WHAT!? We’re not gonna have ponies to talk about for a couple of months!? HERESY!! First Sailor Moon Crystal is ending its first season and now this!? What will become of me without magical girls and magical ponies to talk about!?!? NO! I CANNOT LET THIS GET ME DOWN!! I HAVE A JOB TO DO HERE AND I’M GONNA GIVE IT MY ALL!!! So how do they decide to end this half of the season? Why with a Luna episode of course! Everyone’s favorite princess gets the spot light this week as we find out more about what’s going on inside her head and the trouble it causes for everyone else! Will we get another classic episode like Luna Eclipsed, Bloom & Gloom, For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls, and several others, or will we get another bad one like… huh. Actually, I don’t think she’s HAD a bad episode. There were episodes where she was underutilized for sure, but never one that was bad. Well THAT’S certainly a good sign, but can they keep up the trend in this episode!? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with the Mane 6 barreling down the halls of the Castle of the Two Sisters, clearly looking for something with the utmost of haste. Their goal seems to be Princess Luna who’s standing in the main hall of the castle and seems to be expecting their arrival. While waiting, a small cloud of star energy or whatnot appears behind her, and Luna address it as Tantibus and lets it know she’s ready for whatever happens next.
In case you didn’t already look it up, Tantibus is Latin for ‘nightmare’ and sure enough, it ends up turning Luna into Nightmare Moon who proceeds to cackle maniacally and not much else. Her battle with the Mane 6 begins but in the process it seems that Tantibus has escaped the confines of the dream and Nightmare Moon (who still seems to retain Luna’s mind) is horrified by this discover before getting blasted with friendship beams and turning back into Luna. The dream ends abruptly there and Luna wakes up in a cold sweat due to the fact that her dream ended happily.
Wait a minute, how is it a good dream if she’s terrified by the implications? Doesn’t the Tantibus escaping make it a bad dream? Also, how was that dream SUPPOSED to end? Getting shot at point blank range with friendship isn’t a terrifying experience on its own!? As it turns out, Princess Luna wasn’t the only one to have a bad night as the Mane 6 discuss their lack of sleep the night before and they all seem to have had a nightmare about a blue cloud thingy.
The shocking revelation is enough for them to send a message to Princess Luna who arrives nearly instantaneously to gather more details. Wait, Spike can send a message to Princess Luna as well? I didn’t know that! How exactly does his magic message sending power work? Does he use different flames for different people? Does each degree of temperature indicate a different pony or location within the world of Equestria!? Anyway, Luna explains to the group that the smoke creature they saw in their dreams is the Tantibus which is a manifestation of her own fears and dark thoughts that she’s been able to keep locked up inside her own head, but now it seems to have escaped her own dream and is infesting theirs because they were in her dream at the time of its escape. At least I THINK that’s how it works because they don’t say whether they have to be in the dream the Tantibus escapes from, or if it has to be someone that is frequently dreamed about. It’s probably the former because if it was the latter than Princess Celestia must be getting it just as bad if not worse! Luna’s big worry about the Tantibus is that it’s slowly been getting more powerful and that by jumping to other dreams its power can only grow larger which means it may be able to escape the confines of pony’s dreams and escape into the real world. Okay, this is EXACTLY the plot of almost every Nightmare on Elm Street movie! The more dreams Freddy Krueger infects, the more powerful he becomes and his end goal is usually to come back to life in some way (or maybe it’s just to take revenge. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them!). This isn’t a bad thing by the way because those movies are AWESOME!!
The ponies decide that the only thing they can do is recreate Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and to dream in a way so that they can fight back against the monster. Another detail they throw in here is that Spike wasn’t a part of Luna’s dreams which means that he has yet to be affected by the monster cloud, but that he also feels left out because he’s not a part of her dreams. Spike has had a lot more focus this season, but most of it hasn’t led to any growth or change in the character, so hopefully they’ll give him a chance to shine now that he’s the only one around who isn’t going to be affected by the Tantibus. The ponies go to sleep that night and Luna is there to start dream hopping and searches for the nightmare creature. Brief aside right here, but this might be the first time the series has specifically contradicted something established in the comics. In the Nightmare Rarity story arc and the Nightmare Moon one-shot, we find out that dreams are controlled by creatures on the moon or something like that. However, it’s long been established the show continuity will always be the official one over the comic books and if there is a contradiction, it will fall on the side of the television series. I’m not too broken up about this because I never liked that aspect of the comics, though it is a bit disappointing because now we’ll probably never see Nightmare Rarity in the show.
Speaking of which, the first pony whose dream we enter is Rarity’s, which is basically just her surrounded by dresses. Okay… that’s kind of lame but I guess it works for a dream. The dresses are dancing around her until one of them gets infected by the Tantibus and begins to attack. Luna swoops in in the nick of time to destroy the dress but is sadly too late to stop the Tantibus from infecting the others and escaping into another dream. Rarity wants to help Luna fight the monster, but Luna refuses her help to instead face the monster on her own. Wait, did that thing just grow bigger?
Okay, so Luna’s gonna keep failing to stop it until she finally decides to ask for help in solving this problem. I guess it’s not a BAD moral (and the premise itself telegraphs this outcome even before this scene comes) but now we know exactly what’s going to solve it and everything they do until Luna gets her head on straight is obviously not going to work. The next dream is Pinkie Pie’s which seems to jump from scene to scene in a way that I guess is supposed to signify her particular brand of wackiness, but still doesn’t feel all that unique or dreamlike. She’s just dreaming about cakes! THEY’RE NOT EVEN FLYING CAKES OR TALKING CAKES!! The Tantibus makes its way to her dream and sure enough infects all the food that Pinkie Pie is drooling over.
Luna comes in once again to stop the creatures and chase the Tantibus away to the next dream. So we’ve gotten dresses and cakes so far in terms of dream like imagery. THAT’S LAME! I want to see a REAL dream! One that’s completely absurd but makes a certain amount of sense within the dreamer’s unusual hang ups! WHERE AR ETHE REAL DREAMS!?
WOW I was not expecting that! I’m sure there are quite a few people who are a bit too happy to be seeing THIS scene, that’s for sure. So after being scarred by seeing Fluttershy’s deepest desires manifested, the Tantibus comes in to spoil the fun and turn Angel’s outside appearance to reflect his personality.
Luna comes in to save the day once again, and the cycle repeats for the remaining ponies as the Tantibus comes in and messes up their dreams (thankfully none as revealing as Fluttershy’s) and Luna comes to stop the attack but still unable to catch the source. The only other one that isn’t what you’d expect (Applejack likes apples and Twilight likes books) is Rainbow Dash who imagines herself as Jean-Claude Van Damme (or should I say Jean-Colt Vanner Dam?) until the Tantibus turns the world into a Nick Jr cartoon.
I don’t really see how this is a NIGHTMARE when it’s very much an opportunity to cause even more damage against something she despise. It’s not like she was turned into a pretty princess or something. If she still feels like destroying something beautiful, then she can start weeding these smiling bastards! Needless to say that the night ended in failure with Luna being unable to stop the Tantibus and it only getting stronger. Oh well. At least they can try again the next night and be more prepared, right? Well it turns out that after the Tantibus left Pinkie’s dream, she dreamt of an ice cream party in Ponyville and this apparently means that everyone in Ponyville is vulnerable to the creature. I don’t really get that. First of all, the Tantibus had ALREADY LEFT by the time her ice cream party dream started. Second, how is it that she was able to dream about each citizen of Ponyville with enough accurate details for the Tantibus to be able to invade their dreams, and even if that was possible, how was the Tantibus (who wasn’t there I’ll remind you) able to absorb all those details quickly enough so that EVERYONE in town is at risk? I mean it seems to have taken the Tantibus MONTHS (or even years) to be able to jump to six dreams. Now it can jump to hundreds!? Well however this is supposed to work, there’s no denying that the Tantibus is about to cause a lot of damage and will most likely escape into reality with all the power it gets. With no chance for even a rest, they have to come up with a plan to stop the Tantibus. They eventually decide that creating a massive shared dream for all the citizens of Ponyville to be a part of so that the Tantibus won’t have a chance to jump anywhere else. Frankly the massive shared dream is much better than the other dreams, in that it does contain some absurd elements with everyone within the dream doing their own crazy thing. There IS some more disturbing imagery though.
While Luna is desperately trying to hold together so many dreams, the Tantibus attacks and she is unable to do anything to stop it. Begrudgingly, she finally asks the Mane 6 for help and they jump at the opportunity to do some good. While fighting off the horrors generated from the Tantibus’s influence, we get cameos from many side characters, Flutterbat, and even Big Mac gets a great moment here!
It’s all very creative and what I was hoping we’d get from the dream sequences earlier which felt very generic compared to what they’re doing at this point in the episode. Despite how well of a job the Mane 6 is doing fighting the nightmare, the Tantibus itself is finally making its move to escape the world of dreams and enter reality. With the strain of this battle pushing them to their limits, they decide to enlist the rest of the citizens of Ponyville to take up arms and dream themselves up some Kung-Fu skills so that they can fight the menace as well!
With the combined strength of the town’s citizenry, they are able to keep the Tantibus at bay for even longer and we get some RIDICULOUSLY awesome moments with various characters from Ponyville showing off their skills with dream powers. Still, it’s not enough and the Tantibus’s power grows even more. Clearly, they haven’t found the true source of its power and haven’t been able to deflate it. What could that source of power be!?
Yes, the Tantibus is a creation of Luna’s guilt and need to punish herself for her treachery as Nightmare Moon, and this continued sense of self-loathing is what’s giving the Tantibus its power. Tabitha St. Germain is doing a hell of a job selling this scene to us just like Kasumi Evans did in last week’s episode, but just like there I feel that it’s a bit unearned. I know that Nightmare Moon is supposed to be a super villain and a pony feared by many. I know that Luna is constantly aware that not only was Nightmare Moon a terror to Equestria, but also inexplicably tied to herself in a way that means she can never let go of her own responsibility in her actions. I get all that, but I feel that the show has done a really poor job of showing it. Let’s review Nightmare Moon’s reign of terror. She appeared before Celestia a thousand years ago and was blasted to the moon within five minutes. Then a thousand years later, she crashed a celebration in a small town and was promptly blasted into oblivion a couple hours later. Now if you’ve read the comics or even the fan made content, there’s a lot of material there to work with, but since the show (as stated earlier) is the only canon that this is working from, I feel that Nightmare Moon just isn’t on the level of Discord, Chrysalis, Tirek, and others in terms of villainy. Hell, Starlight Glimmer wasn’t even a goddess and SHE managed to be way more evil in her two episode appearance (The Cutie Map) than Nightmare Moon has shown to be in this entire series. Despite my grumpiness about continuity and character motivations (in a show about candy colored horses with magic powers) the scene does work very well and Luna eventually accepts that she may have done bad things in the past but she’s no longer going to beat herself up over it. The Tantibus’s power diminishes and it goes to meet it’s creator.
With the threat of the Tanbius suppressed, Luna ends the shared dream and the town of Ponyville’s ordeal is now over. And thus the episode ends with Luna finally getting that restful sleep that so desperately needs and finally deserves!
This one took a bit of time to get going, but the payoff at the end was WELL worth the wait and is one of the highlights of the season in terms of animation and creative designs. It’s not as strongly written as some of the episodes we’ve seen this season like Amending Fences or even Luna’s previous episode Bloom & Gloom, but it more than makes up for it in the visual department. I still wish they hadn’t undercut Nightmare Moon the way they did in the season 4 premiere because it really does hurt my ability to buy into the guilt that Luna is still feeling after all this time as a respected and honored Princess of Equestria. You could argue that the time she’s been reformed is much shorter than the time she was stuck on the moon as Nightmare Moon, but the show itself hasn’t really gotten into what it was like during her time there (was she asleep the whole time?) or if the Princesses experience time different the mortals they rule over. It would be GREAT if they did that, but they haven’t gotten into any of that stuff deeply enough for me to really buy the angst in this episode. Assuming the characterization from previous episodes WAS there to support this though, it is quite a great execution of that idea. Other than that, I felt that Spike once again has very little to do and also find it odd that they specifically point out his lack of consequence to this story yet don’t use it for some sort of payoff (thereby confirming his insignificance to the plot). If the show has to go on hiatus before finishing up the season, this was a pretty good episode to go out on. I know I’m gonna be struggling to find stuff to talk about between now and whenever the hell the show comes back, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the recaps so far and will join me once again once the season resumes!
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