Princess Celestia gives the Mane Six one of their most demanding tasks yet…to go about reforming their old enemy Discord to hopefully get him to use his incredible power for good purposes. In particular, Celestia is depending on Fluttershy’s kindness to be the deciding factor, and leaves the girls the Elements of Harmony to turn him back into stone if he can’t be reformed. Reluctantly, the girls release Discord, who immediately laughs at their ideas of reforming him and elects to “crash” with Fluttershy. Fluttershy immediately adopts a strategy of befriending Discord, in the hopes that by having a friend he’ll learn more empathy and goodness. Discord, however, merely pretends to go along with it with the intent of tricking Fluttershy to ensure his freedom. The girls realize this implicitly, especially during a dinner party, but Fluttershy continues to defend Discord even when he starts trolling them and explains “because that’s what friends do”, surprising Discord that someone actually offered to be his friend for the first time ever. However, the dinner party is interrupted when it’s revealed Discord earlier “mind-trolled” a group of beavers to build a gigantic dam big enough to totally flood Sweet Apple Acres. Fluttershy tells him to fix it, and he agrees on the condition that Fluttershy promise never to use her Element of Harmony against him. She does so…and, immediately, Discord makes everything worse by turning the farm into winter and freezing all the flooding water. The girls insist that Fluttershy use her element on the cackling Discord, who proclaims himself to be free forever. Although she refuses to go back on her word, she also angrily declares that she’s not Discord’s friend. At first, the dracoequis snorts off the dismissal as irrelevant…until, to his surprise, he actually feels bad and “hurt” by Fluttershy turning his back on him. He reluctantly undoes everything he did, saying that he guesses being friends means you don’t always get your way. At the end, Discord and Fluttershy are now friends, Discord agrees to only use his power for good and not evil (but adds under his breath “most of the time…”), Princess Celestia leaves the Elements of Harmony with the girls in case Discord reverts to his old nature, and, on Fluttershy’s urging, Discord says: “Friendship is magic.”
The last three episodes of Season Three were pretty much all setup for Season Four, starting with this one. (Although, due to moving around “Just for Sidekicks”, it didn’t quite work out that way.)
Well…this episode…where to begin…
Let’s start simple. Celestia really doesn’t do anything for her troll image in this episode either. It’s not clear why exactly she suddenly decided that she wanted to risk trying to have Discord reformed, but she definitely shoved the whole responsibility on the Mane Six while she went off to some “royal summit” and then checked in on them when finished. It would really be nice if they would depict Celestia having to go off and do something a bit more “life or death” than all of her political bureaucratic BS.
Now that that’s out of the way…
Pretty much all the fans (myself included) didn’t honestly think such a wild character like Discord was gone forever after the Season Two premiere in spite of being turned back to stone, and it turned out we were right. I also had a pretty good idea that he would eventually return to the show in a sort of “Q” role, similar to Q on “Star Trek: TNG”. I don’t think I was entirely right, but Discord did become a “regular” after this episode and his favorite pastime remained trolling ponies. And any time he appears in an episode, naturally everything seems to focus on him. The only question that remained prior to this episode is when he would return and how.
I honestly don’t think many fans expected this episode to be “it”…especially since, for all intensive purposes, it’s a “Fluttershy episode”. Is this a good episode? Well…it depends on who you ask. This episode was rather divisive among fans for a long time, and with good reason.
I think it’s a bit odd, to begin with, that it would end up being Fluttershy pairing with Discord. Oh, don’t get me wrong…she’s definitely the only character out of the Mane Six that would be able to tolerate him and forgive him for his ill behavior. But considering how little Discord and Fluttershy interacted in the Season Two premiere…it comes off as a little “out of left field”. Fluttershy was, it seemed, the only member of the Mane Six who Discord was actually disgusted by when it turned out she wasn’t “buying” his lies, so he just corrupted her by force. However, ignoring that…it made the show a bit “awkward” in later episodes. Looking ahead quite a bit, the big moment in Season Four’s finale was supposed to be when Twilight still called Discord “her friend” even after everything he did and sacrificed her power to set him free. But…that’s a big moment between Twilight and Discord, when, after this episode, it’s clear the important relationship is supposed to be between Fluttershy and Discord. And since most season premieres and season finales focus on the “main character of the Mane Six”, Twilight Sparkle, it made things kind of odd because Discord would really have to “repair a relationship” with both Twilight and Fluttershy.
Which leads into the next problem…Discord is a troll and a bit “wicked” in this episode…but he’s honestly “milder” than he was in Season Two. In a way, I think that’s actually a good thing if they wanted to make him a regular. Similar to what they did with Q, starting him off as a hostile entity and gradually making him more of a troll and a prankster, the same trend happened with Discord. His “softer” side began to be shown in this episode…the fact that he’s not really “pure evil” but is, in fact, a spoiled child who’s used to always getting what he wants when he wants. It’s clear from this episode and onward through the end of Season Four that Discord doesn’t really know “how friendship works”. In a way, it was clear back in Season Two. He seemed to think once friendship was “broken”, that it couldn’t be repaired…hence he assumed the girls couldn’t use the Elements of Harmony on him the second time. Now, in this episode, he’s gone the opposite direction. He thinks friendship is “permanent” and, therefore, by getting Fluttershy to be his friend once, that guaranteed that he’d be safe from the Elements of Harmony forever. He also clearly thinks of “friendship” as a state or status without seeing anything “special”, “meaningful”, or “emotional” in it…hence he didn’t realize until it was on him that losing friendship can “hurt” even if it does nothing to him physically. However…getting back on topic…a lot of fans didn’t see Discord having any sort of “softer side” in the first episode, and for pretty good reason. Hence, they didn’t really buy into a “nice Discord”. Quite a few fans didn’t like this episode at all and wanted Fluttershy to help put him back in stone. Others didn’t “buy it”, thinking that Discord was just pretending.
Last but certainly not least…this episode suffers from the dominant problem of the entire series: rushed. This episode was big and honestly had a lot of importance to Season Four…enough to where it should have been a two-parter. If it had been, less fans would have complained. There would have been more time to show that Fluttershy’s kindness was gradually “turning Discord’s heart” and the ending would have seemed less abrupt and “tacked on”.
What’s my personal verdict? This episode polarized a lot of fans. There were either ones who thought it was one of the best of the season, while others thought it was an OOC mess. Me? …I was in the first camp. I forgave this episode’s many faults and “speed” because I understand this is a kid’s show first and an adult fandom second, and realized they only had so much time with the rushed season. And if you can look past all of that…this episode is pretty good.
Nowadays, I think more fans like this episode in retrospect for one big reason. This episode pretty much set up everything for the Season Four finale, who fans fairly universally agree was a great episode and even people who didn’t buy into this episode bought Discord in that one, and you really can’t do one without the other…so, in a sense, Season Four’s finale “improved” this episode.
The title of this episode is obviously a takeoff of the classic “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme from Great Britain’s public transit system.
There’s a group pretty much for every “shipping” imaginable on the show, and even prior to this episode there was one for: “Fluttercord”. You can imagine they loved this one. 😛
Twilight’s initial reaction to Princess Celestia’s appearance with Discord, I think, was fanservice to the “Trollestia” callers, of which this episode is yet another one with Celestia essentially dumping a major villain off in front of them, saying “Here, reform him.”, and then leaving. It seems even Twilight has a limit to how much she’s willing to do for the princess.
“Beaverton Beaverteeth” was likely the beaver in “Magic Duel”.
“The Return of Harmony” was written by M.A. Larson. By comparison, the story for this episode came from Teddy Antonio, who hasn’t done any writing since, and was made into a teleplay (likely edited for time too) by Dave Polsky, who’s previous work on the show showed a penchant for “wacky humor”. However…the contrast is pretty clear between the two episodes, both in the nature of the characters as well as how “seriously” they seem to take Discord. At times it contradicts itself. As one example, in “The Return of Harmony”, Pinkie Pie loved Discord’s chocolate milk rain and even regretted that stopping him would put an end to it. In this episode, she complains that he made all that chocolate rain but not “one dollup of whipped cream to go with it”. It’s a nice joke, but…it’s also a little plot hole. 😛
Amazing the Twilight says they can just “use the Elements of Harmony” again on Discord when Discord proved he’s clever enough to find ways to trick them into not working.
The last thing Discord did in “The Return of Harmony” was, naturally, cry out in horror at being turned to stone again. When he breaks free, he’s still crying out…but he transitions it into an exclamation of relief.
At one point, Rainbow Dash says: “Try us, Dipcord!” However, it really, really sounds like “Dickcord”. :O
A number of fans made fanart with Discord being humbled by Fluttershy’s “Stare”. Unfortunately, this episode proved he’s one of the few creatures immune to it.
Discord breaks the fourth wall to say “oopsie” to the audience. Also, if you keep an eye on the background in this episode, you can see the controlled beavers running around building the dam.
Discord lamps apparently became a fad…because they’re being sold in Season Four’s “Trade Ya”.
I consider this episode “divine retribution” or “penance” for how Angel acted in “Putting Your Hoof Down”.
“Discord eating books” is possibly another allusion to Q from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, in particular a line he once said: “Eat any good books lately?”
The animation for Fluttershy’s house interior being revolved around is so complex, you can forgive the animators for forgetting a few things…such as the totally immobile vase and books on the shelf on the furthest wall.
“Hang onto your elements, girls, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” is a knockoff of the movie line “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” from “All About Eve”.
Although the Apple Family cameos, only Applejack has any lines.
To me…the funniest part of the entire episode is where Fluttershy says: “Do you think I’m a silly, gullible fool?”…and the girls all give evasive answers together. Rarity’s is best. (“Well, only in the sense of being ‘silly’ and ‘gullible’…”)
3.5 Stars out of 5