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Recap: MLP: Friendship Is Magic S3 E2 "The Crystal Empire - Part 2"
aka: My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic S 3 E 2 The Crystal Empire

Continued from "The Crystal Empire - Part 1"

Written by Meghan McCarthy

Quick! Somepony get Rarity her couch!

When we last left our heroes, the Crystal Heart was discovered to be a real artifact, which they needed to find. Princess Cadance fainted due to exhaustion, causing her magic shield to vanish, and King Sombra was now advancing on the Crystal Empire...

...However, Shining Armor helps Princess Cadance to her hooves and she manages to conjure up the shield in the nick of time, halting Sombra's advance just before he can cross the threshold of the Empire's borders, and cutting off the tip of his horn. Shining Armor volunteers to find the Crystal Heart, but Twilight tells him to look after Cadance and sets off to find it herself. She tells Rainbow Dash to rally the others to keep the Crystal Ponies from discovering the fake Heart, and to keep the fair going to distract them from King Sombra's return, or else they will sink so far into despair that it won't matter if the real Heart is found. As they split, the severed tip of Sombra's horn sinks into the ground, causing a small black crystal to sprout.

Rainbow Dash informs the others of the problem, and Spike runs off to help Twilight. Applejack tries to keep the Crystal Ponies away from the still-covered fake Crystal Heart, while Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy do their best to distract the Crystal Ponies; Pinkie Pie, on the other hand, is distracted by the latter three. Their attempts are at first successful, but Applejack wonders how long their success will hold up. Meanwhile, the black crystal that sprouted from Sombra's horn begins to taint the surrounding crystals, while the barrier continues to weaken.

Spike persuades Twilight to bring him along—on the condition that he not lift a claw to help her, as per Celestia's instructions that only she can pass her test, which she now believes is to find the Crystal Heart. Reasoning that King Sombra was counting on the Crystal Ponies being too frightened of the castle to enter it, Twilight deduces that the Crystal Heart must be hidden there. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash and Applejack struggle to keep the Crystal Ponies from uncovering the fake Heart. Applejack tells her to tone down on the aggressiveness, suggesting she show them her jousting skills, and Rainbow shanghais Fluttershy into a jousting match.

Twilight and Spike search through the castle, eventually entering the throne room where Twilight notices the throne is made of the same crystal that Princess Celestia used to show her how the Crystal Ponies' magic could be reflected across Equestria. Using the dark magic of King Sombra, she opens an underground secret passageway with a long, winding staircase that leads to a door at the bottom. After attempting to open the door with her own magic, only to have it constantly move around the walls of the pit, Twilight becomes infuriated enough that she uses dark magic on the door's gem at the top, causing it to open and emit a bright light. Twilight enters the door, delighted that she has found the Crystal Heart...

...Only to find herself standing in Canterlot's throne room, where Princess Celestia coldly tells her that she has failed her test. Twilight has no idea how she got there, but Princess Celestia says that it doesn't matter; she failed her test and will no longer continue her magical education. Twilight notes that Princess Celestia never said anything about Twilight not being her student anymore if she failed, but Celestia ignores her and walks away, leaving her staring at a window depicting Sombra's triumphant return. She is snapped out of it by Spike's voice, and she realizes that the door is enchanted to show ponies their worst fears. Twilight uses her normal magic to open the door again, this time leading to the base of the tallest tower of the Crystal Empire Castle... and more stairs. Spike reasons the endless staircase must be another trap, so Twilight reverses gravity, allowing the two of them to slide up the incline underneath the stairs.

Meanwhile, the other five are losing the attention of the Crystal Ponies, who are starting to swarm around the Crystal Heart to see it again. Pinkie Pie does her best to entertain them by juggling flugelhorns while balanced on a rubber ball. Suddenly, she slips and the ball knocks off the flag covering the fake Crystal Heart, and their ruse is discovered. At the same time, Cadance loses all magical power from exhaustion, and the shield vanishes once again. King Sombra's horn regrows, and the black crystal that had started growing now begins to duplicate and spread toward the castle. The Crystal Ponies notice and panic, reverting to their previous dull coloration, while Shining Armor and Cadance can do nothing to stop his advance.

Twilight Sparkle arrives at the top of the tower to find the real Crystal Heart floating before her, and she steps forward to take it—and activates an alarm. Alerted to her presence in the tower, Sombra traps her in a cage of black crystals, but not before she manages to knock the Crystal Heart to Spike. Spike rushes forward to help her, but more black crystals sprout, blocking his approach. Realizing she may not be able to escape in time to prevent Sombra's attack, Twilight tells Spike he has to be the one to bring the Crystal Heart to the fair.

Spike dashes off, climbing down the spires of black crystal growing from the tower, but King Sombra notices and forms a black crystal, which rockets towards the Crystal Heart, regaining his original form in the process. Spike slips and falls off the tower, but Shining Armor grabs Princess Cadance and throws her towards where Spike and Sombra will collide. Just before Sombra intercepts Spike, Cadance snatches Spike out of midair and they take the Crystal Heart to where the fake one was located. The combined power of Cadance—who the Crystal Ponies recognize as the Crystal Princess and the rightful ruler of the Crystal Empire—and the Crystal Ponies empower the Crystal Heart to send out a magical field of light and love, which obliterates King Sombra and restores the Empire to the way it was before. In the process it transforms everypony in the vicinity into translucent Crystal Ponies. Sadly for Rarity, this transformation lasts only as long as they are in the Crystal Empire.

The Mane 6 return to Canterlot, where a new stained glass portrait of Spike holding the Crystal Heart has been put up. Princess Celestia explains to Twilight that although she did not accomplish the task she was told to do, her willingness to see the deed through rather than accomplish it herself, thus attending to the needs of the many as opposed to herself, has allowed her to pass her test and she can begin the next stage of her magical education. Twilight and her friends celebrate on the train ride back to Ponyville as night falls, revealing the aurora borealis that has begun to emanate from the Crystal Empire in the night sky. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna watch the train go and Celestia nods at Luna, who summons a book with stars and swirls on the cover...

Tropes present in this episode and/or the preceding episode include: YMMV tropes here

  • Adult Fear: Both Twilight and Spike's greatest fears are this. They feared being abandoned by Princess Celestia and Twilight respectively.
  • An Aesop: Twilight learned that the safety of the Crystal Empire outweighed her own need to pass Celestia's test verbatim.
    • In a bit of Fridge Brilliance, Celestia's verbatim instructions did not involve Twilight physically delivering the Heart itself, only that she assist in "doing what needed to be done", meaning that from the start it was her judgement, not her ability to complete a task, that was being tested. She was in fact still well within the parameters of Celestia's instructions, even taken verbatim, and even if she didn't realize it at the time.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The Crystal Ponies come across this way, considering how long Applejack's Go Look at the Distraction tactic works. Justified considering they're just now remembering their past and thus that they enjoy these things.
  • Battle Couple: Just like in their last appearance, Cadance and Shining Armor come in two flavors. First, Shining provides emotional support that encourages Cadance to keep up her shield longer than normally possible and then they perfom a fastball special to retrieve the Crystal Heart.
  • Big Bad: King Sombra continues his invasion from the last episode.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Shining Armor throws Princess Cadance to catch Spike and the Crystal Heart as they fall towards King Sombra.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The second staircase is surrounded by white emptiness and winds around the first one without passing through the throne room.
  • The Cameo:
    • Berry Punch, you are too drunk to be enjoying the jousting tournament!
    • For those wondering where the Derpy cameo is, she can also be seen at the jousting tournament, but she's partially covered by another pony and seen from the back. A few other regular background ponies also sneaked into the Empire; how they got there we may never know.
  • Casting a Shadow: Twilight imitates Princess Celestia's demonstration of King Sombra's powers in order to pass by his trickery. The first application works but the second attempt triggers a trap.
  • Catch a Falling Star/Fastball Special: Spike falls off the tower and Princess Cadance is too tired to fly up and save him, so Shining Armor throws her at Spike to make the save and she glides down with Spike on her back.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Cadance's cutie mark has been a crystalline heart. This episode shows why. Also, the book with stars and swirls becomes important in the season finale.
  • Character Death: King Sombra. We see him shattered to pieces on screen.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Celestia's demonstration to Twilight of what would happen if King Sombra returned back in Part 1 gave Twilight the essential knowledge of using dark magic to reveal his hidden secrets and ultimately recover the Crystal Heart. Twilight perfectly replicated it after seeing it only once. She's that good at spellcasting!
  • Combined Energy Attack: The Crystal Heart combines the light and love of the entire Crystal Empire and turns it into an energy wave that blasts King Sombra.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The music that plays during the jousting tournament accompanied Princess Celestia's entrance at the Summer Sun Celebration in "The Cutie Mark Chronicles".
    • Rarity calls spike by his nickname, "Spikey-Wikey," from "Owls Well That Ends Well", "Secret Of My Excess", and "Dragon Quest".
    • Cadance's mane style in her crystal form resembles the one she wore for her wedding.
    • In the end, after Twilight helps save the day:
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • See Dangerously Genre Savvy for King Sombra.
    • Twilight was so thorough in preparing for her test that she brushed up on a gravity inversion spell that ultimately helps save the day. This is lampshaded by the song at the end where Twilight's friends say that yes, she was definitely prepared for this.
  • Creator Cameo: Sombra is voiced by storyboard artist Jim Miller.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Played for Laughs with Rainbow Dash vs. Fluttershy at jousting; the poor girl is sent flying.
  • A Day in the Limelight: While Twilight is the main focus, Spike still plays a huge role in the second part of this arc, and is the one to save the day in the end.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: King Sombra was extremely thorough in hiding the Crystal Heart and ensuring no one pony could find it. Only the presence of Spike allows victory. To elaborate, he made the path to the Crystal Heart inaccessible without the use of dark magic, which none of slaves could have used since they are all earth ponies. If they do get past this then it leads into a perilously long spiral staircase downward. At the bottom is a door that keeps moving around unless you blast it with dark magic as well, but trying to open it afterwards will result in a Lotus-Eater Machine. Even if you get snapped out of it and correctly open the door with other magic, you now have to climb an equally perilous and seemingly twice as long staircase up (unless you're Crazy-Prepared like Twilight Sparkle and have a gravity inversion spell to slide along the underside). Lastly, as a final measure, anypony who walks up to the Crystal Heart proper will trigger an alarm alerting him to their presence. For bonus measures, his dark crystals form a cage that cannot be teleported out of. All in all, a very thorough protection plan, even assuming somepony had the courage and forethought to hunt it down preemptively.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Subverted in the case of King Sombra's dark magic and lampshaded by Twilight, who learned the hard way that, even in the hooves of somepony with the best intentions, such magic can have disastrous consequences.
  • Death Cry Echo: King Sombra as he's turned to crystal and shattered by the Crystal Heart's energy wave.
  • Deader than Dead: Megan McCarthy's confirmed at Unicon 2013 that Sombra is dead, although his official Trading Card mentions "Some say that his horn survived his defeat, but only time will tell if he will ever return."
  • Despair Event Horizon: Twilight has the others keep the fair going because if the Crystal Ponies find out that King Sombra's returned they'll sink so far into despair that finding the Crystal Heart won't matter.
  • The Dog Bites Back: King Sombra is finished off by the Crystal Ponies, who he himself enslaved and generally made life hell for. While the heroes set it up, the Crystal Ponies don't hesitate to finish the job.
  • Dungeon Bypass: One of the obstacles guarding the Crystal Heart is a spiral staircase, stretching impossibly high. Twilight realizes that climbing the stairs would take too long, so she casts a spell to reverse her and Spike's gravity, and proceeds to slide up the bottom of the staircase.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: While the Mane Six do this (saving the Empire and Twilight passing her test is by no means easy), the ones who really do it are the Crystal Ponies. After being enslaved and emotionally crushed by King Sombra, they finally power up the Crystal Heart and destroy him for good, allowing them to finally be free.
  • Eureka Moment: Twilight realizing that the Crystal Castle itself wasn't Sombra's castle as it was back during his rule and that she needed shadow magic to reveal the Crystal Heart's hiding place.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: If somepony tried to find the Crystal Heart by themselves then King Sombra's traps would have stopped them on two occasions. He didn't consider the possibility that they'd bring a friend.
  • Evil Tastes Good: King Sombra licks his lips just as the Crystal Heart is about to fall into his clutches.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: King Sombra is shattered to pieces. Even more shocking is if one looks closely, some parts of him hadn't turned to crystal. It's particularly noticeable in that he's the only villain aside from the Windigos to actually be destroyed and unlike with other villains of the show, nothing is said to imply that he's not dead, so we can assume he's Killed Off for Real. You can even see his severed horn flying toward the screen!
  • Fastball Special: Shining literally throws his wife at the crystal heart. It was either that or it end up in Sombra's hooves.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Rainbow Dash knocks Fluttershy so hard with the Lance that she goes sky high without using her wings.
  • Foreshadowing: The MacGuffin for the Empire is a Crystal Heart that spreads love and joy. What's Cadence's cutie mark again? It should be noted that when Cadence lands on the fake Crystal Heart with the real one, the identical crystal on her cutie mark is also glowing.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If one pauses when Luna pulls out her book at the end, one might notice stars and swirls on the cover. Seems DHX has been setting this one up since the start of Season 2.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: This is how Twilight passes the test. She has the choice to either try to escape Sombra's trap and deliver the Crystal Heart to Cadance alone, following Celestia's test verbatim, or rely on Spike, who is outside the trap and closer to the Heart. Twilight chooses the latter, Spike saves the day, and Twilight learns the meaning of selflessness.
  • The Glomp: Shining Armor on Cadance after she returns from helping save the Empire.
  • Go Look at the Distraction: Applejack takes on the task of making sure none of the crystal ponies realize that the the Crystal Heart hasn't actually been found yet. Rather than lying to anypony who asks to see the Crystal Heart, AJ just changes the subject and encourages the pony to get some food, or check out the jousting show, or some other distraction.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted. This empire is on the side of good.
  • Gravity Master: Twilight Sparkle specifically studied gravity spells in case they would be on the test. Turns out it was a good idea.
  • Happy Harlequin Hat: Pinkie Pie has an interesting variation that she wears; five colors and two flaps. The hat is green, and the flaps are purple and blue for the right and orange and yellow for the left.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sombra's attempt to reach the Crystal Heart leaves him at the top of a several hundred foot crystal tower and reverted back to his pony form as opposed to his much more agile Living Shadow form, and thus has no way to escape the World-Healing Wave that follows moments later.
  • Karmic Death: King Sombra meets his end at the hooves of his own slaves when they power up the Crystal Heart and finish him off.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: This is how King Sombra meets his demise.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Sombra created a countermeasure to have whoever tries to enter his lair visualize their deepest fears. In reality, they are just staring at a wall.
  • MacGyvering: Rarity is in charge of making hats for the ponies at the Crystal Fair. When she runs out of supplies, she's reduced to making a hat with three pieces of hay and a drinking straw.
  • MacGuffin: The Crystal Heart, which Twilight needs to find to keep the Empire safe.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The Crystal Ponies' reaction to King Sombra showing himself.
  • Near Villain Victory: Sombra comes within a hairsbreadth of winning simply by planning. He even has his original body restored moments before Cadance gets hold of the Crystal Heart. If Cadance missed then everything would have been back the way it was before Celestia and Luna first defeated him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pinkie Pie accidentally unveils the false "crystal heart" Twilight mistakenly made earlier, upsetting the Crystal Ponies.
  • Nonindicative Name: Depending on which screen shot you use, the city looked barely a mile or two across, and the gateway looked to be only a few miles from the city. Isn't that a little small for an Empire?
  • Oh Crap:
    • Fluttershy within seconds of getting the business end of Dash's jousting lance.
    • King Sombra's reaction to the Crystal Heart powering up, though it's a good bit more subtle than previous villains.
    King Sombra: What? No... No! Stop!
  • The Only One: Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy aren't on the castle's balcony when Spike and the Crystal Heart start falling, leaving Cadance as the only pony present who can fly. However, after the Crystal Heart is restored and all the ponies turn crystalline, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are suddenly on the balcony with the others.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: Okay, so it's more like "please don't make me leave you", but this, toward Twilight, is essentially Spike's worst nightmare.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: This time Princess Cadance gets to say one.
    Cadance: The Crystal Heart has returned. Use the light and love within you to ensure King Sombra does not!
  • Power Makes Your Mane Ethereal:
    • Sombra's mane is short, but it moves in the same way that Luna's and Celestia's do. This either confirms that it's power level, like Lauren Faust suggested for Luna, or it's simply because where Celestia and Luna are the Big Good, Sombra is a unicorn stallion that took on a form made of evil.
    • At the end of the episode, the power of the Crystal Heart gives everyone new hairstyles as well as making them crystalline.
  • Race Against the Clock: Cadance barely manages to put the shield back up thus continuing the situation from part 1. Only a piece of King Sombra's horn is severed and spreads his dark crystals inside the barrier.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Prince Shining Armor now runs the Crystal Empire with Princess Cadance.
  • Rule of Three: Sombra sets up three "puzzles" to hide the Heart.
  • Secret Test of Character: Celestia's comment to Twilight makes it apparent that the ordeal was a test to see if she could put the wellbeing of others ahead of her own ambitions, regardless of the restrictions imposed on her.
  • Sequel Hook: As the Mane Six and Spike ride the train back to Ponyville, Celestia and Luna watch from Canterlot. Luna summons a book with a black cover embossed with stars and swirls. Roll credits.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Not only is King Sombra evocative of Lord Sauron, in the end the day is saved by the brave sidekick who ventured into danger to save his best friend.
    • Per storyboardist Raven Molisee, the scene of Twilight facing a dark moment with Celestia on the trick door at the bottom of the stairs was inspired by the near-final scene of Willy Wonky accosting Charlie from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
    • Twilight's gravity spell makes the transforming sound effect from Transformers.
    • King Sombra has a door straight to Room 101.
    • After creating a hat from odd items, Rarity tells Applejack "I made it work". Rarity is a fashion designer. She is referencing the catchphrase of Tim Gunn from Project Runway.
    • When Pinkie gets into her jester get-up, she sports Paul Stanley make-up.
  • Society On Edge Episode: This two-parter involved the threat of the enslavement of an entire kingdom and the slave master is moments away from getting in.
  • So Proud of You: When a tired Twilight gets back to the Empire, she says softly, "Good job, Spike."
  • Spanner in the Works: If it wasn't for Spike coming with Twilight and helping her through Sombra's traps and ultimately delivering the Crystal Heart to Cadance, King Sombra would have won.
  • Stealth Pun: After the Crystal Heart is activated and everyone receives a magic makeover, Twilight sparkles.
  • Stereo Fibbing: Applejack and Rarity can't keep their stories straight as to why they don't have the real Crystal Heart.
  • Surprise Slide Staircase: Inverted in many points. Facing a seemingly eternal stairway, Twilight inverts the gravity and turns the long way up into a fast slide "downwards".
  • Teleport Interdiction: Sombra's final trap protecting the Crystal Heart prevents a unicorn from escaping it by teleportation.
  • This Is Something She's Got to Do Herself: Twilight believes she must retrieve the Crystal Heart by herself as part of her test. Defied when she has Spike bring the Crystal Heart instead of herself when she fears she can't make it in time.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Spike gets a So Proud of You from Twilight, he gets to be the hero, and he gets a stained glass window in Canterlot!
  • Triumphant Reprise: The Mane Six sing a reprise of Twilight's Failure/Success Song from Part 1, this time about how she's passed.
  • The Unchosen One: In the end, the one who saved the Crystal Empire was Spike, despite talk that it would be Twilight.
  • Vanishing Village: The Crystal Empire is still incomplete because the Crystal Heart is still missing.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The Crystal Heart and the entire Crystal Empire, powered by love waste King Sombra with a tremendous wave of energy.
  • Weakened by the Light: The mere presence of the Crystal Heart is enough to dispel King Sombra's amorphous cloud of darkness and corruption. When it's filled with the light and love of the whole Crystal Empire, it destroys him.
  • World-Healing Wave: The Crystal Heart emits one once powered up by the light and love of the Crystal Empire, undoing King Sombra's corruption and killing him.
    • It even undid the shadow form that Celestia and Luna inflicted upon him.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Sombra's expression as he lunges for Spike and the Heart definitely suggests this.
  • Xanatos Gambit: King Sombra's booby-traps. Whether the pony reaches the Crystal Heart or not, they're screwed. This is doubly so in the present situation, as reaching the Crystal Heart sets off a trap that allows him to spread his dark crystals inside the castle even though the barrier was up.
    • Total trap count: Hidden entrance within the throne room. Doorway enchanted to both evade opening and Mind Rape anypony capable of stopping it. Insanely tall spire to ascend. Booby-trapped platform that surrounds any intruders in black crystal, and nullifies teleportation magic. You need to be a unicorn who can use Black Magic to even get past the first one.
    • Put it this way: King Sombra almost won, as there were only two things that truly defeated him. Shining Armor's Fastball Special, and the presence of Spike. He almost won by planning for most every eventuality.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: The visions shown by King Sombra's illusion spell. Twilight's hallucination involves Princess Celestia telling Twilight that she failed, and thus will no longer continue as Celestia's student. Spike's hallucination involves Twilight sending him away because she no longer needs him.
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: Twilight only passed the test set to her by Celestia by giving up on passing the test for the sake of defeating Sombra.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S3 E1 'The Crystal Empire, PRecap/My Little Pony: Friendship Is MagicMy Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S3 E3 'Too Many Pinkie Pies"
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW)Fanfic/Shadows Of GiantsMLP: FIM S4 E1 'Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 1"

alternative title(s): My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic S 3 E 2 The Crystal Empire; The Crystal Empire Part 2
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