Jump to content
Banner by ~ Ice Princess Silky
  • entries
    363
  • comments
    1,101
  • views
    267,306

Discord's Morality in The Return of Harmony


Dark Qiviut

2,483 views

Author's Note: Credit goes to @@Batbrony, Wind Chaser, Tommy_Oliver, @@Dulset Tarn, @@Arctofire, Digibro, and @@Nuke87654 for this positive critique of Discord.

 


It's no secret, The Return of Harmony was Friendship Is Magic's best two-parter until The Cutie Map aired. Each of the Mane Six shone. The comedy was very effective. Twilight was the central character, but didn't become intrusive nor feel like it was a Twilight episode. Meanwhile, her Discorded friends were hilarious and had merit for changing who they are. After twenty-six episodes, Twilight's exclusive letters to Celestia were given a magnificent payoff, reminding Twilight of what she learned while also treating Celestia respectfully. The only two real downsides were some issues with the pacing early and late and the anti-climax.

 

But one more part helped make The Return of Harmony so spectacular. At that point, he's the one who stole the show.

 

Discord.

800px-Discord_%27Or_the_game_is_over%27_S2E01.png

 

Inspired by Q from Star Trek (hell, John de Lancie was Q in TNG), this draconequus is the Equestrian version of a troll. Once he's free from his stone-cold cell, he causes massive havoc in Canterlot, Ponyville, and wherever else he desires. More specifically, he elaborated a very creative scheme to mentally and emotionally manipulate each of the Mane Six. He could've turned them all into Discorded characters on the spot; that's how powerful he is. But he prefers doing it in such a way that permanently destroys their confidence unto others and, even more importantly, themselves. That's why he was extremely active so early and then laid back as Twilight's hopes for a more harmonious Equestria slowly dwindled. Underneath all the hilarity, Discord was a really effective and scary bastard.

 

Another aspect from Discord and The Return of Harmony that was used so effectively is the execution of his three-dimensional characterization. More specifically, how he approached himself morally.

 

Season two's two-part premiere is a host of so many fascinating lines. You see many bronies converse about and reference them in comments and memes. "Good boy, Angel! Mama's so proud!" and "That…big…dumb…MEANIE!!" are two such classics remembered today. Yet, funny as they may be, they're not the best lines. The best comes from Discord in Act 2 of Part 1:

Discord: [chuckling] Did you miss me, Celestia? I missed you. It's quite lonely being encased in stone, but you wouldn't know that, would you, because I don't turn ponies into stone.

The whole paragraph above is easily the best line of the two-parter. But the point of emphasis is when he called out Celestia for turning him into stone. What makes it important? Immediately, Discord reveals one thing no other villain in this show had then and since: integrity.

 

Every other FIM villain would do whatever they could to achieve what they want, however they can. If it means capturing, maiming, and killing the Mane Six, they would.

  1. Nightmare Moon: Although never stated, it's heavily implied NMM captured Celestia and sealed her in the sun when the millennium-long spell was finally broken. When the Mane Six trotted into the Everfree Forest to find the Elements of Harmony, Nightmare Moon played some dangerous games, including starting a rock slide that could've killed at least four ponies.
  2. Queen Chrysalis set out her army of changelings to fight, cower, and feed on other ponies' love for the Canterlot Royalty however they can. During Return of Queen Chrysalis, she got very pushy and violent.
  3. King Sombra: Two words: pure evil. He would manipulate, enslave, and destroy anything in his path. This character had no morals whatsoever.
  4. Sunset Shimmer: Tried to kill Twilight and the HuMane Five in hopes of conquering Equestria.
  5. Ahuizotl: Capture and kill Daring Do.
  6. Mane-iac: Brainwash, maim, and/or destroy the Power Ponies.
  7. Tirek: Also pure evil. Will fight and kill anyone who stands in his way.
  8. Dazzlings: Their siren spirits came alive with plans to "finish" the Rainbooms.

Discord doesn't embody any of their traits, especially the ability to kill or maim. "Chaos" and "disharmony" are the two best words that describe him during The Return of Harmony. But there's one more: freedom. The Elements of Harmony establish the ability to spread goodness in everyone. Conversely, when disharmony or evil stand in its way, the Elements become a weapon. This weapon is dictatorial and is forced upon this evil. Nightmare Moon's anger against the world vanished. Discord was reverted to stone and back again as a half-baked test for Fluttershy to reform him. When corrupted, the Bearer's memories of their past lives are switched. Sunset's personality was retconned, permanently damaging this weapon's reputation. Discord's capable of doing whatever he wanted. Why? Because that's who he was as a villain. He desires uncontrollable freedom to spread villainous mischief.

 

Nevertheless, Discord complies to his own set of standards of how to approach his schemes. Unlike Celestia, Luna, and eventually the Mane Six, physical weapons enacted by priceless jewelry aren't his preference. Instead, it's the ability to play mind games and keep playing them even when he's not physically there. If he wanted to, he could deliver punches to the face. But not only does he not do it. He chooses not to. Discord doesn't throw down because that's not him. He's one such villain with no desire to injure or kill anyone.

 

Ideal freedom is one key reason why he never bothered capturing any of his enemies. Again, he has the power and wherewithal to capture or kill anyone who stood in his way of Equestrian conquest. The Mane Six, Spike, the CMCs, Celestia, Luna, whoever. But he doesn't, because that's not him.

 

Instead, he takes a very radical approach, even in family shows like this one. As everyone gets angry at him for stealing the Elements of Harmony, he spreads riddles and makes up several rules to hilariously befuddle and injure their spirits. When they were forcibly split up, the ReMane Five became very vulnerable. Although each of them learned their lessons of friendship, Twilight writes them and recites them, so she learns them collectively even though she doesn't get to truly experience them. The others didn't learn the lessons as extensively as her; Discord sensed it and took advantage of the opportunity. How? In the evillest way possible without crossing his moral boundaries: taunting them and psychological examining their biggest weaknesses. Applejack's lack of desire to listen to the harshest truths. Pinkie's love for laughter being turned against her with no way to escape. Rarity's lust for the priceless (projection of the too-good-to-be-true) diamond and keep it. Fluttershy's timidity and helplessness (only to be countertrolled :lol:). Rainbow Dash's will to save Cloudesdale from (the illusion of) destruction, thus disqualifying herself and her other friends from the contest. While characters like Sombra and NMM lie in wait, Discord personally greets them and brags about how he'll manipulate you right in your face.

 

When the others are Discorded, Twilight becomes the glue to keep their friendship intact. One criticism of Twilight here is how she's an idiot for not seeing the characters turn gray. There's a difference between being an idiot and unobservant/not caring. Here, Twilight was unobservant. Her main focus was meeting in the center of the labyrinth, where she assumed the EoH were there. When she found out she didn't, she focused on finding them and keeping her bickering friends in check. The way she worked about it was how despite being different, they were still her friends. She didn't give a damn if they turned gray or not. The fact they were there was all she cared.

 

How can this be deduced? From this exchange in Part 2:

Spike: Twilight, what's going on? Why does everybody look so...gray?

 

Twilight Sparkle: Don't ask. I need you to help me find something.

 

This tells the viewer Twilight knew they were gray and realized how they changed. But because her friends were with her in essence, the Elements of Harmony would hopefully change everything. It was when she realized they couldn't care less about Discord did she lose her cool and consider their relationship worthless.

 

Actually, this aspect of Discord's scheme is the cleverest. When he no longer needed to do the work himself, he let his Discorded pets take care of the job for him. He understood perfectly what their newfound attitudes were going to do to Twilight. Since she grew up the most, he needed to break her down more slowly and more deeply. The others were crushed much more easily because, once again, they were more vulnerable than her. How he approached this part of the plan took plenty of time, but because of Twilight's character, he didn't desire to rush it. Otherwise, his scheme could fail miserably. Put it simply, it was ingeniously executed.

 

Another comment I get to see (and even I wondered about it) is why Celestia — and presumably Luna — bothered to put Discord in such a place where other people could see it. What Celestia did with Discord was rude at best and dangerous at worst. In her brief explanation, she basically described him as maniacal, dictatorial, and tyrannical. So it wouldn't make much sense for Celestia to put him there.

 

Discord knew this. He all but bluntly told her and the rest of the Mane Six how stupid it was of her to display his makeshift jail in plain sight where one day he'd break free. Think of the entire exchange, particularly his tone. He was mocking Celestia and the Mane Six, but he was also really angry. Angry at Celestia for locking him up. Angry at Celestia for foiling his plans. Angry at Celestia for being such an idiot. He called her out for violating his own morale and putting others at risk. It's one thing to make such a stupid mistake and either ignore it or condone it like Rainbow Falls, Trade Ya!, or Bats!. It's another for a character to make a stupid mistake and be shamed for it. Celestia was shamed for it and deserved it. When he set out on his master plan to turn Equestria upside-down, he was proving to her, the Mane Six, and the rest of Equestria how much Celestia let—themDOWN!

 

Production-wise, why is it how Discord is able to be so evil yet never had to throw a punch?

 

Think about season one in general, particularly its other rating: E/I. Educational/Informational is government-regulated; its purpose is to deliver high-quality television that teaches and expresses morals and lessons to children. Think about its goal: education. Everything the characters do has to have them learn something. One element in TV that's criticized a lot is senseless violence on TV, particularly fantasy violence that either lent no morals or violence that was condoned. Fall Weather Friends had a violent scene of Rainbow Dash and Applejack fighting as they crossed the finish line. It wasn't criticized because it was meant to deliver a lesson of how not to allow competition to affect their friendship. In The Return of Harmony, the violence expresses the exact same message: "maintaining friendship isn't always fun nor easy, but worth it at the end." The fight scenes between the CMCs and later Twilight, Pinkie, and Applejack were meant to be criticized and deliver how friends will sometimes fight, but true friendship will never dissipate.

 

Originally, season one was twenty-eight episodes; The Return of Harmony was the season one finale before it got delayed to become the S2 premiere. In other words, The Return of Harmony had to comply with not only TV ratings like TV-Y, but E/I, too. If RoH had to comply, so did Discord. Like The Best Night Ever, the E/I rating forced Larson, Rob Renzetti, Faust, et al to write an episode unconventionally. Rather than crumbling underneath the pressure and delivering a cliché, they approach The Return of Harmony like AKR and crew with The Best Night Ever: take advantage of their restrictions. In turn, Discord became one of the cleverest and best villains in cartoon history.

 

The Return of Harmony is one such episode that ages better and better over the last few years. Even though two well-known flaws are exposed, it's extremely timeless. Rather than relying on one scene, RoH is a fantastic character study of how much the Mane Six and Celestia learned the values of friendship. However, Discord is the central stealer in RoH. He was not just evil, but deliciously evil. He has the wit, humor, and especially integrity.

 

His integrity is the basis of his character and approach to his evil. He knows right from wrong, plays by specific morals that he self-established, and refuses to deviate from them. He wasn't out there to capture or kill. He was there to have fun and make the Mane Six miserable. If they challenged to a fist battle, he'd decline because Discord is above pointless fighting. He's a master manipulator and uses a combination of his morals and mind games to beat you and gloat about it. Discord's vocal criticism of Celestia over turning him to stone and visual criticism of her poor decision-making weren't quick exposition dumps to progress the plot. Like Sweetie Belle blurting how the drama surrounding her ruined fifth birthday party in season four, Discord's line I emphasized earlier in this blog was the backbone of not only his villainy, but the episode's entire conflict, as well.

  • Brohoof 4

5 Comments


Recommended Comments

This was all so true. Discord is a fantastic villain, and miles better than anything Meghan McCarthy will ever write. He's just SO evil, but covers it in sick humor. This makes him more creepy, because he comes across as someone who doesn't do anything until he's REALLY mad, and that's when you should run for your life.

 

I agree with all of your points completely, and ROH is an episode in which I keep on noticing more and more things each time. At first sight the stories pretty straightforward, but if you look deeper, it's actually very complex. The episode is timeless, and you probably won't think much of what I'm about to say, but this was when this show was pure. Sure we'd had some bad episodes but nothing like Equestria Girls and The Crystal Empire. I really want M.A Larson to write another 2 parter, why they gave the job to McCarthy is beyond me.

 

One thing I didn't understand though, was that you said that Discord pointed out how stupid Celestia was for putting him in the Canterlot Garden. I don't remember any such line. Could you tell me which it was?

Link to comment

One important thing I'm sure you meant to include is that, as Discord himself values freedom so much, he doesn't take it away from others either. He could easily have locked Celestia, the biggest threat to him (who indeed was the one pony who foiled his plans) in a cage or something, but he never restricts someone else's freedom. He doesn't imprison anyone for the same reason he doesn't use force, because in his ideal world, everyone does whatever they want, limited only by their ability to actually do it. Naturally, being nigh-omnipotent, this places Discord at the top of the pecking order, which obviously suits him just fine.

 

Of course it could very well be argued that mind control and taking away body parts could violate that idea of his morality, but I think it being arguable is the key. Discord is evil, so if he can consider those things closer to "changing a pony's point of view" or just "playing a game", those things don't technically violate his morals against using force or limiting freedom.

Link to comment

 

 

One thing I didn't understand though, was that you said that Discord pointed out how stupid Celestia was for putting him in the Canterlot Garden. I don't remember any such line. Could you tell me which it was?

He didn't literally express it. He all but told her. It was implied through the tone of his voice during their initial confrontation, the heavy amount of chaos he insisted upon Canterlot and Ponyville, and how much he bragged/taunted them in their faces.

Link to comment

 

 

One important thing I'm sure you meant to include is that, as Discord himself values freedom so much, he doesn't take it away from others either. He could easily have locked Celestia, the biggest threat to him (who indeed was the one pony who foiled his plans) in a cage or something, but he never restricts someone else's freedom. He doesn't imprison anyone for the same reason he doesn't use force, because in his ideal world, everyone does whatever they want, limited only by their ability to actually do it. Naturally, being nigh-omnipotent, this places Discord at the top of the pecking order, which obviously suits him just fine.

That's a very good point. I'll add it in while using my own words. ;)

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Join the herd!

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...