See * for disclaimer
Season 3. A weird season overall for various reasons.
Why did I get sick just when I got two two-parters to go through. Forgive me if this note-taking is a bit incoherent, or a veer into areas I normally don't touch.
The Crystal Empire (Part 1 and 2) (November 10 2012, 2 x 22 minutes)
Summary: The Return of the Crystal Empire, and yet another 'big threat' from Celestia's past comes with it.
This is actually one I've gone over a lot in my worldbuilding blog, because there are a lot of bits and pieces that need making sense of. So this note-taking is likely going to point to that blog every once in awhile.
Guard actually doing something. Delivering an incredibly vague message. Who sent it? This is obviously a pre-arranged message to indicate something, so does Celestia have Guards set up all over Equestria and beyond each with a short code phrase to indicate different unlikely but expected to happen at *some* time events?
And Celestia is this in terms of a test? Weird.
Heya Luna! The Empire cannot fall *again*, because it's magic is too dangerous to lose control over.
Here is evidence that Celestia deliberately obscures history that she views as dangerous. She says her knowledge of the Empire is limited, but she was there, physically at the time.
King Sombra. Physically he's quite different from other unicorns. The curved horn, the slit eyes, the pointed teeth, the odd black with white chevrons bit on his muzzle that I'm not sure what that is supposed to represent. The armor is fascinating, it recalls many 14-15th century suits of Spanish full harness I've seen, especially with the fluted collar at the top.
Turned into shadow, and put a curse on the empire to make it vanish. This recalls Tambelon from G1's My Little Pony and Friends, but also Brigadoon and many other mythical 'cursed' towns that appear and disappear on a semi-regular basis.
The fact that this city is referred to as an Empire is odd. There are two ways you get to be an Empire. One, you have several distinct cultural or ethnic groups being dominated by a central authority, and it has to be *several* distinct groups, or the ruler declares him/herself Emperor in a bid to elevate him/herself among nominal peers. But in this case we've only got one known cultural group, the Crystal Ponies, and the ruler is proclaiming himself King rather than Emperor. There has to be a lot more behind this to support the 'Empire' name. I've speculated about possibilities around this in my worldbuilding blog.
The Crystal Empire has some kind of repeater built into it, that causes whatever the Crystal Ponies to feel to be felt by everyone across Equestria. Bingo, there's the Empire moniker. It's not being used in a political/militiary manner, it's emotional domination and mind control. Technically Equestria then is *part* of the Empire when this Imperial City is operational.
Brief glance of Celestia pulling off 'dark magic'.
Celestia is being a bit of an ass, really. And Luna isn't helping.
Where exactly is this train normally going? Rails have to be laid down and maintained to support a train, and unless there's regular traffic on this route it's not going to be passable. Especially with this kind of climate. There's a station here, with a sign with a symbol of a mountain range on it, but no text. I'd accept that it was just a refuelling depot, and but there's an obvious passenger station. Was this station put in just for the purposes of the Guard with the code phrase? Is there a real destination somewhere beyond the Crystal Empire?
Shining Armor's Hoth outfit. Cute.
For something that is supposed to be 'turned into shadow' Sombra's being treated and reacted to as an active threat.
Dark crystals can obviously disrupt unicorn magic. Honestly, story-wise I think this is a mistake. I think they should have reversed Shining Armor and Cadence here, with Shining doing the shield spell, which he had demonstrated before, and Cadence be the one attacked and limited by Sombra. But then, I thought the last episode with those two had their roles reversed as well. And not in a 'genre busting' sense of role reversal, just characters being better suited if they were in each other's roles.
Architecture in the Crystal Empire is appropriately fantastic, making all the buildings look like they're carved out of crystal. The central... palace? looks very much like an oversized Eiffel Tower blending with the Chateau de Chambord. While the Eiffel Tower has aged well, originally it was considered a hideous travesty of engineering used purely to advertise a World Fair (1889), like many similar towers and things spotted all over. It's the roofscape of the Chateau with it's 16th century French deliberately overelaborate towers, chimneys, minarets, etc. that has been borrowed here to make this crystal palace appearance a bit less industrial and more artistic.
But that just... they were there! Okay fine, Mr. Exposition Dump. What Cadence is doing is not a shield spell, but extending her 'love' special ability to cover the entire city, and this is acting like a shield to keep Sombra at bay. I didn't catch that the first time watching this.
A thousand years have passed, but no linguistic shift whatsoever.
All the cutie-marks are repeated over and over again, but they are unique to the area. Bow and arrows, desert oasis, olive branch, a single fluer de lis.
The script on the book is distinct from the scripts we've seen before.
The jousting armor Rainbow Dash is putting on is a highly decorative variant of the armor the various Guards wear. Odd that it isn't in the same or similar style as Sombra. Which means that the Guard armor is truly traditional, dating back a thousand years? To the same period that Celestia and Luna defeated Discord. Highly unusual, unless the modern Guard armor is actually a revival of antique styles. There are differences, so it would be similar to the resurrection of the 15th century Kettle Hat in World War I as the Brodie Helm in England, the Salet came back as the Stahlhelm in Germany. There's only so many ways armor actually works with the way the body moves, so there's really only so many 'styles'.
Flag of many hues... Unless we're dealing with iridescence, that flag is of three hues, so that's a bit confusing.
Crystal berries. Pair those up with zap apples and you've got another market Applejack.
And baaaaaaa. Interesting that the crystal properties extends to *specific* other creatures, but is not general.
Flugelhorns are real instruments that look only vaguely like those. It's basically a trumpet with a different shape to the bore, giving it a deeper more mellow sound. What Pinkie's gotten ahold of is more like a double bell euphonium, also a real instrument which has a far more complicated appearance than that and but has the two bells. They were first made in 1880, and they stopped making them in 1960 because almost nobody liked to play the stupid things.
That crystal heart is a nice try, but Twilight is obviously not a sculptor.
The hairstyles are very Greek.
Well, not quite what they thought, but the idea did work to trigger the memories.
For all he does do much yet, Sombra's being presented as being quite the threat here.
And that's basically where Sombra looses some of his threat. They should have lost the outer ring of the city or something a bit more severe.
Standard D&D dungeon design, the treasure is in the back of the deepest basement, or the top of the tallest tower.
And Twilight duplicates dark magic with only having seeing Celestia do it once. Again. Huh.
And the door of despair. A rather nasty trick, but it honestly has the feel of a delaying tactic rather than a permanent trap. For some reason it doesn't really seem to be your true 'worst fear', but more your worst surface fear.
Mind you, if Spike has screamed out 'Mommy!' right then, it would have ended me.
The Crystal Ponies themselves should be participating in this. Not just watching.
Reversing gravity, for those specific individuals. Not technically flying.
I would have thought the door itself would have had an alarm on it to alert Sombra, not just close proximity, but okay. He's not quite as careful as presented.
Oh, that's nice. An effective anti-teleportation field, a dark magic trick by the effect.
Wife throwing. There's a hilarious fanfiction on that. Martial Bliss
And the full crystallization effect. Which will turn out to temporary. The crystallization effect changes the girl's manestyles as well, which is an odd effect.
But not Shining Armor. No manestyle change for the guys. That's a bit sexist.
And the at the time mysterious book appears.