Lo I the man, whose Muse whylome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shephards weeds,
Am now enforst a farre vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds:
And sing of Knighs and Ladies gentle deeds,
Whose praises hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broade emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.
Thus begins Edmund Spenser’s epic Elizabethan poem, the Faerie Queene. In it, we have six books with protagonists who represent six virtues engaging in symbolical quests in faerieland. Spenser was originally going to have another six books dedicated to political virtues, but never got around to them – which is fine, because the poem as it stands is already one of the most imposing pillars of English lit.
What has this to do with My Little Pony? Well, in this episode we find our heroes setting off into the Everfree forest to collect the six elements of harmony (five of which correspond to the virtues of honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity and loyalty; the sixth is unknown) so that they can defeat Nightmare Moon. Along the way they engage in six encounters directly representing those virtues.
First Encounter: Everyone takes a tumble, Twilight winds up dangling off of a cliff, and needs to trust Applejack’s words in order to be saved. Already we’re off to a bad start – in order for a virtue to be proven, it needs to be tested. But there would be no reason for Applejack to be tempted to lie here unless she for some reason wanted Twilight dead. So for the sake of consistency we’ll run with the headcannon that Twilight inadvertently violated some sort of Apple family taboo, or discovered some ghastly secret; thus her death is the only way to ensure the family’s honor is protected.
Yeah, let’s go with that.
Second Encounter: The gang runs into a manticore. It cannot be defeated by force, but is pacified by Fluttershy’s kindness. You see, the manticore’s only angry because it has a barb stuck in one of its paws. The situation is a bit like one of those point-and-click adventure moments where you’re supposed to make wild guesses until you happen to blindly stumble upon the correct solution.
Third Encounter: Scary looking trees? Pinkie Pie saves the day by giving the show’s first (somewhat underwhelming) musical number about laughing off scary things. Redeemed somewhat by Twilight and Rarity’s exasperated commentary.
Fourth Encounter: Steven Magnet has half of his mustache lopped off, and his uncontrollable sobbing is making the river uncrossable. Rarity solves the problem by lopping off part of her tail and transplanting it to his face. And you thought the only use of horse hair was for violin bows.
Fifth Encounter: Rainbow Dash runs into the Shadowbolts, the dark and edgy expies of the Wonderbolts, who try to convince her to ditch her friends in favor of them. Dash, being familiar with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, knows that that way madness lies. So she decides to remain loyal to her friends.
Sixth Encounter: Our heroes arrive at the old, abandonned castle of the Princesses and find five of the elements. Nightmare Moon promptly shows up, separates Twilight from the rest of her friends, and smashes the elements. After a despair moment, Twilight realizes that her newfound friends actually embody the five elements. When they are reunited, the elements of harmony are re-forged as necklaces, with Twilight receiving the sixth element – magic – as a crown. Then they rainbow-blast Nighmare with the magic of friendship (see what they did there?)
Princess Celestia shows up and explains that she Planned This All Along, which reinforces the batman gambit theory I discussed in the previous installment. Then, she tearfully reunites with Princess Luna, who has been restored to normal form.
Back in town there’s a big celebration, and Celestia commissions Twilight to spend time in Ponyville researching the magic of friendship.
Honestly (har har), this episode is….so so. The whole two parter is just ok. It serves its purpose of setting up the show decently enough, and that’s about it. What is most interesting about it are the creatures the heroes run into: the Manticore, Steven Magnet, et al. When the animators branch out from just doing ponies, the results are usually pretty cool.
Now: a real ex-English major recapper would have written this recap in Spenserian stanzas. But alas, I am not at that level. Yet.