NB – spoilers! and I watched this and wrote this at the same time. So double spoilers for both the show and my ultimate reaction.
We open with Twilight developing the theme of the locked box, which I totally overlooked last week and has been playing out on Tumblr and other places for a whole week now.
There seems to be a story arc developing here with the next destination on a mega-quest . And Twily and I have something in common (well, we have a lot in common, such that her story could be mine if you squint hard and turn the picture through 90 degrees). We. Love. Books. THIS PLACE IS PERFECT!
We open with another pony image, resembling The Wicker Man. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are competing in the Most Daring Pony contest by surrounding themselves with bees. The beekeeper pony (could this perhaps be the Transformer Pony Bumblebee?) is wanting his bees back. The contest ends in a tie, and Pinkie Pie bounces off to her next engagement, leaving the two feisty fillies to dare themselves into oblivion.
Fluttershy and Rarity, meanwhile, are going for a walk in the forest. Towards the Castle of the Two Sisters, which has a reputation for its tapestries as well as its ancient magic and Rarity wants inspiration. Retro-ancient-classical inspiration.
This is a little …broken up. It seems a little bit like the comics – a bit too focused on set-pieces as yet. It’s good to see, however, that the ponies haven’t lost their well-written characters. So three ponies are at the castle, and three others…are not.
Except they are, because they came to the castle too, for reasons of finding dark magic originally belonging to Nightmare Moon – The Pony of Shadows.
I think they’re trying a little too hard. In trying to get a tapestry down, Fluttershy is catapulted through a secret door and swings round again, hurting her wing. This is My Little Scooby-Doo at its finest. Rarity is more concerned about tapestries than secret doors.
AJ and RD dare each other to stay in the castle the longest and therefore prove themselves the Most Daring Pony. So we now have all the makings of an interesting climax for about three different episodes, except the writers have seen fit to condense it into one. There better be something to make this come together; we’re already half-way through.
Rarishy find themselves in a secret tunnel looking for Angel the bunny. In a case of mistaken identity, they hook up with RD and AJ but as they are feeling each others’ hooves through a hole in the wall, they don’t realise it.
Twilight’s research has found out that many of these interesting elements are ways in which Celestia and Luna pranked each other. The other ponies are getting freaked out. (Pinkie Pie is absent, by the way. I think she would probably add a little too much levity to the episode.) Rarity and ‘Shy stumble on the throne room with its magnificent tapestries.
‘It’s not like it’s going to come to life or anything,’ says AJ of an old suit of armour – and, to be honest, of this episode. It’s trying very hard to be scary, and I guess it might be for little girls who have never seen Scooby-Doo, but actually, having grown up, it’s not exactly thrilling material. You get the impression that a lot of this stuff is trying too hard to work up a scary atmosphere over some mundane aspects. Three-quarters of the way in now and still no obvious antagonism apart from the furniture. AJ is lost, Rarity is spat out of a chute and left to rage at the ‘ungrateful’ castle, and Fluts is still looking for Angel.
RD is speaking for me when she says: ‘C’mon castle is that all you got?’ Followed by a major scream. The castle is falling apart. Spike is still in the doghouse for holding the chump ball from last episode, so of course Twilight thinks he’s being sarcastic. The rest of the ponies are losing their collective minds over a few collapsing beams. Twilight raises the obvious issue and asks what they’re doing.
The only unexplained event is the creepy organ music. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it. Perhaps it’s the PONY OF SHADOWS?
Three guesses and the first two don’t count. Based on the rest of the episode it’s probably a mundane thing.
Well, OK, it’s Pinkie Pie. Duh!
And she would have got away with it but for those meddling kids.
I think this is a severe waste of a location. I suppose we’ve been spoilt by the previous few episodes continuing the broader series arc, such that a more mundane episode with the moral ‘Don’t let your imagination run away with you!’ and ‘Such and such is helping me cope with being a superprincessgoddesspony!’ has been something we’ve not seen for almost a whole year now.
So the shadowpony is just a myth, like many things.
I’ll give this a 7/10. The moral was fine as a story in its own right, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with reassuring kids that the spider is more afraid of them than they are of it. But after a whizz-bang start to the series, and as an adult fan of fantasy literature where most stories are myth arcs rather than needing to puncture the serious-business aspect for much of a series, it was a bit of a climb-down from recent form. Having said that, sometimes we all need reminded not to let our imaginations run away with us. When there’s big stuff brewing, don’t neglect the little stuff. In that regard, I need to give it a reasonable mark, because I let myself get caught up in the need for action adventure every week while forgetting the reason My Little Pony exists in the first place – to scare the bejeezus out of little kids and then reassure them that everything’s OK; sometimes the shadow on the wall is just a shadow. The suspense lacking for me as an adult would be more intense for the show’s target demographic. In a way, we adult fans sometimes make the show become something it’s not.
It’s not the show’s fault; it’s mine. I think next week I’ll be back to approaching and appreciating the show as a kid’s cartoon rather than something that has recently taken on the import of Lord of the Rings.