My Top 5 episodes for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Season 4)
*Note: This list does contain spoilers regarding various episodes from Season 4. If you have not seen all of the Season’s episodes, you might wish to turn back for now*
After Season 3 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ended February 13, 2013, the fandom seemed a little shaky. Season 3 only had half the amount of episodes that Seasons 1 and 2 had (13 instead of 26), as DHX Media had put their talent to work producing the animation on My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. As well, the rumors and teeth-knashing were amplified in some corners of the fandom, when Twilight Sparkle was made both a Princess, and an alicorn!
But as Season 4 carried on from the Fall of 2013 to Spring of 2014, much of the rumblings seemed to die away. Twilight’s alicorn status was soon accepted by many of the fans. As well, new and older characters were brought to light, giving many creative persons out there more fodder to add to the pile of fan-created paraphernalia. A sub-story also wove its way through the season, not unlike the Grand Galloping Gala substory in Season 1…though with a little more at stake. And, for those decrying that Rarity seemed to have been sidelined in Season 3, she was practically all over the place in Season 4!
Unlike Season 3, there was a greater variety of episodes to choose from for this season’s Top 5 list. Some may wonder why I go for only 5 episodes, and not 10. To me, I find it better to whittle down a finite number of episodes. And the further I’d get down the list of episodes, I’d start nitpicking deeper and deeper, something I have no interest in doing at this time.
It should also be noted that my lists also do not take into account 2-part episodes, such as Princess Twilight Sparkle, and Twilight’s Kingdom. My reasoning for this is that with 2-parters, those storylines get more time to tell a bigger story, whereas the single-episode storylines have the thankless task of balancing their storylines in a small amount of time. It’s that tightrope-walk that makes me think more about how and why an episode works.
And so, without further ado, here are my Top 5 favorite episodes from Season 4.
Almost every season has had a Fluttershy-based episode that seems to work pretty well for me. This one continues on with that streak, and much like my previous list, Fluttershy has taken the #5 slot .
Fluttershy loves to sing, but is scared to do so in public. Even so, she is excited to have the Ponytones quartet sing at an upcoming charity to help animals. But, when Big Mac loses his singing voice, Fluttershy is enlisted in a rather creative way, to make the group shine through (those who know what the title is referencing, will probably figure out what will go on).
There has been some teeth-knashing that when it comes to most Fluttershy episodes, she seems to learn something, but then her character growth does not carry over to the rest of the episodes. I’m personally not as concerned with this, as it’s a given in regards to many cartoons and television sitcoms: most of the time, what a character will learn in one episode, does not necessarily change the rest of their character arc immediatey. As well, there is the school of thought that us learning something, does not mean it is immediately going to be quickly affixed to our character.
One upside to the episode that was really great was how Rarity was handled. She got a little upset at times, but she seemed to have a certain control to her, that reminded me of her role in Putting Your Hoof Down. This was a nice change-of-pace from the more whiny Rarity we got in the previous week’s episode, Simple Ways.
The episode even has some nice, smaller roles for Big Mac, Applejack, and Zecora. As well, it is one of several episodes this season that references previous ones, in this case, the Season 1 episode, Bridle Gossip. As well, the harmony of the Ponytones in regards to their music is a catchy piece that Daniel Ingram has put together…though one does wish the Ponytones would have had maybe another song or two to sing.
The area where the episode loses points for me, is in how it portrays Pinkie Pie. We’ve seen in other episodes that Pinkie can sometimes do things that may seem okay to her, but not right to others. This was portrayed a bit in the Season 2 episode, A Friend in Deed. Here, it seems 98% of all the stuff coming out of Pinkie’s mouth did nothing but just upset Fluttershy even more. Pinkie can be childish sometimes, but unlike the balancing act in Pinkie Pride, their attempts to ramp up her attitude in this one just doesn’t help. Then again, we could just say “Pinkie had an off-day,” and leave it at that.
As one last little aside, did anyone think the Father of the filly Zipporwhill, resembled a ponified version of Kevin Smith?
Of all the Mane 6, it is Rainbow Dash who I have a hard time really liking. I think it’s her stand-offish nature that does it much of the time. Though it seems once in a blue moon, she appears in an episode that I think is pretty great. And amazingly enough, this is one of two with her in the Top 5!
Rainbow Dash has a test soon, to see if she can make it into the Wonderbolt Reserves, an offshoot of The Wonderbolt Flying Team, whom Dash has dreamed of flying with for a very long time. However, when Twilight notices her friend hasn’t studied for the impending exam, she volunteers to help Rainbow…but her methods don’t quite work on somepony like Rainbow Dash. This soon leads to the rest of their friends attempting to help, with creative, disastrous, and even wondrous results.
Much of what Rainbow does to procrastinate made me feel like she was disrespecting Twilight at times, but as her friends banded together to help her, the episode began to come alive. As well, I soon was surprised that Rainbow’s way of absorbing information reminded me a little of how I do it as well. I am not one to really get deep into studying, but I am also a quiet observer, who will often notice little things that others don’t (a side-effect from being an artist).
Twilight also shines in this episode as well. Not only does it seem she has gotten better at flying, but her concerned feelings about helping and teaching a friend give her a determined tone one doesn’t normally hear her take, making it one of the stronger performances Tara Strong gives her character.
If you’ve read my Top 5 list from Season 3, you know that a Scootaloo-related episode blew away all others that Season. With Season 4, the little filly returns to the Top 5, though doesn’t fly as high as last time. But still, that doesn’t mean her episode should be written off.
The kids in Ms Cheerilee’s class have the chance to be on the flag-waving team at the upcoming Equestria Games. Naturally, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo decide to work out a routine of their own. However, this doesn’t sit well with Diamond Tiara, who works with Silver Spoon to mock Scootaloo about the fact that she can’t fly.
The fandom has been requesting some acknowledgement of this, and it manages to be worked in in a way that doesn’t cause too much of a major world problem. As well, Scootaloo’s friends do what good friends do: they don’t dwell on their friend’s limitations, and request that Scootaloo keep pushing on.
A highlight of this episode for me, was Rainbow Dash. Not many episodes with her in a main role impress me, but I loved how enthusiastic she was to be supervising this part of the games, making her both funny and energizing. As well, it’s one of the few episodes where her “Element of Loyalty” really worked into the plot, notably at the end when she sends Applebloom and Sweetie Belle back to Ponyville to retrieve their friend.
There is a fairly memorable song called “Hearts as Strong as Horses,” but it just doesn’t stick in the mind as well as it should. However, the final use of it in the episode is well put together, and also acts as a great callback to a previous scene in a few other episodes, leading to a great crowd-pleasing end scene!
These two episodes I agonized over for weeks. I thought I could maybe put one as #2 and one as #3, but in the end, my indecision deadlocked, resulting in this tie.
Several of FIM‘s episodes dealing with sisterly relationships have been some that have been quite entertaining (Sisterhooves Social, for an older example), and these two stood out to many during this season. However, they deal with sisters in different ways.
Maud Pie is an episode that deals with siblings who get along well, but who may not quite be on the same level as your friends. They could have easily spun Maud off into stereotypical “bored goth” territory, but it’s just that she has her own personality and viewpoints outside the norm. Maud is a different kind of character than we’ve seen be tackled, and a great example of how the show can have ponies or creatures with a different viewpoint, and not turn them into imbeciles or smarmy bad guys.
The emotions from Maud stems largely from what is interpreted, and those episodes that cause one to think moreso than fight their way through exposition (I’m looking at you, Three’s a Crowd!) are some of my favorites. It was also an episode that I could see a little of myself in. Like Maud, I’m a little ‘off’ from most people, but am not completely without emotion: I just see the world a little differently.
There’s also a great deeper meaning regarding the rock candy necklaces that Pinkie and Maud make, that helped cement the episode as one of my favorites this season.
Sweetie Belle Toils once again gives more information regarding the sisterly relationship between Rarity and Sweetie Belle. Unlike Sisterhooves Social, the roles in this one are reversed, as it is Sweetie Belle who is greatly peeved this time. Some have claimed that this made Sweetie Belle less-cute, but it’s much like Pinkie Pie in Party of One, or Twilight in Lesson Zero. We get to see another side of this character, and it helps develop Sweetie more into her own personality, something that episodes like this one and Twilight Time have been instrumental at doing.
Sweetie shows that she harbors some jealous feelings towards her sister, and they come out in a major way: emotions that I think many out there can relate to. While some claim that they wish to see more of Princess Luna, I love the use of her in small doses like here, in which she comes into Sweetie’s dream to help her see the error of her ways. There are even allusions to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in how the dreams are structured, but it still all works out.
The music for this episode has some of my favorite pieces, notably in the rather mystical, medieval way Daniel Ingram heralds Luna’s arrival, and the rather placid sound of the dream world that Luna and Sweetie Belle navigate through. At times, it almost sounded like he was channeling composer, James Newton Howard.
The dreams are also a great place for the artists on the show to have fun, allowing them to really play within a world where the absurd can be made interesting.
I think I feel about this episode, the way some felt when they found out Discord was coming back in Season 3. I had hope that even with the inclusion of Weird Al Yankovic, the writers would give us a pretty entertaining episode…and they surely did!
Pinkie Pie is eager to help plan the Birthiversary of Rainbow Dash, but the entire town rallies around a newcomer named Cheese Sandwich, whose party-planning ideas seem even more impressive than Pinkie’s. At first upset at her thunder being stolen, Pinkie vows to win back her title as a “Super-Duper Party Pony.”
Pinkie can sometimes be the enigma of the Mane 6, in that she seems to largely be so preoccupied by fun, that the audience can sometimes be questioning just how she thinks. Because of this, I find her one of the more intriguing characters when some episodes slow down, in order for us to learn a little more about her. My two favorite episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 (Party of One, and Putting Your Hoof Down), have her in roles that are both fun, and a little challenging to her characterization…and that’s where my love of Pinkie Pride comes from. As well, it speaks to many of us who are creative, and trying to keep that energy and drive going when it seems there are others who may be able to do much more than we can.
This episode was both emotional and fun, and the balance managed to work pretty well. It does feel a little like a diversion episode like Power Ponies, but manages to work better in many ways, made largely due to the songs included. As I said in my review of the episode, this one utilized multiple songs in a way that seemed superior to the much-loved Magical Mystery Cure finale from Season 3.
I still say one downside at times, is how ‘mindlessly-enamored’ the townsponies seem to be once Cheese Sandwich arrives, but then again, the episode seems largely focused on Pinkie Pie, and Cheese Sandwich. It even comes dangerously close to acting like a “Mary Sue/Gary Stu” MLP fanfic, but manages to be fun and entertaining enough to make me think twice. And in the end, the Birthiversary scene, though short, always brings a smile to my face!
And those were my Top 5 favorite episodes from Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As Stated in the beginning, these are just my opinions, as I’m sure there are other episodes during this season that some would have put in their own Top 5.
Word has already come about that Season 5 is coming down the pike, and that like this one, 26 episodes have been ordered, which will bring Season 1-5 to total 117 episodes.
As well, word is sometime between seasons, Hasbro has a continuation of the Equestria Girls offshoot, with a film titled Rainbow Rocks (though whether it will be direct-to-video or also given a limited release like Equestria Girls, remains to be heard).
There is even word that currently, toy offerings from the company’s “girls toys” have been outpacing their “boys toys,” though Hasbro still has not given into repeated pleas for more fanbased offerings.
One thing to consider, is that we could be entering a plateau period for the series: these might be The Glory Days, as most shows usually seem to hit their stride within the 3-6 seasons period. To me, the show probably could sustain 6-7 seasons and still be considered great, but moving beyond that could be problematic.
I’ve seen it happen with other shows: they could probably introduce a ‘Mane 7’ cast member, or the group would find themselves in a new place, or alternate dimension.
There’s plenty of things to consider on what the future can hold, but for now, I think it’s safe to say that Season 4 of the series was a big win for many of the fans, as well as a good way for newcomers to enter into the herd.