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!