Twilight Sparkle is slowly adjusting to her new Princess/genetically mutated alicorn status. Her flying skills could definitely use some work, and she is reluctant to assume her new authority, but Twi’s a smart cookie; she’ll figure it out. She's already worried about the distance her new position puts between her friends and her, and unfortunately, she’ll have to spend the Summer Sun Festival in Canterlot while her friends help with the local festival in Ponyville. Celestia assures Twilight she believes in her and expects great things in service to all of Equestria, which is definitely not vaguely threatening at all. The higher-ranked princess also tells Twilight that she rarely looked forward to the festival until recently – it was more a reminder that she banished her sister than anything, though the particular phrasing she uses is a little too “For the Greater Good” for my taste. (What I’m saying is that Our Dear Leader is a fascist megalomaniac the likes of which has not been seen since Grindelwald.)
After just one night alone in the castle, Luna and Celstia (excuse me, ODL) are missing! Dramatic sounds! The guards ask for orders from Twi, as the only other princess we know of, Cadence, is still ruling benevolently over the Crystal Kingdom (aka the Canada of Equestria). Twilight orders the troops to keep searching for Luna and Celestia, which is a really nice stalling tactic that almost works... except shit hits the fan pretty fast. Throughout the kingdom both the sun and moon hang in the sky, but not in the normal, “you can still see the moon in the daytime” way, but in the weird “that half of the sky is night and that half’s day” kind of way. Whoever writes Equestria's almanac is probably shitting a brick.
Meanwhile, Ponyville is overrun with strange black weeds and evil spiky clouds of doom! The weeds are sentient and enjoy terrorizing the citizens (especially Big Mac, whose vocabulary is surprisingly eloquent in this situation). Twilight flies to town in search of her friends, Spike seat-belted to her back (safety first, children) and quite aware it may be time to activate the Elements of Harmony once more (Queue up some “Back in Black”). After reuniting with her friends and sharing with them the bad news about the missing princesses, they use their Elements to call upon Discord, whom they suspect to be the root of the evil... roots.
He is irritated when they interrupt his bath (and a bitchin' rendition of “Winter Wrap-up”) and insists he is not responsible for this mayhem. At his recommendation they speak to Zecora, who doesn't have answers but does have a magic potion that can help! Is it bad that she's kind of a drug dealer? I think that's bad. She would have used the potion by now, but it can only be activated by an alicorn. That thing that TwiSparks is now. Twilight uses her mojo and has a vision of Luna once again arising as evil and threatening Nightmare Moon. Gasp!
As it turns out, that’s a flashback, not a flash sideways (so many flashbacks I’ve dealt with today). Twilight watches as Celestia is “forced” to wield the elements alone (ODL shouldn’t have that much power; this is why you create parliaments) and banish Luna/Nightmare Moon to the…moon. Such subtlety in this show sometimes. Her vision ends, and despite her friends' concern (and Discord's amusement) Twi drinks the potion again (she got hooked fast), this time seeing an earlier flashback to when Celestia and Luna turned Discord into stone.
While this is all enlightening, it still doesn't help much with their current situation. She drinks the potion once more, this time seeing the sisters discover the Elements. They were once contained inside the Tree of Harmony, like magical elderberries. Celestia removed the Elements from the Tree, saying their need for them was greater and that as long as the Tree contained magic, everything would be fine in the surrounding Everfree Forest. Since the Forest is decidedly not fine right now, Twi reasons that they must find this Tree in order to set the world aright. It's pretty rapid fire, so we hope all the five-year-olds watching this were taking careful notes in preparation for the quiz on Monday.
The girls schlepp off into the Forest in search of the Tree. They are almost immediately attacked by a rockidile (or something else with a silly pun as its name). Twilight, who still can’t quite manage her wings, nearly gets turned into gator chow. (Gator! Lana!) The others save her, but all agree that it’d be best if she didn’t continue with them; with Luna and Celestia gone, she may be needed to lead Equestria. A valid, if somewhat sad, point. Twi reluctantly returns to Ponyville and the rest of the girls go deeper into the Forest, eventually finding the Tree. However, they have no idea how to actually approach it, as it is being strangled to death by the sentient black weeds. They lament sending Twilight away, realising that she would know what to do about this. Meanwhile, Discord teases Twi, saying she thinks she’s too important to be subjected to danger while he friends risk their lives. In defiance, she returns to the Forest. She and Spike quickly get attacked by scorpion-shaped plants.
But don’t fear! Spike escapes to get the others, who quickly return to exterminate the plants. They bring Twilight to the Tree of Harmony, but she also has no luck cutting through the vines. She realises the only thing to do is to return the Elements to the Tree and restore its inherent magic. Upon doing just that, the Tree destroys the weeds and shines bright like a diamond. –cue Rhianna- The Forest is cleared and Discord is dismayed at the new lack of… discord. The princesses step forth from the tree, which is newly activated and blossoms a lockbox with six keyholes. Is there a quest afoot? I sense there’s a quest afoot!
As the girls return to Ponyville, Discord lends us one last flashback to show that he was the one who planted the seeds for the evil vines in the first place. He was decidedly not forthcoming with that information several hours ago. Furthermore, the fact that the girls no longer carry their Elements has not escaped his notice. The plot thickens!
In the end they all attend ODL’s glorious raising of the summer sun. All hail ODL! Twilight even adds a flourish of her own to the ceremony, flying without making an ass of herself. Looks like we’re going to see more continuity and questing over season four. Does that sparkle with everypony? Sunshine.
Next week: Pinkie Pie sees through all of time. She is not subject to the fickle whims of logic and reason. She is revealed to be the all-encompassing incarnation of the creator of the universe. Probably.
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