EPISODE REVIEW: Friendship is Magic: Luna Eclipsed

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It's that time of year, and the ponies are getting ready to celebrate Nightmare Night. What could possibly go wrong?

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It's Nightmare Night, an Equestrian equivalent to Halloween, and Twilight and Spike are getting ready to join the celebration. Twilight is dressed as Starswirl the Bearded, a somewhat obscure historical unicorn, while Spike is dressed as a (slightly larger) dragon. Some youngsters (not the Cutie Mark Crusaders) chaperoned by Granny Smith show up at the door to collect some candy. Pip Squeak, a new character who just arrived from Trottingham, and Pinkie Pie, in a chicken outfit, make an appearance as well.

At the center of town they meet Rainbow Dash, who is dressed as a Shadowbolt and pulling lightning pranks on the unsuspecting. In what is to be a theme this episode, Pinkie and the younger ponies run off screaming after Dash sends an unexpected lightning bolt their way. Applejack is attending to the festival's attractions.

Zecora appears, narrating the legend of Nightmare Moon for the young ponies with a magical/pyrotechnic accompaniment. According to Zecora, the legend of Nightmare Moon is that she returns once a year searching for ponies to eat. They wear costumes to disguise themselves from her, and offer some of their candy to keep her satiated. Of course, we know that Nightmare Moon was Princess Luna, and that she was restored from her dark form by the Mane Six during the events of the original pilot.

Luna arrives at the celebration in a gothic coach drawn by a couple of bat-winged(?!) pegasi. Since we last saw her, she's regained her etheral mane and tail. She loudly proclaims to the town that she's here to join the feast, but Pinkie and the youngsters think she's here to feast on them and flee in fear. Luna is confounded by the terror she inspires. Apparently, things have changed in the thousand years since her banishment, and presenting yourself as Galadriel tempted by The Ring is met with fear rather than adoration. Frustrated, she storms off in a huff.

Twilight goes after her and tries to get her to tone her presence down. Luna isn't sure she can, so Twilight takes her to Fluttershy, since she's the most demure pony she knows. Fluttershy is of limited help, since she's also terrified, but Luna manages to get the gist of it and they return to the celebration. Luna tries her hand at some of the carnival games, including pumpkin chunking and a version of beanbag toss with fake spiders and webs as the target. She proves a natural at these and starts to enjoy herself. Pinkie and the children again run off screaming, though, when Luna prevents Pip from falling into the apple basin. Even Pip is convinced that she's trying to eat her. Luna attempts to restore the fun by animating the fake spiders so they can deliver themselves to the web. Unfortunately, some of the spiders go awry and the rest of the town freaks out. Luna has finally had enough, and she formally cancels Nightmare Night.

After Luna leaves, the youngsters are upset. Twilight resolves to fix things by lecturing Luna. When that doesn't work, she ambushes Pinkie and introduces her to Luna. Unfortunately, Rainbow Dash has chosen this moment to pull her lightning prank and Pinkie runs off screaming again. Twilight stops her this time and explains that Luna doesn't want to gobble her up. Pinkie says she knows, but sometimes it's fun to be scared. That gives Twilight an idea.

The rest of the town is doing the traditional offering of candy to the statue of Nightmare Moon when Luna's voice is heard, followed by her appearance in full Nightmare Moon regalia. Predictably, everyone runs off screaming. Luna reverts to her normal form and tells Twilight she's not sure if that helped things. Twilight tells her to wait, and soon Pip and the rest of the children appear and ask Luna if she'll come back and scare them again next year. Luna is confused at first, but decides that if they like it so much she'll restore Nightmare Night.

Pip declares Luna her favorite Princess ever, and Luna rejoins the festivities while Twi writes her letter to Celestia, opining that "even if somepony seems a little intimidating, even scary, when you offer them your friendship you'll discover a whole new pony underneath."

MLPs2e4-LunaPip

I believe this is the first time that I needed Twilight's letter to understand what the lesson was supposed to be, and even then it's questionable. Twilight appears to have been the only one to offer Luna her friendship before the very end. I had thought the lesson was going to be about Luna learning to fit in, especially with her "lesson" from Fluttershy, but in the end she just embraced the others' expectations. And then she fit in. Or something. Frankly, plot-wise this episode is a bit of a mess. I suspect they started with "sometimes it's fun to be scared," and then tried to craft a friendship lesson around that.

Fortunately, MLP isn't a plot-driven show. It's great to see Luna again, even if she's somewhat at odds with her brief earlier appearance. Her ethereal hair marks her more clearly as Celestia's kin and her voice immodulation is a fun schtick. I'm curious if we're going to learn more about her bat-winged guard. (Hasbro, take note. You've a potential goldmine if you start selling bat-pegasi figures.)

Zecora is also a treat to see again. Her manner of speaking in rhyme makes her a natural for the Nightmare Night exposition. It's interesting that, in her own way, she's at least as powerful a Mage as Trixie. (As an aside, it appears one pony was dressed as Zecora.)

Dash's choice of a Shadowbolt costume is interesting. It's not clear if they were ever real, or even legendary. Rainbow Dash may be the only one to encounter them. Luna's subsequent appearence also means that it may be in bad taste, since the only time Dash encountered them they were a creation of Nightmare Moon.

I was surprised that Rarity is completely absent, since she had appeared in some of the storyboards that were leaked. Apparently her storyline was cut for time. I'm going to assume she was too beat from making costumes to actually attend.

MLPs2e4-PipScrappy

Brony Notes: Pip has proved to be controversal. His role could easily have been handled by one of the CMC (Applebloom, most likely) so it's not clear why he was introduced. Some fans really don't like him, as seen in the above image by Reddit's AdamBombTV.

Derpy appears at about the 4:10 mark, having snatched the drainplug out of the apple bobbing basin. There's another pegasus with similar coloring and wearing a witch's costume who appears several times, but she appears to be the one the fans have named "Cloudkicker."

The approach to Derpy is interesting here, since she has a rare foreground moment. In the fandom she's been portrayed as everything from a sort of absent-minded genius to a barely functional pony. The creators aren't giving her any lines, so they have to rely on sight gags. Because of this, I expect to see canon Derpy remain on the ditzy side.

It's also interesting that Carrot Top (Derpy's roommate in fanon) is the pony that was substituted for Rarity in Derpy's apple-bobbing scene.

In another possible nod to the fandom, Colgate (so named because her mane resembles toothpaste) may be dressed as a dentist. Equestria daily has a full list of costumed ponies. Of note is that Luna's bat-winged escorts have been fan-dubbed Adam and West.

Also, 4channers should note that moot has apparently done a 180, and posting ponies to 4chan's /b/ is again resulting in banning (/co/ appears to be unaffected by this.)

Once again the Hub is inexplicably skipping a week, so the next episode airs the fifth of November.

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