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The one thing I disliked about Shadow Play was who it reduced the Tree of Harmony and thus the Elements of Harmony to artifacts created by mortal sorcerers. This removed their mystique, and essentially reduced them to mere tools rather than manifest symbols, thus reducing the struggle between good and evil to a numbers game rather than a battle of ideals. The reduction of the Tree of Harmony to a construct also introduces a related aspect of atheistic nihilism, which I’ll explain. If you don’t care for the long explanation that will follow, the main discussion point is just what are your opinions on the fact the Tree of Harmony’s origin was established as being just a creation by the Pillars of Equestria. At the beginning of the series, the alicorns gave the impression of being pagan gods. Their nature is elemental and they have very human personalities, if a bit detached from mortal affairs. Most of all though, the show installed a sense that supernatural harmony was a force governing all things, and ponies both mortal and divine played a key rule in maintaining this force. The Elements of Harmony were arcane artifacts which physically embodied the metaphysical forces that this Harmony is composed of, both as an abstract virtue and as very real power in the world. Every thing was filled with meaning as a result of this Harmony. Overtime though, more naturalism (meaning systems that function mechanically without willful intervention) was introduced, and the alicorns over time were portrayed less like gods and more like just super-powered flying unicorns. The only forces which appeared to continue to exist above nature (note that unicorn magic in Equestria is portrayed as being natural rather than supernatural) were the Elements of Harmony and Discord, with Harmony ultimately being the greater power. Together they formed a nice dichotomy, and the introduction of the Tree of Harmony both explained the origin of artifacts of the Elements of Harmony and provided an embodied counterpart to Discord. The show had moved away from the initial pagan model to ditheistic one, allowing it to maintain the supernatural symbolism even with increased naturalism. Later on though, Discord had to keep getting nerfed for plots sake, and like Celestia he lost the godlike status he initially held. This was a minor loss though, as the central force in Equestria has always been Harmony, not chaos, with the Tree of Harmony keeping it firmly rooted. Prior to Shadow Play, Equestria was essentially monotheistic, with the Tree of Harmony being the ultimate source off all order. Then Shadow Play completely upturned that by reducing the tree to a construct made by mere mortals. Removing the divinity of the Tree of Harmony killed not only the last god, but also nullified the symbolism that it represented. The greater loss was not the significance of the tree, but of the Elements of Harmony. Laughter, Kindness, Honesty, Generosity, Loyalty, and Magic are no longer eternal virtues, but arbitrary ones selected by the legends based on what they saw in themselves. The power the create meaning was moved away from the divine to the mortal, turning it from eternal to ephemeral, and thus nullifying the existence of any inherent meaning. Becuase our culture is seclular and our entertainment is typically nihilistic aside from pragmatic morals, I don’t think most people understand the significance of this change. Most of the time such states of affairs are just status quo. Sure, the show could always just arbitrary introduce new higher like Dragon Ball Z does, but the point is it’s arbitrary. That hierchary of supernatural beings has no symbolic significance, it just consists of creatures designed for aesthetic reason. The foundations holding every together are gone, reducing grand conflicts to a meaningless arms race. This doesn’t mean the show is now bad by any means (and if pulled off well the change could be retroactively justified in a similar manner to Twilght’s alicornification), but an aspect of it has definitely changed. I do think that on some level, this change was inevitable, as thematic nihilism is the direction commercially driven shows with multiple writers are destined to go in after enough time. Equestria’s current status is as A World Without Gods, and that means something.