• "Princess Twilight Sparkle", Parts I and II: Episode Followup

    It's been a while.

    Nine months' worth of a hiatus would scatter a lesser community, but I think we've proved a long time ago that we're made of sterner stuff. As our reward, we've been gifted by the amazing team at Studio B both an excellent opener for season four, and the conclusion of Twilight Sparkle's ascent into princesshood. Story arcs aren't something we've seen a lot of in this show, and I'm eager to see how the team handles it. For now, though, it's time to start the followup.

    For those new to an Episode Followup, I'll be clear: these are not reviews. They are not meant to be in-depth teardowns and dutiful analysis of the episode, though I'll slip into that if I think the situation warrants it. They spawned from the original threads on 4chan when the community was nothing but a blip on the internet radar, and are by and large meant to be light-hearted clip shows of things that the writer (in this case, me) thinks are worth pointing out, with occasional heaps of more serious words if we think it's important. So, once more- looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but is actually a tiny horse.

    Welcome one, welcome all: show staff (they do read these), community members (the reason we do these at all), and everyone else (how did you get here?). It's followup time, and it feels so good to be able to say that again.

    Ah, yes, the long-awaited and much anticipated flying lesson. Let's see how she does.

    How's the ground, Twilight? Hard?

    Apparently they cut the previous season finale's cameras right before she crashed into a mountain.

    This scene served multiple purposes, the most important of which I think was that Twilight really hasn't changed despite everything. Of course, the rest of the episode cements that, but addressing the issue right off the bat was a good idea.

    More importantly, though- Rarity got lines? Multiple lines? God, if this episode gets any crazier, she might get a dedicated scene or something.

    Nom nom dirt.

    "Most of my dreams involve frosting!"

    Not even touching it.

    Applejack went an entire two-parter without saying the word "apples" once.

    I'm proud of you, orange.

    "Good thing we'll always have these MacGuffins to keep us together as friends!"

    We've had them for an entire three seasons, what could possibly go wrong?

    Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash doing their best pirate impressions.

    "Since you have wings now, I've updated my fanfiction."

    Messenger pony count: one.

    Twilight's patented freakout sessions have just gotten a lot more dangerous.

    Just watch out for the Hub logo.

    Conveniently, though, they do give Celestia enough time to figure out the best regal pose to strike as she enters the room. I mean really, look at her. Wings out and everything.

    "She kicks her front legs sometimes. It's kind of weird."

    Seriously, go watch this scene again. What the hell is Luna doing?

    Messenger pony count: two.

    There are some frames that I don't even have to caption.

    The sun and the moon in the sky at the same time. This is known on Earth as: "every morning".

    "We are royal guards that seem to lack even the semblance of a traditional military structure, with things like commanders and a chain of command. Luna and Celestia are missing. What do we do?"

    "Uh, I dunno, go find them?"

    "Great idea!" "Man, have you ever, like, looked at your hoof?"

    A certain song comes to mind, quite frankly.

    Messenger pony count: three.

    Little-known fact: Fluttershy's mane contains on average three to four animals in it at any one time.

    Magical, mysterious, infectious growths appearing everywhere? Granny Smith is having absolutely none of that today.

    Not even touching it.

    In a shocking turn of events, Rainbow Dash's usual strategy of "fly straight into things until the issue is resolved" doesn't actually work out in the case of spiked clouds.

    Points for trying to talk it down, though.

    W-wait, is this actually happening? For real?

    Is Rarity getting more than three seconds of screentime to herself?

    Is Sweetie Belle getting chased by magical fabric?

    Seriously, you had me at hello.

    This situation is so serious it clearly calls for my +10 Leadership crown.

    "Twilight, there's another way to get to Ponyville!"

    Yeah, you know, like that teleporting thing you can do. No, wait, fly instead. It'll be funny, I swear.

    Points for the engine sound effect, though.

    Here we see M.A. Larson's real crime- seatbelts? What next, Larson? How far does your depravity go?

    Judging from Twilight's expression, though, maybe she didn't know about them either.

    I've said it before, but it's possible that these look sillier and sillier every time we see them.

    "Winter wrap-up, winter wrap-up!"

    Oh my god. Yes. I made such an ungentlemanly series of noises.

    It's a well-known connection, but if you're still unfamiliar with the parallels between Discord and his inspiration, 'Q', I suggest going through and watching the relevant episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. You'll have a much better understanding of his mannerisms and be getting a nice dose of classic science fiction television to boot.

    The point is, of course, that the mane six's accusations are correct and this really is all Discord's fault, and the fact that he framed it like a lesson for Twilight (even after the fact, as a joke) is right out of Q's playbook.

    Oh, man, who else can we bring into the story as a framing device? Hey, put Zecora in there so the writers have to write rhyming dialog. They really love that, trust me.

    She probably has a plot train potion, too. It wouldn't be the first time.

    "It only responds to alicorn magic!"

    "Oh, right, that's that thing I am now."

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's up with the dark magic? Don't hold back on your spells, Twilight, or we're totally not inviting you to our raiding parties anymore.

    Not even touching it.

    First one's free.

    The longer you stare at it, the funnier it gets.

    This scene is awesome.

    Here and in the next few flashbacks, the long-standing cries for a Luna and Celestia backstory are at least partially addressed. The moment when Luna is taken over by Nightmare Moon and subsequently sent to her lunar prison has been referenced many times, but never shown.

    Plus, I mean, Luna. You guys like Luna, right?

    Got the spider!

    Twilight takes perhaps a moment or two too long to realize that this is a flashback, even after having Celestia show up as a clue, but that can be forgiven. I mean, she did sort of chug the potion after Zecora said a sip.

    What I'm saying is Twilight has a drinking problem.

    Things just got real!

    Look at my edge lighting! You can't handle my edge lighting!

    Oh man, how do I do CPR again?

    You know, Luna, you might have actually succeeded in your whole "cover the entire world in darkness" plan if you had thought to, like, move these. Like, anywhere else. Under a couch or something.

    Hindsight is 20/20 I guess.

    Nightmare Moon seems a little low-level for this instance.

    "Why are you all looking at me like that?"

    "Because you were tripping balls."

    "Oh, yeah. Gimme some more of that, that stuff is choice."

    Well, this looks familiar!

    It's actually really nice as a bookend scene to the whole villain Discord saga. It shows that Celestia pretty much knew exactly what she was sending Twilight and the other five to take care of way back in the season two premiere.

    More importantly, though, those saddlebags are adorable as all hell. And look how determined they look! It's so cute, even Discord comments on it.

    And then he does this, which was hilarious.

    Here we see Discord sowing the seeds of discord.

    It's a pun.

    Get it?

    It's a pun.

    Hey, this is new!

    Arguably the most interesting piece of backstory we receive from these flashbacks is the origin of the Elements of Harmony from deep within the Everfree Forest. And, surprise, they come from the Tree of Harmony.

    "My cutie mark!"

    No, Twilight. That is a star. Lots of things are stars. Go back to magic kindergarten.

    In all probability, the Tree of Harmony is most likely a red-black tree, since the properties of their elements (or nodes, if you prefer) allow the tree to have a self-balancing tendency which keeps searching and inserting operations within a reasonable time-space complexity.

    Trees can also be used to implement key-value pair structures. I think you can see where I'm going with this.

    "We can use these to cross!"

    Or, you know, you could fly. Or teleport everyone across.

    Twilight, you really need to get the hang of this.

    According to Meghan McCarthy, it's a Cragadile because they couldn't clear the name Rockadile.

    A lost opportunity. I was pretty sure I heard Rockadile when I watched it, anyway.

    "Twilight, I'm sorry, but this is a five-man raid, not a six. I don't really want to risk you losing all that gear, so I think you should go back to Ponyville."

    "What? I'm your main DPS, you can't just tell me to leave."

    "You also don't have enough skill points in your fly ability."

    "Fine, just don't take all the loot."

    "They're totally gonna ninja the loot."

    In all seriousness, though the execution of this scene felt a little bit odd, the two sides of the argument of Twilight's inclusion in the search party aren't invalid ones. The other five do legitimately want to keep her safe and aren't excluding her out of any malice, and to be fair they do regret it later. And Discord, well, he's just being Discord.

    Plus, we get that wonderful, wonderful scepter.

    Look at it. It's so cheerful!

    Thanks, Pinkie. I knew we brought you along for a reason.

    Oh, we ended up fifty meters from them. How convenient! Twilight?


    Man, Twilight is just not on a roll tonight.

    "Nothing you guys did worked!"

    "Well, are you going to give it a try, or what?"


    Rarity, come on. Don't lose points with me now.

    See above: Applejack talking to murderous poisonous plants.

    I'm just going to point out that the main six minus Twilight all chose to out-maneuver and simply disable the plants, but as soon as Twilight had the chance she killed one in the face.

    Like, damn, seriously. That's metal.

    "Yeah, we totally shouldn't have sent you away, cause that tree is wicked."

    "I love you guys, too."

    I'd be remiss if I didn't call this a touching scene, though.

    See? The tree is technically unbalanced because there are no elements in it.

    Here's some papers on tree theory, they make good bedtime reading.

    "Twilight, I don't know if giving up the Elements is a good idea."

    "AJ, we got these at like level one. We have way better gear now."

    It does raise the interesting "what now?" question, though. I was only half joking above- we've had the Elements of Harmony in play for an entire three seasons, and now it looks like for the immediate future they're no longer a factor. I'm sure that whatever's in the locked box at the end of this scene will have something to do with the mane six's continuing evil-fighting abilities, but for now we'll have to see how they deal with not having their rainbow friendship laser.

    Obligatory: lens flare.

    Yep, it's a box.

    "Six locks, six keys." Six ponies? Sounds like another song reference is in order.

    Just to tie the tree and keys joke together, here's an explanation of associative arrays, which can use trees to store the keys to map to arbitrary values. The staff at Studio B were computer scientists all along and they never told us.

    Never say you didn't learn something from these followups.

    "You realize this is information we could have used hours ago?!"

    Like I mentioned above, even if Discord didn't intend for this situation to actually be a lesson for Twilight, the fact that we now know how long of a game he was playing back then is quite the revelation. Not to imply that he could have ever been construed as a short-term thinker, but literally sowing seeds that would entrap your enemies in the future, all without their suspicions because they thought you entrapped? Discord might be the smartest villain this show has seen.

    That is, for all intents and purposes, it. The stage for season four has been well and truly set. We have a story arc, keys to find, and the surprising decommissioning of a crucial story element all in one fell swoop. Time will tell how this all plays out, but I for one am very excited to see how this all falls into place. It's a new direction for the show, and one that's perhaps a little overdue, and I couldn't be more excited to watch it happen.

    If you want a postmortem, I guess it's this: they pulled it off. We're not sure yet what they've pulled off, but the foundation seems solid and they're ready to start building the house.

    I'll see you guys throughout the season. Sleep well, everypony. Cereal Velocity out.