Monday, May 12, 2014

Episode Talk: S4E25-26, Twilight's Kingdom

A little different this time: no bullet points, just a big rambling mass of opinions, impressions, and (mostly) digressions.  Fair warning: I'm you-probably-shouldn't-be-in-the-same-room-as-me-right-now sick, and wrote this whole thing stream-of conscious, but if you're willing to follow my mind-meanderings, I think I've got all the important bits here.  Click below the break to see what I thought of the season four finale.

So, I'm not really a comic book guy.  It's just never something I got into.  But I have seen a fair number of comic book (i.e. superhero) movies, either with friends who were excited for this or that movie to come out, or on TV while flipping channels and looking for a diversion.  As a group, I've found that those movies aren't particularly to my taste, but there have been a few that I've enjoyed, and plenty more that were at least watchable.  By far the most painful superhero movie I've ever had to sit through, however, was The Avengers.

I've gotten in trouble for saying that before, so let me back up and explain that I don't think The Avengers was a bad movie, particularly, but that various things conspired to make it an absolute burden to watch.  First, there were the expectations; before going to see it, I was told time and again that it was the best superhero movie ever, one that even people who didn't like superhero movies would love, it was directed by the guy that did Firefly, etc.  Second, there was the fact that it was a sequel to five different movies, of which I had only seen one (Iron Man) at that point.

I refuse to take the blame for not having seen the others, by the way; nothing in the movie's advertising, or the recommendations I was getting, suggested that this movie was intended only for people who'd caught all of its forerunners, most of which weren't even advertised as necessary preludes.  If I go to see Spider Man 3, then I've got no leg to stand on if I complain about not knowing I needed to see the first two.  But The Avengers (and my friends) didn't even give me fair warning that I was already supposed to know who Samuel L. Jackson was before I came into the theater.

There are plenty more reasons, but those aren't the ones that tie into the point I'm ever-so-slowly getting to.  See, the thing that absolutely killed me about the movie was the battle toward the end.  It killed me because there's a stretch of, like, 20 minutes*--everything between when the bad guys start pouring through the rift, and when one of the good guys (I think it was the girl) realizes they've got to get the thingamabob from the top of the skyscraper--that could have been excised, in its entirety, without damaging the film in any way.  You wouldn't need to change a single line!  There's plenty more fighting after that to establish out heros' butt-kicking credentials (and more importantly, they have at least one "learn to work together" moment after that, so we're still getting a resolution on that front), there's no relevant dialogue in that section, nobody who matters gets hurt, gets important character development, or gets anything else of note, and... well, and basically nothing happens except a bunch of semi-incomprehensible CGI, devoid of even the suggestion of plot relevance or character exploration.

You may not agree with that analysis--in my experience, few people do--but the dramatic climax (not the plot climax, which involved rainbows and eye torture) of Twilight's Kingdom disappointed me for basically the same reason that the battle in The Avengers did.  When the dramatic peak of the episode is a full two minutes of explosions with no obvious function (other than to blow up the tree, I guess?  Truthfully, it didn't even occur to me to care about that one until I read a few other people's reviews.  I was too busy wondering if Owlowycious was just getting to safety, or if he just got written out of the show in the most hilariously tangential way ever)... I'll be honest, my eyes glazed over about halfway through, and I never quite got back into the episode.  Two minutes (and I did time that one) is a long time--a full tenth of an episode, dedicated to nothing worth mentioning.

But there was a bigger problem as regards my ability to enjoy the episode: there was almost nothing here that I liked.  I mean, okay, Celestia sang again (another mediocre song, but I'm pretty sure I could listen to her VA chant a grocery list and be enraptured (though while I'm on the subject, what was up with the animation on her mouth while she was singing?)), Tirek was memorable for a villain, and Discord had some good physical comedy, but I'm talking about the things that got me into this show in the first place: low-key conflicts, an earnest, uncloying sincerity, and the refreshingly unaggressive aesthetic.  Not every episode had all of those things, but not only does the finale not have them, it seems to me that it signals a turn away from those themes.  Perhaps that's necessary; I've heard people comment that there are only so many SoL conflicts the girls can have without repeating themselves (though we certainly haven't reached that points yet), and establishing Twi and company as friendship enforcers whatever they're going to be, exactly, opens up a lot of new options for the scriptwriters.

But the thing is, it's a lot of new options for a show I'm not sure I want to watch.  The overwhelming feeling I had while watching Twilight's Kingdom was "there's nothing (well, no deal-breaking thing) wrong with this episode, except that I'm not enjoying it."  It could have been an episode of Transformers, or Spongebob, or of any other show I don't care about.  It looked like a generic children's show to me, absent any of the qualities which drew me to MLP specifically.

I mean, it's not like I'm going to stop watching the show over this.  But there have been times in the last two seasons when watching the show felt like a chore; something mildly annoying that you have to make time for once a week so that you can keep doing the fun things, like reading, writing, reviewing, and taking in the other fruits of the fandom.  I get the impression that a lot of fandoms based on TV shows end up this way, but it's a new experience for me; my previous fan-interactions were all based on books, and all on books that I loved.  The fandom was me desiring more of what I loved about those books.  This isn't something I've had to deal with, before.

I know I'm jumping around here, but man, I was disappointed with how the Discord thing went down.  I thought for sure that either he was playing the long game, or that Fluttershy was going to remind him about how wonderful friendship is.  Instead, it seems he was legitimately going evil until Tirek yanked that chair out from under him, which is so much less interesting than the former and less thematically powerful than the latter.  Also, does giving up your alicorn power "in the name of friendship" really count if you know it's going to get you the key that will let you defeat the baddy?  I mean, Twilight had to know, and a sacrifice where you already know you're getting back more than you give up isn't really a sacrifice at all.

Look, this wasn't a bad episode the way that, say, Bats! was.  It may well have been the strongest two-parter to date.  But it was a disappointment to me, because it sure looks like it portends a season five with less and less of the stuff I care about, and more of the stuff I don't.  And even when we do get the "little" episodes--I'm sure we'll get yet another one next year where Dash ditches the Wonderbolts because she's loyal, and yet another episode where Fluttershy learns to be assertive--they won't be the quiet triumphs and tribulations that I most enjoyed.  They'll be set against the backdrop of RAINBOW DASH and FLUTTERSHY: FRIENDSHIP DEITIES, and the lessons will have to be tailored to that level of relevance or else they'll just be asinine.  That's fine, as far as the show's concerned.  But it's not what I, personally, want out of the show.

The finale was fine, as far as such things go.  But after watching it, I can't say I'm particularly sad to have a few months off from the show.  This is the most indifferent I've felt at the end of a season.

*Okay, if I watched it again and timed it out it would probably be more like six or something, but it felt like an eternity.  20 minutes is my good-faith but probably high estimate.


  1. Well...that's depressing. Sorry you're not enjoying the show anymore.

    Have to seriously disagree on Discord, though. The reason he went evil wasn't just because Tirek said he should; it was because he was offered companionship without limitations or compromise. He could be an evil jerk all he wanted and forever ruin everybody's day, and nobody would be threatening to stop being friends like Fluttershy did back when the season started. And it's not like the other ponies ever gave him a reason to stick around; all of them treated him with either annoyance or anger whenever he showed up.

    I dunno. It worked for me, and actually did something no other episode has done: it made me want to see Discord again.

    Not that it matters. Past experience has shown that I'm the only person on this blog who likes the season closers and most of the episodes in between.

    1. Do you not read my comments? There have been so many times where I've stated that I liked an episode. For all the faults I may find with them, I don't recall ever outright hating a single one. I mostly just worry that one day I will

      Christ, I even got this account because I typed out a lengthy defense of A Canterlot Wedding before discovering that blog didn't allow anonymous comments, and that's one of the episodes I've been most critical of!

    2. Yoohoo! Don't forget about me! I'm also the guy who likes the stuff everyone else here hates. We can form a club, us three.

  2. Thoughts are here, although I should add that I don't agree with you Chris concerning Discord. However, the following line:

    "not the plot climax, which involved rainbows and eye torture"

    Okay, that me snort and I really needed that.

  3. I'd thought Discord was playing Tirek as well, though I have to admit that would've rather expected given his behavior this past season - and not in a good way!

    What happened to the songs in this show? They're still better than the crap I hear on the Disney Channel (God, I hope my little sister grows out of that soon), but it seems the best ones are still from the first two seasons. Ingram needs to get back to what he does best: ripping off musicals

    I have mixed feelings about the battle with Tirek (how cool was it that they brought him back, by the way?). This is feeling like a very different show, and a big part of what drew me to ponies in the first place was Lauren's vision, which we've seemed to be drifting further from as time wears on. On the other hand, my inner child loved all the cool explosions! The whole thing was incredibly ridiculous in a way that I have to make fun of, yet genuinely love at the same time. It was just cool seeing Twi go all out with the wing flapping, terrain destruction and taking a hit through a goddamned mountain! Hell, even the Rainbow Power thing got me. It's stupid marketing crap I don't want anywhere near my show, but all I could think about at the time was "Holy shit, they all went SSJ3!!!"

    As far removed thematically as these episodes were from the first season, they weirdly brought back some old feelings. I often found myself asking "Did that pony just do that?!", and I definitely asked that again Saturday

    I probably won't like the direction the show's going in - though it's certainly better than Equestria Girls - and Best Night Ever's probably still my favorite finale, but I managed to enjoy myself. We're getting some good fandom fodder too, and that's always nice. Kinda reminds me of those articles in Dragon - especially those by Roger Moore - that seemed interesting but led to dramatic changes in D&D for the worse

    1. I take back what I said about the songs. I'd completely forgotten about Filli Vanilli (gee, what does that say about that episode?). My favorites are still from earlier seasons, but both songs in that episode were pretty good

  4. >not liking Avengers
    brb, discounting Chris's opinions about everything ever

    I kid. :B Really. More or less in complete disagreement with you, though. The thing that got me about this episode is that I enjoyed the whole thing. Things? I tend to treat two-parters are single episodes when discussing them. Anyway, I haven't done that since... probably Hurricane Fluttershy. It's been a solid two seasons since I was able to sit down and enjoy an episode start to finish without thinking, "Oh, but wait" or cringing or wishing they'd get on with it. This episode returned to me the feeling that I still enjoy the show. Where it will go from here is anyone's guess, and if I end up liking season 5 even less than season 4, well, it won't be this finale's fault. Or, well, maybe it will, for ratcheting up my opinion of the season overall. :V You know what I mean.

  5. I actually liked Discord in this one, and I don't think the point was to have him go completely evil. He could tell that something was up when the princesses transferred their magic, but he didn't tell Tirek. Why not? Seemed like he was playing both sides so he could end up with the winner either way and didn't commit to one until he thought the outcome was set. He had a friendship either way, or so he thought, but Tirek didn't have any strings attached. Yet what reallt hit him was that he felt utterly betrayed by Tirek, and he realized he'd done the same thing to Fluttershy. I thought it was a great development.

    I also thought it was very unclear whether Twilight knew what she was doing when she gave up her magic. Yes, she saw the rainbow colors over her friends, and if she'd stopped to think about it, she might have figured it out. But she didn't immediately head on down to get her key, so it didn't occur to her that that was her moment. It would have also meant that she would have anticipated getting a gift, and there's no way she could have predicted that Discord would have anything to give her or that he'd do it in the first place. If she did, that's a very scathing take on her attitude toward friendship.

    The reason I didn't mind the fight scene is because it showed they were evenly matched, which is much more interesting to have demonstrated than to just have the characters acknowledge it beforehand and forgo the fight altogether.

    There were a number of detailed things I didn't like, which I already went on about is Pres's blog (the two main ones being that Discord's gift and Twilight's angst at the beginning felt forced), but how dumb was Celestia to leave obvious evidence of Twilight's ascension to princess right there in the same room where she was waiting for Tirek? How would he not see that?

    Overall, though, I thought this episode wasn't bad at all, certainly better than I was expecting. But nothing will top S1 for a finale.

    1. "... Twilight's angst at the beginning felt forced"

      This. A million times this! I mean, yeah, traveling that far just to smile and wave would've been annoying, but I just wanted to smack Twi's muzzle and tell her to shut up. Maybe if we'd gotten a decent song out of it...

      Speaking of the song, did anyone else expect Luna's next line to be about the weird sore she found on her inner thigh?

    2. "I actually liked Discord in this one, and I don't think the point was to have him go completely evil. He could tell that something was up when the princesses transferred their magic, but he didn't tell Tirek. Why not? Seemed like he was playing both sides so he could end up with the winner either way and didn't commit to one until he thought the outcome was set. He had a friendship either way, or so he thought, but Tirek didn't have any strings attached. Yet what reallt hit him was that he felt utterly betrayed by Tirek, and he realized he'd done the same thing to Fluttershy. I thought it was a great development."

      I'm not so sure I'd agree. Despite the way Keep Calm and Flutter On handled his transition, I can just about buy Discord being a kind of utterly unhelpful anti-hero of sorts who makes allowances for Fluttershy, especially since he was just a fun character to watch as a result. But when Tirek persuaded him to join forces, I had to wonder why Discord hadn't already betrayed Fluttershy if it was this easy to do. Tirek's nothing to Discord, and Discord already has the experience to prevent the Princesses and the Mane Six from getting in his way if he wanted to spread chaos, so he'd know enough to prevent that more completely this time. I get Discord's supposed to be unpredictable, but he's smarter than this, isn't he?

    3. It's not about how smart he is. It's that he now values something (friendship) he never did before, but it's a new enough thing to him that he's still pretty naive about it. He didn't betray Fluttershy any earlier because he didn't have to. He'd have put that off indefinitely and even avoided it altogether if he could, but Tirek put him on the spot, and then he faced a choice of keeping one friend and accepting restrictions on his behavior or keeping another friend and doing whatever he liked.

      I wouldn't even go so far as to say Tirek's nothing to Discord. They apparently knew each other previously, so who knows what history they have?

    4. I'm totally on board with Pascoite on this one. Dissonance becoming compartmentalisation--enough to stave off the idea that he was betraying Fluttershy--is an extremely common phenomenon. Add in Discord's child-like naivety about friendship and I think it adds up just fine.

      After all, Discord has spend the season 'modelling' friendship and it's nuances. Hell, you could even say that his line 'Will I ever learn the nuances of friendship' is a kind of defensive self attack that gives him control of that which scares him most.

      Also, I'd suggest that Discord and Tirek must have some kind of history, else Discord would, as I see it, have taken his opportunity to mess Tirek up when he was knifed about befriending ponies. A repressed lord of chaos given a chance to 'go to town' on an enemy of his friends would be tough to pass up.

    5. "He'd have put that off indefinitely and even avoided it altogether if he could, but Tirek put him on the spot, and then he faced a choice of keeping one friend and accepting restrictions on his behavior or keeping another friend and doing whatever he liked."

      That was not the terms of the choice! If you watch that scene again, Tirek outright said that this was nothing to do with friendship, which he described as a prison that had forced Discord to go against his nature. What's the better thing he promises instead? "Freedom." Along with his former glory and pride in not being an "errand boy" who'll go the same way as Tirek's "feeble-minded brother".

      None of this was his to give. If Discord really wanted freedom over friendship, or just to be rid of his captors who downsized him and (potentially) strained his credibility in his own eyes, he had every chance to go wild as soon as the elements were returned to the tree of harmony twenty-three episodes ago. Tirek makes a good case for Discord to break those "chains", but no case at all for empowering him. Tirek has no cards to play, but the episode acts like he does.

      Also, in the very next episode, Discord waits until he receives a sign of goodwill from Tirek before practically letting Tirek know about Twilight. That suggests he didn't trust Tirek, at least in part, so he kept valuable information from him. But it also suggests he views this as a quid pro quo relationship: he scratches Tirek's back, and Tirek scratches his back. Again, Discord doesn't need him. Moreover, if he didn't trust Tirek to some degree, then he didn't need to take any chances in the first place, because Tirek wasn't offering friendship, only freedom. Discord might have been naive about friendship, and I might yet be persuaded on this angle, but first I think there's a difference between Discord realizing he doesn't have to be bound by friendship (if he really wants freedom), and Discord having a good reason to empower Tirek.

      I'm sure a rewrite would have helped the script: maybe Discord did have reason to suspect someone would get in his way, and Tirek was his backup/fall guy in case Discord risked ending up stoned again. But I think the situation contradicts itself as it stands.

      "I wouldn't even go so far as to say Tirek's nothing to Discord. They apparently knew each other previously, so who knows what history they have?"


      "Also, I'd suggest that Discord and Tirek must have some kind of history, else Discord would, as I see it, have taken his opportunity to mess Tirek up when he was knifed about befriending ponies. A repressed lord of chaos given a chance to 'go to town' on an enemy of his friends would be tough to pass up."

      I find this an interesting angle, and it could explain a fair amount about their interactions in that scene. I just wish the episodes had elaborated more on it, though.

    6. I've just thought: there's a simpler way this could have gone down. Tirek persuades Discord to give up friendship. Discord, realizing nothing's holding him back, goes rogue, leaving Tirek to collect pony souls unimpeded. The Princesses now have two independent problems to deal with; old Discord's back, and Tirek add fuel to the fire. While Tirek grows stronger, the Mane Six have to snap Discord out of his madness, and Discord grows more and more arrogant as he confidently thinks he's got Tirek under his control and is not threatened by him (shades of his debut appearance, showing that he's regressing, perhaps?).

      By the time Fluttershy snaps him out of it, Discord realizes too late that Tirek has already grown too strong, and they have to trick Tirek into making a mistake by having Discord and the Mane Six hatch a plan involving Discord pretending to still be on OK terms with him. That way, Chris gets Discord playing the long game AND Fluttershy reminding Discord about how wonderful friendship is. Two birds, one stone.

    7. Tirek said he wasn't offering friendship, but that doesn't mean Discord didn't interpret it that way. Why else would Discord value the gift Tirek gave him? He clearly saw it as a token of friendship. And why else would he be so devastated that Tirek double-crossed him. Angry, yes, but if it's just a business decision, that's as far as he goes. Discord was willing to accept abiding by the rules because he valued friendship so much. He could leave any time he wants if he's decided it's not worth it, especially with the elements gone now, not to mention that he had an explicit promise from Fluttershy that she wouldn't use hers against him anyway. So what does Tirek offer him that he couldn't have had anyway? In Discord's eyes, friendship and freedom. He gets to have his cake and eat it too.

      Absolutely, he didn't trust Tirek at first. That's why I said he was biding his time to see which horse (heh) to bet on.

    8. "Tirek said he wasn't offering friendship, but that doesn't mean Discord didn't interpret it that way. Why else would Discord value the gift Tirek gave him? He clearly saw it as a token of friendship."

      I think that was what the writers were going for, yes, and the "He gets to have his cake and eat it too" angle does make sense. I'm just not convinced that's what the episode actually pulls off, given that we don't get a clue that Discord views Tirek as a superior "Friend" rather than as the nice but suspicious-looking man offering him sweeties that taste better than mere friendship... sweeties Discord has already tasted and knows he could get on his own anyway.

      In answer to your questions, both cases (the necklace receiving and the betrayal) were focused on Discord making sure Tirek wouldn't backstab him once they'd gotten the next level of power, simply because he then felt confident Tirek wasn't going to backstab him in their team-up to grab more power - and of course, Discord would then get those sweeties. I think Discord's upset was a combination of being lied to, losing his powers, and realizing what a horrible thing it was he'd done to Fluttershy (hence his words echoing hers). But that was because he'd traded in friendship for freedom, only to have the second snatched from him too, leaving him realizing what he'd lost.

      Does Discord view Tirek as a friend, though? Friendship is about more than just trust issues, which apply equally well to the logic of polite but cold business transactions. My problem is that they don't indicate Discord has any actual goodwill to Tirek himself, as he was just seconds from irreverently locking the guy up again before Tirek took a dig at his pride and criticized his friendship ideals before suggesting a power-based team-up and offering Discord his pride and freedom back. At the end, he pretty much says in his speech to Twilight that the lure of something better than friendship was what blinded him to the truth, but at the beginning, the lure was identified in Tirek's rhetoric as the things I outlined above: the very things that don't demand any loyalty to Tirek in order to gain them.

    9. "But that was because he'd traded in friendship for freedom, only to have the second snatched from him too, leaving him realizing what he'd lost."

      Simply put, Discord didn't understand the value of what he was giving away until he was hit with it near the end. I don't think he transferred his friendship feelings to Tirek: he just sold his soul to the devil, so to speak, in a moment of poor judgement.

    10. Discord attached an awful lot of value to that amulet for someone who didn't see it as a token of friendship. Tirek clearly baited him by implying it was something his brother gave him, so it implied a similar relationship. This also goes toward Discords naivete in something he doesn't understand well (i.e., friendship) because they've encountered each other before, and while it's possible Discord didn't know what happened between the brothers, it's reasonable to assume he did in the absence of other evidence. He's grasping at straws, and Tirek surely knows that he gets to play both sides of the argument by saying it's not friendship while still offering Discord something that he'll interpret as such. And then when Tirek breaks the deal, Discord's hurt, not just angry. That speaks to a personal investment, not just a partnership.

    11. Discord says right after he gets the necklace: "I just needed some assurance that you truly considered this a TEAM effort... and now, I have it."

      He regards the necklace as Tirek assuring him that he won't get back-stabbed, especially given the "You meant US, right?" moment earlier, because he recognizes Tirek handing over something personal was a sign of respect. Once he has that assurance, the only reservation he expresses for his actions is that he has to betray Fluttershy when push comes to shove, and that his better-than-friendship reward through Tirek will be worth it in the end.

      Discord made an extremely poorly-judged sacrifice, with extremely high stakes, expecting something better, and lost with nothing to compensate him. Therefore, he's only got himself to blame when he gets nothing for it (would have been more powerful if he had gotten his reward and found it to be lacking in comparison, but we'll let that slide for the moment). Indeed, he only blames himself right after for throwing away what he had. That's why he tells Twilight that he realizes there's nothing better than friendship; he didn't know what he had until he lost it. (Again, would make more sense if he'd actually compared freedom to friendship, but I said I'd let that slide, and one issue at a time...)

      At least, that's the logic the dialogue puts forward. I still maintain it's inconsistent when taking in the two-parter as a whole, but that's what I think was intended.

      So isn't Discord upset because he betrayed Fluttershy and lost any kind of compensation for it - because he realized he'd been foolish enough to expect better than friendship in the first place (at least, that was probably the intention of the writers)? When he revealed his treachery to her and imprisoned her, he spoke to Fluttershy as though handing her over to Tirek was just the natural thing to do given that Tirek could give him more than she could. Yet at the same time, he couldn't actually watch as Tirek drained her and her friends. Throughout, he was relying on the promise that at least he'd get something better than friendship for all this heartache. When Tirek picked him up to drain him, Discord looks back at them just before he does it. Add that to his comments later while in the bubble about how Fluttershy was worth it and how sorry he was to lose the magic of friendship she introduced him to, and it looks to me more like he was upset simply because he screwed over his friend for nothing.

      There was a personal investment, granted, but it was to Fluttershy and to the promise of freedom, not to Tirek himself.

      Of course, the thing better than friendship was earlier established to be his own freedom, which he could have gotten on his own and tried, which brings us right back to the problems I mentioned earlier about how Discord siding with - and empowering - Tirek in the first place doesn't make sense. Also, he decides friendship is the ultimate value, but never actually got his promised reward, so he never got to make the comparison, but that's a different issue, I said...

      MINOR NOTE: I don't think Tirek was implying his brother gave it to him. He openly disparaged his brother early on in the episode, and only mentioned that the necklace was from someone "very dear" to him. The fact that it was his brother's was the big bombshell he dropped on Discord after the betrayal. You can see for yourself here:

      (Sorry, I don't know how to add a hyperlink into the comments). :-(

    12. At this point, we'll just have to agree to disagree. I don't follow your logic at all.

    13. At the risk of unnecessary necromancy:

      I think the back and forth can be summed up with a fairly simple middle ground. Tirek convinces Discord to sacrifice his friendship in a bid for freedom, citing the restrictions of a mutual relationship as a sort of cage. Once he's betrayed Fluttershy and been betrayed in return, he has first-hand experience of why the 'cage' analogy isn't true--as annoying as some of the restrictions are, it's a choice he's willing to make in exchanged for being cared for. All he had to do was realise he had freedom to begin with and his reaction makes perfect sense.

    14. Works for me. n.n

    15. My issue was simply this:

      The elements are gone, and Fluttershy promised not to use hers anyway. So Discord already had freedom whenever he wanted it. But he'd decided:
      Fluttershy's friendship > absolute freedom

      And Tirek is offering absolute freedom? Has to be something more in the mix, at least in Discord's eyes, or the math doesn't work out.

    16. I don't think it follows that, while Discord had freedom, he understood/felt that he had freedom. The childish idea of freedom is to be able to do whatever the hell he damn well want with no consequences. Discord, as we see him pre-reformation, is still in this state. In the sense that, like a child, he has to learn by action and reaction (consequence), Discord takes the easy option where he gets to be 'free' in the way that he was used to—just like Spike eating too much ice-cream even though he'd pay for it later. Discord doesn't have the empathy to understand how other people will react.

      Since Discord has not learned deferral of gratification yet, his actions are entirely consistent. You can't compare him to a mature mindset and expect the result to be meaningful. Think of Discord as originally representing the kind of playground bully that, from the victim's point of view, is just doing whatever the hell he wants. From a more mature point of view, we know--I hope--that such is not the case at all: the bully is responding to his own needs, insecurities, and fears, just as Discord is here.

  6. The number of people in the comments here supporting this episode is kind of surprising to me, but I won't complain. I also really loved this episode. I'd even go so far as to say it might be my favourite of the 'event' episodes. Not sure. Could be. Definitely top three. It was fun, I really liked Discord in it, Tirek was a great villain, and because it had more time to develop it didn't have many of the same issues as last year's finale, such as pacing problems or things left unexplained. My only real complaint was the rainbow power designs, which were admittedly stupid-looking. I've never minded the toy-bait in the show before, but it was never this blatant until now. Aside from that, I was pretty satisifed.

    I do get your complaints, though. I've personally never thought that the change we're seeing is a bad thing, because I appreciate the show for all its elements, but believe me, I do understand not caring for the way things are looking right now. Different people can like the same things for different reasons. That was an epiphany I arrived at a few months back, and it's something I've always kept in mind since.

    That said, not liking the Avengers movie is tantamount to heresy, and when we one day meet on the field of battle, I hope you understand that I am honour-bound to destroy you. Nothing personal.

    Oh, and by the way, Chris? I said back when you posted your rant about Bats! that I was certain they were going somewhere with the stinger you were complaining so much about.

    I believe my exact words were:

    "Specifically because while you believe that it's just damaging the continuity of future episodes and such, I really don't believe that it's all pointless. With just the sheer quantity of stinger endings we've had this season in such a short time, I refuse to believe that it's not building up to something. These have a narrative purpose. I'm certain of it. If I'm wrong, you can all feel free to come back and tell me to eat my own hat, and I'll freely admit that all the stingers are just as pointless and stupid as you say they are. Right now though, I'm going to say to wait and see."

    Well, the season finale has come and gone, and no sign of a callback or any significance to Flutterbat, so I'm going to abide by my words. You were right. The stinger was pointless and stupid. I'm sorry.

    1. No reason she can't come back next season. I wonder if they did that to encourage Flutterbat fanfiction?

      Am I the only person here who hasn't seen The Avengers? I'm so behind on superhero films

    2. I haven't seen that movie either. I'm not much of a movie person to begin with, but with a toddler around the house, it just becomes more trouble than it's worth. I think the only time I've gone to the theater in the last 5 years was to see MIB 3.

    3. Forgot they made a third one. I think the last film I saw in theaters was either Despicable Me or Toy Story 3, both with my little sister. Even worse, my last movie date was back in 2008! Now I need a bucket of ice cream :(

    4. Someone somewhere pointed out that the fang Fluttershy gets is on the opposite side as Discord's fang.

      This is indicative of absolutely nothing and I don't know why I brought it up.

  7. Man, finally someone else who has some issues with this finale. The plot contrivances were just too numerous for me to deal with. I actually thought Part One was a good set up, but Part Two did not deliver in a way that satisfied me.

    1. I didn't find Part One entirely satisfying. Partway through, it occurred to me that this whole mess could have been sorted before Season Two even ended. Cerberus wanders away from Tartarus for a day, a place filled with evil creatures, and no one noticed that Tirek had escaped until what must have been several months later? Equestria's security has more holes in it than swiss cheese...

    2. I didn't find it entirely satisfying, but I didn't think that it had so many significant problems that I couldn't enjoy it. Part Two did. I've talked about it to death on my Fimfic blog, so I'll avoid clogging up Chris's comment section here, but almost every major plot point in Part Two is flawed, in my opinion.

    3. I believe it would be customary to take this moment to reflect upon ancient wisdom and point out: "So's your face."

    4. I've just had a look at your blog.

      Whoa, you really did not like the second half, did you? And to be honest, while I don't dislike it THAT much, I have to admit most of the interesting stuff was in the first half of the two-parter.

    5. But my flaws are endearing, M. That episode, not so much.

    6. @ Anonymous. No, I did not like it very much. It wasn't quite Bats!, which I loathe, but if felt that they set up a good episode and then fell back onto the laziest writing to pull try and pull it off. It a problem with the writing staff. They write scripts that are too complicated for their epic moments. Then they don't have the screen time to pull the script off and they start cramming stuff. It's sloppy.

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  9. I should really read over my comments first before posting them with loads of spelling mistakes :(


    Disagree with you over Discord – I thought he was one of the few things that actually worked. I mean, I never brought his brought his transformation from evil to good back in season 3. But here, it genuinely felt he had turned over a new leaf. It was very sweet. Very touching.

    Which isn’t something I can say for much of the rest of the story. Twilight was especially annoying. It was one thing for her to feel useless in her role as a princess – in fact, entirely understandable when you consider the massive fuss made over her becoming an alicorn. But then the way she mopes around sulking after being told not to go after Tirek, as though it’s her and her friend’s God given right (Celestia given?) to be the only ponies allowed to save Equestria… it was kind of insufferable. And you would have thought that after learning all there is to know about friendship, she would have had enough faith in Celestia, Luna, and Cadence to know that they weren’t just messing with her head when they said that one day she’d find her purpose.

    I loved the fight scene – I’m a sucker for stuff like that – but otherwise for most of the finale the stakes seemed curiously lacking given that the fate of Equestria was hanging in the balance. Up until the fight, Ponyville didn’t seem to be affected *at all*. Not even slightly. Not even a smidgeon.

    Perhaps if the pegasus ponies losing their magic caused, I dunno, endless storms or something instead of perpetual sunlight? (The way it read in the show, it was like nothing had changed and it was a lovely day). But all we get are a few shots of Tirek stealing magic in strange places we aren’t that familiar with. When the changelings invaded Canterlot it felt urgent and alarming because we had spent two seasons falling in love with the city. Here, up until near the end, the danger felt incredibly distant. Generic backstreet alleys. Random theatre somewhere. Tiny Earth pony town. Some field that looked just the same as every other field.

    Am I making sense here? Maybe I would’ve felt differently if the locations had been bigger, or if Tirek had ever felt like anything more than just another Saturday morning cartoon villain.

    I hate, hate, haaaate sounding so negative about a show I love so much. This season has produced some absolutely outstanding episodes. But overall, like yourself, I feel that watching it can be a real chore nowadays. And I loathe myself for saying this since I realise that the show was inevitably going to evolve… but I miss season 1 and 2 with all its small scale conflicts. Not that season 4 has been lacking in that sort of thing, but then again, everything has been getting LOUDER and BIGGER. In season 1 and 2, the mane 6 were a nice, normal bunch of friends who just happened to wield the elements of harmony. Now they are THE KNIGHTS OF FRIENDSHIP lording it over Ponyville in their giant CASTLE OF FRIENDSHIP siting around the ROUND TABLE OF FRIENDSHIP where they will presumably SPREAD FRIENDSHIP ACROSS THE LAND and make DECLARATIONS OF FRIENDSHIP upon their THRONES OF FRIENDSHIP.

    Egh. Give me Best Night Ever anytime.

    1. "Tiny Earth pony town."

      That was Appleloosa. Didn't you see Braeburn in among the cowponies being rounded up?

    2. "In season 1 and 2, the mane 6 were a nice, normal bunch of friends who just happened to wield the elements of harmony. Now they are THE KNIGHTS OF FRIENDSHIP lording it over Ponyville in their giant CASTLE OF FRIENDSHIP siting around the ROUND TABLE OF FRIENDSHIP where they will presumably SPREAD FRIENDSHIP ACROSS THE LAND and make DECLARATIONS OF FRIENDSHIP upon their THRONES OF FRIENDSHIP."

      I doubt it. Princess Twilight was supposed to be a game changer, and apart from the two-parters, you'd barely notice the difference beyond the fact they now animate her with wings. Her role in the two-parters is still to fight bad guys with the power of friendship, exactly how she started out (but with flashier weapons now). I don't think this'll be any different. I can't imagine Applejack, Fluttershy, or Twilight doing anything other than returning to their previous lives as farmer, animal caretaker, and (if the castle has one) librarian respectively.

      And I know the show played it down all the way back to the Nightmare Moon debacle, but all this finale does is emphasize what's always been there; they were singled out as special protectors of the realm above others. The whole Everfree forest obstacle course was essentially about selecting them for that role even before they reached the castle. Of course they're going to get rewards and praise for it, even if they aspire to anonymity and humble living. In some two-parters, they and Celestia seem to be the only ones capable of dealing with the disasters by default.

      What's really changed beyond their getting some fancier "medals" and stuff for it? Their whole schtick in the two-parters has been the same ever since: ancient threat looms; Twilight faces difficulties in the first half (usually that put a strain on her friendships); their dark moment turns around with some key realization; Power of Insert-Strong-Relationship-Bond-Here effortlessly beats villain; thank you/you did good, Mane Six; cue slice-of-life stories, with occasional little adventure.

      I don't think the slice-of-life stories (episodes 3 to 24) have changed that much, either. Mix them in with the ones from Seasons 2 and 3, and apart from Twilight's wings and the rainbow-flash-in-the-eyes moments, could you tell the difference?

      I don't think the show has changed all that much beyond occasional experiments, such as darker enemies and more exotic locales.

    3. “That was Appleloosa. Didn't you see Braeburn in among the cowponies being rounded up?”

      Still amounts to the same thing. Tirek’s taking over the whole world and nothing can stand in his way! So why not show him taking over somewhere big like Canterlot and demonstrate how powerful and unstoppable he’s becoming? Or show him taking over Ponyville, where the audience has developed an emotional connection with lots of the background characters who we see week after week? Either would’ve had a greater impact than some tiny backwater town featured mainly in one episode from several years ago and thirty seconds of one S4 episode. Bronies love Braeburn, but I’m guessing that the show’s main target audience scarcely give him a second thought.

      “Their whole schtick in the two-parters has been the same ever since.”

      I guess that’s probably my main problem with the finale – for me, the formula is starting to become stale. Although I’ll admit I watched it again earlier, and I enjoyed it a lot more the second time round. The Twilight stuff annoys me, but the Discord/Fluttershy storyline makes up for it.

      “Mix them in with the ones from Seasons 2 and 3, and apart from Twilight's wings and the rainbow-flash-in-the-eyes moments, could you tell the difference?”

      I think I could though. The difference is subtle but it’s there. Emotional moments feel more heavily underlined, the rainbow-flash-in-the-eyes moments being a good example of this.

      The change isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I don’t think the Weird Al episode would’ve have fit into season 1 yet it was a joy from start to finish. It’s just… different. There’s no way that season 1 Twilight would have had a Dragonball Z style smackdown with a giant monster, yet here we are 4 seasons in and hardly anyone’s questioning it. And the more time passes, the further the show drifts away from how quiet and low key season 1 was.

      Season 5 will have some utterly brilliant moments and I’ll be there for them. But no matter how they approach it, Applejack will still be a farmer with a Friendship Throne; Twilight will still be a librarian, but also a princess, and one with a library made out of magical crystals. These aren’t *huge* changes, nevertheless they make the show’s tone inherently different to what it was before – it was easy to ignore the Elements of Harmony considering they were locked away and rarely mentioned, but it’s harder to ignore Twilight’s wings and her giant castle.

    4. "... the show’s main target audience scarcely give him a second thought."

      Given what went down in the finale, it kinda feels like we've become the show's main target audience, which would explain my mixed feelings about it

      Speaking of Braeburn, I find myself loving him more and more over time. Seems he's who I want to read most about nowadays

  10. I, too, may have had a thing or two to say about the finale on my own blog post.

    It may be slightly more ranty and profanity-laden than most, but since we're playing show and tell...

    You know what single thing could have redeemed it all so easily for me, though? If Twilight had been shown to think that maybe Spike has still been in the library when it went boom. That would be a DBZ-style rage-fuelled beatdown I could get behind.

    Oh well.

    1. You know, that would have been amazing. It certainly wouldn't have redeemed the whole episode, but it would have made that fight more engaging .

    2. Oh God, yes! That would've been absolutely perfect. I'd think she'd have tried to save him like she did with Owlowiscious, but there wasn't much time and she wouldn't have found him if he wasn't there

      Now that I think about it, even focusing more on her home during part one would've been great. A little scene about her memories there or whatever just to set things up for its eventual destruction