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There are only three real monsters: Dracula, Blackula, and Son of Kong.

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MLP Marathon Bonanza S7 E25 & 26 · 1:02am Dec 15th, 2017

Here we go. It’s time for Shadow Play!

Shadow Play (Part 1)

Okay, so normally I wait until I’ve watched the full episode and then write up my review immediately afterwards to have all the thoughts fresh in my head. Sometimes I rewatch the episode if I really liked it, but I just have to get this out there before I even start the review proper. I just started the episode and I’m barely 20 seconds in and already have actual human goosebumps. The fact that they’re bringing back all these, what I thought were, throw away characters from pony legend is blowing my fucking mind right now. I can’t exaggerate how hyped I am. I’ll be back to write the actual review when I finish the episode.

This is one of the coolest pieces of lore the show has ever produced.

I’m really curious how clear it was that they were setting this whole Pillars of Equestria thing when this season aired. Was it something that was teased or talked about leading up to the finale, or did it totally catch people by surprise? I really hope it’s the latter, because it surprised me and enhanced my enjoyment a lot. Obviously there’s quite a bit to talk about in this episode from a lore perspective. There’s such a huge amount of worldbuilding and callbacks to previous events that it’s kind of incredible it all fits together relatively well. I love that Starswirl has become this legendary thing when, if I recall correctly, his first mention was when Twilight dressed up as him for Nightmare Night and it was kind of just a gag about Twilight being nerdy. I think that’s really interesting and a clever way to take the overarching plot of the series in a direction that I doubt was intended way back when it started.

So, there’s not too much to say about the “Pony of Shadows” so far, by the very nature of the episode, but I’m really liking the setup so far. I have to imagine this pony is Sombra, because that was his whole thing, right? He was just shadows in the first part of the Crystal Empire finale. That being said, I really like the design on the Pony of Shadows when he first materializes as a dripping ball of darkness. That’s really fucking cool and some pretty sweet imagery. I’m looking forward to seeing how the plot progresses in the next episode. But for now, I’m pretty happy with how they’ve set things up so far. Having each of Twilight’s friends go out and collect the artifact was neat to watch, especially Rainbow Dash. I like that she just tricks Garble into giving up the shield. That’s silly and I like it. Oh, and of course we get to see Applejack being strong again and kicking a massive boulder into the sky, so that was cool. Again, like the lore we’ve had in this episode and really enjoy the worldbuilding. I’m eager to see what happens now and why the Pillars of Equestria felt he was so dangerous that they needed to sacrifice themselves to lock him away in purgatory for all eternity rather than destroy him. Incidentally, that’s also really interesting as a concept. Hope to see more discussion of that in part 2.

I know Sombra didn’t have wings, but the horn and chest piece just scream Sombra to me.

Also, I really like that Starlight is the voice of reason in this episode. It works really well were someone like Applejack (who probably would’ve normally played the part) wouldn’t have. Starlight is not only a reformed villain, but she also understands how dangerous messing with powerful magic can be, so it’s really nice to see that come into play. If only Twilight had listened to her…

Shadow Play (Part 2)

Again, one of the strongest parts of this episode is the lore and worldbuilding. We get to hear about some cool sounding places and see some interactions between the Elements of Harmony and the Pillars of Equestria. In particular, I really liked the interaction between Rainbow Dash and Flash Magnus, and Applejack and Rockhoof. Between RD and Flash there’s just some awesome bro-ness that I would love to see more of in future episodes, and between Rockhoof is generally just really fucking cool. I love his viking accent and he just looks like a beast. God, I hope we get to see more of him in the future.

More siren lore is also pretty sweet. Good to know they’ve always been horrible monsters.

Perhaps it’s not too surprising, but the ending of this episode actually reminded me quite a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s ending when Aang decides he can’t kill the fire lord and so instead he just takes his power away. In a similar reversal of the typical super villain destruction we have the Elements and Pillars working together to save a pony from the darkness inside himself through friendship. It’s almost a joke at this point that friendship saves everything all the time, but I think it’s an important aspect of this show, and specifically this episode. Starswirl is so bent on the destroying Stygian, and Twilight so unwilling to question him, that Starlight has to be the one to convince everyone that they’re wrong about banishing Stygian.

Really kinda surprised he wasn’t Sombra. Feels a little weird, to be honest.

Twilight sums it up pretty well at the end of the episode. She was sure that Starswirl, being the legendary wizard that he is, would solve all problems and that he would always know what to do. She was so sure of this that she forgot what she’d learned about friendship that had got her here in the first place.

I know I’ve said it a few times now, but Starlight has become one of the show’s best characters now. She gets to provide a perspective that no one else does, and that’s the perspective of someone who was a villain. It’s come up several times now, but it’s the strongest in the episode, especially because the Pillars and Stygian directly mirror the Elements and Starlight, which is obviously not an accident. I think it’s a really clever way to handle this finale and its powerful villain while also sticking with the show’s themes of friendship, love, and forgiveness.

Applejack does have a very huggable butt.

There a lot of little things about this episode that I like, but ultimately I think it succeeds because of what I said before about it being primarily about friendship and forgiveness. In this current time of division all across the world, which is certainly not unique don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really nice to have a show simply be about friendship and love and togetherness. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this episode is that it makes me want to go out and hug a friend. This lived up to, and perhaps surpassed, all the hype I had for it. I can’t wait to see where the show goes from here, especially now that we have these ancient ponies living in modern Equestria. It should be quite entertaining to see what the writers come up with next.

One problem with the finale though, and that’s that there were no songs. What a bummer.

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Comments ( 13 )

Nope, the Pillar of Equestria thing was out of nowhere. And what's more, they've set it up before - they were name dropped in "The Crystalling" and "Celestial Advice".

Starlight Glimmer: I know, right? It's not like there's some spell that would magically compel us to pick up where we left off.

Sunburst: Well, actually, there's several. Mistmane's Material Amity, Rockhoof's Rapport, Flash Prance's Fellow... ship... [ahem] But I-I get the feeling the princess isn't looking for a spell.

Sunburst: Combining that spell with the light and love of everypony gathered for the ceremony, together with... Somnambula's Weather Abjuration to clear away the snow...

Starlight Glimmer: I never would've thought to combine Star Swirl's apparition spell with Spacium Flexibus! But what would happen if we added Somnambula's Tempus Objectus?

To say nothing of the Pony of Shadows from S4, and was featured in the official comics months before the finale.



But yeah, the first 60 seconds of this episode are basically a tactical nuclear mission to headcanons. And it's glorious.

Ditto on PoS's animation. It's so smooth and liquidous and unlike other effects the show does.

What I love is that everyone contributes. Spike helps get the shield and everyone helps save Stygian.

Best finale ever. 12/10. I feel like with some expansion for more character, more menace from the Pony of Shadows, and a bit more time devoted to the artifact retrieval, THIS should have been the movie we got.

Star Swirl probably would've interrupted the songs like the lord of Swamp Castle. ("Stop it! Stop it! I got enough bloody singing from Celestia and Luna. Speaking of, they owe me some essays...")

But yeah, this was fun. Though the culmination of the lore in the finale was very heavily telegraphed by the comics. Like, "a sculpture of Samuel Morse made out of singularities"-level heavy telegraphing.

Still, I was legitimately on the edge of my seat during the second half given the stakes they set up and how likely a Pyrrhic victory seemed.

Shadow Play is an amazing episode, and as someone who almost quit the series because the movie somehow bothered me quite a lot, the former's excellence certainly painted a smile on my face. I should note that most people in the fandom liked the movie, which is perfectly fair, but that's just me.

Anyway, I think part of what makes Shadow Play such an interesting episode in addition to how much it shows Starlight's development and the numerous references to lore and previous events is the antagonist. Stygian becomes this monster of darkness, yet his past and actions open the door for a heartwarming redemption, and it's probably my favorite redemption the show has done up to this point. There's something about Stygian that strikes the perfect balance between intimidating and tragic that's hard to describe in words.

Every character has an important role, Starlight showcases her growth since her redemption and thus helps save another pony, Twilight gets some interesting character development, the amount of lore we learn in the episode is amazing, etc. There was just so much that went into the episode! Easily my favorite two-part episode in the series.

I friendship it, only because Rainbow Dash is obviously in lesbians with everyone else.

I had the pleasure of sitting through a panel at Nightmare Nights Dallas this year where Big Jim Miller did an in-person director's commentary for the finale. It was really fascinating. Among other interesting details, the pony side of the show is very proud of Starlight as their answer to Sunset from the EQG team.

For the first time since the comics started, they worked closely with the show to do tie-in material. As DrakeyC mentioned the comics set up the Pony of Shadows as the likely final villain for the season, but they also did additional comics that were follow-ups to episodes this season. Additionally, there's a separate Legends of Magic series that gives some background details on the various legendary ponies that were introduced in the show.

It's been a pretty good year for Pony.

It's really cool that they've been working on this for awhile and have been carefully setting up, but doing it subtly enough that it wasn't blatantly obvious what the conclusion would be. Really speaks to the strength of the writing in this show, and this season specifically. All in all, I think this show, far from getting worse or stale, has actually improved leaps and bounds since I stopped watching after season 4.
More than just an answer to Sunset Shimmer, I think Starlight is more of a one-up on her. I mean, part of that is simply down to having a lot more screen time and therefore more time for development, but goddamn. Starlight is really amazing and an incredible addition to the show. I'm really looking forward to season 8 now, which I cannot believe I'm saying. I really thought things were just gonna tank after the EQG movies started. And yet, things have seemingly only gotten better. So here's hoping for another great season next year.

Agreed, I think there is a sort of simple, cutesy charm that has faded over time from the early seasons, but as a whole yeah, it just keeps getting better and better.

Your reactions to the last three season's worth of episodes has been really refreshing. Being able to step away for a while and come back with a less jaded attitude is pretty great.

And just like you, I'm looking forward to season 8! Let the pony ride continue!

Man, can you imagine how amazing it would be to have an entire series centered around Starlight and Trixie (and also others)? I would kill to see that.

At this rate, that'll be Season 8. :raritywink:

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