Animation Break: My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic S4 (Spoilers!)

The third season of the show was shorter compared to the rest, and ended with a gamechanger that was pretty divisive within the show’s fan community. Thus, the fourth season had the challenge of addressing these issues, while making sure that there was good character progression for our protagonists within the span of twenty-six seasons. Aside from this, they also managed to pull off an actual season long arc, which had plenty of build up from the season premiere all the way to the season finale. Thankfully, although there were some moments and episodes that did have some issues, they were able to pull off a strong and solid season.

One of the things that I truly enjoyed about the fourth season, especially upon watching it again is that I was able to pick up more moral lessons embedded within the stories aside from what the main lesson was. This meant that they were beginning to come up with stories that were more layered, and contained more complex lessons. However, even though that they are more complex, I found that most of the lessons were relatable from both a child’s and an adult’s point of view.

Aside from this, I greatly appreciated the character development that characters went through, and the fact that they were able to come up with more episodes in which they were able to find the right balance for each of the Mane Six to shine in episodes that featured them. There were also more episodes in which I feel that they were written more consistently.

Spike (Cathy Weseluck) was also written better this season. The Cutie Mark Crusaders (CMC) each got their chance to shine, as they had one episode each that focused on each of them, and one collective episode.

Interestingly enough, there were some great pay-offs as well, especially with regards to the Equestria Games and with the character of Discord (John de Lancie).

This is also the ONLY season in which an episode makes me cry over and over again when I see it. And when I say cry, I mean somewhere in between teary eyed, and just right out bawling like I do whenever I watch a Korean drama. That honor goes to “Pinkie Pride”, in which tears such stream down my face all the time when I watch it.

As usual, the background music and the songs were just stellar. Watching these episodes again also made me appreciate how far the animation team has gotten as there were really some scenes that impressed me this time around.

My top ten favorite episodes for this particular season are “Pinkie Pride”, “Flight to the Finish”, “Pinkie Apple Pie”, “Simple Ways”, “Twilight’s Kingdom Pts I & II”, “Rarity Takes Manehattan”, “Castle Mane-ia”, “Testing, Testing, 1, 2,3”, “Princess Twilight Sparkle Pts. I & II”, and “For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils”. Honorable mentions include “Equestria Games”, “Maud Pie” and “Somepony to Watch Over Me”.

Now, you know the drill. There will be spoilers beyond this point, you have been warned!

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Before we talk about the season long story arc and the character progression of the Mane Six and Discord, I’d like to talk about how Spike and the Cutie Mark Crusaders were done this season.

“Power Ponies”, Spike’s first episode of the season, wasn’t a great one for him as they were too heavy handed in doling out the moral lesson, and I was more interested in seeing the Mane Six as superheroines. However, “Inspiration Manifestation” and “Equestria Games” were good episodes for him. Sure, he did share “Inspiration Manifestation” with Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain), but I’m glad that he did learn a lesson, and one that I hope will stick. “Equestria Games” was a great episode, not only because we finally got to see the Equestria Games happen while the main storyline was going on, but because Spike learned a really valuable lesson in learning how to see his self worth. Also, the way he’s reacting and accepting things is more mature than how he handled himself in past seasons.

Now, as much as I did like the collective CMC episode (“Twilight Time”), I enjoyed the stories that focused on a particular member more.

Sweetie Belle (Clarie Corlett) got some help from Princess Luna (St. Germain) in her dreams after she became jealous of Rarity who she thought was trying to outshine her. Also, there was great continuity as she uses magic more often now.

Apple Bloom’s (Michelle Creber) story was also a great Applejack (Ashleigh Ball) episode, but I’m glad that they chose to focus on a sibling story for Apple Bloom instead of the usual thing about getting her cutie mark.

Scootaloo’s (Madeleine Peters), however, was the best one as I loved “Flight to the Finish”, it gave us a great Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash (Ball) moment, and because it addressed her handicap- that she can’t fly like other pegasi. However, I love that the message here is that whether or not she flies or not, she’ll still be awesome.

Now, with regards to the Mane Six, this season featured more of them together in slice of life ensemble episodes. “Castle Mane-ia” was an excellent episode full of great character interactions, and I forgot how funny it was. (Seriously, I was laughing my head off at a certain point). “Trade Ya!” was also a great ensemble episode as well with great comedy, character interactions, and as no one particularly stood out. This, for me, outweighs the fact that “Daring Don’t” just made most of them background ponies, and weren’t really needed in the episode.

This season saw the first season long story arc, which they built up throughout the season, and allowed it to culminate in the season finale. Here, the Mane Six had to find their own individual keys in order to open up the chest that the Tree of Harmony gave them, after they surrendered their Elements to save it from dying. Each pony’s element was tested, and in a way, it also showed that even without their particular element with them, it will always be with them, as it is something that comes from within them. I also liked that they no longer have the Elements of Harmony as it changes things a bit for the show as well.  Each “Key” story, however, does allow for each of the characters to grow, as well as teaching at least one other pony and changing their lives for the better.

Fluttershy (Andrea Libman) had some really great episodes this season which did show some continuity and character progression. “Bats!”, aside from giving us Flutterbat, allowed her to learn not only to stand her ground, but not to give in to peer pressure when she knows that they are wrong. “Filli Vanilli” allows her not only to stand her ground, but taught her that sometimes your expectations and fears are actually much worse than what you expect. I also liked the fact that she didn’t overcome her fear of performing on stage overnight, and acknowledges that “baby steps” are needed for her to work on it. Her key episode was great as it not only gave us a new location, but taught her that sometimes, being kind to someone requires you to be firm.

Even though “Inspiration Manifestation” was technically a Spike episode, it was interesting to see Rarity become a villain determined on enforcing her vision of beauty on the world. “Rarity Takes Manehattan”, her key episode, saw her at her best and at her worst, and in the end, she realized that just because others can take advantage of your generosity doesn’t mean that you should stop being generous. Plus, that episode also gave us Coco Pommell! “Simple Ways”, which is also another episode with Rarity at her worst, was such a great episode as it taught that changing yourself in order for someone to like you is never the way to go. However, I loved how Rarity had a mental break in this episode, and how Applejack snapped her out of it. Also, I love that her relationship with Sweetie Belle is getting stronger and stronger.

Many feel that Rainbow Dash (Ball) was behaving out of character during “Daring Don’t”, but “Rainbow Falls”, “Flight to the Finish”,  and “Trade Ya!” all contained some great character moments for Rainbow. “Flight to the Finish” sees Rainbow being a good mentor and older sister to Scootaloo, and “Trade Ya!”,  although an ensemble episode, has Rainbow’s and Fluttershy’s subplot take more prominence. I loved everything that they had to go through, and I was genuinely surprised that they decided to flip burgers and serve them as fast as they could so that the stall owner would re-open the stall for them, instead of talking to everypony in line before him. “Rainbow Falls” saw Rainbow being given a chance to fly with the Wonderbolts for the Equestria games, and since she was torn between her loyalty to her dream and her home, she decided to fake that she was sick so that she wouldn’t have to choose. In the end,  she did what was right, and stuck to her home town. I also like the fact that she was able to manage her expectations during the Equestria Games and was okay with coming in second in the aerial relay. However, all throughout the season, I could see that Rainbow was more mature than before. “Testing, Testing, 1,2,3” was a great Rainbow episode as it not only allowed her to have another hoof forward in getting her dream of being a Wonderbolt, but it also showed that Rainbow is pretty great at multi-tasking, something she never thought of before.

Thankfully, this season did have a lot of Applejack episodes that surprised me. Sure, we still see how stubborn and inflexible she can be at times, but the stories that they gave her, weren’t just the same old. “Somepony to Watch Over Me” saw Applejack admitting that she isn’t ready to let Apple Bloom go, as she is growing up, and learns how to actually trust her younger sister to do things by herself, make mistakes and grow from them. “Pinkie Apple Pie” sees Applejack being overbearing and trying to have her family make a good impression towards Pinkie Pie (Libman), who might be related to them. In the end, she does learn that no family is perfect, and wonderfully enough, it’s Pinkie who teaches it to them. It is still not confirmed whether Pinkie is related to them or not, but I’d like to think that she is. It just makes sense. Finally, we have Applejack’s key episode, “Leap of Faith”, which tested her honesty, after Flim and Flam come up with a placebo tonic that gives Granny Smith a big boost of confidence. Here, Applejack realized that no matter how much she loves seeing Granny being confident and happy, this belief in herself would be for nothing if it was based on a lie.

For me, as compared to Season Three, even though she was still really random in Season Four, Pinkie Pie was better written in this season. This season also made me realize something about Pinkie which caused me to reevaluate some things about her. You see, in “Filli Vanilli”, many were upset at how Pinkie was behaving, babbling on and on about how Flutterhsy just lived her worst nightmare. However, if you pay attention, she actually asks if she went overboard, and Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong)  explained what Pinkie really meant to see. So, Pinkie isn’t mean spirited or stupid, it’s just that sometimes, she needs to be reminded of some things because she can miss the point, be clueless, miss social cues, and isn’t effective sometimes at communicating what she really wants to say at times. This made me pause for a bit, because as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, this is something that happens to me a lot. However, I don’t mean to say that she has. It’s that she just reminds me of myself in that aspect. Pinkie’s key episode, “Pinkie Pride”, is my favorite episode of the season and among the key episodes. (This episode also makes me cry all the time. It’s because it’s rare to see Pinkie down, so when she is down and sad, it is a big deal.) Here, aside from tact, and good communication with each other, Pinkie realized that she had broken her promise to Rainbow for her bith-eversary to be fun because she was getting overwhelmed and even physically hurt by Pinkie’s and Cheese Sandwhich’s (Al Yankovic) goof off. Here, she wasn’t creating fun for others, but for her benefit, which led to Pinkie being mature and forfeiting the “goof off”. This shows real maturity from her. I also love the fact that in some episodes in which you would think she’d be the main focus, it’s someone else who learns the lesson.

And finally, let’s move on to Twilight Sparkle. I like that they showed that she still had to adjust to her wings and to her new role in Equestria. In fact, everything that she went through, participating in royal functions, and becoming more of a voice of reason and mentor to others, really prepared her for the finale, in which she finally realized and discovered her true purpose- she is the Princess of Friendship. And, interestingly enough, she discovered this, and got her key through Discord.

“Princess Twilight Sparkle” was able to shake up the status quo of the show, while the epic “Twilight’s Kingdom”, which had great visuals, story and villain, served to test Twilight with her main element- magic. However, I ended up realizing that this was so much more than just her magic being tested. I believe that her magic is more friendship based than just pure magic, which is why that was being tested. And she showed it not just because she was willing to sacrifice everything for her friends, but because she was willing to sacrifice everything for Discord, even though he did betray them. As for Discord, although he was “reformed”, this episode served as his true first step into truly becoming better.

It also makes sense that Twilight’s castle would be in Ponyville, because that’s where it all started; and it also makes sense that although she would be performing more royal duties, she will tackle friendship problems with her friends, as her element is nothing without the rest of the Elements of Harmony. Also, it makes sense that they’d still be an important part of what they do since the castle came from the Tree of Harmony itself.

Now, I think that Twilight will be the last alicorn princess in Equestria. Princess Luna and Celestia (Nicole Oliver) control nature and the weather; Princess Cadance (Britt McKillip) takes care of the Crystal Empire and brings about love; while Princess Twilight is in charge of maintaining friendships and diplomatic relations with not only ponies in the cities we know of, but with other nations as well.

All in all, Season Four was a memorable and solid season that gets better and better the more you rewatch majority of these episodes. All of what was good here outweighed the bad- the first few episodes being a little bit rocky, sometimes characters weren’t being as consistent as we’d like them to be, and Pinkie’s antics in the earlier episodes were a little too much. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be going back to them in the future.

What did you think of season four? What was your favorite episode? What was your least favorite episode? What did you think of each of the Mane Six’s key episodes? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

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