Recap: MLP: FIM S4 E1 "Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 1"
Just another day at the office.
Rarity: Oh, don't be so modest. It's everypony's dream to someday wear a crown and have their coronation ceremony preserved in stained glass for all to see. Rainbow Dash: I don't know if it's everypony's dream...
Princess Twilight Sparkle's friends help her practice for her performance in the upcoming Summer Sun Celebration alongside Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Twilight still hasn't quite gotten the hang of being an alicorn princess, and is now starting to feel isolated from her friends now that she must stay in Canterlot to carry out her royal duties while the others get to carry on with their lives in Ponyville. Nonetheless, her friends assure her that they will always be united by the Elements of Harmony, and Princess Celestia is still there to encourage her former student in her time of need — that is, until a small black vine sprouts from the floor and creeps after Celestia as she walks away...Twilight awakens the next morning to find it's not just morning; it's also the middle of the night, because now the sun and the moon are hanging still in the sky, splitting the day and night sky in half. Before Twilight can put together what's going on, a pair of royal guards inform her with urgent news: Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have gone missing! Twilight immediately takes charge to keep the rest of Canterlot from panicking, but things only go downhill when another guard runs in with a message from Ponyville that the Everfree Forest is now invading.Back in Ponyville, Twilight's friends are putting up with all sorts of problems of their own caused by the spreading forest: thorny vines envelop Fluttershy's cottage and terrify her woodland critters; stubborn weeds that not even Applejack and her family can uproot sprout across Sweet Apple Acres; Rainbow Dash has trouble rounding up spiky thunderclouds that try to zap her with lightning; and clouds of spores cause Rarity's unicorn magic to go haywire. The ponies fret that if the Everfree Forest keeps spreading, it could cover half of Equestria.Twilight and Spike fly back to Ponyville posthaste to gather the Elements of Harmony, knowing they'll be needing their friends to take on this new threat. With all this chaos running loose, the ponies are certain that Discord is up to his old tricks. When they summon the draconequus to fix "his" mess, however, he protests that he is now reformed and is not the one they should be questioning. As luck would have it, Zecora comes along while fleeing from the out-of-control Everfree Forest — and she just so happens to have a potion that, when combined with Twilight's alicorn magic, may provide the answers they seek.With a sip of the potion, Twilight finds herself in the middle of an unfamiliar castle. Princess Luna is also there, but Twilight notices something wrong with her: the princess of the night is very angry with her subjects for playing in her sister's day, and covers the sun with the moon, making a dramatic proclamation:
Princess Luna: There can only be one princess in Equestria... and that princess... will be me!
Twilight watches in dread as Luna is enveloped in a shadowy orb and emerges as a black mare with catlike eyes, razor sharp teeth, and a misty mane, evil cackles bursting forth from her mouth.TO BE CONTINUED*Cue happycredits music*
Art Evolution: The highlights on the characters have been improved, in particular in the scene where the Mane 6 are in the hall of stained glass windows, and Nightmare Moon now has fangs.
Artistic License - Military: While the Royal Guard correctly respects the national chain-of-command by deferring to Twilight while her superiors Celestia, Luna and Cadance are absent, they exhibit no initiative and have no contingency plan for how to react, despite this not being the first time the ruling princesses have gone missing. Not that any of them other than Shining Armor have ever been seen to do anything effectively...
Blunt "Yes": When Discord asks the Mane Six if he would lie to them, nearly everypony answers with this response, save Fluttershy, who gives out a meek "maybe".
Butt Monkey: Spike doesn't get teleported along with Twilight when she ports into the library to avoid hitting it, and he ends up hitting the window.
Iron Butt Monkey: Being a dragon, he's sturdy enough that he doesn't even complain, and is just happy to be back on solid ground.
Call Back: To the very first episode: preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration are underway, Princess Celestia (and Princess Luna) go missing, and Nightmare Moon makes a reappearance at the end.
The new stained glass window celebrating Princess Twilight includes a representation of the journal from Star-Swirled the Bearded (seen in "The Crystal Empire, Part 2" and "Magical Mystery Cure"), as well as a second book with Twilight's cutie mark.
The Mane Six members, sans Twilight, make a PinkiePromise to write to their friend.
Twilight's brief anxiety attack is almost word-for-word identical to the one she had in "Lesson Zero".
Pinkie is alerted to a vine about to hit her head by her twitchy tail. This is the first time that Pinkie Sense is just thrown into an episode without any reminders of it in dialogue.
"Keep Calm and Flutter On" gets a number of nods thanks to Discord's major appearance in the plot, from the Mane Six being in almost the exact same positions while summoning him as they were when releasing him, to Discord nudging Fluttershy's shoulder when reminding everypony that he's reformed, to when Fluttershy stops her friends from just using the Elements on him (Discord is also humming "Winter Wrap Up" when they summon him).
Evolving Credits: Discord is visible in Fluttershy's cottage during her part in the opening. When Twilight teleports in near the end of the opening credits, she's now an alicorn (particularly noticeable because she's not when she arrives by blimp), and the picture is expanded to include most of the extended cast (the Crusaders, Big Mac, Granny Smith, Zecora, the mayor, Snips and Snails, and the Cakes); even a pull-back reveals that it is Photo Finish that takes this photograph. Finally, Luna joins Celestia in opening the picture.note Fortunately to most, Derpy remains in the train car where she has been in the credits since S2.
Fainting: Spike faints thrice in short succession, when learning that the princesses have vanished, that Twilight is now in charge, and that the Everfree forest is invading Ponyville.
Foreshadowing: The window Luna smashes has a stylized depiction of the Tree of Harmony.
Furry Reminder: Rainbow Dash chides Discord and claims the events have his "cloven hoofprints" all over it. Discord is quick to point out that he only has one cloven hoof (his other appendages being claws and talons).
The Glomp: Done to Twilight Sparkle, courtesy of Pinkie Pie
Hammerspace: Spike, worried about Twilight's poor flying, straps himself to her back with a seat belt, despite the lack of Twilight wearing anything like a harness or saddle which they'd be attached to.
Hostile Weather: Rainbow Dash is faced with thorny clouds that move and shoot lightning bolts on their own.
How Do I Shot Web?: Twilight still struggles to fly with her newly acquired wings, despite her successful takeoff at the end of season 3. This time she has Rainbow Dash to give her some pointers.
Impact Silhouette: When Twilight crashes into some clouds she leaves silhouette-shaped holes in them.
Inconvenient Summons: When the Mane Six summon Discord to see if he's behind the trouble, he's in the bathtub taking a shower.
Instant Messenger Pegasus: Twice, Pinkie sends Twilight a note that arrives exactly at the right time in the conversation by a pegasus carrier.
Kissing The Ground: Spike does this after riding on Twilight's back. (The flight to Ponyville ended disastrously for him.)
Literal Ass Kicking: Big Mac gets kicked by the plants several times while trying to pull them out. Later, when Rainbow Dash accuses Discord and makes a reference to his hoofprints, he detaches his leg and then kicks her with it to point out he only has the one with a hoof.
Lonely at the Top: Twilight is worried that being a princess will leave her with little time for the friends who helped her get so far. The two-parter is devoted to proving her wrong.
Militaries Are Useless: The Royal Guard's first reaction when Celestia and Luna disappear is to ask the new girl with no experience whatsoever for orders, and not, you know, to try and figure out what happened. Seems like they desperately lack a decent hierarchy.
Discord rolls his eyes when Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash threaten to turn him back to stone, but is shown cringing right after they activate their elements and Fluttershy talks them down.
Twilight Sparkle, thinking Princess Luna's wrath is directed at her, has this reaction when she sees Luna transform before her very eyes. Twilight falls on her plot, her wings fold up, and her face basically reads, "Welp, I'm boned."
One-Winged Angel: The episode ends with Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon.
Origins Episode: Technically this is one, what with being a two-parter, but the following episode has the bulk of it.
Power Incontinence: The Everfree vines emit a blue mist that can apparently mess with unicorn magic. Rarity and Sweetie Belle are affected by this.
Remembered I Could Fly: Twilight tries taking a train to Ponyville when Spike reminds her she can just fly there. (Apparently, it's out of her teleportation range.) By the end of the flight however, Spike wishes he hadn't suggested it.
Retcon: Continuing from the Equestria Girls movie, Twilight is shown to have trouble with her wings whereas the S3 finale showed her flying with no problem.
Re Vision: Technically, we never saw Twilight land. It was entirely possible that she crashed offscreen, and this episode shows that Twilight is reasonably capable while she is in the air, and it's likely she had trouble due to overthinking it.
There's also a common speculation that the magic that turned her into an Alicorn allowed her unusual control over her new abilities, which wore off soon after the end of the episode.
Discord: Would I lie to you? Mane Six sans Fluttershy: Yes! Fluttershy: Um... maybe?
Sequel Hook: The nimbus and sparkle associated with Rarity's magic when affected by the black vines is noticeably different from her usual magic. A similar difference can be seen between the manes and Bishi Sparkle of Princess Luna and Nightmare Moon, suggesting a connection between the source of the vines and her transformation.
Skewed Priorities: Pinkie gets this bad. First she's focused more on thinking about frosting than reassuring Twilight about their friendship. Later she's more concerned about coloring than she is about finding what's going on with the Everfree Forest.
Singing in the Shower: Discord was in the middle of a shower when summoned by the Mane Six, singing a familiar tune.
Stepford Smiler: Celestia outright admits that she had always put on a brave face for her subjects during the past thousand Summer Sun Celebrations, since to her it was a bitter reminder of how she was forced to banish her own sister after her Face-Heel Turn.
Stock Scream: The Wilhelm Scream can be heard when the clouds are attacking Rainbow Dash and Ponyville denizens below run in panic.
Summon Magic: Celestia has taught Twilight a spell that can summon Discord with the Elements of Harmony whenever they need him. Discord suggests that Twilight has also been taught a spell that gives Discord warning before they would summon him (though in this case, Twilight omitted the formality).
There Can Be Only One: Princess Luna declares herself the only princess in Equestria before becoming Nightmare Moon.
Time to Step Up, Commander: Twilight is clearly very uncomfortable and reluctant at finding herself in charge after Celestia and Luna disappear, though she quickly puts that aside and focuses on the situation at hoof.
Title Drop: Done by anypony who refers to Twilight by her name and title in the episode.
Worf Effect: The plants take out Celestia and Luna first.
World Gone Mad: The Princesses' disappearance and the Everfree Forest's expansion result in the sun and moon hanging still in the sky, thunderclouds that move erratically, and rapidly growing plants sprouting across the land. As you can imagine, Discord gets a kick out of it.
You Are in Command Now: What the Royal Guards tell her when they reveal that Celestia and Luna are missing. This results in her having to step up as mentioned above.