Welcome to the Crystal Empireby *BlindCoyote

Welcome to the Crystal Empire
by *BlindCoyote

Time for another edition of DHN Episode Reviews with Ryan C. But first, our list of regular episode reviews from Unleath the Fanboy & LezGetReal:


(s3e11) Just for Sidekicks, written by Corey Powell

(s3e12) Games Ponies Play, written by Dave Polsky

DHN Episode Review by Ryan C

Reviewer’s Note: I want to sincerely apologize for not providing an episode review for “Just For Sidekicks”. We here at DHN were positively ecstatic about a brand new Spike episode (the second of the 13 episode season, in fact) and I personally couldn’t wait to type one up. Unfortunately, important real life obligations like adjusting my desk chair, drinking a glass of water, and doodling pictures of Rarity on the back of my 1040 tax form kept me from getting it out on the appropriate date. This is unprofessional and negligent of me, and rest assured it won’t happen again. On a side note, please give Corey Powell more interesting premises to work with, DHX. Thank you for your understanding.


The second hiatus of the season has ended, and with it comes a brand new and much-anticipated new episode. “Games Ponies Play”, written by Dave Polsky, has Twilight and the rest of her friends heading back to the Crystal Empire (which is apparently in Equestria and not a true sovereignty) to assist Princess Cadance with bringing the Equestria Games, the ponies’ equivalent of the Olympics, to the Crystal Empire. You may know some of Polsky’s other episodes, namely “Too Many Pinkie Pies”, “Keep Calm and Flutter On”, and “Feeling Pinkie Keen”. He has an affinity for more comedic or slapstick-oriented episodes, and his two episodes of season three hold a special place in my ‘favorite episodes’ list. “Too Many Pinkie Pies” and “Keep Calm and Flutter On” are, in my humble opinion, two of the best episodes of the entire series. In fact, after stewing on it for a while, I have to say that “Keep Calm” is probably the single best episode of the entire “Friendship is Magic” series, and that’s not something I just decided on the spot.

I had high hopes, then, for “Games Ponies Play”, and I must say that while I wasn’t disappointed and it did have some good moments, it certainly wasn’t to the caliber that Polsky’s previous outings were. His slapstick stylings are clearly on display here, but they aren’t dialed up to 11 like they were in “Too Many” or “Keep Calm”. The basic premise of this episode lies in the Mane Six being tasked by Princess Cadance with impressing the Equestria Games Inspector, Ms. Harshwhinny, and convincing her to allow the empire to host the Games. They are to give the warmest welcome and most impressive tour of the empire as they can to allow Cadance time to prepare. Rarity, unfortunately, is left on the sidelines for most of this episode, as she is given the responsibility of getting Cadance ready to meet the inspector. Her scences are still entertaining, but we’re left with even less of her this season than we’ve already gotten. Tabitha St. Germaine is still the ‘Queen of the Freakout’, though. There’s nopony like Rarity who can make a situation seem quite so desperate while making you want to laugh quite so hard.

The girls are given only one thing to identify the inspector by at the train station: her flower-print bag. They do indeed find a mare with such a bag coming off the train – a green-coated earth pony with a southern twang and a penchant for wide-open spaces – and give her a warm welcome and proceed to show her around the city and castle. This is not, unfortunately, the RIGHT mare. Ms. Harshwhinny, the real inspector, sunken eyes and judging glare, soon exits the train as well, with no greeting whatsoever and is forced to traverse the crystal city by herself. The scenes with the impostor inspector (Chickadee, Ms. Peachbottom, or whichever name you prefer) are very entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. This mare, who describes herself as an “ordinary wild mustang from Mustangia”, is one of the best one-shot characters of the series. She’s courteous and charming, yet still has gallons of personality and a hilarious claustrophobic quirk to make her interesting enough to base the episode around yet not suited for a long-term stay in the show. She’s high energy and high humor, and it’s hard not to enjoy the moments when she’s on screen.

From Pinkie’s overreactive shouts of “NO~!” to Rainbow Dash’s Loony Tunes-infused high-speed window splat, the many gags of “Games” are typical of Polsky’s episodes. The storyboarders and animators most certainly had a field day with this episode, as there’s tons impressively-animated antics on screen from start to finish. You won’t find many stock animations in this episode, and that’s definitely a positive. As I mentioned, though, it wasn’t quite as prolific here as it has been in the past. There were lulls in the story that seemed unnecessary and scenes which seemed to drag on for entirely too long, with the opening train sequence and the castle tour as the most egregious examples.

As for the actual plot itself, it left a bit to be desired. Despite its locale and the presence of big names like Shining Armor and Princess Cadance, it certainly seemed more like a filler episode, which is a shame since we’ve already had plenty of filler in this already shortened season. To be honest, the biggest takeaway we have from “Games” is the subtle evolution of Twilight. The breathing technique taught to her by Cadance allowed her to be calm in stressful situations and not give in to the breakdowns like she has before. She had the calmness under pressure of someone with great responsibility and poise. Someone in a position of authority who realizes that every decision they make must be metered and measured in order to make the best choices. Someone being groomed to be in a position of power.

I wonder if that means anything…

  • Anonymous

    I guess the only complaint I have here is in calling this, or any episode for that matter, a “filler” episode. This isn’t a serialized show, so that would make ANY episode that’s not a two-parter a filler episode. Just a thought.

    • Ryan C

      I consider episodes with no great takeaway a filler episode. Filler episodes aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just filler. One-shots that have no big ramifications or guest-star episodes are examples. Even one-off episodes like “One Bad Apple” introduce new, recurring characters and advance the story of the CMCs. I don’t consider that filler. “Games” is filler in that there’s no takeaway from it for any character, minus the small one I mentioned for Twilight. No character advances personally in any meaningful way and it doesn’t tie to any over-arching plotlines.

  • Ponyko

    Liked your critique, but I thought it was a good episode! The plot? Well if your going to compare it to LOTR then yeah, it was rubbish, So given the same premise, and 22 minuets write a better episode! If you can’t, then you can’t say the plot is bad. IMHO they are all good, some better (usually those with Rarity for me) and some worse (those focusing on Pinkie). I like to think I’m a true critic as I have never been to any sort of film school or drama school, or had any formal training in media at all! I therefore possess none of the skills required to make an episode like this. So, from that point of view, totally unbiased, I can say this episode scores 7/10 or c+

    • Jon the Red

      “So given the same premise, and 22 minuets write a better episode! If you can’t, then you can’t say the plot is bad. ”

      You’re automatically an idiot. Do you have to be a world-class chef before you know what food you dislike eating? Do you have to be a Formula 1 champion to tell when someone’s driving badly? Besides, if no writer can make the plot work, not even one as celebrated in this fandom as Polsky, then that absolutely means the plot itself is bad.

    • IANbrony

      “So given the same premise, and 22 minuets write a better episode! If you can’t, then you can’t say the plot is bad. ”
      Challenge accepted… I’ll get right too it. I loved what Polsky did with Keep Calm and Flutter On… but this episode wasn’t very good at all. The only good part about it for me was that it was pony based, but that’s not what makes a good plot.
      So as I said… Challenge Accepted; I’ll put what I come up with on deviantArt or google docs or something and post the link here.

  • Pendejo

    Fuck it, lets write our own episodes right here right now!