I know people made fun of Sunset Shimmer's "takeover Equestria with the mind-controlled population of a high school" plan, and it rightly does seem ridiculous, but I think it could have worked. The biggest assets she had under her control were her own versions of Celestia and Luna, who would (we can assume) become powerful Alicorns the moment they stepped through the portal. I could see Shimmer being able to transfer the knowledge of walking on all fours and casting spells to her thralls, so they wouldn't necessarily have to flail around like Twilight getting the hang of their new bodies. And so Shimmer wouldn't even need to "conquer" Equestria... Just get the existing Princesses out of the way and place her versions on the throne. If she could take the Crystal Palace by surprise and subterfuge and have a plan for removing the princesses, the rest of Equestria would never even know they had been conquered. And if push came to shove, she could always create herself a few more demon ponies... or even demon alicorns.
It's not the worst hand to play, by any means... and that's assuming she didn't have additional assets to her plan beyond what we knew about.
Because I dislike the fact that all are humans so much, I haven't done real thoughts on the movie and I hadn't thought on the fact that she also must had the human Celestia and the human Luna under her control!
This movie suddenly became 20% more epic now!
But there's still the plothole at the end of the movie left, with the impossible defeat of Sunset Shimmer......
Still, it was nice to see a pony antagonist/villain that was just plain malicious on her own.
... a few moments before mind-controlling everyone she demonstrates that she has the power to turn her minions into demons. Looks like all the plan you need right there.
Why does everyone forget she has this ability?
Agreed. Did she chose SS because she was the best, the first, the only one? I don't know, but I suppose we'll find out eventually.
" Additionally, how much of Twilight's fears about disappointing Celestia could stem from following a much less-faithful student?"
Given the movie, I don't think Twilight knew of SS until she appeared back in Equestria to steal the crown. Celestia could have explained it to Twilight personally and in the movie she was explaining it to the others, so she could be filling everyone else in on the details, but it also begs the question of why Celestia would tell Twilight alone in the first place.
"...'takeover Equestria with the mind-controlled population of a high school' plan..."
If anything, without the crown, the Elements of Harmony are rendered useless, and while there are other means of defense, I'd bet it difficult for the Equestrians to mount any defense against her, especially since she'd be coming through the portal unexpectedly and with all guns blazing.
"It's not the worst hand to play, by any means... and that's assuming she didn't have additional assets to her plan beyond what we knew about."
Given she played the game in the movie, she's at least smart enough to know when not to cause a ruckus, so the idea of her quietly infiltrating Equestria is not out of the question.
I couldn't resist adding to your description, you drew me in like a moth to the flame. You have some of the best analyses I've seen, you give a lot of benefit to the doubt and look for the alternative if it's possible, and by the sounds of things, your experiences guide your judgements as opposed to emotion alone, how very wise good sir.
MY GOSH... the timing for this is uncanny. JUST LAST NIGHT I decided to go on a Sunset Tangent and converted myself from hating her to loving her... AND THE VERY NEXT DAY THIS APPEARS.
I LOVE IT
Oh, and now I have another excuse to use that hysterical head-whacking emoticon!