Straight review because this is (so far) my favorite episode of the series.
No less because the awesome John de Lancie has a lot of fun with a role the equal of Robin Williams’ Genie and the animators have even more fun animating things as “wrong” as possible. Which gives this episode a lot of its rewatchability as you keep trying to spot every “goof” you missed before. And they have way too much fun with taking the mane six into whole new directions.
What makes it even more memorable is that Discord is the first real villain the ponies ever faced. Nightmare Moon never showed herself as any threat and her challenges to the ponies were easily rebuffed. Discord, however, no only ruins Equestria for a whole day (or… week? month? so hard to tell in chaos!time) but actually beats the ponies at first. His scolding to Celestia that while he may be evil, he’s never put any pony in stone is… an interesting take on the character. He probably doesn’t see himself as really evil (and Pinkie Pie probably agrees).
And what a way to beat them! I’ve always advised to any writer: “a character’s weakness is just their strength in the wrong context”. Easy example: A quick-acting person is “quick” and “decisive” in a battle, but “brash” and “rude” in social settings or dealing with mysteries that require a more methodical, reasoned approach. Likewise, a thoughtful person is “deep” and “brilliant” in social settings or dealing with mysteries, but “hesitant” and “cowardly” in a battle. Part 1 of this episode… goes along those lines. Pony of honesty? Well what happens if the truth is too horrible to bear? Pony of loyalty? What happens when you have two conflicting loyalties? I was disappointed that Fluttershy was the only one to “beat” Discord, but then the lesson that sometimes “you have to be cruel to be kind” is probably one that wouldn’t be easy to teach, or go over well in a cartoon aimed at this age group.
Although one wonders: why can’t Spike wield the element of loyalty? He’s proven himself pretty darn loyal to Twilight (indeed, Owlowiscious’ episode is proof of my earlier point, loyalty easily leads to jealousy). Are the elements speciesest? We need an episode with the mane six’s pets all using the elements to defeat… something.
If I have any complaints, it’s with the animation choice of “graying” the ponies. There’s a trope (I actually can’t find it, I think they changed the name on me) about how sometimes a visual clue will be present on a character that the audience can see, but character’s can’t. (This drove me nuts as a kid as I often would scream at the TV because I could tell which was the “evil clone” how could the character’s not see his exaggerated eyebrows or twitch or color difference?) When we see AJ’s vision of the future, we see the ponies are “normal” colored even though when the event happens, they’re all gray. So I assumed this was an instant of that trope. Then… we have Spike mention how “gray” everyone looks and another line (forgot it now) that says to us, “no, the gray isn’t just an audience clue about Discord’s control, the characters can see it too”. Therefore… why didn’t Discord notice the color reversion when the ponies arrived to fight him a second time? Still:
This is the standard by which all other episodes are judged.
2 questions remain:
- Both times Discord is “stoned”. And no one seems to make an effort to smash his statue. Perhaps a lesson that “chaos” can never be destroyed, only contained?
- Was this our first clue of Equestria’s creation myth? I believe that once upon a time, Discord and chaos was the norm. Then on a whim, he invented an alicorn (think how crazy those are). Then decided to make it smart. Why not split it in two? How fun would that be! Thus, hubris engineered his fall.