But first, I must tell you all a story. Is the tale of the dreaded and feared lord “Too long, don’t read”, also known as Lord TL; DR. He showed up at night, near children’s beds, to spoil the ending of their favourite books and stories. Many kids will cry in frustration, while others just sighed in relief. If he had to say something about this episode, he’d say that it’s one of the best two parters, and that it’s perfect to start off the season. But then he is not here now, so those who still want to find out why he would say so, by all means, continue your reading.
The episode starts in Canterlot, where Princess Celestia spends the whole day mixing potions, preparing magic spells and studying how to keep the country of Equestria safe. Not really, no, she actually focuses all her efforts in signing paper after paper while trying not to fall sleep from monotones. I appreciate this touch, as it puts Celestia into a more realistic light. She might be God, and she would rise the Sun every day, but her tasks go beyond that. It’s pretty interesting to see that aspect of her. Here we go again, it’s only the first ten seconds and I am already praising this show. Anyway, I have to keep it focus. Celestia’s task is interrupted when one of the royal guards storms into the throne room to inform her that something has returned in the northern lands of Equestria. Celestia requests her guards to send Shining Armour and Princess Cadance as she writes a letter to Twilight Sparkle. By how worried she looks, she might be wishing that whatever popped up on the north is not a giant wall of stone.
|In the inmortal words of Chef Sandy: "Winter wrap up is coming"|
In Ponyville, Twilight is getting ready to attend Celestia’s call in a series of slapstick and motor mouth dialogue moments that many will find funny. The outbreak of so much tension on the unicorn’s shoulders ends up sending the library thirty feet up in the air. Returning to Canterlot, Celestia and Luna share one of the rare dialogue moments between the two, during which Celestia denies Luna’s request to investigate the north situation herself. After dropping some foreboding foreshadowing, Twilight shows up and she’s promptly briefed by Celestia. As it turns out, whatever returned in the north is a new country known as The Chrystal Empire, a land populated by ponies made out of glass and that was once invaded and enslaved by King Sombra, this episode’s bad guy. After King Sombra got vanished and turned into shadow (get it? Sombra is “shadow” in Spanish. I don’t know if that was supposed to be a knee slapper or what) he casted a curse on the empire, making it disappear for a thousand years. But now it has returned, and Celestia needs to keep it protected as it possesses a powerful magic energy. Apparently the crystals in that place enhance the magic energy of whoever uses them. If the one who uses them is kind and good, that power spreads all over Equestria making everything better. If the one who uses them is evil, well, you can fill in the blanks here: Darkness, black crystals, recession everywhere, M. Night Shyamalan movies in every theatre...you get the drill, pure evil. So of course, they have to protect it, which is why Celestia has chosen Twilight Sparkle for the task. She is to go assist Cadance and Shining Armour, and if she succeeds in protecting the empire she will be allowed to move onto the next level of her studies. It was at this point that I started to feel certain sense of story arc going on, and with the synopsis of so many episodes already out, the tone of this whole season is starting to mystify me. Twilight agrees, of course, as she steps out of her meeting with Celestia feeling rather defeated. I think we all can relate to her. We all have been in that situation, when you just finished talking to someone and you proved to be up for the task, but as soon as you are left alone you start thinking that it might be quite too big for you to handle. I’ve been there, and I can totally relate to Twilight.
|Except for the eyes, I never had that problem.|
|You don't want to know what he was licking here.|
|Not pictured here: The level select screen.|
Meanwhile at the fair things keep getting more and more intense. Sombra is slowly creeping his way into the empire, as the crystal ponies grow eager to see the Crystal Heart in order to power it up again. As the Mane Six do their best to keep their curiosity to a hold, Cadance just keeps getting weaker, and the situation more desperate. But never mind that, there is a jousting tournament going to happen. Back to the endless flight of stairs Twilight decides she’s had enough and decides to cheat Sir Isaac Newton. Using a spell that might as well have been developed by Aperture Science labs and beta tested by Super Mario, she inverts gravity and slides up the flight of stairs. If someone doesn’t edit this scene with the “Inception” music, I will be a very unhappy brony. As fun as that scene is for both the audience and Twilight, back to the fair things don’t get any better. Sombra’s presence is now more palpable than ever, and when the fake relic is revealed to not be the Crystal Heart, the manure just hits the fan. The crystal ponies panic and start running every which way, prey of their own fear for the one who imprisoned them a thousand years ago. But if you thought things would get well as soon as Twilight gets to the real Crystal Heart, you are wrong. She is trapped in a jail of black crystals, and the relic flies out of her reach. At the same time Cadance’s magic completely runs out, which causes Sombra to storm into the empire spreading his dark shards all over, covering every house with them. In this situation nobody would expect things to get well. It’s pretty much a hopeless situation, but it is during these situations when the real heroes appear. Twilight turns to Spike and tells him to grab the crystal and take it to Cadance. After a rocky (no pun intended) way down, Spike finally delivers the relic to Cadance, which powers up her magic, as she powers it back and puts it into place. The crystal ponies bow before it and, with their magic, increase the power of the Crystal Heart, turning everypony’s coat into crystal, including the Mane Six, Shining Armour and Cadance. King Sombra is helplessly defeated, the dark shards are vanished, and the magic of the empire extends all over Equestria in the shape of aurora lights.
|Buy the whole set for only 9,99 at your local ASDA.|
Oh my God, that was exhausting. I don’t know about you guys, but a lot happened in this episode, actually, way too much. There is a lot going for this episode and basically all of it is good. I think this is the best two parter that the team of DHX and the writer staff has put together, only topped by the Discord episodes.
It’s very heavy on story and world building. We are told a lot about the empire’s history and how things work, the kind of food they have, the society they are ruled by, and how their magic works. Let’s be honest here people. This show exists because Hasbro wants to sell little plastic horse toys. It’s a twenty two minute long toy commercial. If someone manages to take a toy, and flex out enough story and character that will make Tolkien proud, I think we can call that more than just a job well done, it’s an absolute miracle. There is a lot thought and care put into the concept of the Chrystal Empire. It’s a gorgeous land with very pretty looking characters that has a lot of medieval and traditional into it, despite how far advanced their magic is. It’s a benevolent land, and it’s clear that its positive energy is spreading all over Equestria now. That is one of the aspects that I loved so much about these two episodes. Also, the songs. These three songs are fantastic. The Failure song, The Crystal Fair song, and The Success song, especially this last one is probably one of my new favourite songs. The Crystal Fair song carries a lot of weight, and it’s a very intelligent resource to explain more about the history of this empire. Okay, what else did I like? I loved the character interactions and how much screen time and protagonism is given to each other. I never felt the show makers were showing favouritism to any character, and they all felt like themselves. Rarity was perfect, hilarious when she has to be, and kind and open heart when it’s needed. Her constant fawning over the beauty of the empire and how pretty she will look with a crystallized coat are both adorable and hilarious. Pinkie Pie dressed as a jester was also hilarious, but if I have to pick an incarnation of her that would be Pinkie Fisher. I’m afraid of what is she going to pull off in the future. This pony is made out of a substance that doesn’t exist in this world, or any other world. Fluttershy was hilarious too, proving once again that comedy is all about timing. Rainbow Dash was brass as always, ready to get things done even if that includes pushing Fluttershy away with a blunt spear.
|Or wear her as a costume, *shivers*.|
But if I had to give the award for best ponies of these episode, that would go to Applejack and Twilight. While Twilight comes as no surprise, since she is the one we follow everywhere in this two parter, Applejack caught me completely off guard. Whoever gave her so many lines and so much input, thank you! Seriously, you deserve a monument. I haven’t seen Applejack shine this good in quite a while. She was the straight mare, the serious part of the team, the one who doesn’t get distracted by anything and keeps her eyes on the goal. I always envisioned her like that, and it was wonderful to see her in an environment she’s comfortable with. If the first episode gives us so much about her, I can’t wait to see what’s coming up in future ones. It was a treat to watch. Also, her relationship with Rarity is just fantastic! We have stepped away so hard from the days of “Look before you sleep”. Back then we had Rarity and Applejack unable to tolerate each other. By the end of this episode, Applejack is cheering Rarity by complimenting how unique she is. I want to frame that scene and hang it on a wall, so I can look at it and make a heart shape with my hands anytime I lay eyes upon it. I liked more stuff of course, don’t think I’m done. It was great to see Luna again and, even though she wasn’t as involved as other fans might have wanted to, it was great to see both sisters together in several scenes, planning things out and being what they are, rulers of a land. Their scenes had an ominous feel to them, very regal, which is a lot to say for this cartoon. Once again Cadance proves to be a very likeable character, with a cutie mark that’s as prophetic as Twilight’s and Shining Armour’s. Of course, she was born to protect the Crystal Empire, it’s written in the books of the all mighty Hasbro Gods. Honestly though, she was great in this one, and more than once I gasped in fear of something bad happening to her.
|Hey Cadance, you look just how I feel.|
Okay, enough with the praising, what didn’t I like? Well, I think I’m not alone here when I say that King Sombra is the most useless, least intimidating villain any cartoon has ever given. I get what they were going for. They were building up this villain as some sort of incorporeal presence, an enemy that you are not supposed to see but to feel. The fear everypony feels for him should be enough for you to be terrified of him, if it wasn’t for the design. I’m sorry, but whoever designed King Sombra wasn’t in their best day, and compared to the previous three big baddies this show has had, he looks pretty ridiculous. Nightmare Moon was a fearful black horse with helmet and armour, and a mane made out of night sky. Discord was a cluster of other animals who could snap his fingers to remove parts of your body. Chrysalis was a bug succubus with holed up legs and giant green eyes. And then we have King Sombra, a villain who looks like someone made him with the pony creator tool in DeviantArt. No offense and all, and I know it’s a hard act to follow, but it feels uninspired. I feel bad though, because “Big” Jim Miller, the storyboard director, does a great job at voicing him. I thought it was Frank Welker, that’s as big a compliment as I can give without falling into hyperbole. Too bad it’s all for nothing. Another complain I can share with you all is that there is a bunch of story and not enough time to let it breath. I blame the limitations of the show and the network, but the show makers themselves of course. Like I said, it’s a miracle they managed to do all this based of a toy, but with these two parters I always end up feeling we might needed a third episode, so we could have a basic three act structure, giving the climax a much needed build up, and allowing the villain to do something nasty, especially this one who enslaved ponies and ruled an empire with an iron hoof.
|My genericness knows no bounds!!!|
Other than that, I can only say that season three couldn’t start any better. This episode brought back great memories, as it made me relive what it was to watch the show for the first time. There is a lot of sincerity in the execution of these two episodes, a lot of passion in the acting, and a lot of thought in the writing. The concept of a society recovering and becoming better by knowing more about its past has a lot of subtext that kids aren’t going to get (or maybe yes, kids these days are smart). It’s a fantastic idea very well flexed here, and it proves that Meghan McCarthy knows what she’s doing when it comes to story edit this show. All my fears are gone. All my doubts have dissipated. All the hesitation towards new episodes is gone. All I want now is something very simple: More. I want more, please. If the beginning is this good, I can’t wait to see the end.
Morals: I’m taking a few out of this one.
- Make an effort to know about your past, as it will make you strong to face your future.
- Don’t doubt when you have to rely in your friends.
- You shouldn’t put your own interests before your friends’, especially when they are in need. Self sacrifice is very important to consider, and only brave people can do it.
Defining Moment: Any scene, sequence or snippet where Spike and Twilight were together. The chemistry between these two is so good you can create several new elements in the periodic table.