Contains unmarked spoilers. You Have Been Warned!
- How about we start off with the fact that within the first 10 or so minutes of the film, Tempest Shadow turns three of the four princesses to stone? That seems like a joyful place to start off.
- Cadance getting petrified and Celestia calling her name in horror. If that wasn't bad enough, imagine how Shining Armor and Flurry Heart would have reacted to this.
- Luna's horrified expression when Celestia suffers the same fate.
- Celestia trying to quickly tell Luna where to get help before she fully becomes stone. The scene feels so much like those are Celestia's dying words to her sister! Then, Luna flying off to try to follow, only to be turned to stone before she can get away.
- Derpy Hooves Taking the Bullet so Twilight could escape. It just hurts seeing the fan-favorite getting turned to stone. Thankfully, she's restored with the princesses, but poor Derpy...
- Put yourself in the horseshoes of any of the Derpy-like foals we've seen on the show. That's Mama/Auntie/Big Sis trapped in stone!
- When Grubber makes an Innocently Insensitive remark about her broken horn, Tempest has something close to a Villainous Breakdown. It may look scary, but it's much more tragic in context when you remember the Storm King promised to restore it if she had all 4 princesses. This isn't about earning just any reward. Fixing a broken horn is considered impossible with regular magic alone. From where she stands, this is about as important as reviving a loved one from the grave. You can just feel her desperation seep through the cracks of her heartless exterior.
- Capper's reaction to Rarity fixing his coat says a lot about how the man thinks others act. To elaborate, he honestly has trouble believing that anyone would do something nice like that without wanting something in return, and is flummoxed that Rarity would do something like that for free.
- When we meet Captain Celaeno and her crew, we learn they used to be pirates until the Storm King subdued their ship and forced them to serve him. They still recall a time when they used to go on adventures and find treasures. But now, they've been reduced to hauling Storm King merchandise, following rulebooks, and wearing drab black uniforms. Not too different from people who have a passion, but find themselves put in a miserable job by the world.
- Captain Celaeno herself is notably less enthusiastic about how far she and her crew have fallen. Bear in mind, she used to be the captain of this ship, she used to be the leader. And now she's been forced to step down and be just another follower for the Storm King.
- Princess Skystar may be cheerful and sweet, but her life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. First, her people had to abandon their home to escape the Storm King. Even in the company of her people, she was still pretty lonely, especially since her mother was sometimes too busy for her. And just when she found new friends in the Mane 6, her mother tells her they must go, so once she believes they've left, she cries to herself.
- And listen to her first singing lines in the first few seconds of "One Small Thing." "It's okay, just go!" Ouch, Skystar.
- Twilight abusing her friends' trust by trying to steal the Pearl of Transformation. The other Mane Six, especially Pinkie, look utterly betrayed when they see Twilight tangled up in the Pearl's defenses right after they got Queen Novo's support.
- Really, just Twilight being so desperate to save Equestria that she would resort to stealing a priceless artifact is a Tear Jerker. You're just silently begging her not to do it.
- Perhaps the biggest tear-jerker in the entire franchise, The ensuing argument between Twilight and Pinkie, resulting in Twilight's Wham Line. They are just about the last words anybody would expect the Princess of Friendship herself to say to her best friends. And it's just as heart wrenching to hear as it is to the other Mane Six.Applejack: What were you thinkin'? I mean, stealin' their pearl?
Twilight Sparkle: (sighing) It was the only way to save Equestria.
Pinkie Pie: 'Cept it wasn't! The Queen was going to say yes! We did what you told us and that's what made her realize we were ponies worth saving! (gasp) Unless... You didn't really want us to show her the best time ever! You just wanted us to distract her!
(the other four ponies gasp)
Twilight Sparkle: I never would have done it, but this isn't Equestria! We can't just dance around with con artists, make rainbooms in the sky and expect everything to work out! It's not enough! We are not enough!
Pinkie Pie: No, Twilight! We stuck together! We were gonna get the help we needed! The only thing that stopped us...was you!
Twilight Sparkle: Well, I'm doing the best I can! It's all on me. I'm the one Tempest wants. I'm the last Princess!
Pinkie Pie: You're also the only one who doesn't trust her friends!
Twilight Sparkle: Well, maybe I would've been better off without FRIENDS LIKE YOU!
Spike: "Twilight? It's okay. You'll figure it out."
- The build-up to Twilight's Wham Line. She finally lets all of her stress from everything get the best of her and turning on the other five, calling them bad friends and losing her faith in friendship all while flaring her horn threateningly at Pinkie just like Tempest. She immediately regrets it, but the damage is already done and the rest of the group (except Spike) leave her be, which is how she winds up captured in the following scene. It is staggeringly, jarringly unnatural for the beloved Princess of Friendship, and shows a side of Twilight no one has ever seen before.
- Pinkie considers Twilight to be one of her absolute best friends, and hearing Twilight say and act this way is like a knife to the heart. The fact that it drives Pinkie not to hysterical weeping, but to quietly hurt tears makes it all the more painful.
- The falling out is eerily similar to what happened in "A Canterlot Wedding", with every one of Twilight's friends deciding to leave her because she did something stupid. The only thing better about this scene is that they were just giving her and themselves some space instead of outright abandoning her, and that Spike actually stays behind to console her, but Twilight still takes it just as hard.
- Twilight's silent, horrified expression (see page image) the moment the words leave her mouth, followed by her crying inconsolably after getting left behind. It's Tara Strong's acting that sells this scene.
Twilight: "No. I can't. I ruined everything. There's no chance to save Equestria now. It's all my fault."
- The others' reactions convey so much of their personalities without even saying anything. Fluttershy looks she's about to cry, Rarity gapes silently in shock and leaves with an expression of sheer contempt on her face, and Rainbow Dash is briefly in utter disbelief before getting angry. But the worst is Applejack, who looks morose at first, then stares at Twilight in disappointment while walking away.
- The next we see of the Mane Five after the falling-out they're sitting around in sadness, not just because they're heartbroken by what Twilight said, but also wondering if they did the right thing in leaving Twilight be.
- Twilight calling out to Spike as she's being captured and pulled into the warship can be painful to watch.
- Tempest's Villain Song, "Open Up Your Eyes". It really does give you a sense of just how the Despair Event Horizon can change someone for the worst.
And as you take that first step
- Tempest's backstory as shown during the song, which plays out with no dialogue and yet perfectly captures the day her innocence was lost. She was once just like any other unicorn, but after an accident involving an Ursa Minor breaking her horn, she lost her ability to use magic, the pride and joy of any unicorn. When she tried to use telekinesis to play with her friends again, she instead shocks the ball and scared off the other ponies with her unstable magic. Tempest is basically a pony who was crippled by a horrific accident and as a result, was abandoned by those she thought were her friends.
upon a path that's all your own,
you see it all so clearly:
the best way to survive is all alone.
- Pay attention to Twilight's face during this scene. At the beginning of it, she is angry and defiant, refusing to cave to Tempest. However, after Tempest's backstory is shown and Twilight learns of her terrible past, the scene immediately fades to Twilight's horrified expression. Who she once saw as an evil, psychotic henchmare of a tyrannical conquerer, she now sees as a broken and jaded unicorn who believed she had lost everything.
- After the song, Tempest states she learned how meaningless friendship truly was that day, all while barely managing to hide the hurt in her voice. The way she speaks to Twilight almost sounds like she's lucky she only lost her friends. Twilight's response is too genuine to be anything but heartwrenching.Tempest: I saw the truth. My "friends" abandoned me when times got tough. Looks like I'm not the only one. Face it, Princess. Friendship has failed you, too.
Twilight: Friendship didn't fail me... I failed friendship.
- That line becomes sobering when it dawns on you: Tempest reflects how hurt the Mane 5 must've felt when Twilight not only went behind their backs and tried to steal the Seaponies/Hippogriffs' pearl, but insulted them. Instead of being a reflection of Twilight at her darkest like Starlight Glimmer or Sunset Shimmer, she's the Mane 5's Shadow Archetype of who they'd be if they lost faith in friendship.
- Worse, Twilight finding out Tempest had lousy friends who abandoned her is reminiscent of a teen who takes advantage of their parents, only to find there are teens who are worse off with negligent parents. She's realizing the Mane 5 are the kind of friends Tempest needed in her childhood, and Twilight repaid them with selfishness.
- It's very easy to imagine the alternate branch of history where Tempest Shadow never got her horn broken and went on to fulfill her dream of being accepted as a Protege of Princess Celestia and becoming an Alicorn Princess. But then what happens to Twilight Sparkle? At best, she would become Tempest Shadow's pupil in learning about friendship... or at worst, she would become a reclusive hermit, completely absorbed in her scientific and magical studies. Really goes to show how right Tempest Shadow is when she said that "Life's not fair or just."
- Twilight being returned to Canterlot after the Storm King has conquered it, seeing the majority of Equestria's population enslaved while the few who aren't are imprisoned in cages. The look of hopelessness as she sees everything and everypony in ruins hits home how close she is to hitting the Despair Event Horizon herself.
- Among them, Songbird Serenade is in a cage, and her unseen eyes stare back at Twilight, as though signifying how saddened she is to see Twilight (the last princess and Equestria's last hope) brought back in a cage.
- Seeing the normally upbeat and cheerful CMC sitting in a cage in despair just like everypony else.
- In the Junior Novelization, when brought to the throne room with the petrified princesses, Tempest twists the knife by mentioning Twilight should be grateful the princesses are stone, so she doesn't have to see their disappointed faces at seeing she failed. Ouch!
- The cage is carried through town, lead by some of the captive ponies. Imagine how everyone felt seeing her like that—their last hope of salvation dashed.
- An And I Must Scream variant, Celestia, Cadance, and Luna being forced to give up their magic to the Storm King. Twilight in pain as hers is drained while she's still moving and standing, also.
- One of the Storm King's minions tries to fight Fluttershy, but she sweetly asks if there's anything troubling him. Moments later, we see said minion in tears about something. If it's any indication, he really was having a bad day. It's beautifully poignant to see a minion show a tender side.
- The Storm King mocking Tempest's horn, even before he betrayed her.
- While to some degree she deserved it, the look on Tempest's face when the Storm King betrayed her is kind of sad, as is the way she asks Twilight why she's saving her. One can get the impression that Tempest might have finally realized all the evil things she did for Storm King were All for Nothing as he never had any intention of keeping his end of the bargain at all. There's also the way she asks Twilight why she would save her after all she's done.
- Fridge-Tear Jerker: Before Twilight grabs her hoof, whilst Tempest is hanging onto the railing for dear life, look at how her horn sparks. By nature, Tempest is a unicorn and still wishes she could properly channel her magic through her horn. There's also a poignantly happy moment: when Twilight catches her and tells her "This is what friends do", her horn stops sparking, as a show that she's no longer relying on magic she can't use anymore.
- In the Junior Novel version, it's made clear that not only is Tempest struggling to hang on to the railing and stay alive, but her outlook is bleak. Upon the Storm King's betrayal, her life has come down to being a "useless unicorn with not a friend in the world". If Twilight hadn't saved her, it would've truly been the end of Tempest Shadow.
- The moment where Twilight gets sucked into the tornado with the Storm King. It's bad enough seeing all of her friends silently stare into the sky, thinking for the very first time that one of their best friends may have actually died. But most of the focus during this moment goes to Pinkie Pie, who accidentally let go of Twilight as she is thrown into the winds, which caused her to cry out in anguish. Just like their earlier falling out, Pinkie doesn't go for big, over-the-top waterworks; she instead leans her head into a teary-eyed Applejack and quietly breaks down, no doubt believing it's all her fault. Even though it turns out Twilight is alive and well, seeing Pinkie—the practical embodiment of joy and laughter in the series—mourning a potential death is heartwrenching.
- Even though this is a happy ending, Tempest Shadow shows signs she doesn't feel ready to rejoin Pony society. She initially remains in the background, unsure if she has what it takes to make friends again. Once again, it takes Twilight hoof of friendship to help Tempest let go of the past.
- The Great Princess Caper, a storybook retelling of the movie's events from Grubber's perspective, really emphasizes what a cruddy life he must have lived. As the runt of the Storm King's army, he spent his whole life getting teased by the other Storm Creatures for his pathetic efforts at being a worthy evil minion, and Tempest—the one soldier he is able to look up to aspires to be like—wants absolutely nothing to do with him. The book also provides a bit of a Cerebus Retcon for some of his scenes: his big introductory speech to Canterlot was an honest effort at impressing Tempest that fell flat on its face; his constant jokes and offerings of pastries to Tempest were all rebuffed attempts at cheering her up; and the reason he all but vanished from the plot is because everyone literally forgot about him, and he was so ashamed of his failures that he ran and hid. Fortunately for him, he manages to get his happy ending when Tempest has her HeelFace Turn and admits that, while he failed as an evil sidekick, he succeeded at being a good friend.
- For the most part, the Adventure Awaits "journal" is a lighthearted affair where the Mane Six and a few of their new friends look back on their journey, sharing laughs and getting wacky commentary from Pinkie now and then. But when they get to the part where Twilight used her friends as a distraction to steal Queen Novo's pearl, the fun and silly atmosphere temporarily vanishes. As Twilight recounts the event, she makes it plain that she is still completely devastated by what she'd done. She can just barely muster the will to talk about the "terrible fight" she and her friends had after that, and she says that when she returned to a destroyed Canterlot in a cage, she'd never felt like a bigger failure in her life. Considering the other times Twilight messed up horribly before this, that's saying a lot.
- True to the film, this scene and the moment where she and the others thought they lost Twilight in the tornado are the only two times in the journal where Pinkie doesn't even try to joke about it. The first because she, too, felt awful for the things she and Twilight said to each other; and the second because the mere thought of losing Twilight forever made her more scared than she could bear.