The Crystal Arc: “The Crystal Empire” review

Oh, yes, it’s that time again! Time for a new season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a show which, as I’ve said before, is amazing, despite the title.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: Why would any self-respecting grown man bother watching a television show aimed at little girls?

Well, the answer is simple: because any self-respecting grown man wouldn’t care who the target audience was, as long as the content was entertaining and well-written. That is, assuming they’re not a sexist bigoted prick!

Anyway, since I started getting into the show, it changed my life. Not in any substantially profound way, though, but in a weird way. It inspired me to write some amazing stories (at least I think they’re amazing), and stick with them (unlike that Harry Potter story which I abandoned two chapters in). But more recently, it earned me several new friends.

A few weeks ago, I attended a meet-up with my fellow…er…My Little Pony fans…here in my hometown. We went bowling, chatted and had an all-around merry time. It was great fun for me for several reasons, not the least of which being the fact that until that day, I had no idea that there were any other pony-fans in this city. It was a major discovery, finding a group of people in a location you didn’t think they would exist in.

Which leads me eloquently into the new season premiere, where Brigadoon appears in Northern Equestria. Okay, it’s the long-lost Crystal Empire, but it might as well be Brigadoon!

You all know Brigadoon right? It’s the story of a town that only exists for one day every hundred years. So basically, every week that passes in the town, seven hundred years pass in the rest of the world. Kinda depressing when you think about it. How much time has passed for the citizens of that town since the foundation of all culture? About two months. It’s the most depressing story in existence. The universe passes them by in the blink of an eye. Fifty years pass for the citizens, a single lifetime for some people, almost 2 million years pass for the rest of the world. By that time, humanity would probably be replaced by a society of mole people.

What are we talking about again? Oh, right, the new episode of My Little Pony. A much cheerier show.

The episode opens with Celestia being told ‘it’ has returned. How horrifying! It’s the invasion of the pronouns!

This kinda bugs me, how does she know what ‘it’ is? ‘It’ could be anything. That’s why they call it, ‘it’! If there was something else, like, “Our stations to the north have proclaimed that ‘it’ has returned.” I could buy that Celestia would figure it out rapidly…but that’s not what happened. Celestia’s next line should have been a gasp followed by the words: “Wait…what?”

Anyway, the ‘it’ he’s referring to is the Crystal Empire. An ancient kingdom whose power can influence the spirits of everypony in the nation!

So, for some reason, Celestia decided to send Twilight off to Northern Equestria where the Empire spontaneously appeared. Instead of, you know, going herself or sending her sister who actually volunteered, she sends a young and relatively inexperienced pony to ensure the fate of all Equestria.

Ugh! Whatever. The princess quickly briefs Twilight on the situation. We learn here that Celestia has some type of holographic projector in the main throne room. OO…that’s gonna come in handy for my stories. She also has a love for theatrics, which you’d think we would have learned much earlier.

We also learn that Celestia still enjoys enshrining key moments of Equestria’s history in stained glass windows, for we see a mural of Shining and Cadance banishing the Changelings from the end of last season. You remember, the episode with the really stupid ending!

There’s also a very ominous line here, before Twilight arrives, Celestia says to Luna: “She will succeed in her task, and when she does, we’ll know she’s that much closer to being ready.” Ready for what? I’m a bit scared here.

So we learn that the evil King Sombra took over the Empire before he was banished by (I’m assuming) Princesses Celestia and Luna a thousand years ago, but not before taking the empire with him.

Okay, this bugs me, so far, things that happened a thousand years ago: Luna’s banishment, the banishment of King Sombra, and the disappearance of the Crystal Empire. Apparently, it was a busy year for Equestria.

Then, the oddest line of dialogue pops up. “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.”

Um…why!? I hear that, and I’m thinking: that’s gonna be problematic. After all, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.

I also feel it’s crucial to note, Luna doesn’t seem to approve of Celestia’s position, and I have to agree, it seems odd. But the problem is, Luna doesn’t verbally object…well, at least she actually showed up this time!!!

So the whole team arrives in the Great White North, where the Crystal Empire is located and it’s a cold barren tundra. Meeting up with Shining Armor, who arrived ahead of them, he quickly leads them straight to the Empire. But on the way there, they are attacked, by King Sombra, who is basically a cloud of smoke, the heck!? Of course Shining holds back to buy the others some time, and when he finally arrives, we see his horn has been disabled by black crystals. Odd.

Cadance is in a completely different situation. She’s been running a spell that seems to be holding the dark cloud of evil back, but it requires constant maintenance, which means she can’t sleep, otherwise the spell will fail, and Sombra would invade, and it’s starting to take its toll. They need to find a different way to protect the Empire, and quickly.

Twilight decides the best way would be to ask the locals for information. Unfortunately, they appear to have all suffered from simultaneous amnesia and can’t remember a damn thing. It also doesn’t help that they appear to suffering from clinical depression, and Pinkie left her stash of Paxil at home. The entire team interrogates as many of the citizen as they can. Pinkie resorting to disguises and stealth, with Rarity getting too distracted by her fantasies to ask any real questions. Is she ever any help!?

The interesting thing about the Crystal Empire, is the citizenry themselves, for we are introduced to a new race of ponykind: The Crystal Ponies. Why are they called that? Who the hell knows!? They don’t look very crystally, in fact they are composed of ver dull tones, and their hair is very limp, and greasy. It’s quite odd.

Anyway, the team ends up finding a library, where they start scouring the shelves looking for anything that might be helpful. Until Twilight finally finds a complete history on the Empire, and a solution to all their problems: A celebration called the Crystal Fair. It’s basically like any festival, only with Crystal Ponies; they shall have music, treats, wicker baskets, jousting, and a petting zoo. So they get the fair ready, and as a final element, Twilight cuts a heart out of a block of crystal to operate as the fair’s centrepiece, since the book mentioned a crystal heart.

The festival opens and everypony get’s excited, quickly falling out of their depression, once the words ‘crystal fair’ are uttered. Well that was quick! Mission accomplished I guess!

So, once the fair begins Rainbow Dash tries to get them to celebrate and celebrate hard, and in doing so, she overhears the ponies discuss the Crystal Heart, an artifact that defends the Empire and is powered by the joy of its citizens. It’s not just a heart cut out of a crystal, it’s a specially designed defence shield…fuck. You see, Twilight didn’t know that.

So, upon this discovery, Cadance’s magic fails, Sombra attacks, and the episode ends. Well, this sucks.

But of course, this is the two episode premiere, so like the last season finale, we get the follow-up rather quickly. I’ll say what I said last time, it’s redundant to give us a ‘previously on’ segment when the last episode ended two minutes ago. This isn’t like 24 or Stargate Universe where the ‘previously on’ segments contain clips from several episodes, I should note. All the clips were from the episode we just watched.

So with the bad guy from the Fifth Element closing in, Shining wakes his wife up, and she reestablishes her spell, but not before a single piece of the king manages to break get past the barrier and establish a foothold. But nopony notices…yet.

Twilight decides she needs to find the real Crystal Heart, and decides to go it alone, with no help from anyone, and asks the others to keep the fair going in her absence, so the spirits of the Crystal Ponies don’t falter. They must stay optimistic, in spite of the evil malevolence waiting to destroy them.

Twilight tries to determine the location of the Heart, but comes up short, until she thinks, what is the last place anypony would look? Well, much like Discord hid the Elements of Harmony in Twilight’s house, she figures Sombra hid the heart in the centre of the Empire, the Crystal Palace. Spike insists on joining her. She agrees on the condition that he doesn’t help her. I’m really starting to hate Twilight here. She needs to sort out her priorities. She’s worse than Hermione!

So, as the others keep the fair going, and Applejack tries to keep the ponies away from the fake Heart; Twilight scours the palace for any clue. But in a flashback, she remembers a spell that Celestia used to emulate Sombra’s magic. I hope this’ll come in handy in future episodes, but right now, she realizes that the temple they currently occupy, wasn’t the same one Sombra ruled from. She cast the spell on the royal throne, revealing a hidden passage in front of it. You see, it technically was the same castle, but corrupted to fit his purposes, and one of the purposes was a hidden passage. I assume he had some way of hiding it when he was in power, because it doesn’t look that hidden. Big plank of wood over the hole. “DON’T MOVE THAT!!!”

Speaking of Sombra, I find it odd that he get’s no back story, no explanation of his motivations. That’s problematic my friends. Otherwise we just have a generically evil antagonist, and that’s just boring. Why are they evil? What do they want!? Money? Power? Revenge!? WHAT!?

So, anyway, Twilight descends the passage alone, without Spike, and it’s a deep passage. She drops a single stone, and it takes ten seconds to hit bottom, which I think means it’s 500 metres deep. Holy shit.

Twilight legs it down the stairs, and she ends up falling most of the way down, her magic cushioning the fall. I’m not surprised she would have learned that spell by now, considering how many times she has fallen to her death.

At the bottom, there’s a single door, that keeps moving constantly. Using the emulation spell, she manages to get it to stay still and open. She rushes through it, ending up back in Canterlot Castle, where Princess Celestia dresses her down, as she failed the mission. Declaring the unicorn to leave her tutelage.

Obviously it’s an illusion, which Spike knocks her out of, his worry getting the better of him, he followed her down, despite her orders.

Twilight quickly determines the door is meant to project their worst fears into their minds, in a hyper-realistic simulation. Spike’s worst fear being Twilight declaring she doesn’t need him anymore. Of course Twilight reassures him that something like that would never happen, and I suddenly get an ugly feeling. I don’t know about you, but that line feels like ironic foreshadowing.

Anyway, she breaks the spell, and steps through the real door. Leading to another set of stairs, surrounding a towering column suspended in purgatory.

Meanwhile, the crystal fair isn’t going so well. Sombra’s foothold is spreading to the city proper, and the crystal ponies are in a panic. They surround the fake Crystal Heart, all ready to power it up. But of course they can’t since it’s not real. The ruse is uncovered when Pinkie knocks off the cloth disguising it…oops.

Back in the castle, because of the height of the column, Twilight decides to think up a shortcut. She uses her magic to reverse gravity, and slides up the column on the underside of the stairs. Fun times.

They arrive at the top of the column, and see the Crystal Heart levitating at the top of the tower.

But in the unicorn’s enthusiasm, she falls into a trap she can’t escape from. She can’t get the Heart back to the ponies. They’re screwed. Twilight was told, very specifically, that she was the only one that could finish the job. Her orders were clear.

But I think we can all agree the orders didn’t make sense. So Twilight says, to hell with my orders, and does what any self-respecting movie solder does when the boots hit the ground, violate their orders for the greater good. It’s worked on every other TV show! She tells Spike to finish the job, since he’s the only one who can! Spike’s not too sure, after all, if she doesn’t finish the job, Celestia won’t be happy. But Twilight’s insistent, after all, there are bigger priorities. Thank fuck she finally realized it!!! Come on! Kick ass!

So Spike grabs the heart just as the last ounces of Cadance’s energy drains out, and the shield collapses once again, this time allowing Sombra to bring all of his might down hard. Declaring the Crystal Ponies ‘slaves.’ Which would be interesting to know more about. What were they doing as slaves? Building? Harvesting? What!? See! We need some character motivation here!

So Spike legs it down the tower. Finding a ramp made of Sombra’s crystals that would allow him to get down to the others safely. But he looses his footing and starts plummeting to the ground, just as Sombra is about to pounce on the young dragon.

Shining and Cadance spot the plummeting dragon, and the brave and courageous warrior, Shining Armor, decides the only logical strategy, is to throw his wife at them. I wish I was kidding!!!! He throws his wife at them! Who does that!? Well, thankfully, it works, and Cadance spreads her wings, catching the Crystal Heart, and the heroic dragon.

They land on the ground, and Cadance throws the Heart into position for the ponies to power and protect the city. It works! The Heart activates and King Sombra isn’t just banished but straight up killed, his body broken apart and destroyed. That had to hurt. This surprised me, so much that I didn’t even notice it first watch, but Sombra is straight up murdered there. Never thought I’d see that on My Little Pony.

But of course the Crystal Heart has an interesting side effect. Making all the Crystal Ponies actually look like Crystal, and turning all the normal ponies in the Empire into Crystal Ponies. Cadance, Shining, Twilight, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rainbow, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and even Spike (oddly), are now crystal, or at least, they appear to be. I’ll be honest, this whole Crystal Ponies thing, seems kinda stupid to me. I don’t know if it works; I don’t know if it makes sense; I don’t know if it’s necessary; and I especially don’t know if they really needed to transform the entire cast into Crystal Ponies, especially since it only lasted for less than a minute.

So the Empire is saved and it’s time for the cast to take a victory lap. But unfortunately, Twilight can’t. In her mind, she failed. She didn’t save anything, she had Spike do it. He’s the one that got commemorated in a stained glass window. Okay, seriously, Celestia, you’re going to run out of windows at this rate.

You see, it was made clear at the beginning of the episode, that this whole thing was some type of test for Twilight. Oh sure the Crystal Ponies and the threat was real, but Twilight’s handling of the situation was a type of field test, and since she didn’t finish it, she doesn’t think she passed it.

However, Celestia quickly explains that’s not quite the case. For she put her own future career on the line, for the citizens of the Crystal Empire. a much more noble action than Twilight thinks it is. Basically, she passed, with flying colours. Awesome!!! It’s time to move onto the next level of her studies! Wait…what could that mean?

So the episode ends with Twilight and the gang returning to Ponyville after a very long day. As the train pulls away, we see Celestia and Luna watching them leave, as Luna pulls out some type of book. What’s that about?

Which brings me to the biggest pet peeve I have about this episode: The sudden revelation of questions that get no answers in the entire episode! Celestia and Luna’s ominous and mysterious conversation, the generically evil bad guy with no background or motivation, the ‘next level’ of Twilight’s studies and that book at the end! What do they think this is!? LOST!? You can’t just…wait…hold on…

OH! MY! CRAP!

My world has just been shattered.

I think I know what’s going on.

This season will be much different from the last two. For the first time, this season we be an arc. What is an arc? It’s a single story thread that will span the entire season, and tie every episode together. Questions asked in earlier episodes will be answered in later ones, and we will get a single solitary story spanning the entire season. It’s the only explanation. After all, there are way too many plot holes that must be filled. Not to mention the true identity of those who defeated Sombra.

I know some will say it was Celestia and Luna, and that might be true, but since they were in silhouette during that scene, it’s possible it could have been someone else. Someone that will be revealed later this season. I’ll assume nothing at this point.

Heck, they have to be planning a story arc. The only other explanation is that the writer, Meghan McCarthy, is just really lazy and didn’t see the need to give the big bad any real motivation, or development, or make him interesting in any way. But that can’t be true…right?

Next week, Pinkie Pie discovers the magic of cloning! I’ve seen this movie.

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