Wednesday, April 30, 2014

March of the Ponies: My Little Pony Season 4 review (to date)

[NOTE: Links to other March of the Ponies stories will go here as they are published.Part 1 - Abridged MLP historyPart 2 - Review of Lauren Faust's prior works, Part 3 - MLP Comics (TwilightRainbowDashRarityFluttershyPinkiePieApplejackCMCs/Celestia,Spike/LunaNightmare Rarity arc (main series)), Part 4 - Equestria Girls review, Part 5 - Fan-made episodes (Dusk's DawnDouble RainboomSnowdrop); Part 6 - Fan works (MusicDoctor WhoovesFriendship is Witchcraft/Mentally Advanced Series, Fanfictions), Part 7 - Season Reviews: Season 1, Season 2Season 3, Magical Mystery Cure]

Sorry folks, but no more Ron White comparisons for the seasons. (I know how disappointed you all must be.)

But I do have a quick Season 4 rundown for you to see. What I've basically learned is that when they're not trying to force a plot to exist and just let the characters interact, the episodes can be as good as any in the past. This is especially true from about the midpoint of the season onward.

However, early season episodes, especially ones setting up the new status quo and trying to have a plot that continued the absurdity of Season 3, fell flat on their faces.

I will say, Season 4 is freaking Apple Season. Applejack and Apple Bloom combined for some excellent, excellent episodes so far this go-around. Rarity and Pinkie Pie have had their shares as well, and surprisingly, this season has been weakest for Fluttershy and Twilight.

That's mostly an irritation in the case of Twilight because she's the one who NEEDED to be justified in my mind. With 23 episodes in the books, Twilight's princesshood has been important in FOUR episodes (the two-part premiere, Twilight Time and Trade Ya!); her transition to Alicorn was only important in the premiere, and even the wings themselves were only useful in two episodes (Three's a Crowd and Testing Testing 123).

Any time outside those specific instances, she might as well be a background character.

On one hand, this has allowed great episodes to exist and kept a Twilight that everyone has enjoyed for three years. On the other, it makes the move feel borderline pointless.

I said with Magical Mystery Cure that this was a game-changer. Twilight would either need to take a more central role or fade out of the picture to let the others develop. It seems like they're trying to do both, but while other characters are stepping up, Twilight feels like she's losing ground.

She's hitting that sweet spot where she's not gone long enough for us to appreciate her few appearances of note, but is too out of the picture to mean anything in most stories. She's usually just a catalyst to start plots and then she's largely out of the story.

In any case, let me give my thoughts on how the episodes rank to date. This could all change by season's end, as the last three episodes are supposed to pay off plots that started the season (and yes, I'll give a final season review when those come to pass).

23Daring Don't
21Princess Twilight Sparkle II
20Power Ponies
19Castle Mane-ia
18Princess Twilight Sparkle I
17Rainbow Falls
16Trade Ya!
15Three's a Crowd
14Filli Vanilli
13It Ain't Easy Being Breezies
12Leap of Faith
11Twilight Time
10Flight to the Finish
9Maud Pie
8Rarity Takes Manehattan
7Simple Ways
6Pinkie Pride
5Inspiration Manifestation
4Somepony to Watch Over Me
3For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils
2Testing Testing 1, 2, 3
1Pinkie Apple Pie

Best Song: Apples to the Core (Pinkie Apple Pie)
Best Song Sequence: Tie - Apples to the Core/Super Duper Party Pony (Pinkie Pride)
Worst Song: Bats (Bats!)
Worst Song Sequence: Find the Music in You (Filli Vanilli)

Funniest Episode: Pinkie Apple Pie (narrowly beating Inspiration Manifestation, Somepony to Watch Over Me and Simple Ways)
Best Joke/Funny Moment: Tie between "We don't have a raft (bout the only thing that didn't get packed)" and the hide-and-seek sequence with Maud's pet rock. (Pinkie Apple Pie and Maud Pie, respectively)

Deal with it.
As a final note, I'd like to note that Season 4 gave possibly the closest moment to creating a canon gay character.

From "Simple Ways," Applejack said in response to being hit on by a male pony, "Look, you're a fine pony, but... uh, well... I'm a..."

This could very well be a case where she was saying "I'm, uh" but given that it's the first love episode they've really tried with the Mane 6, and how abruptly Rarity interrupted, I felt like something was understood between the two.

Obviously, they'd never state it outright, but I do think it's good that this show will allow ANY ambiguity.

Did anyone else pick up on it? Or am I reading too much into a line's delivery? Feel free to address it in the comments!

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