I really liked Sweetie Belle's dream sequence in this one; that was very cool, very dream-like. Very nightmarish at the end, too; it actually surprised me how much given that this is a kids' show, especially when Sweetie Belle was crying for Luna to let her wake up, but then the show's shown before that it's anything but afraid to shatter traditional molds that prescribe what kids' TV shows can or can't be like (and 'sides, kids are probably tougher than adults give 'em credit for, anyway). Getting back to the dream, it was also neat how Sweetie Belle and Luna were made slightly translucent, and how the dolphin motif that would become important later on already appeared in it; that's just two more examples of those "little things" I appreciate so much.
And I loved seeing Luna again, of course — she's a perennial favorite! Was it just me, BTW, or did she sound slightly different in this episode? Well, either way, it was also nice to see her dreamwalking ability to help ponies again, the second time after Sleepless in Ponyville. And the nod to Dickens' A Christmas Carol was obvious, what with Luna showing Sweetie Belle the past (her fifth birthday), the present (Rarity's fussing over Sapphire Shores's order) and future (Rarity being ruined, in just about every sense of the word). I also wonder how much power Luna has over other ponies' dreams, all things considered. My guess is that she can enter them, perhaps influence them, nudge them in certain directions and guide them, but not control them — or let the dreamers wake up on a whim, as Sweetie Belle was crying for.
I'll admit I was a little surprised when Luna appeared in the flesh in Sapphire Shores's studio later on. Getting in was probably easy for her, given that the security guard couldn't even stop three little fillies (and that's assuming they'd even TRY to stop the Princess to begin with), but why was she there? I'm still puzzling over that.
Seeing Sapphire Shores again was neat as well, of course, and I love how a comparatively minor character from a single episode three seasons ago can appear in the show again like that; it's testament to how rich the MLP:FiM universe is.
In the same vein, Luna made at least two statements that hinted at this deep background as well: "I too have a sister who often shines more brightly than me, and with this, I have struggled", and "Go see what the future holds if you fail to rein in your worst instincts, as I once did". Whatever the current relationship of the two royal sisters, it must be a complex one, and I think Luna's first statement there shows that the two of them are conceived of as real characters who have both struggled to adjust to the changes of recent years; meanwhile, her second statement also indicates to me that her transformation into Night Mare Moon was borne out of herself, not imposed by external forces. As I've mentioned before, this is something I feel fairly strongly about: we all have the capacity for evil in us, and attributing evil to external corruption would be taking the easy way out, introducing shallowness and superficiality, and missing (worse, deliberately eschewing) the chance to make a subtle yet important statement that pertains to real life as much as fiction.
Anyhow. What else?
I was surprised by how vengeful Sweetie Belle was at first, but given the events of her 5th birthday and how she misunderstood them, I'm not entirely surprised. That really was cruel — unintentionally so, but still.
Rarity confirms again that she works well under pressure: not just in word but also in deed. (Wish I could say the same thing about myself!) The rest of the Mane Six, meanwhile, are happy to help out when it comes to dressmaking (and after Rarity Takes Manehattan they've already got the necessary know-how!), but when faced with a livid Sweetie Belle, they'll still politely excuse themselves — even Twilight. Well, it IS family matters, of course, and no doubt they'd be there if Rarity asked for their help.
I noted with amusement that Sweetie Belle calls Luna "Luna", rather than "Princess Luna", "your Highness" or so. Well, fillies, I suppose — that, or ponies just don't care so much about titles and decorum and all that.
Sweetie Belle's attempt at old-fashioned speech in her play was adorable, forsooth! Pity that we didn't get to see that one, but obviously there was no time for it, and it wasn't directly relevant to the main plot. Also, funny how noone seemed to pay much attention to the CMC at the reception afterwards despite them having gotten a standing ovation, wasn't it? Sure, Rarity's dresses were dazzling, but you don't get a standing ovation without the rest of the play being good, too.
No song again, alas. Well, maybe next episode!
All in all? A very good episode that I really enjoyed!
Elsewhere: discussion in broniesaremagic.