Pinkie Pie: Uh, yeah. Weren't you listening?
Written by Josh Haber & Nicole Dubuc
A voice is narrating a story from long ago, speaking of a time when six ponies came together to guard Equestria from evil. They became known as The Pillars, each representing a trait similar to those embodied in the Elements of Harmony.
Originally brought together by a small unicorn colt, they later came to believe that they had been betrayed by him and cast him out. The rage and exclusion he felt transformed him into a beast of shadow, which the six had to battle. In order to spare the land, they sacrificed themselves to seal this evil shadow pony, leaving behind a seed of hope to maintain the peace.
Reaching the end of the story, it is revealed it was Sunburst who was reading the story to Princess Celestia and Luna out of the black book he obtained by purchasing the blind buy barrel at the antique shop. The words were of Star Swirl the Bearded, the legendary unicorn sorcerer and inventor of modern pony magic, which comprised the last entry in his journal prior to his disappearance. Twilight Sparkle offers to translate the journal from historical Ponish in order to learn of the final fate of the great sorcerer and his fellow Pillars of Equestria.
Back at Twilight's castle, the Mane Six and Sunburst have spent days trying to unravel the mystery but are making minimal headway at best. Starlight decides to take a look at Star Swirl's journal and discovers she can read his scrawl as her own is quite bad as well, which allows Twilight to translate what she reads. The words read that Star Swirl and his fellow Pillars were planning to make their final stand against the Pony of Shadows at the Temple of Ponehenge. The eight ponies travel to the site of the temple to investigate further. They survey the site but realize there isn't much they can do so long after the fact. Twilight sets the journal down on one of the seats surrounding the central fire pit.
As Twilight turns away, Spike notices the journal is glowing. The book opens by itself and a projection of Star Swirl the Bearded appears from its pages. Projections of the other Pillars of Equestria appear on the remaining five seats; Rockhoof, Mage Meadowbrook, Somnambula, Flash Magnus, and Mistmane. Finally a projection of the Pony of Shadows is created in the center and the projections all begin to move, depicting the final struggle between the Pillars of Equestria and the Pony of Shadows that lead to their collective sealing. Once the sealing is completed, projections of six objects fall to the seats of the temple then the book closes by itself. Sunburst surmises that the magic that was used at Ponehenge was so powerful it left mystical echoes of the events of the spell that was cast.
The team returns to Twilight's castle, satisfied they now know the fate of the Pillars of Equestria. Sunburst says he'd love to know what Star Swirl did to seal the Pony of Shadows but that kind of information would require years of research to demystify. However, Twilight, ever the diligent researcher, manages to do so merely in the time since they returned. She excitedly gathers everypony in the map room to explain the sealing spell, telling her friends that Star Swirl sent the Pony of Shadows to Limbo and were forced to go there with him in order to make it work, and that she now thinks she has the key to undoing the sealing spell, thus bringing back the Pillars of Equestria to the modern day as though no time had passed.
The secret lies with finding artifacts from the Pillars that were connected with their lives. Twilight reads from the journal but in doing so, magical images of the artifacts appear over the map. The ponies split up and seek out the artifacts. Applejack's journey takes her to an excavation site where saving the researchers from being crushed by a boulder reveals the way to Rockhoof's shovel, along with helping to affirm the truth that Rockhoof once did exist. Rarity travels to the garden of Mistmane, which is now being maintained by one of her descendants. The garden has fallen into disrepair but Mistmane's flower remains, which is jealously guarded by the caretaker. Rarity helpfully cleans up the garden in order to stir up business once again and the grateful caretaker offers Mistmane's flower in exchange. Rainbow Dash and Spike fly out to the Dragon Lands to discover that Garble has been using Flash Magnus's shield for gorge surfing after having found it some time ago. He challenges Spike to a gorge boarding race for the artifact, to which Spike manages to win. Garble attempts to renege on the deal and attack Spike but Rainbow Dash intervenes. Garble challenges her to a race back up the mountain for the same stakes but Dash tricks him into setting down the shield before flying back up, allowing her to simply take it and leave.
Fluttershy returns to the bayou where she met Cattail and helps him distract the flash bees so she can move their hive higher up the tree and allow the bayou animals who live at the bottom to get water in peace. Cattail says he'd offer to lend Fluttershy Meadowbrook's mask without needing her assistance but she says she wanted to do some good on her trip out to the bayou. Finally Pinkie Pie returns to the pyramid of the sphinx and, with the help of Daring Do and the Somnambulans, manages to pull Somnambula's blindfold from the pit of green goo.
Meanwhile, at the Temple of Ponehenge, Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst are preparing to unseal the Pillars of Equestria. Starlight has some doubts in the rationality of undoing the spell but Twilight and Sunburst reassure her with various arguments that this is the right course of action. The other five return from their voyages with their artifacts and set them down on the seats surrounding the central pit. Twilight, Starlight, and Sunburst amplify Star Swirl's journal with their own magic, causing the journal to magically link with the other artifacts and pull the Pillars of Equestria back into reality.
Twilight introduces herself to her idol but Star Swirl is less than enthusiastic and immediately demands Twilight undo her work. Twilight says she doesn't want to but Star Swirl alarmingly informs her that bringing them back also means that they released the seal on the Pony of Shadows, who manifests once more in front of them...
TO BE CONTINUED
Continued in "Shadow Play Part 2".
- The Ageless: A rare floral example with Mistmane's Flower, which stayed alive and absolutely unchanged for a over a thousand years. Of course, it's the iconic artifact of a legendary unicorn sorceress who was known to restore life and beauty on her path.
- All Myths Are True: The legends told in "Campfire Tales" (Rockhoof, Mistmane, and Flash Magnus), "Daring Done?" (Somnambula), and "A Health of Information" (Mage Meadowbrook) all describe real ponies, collectively known as the "Pillars of [Old] Equestria" along with Star Swirl the Bearded, who led them. Driven home by Applejack's attempt to find Rockhoof's legendary shovel, as the ponies excavating the site of Rockhoof's village don't believe it was true until Applejack shows them herself. This is notably proven untrue in the case of the Pony of Shadows, which according to folklore was a piece of Nightmare Moon's dark magic that gained sentience, but is actually an even older entity of darkness.
- Apocalyptic Log: Star Swirl the Bearded's journal, after being discovered fortuitously among a "blind buy barrel" at an antique shop, plays this role. It chronicles the story of Star Swirl and his companions, the Pillars of Equestria, up to the day of their disappearance — a mystery that had stayed unsolved for over a thousand years, even Celestia having no idea what happened to them. The journal proves to be a vital clue in solving said mystery, subverting the trope somewhat with the fact that the Pillars are still alive.
- Arbitrary Skepticism:
- Applejack initially expresses surprise that the stories about the Pillars of Equestria were all about real ponies, in a series where almost every villain and magical artifact can be found in some myth or legend.
- Also the archaeologist pony, Professor Fossil, who at first doesn't believe that Rockhoof was real. Ironically, Applejack is the one who reveals the truth.
- Artistic License Linguistics: The Old English grammar in the diary is going to give Cheese Sandwich a fourth-wall-breaking fit. Nouns aren't even inflected for case. Could be justified if grammar rules really were that different back then, and the ponies translating them are just giving direct, literal translations instead of adapting the wording for modern grammar.
- Art Shift: The Storybook Opening, like with earlier occurrences in the show, features still illustrations with an original art style, this time reminiscent of religious enluminures.
- Aside Glance: Rainbow Dash's eye briefly darts toward the audience as Twilight is explaining what Limbo is. Then she Headdesks when Twilight says she's made another model.
- Batman Gambit: Rainbow Dash easily tricks Garble into leaving behind Flash Magnus' shield, allowing her and Spike to scoot away with it.
- Big Bad: The Pony of Shadows is the latest villain. The two-parter's plot is driven by the threat of his menace, and for this episode specifically, saving the Pillars from the sealing spell they used to trap him.
- Big "WHAT?!": This is Star Swirl's reaction after regaining his bearings and realizing he was pulled out of Limbo along with the other Pillars.Star Swirl the Bearded: WHAT?! No, no, no, no! You must undo what you've done!
- Bilingual Bonus: The carvings on Ponehenge are Elder Futhark runes. Converted into Latin letters, the message reads "PONI RULES".
- Breath Weapon: One of the dragons uses his fire breath to mark the start of the gorge-surfing race.
- Twilight mentions her aptitude for translating Old Ponish, which was established in the previous episode, "Uncommon Bond".
- Dragon Lord Ember is mentioned as making efforts to improve dragon-pony relations, as she started to in "Triple Threat". She notably forbids dragons to attack ponies on sight.
- Also arcing back to "Triple Threat", Spike tries using his status as "official Equestrian friendship ambassador to the dragons" while in the Dragon Lands to cow the teenage dragons.
- The Cameo:
- Petunia Paleo, the filly with the skull and bones cutie mark denoting a talent in archaeology from "The Fault in Our Cutie Marks" appears as a worker on an archaeological dig at the site of Rockhoof's old village, having just discovered an ancient helm.
- Daring Do helps Pinkie recover Somnambula's blindfold from the sphinx's pyramid in Southern Equestria.
- Catch and Return: Garble tries to throw a rock at Spike, but Rainbow Dash intercepts it at high speed and tosses it back at the dragon, pinning his tail and sending him sprawling.
- Cliffhanger: The episode ends with the return of the Pony of Shadows to Equestria, threatening all who live on the land just as he did in the ancient past.
- Comically Cross-Eyed: Applejack gets cross-eyed upon saying the word "cross-referencing" when she mentions all the tedious studying they've already done over Star Swirl's journal.
- Composite Character: In-Universe, the Pony of Shadows was a separate dark entity from Nightmare Moon (though the forces behind them might be related) and certainly predated her (since both the Tree and Elements of Harmony didn't exist when he was banished), but legend merged the Pony of Shadow's story with Nightmare Moon's, making it a stray piece of her darkness.
- Connected All Along:
- Star Swirl the Bearded, Rockhoof, Mistmane, Flash Magnus, Somnambula, and Mage Meadowbrook have been introduced separately as figures in Equestria's history and folklore with their own separate stories. Turns out they all not only knew each other, but were the predecessors of the Elements of Harmony, and the Pony of Shadows used to be their friend.
- Shadow Lock from the comics is revealed to be the descendant of the pony who would become the Pony of Shadows.
- Continuity Cavalcade: The Pillars of Equestria are the five legendary figures discussed throughout Season 7 with the addition of Star Swirl the Bearded. Further, four of them were name-dropped back in "The Crystalling" in Season 6, and Meadowbrook was mentioned back in "The Cutie Map" in Season 5 — and, of course, Star Swirl has been mentioned from time to time since Season 2. In retrieving their artifacts, the Mane Six travel to the locations featured in the legends.
- Continuity Nod:
- Luna and Celestia mention Star Swirl teaching them magic, a reference to the "Legends of Magic" comics that also featured the Pillar heroes. They also mention they were quite young at this time.
- During the study of Star Swirl's journal, Rainbow Dash says that she hadn't done so much reading since the latest Daring Do book came out.
- It seems that dragons commonly use their fire breath to mark the start of a competition, as we've seen Dragon Lord Torch do the same in "Gauntlet of Fire".
- The Limbo spell is suspiciously similar to the curse that King Sombra previously cast on the Crystal Empire.
- Convection Schmonvection: It's no surprise for the dragons to be heat-resistant enough that they can enjoy Lava Surfing without harm (and the Netitus shield was already established as fireproof too), but Rainbow Dash is seen standing around red-hot, flowing lava with no hint of discomfort either.
- Covered in Gunge: Played with when Pinkie Pie recovers Somnambula's blindfold from the slime pit in the Sphinx's pyramid. She comes up in a deep-sea diving helmet and wetsuit smeared with the stuff, but when she opens the helmet's face window and jumps out, she herself is perfectly clean.
- Cue the Falling Object: When Twilight points out that she made more cardboard dioramas of Ponehenge than the one she just vanished, the view moves to them... just as they crumble under their own weight.
- Curse of the Ancients: From the old keeper of Mistmane's garden.Old Gardener: You keep those hooves to yourself, dearie! This place has been in my family for generations, and I'm not about to let some whippersnapper take the last good piece of it!
- Dirty Coward: Garble tries to run away when Rainbow Dash grabs the rock he threw at Spike and tosses it right back at him. The best part is that, if you look closely at the trajectory, there's no way he would have been hit if he didn't flee, but Rainbow Dash obviously anticipated his reaction.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The spell used to imprison the Pony of Shadows and thus needed to free the Pillars from Limbo requires the iconic artifact of each of the Pillars' to be performed. Thus in order to free them, the Mane Six have to recover the artifacts from their resting places and reunite them.
- Diving Save: When the Pillars of Equestria are brought back from Limbo, large pieces of the standing stones that were pulled along with them during the initial incantation also reappear above them. Thankfully, their counterparts in the Mane Six react in time, Applejack pushing Rockhoof out of danger, Fluttershy pulling Mage Meadowbrook, Rarity catching Mistmane before she even hits the ground, and Pinkie Pie tackling Somnambula.
- Don't Explain the Joke: One of the dragons tells Garble why Spike's Ironic Echo is funny and gets shoved aside for it.
- Dramatic Thunder: Some bolts of lightning, in a sky that was clear seconds ago but is quickly filling with ominous dark clouds, announce the return of the Pony of Shadows to the land of Equestria.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The Pony of Shadows is shown in the main comic arc "From the Shadows", published just prior to Season 7.
- Epic Fail: Spike trips and is sent tumbling madly when he races Garble down a mountain in Lava Surfing, but this actually ends up being a fail for Garble because Spike still manages to beat him down.Rainbow Dash: Wow, you must be slow if all Spike had to do was fall down!
- Eternal English: When the Pillars and the Pony of Shadows are released from Limbo, they speak perfectly understandable, modern Ponish. This is hardly the first time the show has done that, but it's odd here, because this episode establishes that Star Swirl wrote in Old Ponish, which most modern ponies don't understand. Presumably, it's some kind of Latin equivalent and was thus a dead language even in Star Swirl's day (this is supported by how Celestia and Luna aren't very good at the language themselves despite having lived in Star Swirl's time).
- Facepalm: Spike facepalms before confirming that Twilight has indeed memorized every ancient text about Star Swirl the Bearded.
- Fatal Flaw: Twilight and Sunburst's hero worship and adoration of Star Swirl the Bearded. they're so focused on the idea of freeing the ancient heroes and meeting Star Swirl that she overlooks what should have been obvious: undoing the spell could release the Pony of Shadows, too. Star Swirl calls Twilight out on this in the next episode.
- Foreshadowing: The Pillars of Equestria were champions of Hope, Beauty, Healing, Bravery, Strength and Sorcery. During their quest to retrieve their artifacts the Mane Six exemplify these virtues along with their own Elements of Harmony. This foreshadows the connection between the two groups explained in the next episode.
- Funny Background Event: As the projection of the past confrontation between the Pillars of Equestria and the Pony of Shadows unfold, the Mane Six are cautiously moving behind the standing stones of Ponehenge — including Pinkie Pie grabbing a frozen Fluttershy by the tail. They're probably aware this is just an illusion, but it is still unnerving them.
- Grail in the Garbage: One of the books that Sunburst purchased in the previous episode, as part of a blind buy barrel, happens to be the journal of Star Swirl the Bearded, the most powerful unicorn archmage in history, and provides clues about his disappearance as well as those of other legendary figures collectively known as the Pillars of Equestria. Starlight even points this out.Starlight Glimmer: It's amazing to think one of the greatest mysteries of Equestria was solved with a musty old book from an antique shop.
- Headdesk: Rainbow Dash, already bored by Twilight's excited explanations about Star Swirl's spell and Limbo, finally groans and smacks her face against the Cutie Map table when the alicorn mentions she made yet another model.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Pillars of Old Equestria sealed themselves in as well in order to seal the Pony of Shadows.
- Hologram Projection Imperfection: The magical remnant images of Star Swirl, the Pillars of Equestria and the Pony of Shadows that appear at Ponehenge are transparent and with lines blur typical of holograms in more sci-fi shows. Twilight is at first fooled, mostly because of the shock from seeing her idol, but Sunburst quickly concludes they're not here, and waves his hoof through the image of Star Swirl to confirm it.
- Holy Halo: In the first image of the book showing all six Pillars of Equestria, for all of them there is a white, round halo behind their heads. Not too surprising since the illustrations use a style reminiscent of religious enluminures, where such a feature is common for saints or heroes.
- Hope Bringer: Somnambula is here and "hope" is her element, but the idea of the Pillars as a whole was to uplift Equestria when it was a younger and less peaceful nation.
- Hope Crusher: The Pony of Shadows is introduced with the motivation "to extinguish the Pillars' light and rob the world of hope."
- Humiliation Conga: Garble experiences a short but effective one; first, he is bested in Lava Surfing by the "pony-loving dragon" he hates, then his tail is briefly pinned under a rock, courtesy of Rainbow Dash. Rainbow then tricks him into putting down Flash Magnus's shield on the pretense of a race up the cliff. Not only does Rainbow take the shield, but she still manages to ascend faster than him (even while carrying both the shield and Spike), both outsmarting and out-flying him.
- Hypocrite: Garble gets angry at Rainbow Dash for just swiping Flash Magnus's shield and running instead of racing him... because Spike already beat him for the shield and he refused to keep his word.
- Hypocritical Humor: Garble gets annoyed at another dragon for explaining a joke at his expense; in "Gauntlet of Fire", Garble himself had the habit of explaining his own (lame) attempts at humor.
- I Lied: Garble races Spike for Flash Magnus's shield, but when Spike actually wins, he instantly refuses to keep his word and tries to beat Spike up. It's little wonder Rainbow Dash doesn't trust him to keep his word in their race and just snatches the shield and flies off while he's not looking.
- The Illegible: Star Swirl the Bearded's "hornwriting" is so bad, Twilight remarks that it's "almost like another language". Starlight's is stated to be even worse, though this allows her to actually understand Star Swirl's writings.
- In the premiere of Season 6, Starlight Glimmer said that Sunburst was an important wizard but it turned out that Sunburst had failed to graduate from Celestia's School of Gifted Unicorns. However, Sunburst managed to prove himself by helping to save the Crystal Empire with Flurry Heart's Crystalling Ceremony. Now he's just discovered that the Pillars of Equestria are still alive.
- As Rainbow Dash lampshades, the shield that Flash Magnus used to protect himself from dragons ended up in the Dragon Lands, and is being used by Garble to surf on lava.
- Jaw Drop: The old keeper of Mistmane's garden reacts by letting her lower jaw hang from seeing Rarity pruning and cleaning the whole garden by herself.
- King in the Mountain: Star Swirl and the other legendary ponies are in fact still alive in the present day, but were trapped in Limbo over a thousand years in the past and have been imprisoned there since. To them it feels as if no time has passed at all.
- Lampshade Hanging: Twilight saying "I guess I hoped we'd get here and the mystery would just magically be explained." before putting down Star Swirl's book on one of the Ponehenge rocks. What happens next is exactly that (which Pinkie happily points out).
- Lava Surfing: "Gorge Surfing" is the dragons' favorite sport. They use flat slab of stones to surf over a flowing river of lava down a mountain.
- Loophole Abuse:
- Ember has commanded the dragons to not attack ponies, but Garble still tries to attack Spike because she didn't say anything about "pony-loving dragons". Spike points out the flaw in this logic, claiming that hurting the friend of a pony wouldn't do wonders for dragon-pony relations either, but Garble is still willing to take the risk.
- When Spike and Rainbow demand the fireproof shield of Flash Magnus from Garble, he refuses, citing "finders keepers". Later, after Garble puts it down under the pretense of a race with Rainbow to the top of the lavafall, she promptly grabs it while his back is turned and bolts, with Spike saying "finders keepers" as they fly away.
- MacGuffin Guardian: Garble unwittingly ends up in this role by finding the Netitus shield and clinging to the artifact when Rainbow Dash and Spike come to retrieve it. They play along with his Lava Surfing challenge at first, but when it becomes obvious he's not going to keep his part of the deal, Rainbow just tricks him into letting go of the shield and they dash away with it.
- Messy Hair: Rarity's mane ends up full of twigs and leaves when she finishes restoring the garden belonging to the guardian of Mistmane's flower.
- Mind over Matter: Yes, we know Rarity is good at manipulating multiple objects through telekinesis; more skilled than many unicorns, in fact. But her single-hornedly cleaning up and pruning the ancient garden belonging to Mistmane's family is one of her most impressive feats to date.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Yes, Star Swirl and the other five legends are finally released from their imprisonment. However, doing this also releases the Pony of Shadows, who was the reason Star Swirl and the legends sacrificed themselves.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: While only a minor antagonist in this episode, Garble takes off Flash Magnus's shield (which he used for surfing lava), letting Rainbow Dash and Spike to take it to Ponehenge.
- Not Hyperbole: Spike confirms that Twilight has memorized literally every ancient text about Star Swirl.Spike: Seriously, all of them.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Star Swirl the Bearded, upon being brought back from Limbo, has at first a few moments of confusion. Then he recovers his bearings and his eyes begin darting frantically around as he realizes what's going on. Namely, that if all the Pillars of Equestria are back, the Pony of Shadows must be too.
- The episode closes on Twilight's horrified face as she sees the Pony of Shadows materializing as a result of her plan.
- Only Sane Man: Starlight, of all ponies, is the only one who is concerned about the Mane Six's plan to rescue the Pillars, though her concern is limited to being wary of space-time magic in general. All those lessons about being careful with magic are finally sinking in.
- Picture-Perfect Presentation: An image of the Temple of Ponehenge seen in a book picked by Sunburst fades out to reveal the real place with the scene change.
- Power Glows:
- The respective artifacts of the Pillars of Equestria each glows a bright white when Star Swirl activates the spell that will contain the Pony of Shadows into Limbo.
- Later on, when these artifacts are retrieved one by one by Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, they glow a softer yellow, hinting that each pony is indeed the successor of the legendary pony that owned them.
- Precursor Heroes: It's revealed that the Elements of Harmony, thought to be a naturally occurring Cosmic Keystone of Equestria, were actually expressions of powers wielded by the Pillars of Equestria, who created the seed that eventually became the Tree of Harmony. The Pillars also fulfill this trope in another fashion, since they are from a time so ancient that Celestia and Luna were mere foals when they departed.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Star Swirl in the recording of the Pillars' "last stand", addressing the Pony of Shadows.Star Swirl the Bearded: We did not come here to defeat you. [...] We came... to contain you.
- Pun: Pinkie Pie makes a wordplay over the possible meanings of "limbo".Pinkie Pie: I suppose being trapped for all time with a super-duper bad guy in Limbo might be okay if you were doing the limbo, [does that very dance move under the book Twilight is making float] but that's still pushing it.
- Reality Ensues: Ember may have commanded her subjects not to attack the ponies, but the dragons are still less than friendly towards them. The gorge-surfing group don't take kindly to Rainbow's presence, with one telling her that they won't allow her to surf in their spot. Even with their new, open-minded leader, the dragons weren't going to become more accepting as quickly as her.
- Retcon: It's revealed Star Swirl vanished before Luna turned into Nightmare Moon, unlike what the "Reflections" arc of the tie-in comics claimed.
- Screw the Rules, They Broke Them First!: Garble wagers Netitus on a race with Spike and refuses to surrender it when he loses. Rainbow Dash responds by tricking him into taking it off and fleeing with it when he isn't looking.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Pony of Shadows being the evil; the Pillars and the magic power of the legends acting as the seal for the can, which is in Limbo.
- Sealed Good in a Can: The Pillars being the good; they were forced to seal themselves away in Limbo to seal the Pony of Shadows. The Mane Six free them, but inadvertently also free the Pony of Shadows.
- Sore Loser: When Spike manages to beat Garble in gorge surfing, Garble not only refuses to hand over the shield, but attempts to attack Spike.
- Split Screen: During the recording of the Pillars's last stand, the screen is split in six to show all of them with their glowing artifacts, just as Star Swirl pronounces his Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
- Storybook Opening: The episode opens within the pages of Star Swirl the Bearded's journal, introducing the backstory of the Pony and Shadows, his enmity with the Pillars of Equestria and the legacy they left behind before their last stand.
- Super Strength: Applejack provides an impressive display of power while retrieving Rockhoof's shovel, stopping and bucking a boulder several times larger than herself quite some distance. Like with Rarity's demonstration of telekinesis mastery close to Mistmane's Flower, however, the proximity of Rockhoof's artifact may have given Applejack a boost.
- Taking You with Me: The Pillars sacrificed themselves in order to pull the Pony of Shadows into Limbo, trapping themselves along with him.
- Time Stands Still: Limbo's nature means that the Pillars and the Pony of Shadows have effectively experienced no time at all when Equestria has experienced more than one thousand years. For a moment, Star Swirl thought the spell had failed rather than being broken later.
- Tracking Spell: When Twilight concludes that they'll need artifacts belonging to the Pillars of Equestria to bring them back from Limbo and reads again Star Swirl's journal for clues, a glow appears above the Cutie Map — not from any input on the part of anypony. Then, images of the five missing artifacts are seen floating, and settle on their respective locations above the map of Equestria. Quite handy at this point in the story, but since the map is directly linked to the Tree of Harmony, which (as confirmed by the next episode) has very strong ties to said Pillars, it is justified.
- Unseen No More: After being mentioned several times throughout the series and being shown in the comics, Star Swirl the Bearded finally makes his debut.
- Void Between the Worlds: Limbo, where Star Swirl sealed himself, the other Pillars, and the Pony of Shadows is a dimensional gap between Equestria and other worlds. There is nothing there, not even time.
- Wham Episode: To recap the opening scene alone: Star Swirl's voice is heard for the first time, it is revealed that the five mythical heroes discussed during the season were a team of six heroes of ancient Equestria who represented different virtues, the pony that brought them together became the Pony of Shadows, and the Pillars are heavily implied (and confirmed next episode) to have created what would become the Tree of Harmony. Again, this is all within the first sixty seconds.
- Wham Line: "You cannot bring only the Pillars back!"
- World Building:
- Scandinavian and Chinese cultures DO exist in Equestria.
- Ponehenge, an ancient monument that was long forgotten, and the site where the Pillars and the Pony of Shadows disappeared.