ByRob Clough/March 5, 2020 1:08 pm EST
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic enjoyed a highly successful nine-season run that included a moviethat made over $60 million worldwideand a series of spinoff specials. Though its target audience was young girls, its cultural impact was widespread and deep as it amassed a number of adult fans as well. It spawned an international convention circuit and a fandom fascinated with the most minute details of the show's continuity. While the show never strayed from its central ethos concerning "the magic of friendship," its increasingly sprawling continuity and thrilling battles contributed to a rich sense of characterization and history. Its timeline spreads out over hundreds of years and many dramatic events, and while most of the episodes tend to be about character development and working through friendship problems, the mythology episodes provide tentpoles for each season.
MLP centers around the "Mane Six" (oh yes, there are so many horse puns), friends that are the heroes of the show. Twilight Sparkle is the bookworm whose lack of interest in friendship changes when she's directed to travel to Ponyville by her mentor, Princess Celestia. She makes a variety of new friends, all of whom are different but loving. Applejack is an honest and hardworking farmer. Rarity is a generous fashionista. Fluttershy is a gentle nature lover. Pinkie Pie is an in-your-face bringer of good cheer. Rainbow Dash is a brash, loyal flying daredevil. All of them evolve and grow over the show's run and have their own moments of heroism.
In the early history of what will become Equestria, the land is plagued by the rule of a magically powerful ram named Grogar, who creates the many monsters that haunt the land. After he is banished, Equestria is founded when quarreling factions of Earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi overcome their differences and band together against a horrific winter plagued by monsters called windigos that feed off strife.
A powerful unicorn named Star Swirl the Bearded leads a group of friends called the Pillars against threats like the monstrous Lord Tirek, sirens named the Dazzlings, and a friend warped into a creature called the Pony of Shadows. He also takes on powerful young alicorn sisters named Celestia and Luna as his students. He and the Pillars mysteriously disappear one day.
Celestia and Luna step into leading Equestria in his absence. Celestia's natural ability to raise and lower the sun and Luna's ability to do the same to the moon only scratches the surface of their powers. However, the reality-warping magic of chaos lord Discord is beyond their ability to challenge. They discover magical items called the Elements of Harmony, originally created by Star Swirl, and use them to put an end to the Discord's bizarre reign of terror by turning him to stone. Luna grows jealous of her sister's popularity and is corrupted by an evil force, becoming Nightmare Moon. Celestia banishes her to the moon, ushering in a long period of peace.
The Mane Six and Nightmare Moon
Celestia makes Twilight Sparkle her own personal student. Celestia is cagey and subtly manipulates events, pushing Twilight to a town called Ponyville in advance of a celebration and urging the studious unicorn to make some friends. Other than the baby dragon named Spike that she hatches, Twilight doesn't have time for friends. Concerned about a prophecy foretelling the return of Nightmare Moon and mysterious objects called the Elements of Harmony, Twilight is annoyed by the various ponies who try to befriend her. Applejack talks her into eating a family meal at her farm. Fluttershy can't get enough of Spike despite her initial shyness. Rainbow Dash is goaded into clearing out the skies by Twilight, who isn't prepared for the pegasus' speed. Rarity wants to give Twilight a makeover seconds after meeting her. Pinkie Pie runs away screaming upon meeting Twilight, but it's only because she wants to throw her a party.
Twilight is right about the prophecy, and Nightmare Moon kidnaps Celestia. Twilight's new friends confront her about what she knows, and they set off to find the mysterious Elements. Working together, they overcome obstacles and find the artifacts, discovering that each of them represents a different aspect of the magic of friendship. Pinkie is laughter, Rarity is generosity, Applejack is honesty, Fluttershy is kindness, Rainbow Dash is loyalty, and Twilight is magic. They defeat Nightmare Moon and return her to her original form, reuniting her with her sister. A new team is born.
Discord, Lord of Chaos
"Looks like we're in for a big old storm of chaos!" Heralded by a rain of chocolate milk, Discord breaks out of his stone prison to wreak havoc. The cagey chaos bringerhides the Elements of Harmony and then forces the Mane Six to play with him. He changes their personalities, as Applejack becomes a liar, Rarity a hoarder, Fluttershy a bully, Rainbow Dash a traitor, and Pinkie Pie a grouch. Hiding the Elements is a distraction so he can put his plan into place because breaking up their friendships renders the Elements useless. With a subtle reminder fromCelestia, Twilight remembers how important her friends are and uses a memory spell to restore them. They turn him back into stone.
Months later, Celestia tells the Mane Six that she's freeing Discord from his prison, in an effort to reform him. She tells Fluttershy in particular to make an effort to befriend him. Knowing that the Elements can be used against him at any time, he stays on his best behavior while taking advantage of Fluttershy's kindness. She genuinely likes and even defends him, much to her friends' surprise. When he floods Applejack's farm, he tells Fluttershy that he'll only fix it if she promises to never use her Element against him. She agrees, and Discord freezes Ponyville. When she renounces his friendship, he realizes that he actually treasures it and returns everything to normal. Always a loose cannon, he becomes a force for (mostly) good.
Queen Chrysalis crashes a wedding
Twilight receives word that her brother, Shining Armor, Captain of Canterlot's Royal Guard, is about to get married! While she's bothered that she didn't hear this in person, she's delighted that the bride-to-be is Princess Cadance, her former foalsitter. When the Mane Six arrive in Canterlot, Cadance is cold and demanding, and also monopolizes Shining Armor's attention. WhenTwilight Sparkle calls her out publicly as being evil, she is shamed by everyone.
Turns out Twilight is right! Cadance is actually Chrysalis, Queen of the Changelings! This is a monstrous race that feeds on love in order to gain sustenance, and the power of Shining Armor and Cadance's love makes her incredibly formidable. She traps Twilight underground, but she rescues the real Cadance and they escape Chrysalis' evil bridesmaids.
When they stop the wedding, it's already too late. Chrysalis' changeling army swarms Canterlot and she strikes down Celestia. Twilight distracts Chrysalis, allowing Cadance to snap Shining Armor out of his daze and unite their love into a blinding force that blasts the entire Changeling army out of Canterlot. Cadance truly proves herself to be the Princess of Love, as she and her husband save the day. However, this isn't the last of Queen Chrysalis' schemes.
Return of the Crystal Empire
Celestia summons Twilight and Cadance when she gets a message that says "It has returned." This refers to the Crystal Empire, an ancient region that contains a powerful magic item. Early in Celestia's reign, she banishes the cruel unicorn King Sombra, who enslaves the Empire's populace. He curses the Empire and makes it disappear when he's defeated, and the return of the Kingdom makes Celestia worry about his return as well. Cadance's mission is to spread love in order to thwart him, and Twilight is there to protect her.
Celestia worries for good reason, as Sombra attacks Twilight upon her arrival. The Mane Six escape into the Empire, which Cadance is barely protecting. Sombra keeps up the assault while the heroes try to rally the Crystal Pony populace and locate the Crystal Heart, the missing magical item that can defeat Sombra. Twilight and Spike desperately search for the Crystal Heart while her friends buy time, as the dark crystals of Sombra start penetrating the Empire's shields.
Twilight and Spike overcome a door that shows them their greatest fears and find the Crystal Heart. Sombra is ready for them, trapping Twilight in a crystal prison, but not before she sacrifices her freedom to give Spike the Crystal Heart. He barely escapes as he's thrown from the tower, rescued by Cadance and Shining Armor. Cadance actives the artifact and the darkness is finally banished. She becomes the Crystal Princess and the new ruler of the Crystal Empire.
Princess Twilight Sparkle
Twilight Sparkle's success in the Crystal Empire is part of Celestia's plan. She tells Luna that once Twilight solves this problem, she will be ready for the next step. Celestia is impressed that despite knowing that she was being tested, Twilight risks failure by allowing herself to get captured so Spike can save the day. Celestia sends Twilight a mysterious spellbook with a partially-finished spell by Star Swirl at the end. Twilight can't figure it out but realizes that by reading the fragment, she's caused her friends and fellow Elements of Harmony to swap Cutie Marks– the image that reflects each character's destiny.
When Twilight solves the problem, she sprouts wings and becomes an alicorn Princess, just like Celestia, Luna, and Cadance. She's still a neurotic bookworm, asking if there's a book she can read on how to become a princess, but a princess nonetheless. Her first major crisis comes when the sinister Everfree Forest starts attacking Ponyville and Celestia and Luna disappear.
Using a memory potion, Twilight learns about the Tree of Harmony, which originally held the Elements. Celestia used them to defeat Discord, but when the Mane Six give them back, the restored tree obliterates the invasive Plunderseeds. Turns out Discord scattered them before his first defeat; it just takes forever for them to overcome the Tree. He opted not to share this information because he didn't want to "rob (her) of a valuable lesson about being a princess."
Lord Tirek and the Tree of Harmony
The Tree of Harmony manifests a chest with six locks on it. Through their personal experiences, the Mane Six realize that gifts given to them related to making selfless decisions turn into keys for everyone except Twilight. They can't open the chest without that last key.
Meanwhile, Lord Tirek escapes from his prison in Tartarus and starts to steal the magic from every unicorn in Equestria. Celestia opts to send Discord to stop him, which confuses Twilight, who feels lost in her new role as Princess. However, Tirek convinces Discord to switch sides, which is horrible because he plans to go after Celestia next.
Celestia's counter is to give the combined magical power of Luna, Cadance, and herself to Twilight and then tells her to hide. Discord tells Tirek where to find Twilight and then double-crosses Discord, absorbing his power. A ferocious magical battle results between Tirek and Twilight. Realizing they're too evenly matched, Tirek reveals that he's taken Twilight's friends as captives. He releases them in exchange for her magic, and Twilight demands Discord too, despite his betrayal. A touched and truly repentant Discord gives her a gift, and they realize it's the sixth key.
The team makes it to the Tree of Harmony before Tirek can destroy it, and it unlocks new magic that returns him to prison, restores everyone's magic, and creates a new castle for Twilight. She understands at last that she's the Princess of Friendship.
Redeeming Starlight Glimmer
The new castle shows Twilight a map that reveals friendship problems in Equestria. First stop: a quiet village where every pony has the same cutie mark, an equal sign. This is a village ruled in terror by Starlight Glimmer, a powerful unicorn deeply resentful of friendships. After she's defeated and the village is freed, she escapes and plots revenge.
She steals a scroll that lets her go back in time, foiling the sequence of events that eventually leads the Mane Six to become friends. Each time, the result is disastrous for the future, as monsters like Sombra or Tirek take over the land. A furious Starlight Glimmer finally reveals why she hates Twilight and her friends so much: because she was separated from her only friend Sunburst when she was young. Twilight encourages her to try again, and her distraught foe agrees. Twilight makes Starlight her pupil.
When Cadance and Shining Armor have a foal, it's a cause for celebration. The only problem is that the powerful baby accidentally knocks out the Crystal Heart of the Crystal Empire. Starlight Glimmer, with the help of her renewed friendship with Sunburst, saves the day. When Chrysalis captures every powerful being in Equestria, Starlight puts together a ragtag rescue team withDiscord, former villain Trixie, and a reformed changeling named Thorax. The group confronts Chrysalis in her throne room and wins when Thorax shares love with her willingly. He inspires a changeling revolt, and Chrysalis flees. Starlight comes full circle into redemption.
Saving the pillars and the School of Friendship
Sunburst uncovers Star Swirl's lost journal, which reveals his fate. He and the other Pillars were dragged to Limbo when they banished the Pony of Shadows. Discovering the Pillars' magic totems, Twilight brings them back, only to discover to her horror that she brought back the evil Pony as well. The Pony claims to have been betrayed, and Twilight learns that he was originally a friend named Stygian who brought the Pillars together in the first place.
They cast him out after he was caught stealing and he turned to darkness. Turns out it was all a misunderstanding, and the combined Pillars and Mane Six save Stygian, banish the darkness, and heal a friendship. Star Swirl starts to understand how powerful friendship truly is.
Twilight and her friends save Equestria from the menace of theStorm King and meet Queen Novo and her hippogriffs, who can live on the land or underwater. In the course of their adventures beyond Equestria's borders, the magic map expands and Twilight decides to open a School of Friendship. Her friends become teachers and she opens its doors to all sorts of creatures.
An unlikely group of students becomes friends. There's a snarky griffin named Gallus, a friendly Earth pony named Sandbar, an awkward yak named Yona, a tough-seeming dragon called Smolder, an eager-to-please changeling named Ocellus, and an energetic hippogriff named Silverstream. These are the Young Six, and their friendship will save the world.
Cozy Glow: worst friend ever
The School of Friendship is a smashing success. The Young Six befriend an overeager pegasus named Cozy Glow, who struggles with the friendship assignments but starts to excel thanks to them. When magic starts to disappear across Equestria, everyone suspects that Tirek must have escaped. The Mane Six go to Tartarus to find out, and Twilight leaves Starlight in charge, with Cozy Glow assisting her.
This is just what Cozy Glow wants, because she's been corresponding with Tirek in order to learn how to drain Equestria's magic. The Mane Six are trapped in Tartarus thanks to a boobytrapped key that Cozy Glow gave them. She believes that friendship is power, and plans to become Empress of Friendship. She uses magical artifacts belonging to different creatures' cultures, trapping Starlight and others. The only ones who suspect her are the Young Six.
Unbeknownst to her, the Tree of Harmony is actually sentient and takes an interest in the Young Six, testing their friendship. After Cozy Glow traps them in the same magical field, the Tree intervenes and the Young Six tap into her magic, defeating Cozy Glow. Magic is restored throughout Equestria, and Cozy Glow gets sent to Tartarus.
Queen Twilight Sparkle
With peace reigning over Equestria, Celestia reveals her endgame: retirement, with Twilight as her successor. Unbeknownst to her, Grogar returns and forms a superteam of villains to take down the Mane Six. He frees Sombra, Tirek, Cozy Glow, and Chrysalis and demands that they obey him. When they chafe, he tells them that they keep losing because the Mane Six work together. Sombra ignores him and tries to destroy Twilight by himself. The result: he is blasted into dust even after he manages to destroy the Tree of Harmony.
The other villains agree to team up, but they quickly scheme against Grogar. Finding the powerful Bewitching Bell, they overpower him. He's revealed as Discord in disguise, trying in his own way to prepare Twilight to become Queen. The villains scheme to sow dissent amongst the different races in Equestria. They capture all of their enemies except Twilight, but even when the Mane Six escape with Discord's help, they despair at Equestria's acrimony.
The Tree of Harmony works with the Young Six all along as they help restore it. They unite the races of Equestria into an army that helps defeat the villains. The combined magic of the Mane Six, the Pillars, and the Young Six depower them, and Celestia turns them to stone.
Decades later, Twilight rules Equestria with her friends as the Council of Friendship. She sends her best student, Luster Dawn, to Ponyville so she can learn the same lessons that she needed years earlier.