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Shadow Play S7E25 and 26 Recap Review · 3:30am Oct 8th, 2017

Now THIS is what the pony movie should have been.

If I’d known I was in for this, I’d have just stayed home and watched these episodes today.

So we begin with a storybook segment narrated by Star Swirl, actually his journal that Sunburst narrates to the princesses. He once knew of five other ponies that represented the “elements” of light and virtue - Rockhoof for Bravery, Mistmane for Beauty, Flash Magnus for Bravery, Meadowbrook for Healing, Somnambula for Hope, and Star Swirl himself for Sorcery. They, the Pillars of Equestria, were gathered by one who sought to use their power for his own ends, but they cast him out. He turned to darkness and the six of them went to fight him. But not before they left behind a seed, in the hopes that some day it would grow into a force to allow Equestria to defend itself against darkness...

So yeah, barely a minute into the episode and I am already gobbling this up. The group travels to Ponehenge where the journal creates a vision of Star Swirl and the Pillars magically binding the Pony of Shadows, casting all seven of them into the Limbo between worlds. It involves something owned and used by each of them - Rockhoof’s shovel, Magnus’ shield, Mistmane’s flower, Meadowbrook’s mask, and Somnambula’s blindfold.

The six each travel to one of the ancient sites from the legends to recover the artifacts, in doing so demonstrating the virtues of the owners. Spike also gets his moment to contribute when he races Garble at lava-surfing for Magnus’ shield. Yup, we return to the dragon lands again, sadly no Ember though she gets mentioned. But we do get Daring Do and that pony that appeared in the Zecora ep, forget his name. They bring the artifacts to Ponehenge and cast the spell, returning the Pillars to Equestria. But with the six of them back, so too is the Pony of Shadows. Oh, and I had to go check but OF COURSE the Pony of Shadows is Shadowlock’s ancestor from the main series comics! And he’s a black alicorn. And in a great continuity nod to the Nightmare Moon stuff, his mane looks like Luna’s and he has a crest on his chest like her armor.

Part 2.

Twilight and Starlight fight off the Pony of Shadows and he departs after destroying Ponehenge. Star Swirl isn’t happy with Twilight undoing his spell and releasing him, but is pleased that Equestria has known 1000 years of peace thanks to their sacrifice; cue Pinkie pointing out Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis, Sombra, Tirek, and Starlight. Star Swirl ponders how to track Shadows, but Rarity points they have a map. Star Swirl recognizes the Cutie Map’s magic and casts a spell on it, conjuring an image of the Tree of Harmony - because if you haven’t figured it out yet (you poor dumb bastard), the Tree of Harmony grew from the seed the Pillars created, and the Elements of Harmony are an extention of the six virtues of the Pillars.

Star Swirl believes they can use the Tree of Harmony, and the Elements, in place of Ponehenge to banish Shadow back to limbo. Twilight wonders if banishing the Elements forever is a good idea but Star Swirl rudely points out they don’t have much choice, unless she has a better idea. Star Swirl conjures the map back to point out places where Shadows may be going to draw power, and the group splits up, Twilight staying behind to research. Also, “book on seapony ettiquette.” Also, Kingdom Hearts logo on one book. Finally she finds a book that gives her the idea to have one particularly powerful pony be the focus for the banishing spell, rather than six. Starlight points out they should try to find a way to beat Shadows without any banishings, but Twilight wants to improve Star Swirl’s spell to prove herself to him.

The Pillars and the Mane Five are in Manehattan, and we get a couple nods to how Equestrian geography has changed in 1000 years, including the Ghastly Caverns that, after a few centuries of erosion, became Ghastly Gorge. Star Swirl muses there are fewer “dark places” in Equestria these days where the Pony of Shadows might go. And a good bit with Flash Magnus banging cider mugs with Rainbow. Twilight enters to bring up her spell but Star Swirl is dismissive of her effort. The others stick up for her, and point out she earned her wings finishing a spell Star Swirl couldn’t. He grumbles they could give her spell a try. Suddenly the Cutie Map summons all six of them to a spot on the map - Hollow Shades.

Rarity points out the last time all six of them were summoned was for Starlight’s village, and Rainbow wonders if it does that to track supervillains. “No offense.” Starlight just stares and raises an eyebrow. Star Swirl agrees with Twilight that this is where Shadows probably is, and they make preparations for battle. Starlight again brings up the possibility of non-banishment solutions, but both Twilight and Star Swirl shoot down the idea of a peaceful resolution, Star Swirl sniffing that Shadows was never one for negotiations. “Once a villain, always a villain.” He goes off with Twilight and Sunburst to refine the spell. Alone with Spike, Starlight makes the point that the map only ever calls on ponies for friendship problems, and that they really know nothing about Shadows enough to dismiss the idea that he fits that description or not. Starlight finds the group and asks what happened with Shadows.


Ahem... anyway, the Sirens attack a village with their song, driving the inhabitants to start fighting. One pony on the outskirts, Stygian, sees this and runs off to get the Pillars to fend them off, Star Swirl banishing them. And so Fiendship is Magic #3 is jossed, and nothing of value is lost. Stygian was more a scholar than a warrior or wizard, and was jealous of the power and fame the Pillars had. He gathered their personal objects for a dark spell, and they cast him out when they found out what he had planned. Then he came back for revenge as the Pony of Shadows. Starlight wonders what ritual he had in mind for their belongings and Somnambula says it was likely for a spell to take their powers for his own. Starlight goes to Star Swirl, Sunburst, and Twilight, and again questions if Stygian cannot be saved. Star Swirl is angered by the idea and storms off, but Twilight isn’t sure; Starlight points out it’s a good thing Star Swirl wasn’t around when they came to her village.

At the Tree of Harmony Star Swirl withdraws the Elements and they reform as the necklaces and crown around their bearers; since the Elements are attuned to them specifically, they pair off to use their powers. At Hollow Shades they fall into a chasm into a temple. Stygian arrives and says he found this place long ago, a place where he found darkness that spoke to him of great power, and he listened. Now Equestria will know the same despair he knew when he was banished. Starlight plays her note again as the group sans Twilight summon the Elements. The Rainbow Friendship Beam fires and opens the portal which draws Stygian in. As Twilight prepares to add her power and finish it, the pony Stygian sticks his head out from Shadows’ chest. Twilight sees and dives in.

In a black void room, Twilight speaks to Stygian. He explained he just wanted to help the Pillars, not to usurp or hurt them. His plan was to copy their artifacts so he could draw on their powers and fight alongside them. But instead of sharing their gifts, Stygian’s friends cast him out, and he found his own way to become strong. The group outside the portal hears all this as Stygian turns into the Pony of Shadows before Twilight. Darkness took Stygian in when nopony else would and he’ll fight to protect it. Starlight enters to add to the lecturing and Stygian shows signs of accepting when Shadows flares up again.

The two fly outside and use magic ropes to pull Stygian out, but it’s a hard fight. The others, including Sunburst, combine their powers. Stygian is pulled out and the Pony of Shadows self-destructs, a beam of rainbow light bursting out into the sky. The group climbs out of the crater, Star Swirl pulling up Stygian and apologizing for his mistakes. Starlight is also there. “I have a feeling I’ll be making a lot of apologies today.” At Canterlot Star Swirl reunites with the princesses who are happy to have him back. They invite him to return to Canterlot to teach magic, but he wants to look around this new, changed world first. The other Pillars likewise want to go home. Star Swirl delivers the moral and everyone has a group hug.

This... this is everything the movie should have been. This is everything I could ask for from a season finale. I’m almost in tears. This is the best finale the show has ever given us. Everything is perfect. There’s amazing worldbuilding, a great villain, great new characters, existing ones grow in new ways, the action is intense, the moral is strong, the animation is great, the continuity is amazing. My only flaws are two minor nitpicks. The Pony of Shadows’ origins have nothing to do with Nightmare Moon after all, but I’ll let it slide since it’s a very old legend and that detail could be distorted. What I’m less inclined to let slide is no mention of the mirror portal or EqG. They even bring attention to Star Swirl studying portal magic, but make no mention of the mirror. The Sirens show they obviously have no problem establishing once and for all that EqG is canon, so why avoid mentioning the mirror when it’s a perfectly logical subject to bring up?

Whatever. This finale is incredible and I am awestruck and giddy at how good it was. Thank you, leakers, for making this available to me. After the movie was such a failure, this finale reminded me the problem with the concept at all - the show doesn’t and never needed the big screen to show off its big imagination.

EDIT - They set this back up in Season 6! Sunburst in “The Crystalling Part 2” namedrops Mistmane, Rockhoof, Somnambula, and Flash “Prance.” ... you magnificent bastards. A round of applause for the showrunners, everypony.

Comments ( 15 )

Yeah, Shadow Play was an awesome episode, and there was so much to love about it. Furthermore, the different callbacks to previous episodes and Rainbow Rocks was definitely a cool addition. Whether it was the tone, humor, plot, and more, the S7 finale was much better than the movie in my opinion, and it made me energetic about the series once more. I'd probably rank the S7 finale as my second favorite two-part episode, a smidgen behind Return of Harmony, but it was definitely an excellent way to close a great season. :twilightsmile:

its such a bitter feeling knowing that they were capable of this, but probably had their hands tied by hasbro management to bring in new characters for toys and to have a throwaway standalone adventure to protect the show.

i got my glim glam, everybody had better roles than their movie moments, and of course:

Definitely gotta agree with you on this. This finale really was amazing and I'm actually surprised it was only 40 minutes. I so can't write for reactions of it.

Don't forget: Starlight's very first appearance has her pretending to use an artifact of Mage Meadowbrook, the pillar of Healing!

My headcannon is that this got people to trust her because no artifact made by such a great healer could ever be used for eeeeeeevil!

Seeing the Sirens appearing in the finale gives me hope that perhaps Sunset might make an appearance in the show.

And so Fiendship is Magic #3 is jossed, and nothing of value is lost.

Indeed. The Sirens are much better shown in this as being malign and terrifying, rather than just a band of singers. That's actually how they act all through the Rainbow Rocks movie, even before they've gotten most of their powers back. They are not at all nice. They are ruthless predators. Yes, even the cute ditzy one, who reminds me of my Sammy-Cat, who is quite cruel to mice.

The Pony of Shadows’ origins have nothing to do with Nightmare Moon after all, but I’ll let it slide since it’s a very old legend and that detail could be distorted. 

IMO Stygia discovered, and may have succeeded in contacting, the same Shadow Forces that corrupted Princess Luna later on. In my Shadow Wars Story Verse, my new canon is that Stygia discovered how to contact the Night Shadows; that Prince Crimson Quartz aka King Sombra learned the same spell from some of Stygia's writings, and that Luna learned it either from Sombra or in the process of trying to understand Sombra's source of power. So, actually, Stygia's story may bind together and explain the origins of Nightmare Moon.

They set this back up in Season 6! Sunburst in “The Crystalling Part 2” namedrops Mistmane, Rockhoof, Somnambula, and Flash “Prance.” ... you magnificent bastards. A round of applause for the showrunners, everypony.

Oh, further back than that. Starswirl the Bearded is first mentioned in early Season 2 ("Luna Eclipsed"), when Twilight Sparkle and Princess Luna start bonding (before then Luna was avoiding Twilight, probably out of her sense of shame at having betrayed Celestia). The fact that Starswirl knew Cutie Mark magic and that this is linked to Destiny and hence visiting parallel worlds is set up in the Season 3 finale "Magical Mystery Cure." What may be either the Pony of Shadows himself or another of the Shadow Forces shows up in Season 4's "Castle-Mania." But yeah, the other five Pillars are first mentioned in Season 6.


Whether it was the tone, humor, plot, and more, the S7 finale was much better than the movie in my opinion, and it made me energetic about the series once more.

The villain of Shadow Play was simultaneously truly terrifying and, as we learned more about him, a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. The heroes, including the new characters, were fascinating in terms of personality displayed and depths hinted at. We finally got to see the key difference between Twilight Sparkle and Starswirl, which had been hinted at since "Magical Mystery Cure" -- Starswirl is arrogant and imperious, and tends to ignore evidence that doesn't fit his preconceptions.

Show finally made it clear what they'd also hinted at since Friendship Is Magic itself -- namely, that Equestria is a dynamic, changing, progressive civilization, growing in magic, technology and population down the centuries. Equestria is not some pathetic, set-piece static Merrie Olde Whatever culture. It's a real empire with a real past and future. This is far more than most shows ever depict of fantasy realms -- in fact, it's something that Tolkien himself signally couldn't do.

What's more, some of the climax hinged on the differences between a pre-industrial and industrial civilization. One of the reasons why the Pillars assumed that Stygia was iniitially betraying them was that in pre-industrial cultures everyone lives closer to the edge and hence trust is more easily broken. Starlight Glimmer and Twilight Sparkle were able to see the solution -- the best solution, the one that required that no one (save the Shadow itself) be banished -- in part because they came from the richer, more advanced, kinder and more optimistic culture that Celestia had fostered in the centuries since the Pillars vanished.

Most shows would have had the Pillars vanish once they were no longer needed. This show is keeping them around -- as secondary characters, yes, but still available for future stories. Heck, they're keeping Stygia around.

Shadow Play was awesome, and demonstrates that Friendship Is Magic still has writing magic.

The only complaint I had with this final
Literally everyone but Starlight swallowed the stupid pill majorly.

Seriously Twilight... if you undo the spell that contains big evil shadow pony to bring back your childhood crush in some fit of fangirling, don't you think there is a SLIGHT possibility you MIGHT bring back the evil big bad shadow pony as well?!

Seriously. Twilight was just stupid through the majority of this final.

True, but I let it slide because she has an extreme case of mentor worship with Star Swirl. The chance to free him, meet him, and work alongside him was obviously clouding her judgment, and that pedestal began to crack in Part 2 and she wisened up.

eh, I'm not that willing to let it slide.
mentor-worship or not, she still unleashed an unspeakable evil upon Equestria with barely any plan of how to counter said evil.

It is the same with Luna.
Sure she has a sad backstory, but god damn it, she has nearly ruined Equestria two times in her emotional fits. Someone bring that mare to a therapist already!

Caught up on all the leaked episodes today. Wow, some of the best ones were saved for last.

Overall, this season was very hit or miss with me. I think I only watched around half of them and the rest I just read synopses to keep caught up.

But, with the return of the Pillars, I'm already envisioning season 8 scenarios. The one I'm crossing my fingers for is that Starswirl happens to see Trixie's show and somehow makes the connection that she is his descendant. Ecstatic at first that his bloodline has survived to the modern day, he's quickly perturbed that Trixie's magic isn't anywhere near what he expects. So he drills her in magic lessons to properly carry the torch, as it were, and Trixie begs Starlight or Twilight to help rescue her from the "crazy beardo".

Anyway, this season finale was definitely worthy to stand among the rest. About the only thing I would change was to have the Pony of Shadows do more than break Ponehenge and declare to spread his evilness to the world. He kinda just sat around until the heroes showed up. Ah, well. The rest was awesome!

no one can ever call our beloved sunset none canon again

Really loved this finale, though I feel like Starlight was WAY overplaying her hand. She was in no position to make such a point when she herself messed with Star Swirl's spells herself for a far more selfish purpose, and when the map called Twilight and the others to her village, she was imposing her will on the villagers just because she was mad that a cutie mark took one friend away from her with NOTHING else explaining it! Starlight in all honesty, got a second chance she probably didn't deserve, so she was in no position to be questioning Star Swirl or Twilight. I think it's best if the writers just admit Starlight's backstory sucked, and they shouldn't be trying to use her as the voice of moderation over anyone else. All it does is make her seem like a poor man's Sunset Shimmer which she is NOT supposed to be.

And so Fiendship is Magic #3 is jossed, and nothing of value is lost.

I love you for this line alone.:pinkiehappy:

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