"The Crystal Empire"
(The Season 3 Premiere, Episodes 1 and 2)
After the acclaimed season two finale (A Canterlot Wedding) aired, the anticipation of FiM's third season was super lofty. Bronies and Pegasisters grew a tad concerned when it was announced that the third season would consist of only thirteen episodes instead of the usual twenty-six total per season though. The wait for new episodes ended, with the airing of the two parter premiere episode "The Crystal Empire".
The episode begins with Twilight Sparkle being summoned to Canterlot by Princess Celestia to tackle a test, but her true task isn't what she expected. Celestia asks Twilight to discover a method for protecting the Crystal Empire: a cursed (for 1,000 years) vanished now reappeared kingdom. King Sombra, a black hearted demonic unicorn, free from his arctic prison of the north, has his eyes set on reclaiming the Crystal Empire for his own. Princess Celestia explains that "if the empire is filled with hope and love, those things are reflected throughout all of Equestria". But if King Sombra's hatred and fear take hold, it'll spread and consume the land. Also, before Twilight Sparkle leaves, Celestia tells her, "But, Twilight, in the end, ultimately, it must be you and you alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadence and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the empire."
Also, jeez, Princess Luna, seriously, what's with this look?
U mad sis? Um, anyways, that's not how you inspire confidence, yeesh.Eh heh heh, no pressure Twi...
Worth particularly noting is the scene that takes place before Twilight enters the castle. It shows Princess Celestia reassuring her younger sister Princess Luna that "she will succeed at her task", bringing her one step closer to "being ready." Clarity of which she (Princess Cadence, Twilight Sparkle) Celestia is referring to is never revealed. Strange huh?
The Crystal Empire was penned by writer Megan McCarthy, the one responsible for the animated show's what I consider the "best episode ever" to date for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The narrative's interesting, the Twilight Sparkle driven story steadily moves along, plus the appropriate surrounded by snow crystalline looking Crystal Empire and its depressed amnesia afflicted inhabitants are really something to behold as well. This is a part of Equestria I'd enjoy exploring sometime again soon.
The essential lesson for viewers learned from The Crystal Empire episode is peachy too. I'm not revealing it here, pfft. Check it out, even Twilight's older brother Shining Armor and his wife Princess Cadence suitably appear to offer their assistance, fittingly playing their specific roles in the episode. Still, the fate of The Crystal Empire and Equestria rests with Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie.
Like the beloved A Canterlot Wedding episode, sprinkled in amidst the terrible situation the Mane Six are dealing with are some humorous character-centric moments. For example, the ponies are tasked with gathering information and each one has a very different approach on how to accomplish this: Pinkie Pie's and Fluttershy's methods completely stand out the most, ha ha. Imagine Fluttershy jousting against Rainbow Dash. You picturing that? Well, that hilariously happens during this episode.
Furthermore, composer and song-writer Daniel Ingram's songs include: Twilight Sparkle expressing her doubts about her current test she's been given despite every spell and whatnot she knows and the history of the Crystal Empire ("The Ballad of the Crystal Empire). One named "The Failure Song" features Twilight highlighting her talents and impressive intelligence, yet, the song despondently ends with her still not convinced she can handle saving the Crystal Empire from the dastardly King Sombra. That's my favorite one in the episode. In fact, Twilight Sparkle's "The Failure Song" bring to mind the undercurrent melancholy melody "Be Our Guest" song from Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991).
For the anthropomorphized residents of the Beast's castle and the Beast himself, Belle represents their final hope. To make Belle feel welcome after being imprisoned there forever, Luminere and company sing "Be Our Guest", an outwardly mirthful song that reeks of abjectness and pure desperation underneath it. Similarly, Twilight represents the lone hope for all of Equestria, even if she doesn't believe it or have faith in her own abilities. Twilight Sparkle's "The Failure Song" is about Twilight showcasing her polished skills and voicing crippling uncertainties she's feeling, that's being accompanied with rosy sounding music.
For season one, Nightmare Moon served her cheesy and traditional bad guy position excellently. Then for the start of season two, the quirky and droll villain Discord was quite a step-up from her. By the conclusion of that season, Queen Chrysalis absolutely took the spotlight from both of them: being presented as an equally forsaken, sympathetic, callous, and tantalizing antagonist, earning her the rank of fan favorite in the process. There's been evident evolution for the series' baddies. That is until an insipid Sombra came onscreen recently, argh.
Sadly, King Sombra is a pathetic devolution. Sure, his intimidating construction screams, "I'm evil! Ah ha ha ha!" However, with little backstory given and virtually no lines spoken, King Sombra's too generic comparatively which is a darn shame considering how nicely put together the remainder of the episode is. He might as well of been standing evilly still, yep, that's the extent of what his character did. I suppose concerning King Sombra, McCarthy aimed for a subtle bad guy since the previous two (Discord and Queen Chrysalis respectively) had been the inverse. Unfortunately, it simply does not work in the slightest.
He's just basically a nearly silent devious looking statue.Is King Sombra at least powerful? Nope! He's trounced mega effortlessly! In short, I HATE King Sombra. This vapid shadow weakens the entire Crystal Empire episode.
Ultimately, minus its blah snoretastic villain, "The Crystal Empire" is an overall gilt-edged standalone episode. It is a stable of crucial elements (emotions, conflict, wit, and pleasure): a crackerjack promise of what's to come for the rest of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's third season. Man, I wish King Sombra had been a better villain though.
P.S. What's the significance of this black book with swirls and stars on it seen at the end of the episode? It only enhances the mystery of the earlier conversation seen and what in Equestria is Twilight Sparkle or Princess Candence being prepped for. Enigmas are fun.
"Too Many Pinkie Pies"
Season 3, Episode 3
A genuine addict when it comes to fun, Pinkie Pie has a problem: she has to choose ("I have to choose?!") which friends to hang out, missing out on fun happening with her other pony friends in Ponyville. And that's not okey dokey lokey at all. By using a legendary magic mirror pond hidden within Everfree Forest, she's able to duplicate herself, guaranteeing she'll never miss any fun times with anypony. However, when the numerous replicated Pinkie Pies begin to destructively and annoyingly overtake Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle has to put a stop to her fun roaming clones. However, if Twilight can't figure out which Pinkie Pie is the partying original, the true Pinkie Pie could be lost forever.
Won't the real Pinkie Pie please stand up, please stand up? I'm such a sucker for Pinkie Pie focused episodes. The very notion that Pinkie Pie can't stand to sacrifice fun and unintentionally greedily desires as much as possible, makes me chuckle. I totally lost it when the original Pinkie Pie even began to doubt who she was. Referencing the the retro My Little Pony cartoon series was an unexpected visual gag! The concept of having duplicates is so overdone, it seems like every animated series is obligated to have one. Yet, the fact that they're Pie copies alone alters and subverts a very cliched plot. And how Twilight Sparkle figures out which Pinkie's the original is soooo hilarious.
In a nutshell, I adore this episode.
"One Bad Apple"
Season 3, Episode 4
After the Cutie Mark Crusaders meet Babs Seed, Apple Bloom's timid and meek cousin visiting from Manehattan (she speaks with a heavy Bronx accent), they're all smiles. But, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle quickly and rudely discover that Babs' submissiveness is a front: since she's a bully, just like the rotten to the core Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon that make fun of them at their school. However, once Babs seizes the CMC's clubhouse, the three decide to get even with her.
The song "Babs Seeds" manages to superlatively actuate the plot with Promethean meticulosity by infusing it with intoxicating visuals and a wide range of comedic moments. Its catchy musical composition makes it hard to resist too. It'll get stuck in your head. This has happened to me. Often.
As someone who was bullied, I can identify with Babs Seed. She constantly victimizes the Cutie Mark Crusaders to avoid being bullied, again (she was bullied in Manehattan for not having a cutie mark). In my experience, when I...Shamefully struck back against those that bullied me, no good came from it. I became incredibly distraught with tears in my eyes reflecting on the mean counterattack I had done. From that day forward, I've made sure not to bully anypony nor viciously return fire on those that bullied me either. It makes you feel terrible inside. Honestly, that is one of my biggest regrets, in my entire life. Nonetheless, I do understand Babs Seed's logic though, even if it isn't correct. Which is probably why her character has struck such a sonorous chord with me.
Written by Cindy Morrow, "One Bad Apple", is an important episode with a fitting message for both adults and kids alike. The thing is that the act of bullying, in all its forms (physical, cyber, and psychological) is never ever fine. Retaliation in a similar manner to a bully begets almost always more fierce and extreme bullying in response to your own bullying.
Not since the season two episode "Read It and Weep" (also written by Cindy Morrow and one of my favorites) is an episode that dealt with the significance and the power of reading, have I loved a message as strongly. Especially since it is so universal and widespread. Man, bullying is a real and serious issue that humans have to unfortunately deal with. Thank you for effectively tackling a current problem sadly on the rise My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
Season 3, Episode 5
"Magic Duel," featured the vengeful return of "The Great and Powerful Trixie", a braggart traveling magician unicorn pony that speaks and refers to herself in third person. After being humiliated by Twilight Sparkle in her first appearance ("Boast Busters", Season 1, Episode 6), a more powerful with magic Trixie comes back to Ponyville casting all kinds of spells on everypony until Twilight Sparkle agrees to duel with her. The loser shall be exiled from Ponyville forever.
Trixie terrorizing Ponyville lead to lots of hysterical (and some strange) visual jokes. Rarity wearing the wrong colors. The horror! And how Fluttershy's character is portrayed and utilized during the episode is the most humorous though. Hey, more Star Wars references. In fact, I was surprised and completely floored by some of the stuff that happens during this episode. "Magic Duel" is another interesting episode from an animated series that's strength absolutely comes from its engaging and creative storytelling, among other things: humor, tone shifts, characterization, balance, and etc.
"Sleepless in Ponyville"
Season 3, Episode 6
If you who the character Scootaloo is, I'd advise skipping the first two paragraphs.
"Sleepless in Ponyville" is a FiM episode where the spotlight is entirely on Cutie Mark Crusader Scootaloo: a plucky and brash young orange Pegasus pony that cannot completely fly yet nor comprehends how to. Like her fellow Cutie Mark Crusader ponies (Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Babs Seed, respectively), Scootaloo hasn't earned her cutie mark either. Scootaloo is the only CMC pony not related to any of the Mane 6 characters. Scootaloo is capable of using her wings (propulsion) when she's riding her hallmark scooter, allowing her perform a variety of sensational moves and tricks while on it. However, she can hover with her wings. Sometimes.
Introduced as a primary character in the season 1 episode, "Call of the Cutie", Scootaloo unquestionably idolizes Rainbow Dash. She's very curious about how Dash, "the coolest pony in Ponyville", got her cutie mark ("The Cutie Mark Chronicles") and excitedly volunteers to be Rainbow's assistant ("Owl's Well That Ends Well"). On top of that, Scootaloo chairs the "Official Rainbow Dash Fan Club in Ponyville", exulting Dash's "awesomeness" whilst wearing a rainbow-colored wig (along with Snips) in the season 2 episode "The Mysterious Mare Do Well".
"Sleepless in Ponyville" is about Scootaloo camping with Applejack, Apple Bloom, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, and most importantly, her idol Rainbow Dash (who she's sharing a tent with). Rainbow frightens the CMC with her scary campfire stories (olden pony, headless horse) during the trip. Scootaloo included. Not wanting Dash to think she's a chicken, Scootaloo pretends to be courageous while, like a dodo, poking fun at her pony friends Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle in the process. After waking up from having her first nightmare (the designs of the frightening trees resemble the ones from the "Friendship Is Magic, Part 2" episode, specifically seen during Pinkie Pie's "Giggle at the Ghosties" song), Scootaloo keeps herself awake by rocking back and forth, humming anxiously to herself (a homage to Bart fearing his clown-themed bed from The Simpsons episode, "Lisa's First Word", maybe?).
Because spending night in the woods wasn't terrifying enough for kids. Tales of terror are required, yeah. NOT! Having personally and regrettably experienced equally abominable and vivid nightmares before the age of 10, Scootaloo recoiling and letting her imagination irrationally magnify her fear: it is undeniably believable and gorgeously on display during "Sleepless in Ponyville". How the mental state of her character deteriorates throughout the episode is exceptionally magnificent too. Which leads to some extremely funny exhausted and terrified Scootaloo moments, heh.
Additionally, the witty usage of hypocritical humor (asks if Scootaloo snores but we found out Dash is a snorer herself) with Rainbow Dash was a delightful unforeseen touch. Rarity's idea of "camping" is quite hilarious. Sweetie Belle's tuneless and lacking rhythm song she sings is very droll. Upon finishing, she passes instantly out. *Laughs loudly* The surprisingly placement of Princess Luna (she's a non-killing version of the famous horror icon Freddy Krueger. That's freaking awesome!) worked preposterously well, taking into account what short screen-time she had. Once the truth is ultimately revealed by Scootaloo, there's lots of feels and junk. Especially concerning the ending (insert a collective "awwwww" from the audience here).
"Wonderbolts Academy" Season 3, Episode 7
Following the previous exemplary Rainbow Dash focused episode "Read It and Weep" from Season 2 is a daunting task. Writer Merriwether Williams ("The Mysterious Mare Do Well", "Hearth's Warming Eve") took on the rugged challenge by penning this episode which is about Rainbow Dash getting one hoof closer to achieving her coveted dream since the series started: to finally become a Wonderbolt! Using a plot line resembling Top Gun's (1986), with a twist.
At the Academy, Rainbow Dash befriends a competitive pegasus that loves flying named Lighting Dust. Lighting Dust's mane looks like Iceman's haircut. Whenever her character flies, she leaves behind a blue and yellow thunderbolt streak akin to RD's rainbow one and the Wonderbolts' trail of lighting clouds.
After Wonderbolts captain Spitfire forces the cadets to endure the Dizzitron ("This machine will make you very, I repeat, VERY dizzy."), each of them are split into pairs consisting of a lead pony and a wingpony. Rainbow Dash and Lighting Dust become a team, but Rainbow is given the wingpony position, causing her to confront Spitfire about her decision. Spitfire responds she believes that the two of them together would make be "unstoppable team", coercing Rainbow Dash to ask why she wasn't bestowed with the lead pony position. Spitfire then tells her she gave Lightning Dust the lead position because Lightning Dust "likes to push herself, a little more so than Rainbow Dash does." Understanding Spitfire's explanation, RD leaves her office, still disappointed.
Back in Ponyville, in a continuity nod to Pinkie Pie having her faith in friendships easily shaken (see "Party of One" and "Too Many Pinkie Pies"), she has been sitting by the mailbox at Sugar Cube Corner (knackered and disheveled) checking it every few seconds for a letter from Rainbow Dash...Even though it has been only three days since Rainbow left. She is apprehensive that Rainbow Dash will forget all about her after not seeing her for one whole week. This leads to the funniest sequence in the episode during an exchange between Applejack and Pinkie Pie. Voice actor Andrea Libman absolutely wowed me with her vocals at this part.
Pinkie Pie: "Wait! If I'm not here when Rainbow Dash's letter arrives, I won't be able to read it right away, and if I don't read it right away I won't be able to write her back right away, and if I don't write her back right away, she might think I didn't get her letter and then she might worry about loss and then she's worried about her letter, she'll be distracted and if she's distracted then she won't do well in the Academy and if she doesn't do well in the Academy, then she'll get kicked out and if she gets kicked out she'll never get to be a Wonderbolt and if she never gets to be a Wonderbolt all her dreams will be crushed! And it'll be ALL. MY. FAULT!"
Applejack: "So... in other words, you're stickin' by the mailbox."
Pinkie Pie: "Yup."
I died from laughing so hard.
Ultimately, the episode "Wonderbolts Academy" is an inversion of the movie Top Gun: Lighting Dust fulfills the role of the reckless Maverick while Rainbow Dash plays the role of Goose's character, by being loyal (Loyalty is her Element of Harmony), but, tentative when following Lighting Dust's lead. At the same time she tries over and over again to rein in her froward flight leader, without success. Rainbow Dash is shown to be more caring, wary, and responsible in the episode "Wonderbolts Academy", compared to earlier in the series. On top of that, she shows humility by swallowing her pride (character development!) and accepting her wingpony position while giving it her best. Additionally, Rainbow Dash questions if she still has any interest in pursuing her dream, due to how Lighting Dust's headstrong behavior in the Academy isn't being reprimanded nor punished. Spitfire's role seems to be an amalgamation of both Charlie and Viper (even though one of her subordinates is evidently modeled after him from the Top Gun motion picture). I won't give away the conclusion of the episode.
If it isn't obvious, "Wonderbolts Academy" is one of my top episodes from this season.
"Apple Family Reunion"Season 3, Episode 8
"Apple Family Reunion" is an uplifting Friendship Is Magic episode. Applejack, in charge of preparing and planning the Apple Family Reunion was too darn determined to fashion something uber grandiose and memorable instead of focusing on the important whatnot. Hey Babs Seed. Sometimes, amidst the holidays, an event or family activity can overshadow what matters most: simply hanging out, bonding, and etc. Well, this backfires...AWFULLY and hilariously.
This episode is especially notable because AJ gets to sing her first solo song, "Raise This Barn". This is intriguing since Applejack's (and Rainbow Dash's) voice actor is Ashleigh Ball, the lead singer of the Canadian indie pop band Hey Ocean! This might be the Southern in me talking, but I relished every secondof the "Raise This Barn" song. Also, check out Granny Smith when she was younger! That's never been seen before.
"Apple Family Reunion" is written by Cindy Morrow, the genius behind "Winter Wrap Up" (Season 1), "Read It and Weep" (Season 2), and "One Bad Apple" (Season 3). "Read" and "One Bad" remain two of my all-time top FiM episodes because of their messages, tone, swerval execution, and visuals. She's currently my second favorite writer for the animated show, just a slight shade behind the mind-blowing works of Meghan McCarthy ("Canterlot Wedding Part 1 and 2", "Party of One", and "Lesson Zero").
"Spike At Your Service"
Season 3, Episode 9
Last season, Spike was the main character of two episodes: "Secret of My Excess" and "Dragon Quest". Before that, Twilight Sparkle's baby dragon assistant starred in the episode "Owl's Well That Ends Well", an episode that revealed how destructive the emotion of envy can be. "Secret of My Excess" dealt with Spike being greedy and the monstrous consequences of his actions. The later episode "Dragon Quest" had Spike question his own identity and embark on the Great Dragon Migration to solve the query.
I like Spike, I just... I've never been fond enough of any episodes that revolve around him: with the exception of "Secret of My Excess". In fact, "Dragon Quest" is my least favorite FiM episode to date, even with its dandy lesson attached to it. What is it about Spike protagonist episodes...? Why don't make they as much as an impact? I'm not sure precisely honestly. The character of Spike isn't dull, so, I don't know.
In "Spike At Your Service", after Applejack saves him from the Timberwolves of Everfree Forest, Spike, following the Dragon Code of Honor, pledges to serve AJ for the rest of his life. This includes Spike stopping his assistant duties for Twilight Sparkle. Well, to Applejack's chagrin, Spike's help isn't that helpful at all.
Ultimately, for me, this is probably the strongest Spike episode of the animated series (so far). However, the reason I can type that is not because of Spike though. I can type that due to the roles Applejack and the remaining Mane Five played in "Spike At Your Service". Spike's jokes are a mixed bag. On an unrelated note, the Timberwolves are quite neat looking. Plus, the ending feels rushed and unfortunately anti-climatic as well. I am cool with the message of the episode though.
Overall, "Spike At Your Service" is JUST above 'kay.
"Keep Calm and Flutter On"
Season 3, Episode 10
The Mane 4 (AJ and Fluttershy are absent, dealing with a matter at Sweet Apple Acres) and Spike are waiting in a field for Princess Celestia's arrival to Ponyville. Coming along with her is "an important visitor" and they speculate who it could be. To their confusion and horror, the statue of Discord (a sinister draconequus the Mane Six defeated in the Season 2 premiere episode "The Return of Harmony") has been brought with her. After the Mane 4 (Twilight's and Pinkie Pie's reactions are the greatest) express they how feel about this to Princess Celestia, Celestia explains that she "has use for Discord's magic if it can be reformed to serve good instead of evil".
And the pony that Princess Celestia believes is key to doing this is docile Fluttershy?
Yeeeeeep. Uh, good luck with that.
I treasure the character of Discord, an ancient havoc-wreaking evil that has mannerisms like the omnipotent Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation (snapping fingers to use his powers, using bright white light whenever he appears, and having an affinity for playing games). In fact, John de Lancie, Q's actor and a co-producer of the Bronies documentaryvoices the hilariously bonkers and vile creature. Just like in his first appearance, Discord purloins the spotlight and never relents it. Due to his powers, Discord is very perfect for the writers and animators to make tons of interesting and typically droll visual imagery/jokes with him. Best Discord highlight for "Keep Calm and Flutter On": when he rolls his eyes. HA HA.
The episode as a whole utilizes Discord and Fluttershy excellently together. On top of that, Discord is given some depth which remarkably causes the viewer to empathize and sympathize with Discord's character. That's all I can type regarding that. And Fluttershy's truly terrific in this episode too.
Ultimately, where the episode slips up is concerning the altering of its lovely pacing, resulting in a hurried resolution. The consistent momentum just disappears. In some ways, I feel that this episode would of fared better as a two-parter. Still, it is one of my favorite episodes of this new season.
A thought that popped into my head was, "I wonder if "the book" seen at the end of the Crystal Empire season premiere and "Discord's magic" are for preparing against this season's finale antagonist?"
"Just for Sidekicks"
Season 3, Episode 11
The episode involves Spike "critter-sitting" while the Mane Six are away in the Crystal Empire to assist in welcoming the head of the Equestria Games. He agrees because he's being paid with jewels from each pony which he plans on putting in his jewel cake. During his first attempt at making a jewel cake, he kept eating the jewels he had saved up and that's why needs some more. Since fans (bronies and pegasisters) have been asking, the framed picture gallery seen at the beginning of the episode reveals where Peewee (the phoenix Spike hatched in "Dragon Quest") is. Of course, the moment Spike closes the door after reassuring Twi, the Mane Six's pets proceed to go berserk and wreck up the place: Gummy is destroying books, Winona is chasing Angel around in circles, and Opalescence is using her claws on the curtains.
Similar to an earlier Spike centered episode "Secret of My Excess", "Just for Sidekicks", is, for me, the first episode that's focusing on Spike that I enjoyed because of solely Spike. His character felt right and he made me laugh: that's usually a rarity. I mentioned that the episode references "Secret of My Excess". That's because it deals with Spike's "dragon greed". Again. In a different manner this time... Obviously.
I thought this was a funny and endearing episode. The storyline, written by Corey Powell, worked grandly with Spike's character. He came off as being truly dynamic. Seeing Tank fly around and how he lovingly interacts with Rainbow Dash was equally adorable and droll. Pinkie Pie's and AJ's farewells to their pets was grand too. The inclusion of the Cutie Mark Crusaders (skydiving cutie mark, ha ha) into the episode was an overall satisfactory decision. But, the spotlight remained on Spike: all for the impeccable better.
See? Spike can indeed carry an entire episode, if it is written appropriately and strongly enough. So happy everything functioned so resplendently together!
"Games Ponies Play"
Season 3, Episode 12
This episode coincides with the previous one ("Just For Sidekicks") because the events of "Games Ponies Play" occur simultaneously with it. "Games Ponies Plays" reveals what happened when the Mane Six left Ponyville, traveled to the Crystal Empire, and assisted Princess Cadance (the co-ruler of the CE along with her husband Shining Armor) with warmly welcoming the Equestria Games Inspector. Her name is Mrs. Harshwhinny. That's not foreboding at all, eh heh heh. She's gained notoriety for being a real stickler and perfectionist when scouting hosts for the Equestria Games: "the biggest sporting event in all of Equestria!", according to Rainbow Dash.
Before boarding the train, RD remembers when Cloudsdale nearly hosted the Equestria Games when she was a filly (that's presumably Dash's father with her), but, in the end lost to Fillydelphia. She was absolutely devastated. Taking the Crystal Ponies' past unpleasantness with King Sombra into account, a determined Rainbow Dash and her equally determined friends are gonna make sure the Crystal Empire gets picked for the Games. Still, due to Cloudsdale failing to win hosting rights when she was a filly, Rainbow Dash is a bit paranoid (and comical) the remainder of the episode, ha ha. It fits her fully established personality and character superbly well.
What's a real treat about "Games Ponies Plays" was viewing Princess Cadance being herself for the first time versus her last two limited not herself appearances: imprisoned/worn-out and turbo exhausted/out of commission. After she merrily greeted Twilight with their unique "hoof-shake song" from when Twi was a filly then kindly told Rarity that anything in the spa could be used for the welcoming committee, I'm pretty sure my heart exploded. With joy! However, she's more than just the undeniable happiness she exuberates though, in this episode Princess Cadance is shown to be a good supporting character with the rest of the show's cast. I'm quite pleased about this.
The gags revolving around altocelarophobia (generally seen as an irrational fear) and claustrophobia (a common phobia) were excellently utilized and humorous. The pony they're attached to is such a hoot. Plus these also served to further the tension of the situation the ponies found themselves dealing with too. Pinkie Pie taking a mud bath, RD crushing the excited hopes of a random crystal filly, and Rarity's problems she has with Candance's mane are a few of many other funny highlights from the episode. The flow of the story, pacing, conflicts, and jokes are as glossy as the "crystallier than ever" Crystal Empire's look. The message stated by Rainbow Dash at the end is something anypony can (or should) take to heart and practice.
Truthfully, "Games Ponies Play" is likely a candidate for season three's best. Everything works about this episode. To type the word flawless (thank you Dave Polsky!) really wouldn't be an understatement, actually.
"Magical Mystery Cure"
Season 3 Finale (Episode 13)
I didn't see foresee this coming as the finale episode! Like the early season two episode "Lesson Zero", that altered the structure of the animated series, what happened in "Magical Mystery Cure" shall also have a lasting impact (to a certain degree). Someponies aren't too happy about it. Others aren't sure how to feel.
Questions regarding the mysterious black book seen at the end of The Crystal Empire season premiere episodes were answered in "Magical Mystery Cure". It is a spell book that belongs to a prominent character in the mythos of Equestria named Star Swirl the Bearded. First mentioned in the season 2 episode "Luna Eclipsed", he's a historical spell-creator along with the mentor of Clover and Clever (revealed in the pageant episode "Hearth's Warming Eve"). In "Eclipsed", Twilight Sparkle calls Star Swirl "the father of the amniomorphic spell", "the most important conjurer of the pre-classical era", and she adds "he created more than 200 spells! He even has a shelf in the Canterlot library of magic named after him."
The episode "Magical Mystery Cure" revolves around Twi inadvertently saying aloud an incomplete spell from Bearded's spell book which Celestia sent to her that swaps the Elements of Harmony and cutie marks ("destinies") attached to their original pony owners as well.
"From one to another, another to one. A mark of one's destiny, singled out alone, fulfilled."
-Star Swirl the Bearded's final unfinished spell
For instance, Rarity now has Rainbow Dash's cutie mark, so she's in charge of weather in Ponyville. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash has received Fluttershy's cutie mark and she cannot command animals in the slightest. Pinkie (Pinkamena's back!) got AJ's, Applejack has Rarity's, and Fluttershy (Snerk) was given Pinkie Pie's. The importance of each pony's unique role they played in Ponyville is stressed along with the horrible ramifications of their individual destinies being switched around too. With no counter spell, how will Twilight fix what she unintentionally caused?
Both Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews have their work cut for them in this episode since it has 6 songs (a record for the series) in it. I mean the episode opens with the book loving introvert Twilight, a la Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, cheerfully singing "Morning in Ponyville" until a deluge of water from above drenches her, courtesy of the weather-controlling Rarity. Similar to a Broadway musical or the television series Glee, the episode "Magical Mystery Cure" relies chiefly on its musical numbers to excellently move the story forward. Following "Morning in Ponyville", "What My Cutie Mark Is Telling Me" begins, a song showing the ponies working and lamenting about their despised destinies. The songs in "Magical" function as fluidly and as well as they do because they possess splendid personality and neat imagery to complement the diverse and groovy melodies. My personal favorite song is "A True, True Friend": such a sprightly tune with a great message to boot. Even those that aren't fond of musicals should, on some level, be able to appreciate what Ingram and Andrews have astonishingly done in this episode.
The storyline's creative, but, a bit hurried execution-wise, I think. The plot of "Magical" would of fared stronger if this was a two-parter instead of being a single episode though. However, this is still one of my top episodes from Season 3. The visuals accompanied with the songs sashayed between being inventive, droll, emotional, and heartwarming. Very impressive stuff.
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
I warned you.
This is directly taken from a article I wrote earlier this year:
"You Have Proven That You're Ready."
Throughout the course of the cartoon series, Twilight Sparkle's magical spell selection has grown. Her overall intelligence and understanding concerning the strength of friendship has gotten sharper too. And with a little help from her friends, Twilight has overcome Nightmare Moon which simultaneously reunited Princess Celestia with her sister Princess Luna and she trounced the draconequus Discord (The Master of Chaos). Oh, plus she had a very important hoof in uncovering the truth and assisting in Queen Chrysalis's defeat in Canterlot. And let's not forget how she helped The Crystal Empire as well. Truthfully, the list goes on, and on, and on! In "Magical Mystery Cure", through a song ("Celestia's Ballad"), Princess Celestia explains how unbelievably proud she is of her student regarding everything she's done so far and for solving Star Swirl the Bearded's (an unseen but referenced legendary spellcaster whom Twilight idolizes) unfinished magnum opus spell that he himself couldn't complete (because Star Swirl lacked a strong enough understanding of friendship). Now, the time has come for Twilight to turn the page on this chapter of her life and move on to fulfill her destiny.
Classic Twilight isn't going anywhere, everypony.
Despite her physical change in appearance and monarchy responsibility she now must deal with, the Twilight Sparkle that you know and love shall be retained. Similar to our own lives, the character of Twilight has entered a new phase of her pony life. Her new role lends itself to new narratives such as: Twilight Sparkle doubting that being a princess is her supreme destiny. Hey, she wasn't asked...Merely forced. I mean, she didn't elect herself to be the leader of the Mane Six or whatever. She simply took the reins on her own when it was absolutely necessary. If that was me, I'd be livid. My life has been forecast for me already? No hooving way! What if she hated being royalty? Rejected it? How about witnessing AJ, Fluttershy, Pinkie, RD, and Rarity struggling with adjusting to their newly crowned friend? What kind of feelings could perchance manifest? Can their friendship handle something like that? Do they, to some degree, resent her?
Look at that untapped well of storylines! My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic hasn't peaked yet. I imagine that Twilight would be fine with them dropping the stuck-up formality of "Princess" whenever they address her though. Of course, Bronies and Pegasisters, for all we know, this winged Twilight could be temporary. Just continuing sticking with Friendship Is Magic. The future's uncertain, but that's interesting and exciting, no?
On the subject of if Twilight's transformation into a princess is a regression for females or not, well, that certainly could be argued, with validity. Conversely, unlike the majority of other princess characters, Twilight wasn't born into royalty nor did she discover that she used to be part of a royal family either. Twilight Sparkle has tirelessly worked her flank off to unknowingly acquire her imperial title and alicorn status. If Twilight had been handed an opportunity (without sweating or bettering herself) to get her wings/princess ranking, then, yes, Twilight would be reinforcing an extremely negative stereotype. Thankfully, this is not the case. Would I prefer her to be, say, some high ranking wizard of Equestria instead of a princess? Definitely! To me, that fits her character a lot more solidly. But, she's a princess, at the moment, so... That's that.
However, admittedly, I am still jake with Princess Twilight Sparkle. Intriguing whatnot could come from this alteration and character development, for reals.I'll get used to those wings soon enough. With time. Before season 4 commences at the end of November, ideally.
For those that despise the change to Twilight or vice versa, don't viciously trample fellow My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic enthusiasts. Love and tolerance, dudes. Also, no one's opinion is correct anyways. It is a strictly individualized belief, varying from person to person. Yours is just as logical as mine. There's no reason people need to get butthurt about it. Seriously.
Can't wait to see what is in store for Season 4! /)