Episode [2.26] – “A Canterlot Wedding – Part 2”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“Seriously, though, I get why the Queen of the Changelings wanted to be with you… but how did you get someone as amazing as Cadance to marry you?”
“I told her she wouldn’t just be gaining a husband. She’d be getting a pretty great sister, too.“
Remember everything I said about last episode being merely mediocre at best? When placed in proper context (read: next to this one), it suddenly makes so much more sense: of course it seems largely innocuous, because that’s exactly what the Queen of the Changelings would want us to believe! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As it turns out, Cadance didn’t send Twilight to burn in Tartarus: she merely banished her to the old gem mines under Canterlot where nopony would think to look for her. Whew. Enraged at Cadance’s actions (not to mention constant taunting), Twilight ragefaces until she begins shooting lasers every which way and eventually uncovers… Cadance? But wait! This one remembered their old childhood ladybug jingle; the other one is an impostor! And now the scene is set for song #2 of the finale: This Day Aria.
Up to this point, all of the songs we’ve had in this series have been lighthearted and smile-worthy (well, except perhaps Evil Enchantress, though that falls into the “Pinkie being silly” category and thus is smile-worthy by default). B.B.B.F.F. brought in a bit of sadness in the reprise, but otherwise was still an overall light song. This Day Aria is the first by my count that actually brings feelings of outright malice and crushing despair into focus, and it does so fantastically well. It also sounds absolutely wicked in the Japanese dub; I get goosebumps around 1:05 every time I listen to it. Very strong showing by Daniel Ingram if I do say so myself.
Season openers and closers in this series are notorious for feeling rushed and a little heavy with the exposition stick, which is a shame but something you kind of adjust to. Taking that adjustment into account, the grand confrontation scene in the chapel is pretty awesome and even a bit terrifying. We go from zero to “OH SNAP” in ten seconds flat, what with Impostor Cadance unmasking herself to be the Queen of the Changelings, a race that feeds on the love of others. And if the past 51 episodes of the series thus far have been any indication, there’s quite a bit of love in Equestria that is ripe for the taking! That exposition stick is still pretty heavy, though, even with the aforementioned adjustment factor taken into account. So much talking and standing around dumbfounded… not enough kicking flank and taking names.
Whew, ’bout time somepony actually did something about this big bug! You show her who’s boss, Celestia!
The Celestia-Chrysalis* showdown, while brief, is a very well-made clash between two strong wills, and not just because it’s shiny and blast-tastic. Celestia is her usual cool and collected self and is dead certain that she can squish this bug. Chrysalis, despite her haughtiness and heavy-hoofed use of the exposition stick, lets slip a moment of uncertainty when their magical beams collide: the expression on her face betrays a thought of “I may not have thought this thing through all the way!” When her magic ultimately wins out and blasts Celestia to the floor (a horrific sight for all those in attendance, I’m sure: your princess and goddess has just been owned… what do?!), Chrysalis is, at least for a moment, just as surprised as everypony else that she actually won. At this point, she feels absolutely invincible… and who wouldn’t with the Princess of the Sun a charred mess on the ground? Not surprisingly, this sense of invincibility will come to bite the bug in the butt later on in the episode, but for now… dang.
* We never actually hear the name “Chrysalis” used in the episode, but the name comes out in other official merchandise (such as the comics) so we’ll use it here for convenience… and because Queen Cheeselegs, while accurate, just sounds silly.
My heart dropped into my feet when Celestia ordered Twilight & Co. to grab the
Magical Plot Device Elements of Harmony: really, is it going to be one of those episodes? In hindsight, though, that would actually be the most sensible course of action given the circumstances: the Elements of Harmony constitute a magic stronger than Celestia’s, so if Celestia’s magic is insufficient, then, well, you know, you go for the bigger guns.
Another first: a few minor spats in previous episodes notwithstanding, this is really the first time the Mane Six take care of friendship problems “The Hard Way” (read: with outright and unapologetic physical violence). And take care of those problems they did: that “e/i” rating that has been absent all season long has now been summarily bucked out the door, never to be seen again. And you know, I’m fine with that. A little bit of the Neo vs. Agent Smiths battle from The Matrix Reloaded never hurt anypony, right? 😛 Yeah, this show is supposed to be all about solving friendship problems with love and tolerance, but… well, sometimes that’s not enough, no matter how much you want to believe otherwise. In the deconstruction for Over a Barrel, I said that sharing and caring can be a much more desirable avenue than violence. My choice of the word “can” was no accident: when your opponent wants nothing less than to literally feed on you and your brethren and is actively making progress toward that goal, sometimes fighting fire with fire is the only way to survive. There are a few episodes in the series where such desperation arises; this is one of them. Of course, just because coming to blows is the only viable option remaining doesn’t mean the scene has to be downright grisly: the battle with the changelings is immensely enjoyable even when hooves aren’t contacting skulls. Leave it to these gals to make fighting fun with party cannons!
And in the world of fan-made animation, Derpy kicks changeling flank while flying backwards. GO DERPY! You too can battle the changelings in DDR/ITG/SM/whatever if you’re so inclined!
Something of an amusing observation: the fight scene has all sorts of scuffles going on all over the place, but in actuality there are only six targets that the changelings should be after. This makes me wonder if perhaps the changelings’ disguises are so good that they themselves can’t actually tell who is a changeling and who is not, thereby requiring that anypony that looks like one of the Mane Six should be pummeled repeatedly even though that will more often than not mean repeated pummeling of one’s own kin. It seems that the changeling army is pretty much unlimited, though, so what’s a few bruised lips amongst broodmates?
After the Mane Six plow their way through to where the Elements of Harmony are held, they realize that they’re too late: the changelings have already taken over the entire castle! Whew, for a second there I thought they’d get out of this one easy. Nope, looks like they’re not going to be able to take out Chrysalis after all. But wait! While the Changeling Queen continues rambling on and swinging her exposition stick left and right, Twilight frees Cadance from her gooey shackles so she can make her way over to Shining Armor and fire off a… loveplosion? To be honest, the final showdown was touching but… anticlimactic. Our old friend, the “Everything’s Back to Normal!” shockwave is back in full force, but at least this time it’s Shining Armor and Cadance who unleash it and not the Elements of Harmony. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, as we did get a pretty awesome confrontation between Celestia and Chrysalis as well as the Mane Six and a mob of changelings, but I really wish that, for once, the antagonist would fight back against the final blow rather than go “Hah, you think that can defeat me oh wait maybe it can oops yes it caaaaaaaan~!” But, again, time constraints are a real thing, and this show isn’t really supposed to be about kicking the snot out of your enemies anyway. Still, kind of a letdown.
I must say, it was great to see “real” Cadance go back through all the wedding preparations the Mane Six had done in the first part of the finale and actually liking them all this time. The real wedding scene was similarly feels-inducing, too. Rarity’s face when she dabs her eyes with a kerchief is pretty much spot-on with the kinds of contortions weddings tend to put faces through.
Of course, AJ’s not about to be outdone by the likes of Rares. Nnnope.
Another interesting observation: the wedding pronouncement is “mare and colt,” which seems kind of quirky as “mare and stallion” would have been more accurate. Perhaps this kind of dialogue is a bit of socially acceptable male suppression in the female-dominated society that Equestria appears to be?
Finally, Love Is In Bloom: what an absolutely wonderful song that should be played at every wedding ever. The final dance with photo montage is an excellent way to bring the episode to a close: I love seeing everypony together, but I also love seeing them doing their own thing (pounding all the cake, hitting on the Canterlot elite, etc.). These mares are such strong characters together, but seeing them be themselves is also so satisfying.
Also, either Spike has no idea what a bachelor party is, or causality in Equestria is reeeeeally messed up.
So at the end of the day, was all the hype leading up to this finale worth it? Yes, yes, and yes. That almost-snore-inducing first half was in some ways the perfect set-up to this second half, which I think together constitute one of the strongest (if not the strongest) episodes of the season. It’s got some slice of life, it’s got some adventure, it’s got some suspense, it’s got flank-kickin’, and it’s got singing and dancing and partying and fun. Perhaps most important, though, it’s a marvelous capstone to a season that really saw My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic mature and come into its own. The depth and complexity of the different friendship problems encountered this season have increased substantially, and they’re only going to get better and better from here on out. What a great show.
I’ll leave you with Tavi and Scratch – My Roommate is a ‘Bassist’ by YourEnigma, perhaps the best remix of Love Is In Bloom I’ve ever heard. I would totally use this for the first dance at a wedding: it would start with some “traditional” dancing at first, then when the drop hits around 2:48 the crazy synchronized dance moves get busted out. That would be awesome.
Well this is terrifying.
Fake Cadance is marrying Shining Armor, Twilight Sparkle is trapped with Real Cadance in the crystal caves with three mind-controlled bridesmares, and an army of Changelings is hammering on Shining Armor’s super bubble barrier around Canterlot. Twilight switches from utility magic to fairly destructive unicorn lasers, Evil Cadance’s evil plan of evil is near completion, and oh wow now she’s a giant black faerie-winged swiss-cheese’d Changeling who appears in a column of green fire.
Queen Cheeselegs (I’m totally using that, since I’m just running off what the series gives me) has a whole army of Cheeselings in tow. An army that Celestia, despite her constant telescope vigil, didn’t see coming. A fairly massive army, one that overwhelms the ponies of Canterlot in minutes once Shining Armor’s barrier is breached. Even worse, Queen Cheeselegs has gained enough power from feeding on Shining Armor’s love for Cadance that she can overwhelm Princess Celestia in single combat. Mechanically, I’d guess that Cheeselegs was pulling some of Celestia’s love for Equestria and throwing it back at her, but that’s entirely speculation.
Even mind-controlled, the mares in the crystal caves respond to Cadance throwing her bouquet. That’s the big clue that even under mind control they’re still them, with the same impulses and drives and desires. It’s what allows Cadance to rescue Shining Armor. Well, okay, that and her unique love-reminding magic.
I was surprised that the love-reminding magic wasn’t what defeated the Changelings. The power of Cadance’s true love overcharging Shining Armor’s barrier spell to eject the Changelings from Canterlot was pretty cool, but I had thought that she would use her special talent to show them how to love each other and produce the love they need that way. Instead, there’s just… lots of beating up. Unicorn lasers, physical violence, Shining Armor’s banishment shell, it’s all very punchy. Which is really weird for My Little Pony. Usually the punching and violence are the intermediate false solution on the way to something that actually works, like friendship and honest talking and occasionally turning someone to stone. I suppose that’s still true here, with the love-barrier being the thing that finally works, but wow there’s a lot of punching in the middle.
Where the horseapples was Luna during the Changeling invasion? Equestria’s other princess/goddess is completely absent until the last possible moment, when she drops in and hangs a huge lampshade on not being around when she was needed. And on that note, where did the Royal Guard go? Fighting Changelings, I know, but for the amount of warning they had I’m sad that they went down so fast. They may have to be lumped in with the Wonderbolts for overall effectiveness.
In conclusion: Expletives and invectives, what’s up with Rarity’s face when she catches the bouquet? Wow.
I really found it amusing when Weston made the Maleficent comparisons last episode, because that’s absolutely the inspirational basis for Chrysalis. From her color scheme, to her voice and delivery, to her design, she’s intentionally invoking that iconic Disney villain.
Incidentally, in regards to the voice, while it’s a bit tricky to pick up on with it going through a filter, we have heard the actress in question prior to this episode, as it’s the same one who did a somewhat lesser Great and Powerful antagonist.
It’s exceedingly difficult for me to separate what does come later through the comics (despite their canon-ness being somewhat questionable), as while she’s yet to make a reappearance in the show, Chrysalis does make a return in the comics (twice, if you include her Fiendship is Magic mini, which I literally just read today which makes it extra hard to keep out of my mind). Chrysalis and the changelings are some of the creepier and more downright frightening villains we’ve seen to this point, and it’s no real surprise that she makes for one of the more popular big bads, and combined with her defeat pretty distinctly lacking finality (even in her return appearances in the comics things are left open for more story involving her down the road), she’s a go-to for expansion through fanfics and other works.
This Day Aria is one of the very few Villain Songs the series has done, and in true Villain Song fashion, it’s one of the best things about the episode. I don’t even know really what else to say about it, other than that I absolutely adore it. Brit McKillip is a fantastic singer and carries both the good and evil Cadance parts perfectly, and the structure and visual of the song does very much invoke quite a bit of Disney in it.
Celestia’s involvement and swift defeat still sort of bug me in this episode, however. We finally get to see her step up to the plate to show off what she can do… and she’s immediately Worfed. It does exactly what that trope is intended to do, namely to make a point about just how strong and scary Chrysalis is as a foe, but it also has the unfortunate side effect of making Celestia appear significantly less impressive than a deity-level creature presumably should be, especially when Chrysalis winds up being so abruptly dealt with in the end. While instant-villain-defeats are sort of the series’ bread and butter, this is the first one by my count to feel particularly egregious. I do like that the Mane 6 are stopped from accessing the Elements of Harmony, but with how sudden Chrysalis is dealt with afterwards they almost may as well have gotten them for all the difference it would have made in the story. That said, I do like that it’s the team of Cadance and Shining Armor that wins the day, as it’s both thematically fitting for Cadance to be integral in overcoming her captor and it helps to solidify her and BBBFF’s roles and abilities within the series. Still, Chrysalis’ defeat comes way too quickly and easily, lacking both the slow buildup that Nightmare Moon’s had and the genuinely earned payoff that Discord’s featured. Chrysalis just goes from winning to being booted out of the kingdom within seconds. I remember feeling a sense of dread once the Mane 6 were captured as the situation looked incredibly bleak, but then it just winds up not being a problem. It’s this scene in particular that unfortunately keeps Chrysalis from being higher on my villain list, as she’s fantastic in concept and the majority of the execution, but just falls entirely flat at the last second. She makes a better (and significantly darker, as Andy Price and Katie Cook depict her as a downright terrifying monster) showing in the comics, at least.
As much fun as the action sequence is (and no, I don’t begrudge the show having it in the slightest, I seriously doubt the mild level of violence on display here would even be considered noteworthy in a male-coded show), I sort of wish they’d scrapped it in favor of spending more time building up the direct conflict with Chrysalis, as with the extra three minutes or so it might have made for a more satisfying conclusion. That’s not to say that I dislike the scene at all, it’s oodles of fun and really enjoyable to watch, but the narrative might flow better without it as it doesn’t serve a whole lot of purpose save to take the Elements out of the picture. I’d have rather been given a brief glance at the Royal Guard and the ordinary citizens of Canterlot struggling against the swarm and spent the time with the Mane 6 making their stand against the changeling queen herself. That said, the overall action scene is really fun to watch. I love that when the changelings aren’t imitating another pony their primary method of attack is to slam their face into whatever they’re hitting, both with trying to break the barrier as well as dive-bombing the ground face-first. As to the target confusion that Gerf mentioned… the normal changelings don’t appear to be terribly bright, nor can they distinguish their disguised selves from the real ponies (which makes the choice to copy them not seem like such a great idea in hindsight), as the obviously-real Fluttershy manages to trick the very same changelings that she was plainly cowering from seconds before that she’s one of them (likewise, Rainbow Dash is able to hide among her copies).
Finally, I really like Love is in Bloom, and it marks the return appearance of Vinyl Scratch (and the first time her eyes are ever made visible, which amusingly sort of felt like the animators going “okay yes, here you go, go nuts with the fanart”).
Overall, I really love this finale. It’s far from perfect and stumbles a bit in the climax, but it makes for a really enjoyable and strong close to a really fantastic season, and the issues I have with it are buffered out a bit by my just really liking the story and the characters introduced. Cadance is best princess. There, I said it. Come at me, Luna fans.