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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S5 E13 "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?"

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Princess Luna's Tatari-gami, marching into your dreams. Sleep tight!

"Greetings, Tantabus. I am ready. Do your worst."
Princess Luna

Story by Jayson Theisson and Jim Miller
Written by Scott Sonneborn
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In the Castle of the Two Sisters, Princess Luna tells a small, amorphous blob of darkness called the Tantabus to "do your worst," warping under its dark magic into Nightmare Moon. The Mane Six race onto the scene, invoke the Rainbow Power, and restore her to normal, but the Tantabus escapes through a broken window. Luna — for whom the ordeal was a routine nightmare — awakens in shock.

At Carousel Boutique, the Mane Six have had a collective sleepless night, each troubled by the same nightmare about "blue smoke." Twilight Sparkle has Spike send a letter to Princess Luna, who arrives immediately and explains that the smoke they saw was the Tantabus, a dark creature that turns dreams into nightmares. Apparently no longer satisfied with Luna's dreams, it escaped into the dreams of the Mane Six. If not stopped, the Tantabus could grow powerful enough to spread to the real world, turning all of Equestria into a living nightmare.

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That night, Luna has all of the Mane Six sleep in the same room in Twilight's castle, intending to chase the Tantabus from dream to dream in order to capture it. Each of them has her pleasant dream invaded and corrupted by the Tantabus, with Luna in close pursuit, but each time it eludes her by fleeing to a different dream. The Mane Six wake to Luna's apologies, since the Tantabus will continue to attack them now that it has access to their dreams. They at least have the comfort of knowing that the Tantabus cannot jump to anyone else — except that Pinkie Pie dreamed of sharing ice cream with all of Ponyville after Luna left her dream, meaning the Tantabus could be anywhere.

Luna invokes all her power to bring every sleeping resident of Ponyville into the same dreamscape. The Tantabus arrives and begins wreaking havoc, with Luna unable to fight it because so much of her concentration and power is required just to hold her spell. The Mane Six rally the townsfolk to use their own dreams to fight the Tantabus, since anything is possible in a dream. Yet despite the unexpected (and hilarious) heroics of the Ponyville citizens, the Tantabus continues growing stronger. Luna, realizing it is only a matter of time before the Tantabus escapes into the real world, sheds tears of despair. She confesses that the Tantabus was her own creation, which she made so that she could never forget the pain she caused as Nightmare Moon. Twilight, realizing that the Tantabus is drawing its power from Luna's sense of guilt, rallies the Mane Six and the townspeople around the princess. They assure her that her heroic fight to save Equestria is proof that she's no longer Nightmare Moon, and that she can move on. Their encouragement brings Luna out of her despair, and her renewed confidence causes the Tantabus to weaken and shrink until it is back under her control.

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The next morning, the Mane Six wake up alert and well-rested, but Luna is still enjoying a well-earned, peaceful slumber.


Tropes:

  • An Aesop: The road to forgiving oneself is not easy, but beating up on oneself isn't any better.
  • Animation Bump: The effects for Luna's dream spell and the Tantabus are indeed impressive.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: A subtle example is Luna's continual use of "slumber" while the Mane Six say "sleep".
  • Art Evolution: Opalescence's opal is more detailed.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • There has long been a joke among the bronies (fueled by tweets between M.A. Larson and Peter New) that Big Macintosh should become an alicorn princess. He actually becomes one during the battle with the Tantabus.
    • In the background during the dream, Derpy is seen chasing flying muffins.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Applejack wonders how they'll know when the Tantabus has grown strong enough to escape into the real world. Just then, the Tantabus grows a sword and cuts a slash in the fabric of dreamspace.
    Rainbow Dash: Oh, I think we'll know.
  • The Atoner: Luna, whose guilt over becoming Nightmare Moon is so great that she created the Tantabus as The Penance before it managed to escape from her dream into others.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever:
    • The Tantabus grows the more Luna keeps reflecting on her guilt of being Nightmare Moon. Near the end of the battle, it takes on the form of a colossal pony and nearly escapes into the real world.
    • Fluttershy's nightmare involves her being attacked by a giant, monstrous version of Angel Bunny.
    • The Tantabus also transforms several of the houses in Ponyville into towering monsters during the Ponyville-wide dream.
    • The Tantabus itself faces an Attack of the Fifty-Foot Mailmare.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Pinkie's dream keeps "changing channels" because she keeps getting new ideas. A sudden dream about a crystal statue of Spike delays Luna long enough to let the Tantabus escape.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The episode starts with Luna seemingly having reverted to becoming Nightmare Moon again thanks to an unknown power with the Mane Six using their Rainbow forms to stop her. They do so easily but then that power, the Tantabus, escapes and Luna suddenly wakes up revealing it was a dream.
    • When Luna reaches Dash's dream and sees she's fighting changelings, she assumes the Tantabus has already corrupted the dream. Dash says this is actually her favorite dream before the Tantabus arrives and changes it into a... cutesy setting that drives her up the wall.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Luna created the Tantabus as The Penance "to make sure I never forgave myself for how much Equestria suffered because of me".
  • Bishōnen Line: The Tantabus spends most of the episode as an amorphous dark blue smoke of increasing volume. Its final form is still a cloud but takes on Luna's general shape.
  • Blood Knight: One of Rainbow's favorite dreams has her beating up changelings.
  • Blow You Away: Rainbow Dash, inspired by Scootaloo's use of Wind from Beneath My Wings, reclaims the Zap persona from "Power Ponies" and uses her whirlwind-creating powers on the monster.
  • Body Horror: Well, it wasn't horrific to them, but Lyra and Bon Bon fused CatDog-style is a bit unnerving.
  • Brick Joke: Princess Luna's dream at the end of the episode serves as the Punchline to the episode title. While ponies of all stripes dream of many different things, what Luna dreams of is a good night's sleep, albeit in a bioluminescent, Avatar-esque landscape.
  • Broken Tears: Luna cries as she laments causing Equestria even more trouble despite her best efforts to the contrary.
  • The Bus Came Back:
  • Call-Back:
  • Catapult Nightmare: All of the nightmares in this episode end with one. Oddly enough Luna does one because she had a good dream.
  • Celestial Body: The cloudy body of the Tantabus looks to be star-filled. It's another hint of its connection with Luna, since it resembles her (or Nightmare Moon's) ethereal mane (with one Match Cut drawing attention to the similarity).
  • Cerebus Retcon: This episode shows that Luna has deep feelings of guilt over her becoming Nightmare Moon, and that her being so Easily Forgiven gnawed on her so much that she created the Tantabus as The Penance to punish herself with nightmares every night. It really casts a different light on events such as the conclusion of The Mare in the Moon and the entirety of Luna Eclipsed.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Luna's ability to create shared dreams was already demonstrated in "Bloom & Gloom". It becomes quite important here to defeat the Tantabus.
  • Climax Boss: The Tantabus can be considered this for Luna's Redemption Quest that began in the second episode because she only defeats it by finally forgiving herself for that event and being willing to move on.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: While there have been many examples of Luna helping a character overcome a psychological issue through dreams ("Sleepless in Ponyville", "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils", "Bloom & Gloom"), it turns out that she herself has a psychological issue to overcome — her guilt of her past as Nightmare Moon.
  • Comical Overreacting: Rarity gets to be her usual Drama Queen in her dream, when three of the monster dresses rip to shreds an ordinary dress.
    Rarity: [gasps] It was such a pretty little chiffon... [falls to her knees] What kind of monster would do this?!
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Continuity Porn: The episode has a positively absurd amount of Call Backs to past episodes. They include but are not limited to: the return of Flutterbat, Rainbow and Applejack taking on their Power Pony personas, Twilight restoring Golden Oaks, Spike turning into his knight form, Rainbow Dash is fighting changelings in her dream, Pinkie revisits the red dragon from "Dragonshy" as well as Cloudsdale and Ahuizotl's throne, Applejack's dream includes her giant blue ribbon apple, and Luna's opening nightmare uses the same Transformation Sequence for Nightmare Moon as the Season 4 premiere.
  • Crystal Prison: In Twilight's dream, Luna tries to imprison the Tantabus inside a block of crystal. However, it doesn't work for long and it quickly breaks through.
  • Cute Is Evil: While the rest of the Mane Six have nightmares with monsters, Rainbow Dash's nightmare is... a field of cute, big-eyed talking flowers who sing cutesy songs.
  • Cute Giant: When Derpy appears during the dream sequence, she seems to have forgotten the "little" part of "My Little Pony". She's still as endearing as ever.
  • Dancing Pants: Rarity's dream has a flock of dancing, flying dresses.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Princess Luna gets more focus and character development in this episode.
  • Death Glare:
    • Opalescence gives Rarity a glare punctuated by a vicious hiss after being stung by the comb.
    • Winona also glares at Applejack after Gummy bites her ear.
  • Deus Exit Machina: Princess Luna doesn't ask for her sister's help because Celestia "has no power in the realm of sleep".
  • Disaster Dominoes: A minor one: Applejack confuses Gummy for a hairbrush, who bites Winona's ear, who launches the gator onto Owlowicious's head, causing him to open his wings and knock Twilight into a tub of bathwater.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: When Luna enters the shared dream, the citizens of Ponyville greet her with reverent bowing. Luna will have none of that.
    Luna: There is no time for bowing, my friends! There is something coming! Something terrible!
  • Dragon Knight: Spike transforms into one in the shared dream, or rather, a dragon who is a knight.
  • Dramatic Wind: Once the Tantabus reaches its final, giant size (and the action its climax), strong winds blow over the dreamscape.
  • Dream Episode: A creature from Princess Luna's nightmares starts magically giving other ponies nightmares and threatening to turn into a real creature, so they must do a mass-lucid dreaming scenario to defeat it.
  • Dream Sequence: The episode opens inside Luna's dream. Then it features several others as Luna is chasing the Tantabus through the Mane Six's dreams, and finally into a shared dream with all inhabitants of Ponyville.
  • Dream Weaver: Weaponized by all of Ponyville during the battle with the Tantabus, as various ponies (and a dragon) combat the Tantabus with their dreams.
  • *Drool* Hello: Fluttershy's first hint that the giant Angel Bunny has turned monstrous in her dream is his drool falling on her head.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: This episode has Luna finally overcome the guilt she feels from becoming Nightmare Moon and managing to forgive herself, and the episode ends with her enjoying the first peaceful dream she's had in a while. (Possibly a thousand years.)
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Tantabus is a semi-sentient blob of smoke created in a dream and, as such, does not obey physical or magical laws. It was made by Luna to give herself nightmares, but it stopped being satisfied with Luna herself and sought out new ponies to torment. Its goal is to turn the waking world into a living nightmare.
  • Eldritch Location: The Nightmare world of Ponyville becomes strange and scary indeed with the Tantabus gaining strength by the second.
  • Emotion Eater: The Tantabus feeds off of nightmares, but its TRUE food source is Luna's guilt.
  • Enemy Within: Luna tried to Invoke this as The Penance by creating the Tantabus to give herself nightmares every night.
  • Enemy Without: The Tantabus escapes Luna's dreams and becomes an enemy she has to fight. Fortunately, it is stopped before it escapes the dream world itself.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Luna's Self-Inflicted Hell is to remind herself of the trouble she caused as Nightmare Moon every night in her dreams, with self-forgiveness as the key to her escape.
  • Evil Laugh: Upon being transformed into Nightmare Moon, Luna lets out a maniacal cackle, abruptly stopping when the Tantabus escapes her dream.
  • Exact Words: Luna says that nopony can help her defeat Tantabus, but Spike says that he's no pony so he helps by watching over the Mane Six and Luna.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: The Mane Six (save Pinkie) have these at the start of the episode due to not being able to sleep well thanks to the Tantabus.
  • Faux Horrific: Most of the Mane Six's nightmares involve something they love becoming monstrous and attacking them. Rainbow Dash's "good" is already her being attacked by changelings, so what is her nightmare? Being surrounded by talking flowers that sing a variation of the children's song "This Old Man"! RD is truly terrified when this happens.
  • Fog of Doom: The original form of the Tantabus, described as a blue smoke. At first it's small, but by the time it reaches the shared dream, it has become a huge cloud of star-filled darkness.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Luna expresses a sense of guilt in Rarity's nightmare, the Tantabus behind her doubles in size, showing its connection to her sense of guilt long before Luna reveals it to the dreaming townsfolk of Ponyville.
    • At the very start of the episode, when the Tantabus first escapes, Luna's dream version of the Mane Six succeed in turning her back from Nightmare Moon and hug her. She wakes up, shocked that her dream ended happily before stating that that could not happen. She later reveals that she created it to give her the same nightmare every night.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Mane Six suddenly wake up from their first shared dream, Spike, who has been reading a book, puts the book down to ask what happened. One can see that Spike sneaked a comic book in the pages of a regular book to read.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Tantabus started out as simply Luna's self-inflicted punishment for her actions as Nightmare Moon. By the end of the episode, it's grown so powerful that it's not only threatening the dreams of all of Ponyville, but came close to escaping into reality and becoming a concrete threat to Equestria.
  • Fungus Humongous: Luna's private dreamscape at the end has her surrounded and sheltered by several varieties of giant mushroom, including some Bioluminescent ones.
  • Funny Background Event:
  • Glowing Flora: The giant flowers and mushrooms from Luna's dream all are phosphorescent.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: After Luna merges the dreams of Ponyville together, the Mane Six rally the townspeople to help fight the Tantabus.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Tantabus was created to punish Luna for her time as Nightmare Moon. It definitely does that... but begins to torment her friends as well, in turn tormenting Luna even more.
  • Gratuitous French: Rarity, as usual.
    Rarity: How avant-garde.
    Rarity: Forget avant-garde! I should have said en garde!
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: The Tantabus was originally just meant to torment Luna, but it grew more powerful than she anticipated and decides to branch out and gain more power.
  • Guilt Complex: Luna created the Tantabus for the sole purpose of punishing herself for her time as Nightmare Moon. It's only when she accepts that she's not Nightmare Moon anymore that the Tantabus is stopped.
  • Hammerspace: Spike pulls out a large scroll from... somewhere behind his back. Or what vaguely looks like a pocket, except of course he's not wearing anything.
  • A Head at Each End: In the big dream, Lyra and Bon Bon are fused like this. They don't mind at all.
  • The Heartless: The Tantabus is this to Luna, being the incarnation of her guilt and desire to be punished for her time as Nightmare Moon. The longer she keeps dwelling on those things, the more powerful it gets. And it can only be defeated by her letting go of her guilt.
  • Hidden Depths: Pinkie Pie has Anxiety Dreams of tests she didn't study for.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: The Tantabus is really a manifestation of Luna's guilt over becoming Nightmare Moon, meaning the Mane Six and she have been fighting her negative side. The more Luna keeps reflecting on her guilt the stronger it grows. It's only when the Mane Six finally convinces her to let go of the guilt and accept herself that they are able to defeat it.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • When the Mane Six are mentioning how tired they feel, Pinkie Pie pipes in "I'm totally beat too!"... while doing cartwheels.
    • Later, as they're going to bed, Pinkie begins rambling about how she's way too excited to fall asleep... before falling into deep slumber mid-sentence.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The transitions between the Mane Six's dreams are done with something belonging to each dream — an animated dress, a fast wipe mirroring Pinkie's quick-changing settings, a moving apple tree, Luna flying into a cloud...
  • In Medias Res: The episode looks like it's starting this way, jumping straight into the action with the Mane Six rushing into the Castle of the Two Sisters just as Luna is turning into Nightmare Moon. But then it's revealed this is Luna's dream.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When the Mane Six talk about the nightmares they all had, Spike bluntly brags that he didn't have any nightmares, and is oblivious to the glares they all shoot him.
  • Instant Home Delivery: A variant where the "delivery" is the Princess of the Moon, but still very close in spirit to this trope. When Spike sends the message asking advice from Luna, she's at the door a second later. Sure, she certainly teleported (you can in fact hear the sound effect before she opens the door), but you have to wonder how fast she read the message itself.
    Fluttershy: Wow, that was fast...
  • It Can Think: It's doubtful Luna intended for the Tantabus to have any thought or objective beyond "Give Luna nightmares".
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: Luna manages to combine this with a Big Damn Heroes entrance in Pinkie Pie's nightmare.
  • Killer Rabbit: Angel becomes a literal one in Fluttershy's nightmare.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The evil flowers from Rainbow's Nightmare shine a spotlight on how they Tastes Like Diabetes.
    Singing Flowers: Aren't we unbearably cute?
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Ponyville in general. In particularly Derpy of all ponies, going from being a goofball to tag-teaming with Spike (now in the form of a lance-wielding Knight).
  • Literal Split Personality: The Tantabus turns out to be an Enemy Without variation, a manifestation of Luna's guilt over becoming Nightmare Moon that she created to torment herself in penance.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The episode is named after Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the basis of the film Blade Runner.
  • Living Clothes: The dress-monsters in Rarity's nightmare.
  • Made of Evil: The Tantabus builds itself up by feasting off of nightmares.
  • Man Bites Man: When Fluttershy transforms into Flutterbat, she chomps onto a house-monster that is crushing a pony between its toes.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Ponyville's reaction when the Tantabus start to get bigger.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Tantabus" is a misspelling of "tantibus", the Latin word for "nightmare". Fittingly, it's used to describe a magical force that causes nightmares.
    • It's also a reference to Tantalus, who was punished in the afterlife in Greek Mythology by standing in a pool of water that would recede when he tried to drink, under a fruit tree that always evaded his grasp, with a stone hanging threateningly over his head. Fitting for something Luna created to punish herself.
  • Money Fetish: Considering Filthy Rich's dream, where he fights the Tantabus while riding on a wave of bits, it's safe to assume he has this kind of leanings.
  • Money Is Not Power: In the shared dream, Filthy Rich tries to bribe a monster the Tantabus created to let him go, which of course doesn't work. Played With later, given that he gives himself a literal money-themed superpower and uses it to ride on clouds of bits and to shoot bits at high speeds. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Shut up and take my money!"
  • Money Mauling: Filthy Rich's dream avatar shoots the Tantabus with bits.
  • Mooks: The changelings are shown as the expendable mooks of choice, at least as far as Rainbow Dash is concerned.
  • Mundane Luxury: In Princess Luna's dream at the end of the episode, she is merely sleeping soundly.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Princess Luna dreams of the Mane Six, but not of Spike. Justified in that Spike wasn't present when Nightmare Moon was originally defeated by The Power of Friendship, which is the basis of the nightmare that the Tantabus punishes her with.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • One of the arcs of the IDW MLP comics had Luna confront the dark entity that transformed her into Nightmare Moon. While the Tantabus isn't truly responsible for her initial transformation, in her nightmare at the beginning of the episode it takes over her and turns her into Nightmare Moon.
    • The first pony whose dream we see the Tantabus attack is Rarity. The same pony attacked by dark entity in the IDW MLP comic.
    • In Fluttershy's dream, Angel Bunny treats her as a brushable toy.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Tantabus is already in the process of crossing over into the real world, with less than half of its body remaining in the dream world, when Luna figures out how to defeat it. Once she figures this out, the Tantabus is quickly yanked back into the dream world completely, and only has a few seconds to put on an "Oh, Crap!" look before it loses its power and is reabsorbed by Luna.
  • Necessarily Evil: Princess Luna initially viewed the Tantabus as this, due to her guilt because of her time as Nightmare Moon. She learns in the end that she doesn't have to punish herself anymore, thus finally getting rid of the Tantabus.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Princess Luna says the Tantabus can't escape into more dreams unless it sees more ponies in dreams. Cue Pinkie Pie mentioning the last part of her dream had her inviting all of Ponyville to a giant ice cream cone.
    • Luna herself as the Mane Six and Ponyville are keeping the Tantabus from escaping before she has another fit of guilt, causing it to grow bigger. For that matter, the fact that Luna created the Tantabus in the first place.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Rainbow Dash proves to be a literal example. Luna originally thinks that Dash fighting a swarm of changelings is a Tantabus-induced nightmare, but it's actually one of Dash's favorite dreams.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Tantabus is a Literal In-Universe example, turning any dream into Your Worst Nightmare.
  • Non-Indicative Name: No magic sheep actually appear in this episode (what a bummer).
  • No-Sell:
    • This appears to be how Luna's self-inflicted nightmares are meant to function when it comes to things that are supposed to save her. That is, in the dream Nightmare Moon simply laughs as the "Rainbow Power" hits her and has no effect. Her nightmare is to be trapped as Nightmare Moon forever.
    • The Tantabus itself ultimately does this to every attempt to stop it in a conventional manner. It can be damaged, restrained and trapped but ultimately breaks free and heals as if nothing has happened, then continues to grow stronger. The only thing that can actually stop it is removing its base power source, Luna's self-hatred and self-guilt.
  • Off-Model: During Twilight's dream when Twilight is flying away from the mutant books, when we see her from the front she has normal pegasus wings.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When the Tantabus escapes her dream, Luna-as-Nightmare Moon abruptly stops laughing and is horrified.
    • Luna's reaction when she hears about Pinkie's dream, which incorporated all of Ponyville.
    • The Tantabus has one when it is yanked back from having nearly crossed over into the real world and realizes it no longer has the main source of its strength to feed on: Luna's guilt and self-hatred.
    • The Tantabus also invokes this in everypony whose dreams it invades.
  • One-Winged Angel: At the beginning of the episode, the Tantabus transforms Luna into Nightmare Moon shortly before being blasted by the Mane Six in Rainbow Form. Thankfully, it's only a dream.
  • Painful Transformation: From the look on Luna's face, turning into Nightmare Moon is excruciating.
  • Pain-Powered Leap: While combing her fur, Rarity accidentally stings Opalescence with the comb, making the kitty cat jump almost to the ceiling.
  • The Penance: Luna created the Tantabus to punish herself for what she had done as Nightmare Moon, ensuring that she would know no rest in her own dreams.
  • Pie in the Face: The monster cake's initial attack is to spray Pinkie Pie's face with cream and frosting.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Princess Luna when she wakes up from her dream.
    Luna: My dream ended... happily? That! Cannot! Happen!
  • Questioning Title?: Not that any magic sheep appear in this episode.
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: Even without the Tantabus, some of the dreams we see are pretty weird. Naturally, Pinkie Pie's is the most random.
  • Reality Warper: The Tantabus can warp the reality of dreams, usually by turning things into monsters (and might be able to do the same to the real world if it escapes), and the ponies do the same to fight it. It was created by Luna, after all.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: When Big Macintosh transforms into an Alicorn within the shared dream, he gains gold slippers and a tiara, his yoke becomes emblazoned with gold inlays, and he launches into the air with a giddy "Whee!" and a giggle; he is clearly In Touch with His Feminine Side. He also attacks the Tantabus as hard as Dragon Knight Spike and Rainbow Dash.
  • Rearing Horse: Derpy cannot resist doing a showy "rearing pegasus" move when Dragon Knight Spike chooses her as his steed.
  • Recurring Dreams: Luna has a self-imposed nightmare every night of NOT being defeated as Nightmare Moon so she is constantly reminded of the horrible things she might have done otherwise.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Monster Angel Bunny has red eyes.
  • Rent-a-Zilla: Luna's guilt over both her actions as Nightmare Moon and how she's causing Ponyville to suffer because of the Tantabus causes it to grow to the size of a mountain, giving it the strength it needs to get into the real world.
  • Repeat After Me: After Twilight dictates a letter destined to Luna, with two yawns thrown in, she offhandedly tells Spike "You can leave out the yawns," and he crosses them out, embarrassed.
  • Retcanon: Princess Luna's angst over "how much Equestria suffered because of [her]" makes a lot more sense if the Nightmare Moon issue of My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic is accepted as canon.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • For a good chunk of the episode, Luna agonizes how her actions are once again causing others pain. At first, it sounds like she just feels bad over letting the Tantabus escape. Turns out that it's her own creation.
    • Very subtle: Nightmare Moon has Luna's less smoke-like, more solidly defined ethereal mane, hinting at the scenario being less than real with Luna being the one in control.
  • Rule of Funny: Rainbow Dash's worst nightmare being excessive cuteness, despite the fact that she lives in a Sugar Bowl filled with cute ponies and other adorable critters, and she herself is cute.
  • Save Both Worlds: The Tantabus is rampaging through the dream realm and causing havoc, but should it grow too strong, it will be able to escape into reality and begin causing destruction there too.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: What the Tantabus is supposed to be for Luna, causing self-imposed nightmares of defeating the Mane 6 as Nightmare Moon, but it managed to escape her dreams.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The music in Rainbow's dream has a distinct Powerpuff Girls feel, which switches to Barney & Friends after the Tantabus changes it. The melody itself is a take on the children's song "This Old Man", which also provided the melody for Barney's "I Love You".
    • Lyra and Bon Bon being fused with their front halves on each end brings CatDog, or a Pushmi-Pullyu, to mind.
    • The stallion holding up his window is just like Daffy Duck from the Chuck Jones cartoon Duck Amuck.
    • Big Mac's transformation is straight from a Magical Girl show, especially Sailor Moon — down to the Suspiciously Similar Song.
    • Twilight reminding the citizens of Ponyville that they can do anything they want in a dream to fight the Tantabus recalls the imagination-powered combat Dipper engages in against Bill Cipher in the "Dreamscaperers" episode of Gravity Falls.
    • Filthy Rich produces gold coins out of one hoof to form a ramp to slide on, while shooting gold coins at Tantabus with his other hoof. This looks exactly like they way Iceman uses his powers over ice.
    • The Tantabus's final form looks like a pony version of the Daidarabotchi (Night Walker) from Princess Mononoke — particularly in its all-destroying Tatari-gami form at the end.
    • Luna's method of defeating the Tantabus, and the way it shrinks from its monstrous form and is absorbed into her, resembles someone accepting their Shadow in Persona 4.
    • With shared dreams, reality-warping abilities, and the antagonist being fueled and manifested by the guilt of the protagonist, the episode could be considered a Whole Plot Reference to Inception. Spike even quotes one of the lines about the importance of "dreaming bigger".
    • In the final scene, it looks like Princess Luna is dreaming in Wonderland.
    • In tone and general feel, that final scene closely resembles the background of the first sequence of "The Pastoral" section of Fantasia; the one with the cute pastel colored unicorns and the pegasus family.
  • Slasher Smile: The cute flowers in Rainbow Dash's dream flash unsettling grins that contrast sharply with their otherwise adorable appearances.
  • Sleep Mask: Rarity wears the same one she did in "Sisterhooves Social".
  • The Slow Walk: The giant pony form of the Tantabus does this as it begins to break into the real world.
  • Sphere of Power:
    • In Luna's dream, her turning into Nightmare Moon and the Mane Six calling on the Rainbow Power invokes such spheres, as in the episodes they originally showed up.
    • Luna is constantly surrounded by a shimmering Sphere of Power in the shared dream as she keeps it together.
  • Split-Personality Merge: After Luna manages to overcome her guilt, she absorbs the Tantabus into herself.
  • Split-Screen Reaction: The Mane Six's simultaneous wake-ups are shown with a screen split into six parts (like a faceted gem).
  • Spock Speak: Luna uses a contraction only once in this episode. ("I don't want you to suffer anymore because of me," said to Rarity — actors may be more likely to slip up like this when they're playing dual roles.) She had used them more often in previous episodes when she interacted with the CMC.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Lyra and Bon Bon are inseparable friends in the mass dream. They're literally joined at the hip!
    • Derpy being huge in the dream is probably a joke on her popularity with the fandom.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: A villainous example is invoked in Luna's nightmare during Cold Open when the Mane Six transform into their Rainbow Power forms, but Nightmare Moon somehow turns out to be completely impervious to their attack — despite the fact that it allowed them to curb-stomp Tirek, who at that time possessed the magic of nearly every pony in Equestria, all four alicorn princesses and Discord.
  • Super Mode:
    • We see the Mane Six's "rainbow power" forms again in Luna's nightmare.
    • Several of the Ponyville residents transform to battle the Tantabus such as Big Mac going alicorn princess.
  • Take That!: Rainbow Dash's nightmare is this towards sugary-sweet children's programming, including this very show. The sunflowers seem to delight in how their "disgustingly cute" nature traumatizes Rainbow Dash.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: Invoked by the Tantabus in Rainbow Dash's nightmare, which is a Sugar Bowl filled with cutesy flowers singing happy songs for hours.
  • Tele-Frag: Some of Luna's apparitions into a dream are through an existing item — like a dress, a cake or an apple flower — which gets destroyed in the process.
  • This Cannot Be!: Princess Luna's reaction when her Recurring Dream of turning into Nightmare Moon ends happily. It can only mean that the Tantabus escaped her dreams to hurt somepony else.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Luna's attitude towards the Tantabus, since she created it as The Penance for herself, and only involved the mane Six and the Ponyville ponies because it was invading their dreams. She doesn't even want to tell her sister about it.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Everyone who takes part in the dream battle. Of note is Spike, who goes from a tiny sidekick who writes letters to a tall lance-wielding Knight in Shining Armor slicing through the Tantabus while riding on a giant Derpy.
  • Towering Flower: After having overcome an entity that twisted her dreams into nightmares, Luna dreams of enjoying a peaceful, untroubled night's sleep beneath a tree bearing giant, softly glowing blossoms wider than the bed she sleeps on, in the middle of a surreal nighttime dreamscape full of other phosphorescent plants and mushrooms, all of enormous size.
  • Transformation Sequence:
    • Luna's first dream includes herself transforming into Nightmare Moon, and the Mane Six turning again into their Rainbow Power forms with light pouring on them from above.
    • Big Macintosh receives a drawn-out sequence, Magical Girl-style, as he turns into an alicorn princess.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Rainbow Dash is quite traumatized by her Sugar Bowl nightmare, rocking herself back and forth after she wakes up.
  • Twist Ending: Luna doesn't reveal that she created the Tantabus to punish herself until it is on the verge of escaping from the dream world.
  • The Voiceless: The Tantabus never speaks a line.
  • Walking Wasteland: Everything the Tantabus touches is turned into something horrific.
  • Wham Line: When Twilight deduces that the Tantabus is feeding off Princess Luna, she figures "That must be how it grew strong in the first place". As it turns out, the Tantabus didn't simply manifest itself out of nowhere: Princess Luna created it, to deliberately give herself a nightmare every night as punishment for her past transgressions as Nightmare Moon.
  • Wind from Beneath My Wings: Scootaloo dreams of having gigantic wings, and flaps them to create a strong gale against the Tantabus.
  • Winged Unicorn: Big Mac, of all ponies, becomes one; gaining first a horn and then wings when he transforms in the mass dream.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The Mane Six stop the Tantabus by convincing Luna that she is a better pony than she used to be and that she shouldn't doubt herself.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: The Tantabus escapes from Luna's first attempt to contain it, while it is limited to the Mane Six's dreams. Then it can invade the dreams of every townsfolk in Ponyville, gaining in power. Thankfully, they manage to Thwart Stage Two, that is the Tantabus gaining access to the real world.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: Within an individual pony's dream, the Tantabus quickly changes the dream into something that terrifies that pony more than anypony else:
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Ponyville as a whole does this to the Tantabus to keep it from escaping the dream world.

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