My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 3 Premiere

God damn, I’ve finally got something to be excited about. I haven’t felt this fulfilled with a piece of media since I finished Mass Effect 2 six weeks ago. Just as in February, MLP has filled the hole left by my growing fallout with currently-running anime (except JoJo, which is fairly satisfying). It’s a shame I’ll only get one episode a week; I’ll have to continue marathoning all my favorite anime in the meantime.

The season premiere is as exciting as I needed it to be. I’ve seen mixed (though mostly positive, because come on, it’s S3!) reactions, mostly because the villain is almost non-present throughout the episode. I don’t even care, do you care? Do you fuckin care? I don’t care.

The most exciting thing in the premiere is something which had started to emerge in season two, and looks to be a continuing trend—continuity. Back in season one there were two major continuity threads between five episodes—three of which revolved around the Grand Galloping Gala (3, 14, and 26), and two of which revolved around the Sonic Rainboom (16 and 23). You may remember that my first reaction to MLP after finishing S1 was that I wished it had a stronger continuity.

Season two started to bring that, with frequent callbacks to past episodes across both seasons. Episodes seemed to progress in order, with little to no inconsistencies in either plot or character development.

Season three kicks off with a huge continuity surge. Princess Cadance and Shining Armor, who were introduced and important in the Season 2 finale (and could easily have never appeared again), fulfill an important role here.

Luna gets a fair amount of screentime with her sister Celestia, which is something that fans have wanted to happen more frequently since episode two, when Luna was freed from the curse of Nightmare Moon. She got an episode to herself in season two (the first big continuity nod in that season), and cameos towards the end, but only now is she really present. Moreover, an incredibly subtle hint at the end of the episode suggests that she will continue to be important. (She comes into the frame holding a book with stars and swirls on it, clearly hinting that it’s Starswirl the Bearded’s book, which she will be using to help Twilight reach the next stage of her training. Starswirl was one of the minor continuity threads which was built up continually throughout season two).

Twilight is the episode’s focus, with her test to enter the next stage of her training at the forefront. Not much actually develops with her character, but it’s an entertaining trial, and opens the floor for a season-wide character arc. Even the commercials for this season are stating that, “one pony will find her destiny.”

The two-episode premiere is paced similarly to the finale of season two, with the first episode mostly setting the stage for the events of the second.

At first, I was upset by the fact that the focus was so squarely on Twilight, and the rest of the main six weren’t getting to do much except make cutaway gags of varying quality. The main six had already taken a backseat during the season two finale, and I was starting to get a little irked. Don’t get me wrong, Twilight is probably my favorite character, but at this point she isn’t the most interesting, since she’s pretty well fleshed-out already.

When the others started getting screentime in the second half, though, they really shined. Rainbow Dash and Applejack got some great dialog exchanges, and Rainbow got to remind me why she’s so god damn fucking awesome. Rarity is being her usual fabulous self, obsessing over all of the jewels, but some of her dialog is priceless (mostly because Tabitha St. Germain delivers it so perfectly).

“I had to make a hat out of three pieces of hay and a drinking straw! …I made it work.”

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy didn’t get to do much, but they were both involved in the most hilarious and disturbing joke in the episode: Pinkie Pie peeling out of a Fluttershy costume all of a sudden, and then Fluttershy obliviously standing on it.

What I found most interesting about this episode is that it portrayed the stakes well. Cadance really looked to be in a lot of pain throughout the episode, and the desperation on Twilight’s and Shining Armor’s parts was palpable. Seeing Cadance like that even had myself worrying and wanting them to help her as soon as possible. (I relate as well, since my job leaves me so tired all the time.)

And what kind of amazing badass is Cadance that, still looking like she’s gonna collapse at the next second, she lets Shining fire her like a fucking rocket to catch the crystal heart. That girl deserves a long-ass rest.

I felt there was a pretty dark tone to this finale on the whole. Celestia and Luna being so serious at the start set it up,—then there was the depression of the crystal ponies, and the tiredness of Cadance, with her barrier failing. In the season two finale, Shining Armor’s barrier was destroyed in a big surprise moment which was awesome. In this episode, the slow erosion of the crystal ponies’ will and Cadance’s body enhanced the drama, which is good because there wasn’t a villain this time to do that.

Rather than seeing King Sauron (or whatever his name is) as a villain, I think it’s better to see him as a force of nature that the ponies had to overcome. It wasn’t about Sauron, it was about what the ponies had to go through to protect themselves. Kind of like… Sauron, from the Lord of the Rings.

And I can’t forget to mention one of the darkest moments in the whole show, which is when Twilight enters an illusion and faces her fear that Celestia would fail her and cancel her studenthood. Celestia’s language is uber-harsh in this scene, which made it obvious that this was probably an illusion, but Celestia is just enigmatic enough, and I was just caught up in the moment enough, that I was genuinely worried.

Even more effecting, though, is when Spike looks into the illusion. We don’t see what Spike sees, we just hear him fearfully telling the illusion that he doesn’t want to leave Ponyville, and then he starts crying. That was a pretty emotional scene for me, don’t know about ya’ll. I think what really made it brutal was that in the illusion, it’s Twilight herself who’s telling Spike that he has to leave. That would’ve been really painful to experience.

One more thing before I wrap this up: it was cool to see Twilight experimenting with magic and seeming genuinely surprised at what she can do. In the past, she usually tended to break out spells out of nowhere. This episode utilizes a number of the spells that she’s used in the past, such as the blink ability, and introduces more that she figures out as she goes along.

First and most surprisingly is her use of dark magic, which she picked up just from watching Celestia do it. I was worried about the implications of this at first, and I think my worry was confirmed by the fact that the second time she used it, she was faced with the illusion of her worst fear.

The second one is a “gravity spell” which she uses to walk on the ceiling (in this case, the underside of a spiral staircase), and slides up the slope as if it were going down (meaning her gravity is literally reversed). It’s a wicked cool spell, and I’d love to see her making casual use of it, which is very probable, since spells are one of the series’ favorite continuity nods.

All in all, I’m excited as hell for this season. I’d love to see more excellent character moments, more continuity, and more of the now-they’re-just-showing-off animation flourish of the premiere. Also, there’s apparently gonna be a Trixie episode. MY BODY IS READY.

7 thoughts on “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Season 3 Premiere

  1. What got me excited about the premiere was the fact that I finally got to see all of the characters working together in an organic sense, trusting each other, having grappled with their tendencies and weaknesses (like Applejack’s lack of tact, being “too” honest). Their good and their not-so-good sides are both present. I think, too, that you finally got the sort of episode you were looking for, based on the things you mentioned in your Tumblr post.

    I didn’t terribly mind the whole absent villain thing, either, but I did find Discord to be way more interesting (and, come on, you can’t beat John de Lancie). It wasn’t just that he actually talked, but that all of the characters learned things about themselves. Although I suppose it is nice that there wasn’t some obvious lesson to the story—and you know that’s what I love about the series.

    The thing that really wilted for me was the plot element of Celestia’s instruction, and Twilight’s finally ignoring it. What test? The choice should have been a no-brainer. It might have worked, still. It would have made me feel a lot better if that thread was way tighter, so that we believed that everyone *really* had carry out all of the instructions to the letter. Cadance’s impending failure might have had even more oomph, if we realized that her tiredness was happening even as she was doing exactly what she was supposed to do. The ponies all straining to keep things in line might have kept us on the edges of our seats more often. As the ep was, it was kind of like the plot bamboozled the viewers; if Celestia hadn’t said anything at all—some kind of Sonic the Hedgehog mission e.g. “Save the Empire!”—that last plot element wouldn’t have been anything at all to stumble over. It felt kind of like a lie, a stupid lie, and one that I just don’t feel Celestia would actually tell. She’d come up with a way more precise test than that, wouldn’t she?

    Y’know, a good thing about the last plot point, though, is that in most epics, the heroes die or fail because of a mistake in judgment, or because they’re rash. Like Arthur or Beowulf, who rush in for the individual glory of being a protector of the people. What the writers did here made me smile a little—they pulled off a nice counter to that pattern.

    I’m hella psyched for the new season, too, but it would be interesting if the Sauron guy turns out to be a big baddie, and he comes back as a real villain. Or some build-up in plot having to do with the era a millennium ago. That’s when Luna turned evil, right? And Discord was around then, too, right? Real villains and plot would be nice; sticking to the two-parter premieres and finales would be okay, but I’d like ‘em to shake things up a bit this time.

    BTW, are you planning on watching that brony documentary that came out earlier this month?

    • I didn’t know the brony documentary was out already. I’ll consider it, if I find time. I’m not really that interested because I already know plenty about bronies and what they’re like.

      I don’t necessarily want Sauron to stick around since, as people have been saying since his design was leaked months ago, he does look like someone’s bad OC. Probably the worst design to ever come out of the show, really makes me wonder what they were thinking. He looks like a terrible WoW villain.

      Celestia making it a test was an odd thing though for sure. My question is just, what were Celestia and Luna doing that they couldn’t help here? Just generally taking care of the sun and moon? Celestia does always seem super-busy, but I think Luna could’ve wrapped all this up pretty nicely. At the same time though, Celestia did say she “knew” Twilight could do this, so maybe she was just making a confidence gamble. Does seem pretty like her.

      I think the specifics of Twilight’s quest – that it had to be her to take the heart – was more of Twilight overinterpreting the specifics of Celestia’s message, which is something she always does, just as she always overestimates how Celestia will react to failure on her part.

      • Actually, I was hasty: an initial edit was screened, according to the Wiki, in Anaheim. But the crew’s still finalizing stuff. So it’ll be a little longer. I’m interested, myself, because I haven’t really talked to other bronies, or observed them, so getting a top-down view of the vibe would be strange and cool at the same time.

        I’m starting to hope that the baddie just turns out to be some lackey for a real villain. I could buy Celestia and Luna’s weird behavior if they were all the while preparing themselves for a helluva showdown with THAT guy. A season finale worth waiting for.

        “Twilight,” she says, “in the end, it must be you and you alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the Empire.” I don’t want to believe that this was a limp plot point; they’ve been working on this thing for months, maybe even longer than a year. I’m sensing bigger plot brewing here, which makes me excited. We just might be seeing a bit of complexity in Celestia’s character.

        After all, we don’t know much about the exploits of those two prior to ruling. We do know that they are the only equine monarchs of Equestria, since they resisted Discord—I’m assuming that in the era before the system consisted of three tribes butting heads. Where the hell did those two come from, as alicorns? Were they born that way? Make a fan go nuts, these questions.

  2. I feel like the show really is not going to have any big reveal about the fall of luna and the rise of nightmare moon. 1000 years in that past just feels like an arbitrary “This is when evil things happened.” sort of date and that they really aren’t keeping an organized timeline of events and when they happened. I think they they will probably try to leave that time as open to interpretation as possible.

    Although, there will be more continuity – as you said.

    This whole Sombra is depression thing would have never occurred to me. The internet is too smart for me.

    I also missed that the book had stars and swirls on it. How I miss these things?

    My review here >

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