhile, Angel is given more carrots, which is apparently enough to keep him from missing Fluttershy. Rarity declares to the Castle that despite its ingratitude, she WILL restore the wall art.

Pinkie Sense could have prevented this accident.

This assault on her person convinces Rarity that the Castle is in fact, malevolent, and she starts to back away... Ditto for Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Applejack, and they all bump rumps. Scared out of their wits, none of them realize who the others are, and the ensuing mad Dash around the room ends up knocking one of the tapestries onto poor Rarity, who protests "I was only trying to restore ancient ar-ar-art!" as it falls. Bonus points for the tapestry being one of Luna, who shares a voice actress with Rarity. Fluttershy mistakes some debris for Angel Bunny, and is horrified when Applejack knocks a pillar onto "him".

The noise finally attracts Twilight out to the balcony to survey the mayhem below... she declares that everypony STOP! (A nice call back to Luna's "BE STILL!" from "Luna Eclipsed") and suits spell to shout, stopping everypony in their tracks.

STOP! Twilight time!

The ponies are surprised to discover that they are all in the same place, Angel Bunny shows Fluttershy he's okay, much to her embarrassment, and all the ponies explain what they've been up to. Rainbow thinks maybe Twilight has been pranking them by pretending to be the Pony of Shadows, to which Twilight replies, "That's just an Old Mare's Tale"... in the middle of the freaking Castle that proved to all six of them that Old Mare's Tales are sometimes true after all... logic, what's that?

The organ music continues, and they follow it to its source... Pinkie Pie! She explains why she's there, and it makes as much sense as usual for Pinkie. So in the denouement, Rarity fixes tapestries, Fluttershy babies Angel Bunny, Pinkie is Pinkie, AJ and RD seem set to continue their dare challenge, and Twilight provides our morals for the episode. "Friends can keep your imagination from going wild..." yeah, not so much, Twilight. Everypony was there with friends already. The real moral seems to be... "learning stuff can help you not be afraid and help you solve your problems", which makes more sense. Spike announces the non-existence of the Pony of Shadows, but the evil yellow eyes seem to prove otherwise...

No Pony of Shadows... Orly?
Of course, it could just be Zecora again...

Let's bring this overlong review to a close, shall we?

As I said before, this felt rather like a Season 1 episode. The way the ponies interacted and ended up scaring each other accidentally was well done, and entirely believable. You can quite forgive them for going crazy at the end there, considering what they had endured.

Rarity was in fine form, Fluttershy really got me in the feels when she thought Angel Bunny was being crushed, Twilight is her usual adorkable bookworm self despite the wings, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack played off each other as rivals for title of most daring pony well.

There are a few negatives, though. This episode continues the trend of Pinkie Pie being more caricature than character. Pinkie is best written when her nuttiness serves to conceal some actual intelligent thought processes going on behind the scenes, in other words, when there is some kind of method to her madness. For me, this episode just didn’t get it as right with Pinkie as they did with the others. Although if you listen to her explanation at the end, it's all to do with parties and Pinkie misinterpreting the others actions as part of a game, which admittedly is very Pinkie. It's the other parts, like the ringing the bell, the jumping around with funny faces, the gags where her score keeping is a set of kid's doodles, etc, that felt off.

It’s also a bit far-fetched that she could just “know” how to play the organ, despite never having done it before. Although she has demonstrated abilities to play multiple instruments, it’s clear that this isn’t some kind of Pinkie ability, like her Pinkie Sense. Otherwise, there would be no reason why she wouldn't be able to play the flugelhorn well in “The Crystal Empire”. In fact, instead of it being Pinkie, this was a perfect opportunity to bring in one of the musical background ponies for a moment in the spotlight. Imagine how funny it would be if we found out Vinyl Scratch enjoyed playing classical organ music as well as wubs, or if it turned out to be Princess Luna come to reminisce about old times, and even play a few pranks Celestia style... hell, even have it be Celestia. Just not the usual suspect of one of the Mane 6, which could only have been Pinkie. Opportunity missed? You be the judge.

Overall, a decent episode with a simple premise and a natural comedy that arises when the characters are simply themselves.

Final Rating

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!

Sorry for the ramble, folks, but always remember to stay sunny side up, and I'll see you for the next one.

Sunny Fox

Allow me to strip...

Wow, there's been quite a lot of... shall we say furor?... over staffy things recently. (And that wasn't a reference to Twilicane, which I am really tired of now, but tangent!) I'm still organizing my thoughts on it, but this definitely resonates with me right now.


Of course, this is really simplified, and is not a fair, balanced answer to the recent concerns raised, but if it can make someone smile or chuckle ruefully, that's enough for now.

Stay sunny side up, people.

Sunny Fox

This might be a good juncture to say, "I told you so". Yes, it's immature of me, but I so seldom get this much vindication, I'm taking the opportunity to gloat.

The first part of the second episode shows us the confrontation between Princess Celestia, and the newly minted Nightmare Moon, who is seeking to destroy her. This is probably the most intense action scene in the series so far, and seriously would not look out of place in most animés... except maybe for this shot...

Beware the power of my planking!

Celestia seems either unwilling or unable to return fire with her own Solar Beam, and despite managing to dodge for a while, takes a full on hit from Nightmare Moon's magic, and plummets senseless to the ground. Twilight, for the first time ever, drops the title when she cries out in concern. Yes, folks, not "Princess Celestia!", just "Celestia!"

Twilight, still unaware that she is watching a vision of the past, believes Celestia to be dead. Her mane seems to stop flowing when she's unconscious, but it restarts when she gets up, to Twilight's relief. The horseshoe finally drops for Twilight when Celestia, having no choice but to take it to the next level, DBZ style, reveals the Elements of Harmony, still in their Hyrule form.

The Elements, when activated, start to spin around Celestia, and man, does it look amazing... not to mention badass. It does, however, strongly remind me of the finale to Avatar: The Last Airbender... I wonder if that was intentional.


#&%&$$&&&..... This caption has imploded due to the awesomeness of these two pictures.

Despite tears streaming down her face (the most emotion Celestia has ever shown), she proceeds to smack a mare up with what could only loosely be described as a beam'o'war, since it's so very one-sided. Nightmare Moon is banished, and the vision ends.

The next scene gives us a bit of comic relief after all the emotion, with Discord taking palpable glee in mocking how Twilight was behaving while in her trance. He also hangs a neat little lampshade on the distinct lack of musical accompaniment in this two-parter (thank Celestia for that) with "I do hope she breaks into a song this time!"

Time for flashback, take two! The architecture here is interesting, with brick walls and thatched roofs, not seen since "Hearth's Warming Eve". It appears as if Discord took over not very long after Equestria was founded. More and more gaps in the history of Equestria are being plugged, and I for one couldn't be happier. I love backstory. Celestia and Luna face down Discord, using the Elements of Harmony in tandem, and turn him to stone. The very next instant, the vision shifts to show Twilight how they actually found the Elements on the Tree of Harmony. Of course, now we have to wonder exactly where the Tree came from, but I'm sure later episodes will shed more light on that. Looks like Season 4 is going to have an arc. Wonderful! All we know is that the Tree is somehow acting as a limiter on the Everfree Forest, and it appears as if that limiter has been removed.

Finally making some progress, the Mane 6 head off into the Everfree Forest once more, to find the Tree. They almost immediately run into a crocodile, (which could be pronounced "Crackodile", it's pretty hard to decide) which despite being huge, is rather easily defeated. Disappointing, really. However, this scare is enough to make "team mom" Applejack concerned about risking Princess Twilight, and she convinces the group that Twilight should head back to Ponyville and stay safe, just in case Luna and Celestia are never found. This is despite the fact that a mere minute earlier, they all agreed happily when Twilight said, "Whatever happens, we'll face it together." In fact, this is one of the few things I didn't like in this episode. Sending Twilight back, only to have her come find them a few scenes later anyway. It just seems unnecessarily dramatic to me, although I guess what Applejack says is true enough in its own right.

Ah, well, it gives us more Discord antics to enjoy, so I suppose it's alright. Not to mention the newest meme we're all going to be tired of seeing within a month couple of days: Twilight's golden scepter.

Well, it ain't no GAK, but it'll do...

Twilight, needled sufficiently, heads back to find her friends, (how is Spike keeping up with her galloping...? Strange...) who have just managed to locate the Tree, and Pinkie in particular has located some stairs... methinks Sombra was here... he likes stairs, apparently.

While Twilight is being attacked by spindly soporific scent spitting spores, Rainbow and AJ are having plant troubles of their own:

Everfree Forest uses Vine Whip! It's super-effective!

Unable to figure out how to help the Tree, they start to argue over sending Twilight away, until Spike arrives and in typical Spike fashion, can only communicate that someone is in danger with one word sentences. However, it's enough for them to find and rescue Twilight from the evil vines. Then they all say what we've known all along... the Mane 6 need to stay together, no matter what.

Back at the Tree, Twilight realizes that the Elements need to be returned to it. Of course, this defeats the invading vine army, much to Discord's annoyance, and releases the two Princesses, who have been trapped here the whole time. The Tree also provides this Season's mysterious McGuffin... a box with six locks. Celestia seems to know something about it, but even she is unaware of where the keys are to be found.

On their return to Ponyville, Discord outs himself as the one responsible for the vine attack... which raises a question. If he knew about the Tree of Harmony and planted the seeds hoping to drain its magic, why didn't he know about the Elements and that they had the power to turn him into stone? Is he just being Discord, or is there a more nefarious plan in play here? I hope answers will be forthcoming later in Season 4.

At any rate, the Summer Sun Celebration goes forward, Luna lowers the moon, Celestia raises the sun, and Twilight does her big finish that she mentioned at the start of the premiere. Notably, she flies exactly between the moon and the sun as she uses her magic to create a starburst (it's not a Sonic Rainboom, so RD fans, you can stop crying foul :P ) The symbolism is unmistakable.

The importance of being Twilight...

And that was the premiere. Not a perfect episode, but near enough to it. The animation was beautiful, with plenty of shading, camera effects such as blurring and soft focus (I don't know the technical terms, but I do know it looks lovely). The actions scenes were detailed and enthralling. The characters, especially Twilight and Discord, were exactly as they should be. And last but not least, the removal of the Elements and the mystery of the Box set up the rest of the Season very nicely.

Final Rating

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!

My friends, I am no longer worried about the future of Friendship is Magic. Season 4 looks like it's going to be a doozy. And you can count on your friendly neighborhood Sunny Fox to be there as the journey continues.

Stay sunny side up, folks!

Sunny Fox

Get to Know SolarFox...

... wait for the autobiography like everyone else. :P

These forum fads... Scrunchy Face Shaky avatars, Get to Know blog entries, etc. I guess it's all in good fun and I shouldn't judge, but really... do something original, people! Be like best pony Rarity... don't follow trends, create them! Now excuse me while I continue working on my most innovative innovation yet... episode reviews!


I only tease because I love you guys... :D

Sunny Fox

While I am obviously a fan of Friendship is Magic (I mean, like, duh, right?), what you may not know is that I am also a fan of Beast Wars. So imagine my surprise and delight to find another connection between two shows that I love to watch.

Another connection you may or may not know: Claire Corlett, voice of Sweetie Belle, is the daughter of Ian James Corlett, one of the voice actors from Beast Wars. The more you know...

...I must get around to making some blog entries about old cartoons I love soon... so much to do...

Sunny Fox

Unless an Ursa Major comes waltzing up the street for Trixie to vanquish, I’m not going to believe a word she says! And neither should you! – Spike

The Disclaimer
I'll come right out and say it... I'm not a fan of Trixie, at all. She is a blowhard, she cheats at challenges, she treats Snips and Snails badly (in private) even though she was happy enough with them when they were praising her in front of a crowd, refuses to acknowledge that Twilight stepped in and did what she claimed to be able to do and couldn't, and sneers and runs away instead of thanking Twilight for saving her life (if not her wagon) from the Ursa Minor. And that's only her first appearance.
Now that all the negative stuff is out of the way, I'll accentuate the positive I find in Trixie during the following review, just as if I were her greatest fan... well, that's the idea anyway...

The Plot
Twilight is practicing her magic tricks with help from Spike. Despite his insistence that she is "the most magical unicorn" in Ponyville, she demurs, finding the praise a little embarrassing. Spike's two associates, Snips and Snails, appear and tell them about a powerful unicorn who has come to town.

 They go to the Town Square to find the Great and Powerful Trixie! Now to be fair, the Mane 6 members don't really seem to get the idea of showmanship. It makes sense for a stage musician to use hyperbole to sell their act. However, they immediately pass it off as boasting. And if that were that, their grumbling wouldn't amount to much. Until Rainbow, in an attempt to deflect attention away from a rather boastful comment of her own, boos Trixie. Now Trixie, quite properly, isn't about to take THAT lying down. She proclaims that her magical prowess allowed her to vanquish the dreaded URSA MAJOR! and has a lovely little light show to illustrate (hurray for alliteration!)

 Still met with scepticism, she announces a challenge... "Ponyvillians! Anything you can do, I can do better!" And she points a hoof at Twilight, who is now worried that showing her own skills is going to turn her friends against her. Luckily, AJ is there to step in and accept Trixie's challenge. Unfortunately, her rope skills can be replicated by Trixie, and she ends up trussed. Rainbow Dash meets with a similar humiliation when she creates a rainbow that Trixie turns on her, and zaps her with a cloud to boot.

 Spike then suggests a unicorn v. unicorn bout, but Twilight is too timid and Rarity too dignified to engage in such a tawdry affair. Until Trixie insults Rarity's mane, in which case... it... IS... ON! (Second best meme ever) Rarity creates a beautiful dress out of the curtains, to which Trixie responds by magicking her mane into a literal rat's nest... and worst of all, it's green!

 Finding all her friends vanquished, and herself in the spotlight, Twilight runs away from Trixie's challenge, leaving nopony in Ponyville willing to challenge her.

This calls for a celebratory brushie brushie...

... and an oats smoothie, brought to her by the incredible Annoying Duo, who then pester her to tell them more stories. Well, beating neigh-sayers does make one tired, after all, and she asks them to come back in the morning. They run into Spike, who accidentally put the idea into their heads that they should bring an Ursa to town for Trixie to vanquish and prove her story.

A combined IQ of 1

They find the Ursa, who chases them back to Ponyville. Calling on the intrepid Trixie to help them, they find their hero doesn't have the power to do it, even though she gamely tries. Her efforts do little more than enrage the beast further. Spike finally convinces Twilight that she needs to step up, and she does. Using spells both small and mighty, she pacifies the beast (golly, donchaknow?) and sends it back home to mother... the real Ursa Major, who is quite a bit larger than her Ursa Minor baby.

 With her wagon destroyed, and her reputation as well, Trixie departs Ponyville, leaving Twilight to "punish" Snips and Snails for reckless endangerment of the entire town... with mustaches.

 What I think about the episode:
It's a bit of a mess. The Mane 6's actions are not very laudable, yet they are "proven right" in the story. The less I say about Trixie, the less hate mail I will be getting... I've already said too much, me and Michael Stipe both. The plot is a little too convenient: Snips and Snails happen upon the Ursa Minor in the very first cave they enter. The "punishment" they receive is a laughable one for major property damage and reckless endangerment. The moral "boasting is bad" kind of loses it's punch when you consider that Trixie is doing this for a living rather than just for the sake of it, and that Rainbow was doing plenty boasting of her own.

Final Rating

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!

Sunny Fox

If “being cool” is all you care about, maybe you should go make some new cool friends, somewhere else. – Rainbow Dash

Rainbow Dash is surprised to find a fellow prankster in the usually annoying Pinkie Pie when she is enlisted to help prank Spike by scaring him into getting hiccups. This leads to a strengthening of their friendship, as they spend the entire day pranking the rest of their friends. The pranks are all in good fun and pretty harmless, leaving even their victims smiling or chuckling. Only Fluttershy escapes their attentions, on account of her being too sensitive to prank.

I hope that doesn't come into play later on or anything...

The next day, Pinkie means to carry on the same as before, but when she arrives at Rainbow's cloud house, she is instead met by Gilda the Griffin. After Rainbow introduces them, Pinkie invites Gilda to join them in their pranks. Gilda is more interested in spending some flight time alone with Rainbow, and they leave behind a rather dejected Pinkie Pie.

After a while, Pinkie Pie starts making a nuisance of herself by trying to butt in, which annoys Gilda. Pinkie uses a trampoline, so Gilda flies higher. Pinkie then uses a bunch of balloons, so Gilda secretly pops them. Then that dashing young filly on the flying machine turns up again, and Gilda sends her into a spin which crashes her.

Finally getting the message that she is not wanted, Pinkie vents to Twilight, who suggests maybe Pinkie is being jealous of Gilda and is finding excuses not to like her. Pinkie leaves in a squeaky huff, but soon after wonders if Twilight might not have a point after all. However, seeing Gilda scare Granny Smith, steal an apple and (horror of horrors) ROAR AT FLUTTERSHY, convinces Pinkie she was right all along. Now it's time to solve a problem named Gilda... PINKIE PIE STYLE!

Which is "throw a party". During the party in honour of the new guest, it seems very much like things have been set up as a humiliation conga for Gilda, as prank after prank finds her. Finally blowing up, she rails at the rest of the ponies, accuses Pinkie of trying to make a fool of her with "lame" pranks, and tells Rainbow that the two of them should bail on the pathetic pony party. Rainbow isn't having it and tells Gilda that she was the one who set up the "lame" pranks, and it was only bad luck Gilda triggered them all. Then she gives an ultimatum... treat my new friends well, or go find some other "cool" friends. Gilda seems to think it over, but then accuses Rainbow of being a "flip-flop" and storms out. Twilight apologizes to Pinkie for being wrong about her and Gilda, and sends a letter to Princess Celestia with the moral: "You can't control who your friends hang out with, but you can control how you react to it."

Character Study:
Pinkie wasn't very well behaved in this episode. She came across as a bit clingy, and pushed herself in where she wasn't welcome. Although Rainbow didn't mind, Gilda clearly did, so Pinkie seems a bit insensitive.

That said, Twilight did make a mistake in suggesting Pinkie was in the wrong. First of all, she knew very little about the situation, yet acted as if she did. Secondly, most of the time she was reading a book and paying very little actual attention to what Pinkie was saying. This is emphasized by the episode's cold open, where again Twilight is reading and not paying attention to what Pinkie is saying. She even heaves a visible sigh of relief when Pinkie goes running after Rainbow.

As for Gilda herself, while she is pretty lame by trying to act cool all the time, she does seem to genuinely care for Rainbow, even being willing to do a song and dance routine she clearly finds unenjoyable. Sure, she doesn't behave really well, but I think many fans dislike her to a disproportionate degree simply because she mistreated Fluttershy. Even her outburst at the party is in a way understandable. Pinkie greeted her and then immediately pranked her with a hoof buzzer. Why shouldn't she assume that Pinkie was responsible for the rest of the pranks too, or that they were deliberately targeting her? On the other hoof, she did act arrogantly...

Rarity: Can I go first? Can I have the purple tail?

Gilda: NO! You already have a purple tail! it's not entirely unjustified when Rainbow calls her out on her mistreatment of others.

Sometimes you have to share your friends with other people, even when you don't like them very much. A decent lesson for kids to learn. Not much else to say there, it's a decent moral, but nothing ground-breaking.

Pros: Some of the pranks are pretty amusing, and we see that Twilight is not so worried about staying in Princess Celestia's good books that she can't prank her teacher. Introduction of the griffin species and more information about Rainbow's early days is good too.

Plus this conversation:

Fluttershy: Um, Pinkie Pie, about this party for Gilda... um, do you really think it's a good idea... I mean...
Pinkie Pie: Don't worry your pretty little head about Mean Old Gilda... your Auntie Pinkie Pie's got it all taken care of.

Fluttershy (Annoyed): I'm a year older than you.

Cons: Making Gilda roar at Fluttershy just to make it clear that she is "bad". Given the blind devotion of some fans to the shy pink and yellow pony, it seems a bit manipulative.

Gilda's way of speaking is a bit annoying.

Overall impression:
A decent episode, with some minor problems and an unlikeable antagonist, but well put together.


Final Rating

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!

Sunny Fox

I was thinking... I know, I know, it's a dangerous pastime, but...

There is a lot of confusion about the cutie mark swap in Magical Mystery Cure and what it means. Are the Mane 6 defined by their destinies, their cutie marks or their jobs in Ponyville? Something I realized is that, in a certain sense, there isn't much difference.

What are the destinies of the Mane 6? To be the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, of course. When Twilight cast the incomplete spell, it acted on the Elements of Harmony. The magic started with Twilight's crown, and then spread to the rest. Since her Element was only revealed when the other five were gathered, it makes sense that it can affect the others in such a way.

Does this contradict Call of the Cutie, where it was "established" that cutie marks are not magically mutable? No, not if you accept that Starswirl's spell acted on the Elements of Harmony, the physical manifestation of their destinies (their Manifest Destiny, if you will) and that when their destinies were switched, the cutie marks naturally followed suit. This is a very different situation to what was presented in CotC. There is no contradiction. To even ask that question caters to a fallacy. The cutie marks were never affected by magic, only the Mane 6's destinies, of which the cutie marks are a visual representation.

So now the question becomes this: How do the jobs of the Mane 6 in Ponyville related to their destinies as the bearers of the Elements of Harmony? For Fluttershy, it's pretty easy to see how her caring for small animals, and even her ability to understand them, derives from her position as the Element of Kindness. Pinkie Pie as the Element of Laughter is scarcely more difficult to fathom... she lives in a sweet shop, she throws parties and cheers up everypony in town.

For Rainbow Dash, I suggest that her role as Ponyville's weather pony is tied to her Element of Loyalty. Even in the pilot, she tells Twilight "I'd never leave Ponyville hanging." Naturally, her denial of the Shadowbolts later in the episode is also an expression of her loyalty, but the second one doesn't negate the first, it only reinforces it.

Rarity is the Element of Generosity, and there too, her job can be considered an extension of her Element. She is using her talents to create things of beauty that other ponies can enjoy. The fact that she doesn't do it free of charge is im-material. (See what I did there?)

To be honest (the puns just keep on coming, folks) it's not immediately clear how Applejack fits into the framework. She also produces things for other ponies, so why is she the Element of Honesty, rather than Generosity? Firstly, she's more about working together with her family than giving up of herself to others. Secondly, she produces something that is consumable, as opposed to Rarity, where there is a potential for one of her creations to become something longer lasting than an apple pie. Even in real life, clothes are passed down the generations (think wedding dresses). Thirdly, the phrase often heard is "an honest day's work", and where else but at an apple farm (or any other kind of farm) can a phrase be so readily applied?

And finally Twilight. I think it could be said that she doesn't really have a job in Ponyville. She doesn't seem to be acting as a librarian, although she does occasionally recommend books to others or re-shelve the library. She doesn't run the place, because that's Mayor Mare's job. Her "job" is to learn and report to Princess Celestia about the magic of friendship. In Magical Mystery Cure, she reaches a certain plateau in that job, and is thus "promoted" to a higher station.

Now does this remove all the question marks raised by the events of Magical Mystery Cure? Indeed, it does not. But I think it is a different way of looking at those events, and for me, goes some way to explaining what happened.

Keep on chasing those rainbows, everyone...

Sunny Fox

Your applebucking isn’t only causing you problems: it’s overpropelled a Pegasus, practically poisoned plenty of ponies and terrorized bushels of brand-new bouncing baby bunnies. I don’t care what you say, you need help! – Twilight Sparkle

Applejack takes on the job of bucking all the apples out of the trees due to Big MacIntosh's injuries. Before she can start, she is forced to save Ponyville from a stampede. This action inspires the town to give her a big shiny trophy, but when she arrives to receive it, we discover that she hasn't slept all week, and is going a little bit loopy. All of Twilight's attempts to get her to accept help are rejected, and the sleep-deprived AJ starts messing everything up. She accidentally launches Rainbow Dash onto Twilight's balcony, then ruins Pinkie's free sample of muffins and ends up poisoning half the town. Then she gets short with a bunch of brand-new bouncing baby bunnies, sending them into another stampede... much less threatening to Ponyville lives but much more threatening to Ponyville gardens. Having had quite enough, Twilight goes to AJ again to tell her to accept help, just as AJ kicks the apples from the last tree, boasting about how she "did it all by herself". Her triumph is short-lived; Big MacIntosh points out the other half of the farm still to go. Finally admitting that she's in over her head, Applejack accepts the moral of the episode and the help of her friends.

The Good
There is a nice little continuity nod to Ticket Master: It seems wearing Granny's girdle is the cause of BM's injury, since the bandages are wrapped around his middle. He also gets to speak quite a few sentences, in contrast to his "Eeyup" and "Nope", which is nice.

The comedy in this episode is perfect. The awards ceremony is a classic scene, with Twilight's constantly interrupted speech and her final fit of exasperation, the sleepy Applejack's loopy behaviour, the long slow dragging of the award as she leaves, and her friends' reactions to her appearance are all great.

The bunny stampede is funny both for the ironic echo of the earlier stampede, and for the fact that it's a bunch of cute little baby rabbits this time around, which adds a note of ridiculousness to the proceedings. Plus we get an introduction to the Flower trio of ponies.

Not their finest hour...

This exchange:

AJ: "Look! I did it! I harvested the entire Sweet Apple Acres without your help! How do you like them apples?!"
BM: "Um... how do you like them apples?"
Points to the other half of the farm, still untouched
AJ: Faints

That is all.


The Bad


There really is not much wrong with this episode. The comedy is good, the characters act as they should, and overall, it's just a perfect slice-of-life episode, which is what the series tends to do very well.


Final Rating

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!

Sunny Fox

Rainbow, I do not feel comfortable accepting favors. Zip up that hole in the cloud right now! – Twilight

Twilight is helping AJ bring apples into the barn when a letter from Celestia forces its way out of Spike's oesophagus, to invite Twilight plus one guest to the Grand Galloping Gala. This scene pretty much created the Trollestia meme. Because there are not enough tickets, fans thought that Celestia was playing around with Twilight. It's pretty clear from the way the letter was written, though, that this isn't true. The letter is very impersonal, starting with "Hear ye, hear ye" rather than Celestia's usual greeting, "To my dearest pupil Twilight." Probably some harried clerk sent the letter instead.

Then Rainbow Dash falls from the tree where she was napping to avoid work and asks Twilight for the spare ticket... but AJ ain't havin' none of that:

Mmmm... tastes like Skittles...

The two start arguing over the ticket, ending up in a winner-takes-all armwrestle, but Twilight breaks it up, saying the one with the best reason should go. This is silly of her, for two reasons. First, Applejack's reason for going (which Twilight already knows, mind you) is clearly far better. She wants money to help her farm and her family. RD only wants to go so she can get a chance at meeting the Wonderbolts. Even leaving aside the fact that this is a pretty selfish desire on RD's part, I don't think the WBs would be all that happy with someone dropping in uninvited to ruin their routine. The second reason is that Twilight was already asking AJ to go with her when RD interrupted. Citing a rumbling tummy (d'awww!) as a reason to have time to think, Twilight retreats. The predictable happens, with Twilight meeting each of her friends, who all really, really want to get that ticket from her.

First she (literally) runs into Pinkie, who mistakes the tickets on her snout for flat golden bats, somehow. Pinkie's imagine spot shows that she knows NOTHING about the GGG, thinking it one big super duper party for six-year-olds. Next comes Rarity... Rarity, the strong independent business mare, wants to be swept off her hooves by Prince Charming? Lame! Yeah, when I first watched this episode, I wasn't a Rarity fan in the slightest. I was, in fact, in the "Applejack is best pony" camp. Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Angel Bunny and Fluttershy arrive. AB steals the tickets from Spike and brings them to Flutters, who also wants to go to the GGG, because there she can meet and befriend many rare animals...

Well, that's gonna work out well...

AJ and RD re-enter the fray, and everypony argues until Twilight snaps and shouts for quiet. She send them away, and goes to get food. She does a "loves-me-loves-me-not" with a flower from her table decorations, and then eats the petals, which is just too d'aww-inducing for words (except "d'aww", naturally.) Then her friends start showering her with favours, each trying to get browny points for the ticket... some more subtly than others. First RD, then Rarity, AJ, Flutters and finally Pinkie. What I love about this is that everyone who says Rarity is manipulative fails to realize that all of the Mane Six acted the same way in this episode.

Pinkie lets it slip that Twilight has a spare ticket, setting off a chase through town with all the ponies now wanting to trade a favour for the ticket. See Twilight. See Twilight run. Run, Twilight, run! Finally cornered, she teleports herself and Spike back to the library, where all her friends have been waiting to ambush her. Realizing their actions are distressing Twilight, they all give up their claim to the ticket (RD only when she is guilt-tripped into it), causing Twilight to decide to send both tickets back unused. This results in Celestia giving them all tickets, even Spike, with a bemused "Why didn't you say so?" message. Yes, folks, this could have been resolved in the first two seconds of airtime, if Twilight had just written a letter saying "What gives?" But alas, hindleg sight is 20/20...

While the episode is amusing, and references Benny Hill, the plot really could have been resolved quite easily if Twilight had just let Celestia know she needs more tickets. It's the first slice-of-life episode after the pilot, so that should also be taken into account.


Final Rating

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 on the sunny side!

Sunny Fox

Might as well start by addressing the elephant in the room... was this episode rushed and should it have been two episodes? Most fans would probably say yes without hesitation. I've even heard claims that the cutie mark switch-up on it's own was worth two episodes. Just... no. Maybe it could have been one episode on it's own, and then another for the whole transformation of Twilight into an alicorn. It would certainly have been a great cliff-hanger to end the episode when Twilight has just been vaped (read it again, I said vaped) by the Elements of Harmony.

However, I'm not so sure in my own mind that the alicorn thing could have filled up an episode on it's own. My guess is that the writers had enough plot for more than episode, but not quite enough for two without significantly padding it out. So instead of padding, they went the other route, and compressed what they had into a single episode. Would I (and others) have been happier with the padding? Perhaps, but it's not really possible to tell without having something to compare...

One way they used to speed up the episode was to use songs in place of longer scenes with talking and exposition. Despite the fact that I get annoyed when there are too many songs, I found that they worked here, because they conveyed the emotion that the characters were going through in finding their destinies (I use the term loosely) mixed up. The first song also provides a great mood whiplash... from Twilight singing happily to being made rudely aware that something major had gone wrong.

Where do all these domestic pachyderms come from? And one of them seems to be wearing my pajamas...


Yeah, you'd better run... anyway: one of the criticisms was that there is a general confusion in this episode about exactly what the cutie mark of a pony represents. Does it represent the pony's destiny, or the job they do? Rainbow Dash got her cutie mark when she discovered a "serious need for speed", not when she became the weather pony for Ponyville. Sticking it on Rarity should speed up her dressmaking rather than setting her up as weather pony. There is no real answer to this one, it is indeed a glaring flaw. But what is the alternative? If Rarity is too fast, you could have it that she rushes her dresses and therefore they wouldn't be as professional. My imagination fails me in providing similar scenarios for all of the Mane 6, but it's pretty clear that the way they went is more dramatic in its effects, so maybe that's why.

So Twilight finds out that her friends' "job-destiny-thingthatmakesthemspecialthingies" are mixed up, and then (via flashback) realizes that she is to blame for it, by reading Starswirl's half-completed spell while in the presence of the Elements of Harmony, mixing them up. Maybe because the wording of the spell makes it clear that it was focused on one pony, while the EoH are by nature a power that requires multiple ponies, I dunno. One criticism is that Call of the Cutie established that cutie marks cannot be affected by magic, so this is a contradiction of that, and is therefore a plothole. That’s wrong. At no point in that episode was it stated that cutie marks cannot be affected by magic, only that magic cannot force a cutie mark to appear prematurely. That’s not a plothole, that’s a disproven assumption.

The realization that she herself is to blame for ruining her friends’ lives sends Twilight into a (very) temporary HBSoD, which she shakes off by realizing that she can fix the situation by reminding her friends of their friendships. She makes it work, and her friends, along with the entire population of Ponyville, sing another song, A True, True Friend, which is awesome.

Many critics have highlighted the fact that everything up to this point has taken only 7 minutes of airtime. They also complain that there is no villain to overcome, and no Equestria-wide threat to resolve. The point of this argument, as I understand it, is that Twilight becoming an alicorn is bad because the event that triggered it was not large or long-lived enough. For me, it is not the event itself that is the focus, it is Twilight’s realization that she had the answer all along. Some will bring up Return of Harmony and say that this is a repeat of what happened in that episode. In a way, it is, but there is a very big difference. The last time, Twilight’s realization was made possible by Celestia sending back all her letters, and Twilight reading them all again. In other words, she had to be shown the answer. In Magical Mystery Cure, the answer comes to her in the absence of any external input because she is finally at the point where she has internalized the lesson. She now has a deep understanding of her relationship with her friends that she didn’t have before this. This is what lets her complete Starswirl’s spell, his great unfinished work, and this is what enables her ascension to an alicorn state. This is her World of Cardboard moment. The specifics of the conflict of the episode are rendered ultimately irrelevant. For me, at least.

Another criticism: Twilight creates new magic, becomes an alicorn. Starswirl completed many spells, but didn’t become an alicorn. Is this a contradiction? Perhaps, but the explanation was not entirely clear. Is every new spell a new kind of magic? We don’t know enough yet to say if it contradicts or not. Perhaps one could say that’s just as bad, but I hope there will be clarification in Season IV.

So our heroine finds herself in… the Twilight Zone (B)YEEEEAAAAHHH!), where Celestia is there to meet her. She shows Twilight how she has been stalking her all this time (closing the gap in Return of Harmony) sings a lovely little ballad, and watches while Twilight transforms into an alicorn. The magic clearly comes from Twilight herself, so it’s not that Celestia is turning her into an alicorn. Returning to the real world, Twilight is greeted by her friends, who go gaga over her new wings, and Celestia comes to explain that she is now a princess. Twilight immediately asks if there is a book she can read, just to show she’s still the same adorkable Twilie. For the moment, at least. Then everyone bows, which people don’t like for some reason.

Next comes the coronation, and a speech by Twilight, in which she immediately thanks her friends and credits them all with helping her reach this point, which was really nice of her. Then they sing the final song of the Season, and Twilight flies out on her new wings to tell us everything is going to be all right. Why did this need its own episode again? Talking about her wings, it seems she was just so happy that she flew perfectly for her first time. Beginner’s luck, or a terrible plothole that we will all regret? Time will tell.

So, that’s Magical Mystery Cure. A lot happens in this episode, by the standards of the show. Does it have its problems? Of course. Some things don’t make a whole lot of sense, and the episode rushes by at an accelerated pace that for some people (maybe most) is simply too fast to satisfy. But it does have a good deal of emotion, a greatly intriguing in medias res opening, many good songs, and it shakes up the status quo with alicorn Twilight, which can be a blessing or a curse, and we don’t know which it is yet. As I’ve said before, the events of the finale for Season III were hinted at much more than for Season II, so I find it less surprising than the existence of Twilight’s brother, and former foalsitter and sister-in-law. Talk about alicorns coming out of left field. Overall, I think it works fine as a finale and an introduction to Twilicorn.

Pros: Celestia singing, good opening, other good songs.

Cons: Somewhat confused, very fast pacing that not everyone can appreciate.

And here ends the Bookend Diaries. It expanded from the planned one entry per finale (five) to ten separate parts and a few supplementals. Those of who have been reading these, and those who commented in the past, thank you for the support. This isn't the end of this blog, however. My original plan of reviewing all the episodes will not be abandoned. I also have some fan fiction ideas going on, so that might make its way onto here. More personal entries are a distinct possibility. At any rate, watch this space for details, and of course, keep on chasing those rainbows. Til we meet again…

Sunny Fox

In my varied travels through the 'net, I came upon these: Tattoo-arific (I know that's not a word, just go with it) pictures featuring the most well-known Disney Princesses.







Which one do you like the best? Can you guess which one I like?



I had nothing to do with the creation of these, but I sure do like them.

Sunny Fox

Sombra begins moving in on the now-defenseless Empire…only to be stopped in the opening minute of Part 2 by Cadence recovering enough to recast her spell. Here Sombra gets his own bit of serendipity as part of his horn is cut off and falls inside the shield, allowing him to start affecting the city itself…

Meanwhile, Twilight takes charge, telling Rainbow to keep the crystal ponies occupied while she finds the real Crystal Heart. Rainbow Dash, of course, uses blunt, nigh draconian, methods of keeping ponies away, which prompts AJ to take over protecting the fake Heart by using misdirection rather than her gimlet eye.

Rainbow tells Rarity the sitch, who tells Spike, who runs off to find Twilight and accompany her on her sub-quest, leaving Rarity to demonstrate her quick thinking in coming up with an explanation. He promises not to lift a claw to help her, but he ends up helping her anyway, as she winds her way through the traps Sombra laid out a millennium before. Twilight seems really good at dark magic, despite only seeing it done once. I hope this comes back in Season 4, because it would be really scary to have Twilight being corrupted. (Warning! Equestria Girls reference is incoming! Battle stations! I wonder if her use of dark magic had anything to do with Sunset Shimmer becoming a demon when she donned the crown…)

Anyway, after the “worst fear door”, which would have stopped Twilight in her tracks if not for Spike, they start up the staircase. Spike again helps out by pointing out that the staircase is a delaying tactic, which Twilight deals with by reversing their personal gravity. MC Escher would be proud, but it’s probably not a good spell to cast when you’re outdoors, I’d wager.


Reaching the chamber with the Heart, Twilight gets trapped by Sombra when she sets off the alarm by getting too close. Her usual trick of teleporting out is easily countered, making me wonder just how powerful a unicorn King Sombra is. Luckily, Spike is there to get the Heart, and despite initial reluctance, he is sent to bring it to Cadence. Meanwhile, the crystal ponies know something is wrong and start to crowd around the pedestal. Despite Rarity’s best efforts at distracting them (“I made it work” is probably one of the best Rarity lines in the entire show), the jig is up (literally) when Pinkie knocks over the fake Heart pedestal accidentally, revealing the fake Heart to the crystal ponies. Applejack puts her hoof in her mouth by saying the real one is on the way, which turns out not to be a lie, in fact, since Spike is bringing it. Rarity remarks that she was going to say it was “being polished” to buy them time. Oops, indeed. Leave the quick thinking and the mathematics to Rarity next time, AJ.


Dodging black crystals, Spike makes his way towards Cadence, but starts to fall as Sombra finally regains a physical form and makes his own bid to win the Heart. And then comes possibly the strangest moment in the show… Shining Armor picks up and throws his wife. Again, there seems to be some connection between Cadence and the Heart, since when it starts glowing, she seems to recover enough to spread her wings. Cadence grabs the Heart, gives Spike his first alicorn ride, and, in a nice touch, lands on the fake Heart, shattering it. She calls on the crystal ponies to use their light and love to power up the Heart, and they do so. The resulting shockwave crystalifies (I know that’s not a word, just go with it) our Mane 6, the rulers and even good old Spike. It also shatters Sombra’s crystals, and even Sombra himself, making him the first villain to be outright killed on-screen. He gets some awesome points just for that, in my book. His horn seems intact, and the show’s writers will certainly be missing a trick if they don’t bring it back into play sometime later. Light and love flow out over Equestria, huzzah!

The hero and his stalwart companions return to Ponyville, Rarity bemoaning the loss of her crystal form along the way. Luckily, Applejack manages to cheer her up with a kind word. They seem better friends than ever, which I like. Shining Armor also hangs a lampshade on his general uselessness… he totally got controlled by Chrysalis, and got his flank handed to him by Sombra. I mean, I understand that the show is all about how cool the female cast is, but bro, come on. You’re making your gender look bad here.

Back in Canterlot, Princess Celestia cheerfully goes back on her earlier words about Twilight having to do everything herself. I mean, she doesn’t even try to make out as if her instructions were actually cryptically useful. I guess even she knows when that sort of thing wouldn’t fly. So Twilight passes her test, her friends sing a reprise about how they knew she was up for the challenge the entire time, and Spike puts the finishing touch on the episode by (unconvincingly) claiming he was never worried and knew everything would be alright. But right before that, Luna pulls out a book that will be very important later on: Starswirl’s journal.

So that is the opening to Season III. It was good, had some lovely songs, introduced a new species of pony (or sub-species perhaps) and provided us with some glimpses of future events. Of course, the letdown is strong with this one, since King Sombra turned out to be a very poorly fleshed out character, even though, as I argue here, he’s actually pretty effective in terms of technical villainy, and only lost through a series of unfortunate (for him) events. Still, there’s no denying that the other villains were a lot more charismatic in their own ways.

Pros: Crystal Rarity and normal Rarity, Spike gets to do something useful for once, great songs and animation, foreshadowing.

Cons: Uninteresting villain, Shining Armor is useless, Crystal Empire is not an empire in anything more than name.

Just one more episode to look at before I draw the Bookend Diaries to a close. This is the big one, the base breaker, the controversy that has split our fandom in twain: Magical Mystery Cure. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Keep on chasing those rainbows.

Sunny Fox

Hard on the heels of Season II’s music-heavy two-part is another music-heavy two-parter, “The Crystal Empire”. In four episodes and two stories we’ve had something like five or six songs. Not that the songs are bad, but there are just such a lot of them. The episode opens with a report that the titular Empire has returned from a thousand year displacement curse, inducing Princess Celestia to send newly-weds Cadence and Shining Armor there. Although it is not outright stated, my belief is that the return of the Empire was caused by the wedding. The timing is just too convenient. Lending strength to this theory is the observation that Candence’s cutie mark contains the Crystal Heart, and that one of the crystal ponies indeed calls her “The Crystal Princess”. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Celestia also sends for Twilight, telling her that she is going to have to take a test.


Even your assistant is embarrassed for you.

Twilight, predictably, gets herself into an absolute state at the news. Celestia really needs to learn to clarify when she writes those letters of hers. Despite Luna offering to go to the Empire too, Celestia insists on Twilight being sent, saying that it will let them know whether or not she is ready for what will be coming later in the Season.

After informing Twilight about the Empire, and the true nature of her test, she reaffirms her belief that Twilight will succeed, despite stern, sceptical looks from Luna. Celestia also makes it clear that Twilight must do it all on her own. Although if Twilight is supposed to be doing this alone, why did Celestia send the rest of the Mane 6 as well? Does your manipulation know no limits, your Majesty?

The first song of the episode follows. I’m not sure of the official title of the song (anyone out there who knows is welcome to inform me) so I’ll just call it “Prepared for This”. It’s a very beautifully animated sequence, with Twilight wondering if she is up to the challenge. And Spike sings, too, which is a nice touch. His voice isn’t great, but then he is supposed to be a child, so I’m going to forgive him.

As Celestia promised, her friends are waiting at Ponyville Station for her. Twilight gets them up to speed, and they soon arrive in the Arctic North of Equestria to meet Shining Armor. Here we are also introduced to the villain, King Sombra, who curses Shining Armor’s horn when the latter turns back to buy the Mane 6 time to reach the Empire… which turns out to be not an empire. They really should call it The Crystal City. The more you think about it, the more you wonder why it was called an Empire at all. And if Cadence and Shining Armor are rulers of an empire, doesn’t that technically make them an emperor and empress? Do they now outrank Luna and Celestia? :blink:

Rarity is in her element… the metaphorical one, not the “of Harmony” one. She loves gems and she’s in a city made of the stuff. Rarity’s reaction to hearing about the existence of Crystal Ponies is one of the highlights of this episode for me. I know, shocking, right? These sorts of scenes are why I don’t feel too bad about Rarity not getting a focus episode in this Season.

The team goes out to get more information about protecting the Empire, but the crystal ponies seem really out of it, and are of no use at all. Pinkie Pie is in rare form, particularly the scene where “Fluttershy” walks up to Twilight, only to turn out to be Pinkie in a Fluttershy costume. FS herself is understandably confused. Rarity being too caught up in imaging herself as a crystal unicorn to even ask any questions is also pretty funny, and typical. It serves as a call back to Dragonshy, too.

They finally manage to find a library, with a really confused librarian, whom Pinkie likes for some inscrutable reason. After searching, they find a book about the history of the crystal ponies, leading to the second song of the episode. “The Ballad of the Crystal Ponies” will do for a title, although I don’t know the official name of this one either. I really like this song, and it sets up for the Crystal Fair. The centerpiece of this is “the Crystal Heart”, which Twilight has made.

This has the effect of perking up the crystal ponies, which returns their mane-styles and colors to normal, although it doesn’t restore their shininess (insert Pokemon joke here). It also reminds them about the existence of the Crystal Heart. It turns out the Crystal Heart is a very specific relic and treasure, which Sombra has locked away and apparently removed any mention of. How odd that OCD Twilight did not notice the obviously torn out last page of the book. Yeah, good one, Twilie.


Even your brother is embarrassed for you.

Cadence takes the opportunity to swoon, and without her light and love barring his way, Sombra begins moving in on the now-defenseless Empire…

Sunny Fox

This one is going to be a doozy…

Those (all one of you) who have read my posts in the Alicorn Twilight subforum will probably already be aware of my feelings regarding the biggest controversy the show has yet seen. I haven’t gone out of my way to avoid making it obvious, but I haven’t really given a definitive statement on the issue either.

I support the idea of Twilight becoming an alicorn and a princess. I think it’s interesting, well-deserved, and can open up new story possibilities. I remain cautiously optimistic that Season IV will ultimately convince many fans that it was the right way for the writers to take the series. I do, however, recognize the potential for it to backfire horribly. Either way, considering the Unpleasable Fanbase that FiM has, I don’t see the controversy being settled quickly, so the way this situation develops will be fun to watch, if nothing else. I will sum up my position as “wait and see with more interest than dread.”

There are two common criticisms of Alicorn Twilight that I disagree with, and I want to try to explain why.

1. “It was not foreshadowed”; the No Plot Development criticism
2. “It was too soon”; the No Character Development criticism

What follows is probably the biggest wall of text I have ever written. To make it easier to navigate, I have put each section in spoiler tags. Click them if you dare.

1. No Plot Development

 Before I tackle the foreshadowing issue, I would like to point out something about Season III as a whole. More than any other season, it felt like there was a story arc being developed. After the events of The Crystal Empire, Twilight becomes involved in “the next level of her studies”. This is referenced at some points in the following episodes. Firstly, in the beginning of the episode Spike at Your Service, Twilight has a big pile of books to study, clearly stated to be a homework assignment from Celestia. This is quite apart from her standing arrangement “learn about friendship and report your findings”.

Secondly, in Wonderbolt Academy, we have Applejack saying to Pinkie Pie, “Why don’t we go see what Twilight is up to? I hear Celestia’s got her working on some new spells.” Celestia has never given Twilight new spells to practice before now.

 Finally, in Keep Calm and Flutter On, Discord is freed from stone for his… ugh… redemption. To keep him in line, Celestia gives the Mane 6 the Elements of Harmony. I hate this episode, to be honest, since it ruins Discord as a villain. But it does help put the Elements of Harmony in place in Twilight’s library, which is important in MMC. I would even go so far as to suggest that the reason this episode even exists is because the writers wanted to set up the finale.

 These three hints connect strongly to Magical Mystery Cure itself. The events of the episode kick off  (chronologically, if not narratively) with Celestia sending Twilight a book containing a spell, and just “coincidentally” does this after arranging for the Elements of Harmony to be in Twilight’s possession at the time.

 And then comes Magic Duel. As anti-Trixie as I am, I just have to say this episode is great for the “story arc” theory. It’s the first time the word alicorn has been said by any character, it introduces an artefact called the Alicorn Amulet, and the events in the episode can be linked to Magical Mystery Cure. Twilight solves her problem and defeats Trixie not by using magic, but by using the bond she has with her friends and working together with them. This is repeated in MMC when she uses her knowledge of her friends and their bonds to return them to normal, where it was clear that the memory spell from way back in Return of Harmony couldn’t help. There is also the fact that Celestia brings really important diplomats from Saddle Arabia to a backwater like Ponyville instead of the capital and seat of power, Canterlot, which I think points to Twilight becoming a princess, if not so much towards the alicorn part.

 Now does everything I mentioned link directly to Twilight becoming an alicorn specifically? No, I admit that it does not. What it does do, however, is provide links to the general pattern of events that happen in MMC,which culminated in Alicorn Twilight. These events, spoken lines and the use of the term alicorn provide a unity to the whole Season that makes it quite distinct from Season I or II. I’ll borrow Egoraptor’s term here and call this “theming” (By the way, I recommend you to go look up his Sequelitis review of Megaman X on YouTube. It’s some pretty funny stuff, but there is quite a lot of swearing, so be warned.)

 Now to the heart of the matter. Season III did have foreshadowing of Alicorn Twilight, mostly in The Crystal Empire. Celestia says the test Twilight undergoes in this episode will tell them whether or not she is getting close to being ready for the “next level of her studies.” She saves (well, gets Spike to save) the Crystal Empire, thereby confirming that she is ready. She is engaged with the next level of her studies throughout the rest of the Season. Is this the only interpretation of Celestia’s words? No, but I feel it’s the strongest. And if one supports the idea that the next level of her studies doesn’t start until she becomes an alicorn, that makes it a reference to Alicorn Twilight and therefore an example of foreshadowing in its own right.

 Then there is the scene where Luna and Celestia being shown together, each with their cutie marks floating behind them, and their wings half-folded in an unusual way...why, it’s almost as if their wings were being emphasized for some reason. Then Twilight is shown in the exact same way, only without wings, of course. This is a massive hint to Twilight eventually becoming an alicorn, reminiscent of the pilot’s heavy-handed foreshadowing.


The final scene of the episode, with Star Swirl the Bearded’s journal, is also pretty strong foreshadowing. We are not told outright that it is his journal, but the cover has stars and swirls on it, so you do the math. Put two and two together and it’ll add up to fourshadowing... I apologize for that horrendous pun. I won’t do it again.


The next step in the argument is usually along the lines of “Ah, but if you don’t include The Crystal Empire, there is no foreshadowing!” Apart from the question of how disregarding the first two episodes of a thirteen episode season to support your view can be considered fair and valid, I feel that that assertion is false, because of Magic Duel.

 As I stated earlier, this episode marks the first time the word alicorn is actually used in the series, which could be considered foreshadowing. The next bit here is highly subject to interpretation, but I feel I can make a case for further foreshadowing of Alicorn Twilight specifically. When Twilight sees Trixie casting age spells, she is shocked because “only the highest level unicorns” are supposed to be able to do that. Indeed, Twilight tries a similar spell and is met with only partial success. Trixie even boasts that she is “the highest level unicorn”. In the final duel, Twilight uses the magic of friendship, to “reach” an even higher level. The next level after highest level of unicorn has to be an alicorn. So her friends and her understanding of friendship allow her to reach the level of an alicorn, which is exactly what happens more literally later in the Season. Now, of course, she isn’t really casting those spells, but that doesn’t change whether or not the scene is foreshadowing, if you consider it as such.

 Maybe that’s not enough foreshadowing for some people’s tastes, but I find it quite adequate, especially if you allow The Crystal Empire to be considered, and why shouldn’t you? Altogether, it certainly is enough to counter the argument that Season III had no foreshadowing of either MMC or Alicorn Twilight.

 Another thought. In order for, say, A Canterlot Wedding to be foreshadowed as much as MMC was, we’d need four episodes with a significant degree of foreshadowing of events in the episode itself before it aired. We didn’t get them. Looking just at the no foreshadowing argument, ACW was objectively far more poorly written than MMC was. At least they took a full two episodes to develop the story, which they sadly didn’t do with MMC. But more about that will have to wait until I review that episode itself.

2. No Character Development

 Some people say Season III didn’t develop Twilight’s character sufficiently to account for her being able to ascend to alicorn status. But why limit it to Season III? Twilight has been developing since the beginning of the series. So it shouldn’t be a case of 12 episodes of development or lack of it to consider, but 64. And she has developed over the course of the series. Many series end by episode 52. Alicorn Twilight was “too soon”? Hardly.

 There is a bit less to go on here than there is in the Plot Development section, but even in Season III, Twilight develops as a character. In The Crystal Empire, she learns two very important lessons: that one should act for the good of others and not just look out for one’s own best interests, and that a good leader sometimes has to delegate responsibility in order to win the day. Both good lessons for a future princess to learn.

 Another mention of Magic Duel: Some of what I said in the above section is relevant here as well. Twilight learns that using magic won’t solve all her problems, and that she needs to rely on her friends and their relationships sometimes instead. Lesson learned?

 The other episode that needs a mention is Games Ponies Play. One scene shows that Twilight’s magic is getting more powerful. After Rainbow talks about how Cloudsdale lost its bid for the Equestria Games, Twilight gets impatient and casually levitates all of her friends to pull them off-screen. And she still has control and power left over to return the dropped flag to the Crystal Pony filly. Contrast this with TCE where she levitates herself, and Magic Duel, where she levitates a bevy of Fluttershy’s critters and moves them around in a figure of 8 shape. So there is clear progression in Twilight’s magical abilities within the Season itself. There is also development with Twilight learning a new coping mechanism from Cadence, which she uses to calm herself down when things start going wrong. Okay, it sort of fails her towards the end, but she doesn’t go (pardon the phrase) bugfuck crazy like she did in previous episodes.

 So while not every episode developed Twilight’s character or abilities during the season, there certainly were some points where we can see a progression. Is it enough? I think so, although nobody has to feel the same way about it.

As a final thought, it may be that I’m just reading more into the events I mentioned than the writers intended. Maybe I’m so desperate to justify the move of making Twilight an alicorn that I am seeing things that aren’t there, and giving credit where it is not due. I will certainly admit to this possibility, as long as others admit to the possibility that they might be allowing their dislike of the move to blind them to what might be there. Ultimately, I realize I probably can’t change anyone’s mind if they dislike Alicorn Twilight. But I would hope they would consider what I’ve pointed out fairly, and not just dismiss it because they want to continue disliking it. If, after that, they’re still not convinced, I can do no more.

 The defence rests, and shall spend the rest of the day chasing some rainbows.

Sunny Fox

As the subtitle might suggest, I feel that this season in particular has caused the most consternation among certain groups of fans. This is not only because of Twilight becoming an alicorn and a princess, although that is certainly a large part of it. It is also because the season had a non-standard number of episodes, as well as, if the claims are to be believed, the writing suffering a drop in quality regarding pacing, plot development and character development. “Jumping the shark” and particularly “Mary Sue” are terms that have been thrown around with remarkable regularity in recent recollection.

I would agree that Season III has had some episodes that were not up to its usual standards. On the other hand, so did Season II, notably “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well”, which is generally disparaged, and “A Canterlot Wedding”. The latter doesn't get as much criticism as it deserves, even though I find it to be one of the weakest episodes overall, plot- and villain-wise. Even Season 1 had its stinkers (“Over a Barrel” and “Owl’s Well that Ends Well”, I’m looking at you…). Part of the problem is that Season III was shorter, and so the subpar episodes stand out more. Apart from that caveat, I think the criticism is mostly a fair one. Let’s hope Season IV can mitigate the damage.

Has Friendship is Magic moved in a parabolic path over a cartilaginous ocean-dwelling apex predator? I wouldn’t say so. There certainly has been a status quo shake-up, but whether the bell is tolling or not will depend on Season IV, and where the writers decide to take the series from here on out. I’m somewhat nervous because I recognize the potential for things to go awry, but I don’t think all is lost just yet. I trust the writers. I may be forced to swallow my words later, but I’m an optimist at heart.

Now what really grinds my gears is when people use (or misuse) the term Mary Sue. In its original meaning, it referred specifically to a type of character in fan-fiction, an idealized author avatar that exists for wish fulfillment. Under this old definition, it cannot be applied to Alicorn Twilight since she is not a fan made character. But, of course, the meaning and usage of words changes, since language and culture is ever-evolving, and we have to recognize that. That would be a lot easier if the definition of Mary Sue weren’t so nebulous.

It seems the most common use of Mary Sue here is to mean a character that has no flaws. Even if I were to go so far as to agree that Alicorn Twilight is now perfect and without flaws, which I don’t, the definition still fails to apply because she got there by a process of character development. Mary Sues are created, they do not evolve. Otherwise, developing a character necessarily means making her more of a Mary Sue, which would make either Mary Sue-ism good, or character development bad. You can’t have your Mary Sue and eat her too…


...wait, what?

Was Season III the best season? No. Was it terribad? I don’t think so. Sure, Rarity didn't get a focus episode, but she did have some great scenes and lines. Some of the characters were slightly flanderised and some of the episodes were not paced well, but there was something to praise and something to complain about in every episode, which is as it ever has been. Season IV will probably also have a few great episodes and a few mediocre ones, but I bet it will be entertaining. Let’s not write the series off just yet. And if you’re going to say Mary Sue, you’d better have a firm definition of the phrase in mind.

Sunny Fox

I have a pet by the name of Paul. I got him as a gift from my parents when they visited me a few months ago. I recently decided it was time to train him. However, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get him to respond to his name. And you can forget about playing fetch, he doesn’t even move when I throw the stick. Please help me. I’ll post a picture of him so you can identify his species…




What do you think the problem is?

Sunny Fox

Before I take on the Season III episodes, I wish to first talk about a few of the more controversial issues raised. To start, I want to discuss the issues that some fans have with Sombra. 

 I don’t think he was that bad a villain in many ways. The ironic thing here is that Sombra, easily the most disparaged villain of the series, is the only one who did not give the Mane 6 victory on a silver platter. He loses despite, and not because of, his actions, none of which are stupid. I wish that I could say as much for Nightmare Moon, Discord and Queen Chrysalis. The other point is that the Mane 6 only won through a series of very lucky coincidences that no villain, no matter how savvy, could have predicted or planned for.

 In part, I understand why he gets a bad rap, because he is (on first viewing) a very poorly characterized villain. He simply isn’t shown to have the depth of the other villains. His lines are extremely limited, and he didn’t get to do much in the episode itself before blowing up. One thing he did do, however, is disable one of the only two ponies who are keeping him out of the Kingdom he wishes to retake. And I don’t think that’s an accident.

 Here’s my reasoning. He couldn’t have known the Mane 6 were coming. He has been camping right outside the empire, trying to get in. Shining Armor did know the Mane 6 were coming. When he left the city, Sombra would have seen him first. Being a unicorn himself, he would know that Shining Armor must be the one keeping him out, since the Crystal Ponies don’t have the magic necessary to protect themselves without the Crystal Heart. All of this makes me think that Sombra was there to attack and disable Shining Armor, who as far as he knew, was the only one stopping him from reclaiming the Crystal Empire. That implies that Sombra is not just an animalistic shadow (har har) of his former self, as some claim, but a reasoning, self-directing villain, as much as can be claimed for any of the other foes the Mane 6 have faced. His plan, if indeed that is what we are meant to assume it is, is not only clever, but it works. At least, it would have if Shining Armor were the only unicorn protecting the Empire. So that runs counter to the claim that “he doesn’t do anything in the episode”.

The thing about Sombra is that most of his villainy and planning was set up before the episode even begins. He removed the relevant page from the one book mentioning the Crystal Heart. The entrance to where he kept the Crystal Heart was hidden and only someone with dark magic could open it. None of the crystal ponies have horns, and presumably they have no magic. Even if they did, it's far more likely to be Light magic. The next trap, a door leading to the victims worst nightmare is more fiendish still, because it's triggered by using Dark Magic, which the victim would already have been primed to use because it got them results a little bit earlier. It's also an insurance policy against a pony having dark magic skills to begin with. The only way to escape it is to have someone else come and snap you out of it.

Sombra also created a delaying staircase that Twilight just happened to have a spell to deal with, which she had never demonstrated before this episode. Then at the end of that, he had an alarm set up around the Crystal Heart to let him know someone had found it. It's not an automated trap, though. When Twilight triggers it, we are given a brief glimpse of Sombra reacting and then casting the spell to trap Twilight. So, again, Sombra is acting and doing things in the episode. This also hints that he might have even stronger magical power that Twilight does. He's savvy enough not only to consider the possibility of her teleporting, but also has the power to override her when she tries it.

So Sombra plans intelligently and craftily, destroys information vital to his enemies, is strong enough to negate the magical ability of both Shining Armor and Twilight, actively targets those who stand in his way and only has victory snatched from his grasp due to pure luck on the part of the Mane 6.

First, it's lucky that Rainbow happened to bump into the librarian pony just as she remembers the real Crystal Heart. It's lucky that Twilight just happened to bone up (stop sniggering, please) on gravity spells for her "test". It's lucky that her last-second dive for the Crystal Heart ended up not with her grabbing it, but instead knocking it away from the trap. And last, certainly not least, it's lucky that Spike was around to save everyone.

Spike is the key to victory throughout the whole episode. He breaks Twilight out of her Demon Door trance; his own experience with it clarifies how it works; he points out that the staircase is just a delaying tactic, and finally, he's on hand to grab the Crystal Heart while Twilight is trapped.

To summarise, Sombra's pre-planning and actions in the episode would have resulting in him winning if not for the interference of Spike, a healthy dose of unanticipated good luck for the heroes, and a last second wife-toss, all of which is enough to ruin anypony's plans.

I feel saddened that fans allow his lack of discernable personality (beyond that of being an evil dictator with an unhealthy fascination for dark crystals, of course) to distract from the fact that he was actually very effective at being villainous.

Keep chasing those dark crystals, everyone.

Sunny Fox

This is where Chrysalis really manages to shoot herself in the hoof (those holes had to get there somehow). Not only does she confirm to Twilight that she is indeed evil, but she also imprisons her right next door to her other prisoner, and in fact seems to specifically engineer a meeting between them, allowing them to team up. Maybe she was hoping Twilight would be angry enough to just kill the real Cadence outright, especially as she seemed intent on taunting her to raise her ire, but it seems a poor gamble to take when you’re on the cusp of victory. It's going to backfire horribly, as we’ll see.

A quick song-and-dance greeting ritual establishes the true Cadence’s bona fides (a little too quickly, if you ask me) and they team up to escape. This also makes the “hope for friendly fire kill plan” even more unlikely. Chrysalis knows it failed because she sends the bridesmaids to block their exit, but still laughs as if everything is going according to plan as she leaves, which is odd, to say the least.

Of course, as stupid and self-defeating as Chrysalis’ action is, it also results in the best song of the episode, "This Day Aria." What else is there to say, it’s a perfect song. It also moves the action along quite nicely, as Twilight and Cadence make their way through the cavern while the wedding continues above them. No pony notices the groom’s zombified expression and glowing green mind control eyes, for some reason.

After Twilight spots an exit, she teleports herself and Cadence to it, only to have the bridesmaids step in to stop them. Yet more questions: what did Chrysalis originally mind control them for, anyway? They vanished before Twilight ever confronted her, so they can’t have been waiting down there in order to block the way the whole time. Unless Chrysalis expected Cadence to make a break for it herself, in which case, why did the latter wait for Twilight to find her before trying to get away? None of this makes much sense to me. The way the pair escapes is also a bit of a head-tilter. The bridesmaids run off after the bouquet that Cadence quite literally makes appear from nowhere, in a bit of totally unnecessary fridge logic. (Welcome to Plot Convenience Theatre!) That would have been a great time for Twilight to use the Want-It-Need-It spell from “Lesson Zero”; they could literally have used a rock for the same purpose without creating yet another flaw for me to scratch my head over, and added a lovely little continuity nod at the same time.

When the pair makes it back to the wedding, it sure is nice of Cadence to wait for Twilight to burst in first, just so everypony can look unhappy to see her. Confronted by the real bride, and having her secret being revealed, Chrysalis returns to her true form, ignoring the fact that freaking Princess Celestia is officiating the wedding. As it turns out, though, Chrysalis is now strong enough to win the Beam Spam battle, slapping down Celestia like an unruly child. (Well, not really, even she was surprised she won, but just go with it) Now this I like, as it destroys the impression that the alicorn Princesses are somehow living gods, which I never approved of anyway. The (now second) most powerful magic wielder out of commission, the time has come to fall back on the last line of defense for Equestria, the Elements of Harmony. Which are locked in a tower. Which is protected by a spell only Celestia knows how to bypass. Hmm. It seems like Chrysalis isn’t the only poor planner in this episode, after all.

All of which is moot, since despite a great action fight scene, the Mane 6 are captured before they can get to the Elements. All seems lost… the shield has failed, Celestia is now a pod pony, the Mane 6, Cadence and Shining Armor are prisoners, and the changelings are roaming around in their true forms, feeding from the fearful ponies of Canterlot. Wait, what? If changelings get power from love, how does fear sustain them? If they can suck the love out of somepony in their true form, and while the pony in question is fearing or hating them, why do they need the ability to take on the form of a loved one in the first place? I’ve been scratching my head so much, I’m right through my skull and hitting pink stuff directly. Quick, Chrysalis, sing an ironic reprise of an earlier song to distract me!

Once again creating the impression that those holes go through her brain as well as her legs, Chrysalis not only leaves the Mane 6 free, but allows Twilight to free Cadence, who in turn breaks Chrysalis' hold over Shining Armor. I mean, being sure of your victory is one thing, but allowing your prisoners to do everything in their power to stop you when you shouldn't really be giving them the chance is simply stupid. Again. Such arrogance goes well beyond just being a fatal flaw, it's downright perverse. Unfortunately, par for the course for MLP villains.

Cadence's love gives Shining Armor the power to cast his protection spell. A lovely little animation error gives Cadence her crown back before she even begins, but I like the idea that the magic repairs all her scratches and other evidence of her underground incarceration. Sort of a "beauty is never tarnished" moment. It also briefly gives both her and Shining Armor's manes the wavy look of the alicorns, although if this is a true change or just their manes blowing in the breeze, I'm not certain. Here's another bugbear of mine. People claim that the spell is the power of love used as a weapon, in much the same way as the Elements of Harmony. It's not really, it's just Shining Armor's protection spell. Cadence is only using her magical lurrve powers to give him the strength to cast it. Anyway, the spell manages to knock all the changelings away (again, is that spell specifically targeting changelings?) sending them flying back to the place they came from. It also seems to dissolve the changeling's mucousy stuff, while not touching any of the ponies.

Action over, it's back to the wedding, with real Chrysalis just loving everything about the planned ceremony. I guess that's understandable. It's got to be better than what she started the day expecting to face. So ceremony, kiss, Sonic Rainboom on command. Then a slow dance, Luna pitches up after being who knows where, ponies sing ("Love is in Bloom" is pretty standard, a nice tune but nowhere near "This Day Aria") and dance and cry and laugh and all that good stuff that a wedding brings. And Spike brings out his bachelor party brick joke for an everypony laughs ending. Oh, and fireworks.

Pros - The songs are pretty good. Despite it's flaws, the story is entertaining. The scene where they fight the Changeling horde is wonderful, and harkens back to the days of the Powerpuff Girls.

Cons - Shining Armor and Cadence (a new alicorn) are thrown in, bam, no warning from any of the other 50 episodes in the series. The villain apparently goes to great lengths to ruin her own plans. A lot of stuff doesn't make sense.

Overall, despite it's flaws, the story is really enjoyable, and has some nice touches. If anyone can provide some possible justifications for the flawed logic, I'd be happy to hear what you have to say. So, now that we have had our happy ending, all that remains to say is this: Until next time, keep on chasing those rainbows!

Sunny Fox

Oh, dear. “A Canterlot Wedding.” In my opinion, this is by far the most flawed episode in the series to date. (Yes, that includes Magical Mystery Cure, which I didn’t find to be as bad as all that. But I’ll talk more about that at another time.) In fact, there is so much that is unclear or plain doesn’t make sense in this episode, that I felt compelled to write a fan-fiction trying to provide some justification for it. Maybe I'll even get around to posting it here on Running the Gamut some time.

The episode starts with the Mane 6 having a picnic (Spike was apparently not invited, poor guy) on a beautiful day. Spike crashes the party to deliver the news of the upcoming wedding in Canterlot, where each of the Mane 6 is given a task. Poor Twilight then finds out that the groom is none other than her brother. A brother whom she is apparently very close to, but has never once mentioned, even in passing, an entire 50 episodes into the show. If you want to talk about “coming out of nowhere”, this is the quintessential example. Avatar: The Last Airbender did it much better. Although Princess Azula is only introduced towards the end of the first season, we are given a sneak peak of her half-way through, during a flashback to why Prince Zuko was banished. We even get an early hint to her character when we see her smirking smugly at what is happening to her brother. In FiM’s case, what makes this sudden addition even more egregious is the fact that during the BBBFF song, we see that Shining Armor saw Twilight off on her journey to Ponyville. This is the script-writing equivalent of Spike taping himself into the picture from “Sweet and Elite”.

Speaking of the BBBFF song, and on a more positive note, as it were, it’s a very good song. Tara Strong manages to put a great deal of emotion into this performance. As for the visuals, any time we get to see a member of the Mane 6 as a cute little filly is fine by me. I also suggest checking out the Sim Gretina remix of the song, it’s awesome.

After the song, we clearly see Twilight is upset with her brother for not telling her about his impending marriage. Not that she seems to have made much effort to keep in touch with him, either. Still, her feelings are understandable. The reaction of her friends to how vociferous she is about it should be kept in mind for later.

So the group is off to Canterlot to help organize the wedding, with Twilight still peeved and determined to confront Shining Armor. And this is where the major question marks start appearing. Shining Armor states that a threat was made against Canterlot, but they don’t know who is responsible. As a direct result of that, Shining Armor has been asked to provide additional protection with his shield spell, and by increasing the number of guards. Chrysalis’s plan to replace Cadence was necessitated by the shield, which never would have been set up if not for the threat she made. Or is there some other reason why she had to im-pony-ate Cadence? What did she get in exchange for giving up the element of surprise? The only way I can think of to resolve this issue is if the threat was made by a third party, who has their own reasons for revealing the danger Canterlot is facing. But such a third party is never introduced. Secondly, if they don’t know the identity of the threat, why is Shining Armor’s spell apparently keyed to changelings? Is it designed to allow through only ponies who have been invited to the wedding? How does it judge that, since they apparently are not carrying invitations when they enter? Has Shining Armor memorized the identity and appearance of every single wedding guest, in order to incorporate them into the spell? None of this is ever explained or addressed.

Twilight forgives her brother, accepts her role as Best Mare, finds out her future sister-in-law is her old foal-sitter (which was called baby-sitting in “Baby Cakes”, so yay for inconsistent terminology) and then finds out her foal-sitter doesn’t remember their greeting ritual, and is acting very differently to how Twilight remembers. Understandably, Twilight doesn’t realize she is an imposter, but instead thinks that her personality has soured.

Another thing to keep in mind – the others of the Mane 6 don’t get to see this interaction, or how Twilight reconciles with her brother. She also is never shown telling them anything about it later. All the Mane 6 sees is Twilight sulking, apparently still annoyed at the whole situation and making snide remarks about Cadence. In light of this, I don’t agree with fans who say Twilight’s friends should have given her the benefit of the doubt, due to the lesson from “Lesson Zero”. Apart from the aforementioned, it should also be remembered that this episode takes place after “It’s about Time”. This episode featured Twilight freaking out over something that turns out to be a false alarm, even getting the entire town of Ponyville to help her, including a full sweep of Equestria via pegasus surveillance. I don’t blame them for doubting her in the slightest.

Having no luck convincing her friends, Twilight goes to talk to Shining Armor, who is wearing his favorite uncle’s clothes (even more family members from nowhere). Before she can raise her concerns, Chrysalis interrupts and takes issue with Shining Armor wearing the outfit. Of course, she doesn’t care about what he is wearing. More important to her is the fact that he is acting against her wishes, a sign that he is escaping her control, which apparently is causing his headache as he struggles. So she recasts the spell, making the eavesdropping Twilight realize she is evil.

Having no one to turn to, Twilight confronts Chrysalis at the wedding rehearsal. Her apparently irrationality and Chrysalis’ crocodile tears lead to everyone in the Mane 6, Spike, her brother and even her idol and mentor (who has never once doubted her, as said in the pilot) abandoning her in disgust. For Twilight, this is the lowest point she could reach, as she is forced to consider her own actions, and even she begins to doubt herself. A dark reprise of her earlier song really hits me in the feels here…

Keep chasing… you know what? I’m not even going to bother this time. I’m just too depressed.

Sunny Fox

When we last left our intrepid heroines, they had all been twisted and turned against each other, leaving poor Twilight Sparkle in tears and utterly disheartened, even to the point of deciding to leave Ponyville forever. However, everything changes when Twilight gets a pile of her returned friendship letters from Celestia, delivered via the rather hapless Spike. This didn’t make sense at the time, and seemed a little too convenient. However, Season III shows us there is a way that Celestia could have known about Twilight’s situation, since “Magical Mystery Cure” explains that she is somehow watching over Twilight throughout the show.

This reminder of how important her friendships with the Mane 6 are is enough to snap her out of her own Discordation, and to realize that she can undo the effects of Discord’s manipulation by reminding her friends of the same thing. Leaving poor sick Spike to recuperate, Twilight proceeds to hunt down Applejack. She encounters a tapdancing Granny Smith and Big MoleIntosh, who apparently now has Winona’s brain. Does that mean Big MacIntosh’s mind is in Winona’s body? Casting a memory spell of all the good times she had with her friends brings back the real Applejack.

With her help, Twilight then finds and restores the others, leaving only the missing Rainbow Dash preventing them from reuniting and reactivating the Elements of Harmony. Find her they do, and a chase scene ensues. This is one of the highlights of this episode. It has tension, excitement, thrills and spills, and a good dose of comedy, such as Fluttershy politely asking Rainbow if she minds being held down. There’s also Pinkie forgetting to tie the rope Applejack is lassoing Rainbow with to anything, causing her and Rarity to both experience flight for the second time. This is also a brilliant continuity nod in that both of those non-pegasus ponies have flown in one way or another before. All in all, this scene is perfect, culminating in a very funny line, “Maybe it’s a little early for a group hug.”

Having the gang all back together and back to normal, they go to confront Discord, who is being delightfully random, and giving us a real reason to laugh at chocolate milk. And here, unfortunately, the trend of making a really threatening villain pick up the Villain Ball so as to have them being defeated returns. Both Spike and Pinkie earlier commented on the gray aspect, both have proven Fourth Wall capability, which Discord also has, so why can’t he see his hold on the Mane 6 has been broken? They are all acting united instead of squabbling among themselves, so that should have been a major tip-off as well. This all leads to the resolution and Discord’s defeat seeming very contrived and forced. The writers built him up so much, with his power to reshape reality on a whim and his intimate knowledge of the Mane 6 that allowed him to manipulate them so handily, that he couldn’t be defeated unless he allowed it through his own stupidity. I pointed this out as a major concern with Nightmare Moon in the pilot, as well, except that here, there isn’t a possible excuse like in Luna’s case, which makes it even worse. Unfortunately, this is going to come up yet again later. Friendship is Magic does not handle its villains very well.

The final scene is paying homage to the ending of one of the Star Wars movies, which I find ironic, since Discord’s voice actor played the character Q. So by all rights, the final scene should be a shout out to Star Trek instead. Such an enormous ceremony is yet another reason to believe that this should have been the Season I finale rather than the opening of Season II, but that’s just my little idiosyncratic neurosis.

Apart from the issues with Discord’s defeat, this episode is among my favourites, and certainly either the best or second best of the Bookend Episodes for me. Discord is delightfully wicked, managing to combine endearing silliness with true menace and malice. There is a great deal of comedy in these episodes as well, which I always appreciate. There are a few minor niggles such as Spike being psychic and the exact nature of the graying effect of Discordation, but despite the flaws, this episode is really, really enjoyable.

Pros – An awesome Joker-esque villain. The comedic touches are wonderful. Seeing the Mane 6 act so horribly to one another in a show where they are usually good friends is a change of pace.

Cons – That awesome villain allows himself to be defeated by his own stupidity. There are some minor plot holes.

Wow, that episode took three whole entries to cover! Next time I’ll be tackling the (indisputable) Season II finale, “A Canterlot Wedding.”

Until then, keep on chasing those chocolate-milk cotton-candy clouds!

Sunny Fox

When the team reaches the labyrinth, Discord takes away their horns and wings to “prevent cheating”. It’s a lovely continuity nod, since he leers at Applejack rather than one of the pegasuses (pegasii?) as he says it. Scary, to think he knows about their antics from as far back in the series as “Fallweather Friends”. The real reason for taking their abilities away, of course, is that both magic (Twilight’s teleportation) and wings (flying over the hedge walls) would defeat his essential strategy of divide and conquer.

Then our villain appears for the first time in the flesh, accompanied by ominous lightning and evil laughter. Well, it starts off evil and then changes to simply uproarious. It’s unsettling the way Discord goes from seeming truly terrifying to comedic in the space of a breath. To be expected of the living embodiment of chaos, I suppose. He’s got just a little bit of the Joker in him, which makes him both frightening and entertaining to watch.

Having separated the team, and prevented them from regrouping, he then proceeds to “Discord” them in various ways. For Applejack and Pinkie Pie, he appears to turn them by making their Element into something painful for them. In the case of Pinkie, it’s particularly heart-wrenching considering what “Party of One” revealed about her insecurities.

For Rarity, rather than getting her to view generosity as something bad or painful, Discord instead appeals to her greedy side. Here we see Rarity put up more of a fight against Discord’s influence than any of the others so far. As we saw earlier, the “Discording” has two stages. One stage is the hypnosis stage, where the pony gets Mind Control Eyes, then the altered personality stage, where the pony gets grayed out slightly, and acts the opposite of their Element. Rarity managed to shake off stage one, and even started walking away. But then she glances back, and it’s over. Mythology has many examples of the Fatal Backward Glance, such as Lot’s wife in the Bible, or Orpheus from Greek mythology. Of course, the diamond she thinks she sees is just a worthless rock, but she apparently likes to talk to it in romantic terms. Rarity, the geosexual.

Now comes Fluttershy. In contrast to Rarity, who fought his influence for a while before succumbing, Discord finds he simply can’t get any kind of hold on Fluttershy at all. I’m not sure how praiseworthy I find this to be. At any rate, Discord loses patience and has to brute-force her corruption. Which means he could have done it to any of them, at any time. That’s right, he’s doing this the long way around because it’s more enjoyable for him that way. His palpable sense of glee in mind-raping the heroines qualifies him as evil in my opinion, no matter what spin later episodes put on it.

Lastly, Rainbow has her turn to be Discorded. Again, Discord shows how devious a few simple words can be. He gives her a choice, and states that if she chooses wrong, “the foundations of home will crumble" for her. He then gives her a pretty disturbing vision (both in and out universe) of Cloudsdale being destroyed. True to form, this isn’t the home he was talking about. Her choice to take her wings back, thereby breaking the first rule of Discord’s game, (not the second rule as some people think, Discord even outright says “somepony broke the No-Wings-No-Magic Rule!”) actually causes the foundations of Ponyville, now her true home, to crumble. Since the game is over, Discord announces his victory, and the first half of the episode ends with him seemingly triumphant.

In the second half, as Twilight’s friends continue to fight each other, Discord shows her how thoroughly he has duped her. He feigns surprise that she misunderstood him, but as I mentioned in the last entry, it’s pretty clear he knew and intended her to misunderstand. Just more devilish deviousness designed by dear Discord.

Once he leaves, Twilight cottons on to the second part of his original riddle, and leads the gang towards home, despite constant interference from Discord’s magic and her friends alike. Eventually, Twilight gets hold of the Elements. This is a small nitpick, but how does Spike suddenly know the situation? “Now you can defeat Discord!” No one told him about Discord, Twilight even refusing to discuss it, twice. Also, “why does everyone look so gray?” is a rather confusing line, since Twilight didn't comment on it previously, and no one except Spike and later Pinkie ever comments on it either.

At any rate, the Discorded ponies and honorary Rainbow Dash are not able to activate the Elements. Discord proceeds to taunt Twilight before skating away. Another small annoyance, but why do people think Discord’s footsteps are making funny sounds when it’s pretty clearly his clapping that is doing so? They start when he starts clapping, and end when he stops clapping, and he was walking both before and after without any funny sounds. It’s a minor gripe, but these things annoy me, damn it.

With her friends all abandoning her, Twilight finally breaks down herself. As the Element that was revealed by uniting the other Elements in the Mane 6, it’s very fitting that she is defeated by Discord dividing them instead. Good symmetry there, which makes the pilot and this episode seem like bookends, further reinforcing the impression that this episode should have been the finale of Season I.

Discord again appears, and it seems as if he might actually be having second thoughts. However, it’s just him being devious again, since he is obviously delighted to find that he has succeeded in destroying Twilight and breaking up the Mane 6. Remind me again why people are so eager to find reasons to say that he isn't all that evil?

Well, I think this is a good stopping point for today. Look forward to the next entry, which will close out this review.

Until then (say it with me) keep chasing those rainbows!

Sunny Fox

What’s that, you say? Where is my review of “The Best Night Ever”? I skipped it, for three reasons.

1. It’s my blog, by Celestia’s Royal Rump.

2. I want to watch BronyCurious' critique of the episode, but that might affect my own perceptions, so I want to get this one done soonest.

3. I personally consider "Return of Harmony" to be the end of Season I, not the beginning of Season II, no matter what the back covers of my DVDs or indeed the universe at large may claim. Why? Because the opening credits, and the way the glow of a unicorn’s horn is visually represented is the same as Season I episodes, that's why. (I do have to put season 2 in the tags, though)

Also, TBNE doesn't really fit in with the others. It has no real villain or even a particularly serious situation for the Mane 6 to overcome. It deals mostly with their disappointment at having their own expectations dashed. Fluttershy goes temporarily insane. The moral is "Wanting is better than having." There, I did end up reviewing after all.

"Lesson Zero" is what I consider the start of Season II. While it shares many elements with TNBE that I stated above, it at least had the effect of doing away with the "only Twilight sends letters" and the "each episode ends with a letter to Celestia" clauses that had been implicit until that point. (Yes, there were exceptions, like the CMC episodes, but they were exceptions, not the rule) The fact that it shook up the status quo qualifies it for Season opener status. At least, in my eyes it does. Now, onto the episode at hand:

It starts with a rather light-hearted scene featuring the CMC fighting over the meaning of the appearance of Discord (the irony) which apparently empowers him to escape his prison of stone. The dark heartbeat, the ominous crack in the statue, and the evil chuckle all serve to create a good sense of tension.

Cut to the Mane 6, having to deal with the first effects of Discord's chaotic magic. This scene shows off all the Mane 6 again, and reaffirms their teamwork. I particularly like Rarity here (What? Inconceivable!) She states that she isn't willing to come out from under her umbrella, yet passes it over to Twilight without a second thought when she thinks it will help her in her pondering. After solving the problem, they are summoned by Celestia.

This scene is important for many reasons. It gives a great deal of exposition regarding the EoH, adds more historical information concerning Equestria's past, and even serves as a reminder of the events of the pilot. Celestia also wastes no time bringing out the Elements and telling her task team to take down their foe at once. Serious business indeed, when the usually unflappable, extremely powerful and generally artful ruler gives you the weapon and points you in the direction of your enemy in such straightforward terms. Or would give you the weapon, if she had it to give. Dun dun DUN! The Elements are gone, leaving even Celestia with her jaw dropping.

And now the villain makes his entrance, in possibly the most unsettling way he can, by sliding around the stained glass windows. Discord, the mischievous spirit of chaos and disharmony. John de Lancie's performance as Discord is definitely one of the strongest points for this episode. Of course, he's had a lot of practice as Q.

Again, the way Celestia responds to him shows just how much of threat she considers him to be. Her expression, as Discord puts it, is indeed grim. Discord also shows that he is fully aware of each of the Mane 6 and their Element, all of which serve to make him even scarier. There is little worse than having an enemy who is not only powerful, but also knowledgeable about you. This leads to a problem down the line, however, which I will discuss more later.

Having given them his riddle, Discord departs. It's quite amazing how deep his simple few words are when you examine them carefully. "Twists and turns are my master plan. Then find the Elements back where you began..." His master plan was to essentially "twist" the personalities of each of the Mane 6 sans Twilight, and to "turn" them against each other. This so that even when they do regain the Elements, they will be in no shape to wield their power against him. This figurative level is masked by the more literal meaning, which Discord was clearly counting on Twilight to focus on, she being a literal sort of character, and it leads them directly into his trap. Well played, Discord... well played.

Another delightful bit of irony is the fact that right after Discord delivers his message, Fluttershy actually gives the correct answer, when she asks "Can we go home now?" Had Twilight listened to her, they could have gotten hold of the Elements without falling into Discord's trap, and defeated him rather painlessly. I'm sure that Discord, devious as he is, allowed them that possibility, just so that he could later laugh at them for not seeing it. In fact, his laugh as the Mane 6 head towards the labyrinth seems to be mocking them for that very reason.

My goodness, all these words, and I've only covered the first 10 minutes of the episode. I think it would be a good idea to pause briefly here.

More about this episode next time.

Until then, keep chasing those rainbows!