Warning you now: this review is even longer than the last one (believe me, I didn’t plan that). It’s slightly longer than that of The Best Night Ever, for reference.
Season 5 Episode 4: Bloom & Gloom
You know the drill. Cutie Mark Crusaders episode, spoilers for the big thing that happens midway through season 5.
In five words: Nightmares tease Crusaders’ running mystery.
Premise: Apple Bloom has a cyclical series of dreams where she earns her cutie mark, and nightmarish things happen each time. Luna eventually comes in to alleviate her worries.
Over time, the Crusaders’ clubhouse has gradually gotten more decorations.
The first Cutie Mark Crusaders episode of season 5 begins with these three being exactly the same goofy kids I remembered. Apple Bloom hosts a meeting and does a roll call that the other two point out are unnecessary, demonstrating the trio’s endearing flavor of pseudo-formality that shows they have high dreams but don’t know what they’re doing. And this brings me to something I recall thinking when I first watched several Cutie Mark Crusaders episodes in the last season: are these three ever going to get their cutie marks? Season 5 has several episodes that build up this mystery before giving it a glorious resolution in an episode I plan on going through in extreme depth, like Magical Mystery Cure levels of depth if not more.
If you know how much I like Sweetie Belle, you won’t be surprised to know my review of For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils is going to be a long one. Not a record breaker, but it’s up there.
Also, greetings from Spain! As of this post’s publication, I am in there right now, though I had written it a few weeks prior. This is unrelated to MLP, but I have taken it upon myself to learn Spanish since a month before the trip, and I’m having a lot more fun learning it than I would have thought. I may publish a blog post about learning the language in the future.
Season 4 Episode 19: For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils
In five words: Sweetie Belle nearly ruins Rarity.
Premise: Jealous of all the attention her sister Rarity is getting over her, Sweetie Belle destroys the crucial stitch in her sister’s dress for Sapphire Shores, but then she has a dream where Princess Luna shows her what would happen if she doesn’t turn back.
Before I begin, I need to make something loud and clear: This episode is not called “For Whom the Sweetie Bell Toils”. You have no idea how much it drives me crazy when people get the name of this episode wrong. I swear there are some people who know how to spell Sweetie Belle’s name correctly but not the name of this episode, and it annoys me so much.
I love Sweetie Belle so much. She’s just such an appealing character.
Anyway, now that I’m done complaining about something extremely minor that no one cares about, it’s time for me to dive into this episode and pick apart an extremely minor detail that no one cares about!
This episode starts with Glasses Rarity (remember, she’s Rarity but wearing glasses) preparing dresses for Sapphire Shores’ concert, while Sweetie Belle is extremely excited to help out and immediately brings out any materials that Rarity so much as considers using. The second material Rarity mentions is sequins, and Sweetie Belle grabs a bowl of them only to clumsily slip, and some of the sequins land on her tongue. Rarity then uses magic to lift them off, apparently not at all worried that some of them may have Sweetie Belle’s germs due to landing on her tongue. Does she trust that Sweetie Belle keeps proper hygiene? Does she know magic spells that can instantly cleanse any object of others’ germs? There’s lots of possibilities, but it would probably be more relevant to talk about how eager Sweetie Belle is to help with making dresses. She’s so determined to make Rarity proud and be even a fraction as good at making dresses as she is, and her desperation to be in the spotlight reaches a breaking point early into this episode.
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.
Pointless trivia: I worked on my review of Magic Duel entirely within my own house, whereas I worked on my review of Sleepless in Ponyville entirely within a hotel room at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Pandemic restrictions or not, I’m happy to report I had a great time at MAGFest 2022 (though as of this post’s publication, it already ended a few weeks ago).
Season 3 Episode 5: Magic Duel
In five words: Boast Busters’ much better sequel.
Premise: After getting brutally owned in Boast Busters, Trixie returns to Ponyville with a desire for revenge and a special magical amulet.
The intro portion of this episode teases viewers with loose hints of a familiar face. A hooded figure goes to a shop to obtain a dangerous magical amulet, and while she’s denied it at first, she gets it after giving the shopkeeper a big bag of money. Trixie is a fan favorite character, so it makes sense that her return would start off subtle.
After this, we get a scene of Twilight Sparkle practicing her magic skills much like she did at the start of Boast Busters, showing that she’s sharpened her magic prowess since then. She uses a magic spell to levitate Fluttershy’s animals in a gentle looping formation, keeping them calm and happy despite Fluttershy’s extreme nervousness. Again like Boast Busters, this scene shows that Twilight takes great pride in her magic skills. Twilight then mentions Celestia hired her for the entertainment in an upcoming special event. She’s clearly referring to magic tricks here, and that was the one thing Trixie thought she was so good at.
In five words: Twilight undergoes hilarious mental breakdown.
Premise: Twilight Sparkle realizes the deadline for her weekly letter to Celestia is imminent and causes havoc (and hilarity) trying to find, then make a friendship problem.
Spike probably hears the word “checklist” so often that it sometimes doesn’t even seem like a word anymore.
This episode starts with Twilight Sparkle reminding us about her comical obsession with checklists by reviewing her checklist for items needed to create a checklist, then starting her checklist of things she has to get done today with making a checklist of things she has to get done today, which is confusingly recursive. This obsession reminder leads to a groan from Spike and sets the stage for this episode’s focus: Twilight Sparkle’s obsession with order and detail going complete bonkers.
Derpy Hooves is here!!!!!
This episode is where the show’s theme song is updated for the first time, both visually and musically. The instrumentation has been adjusted to be a little more punchy (especially in the intro), and the vocals have been re-recorded. As for the visuals, only the scene above has changed, most notably adding a train with a certain fan favorite background pony inside the roof and replacing the random background stallion with Big Macintosh—a heartwarming testament to the fans and a logical, obvious replacement respectively. The Cutie Mark Crusaders are briefly seen together in the back of the train, which is again a logical addition.
Worth noting that this episode is the first one where unicorns’ magic has a consistent look, with a different color for each unicorn. Between magic colors and the updated theme song, this episode is the first one that FEELS like season 2.
Twilight Sparkle’s signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder increase as she goes to Sugarcube Corner and picks up a box of twelve cupcakes from Mrs. Cake, except it turns out to be thirteen, and the frosting isn’t spread 100% evenly. You could argue it’s weird that Twilight’s character is exaggerated just for the sake of this episode, but I couldn’t care less in this case because this episode is so hilarious. She resolves the situation by leaving an equally tiny bit of frosting on each cupcake. Most of the frosting ended up on Spike, who comically washes himself using his tongue with a sort of tornado formation, which is perfectly in line with this episode’s sense of humor.