MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

Previous: My Little Pony: The Movie Equestria Girls: Forgotten Friendship Next: School Daze – Part 1

Movie #7: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
Sunset Shimmer's Saga: Forgotten Friendship

Released 2/17/2018, written by Nick Confalone
    Storyline:
  • The main characters celebrate friendship as they put together the school yearbook. The team includes Sunset Shimmer as editor as well as new character Wallflower Blush, whom they barely notice. That night as Sunset writes to Equestria's Twilight Sparkle in her magic book, a magic spell plays across the sky above the town. The next day, the friends play at the beach while human Twilight prepares her drone-mounted camera for a group photo. But when Sunset joins them, all of them consider her an enemy. She uses her geode-powered magic to check their minds and discovers she has been erased from their memories going back to her reformation in the first movie.
  • Sunset is unable to convince her friends she's reformed, so she uses the portal to Equestria to visit Princess Twilight, who takes her to Celestia and Luna. Sunset and Celestia reconcile, and the ponies search Canterlot's restricted archives until they find record of a memory stone that may be responsible for the spell.
  • As Twilight continues her research, Sunset returns to the human world but is still unable to reconnect with her friends. She also learns the entire school still considers her a bully. She initially suspects Trixie is behind the spell, as Trixie has been pressuring the yearbook team for a special superlative. Instead, Trixie believes Sunset's story and becomes her ally. Meanwhile, Twilight discovers that the spell's effect becomes permanent after three days.
  • Sunset and Trixie question several suspects about the stone before retiring to the yearbook room. There they find Wallflower Blush, and Sunset spots an image of a suspicious rock formation in a picture of Wallflower's garden. With her magical mind-meld, Sunset confirms Wallflower has the memory stone. She challenges Wallflower, who segues into a song, during which Sunset spots the stone in Wallflower's bag and tries to swipe it. But Wallflower notices, uses the stone to erase Sunset and Trixie's memories of the past hour, and locks them in.
  • After some momentary confusion, Sunset finds a note she left to herself earlier and checks Twilight's drone camera, with which she had recorded their encounter with Wallflower. After escaping the locked room, Sunset confronts Wallflower in front of her friends. Wallflower tries to erase the friends' memories of one another, but Sunset absorbs the blast and forgets everything since she came to Canterlot High. Having witnessed her sacrifice, the friends accept her, and their magical power activates, reversing the spells and leaving Wallflower penitent. In the end, Sunset includes Trixie's request in the yearbook, and Wallflower now has friends to help her keep her garden.

Character: The Equestria Girls series has given us two sorts of antagonists. The first are the obviously evil villains: Sunset Shimmer, the Sirens, and Principal Cinch. The second are innocent-seeming individuals corrupted by magic: Gloriosa Daisy, Juniper Montage, and (briefly) Midnight Sparkle. Wallflower Blush falls into the second camp, but this time around, though the official reveal comes late in the story, there's not a lot of mystery or suspense around her culpability. What I find interesting about her presentation is that her personality's not very appealing; she's not so much a shrinking violet like Fluttershy but a bitter complainer. I think this is deliberate; it's totally understandable for someone who's constantly ignored and has grown resentful over it. But just as we confirm her role as the bad girl of the story, she becomes sympathetic through a beautiful song that makes me feel for all those quiet kids who never spoke up in class, whom I never talked to, who to me were only faces in the hallway, names in the roll call and in the yearbook.

Wallflower's plight reminds me of an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where a high school student is ignored by everyone to the point she literally turns invisible. In Wallflower's case, it's true she was ignored, but she dug her own hole even deeper. Why does no one seem to remember ever meeting her? By using the memory stone to erase all her awkward moments, this shy girl may have erased the majority of her memorable interactions with anybody. But at the bottom of it all, the potential for that even happening implies she never had any lasting or close friendships. That explains her jealousy of Sunset, who overcame not just anonymity but infamy to have a circle of friends who provide constant forgiveness, support, and inclusion. Kids sometimes go down a destructive path for simple reasons just like this in the real world, and so I find her one of Equestria Girls' more compelling adversaries.

As dramatic as Sunset Shimmer's transformation was, it hasn't really gotten much attention in-story since the first couple scenes of Rainbow Rocks. After so long a time with her on the heroes' side, it's jarring to see her on the receiving end of everyone's enmity and suspicion. She handles the challenge admirably, but this story puts some nice, special touches on Sunset's character as well. The first is that Sunset still has a bit of a temper, a fitting character flaw that we saw in her pre-reformed self and that wouldn't realistically go away without work. I wish this were portrayed more consistently in previous stories, though perhaps I just hadn't noticed it. Second, Sunset is as quick as the others to brush off Wallflower, but when called out by Trixie, she receives the rebuke reflectively. This shows she's still striving to develop virtues and be a better person. It's important for a show like this to remind viewers that growth isn't just about switching from bad to good but is a process that requires constant effort.

Third, Sunset's character benefits from her newfound friendship with Trixie, a vital addition since we haven't seen her extend friendship much beyond the Human Six. We saw similar development on the Pony series as Starlight Glimmer enjoyed friendships with Sunburst, Maud Pie, and, well...Trixie. So let's talk about Trixie. While somewhat unprincipled, the human Trixie doesn't seem to have a reputation for dishonesty or villainy like her pony counterpart. She's a blowhard, she's entitled, she's retaliatory. But she's also been helpful and even kind on occasion. Her hang-up is, as she says it, that no one at school sees her the way she sees herself, and this is her point of identification with Sunset. I hope this pairing isn't just a one-time thing.

On to the Human Six: Recall the first Equestria Girls movie, where most of them were friendly to Twilight but had resentments among themselves, engineered by Sunset Shimmer. Now, without their memories of good-Sunset, we see that same bitterness directed toward her, while their friendships with one another remain strong. (Sci-Twi wasn't around for that, but she takes her cues from the others, though with obvious reservations.) What's tragic here are the wonderful moments forgotten, but also how closed-off they are to any suggestion of Sunset reforming, as forgiving as they've been toward other opponents. Personally, I think if the memory loss had been permanent, Sunset could still have reconnected with her friends, but she would have to drop her efforts to revive a forgotten past and instead express remorse for the past they remember and try to start fresh.

After a long absence from Equestria Girls, Princess Twilight Sparkle is the most entertaining part of this special, in my opinion. Not only is her role well-integrated into the plot. Her high-energy scenes allow Sunset to play the straight-man role she functions so well in, and (having watched a fair way into season eight as I write this) this introduces us to a version of Twilight we'll be seeing a lot of in the near future. It's not exactly new territory for her, but with her understanding of friendship now advanced and her go-it-alone tendencies hopefully settled for now, her character needs to have her anxiety and other quirks highlighted to avoid becoming a generic hero figure.

Though it's less central to the plot, I owe the writers my immense gratitude for including a moment I've hoped for since Princess Celestia asked about Sunset Shimmer's welfare years ago. The reconciliation of Sunset with her mentor is brief but touching, and it comes at the perfect moment, as Sunset is being reminded of her past sins and is without the support she's accustomed to. Here she finds forgiveness and help, though Celestia naturally can't let the opportunity pass to play trickster for a few moments.


Lesson: There were a lot of directions the writers could have taken this. As it is, the main lesson we get is surprisingly unrelated to the memory loss and reform issues. Instead, the issue has to do with Sunset's relationship to Wallflower Blush. What relationship? That's the point. With Wallflower right there, trying to get her attention, Sunset gave her nothing but neglect, whereas Trixie immediately strikes up a conversation. (About herself, but still...) As Trixie says, "Maybe it's not good enough to not be mean to someone. Maybe you have to be nice." Put another way, our purpose in life isn't just to behave ourselves, but to do good, help people, and point them in the right direction. It's true you can't be friends with everyone, but everyone needs to be befriended by somebody. What you can do is try to live your life in a way that gives you time to be kind to the ones who cross your path, and seek out at least a few friends who might not have anyone else. Despite her reform, Sunset Shimmer has been a bit cliquish, and Wallflower, Trixie, and even Sunset's brief visit with Princess Twilight all help move her way from that.

Resonance: My general mood watching this was one of curiosity, bordering on suspense. I really wanted to know how Sunset would get everyone's memories of her back, and even contemplated how she might move forward if she didn't. And I had a lot of fun along the way. Two stand-out funny elements were Trixie's detective work and the playing with Wallflower's song. Instead of pausing the action or playing over it, the music leaves Wallflower open to distraction, until she looks in the proper direction. The video playback even includes the background music. Trixie's barely-heard comment about tadpoles is worth a chuckle, and Pinkie's "Light her up, ladies!" exclamation is well-timed. We've seen Princess Twilight gush over libraries before, but the more exaggerated animation we have now keeps that joke fresh. I was happy to see Sunset's continuing correspondence with Princess Twilight, and Twi's first words ("Of course we're friends") brightened my day. As I mentioned, Sunset's long-awaited reconciliation with Princess Celestia is really sweet, and Sunset has a great heroic moment blocking Wallflower's final spell.

The way Wallflower Blush brightens up when talking about her garden is the first thing that drew me in to her character, and the flashbacks revealing her loneliness got to me. On reflection, I sympathize pretty deeply with how her loneliness caused moral damage as she became bitter and resentful. It's a real-life phenomenon as opposed to the magical corruption we're used to. When you think about it, the pain wrought by innocent neglect is really where Friendship Is Magic's story began.

A few moments in this climax were really chilling: Sunset's memories being stripped from her one by one, her terrified confusion afterward, and Wallflower's desperate but sadly honest "I hate you"—one of the most hurtful things you can ever say in seriousness to someone who cares about you. There were also quite a few moments that simply left me impressed. Sunset shows sharp insight and resourcefulness throughout her approach to her problem. The writers show intelligence of their own in tying Sunset's arguments for her reform to her history of manipulating people with false evidence and sob stories. And it seems the human Trixie can use real magic somehow, haphazardly though without the apparent corruption it's brought to other humans we've seen use it.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: This special aired in the middle of a full season of Better Together shorts and is separated from the previous Equestria Girls movies by all the Summertime shorts and videos and the Choose Your Own Ending releases. So I find it helpful and even a bit nostalgic that we get so much continuity with those first few films.

Overall I see this as a pleasant, interesting, and at times even exciting story that improves our understanding of one of my favorite characters and introduces some fascinating ideas. I wish it had more songs and more for the other main humans to do, though on the other hand there's enough other EQG material out there that we can afford to keep the spotlight on Sunset and Trixie for this one. High praise is in order for a very well-done final confrontation. One more nice touch there is having Sunset confused throughout the power-up sequence, since she has absolutely no idea what is going on or who all these girls are at that point. In terms of ranking, I enjoyed this more than Magical Movie Night and Legend of Everfree, and so I place it just below Friendship Games.


Forgotten Friendship armor rating: Gold Armor
Ranked 119th of 233 stories overall

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