Monday, November 19, 2012

Trig Rant #6: Chillin' With the Villains

MLP Villains by ~OzHalagontor
My Little Pony round three is underway, and with two parters at the tail ends of each season, the villains are popping up like nobody's business! From Nightmare Moon to King Sombra, these top tier antagonists have played a huge role in Equestria's fate.

Bu how good were they and how do they rank among each others? From design to desires, it's time to decide which baddie exemplified the best MLP villain possible, and which ones fell flat for me.

The four characters that are up for consideration are Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis, and Sombra. Sorry Trixie fans, not exactly what I'd called a "villain".  Activate your clickage for my silly opinions!... This rant is long overdue.

#4 Queen Chrysalis

Feelings shall be hurt. Chrysalis wasn't good.

First up: her design. Seemingly the most superficial aspect of a villain, this largely contributed to their overall affect on the audience, characters, and the narrative itself. The verdict on Chrysalis': brilliant. The moment the Changeling Queen transformed into her true form is still one of the most spine chilling scenes in all of pony. The insecty (no idea how to describe them) sounds that echo throughout the walls of Canterlot during her brief reign make her legitimately intimidating. The holes in her mane and even body imply how desperate the changeling populous are for love, and very effectively communicates how desperate they are for power.

This is where I personally run into problems with Chrysalis. We're told that she and her army are really just trying to get by in the world, just like Equestrian society is. The changeling minions are more or less her responsibility to feed. This dynamic could pull at the heartstrings of the audience while still trying to root for the true good guys, the ponies we've known for so long. What I don't understand is why it was never visually communicated that Chrysalis' subjects were actually struggling for survival. They appeared to be brain-dead, zombie minions that have no personality besides ripping Canterlot to shreds.

And that's another thing all-together: why was there so much destruction done by the changelings and their queen? I thought she out to steal love from ponies, not ruin Canterlot's resell value. Not exactly dealing with Chrysalis' character and role as a villain  but just a leap in logic I'd like to point out.

And finally, this is villain number two out of three that dies simply to their own over-confidence. But what was worse about Chrysalis than Discord's fall was that she already had Cadence wrapped up in her Gak changeling goo, and when Cadence was set free Chrysalis just let it slide. Everything surrounding Cadence's rise and fall were mostly conveniences  and while those aren't exactly the best judge of her character, it ruins her aura of a villain, or simply being compelling all together. Though I do hope she makes an unexpected return, as that is what she does best.

#3 Nightmare Moon

What's most interesting about Nightmare Moon is that I thought she was the only redeeming quality of Mare in the Moon. If it's any secret (which I haven't made an effort to make it one), I am not a fan of the pilot episodes at all. I think the way the characters are introduced is clunky and almost mechanical, communicating the exact opposite of what the show is supposed to be about. And while Nightmare Moon may have contributed to this weakness of the story, it's done in a way that's still interesting, at least in terms of her character and not the over-arcing story itself. 

Again, let's start with her model. She definitely looks plated, a clever trick that shows she has something locked away inside her, and we discover that it's both Princess Luna's physical form and mind. She also travels via a purple cloud of smoke. Eh, nothing symbolic and clever here I think, just showing off the powers of an Equestrian badass. Overall, a good mix of awesome and profound features.

What went right? The best part about Nightmare Moon would be her personal story arc, as she ultimately serves as a plot device in terms of the mane six's story. Behind the curtain she has an intriguing backstory and motive for her actions in the episodes. Rejection and unappreciation, both highly relatable aspects of Luna's life that culminated into a rage against her own sister and nation. That's powerful. Unfortunately, this backstory isn't really touched on until the very end of the episode when the elements of harmony rainbow tornado'd her into oblivion.

In terms of being an actual villain, Nightmare Moon doesn't exactly deliver. Emotional trials is what MLP often does best, while Nightmare Moon really just sent out waves of mostly physical obstacles. Rainbow Dash was an exception, but at that point in time I was more frustrated with the predictability and over-fluidity of the story rather than the obstacles themselves. These kind of trials were done much better in later two-parters.

Ultimately, Nightmare Moon was primed to be an amazing villain, but has to settle for being a good villain as her personal story had to take a backseat for the mane six.

#2 King Sombra

Wait, what? I'm pretty sure this guy is mediocre. Well, maybe...

From my perspective, Sombra has become increasingly divisive as time since the season three premiere. Originally scolded by many for his near-absolute lack of development, more support for Equestria's resident fiesta pony as popped up since release. Which side am I on I think the number is pretty telling. 

Where does this guy rank?
King Sombra by =ShuffleStripes
Again, his model first. The backwards facing horn is a little inane and the pointy teeth have gotten a little repetitive at this point. Ultimately, his model is a little too extravagant  and takes the focus off the cool elements of his design, like the shadow eyes, mane, and tail. It's important to point out, however, that Sombra is cloaked in his shadow form for the majority of the episode. That form I thought was a little hit or miss as well. When the shadow was chasing the mane six and Shining Armor into the Crystal Empire, I actually thought he resembled sort of a clown... while design aspects are generally the most superficial features of a villain, it plays a much more important role for Sombra, as he is more of an intimidation and a threat than a character.

Speaking of his character, where is it exactly? Well, the approach to it definitely deviates from past villains, as it plays out more as a looming and evil threat than personal connection with the mane characters. And you know what? I genuinely believe he did the episode more justice in this role than the two villains I listed above in their respective roles. Sombra demonstrated immense power by enslaving an entire empire of powerful ponies, only to defeated by two demi-gods. He pushes forward Twilight and Spike in their trials inside the crystal castle, a sort of clock, ticking down the moments and making for some very excellent character development.

Additionally, people I've listened to seem to forget that when Twilight travels down below the surface level of the castle, that was created by Sombra. He indirectly played mind games  with Twilight and Spike, testing their knowledge of the empire, its magic, their relationship, and Twilight's own, personal magic. And admittedly on the more speculatory side of things, what if Sombra created that dark magic hoping it would corrupt one of its future users? Reminds me a bit of Harry Potter 6 when Dumbledore gets drunk on that river water. The implications of Sombra's reign and attack seem to extend beyond the surface level of things, at least in my eyes.

Not the deepest of villains, but definitely one of the most powerful and foreboding MLP has yet to offer. 

#1 Diamond Tiara

I'm kiddin' yas! Of course it's Discord! Did you really expect anyone else?

Yes, Discord is the epitome of villains, and not just in MLP, but simply ever. Starting with his design, Discord has rightefully earned his name. From the draconequus' lion paw to his dinosaur looking foot, Discord sounds like a jumbled mess on paper, but somehow the artists still manage to retain a sense of maturity and unconvoluted-ness in his appearance.  It's not something you can really explain, but simply experience and feel for yourself. 

Got something in your eye?
Post ALL the Discord gifs!
To summarize Discord up, he borrows all of the positive elements of previous and future villains and (for the most part) scrapes out the less favorable parts. As I said, Discord takes mind games to the extreme, corrupting the mane six to the point where they're completely different characters, seemingly lost forever. This tugs at not only the audiences heartstrings, but Twilight's as well, and makes us truly care for the characters we already love so much. 

Is Discord without his flaws? Almost. I still have a problem with how an omni-powerful being decides to just shrug off the elements that led to his defeat a millenium ago. But, as with almost every two-parter, time constraints being absent probably would've made this aspect a lot more believable, and perhaps when we inevitably see Discord in the future, this will be addressed. Since then, I get the feeling the MLP writers have been more willing to include actual physical battles in the show, so there's a lot to look forward to.

So that's it for the villains of the show. Maybe I'll ranks some of the minor antagonists in the future. I do like my ranking. Until then, sound off in the comments below why you think Sombra was total trash, or why you thought Chrysalis was way better than I did. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts!