My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Mike Myhre
We’re back with another episode of Friendship is Practical Magic! For the most part, this season has been rather underwhelming when focusing on our core cast of characters that have had dozens of episodes dedicated to them already while episodes on not so ubiquitous ponies have been real highlights; not just of this season but of the series as well. Clearly there needs to be a shake up if this series wants to keep being such a prominent fixture in western animation; maybe not as much as Adventure Time ended up doing, but the LEAST we can do is expand the world a bit more and maybe not touch base with Ponyville as often! Hopefully they’re listening to my FANTASTIC advice because we have yet another episode that we’re focusing on characters that haven’t quite gotten their due in the series proper! Will this be yet another successful gamble for the season that’s on a hot streak for these kinds of episodes? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with… oh… oh wow!! They’re getting back to the Cutie Map!! YES!! I’ve never been so happy to see this pointless MacGuffin! After an interminable stretch of mediocre episodes stuck right in the middle of boring ol’ Ponville, this is the perfect excuse to get us out of this rut the season has found itself in and the series should REALLY utilize this plot device more! Oh, and what’s this!? The map is sending out Best Pony Starlight Glimmer to solve the problem of Other Best Ponies Princess Celestia and Princess Luna! The only way this could get any better is if they send Trixie too!! Wait, ARE THEY!?
No, it doesn’t look like she’ll be making an appearance this time around (I’m not sure my heart could have taken it if she had), but that still doesn’t mean that this episode isn’t shaping up to be AMAZING! The two most underused characters in the entire series (aside from Zecora and Queen Chrysalis) are the two God Ponies of the realm who are easily the most fascinating aspects of this entire mythology. Sure, Discord has been around longer and seems to be of an entirely separate existence from everyone else, but he’s not that hard of a character to grasp. He exists, therefore he pranks. Luna and Celestia aren’t so easy to decipher as so much of exactly what they are is still shrouded in mystery. They’re alicorns, but they also clearly of a different kind than other ones that we’ve seen. They’ve lived hundreds, if not thousands, of lifetimes as the rules of Equestria; becoming a constant in this world the same way rain and gravity are for the creatures that inhabit it. Despite that though, they’re clearly not so far above their subjects in evolutionary terms so as to lose sight of their… uh… well I guess you wouldn’t say their HUMANITY, but PONY-ANITY sounds awkward. You know what I mean! There’s so much to dissect about these two, and yet the show has barely spent any time with them outside of minor supporting roles here and there which is why it’s so exciting to FINALLY see them in the spotlight! Speaking of which, I got a bit distracted there. What happens when Starlight makes it to Canterlot and tells the sisters that she’s there to fix whatever problems they’re having? DENIAL OF COURSE!!
Yeah, Starlight isn’t buying this one bit but is also not sure how to address the situation considering the two ponies whose business she’s about to get all up in are ones that can send her to prison for a very long time if she probes a bit too far. Okay, they’re probably not THAT vindictive, but it’s still not easy to tell the Queens… I mean Princesses (actually, let’s go with Queens), that they’re screwing up! Even Twilight thinks that this isn’t going to end well who’s spying on Starlight by possessing a music box. Seriously, when is Alex-Gander Graham Bell gonna invent the magic telephone in this world so that long distance communication isn’t so complicated!?
Okay, so let’s get into the nitty gritty of it. In what way are the Queens failing to communicate properly and driving a wedge between them? Well it turns out that Celestia makes breakfast every morning (apparently she likes to make smiley pancakes) but Luna doesn’t eat with her because she’s so tired form her night of work, and Luna hangs lavender in the palace at night but it’s never acknowledged by Celestia who’s too busy with late night meetings and social events. I mean it’s obviously more than just a snubbed plate of food and unappreciated flowers, but that’s the Starlight’s entry point into this friendship problem. It’s not just that the two of them feel underappreciated, but that they don’t seem to WANT to take any steps in resolving it (why is Celestia making plates of food every morning that just gets thrown away?) so there’s a bit more to solving the problem than just reminding each of them to put on a brave face every morning/night for the other. Hence why the confrontation the next morning doesn’t go as well as Starlight would have hoped. Then again, if she DID want them to argue even more…
Honestly though, I’d consider this a positive step in the right direction as both parties are airing their grievances rather than continuing to bottle them up. Neither side is particularly interested in listening right now, but they can get to that at some other time. Unfortunately, Starlight is getting SUPER nervous about what she’s seeing (the possible start of a civil war) and decided to do what she always does in these situations, namely mess with Cutie Marks. SOMEHOW Starlight manages to switch their Cutie Marks and they will remain plastered to the wrong butts for exactly twenty-four hours. You’d think the Goddesses of the realm would be able to shrug off the magic tricks of a mere mortal, but Starlight has been proven to be REALLY good with Cutie Mark magic and so we’ve got ourselves a Freaky Friday situation!
Now obviously this was NOT the best idea considering they’ve JUST barely opened up about their issues and are not yet in a place to try and resolve them, but what’s done is done and Starlight has to talk REALLY fast if she doesn’t want to get thrown into the dungeon! Being the master manipulator that she is, she manages to prey on their egos by telling them this is the PERFECT opportunity to prove to each other which has the harder job and who has the right to be grumpy in the mornings! Thankfully she manages to just barely avoid that disaster, but then she has to go back to her room and tell Twilight what happened who handles it about as well as you’d expect.
Due to her feeling obligated to make this wacky day run as smoothly as possible (and also to get away from Twilight’s hyperventilating), Starlight goes out to help Luna handle Celestia’s daily duties. Now if anyone out there has read the My Little Pony comic books (particularly the Micro Series that ran concurrently for the first year), you might be noticing that the plot here is rather similar to one of those stories. Now that’s not a problem for me because I’ve been begging them to start ripping off the comics for some time now, but if we want to directly compare them, I’d say that the Luna Micro-Series issue that this is very similar to is the better of the two. Now in all fairness, the WHOLE issue was about Luna dealing with Celestia’s responsibilities while this episode only has a few minutes to try and do the same thing, but the montage they have here is rather… limited I guess? There’s not much that’s expected of her other than to smile which CAN be draining on someone, but it feels like they reduced the trials of being the Day Queen of Equestria just a bit too much to fit this simplistic metaphor. The scenes do an OKAY job of getting across the mind numbing nature of always being the voice of reason and the rock upon which all ponies allay their fears and negativity, but in trying to cram all that into her having to smile all the time makes the ponies of Equestria seem just a bit TOO petty; especially when she screws up her smiling for one minute and causes a chain reaction of awfulness. Apparently her lack of forced joy led to a school (in the wealthiest city in the kingdom) not being able to fundraise a field trip. Okay… I can buy that coming from some sort of fringe group of angry ponies (there are plenty of people in our world who are willing to talk at length about how someone can smile wrong), but this is on the front page of an Equestrian newspaper!
Luna DOES end up having a rather substantive takeaway from living a day in Celestia’s hooves which somewhat makes up for the lackluster conflicts presented to her. Basically, Celestia is handling SO many responsibilities (shallow as some of them may be) that fixating on any one of them is completely untenable, and so she’s forced to ignore the things she has screwed up on in order to fix the hundred other things in front of her; none of which are all that engaging to be a part of. It’s a pretty interesting dichotomy to consider, especially as we switch over from Luna to Celestia whose shift has finally come up. Starlight unfortunately needs her beauty rest and is unable to help her, but I’m SURE Celestia can handle this! Heck, the moon is four hundred times smaller than the sun! How hard can it be to raise it!? Actually, now that I think about it, Celestia WAS the sole monarch for a millennium so shouldn’t she already know how to handle the nightly duties? Then again, while it’s clear she WAS raising both the sun and the moon during that time, we don’t have any indication if she was doing the whole Dream Warrior thing as well; so were the ponies of Equestria forced to deal with bad dreams up until a few years ago? Either way, it doesn’t take long for Celestia to learn (or re-learn) the true terror of working at night; namely that she’s ALL ALONE… because apparently there’s no night life in Equestria.
Okay, the loneliness isn’t THAT bad (even if Celestia is prone to talking to herself when no pony else is around) and she even has a way to get around it by spying on everyone’s dreams! After all, who WOULDN’T want Big Sister listening on your innermost thoughts and desires!? Sadly she can’t focus on the saucier dreams right now as there’s one pony in particular who’s having a rough slumber, and that is… STARLIGHT GLIMMER!? What a twist!!
Okay, it’s not THAT surprising, but it seems that the moment we enter the dream world is when the writers and animators went into overdrive as everything about this part of the episode is interesting to look at and fascinating to watch play out. Essentially, Starlight is extremely anxious about her solution to bring the two queens together and fears that her Freaky Friday scheme will only tear them further apart. Now usually this manifests as the return of Nightmare Moon, but Starlight manages to add a little twist to the scenario that makes it like… a MILLION times more awesome!
Hey, remember when I mentioned this episode was pulling from the comics back when we were following Luna’s story? Well with Nightmare Moon AND this incarnation of Celestia’s dark half that calls herself Day Breaker (Really? Was Solar Flare taken?) showing up to duke it out and making things difficult for Celestia, we get to make ANOTHER comparison to the comics and not just to ANY issue in the series! Oh no, this is probably the closest we’ll get to the BEST arc the comic books ever did (or at least as far as I’ve read them) which is the Reflections Arc; a four issue series where the Mane6 travel to another dimension and are confronted with not only evil counterparts of Luna and Celestia, but a good version of King Sombra. We’re not going quite THAT deep with it, but the way that Celestia plays off both Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon (as well as how they play off of each other) is some of the best writing we’ve gotten this season and already pushes this great episode into legendary status. Maybe I’m expecting the wrong things from a show that’s primarily aimed at young girls, but really cool world building stuff is always going to be the best aspects of this show simply because of how expansive and well-designed everything was from the very outset (the reason they hired Lauren Faust in the first place) and the myriad of interesting and creative directions they can go in. The comic books have this down to a T which is why they’re a fantastic companion to the animated series and why episodes like this that go further into the characters’ personal demons and insecurities keep the show engaging even when we have to suffer through less than interesting runs of episodes to get to them. Celestia does her best to keep the two evil monarchs at bay but decides that she needs to get some backup if she wants to overcome them. Starlight’s out as she’s a total emotional wreck right now, so Celestia’s gonna have to find someone who’s a bit more cool, calm, and collected to help her out.
Okay, so Luna isn’t doing much better than Starlight considering she’s having a nightmare about school children judging her while all her teeth fall out (this episode just keeps getting better and better!) but Celestia drags her into Starlight’s dream anyway because… well what the heck ELSE is she gonna do? Sadly this doesn’t work out as well as she’d had hoped because Luna is unable to help as she has CELESTIA’S powers and only HER powers (which Celestia has right now) can… do dream stuff I guess. Well if nothing else, that basically confirms that no one was on DREAM PATROL for over a thousand years while Luna was serving out her moon sentence. So now it’s CELESTIA’S turn to break down as she admits that Luna’s job sucks which in turn makes Luna happy and completes that whole “character arc” thing we’ve been working on since the beginning. At least we got THAT cleared up, but what about the nightmare monarchs!? Eh… no need to worry! Luna gives Celestia a little pep talk before sending her out to finish the job. That, and the fact that they’re in a DREAM so it’s not like any of this is real.
And POOF! Both of them disappear presumably to never be seen again! Okay, Nightmare Moon tends to pop up every so often, but does Daybreaker have a chance of being a reoccurring villain? It wouldn’t be easy considering one is ACTUALLY a character that existed while the other is a specific figment of one pony’s imagination, but you never know! I sure the writers could come up with a magic spell that’ll have it all make sense! Either way, the dream is over and everything returns to normal with the two sisters learning a lesson about the grass always being greener on the other side (getting their Cutie Marks back in the process), and Starlight Glimmer once again JUST BARELY succeeding in the face of certain disaster! Pretty sure she’ll end up being the Princess of Lucky Breaks by the end of the season. And so the episode ends with the sister’s coming together, Twilight NOT dying of a stress induced heart attack (though she DOES drop by the castle to get a full report from Starlight), and Luna dumping all of her day time screw ups on Celestia before going back to bed. Hey, she’s the one who’s good at that stuff!
See, THIS is the kind of freaking episode I’ve been waiting for! Sure it isn’t PERFECT, but the interactions between Celestia and Luna as well as the great ideas being played with make this a top tier episode of the series; not to put TOO much pressure on whatever the heck it is the writers have planned next. I mean seriously, do we REALLY want to go back to APPLEJACK DOESN’T UNDERSTAND HIGH CLASS STUFF or RAINBOW DASH HAS AN EGO when we could CLEARLY be having episodes as fresh and engaging as this one!? If there’s one major flaw to this episode, it’s that Twilight’s presence feels very extraneous as this COULD have been a story about her as well (how much does she REALLY trust Starlight?) but her scenes never build to any sort of satisfying conclusion. Sure, she shows up at the end, but it’s mostly there as a joke and provides little insight into Twilight and Starlight’s ongoing mentor/student relationship. Thankfully it doesn’t detract much from the overall package as the interactions between Luna and Celestia more than make up for that weakness. Okay, so now that we’ve covered THESE two monarchs, it’s only fair we get a Crystal Kingdom episode too, right!? Maybe Starlight can be sent by the map to be their marriage counselor!