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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle gets a surprise while having a picnic with her friends when Spike runs up bearing two messages from Princess Celestia: one saying that there is to be a wedding in Canterlot in which the Mane Six are expected to handle preparations, and the other saying that the groom is Twilight Sparkle’s brother, Shining Armor. Twilight is both afraid that she’s losing her “best friend” as well as angry that he said nothing about the wedding or who he’s marrying. On arrival in Canterlot, they find things more odd in that the entire city is gearing up for battle due to a threat of invasion having been made. Shining Armor himself is using his power to maintain a shield impassable to evil around the entire kingdom and claims that’s the reason he hasn’t told Twilight anything about this beforehand, and reveals that the one he’s marrying is Twilight’s old “foalsitter” and one of the only three alicorns in existence: Princess Cadance. Twilight is momentarily enthused at the thought of Cadance being her new sister-in-law, but that quickly changes when Cadance doesn’t recognize her, expresses a cold, almost cruel, attitude to everyone, and is unusually rude and brusque to the Mane Six. When Twilight shares her fears, the Mane Six ignore them, chalking them up to Cadance wanting everything perfect and Twilight being jealous over losing her brother. Yet when Twilight catches Cadance casting a strange spell that seems to impact Shining Armor mentally and Cadance’s original bridesmaids mysteriously disappear and are replaced by the other members of the Mane Six, she interrupts the wedding rehearsal and tells everyone what she feared. When Cadance starts crying, Shining Armor angrily defends her, having an explanation for everything Twilight has seen, and then tells her he doesn’t want her in the wedding. Everyone else walks out, also angry at Twilight, and she begins to fear she was wrong. When Cadance suddenly reappears, she apologizes…only for Cadance’s eyes to flash green and serpentine before she casts a spell that makes Twilight vanish in a ring of green fire.

Twilight soon finds herself teleported to the forgotten Canterlot Caves, where Cadance reveals she’s being imprisoned there while she works an evil design on Shining Armor. Soon after, Twilight finds a second Cadance, more haggard and worn-looking, but also kinder and gentler. She reveals she’s the true Princess Cadance and that the one she’s been talking to is a monster called a changeling that impersonates loved ones and then feeds off of that love until they’ve left the victim a soulless husk, and she’s been feeding off of Shining Armor and gradually eroding his will until he has become her puppet. The two escape and confront “Cadance” at the wedding and reveal the truth, prompting her to revert into her true monstrous form: Chrysalis, the Queen of the Changelings. She reveals she intended to invade Canterlot and Equestria and feed off of all of the natural love that the ponies had for each other and make her and her hive the most powerful entities in the world. She further reveals the barrier Shining Armor made has been growing weaker as he has, and is nearly about to break with an army of changelings ready to invade. Celestia steps forward to stop her…and is struck down with one blast as Chrysalis has grown too powerful from feeding on Shining Armor’s love. The girls go to get the Elements of Harmony instead, but the changelings break in and capture them as well, bringing them back before Chrysalis, the zombified-Shining-Armor, and the restrained Cadance. When Chrysalis turns aside to gloat, Twilight frees Cadance, who uses her own power, in turn, to bring Shining Armor back to consciousness before combining her power with his to make a new shield, which in turn blows Chrysalis and the changelings out of Canterlot and Equestria. Twilight Sparkle plans a new wedding for Shining Armor and Princess Cadance, Princess Celestia commends her for trusting her instincts, and the wedding ends up being the “Best. Wedding. EVER.”

Rating:

(Takes a deep breath and puts on a protecting raincoat against tomatoes and rotten eggs)

I’m going to be a bit “long winded” about this one, so let’s get it over with…

This episode was worse than the Season Three premiere and was, in many ways, the worst episode in the entire series.

There, I said it, and I’m not taking it back. If that offended you, then move on to “Fun Facts”. Otherwise, get ready for a long haul…

Let’s start with my overall assessment. Yes…it’s worse than the Season Three premiere. The Season Three premiere got a lot of flak after this episode, which a lot of people thought was the best of the series, and it didn’t deserve it. The Season Three premiere was superior to this episode in every way EXCEPT the villain (and maybe one song). However, I think the problem with the fan response to this episode is, ironically, the same problem plaguing the Mane Six in this episode. They’re focused so much on one thing about this episode that they’re completely forgetting everything else.

I honestly believe this episode was a “bastardized Frankenstein monster”. Goodness knows Hasbro probably forced them to make it, similar to “Equestria Girls”. They wanted to sell a line of toys that had the ponies all in wedding apparel, with wedding coaches, wedding parties, and everything else that makes the original target audience for the show giggle and blush…little girls who know nothing about romantic love or relationships and are brought up on ultimately foolish and unrealistic visions of their “Prince Charming” and “perfect fairy-tale weddings”. That meant the biggest episode of the season had to be “a wedding”.

Although I can’t find any evidence to support this, I believe honestly what happened was the writers came up originally for an “after school special” episode that featured Twilight Sparkle getting jealous over the bride at her brother’s wedding and ending up making a bunch of wild accusations that ultimately boiled down to nothing, that Twilight would apologize to the bride, everyone would make up, and, to the tune of the wedding, Twilight Sparkle would write to Celestia some letter about the importance of realizing “there’s enough love to go around” and to “embrace new family members”.

My guess is the producers and Hasbro looked over that and thought it was far too weak. Plus, it rehashed old morals already covered in this season. Maybe they thought it paled in comparison to the Season Premiere (it would have), or that too much of it was focused on weddings being a source of “contention” or “irritation”, which would have ruined the angle to sell more wedding merchandise, or maybe they thought it made Cadance too negative even if it would have only been Twilight’s perception. They wanted Shining Armor and Cadance to “stand out”. After all…why would kids bother buying toys for two characters they just found out about who were ultimately irrelevant? Even if one of them was a plot-hole-alicorn? Or maybe, and this is most likely of all, they would have had to REALLY throw in “wedding fluff” to make that a two-parter episode, at which point it would have been even more ridiculously obvious that this episode was purely “for profit”.

So they had to create a conflict worthy of the level of the Season Two opener, and they had to make Shining Armor and Cadance the heroes, and make them just so gosh-darn likable that kids would actually want to buy their toys. The result was this mess.

Where do I start? The fact that we’re supposed to sympathize with Twilight Sparkle when she moans about losing a brother we never knew she had? The total plot holes when she talks about having seen him times since moving to Ponyville yet she doesn’t even have a picture from him or have him appear in her flashbacks? How about the alicorn thrown in “out of nowhere” who, for some reason, never lived as a princess but as a typical kid? (Some may argue that’s “the way things are” in Equestria…and they’re wrong because the big thing in Season Four is Twilight’s constant attempts to not be treated like royalty.) Could it be that we’re supposed to identify and be emotionally attached to a pair of characters who are blatant MacGuffins that we’ve just met? How about the fact that everyone is so “stupefied” by the wedding that they don’t notice a single thing about the Fake Cadance and dismiss everything she does that’s “off”? I mean…give me a break. Less than a minute after Fake Cadance walked in I realized that she was a bitch. If it’s that obvious to the audience then you have to claim everyone else was stupid. Shining Armor has an “excuse”, but no one else does.

Maybe the fact that the Mane Six are such “background characters” in this episode that they barely do anything in the fight sequence? Or that the dramatic parts were so badly written that it’s filled with characters who just “stand there and listen”? Or that Twilight Sparkle herself had to nearly become a “side character” so that she wouldn’t steal the thunder from the finale? How about the resolution itself, which was a ridiculous deus ex machina to begin with? People complain about Discord having “lost due to overconfidence”…but this takes the cake. The villain’s otherwise perfect plan is foiled because she turns her back for ten seconds. Why didn’t they just throw in Twilight Sparkle saying “Look! A distraction!” while they were at it? (It actually would have been kind of funny that way…) And then there’s the last five minutes which is absolutely nothing more than a goofy party which shows just how “skewed” the whole episode was in terms of its fan base. Because that’s what little girls think 75% of a wedding is…a nice big party as opposed to a lifetime of commitment or a major turning point in people’s lives. Maybe I’m being too cynical about the wedding part…but for crying out loud, if even Disney in “Frozen” is starting to realize they’ve been “telling little girls the wrong message” for decades, then you’d think a show as smart as MLP:FIM could do the same.

Shining Armor and Princess Cadance were introduced as plot-device characters in this episode…and, in reality, very little has changed after two more seasons of them, which shows how “forced” they were into the plot in the first place. The IDW comic at least portrayed Shining Armor as having a bit of his sister’s “nerdly” tendencies and being a little socially awkward himself. In the show, on the other hand, his only real purpose after this episode seems to have been to either get his butt kicked by the villain, provide moral support for Cadance, or appear long enough to pretty much say: “Hi! I’m in the episode!”

Cadance, on the other hand, is a fairy princess…and that’s it. That is absolutely it. Every single episode has her being innocent and perfect and beautiful and wonderful and absolutely nothing else. Every time she shows up it’s basically the writers going: “Love this character! Love this character! Love this character!” She doesn’t have anything “bad” about her, to be true…but that, ironically, is what makes her a bad character. Everyone else on the show is so well-rounded and multi-faceted…whereas her character is always pretty, sweet, and perfect. Part of what makes the Mane Six so appealing is that they aren’t perfect. Each and every one of them “violates their own virtue” in regular episodes. That’s what makes them so “real” and “relatable”. Cadance is, quite simply, a fairy princess…and fairies aren’t real.

Now, to give credit where credit is due…

This episode did one thing right, and it was such a “big one thing” that it masked a lot of badness in the episode: Chrysalis. I’ll admit, she was a pretty awesome villain. She differed from the traditional “mold” of power-hungry villains, she oozes malevolence, she’s clever and powerful, she succeeds where Nightmare Moon and Discord failed in many areas, she doesn’t get truly “defeated” at the end, and, to be honest…she’s got a rather nightmarish design and modus operandi for a Y-rated cartoon. She looks like a “pony from Hell”. And to be totally honest…Chrysalis might have been what got me in the fandom. I didn’t officially “join” until Season Three, but in the summer following this episode I happened to catch a screenshot of her online. My jaw dropped. “THAT is one of the characters on that show about ponies?!” When I looked in on her story and found out more about her plot, it made me start to realize this wasn’t a copy of what I remembered from G1 as a kid, which my sisters were fans of. It definitely contributed to me eventually “joining the herd”.

But even Chrysalis’ plan is so mucked up…like how she could have gotten in through the shield to begin with since it expands out from Shining Armor’s horn, or why she decided to warn the city instead of simply sneaking in and catching it totally off guard…and how she loses literally due to a weak plot device. Against a subpar villain that might have been fine, but for crying out loud…she defeated Celestia…she stopped the girls from getting the Elements of Harmony…she conquered Canterlot…and she loses due to a spot of luck.

The biggest disappointment with this episode, however, is that it could have been a lot better with just a couple little changes here and there. I’ll pick on one of the biggest moments of the episode…Celestia’s defeat.

That scene pretty much confirmed to every fan who went around saying “Trollestia” that she really is a useless character who can only troll others and push people around and can’t do anything on her own. And, unfortunately…that view has only been supported on the show since, especially in Season Three. Look…I “get it”. The idea was the “warm, wonderful, wubbly, wondrous love” of Shining Armor and Princess Cadance was supposed to be so strong that it made Chrysalis stronger than Celestia…and they still could have had her lose…but, dang it all, they could have done it a lot better. They could have had Princess Celestia “save face”. Rather than going down with one hit, they could have gotten her into a fight where she was slowly losing, and she could have shouted out: “Get the Elements of Harmony! I’ll hold her off as long as I can!” Or maybe Chrysalis could have aimed for the otherwise-pointless-and-useless guests in the chamber and forced Celestia to jump in front of it and take a hit. But no…she gets pwned in one shot and loses any chance to shut down the people who say how bad her character is.

The moral to this episode about “trusting your instincts” is so clearly tacked on I had forgotten about it, especially since it’s really not good advice in all situations, especially ones presented in this episode where you could be motivated by jealousy. If anything, the message in this episode is to “hate weddings”, because so many of the characters failed to see the “writing on the wall” as a result of their obsession with weddings.

In short, this episode is a mess, a pander, a bunch of holes, and, if not for Chrysalis being so “delightfully evil”, would have been possibly the worst episode in the series. As it was, her presence helped make this season end on a “good note”…but not a terrific one.

Fun Facts:

One of the big inconsistencies in the episode is when exactly Cadance was replaced by Chrysalis. Obviously, the wedding plans were already underway…so the question becomes why neither she nor Shining Armor ever saw the need to tell Twilight Sparkle about it. (Probably the same reason Twilight Sparkle never saw the need to tell anyone else about Shining Armor and Princess Cadance…plot device convenience. :P) But that still creates some problems. Based on the letter, it looks as if Celestia is the one inviting the girls to come in and pretty much handle the entire reception. Now…it makes sense that she would as opposed to Shining Armor and “Cadance”, because Chrysalis wouldn’t want any “siblings” interfering…yet that makes it look as if the whole wedding was Chrysalis’ idea in the first place.

“Mi Amore Candenza” literally translates to “I love Cadance”. The going theory with that is that Chrysalis was “milking every bit of love she could get”, so that even saying her name would give her something to feed on.

“My big brother and I have always been so close!” …which is why he hasn’t been mentioned once in the entire series so far. 😛

This episode is so bad it has holes within itself. Twilight Sparkle said her big brother was the only one she ever accepted as a friend before moving to Ponyville…which is a lie because in the same episode she reveals she was friends with Cadance.

As kind of a “throwback” to the couch joke from “Lesson Zero”, Rarity pulls out a pillow to faint on.

While I normally love the IDW comic series, it made this whole episode even worse. In the comic, it was revealed via flashback that not only did Twilight Sparkle know all about Shining Armor and Cadance’s mutual attraction…she actually helped get them together when she was still a foal. That effectively ruins almost everything in the setup of this episode. My guess is the authors of the comic didn’t care to watch that episode a second time either. 😛

Yet another plot hole…Chrysalis actually announced she was going to attack Canterlot. Wouldn’t it have been easier just to not announce it so she wouldn’t have to worry about the barrier and no one would be ready for her? Granted, it ended up not making much of a difference, but still.

Cadance is an alicorn, which caused a stir. Faust only ever intended for there to be two alicorns, the goddesses Celestia and Luna. Putting in a new one kind of mucked things up a bit, and eventually led to a “redefinition” of Equestrian royalty and princesses which would become clearer in Season Three and Four. Eventually, it would show that alicorns aren’t part of the “nobility” but become “princesses by virtue”. Still…it might make a good episode to show how Cadance became an alicorn herself at a young age.

Cadance’s cutie mark is the Crystal Heart from “The Crystal Empire”…so I give the writers some credit in this episode for “looking ahead” as she would become the ruler of the Crystal Empire in Season Three.

Twilight Sparkle wiggling her butt in the air for the “Do a little shake!” part of her rhyme became rather memeable…especially the look on “Candace”‘s face.

Luna appears very briefly in this episode, in only a handful of scenes…but it’s also responsible for a rather interesting fan theory: Luna is Chrysalis. I don’t believe it, but I can see how it works. In Luna’s first appearance, where she “relieves” Celestia, when the camera moves off of her…her wings spread, as if she’s about to fly away again as soon as Celestia’s back is turned. Later, when Twilight runs away from Fake Cadance and Shining Armor, she’s there…but coldly orders Twilight to “stay indoors”. The biggest part, of course, is when Luna fails to show up for any of the wedding or the rehearsal…but after Chrysalis is blown away suddenly flies in asking: “Did I miss anything?”

From the time Chrysalis reveals herself to her defeat, only about 7 minutes pass out of the entire episode.

So much for the girls having learned to “not brush off Twilight Sparkle’s concerns” as they did in “Lesson Zero”, eh?

Since Cadance wasn’t really “imprisoned”, it seems kind of silly that she didn’t reappear before Twilight showed up as there was no obstacle in her way that she couldn’t have gotten out of the way herself. However…keep in mind that Twilight Sparkle vanished the day before the wedding. They presumably had been trying to find the way back for a full day.

The Canterlot Caves sound like the story behind them could make an interesting episode…

“This Day Aria” is considered by some to be the “highlight song-wise” of the entire season. I’m not sure about that…but it is a good song. Very “Disney-like”. I’d say it reminds me a lot of the fake in “The Little Mermaid”, except “Vanessa”‘s own song is only a few lines. The resemblance to that scene and the one with Fake Cadance, however, is unmistakable. And, like most Disney Villain songs, it has a reprise later in the episode. The only part I dislike is how it’s misleading, like a lot of this episode. It sounds as if Fake Cadance is only just some little “cruel harpy” out to steal a “hunky husband” for herself. It’s not until after this and the big reveal that we get Chrysalis’ real plan.

The CMCs are flower girls for the wedding. Why? To sell toys of them in wedding attire, of course. 😛

Again, a “Do the other characters see this?” problem in the episode. Shining Armor’s vacuous look should have been obvious at the wedding, along with his green eyes. One might argue “no one can see that”…but if that’s the case, how come Twilight saw his eyes go loopy earlier?

Cadance’s power is to make others fall in love. That’s sweet…or it would be if there hadn’t already been an episode condemning forcing people to fall in love.

Ok…I get it…everyone is so obsessed with the wedding they’re “blind” to all else…but not ONE person in Canterlot ran into the wedding saying: “Holy Celestia, there’s an army of changelings smashing themselves against the barrier! Remember that invasion we’re all worried about?! It’s happening now! Why don’t we drop the wedding for a bit!”

The changelings kind of resemble gremlins to me.

Celestia’s defeat, with the slow-mo, kind of resembles Anime defeats.

When the Mane Six charge the changeling swarm…Fluttershy has a nervous look as opposed to a bold one.

The fight against the changeling swarm is the first real “physical fight” the series has had…but it looks like most of the changelings are fighting themselves in the background. Actually…it makes sense as it’s revealed they can’t tell each other apart once they take another form.

Also, Pinkie Pie “wields” Twilight Sparkle like a gun. 😀

The part where the Mane Six go slo-mo and knock the “wave” of changelings into the air is somewhat reminscent of “The Matrix Reloaded”. However, most of the fight leading up to that is more similar to “The Powerpuff Girls”, another show Lauren Faust helped with.

Over the years I’ve begun to wonder if Megan McCarthy has the most “anime affinity” out of all the writers, and not just because of the very DBZ-esque fight in Season Four. In addition to the earlier-mentioned parts, I get a “Serenity/Endymion” (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) vibe from “Cadance/Shining Armor”, especially in this episode. Chrysalis is the female villain who wants Shining Armor all to herself, but only to use him, and it’s the “love united” between Cadance and Shining Armor that blows her away (literally). Plus, the part where the girls finish off the swarm only to find an even larger swarm waiting for them, and immediately cutting to after the fight is similar to one of the Dragonball Z movies against Metal Cooler.

Part of Chrysalis’ notoriety stems from the fact that, unlike the other villains in the series, she was never defeated…just blown out of Canterlot and forgotten by the characters in the series and never mentioned again…unless, of course, every time Twilight and Cadance do the little “rhyme” when they meet is to confirm they’re each “really them”. 😛 Although the IDW comic’s first arc had her return and be more conclusively defeated, she’s still free to rise again at the end of that one too, indicating that they’re planning on bringing her back at some point… (I actually thought when I saw the previews for “Inspiration Manifestation” that Chrysalis was going to end up being the Season Four ending villain, based on the green eyes. :P)

As it turned out, Celestia-in-a-chrysalis ended up being a rather big moment for the fandom as well. While it’s become clear in IDW since then it’s just a restraining measure, the myth perpetuated in the “darker” parts of the fandom is that the chrysalis slowly turns the victim inside into a changeling as well.

Twilight Sparkle’s parents appear at the “real wedding” doing what they’re best at in the series…looking proud of their kids and tearing up. 😛 I kind of wonder where they were during the first wedding… Don’t tell me “Cadance” convinced Shining Armor to leave them out too…

In one of the few “nice touches” I like in the wedding segment…Applejack waits until Rarity wipes her eyes for tearing up…then quickly puts her cowboy hat back on.

Derpy, non-cross-eyed, appears in the audience.

At the wedding reception, Vinyl Scratch returns (literally pulled out of nowhere) and Rainbow Dash dances with Soarin, who is wearing the “non-show uniform” of a Wonderbolt, making it appear here the first time instead of in “Wonderbolts Academy”. Also, Rarity gets a picture with Fancy Pants…who doesn’t seem impressed to see her again for some reason…

Perhaps as “throwing a bone” to the older audience who had to sit through the ending, Spike says after the wedding is concluded: “Just wait ’til you see what I have planned for the bachelor’s party!” No little kid who’s grown up sighing dreamily at every perfect Disney wedding has any idea what the heck a bachelor’s party is, but even if they weren’t full of drunkenness and strippers, you at least have to be old enough to know that they always take place before weddings. By comparison, I’m pretty sure most little kids think the groom does nothing before a wedding except get in a suit and sigh dreamily about how much he loves his princess and has never even heard of the term “bachelor”.

Again, the ending theme has been replaced in this episode.

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5 (With 0.5-1 Stars coming solely from Chrysalis)

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