In the last part of my season 4 reviews, I wrap up loose ends, give assorted minor observations on some episodes, and give my series-to-date favorite episode and favorite pony rankings!
Season 4 in Final Review
Princess Twilight Sparkle: B+
Castle Mane-ia: B+
Daring Don’t: B
Flight to the Finish: A+
Power Ponies: B
Pinkie Apple Pie: A+
Rainbow Falls: C-
Three’s A Crowd: B
Pinkie Pride: S
Simple Ways: C+
Filli Vanilli: B
Twilight Time: B
It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies: F
Somepony to Watch Over Me: A-
Maud Pie: A+
For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils: B
Leap of Faith: D+
Testing Testing 1, 2, 3: A
Trade Ya!: B-
Inspiration Manifestation: B
Equestria Games: B
Twilight’s Kingdom: A
Season 4 began with a powerful opening salvo reminiscent of season 2, stringing together a showcase of consistently good episodes straight up until Pinkie Pride. Season 2’s salvo was stronger (two S grades, two A+, and an A), but season 4’s lasted longer (12 episodes vs. 10). I remember telling a friend, probably right around Flight to the Finish, that season 4 had washed away season 3 for me—meaning that this was the real season 3, that the quality never dropped and those were just mediocre memories that I owned on DVD mostly for completionism’s sake.
At the point of Simple Ways, though, things went downhill pretty quickly. There are still five episodes afterward with an A- or better, but otherwise the season 3 feeling returned through an extended run of good-but-not-great episodes. This is where personal tilt comes in. I’d actually rather have the show dare to try something and not quite hit the mark with me, like Bats! in season 4 or Dragon Quest in season 2, each a C+, than play it safe with a technically fine but ultimately uninspired and uninspiring episode like Trade Ya! or Twilight Time, B- and B episodes respectively.
Oftentimes “B” (or B-) stands for “backhanded compliment,” meaning that I had a good time with an episode but it didn’t stick with me. Season 4’s initial burst of creativity petered out over time, stopping with only a few exceptions after Rarity Takes Manehattan or Pinkie Pride. That would be fine if the execution was there, and certainly the wonderful animators, composers, and voice actors never let me down. It’s the writers who didn’t always deliver, unfortunately.
Still, I feel it’s best if I grade a season not on its average, but on the episodes that do stick with me and that I’ll be sure to return to time and again. On that metric, season 4 earns a spot above season 1 but still a small notch below the near-flawless season 2. There’s a lot to love here and a large percentage of it is among the series’ very, very best.
Odds and Ends
I’d always assumed that the line “I’ve watched you from that very first day” in Magical Mystery Cure was a figure of speech and that the hall of memories was a visual metaphor, but Castle Mane-ia really doesn’t help my case; at one point Twilight is pondering how to open the Tree of Harmony box and wonders if she should try the library at Canterlot, then immediately Princess Celestia sends a letter that begins with the word “Actually.” She heard her conversation? All the way from Canterlot?
Beware, Twilight. Big Sister is watching you.
Rainbow Falls and Filli Vanilli
This didn’t occur to me until later when reviewing Trade Ya!, but if Fluttershy is scared to perform on stage, why did she even agree to be part of a team in Rainbow Falls that would eventually go on to participate in the Equestria Games themselves? I’m totally willing to kick Filli Vanilli out of my headcanon right about now and I don’t say that for just anything!
Considering the events of May the Best Pet Win!, I actually thought Rainbow Dash would be excited for a big, tense competition on her birthiversary.
Aside from that, Cheese expresses a metaphysical belief in either determinism or the B-theory of time (which, granted, might well imply determinism): “I was ready before I was born.” In fairness to him, this is a universe with time travel, which is more likely to be possible on the B-theory of time. Then again, it’s also a form of time travel performed by magic.
I’ve gotta say this episode has some curious presuppositions. When Applejack and Rarity say to each other “Because I know you” as proof that the other can’t be interested in fashion or farming respectively, the show has covertly slipped in a rejection of David Hume, the famous skeptic who put forth the notion that inductive reasoning is—
Oh. Sorry. Forgot that’s only interesting to philosophy lovers like me. =P
In all seriousness, though, why is it totally implausible that Rarity has developed a new hobby? If she did, would that in some way make her “not Rarity”? Is the abstract notion of character subject to the assumptions of mereological essentialism? In other words, if I change my mind, do I become a new person? If that’s the case, then that actually means “I” can’t grow as a person, because as soon as I change, the old dies and the new is born, just like in the B-theory of time—
Oh. Sorry. Forgot that’s only interesting to philosophy lovers like me. =P
It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies
Serious review: I was dead bored for the entire thing except that amazing Rarity joke and a couple seconds of Fluttershy wearing a bee costume. That’s more entertainment than Apple Family Reunion had, admittedly, but it’s not saying much.
Somepony to Watch Over Me
I’ve heard people say that Applejack is out of character in this episode. There’s a very easy joke I could make about this—and I will! If her character is Boredom Incarnate with a dash of Moral Perfection, then I totally agree. In this episode, she’s not that.
In all seriousness, treating this with 100% sincerity, until this episode I couldn’t have named a character trait for Applejack other than “hard-working” and “athletic,” the latter of which has been absent this side of The Last Roundup anyway.
Leap of Faith and Trade Ya!
All the pictures I used for my reviews came from the MLP wiki. I gathered them as I did each episode and one funny consequence came out… I put up the review with Leap of Faith in it going over a laundry list of controversial minority opinions I wouldn’t be surprised to see. The very next day, my review started with Trade Ya! and what should I find in the comments but someone saying they had a problem with the episode because the barter system is unfair and similar to communism.
Like I said: stick your head into the philosophical waters and nothing will surprise you anymore.
Twilight’s Kingdom (and Castle Mane-ia again)
Ironically, even though Pinkie Pride just affirmed determinism, Twilight’s Kingdom affirms free will since “You’ll Play Your Part” is founded on a metaphysical assumption that choice isn’t an illusion.
Other than that…
I’ll admit that besides Princess Celestia and Discord, there is one other obvious candidate for smartest character in the show: Pinkie Pie. No, it’s not because she has some kind of eidetic memory and can recall the birthdays of every pony in town. That’s not what I’d call intelligence.
A truly great mind is a creative mind: inventive, independent, and trailblazing. A truly great mind may not always introduce fully new ideas, but it can create ideas that aren’t presented to it. Star Swirl the Bearded, therefore, is a great mind; he created over two hundred spells. (Also note: in the comics his personality is compared to Pinkie!) While Pinkie Pie might not be quite that far yet, she invented a flying machine in Griffon the Brush-Off.
In Castle Mane-ia she intuitively grasps how to play an organ with no prior experience, which shows that she has strong problem-solving abilities and can relate her knowledge of other instruments to the organ despite their very different natures. (Similarly, in Pinkie Pride she displays a knowledge of Spanish; I for one wouldn’t be surprised to find out that picks up languages as quickly as she does musical instruments.)
Most importantly, she appears totally unconcerned with conventional wisdom. I’m guessing that MMMystery on the Friendship Express would be taken as the best evidence that Pinkie’s not too bright, but here’s the thing (and I cannot overstress this enough): genius is always insane until it’s proven correct. Genius is not listening to whatever books and Princess Celestia tell you. Genius doesn’t report to you what every page of Wikipedia says; genius challenges what every page of Wikipedia says. Pinkie’s ideas in MMMystery may be pretty ludicrous, but even our reality here on Earth has a natural tendency toward the ludicrous. She may well be more on the right track than any of us.
Series-to-Date Pony Rankings
(plus some other integral non-pony characters; comes courtesy of this but I had to add in a few names manually)
- Pinkie Pie
- Cheese Sandwich
- Rainbow Dash
- Maud Pie
- Sweetie Belle
- Apple Bloom
- Coco Pommel
- Princess Luna
- Diamond Tiara
- Flim and Flam
- Princess Celestia
- Suri Polomare
- Vinyl Scratch
- Daring Do
- Queen Chrysalis
- Lightning Dust
- Fancy Pants
- Prince Blueblood
- Sapphire Shores
- Bon Bon
- Twilight Sparkle
- Princess Cadance
- Nightmare Moon
- Photo Finish
- Bulk Biceps
- Big Macintosh
- Silver Spoon
- Berry Punch
There are some others, but none of them matter enough to me to mention.
Series-to-Date Episode Rankings
(courtesy of this)
♫ There goes the super party pony episode! ♫
1. Pinkie Pride (first-place Pinkie Pie episode, first-place Amy Keating Rogers)
2. A Friend in Deed
3. Lesson Zero (first-place Twilight Sparkle, first-place Meghan McCarthy)
4. Party of One
5. Suited for Success (first-place Rarity, first-place Charlotte Fullerton)
6. Sweet and Elite
♫ I’m the belle of the ball, the star of the show, yeah~ ♫
7 The Cutie Pox (first-place Cutie Mark Crusader (individual))
8 Maud Pie (only Noelle Benvenuti)
9 Flight to the Finish (first-place Cutie Mark Crusaders (group), first-place Ed Valentine)
10 Pinkie Apple Pie (first-place Natasha Levinger)
11 Too Many Pinkie Pies (first-place Dave Polsky)
12 Sisterhooves Social (first-place Cindy Morrow)
13 Putting Your Hoof Down (first-place Fluttershy, first-place Merriwether Williams)
A and A- Tier
♫ Call me the smile, smile, smile patrol ♫
14 Testing Testing 1, 2, 3 (first-place Rainbow Dash)
15 The Return of Harmony (first-place M. A. Larson)
16 Twilight’s Kingdom
17 Winter Wrap Up
18 Griffon the Brush-Off
19 Somepony to Watch Over Me (first-place Applejack, first-place Scott Sonneborn)
20 Magical Mystery Cure
21 It’s About Time
22 A Canterlot Wedding
23 Owl’s Well That Ends Well (first-place Spike)
♫ We’re the toughest My Little Pony in town! ♫
24 Luna Eclipsed
25 The Best Night Ever
26 Princess Twilight Sparkle
27 Keep Calm and Flutter On
28 The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000
29 Secret of My Excess
30 May the Best Pet Win!
31 Castle Mane-ia (first-place Josh Haber)
32 Rarity Takes Manehattan
33 MMMystery on the Friendship Express
34 Applebuck Season
35 Swarm of the Century (used to be top 10 material for me and I still love it as much as I always have, so it shows how many episodes I really, really love)
36 Sonic Rainboom
37 The Last Roundup
38 Ponyville Confidential
39 Magic Duel
40 Green Isn’t Your Color
B and B- Tier
♫ That crown is upon your head because you belong ♫
41 Feeling Pinkie Keen (if everything at the swamp didn’t exist to instantly halt all comedy, this could be at least twenty spots higher)
42 The Crystal Empire
43 Filli Vanilli
44 For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils
45 Fall Weather Friends
46 Daring Don’t
47 Inspiration Manifestation
48 Bridle Gossip
49 Equestria Games
50 Twilight Time
51 Look BeforeYou Sleep
52 The Ticket Master (first-place Lauren Faust)
53 Just For Sidekicks
54 Power Ponies (only Betsy McGowen)
55 Sleepless in Ponyville
56 Hurricane Fluttershy
57 Three’s a Crowd (last-place Ed Valentine)
58 Friendship is Magic (last-place Lauren Faust)
59 One Bad Apple
60 Hearts and Hooves Day
61 The Mysterious Mare Do Well
62 The Cutie Mark Chronicles
63 Wonderbolts Academy
64 Trade Ya!
65 A Bird in the Hoof
67 The Show Stoppers
♫ You’re invited to a party ’cause we think you’re acceptably swell ♫
68 Simple Ways
69 Read It and Weep
70 Dragon Quest
72 Stare Master (last-place Cutie Mark Crusaders (group), first-place Chris Savino (…eeyup))
73 A Dog and Pony Show (last-place Rarity, last-place Amy Keating Rogers)
C and C- Tier
♫ Fluttershy, pal, this won’t cut it / I need an episode to keep up with me ♫
74 Boast Busters (last-place Twilight Sparkle, last-place Chris Savino)
75 Call of the Cutie
76 Rainbow Falls (last-place Rainbow Dash, last-place Corey Powell)
77 Equestria Girls (last-place Meghan McCarthy)
D+, D, and D- Tier
♫ Will I pass? Or will I fail? I can’t be sure… ♫
78 Leap of Faith (last-place Josh Haber)
79 Spike at Your Service (last-place Spike)
80 Over a Barrel
81 Hearth’s Warming Eve (last-place Merriwether Williams)
82 Family Appreciation Day (last-place Cutie Mark Crusader (individual))
X Tier: Episodes That Never Happened
♫ I can’t believe this show mistake could’ve caused so much heartache ♫
83 Games Ponies Play (last-place Dave Polsky)
84 It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies (last-place Fluttershy, last-place Natasha Levinger)
85 Apple Family Reunion (last-place Applejack, last-place Cindy Morrow)
86 Baby Cakes (last-place Pinkie Pie, last-place Charlotte Fullerton)