Integrity is a virtue, and thus is oft scarce in villainous circles, which drives me nuts because it seems like the reason it’s scarce is merely just because it’s a virtue. A primary example is in whether or not a villain keeps his word. Villains promise a lackey something and then renege on the deal so frequently it’s more of a surprise when they don’t. But there’s two problems with this lack of virtue – the first is that villains are not amalgams of all things evil, but instead people, and the second is that integrity, although virtuous, can also be self-serving.
This brings me to the My Little Pony movie, which I will be doomed to watch repeatedly forever because I have a little girl. I already miss the days she watched Totoro on repeat and this is only the second time I’ve had to watch the movie. I give it in general a solid Acceptable, but the way Twilight Sparkle acts so flipping out of character, the lack of Starlight Glimmer, and the insufferability of the Storm King make it grating on my nerves. We’re going to talk about that third one.
Overall, the Storm King doesn’t impress me as a villain; his personality is okay I guess, but he doesn’t actually do a lot. Also he predictably tells his lackey Tempest, a unicorn with a broken horn, that he’ll restore her horn in exchange for the power to control storms only to, you guessed it, renege when she delivers. “I used you! Trololololol!”
Here’s the reason that one thing grates more than anything else in the entire movie (except for the part where Twilight uses friendship as a distraction to steal a McGuffin. Seriously!? It’s so out of character it burns!): this lack of integrity is the single stupidest thing ever. There is no reason not to restore Tempest’s horn unless he literally cannot do it, which is not addressed. You can argue it’s just his personality but that makes him a crappy villain. Tempest has proven to be an incredibly competent henchman, one who delivered exactly what she said she would in the time frame she said she would. That’s amazing for a minion.
When you have a valuable minion, you want to keep that minion around. Thus, the integrity of keeping your word, or at least trying to, is self-serving. People you betray don’t tend to stick around, especially not in the villain world. And given that Tempest is so competent, she’s not really someone you want to piss off into a heel-face turn, now is she? Given that it’s her quickly adjusted loyalty to Twilight that causes the Storm King’s ultimate demise, the answer to that one’s gonna be a solid no.
In any case, you keep telling people one thing to get them to do for you and then throwing them away when they’ve done without keeping your promise, you’re gonna get a reputation. Then no one will work for you anymore. And yeah, maybe you just need the one thing from the one person, and then after they deliver the McGuffin or whatever, if you betray them, it won’t matter because you have it all – but that’s a gambit that requires caution and care, especially for the genre savvy villain because it’s almost never actually over at that point. That was certainly the case with the Storm King. He had the power to command the sun, moon, and the weather – but he still wound up turned to stone and smashed to pieces. Which wouldn’t have happened if he’d just restored the dang horn.
That does bring up another point – maybe the power of the four princesses wasn’t enough to restore Tempest’s horn; maybe the Storm King suspected that he’d never be able to actually do it, so he made a promise he knew he couldn’t keep to trick Tempest into doing his bidding. The reveal at the end makes it clear to me that this angle wasn’t considered in the writing of the movie, or at least not proprely considered because it wasn’t properly addressed; I wish that it had, that perhaps he’d stated this reason for not restoring her, rather than just that he uses people and that’s that. Would have been more plausible to me, rather than just the “lol I’m a villain what did you expect?” angle. Because it adds depth, see? It’s not just a villain deciding not to do something he could do so far as anyone knows, because he’s a villain and villains are Not Nice People who don’t keep their promises for no reason. The scenario where he didn’t because he couldn’t and he lied about being able to is one where the deception feels deeper, and the reason for the lack of integrity isn’t “just because”. He has real motive for lying – saying he could when he can’t is the only way to get Tempest to ferociously carry out his bidding. The way things are, he doesn’t have a real motivation for not keeping his end of the bargain.
I’d also like to mention that there’s something terrifying knowing that a villain has a strong sense of integrity – because knowing he’ll keep his word, that he keeps promises, is not always a matter of receiving reward for a job well done. There are other kinds of promises, too.
Sometimes integrity is a built-in threat.