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Started watching midway through the first season. Started writing not long before the beginning of the last.

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The Power of Harmony, Part 1: Season 1 · 9:24pm Oct 19th, 2020

One of FIM's most iconic elements (pun intended) is the Mane 6's connection to a power higher and more profound than even alicorns - the force of Harmony itself, which is the closest the show has to a "divine" power (especially with Celestia and Luna being treated increasingly less so as the show went on). While in normal episodes friendship is generally seen as it's own reward in a more realistic fashion, the powers of Harmony allow said friendship to resolve the grand conflicts that tend to arise in two-parters. Because these occasions are relatively few, though, I thought it might be worth tracking the effects of these powers throughout the show. (I might then follow with some actual analysis.)

The Opener - In at the Ground Floor

One reason that Harmony is seen as a fundamental aspect of the show is that it was key to it's beginnings. It's initial manifestation, the Elements, is introduced to us before we even leave the show's expository prolouge, in which they are described as "the most powerful magic known to ponydom" and are shown as the tiebreaker in a battle of gods, binding one within her domain for a millennium.

(It should also be noted that the tale speaks of the two sisters "creat[ing] harmony for all the land" by performing their duties - a task also referred too as "maintain[ing] balance" - so it serves as a philosophical ideal as much as a source of powerful magic. Celestia's introduction later in the episode dubs her "the bringer of harmony to all of Equestria", a title and role which seems on a level with - or indeed synonymous with - her daily task of managing the sun and moon.)

One of the first depictions of the Elements of Harmony.

Of course, with the ancient seal finally broken, our heroine decides naturally to try what worked last time again. Very conveniently, she stumbles across a book which reveals not only the names of five out of six Elements (all virtues) but their last known location - which even more conveniently, is just a few hours walk away (albeit through a dark and eldritch wood). And when five other young mares insist on tagging along, and it so happens that the hazards of their journey provide opportunities for each of them to demonstrate one of the aforementioned virtues... well at this point, you can call it destiny or writer's conveienince, but those are really just different names for the same thing. (Incidentally, while the endless rewritings of the "trials" in fanfic and even the show itself does somewhat highlight the rushed nature of the originals, I do think all of them pretty much hold up except maybe the first.)

Once all learning opportunities are met, the party reaches their destination, and finds a sculpture like the one which is show holding the Elements in the book... but all it bears now is five inert stone orbs. And when unicorn magic proves incapable of igniting the "spark" that that would bring forth the sixth from the five, the dark alicorn is able to first steal them away, and then shatter them into pieces.

But as it's said (somewhat inaccurately), it's always darkest before the dawn. Just moments after the stone orbs were reduced to seemingly useless fragments, Twilight Sparkle heard the voices of the ponies who had accompanied her, as they raced to her side. Somehow, she could tell that they came to save her, not the power that could defeat Nightmare Moon but just the pony they only met yesterday - that they would still be coming for her even if the Elements had been left behind. And in that moment, as the true spark which had nothing to do with pony magic ignited in her heart, she knew that breaking the orbs meant nothing - the Elements were embodiments of far more fundamental principles, and she happened to have five ponies on hand which embodied those principles just as well.

Her realisation, and what happened next.

The climax that resulted was the same, in a way, as that of the original MLP special decades earlier - bold young heroines unleashing a magnificent, sacred rainbow on the wicked bringer of darkness. But unlike then, or in the tale that opened the episode, that power was wielded by not one but six, and did not destroy the target or even banish her, but cleansed her of her darkness. (A cheap redemption, perhaps, but it helped set the show's preferred tone of happy endings and reconciliation - and Luna and Nightmare Moon were different enough to blur the line between corruption and possession. More when I get to analysis.)

The rest of the season - the always unspoken

For a show's pilot to set it's protagonists up as the chosen wielders of legendary items of power was hardly unusual. But what is rare is for them to then turn around the next minute and try and forget the whole thing. It would be one thing if the Elements had been gone after their use - then it might be concluded they only appeared when needed or somesuch. But no, they were quite present, visible and referenced in the immediate aftermath, only to vanish completely in the first scene change. And the rest of the season would not see them shown or even mentioned (or the pony they had been used on, for that matter). Although leaks have since disproved the idea, it was almost as if the whole world-saving plot had been added to the opener after the rest of the season was written.

However, no amount of the show ignoring the Elements could make the fans forget them after such an introduction. Of course, there was speculation as to their location (some close to the mark, others figuring the Bearers simply kept them in their drawers at home), and many fan stories where they were wielded again. But perhaps more substantially, the tying of each character to a core virtue added a certain weight to their practice of it. When Rarity showed Generosity in making dresses for her friends, when Pinkie Pie tried to bring ponies and buffalo together in Laughter, when Rainbow Dash had to choose between old and new Loyalties... at least some people would see it as a reflection of the ingredients that had made that purifying rainbow. (Of course, there were others who rejected such profundities and preferred to think of the Manes as ordinary ponies rather than paragons of virtues.)

It would not be until the beginning of the show's second season that Harmony was mentioned again...

Comments ( 1 )

Interesting. It is another matter, but the tension between adventure and slice-of-life was an aspect of the show. Bit like a version of X-Men where it's mostly about Cyclops planning Jean's birthday party or Wolverine and Gambit having an argument.

I'd totally watch that.

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