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24 September 2011

The Return of Harmony - Episodes 1 and 2 REVIEW

Oh boy, how far have we come with this, haven’t we? Alright, before I start with this review I must say, my perspectives and my opinion are going to be biased. I will keep it as objective as I can, but me getting objective with this show has reached Spock levels of difficulty. It’s hard for me not to love and appreciate everything that goes in this series. After four months during which the creators have given interviews talking about how much hard work they invert doing these cartoons for five year old girls, it’s hard to tell some true facts unless you wrap them in some cotton candy clouds.

If you want a “Too Long; Don’t Read” I will give you one right now so you don’t need to scroll all the way down to the page.

TL; DR: Are the two episodes good? Yes. Are the two episodes satisfying and fulfilling? A lot. And if you want to know why then keep reading, and if you don’t care then I don’t know why you didn’t stop after the last “no”.

The Return of Harmony parts 1 and 2 are two episodes written by M.A. Larson, the guy responsible for making Rainbow Dash a God Tier Pegasus of pure awesomeness. His work in these two episode was to introduce a new character, conflict, new ideas to how torture the poor ponies, inverted versions of themselves, bring back the elements of harmony and have a nice closure at the end. So if any of you guys dares to say anything bad about the writing, the pacing and the rhythm, I will make you write something better in two weeks and with a limit of pages. Not even all the fanfic writers and pre-readers in Equestria Daily could come up with something better (which is why none of us will be hired). However, this doesn’t excuse from the negative aspects, which I will mention right now, so I can move onto the biggest section which are the positive aspects.

I’ll start saying that it doesn’t feel like a Season 2 starter. This is not just me, it’s a general feeling that spread all across the fandom and that has been somewhat confirmed by the creators themselves. Daniel Ingram posted on his Facebook page that Season 2 would have 24+2 episodes. Then Sibsy, lead storyboard artist for the show, mentioned that the Discord Episodes had been finished since May and that there would be a gap between them and episode 3 of Season 2. This means the episodes we just watched were the real ending to Season 1, which is why they are divided in two, and have a much darker, much epic tone than the rest of the season (plus other elements I will mention in the parts that I did like). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel played with. If this was the real ending, they should’ve given us those four months ago.

I also feel bad for what they did to Discord (by the way, SPOILERS if I didn’t make it clear before). I know how it goes with this show and every other kids’ show, where the villain must be defeated at the end so all Status Quo is restored and everypony is happy, but it would’ve been cool to see him getting away with it or running away. Instead we went back to his stone prison. Following right after this was the fact that Princess Luna was absent, AGAIN, for the show. I guess this one is alright because I already established this is not a Season 2 starter but more a Season 1 Finale that got delayed. But again, would it hurt too much to see Princess Luna standing in the background during the Celebration? The poor girl must have been listening to sad rock ballads to make up for the depression this shunning is causing.

Twenty seven episodes and I’m still here…all alone…I need a Game Boy.

But really, that’s about it. Those are all the things I can complain about. Seriously. I’m surprised that they are so petty and little compared to the amount of goodness coming from these two episodes, but I better keep it organized or else I will drive everypony crazy with my structuring.

The voice work in the show is still second to none. Props go to Asleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tara Strong and Tabitha St. Germain for their amazing work as the Mane Six, but if someone steals the show in these two episodes is John de Lancie. There’s Q spewing from every pore in Discord’s body every second he talks, every time he snaps his fingers and every moment he does something mind-bendingly awesome. If you thought Q was over after de Lancie decided to stop appearing in the show, then think twice. He might be one of the only TV villains I’d rather follow instead of the good guys. He’s too much fun and too interesting to let go just like that, and 80% of that appeal comes from de Lancie himself. Sir, if you ever come across this article, you have another fan in the legion of fans that adore and appreciate your hard work. You deserve every compliment and more.

The animators are to be complimented too <3

The animation of the show is still awesome, and with that comes several moments of pure genius design wise and presentation wise. Having a character like Discord, who can alter the reality to his will, gives the animators and designers a lot of freedom to play with. The show starts in a high note when Ponyville gets affected by a storm of cotton candy clouds that rain chocolate. Things get worse when the corn fields start turning into PopCorn, the bunnies turn into Dali Elephants (who said there was going to be no Dali in the show? Mister Thiessen?), apples grow to pumpkin size, and all hell breaks loose. It’s definitely a brighter take on that scene in Poltergeist where Craig T. Nelson opens the room’s door and everything is going insane inside (I doubt it’s a reference, this is just me linking the show with something familiar to me). The level of creativity in the show doesn’t decay from there and, if you ask me personally, it only goes higher. Discord has a scene where he jumps from painted glass to painted glass, interacting with the figures as he messes with the designs. The labyrinth itself and the events that take place in it might as well have been part of a Harry Potter novel. There are monsters made out of apples, devilish butterflies, a balloon party from Hell and Rarity going into Inception to dig up for diamonds (no, really, her part of the Labyrinth is like a frigging M.C. Escher painting). Once the labyrinth is gone and we go back to Ponyville during the second episode, the show turns into Pee Wee Herman meets Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The amount of abstract ideas and surrealist concepts borderlines that of an asylum. You have buildings upside down, the floor turning into soapy water, the moon and the Sun going up and down without rhyme or reason, ponies walking on the borders of the screen, pigs flying, mares sneezing and collapsing buildings, seas of blood boiling, dogs and cats living together, Mass Hysteria! Okay, maybe that last part not so much. It’s kind of funny because even though the show has the potential to go scary it doesn’t fully go there. A part of me feels it’s a waste. Kids love to get scared, it draws them more into the action. But another part of me, a bigger one with a massive banner, is highly relieved. I like how self contained, safe and consistent the freaky version of Ponyville is. You don’t need to go overboard, just stick to what you have and improve on it! And the makers of the show have completely made that. The scope of what happens in this episode rivals to that of a Direct to TV movie, and according to Sibsy that’s exactly what it felt like when they were working on it.

Discord would watch it.

So voice acting is good, animation is good, and music is still awesome, what about the story? Well, ignoring the fact that I love M.A. Larson to bits, the story was really predictable. I called the entire thing from beginning to end before watching the episode. What I didn’t called was the way they were presenting the story, which is what surprised me. There seemed to be no wrong choices with how the story was presented, all of it fitted and fell into place like a beautifully planned game of Tetris. It has it’s basic three act structure that arcs really well, considering this is a 44 minute show, and that makes things be perceived in a better way. Not all is perfect though. I was a bit disappointed to see how Discord pulled of a Scar from the Lion King and turned into a push over after he took over Ponyville. When he’s fighting to troll the hell out of every pony he’s really cool, but when he is finally in command he is more annoyed than angry to see the Mane Six showing up again and he basically puts no fight at all. I think this is explained by the fact that they tried to attack him at the beginning but because it didn’t work a first time he didn’t expect it to work a second time. But for the things that I didn’t see coming, there’s quite a lot. I was genuinely surprised when Twilight finally gives up and gets de-harmonized. I literally muttered “Oh no…” when I saw her coat and her hair losing color and turning grey scaled. Up until now I didn’t realize how much I cared for her, and might probably be the only moment of the whole show where I didn’t enjoy something bad happening to one of the characters (I’m a sadist, remember?). I also didn’t expect to have a Chekov’s Gun moment with the letters. Do you know all those letters Twilight has been sending during the entire run of Season 1? Well, NOW THEY HAVE A PURPOSE! Who would’ve thought!? If it wasn’t for those letters, if it wasn’t for those reports on Friendship, they would all be totally screwed. That did surprise me, that one caught me off guard. Way to use that resource (and I bet the letter that made Twilight snap out of it was the Rainbow one). I didn’t expect the chase scene to catch Rainbow Dash. I thought it wouldn’t be so difficult to catch her, but of course, she’s the fastest flier in all of Equestria, she is going to put quite a fight. But the one that did caught me off guard for real was the moral. Remember how in the Season premiere for Season 1 there basically was no moral at all? The moral of this episode leaves pretty much all the morals rolling on the dirt: Friendship is never easy, but that doesn’t mean is not worth fighting for. Bam. Kids that grow watching this show will remember that to the day they die. That’s fantastic. Thank you for that piece of writing M.A. Larson, you may not know now but this is going to ripple across time. And then, in the end, because it wasn’t enough to have Q from Star Trek in the show, we get a Star Wars ending; walking down the aisle, medals, everypony applauding, black fade-in and fanfare playing. I couldn’t hold back my laughter, that was the last piece of evidence I needed: This was definitely, the ending for Season 1. It does feel like an ending for a Season rather than a beginning. And what a send off!


I would’ve added more pony abuse and rough times to Twilight and her friends, but that’s just my personal sadist speaking. I bet there will be a lot more pony abuse coming in Season 2, and if these two episodes were an indication of anything, this means it’s going to be brutal. The real uncertainty begins now however. How will Season 2 come along? How much are the ponies going to be affected? Will there be a storyline? Who will return? Which new characters will show up? Which episode will have Luna in it!? So many questions, so much time before they are answered. But nopony said we have to stand still while waiting, right?


  1. I pretty much agree with everything said in this review.

    And you were right, there were more pony abuse in the future.