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Synopsis:

While taking the students of the School of Friendship for a visit to Cloudsdale, Starlight Glimmer is shocked on seeing her spell that allows non-pegasi to walk on clouds suddenly fail, leading to multiple students being endangered. On returning to school to report to Twilight Sparkle, Twilight soon finds her own magic failing both in her and in other unicorns. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna quickly summon them and Princess Cadance to Canterlot where they share findings that Starswirl the Bearded compiled: namely that all magic is vanishing all across Equestria, and will vanish completely and forever in three days. Prompted by a suggestion by Cozy Glow, whose friendliness and helpfulness have gotten her the title of Professor Sparkle’s Friendship Assistant (which she may or may not have given herself), the Mane Six decide to inspect Tartarus to see if Tirek has found a way to drain Equestrian magic from within. While gone, Twilight puts Starlight Glimmer in charge with Cozy Glow assisting her. However, the next day Cozy claims she got a letter from Starlight saying she was going to help Twilight and she was left in charge, and she immediately begins to do special favors for the entire school…something that makes the Student Six suspicious. Even more suspicious is when they catch Cozy Glow coming up from the grating that leads to the Tree of Harmony in the library. They follow her back to the headmare’s office and watch as she herself is surprised and confronted by Chancellor Neighsay. He has blamed the loss of magic on the non-pony creatures being let into the school and further accuses Twilight of being irresponsible by letting them in and then abandoning the school for what he calls a pointless friendship quest, and plans to take over to make the school ponies only. He ends up catching the Student Six, as he possesses a magical artifact that hasn’t yet had its power drained, and imprisoning them in the school, but Sandbar manages to get free by pretending to share Neighsay’s speciest sentiments. Meanwhile, the girls arrive at the gate to Tartarus but, without magic, have no way in. They discover that Cozy Glow packed a magical artifact that will open any door, but shatters after a single use. They use it to get inside and find the denizens of Tartarus miserable as they have lost their own magical abilities. They also confront Tirek, who is still depowered but nevertheless teases and strings them along when they press him for answers. The girls eventually realize that if they are unable to get their magic back from Tirek that they are locked in Tartarus with him, which he soon reveals was his intent all along. He further explains that while he couldn’t get free, he had gotten inquiring letters from an unknown pony which he decided to respond to both out of boredom and a chance of getting revenge on Twilight; ending up telling the pony everything she would need to get the Mane Six locked in there with him as well as to drain magic from Equestria. Back in the School of Friendship, Sandbar manages to recruit the Cutie Mark Crusaders with the intent of getting Cozy Glow to distract Neighsay long enough to free the rest of the Student Six, but when they try to find her by following her under the library, they are shocked to discover Cozy Glow not only has Starlight Glimmer imprisoned there but is using the power of the six artifacts (from “A Matter of Principals”) to drain all magic of Equestria and banish it to oblivion. Revealing her true vile nature, she reveals her intent to become the “Empress of Friendship”.

Unfortunately for Cozy, Neighsay’s presence and his assuming control of the school interferes with her plans to take it over herself. She uses the opportunity of him declaring himself the new headstallion to rally the student body against him when he announces his plans to go against Twilight’s guidelines, leading the students to revolt and reinstate Cozy in charge. Once he’s tied up and apart from the others, Cozy exposes herself to Neighsay, stating that she believes friendship to be the means to power and, by taking over the school and ridding Equestria of magic, she’ll have the ability to gain the most “friends” and therefore be the most powerful in Equestria. Sandbar and the CMCs free the rest of the Student Six but, on seeing Cozy depose Neighsay, decide on an alternate plan. While the CMCs create a diversion for Cozy, the Student Six free Chancellor Neighsay; causing him to realize how wrong he was to prejudge them. He ends up using his artifact to go to Canterlot and get the princesses, while the Student Six rushes to caverns under the Tree of Harmony to free Starlight Glimmer and stop the magic drain. Unfortunately, they realize not only will upsetting the relics likely cause an explosion, but Cozy isn’t distracted nearly as long as they like and, on sniffing out the CMCs and imprisoning them in a broom closet, she leads the rest of the students down there to frame them for trying to remove the magic of Equestria out of species jealousy. Meanwhile, the Mane Six are unable to escape Tartarus under their own power but Twilight gets the idea to use the innate magic that makes up the monsters there to give her enough to open the doors. They manage to even get a reluctant Tirek’s help when he realizes too late that he could be imprisoned with the Mane Six (and especially Pinkie Pie) forever. While the gesture works to break them free, the sun is setting on the third day and they have no chance of getting back to the School of Friendship in time. Meanwhile, the student body rushes the Student Six but, through a mishap, Gallus accidentally gets trapped along with Starlight. The rest of the Student Six get imprisoned trying to save him just as the portal to the aether opens and begins to draw all magic inside. However, the Tree of Harmony reacts and ends up rescuing them and freeing the Student Six; showing at the same time how they too each represent an Element of Harmony. This act convinces the student body of their innocence and the Student Six seize the relics and remove them. While it does cause a blast, the six plus Starlight are teleported to safety and magic is restored to the denizens of Equestria. As a result, not only the Mane Six but the Princesses, Neighsay, and a royal guard escort are all able to arrive at the school in moments. Cozy Glow is confronted, but now that she’s trapped she soon breaks down and reveals her demented and power-hungry side. She tries to escape but is cornered not only by the Princesses, Neighsay, and the Royal Guard but the student body as well. Chancellor Neighsay ends up apologizing to Twilight and agrees to let her run the school as she sees fit, and the Student Six get a bit disappointed on realizing that even though they saved Equestria they still haven’t learned everything about friendship in just one semester, and as a result still have to wait to graduate. As for Cozy Glow, she ends up imprisoned in Tartarus right alongside Tirek, and with a malevolent grin asks if he wants to “be friends”.

Review:

To be honest, ever since the Season Four finale, the end of seasons has constantly failed to grab me. There always seems to be something wrong with it. The Season Five finale was…well…either you like it or you hate it. The Season Six finale had to artificially remove most of the cast so one could focus on Starlight and crew. The Season Seven finale, on the other hand, suffered from cast overload so that the far majority of them were along for the ride.

To me, this season finale represents an attempt to try and make up for the shortcomings of the previous two by having a large cast, but still managing to keep them all relevant. In that regard, I offer my compliments to it for succeeding better than the Season Seven finale. Unfortunately, a lot of this episode and what went into it was mediocre at best.

In spite of the stakes, this episode isn’t very dramatic. Tirek returns and does nothing. Tartarus is brought back and does nothing. A chance for a decent friendship lesson is presented but rolls off almost as an afterthought or an aside. And while a lot of characters are featured, few are relevant and the few who end up being important get muddled so much that they fail to stand out as much as they should.

While the season as a whole had done a good job of introducing the Student Six and rounding them out as characters, in this episode they act mostly as a unit. Their individual personalities stand out almost less than they did in the season premiere, which is too bad because, ultimately, they end up being the most relevant to the episode and saving the day.

I had suspected that Chancellor Neighsay might end up being the villain for the season finale, and I give this episode credit for including a convincing subvillain with an ulterior motive from the main one. I also liked how he ended up getting his comeuppance in a very ironic format; mostly being punished for his own devious and cold demeanor. Nevertheless, not a lot of time was spent dwelling on it, and on watching the episode a second time the point where Neighsay is taught a lesson about dismissing other species simply because they aren’t ponies and has his own specism turn him into a heel wasn’t quite as poignant or long-lasting as it could have been, and the moral of not prejudging someone, or even an entire group, is somewhat muddled. It’s brought up again when Cozy Glow tries to rally the students against the Student Six but, even then, the students themselves never seemed to distrust the Student Six based on species until that point. In all other episodes, they seemed readily accepted as fellow classmates and residents of Equestria. Hence, it kind of fell flat there too to me.

Yet the real issue to me is that although other characters are given some screen time, ultimately they’re pointless being there. This is the first season finale that featured the CMCs in a role, and…they don’t really accomplish anything. Cozy Glow could have just as easily been distracted by something else temporarily. I actually feel a bit worse about this part because a CMC episode served to introduce Cozy Glow this season, so one would think that the two would at least have acted as if they were a bit closer so that it would have made Cozy seem a bit more vile when she backstabbed them.

The Mane Six take up a very large part of this episode but, again, for almost nothing. A lot of time is devoted to them going to Tartarus and then breaking out of it, but in the end it does nothing for the plot. Things would have still ended up the same for them when the Student Six succeeded.

Tirek also amounts to nothing, and that one’s a bigger problem. I can forgive it somewhat now as I realize it was setting up for Season Nine, but the fact of the matter is no matter what your view is on Tirek in terms of villain ranking the fact was he was the focal point of the best season finale and so large and intimidating he almost appeared to be from a different show all together. Making him the butt of Pinkie Pie’s jokes and being too clueless to realize he played himself constituted quite a bit of Villain Decay, not to mention they brought back the most fear-inspiring villain to spend his time monologing in a cage in his weakest form.

Finally, the villain. Cozy Glow was, unfortunately, dead on arrival. As I mentioned in earlier postings, everyone already knew she would end up being the villain going into this episode, and we’ll never know if people would have been fooled until the big reveal. (I think midway through part one all doubt would have been gone, personally.) In this episode, we finally get to see her true nature, which includes her forming rather psychotic and twisted faces whenever she abandons her faux cuteness and innocence. If there was any questions prior to this episode about whether or not she was meant to be a knockoff of Darla Dimple from “Cats Don’t Dance”, I think this should have settled it.

That being said…part of the appeal of Darla Dimple was the depths of insanity she went to. She went so over the top that she was pretty much Pinkamena from “Party of One” in most of her scenes. By comparison, Cozy is mostly just angry and power-hungry. There’s a moment or two where the animators really make her look like she’s got a screw loose, but most of the time she’s just an egotistical brat. If they had gone the whole nine yards and made her genuinely psychotic, I think she would have just worked out enough as a villain for this episode.

Instead, I kind of wince on seeing the most deadliest threat to Equestria to date being a young pegasus. That’s not to say the idea of a magicless individual being a serious threat doesn’t appeal to me, but the fact that it’s Cozy Glow feels a bit underwhelming. Unlike Starlight Glimmer, who, at least in the Season Five opening, managed to exude a true aura of malevolence through her controlling, manipulative, and even sadistic behavior, Cozy Glow just seems like a form of spoiled brat.

The fact that Tirek and the monsters are mostly used for humor and that the villain is Cozy Glow, a character whose very diabolical nature should have a humorous element to it from the contrasts of her personality, gives the impression that this drama-based episode should have been more comedic. The fact that it isn’t played up in that way makes it just mediocre. While I’ll give it one more point of credit of not immediately making the Student Six perfect or overwhelmingly saving-the-day (more like they did just from the standpoint of being normal individuals), it also didn’t do much to build on them anymore as we kind of knew their friendship was magic by the time “What Lies Beneath” came out.

I like it better than some season finales and I won’t fail it because there’s nothing outright bad about it (other than, perhaps, the Mane Six and Tirek alike both being clueless about what the end result of letting the door to Tartarus shut on them would be), but it wasn’t that great. A capstone like this made me begin to realize what the folks at Hasbro likely did…it was time.

Fun Facts:

Cozy Glow sucks up so much she even splits the discarded juice box into its recyclable and disposable parts.

I think the pony that Yona is clinging to in Cloudsdale looks like the odd love child of Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. πŸ˜›

It wasn’t until this episode that I realized Gallus hates being dragged into things out of “friendship obligation”. πŸ˜›

As an interesting bit of lore, it seems magic is used fairly commonplace throughout Equestria, as indicated that it’s used to keep food fresh in spite of having no refrigeration or preservatives.

Twilight references the last time she was in Tartarus. This is referring all the way back to “It’s About Time” in Season Two, and was never actually seen on screen. Tartarus itself before this episode was only seen briefly in Season Four’s finale. While in Greek Mythology, it’s essentially the equivalent of Hell (being the place the worst of the worst of Ancient Greek mythology got locked up in), in this episode it’s mostly depicted as, well, a giant kennel.

Does Fluttershy actually try to comfort the cockatrice forΒ not being able to turn them to stone? Actually, that sounds like Fluttershy would do that.

Among the imprisoned monsters are the cockatrice, the bugbear, the malwurf, the manticore, and the chimera…all of whom have appeared throughout the series. Cerberus, who first appeared in “It’s About Time” in Season Two, also shows up.

Tirek licking his lips when he mentions all the magic that’s missing might, in fact, be a reference to “The Silence of the Lambs” in the scenes between Clarice and Hannibal Lecter.

My prize for visual joke goes to the shot of Sandbar showing the various objects he planned to throw at Apple Bloom’s window next. πŸ˜›

Cozy Glow fashioned a crown for herself using tape. It what might be a bit of an animation goof, it would seem she made the crown from her necklace as she isn’t wearing the necklace in the second half of the finale, but she briefly has both at the end of part one.

Yona calls Neighsay “Nasty Pony” and Cozy Glow “Even Nastier Pony”. I don’t know why, but…that gets a grin out of me.

As another throwback to Season Two, Pinkie Pie is used as a form of torture. πŸ˜› She may have been using a pair of prosthetic limbs for her monkey costume, but…it’s probably more likely she just grew a pair for the occasion.

When the monsters that help Twilight out give up their abilities, they split into individual animals. The chimera turns into a goat, saber-toothed tiger, and snake, the cockatrice turns into a chicken and a cobra, the manticore turns into a lion and a scorpion, the bugbear turns into a wasp and a panda, and Cerberus turns into three separate dogs. This might, in fact, have been another allusion to Grogar in Season Nine. He describes himself as the “Father of Monsters”, which he may have created by splicing together normal animals into one body. (It’s interesting to note the three dogs Cerberus turns into appear to be different ages.)

When all of the magic gets returned to Equestria, some of it goes to Pinkie Pie… O_o One might say “that explains everything”, except Pinkie was still able to “be Pinkie” even when magic was gone.

Poor Ocellus and Yona didn’t even get their fake diplomas. 😦

Rating:

2.5 Stars out of 5