Original airdate: October 10th, 2010.
Twilight Sparkle sits alone by a tree, reading up on the history of Equestria and the tale of Nightmare Moon. Long ago, two sisters ruled the land; the elder raised the sun at dawn while the younger raised the moon at dusk. One day however, the younger sister grew resentful of the fact that the ponies played in the day, yet slept through her wonderful night. She became bitter and one night refused to lower the moon. The elder sister was forced to use the power of the Elements of Harmony to banish her sister to the moon. After some further research, Twilight Sparkle is convinced that soon the Mare in the Moon will return for her revenge "on the longest day of the thousandth year"... which happens to be the upcoming Summer Sun Celebration. She tells her baby dragon assistant, Spike to send a letter to Princess Celestia, ruler of Equestria, on the matter and she doesn't like the response:
Celestia tasks Twilight with supervising the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration in the small town of Ponyville and gives her a secondary task of finding and making some friends. Firmly believing that the fate of the world does not rest on her making friends, Twilight arrives in Ponyville to fulfill her royal duty. Spike asks Twilight to attempt socializing with others, directing her to a pink Earth Pony passing by. When Twilight greets the stranger, the pink pony gasps and runs away. Now certain that she's the only sane pony in the village, Twilight grudgingly does her job.
First, she visits Applejack, hoping to quickly check on the food preparations and be on her way. Instead she's introduced to Applejack's huge extended family and plied with all manner of apple-based foods. Shortly after leaving with a full stomach, she's swept off her feet by Rainbow Dash and knocked into a puddle of mud. After a number of futile attempts to clean her up, Twilight is left with a fluffed-up mane and Spike and Rainbow are left in tears of laughter. After they regain their composure, Rainbow reveals what she's doing for the festivities: taking care of the weather. She's the fastest Pegasus in Ponyville and she proves it by clearing the sky of clouds in Ten. Seconds. FLAT.
Next on the list is Rarity who's in charge of the decorations. Spike is smitten instantly while Rarity is shocked and appalled by Twilight's messy mane. Insisting that she fix it up, she runs Twilight through a number of costumes (and gushes over her dreams of moving to Twilight's hometown of Canterlot) before Twilight drags Spike from the boutique and out to the edge of the woods where Fluttershy is leading a choir of songbirds in rehearsal. Unfortunately, Twilight appears at a bad time and startles both the birds and poor Fluttershy. Despite her best efforts, Twilight can't get Fluttershy to talk to her... until she sees Spike. After Spike literally tells Fluttershy his life story, Twilight brushes her off and drags Spike into the library with her. Hoping to finally get some time to herself, she turns on the light...
Oh look, it's that pink pony from earlier. She won't stay still and she won't shut up either. She introduces herself as Pinkie Pie, and while she's explaining at a mile a minute that the reason she dashed off was to set up a surprise welcoming party, Twilight unwittingly pours herself a drink of hot sauce, which Pinkie then eats on a cupcake without a second thought. Running to her room, Twilight ponders the idea that these new ponies are her friends and worries over whether or not the Mare in the Moon will really return. Before she has time to fret any further, she's beckoned to the town hall to watch the sun rise.
Once there, the mayor of Ponyville introduces to much fanfare, Princess Celestia!... Who never appears. She's gone without a trace. However a certain somepony takes her place... the Mare in the Moon, Nightmare Moon. She's going to take her revenge by plunging Equestria into eternal night.
Continued in "Elements of Harmony".
- Antagonist Title: The mythical "Mare in the Moon" is none other than Nightmare Moon herself.
- Apocalypse How: Nightmare Moon's eternal night immediately brings about planet-wide societal disruption. If left unchecked, according to Word of God, it would eventually result in planet-wide societal collapse and the extinction of all life due to starvation.
- Baby Talk: Twilight does this to get Fluttershy to leave her and Spike alone.Twilight Sparkle: Aw; wook at that. He's so sweepy he can't keep his wittle bawance.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge: When Twilight tries to take leave from Fluttershy, she uses the pretext that her baby dragon need his sleep. Spike starts retorting "No, I don't—", but Twilight (who is carrying him on her back at the moment) shakes her rump and sends him landing on his tush on the ground.
- Balloon Belly: Twilight Sparkle gains one after meeting Applejack's family and being persuaded to stay for brunch. "I ate too much pie..."
- Big Entrance: Nightmare Moon's arrival at the Summer Sun Celebration is accompanied by wind and lightning.
- By the Lights of Their Eyes: Downplayed; Twilight and Spike, when they're standing in the near-total-dark library, have clearly visible eyes, although the rest of their bodies can still be seen in the obscurity.
- Cardiovascular Love: On seeing Rarity for the first time, Spike gets a Heart Symbol first as Wingding Eyes, and then they start floating from his head and popping like bubbles.
- Characterization Marches On:
- Spike doesn't have difficulty spelling after this episode.
- Fluttershy never has this much trouble talking to new ponies again, which we can be thankful for.
- Cliffhanger: Not quite as harsh as the second season's premiere, but still relevant. Nightmare Moon has returned. Twilight Sparkle saw it coming, but failed to prepare, and Princess Celestia is nowhere to be seen. The final shot of the episode is Twilight Sparkle watching in horror and despair as Nightmare Moon unleashes eternal night on Equestria.
- Costume-Test Montage: Twilight has to go through one against her will, courtesy of Rarity, naturally.
- Cuteness Proximity: Fluttershy comes out of her shell after seeing Spike.
- Department of Redundancy Department: In the Russian dub, Twilight calls Nightmare Moon "Lunyia Poni" twice in a succession. As of now, this mistake, along with many others in season 1, has been re-dubbed by voice actress herself, though it wasn't official.
- Distant Prologue: The Storybook Opening tells of events that occurred 1000 years before the time of the show proper.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- At the beginning, Celestia and Luna are referred as "unicorns". The show later establishes "alicorn" as its canonical term for winged unicorns.
- Airdate-wise, this and the following season's premiere are the only 2-Parters not to originally air as 1-hour specials. In this case, anyone watching the pilot had to wait nearly 2 weeks to see the conclusion.
- There is a lot more incidental music and Mickey Mousing — almost to the point of Lull Destruction — compared to later episodes, which go for more dynamic and specific background tracks. Even "Applebuck Season" three episodes later has much less of both.
- Establishing Character Moment: We get one of these for each of the main characters: we can quickly see Twilight Sparkle is a bookworm too busy to make friends, Spike is her put-upon assistant, Applejack is neighborly and very close to her family, Rainbow Dash is lazy and a jokester but also loyal to her friends and neighbors, Rarity is giving but also obsessed with fashion and glamour, Fluttershy loves animals but is not good with ponies, and Pinkie Pie is fun-loving and more than a little weird.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Princess Celestia had this realization in the backstory when her sister, Luna, becomes Nightmare Moon.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Nightmare Moon's voice is deeper than all the principal characters.
- Exposition Cut: How Spike tells his life story.Spike: Well... it all started when I was a cute little purple and green egg...
... and that's the story of my entire life. Well, up until today. Do you want to hear about today?
- Eye Awaken: Done during the prologue when the narrator mentions the youngest sister's transformation into Nightmare Moon.
- Fainting: Spike faints upon seeing Nightmare Moon making her grand entrance.
- Whilst Twilight is dictating her letter to Princess Celestia and the "camera" is following her, the huge hourglass in the Canterlot library passes in front of a unicorn head statue, causing it to distort to the profile of Nightmare Moon.
- The Element of Magic appears on Celestia's head in Twilight's storybook when Celestia is imprisoning Nightmare Moon. It already matches Twilight's cutie mark.
- The Cutie Mark Crusaders haven't met yet, but Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle picked the same table as Apple Bloom under which to hide from Nightmare Moon. This was actually an oversight by that scene's layout artist. The ponies under the table were the CMC in storyboarding, but were changed to other ponies because they wouldn't meet until later in the season. The layout artist wasn't informed of this and reverted it to the storyboard version, and this scene was approved and ended up as accidental foreshadowing for the three fillies.
- Funny Background Event: Two.
- During the party scene, when Twilight is pouring herself a drink, a gray pegasus up in the corner has crossed eyes and a goofy smile. "And so the legend of Derpy Hooves is born" said one poster on 4chan, and born it was.
- When the ponies get excited to see Princess Celestia, a green unicorn is very excited, jumping up and down and staring straight at the camera with a big grin on her face. Meet Lyra Heartstrings, and this is the first of her many Funny Background Events throughout the series, particularly the "Excited Lyra" Running Gag.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: While the crowd is cheering in the city hall at the announcement of the Summer Sun Celebration, you can vaguely hear someone saying, "Yeah, hell yeah!"
- Hair Reboot: Notably Averted. Twilight's mane and tail are a poofy mess after Rainbow Dash got her wet and dried her with a whirlwind. They stay that way in the next scene, until Rarity notices and fixes Twilight's coiffure.
- Heli-Critter: Upon seeing Rarity for the first time, Spike spins the tip of his dragon tail, although using it only as propeller: the actual lift is provided by Love Floats.
- The Hero's Journey: The episode has Twilight who wants to find a way to defeat Nightmare Moon but receives a Call to Adventure from her mentor Celestia who asks her to leave her hometown and go to Ponyville and make friends; she wasn't happy about it but figured she should go along with it. Supernatural aid, Trials and Tribulations, and the Abyss come in the next episode.
- I'm Not Here to Make Friends: "The fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends."
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: There's a bit of a delay between the cue and the entrance, but Pinkie Pie says "I've never been so excited! Well, except for the time I saw you walk into town and I went GASP but really, who could top that?" before the build-up to Nightmare Moon's entrance.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Twilight's reaction to Pinkie's Motor Mouth. Unfortunately, it turns out to be hot sauce.
- Instant Cosplay Surprise: Rarity changes Twilight Sparkle into a half-dozen outfits (ranging from formal wear to cosplaying as the Statue of Liberty) before the latter can break free.
- Lampshade Wearing: Spike, at Pinkie Pie's party.
- Let Me at Him!: Rainbow Dash to Nightmare Moon. She is held back.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: When Spike offers to top off telling his whole life story to Fluttershy with recollecting the events of that very day, Twilight quickly cuts him and the peaceful music off before either of them can continue.
- Love Floats: Spike starts floating shortly after laying his eyes on Rarity for the first time, with his dragon tail used as a propeller for added thrust.
- Magic Countdown:
- Averted when Twilight Sparkle meets Rainbow Dash. She dares her to clear the sky in ten seconds. It takes exactly ten seconds of screen time for Rainbow Dash to do it.
- When Twilight is looking at the moon shortly before the celebration, the four stars around it are approaching it at a steady rate, fast enough that they'd reach the moon in just a few seconds if the camera remained there. They only reach the moon once the camera gets back to them which is at the height of the celebration.
- Mood Whiplash: Right after Nightmare Moon appears and plunges the world into The Night That Never Ends... it cuts to the cheery and happy closing theme.
- The Night That Never Ends: The Evil Plan of Nightmare Moon is to prevent the sun from ever rising again, giving her power over all of Equestria as Queen of the Night.
- Of Corset Hurts: Twilight has this reaction when Rarity is trying to secure a saddle on her.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Twilight's reaction toward Celestia's reply to "stop reading those dusty old books".
- The entire town's reaction to Nightmare Moon appearing. Twilight's reaction starts earlier since she's the only one who knows it's coming.
- Orphaned Etymology: After Spike acts all enamored toward Rarity, Twilight tells him "Focus, Casanova." Later on in the series, any reference to real-life historical figures are going to receive ponified names, but this one slipped through.
- P.O.V. Cam:
- There's a brief shot from Fluttershy's perspective, with her spotting Spike from between her bangs.
- We also see from Twilight's perspective when the four stars align and Nightmare Moon is set free.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "What'd I say? Ten. Seconds. Flat."
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Used by Apple Bloom when asking Twilight to stay for brunch.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: At first glance, one might wonder over the bird that looked like a cardinal but was red on top and brown on the bottom; males are red above and below and females are brown above and below. The closely related pyrrhuloxia, also called the desert cardinal, is pied but is gray below, and the two species can hybridize.
- Reflective Eyes: When Twilight Sparkle stares at the Moon as Nightmare Moon is about to get freed, the Moon reflects on her eyes.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder:Twilight Sparkle: Spike, do you know what this means?
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Nightmare Moon was sealed for a thousand years. The can, in this case, is the Moon.
- Society-on-Edge Episode: Due to the threat of eternal darkness.
- Stealth Pun:
- When Granny Smith is first introduced she's sitting in a rocking chair with her front hooves on the rockers, making her a living rocking horse.
- "Mare in the Moon" is obviously a play on Man in the Moon, but "mare" is also Latin for sea, and is used to refer to the dark plains on the Moon that form the illusion of a face.
- Stock Sound Effect: Pinkie's long gasp from when she first sees Twilight is used again when everypony is shocked to hear Celestia is gone.
- Storybook Opening. Unsurprisingly accompanied by an Art Shift, using quasi-animations based on the illustrations in the book Twilight is reading.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Twilight eventually feels this way about Ponyville after she meets the ponies in charge of the celebration.Twilight Sparkle: All the ponies in this town are crazy!
- Tempting Fate: Pinkie Pie to Twilight while waiting for Princess Celestia to raise the sun.
- Turn in Your Badge: When Twilight Sparkle reports her findings about the return of Nightmare Moon to Princess Celestia, the response is that she should stop reading those dusty old books... essentially taking her off the case. This is in fact a plan meant to ensure that Twilight defeats Nightmare Moon.
- Vertigo Effect: When they see Nightmare Moon appears, Twilight and Spike are growing closer while the background ponies move further away.
- Weird Moon: The Sun and the Moon can not be up at the same time (see phases part of the article). The Moon also functions as a can for Nightmare Moon. When Nightmare Moon escapes, the "Mare in the Moon" disappears off the face of the Moon.
- Welcome Episode: Introduces Twilight Sparkle (and Spike) to Ponyville in general, and the rest of the Mane Six in particular. Has some shades of Everypony Meets Everypony in that it is likely that the other five may be acquainted with each other socially, but are not necessarily close friends (with a few exceptions).
- When the Planets Align: On the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will help Nightmare Moon escape her prison.
- While Rome Burns: Justified. Taking the time to make friends will be what enables Twilight to defeat Nightmare Moon.
- You Know What That Means: Used by Twilight after she reads up on the legend of Nightmare Moon:Twilight Sparkle: Spike, do you know what this means?