Welcome back to the Bookend Diaries. This entry will handle the second half of the pilot.
The wheels seem to fall off a little bit here. First of all, Nightmare Moon, who seemed like such a badass, ends up being totally ineffectual. You can control lightning! Fry those foals who dare to stand against you!
NNM flies off, and then seems to fly straight back again to spy on Twilight. How did she know to keep an eye on Twilight in any case? Sure, Twilight was the only one who knew who she was, but she never mentioned the Elements of Harmony. And even if she could find them, Nightmare Moon can fly faster than Rainbow, and turn into mist or even mimic other ponies, like she does with the Shadowbolts. She’s immortal, has apparently trapped or somehow disabled the only pony who is as powerful as herself, and had she just kept away from Twilight, it wouldn’t have mattered if she did find the Elements. All she had to do was not provide a target. Unless she subconsciously wanted to be stopped so that she could become Luna again and rejoin her sister, which I guess is possible, but it’s not made very clear.
The second issue is the clumsy foreshadowing in this episode. As Twilight reads out each Element, not only is each relevant pony focused on in turn, but they each blink with an audible sound effect as the Element is named. It would have been perfectly obvious without going to such lengths.
Then there’s the journey through the Everfree Forest, where each pony gets to demonstrate their personality trait. First, Applejack tells Twilight to let go of the cliff and she’ll be safe. One sentence, “The others are waiting to catch you!” would be enough to let Twilight know the situation. And I thought Applejack was meant to be one of the straight-talkers of the show.
Next the Manticore. Fluttershy’s kindness is great, but where is the giant thorn earlier in the fight? Its size should have made it clearly visible when the Manticore spread its paws, or scratched at the ground, or ran on all four legs after the ponies. A much better way to handle it would be to show the Manticore favouring its one paw, or limping slightly or something. It would serve just as well to demonstrate Fluttershy's kindness for her to be the only one to notice the thorn while the others were only able to see the threat the Manticore posed, instead of a pretty saccharine line like "Sometimes we all just need to be shown a little kindness". And it would show off her motherly traits better too.
The next scene brings us the very first song in the series, delightfully lampshaded by Twilight and Rarity. ("Tell me she's not..." "She is.") It's not a great song, especially compared with some from later episodes, but not too bad either, and has a rather good message for the target demographic... how to deal with imaginary fears. I think Rainbow should have been a bit braver than that, though. She loses a lot of street cred here.
I blush to admit I can't really find any fault with the generosity scene. I hope it's not just because Rarity is my favourite character, but I don't see a single thing wrong here. It was pretty generous of Rarity to cut off her tail to gift it to the River Serpent, especially since she couldn't have known it would grow back when she took up her Element. The fakeout of Rarity seemingly killing the Serpent was a little bit strange, and perhaps unnecessary, though. I am so balanced!
Now a scene I really do have a problem with. It's meant to highlight Rainbow's trait of Loyalty. But if you think about it, Rainbow Dash’s loyalty isn’t really being tested. It would have been if Nightmare Moon had appeared to her as the actual Wonderbolts, and not a unconvincing knockoff. Her design for the Shadowbolts is close enough to imply that she knew what they look like, and it would have been much more of a temptation for Rainbow. Or why not tell her she could tie the bridge, but then take her away from the rest, leaving them one Element short? Rainbow had already agreed to go with them after tying the line. Or I don't know, Nightmare Moon, how about destroying the bridge with freaking lightning!? It all just seems a little bit contrived, mainly because it is.
Now we come to the showdown with Nightmare Moon. The fight itself is pretty cool, and you really feel Twilight's total loss of hope when it seems Nightmare Moon has shattered the Elements. Then Twilight's friends come in, she realises they are the Elements of Harmony, lies (in some cases) about how they all showed their Element traits. This part is a little sappy, but...
Well whup my withers, Full Spectrum! Isn't that just like a boy? Can't handle the least bit of sentiment!
Applejack? Why are you in my blog?
I just came to give ya'll a piece of my mind! What's all this talk about sappy? This is what all this excitement has bin leadin' up to! It's the heart of this entire show that ya'll been claimin' to like.
Okay, okay, I'm sorry I said it was sappy. But don't worry, I'll acknowledge the really cool bits too. Case in point, the Elements being triggered! The gigantic rainbow, levitating ponies, Twilight's white-out eyes... this whole scene is perfect.
So Nightmare Moon is revealed to be Luna, everyone is really surprised, except that Twilight shouldn't be, having read about the Royal sisters in the first half; Princess Celestia returns to congratulate the newly formed Mane 6 on their victory and reconnect with her little sister, and Pinkie cries with sappinesshappiness for a bit and then seemingly transports everypony back to Ponyville for a party. Twilight is of course given new instructions to stay in Ponyville, and the adventure continues.
Overall, the pilot has its flaws, which keep it from being brilliant, but it is still a very passable start to a phenomenal series. The biggest minus I can point out is that the villain was shown to be a little less of a threat than they seemed to be originally, and at several points was forced to pick up the Villain Ball. And run with it. And score an own goal with it. Sadly, this is going to become a trend, as I will discuss in later entries.
Pluses: Nightmare Moon's defeat looks absolutely awesome. We get more insight into the characters of our heroines.
Minuses: A rather self-defeating villain. Some scenes raise too many questions. The foreshadowing is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Some rather diabeeetus-inducing parts (Gets hit with an apple on the head. Ow!)
So that's my thoughts on the pilot. As before, leave sundry complaints, compliments or death threats (okay, maybe not that last one) below in the comments. Or just tiptoe quietly away, you know, whatever makes you happy.
Until next time, keep chasing those rainbows!