Season 4, Episode 1 – Don’t call it a Comeback: The Winners and Losers of Princess Twilight

After 9 months of built up anticipation, speculation, and equal doses of irrational hyper-positivity and hyper-negativity, yesterday signaled the end of the hiatus that seemed eternal. That’s right friends, the long night has given way to the sun, and another Season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is upon us. With Season 4 being such a critical season to the future of the show, there’s no better time than now than to analyze these episodes critically, but with a different spin. Join me as I give my take on the winners of losers of EVERY episode this season, starting with this one.

Everfree Forest + Season Premier  X Fate of Equestria hangs in the balance = A potentially horrible result.

Everfree Forest + Season Premier X Fate of Equestria hanging in the balance = This might not end well

1999 will be remembered as the year that put Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label on the map. Not only did they release the legendary Marshall Mathers LP, but they dropped the long awaited follow-up to The Chronic, 2001, which also won critical and commercial acclaim. Today, Dre’s 2nd Album is not considered as institutional as its’ predecessor, but it’s role in re-establishing him as a performance and production heavyweight is undeniable, and when all is said and done, Princess Twilight Sparkle might enjoy a similar reputation.

After watching the episode twice, I personally think that this episode represents the chance for Hasbro Studios to redeem themselves for Season 3’s giant letdown.  After last season’s big happening, the happenings in this episode represents the potential to address certain aspects that limited this show in the past. Celestia was actually used as something else besides a plot device, the rest of the Mane 6 felt more central to the plot than they did at any time during last season, and the end result of the episode gives this show the chance to truly get the evolution that it needs.  Of course, the episode wasn’t perfect as pacing and plot issues marred it from start to finish, but for the first time in nearly a year, I can safely say that I’m anticipating where the show can lead.

How did the rest of the episode faire with me? Here’s your chance to find out.

This is the first time in 21 months that Twilight Sparkle has actually failed at something. Good, because she was starting to stink of John Cena.

This is the first time in 21 months that Twilight Sparkle has actually failed at something. Good, because she was starting to resemble John Cena.


Twilight Sparkle:
Over the past three seasons, Twilight Sparkle has been a character that has not stood still. While the first season gave us the book-smart but socially stunted character who was learning what it was like to interact with others, the second season gave us a socially developing, magical super genius who had to deal with her worries getting the best of her. Season Three gave us a Twilight who had suddenly become a master of friendship who only needed to breathe to solve her panicking fits. It was evolution had been done in such a manner that made her a shell of the character she was.

From this episode alone, Twilight’s characterization was a lot of stronger than it was throughout last season and movie that followed it. Her insecurity and attention to detail was played up in a manner that made her closer to the compelling character that graced the first 2 seasons. Even her gut check moment seemed a lot more organic than the ones she faced last year. If this is an indication of where Twilight is going, she’ll be a lot easier to stomach than she was in Season 3.

Princess Celestia: Due to tragic undertones of the backstory in the series premiere, Celestia has always had more character besides being your average mentor figure. However, the past 3 seasons have mostly taken that potential and reduced her to being a plot device. Princess Twilight Sparkle finally started to peel the onion to this obviously layered character and explored why The Summer Sun festival has taken on a new meaning to her. We also got to see what lead her lead her to become what she has become today. For years, many have been asking for her to be presented as more than a mentor figure who offers exposition when needed, and hopefully this is beginning of those times.

Importance of the Rest of the Mane 6: Among the several things that made me cry foul in Season 3, the most invasive was how the rest of the Mane 6 were made less important as an after-effect of getting the series ready for Twilight’s Ascension, with the most egregious examples showing up in Magical Mystery Cure and Equestria Girls. While not done with malicious intent, the result of these actions made these characters seem lesser than what they were in the past. Surprisingly, Princess Twilight Sparkle does a much better job with these characters than 2 parters have since Return of Harmony. Allowing them to save Twilight Sparkle on two occasions and deciding something amongst themselves was moves that need to be commended, even if the execution and end result were still deciding aimed towards Twilight’s benefit the fact that they had any real agency as a group is a step in the right direction.

The Potential for this settings potential to be fulfilled:  Over the first 2 Seasons, the most frustrating part about this show was the potential that was left on the cutting room floor due to the pre-conceived notions of what the actual target audience could handle. Season 3 did have a story arc, but I (and many others) found that its implementation was haphazard at best, and that’s mostly due to how it began. Not only did Princess Twilight Sparkle gave the potential for an epic payoff, but it gave off the airs that this will be a group effort, instead of another Twilight Sparkle only story arc. That being said, Season 4 could easily fall into similar traps that Season 3 fell into, but right now, things are starting in a better place.

Meghan McCarthy:
For the past 9 months, one of the recurring themes of the countless discussions had about the future of this show questioned her and (Jason’s Thiessen’s) ability to lead this show in its’ current era, and this episode shows she has the capability to respond to the challenge. Princess Twilight Sparkle sets up Season 4 quite nicely, even if there are rough edges that need to be smoothed out. Let’s hope the next 20+ weeks shows me that this (tentative) vote of confidence pays off.


I'm praying that the creatives realize that Rarity is really freaking powerful at some point.

I’m praying that the creatives realize that Rarity is really freaking powerful at some point.


Pacing: Without question, you can sum Season 3’s biggest issues as errors of execution. Whether it was plot resolution, pacing, build-up, character portrayal, message jumbling or just plain writing mishaps, Season 3’s episodes carried a series of issues that weaken the enjoyment of many during that season.  Sadly, Season 4’s first two episodes also carry their share of issues in this regard, with the main general execution issue being the pacing of the final 5 minutes of the first part and the first 5 minutes of the second part. There are a couple of reasons why those first 5 minutes seemed to drag and the final 5 minutes seemed like they were running the Daytona 500, and they’re covered in the next 3 points.

Nightmare Moon and Luna by extension:
For the 3 years this series has existed, one of the most sought out answers was “What exactly happened the night Luna was banished?”, and the Season Premiere answered it in spades. Without a doubt, one of the things these episodes will long be remembered for is the fight between the two sisters during this pivotal moment in Equestrian History. From a visual standpoint, there is no question that we got a worthy payoff

Unfortunately, this payoff did come with a price. By seemingly having Nightmare Moon transform and get punted to the moon in about 3 minutes time, it reduced the villain from a Cataclysmic Level Threat to a younger sister who merely had a Temper Tantrum. Of course, there’s probably more to this story than what was presented in those scenes, but for now, the impact of this pivotal moment had been significantly lessened.

Zecora: Look, I like Zecora quite a bit, but I can’t honestly hide from the fact that she has mostly been used in the same manner Celestia has been used for most of the series, and unlike Celestia she continued to serve this role. In fact, she served this role to such a degree that you could lay the pacing issues on her doorstep. While it may have been necessary to advance the plot, Zecora just so happening to have a potion that gives Twilight the key to continuing the quest came off as lazy. I really hope Zecora doesn’t continue to be as problematic as some have made her out to be.

This may be more of a personal gripe, but I wasn’t a fan of how Rarity was portrayed in this episode. Not only did she harp on Twilight’s new status far too much in the beginning, but I was not a fan of how her magical powers became useless throughout the adventure. Remember, by the time she finally gets spotlight in an episode it’ll be more than 2 years since she last had one. Add that to the fact that Rarity was treated as one-dimensional comic relief last Season, I was expecting a much better showing that what we got from her this week. However, she has nowhere near the problem that our next loser does.

Pinkie Pie: At some point during the original 65 episodes, Pinkie-Pie morphed from the being the self-aware, highly intelligent eccentric to being a non- purposeful, random gag machine that possessed none of the intelligence that she did in the past.  If nothing else, Season 3 will be memorable for how it took a once engaging character, and distilled into something that makes fans feel sorry for her, and the season premier gave us more reasons to continue that sympathy That being said, I didn’t find her character to be the dumpster fire that she was through the 2nd half of last season, but both the frosting scene and her coloring book antics, made me cringe as I was watching the episode.

I seriously cringed at this point of the episode.

I seriously cringed at this point of the episode.

Final Comments:

No matter what you thought about it, the inescapable truth is that Season 3 (and later Equestria Girls) drove quite the wedge into the Brony fan base. During the hiatus, this wedge was powerful enough to greatly silence any in-between opinion leaving mostly those who loved or hated to engage in a draining 9 month spat. Fast forward to several days after the premier, and things no longer feel as tenuous as they did a couple of weeks. Yes, these episodes had their share of flaws that cannot be dismissed, but the overall package is strong enough to get many hopeful about where the show can go. Another thing to also be thankful for are the amount of Bronies who are not declaring this episode the best thing since sliced bread, or that it is irredeemable crap. The relative restoration of Sanity is something the fandom should be proud of, and I hope the studios reward us for it.

I have to admit, the Tree of Harmony is beautiful piece of art.

I have to admit, the Tree of Harmony is beautiful piece of art.

What's inside the box? I don't know, but it better not suck.

What’s inside the box? I don’t know, but it better not suck.

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