Premise: The Cutie Mark Crusaders prepare an opening routine for the Equestria Games, but when Diamond Tiara mocks Scootaloo for her inability to fly, they’re discouraged from going further.
Been a while since we last were at the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ school.
To start this episode, Cheerilee brings two special guests to the class she teaches: Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash. They announce that the kids may get to take a part in the Equestria Games, specifically through a competition where they each need to come up with a flag-carrying routine, and the winning team gets to perform it in the games. This is the point where I remember that the Equestria Games are the other overarching plot of season 4—the one that doesn’t involve finding the keys for the mysterious chest, that is. But those plots do intersect in Rainbow Falls, which is a few episodes from now.
Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash play off each other in fun ways as they explain the rules of the opening routine. Ms. Harshwhinny insists on keeping a reserved, professional attitude, while Rainbow Dash can’t control her excitement and brags about the time she carried the flag as a filly, which Scootaloo of course swoons over. When Ms. Harshwhinny mentions that Rainbow Dash will accompany the winning team to the Crystal Empire, the Crusaders’ faces light up one by one. To them, this is their chance to see the place they got a taste of when Spike wrangled them up in babysitting antics! And opportunities to go such places don’t come easy for them, being fillies and all.
Premise: The Mane 6 explore the ruins of Celestia and Luna’s old castle. Spooky shenanigans unwittingly ensue.
Some of the show’s seasons have the third episode directly follow up from the two-part premiere, either to tie some loose ends or to begin the season’s overall arc. This episode does both, showing that Twilight Sparkle has combed through every book in Ponyville and found no information about the chest that came from the Tree of Harmony. It never fully sinks in for Twilight that she can’t learn everything from books; it’s a cute little quirk of her character that she still resorts to books after all this time.
Twilight Sparkle having wings makes it easier to show when she’s hyper-excited.
Twilight Sparkle initially considers checking out the libraries in Canterlot, but then she gets a letter from Celestia saying she should visit the ruins of her and Luna’s old castle in the Everfree Forest. It’s the same castle we previously saw Nightmare Moon ravage in a flashback, which explains why it’s in ruins and makes for some nice attention to continuity. It’s also the same castle the Mane 6 first got the Elements of Harmony from, which I admittedly forgot until Rainbow Dash brings it up about six minutes in, then retroactively added to this paragraph. Spike is creeped out by this place, but Twilight Sparkle is overjoyed.
Time to begin analyzing season 4 of MLP:FiM! As I’ve said before, this is the only season that I followed live as it was happening, making it distinct from all the others in my mind. My reviews of these episodes therefore may read a little differently from the rest, with more commentary on how it felt watching them for the first time.
If you’re wondering how season 4 will be divided into posts, my tentative plan is to keep things simple and do two episodes per post all the way through, making part 41 the end of season 4. But it’s entirely possible that I’ll have enough to say about a certain episode that I’ll give it a post to itself, and in that case, I would also have to pick another episode to dedicate an entire post to, because there’s no way I’m squeezing three episodes into one post again. My episode reviews have become too detailed and thorough for that to be viable.
Season 4 Episode 1: Princess Twilight Sparkle, Part 1
This review discusses events up to early season 6—modest as far as spoilers go, but spoilers no less.
In five words: Twilight Sparkle adapts to change.
Premise: Now that the dust has settled, Twilight Sparkle must learn all the responsibilities that come with being a princess as a new threat closes in on Equestria.
Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic immediately kicks off with showing a ramification of Twilight Sparkle becoming an alicorn princess that’s far less peachy and perfect than what we saw in the last few minutes of Magical Mystery Cure. Specifically, Twilight Sparkle clumsily practices flying with Rainbow Dash serving as her coach. This scene sets the tone for season 4’s overarching arc: the challenges Twilight Sparkle faces in her newfound princess role. It’s an arc whose handling thoroughly exceeded my expectations as I watched through season 4’s episodes week by week. I was so worried that the Twilight Sparkle we know and love would be overwritten with merch-driven princess shenanigans, but this opening scene already shows us this won’t be the case. Magical Mystery Cure is done and squared, so now we can go back to regular old MLP:FiM. And let me tell you, few things bring me more consistent joy and delight than regular old MLP:FiM.
To hammer in that this is still going to be the same show that bronies love so much, we get a silly little slapstick sequence where Twilight Sparkle flaps her wings too hard, loses control, and lands on a tree branch with googly eyes. This sequence serves a similar purpose to doors slamming Spike in the face shortly after the expository scene that opens the first episode: it tells viewers that this show will be far more than girly ponies doing girly pony things, and it’ll be filled with tons of slapstick and other such humor. In this case, the scene reinforces that the regular lighthearted tone of this show isn’t going anywhere, which was very reassuring to a random 14-year-old boy who was excitedly watching the premiere of the show’s fourth season and would later become the person who is writing the words you’re reading. And now here I am, not far off from turning 23 years old, analyzing the impact of this scene in far more depth than is probably necessary, all because this show is extremely super special and important to me.
But I probably shouldn’t waste too much time reflecting on memories that feel like a lifetime ago and then some. I probably sound like I’m clouded by childhood nostalgia here, but believe me, I love this show just as much as an adult as I did when I was a young teenager.