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.