Monday, July 16, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 2 Episodes 1 & 2

The Return of Harmony, Part 1
Season 2 kicks off with another two-part saga the same way the series made its debut.  This means the six main characters are liable to face off with another major antagonist, and it seems we've found him, a draconeqqus named Discord who marks the fifth antagonist in the series so far.  But to put things simply, Discord's appearance pretty much defines a chimera, that is to say a composition of several beings.
Now it is said that the Cutie Mark Crusaders are the ones responsible for releasing Discord from his spell, but in actuality, there's a much deeper reason he gets released.

It all starts when trouble engulfs Equestria by raining food all over the place and woodland creatures getting deformed.
Princess Celestia summons the six main characters to the Canterlot Tower, where it is revealed she kept the Elements of Harmony safe behind a door that only she can unlock.  And she reveals a little bit of history behind Discord.

Princess Celestia: Discord is the mischievious spirit of disharmony. Before my sister and I stood up to him, he ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest and unhappiness. Luna and I saw how miserable life was for Earth ponies, Pegasi, and unicorns alike, so after discovering the Elements of Harmony, we combined our powers and rose up against him, turning him to stone.

So yeah, now that Celestia and Luna are both no longer tied to the elements, this in turn was what freed Discord from his stone dead state, never mind that it took the entirety of Season 1 for the spell to wear off.  This means the six main characters are the new connections to the elements, having defeated Night Mare Moon in the beginning of the series, so now they have to use the elements once again.
Man, it sure has been a long time since these babies were brought back.  Of course, since we're only just into the episode and is a two-part thing, it's not that simple.  And by that, I mean the elements have been stolen... by Discord of course.  Apparently, he was able to get past Celestia's spell and make off with the only things capable of defeating him again.

Discord: Make sense? Oh, what fun is there in making sense?

Okay, let's stop here and go over some rather interesting facts.

First off, Discord is voiced by actor John de Lancie, who some of us may know for his role as Q in the Star Trek series and Eugene Bradford from Days of Our Lives.  He also provided the voice of William Miles from the Assassin's Creed video games.  But it was the character Q from Star Trek that inspired the creation of Discord for this series and it was originally intended to have a sound-alike voice actor for him.  But to the honor of Hasbro, John de Lancie himself stepped in to bring Discord to life.

Discord: Did you miss me, Celestia? I missed you. It's quite lonely being encased in stone, but you wouldn't know that, would you, because I don't turn ponies into stone.

Discord: Oh, I'd forgotten how grim you can be, Celestia. It's really quite boring.

Now here's something important he says regarding where he stashed the elements, which no one really either understood or took into account.

Discord: To retrieve your missing elements just make sense of this change of events. Twists and turns are my master plan. Then find the elements back where you began.

Great, someone else who speaks in rhyme.  Not really what we needed here, but meh.  So the main characters head to the palace labyrinth, believing Discord hid the elements in there, which in actuality he didn't as we later find out, and he appears in person to explain some rules that he set up for his game.

Discord: You see, this is the first rule of our game: no flying, and no magic.

Discord: The second rule is everypony has to play or the game is over, and I win.

And they're off!  But of course, Discord isn't about to make things that easy, never mind that the elements were never placed in the maze to begin with.  So he abides by his own riddle and interferes with the main characters and somehow succeeds in steering them off course.
One by one, he tricks them into believing they will turn against each other and hypnotizes them, draining them of their body color.  This in turn makes the characters behave in the exact opposite of which element they represent.
He can't seem to trick Fluttershy so he does things by easy way by hypnotizing her instantly.
So Applejack tells lies, which get more and more ridiculous...
...Pinkie Pie turns into a grouch...
...Rarity becomes greedy...
...Fluttershy becomes a bully...
...and Rainbow Dash abandons her friends.  Oh, and because Rainbow Dash took off, Discord ends the game and declares himself the winner, now threatening to turn Ponyville into everlasting chaos.  Game over, man.  Game over.

The Return of Harmony, Part 2

You know, it's kind of strange how Twilight can't pick up on what has happened to her friends immediately.  I mean, just look at them.  Anyone watching the show can tell.  They're losing their color.  Does Twilight not notice that?  It's obviously the work of Discord and not born out of their free will.
Anyways, Twilight accuses Discord of messing everything up, to which he reveals that it was the whole idea, being the harbinger of disharmony.  He then takes Twilight back to a moment of time to go over the most crucial part of his riddle again, which reveals that he did not hide the Elements of Harmony at all, but rather set things up in order to take control of Twilight's friends.  That means the labyrinth itself in actuality was a trap.
Twilight returns to the library and after a massive tussle with her ex-friends, she retrieves her reference guide to the Elements of Harmony.  She finds them, but then stupidly believes they're actually gonna work.
Well, normally they would, but since Discord pretty much drained them of their powers, they obviously won't, even more so when Spike tries to substitute for Rainbow Dash.  Even Discord points this out, so he's definitely not a stupid villain.
So they fail and Twilight finally submits, realizing that her friends have abandoned her forever.  Game over... again.
Back at the library, Spike is apparently stuck with a bellyache from constantly upchucking letters from Princess Celestia.  Guess even his stomach has its limitations.  Twilight recognizes them as the letters she sent and finally understands that Discord is the mastermind behind even her friends, as he knew the elements could defeat him as long as their friendship was in tact and stripping them of their powers was his answer.  With new-found hope, Twilight vows to rescue her friends from themselves, restore the elements, and defeat Discord for real.

Twilight Sparkle: Do you remember what I said the first day we arrived in Ponyville? I told you that the future of Equestria didn't rest on me making friends. But the opposite is true! The friendships I've made since I've been here are what saved Equestria from Night Mare Moon. And now they need to save it from Discord!

She'd better, because the chaos in Ponyville is beyond reason.  We've got Big Macintosh thinking he's a dog and Granny Smith dancing like Fred Astaire at Sweet Apple Acres.  Although, for the record, none of this is freaking me out to be honest.  It's actually more impressive because the animation to pull all this shit off is intense.
Twilight fights her friends one by one and casts a memory spell on them, restoring their color...
...although they have to go through quite a bit to restore Rainbow Dash, owing to Fluttershy being a douche.  Never send her to a man's job.  So they save her and head off to confront Discord.
Now we've acknowledged that despite his whacked out personality, Discord is far more dangerous than Night Mare Moon, having succeeded in turning Ponyville upside down, but for some reason I'll never be able to figure out, Discord at this point still believes he has Twilight's friends under his spell, making him dangerously overconfident.
I mean he's completely oblivious to his own impending defeat.  For this reason, Night Mare Moon is the better villain and still the best antagonist in the series.  So Discord is defeated by the elements and turned back into stone and the main characters return to Canterlot to be hailed as heroes across Equestria.
The last scene is practically a shot-by-shot sequence of the last scene in the movie Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope, practically a rip-off.  This was kind of a bit much.  It wasn't really necessary.

So it appears that Season 2 is starting out no different than Season 1, that is to say, we're probably not gonna get involved with the Elements of Harmony for the rest of the season.  It just seems that the rest of episodes are just gonna come and go with the usual friendship lessons, but I'm under the impression that from my point of view, a lot more than just two episodes are gonna be downright less than mediocre.  The animation will still reign on top as always, but putting it to good use would really be the thing that makes my day.  Oh, and more thing.  John de Lancie also confirmed that he would be doing voice work for a future episode in the series, presumably Season 3, but he didn't necessarily say which character.  So whether Discord will return or not is completely uncertain at this point.  Well, this has been the debut of Season 2.  Time to get started!

Discord: Ugh, gag.

"It appears the battle has been won, but you must come to realize this.  The two regal sisters no longer harness control over the Elements of Harmony, which means that when these six heroes eventually pass on, they'll have no successors, the spell will be broken, and the world shall face this threat once more!  It's time end this endless repetition that plagues this world!"

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