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!