WARNING: MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF PRETENSION INCOMING. PREPARE YOUR KIDNEYS.
Oi, I'm a bit late on this one, aren't I? You all know how it goes, what with that other thing happening this weekend, snatchng up all my attention, and I come back down to Equestria and we have all these new speculation threads. Something about a scepter, I dunno. But, now that whole month of anticipation and surprisingly controversial forum banners* is over and I need to focus on MLP.
So f*** off, Doctor.
Oh geez, I'm sorry, that was mean.
Well first of all, this should have been called "Twilight Princess."
"Princess Twilight Sparkle" Written by Meghan McCarthy
If I may go back to my disappointment with Equestria Girls real quick, just for a second, a personal problem with the movie that I've become aware of in the past few months isn't any direct fault of the film itself. It just has the misfortune of being the first official Pony media to come out after "Magical Mystery Cure", an episode that continues to split the fandom (as I don't need to tell anyone on these forums). After an episode like that, which left a considerable number of fans uneasy about the future of the everyone's favorite mutant equines, it'd be wise to follow it up with something that rewards those who were "loyal", as it were, wins over those who were unsure, and prove the people who said the show was done wrong. A follow up to "Magical Mystery Cure" had to do several things: it had to show that Twilight was still Twilight, it had to confirm that her relationship with her friends would go unchanged and that they would remain important, it had to prove that the series wasn't turning into just a commercial for toys, and most importantly, it had to maintain that FiM was still FiM.
EQG didn't really do most of that. Twilight was still awkward and likeable and such, but everything else didn't really help alleviate any fears that Twicorn was the show's jump-the-shark moment. Twilight was separated from her friends and stuck with a bunch of mere carbon copies for the sole purpose of selling dolls; this was just an altogether weird follow-up to anything, let alone in a series that had to prove it wasn't going down the crapper fast.
It's not surprising, then, that "Princess Twilight Sparkle" feels like it was a created to be a promise from DHX that they aren't done yet, and it's a pretty admirable effort to that end. Twilight is still Twilight (and a freaking pony), her being a princess rightfully affects the plot (it'd be weird if it didn't), but she's still living in Ponyville and has the same relationships with her friends that she always had, she isn't overpowered now (her friends actually have rescue her at a few points), and it's still FiM.
Most of things many would hope for can be found here; it's still funny, it's till exciting, the characters are still well-rendered and splendidly voice-acted, and a season premiere means an obvious boost in production quality between seasons. The lighting is especially good here, which is appropriate given the half day/half night thing. While nothing here is as grand as the Crystal Empire's design, there is a fair amount of visual flair here; everything, from the angles to the way things are placed in a shot is much more dynamic than we've seen before. The first flashback in particular is a display of the extra effort put into putting these scenes together.
That atmosphere, though.
I think what I appreciate about this episode the most is the fact that it doesn't feel "mandated". While it was obvious Hasbro wanted to push new toys in "A Canterlot Wedding", "The Crystal Empire", and "Magical Mystery Cure", this episode feels less like they got notes to include something and more like they made the decisions they made because they wanted to convey a specific story and tone. They didn't include a song this time because they they didn't want or need one, and there's no real villain here (more on that later) because it's not the type of story they wanted to tell. There hasn't been a two-parter like this since "The Return of Harmony".
Speaking of which...
...can we just take a moment to talk about this magical motherbucker? Yes, it seems another goal for this episode was to establish that "Keep Calm and Flutter On" did not "ruin" Discord. He is still the immense jackass we all know and love, except now he's kind-sorta helping them in the most annoying way he can, further proof that the writers really are trying to turn him into a full-blown pony version of Q. I love the fact that there's still that one-sided animosity between him and most of the cast; gives the story a bit of an edge in the second act.
The only problem with Discord's presence, however, is that it sort of ties into one of the weaker aspects of the story: how uninteresting the actual threat is. Leading up to the premiere, many people assumed, based on everything we've seen so far and the description of the episodes, that Nightmare Moon would be involved in the proceedings. Of course, as we all now know, her inclusion here is a misdirection, as it's soon revealed that the little scene we saw story-boarded at Comic Con was in fact a flashback to Nightmare Moon's rise and subsequent banishment to the moon. I'm not butthurt over that fakeout, though. In fact, I thought it was a pretty cool surprise. We finally got to see that fabled and much anticipated confrontation play out on screen (and the Discord one, too, though that one's a wee bit too anti-climatic for my taste). Plus, it's a clever ruse: tease the fandom with the return of a fan-favorite villain only to switch her out to reveal that there's another force of evil behind everything.
Therein lies the problem, however: the true nature of the vines is not nearly as cool as Nightmare Moon. That switcheroo only works if what we get instead is compelling in its own right, but it's not. Instead of being this epic, built-up-to return to the story that spawned the entire series we all hoped it would be, it's just a bunch of weeds that Discord planted and forgot about. I guess that's interesting in its own right, but it's played less like his motives are still ambiguous and more like he's just a jerk who didn't bother telling anyone. Maybe if it actually was the Everfree growing out of control, that could lead to some world-building and maybe an answer as to why the Everfree is the only "automated" area in Equestria and why that frightens everybody. But nope, just some scary vines, which somehow came packaged with spiky clouds and magic dampening.
I've seen enough hentai to-- wait, no...
It's kind of confusing, actually. If Discord knew enough about the Tree of Harmony to know that it was a threat he had to deal with, why didn't he recognize the Elements of Harmony? At least you could make the argument that he thought he had the Mane Six beat in "The Return of Harmony" and thus didn't expect the Elements to actually work. This is twice that this has happened, dude.
But Discord isn't the only odd thing around here. There's a couple of moments in the episode that feel a bit ill-structured or included. The flashback-inducing potion is a bit random and a clumsy way of getting to those scenes. Surely there could have been a better way of conveying that information. The whole "Twilight heads back to town" bit is even worst. I get what they were trying to do thematically, but it's rushed (it lasts 5 minutes), isn't properly built up to in the rest of the episode, and is too illogical on the characters' parts. Since when is Twilight anymore vulnerable than anyone else, and why would you split up the group and send an Element away if you know that the entire quest revolves around getting all of them to the tree? I love when they get to the tree and Dash is all like "dammit, AJ, that was a stupid thing we just did." Speaking of which, the tree is right underneath the old castle? Then how come Celestia and Luna acted like they just went on an epic quest to the tree in the flashback? Where did all the scratches and bruises come from? Did they trip down the stairs too?
However, getting to the tree does lead to the best moment of potential awesomeness in the whole episode: no Elements in Season 4. Maybe.
The potential of this is obvious; without the Elements, the Mane Six can no longer just destroy evil with rainbows. If they come up against another foe, they'd have to rely on their own skills and cleverness to win the day (like they did in "Magic Duel"), and the writers would have to get more creative as a result. It also adds a bit of tension. Yeah, we all know that they'll win the day, but now we wouldn't know how, and the characters won't either. It'll be a more effective creation of suspense then, say, the princesses not being there, which, lets be honest, makes very little difference at this point.
Two possible problems, though. Firstly, the show never really utilizes the Elements outside of the openers and finales anyhow, so or all we know, this doesn't affect the plot at all until the finale.
I have a really bad feeling about this box. I hope to the goddesses that it isn't new Elements, but my gut tells me it is. Oh, and look, six locks! Gee, I wonder what the six keys to those six locks are! Truly a full-fledged mystery that requires a whole season to solve. Worst case scenario, we never touch on this box until the finale, it really is just the Mane Six's love or whatever that unlocks it, and it's just a bunch of Elements. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong.
So yeah, it has a bunch of problems, but I enjoyed it. Simple as that. Doesn't usurp "The Crystal Empire" as my favorite two-parter or anything like that, but it's competent, and could end up being the setup for a glorious season to come. For all I know, the upcoming episodes could make this one better retroactively. It certainly seems to be promising that some big things, or at least that the show still has legs.
Not too shabby.
The Day of the Doctor was better.
- Really like how Fluttershy is portrayed here. She's still her usual mousy self, but she seems to have genuinely grown stronger from past events, unlike "Magic Duel", where she started sucking out of nowhere. She's frightened by what's happening, but when push comes to shove, she stands by her friends and puts Discord in this place at the end.
That was magnificent, by the way.
- Never was a fan of how Pinkie would derail scenes in these two-parters for pointless comedy, though at least it's actually funny here.
- Sweet, Celestia now has the pathos she deserves. Now expand upon it, please.
- Maybe Discord actually planned for the Elements to be put out of commission. Anything's a possibility.
- Wait, so the royal sisters were already princesses and alicorns when they took on Discord? And Celestia didn't have pink hair. Well, that just about ruins everything. I'm leaving.
- That scepter is gonna be a thing at cons now, isn't it? Looking forward to that.
*Does nothing please you people?