Well, now it's confirmed that the TCB!Mane Six, the Royal Guards, and most of Equestria were brainwashed by the Queen. Assuming whether or not Princess Celestia is able to free them from the Queen's control, just howwill theyreact when they realize what they have done to the humans?
Adding to this, how do you think Applejack's gonna react when she, among other things, realizes she didn't even attend her own grandmother's funeral because she was too consumed by her desire to convert humanity?
It's even worse than that. The TCB versions of the Mane Six were all imprisoned in their own minds and their bodies overtaken as dark puppets. All the girls can do is helplessly watch as their bodies are used as vessels to commit Moral Event Horizon grade acts and they are utterly powerless to stop it.
Acknowledged in Chapter 21:
"Exactly," Celestia nodded, shivering from the memory of what had happened to the other version of her precious student, and what that implied for the other Elements. Oh, it would either be a miracle or an unparalleled cruelty if their true personalities resurfaced completely sane! She struggled not to think about their adjustment back into society, if no no, there was no if, there had to be a when they managed to free them from her dark self's interests. She foresaw mass suicide, insanity-
Another acknowledgment in Calm Before the Storm:
TCB!Big Macintosh: (thinking) And Applejack... if whatever happened to her is somehow reversible, she'll be a broken mare, probably hated by everyone. Including herself, maybe. Come to think of it, that might very well happen to everypony that isn't in the PHL.
The Newfoals can't receive cutie marks. Given how a good number of Equestrian ponies have defected from Equestria, and how humans do outnumber ponies in the billions, the economic strain on Equestria would be massive if they win. What do you make them do? And just how are they supposed to integrate into society?
Extreme Doormats don't make for good parents, either, as The Conversion Bureau: Conquer the Stars showed. Will the Newfoals' children be the same as them, and slowly turn Equestria into a non-functioning quasi-Zombie Apocalypse scenario, where every pony is just a completely blind worshiper and slave of an insane goddess? Or... will their kids be born normal and with the full range of emotions, and at the mercy of utterly inept parents that are unable to raise them with the right amount of care and discipline? It's hard to tell which is a worse prospect.
To expand on the Conquer The Stars example, here's what we're talking about - one of the protagonists, Firebird's parents are Newfoals, which made them total doormats who were unable to deal with their daughter's fiery and sometimes violent personality, given that they lost their capacity for anger and their ability to be assertive. They also couldn't come to terms with her cutie mark (two swords crossed over a shield, which she earned by defending someone from a gang of bullies), and it's implied Firebird feels cheated out of being born a human, and carries a large chip on her shoulder because of this. This is a best-case scenario... think about how bad it could be for Equestria if the majority of the next generation are raised by Pushover Parents who are so horribly inept, and unable to handle conflict or assert themselves, and just end up spoiling their children rotten. Spoiled children don't exactly develop well mentally. Neither do children with personalities that are far more forceful than their parents'.
Oh, it's even worse than that: It's vaguely implied by TCB!Trixie in "The Answer, Part 1" that besides everything else we know about the Newfoals, there's something else wrong with them, on a deep fundamental level, that's somehow related to their inability to receive Cutie Marks... and it's spreading. Equestria may look unstoppable to the humans, but it's possible there's something dreadfully wrong with the native magic of the land, if Granny Smith's nightmarish description of TCB!Equestria in "The Writes of Passage" is of any indication. Or could the lack of cutie marks be Celestia's (and the Bag of Tirek's) fault, thanks to her horrible brainwashing of all of Equestria? A Cutie Mark is supposed to be a representation of someone's true self and talents... and what could the Mind Rape do but suppress the ability of native Equestrians to be themselves?
The fact that TCB!Ruby Pinch, TCB!Applebloom and TCB!Sweetie Belle are shown to be a bit older than their canon counterparts and still don't have cutie marks of their own, and how the latter two do get their cutie marks after finally getting out of Equestria lends a lot of credibility to this theory.
Also counts as In-UniverseFridge Horror: sometime after his fight with the Canon!Mane Six, Marcus realizes that if he did kill them, he would have continued his rampage, easily torn through other nearby towns, mistaking other ponies as their TCB counterparts and killed them as well. Even more, he would've gone straight to Canterlot and kill the Princesses, in his misguided attempt to avert the war! And in the process of it all, he could've thwarted what could have been humanity's last hope for survival.
There's actually an altfic that explores this possibility, called Tyrant's Fall and it starts with Marcus successfully killing Applejack.
The Bag of Tirek itself is a huge bundle of Fridge Horror. It contains horrific darkness and evil within it, and clearly corrupted Queen Celestia into the xenocidal tyrant Marcus knows her as, as well as possibly brainwashed the rest of Equestria, not to mention it also was an instrumental tool for the eradication of the TCB-verse's Changeling population. Even Discord expresses a degree of fear and disgust for the evil power it contains (in his own words, he couldn't even put a dent in it), so much so that he pulls an Enemy Mine with the princesses to help them stop it. Just how powerful is that thing?! And moreover, could it even be sentient in some way, deliberately committing xenocide against the humans and the other species living in Equus? If so, it could be the biggest monster of the story!
Another theory related to the lack of cutie marks among the Newfoals and even natural born ponies, if TCB!Ruby Pinch is of any indication. A cutie mark is not the end-all-be-all of a pony's destiny and what they'll do in their futures (for example, Fluttershy's talent is being a kind and caring Friend to All Living Things, but she also has other talents too, like sewing and singing), but the fact that the blank flanks are vastly outnumbering those that have found their special talents and purposes could likely mean that Queen Celestia only wants one thing: slaves. Hundreds of millions of blind, brainwashed worshipers that follow her every order and are utterly dependent on her "grace". The fact that she calls the much humbler and benevolent Princess Celestia a weakling for not following the same path only further supports this theory.
If Queen Celestia is killed, just what will happen to the Newfoals? Will they be freed from the control? Or will they suddenly lose their will to live?
Addressed in Chapter 15, "War March and Past Sins", the human converts' souls are shattered and bound in chains to Queen Celestia's will. There is no cure for this either; only death will make their souls whole again and set them free. Which means that after the war, soldiers and possibly even civilians pressed into service will be forced to kill newfoals en masse (and that's only if the newfoals don't just drop dead once Tirek is neutralized). The aftermath will not be pretty.
For those who've seen Pacific Rim remember how Guillermo Del Toro actually addressed the societal implications of what happens if much of the world (i.e in the film's case, coastal regions at the Pacific Ocean) becomes uninhabitable? For example, simple things like bread are seen as a luxury, people are willing to work dangerous jobs for food rations, and there's an implied social divide between the wealthy and the rest of society with the rich getting special treatment in the wake of the monster attacks. Now, think about it in the context of this story far the Barrier has wiped out Europe and is near Maine. Just how much of the world is uninhabitable or unable to produce food and other commodities? How would all the War Refugees survive in the Americas, the Pacific, and Australia (and anywhere else the barrier hasn't reached)? How malnourished are the survivors? What effect would this have on the economy? Is there even an economy? How do people actually produce basic necessities to live? Dear God, being a refugee on this Earth must suck worse than almost any period in recent history...
With such food shortages being noted, just how far would some people go for a decent meal, or maybe some are even trying to make a meal out of fresh Newfoals?
Related to the above example remember the state of South Africa at the end of The Conversion Bureau: Not Alone? How the whole country is in total disarray over much of the population being displaced by the barrier's expansion and suffered a staggering loss of infrastructure, as well as possibly collapsing economically after the war? And how it's rapidly turning into a fascist hellhole because of these factors, along with the rampant paranoia and distrust of the ponies left behind on Earth? Well, apply that to this story - the barrier has wiped out Europe and sections of Africa and Asia. There are also some areas that were nuked (Washington DC and North Korea). Even if Earth and Canon!Equestria win in the end, just how will humanity, civilization and society in general recover from the war? No matter what, humanity can probably only hope for a very Bittersweet EndingPyrrhic Victory at best.
On a similar note, there is also the ending of Pantheocide, the second part of The Salvation War series. One part of its Bittersweet Ending is that aside from some pretty massive ecological damage, there's also the fact that the world's economy became so focused on war production it would collapse if it stopped. It's not much a stretch to imagine that earth in the Spectrum-verse is in a similar situation.
It's very clear Bon Bon is verybadlymentally scarred and traumatized from her ordeal. Will she ever be able to recover, or will she just be a gibberish-spouting emotional wreck of a Mad Oracle for the rest of her life?
It's not elaborated on, but Marcus mentions that ponies living in parts of Earth consumed by the Barrier are "Equestriaforming" the environment. Also, Acevedo wonders (but never gets an answer) what happens to animals touched by the barrier. How many animal and plant species are doomed by what happens behind the Barrier, and just how are they doomed? Do they simply die off if they're unable to adapt, or undergo quasi-conversion of their own?
It's rather brief, but in Calm Before the Storm there are off-handed mentions of efforts to "tame" Earth's ecosystems behind the barrier, including active campaigns to hunt down and drive local predatory species to extinction.
Further elaborated on in The Light Despondent in which reports made by PHL spies note that primates closely related to humans and more intelligent (though unspecified) sea mammals are also killed by the Barrier. More mentions are made of Equestrian colonists slaughtering predatory and "unruly" wildlife, with "safaris" consisting of thousands of ponies participating in mass extermination campaigns.
According to Spykoran, the Bag of Tirek is carrying out its maker's will by enacting revenge againstthe entire human race for Megan defeating them. Meanwhile, Marcus states that Megan (his mother) never even mentioned going to Dream Valley. And since Discord also has stated that there are numerous alternate worlds out there of various possibilities, it is possible that the Megan Marcus knows never went to Dream Valley in the first place. Could their revenge be misaimed? Regardless, it's still utterly frightening to think what the Bag could be thinking (since it's sentient and all).
Jossed. Megan did go to Dream Valley, but she (along with Danny and Molly) swore to never speak of it.
When Luna turns into Nightmare Moon and appears to fight Queen Celestia, the (afternoon) sky darkens and massive earthquakes afflict Boston, shaking weak buildings apart and causing massive tidal waves. Did Nightmare Moon just rotate the planet so it would be nighttime? And if so, the chances are that she caused structural damage to buildings all over the planet, environmental disasters, and single-hoofedly gave every human left on Earth jet lag without needing them to leave their homes.
Jossed. The "darkness" is just a huge field around Nightmare Moon and the Queen; the rest of the city is still in daytime.
Spykoran says that the Bag of Tirek is using TCB!Celestia like a puppet to carry its maker's will out. Given what we've found out about the TCB!Mane Six's corruption and imprisonment, could the same thing have happened to TCB!Celestia? Is she also a prisoner in her own mind, her body used as a tool to carry out the xenocide of humanity and just as powerless to stop it?
Apparently Jossed, if Discord's statement in "Training Days: The First Month" is correct.
"Possession magic like this erodes the victim's identity away over time. Your counterparts might be able to distinguish between themselves and their tormentors despite their connections, but as for Celestia... well, I'm willing to bet there's nothing left of her original self anymore. It's whittled her best traits to nothing - a need for order without empathy and motherly love, commanding without concern for morality, desire to better her realm with no concern for what she has to do."
TCB!Twilight Sparkle was married to Stalwart Heart, Marcus' ponified brother. TCB!Rainbow Dash is also rumored to be in a relationship with Lightning Dust. And now it's known that not a one of the Elements of Harmony has had any control over their actions in a long, long time. Since things in TCB!Equestria played out very differently from canon, TCB!Rainbow Dash is watching herself having sex with a pony she likely doesn't even know. TCB!Twilight was forced to live out encounters with her newfoal "husband," while knowing whatit tookto personally create the potion that turned Jacob Renee into a perpetually smiling doormat that sings her praises everyday. The dark personalities implanted in their minds have ruled the girls' bodies, actions and words for years, thus just about every sexual encounter any of the TCB!Mane Six have had is completely without consent. A minimum of two of the TCB!Mane Six have been regularly subject to rape.
And in case you already couldn't guess from the description above, since Jacob/Stalwart Heart was brainwashed by the potion as well, this means he and TCB!Twilight were effectively raping each other.
Continuing from that line of thought, Newfoals don't have enough free will to refuse. So there's a long list of horribly depraved sex acts they could be made to do. Now consider the possibility for marital abuse, or even post-war prostitution Newfoals might be forced into given that Equestria is very clearly dreadfully unprepared to support a population of billions.
Hell, it doesn't even have to be sexual! One piece of Fridge Horror raised within The Conversion Bureau: Conquer the Stars is that newfoals (the Not Alone/Conquer The Stars newfoals might not quite be as extreme as those in Spectrum, but are still pretty neutered) are so passive and unable to fight back or stand up for themselves, that they could be very easy targets for bullies, abuse and whatever else you can think of. One discussion even postulated that newfoals could even ask that their limbs be tied up so they don't accidentally kick someone... as they're being dragged away by a lynch mob.
Jossed: She has to control the clone herself for it to work efficiently, and there are limits to the Pool's powers as well.
TCB!Pinkie Pie uses her party planing expertise to lure large crowds of humans together to be potioned en masse. If Pinkie Pie is using her partying for evil, then God knows what Cheese Sandwich is doing with his party planning skills assuming he too has been brainwashed with the rest of Equestria.
Jossed: He's revealed to be a member of The Equestrian Resistance.
Might count more as Fridge Tear Jerker, but to expand on the previous example, think of all the friends and family of the TCB!Mane Six, whose relatives are personally spearheading the destruction of an entire species. For that matter, what about Lyra's parents (mentioned in Chapter 3 to be living in Manehattan)? Just how have all these people been affected by the war and the involvement of the TCB!Elements of Harmony? And if they are amongst the countless ponies forced to take arms against Imperial Equestria, could any of them well have been killed without a hint of mercy by their former loved ones?
Some of the native TCB!Equestrians are considering using the potion on the other remaining sapient species of Equus once the Solar Empire has finished subjugating Earth. This is already a whole new level of nasty, but it gets even worse considering that the true reason for Queen Celestia's campaign to "perfect" the universes via ponification lies in the machinations of the Bag of Tirek, which seeks to enslave every living being to its maker's will. Although the ponies of TCB!Equestria have, indeed, nearly all been brainwashed, it is shown they can still be freed from their mental chains, unlike the Newfoals who are bound by their very souls. With that in mind, as well as the Tyrant's plans to weaponize the Newfoals in the face of the growing resistance to her rule, how long will it be until she decides to turn the potion against the ponies themselves?
Briefly acknowledged in "Sons of Legacies Part 3," where Marcus' nightmares include a vision of Lyra wearing the same glass-eyed look and empty smile of the Converted.
Mercifully Jossed in Calm Before the Storm in which Coal Embers gets splashed with potion and is ultimately unharmed. However, she mentions feeling absolutely filthy until it's washed off of her. Was it simply a psychological response to knowing what the potion was capable of when used on humans, or did she unconsciously sense the evil magic that went into its creation?
There are implications that TCB!Twilight is working on such a potion during "Training Days: The First Month". How successful that will turn out will only be told by time.
Also given a nod of acknowledgment in the Last Train chapter "The Double Hook", when TCB!Coco Pommel shares her own fears that such a thing could be made to cull unrest with any pony deemed "unruly" enough. And then it becomes Ascended Fridge Horror when Nepenthe is able to channel the ponification spell through a tiara to turn natural-born pony Diamond-Mint Jewelup into a Pretty Private as well.
In World War Z, there was a character named Terry Knox, one of the astronauts who chose to stay in the International Space Station in order to help keep communication satellites in orbit and maintain them. The situation on TCB!Earth is not too different, with humanity at war against a xenocidal tyrant who wants to turn everyone into something that acts almost exactly like a zombie. With military forces still fighting below, someonehas to keep the communications satellites working. So if the barrier were to engulf the world or the nukes at the Yellowstone volcano go off, those astronauts would be the last living humans in the universe and not for very long, since they would die slowly from radiation exposure and lack of supplies.
It's a little creepy that the lyrics to the song "Bats" from the song's namesake episode can be adapted into a TCB!Equestria wartime song (like the ones made during World War II) explaining why the Humans need to be wiped out.
Rarity: "Well, I for one don't have a doubt. These vermin must be stamped right out."
Rainbow Dash: "I second that, they've got to go. These bats, they've got to hit the road."
Applejack: "It comes down to just one simple fact. They've crossed the line, it's time to fight them back!"
All except Fluttershy: "Stop the bats! Stop the bats! Make them go and not come back! Stop the bats! Stop the bats! Make them go and not come back! Stop the bats! Stop the bats! Make them go and not come back!." note Now replace the word "Bats" with Humans or Apes.
This may be a bit of a stretch, but remember that citation on the quotes page for ''The Conversion Bureau'' which suggested that the world of The Draka (itself often considered one of the few things worse than anything found in Warhammer 40,000, horrific afterlife notwithstanding) would still be preferable to that of a typical TCB setting? Well, let's take this one step further by comparing it to the universe of Peter Watts's Blindsight, possibly the most depressing science-fiction novel ever written. (The fact that the book opens with the dedication "If we are not in pain, we are not alive" says a lot about the author's worldview.) In a Cosmic Horror Story where a crew of transhuman astronauts are sent to make First Contact with an alien vessel, you expect a message about humanity being ill-suited to survive in the black gulf of space, but here, it isn't for the reasons you'd think:
It turns out that the Starfish Alien "scramblers" are intelligent without being sentient human self-awareness is an evolutionary dead end, causing the zombie-like aliens to interpret concepts picked up from our broadcasts such as "identity", "empathy" and "compassion" as incomprehensible resource-wasting signals akin to a virus. In other words, this is a world where the polar opposite of Friendship is Magic's philosophy is true, humans are the abominations, and mechanistic lifeforms the norm in a cold, uncaring universe. Now, the scramblers sound a lot like Newfoals ("movin' and talkin' and playin' like it were alive'"), right? But get this unlike Newfoals, the scramblers are at least thinking, independent beings. And even worse, it's heavily implied that the Newfoals do have some flicker of self left at the back of their minds, constantly enduring the pain of their enslavement. In Blindsight, two of the astronauts contemplate that mankind could be saved from extinction by engineering itself into non-sentience, before dismissing the idea ("But I guess that wouldn't be much of a win, would it? What's the difference between being dead, and just not knowing you're alive?"). Yet ponification is a Fate Worse than Death. So, could the argument be made that Newfoals really are the most twisted creatures ever conceived, and even these aliens would regard them as such?
The mention of Catseye (a pony who hates humans and shares views similar to the newfoals) brings up a horrifying realization. She's probably not the only speciesist pony out there... some of the ponies fighting against the humans and forcibly converting them may be doing this of their own free will.
On that same note, the PER may seem over the top with their extreme misanthropy and wishes for humanity's extinction but there's the fact that people that misanthropic really do exist.
Addressed in the chapter "Training Days Part 1", with a Canon!Royal Guard agreeing with Catseye's views and getting discharged as a result. They create a movement of anti-human ponies who prove to be quite a thorn in the PHL's side.
Coincidentally, this is exactly why Kraber didn't go to Canon!Equestria.
Just what has become of TCB!A.K Yearling (who actually is Daring Do)? And for that matter, what happened to all the unmentioned supporting characters?
Also counts as an in-universe example: while the newfoals generally little more than mindless drones with very little to no free will, there are a few (like Stalwart Heart and Focus Ray) that do possess some degree of intelligence and cunning. During her fight with Focus Ray, TCB!Trixie is able to subdue him, and he undergoes an incredibly unsettling Villainous Breakdown. Trixie notes how the pain in his words feels so raw that she wonders if it's from the newfoal itself or from the human underneath begging to be freed from his prison. So could a particularly strong willed human that gets turned possess some awareness as to what's going on around them? That does make Stalwart Heart's situation with TCB!Twilight even more disturbing...
It's revealed that the main story takes place in November. This opens up so many disturbing questions about food production... and how in the hell people survive winters.
It's been mentioned that the Barrier doesn't negate radiation, nor does it keep it out. How much of the land behind the barrier is uninhabitable because The Barrier basically steamrolled over a bunch of nuclear reactors containing their radioactive rays?
Becomes Ascended Fridge Horror in Last Train from Oblivion, in which an Equestrian soldier, skeptical about the very concept of nuclear physics, learns from a comrade about "Black Zones," areas on Equestria-occupied Earth where ponies are suffering from radiation sickness due to settling on or near the former sites of nuclear power plants.
A bit milder than most examples listed here, but with a bit of trickery, Queen Celestia tricked humans into thinking magic was toxic for them even if it wasn't used offensively. As a result, you can imagine how much research into Magitek was stunted simply from what turned out to be entirely unnecessary safety procedures, or how many life-saving medical spells went unused simply due to misinformation.
An explicit feature of transformation magic in the setting, regardless of intent, is that permanent transformation of one creature into another is impossible unless the transformee's soul is "bound in chains." While it's safe to say ponification potion wasn't involved in this particular instance, how is it that the Doctor is still himself despite turning into a pony?
The authors will likely answer this in time. Most likely, it's temporary and he's only staying in this form willingly for his pony family.
In Michael, Trevor, Franklin, and Lester's first appearance, they mention that they are being paid by the PHL to fight with them. With all the resources going to the war effort (and as a result, the production of consumer products such as electronics and new sports cars stop), just what are they planning to use that money for?
Presumably? Maybe they're savvy enough to know someone might just pull a miracle out of their ass to destroy the barrier and defeat TCB!Equestria after all and are simply investing.
The real question is, if the human world is the same as the one from GTA V, then shouldn't New York City be Liberty City from IV, at the very least? And the recreated human city in Equestria be New Liberty City?
If the potion works via contact with the skin, then why are there no mentions of Humans wearing Hazmat Suits? Surely if they No Selled the potion, such suits would have been mass produced for every last man, woman, and child.
In the Asia side-story, a scene features an HLF man's hazmat suit getting torn to pieces by unicorn magic before he gets potioned. Also, it just might not be practical.
Why bother risking troops in open combat with a far more technologically advanced opponent when they have a significant advantage the Barrier? Wouldn't it be immeasurably safer to station their potioneer ships and projectile weapons behind the Barrier, where they are virtually invulnerable to any human weaponry aside from radioactive fallout, and could still target any remaining nearby humans with potion bombs, considering the Barrier apparently doesn't affect momentum? Really, the TCB!Equestrians would gain a lot from waiting things out patiently, since it isn't like the humans can forever outrun a barrier which will eventually consume the entire planet.
How come the Imperial ponies still use a seemingly inexhaustible supply of potion vials in battle? Small, easily breakable containers are a less efficient means of converting large crowds of people than gas clouds, which they've also been known to use. It presumably takes less time and effort to produce the potion in liquid form, but again, the TCB!Equestrians do have a good reason to be patient.
Now that few people willingly go to them any longer, do the Conversion Bureaus left on Earth (that will be destroyed by the Barrier along with other man-made structures, unless they were built from Equestrian materials) have any purpose other than serving as the hub for portal stations? Actually, for a story where the pro-Bureau ponies are basically Nazis (complete with atrocities to match), there's a surprising lack of scenes of humans getting herded into the Bureaus to be converted.
Most likely because the official military forces and some of the HLF destroyed most of the Bureaus already. Plus, every man, woman, and child carries at least one weapon on them.
TCB!Fancy Pants does somewhat allude to ponies "herding humans like cattle" to mass convert them.
Fridge Brilliance kicks in if you assume that the Bag of Tirek is deliberately engineering a wasteful conflict to cut down on the number of native-born Equestrians who could be freed from their mind-control and turn against Queen Celestia.
How did TCB!Lyra bring the Bag of Tirek to Celestia without getting corrupted by its power?
The Bag probably thought TCB!Lyra was too weak or not powerful enough to use as a tool to carry out its revenge.
Or it influenced those who held it to make sure it got to Celestia.
Gilda is said to be the Princess of the Griffon Kingdom. How the hell would Pinkie Pie have been able to prank her the way she did in "Griffon the Brush Off" without causing some diplomatic/international incident?
In the early days of the war, as the barrier continued to shallow up more and more ground, why weren't chemical weapons and nerve agents deployed against the invaders? At the very least, it would have proven devastating to them.
Those were created by human hands, so those likely would not have worked anyway.
I was referring to using nerve agents, chemical weapons, and biological weapons on either the hoards of Newfoals themselves or the Royal Guard.
Why did Fancy Pants have to make a Last Stand after sending Fleur on her way? The escape route was hidden and the only way into the room it was located in kept the newfoals out for some time thanks to his barricade work. Wouldn't this make Fancy Pants' distraction either a Senseless or Stupid Sacrifice?
Because even with the barricade, the newfoals and Royal Guards looking for the two would have spread their search out all over the city and possibly all over the Solar Empire, which would have made staying hidden and eventual escape way more difficult for them. Fancy stayed behind to kill anyone that could have heard them talk and to stall Queen Celestia long enough with the magically enchanted griffon katana-bomb to allow Fleur more time to escape safely.
Why do Imperial ponies and PER ever bother force-feeding potion to potential victims when a single drop to the skin is all that's needed?
It's possible that the earlier versions of the potions required ingestion to be effective. But even then, it seems to be a psychological warfare tactic to disturb their opponents.
As mentioned above, the possible explanation for the "dearth" of cutie marks. It's pure speculation, but it's very possible that the lack of cutie marks could be Celestia's (and the Bag of Tirek's) fault, thanks to her horrible brainwashing of all of Equestria. A cutie mark is supposed to be a representation of someone's true self and talents... and what could the Mind Rape do but suppress the ability of native Equestrians to be themselves? Given the fact that TCB!Ruby Pinch is shown to be a bit older than her canon counterpart and still doesn't have a cutie mark of her own, this may well be the case.
And with regards to the Newfoals'' inability to get cutie marks of their own, it's shown that they're Extreme Doormats that are so completely drained of free will that Acevedo even wonders if they even possess any kind of higher brain functioning. Without those things, it's no wonder the Newfoals wouldn't be able to make the realization that's needed to earn a cutie mark.
Considering the Scribe watches over and learns from the memories of every pony in existence, it makes sense that in contrast to Celestia and Luna, Discord is the only one of Faust's creations not to be pony-like. If he's an embodiment of Chaos, he should be unpredictable to everyone including her.