Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Picking Apart "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic", Season 3 Episodes 1 & 2

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 3.  Now based on what I've discussed so far for the past two seasons, things are looking pretty bad for the series.  While the animation remains at the top of its game, the plots thought out for many of the episodes generally sucked because of things getting carried away with out-of-character moments.  So are we expecting Season 3 to be better?  Hell, yeah.  Well, we can hope, but we really can't believe.  After all, based on what's coming, it's being speculated that Hasbro's relationship with its fans is all just a sham, at least as far as this series is concerned.  Sure, Hasbro can keep its Transformers merchandise and I'm plenty okay with that.

So yeah, I'm gonna say here and now that things could be really bad.  Because now it's been hinted that in the magical land of Equestria, there exist black and white characters, those who think one way or another instead of branching out.  Now we have characters who have already exemplified black and white behavior - Gilda, Trixie, and Diamond Tiara.  No matter what happens in the series, it seems that these three misfits are destined never to change their personalities nor reform, even more so with Trixie because supervising director Jayson Thiessen likes her character.  Bad sign.  So instead of reforming as seen in fan stuff, she becomes more evil and dangerous than ever before.  And what's worse is that I'll bet Jayson Thiessen heard of what fans have been doing to Trixie and thus had the episode "Magic Duel" planned from Day 1 set to disappoint fans heavily.  And that's why I think Hasbro really must not love its fans at all.  Bronies and pegasisters alike have been suckered in.  End of story.

But, you know what they say - hope springs eternal, c'est la vie, whatever.  So for now, it's time for me to bounce back into critiquing this painful series, one episode at a time.  And with these two season premiere episodes, this is my fiftieth critique overall.  We've come a long way, but now it's time to push on even further.  So... here we go.

The Crystal Empire, Part 1
We start by learning that this Crystal Empire has resurfaced after having vanishing into thin air a thousand years ago, which if I'm not mistaken is about the same time Princess Luna transformed into Night Mare Moon and was defeated by Princess Celestia.  But despite this, there's absolutely no connection between these two events whatsoever.  They're completely different.
At the same time Celestia gets wind of this news, Twilight Sparkle is getting prepped for a test that will take her one step further into more advanced magical studies.  And as usual, she goes into a needless frenzy over it.

Oh, and wasn't Princess Luna supposed to be more prominent in Season 3?  Get this.  Luna is totally willing to help with whatever needs to be done, but Celestia simply insists that Twilight is destined for this task.  Great.  Luna returns and she still doesn't get much more than a cameo appearance.  Good job, Hasbro.

Now when Twilight arrives at Canterlot, we learn from Celestia that Princess Cadance from the last two episodes is in fact princess of the Crystal Empire and her husband, Shining Armor, is now a prince, co-ruling by her side.  That's when Celestia assigns Twilight the task of protecting the Crystal Empire from vanishing once more.  Okay, here's the story.
Princess Celestia: But what I do know is that it contains a powerful magic. One thousand years ago, King Sombra, a unicorn whose heart was black as night, took over the Crystal Empire. He was ultimately overthrown, turned to shadow and banished to the ice of the arctic north.
Princess Celestia: But not before he was able to put a curse upon the empire. A curse that caused it to vanish into thin air. If the empire is filled with hope and love, those things are reflected across all of Equestria. If hatred and fear take hold... Which is why I need your help finding a way to protect it.
Okay, I'm fine with that, except for one tiny little thing.  It's obvious that based on those silhouettes that Celestia and Luna were the ones who defeated this King Sombra, but Luna seems to have her newer appearance those thousand years ago, when she probably should have had her old appearance, when she was restored by the Elements of Harmony in the beginning of the series.  Ah, never mind.  It's probably not important anyway.  Here's what's really ominous, though.

Princess Celestia: She will succeed at her task. And when she does, we'll know that she is that much closer to being ready.

And if that isn't enough, take cutie marks into consideration.  Celestia represents the sun, Luna represents the moon, and Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark is... the symbol of the stars.  Celestia, Luna, Twilight.  The sun, the moon, and the stars.  Add on that Twilight's name represents the threshold between light and darkness and now it's no longer a coincidence that Twilight was born with powerful magic abilities.  I mean, seriously, how often does a unicorn's magic awaken by the force of a Sonic Rainboom?  How often is said magic so powerful?  This means that unquestionably, Twilight Sparkle is destined to become some kind of Princess of the Stars.

Unless of course, this is all just another setup to fool us.  Well, no, that can't be because believe it or not, there are some fans who actually don't want Twilight Sparkle becoming a Pegasus unicorn to come to pass.  At all.  They see it as a means of ending the series right on the spot, not that I care about that obviously because it's been bad enough already.  But I really don't see why fans should have to fuss about that.
They can always read the upcoming comic series, which are actually suited for people of all ages unlike the show's original intended demographic.  And the comics are coming in just a few days.  The 28th of November, was it?  So like, what the hell, fans?  It's not the end of the world for bronies and pegasisters if this series goes away.  I've heard more frets about the Disney XD TV show Motorcity being cancelled.

Anyways, back to the episode, Twilight exits the castle and Spike asks how her test went.  If only he knew, Twilight hasn't even started yet.  Turns out Twilight wasn't expecting this kind of test and this is the kickoff for the first song in Season 3 as heard in the first sneak preview.
[Twilight Sparkle]
I was prepared to do my best
Thought I could handle any test
For I can do so many tricks
But I wasn't prepared for this
Now there's quite a few things here worth pointing out, but one of them really doesn't make any sense.
Twilight Sparkle: The square root of five hundred and forty-six is twenty-three point three six six six four two eight nine one zero nine.
Teacher: She is correct!
Like, what does a math problem have to do with all this shit?  Never mind that it is the right answer, albeit she's missing several more digits, why stick this in here randomly, even if it is to prove Twilight's intelligence?  Oh, and Jayson Thiessen did the voice of the teacher, by the way.  Cameo.

Next up, we're introduced to something really fancy - wind animation.  I tell you... breathtaking.  Now how can a series with such terrific animation screw over so badly?  And finally, for the time in this series, we get to hear Spike sing.
[Twilight Sparkle]
I can't be sure...
She can't be sure...
Okay, interesting.  Well, now that the singing part's done, it's time for Twilight and her friends to go find this Crystal Empire... the Frozen North.  And of course, someone's waiting for them at the outpost.

Aw, no.  They brought back Shining Armor.  That bastard!  Why did he have to come back?

Well, I guess it couldn't be avoided, but anyways, it seems that King Sombra has also returned in his new shadowy form and threatens to devour our heroes.  So they have no choice but to make a run for it.
Shining Armor then stupidly gets all Gandalf and tries to distract Sombra, but with no luck, so by the time he catches up to them, his horn is coated in black fragments, which prevent him from using any magic.

So they arrive at the Crystal Empire and Rarity of course goes gaga over the scenery.  Twilight then reunites with Cadance, who despite looking like she's had better days, is still up for their chant from old times.

Twilight Sparkle and Princess Cadance: Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake. Clap your hooves and do a little shake! [laughs]

It turns out, Cadance has been pumping all her strength into her magic of love and light to shield the entirety of the Crystal Empire from the shadows of King Sombra, but she can't exactly hold out much longer.
So Twilight and her friends try to gather some info from the Crystal Ponies themselves to see if there's an easier way of protecting the whole damn place, with Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie staying in character.  It turns out they can't remember a thing, but Applejack finds out that there's a library where they could find out stuff.
It's quite a big library and the ponies start making a mess trying to find one book, which is like finding a needle in a haystack.  But somehow, Twilight finds the book they're looking for, which has the history of the Crystal Empire, which is exactly what they're looking for.  It turns out that the answer to their problems is to put together a Crystal Faire to restore peace and harmony to the empire's denizens.  So they decide to sing about it.
[Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy and Spike]
Oh, we have to get this right
Yes we have to make them see
We can save the Crystal Ponies with their history
Now here's the bombshell.  Twilight learns of this Crystal Heart that was apparently this main thing of the Faire, so she makes one.  What she didn't know, was that the Crystal Heart was real, as the Crystal Ponies, with their memories now in tact, mention that King Sombra's evil spell also hid the real Crystal Heart where no one could find it.  So now Twilight's friends bring it upon themselves to cover up the fake relic from the prying eyes of the curious Crystal Ponies.
It turns out, Twilight didn't know because the last page of the history book had been torn out, presumably by Sombra himself.
To make matters worse, Cadance collapses from exhaustion and her spell wears off, leaving the Crystal Empire completely unprotected... here he comes!  King Sombra!  And the episode ends.

The Crystal Empire, Part 2
No rest for me, though, so on to Part 2!  Cadance quickly comes to her senses and reestablishes the shield, cutting off King Sombra from the empire, and a fragment of his horn.
Not a good thing since now he can activate his evil magic from the inside.

Twilight advises Rainbow Dash and her other friends to keep the Crystal Ponies in high spirits long enough for her to retrieve the real Crystal Heart and restore the empire without Cadance's magic.  Spike tags along for the ride and they search the castle where Twilight uses dark magic to reveal a hidden basement with a door at the bottom just doesn't wanna stand still.

Oh, and now Twilight finally uses magic that levitates herself.  But for the record, Pumpkin Cake is the better unicorn, seeing as she was the first seen to do that and at only a month old.

When Twilight finally does go through the door, she somehow winds up back at Canterlot.  Now the first thing I thought of when I saw this is that it's an illusion.  Because there's no earthly way that Twilight could have just warped back to Celestia's castle just like that.
Speaking of Celestia, Twilight encounters her projection and she's pissed off that Twilight seemingly failed her test and she fires her.
But guess what?  It is an illusion as Spike snaps her out and walks through the door himself and that's when we learn that King Sombra set them both up with a door leading to their worst fears, even if in Spike's case it's completely irrational.

Now pardon me for stopping here, but let's talk about King Sombra for a bit.  First of all, for this seemingly big-time villain, he's actually voiced by Big Jim Miller, one of the storyboard supervisors of the show.  Wow...  I guess everyone's a voice actor.  Turns out, Jim said his inspiration for voicing the big bad was vocals from the song "Crystal Skull" performed by the band Mastodon.  Then again, King Sombra really doesn't speak that much for an antagonist.  Here's all he pretty much says.

King Sombra: Yess... crystals...

King Sombra: Crystal Heart...

King Sombra: My crystal slaves...

King Sombra: That is mine!

King Sombra: What? No... No! Stop!

Eh, I'll get back to His Majesty in a bit before I bow down to him, but for now, back to the episode.  After Twilight and Spike deal with their fair share of Boggarts, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy spar in a harmless jousting tournament, but despite the props not even close to being pointed, Fluttershy freaks out and easily loses, so Rainbow Dash has to give her a pep talk, which intimidates her.
Okay, seriously, Fluttershy's over-the-top sensitivity is really starting to bother me now.  No one upon this Earth should be this sensitive and cowardly.  Is it any wonder Ponyville takes advantage of her?  And whatever happened to her mild assertiveness she learned on her own when standing up to Iron Will in Season 2?  Hell, I'd even be okay with her patented stare.  But I guess as far as things go, Twilight Sparkle for the record is the only character who changes over the course of the series.

Oh, looks like I missed something.  Twilight uses a gravity reversal spell on herself to slide upwards instead of having to take the stairs.  Clever.

And there's the Crystal Heart, right at the top of the tower.  But in her own haste, Twilight is trapped by a wall of black crystals and not even her teleporting magic can get her out.  With things looking bleak, Twilight has no choice but to tell Spike to bring the Crystal Heart to Cadance.

Meanwhile, the Crystal Ponies find out about the fake Crystal Heart and panic when King Sombra starts reclaiming the Crystal Empire just as Cadance's magic runs dry.  Spike eventually starts falling to his death and King Sombra reappears in his old body to retrieve the Crystal Heart himself.
And victory is so near, he can taste it.

That's when Shining Armor throws Cadance, who is now somehow fully energized again, to Spike, saving both him and the Crystal Heart.  The relic is put back in its proper place and the Crystal Empire is fully restored, and...
WHOA!  King Sombra is destroyed!  Well, whaddya know.  I guess I was right when I thought there would be a death in the series at some point.  Turns out it's King Sombra himself who bites the dust.  So he's the first antagonist to die and is also the first character in the series to die.

And look at that!  An aurora borealis!  The northern lights!

Back at Canterlot, a new stain glass window portrays Spike as the hero who saved the Crystal Empire, having delivered the Crystal Heart to Cadance.  This is actually far better than Cadance and Shining Armor saving the day in the Season 2 finale and technically Spike is one of the main characters.  So I guess it's good that he finally gets his day in the sun for once.  But Twilight is feeling sad that she wasn't the hero she was supposed to be for her test.  However, Celestia informs Twilight that due to her selflessness, she wasn't willing to risk an entire empire for her own personal benefits, which in fact exceeded expectations.
So for that, Twilight passes the test, with a little extra credit to boot.  How's that for the cherry on top?  And finally, the episode ends with a reprise of the first song sung by all seven main characters.
You clearly have just what it takes

[Pinkie Pie]
To pass a test with such high stakes

We knew for sure you would prevail

[Rainbow Dash]
Since when does Twilight Sparkle ever fail?
So, what does this mean for Twilight now?  And what's with that book Luna's got there?  I'm guessing it's certainly not the Book of the Black.  So what have those two princesses been preparing her for?  Is there some kind of prophecy that we're not aware of?  Will Twilight's destiny lead her to become a princess as well?
Looks like Season 3 will have quite a few surprises in store for us yet... or not.

Well, that was the debut of the long-awaited Season 3, granted it was only about seven months, probably feeling like an eternity to bronies and pegasisters.  Now, these two episodes weren't exactly epic, but they were far better the Season 2 finale.  Then again, any episode could surpass that, especially "Applebuck Season".  And King Sombra wasn't exactly all that great as a villain.  He's not much of a speaker and he doesn't even have a back story or anything.  He almost completely lacks character depth.  The Elements of Harmony weren't even needed to defeat him.  But he is definitely much more serious and down-to-earth than Discord and Chrysalis put together and he's definitely not at all overconfident.  So for that, he gets a close second to Night Mare Moon, who is still by far the best antagonist in the series overall.  So these two episodes were mediocre, seeing as I wasn't exactly disappointed with anything... much.  But I'm sure some fans might have at least expected better from King Sombra.  Oh, well.  Can't win them all.

"It appears destiny is now beginning to take its course.  Twilight Sparkle has already begun to enter Phase 2.  Finally, the prophecy is being fulfilled exactly as I expected it to.  My master plan is almost complete!"


  1. There's not really much more that I can say that I didn't already in my other post, only that you hit the nail on the head.

    I figured that Twilight's test was a secret test of character, because Celestia's instructions went against everything Twilight learned up to that point. I'm a bit unnerved by that fact that, at times, Twilight was more concerned about letting Celestia down than actually helping the Crystal Ponies. But at least she learned her lesson at the end and made the right choice.

    If it was up to me, I either wouldn't have Twilight "ascend" or if she does it'd only be in the last few minutes of the last episode of the series, ever. Personally I think that Princess Twilight should be saved for fanfics.

    Also, there's a preview image up now for "One Bad Apple". Both Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are also going to be present and probably be huge jerks as usual. If Babs ends up getting her cutie mark and joins the other two in triple-teaming the CMCs... ugh. I hope instead that she ends up bullying Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon as well (and as a blank flank!) so they get a taste of their own medicine.

    1. Well, I guess I'm wrong about the latter after seeing a preview clip. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are complete bitches and Babs joins them, and also destroys a giant pumpkin carriage (which, of course, the CMCs will get blamed for).

      Scootaloo even calls Babs joining DT/SS as "The Dark Side". Also, all three of the CMCs seem to be afraid of Babs, so this will end up being an episode where Babs does increasingly horrible things until the CMCs finally tell Applejack. I'm already pissed off at this episode and it hasn't even aired yet.

    2. A triple team-up... Yikes. I'm not sure I even want to see the episode now. But... I signed up for this. So... ugh... A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do though. The CMC really should tell grown-ups right from the start.