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Synopsis:

The Mane Six are all dead tired during their pet grooming date, and soon discover the reason is all of them were kept awake by nightmares of the same thing: a strange cloud monster. Knowing Princess Luna is in charge of dreams in Equestria, Twilight Sparkle sends her a letter. Almost immediately, Luna arrives and explains that what they’re dealing with is an entity known as the Tantabus that had been plaguing her with nightmares and feeding off of her fear and torment. Unfortunately, it grew strong enough as a result of feeding to want to feed on the fear and torment of others, and since Luna’s nightmare featured the Mane Six, it was able to escape into their dreams. Luna has the Mane Six all sleep in the same room at the Castle of Friendship and connects herself to their dreams in an attempt to stop the monster, but not only does the Tantabus grow too strong from their own nightmares to be restrained, but Pinkie Pie accidentally dreams of everyone in Ponyville, meaning the entity can now escape into their dreams as well. Luna fears if the Tantabus grows much stronger, it will be able to break free in the real world and literally turn Equestria into a nightmare. Twilight suggests that Luna create a single mass dream that everyone in Ponyville can have at once. Though it pushes her to the limit, Luna succeeds but now has to devote all her energy to holding the dream together, while the Tantabus is now strong enough to try to escape into reality. The Mane Six rally the townspeople of Ponyville and dream up powers and abilities for themselves to combat the monster, but the entity only gets larger and stronger. Spike notices that the Tantabus is growing in size and power as Luna is lamenting her failure to stop it and her dread that it will soon destroy the real world. She finally reveals the Tantabus is her own creation; an entity she made for the explicit purpose of torturing herself every night as self-punishment for her crimes as Nightmare Moon. As the Tantabus begins to escape again, Twilight points out that Nightmare Moon would have wanted to see Equestria turned into a nightmare, while she’s doing everything she can to try and stop it. She states everyone has forgiven her and asks if she can trust them enough to forgive herself. After hesitating, Luna says that she can, and the Tantabus shrinks down to size and is reabsorbed into her. The girls wake up back in the Castle of Friendship, and see that, for the first time in a long while, Princess Luna is having a peaceful dream.

Review:

This episode was a rather pleasant surprise: there can be a drama-based episode without waiting for a two-part season opener or finale. This episode capped off mid-season and signaled a hiatus, and boy was it great for the task. It had all the feel of a standard season finale with a lot at stake, a lot of action, great imagery, and, ultimately, even a bit of heart toward the end.

This is yet another more mature theme done; the idea of someone so much living in the past that they feel the need to punish themselves for their own sins. That’s not something that many people have had to deal with, but for those of us that have, this hit home with that. To everyone else, I hope you never have to deal with the pain of doing something so bad that you feel you can never make up for it and have to suffer for it for the rest of your life. It’s a miserable feeling and it’s a constant, crushing weight on your heart and soul. There are few things that break the spirit more than the sensation that you don’t deserve to be happy. What one has to remember is that it’s not important what you’ve done; it’s what you’re doing now. Princess Luna, who has ascended to the role of most fans’ “best pony”, learned that in this episode. There’s also a side lesson mixed in that Princess Twilight Sparkle already knows too well: even a “goddess” needs a hand from her friends from time to time. 🙂

The thing is, what is considered the best arc out of the comic, the “Nightmare Rarity” arc, dealt with the exact same theme. In that one, Princess Luna thought it was her responsibility to stop Nightmare Rarity as it was her fault that she gained her power to begin with, to “atone” for what she had done. And just like in that arc, Luna had to realize that she wasn’t the monster she once was; that everypony in Ponyville was standing with her. It was one of the more powerful moments in the comic, so, naturally, it translates well when the same theme was explored here. (The only problem is comic fans were probably a tiny bit let down, as that arc in the comic was handled slightly better. But non-comic readers were seeing it for the first time.)

Considering the amount of callbacks and extra fanservice in this episode, it oddly enough feels almost like “Slice of Life – Part 2”, only if it was done dramatically instead of purely for laughs. And sure enough, one of the big moments of this episode is the characters in the background rallying together and being the heroes for once.

Aside from that, there’s some genuinely funny moments here too. (Rainbow Dash’s dream made me crack up.) Combine that with all of the action and drama, as well as some genuine sad parts for Luna and the smiles that come with seeing the ruler of the night finally enjoying a beautiful night of her own, and we have a spectacular way to wrap up the first half of Season Five.

Fun Facts:

This is probably the most confusing derived title ever used on the show. It’s a reference to the book that inspired the movie “Blade Runner”: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

The Tantabus derives its name from Latin “Tantibus”, which is a nightmare. It’s also been noted that its final form bears a resemblance to a Daidarbotchi, a Japanese yokai the size of a mountain; in particular the one in the climax to Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke”.

The Rainbow Power forms were generally ill-received by the fan community at large. This episode would mark their only return appearance this season, but it did show that the power of the Elements of Harmony are now innate to the Mane Six.

The first time Twilight has commissioned a letter to Princess Luna.

I can’t recall if this is the first episode Rarity displayed she can shoot “death beams” as well…

Fluttershy’s dream is…kind of odd. O_o

Yet another callback to Changelings in Rainbow Dash’s dream. They do make good generic beat-up fodder. 😀 Peter New, the voice of Big Macintosh, does the voice of the Sunflowers. The song is different lyrics to Barney the Dinosaur’s infamous “I Love You” song.

Apparently, Luna has the same power as Cadance to generate crystals…at least in her dreams.

When you think about it, the odd dreams in Ponyville make sense. Derpy is always hidden in the background…now she’s too big to miss. 😛 Lyra and Bon Bon always want to be together…now they’re fused (in a nod to Nickelodeon’s “Catdog”). As a bit of fanservice that failed to make it into “Slice of Life”, Berry Punch’s head turns into a floating balloon, implying the feeling of being intoxicated. Even the off-the-wall dream version of Big Macintosh makes sense in light of “Brotherhooves Social”, which I’ll touch on when we get there.

“Flutterbat” makes a brief cameo when Fluttershy turns into her to bite the foot of a monster house. However, the fact she was able to do that indicates she recalls her time as Flutterbat…as does a later episode this season.

The most outrageous joke in this episode is Big Macintosh undergoing a “Magical Girl” transformation into Princess Big Macintosh. This is yet another fanservice joke. M.A. Larson, largely regarded as the “wackiest” writer for the show and the one credited with turning Twilight Sparkle into an alicorn at the end of Season Three, made a joke at a convention that Season Four would feature Big Macintosh turning into an alicorn.

The return of “Spike the Daring” from “A Dog and Pony Show”. The second one this season.

Two of the six Power Ponies make an encore appearance in this one. Rainbow Dash turns herself into Zapp while Applejack turns herself into Mistress Marevelous.

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5

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