Magic, Lies, and Forbidden Amulets: “Magic Duel” review

You know what I love? Being proven wrong. It’s fun! It means I’m learning, and today, I certainly learned something.

I said before that I didn’t expect the reappearance of Trixie on this season of My Little Pony, to be any good. After all, the only reason they were doing it was to please the fans, and that typically ends badly. After all, fans don’t know what they want. Fans should just let the creative geniuses behind their favourite properties do their jobs, and not pester them to turn the show into Total Request Pony.

But perhaps I was thinking about this the wrong way. After all, perhaps they didn’t do it simply because the fans asked for it, but in spite of that. Perhaps someone on the staff just had a great idea that required bringing an old villain back. They just decided to roll with it. I like that thought.

I say this because I’m going to completely 180 on my previous stance. You see the reappearance of Trixie is, so far, the best episode of season three.

Of course, that’s not saying much. After all, Too Many Pinkie Pies was a bit underwhelming; One Bad Apple wasn’t bad but it felt a bit lopsided in the middle there; and The Crystal Empire, this season’s premiere, was a damp squib, simply a horrible episode. But I really mean it, this episode was fantastic! It might even go on to be the best of the entire season. Of course, we’ll see.

Why do I say this? Well, let’s look at the show. Shall we?

We open on a mysterious cloaked figure running through the rainy streets of a mysterious dark town. She bursts into a darkened and unoccupied shop with items strewn about. I remember seeing antique stores more organized. Anyway, she’s interrupted in her rummaging by the shopkeep, who suggests something drew her to the store. She points a hoof at the shelf behind him, and we see the object of her desires: a red and grey artifact featuring a bright red diamond-shaped ruby, a unicorn’s head, and a pair of wings. Interesting.

It’s called the Alicorn Amulet; and this name is very noteworthy, for it’s the first time in the series that the term ‘Alicorn’ is used on-screen. Now, it could simply be a reference to the material unicorn horns are made of, or it could refer to the race of the three pony princesses. Given the design of the amulet, I have to say, it’s probably the latter, even though I wish it was the former.

The shopkeep refuses to give the stranger the Amulet, saying it’s too powerful, and too dangerous…until she drops a satchel full of bits on the counter. Greedy fuck!

Meanwhile, in Ponyville, Twilight is trying a new spell that makes Fluttershy’s animals fly around. Which appears to just be telekinesis. Fluttershy’s worried, but Spike mentions that Twilight’s skills have improved since she accidentally crushed him and Applejack with a giant snowball. To those who forget, that was from Winter Wrap-up, season one, episode eleven.

Rainbow arrives to tell Twilight of the terrible events that are happening downtown.

They arrive to find a mysterious assailant attacking the Ponyvillians with various malicious magical spells. She drops her hood, and surprise, surprise, it’s Trixie, and she’s out for blood. Apparently, after the Ursa Minor incident, she was laughed out of every town she visited. For a travelling performer, that’s a death sentence. She even had to resort to working on a rock farm.

You know, it’s funny, that’s the exact scenario I’ve seen in every fan work that dealt with the aftermath of Trixie’s departure from Ponyville. Even the revenge plot is ripped almost verbatim. But I guess there aren’t many other places to go with the character.

What bugs me about this scene is simple: Twilight’s reaction. Trixie was never more than a nuisance when she first arrived, and she never really did anything wrong, other than lie on stage. Which is typically considered a fine place to tell a lie. So for Twilight to react to her arrival with scorn, seems unnecessary, and unjustified. Indifference seems more appropriate. A bit like: “Oh, hi Trixie. Never expected you to come back into town. What’s up!?” Then Trixie get’s pissed at Twilight’s apathy and shoots her.

Anyway, Trixie quickly challenges Twilight to a dual, loser is banished from Ponyville, while the winner gets to stay. Twilight refuses, initially, but caves when Trixie starts attacking Spike. If it’ll get her out of town, I guess it’s worth it.

I love this moment because we get the episode’s best visual gag. Trixie conjures up an arrow that drags Pinkie’s snout into a trash bin. All the Adobe Flash users out there must be laughing their asses off.

So once Twilight agrees, Trixie reverses all her terrorist spells…except for Pinkie’s snout. So we deal with that for the entire episode. I’m so happy!

So the dual begins, and they start casting spells on each other, and innocent bystanders nearby. Which seems unnecessary. But it all ends when Trixie casts an aging spell on Snails, and a youth spell on Snips; turning them into an old man, and a baby, respectively; and Twilight can’t reverse the spell. She lost. It’s over.

We’re only seven minutes in people! What the crap!?

Twilight’s literally thrown out of town, and Trixie lowers a giant fishbowl over the city. Wasn’t that the plot of the Simpson’s movie? How are they gonna get food while trapped under a fishbowl!? This is a really stupid idea.

Twilight needs to win against Trixie. Someway, somehow, she needs to defeat her. But since the Princess is in Saddle Arabia (seriously!?), the only source for expert magic just happens to be the Great and Powerful Zecora! This is interesting, I didn’t know she knew magic, I just thought she knew potions and herbs. Huh…learn something new.

Zecora decides to train Twilight in the art of magic. This is going to be so much fun!

Meanwhile, in Ponyville, Trixie has begun to enslave the population. They’ve erected statues and banners in her honour, and she is not a kind ruler.

Back in the Everfree forest, Ze-yoda is teaching Twilight Skywalker the ways of the Magics. She starts with a simple Jesus spell. Standing on the surface of a lake, levitating orbs of water around her. But her stress over the situation breaks her concentration, and she falls into the lake.

Twilight points out that this new Trixie isn’t just arrogant, she’s antagonistic. Something else is going on. But Zecora isn’t having it. Twilight must focus on the training.

Back in Ponyville (GADDAMMIT! CAN’T WE STAY IN ONE SPOT!!!) the gang minus Twilight plus Spike is searching for some kind of solution in the Library. They know something’s up about Trixie, but they just can’t figure it out. Eventually, Fluttershy finds a lead in a book, but no one notices. It features an image of Trixie’s Amulet covering half a page. But the others are too busy resigning themselves to their fate. Spike grabs the book, probably not noticing Fluttershy’s carrying it, and they all read about the Alicorn Amulet! Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, Trixie was wearing the Alicorn Amulet we saw in the cold open. She was the rich stranger who bought the damn thing. But you probably already knew that.

Anyway, they read about a pretty bad side-effect to the Amulet. It corrupts the user’s mind. To make matters worse, it can’t be forced off, it has to be willingly taken off. Now what!?

They have to tell Twilight, but thanks to the fishbowl, they’re trapped within the city. It’s impossible to leave. But Rainbow comes up with a plan, and it involves Fluttershy.

This is the weird part, Fluttershy straight up panics. You know, this is what I don’t like about the episode. Sure, Fluttershy is pretty timid, but not this timid. She’s more of a caricature in this episode than a real character. It really bugs me.

So apparently Trixie has some kind of sensor on the fishbowl that detects when someone touches it. So as she goes to investigate a disturbance, she’s pulled in her chariot by Snips and Snails. The weird thing is, her chariot doesn’t have wheels. Apparently, she doesn’t trust them.

They arrive to find a bunch of beavers attacking the fishbowl and demanding to be let through with their giant log. So Trixie complies, unknowingly allowing Fluttershy, who’s within the log, to leave town.

Once Trixie is long gone, a little birdie informs Fluttershy of Twilight’s whereabouts. She tells both Twilight and Zecora everything. But Twilight is beaten. Even her most powerful spells cannot best the Alicorn Amulet. But it’s at this moment, Zecora gives Twilight her final lesson…and it’s the crux of the whole episode.

Twilight returns to Ponyville, or at least, returns to the edge of the fishbowl, and challenges Trixie to another dual, but this time, Twilight’s armed with an amulet more powerful than Trixie’s!

Trixie’s pride gets the better of her, and she welcomes the new dual. Dissolving the Fishbowl, they proceed to downtown Ponyville, and begin. Hold on…why is the mayor in a cage!?

Anyway, Trixie opens by turning her most loyal servants into babies. Odd move. Twilight counters by turning Rarity and Applejack into fillies. Rarity and Applejack eh? Interesting choice. Trixie isn’t impressed. So, Twilight then follows it up by mixing and matching, back and forth, one than the other, even turning Applejack into an old mare.

Trixie is in shock. But Twilight’s just getting started. She hits Rainbow with a duplication spell, and Pinkie with a spell that makes her play ten instruments at once, and finally, Applejack with a gender-swap spell.

Such power! Trixie is impressed. She abandons her amulet and steals Twilight’s! Oh no! But she quickly learns, it was just a ruse. Twilight’s amulet had no power. It was just a trinket. She’d been duped.

So how did Twilight pull off all those amazing tricks? The same way human magicians pull off amazing tricks: By faking it! They got Big Mac, Apple Bloom and Granny Smith to dress up as Applejack, and Sweetie Belle to dress up as Rarity. Complete with wigs, contact lenses, and hair dye…or paint, I think. Fluttershy dressed as Rainbow Dash, for the duplication spell. Then, a blast of smoke to hide the switch. BAM! Instant deception! Penn and Teller would be proud!

You see, that was Zecora’s final lesson: Sometimes, it’s more appropriate not to use magic.

So Trixie’s reign of terror is over, and Twilight is back in Ponyville.

The next day (I think) Celestia arrives with some delegates from Saddle Arabia (seriously?) and Twilight is in charge of entertainment. She floats the animals around, and is suddenly backed up with a fireworks display from Trixie, who feels awfully guilty for her actions, begging for forgiveness. Twilight forgives the idiot, who hasn’t changed as much as one might think, and the episode closes. But not before Pinkie busts through the iris wipe, demanding her mouth back. Twilight appears through a magical hole, and fixes everything. I kinda like that. The credits roll.

This was a fun episode, I must say. Like I said earlier, I was certainly skeptical, but it turned out alright.

But there’s one issue I want to cover: This season’s arc. I don’t know if it’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I am seeing a few more plot-devices that can play into the season-long arc…if one can call it that. The Alicorn Amulet being one of them. We got a new character last week, and a new ally this week. But I feel like I’m grasping at straws. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there is no arc. Maybe the season premiere was a badly written piece of dreck. It’s the only other explanation I can think of.

That episode gave no back story, and raised more questions than answers. If the premiere wasn’t introducing any kind of arc, what exactly was it’s purpose!?

I hope something changes soon, because I can’t go on like this. Either they show me an arc, or I’m leaving!

Next week, Scootaloo suffers from insomnia. Wait…a Scootaloo episode? Okay, I’ll stick around for that!


…Hold on…Trixie’s eyes…they remind me of someone…Hmmmm…


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