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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle is planning a camping “friendship retreat” with the rest of the Mane Six and Starlight Glimmer, but before departing they do a quick pose for a photographer from the Canterlot Historical Society. Unfortunately, the photographer is none other than the deposed Queen Chrysalis, who turns out to have a spell capable of making evil-natured clones of the Mane Six. She does so in the Everfree Forest with the intention of using them to claim the Elements of Harmony and their power for herself, making her the most powerful entity in Equestria. However, the plan almost immediately begins to backfire. The clones are the opposite of personality of their true versions and are generally disobedient and apathetic in every way, while the Evil Twilight Sparkle soon proves to be just as cunning and malevolent as her “maker” and plots to seal the elements for herself. Not long after their creation, the clones split off and wander into the forest just as the real Mane Six arrive and get separated as well. What follows is a series of errors as the various evil clones and their true counterparts keep getting mistaken for one another by both sides, creating confusion all around. By the end of it, the Mane Six and Starlight are at each other’s throats, but before it can blow up Twilight calls a stop and apologizes to everyone for what she “contributed” to the confusion, prompting the others to do the same and reconcile before their friendship suffers any further strain. Meanwhile, Evil Twilight managed to learn the location of the Tree of Harmony from the true Pinkie Pie, and she leads Chrysalis and the other evil clones there to claim the elements. She accidentally reveals her true plans prior to claiming them, prompting an enraged Chrysalis to try and destroy her; only to discover Evil Twilight is as powerful as the real deal and nearly ends up destroyed herself. Before Evil Twilight can finish her, however, the Tree of Harmony reacts negatively to the evil clones and destroys all six of them before they can claim the elements. Chrysalis, furious, vows revenge on Starlight yet again before flying off, while the rest of the girls arrive and see the campsite destroyed (by the evil clones), but good-naturedly rub it off; saying if their friendship can survive the disaster of the camping trip it can survive anything.

Review:

“Queen Chrysalis blasts off again!” That joke kind of summarizes most of what I dislike about this episode, but I’ll go into more detail.

What ultimately I think of as “bad” episodes are not so much ones that had a rather uninteresting premise to begin with but ones that had a great premise that ended up underwhelming. This gets my top pick in the latter category. While there were worse episodes overall, this one gets my pick for my personal least-liked episode of Season Eight.

The main problem for it to me is Chrysalis. While until this point Tirek was clearly the bigger and most imposing threat, Chrysalis had been built up as the most monstrous, evil, and debatably dangerous adversary to Equestria. Her very character is a Knight of Cerberus trope—the mere fact that when she shows up in an episode is supposed to signify that things got real. She’s supposed to both invoke terror as well as even a touch of grotesque revulsion in her modus operandi, and while most of her villainy has happened “off screen” the implication is that she’s both cunning and talented enough to normally be able to defeat all the most powerful entities in Equestria herself without anyone else even noticing. So malevolent that the writers decided to keep her around as a future threat at the Season Six finale.

So…bringing her back in a mid-season episode that ended up being partially a “friendship lesson” and turning her into a somewhat bumbling villain who seriously didn’t think her own plan through was kind of a let down for me. While Chrysalis manages to show off her evil well enough at the start of the episode, a few rounds with the Mean Six and even her best attempts to be intimidating comes off like Moe from the Three Stooges trying to keep Larry and Curly in line.

Aside from that, I didn’t really care for the other parts of this episode. Very quickly, I realized the evil clones were the writers’ getting the opportunity to reincarnate the corrupted Mane Six from Season Two’s “The Return of Harmony”. (About the only thing new was we got to see what a corrupted Twilight Sparkle would have been like…basically an evil villain herself. Surprisingly, she was still good at magic and she tried to instill comradery among the Mean Six even if she ultimately thought they were idiots.) If you read my review of that episode, you know my personal opinion was that they weren’t that entertaining and they wore out their welcome quickly. Most of that sentiment is shared here. While it was a bit more bearable seeing it happen from individuals who weren’t the actual Mane Six, and, I’ll admit, some of Evil Fluttershy’s viciousness and Evil Pinkie Pie’s apathy made me crack a smile, it’s just another let down. Chrysalis actually creates evil clones of the Mane Six with the intention of stealing the Elements of Harmony. The possibilities for drama were endless. Instead…a comedy of errors watered down by the dramatic parts of this episode followed by a deus ex machina.

Also, like I said, this episode tried the odd step of mixing in a friendship lesson on what should have been a drama-based episode. I do give it some credit in that it showed the Mane Six have grown so much and have so much faith in one another that they are able to diffuse their argument without ever even needing to know how it started…but at the same time I’m banging my head on a desk that Chrysalis hatched this elaborate and deadly plan around them and they’re completely oblivious to it ever happening.

Ultimately this episode was something of a mixed bag for me, but considering I expected a lot better I have about the same opinion of it Starlight Glimmer has toward trail mix.

Fun Facts:

Kind of obvious, but the title is a parody of the Mane Six. I only point it out because that epitaph is only used informally outside of the series, but was popular enough to merit being used for a title.

The cold open for this episode was teased at Comicon in storyboard format, although all of the lines had been recorded.

Um…anyone wonder whatever happened to the original photographer for the Canterlot Historical Society? Probably nothing good…

The “pony” photographer at the beginning of the episode puts up a good performance, but in addition to not being able to hide her disdain for Starlight Glimmer, Chrysalis throws out a few other hints toward her true identity. Her retinas have the same coloration and her Cutie Mark is that of a ladybug.

Rainbow Dash’s mane, apparently, is not in strands of different color. Rather, all of her hairs are rainbow colored.

Chrysalis’ growing insanity kind of makes sense. Being a eusocial creature, she likely suffered some psychological damage being separated from a hive.

There’s something a bit “off” on all of the Mean Six, aside from their colors.

  • Applejack: apples on the Cutie Mark are unripe
  • Rarity: diamond tiers are inverted on Cutie Mark
  • Pinkie Pie: balloon tiers are inverted on Cutie Mark
  • Fluttershy: butterflies on Cutie Mark are blue instead of pink
  • Rainbow Dash: Cutie Mark is upside down
  • Twilight Sparkle: background twinkle is the same color as foreground on Cutie Mark

Evil Twilight actually foreshadowed Season Nine by, much to Chrysalis’ anger, pointing out that she needed friends to have victory over Twilight Sparkle.

Evil Fluttershy does give the opportunity to see Fluttershy crazy again. It’s been a while. 😛

“I wants IT!” is a parody of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

Pinkie Pie briefly turns into her short-lived (and unloved) Rainbow Power Form while recalling the Season Four finale to Evil Twilight.

Evil Applejack says she managed to survive for “127 Hours”, a parody of “127 Hours”, which tells the real life story of Aron Ralston–a mountaineer who was forced to cut off his own arm to escape being pinned by a boulder.

The campsite has a tent themed to each pony. Twilight is so thoughtful. 🙂

There’s a good chance this episode was going to debut as early as Season Seven but got delayed, as the surprisingly unsettling scene of the Mean Six’s deaths in its original form didn’t make it past the censors. While the scenes of most of the Mean Six dying remained the same, a mixture of rapid aging and melting, Evil Twilight’s death originally was far more graphic: featuring what looked like portions of her skull melting and peeling away from her eyeballs.

Rating:

2 Stars out of 5