Applejack, Chrysalis, Cozy Glow, Discord, Fluttershy, Grogar, King Sombra, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, opinion, Pinkie Pie, Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, review, Starswirl the Bearded, The Beginning of the End, Tirek, Twilight Sparkle
The Mane Six get summoned to Canterlot by Princesses Celestia and Luna for their most shocking surprise yet: the two sisters are retiring as rulers of Equestria and want Twilight Sparkle to take their place, assisted by the other members of the Mane Six, in just a few days. In spite of being reminded by the princesses, the girls, Spike, Starlight Glimmer, and Discord of her numerous past successes, her authoring of the Journal of Friendship and the guidebook for the School of Friendship, and how all of this was without the aid of Celestia or Luna, Twilight soon begins to panic about the entire exchange of power, causing Discord to leave in disgust at her lack of self-confidence. Meanwhile, Queen Chrysalis, Lord Tirek, Cozy Glow, and even the remains of King Sombra are all summoned to a forgotten area of Equestria by the power of the first Emperor of Equestria and the “Father of Monsters”, Grogar. To show off his power, he easily restores Sombra’s physical form and gives Tirek sufficient power to upgrade to his first transformation. He further announces that, after being defeated thousands of years earlier, he’s been regaining his strength and observing the actions of the other four. Realizing they’re always defeated because the Mane Six always work together to defeat them, he announces his intent to unite the four of them to work together to, in turn, defeat Twilight Sparkle and her own friends to conquer Equestria. However, Sombra refuses to work with them; boasting that he can re-conquer the Crystal Empire all by himself. Grogar allows him the chance to live up to that boast and sends him to the Crystal Empire to prove it. At first, Sombra succeeds by easily reconquering the Crystal Empire, using Flurry Heart as leverage over Shining Armor and Princess Cadance, but not before the latter sends out a letter for help to Twilight. Twilight, fearing their inability to stop Sombra themselves without the Crystal Heart, instead decides to use the Elements of Harmony to defeat him. The six rush to the Crystal Empire and, using the Elements of Harmony, even more easily break Sombra’s control over the citizens, restore the Crystal Heart, and seemingly blast Sombra away into nothingness once again. Cheering over their victory and with Twilight feeling a bit more self-confident, the girls return the Elements of Harmony to the Tree of Harmony and head off to celebrate…only for Sombra to spontaneously reform before them and instantly destroy the tree and shatter the Elements.
Sombra reveals he purposely faked his own destruction in order to have the Mane Six lead him back to the Tree of Harmony so he could destroy it and the Elements. With them gone, he believes nothing is left to keep him from conquering all of Equestria, and he decides to start with enslaving Ponyville and using the citizens to conquer Canterlot. Believing the girls to be powerless against him, he simply imprisons them rather than enslaves them with their own fears and departs. Despite feeling hopeless and powerless, the Mane Six nevertheless dig themselves free and return to Ponyville. They find it already conquered and all of their friends and families enslaved by Sombra and unable to be freed, but are soon faced with a new threat as, without the Tree of Harmony, the Everfree Forest goes wild and voracious and threatens to destroy the town. Although the six try valiantly to stop it, they are unable until both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna arrive along with Starswirl the Bearded. The latter of the three sensed the destruction of the Tree of Harmony and called the princesses to help him get the forest back under control, but in doing so they accidentally left Canterlot unprotected. While they wrangle the wild forest, the Mane Six head to Canterlot. After being forced to fight their way through their mind-controlled friends, and managing to get a reluctant Discord to help them, who is still dismayed at their lack of self-confidence, they make their way to Sombra. At first, it looks as if Sombra is powerless before Discord’s own magic, until he lets slip that Fluttershy is important to him. This causes Sombra to try and attack Fluttershy instead, which in turn prompts Discord to jump in and take a hit that apparently leaves him injured and powerless. When defeat seems guaranteed, Discord manages the rally the girls by reminding them that the Elements of Harmony are already embodied within them and that they don’t need help from him, the princesses, or the physical Elements of Harmony to win. Taking that to heart, Twilight and the girls face off against Sombra again, who this time is shocked to see his power is useless compared to the new power the six of them manifest. Even without the physical Elements of Harmony, the girls still embody their power and completely destroy Sombra and restore Equestria. As they tend to Discord, the princesses return, at which point Twilight apologizes for allowing the Tree of Harmony to be destroyed and saying this is a sign that she’s not ready to rule Equestria, but the princesses respond that her taking ownship of her mistake and saving the day regardless shows that she is ready to rule Equestria. However, they acknowledge that they were trying to hand over power too quickly and agree to postpone the official transfer…prompting an outraged Discord, who was faking being hurt and powerless the whole time, to fume that he wasted a perfectly good encouraging speech for nothing and storms off. Meanwhile, back with the remaining three villains, Grogar states how Sombra’s destruction was proof of the necessity of his plan and plots how they will bring Equestria to its knees…
At long last, after almost a decade, we finally come to the final season of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. Unlike other seasons, where the fate of the series was always in question but never confirmed, the creators knew from the start that this was going to be their last season. As a result, they had the opportunity at last to tie up all the loose ends and to give the entire series not only a season-long overarching plot to try and wrap things up but also the opportunity for an “epilogue” episode. After all the years that had passed, the fans and fandom it had created, and all the surprising success and love that the show had gotten, the creators had a tall order ahead of them to try and cap it all off with their final season.
How did they do? Well, it’s a bit early to get into that. Let’s start by taking this one episode at a time, beginning with the explosive and monumental season opener for now.
A lot of people really loved this pair of episodes. In some ways, depending on what you focus on, one might make the argument that this two-parter was an even better set of episodes than the season finale it was setting up. It definitely didn’t have the same complaints as that one. But for me personally? This was ruined by Chekhov’s Gun.
I kind of feel bad to think less of this episode, because I feel I should like it a lot more. It definitely hits all the right notes to be a proper two-parter. There’s no music or songs so all 44 minutes can maximize their usage toward the plot. It does a good job of raising rather high stakes for most of the episode too, what with the brainwashed citizens of Ponyville and leaving only a handful of characters still effectively “in play”. It manages to find a way to do what many two-parters do not, and that’s to make Celestia, Luna, and even Starswirl “useful” to the plot.
When trying to one-up former villains, there’s normally two ways that it can be done: team up of existing villains or introduction of a new villain who performs a Worf Effect to show how big of a deal he or she is. This episode ended up doing both. The audience was fairly wowed by including Grogar as (seemingly) the main villain of the entire series, and that was supported by him getting a decent build-up and being able to intimidate and push around several other villains who had all been a bit deal single-handedly with ease. While the season finale would definitely dispel a lot of the hype and power surrounding Grogar, for now we all got the sense that he wasn’t someone to trifle with and that, even without the other villains backing him up, he’d end up being a very serious threat.
The prize for me, however, has to go to the villain who (tried to) steal the show for himself: King Sombra. Whereas his previous incarnation made him look like a Sauron ripoff and more of a mindless beast rather than a sentient foe, they decided to give him a personality and attitude with this one, and what we got was a delightfully arrogant, malevolent, egocentric, and even childish villain. (The latter part especially comes out moments before his defeat, when he begins to degenerate into petulant whining on seeing himself once again powerless before his greatest opponents.) While this turn may have done a number on the IDW comic version of him that’s evolved over the years, it allowed him here to be both malevolent and formidable but also to have a degree of charisma to him. So kudos for that.
Where the episode begins to fall flat to me is the Mane Six and, as mentioned before the “Chekhov’s Gun”. Being a Y-rated show, it’s hard to instill too much of a sense of danger and drama, but what makes these drama-based episodes really great to me is when they managed to instill a sense of “how are they going to get out of this?”. Where, in spite of knowing that the show must go on, and in spite of knowing that somehow everything will be right in the end, you are still left with the thought of how they can pull it off when everything seems against them. Unfortunately, the last time I got that sense was way back in “Twilight’s Kingdom”, and it didn’t carry over here.
It should have. The loss of the Elements of Harmony should have been far more jarring. It should have filled me much more with a sense of dread and a lack of knowing what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, it didn’t because of Grogar and the other three villains. Even if this wasn’t merely the season premiere and not the season finale, I knew full well that the series hadn’t gone to all the trouble of beginning to set up a huge villain team-up with those characters just to have Sombra end up being the worst thing to happen to Equestria. They weren’t just going to waste them by having him end up coming the closest to victory. So, once I internalized that, the rest of this episode was mostly just waiting for his inevitable defeat. That ruined most of the drama and the tension to me for this episode and made the entire experience feel less like one of their more dramatic outings and more like a waiting game through padding toward the series finale build-up.
Even without that, however, there wasn’t much to write home about the Mane Six. When a series gets to the point where the characters are providing the plot synopsis for their actions and tiredly going through the routine in a lazy 4th wall break, which is exactly what they did with the big Canterlot news and Twilight’s ensuing “Twilighting”, it’s less a sign that the series has reached its conclusion and more of a sign that the creators needed to do something to mix things up to give it new spice for the finale rather than rely on old hat. Because they didn’t and just went with the normal routine for the Mane Six, that flattened half the episode. Even Pinkie not being able to come up with a joke about their situation for once seemed weak rather than a pivotal moment.
Lastly, in the wake of past finales and their own art and visuals, there’s just not much that’s visually impressive in this one or aesthetically different to really capture the attention of the audience or to stand out. Everything seems rather subdued and mellow for what was supposed to be the near-conquering of Equestria. Perhaps it’s in the wake of much more dramatic episodes or even the movie in which Equestria really was captured and enslaved that seeing it again on a smaller scale just seems to lose its impact.
Was this a good episode? Yes. Did it have an entertaining villain? Yes. Did it try to do everything right? Yes…but it relied too much on old formulas that by now were getting stale. I’ll say there was just enough new and different in this episode to make it stand out as something that had the potential to be leading to a great series finale, but it didn’t offer too much in terms of anything new or unconventional to make one thing that this season was going to be radically different or monumental compared to the other seasons. And considering how much advertising and hype that the show’s creators gave season nine as a whole, that’s only a reasonable foot to start off on.
In the opening sequence, Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Spike (with his newfound wings) are all flying into Canterlot, but Fluttershy is still taking things on all four hooves.
Rainbow Dash brings up an interesting point I haven’t seen covered in much fanfiction… Does Twilight Sparkle now have to show up in everypony’s dreams every night as well as handle the daily duties?
This episode does finally settle the idea that fans have been speculating ever since Season One…namely that Princess Celestia was training a replacement the whole time.
As much as people would end up complaining about the finale of this season, the truth is going back to this episode and watching it makes sense from Discord’s perspective. He gets the news and sees Twilight panicking while the rest of the girls are calm and treating the whole thing as one of Twilight’s normal “Twilighting” episodes. And the normal chain of events that transpires is a new threat arises that Twilight and company overcome, which, as a result, boosts their confidence and allows them to succeed at the new relatively-minor change they have to make. Hence, from Discord’s warped sense of how things work, the conclusion to the season actually flows a bit logically.
In all fairness, when the girls go over all the major season finales, I mean, major villains, two of the incidents required external help rather than contributions from the Mane Six: Cozy Glow and Chrysalis’ second attempt to conquer Equestria.
The “seeing stone” or crystal ball that Grogar possesses could actually be the eye of Aramasti, all the way back from “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”. However, it’s likely a knockoff of Saruman’s Palantir from Lord of the Rings, only instead of constantly showing the Eye of Sauron it’s showing a goat’s eye.
Grogar is the series’ final nod to the original “My Little Pony” series. Although he was introduced informally via text in “A Flurry of Emotions”, which itself alluded to his original appearance in the original series, he was considered the second-worst villain after Tirek and, in spite of having the form of a goat, was essentially an embodiment of evil along with his cursed bell. He’s voiced by Doc Harris, who is better known as the narrator for many of the episodes of “Dragonball Z”.
Sombra’s new voice is done by Alvin Lee Sanders. In addition to a prolific TV and voice acting career (also from “Dragonball Z”), he provided the voice for “Flutterguy” way back in the episode “Filli Vanilli”.
Discord’s fake check for 10,000 bits(?) is made out to Twilight’s Cutie Mark. 😛
Uh-oh… Flurry Heart has learned how to use her power offensively.
Daybreaker gets a brief cameo in Twilight’s worst fears along with Nightmare Moon.
“Now that it’s destroyed, nothing can stop me!” What about the Crystal Heart? 😛
“Show me the muddy!” is a knockoff of the infamous line “Show me the money!” from the film “Jerry McQuire”. I’m hoping that quote finally finished running its course…
It may just be me, but I think the depth of Sombra’s childishness and pettiness is the black licorice fruitcake in his own honor.
Once again, we get a hint at how inept Equestria is at defending itself as it only takes one stallion to break the gates of Canterlot.
The mind-controlled minions of Sombra include the citizens from Ponyville, the Crystal Empire, and Canterlot, including individuals like Sassy Saddles and the patrons of Rarity’s boutique.
Although most of the audience believed Sombra was one of two villains who actually got killed back in Season Three, it wasn’t until this episode that it happened beyond a shadow of a doubt in a surprisingly graphic fashion for a Y-rated program. It actually looks as if the flesh is melting off of Sombra’s skull in several frames. I’m a little surprised the show’s creators got away with it past the censors.
A cameo of stain glass Discord when he yells: “I heard that!”
3 Stars out of 5