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It’s the Summer Sun Festival once again, and the newly-coronated Princess Twilight Sparkle is to participate in the festivities along with Princess Celestia and Princess Luna in Canterlot. Although Celestia is happy that this will be the first time she has been able to “enjoy” it as this was the anniversary she banished Luna to the moon for 1,000 years, Twilight is unhappy as she sees this a signal she’ll be leaving Ponyville and her friends behind and becoming royalty “full time”. However, after turning in for the night and waking the next day, she’s surprised to find both the sun and the moon are in the sky at once and both Celestia and Luna have disappeared. Furthermore, the Everfree Forest has gone wild with semi-sentient, thorned, black vines emerging from it as well as black, thorned clouds, slowly consuming Ponyville and the surrounding lands, being invulnerable to pegasi and earth ponies, and even causing unicorn magic to go wild. Suddenly left the only alicorn in power, Twilight tells the royal guard to keep looking for Celestia and Luna while she goes to Ponyville to deal with the problem, and immediately suspects Discord. She and the girls use the Elements of Harmony to summon him, but he pleads innocence of the whole matter and suggests they try the displaced Zecora. She, in turn, offers a potion that needs alicorn magic to activate. Twilight Sparkle uses her new power to “activate” it and drinks it, and suddenly finds herself transported to a mysterious castle…just in time to see a furious-looking Princess Luna blot out the sun and transform into Nightmare Moon.

Soon after, Twilight Sparkle realizes she’s seeing a flashback of Princess Luna’s transformation into Nightmare Moon and Princess Celestia’s subsequent use of the Elements of Harmony to banish her into the moon for 1,000 years. Coming out of this vision, she realizes Zecora’s potion allows her to see the past. Taking a second drink, she sees Celestia and Luna defeating Discord the first time, and that they did so by obtaining the Elements of Harmony from the corresponding “Tree of Harmony” within the Everfree Forest. Apparently, the tree was meant to contain evil within the Everfree Forest, but it somehow lost its power and is dying now, allowing the vines to take over Equestria. Twilight and the girls go to save it but, following a dangerous encounter with a crocodile, the girls tell Twilight to pull out for fear of something happening to her and Equestria losing another “princess”. Yet on leaving the forest, Discord goads her into going back after the girls by taunting her new status and the girls going on without her, but on returning she gets ambushed by some of the vines while the girls themselves find the tree only to see it being choked by vines and having no way to stop it. They rescue Twilight and bring her to it, and she realizes the only way to save it is to give the Elements of Harmony back to it. The girls reluctantly do so, restoring the tree, freeing Celestia and Luna (who had been captured by the vines), but also causing a flower on the tree to blossom that reveals a six-faceted diamond chest with six keyholes. Celestia tasks her and the other members of the Mane Six with finding the way to open it and what is inside. On the way out of the Everfree Forest, it is revealed the black vines came from seeds Discord planted 1,000 years ago right before being turned to stone as a backup plan if he was defeated, and that it took them 1,000 years to finally drain enough of the Tree of Harmony’s power to manifest themselves. Twilight is furious, but he innocently insists it was all to teach her a lesson about friendship. Celestia, Luna, and Twilight return to Canterlot and the episode ends with the celebration of the Summer Sun.


It says very little about an episode when the “highlight” is a flashback of an event everyone already knows about.

This episode and the one following it really made the fans start to sweat. It seemed as if it was the show going into its “death throes”; that the idea pool had run dry and now things were just being “put out there”. And, to be honest, it’s one of the worst. It may not be “outrightly bad” such as episodes like “Wonderbolt Academy” was or “Look Before You Sleep”, but…it stank. There’s no other word for it. The Season Three opener looked epic compared to this.

This episode is, from beginning to end, outrightly unremarkable. The only excuse I can find for it is the fact this was the beginning of the infamous “season-long overarching plot”. It would have a tremendous payoff…but it also meant having to slog through episodes like this. It’s not funny. It’s not terribly inventive as it relies mostly on flashbacks and material that, frankly, the fans handled better in the fan dimension. It’s not creative. The member of the Mane Six who gets the most lines other than Twilight Sparkle is Applejack, and she has a history of being bland. Discord, Zecora, and even the Nightmare Moon flashback seem like they were inserted on purpose just to give the episode gimmicks that would make it somewhat entertaining, and they failed at it. The Nightmare Moon bit itself was purely fanservice. It had absolutely nothing to do with the overall plot of the episode. As for Discord…he’s such an animated character that he should be the Chekhov’s Gun of every episode he’s in: you can’t bring him in unless you plan to do something with him. In this episode he did practically nothing.

The worst part, however, is just how “fake” this whole episode is. Even the blandest episodes in the previous seasons looked as if the characters were at least “trying”. Here they really seemed to go through the motions to manufacture fake tension. It was pretty clear to me right from the end of the first half that Twilight was in a flashback…yet they purposely make Twilight clueless to it all so they can manufacture an (admittedly-well-animated) scene of her mourning over the fallen Celestia. But the second half is a mess. The part where the girls suddenly say they want Twilight to stay behind and Twilight agrees…only to pretty much return back to being together about 90 seconds later, and all just so a small action sequence can be used to pad the episode. The lesson is so “muddled” here I don’t think there’s one to even be “stretched” at.

Finally…people can complain about King Sombre being bland all they want. He was definitely a more charismatic villain than vines.

This episode was so yawn-worthy that you can bet I let out a large groan when I heard Megan McCarthy, the writer for this episode, also wrote the season finale…expecting something equally horrendous. I actually doubted there would be a payoff to the chest at all. And it was such a lingering disappointment that it wasn’t until “Daring Don’t” I felt this season had some redeeming value to it…not until “Bats!” I thought this season would have a good part or two…and finally not until “Rarity Takes Manhattan” that I started to think: “Yeah…they got off to a slow start, but this season is going to be alright.”

Until then, we all just crossed our fingers and hoped. Yet in retrospect, this episode, unfortunately, like the worst of the Season Three episodes, was just plain sleep-inducing.

Fun Facts:

Twilight seems to have “forgotten” how to fly again between the third season finale and this episode.

This episode debuted the new show “opening”. The big change was toward the end, which now featured Princess Twilight Sparkle, the girls, the CMCs, Snips and Snails, Big Macintosh, the Cakes, Granny Smith, Zecora, Mayor Mare, and Spike. Photo Finish is taking the picture of them. The letter now goes to both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Last but not least, in Fluttershy’s “segment” of the opening, one can see Discord in the window in the background.

On that note, at this point, Photo Finish seems to have become a bit of a popular side character. She appears in the opening plus in the second Equestria Girls movie.

This episode debuted new animation techniques. Of particular interest is the “glare” that now shows on pony’s coats, as highlighted when the girls are viewing the latest stain glass addition to the Canterlot Palace. There’s also occasionally 3D sequences for places like the Castle of the Two Sisters.

This episode is set during the “Summer Sun” celebration, which fans of the show realize is the same event that launched the series. Based on this, plus comments Celestia makes, the general idea is that it’s been one year since the series premiere. This, however, seems ridiculous based on the fact winter has come and gone twice and based on comments in Season Three’s “Apple Family Reunion”.

I don’t know about all of you, but Celestia’s line “just as I hope you will always be there when I need you” to Twilight makes me snicker for obvious reasons.

When the vines are invading Ponyville, there’s a Wilhelm Scream.

When Spike is riding Twilight to Ponyville, he puts on a seat belt and says: “I’m starting to wish we’d taken the train.” This might be an allusion to Disney’s “The Rescuers”.

When Discord is summoned, he’s singing “Winter Wrap Up, Winter Wrap Up…”, the first big “hit” song of the series, all the way back from the first season.

As it turns out, Discord was lying. He was responsible for everything that happened in Equestria in this episode, just not directly.

The spell Twilight uses to change the potion is the “dark spell” she used in the Season Three opener.

This episode’s flashbacks finally provided a look at the subject of fan-debate and fanfiction for years: the events that happened when Princess Celestia first went up against Nightmare Moon. It flubbed a few things. Tabitha St. Germain is clearly using the “Season Two” voice of Luna as opposed to the voice she used in the Season One premiere. Luna in the flashback is not the same as Luna “restored” in the Season One premiere either. Celestia also doesn’t wear the Magic Element as a crown as she did in the same episode’s “mythology”. This was also the first time in the series we saw something of a “fight”, indicating the show’s creators starting to see what they were allowed to get away with, but it was still rather “ho-hum” compared to the finale. It also, once again, did little for Celestia’s image as she mostly just ran from Luna and then went down with one hit. The animation in the sequence, however, is some of the best of the series yet and far better than the Season One premiere.

This episode also explains why Discord’s statue happened to be in that one position in the start of the Season Two opener.

The goofy scepter that Discord makes for Twilight was the first “memeable” image of this season.

Spike seems to “pass out on cue” after telling the girls Twilight needs help.

The debut of Princess Twilight Sparkle’s “official” crown.


1.5 Stars out of 5